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Sales - 8 min READ

Top sales salaries and how to get there

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Author photo: Kimberlee Meier

Kimberlee Meier


Looking for a higher salary in your sales job? It’s possible.

You just need to know where to look.

According to Glassdoor, the average sales salary runs at $52k a year:

But if that’s not enough cash and you’re looking to make six-figures in sales, the good news is you can. Sticking to service-related industries or commission-based sales jobs can make a massive difference to your salary.

Here are some of the top salaries in sales, and a few tips on how you can start earning them yourself:

Top salary #1: Software Sales Representative

What software sales reps do:

If you’re obsessed with software and everything tech, a career in software sales could be an ideal fit for you.

A software sales rep is well versed in computer jargon and is comfortable explaining complex software in simple terms. Their average day involves selling tech and software to businesses that might have no knowledge about your product area at all.

If you choose this career path, you’ll have to have the patience. Expect to spend a lot of time giving demos to stakeholders who might take a while to find real value in your product.

Core skills needed:

  • Customer service
  • Interpersonal skills
  • Self-confidence
  • Stamina

The reward:

The average base pay for software sales reps is a touch over $100k. Plus, annual commissions can run anywhere between $4k to nearly $60k.

How to get there:

To reach the top as a software sales rep, you need to start at the bottom. Most often, reps in this field need a college degree (ideally, one in marketing, tech or IT), and they often start as a junior sales rep (or SDR) before climbing the ranks.

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Top salary #2: Digital Sales Manager

What digital sales managers do:

Traditional advertising is on the way out, and digital sales are taking over. If you’re thinking about crossing into the digital sales world, now is the time to jump on the bandwagon.

This role sells anything related to digital advertising like banners, SEO, and PPC. Digital sales managers also build strategies for companies to boost their success over several digital platforms.

Most digital sales management positions also have to deal with customer complaints about a product, prepare and track budgets, and analyze sales stats for customers.

Core skills needed:

  • Analytics
  • Communication
  • Customer service
  • Leadership

The reward:

The average base pay for a digital sales manager is nearly $69k. Annual commissions run between $3.5k and $85k. Not too shabby.

How to get there:

The majority of digital sales managers have a degree, and some even hold a master’s. A background in business management, economics, accounting or finance will help you get into the role faster, but it’s not essential if you already have a strong background in sales.

Top salary #3: Director of Sales

What a director of sales does:

Sales directors have a lot of targets they need to hit. Not only are they involved with organizing a sales team and keeping them motivated, but sales directors are also a company’s top dog when it comes to managing all sales efforts.

In this role, you’ll be earning your $114k paycheck by overseeing new product launches and services, keeping an eye on customer service standards and overseeing long-term marketing strategies.

Oh, and you’ll be on the road. A lot. Sales director calendars are notoriously full of client meetings, lunches and traveling. You’ll rarely be out of the office before 6pm.

Core skills needed:

  • Organizational skills
  • Communication
  • Decision-making
  • Leadership

The reward:

Pretty epic. The average base pay for a Director of Sales is over $114k. Annual commissions average around $46k.

How to get there:

Sales directors often begin their careers as a sales rep before climbing the corporate ladder. You can make the climb internally through promotions, but most companies will require that you have a history of top-notch sales experience (more than five years).

Top salary #4: Sales Engineer

What sales engineers do:

Sales engineers are often found working in scientific or tech companies that sell complex products and services.

Typically, a successful sales engineer can demo and sell a technical product, while explaining the science behind it at the same time. What makes a sales engineer’s role different is how hands-on it is. Because a typical sales engineer has a strong background in engineering, they’re able to have an input into the development cycle of products and maintaining communications with customers about their technical needs.

Sales engineers are most often found on the road, working long hours and giving demos. When they’re back in the office, sales engineers are looking for ways to make product changes to lower production costs.

Core skills needed:

  • Technological skills
  • Self-confidence
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Interpersonal skills

The reward:

The average base pay for a Sales Engineer is $101k. When it comes to commissions, Sales Engineers can expect to pocket around $28k a year.

How to get there:

You’ll need a bachelor’s degree in engineering to stand a chance at scoring a Sales Engineer role, as it requires a mix of technical knowledge and interpersonal skills. Most of the time, sales engineers have qualifications in mechanical, electrical, or civil engineering.

Top salary #5: Financial Sales Agent

What financial sales agents do:

Financial sales agents sell and consult on anything from banking to insurance. The role has one aim: for the agent to show a financial benefit or reward to their client.

It’s a lot of cold calling and emailing. Financial sales agents have to push products like checking accounts, loans, retirement accounts, and credit cards to make their commissions. And because the responsibilities are so broad, the employment opportunities are as well. Financial sales agents are employed by anyone from small private clients to multinational companies.

Core skills needed:

  • Customer service
  • Attention to detail
  • A lot of initiative
  • Quick thinking and decision-making skills

The reward:

The average base pay for a financial sales agent isn’t jaw-dropping at $47k. But with potential commissions of $82k+ a year, it’s a career path worth looking into.

How to get there:

Through a successful client list. The majority of financial sales agents make their move into senior positions in their company by bringing a lot of accounts into the business. A bachelor’s degree is needed to get your foot into the door for most financial sales agent roles, but an MBA will fast-track your career in this job role.

Top salary #6: Medical Sales Rep

What medical sales reps do:

Everybody knows doctors and surgeons have a lot of cash. So it should come as no surprise that companies selling them medical products also earn a tidy sum.

A day in the life of a medical sales rep involves selling pharmaceutical and medical products to individual healthcare professionals and entire institutions. You won’t only be dealing with private industries either. Medical sales reps are often on the front line for their pharmaceutical companies and selling products to local and national government agencies.

Core skills needed:

  • Stamina
  • Self-confidence
  • Interpersonal skills

The reward:

The average base pay for a medical sales rep is slightly above the average sales rep salary at $61k. Commissions are the real honey pot for this role, with the average medical sales rep taking home just under $25k a year (or up to $81k, if you’re savvy).

How to get there:

To land a medical sales rep job, you’ll normally need a science degree. Why? So you can hold your own during a meeting with a doctor. A background in biomedical sciences, healthcare or even a nursing background can be a big bonus.

Salary hacks - how to get the sales salary you deserve:

Once you’ve got your eye on a top sales salary, there are a few ways you can make sure you get the pay you deserve when applying for the role.

Know the compensation of the role—inside and out.

When you step into a job interview, do your research and take the salary figures you expect with you. Once the salary is mentioned, you will already know what the role typically pays out. If the figure given to you doesn’t add up with your research, you’ll have ammunition to enter into negotiation.

Typically, you’re given a chance to bring up any concerns you have about the company’s package. For example, if the commission aspect of your salary is wrapped around quotas, you should ask the interviewer:

  • Is there a commission cap?
  • What’s the company’s bonus structure? Is there one at all?
  • Out of all your reps on the payroll, how many of them are hitting their quota/target?
  • What’s the average salary for your reps?

The goal is to see if any of the company’s reps are hitting their targets. If they aren’t, it’s a massive red flag that the company sets unrealistic targets so they don’t have to pay their reps commission.

Know what perks you need.

Is the base salary important? Are you more interested in the commission? What about your 401k?

What sales reps expect from compensation packages, perks and opportunities for advancement all vary depending on the individual. It’s up to you as a salesperson to decide what part of the company’s compensation package is most important.

Ninety-four percent of salespeople stick with a base salary as their gauge when discussing compensation, but there are a lot of other elements you can—and should—negotiate as well.

Sales salaries have unlimited potential—if you pick the right one.

Forget about having to bulk up your sales salary with commissions and bonuses. There are a bunch of sales salaries out there that have both, plus a decent base salary.

A lot of high-paying sales jobs only require a bachelor’s degree, so if you think you need to have a doctorate to earn a decent wage, think again. What you do need to do to secure a high salary sales job often comes down to working hard and having amazing communication skills (and a bucket load of stamina).

Many of the best-paying sales jobs require a lot of travel, long office hours and have more than their fair share of stress. If you’re looking for the perfect sales job, find the right salary bracket and do your research first. Only then will you be able to narrow it down to a role that suits your ideal lifestyle.

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