The role of field sales executives is a client-facing role which involves travelling round and holding meetings with clients and potential clients as the representative of a company, its products and services. As well as generating as much revenue as possible through sales, field executives manage accounts and maintain client relationships through organising professional and semi-social gatherings. The role also involves administering all the paperwork and logistical issues that attend this work.
The primary purpose of a job in sales is, as the title suggests, to sell.. However, the position of field sales executive is generally considered to be superior to that of a standard sales executive, and, as such, it incurs a proportionate amount of extra workload. Working both in and out of the office, field sales executives are expected to keep up with the large amount of paperwork and meticulous diary-keeping that goes with their accounts. This includes keeping track of meetings, future and past, and contact details, sometimes making bookings or arranging insurance or legal matters for products, and updating computer databases back in the office, as well as reporting back to their area managers.
Executives are also usually expected to work closely with the in-house team of telesales executives who work in tandem with their field sales counterparts on some accounts. Senior field sales representatives will sometimes be expected to come up with initiatives to generate more revenue, either through encouraging their colleagues or through offering deals to clients.
However, the focus of a job in field sales is on the client-facing aspect of the job. As representatives of their company, executives must be smart, personable and well-presented. They will need an ability to communicate and, if at all possible, to get on with all different types of people in all different kinds of circumstances. They will also need a quick mind, as meetings will throw out possibilities, situations and proposals that they will need to assess and respond to immediately. Even junior field sales executives at larger companies will be handling accounts worth millions of pounds, and an excellent understanding of the values and terms of the product or service for sale is essential, as a large part of the role involves negotiating these values and terms with clients. Calls, pitches and deals may be monitored by the management, and field sales executives need to ensure that all the business they are involved in is running flawlessly, smoothly, and is impeccably recorded.
Field sales executives are the workers who generate the revenue – not only by selling services or products directly, but also by drumming up the advertising interests that keep their industries afloat, by taking the products and services to the paying customers, and explaining their use and their future significance.
The target-driven nature of sales jobs, as well as the long hours and frequent travel, can mean that the job can become stressful at times, as well as encroaching on executives’ private and social lives. However, many enjoy the sociable nature of the work itself, and choose the profession because, rather than despite, the fact that it will often require travel or semi-social evening meetings or networking sessions.
There is no strong gender bias within the sales workforce. However, the vast majority of executives will be in their twenties or thirties, with some more senior roles at the larger international companies – the roles at the top of the field sales pyramid – taken by more mature employees.
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Salaries for field sales executives are usually bonus-oriented, with some roles entirely commission-based – or to put it another way, no basic pay at all! However, all serious field sales jobs will offer a decent basic salary – usually £15,000-25,000 for a junior position –plus a bonus that can often hit £30,000 on target earnings (OTE). Indeed, the uncapped bonuses that are increasingly offered by companies mean that in theory, field sales executives can earn limitless wages. Furthermore, the ‘perks’ of the job, such as a company car or first-class travel, are a big attraction.
Field sales executives are counted on to represent the company they work for to existing and potential clients. An executive acts as the ‘face’ of his or her company, and as such is responsible for forging, maintaining and expanding links between corporations.
A typical day will revolve around client meetings, but can also include calling up potential new clients and discussing future sales possibilities. Following up on meetings with e-mails and telephone contact, and keeping up with paperwork are also important parts of the job.
A good field sales executive will also keep up with industry news for their trade sector, and particularly, keep an eye on company developments for any major corporate clients, through monitoring industry press.
No qualifications are required for entry-level field sales positions, although some positions will require A-Levels or NVQs, and some will even stipulate a university degree. However, a university degree is not necessarily a prerequisite for this job.
There are a number of professional qualifications designed to enhance company training and experience. These qualifications will put any applicant at a huge advantage. Look for details on the websites listed below to enrol on courses.
A background of study in the relevant sector is often recommended for technical and medical field sales jobs.
Prospective field sales executives will need to be technologically skilled or at least literate. They will also need considerable personal skills, as the job requires engaging, well-presented and articulate individuals.
The job tends to operate within normal office hours, but will often include evening or even weekend meetings, or return travel that can impinge on free time. These ‘extras’ vary wildly from company to company, and even from client to client. Executives can also be expected to work late or overtime in order to hit targets or meet deadlines. This expectation is usually rewarded with a reciprocal bonus paid out on a regular basis.
The conditions within field sales central offices tend to be of a high standard. However, the mental stressors that arise from the nature of the work – long hours, frequent travel, and so on – are taken increasingly seriously by employers, and a rise in flexi-time work, or working from home, can be seen as a result of this.
Most companies will require applicants to have had some experience in a sales role, preferably client-facing, and preferably upwards of six months. They will be required to have performed well in this capacity, with a strong reference, a good track record of sales, and sometimes a number of contacts they can bring to the new firm.
Field sales executives could be selling almost any product, from double-glazing to insurance to advertising. Even Avon ladies are a kind of field sales executive.
Technological and pharmaceutical companies traditionally recruit large numbers of field sales executives to present their products to potential buyers and to distribute them among companies. Nowadays, everybody from small-town double-glazing companies to international media corporations rely on sales to generate revenue, and have realised the value of sending field sales executives out to take their product from door-to-door. As such, the definition of the role is shifting from a very specific task that operated within certain industries, to something more catholic and edgeless, which has become invaluable across a number of different professional fields. This is one of the reasons why field sales is an excellent profession to start out in right now.
Most field sales executives apply for promotion from positions as in-house sales executives – telesales executives or account handlers. People do come in from other professions or as graduates, but this is rare. This is because a certain amount of familiarity with the product and the company being represented is desirable.
Moving on, field sales executives can continue in their role, with promotion coming as they handle increasingly important accounts. Others relocate to work for larger companies for higher pay.
Experience in field sales can be desirable for any senior role in sales, advertising and marketing, so graduates looking for a way into these professions might consider a field sales role along their way.
Also known as…
- Account Executive
- Account Sales Executive
- Technical Sales Officer
- Admin & Sales Executive
- Field Marketing Officer
What’s it really like?
Trina Hopcraft, 23, is a Commercial Field Sales Executive working in London. She gives us the inside story…
‘I have been working as a commercial field sales executive for two years now, since being promoted from my previous role of telesales executive at the same company. I work selling advertising space for a national newspaper and website. I am based in London, and usually work with clients from the London area. Prior to this I worked as an insurance broker in South East London.
During a typical day at work, I develop and maintain relationships with all recruitment advertising clients on the relevant territory. I work with telesales executives handling different accounts on their ‘territories’, and I am the field rep who holds meetings with those clients face-to-face, at their own workplace or other venue. I check my calendar to see if I have any meetings with clients. If I don’t, I need to ensure that I have a minimum of three booked in per week. I check our competitors within the national quality press to see if we can locate any business advertising elsewhere, to whom we might be able to pitch. My role includes not only trying to increase revenue from current advertisers, using creative and innovative advertising, but also to create a new revenue stream of advertising by gaining new clients.
If I were to give advice to someone thinking of doing this job, I would tell them that you have to be extremely committed to your role. It is not a 9-5 job, you can sometimes be working late and often it is necessary to attend evening and all-day events in order to make future contacts and network with hard-to-reach organisations.
As an insider, I know that you also really need to be both pro-active and organised. It’s very easy to end up staying in the office to catch up on administration and forget to book meetings but this is such a crucial part of our role that it is something you cannot miss out on. It’s so important to report back to any client that you have been to see and monitor response of both existing and new clients – this helps to make you more credible as their account manager and also ensures that you have never had a wasted appointment.
Finally, stay confident! When I started training I was taught that the client is probably more nervous than you are: you should be confident that you are going there to help them by talking through your own knowledge of your product.
I don’t like having to source leads from rival publications, and try to persuade these people to advertise with us. But everyone dislikes cold calling! On the other hand, I really enjoy the fact that I can inform my clients about some of the new digital projects now available to advertisers. It makes such a difference speaking with clients face to face and it really helps when dealing with objections to ‘read’ the client and pick up what they are and are not interested in. In the long term, I hope to develop this aspect of my career by getting involved in something with a bit more room for my own creativity, possibly within marketing.’