Thankfully, no one is born to work in sales, because there would be far fewer job opportunities for the rest of us. Anyone can learn the skills and acquire the knowledge needed to excel as a sales agent. It is an excellent career category for people who enjoy being social and have solid communication skills, whether in-born or learned.

Sales agents offer useful or desirable goods and services, Selling directly to the consumer or to business and organizations. They make the productive attractive to the customers, demonstrate its usefulness and utility, explain why it is needed and what it can do for them.

These jobs vary in the knowledge and participation needed from the sales agent. This provides a wide variety of opportunities for anyone considering these careers! An salesperson can work in a clothing boutique without needing an extensive background or education, whereas a sales engineer would have to have a more advanced education and understanding in order to be successful.

The sales occupational category is a versatile field, and even though sectors rely on different goods and knowledge, many of the skills are the same. For example, real estate agents and travel agents sell very different items and have to know their respective businesses inside and out. Much of the day-to-day work they do, though, relies on their skills as trained salespeople, using similar methods and techniques.

Duties can include:

  • Explaining the qualities and features of an item to possible customers
  • Processing transactions
  • Calling or visiting possible new clients
  • Maintaining good relationships with long-term or repeat clients
  • Interacting pleasantly with customers and ensuring their needs are met
  • Advising clients on different options and the choices that would suit them best

This category also include jobs that work alongside or in conjunction with sales agent positions; in other words, they facilitate the process. Brokers not only sell to customers, they can help clients sell their own items (as in the real estate market). Models do not sell products directly, but they display them in a way to make them attractive to consumers. Their performance can certainly influence the desirability of a product.


Beyond a high school diploma, workers may also benefit from taking classes in business or finance and from practicing their communication and interpersonal skills. And while education is crucial for entry-level work in several careers in this category, on-the-job training is the most important preparation for these jobs. This can be done formally, through classwork or training programs, or informally under the supervision of an experienced sales agent. Some sectors, like insurance and real estate, operate under regulations and restrictions that may change over time. In these cases, additional education is either required or recommended in order to work legally and successfully.


Certain fields in sales require even more work. Because sales engineers often work with scientific and technological products and must have a solid understanding of them and what they do they usually need a bachelor's degree in engineering. Sales agents and brokers for the securities, commodities, and financial sector need a bachelor’s degree in business or a related discipline. Many agents go on to earn an M.B.A., or a master's degree in business administration.

In a few careers, licenses or certifications are required because the items and services sold are in some way regulated. Agents and workers in the real estate, insurance, and financial sectors must be licensed in order to work. This usually involves further education and passing at least one exam, and in some cases requires continuing education for the course of their career. Certifications may also be offered as a way to expand skills and provide proof of competency.


  • Customer-service skills Much of the work in this industry is specifically for a customer-installing, maintaining, or repairing a person's car, refrigerator, computer, or appliance. Knowing how to interact with customers, how to explain assessments and fees, and solve problems is a critical, overlooked aspect of these jobs.
  • Communcation skills. The bigger the job, the more parts involved. Machines and technology involve complex designs and structures and problems arise when even the smallest piece malfunctions. Workers need to be able to focus and have a critical eye for all parts of the project.
  • Initiative Because so much of the work is physical, workers know they will have to get their hands dirty. Pieces, parts, and technology can be delicate and the work precise.
  • Organizational skills. The mechanical side of the work can be very physically demanding. Machinery and parts must be hauled to the place of installation or replacement, with heavy equipment making the process tiring. The job isn't done until the new fridge makes it from the trunk to the kitchen, no matter how tired you are!
  • Self-confidence. In order to fix something, you have to understand how and why it broke in the first place. Isolating problems and coming up with practical, workable solutions is important, especially when the work only requires one person's effort.

Job Outlook

Overall, careers in this occupation category are expected to grow at the same rate as the average national projection for all jobs. (One significant exception to this trend is the travel agent. This career is projected to decline by 12 percent from 2012 to 2022. The ease and popularity of booking travel through internet websites has and will continue to erode business in this area.)

Retail jobs will offer many opportunities for employment, especially as many workers do not stay long-term. Jobs in the financial sector, however, will be fiercely competitive. In general, having solid foundational skills (communication and interpersonal skills, etc.) and a relevant educational background will help applicants compete.

  Occupation Description Entry-Level Education 2012 Median Pay
Advertising sales agents Advertising sales agents

Advertising sales agents sell advertising space to businesses and individuals. They contact potential clients, make sales presentations, and maintain client accounts.'

High school diploma or equivalent $46,290
Cashiers Cashiers

Cashiers handle payments from customers purchasing goods and services.'

Less than high school $18,970
Insurance sales agents Insurance sales agents

Insurance sales agents help insurance companies generate new business by contacting potential customers and selling one or more types of insurance. Insurance sales agents explain various insurance policies and help clients choose plans that suit them.'

High school diploma or equivalent $48,150
Models Models

Models pose for artists, photographers, or customers to help advertise a variety of products, including clothing, cosmetics, food, and appliances.'

Less than high school $18,750
Real estate brokers and sales agents Real estate brokers and sales agents

Real estate brokers and sales agents help clients buy, sell, and rent properties. Although brokers and agents do similar work, brokers are licensed to manage their own real estate businesses. Sales agents must work with a real estate broker.'

High school diploma or equivalent $41,990
Retail sales workers Retail sales workers

Retail sales workers include both those who sell retail merchandise, such as clothing, furniture, and automobiles, (called retail salespersons) and those who sell spare and replacement parts and equipment, especially car parts (called parts salespersons). Both types of workers help customers find the products they want and process customers’ payments.'

Less than high school $21,410
Sales engineers Sales engineers

Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products or services to businesses. They must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions and must understand the scientific processes that make these products work.'

Bachelor's degree $91,830
Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents

Securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents connect buyers and sellers in financial markets. They sell securities to individuals, advise companies in search of investors, and conduct trades.'

Bachelor's degree $71,720
Travel agents Travel agents

Travel agents sell transportation, lodging, and admission to entertainment activities to individuals and groups planning trips. They offer advice on destinations, plan trip itineraries, and make travel arrangements for clients. '

High school diploma or equivalent $34,600
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives

Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain product features, answer any questions that their customers may have, and negotiate prices.'

High school diploma or bachelor's degree $57,870

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