Sales industry Career Pathways & Advice
Do you have the personality, drive, stamina and skill it takes to be a successful sales person?
If a business is going to make money, it needs to sell things. And not all business can stock shelves and let people go around to pick out what they want - they need other employees to give advice, or travel around to promote their products and services.
The sales 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, 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, whereas 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 pressure in a sales job, as you'll have specific targets to achieve on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. It can also be a very highly-paying career, which will lead to promotions and higher commissions when you meet and exceed these targets.
Sales covers 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.
Sales industry Jobs
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:
- Customer Service
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.
A lot of businesses will recruit graduates into account manager positions, allowing for promotion into senior account manager and account director roles as they gain more experience and bring more success to the business. With a few years if experience, you could find yourself managing a sales team, commanding a high salary, working with high profile clients, and bringing in a increased rate of commission.
If you want to progress in your sales career, a specific qualification in sales or marketing is likely to be useful alongside your degree. 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 this.
Types of jobs in Sales industry
Account Managers – sales roles that are very popular with graduates, and 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. In many sales roles you’ll have the opportunity to double your salary with commission.
Qualification requirements & subjects to study
Although you don’t 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.
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.
How to get there
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. Think about the soft skills you’ve gained in your degree, as well as through any extracurriculars, too.
Large companies may be able to offer a graduate scheme, which will be structured and last for around two years. This will provide training, networking and career development opportunities, and will set your career off on the right track.