The gift of gab—some people just have it. And those who are natural masters of the art of verbal persuasion can have a lucrative career in sales.
All it takes is hard work, charisma, and your natural charm to spin words into gold. The best part is jobs that involve the salesperson’s skill set pay well. Really well.
Salaries are determined by your level of experience, your specialty, and where in the country you're employed. For example, a sales engineer salary in Broomfield, Colorado, is 14% higher than the national average; a medical sales representative salary in Denver is 11% higher than the national average; and a software as a service sales manager in Buffalo, New York, is 8% higher than the national average.
Below are 10 sales jobs where you can earn a handsome six-figure salary, using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
1. Real estate agent
What you’d do: There’s more to this job than what you see on HGTV. Sure, you’ll be showing people nice houses, but you’ll also need to become an expert in your marketplace, coordinate appointments, open houses, commit to showings, meet with clients; develop marketing plans for listings; help negotiate offers; and, most important, stay calm under pressure. But ultimately, this job is about closing deals, so your best friend in this role is your charm, your quick wit and your knack for feeling out a client’s needs.
What you’d need: To legally practice real estate you need to be licensed in your state. This requires you to pass both state and national exams. Before you can sit for the tests, you must take a certain number of hours of classes. Education requirements vary by state, but can usually be completed in a matter of weeks
What you’d earn: $56,860 on average per year; however, top-selling agents earned more than $166,940 in 2015
2. Sales engineer
What you’d do: Sales engineers sell complex scientific and technological products to businesses. In other words, you’ve got to make technology sexy. For this job, you’ll need to be able to explain why a business or a consumer might need your tool, machine or complicated software product over the competition. Some sales engineers work for the company that designs and builds the product, while others work for independent sales firms.
What you’d need: A bachelor’s degree in engineering or a related field is typically required. You must have extensive knowledge of the products’ parts and functions, as well as an understanding of the scientific processes that make these products work.
What you’d make: $97,650 per year, but top earners make upwards of $165,000
3. Financial services sales agent
What you’d do: Ultimately, your job is to sell business or consumers the financial products that will make them—and you—money. Financial services is a broad term, so in this role you could be selling to businesses or individuals. You could be dealing in banking, securities or insurance. For example, you may be responsible for managing your clients’ checking accounts, loans, CD’s, IRAs, credit cards, or even become involved in estate and retirement planning.
What you’d need: While a bachelor’s degree is required for entry-level jobs, an MBA can help agents advance to senior positions in the field. You may need to pass a licensing exam, especially if you sell securities or insurance. (Most firms offer training to help their employees prepare.)
What you’d make: $71,550 per year, but the top 10% earned more than $187,200 in 2015.
4. Advertising sales agent
What you’d do: Sorry aspiring Don Drapers—you won’t be sipping Old Fashioneds throughout the day, or taking 3-hour lunch breaks (although some offices do have a few beers on tap these days). Competition in this field has become pretty cutthroat, because sales agents must perform under pressure to meet sometimes-high sales quotas. Ad sales agents work in a range of industries, including at advertising agencies, in radio, television, and Internet publishing.
What you’d need: A bachelor’s degree is required for entry-level jobs; degrees in marketing, communications, business, or—ideally—advertising can make you more marketable. The bulk of the training takes place on the job, often through coaching from an experienced sales agent or sales manager.
What you’d make: $48,490 per year on average; however, the highest 10% earned more than $114,350 in 2015
5. Insurance sales agent
What you’d do: Although much of the individual insurance industry has moved online, there’s still a robust field for the more traditional insurance sales agents, especially for corporate and commercial clients. You’d be in charge of building and managing your own customer base, contacting potential clients and explaining the financial services you offer, such as property, casualty, life, health, and long-term care insurance. Agents can specialize in one of these products or work as generalists and sell a range of products.
What you’d need: Typically only a high-school diploma is required. However, insurance agents must be licensed in the states where they work; this typically involves completing state-approved courses and passing state exams that cover insurance fundamentals and insurance laws.
What you’d make: $48,200 per year on average, but the top 10% earned more than $122,590 in 2015.
6. Manufacturer’s representative
What you’d do: There’s a market for everything, and everything that’s sold needs a salesperson. So manufacturer’s representatives sell whatever the manufacturer makes. Under certain circumstances, a manufacturer’s representative can work for multiple manufacturers, specializing in specific products. You’d identify prospective customers by using business directories, following leads from existing clients, and attending trade shows and conferences. It’s your job to explain product features, answer questions, and negotiate prices, to be the face and voice of the company and its products.
What you’d need: Education requirements vary depending on the employer and type of goods being sold. For example, a manufacturer's representative for a technology manufacturing firm may be required to have a 4-year degree in IT, engineering, or a related field, whereas other positions may only require a 2-year degree. Expect to go through extensive on-the-job training; many companies have 1-year training programs for entry-level manufacturer’s reps.
What you’d make: $76,190 per year on average; the top 10% though earned more than $153,940 in 2015.
7. Medical device sales representative
What you’d do: It may sound like a particularly small niche, but the medical device sales industry is large scale—and it’s experiencing substantial job growth due to advances in medical technology, including nanotechnology, wireless wearable sensors, and robotic surgery equipment. Sales representatives in this field are responsible for finding customers at private practices or public hospitals to purchase their devices. Day-to-day tasks include cold-calling prospective customers, following up on leads, and making product demonstrations. Travel is often required.
What you’d need: A bachelor’s degree is usually required for entry-level medical device sales jobs. Medical device sales representatives possess strong customer service, technology, and time-management skills.
What you’d make: $147,857 per year on average
8. Software sales representative
What you’d do: If you like technology and are comfortable using technical jargon and computer terminology, this could be a great fit for you. In some cases, you’d be selling a product to technology novices, so you need to be able to explain the software in simple terms; and for other jobs, you could be selling to highly technical people. You’ll conduct product demonstrations, answer prospective customers’ questions, and build a robust Rolodex to really succeed.
What you’d need: A bachelor’s or associate’s degree is typically required (bonus points for majoring in computer science, engineering, or information technology). Being able to cultivate relationships and ensure customer satisfaction is essential.
What you’d make: Median base salary is $55,795, but commissions can take that up to around $70,000, according to Payscale data.
9. Pharmaceutical sales representative
What you’d do: In a typical day, a pharmaceutical sales representative makes several calls to hospitals, HMOs, doctors' offices, and pharmacies with the goal of finding new customers. Entry-level workers usually develop a territory for their sales efforts; depending on the size of the target market, the job may involve significant travel each month.
What you’d need: A bachelor’s degree is required. To be successful, you’ll need thorough knowledge of therapeutic conditions and treatment protocols, health care and patient practices, and emerging trends in pharmaceuticals, although most of this specialized information is taught on the job.
What you’d make: $122,107 per year on average
10. Consumer packaged goods sales representative
What you’d do: As a consumer packaged goods (CPG) rep, you’ll be tasked with selling products to retailers, groceries stores, or small businesses. A typical day includes researching prospective customers, making sales calls, and making product demonstrations. The job may require substantial travel.
What you’d need: Education requirements vary depending on the employer and type of product. To sell scientific or technical goods, you typically need at least a bachelor’s degree; jobs selling other products may only require a high school diploma. Many companies have formal training programs for beginners under the supervision of a field sales manager. To excel you’ll need interpersonal, negotiation, and problem-solving skills.
What you’d make: $55,730 -$76,190 on average and the highest 10% earned between $118,000 and $153,940 per year.
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