The sales industry comprises a wide range of products and sectors, from high fashion and pharmaceuticals to IT and automobiles. Encompassing both B2C (business to consumer) and B2B (business to business) roles, it is one of the most diverse and exciting industries to work in. Generally, you’ll find that sales roles will fall into the following seven fields:
Positions range from junior telemarketing and entry-level sales executive roles to senior sales executive, head of sales and global director of sales positions, all of which are target-driven but involve different responsibilities and competencies.
Recruitment consultancy is a sub-division of sales. As a recruitment consultant, you’ll work for a specialist recruitment agency contacting and pitching to potential clients, advertising vacancies, editing CVs and interviewing candidates. You’ll also match potential candidates with roles you have advertised, and liaise with the client and candidate to organise interviews, give feedback and communicate offers and rejections.
Sales is a global industry and a vital function of every business. As a result, there are a wide range of roles open to you. These include:
Graduate or entry-level roles in sales and recruitment consulting often lead to progression into more senior roles such as senior sales manager, director of sales, senior recruitment consultant or director of recruitment.
Most companies will have sales departments, ranging from hundreds of individuals to just one or two in small companies. Examples include LinkedIn, Google, FedEx, Armani, Sony, Bentley, Warner Bros., Mango, H&M, Samsung, Merrill Lynch Bank of America, Nestle, Mars, Nissan, EasyJet, and Procter & Gamble. Major recruitment agencies include Adecco, Manpower, Randstad, Allegis and Hays Recruitment, although there are a large number of specialist recruitment agencies that deal with sectors such as media, creative and IT.
Graduates will normally need a good degree in any discipline. Some companies may prefer degrees in certain subjects such as business, economics, marketing, management or technology, especially if it relates to the products you’ll sell e.g. IT products. Although your degree is important, you’ll also be expected to have key competencies such as excellent communication skills, negotiation skills, numeracy, confidence, drive and commercial awareness.
The sales industry welcomes non-graduates and there are many entry-level opportunities available for school leavers, including a range of apprenticeships and internships. As with graduate roles, you’ll need to display key skills such as good communication and interpersonal skills, confidence, commercial awareness and ambition.
As a target- and commission-driven industry, employers are generally more concerned with results and on-the-job performance, as opposed to helping you gain additional qualifications and training. That said, you’ll receive on-the-job training on products, systems and sales skills in many larger companies.
Some companies may also offer sponsorship towards an NVQ qualification in sales or a professional qualification from The Chartered Institute of Marketing or the Managing and Marketing Sales Association. As a new recruitment consultant, you’ll generally receive on-the-job training for around three months and may have access to fast-track career development programmes in larger firms.
The application process varies depending on the company. Large companies such as Google or Adecco may have a more in-depth interview process than small companies, with steps similar to the below:
Smaller companies may have a simplified application process that follows some of the aforementioned steps.
Salaries in sales and recruitment consulting are target- and commission-based. In general, most graduate sales roles will start with a base annual salary of £18,000 to £23,000, with quite low sales targets initially. As you gain experience your base salary will increase alongside your targets, giving you the opportunity to earn more commission and increase your salary.
This pattern will continue throughout your career, with middle management sales roles commanding a base salary of £35,000 plus commission, and senior roles earning £60,000 to £100,000 depending on the company. It’s important to bear in mind that many advertised salaries will be OTE (on-target earnings), which means you could earn less if you don’t reach your targets.
A career in sales can be competitive and stressful. Basic salaries are quite low at the beginning and you’ll need to meet ever-increasing targets and work long hours to increase your commission. If you fail to meet your targets, your salary may work out less than you expected and you’ll feel under pressure to improve your performance, both from yourself and your company. You may also have to speak with rude or disinterested clients and face a lot of rejection, especially if your role involves cold calling.
Sales can be a dynamic and profitable career choice, thanks to uncapped earning potential and fast career development. You’ll also have the chance to interact with a wide range of people, work across a number of exciting products and may have the opportunity to travel, especially in larger companies. If this sounds like you, visit our sales and recruitment forum to find out more.