With a number of different entry routes into this fast-paced industry, explore the sales qualifications and training courses that will enhance your skillset and prepare you for your career

Sales qualifications

No matter what stage of your career you're at, there are a number of sales qualifications available to boost your job prospects.

For instance, if you haven't studied at undergraduate level, a degree apprenticeship - such as the three-year part-time BA Sales Leadership from the University of Portsmouth - would give you a recognised qualification while you work. Find out more about degree apprenticeships.

Alternatively, if you're a student who'll soon be looking for a graduate job, a sales graduate scheme can offer the training you need as you learn the role. Securing a place with a leading employer such as Microsoft, Apple or BT can be tough, but these programmes can act as a pathway to progression and professional qualifications.

Graduates may also wish to explore the possibility of further study. However, before you invest in taking a Masters course, research any companies that you may be interested in working for and check whether they support higher education. Some employers may be willing to financially support you in attaining professional qualifications.

In terms of postgraduate courses, one example is The University of Portsmouth's one-year part-time MA Sales Management, which covers contemporary sales and account management. To be eligible for this particular Masters degree, 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) every 12 weeks. This tailored online course covers sales management, customer relationship management, advertising and promotion management and integrated marketing communications. An undergraduate degree in any subject is required, with working experience considered an advantage but not necessary.

The Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) offers the Intensive Diploma in Strategic Sales Practice at its CIM Academy study centre. This postgraduate award is designed for sales practitioners with at least five years' experience in senior sales and/or sales management roles. 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 Masters programmes with a sales component, search postgraduate courses in sales.

The Institute of Sales Management (ISM) qualifications

Formerly known as the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management (ISMM), ISM is the UK's only qualification-awarding body specialising in sales. It offers courses at five different levels on the UK's Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF), suitable for all candidates. These are:

  • Level 2 - for candidates wishing to learn more about the industry, have little to no sales experience and are still in education (studying either full time, part time or completing an apprenticeship).
  • Level 3 - for those in their first or second sales role looking to deepen their knowledge of the industry and gain a qualification equivalent to an A-level or BTEC.
  • Level 4 - for aspiring or practising sales managers, or any role that requires managing others. An ISM Level 4 qualification is equivalent to a Higher National Certificate (HNC).
  • Level 5 - for practising sales managers looking for a qualification equivalent to a Higher National Diploma (HND) or foundation degree. This includes the Diploma in Sales and Account Management (see below).
  • Level 6 - offering a qualification equivalent to a full Bachelors degree, ISM Level 6 is aimed at senior sales managers, directors or those aspiring to progress to senior level.

These are 'nested' qualifications - each level is comprised of 'bitesize' qualifications of a few credits each, meaning you can start small and see whether you're suited to the course, building on your studies to gain higher qualifications as your sales career progresses.

ISM qualifications can be taken at a number of recognised centres across the UK. Visit ISM - Qualifications for the full breakdown of what each level involves.

Customer service training

One of the core components of a career in sales is the ability to engage with a variety of people. By going on a customer service training course, you'll improve your communication skills, while learning how to stay in control of - and build positive relationships with - your customers.

The City & Guilds Customer Service NVQ qualifications are offered from levels 1 to 4 meaning they're suitable for anyone, from entry level to customer service management. You'll prove your competence in your workplace by undergoing observations from an assessor. The skills you develop in a customer service NVQ will leave you well equipped to enter the sales industry or progress to the next level of qualification.

Entry onto the Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Customer Service from the Open University currently costs £2,250. However, some employers may be willing to fund your studies if you can prove it's a worthwhile investment in the company as well as your future.

If you're looking for more advanced courses to enhance your customer service skills, the Institute of Customer Service (ICS), the industry's awarding body, offers professional management and strategy training for team leaders, managers and senior managers.

ICS courses and development tools are only open to member organisations and individuals, with CPD listed as parts of its individual membership benefits. You can check the ICS members list to see if your employer is affiliated.

While there are no current graduate-level programmes available dedicated solely to customer service training, it is a large component of many MBA courses.

Sales management training

If you're already established as a sales professional, you may wish to take the next step and progress to management. Sales management training is designed to equip potential sales managers with the skills and discipline to lead a team, keep them updated with the latest sales practices and increase their job and salary potential.

Becoming certified with a sales management qualification will increase your employability in a highly competitive job market. There are a range of courses on offer, including:

  • The CIM Managing the Sales Team three-day course is designed to equip sales managers for success in the 21st century marketplace. The course focuses on both the team's and the manager's development, in areas such as managing underperformance, boosting enthusiasm and accurately forecasting sales. In 2018, the course is due to run in February, May and November, with prices ranging from £1,526 to £1,875.
  • The ISM Diploma in Sales and Account Management is ISM's biggest level 5 qualification aimed at practising sales managers. Candidates are expected to hold either a relevant degree to a good standard or have gained at least five years' sales experience. The diploma takes approximately 15 months to complete, and fees will vary depending on your institution.
  • The Managing and Marketing Sales Association (MAMSA) Advanced Diploma in Sales Management is an established qualification, despite being lesser-known than those offered by the ISM and CIM. This advanced diploma is internationally recognised, and open to practising executives who can demonstrate at least three years' senior work experience and hold the MAMSA Higher Diploma in Marketing or equivalent (level 4 or above, such as an HNC).

Visit Professional Academy for more information about the different sales management courses on offer.

Other sales courses

As well as qualifications which take weeks, months and years to complete, there are also plenty of short sales courses on offer.

Skills development company Huthwaite International offers in-house training for companies and large groups, and open courses in Leeds and London for individuals looking to improve their sales and negotiation performance.

As well as their sales management course and range of marketing courses, CIM runs a number of short one to three-day sales courses. Available at introductory and advanced levels, they cover 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.

CIM courses are held at locations across the UK throughout the year, with prices ranging from £595 (£536 for members) for one-day, non-residential introductory courses, to £1,875 (£1,688 for members) for three-day, residential, advanced courses. The costs include tuition and course materials.

You can also enrol onto a course tailored specifically to your chosen career path, such as the telesales training course from Pareto Law or IT sales training programme offered by Richardson.