If you have strong communication skills, confidence, enthusiasm and a keen business sense then a sales graduate scheme with a leading employer could be for you

The prospect of on-the-job training and formal sessions directed by experienced staff means that competition for places on graduate schemes is fierce. Therefore, you'll need to let your personality and determination to succeed shine through during the application process.

Which companies run sales graduate schemes?

  • Apple - to get onto the UK Apple Store Leader Program, you'll need to be a natural leader with a good degree and a passion for Apple products. This two-year programme involves rotation across different functions within the company's retail stores, with a focus on leadership.
  • BT - you'll be expected to rotate across a number of different teams as you sell products and services to businesses ranging from small start-ups to large organisations. While on the BT sales graduate scheme, you'll be mentored by a senior manager and supported by their network of graduates.
  • Diageo - working directly with customers to maximise sales, you'll be responsible for promoting the company's iconic brands, including Baileys, Guinness and Smirnoff, if you make it onto the three-year sales graduate programme.
  • Microsoft - join their graduate digital sales programme and work towards an industry-leading certification accredited by DIT.
  • Nestlé - the food and drink company's sales graduate scheme sees you spending six months in field sales as a territory manager, another six months in an ecommerce role and a year in customer business management.
  • Samsung UK - the sales stream of its two-year graduate learning programme gives you the chance to either work in head office or travel across the UK in a field-based role. For the former, you'll get involved with marketing and strategic planning. If you're on the road and aiming to progress to an area sales manager position, you'll be bringing new clients on board and promoting Samsung's premium product portfolio.
  • Unilever - across three placements, which could be based at different sites, those on the customer development (sales) graduate scheme will build their experience and develop commercial expertise. You'll be working with renowned brands such as Dove, Lynx, Magnum and PG Tips.
  • Virgin Media - during the two-year sales graduate scheme, graduates will rotate across areas such as wholesale, enterprise and the public sector, successfully managing customer relations and becoming a master of B2B sales.

What are the entry requirements?

Qualifications aren't typically a priority when it comes to recruiting sales staff - with companies willing and able to train motivated and career-focused individuals (see sales training courses) - but holding a degree still demonstrates self-discipline and a serious approach to learning.

Large companies may also request that those applying for their graduate schemes have a 2:1 in any subject. While those companies operating in certain industries such as pharmaceuticals or technology may require a relevant subject to be studied at degree level so that you understand the market.

What do sales graduate schemes involve?

You'll likely be handed responsibility from the outset, engaging with a variety of sales and management projects - for instance, working on business plans, devising promotional sales strategies and managing customer relations.

From account management where you develop strong relationships with existing contacts to field sales where you are out there identifying opportunities and closing deals you’ll get to experience all that a sales role has to offer.

In order to sell the company and it’s products you need to know all about them so you'll spend time on your sales graduate scheme learning all about the brand and it's customer but also the market and what the competitors are doing.

How do I apply?

You'll generally apply online with your CV so make sure it's tailored to the role and the company because employers won’t look upon generic CVs and cover letters favourably.

The application process may be broken down into stages and you could also face psychometric tests set by the recruiter. If successful you might move on to a video interview before facing an assessment centre. The final stage of the process is usually a face-to-face interview with the employer.

Some sales graduate programmes recruit all year round while others have set application deadlines.

How much will I be paid?

Salaries will vary between companies and will often depend on where in the UK or world you will be working, here are some example salaries to give you an idea:

  • BT - £29,100 (UK)
  • Nestlé - £30,000
  • Virgin Media - £30,000 (£2,000 welcome bonus, £5,000 commission if you hit your targets)

Sales roles are usually a combination of a basic salary and commission or bonuses. How much you receive will differ between companies and can be capped or uncapped. There are also some roles where you work on commission only, which means you only get paid if you sell a certain amount. It's therefore important to check how your salary will work before you accept the job.

As there is often a lot of travel involved you may also receive a company car or petrol allowance on your own car.

Will I be offered a job at the end?

If you successfully complete the full programme, most schemes lead to a full-time role with the company. However this isn’t always the case so it's best to check before you apply for the graduate scheme.

Find out more

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