Explore typical routes into sales, the range of courses and training opportunities available to graduates, and the sales techniques you'll need to master in order to further your career

Whether you've just graduated and are simply looking to hone your selling and negotiation skills, or are interested in achieving a higher qualification in this area, there are plenty of options when it comes to sales training…

Short sales courses

The Association of Professional Sales (APS), a not-for-profit organisation, has partnered with global sales training specialists Huthwaite International to develop key initiatives in a number of areas that include continuing professional development (CPD).

In-house training is available to companies and large groups, but even as an individual you can still improve your sales and negotiation performance with Huthwaite International's open courses held in Leeds and London.

As well as the range of marketing-specific qualifications detailed in our marketing courses page, the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) also runs a number of short one- to three-day sales courses, plus one that's four days in total (two modules).

These are offered at both introductory and advanced levels, with topics ranging from the fundamentals of selling, business negotiation skills and developing winning bids and proposals, to key account management and managing the sales team to drive success.

The one-day introductory courses, lasting seven hours, are £517.50 for members and £575 for non-members. This includes the cost of tuition and course materials.

For more CIM courses in sales, see the sections below on selling techniques and the postgraduate diploma in strategic sales.

Key selling techniques

The CIM provides a one-day advanced course in advanced selling techniques. This covers:

  • building relationships with customers;
  • closing skills;
  • dissolving objections;
  • reading people;
  • using persuasive language;
  • value building questioning.

Its intense three-day sales bootcamp is an ideal introduction for new and inexperienced sales people after a structured approach to the sales process. On this course, you can expect to learn about:

  • delivering presentations;
  • effective ways of questioning and listening;
  • how to negotiate and close deals;
  • making sales appointments, or selling products by phone;
  • what makes people buy, according to the psychology of the six powers of influence.

The cost to non-members will depend on whether you choose the residential (£2,075) or non-residential (£1,895) option. Members will save £207 and £190 respectively.

Sales-focused graduate schemes

In getting a graduate job in sales, we revealed how leading employers in almost every sector run dedicated sales graduate schemes or leadership programmes with a sales component.

It's widely understood that technology companies tend to pick candidates with degrees related to the industry, but that's not always the case. For example, if you're looking to begin your career in IT sales, Microsoft take on graduates of all disciplines - however, you'll still need to show a strong interest in technology. The same goes for Google's UK sales operational roles at its London offices.

Global technology giant Apple provides a range of sales opportunities for those enthusiastic about connecting customers and businesses to its products. 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. This two-year programme involves rotation across different functions within the company's retail stores, with a focus on leadership.

There are options in other sectors too:

  • Automotive pioneer Jaguar Land Rover runs a Marketing, Sales and Service graduate scheme that requires at least a 2:2 from its future leaders who need to hold a degree in business, finance or marketing.
  • Food and drink company Nestlé's two-year Customer Development programme will see you spending six months in field sales as a territory manager, another six months in an office-based customer business executive role and a year in an area of your choice, such as strategy and development or retail for its leading brands (Nescafé, KitKat, Felix).
  • Professional services firm KPMG's two-year Sales and Marketing stream based in London gives graduates a chance to undertake placements in sales operations and transformation. You'll also be able to study towards a relevant CIM qualification.

Explore other top graduate recruiters that have their own sales graduate schemes.

The Institute of Sales Management (ISM)

Membership of a related professional association can help you to become recognised as a professional in a specific field while gaining skills and knowledge that enhances your career - and sales is no different.

For instance, the ISM (formerly the ISMM) has developed a range of nationally and internationally accepted vocational sales qualifications, from introductory through to sales director level (undergraduate degree standard), in accordance with the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF).

The courses range from the ISM Certificate in Sales and Marketing (level 2) to the ISM Diploma in Strategic Sales Management (level 6). The latter, which typically takes around 12-15 months to complete, is for those with a minimum of five years' experience in sales (one year in a senior role) - unless you already hold the ISM (level 5) Diploma in Sales and/or Account Management.

Postgraduate courses in sales

When it comes to sales, further study is often only considered by those with significant experience in the workplace. Some employers may fund professional qualifications a few years into a job, so before you invest in postgraduate study research any companies that you may be interested in working for and check whether they support higher education.

The University of Portsmouth offers the one-year part-time MA Sales Management, which covers contemporary sales and account management. To be eligible for this particular Masters programme, you'll need to have amassed five years' experience as an account manager or sales manager, with a portfolio of evidence at postgraduate diploma level.

Alternatively, the London School of Business & Finance runs the 18-36-month Online Dual MSc and MA in Strategic Marketing (Sales Management) starting in April, June and October of each year. This tailored course has a direct focus on customer and sales management. For this qualification, professional experience is considered an advantage but not necessary.

The CIM Academy study centre details what to expect from the intensive diploma in strategic sales practice. This postgraduate (level 7) qualification is designed for sales practitioners with at least five years' experience in senior sales and/or sales management roles - for example, those with aspirations to move to a sales director position. Its four main learning outcomes are based around customer relationships, managing resources, sales strategy in practice, and strategy and plans.

To find out more about current sales-related Masters programmes at UK institutions and abroad, search postgraduate courses in sales.

Customer service training

For those with a focus on careers in customer service, a vast number of vocational and knowledge-based qualifications are on offer from training providers in the UK. While many of these are at levels 1-4 - for instance, National Vocational Qualification (NVQ) certificates and diplomas - the industry's professional body, The Institute of Customer Service (ICS) also offers professional management and strategy training for team leaders and managers.

While access to ICS courses is only available to those employed by current corporate and council membership organisations, CPD is listed as parts of its individual membership benefits.