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Wood Products Technical Salesperson

What They Do

Insider Info

A technical salesperson in the wood products industry combines technical knowledge, excellent interpersonal skills and salesmanship to promote and sell products for wood product manufacturing companies.

The wood products industry produces such things as paper, packaging, shipping containers, building materials, cabinets, furniture and chemicals.

Technical salespeople have to be personable and outgoing. They need to be able to communicate effectively with co-workers and customers. What makes this sales job different is that they also have to have a high level of technical knowledge too, says Kelly DeMille, a wood products salesperson.

"You don't want to confuse the customer, first of all, and you never want to sell them the wrong piece of equipment," she says.

The worst thing that can happen to a salesperson is not knowing what a customer is talking about. This is why knowledge of the industry is so important.

"You can't fake it," says DeMille. "You have to know what you're doing and you have to know a lot of details."

A knowledge of computers and other industrial equipment is essential for almost any job in the wood products industry nowadays. Specifically, a salesperson in the wood products industry must have a solid understanding of wood and material sciences. Still, it's important to note that sales is a "people job."

"Aside from technical skills, which are obvious, very good communication skills are needed," says David Lloyd, a technical sales representative for a forestry company. "That would include not only being able to clearly present yourself in good written communication, but also through excellent listening skills."

Sometimes these skills are overlooked because people skills are usually learned in activities outside the classroom, and are not usually formally taught, says Lloyd. Yet such skills are essential to the technical salesperson who has to represent the needs of the customer to the mill or manufacturing plant.

This requires "the ability to empathize with the customer, understand what the customer wants and translate that into something people can understand," says Lloyd. "A lot of it is attitude and skills as opposed to textbook knowledge."

A technical salesperson has to be a self-starter who presents ideas and launches them into action. Lloyd says this is one of the more rewarding aspects of the job. "The best part is the challenge and the ability to influence the outcome of results, largely because so much is dependent on personal initiative and making decisions."

Organizational skills don't hurt either. A technical sales rep spends a lot of time traveling to mills and to meetings with potential customers. The rest of their time is divided between the office, the job floor and conference rooms. These workers are always on the go.

The scope of responsibilities for people in this position depends on the size of the firm for which they work. The technical salesperson sells the company's products to local, regional, national and international buyers. Many are involved in the design decisions of products as well.

Salespeople generally work a normal eight-hour day. They spend time filling out forms and making phone calls. They have to travel to do demonstrations and to check on customers. This can sometimes lead to a few long days on the road, says DeMille.

"Depending on what you're doing, you might have to operate some machinery which can be pretty hard on your muscles," DeMille notes. But this is not a common job hazard.

At a Glance

Sell products for wood manufacturing companies

  • You have to be personable and outgoing
  • A knowledge of computers and other industrial equipment is essential
  • Technical and sales training are required