Graduate jobs in sales
Pay and progression in graduate sales roles
A graduate sales job could be your way into a fast-paced career that is highly rewarding financially and in other ways as well, as you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you've played a crucial role in the success of the business. Prospects for career progression in sales are good, and the skills you develop will be highly transferable; there will be plenty of potential to move on to another industry or employer in the future, should you wish to. Our advice on what's involved in sales and how graduates fit in explains more about what careers in this area have to offer.
The average 2016 graduate starting salary in sales, customer management and business development roles was £26,500, according to an Association of Graduate Recruiters survey of its members, typically big graduate employers that offer salaries towards the higher end of the scale.
Graduate sales jobs often offer commission on top of the basic salary, so if you perform well in the job, your efforts will be rewarded. You will often see a sales job advertised with a basic salary plus OTE, which stands for on-target earnings. In other words, you’ll be eligible for the additional payment if you reach certain targets.
Roles may also be advertised with uncapped earning potential, which means there is no limit to the commission you could earn in addition to your basic salary. You’ll also see graduate sales jobs that offer commission and/or bonuses in addition to the basic salary – these are all different terms for additional incentives and rewards for successful selling.
Graduate jobs in sales versus graduate schemes
You could start your career on a formal sales graduate scheme with a big employer, or in a sales job with a company of any size. Employers actively seeking graduates for sales roles typically offer training and an insight into different areas of the business, whether through learning and development on the job or via a graduate training scheme. You might also experience working in sales through a placement on a general management graduate scheme and then decide to specialise in this area.
If you apply for a graduate scheme, you're likely to be invited to submit an online application, possibly with a CV attached, and could then be asked to attend an assessment centre. Our overview of the different methods employers use to recruit graduates tells you what to expect.
How to get a graduate job in sales
There are sales roles with employers of all sizes across all industries and sectors, and plenty of opportunities for graduates with the right skills, whatever their degree background. Sales roles typically suit graduates who are motivated by deadlines, targets and commission, who enjoy building relationships with clients and who have the ability to clinch a deal. There are two types of sales role – B2B (business to business) and B2C (where the business sells to the consumer). Most graduate roles are typically in B2B, though retailers often seek graduates for trainee management roles.Our advice on how to get a graduate job in sales gives an overview of the type of opportunities available.
Top skills to get a graduate job in sales
Key skills for graduate sales roles include the following:
- Communication. You'll need interpersonal skills that are second to none. It's essential to be able to describe the product or services you are selling in a persuasive way, as well as listening to the customer’s needs. Your role may call for you to submit written proposals, so it may also be crucial for you to be able to communicate effectively in writing.
- Confidence and the drive to meet and beat targets. You're likely to have contact with people at varying levels of seniority in the organisations you deal with. Being enthusiastic and personable will help you develop good relationships.
- Resilience. You have to be able to cope with the occasions when your sales pitch is rejected. You’ll also need the stamina and judgement to know when to go back, and how to turn 'no' into 'yes'.
- Commercial awareness. You’ll need to get to grips with the market your employer is operating in as well as understanding your clients' needs.
- The ability to work independently. You’re likely to have your own projects or clients to develop. What degree subject do you need for a graduate career in sales? Some sales graduate schemes and jobs are open to graduates from all backgrounds. However, in some cases it may be an advantage to have a degree background that increases your knowledge and understanding of the product and services you will be selling.
For some graduate schemes, you will need a 2.1 or higher and a degree in business or economics may be preferred. Career paths you could consider include the following:
- Pharmaceutical sales - selling to GPs, hospitals and medical staff. Companies often stipulate a science or medical degree.
- FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) – sales showcasing consumer goods products (such as toiletries or food) to retailers.
- Media sales – selling advertising space in media products such as websites and magazines. Some roles in this area have an increasingly technical focus as employers look for new recruits who can sell digital services.
- Recruitment sales – selling your recruitment services to clients and candidates. A degree in HR or business could help. If you want to go into a particular sector of recruitment, such as IT, a background in that area could be helpful.
- IT sales – selling IT products or services to customers or businesses. Work experience will help you land a graduate sales job if you've got directly relevant sales experience such as telesales work, that will strengthen your applications for graduate roles. Retail work or fundraising for charity could also help you show employers you have the skills they want, as could any type of work experience that involves contact with customers. Employers will be keen to know about examples of times when you persuaded someone to do something. They will also be interested in how you present yourself and how you communicate. Extracurricular activities such as sports, music and drama could help you to convince them that you're the driven, competitive, confident candidate they're looking for.