What to expect from a graduate job in Business Development

Katie Harrison
Campaigns Executive

Graduate roles within the Sales and Business Development sector revolve around one core principle: accelerating the growth of a company’s business assets, usually by taking on direct responsibility for generating revenue.

There is a common preconception that a career in Sales can only mean knocking on doors or endless ringing of phones, which is known as ‘cold calling’.  However, although connecting with potential new customers is a crucial part of the industry, there is so much more than meets the eye to this fast-moving and complex business area.

Furthermore, with every company relying on some form of Sales department to continue expanding, you can guarantee that your work experience in a Sales role will be transferable just about anywhere. 


Popular Job Titles

You may have seen some forms of the titles below during your job hunt; they all refer to positions which are related to Sales.

  • Business Development Executive
  • Commercial Graduate Programme
  • Graduate Account Executive
  • Territory Sales Manager

Whilst job titles can occasionally give some indication of your position within a company hierarchy, with so much variance between companies it’s best not to place too much importance on exactly which label is being used.

What is more important is to consider if there are any extra requests that are associated with the role: the word “Territory” in a title usually indicates travel, as you will be responsible for sales within a particular geographic area, whilst a Graduate Programme could offer more initial support but may not provide the same opportunities for immediate bonuses.




What you will be doing

There are two points which dictate every action in a Sales role: the product or service that you are selling, and the group or individual that you are selling to. Some typical tasks and responsibilities include:

  • Researching your target audience, as well as other competitors in your business area
  • Connecting with new business to raise brand awareness and generate interest
  • Communicating with potential clients and influencing them to commit to making a purchase
  • Building a network of existing and potential clients
  • Negotiating prices with your buyers and your suppliers to maximise profit margins
  • Monitoring and reporting on existing customer orders
  • Getting involved in marketing campaigns to contact more potential customers
  • Reporting on your figures to line managers and more senior stakeholders.

“Commission” is a bonus scheme that is made of a percentage of your sales – you get commission when a deal is signed and revenue is generated as a result of your work. This is commonly used in businesses to provide a financial incentive that is directly linked to your personal achievements, and is often accompanied by additional bonuses for hitting quarterly or annual targets.


What skills will help you succeed

Whilst there are many different ways to approach a career in Sales, here are several core skills that will stand you well in the roles discussed above:

Unsurprisingly, being a strong communicator and a real ‘people-person’ is always going to be crucial, as your job will involve relaying key information about your company’s product or service to either internal or external stakeholders on a daily basis. You’ll also need to be able to build a rapport and a level of trust with a client. Whether this takes the form of giving a presentation to prospective clients or approaching and connecting with customers within a Retail environment, confidence in your written and verbal communication skills is essential.

Negotiating figures will be a huge part of the role at any level, and this requires a delicate balance between your communication know-how and being comfortable with your percentages. Make sure that you feel comfortable being put on the spot to generate, for example, a new quote for a customer based on a loyalty discount, as this is the sort of scenario that could happen on a fairly regular basis.

What drives most successful salespeople is the will to succeed and, quite simply, to be the best. You will need to be self-motivated and work well to targets and deadlines, as this is what will dictate your success within a business. You may have heard of the term meritocratic: this refers to a system wherein a person can progress based on their ability and talent, rather than their age or how long they have been an employee, and is often used to describe the Sales industry as the opportunities for reward are heavily based upon your own input. If you’re looking for a place where you can work hard and reap the rewards, this is the right sort of place for you.

Team work
Business Development can often be unfairly branded as a cut-throat environment, with colleagues searching for the best way to get themselves ahead of their co-workers. However, the best teams are those who recognise that working together presents a more attractive and united company, which results in more long-term relationships with customers and therefore more established growth for the business. Before joining a company, it helps to do some research online about what the company culture is like – this way, you can find a team who encourage and support each other to do their best, as this will be a more successful work atmosphere in the long run.


What you should mention in your application

Even if you have no direct work experience in a Sales environment, you should look for ways that you can demonstrate the skills and attributes listed above. Perhaps you have experience giving presentations as part of your course at university, or maybe you’ve generated money through ticket sales for a society event? All of this is ideal for a Sales role; what’s more, as it is all voluntary experience, it also shows you are ready to go above and beyond for a cause that you care about.

As you will be representing your new employer in an external, customer-facing role, most companies are more interested in making sure that your personality and attitude is a good fit for their work than where you’ve worked previously, so don’t be afraid to show confidence and be yourself in the interview.


Rewards and incentives

One of the greatest draws for the Sales and Business Development industry are the rewards that can become available fairly early on in one’s career. This is, of course, based on your own effort – if you are prepared to work hard then you will soon see the results, which vary from company to company but can take the form of anything from company bonuses and champagne in the office to international trips abroad for the businesses’ top performers.


Sales is certainly not for everyone – it is a highly focussed role with a direct impact on the success of a business, and as such you can face a fair bit of pressure. However, if you thrive in a fast-moving, people-facing environment, the immediate and impressive rewards for earning commission on top of your hard work makes this career choice a lucrative opportunity to start earning as soon as you leave university.