Sales is an attractive sector for many new graduates, and for good reason - it is a fast-paced industry where hard work is quickly rewarded with commissions and promotions. Positions in Sales are widely available with little additional training required, and opportunities for advancement come earlier than in most sectors.
A job in Sales requires candidates to be personable, confident and hardworking. Nearly all sectors have a Sales or Business Development team, which means that there is a broad range of opportunities for graduates to find a field which interests them.
Many companies operate on a commission-based structure designed to reward hard work, and most Sales roles will provide candidates with training to build their product knowledge and sales technique. With such a broad range of roles available, it's worth it for graduates going into Sales to look for a field which interests them and about which they may have a pre-existing knowledge.
How to get a job in Sales
Jobs in Sales are nearly always available, and usually do not require a specific degree. While degrees in marketing, business or management would come in handy, the majority of Sales roles simply require applicants to be intelligent and switched on. A degree in any faculty shows commitment and a drive to succeed, both key components for a successful Sales Associate.
Candidates should display the following:
Enthusiasm, knowledge and drive
Sales thrives on people who are constantly striving to be better. Graduates need to prove that they do not settle for second best, and will come to the job with enthusiasm and drive. Graduates can demonstrate this by highlighting academic excellence, experience as captain of their sports team or university society, or in previous promotions at work.
Excellent Communication Skills
Sales is all about communication. Graduates should show outstanding written communication skills through professionally written emails, CVs and covering letters, and use of proper email etiquette.
Even more important are a graduate's verbal communication skills. Phone skills are essential in Sales - being able to speak clearly and with authority is often crucial when talking to clients. Candidates who can demonstrate an affinity for small talk and sales patter are more likely to be considered for the role.
An ability to build and maintain relationships with clients
A key part of many Sales roles, candidates must be able to build rapport with clients and develop and nurture those relationships. Graduates can demonstrate this ability by highlighting any work they have done representing a team, society or other organisation. Liaising with a student union over a sports team's budget, or maintaining relations with the printers of the student paper will all demonstrate an ability to foster client relationships.
An ability to research and source new business
Other types of Sales roles require candidates to research and source new business, which can mean cold calling and pitching to prospective clients. This requires resiliency, confidence and a refusal to take no for an answer.
A head for figures
Most Sales roles require applicants to be good with numbers. Sales people are constantly cutting deals, calculating profits and aiming for target goals. A candidate with a flair for figures will be a bonus to employers.
An ability to sell
There is no better way to prove your sales skills than by selling yourself. Sell the company on the skills you can bring to their business, and you'll be in a good position to get the job.
Sales Case Studies
The Employer - Jim Selley (Training & Recruitment Manager - L&C)
Name: Jim Selley
Job Title: Training & Recruitment Manager - L&C
What competencies do you like to see in candidates?
Our job is about communication. In the vast majority it is verbal because we are a phone-based advice service. With the written word it is about brevity, some CVs are just too long and they go on and on. Our industry requires the passing of exams, and if graduates can show they can pass, that's a big one. We want graduates to prove that they can work really hard. A final thing we look for is that graduates have a clear idea about goals, expectations and drivers. Just so we can see what makes you tick and motivates you to come to work.
Can you talk us through the application process?
There are 5 stages. Firstly somebody submits a CV to us and we look at that with a view to pass or fail it. We then send successful people an online test which has two elements. One is a psychometric and the other is a maths and reasoning test. This consists of 39 quick-fire questions in 30 minutes and we want 25 of them passed. After that there is a telephone interview which lasts around 30 minutes. This allows us to find out a bit more about the candidate and tell them more about the role. Then, there is a sales role play, again over the phone, discussing something everyone has bought. Then finally, it is a face to face interview in the office.
What is the most common mistake you see in an application that leads to candidates being rejected?
What scares me is people that just have education and have got no work experience. A second thing is that some people do terrible things on covering letters where they put very generic messages on them. Graduates should just take a minute to relate it to what they're applying for. You get people writing in saying they're interested in positions that don't exist. People that do take time and do it well have a positive slant immediately put on their CV.
What is the main piece of advice you would give a graduate entering the sector?
If you're going for a sales position, don't be afraid to say you want to earn some money! We have people that say they are really interested in the exams we offer and what we do. However, the only way the business is going to make a lot of money is if they bring in a lot of money. We want people that are going to say 'I know you've got a commission structure and I know that I'm going to get rewarded for the effort I put in.'
What's the main challenge graduates face when they start?
I think sometimes it is about having the confidence to be an advisor. Graduates sometimes worry that the customer might know more than them because they are buying a house but then we remind them that they have had the necessary training and must make people believe they are an expert in it. As they do more and more of it they do get a better understanding.
Where do you see company in two years' time?
I used graduate-jobs.com when I was recruiting for our office in Bath and now I'm using graduate-jobs.com to recruit for a new office here in Newcastle. Currently we have 46 people here and by the end of the year we hope to have over 80. We've ridden out the toughest times and I don't see any explosions round the corner but just steady growth.
If you weren't Training and Recruitment Manager, what would you be?
I always wanted to be a sports journalist. I'd be getting paid for going around watching and writing about sport. That would be brilliant!
The Employee - Melanie Baker (Mortgage & Protection Associate - L&C)
Name: Melanie Baker
Job Title: Mortgage & Protection Associate - L&C
University: University: University of Northumbria
Course: Journalism & English Literature
Graduation Year: 2012
How did you find your graduate job in Sales?
I applied through graduate-jobs.com. I wasn't too sure what I was looking for at the start. I looked at the skills I'd picked up through university and the work I had done alongside my degree. My degree wasn't anything related to anything I'm doing now, but I was happy to go into financial services.
Why do you think you were successful at L & C?
I worked all the way through university which gave me a lot more skills. I worked in retail and it gave me the confidence to speak to people and assist their needs which is related to what I'm doing now. I also worked doing promotions for a nightclub which gave me some experience of selling and being driven.
What do you actually do?
Like university projects that needed to be handed in to deadlines, mortgages work in a similar way. If a deal is withdrawn, we need to get the applications in. We need to make sure people are in the position to move forward, they've got all the information ready and we can start to push the work through.
What skills do you need?
Communication is the key one and probably time management. Being productive with your time is a really big selling point and we work to a commission basis. So if you are pushing to reach those targets it can really benefit you in the long run.
What is the best thing about your job?
The best thing is that I'm helping people. They come to us asking for help with their mortgage and I make sure that I find them the best price possible, which can save them a lot of money. It might sound cheesy but it certainly is the most rewarding part!
What is the worst thing about your job?
The training at the start is really intense. We were working really long hours and it takes a while for things to come through. Like in the industry, mortgages take a while to process so we get our business when the sale actually completes.
Where do you see yourself in 10 years?
I'd like to progress to at least supervisor level. The office has expanded from Bath to Newcastle and we were the first intake. The office isn't massive up here, but we are hoping to expand and I'd like to be a part of that at a supervisor level.
What advice would you give to graduates applying to London & Country?
Make sure they are not scared of hard work. It is quite intense at the start. Make sure they are coming with some experience that is going to give you a head start. All of the graduates are coming out with degrees, so make sure you've got some work experience alongside that. If you've got some experience in sales that's even better.
If you want to find out more about graduate jobs with London & Country, please take a look at their minisite.