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Careers in sales: what's involved and how graduates fit in

Find out your career options when it comes to sales jobs, and get to grips with business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales.

Sales is the profession concerned with the selling of goods and services. Sales form the core of every business: whether it produces a physical product or offers a service, a link between the producer and the customer is necessary so that the customer is aware of and has access to the product.

Types of sales jobs

The types of product or service you sell could differ vastly. You could, for example, sell advertising space through a job in media sales, software and hardware in IT sales or properties as an estate agent.

Sales can also be conducted in several different ways:

Face-to-face selling

This is the traditional form of selling – through shops and stores. Technological improvements have led many employers to branch out from/replace this method, and this trend has been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic.

Telesales

As well as selling directly to potential and previous customers over the telephone, a role in telesales may also involve calling current customers to help maintain a relationship and/or to engage in upselling.

Online sales

The responsibilities of a role in online sales may differ from employer to employer. Often, this position will involve selling via different mediums (eg email and phone) for a company that operates online.

Business-to-business v. business-to-consumer

These different forms of selling could be combined with one of the above types. As may be expected, business-to-business (B2B) sales involves selling directly to other businesses while business-to-consumer sales involves selling directly to consumers.

Most graduate roles are B2B, which generally involves more long-term liaising; responsibilities include opening new contracts with businesses and maintaining existing accounts.

However, certain sellers of expensive consumer items such as fancy cars or fitted kitchens may make actively seek graduates to work in B2C roles – or you may decide to apply for an entry level role in this area as you believe it will suit you. Furthermore, the extra skills acquired through your degree may make you eligible for graduate positions.

When deciding between B2B and B2C roles, you may consider how much responsibility would suit you. Business-to-business positions often involve more expensive contracts and added pressure as relationships with important clients need to be maintained. It’s likely that the target-driven nature of both types of selling, however, will mean you will be working under pressure. Perhaps you’d prefer the (potentially) faster pace of business-to-consumer selling?

Will a sales role suit you?

How far the below points entice or put you off a role in sales will depend on your individual preferences. While taking these as starting points as you get a feel for the industry, it’s a good idea to remember that your experience and responsibilities will differ across employers.

  • Earning potential. Salaries vary considerably in this career area. However, the chance to earn commission based on results, alongside the possibility of progressing quickly in your career, might make sales a desirable career choice – particularly if you like to be challenged.
  • Career progression. As alluded to above, showing aptitude and strong results when you start out in your sales career may enable you to progress quickly. Often, you will move from a sales executive to an area sales manager, later moving to national sales manager and sales director roles. Sometimes, this will mean changing employer.
  • Target-driven environment. Whether you’re engaging in B2B or B2C sales, the chances are you will have targets to meet – and you might add to these your own personal targets for gaining commission/working towards promotion.
  • The opportunity to get in-depth knowledge into a set of products or services. When it comes to the type of good or service you sell, you have plenty of opportunities. So, you could choose an industry that interests you – whether that’s technology or stationery. After all, you’ll be spending time building up your knowledge of what you’re selling and talking to clients about the products/services.
  • Frequent contact with others. Whether it’s via video call, telephone or in person, the chances are you will have frequent one to one contact with clients/customers. In B2B sales, you will be looking to build strong relationships with clients.
  • Plenty of responsibility. Many jobs will require you to take on lots of responsibility, particularly as you progress in your career. However, as a graduate in B2B sales, you will often be taking on your own set of clients – and you’ll want to maintain a strong relationship with these in order to prevent potentially losing the employer money.

Thinking about applying for a graduate sales role?

Perhaps reading through the above points has led you to the conclusion that sales is the right career choice for you. By taking the time to consider thoroughly, you’ve taken the first step to showing a potential employer that you’re enthusiastic about working in sales. In order to find out more about applying, take a look at our article on how graduates get a job in sales.

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