Pet Food Sales Representative Career Profile
Pet food sales representatives use their knowledge of animal nutrition to market pet food products to retailers.
Pet food sales representatives are responsible for marketing a pet food manufacturer’s products to dealers such as local pet stores, major chain outlets, and veterinary clinics. They work under the direct supervision of a sales manager.
Pet food sales reps must stay current with developments in the field of pet nutrition and constantly educate themselves about the needs of the industry and their company’s product line. They must also aggressively seek out new clients and expand their sales volume in a designated territory.
There are two types of sales rep positions: inside sales and field sales. Inside sales positions do not involve any (or extremely minimal) travel; all sales calls to prospects are made by phone. Field sales positions require frequent travel throughout a specific territory. Participation in industry trade show events or conventions may also be a part of the job.
Sales representatives are required to keep detailed records of their sales performance, develop lists of potential prospects, schedule visits to retailers to make sales presentations, keep track of accounts, file expense reports, and provide customer service to existing clients.
Pet food sales reps may specialize by offering products for one specific species (such as dogs, cats, or parrots), or representing one specific product.
Successful sales representatives may be able to advance to positions of greater responsibility, such as regional sales management.
Education & Training
Pet food sales representatives can come from a variety of educational backgrounds. While there is no specific degree required for this career path, most pet food manufacturers seek representation from candidates with a degree in marketing, nutrition, communications, animal science, business, or a veterinary related field. An advanced degree (Masters or Ph.D.) is preferred for those in supervisory (sales manager) roles. Direct experience in working with targeted species is also valuable.
New recruits for sales rep positions usually go through a comprehensive training program upon being hired. These training programs can last anywhere from several weeks to several months, depending on the preferences of the pet food manufacturer. They may also be assigned a mentor to shadow in the field before striking out on their own. The sales management team also endeavors to provide continuing education for the representatives so they can be well informed about new product lines that are being developed and marketed.
There are several membership groups that those involved in the sales industry can join. One well-known group for sales representatives is the Manufacturers’ Agents National Association (MANA), which offers market research studies, continuing education opportunities, and local networking events for manufacturers’ agents.
Another group, the Manufacturers Representatives Education Research Foundation (MRERF) offers certification for sales representatives as either a Certified Professional Manufacturer’s Representative (CPMR) or as a Certified Sales Professional (CSP).
The American Pet Products Manufacturer’s Association (APPMA) is a leading group for pet product sales representatives. This trade association conducts market research, provides educational seminars, and puts on the Global Pet Expo each year.
Compensation for pet food sales representatives can be based on salary, commission, or (frequently) a combination of both. Sales reps also usually receive some sort of bonus incentive for the achievement of sales goals and other outstanding performance milestones.
Representatives that work in a field sales environment often receive several forms of additional compensation such as an expense account for entertaining clients, paid travel expenses, and use of a company vehicle.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median wage for manufacturing sales representatives was $56,620 in 2010. The lowest ten percent earned less than $26,970 per year and the highest ten percent earned more than $108,440 per year.
Sales representative job opportunities are expected to grow about as fast as the average for all careers (approximately 16%) according to the BLS. Job prospects will be best for those holding a college degree, expertise in the field, and solid marketing skills. Competition for pet product sales industry positions is expected to remain strong, as this niche market provides a high-profit potential for successful salespeople.
The pet product marketplace represents a $50 billion dollar per year industry, so earning potential should remain solid for those able to find positions in this fast paced sales environment.