While practical experience is undoubtedly important, gaining the right qualifications can accelerate your career and put you at the top of your game
From short courses focusing on specific topics to degrees taking three years, there are lots of options for anyone wanting to work in sales.
If you haven't studied at undergraduate level but are currently working in sales, the three-year Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship in Business-to-Business (B2B) Sales at Leeds Trinity University, in partnership with Consalia, would give you a recognised qualification, while making you a member of the Association of Professional Sales (APS). Find out more about degree apprenticeships.
Alternatively, if you're looking to go to university on a full-time course, a sales degree, such as the three-year full-time BA Sales and Marketing Management at Cardiff Metropolitan University, would give you the grounding you need. Plus, you also have the opportunity of undertaking a year-long sandwich placement, completing the course within four years.
Graduates may also wish to explore the possibility of further study. However, before you invest in a Masters degree, research companies you may be interested in working for as some may be willing to financially support you in attaining relevant professional qualifications.
In terms of postgraduate sales courses, the London School of Business & Finance (LSBF) runs the Online Dual MSc and MA in Strategic Marketing (Sales Management) every 12 weeks. This tailored online course, achieved between 18 and 36 months, 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.
If you've an entrepreneurial mindset as well as a flair for sales, you might want to consider the one-year full-time MSc Innovation and Entrepreneurship (IAE) at WMG, The University of Warwick, which has a module in sales and sales management. For entry, you'll require a 2:2 Bachelors degree, with tuition for UK and EU students set at £14,820 (2020/2021 entry).
To find out more about Masters programmes with a sales component, search postgraduate courses in sales.
The Institute of Sales Management (ISM) qualifications
As the UK's only qualification-awarding body specialising in sales, the ISM offers courses at five different levels on the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF):
- Level 2 - ideal for candidates looking 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 - if you're in your first or second sales role, this qualification will deepen your knowledge of the industry, enabling you to gain an award equivalent to an A-level or BTEC.
- Level 4 - aspiring or practising sales managers can consider taking an ISM Level 4 qualification, which is equivalent to a Higher National Certificate (HNC).
- Level 5 - designed 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.
- 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, with each level 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.
To find out more, see ISM - Qualifications.
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 the workplace by undergoing observations from an assessor. The skills developed in a customer service NVQ will leave you well equipped to enter the sales industry or progress to the next qualification level.
Entry onto the Level 3 NVQ Diploma in Customer Service from The Open University currently costs £2,450. 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 customer service courses to enhance your 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 continuing professional development (CPD) listed as parts of its individual membership benefits. You can check the ICS members list under the 'Our Members' tab to see if your employer is affiliated.
While there are not many graduate-level programmes available dedicated solely to customer service training, the accelerated two-year BA Strategic Customer Management at the University of South Wales will equip you with what you need to work effectively in a busy customer service environment.
Sales management training
If you're already established as a sales professional, you may wish to take the next step and progress to management. 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:
- The CIM Managing the Sales Team three-day course, available at introductory, advanced and masterclass levels, is designed to equip sales managers for success in the modern marketplace. The course focuses on both the team's and manager's development - in areas such as managing underperformance, boosting enthusiasm and accurately forecasting sales. Prices start at £1,695 with CIM members benefiting from a discounted rate.
- The ISM Diploma in Sales and Account Management is ISM's biggest Level 5 qualification aimed at experienced sales managers. Candidates are expected to hold either a degree or have gained at least five years' sales experience. The diploma takes approximately 12-15 months to complete, and fees will vary depending on your institution. You'll need ISM membership for all its qualifications, but this is included as part of the course costs.
Visit Professional Academy for information about the different sales management courses on offer from the CIM and ISM training provider.
As well as qualifications which take weeks, months and years to complete, there are also plenty of short sales training courses on offer.
Skills development company Huthwaite International hosts two or three-day open courses in Leeds and London for individuals looking to improve their sales and negotiation performance. These courses include SPIN Selling, PITCH and Account Strategy for Major Sales (ASMS).
As well as providing marketing courses, CIM also runs a number of short one to four-day sales training courses held at locations across the UK throughout the year. Available at introductory and advanced levels, they cover topics ranging from the fundamentals of selling, business negotiation skills and how to develop your key accounts, to advanced selling techniques, key account management and managing the sales team.
You can also enrol onto a sales course tailored specifically to your chosen career, such as the Live Prospecting Telesales Training course from Pareto Law or the IT sales training programmes offered by Richardson.