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Where Can A Career In Sales Take You?

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The sales industry is driven by making money - and if you’re good at your job, you can make lots of it for both you and your employer. Most industry sectors look to recruit ambitious sales candidates who have the skills to take their company’s service or product successfully to market.

With the wide variety of businesses out there, you’ll find that no sales job is the same. In fact, they can vary quite significantly and so there are plenty of sales career pathways for graduates to choose from.

Business-to-business (B2B) sales tend to be much more corporate and involves selling a service or product to another business. Business-to-consumer (B2C) sales involve the company selling directly to individual consumers who will be using that product or service. For example, the person who sold you your phone contract? They were a B2C sales professional.

Other areas of sales include:

  • Customer service

  • Direct sales

  • Field sales

  • FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods)

  • Telesales

  • IT Sales

  • Media and advertising sales

  • Retail motor sales

  • Online sales

  • Medical sales

Graduates interested in sales careers can expect to work within a fast-paced and competitive environment - but it can also be a highly rewarding one.

Skills & interests required

To succeed in a sales career, you’ll want to be a “people person.” This means you’ll need to be particularly great at interacting with other people - especially your customers and colleagues. You’ll also benefit from being able to identify or listen to your customers' problems so that you can put forward your product or service as the solution to it.

Other skills that will benefit you in sales include:

  • Communication skills

  • Time management

  • Presentation skills

  • Confidence

  • Resilience

  • Persistence

  • Good customer services skills

  • Ambition and drive (to meet targets)

  • Networking and relationship-building abilities

Typical Career Progression Routes for Graduates in Sales

Graduates can progress relatively quickly within the sales industry if they prove their capability as a strong salesperson. You’ll most likely kickstart your career as a Sales Account Executive, whether you’re working in an office or field sales (selling a company’s product or service outside of the office).

When you progress to a Sales Account Manager role, you’ll be expected to carry greater responsibility and potentially manage more key accounts (a.k.a the bigger clients). You’ll likely take on management duties if you are promoted to a Sales Manager and depending on how large the company is that you are employed by, you may also go on to manage specific regions, countries or even continents.

The most outstanding sales professionals will progress to Sales Director or Managing Director roles in their careers. At this level, you’ll be expected to have significant commercial experience in the industry to ensure the company reaches its full growth potential. You’ll also likely be required to manage staff, set deadlines and targets, handle recruitment requirements and deal with any staff issues.

Tips for getting into the field

In recent years, work experience has increased in importance for employers. The good news is that many more employers are also willing to pay students for carrying out a work placement at their company. In 2018, the top 100 graduate employers offered an average of 90 paid internships or work placements (according to High Fliers, The Graduate Market 2018.) Sixteen of those organisations provided more than 250 placements each!

While this is great news for graduates, this makes applying for these placements a little more competitive so you’ll want to build upon your soft skills while you’re still at University. Try developing customer service and communication skills through part-time jobs, such as a retail assistant, or by taking on unpaid work experience opportunities.

Graduate Schemes provide a structured route to a sales career. These are normally offered by larger companies and have a great reputation for giving graduates a wider understanding of a business and the different departments within it. You’ll likely rotate within departments, such as sales and marketing.

Alternatively, graduates can apply for junior sales positions through specialist websites, such as TheBigChoice. You will need to ensure your CV and cover letter is of a high standard and tailored to the job that you’re applying to if you want to stand out.

Earning potential

Sales professionals will often begin with a basic salary which they can then increase through commission targets. This means you will be paid a sum of money upon completing a certain task. In the case of the sales industry, this will most likely be for selling the company’s service or product. It may also be both! Successful sales professionals can significantly increase their monthly pay this way.

Graduates can expect to earn the below salaries:

Sales Account Executive: £18,000 - £27,000
Sales Account Manager: £22,000 - £60,000
Sales Director: £39,000 - £110,000
Managing Director: £47,000 - £157,000

Note that these salaries are specific to London and will be relative to its cost-of-living.

Qualification requirements & subjects to study

While a degree isn’t necessary for a career in sales, employers will be impressed to see one on your CV - especially if you achieved a 2:1 or higher. A degree that is related to the industry will also help you have a greater grasp of the market you’re selling to. Software sales professionals, for example, benefit from having a business or IT degree.

Useful resources

Association of Professional Sales (APS)
ISM (Institute of Sales Management)