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A Day in the Life of a Retail Salesperson

Retail salespeople can do their job from behind a counter, over the phone, or even by visiting their clients personally, whether they’re right down the hall or on the other side of the world. Most salespeople pitch their products dozens of times a day, five days a week. Whatever the product, they must convey confidence and goodwill, for making a sale requires a trusting consumer. People in sales must be ready to deal with rejection and disgruntled customers. As products and market conditions change constantly, salespeople must adapt if they want to survive. In fields such as consumers electronics in general and computers in particular, the rapid pace of change can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. A skilled salesperson knows the product she’s selling and understands the needs of her customers. Salespeople often say they want to help people find what they need, and bristle at accusations that they are selling “just for the money.” After all, salespeople are a necessary part of a dynamic capitalist economy. Moreover, many salespeople truly enjoy the human interaction as much as the more palpable thrill of closing a sale. For some, the demands of travel detract from the time they can spend with their families; others enjoy the travel or find they can work from home. A good sales record leads to a better job with a better salary and, often extra incentives such as higher commissions. Most of the salespeople we talked to devote their sales-related reading to specialized journals dedicated to the professional salesperson or to individual markets they serve. The amount of time salespeople devote to their job depends on what they sell and on their own personal needs. Nevertheless, even the best salespeople often work continually, because “you’re only as good as your last month’s sales.” Paying Your Dues

Paying Your Dues

The sales profession values experience over education. A specialized degree is not necessary to pursue a career in sales. An understanding of the product is important no matter what you sell, but the salesperson must learn to communicate well with clients, whether it’s face-to-face, over the phone, or by letter or e-mail. Ambitious salespeople may study marketing and sales techniques at college or business school either before or during their sales careers.

Present and Future

Complex economies like ours are based on competition from various companies selling similar products. Successful competitors outsell their rivals, and companies know that succeed they must hire people with expertise in selling. As businesses have become more specialized, strategies have become more sophisticated and targeted. Many companies now employ and train their own sales forces. Retail salespeople must give customers what they want at the best price, and as the retail “superstore” behemoths gain dominance, customers are becoming more demanding that service and price be satisfactory. The trend toward high-volume, low-margin outlets is forcing a shake-out at the retail level, and the inattentive retailer will not last long unless he is ready to compete with the giants.

Quality of Life


Entry-level sales jobs may pay minimum wage, often without a commission. Pay scales vary according to the industry. The grind of frequent rejection and the constant interaction with others can be wearing, but for some, the triumph of making a sale can be its own reward. Take this time to learn personal strategies for being a convincing salesperson, no matter what it is you happen to be selling.


Salaries are considerably higher at this stage, and proven salespeople can negotiate for higher commissions or more lucrative accounts. A change in product lines or entry into a new area, such as personal computers, can spell a need for rapid reeducation about the product and the best way to sell it.


After ten years many salespeople have settled into management positions and may be responsible for a salesforce or important accounts. Veteran salespeople may be able to cut back on their hours while still bringing in significant business to the company. Others may be drawn to the travel and business opportunities of international sales.