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Sales industry Career Pathways For School Leavers

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Overview

Do you have determination, resilience, ambition and a drive to make money and hit targets? If so, you could be suited to a career in a sales environment.

The sales industry encompasses everything from cold calling potential new clients to managing high profile accounts for business partners that you’ve brought on board to work with the company. Almost all companies hire sales staff, from small enterprises and start-ups to huge advertising and tech agencies.

The industry encompasses lots of different kinds of business, 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 - whilst basic sales techniques apply to everyone working in the sector, you'll find it easier to move up the career ladder if you're selling the same kinds of things in each role.

Some sales roles are based in offices with most of the business done over the phone or in meetings, whilst 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 their services or to find out about developments with the products that they’re selling. Knowing how to improve products and services to better fit what the consumers want is a big part of understanding the market, and is vital to any sales role.

Skills

Sales roles require the ability to handle pressure well as they’re often target-driven - meaning they’re expected to achieve that financial or selling goal on a regular basis. Knockbacks are experienced often, so being a resilient worker and self-motivation is crucial. Companies will motivate sales staff to continue working towards targets with financial bonuses, competitions and exciting incentives (think winning an expensive dining experience or even a free holiday!) You’ll also need the ability to deal with high-pressure situations, tight deadlines and frequent knock-backs.

Of course, being persuasive is very important. You’ll need to be able to have a strong commercial awareness and understanding of the sector and market you’re selling to.

- Commercial Awareness
- Communication
- Customer Service
- Negotiation
- Self-Confidence
- Teamwork

Progression opportunities

You should be in a position to apply for assistant level roles in sales after you complete your apprenticeship (if this is the education route that you decide to go down.)

Progression can be quite fast within a sales environment, providing that you demonstrate a clear, strategic approach and regularly prove your worth by closing sales and bringing in new clients. Once you’ve shown this, you might be asked to manage a sales team - which will, in turn, result in an increased salary, a higher rate of commission and managing accounts of high profile clients.

Career development

If you’ve completed an apprenticeship in this area, you could consider going on to university afterwards in order to increase your professional standing. This might be particularly useful if you want to forge a sales career in a very specific area, e.g. medical equipment or technology.

If you want to progress in your sales career without a degree or an apprenticeship, a specific qualification in sales or marketing is likely to be useful. Likewise, if your role is very specific (for example in a technical area such as pharmaceuticals) it might be useful to have increased knowledge in this area. Your employers may be able to advise or support you in developing this.

Types of jobs in Sales industry

Earning potential

As an apprentice, you’ll earn a minimum of £3.70 per hour if you’re under 19 or in the first year of your apprenticeship, or the National Minimum Wage if you’re over 19. This works out at around £150 - £240 per week.

When starting out in the industry (even after your apprenticeship) your wage is likely to be modest, but the amount of commission you can earn in sales can mean you earn a lot more than your basic salary.

Account Managers that are responsible for project and client management (on top of direct selling) can start with a salary of around £21,000, but this quickly rises with experience. You'll also be given the opportunity to increase your salary by earning a commission. Some salespeople have tripled their salary this way.

Related Companies

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Qualification requirements & subjects to study

To get a job in this sector as a school leaver, it’s a good idea to undertake a vocational qualification. A diploma, certificate or short course in sales can give you the practical skills you need to get a job in this sector. Professional organisations such as the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management, as well as colleges, can provide these qualifications.

Alternatively, you could look at apprenticeships in administration. Apprenticeships will see you studying and working for a company at the same time. You will work alongside experienced staff and will have one day off per week to study, usually at a local technical college or equivalent. This can be a great route for those who know what they want to do early and don’t want to burden themselves with the time and debt of university.

It can be useful to also have technical knowledge of the product that you’re selling. For example, if you are selling pharmaceuticals, another route into a sales role might be to have a qualification in this area.

Industry Bodies

Chartered Institute of Marketing
Institute of Sales and Marketing Management

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