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The terms agent and representative seem similar on the surface but are vastly different when functioning in the business world. A representative works directly for a single company while an agent may have multiple business clients and usually works for his own business. The pay for these two positions can also vary widely.
Business Agent Definition
An agent is in charge of the business affairs of another person. The agent usually deals directly with employers to negotiate for her client's business services. Negotiating usually involves contract talks where the agent works to secure the best possible contract for her client including the highest rate of pay, most desirable contract length and an attractive benefits package. The agent earns a direct commission based on how much money she can negotiate for her client so it's in her best interest to continue negotiations until she reaches the highest dollar value possible.
Company Representative Role
A representative is usually in a sales position acting directly on the behalf of an employer. The representative's job is to secure business for the employer by selling the employer's products or services to other companies or individual consumers. A representative may use company property such as a physical business location to conduct sales or she may meet companies and consumers outside of company property. A representative usually receives a commission based on the value of total products or services sold but may also receive a salary.
Different Business Functions
An agent works on behalf of a client to secure employment for a business client whereas a representative usually works with an established company to sell goods and services of that company. A representative may work in almost all areas of retail and levels of pay from a store clerk to a car salesman. An agent usually works in fields with freelance clients including professional sports, film and television. The finite number of clients in these industries leads to a much more competitive sales environment for an agent than a representative.
Varying Pay Scales
The company's product prices and commission scale limits the income of a sales representative. A company may also have a commission cap that places a ceiling on the representative's income through commissioned sales for the year. By contrast, an agent's income is only limited by her negotiating prowess. The more money she negotiates for her client, the more she earns in commission. This leads to million-dollar paydays when working in industries with massive contracts like major motion pictures and professional sports.
Jonathan Lister has been a writer and content marketer since 2003. His latest book publication, "Bullet, a Demos City Novel" is forthcoming from J Taylor Publishing in June 2014. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Shippensburg University and a Master of Fine Arts in writing and poetics from Naropa University.