Few jobs offer the income and advancement potential of careers in sales. Earnings can vary widely depending on company, product and industry, but excellent opportunities abound. Some sales careers offer a base salary plus commission, while others are completely commission based. In all cases, highly skilled professionals have the potential for virtually unlimited income. For those with strong leadership skills, a sales management career can also be a lucrative proposition.
Whether you already have a career in sales or are looking to break into the field, you need to focus on finding the right job in order to achieve the greatest return. There are a number of factors you should consider: where you’re at in your sales career, your interests and strengths, and potential compensation. Conduct research to find out which companies offer the best wages and incentives, and which ones invest in professional development. Some job roles or industries routinely pay more than others, so when evaluating various careers in sales, seek out those positions and fields with the highest earnings potential.
Sales representatives work in many types of businesses in all sectors of the market. This job title may be associated with any number of careers in sales; however, the responsibilities of these professionals are generally the same: recruiting new clients, maintaining positive relationships with existing clients and closing sales to contribute to a company’s profitability. Clearly, salaries will vary widely depending on the sales career. In fact, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has multiple categories for careers in sales. For sales representatives of wholesale and manufacturing companies, the BLS makes a distinction between those working with technical and scientific products, who enjoy an average income of $81,370 per year, and those working with all other products, who earn an average annual salary of $61,400. However, for both types of sales careers, the top representatives routinely earn upwards of $100,000 per year.1
If you have experience or education in computers or software development, you can parlay your knowledge into a high-paying sales career in the high-end software industry. To be effective in this role, you need to have an in-depth understanding of how the product works to be able to accurately explain its features and benefits to prospects and answer their questions. Careers in software sales require technical abilities and sales skills in equal measure; if you have the right qualifications, your income potential can be enormous. Job site Monster.com reports that for a software sales career, the base salary ranges from $80,000 to $100,000 a year, while commissions start around $250,000 and can be as much as $1 million.2
Because of the complexity of software products, the required knowledge can be a barrier to entry for some. However, there are a number of other technical careers in sales that don’t require a degree or extensive experience. For example, it’s possible to start out selling something as simple as cable services and transition into a telecommunications sales career, selling higher-end products like network security systems. An entry-level role with a lower-margin product will help you develop the skills, knowledge and professionalism required to move up into higher-profile, more lucrative careers in telecommunications sales. Monster.com found that sales representatives in this field typically have a base salary between $70,000 and $100,000 annually, with the possibility of $100,000 to $200,000 in commissions.2
The influence of technology is growing in every sector of the economy, and is especially prevalent in the fields of marketing and advertising, where digital media continue to outpace traditional media. Individuals who sell ad space or air time in print or broadcast media have likely seen their sales drop in recent years. However, there are still opportunities for successful careers in media sales for those who can make the transition from traditional media to digital media. If you pursue a digital media sales career, Monster.com indicates that you can expect a base salary of $170,000 to $180,000 per year, with anywhere between $130,000 and $220,000 in commissions.2
If you have a proven ability to succeed in various careers in sales, you may be able to achieve a position as a sales consultant. These professionals may work for consulting firms or be self-employed, and they advise client companies on ways they can improve their sales. Some knowledge of accounting may be beneficial in helping companies determine how to maximize their profits; however, a comprehensive understanding of effective sales techniques is equally valuable. The ability to help a company substantially increase its profits comes with great rewards. Monster.com findings showed that consulting careers in sales often have an annual base salary of $120,000 to $250,000, while commissions start at $25,000 but can go as high as $3 million.2
Many highly successful sales representatives end up getting tapped for a sales management career. Company executives often reason that if a professional is highly skilled at closing deals, he or she can help a sales team develop the same capabilities. If you have a proven track record of closes and demonstrate leadership potential, you can land a high-paying sales management career According to the BLS, sales managers earned an average annual wage of $111,570 in May 2009. While the middle 50% earned between $65,210 and $141,430, the top 10% had a yearly salary in excess of $166,400.3
While there are many lucrative careers in sales to choose from, there is also a great deal of competition for the best jobs. To attain the highest salaries, you need to have outstanding skills and knowledge – which is why many employers give preference to candidates with formal sales training. It’s widely acknowledged that professional development is a wise investment; however, many working sales representatives find it difficult to take time off to attend seminars or workshops. The good news is that you can gain valuable skills and credentials on your schedule with the Certificate in Sales and Sales Management program offered online by the University of San Francisco (USF).
Expert-led, university-backed and 100% online, USF’s certificate program is the only one of its kind in the industry. It consists of three eight-week certificate courses that are designed to help you achieve a thriving sales career and prepare to transition into a high-level sales management position:
All courses are delivered through a unique, video-based e-learning platform. You’ll learn from pros with a long history of successful careers in sales, and can view their lessons via streaming video, MP4 downloads or CD-ROM. You’ll also have the opportunity to interact with your instructors and fellow students through email, online discussion boards, and instant messaging.
Upon completion of each course and the entire certificate program, you’ll receive a framed certificate of achievement from USF, which is consistently ranked among “America’s Best Colleges” by U.S. News & World Report. These respected university credentials will prove that you have what it takes to excel in one of today’s most sought-after sales careers and tackle the challenges of a demanding sales management career.
1 “Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Except Technical and Scientific Products” and “Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products.” Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2009. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; accessed September 30, 2010.
2 DeZube, Donna. “Eight High-Paying Sales Jobs.” Monster.com, undated; access September 30, 2010.
3 “Sales Managers.” Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2009. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics; accessed September 30, 2010.