Often designed by industry experts, sales apprenticeships are a great route into many sectors for those with a strong commercial sense and a talent for selling
With sales roles evolving and demanding a more versatile skillset, encompassing other disciplines such as marketing and customer service, getting the most up-to-date training will set you apart from the competition.
As some techniques are best developed in a demanding sales environment, a sales apprenticeship can provide you with a job and a salary plus the opportunity to study for a recognised qualification.
What sales apprenticeships are available?
As with apprenticeships in other job sectors, sales apprenticeships are available at different levels:
- Level 2 - Intermediate, equivalent to five good GCSEs.
- Level 3 - Advanced, equivalent to two passes at A-level.
- Levels 4 and 5 - Higher, equivalent to a foundation degree.
- Levels 6 and 7 - Degree, comparable to a Bachelors or Masters.
However, most apprenticeships in the sales industry fall between Level 2 and Level 5.
By visiting GOV.UK, you'll find specific information on sales, marketing and procurement apprenticeships.
For more guidance on how they work and to understand the main differences between an apprenticeship and an internship, see what is an apprenticeship?
Which companies offer sales apprenticeships?
IT sales is a popular recruitment area for those with specific technical knowledge. At BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT, you can discover relevant jobs you're qualified for following completion of the Level 3 apprenticeship award. These include sales consultant, technical telesales and sales engineer roles.
Most of the leading IT employers offer apprenticeships in this field - for example, you can select from a range of IBM apprenticeships, such as the three-year IBM Technical Sales Apprenticeship, or the four-year Level 6 Chartered Business Management Apprenticeship. Alternatively, Fujitsu have a Level 3 (Advanced) IT Technical Sales Apprenticeship, with apprentices joining its end user sales team located in Bracknell, Greater London.
In terms of car sales apprenticeships, the Vehicle Sales Apprenticeship at Jaguar Land Rover will enable you to become a qualified vehicle sales adviser. Available at Level 3 (Advanced, A-level), the 12-month programme takes place across the car manufacturer's retailer network, with attendance at a training academy.
There are a number of Volvo apprenticeships available, with the most sales-focused scheme being the Sales Support Apprentice. Many apprentices have used the experience to progress to sales consultant and later supervisory and management positions.
The Nestlé Chartered Manager Degree Apprenticeship includes a six-month placement in sales - in addition to rotations in supply chain, marketing and category sales development. This commercial programme is ideal for those with plenty of ideas about how the food and drink manufacturer can continue to produce innovative products.
The E.ON Level 4 Sales Advisor Apprenticeship based in Nottingham can lead to a sales executive role with the energy supplier.
Sales recruitment and training specialist Pareto Law offers apprenticeships to UK businesses taking on apprentices from Level 2 (Intermediate, GCSE) all the way to Level 5 (Higher, foundation degree).
While Pareto Law's 18-month Level 4 Sales Executive Apprenticeship can train you on-the-job in the most effective selling techniques - with modules spanning commercial and financial acumen, digital skills, ethics and integrity, and customer needs analysis - the Level 5 Operational Manager Apprenticeship gives you the chance to develop negotiating skills and delve into operational management to drive a business' growth and productivity.
Global sales performance improvement company Consalia have partnered with Middlesex University to create the Level 6 Professional Sales Degree Apprenticeship, which can lead to membership of the Association of Professional Sales. However, B2B sales professional apprentices will need to find an employer willing to take you on for the duration of the three-year programme.
What do sales apprenticeships involve?
While the nature of the apprenticeship will depend on the role, you can expect these sales-focused programmes to maintain some common traits.
For example, if you're working in car sales, you'll likely be tasked with supporting the sales team. Duties for sales support apprentices at car manufacturer Volvo also include producing product presentations, sales performance reports and hosting customers in the showroom setting. At Jaguar Land Rover, its vehicle sales advisors and executives get to negotiate sales and trade-in prices, advising customers on the most suitable vehicle for their needs.
Some sales apprenticeships will put your customer service skills to the test. Following E.ON's initial three-month development programme, you'll work to support the organisation's small and medium-sized (SME) clients. This involves dealing with both inbound and outbound telephone calls, while establishing relationships that will help to grow and retain business.
A significant proportion of your apprenticeship (usually about one-fifth) will typically include 'off-the-job' training, such as regular visits by experienced assessors, plus opportunities to study through virtual classroom sessions and e-learning modules.
A Nestlé commercial apprentice on a degree-level programme will attend six blocks of week-long study sessions at Sheffield Hallam University, in addition to the learning time set aside during work hours.
Many apprenticeships in other disciplines contain a sales-related component. For example, in the second year of Sky's two-year marketing apprenticeship, you'll get to spend time in online trading. This gives you the opportunity to upsell and cross sell the media company's TV and mobile packages to customers via its website.
Read about the key attributes you'll need to make it as a successful salesperson at top 5 skills for a career in sales.
How much will I be paid?
While employers can choose to pay more, the current minimum apprenticeship wage for those aged under 19 and an apprentice, or 19 or over and still in your first apprenticeship year is £3.70 (from April 2018). If you're 19 or over and you've completed your first year as an apprentice, you're entitled to the National Minimum Wage, which is £5.90 per hour (for those aged 18-20) or £7.38 (21-24). This is covered in more detail at what is an apprenticeship?
Here's a selection of current apprenticeship wages in 2018/19:
- E.ON Sales Advisor Apprenticeship - £15,000, progressing to £16,500 within 18 months, plus benefits.
- Fujitsu IT Technical Sales Apprenticeship - £15,000.
- IBM apprenticeships - £18,000.
- Nestlé Commercial Degree Apprenticeship - £17,200.
How do I become a sales apprentice?
You can search for sales apprenticeships online via company websites and GOV.UK. While each employer will have its own eligibility requirements and application process, most ask for a set number of GCSEs and grades.
For instance, Jaguar Land Rover look for four GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (or A-C grades under the previous system) in Maths, English and two other subjects. To get onto the IBM Chartered Business Management Degree programme, you'll need five GCSEs at grades 9 to 5, plus a minimum of 120 UCAS points (depending on university requirements).
In addition to holding the relevant qualifications or sales experience, you'll need to:
- show ambition and drive
- be organised and keen to learn
- have a strong customer focus
- be a confident communicator
- have a high attention to detail
- possess strong IT skills or technical knowledge (some roles more than others).