What Is Sales?

It can be tricky knowing what you want to do - but we are here to help. With this series we'll be putting common graduate career paths under the microscope, so you can see what they are all about, and ultimately decide if they are right for you. Here we're taking a look at Sales.

What is Sales?

Sales is the basis of all commercial businesses. Whether your company produces a physical product or a service, working in Sales means it’s your job to sell it and make as much money as possible.

Think you have the gift of the gab?! Read on.


Entry into sales is predominantly about personality and experience, rather than qualifications.

That said, degrees which relate to the nature of your industry or which show an affinity for a certain type of product will help. For example, a science degree is useful for working in pharmaceutical sales, maths/computer science/engineering for selling IT products/services, media studies for selling advertising,  and of course, languages if you are selling abroad.

There is a basic distinction can be made between two types of sales: business to business (B2B) and business to customer or consumer (B2C). B2B sales involve selling from one business to another, while B2C involves selling to consumers i.e. you and I. B2B is a typical avenue for graduates, although certain sellers of expensive consumer items such as cars or fitted kitchens may actively seek graduates for B2C selling. In either case, the most common route into the sales industry, is as a Sales Executive.

Sales Executive: As a Sales Exec, you’ll be looking to build some sort of relationship with your customers. Whatever your product/service, it’s your job to sell as many of your company’s goods as possible as well as developing and maintaining a good relationship with clients.

N.B. You may come across the title Business Development Executive rather than Sales Executive. Usually a Business Development Executive sells a service, whereas a Sales Executive sells a product, however, (just to confuse matters!) the two terms are often used interchangeably.

Check out our latest entry-level Sales positions on our site here.


After a successful period as a Sales Executive, you can expect to be promoted to handling larger or more prestigious accounts, taking responsibility for key products, training up new sales executives and finally being promoted to Sales Manager. As a Sales Manager you’ll be responsible for a team of Sales Executives and their performance. Because promotion is results based, rapid progress and early promotion are common for high performers.

After becoming a Sales Manager, you may go on to become a Regional Sales Manager, depending on the size of the company and ultimately Sales Director. 


Confident - This is the absolutely most important skill a salesperson can cultivate. If you believe in yourself and your product, your prospects will be inclined to believe as well. Self-confidence will also incline you towards a more assertive approach, which is vital to your selling success.

Good listening skills - Most salespeople are natural talkers. Unfortunately, even a great speaker will only get so far without a little listening. You need to take the time to ask your prospect questions and really listen to the answers. This will give you a clearer idea of what they want, and therefore, how best to approach a sale.

Articulate - You need to be able to express yourself in a precise and consise way. You’ll often have a short amount of time to convince someone that they are interested in your product/service.

Ability to build rapport - Sales is all about people- seeking out new customers, asking them about their needs and convincing someone that your product or service is superior. It’s impossible to do this unless you can make someone like you and want to speak to you.

Results orientated - A career in Sales is all about hitting targets. You’ll need to sell a certain amount or make a certain amount of money- so you’ll always need to have these targets in mind.

Resilient - Similar to recruitment, for every ‘yes’ that you get, you’ll get several (or probably many!) ‘no’s’. If you aren’t resilient enough to keep going, then none of these other skills will be able to come into play!

The pros

The financial rewards of sales can be exceptional. Many positions offer relatively high starting salaries with commission on top. Sales can also offer fantastic benefits/perks such as executive dinners, gym memberships and company cars.

Since sales is at the crooks of all businesses this means a) there will always be jobs available for good quality sales people and b) sales takes place across all industries, so you can quite easily move into other positions/industries.

Because of the negative image of Sales (think Del-boy and dodgy double glazing salesmen) it's much easier to get good quality sales jobs than jobs in related fields such as Marketing.

Finally, promotion is based on results and it is not uncommon for good sales executives to find themselves moving into management positions quicker than they would in other industry sectors.

The cons

A career in Sales is often demanding and stressful due to its competitive nature and the need to meet challenging targets.

Another disadvantage, for some, will be the amount of rejection you’ll face from uninterested customers. Sales is a career for the thick-skinned!

Jargon buster

Cold calling: Telephone selling or calling to prospects where there is no previous track record or relationship

Cross-selling: Selling an additional product (or products) which naturally links or fits with the original purchase

B2B - business-to-business (providing products/services between businesses)

B2C - business-to-consumer (as above but products/services are between business and the end consumer)

Closing: Closing a sale refers to achieving a clearly defined, tangible and mutually agreed final outcome between buyer and seller, either a sale or agreed next step
FMCG - Fast moving consumer goods. Covers everything from toiletries and cosmetics to TV's and hi-fi's 

Lead: An unqualified prospect. Someone you think may have a need but you now need to qualify

Prospect: A potential customer – someone you have identified as having a need you can fulfil 

USP: Unique Selling Point – what makes you stand out from the crowd

Pay scale

Here are the median salaries of the most common sales positions in the UK, N.B the median salary of a Sales
Executive is just over £21,000: Pay Scale
Related content

What is PR?
What is Recruitment? 
5 Signs You're In The Wrong Job


© 2016 GradTouch. Terms | Privacy