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Sales and commercial: area of work

Communicating and understanding the market are key attributes in this area of the consumer product sector.

Building and maintaining relationships is a central part of graduate sales jobs in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies. These roles are sometimes described as ‘customer development’. The work can involve a partnership approach, in which sales representatives from the FMCG company work together with retail outlets to ensure that products have the maximum possible appeal for consumers, ensuring greater profitability for both.

Consumer goods companies seek to build relationships with a range of customers, from retail outlets such as major supermarket chains to distributors, influencers and consumers. In a sales career in this sector you could also find yourself dealing with hotel groups, brewers and caterers. Whatever type of consumer goods you are working on, you will be expected to develop an understanding of the market, the competition and the consumer.

Graduate sales roles in consumer goods companies are often closely allied to merchandising or marketing. Merchandising involves managing the range of products in different retail outlets and the way in which they are displayed so as to maximise sales to consumers. So, for example, you could manage brand-related initiatives and deliver local promotions.

What is it like doing a graduate job in consumer product sales?

FMCG companies may offer specific customer development graduate schemes which will cover different aspects of this type of work. In the early stages of a graduate career in this area you could find yourself getting to grips with account management, building relationships and developing promotions while working with a certain type of customer.

A structured graduate training programme in a consumer goods company may also introduce you to category management, in which you work on a specific category of products and get to grips with their marketplace, consumers and competitors, and advise customers on suitable stocks for their demographics.

You’re also likely to gain experience of business-to-business customer development, selling a range of products and maintaining preferred supplier relationships with key companies and organisations.

What skills, aptitudes and qualifications are needed for a graduate career in consumer goods sales?

Sales and merchandising jobs are usually open to graduates from any degree background. Land-based or food-related subjects, business, management, life sciences and languages may be preferred, and you may need a UK driver’s license.

Recruiters will look for a range of competences:

  • Good leadership and communication skills
  • Ability to build and maintain relationships and work effectively with diverse groups of people
  • Negotiation skills
  • Problem solving
  • Financial and commercial awareness
  • Motivated self-starter, able to set priorities and follow through on commitments
  • Flexibility. Some schemes may require you to relocate on a regular basis. You may need to be willing to travel.

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