Despite a shift from traditional channels towards online sales, leading employers in all sectors are looking to recruit skilled professionals that can effectively get their products or services to market

What areas of sales can I work in?

Employment opportunities in sales can be grouped into:

  • business-to-business (B2B);
  • business-to-consumer (B2C);
  • customer service;
  • direct/field sales;
  • export sales;
  • fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG);
  • IT sales;
  • media and advertising sales;
  • online sales or electronic retailing (e-tailing);
  • retail motor sales;
  • medical/scientific sales;
  • telesales.

Sales jobs can be found in all industries, including retail, finance, transport and manufacturing. You could also consider estate agents, travel agents and recruitment consultancies for sales-related roles. Depending on your interests, you could be selling medical equipment, IT software, a holiday or a house.

For examples of the different roles where your sales skills could be put into practice, see graduate jobs in sales.

Who are the main graduate employers?

Many large companies - from those in automobile manufacturing and pharmaceuticals, to IT, electronics and TV, broadband and mobile services - employ graduates in sales or customer service roles.

These include:

  • Amazon;
  • AstraZeneca;
  • BT;
  • Coca-Cola;
  • Danone;
  • EE;
  • Ford;
  • Fujitsu;
  • GSK (GlaxoSmithKline);
  • KPMG;
  • Mars;
  • Mercedez-Benz;
  • Microsoft;
  • Mondelēz International;
  • Nestlé;
  • Nissan;
  • Philips;
  • Samsung;
  • Schroders;
  • Softcat;
  • Unilever;
  • Virgin Media.

There are also opportunities to work in small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), which span the range of industries.

Find out which businesses run dedicated training programmes with a sales focus, by searching graduate schemes in sales.

What's it like working in sales?

Graduates interested in sales careers can expect:

  • varied working environments - for example, working in a sales department can be target-driven, challenging and very busy, field work or medical sales can involve long hours and being away from home, while working in telesales in a contact centre could involve regular office hours or split shifts;
  • a basic salary with a chance to earn more in commission for meeting targets. In some companies, the level of commission that can be earned has no cap, providing incredibly high salaries for talented sales employees;
  • an emphasis on creating, building and maintaining profitable customer relationships. This requires a certain mix of soft skills, including communication, diplomacy, confidence and the ability to deal with rejection;
  • to be judged by your results.

To find out more about typical salaries and working conditions in sales positions, see job profiles.

What are the key issues?

The nature of sales jobs is already changing, with more of a leaning towards e-tailing. This shift towards web sales is only set to continue, with customer interaction also now heavily weighted towards the online domain.

In response to this, there's been an increased demand for graduates with IT and relationship-building skills - see our guidance on starting your career in IT sales. You're more likely to require skills in relationship management and consultative selling - a personalised service leading to repeat sales - as opposed to simply relying on strong negotiation, resilience and persistence tactics to clinch a deal.

As globalisation has led to increased competition, giving the buyer a wider choice and greater power, there has been a rise in customer service expectation levels. Indeed, customer service has become an occupation in its own right, rather than just an after-sales service. It is also an area where graduates are recruited to management positions, with some large companies offering customer service graduate schemes.

Social media has had such a huge impact on society that customers are taking to sites such as Twitter and Facebook in significant numbers and raising complaints via organisations' accounts. The sensitivity and diplomacy required in responding so publically requires customer service, digital marketing and sales professionals with a completely different approach and skillset.