Key to the top line of most enterprises, sales is a core business function. The head of any business -- whether it's the owner of a one-person shop or the CEO of a major corporation -- is often the salesperson-in-chief. In addition to the sales jobs in their own sales departments, many companies use related services or products -- ranging from sales automation software to swag for trade shows -- that create many more jobs in sales.
Sales Job Market
More than 340,000 people held jobs as sales managers in 2010, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS); another 40,100 sales manager jobs are projected to be added by 2020. Sales engineer jobs numbered 66,400 in 2010, and the profession is expected to grow by 9,500 jobs over the decade. Millions more sales jobs are in frontline roles.
Sales employment varies widely in its complexity, but consumer-facing salespeople generally put forth a simpler pitch than their counterparts in business-to-business or commercial sales. Ever more sales careers are dependent on in-depth knowledge of sales-tracking systems; in many industries, sales reps who don't leverage technology to boost efficiency and close more deals are an endangered species. And while technology may replace many sales assistant jobs, professionals who can make a human connection and consistently deliver new and returning buyers should find strong sales job opportunities.
Common sales job titles include sales assistant, sales associate, sales representative, inside sales representative, outside sales representative, sales agent, sales account executive, sales engineer, sales manager, sales director and vice president of sales.
Salaries in sales vary widely, depending on the particular job in sales, the product or service being sold, the sales commission structure and the sales rep's talent for closing the deal. Sales representatives (excluding those who sell wholesale, manufacturing, scientific and technical products) earned median salaries of $50,630 in May 2011, according to the BLS. Median annual wages for sales managers were $101,640. Sales engineers, who typically have at least a bachelor's degree in science or technology, earned median wages of $89,330.