Some Common Sales Jobs Explained

Here is a list of the more common sales jobs explained.

Sales Representative

Calls on a number of customers each day, inquiring about needs, promoting products, advising customers, taking orders. Consumable (low value) items involve more calls (6 – 12) per day, in a smaller geographical territory (can be as small as one or two towns). Higher emphasis on serving existing customers (80%) with little cold calling/finding new business (20%). Emphasis placed on building relationships with customers. Often seen as a starting point in a sales career. Can be selling for a manufacturer or a distributor.

Sales Executive

Medium value equipment (value £1 – 10,000 per item) involves fewer calls per day, more emphasis on finding new business, doing demonstrations. Each sale often involves two or more visits to complete. Equipment often sold alongside consumables, sometimes as part of a huge range of equipment (catalogue sales – e.g. Fisher Scientific – 20,000+ products in a range from £1 – 100,000K per item). Can be selling for a manufacturer or distributor. Larger (higher value) items (capital equipment) involve few calls per day (1 – 2), much research, exploratory work, almost all new business. Sale value £10K – 1M+. Sale often takes 3m to 1 year + to complete. Often involves discussions with financial personnel/sources of funding. Usually selling for a manufacturer.

Key Accounts Sales

Highly involved sales to a very small number of customers, usually large companies, and always very important to your company. Involves spending a lot of time with them, discussing needs at all levels, negotiating long-term, high-value agreements. Requires extensive sales experience, good diplomacy and negotiating skills.

Export Sales

Spends up to 50% time abroad. Selling direct to users if selling capital equipment, or through distributors/agents if selling small equipment or consumables. Involves recruiting, training, supporting and managing distributors/agents abroad. Works in a smaller territory (one country) if selling direct, or in larger territories (up to whole world) if managing distributors.

Applications Specialist

Field based supports sales people before and after the sale – accompanying them on visits to the customers. Very knowledgeable about the products or equipment, well qualified technically. Able to work with other people easily. Giving demonstrations, installs/commissions equipment, trains customers, offers ‘hotline’ support. Often seen as a good stepping-stone into sales.

Customer Support

Office based, with occasional field visits to customers, supporting sales people. Mainly reactive work, answering customers’ queries about products. Need to be well qualified, knowledgeable about the products, a good communicator, and very diplomatic. On the telephone all day, if not, then using a computer. Often seen as a good start to a sales career for a scientist.


Office based, calling customers on the telephone, offering products or services. Mainly proactive i.e. you make the calls, but may involve taking incoming calls and answering sales enquiries. Can be more or less technical, but will require energetic, enthusiastic approach, as well as resilience and stamina. Not for the fainthearted, but is seen as an excellent way to start in sales, as training and at-the-desk support is often excellent.

Product Manager

Office based, providing support to direct sales force and/or distributors, in respect of a single product or limited range of products. Writes advertising, brochures, training manuals for products. Trains direct sales force/distributor sales forces on how to sell the products. Provides ‘hotline support’ to all users of the products. Liaises with customers and product developers to direct future development of the product in line with customer requirements. Likely to be quite a technical person with people skills.

Marketing Executive/Manager

Similar to above. Less technical involvement, more involvement with strategic planning, assessing market requirements, decision making/influencing regarding product development, pricing, promotion and positioning within the market. Likely to be formally qualified in marketing. May or may not have a sales background. More analytical, imaginative sort of job.