Does the idea of a career in sales that involves traveling and exploring other cultures appeal to you? If so, you may be a natural fit to become an international sales representative. Globalization is affecting businesses of all sizes, as new opportunities arise in expanding overseas markets. As global business grows, so may the demand for international sales representatives.

This career guide is designed to help you begin preparing for an international sales representative career. You’ll discover the typical job duties, required education, essential training and skills, where the jobs are and potential earnings.

Job openings in this field may fluctuate, as sales are affected by changing economic conditions. However, according to national data published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for the broader category of wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives is projected at 9% between 2012 and 2022.

What is an International Sales Representative?

Multinational firms usually have sales operations running in their strongest current and prospective markets around the globe. They often require the skills of international sales representatives to represent their companies, develop relationships with potential customers, and sell products and services.

Why International Sales Representatives Matter

In order to sustain operations and remain profitable, businesses can either increase sales to existing customers or seek out new customers who want or need their products and services. Skilled sales representatives are responsible for finding these new consumers. For many expanding companies, their best prospects are in overseas markets, and to secure these new accounts, they rely on the efforts of international sales representatives.

International sales representatives are crucial links between end users and the rest of a firm’s operations. International sales representatives focus on finding new customers, and promoting and selling the company’s products. They will typically negotiate and write contracts, coordinate deliveries with production and distribution, and service their accounts.

Other duties may include conducting research on potential clients, staying on top of customer needs and changes in the industry, preparing reports for management, and resolving complaints and other service issues. Skilled international sales representatives can mean the difference between success and failure in the global marketplace.

Where Can I Find Jobs as an International Sales Representative?

International sales representative jobs aren’t always located overseas. Many U.S.-based corporations sell on the global marketplace from stateside locations. Whether a firm is based in the United States or a far corner of the world, international sales representatives often find work in industries such as manufacturing and distribution, software development, electronics, telecommunications and information technology. Other employers of international sales representatives include petroleum companies, chemical manufacturers, government and military contractors, and financial services concerns.

Educational Preparation for International Sales Representatives

Specific qualifications for international sales representative jobs will vary, according to the employer and industry. However, many employers will require a college degree at minimum.

  • Associate’s Degree: You may qualify for some entry-level sales positions with a two-year associate’s degree in business administration, marketing, management or a related field. Advancement often requires a bachelor’s degree.
  • Bachelor’s Degree: For international sales representative positions, employers may prefer candidates with at least a four-year degree, such as a bachelor’s degree in business administration, marketing or a related field. Employers may show preference to candidates with advanced degrees.
  • Master’s Degree: Mid- to upper-level international sales representative positions may require an advanced degree, such as an MBA with a specialization in international business. An advanced degree typically takes an additional one to two years beyond the bachelor’s level.

Some employers may offer tuition assistance to help you obtain a master’s degree.

Training, Other Qualifications and Advancement

Many employers will require foreign language skills, overseas work experience or knowledge of their particular industry. When preparing for an international sales representative career, focus on building language and cultural skills. For example, expertise in Southeast Asia, or fluency in German or Chinese will be attractive to employers with operations in those regions. Deep knowledge of language and culture is usually obtained first-hand, so plan on traveling to the region you’re most interested in. Look into internship exchange programs for opportunities to gain valuable international work experience.

In addition to the sales skills, self-reliance and drive that any sales position requires, a career in international sales calls for familiarity with the international marketplace, differences in trade laws and customs, as well as the following:

  • Strong judgment and decision-making skills
  • Excellent communication skills, including multiple languages
  • The ability to interact successfully across cultures
  • Negotiation and persuasion skills
  • Critical thinking and creative problem-solving skills

Advancement to positions such as international sales and marketing manager or international sales director may be possible with additional work experience or an advanced degree.

International Sales Representative Potential Salary

According to a national survey conducted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary for sales representatives in wholesale and manufacturing was $65,800, with the top 10% of earners receiving in excess of $116,000.

Because salary potential and employment opportunities may vary depending on location, education and experience, prospective students are encouraged to conduct independent research.

Do Your Career Goals Include Becoming an International Sales Representative?

If you’re naturally gregarious, driven and self-reliant, and are interested in foreign languages and cultures, you could be a great fit for a career as an international sales representative. Follow this guide to plan your path to this interesting, rewarding and exciting occupation.

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