Sales executive: job description

Sales executives promote products and services to clients and negotiate contracts with the aim of maximising profits.

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Salaries are often enhanced by a good benefits package, including commission-based earnings, bonuses, lunch allowances and sometimes health insurance and a company car.

What does a sales executive do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Sales executives are the key point of contact between an organisation and its clients: answering queries, offering advice and introducing new products.

How you contact these clients will change across different companies and roles. If you’re an ‘inside sales executive’ then you will be working from the office or your accommodation if the position is remote. You may be contacting clients via emails, phone and/or video calls. Other sales executives will often combine this type of work with visits to clients – although, as more people get used to working virtually, video calls may replace sales visits for some sales executives.

Their work includes:

  • meeting with clients virtually or during sales visits
  • demonstrating and presenting products
  • establishing new business
  • maintaining accurate records
  • attending trade exhibitions, conferences and meetings
  • reviewing sales performance
  • negotiating contracts and packages
  • working towards monthly or annual targets.

Promotional prospects can be excellent; progression can be into senior sales roles or into related employment areas such as marketing or management.

Typical employers of sales executives

  • Manufacturers
  • Service industries
  • Retailers
  • Industrial organisations
  • Charities.

Staff with specialist knowledge are employed in industries such as pharmaceutical, healthcare and publishing.

Vacancies are advertised by careers services, TARGETjobs and recruitment agencies. You could also search for industry-specific publications appropriate to the sales area you’re interested in – or look at their online equivalents.

Qualifications and training required

There are routes into sales for both university graduates and school leavers. You are more likely to need a degree for a sales executive role within a technical or medical field – and this may need to be relevant to the industry. For example, a subject related to science or medicine could be needed for a sales executive job in the medical or pharmaceutical field. For less specialist areas, if a degree is desirable it is very likely that any subject will be acceptable.

Some big companies in industries such as IT and consumer goods run sales graduate schemes, for which you will probably need a 2.1 in any subject – although some may prefer related subjects. The in-depth understanding of sales gained through these schemes could set you up well for many different sales careers, including sales executive and/or more senior positions.

Whether you’re starting out in a graduate scheme or entry-level role, having some experience of working in a customer-facing environment is likely to be crucial. There are plenty of options for this: perhaps you could get a part-time position in retail or telesales, or carry out an internship in sales.

Key skills for sales executives

  • Self-motivated and driven by targets
  • Resilience
  • Strong communication skills – including both verbal and written
  • The ability to influence and negotiate with others
  • Commercial awareness
  • IT skills
  • Numerical skills.

A full driving licence is often essential for jobs. Being able to speak more than one language fluently may also be a useful skill (but this is not necessary).

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