What Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives Do
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations.
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives work under pressure because their income and job security depend on the amount of merchandise they sell. Some sales representatives travel frequently.
How to Become a Wholesale or Manufacturing Sales Representative
Educational requirements vary for sales representatives and depend on the type of products sold. If the products are not scientific or technical, a high school diploma is generally sufficient for entry into the occupation. If the products are scientific or technical, sales representatives typically need at least a bachelor’s degree.
The median annual wage for sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products was $59,930 in May 2019.
The median annual wage for sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products was $81,020 in May 2019.
Overall employment of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives is projected to grow 2 percent from 2019 to 2029, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth is expected to be stronger for sales representatives working at independent sales agencies.
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives sell goods for wholesalers or manufacturers to businesses, government agencies, and other organizations. They contact customers, explain the features of the products they are selling, negotiate prices, and answer any questions that their customers may have about the products.
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives typically do the following:
- Identify prospective customers by using business directories, following leads from existing clients, and attending trade shows and conferences
- Contact new and existing customers to discuss their needs and explain how specific products and services can meet these needs
- Help customers select products to meet customers’ needs, product specifications, and regulations
- Emphasize product features that will meet customers’ needs, and exhibit the capabilities and limitations of their products
- Answer customers’ questions about the prices, availability, and uses of the products they are selling
- Negotiate prices and terms of sales and service agreements
- Prepare sales contracts and submit orders for processing
- Collaborate with colleagues to exchange information, such as information on selling strategies and marketing information
- Follow up with customers to make sure that they are satisfied with their purchases and to answer any questions or concerns they might have
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives—sometimes called manufacturers’ representatives or manufacturers’ agents—generally work for manufacturers or wholesalers. Some work for a single organization, while others represent several companies and sell a range of products.
Unlike retail sales workers, who sell goods directly to consumers, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives deal with businesses, government agencies, and other organizations.
Some wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives work with nonscientific products, such as food, office supplies, and clothing. Other representatives specialize in technical and scientific products, ranging from agricultural and mechanical equipment to computer and pharmaceutical goods.
Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives who lack expertise about a given product frequently team with a technical expert. In this arrangement, the technical expert—sometimes a sales engineer—attends the sales presentation to explain the product and answer questions or concerns. The sales representative makes the initial contact with customers, introduces the company’s product, and obtains final agreement from the potential buyer.
By working with a technical expert, the representative is able to spend more time maintaining and soliciting accounts and less time seeking technical knowledge.
After the sale, representatives may make followup visits to ensure that equipment is functioning properly and may even help train customers’ employees to operate and maintain new equipment.
Those selling consumer goods often suggest how and where merchandise should be displayed. When working with retailers, they may help arrange promotional programs, store displays, and advertising.
In addition to selling products, wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives analyze sales statistics, prepare reports, and handle administrative duties such as filing expense accounts, scheduling appointments, and making travel plans.
Staying up to date on new products and the changing needs of customers is important. Sales representatives accomplish this aim in a variety of ways, including attending trade shows at which new products and technologies are showcased. They attend conferences and conventions to meet other sales representatives and clients and to discuss new product developments. They also read about new and existing products and monitor the sales, prices, and products of their competitors.
The following are examples of types of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives:
Inside sales representatives work mostly in offices while making sales. Frequently, they are responsible for getting new clients by “cold-calling” various organizations, meaning that they call potential customers who are not expecting to be contacted. That way, a representative can establish an initial contact. They also take incoming calls from customers who are interested in their product, and they process paperwork to complete the sale.
Outside sales representatives spend much of their time traveling to and visiting with current clients and prospective buyers. During a sales call, they discuss the client’s needs and suggest how they can meet those needs with merchandise or services. They may show samples or catalogs that describe items their company provides, and they may inform customers about the prices and availability of the products they are selling and the ways in which their products can save money and boost productivity.
Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products held about 1.4 million jobs in 2019. The largest employers of sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, except technical and scientific products were as follows:
|Merchant wholesalers, durable goods||32%|
|Merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods||20|
|Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers||10|
Sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products held about 321,000 jobs in 2019. The largest employers of sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing, technical and scientific products were as follows:
|Professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers||19%|
|Merchant wholesalers, nondurable goods||13|
|Professional, scientific, and technical services||12|
|Wholesale electronic markets and agents and brokers||7|
Some wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives have large territories and travel considerably. Because a sales region may cover several states, representatives may be away from home for several days or weeks at a time. Sales representatives who cover a smaller region may not spend much time away from home.
Other wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives spend a lot of their time on the phone, selling goods, taking orders, and resolving problems or complaints about the merchandise. They also use Web technology, including chats, email, and video conferencing, to contact clients.
Workers in this occupation can be under considerable stress because their income and job security often depend directly on the amount of merchandise they sell and their companies usually set goals or quotas that they are expected to meet.
Most wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives work full time and many work more than 40 hours per week.
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives.
For more information about wholesale sales representatives, visit
For more information about certification, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives,
at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/sales/wholesale-and-manufacturing-sales-representatives.htm (visited ).