Graduate Careers Advice

Graduate Sales Careers

Lucy Miller

Do you have the personality, drive, stamina and skill it takes to be a successful, star sales person?

If a business is going to make money, it needs to sell things. And not all business can just stock shelves and let people go around to pick out what they want - they need other employees to give advice (like the people who helped you pick out your mobile phone), or even travel around to promote their products.

The sales industry encompasses lots of kinds of businesses, so you can specialise in selling anything from food or medicines to gadgets or services. It's important that you build up experience from working in similar businesses - while basic sales techniques apply to everyone, you'll find it easier to move up the career ladder if you're selling the same kinds of things in each role.

You've also got choice in the kind of sales role you want to take on. Some are based in an office with most of the business done over the phone, some work from a shop where customers come to them, and others travel around as a representative of their company, trying to sell items to other businesses.

People who work in sales often liaise with other departments to let them know what the customers have to say about the products or services. This is a big part of understanding the market, and knowing how to develop the products and services to better fit what the consumers want.

There can be a lot of high pressure in a sales job, as you'll have specific targets to achieve on a daily or weekly basis. It can also be a very high-paying career when you meet and exceed these targets, which will lead to job promotions and higher commissions. You'll also need to know your market and customers well.

What sales roles can I do?

Sales encompasses everything from working in a shop as an assistant to managing high profile accounts for business clients that you’ve brought on board to work with the company. Almost all companies hire sales staff, from corner shops to huge advertising agencies.

Some entry level jobs include:

  • Account executive
  • Account manager
  • Sales executive
  • Sales assistant
  • Call centre sales assistant
  • Cashier

Graduate jobs in sales are overwhelmingly B2B and may include the following, although this list is not exhaustive:

  • Graduate sales executive
  • Account director/ executive
  • International account director/ executive
  • Telesales advisor
  • Sales management
  • Business development executive
  • Event sales director
  • Customer-facing selling expensive consumer products (one of the few times graduates may land B2C roles)

How Much Can I Earn as a Sales Assistant?

Sales assistants (for example in retail) can earn £14,000-18,000, with sales managers and senior staff earning over £40,000 and more depending on the company.

Account Mangers – high level sales roles that involve project and client management as well as direct selling – can start on around £24,000, but can rise hugely with experience.

Sales jobs also usually include performance-related bonuses, as well as commission on the items or services sold.

What Qualifications do I Need to be a Sales Assistant?


With a Bachelors Degree

Although you don’t necessarily need a related degree, if you are looking for a graduate job in sales most employers will be looking for candidates with at least a 2.1 in any subject.

If you are selling a very specific product, for example pharmaceuticals, it may be useful to have a qualification in this area in order than you have all the technical knowledge required.

Large companies may be able to offer a graduate scheme, which will be structured and last for around two years.

After gaining some experience in a sales environment you may look into professional qualifications offered by the Chartered Institute of Marketing or the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management.

What Skills Do I Need to be a Sales Assistant?

The skills required of sales people are multi-faceted. Whilst being persuasive and often borderline pushy, it is important not to come across as aggressive out of fear of losing the deal. Drive and resilience are two of the most important skills that you must have in order to succeed in a sales environment, as well as the ability to deal with high pressure situations, tight deadlines and frequent knock-backs.

From a business perspective, you must be fully aware of the market that you are selling into, as well as having a strong commercial awareness.

Other important skills for those working in sales include:

  • Strong customer service
  • Tact
  • Enthusiasm
  • Teamwork
  • Exceptional communication
  • Confidence
  • Negotiation

What Experience Do I Need to Get a Job in Sales? 

Experience in any sales-focused role – whether this is working in a shop or helping sell products in some other way – is beneficial when looking for jobs in this industry.

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