Career Advice Nov 21 2011

The Best Paying Sales Jobs

By Alina Dizik

The mathematics of a job in sales is simple: Sell more to earn more.

But knowing what kind of product or service to sell to earn a lucrative salary is difficult. Residential real estate isn't any longer the money-earner it used to be, nor are some areas of finance.

If you don't want to relocate, Alice Heiman, a Reno, Nev.-based sales strategist suggests thinking about regional economic trends. "Look at the economy right in your neighborhood," she says. Whether it's business-to-business or consumer sales, there may be well-paying sales positions available. Fields like technology and health care are especially hot.

We talked to recruiters and researched job ads to find seven of this year's most lucrative sales jobs:

Contract Research Organizations (CRO) Sales

Total compensation: $150,000 to $500,000

When pharmaceutical companies develop new drugs or devices, they contract out clinical testing to CROs in order to send the drug or device through the FDA approval process. Sales reps often have science backgrounds, some with advanced degrees, and sell the CRO's services to the pharmaceutical or medical device companies.

They are well-compensated because "this market is highly regulated, highly documented and highly competitive, and the sales reps who market the CRO services have to have a keen understanding of the industry," says Kandi Williams, founder of KL Williams & Associates, a biotech and marketing recruiting firm. Salespeople are also responsible for marketing and explaining the capabilities of the CRO.

Bioinformatics Sales

Total compensation: $100,000 to $400,000

As the mass of data available at many life sciences firms increases, technology that creates long-lasting intelligence from the multitude of information is in high demand. Those involved in bioinformatics sales are essentially selling data solutions within the life sciences field and working at companies like Geneva Bioinformatics, Array Genetics and BioDiscovery Inc.

Prior technical and lab experience is needed for bioinformatics sales and most people have a health care background, says Williams. To launch a career in health care sales, "start out selling the basic lab commodities and work hard," she says. "The consumables and lab distribution companies hire people into sales right out of the lab." As more technology companies customize these types of solutions to the medical world, the need for bioinformatics sales experts will continue to grow.

Investment Banking Sales

Total compensation: $100,000 and $2 million

Not a sales job in the traditional sense, those who work on the sell-side of an investment bank are responsible for selling to institutional investors such as hedge funds. After the financial fallout, there's more regulation on pay, but total compensation is still substantially higher than most other areas of sales. New jobs are emerging in smaller cities, away from Wall Street. There's also a renewed focus on ethics, so good conduct can help you get ahead, says Ken Sundheim, chief executive of KAS Placement Recruitment and Staffing, a New York-based recruiting firm.

IT Security Sales

Total compensation: $150,000 to $500,000

Big companies are increasingly concerned about cyber security breaches and selling them IT solutions can be very lucrative. Many salespeople work at start-ups, which help customize software for various industries. Sales workers for larger companies such as Symantec and McAfee have a steadier pay structure with great benefits. Those who have both implementation and sales skills can also work their way up to partner level in an IT consultancy. Other companies include: Kaspersky, Trend Micro and Check Point.

Government Technology Sales

Total compensation: $80,000 to $300,000

Selling to the government is highly regulated and those who can get past the red tape of acquisition requirements such as lengthy procurement processes are nicely rewarded. Salespeople with a Rolodex of government contacts are especially in high demand, Sundheim says. "Once they have these contacts, they can charge not only a hefty fee for their sales skills, but their employers also pay an added bonus for the book of government prospects that, unlike the corporate world, may only change jobs once or twice in a career," he explains.

Breaking into government sales requires persistence and understanding the lengthy RFP (request for proposal) process. Companies like Winvale and Consilium Technologies specialize in government technology sales.

Electronic Medical Record (EMR) Systems Sales

Total compensation: $200,000 to $500,000

Selling IT systems to help medical facilities keep records is another growing area of health care these days. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention only 49% of medical facilities used medical record systems in 2009, so there's steady demand.

Working for a smaller company can mean you'll get a higher title, like a regional vice president or regional sales director, says Tim Tolan, senior partner at Sanford Rose Associates, a health care services recruiting firm based in Charleston, S.C. "A lot of these companies are giving them titles that allow them to get [their products] directly into the c-suite," Tolan says and explains that a higher title can help sales people speak to decision-makers directly. Larger companies include Intivia, Varian Medical Systems and McKesson.

Digital Media Advertising Sales

Total compensation: $80,000 to $150,000

As traditional media continues to go online and new sites develop ad-based revenue models, those working with online media to place advertising are seeing increased commissions at large media companies. Capable sales people at large media companies like A&E, Time Warner or Zynga can go far in the expanding field. Before you accept an offer, make sure the commission structure is not capped and consider your work-life balance, which can be hectic in an advertising sales role. "The definition of a lucrative job always includes life satisfaction," Heiman says.

Write to Alina Dizik at alinadizik@gmail.com




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