Pareto’s Guide to Professional Networking for Graduate Sales Jobs

17 mins

When it comes to graduate sales jobs, professional networking is crucial to progression. 79%...

By Pareto Team


When it comes to graduate sales jobs, professional networking is crucial to progression. 79% of professionals polled for a LinkedIn survey agree that networking is vital for career mobility, whilst data from HubSpot shows that 42% of professionals discovered their current role as a result of networking or the positive side effects of it.

It’s clear that networking is vital for finding new opportunities, but much of the graduate careers advice that’s widely available only covers the surface level of reaching out to experts in your field. In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into how you can network like a pro, especially when it comes to entry-level sales jobs, before we explore how you can build a strong online presence and personal brand. 

After this, we’ll offer our top five tips for professional networking in graduate sales jobs, illustrating how you can nurture and maintain your connections as you move forward.

Why is Professional Networking Crucial in Entry-Level Sales Jobs?

Graduate sales jobs present ambitious candidates with an opportunity to learn a great deal in a short amount of time, but it’s vital that amidst all of the focus on processes, techniques, software, sales enablement tools, and customer relationship management, you set aside time to hone your skills in professional networking. 

Forming strong connections is the foundation of a resilient sales career. Whether it’s with your clients, colleagues, or potential mentors, networking brings a raft of benefits for entry-level sales jobs, and knowing how to effectively reach out to others is a skill that can be carried through your entire working life. But what are these benefits? 

  1. Career advancement. Around 70% of jobs are never published publicly. Professional networking is crucial for progression for those in graduate sales jobs, especially when it comes to finding new opportunities and gaining exposure to different industries, giving employers a chance to understand who you are as a salesperson and colleague. 

  1. Discovering new customers. Finding solid, qualified leads can be a challenge in entry-level sales jobs. You don’t have the same book of business as your more experienced colleagues, meaning that referrals can be hard to come by. Luckily, networking can help you to discover prospects and get to know them before you deliver a pitch. Whether you’re attending trade shows and industry events, or joining an online community, you’ll be able to start building interest in the product or service you offer and understand their pain points. 

  1. Learning from others. Mentorship is vital to success in sales representative jobs, helping you hone your toolkit and build on your weaknesses, wherever they may lie—with coaching from colleagues able to address even the most difficult sales areas to teach, such as closing or responding to objections. Professional networking gives entry-level sales reps the opportunity to learn from others who have been in their position and succeeded, providing the ability to gain insight into the different strategies and practices that lead to sales excellence. 

  1. Developing a support network. It’s no secret that sales representative jobs can be challenging, fast-paced, and come with some stress in the early days. When it comes to maintaining a positive perspective, learning strategies to improve your work-life balance, and avoiding burnout, networking can help you to begin building a solid support network of colleagues and peers who have gone through similar experiences, allowing you to share tips and tricks amongst yourselves that can help to mitigate stress and give you more time to focus on hitting your targets. 

  1. Practicing communication skills. When you start looking for graduate sales jobs, it can feel like it’s difficult to hit the ground running—particularly when it comes to learning the communication skills you need to connect with potential customers and solve their problems. Professional networking gives you the potential to interact with experts in sales, allowing you to practice effectively communicating your ideas in a concise way, and understand how to build rapport with people who will likely be as time-scarce as your future leads.

By focusing on networking when building the skillset you need for entry-level sales jobs, you’ll also be able to gain valuable and impactful insights into wider trends across the industry, empowering you at the interview stage—allowing you to surprise hiring managers with your understanding of the changes in consumer demand and broader market conditions that are affecting the sales sector. 

As we’ll see in the next section, it isn’t necessarily the case that this all needs to be conducted on a face-to-face basis, either. Whilst in-person professional networking is still an excellent way to discover peers, mentors, and prospects, modern telecommunications and community-focused technologies present those in graduate sales jobs with an ideal opportunity to build these high-quality connections from afar. 

Building a Strong Online Presence for Graduate Sales Jobs

Over half of sales experts agree that the regular use of online tools to maintain professional networks leads to advanced job opportunities, which is especially important for those looking to move on from entry-level sales jobs and take on more responsibility. 

Knowing where to focus your efforts can be a challenge with the wide range of tools and channels at our disposal for networking in 2023. In this section, we’ll explore how you can leverage online communications technologies to enhance your ability to secure graduate sales jobs, connect with mentors and peers, and begin enhancing your personal brand. 

Identifying and Targeting the Right Connections

Candidates in graduate sales jobs can often face difficulty when it comes to identifying and targeting the right people to connect with. Professional networking is all about knowing who to communicate with, so knowing how to approach the right person is vital. 

To that end, graduates can spend time utilising networking tools to build successful relationships with other professionals. When taking this approach, it's always important to be open and honest about your skills and experience—or lack thereof—and your goals and interests. This will help you to form an authentic relationship with a professional who may be open to mentoring a more junior candidate looking for entry-level sales jobs. 

However, as with any career in sales, it’s important to be prepared for setbacks. At this stage in your career, you may be unable to offer what the first or second professional you contact needs. As a result, it’s likely better to target your search to the mid-level employees of organisations that you admire or are looking to work at, who will be able to give you a more precise idea of the skills and techniques you’ll need to master to reach where you want to be.

Former classmates can also be an excellent networking resource for graduate sales jobs. Online alumni events can help you connect with members of your past university courses, allowing you to build relationships with those working in the industries you’re interested in working in, providing a ready-made professional association in which you can communicate with a range of like-minded professionals. 

Leveraging Social Media for Cold Outreach

When it comes to cold outreach, social media is your friend. However, whilst in-person meetings with professionals you’d like to network with can often give you the opportunity to charm them with your personality, you don’t have the same benefit with online communication—so approaching from the right angle is paramount.

First, identify where the professionals you’re interested in networking with spend their time. Whilst they may maintain a page on Facebook, Twitter—or X—LinkedIn, and Instagram, it may be the case that some of these are personal pages, and that they’d rather receive work-focused communications via another. 

Each of these channels can support a different purpose, however—if you’re interested in building a personal brand based on informative images and video, for instance, you might opt to reach out to salespeople who utilise Instagram, given the visual focus of the platform. Facebook makes it easier to join groups and engage in community discussion, so if you’re looking for graduate careers advice, that’s likely to be a good starting point. X will enable you to connect with and follow industry leaders, giving you insights into the high-level trends impacting your sector. 

Try to follow the individuals you’d like to connect with for a few days or weeks, and pay attention to what they’re sharing before reaching out. This will allow you to get a sense of whether they’d be open to questions and conversations about entry-level sales jobs or career development. 

Optimising a LinkedIn Profile for Sales Networking

Anyone interested in pursuing graduate sales jobs will likely already be working on their LinkedIn profile. With over 700 million users worldwide, the site allows you to connect with experts at all levels of seniority, making it an ideal resource for understanding the career path that entry-level sales jobs could lead you down. 

The platform is designed to make the process of professional networking and hiring easier, especially for sales-focused roles, so it makes sense to leverage it for your own efforts. 

But how can you ensure that your profile is optimised and inviting, allowing you to make certain that your questions and attempts to connect with others don’t result in failure? Here are three tips you can follow to ensure you’re hitting the mark: 

  1. A professional profile image can have a big impact. Make sure that the image you select presents you in the best light—and try to make it as high-quality as possible. Consider using the services of a photographer who specialises in headshots for this, since they will be able to capture an image of you which highlights all of the qualities you want to show off in your professional networking efforts.

  1. Share valuable content. The posts you make on LinkedIn should always be relevant to your industry, and your commentary alongside it should be engaging for other professionals—even better if you’ve created the content and it shows off your expertise and experience. 

  1. Use your summary wisely. Your summary, alongside your profile picture, will likely be the first place other professionals look to get a quick understanding of who you are and what you’ve done. Make sure to concisely highlight your skills and achievements, and ensure they’re related to the sector you want to connect with others in.

Wrapping your head around LinkedIn earlier rather than later will set you in good stead for career progression within sales representative jobs, since the site drives around 46% of traffic to business-to-business sites, and is often considered a credible source of content amongst sales professionals. Often rated the best social media platform for lead generation, salespeople often find their time spent nurturing and maintaining the LinkedIn networks they’re part of highly effective for enhancing their revenue-generating activities.

If you’re interested in learning more about how a solid LinkedIn profile can be a cornerstone of your unique selling point for graduate sales jobs, see our guide on How To Build a Strong Personal Brand for more insights on how you can leverage these digital platforms to network and connect with professionals in your field.

The Top 5 Tips for Professional Networking in Graduate Sales Jobs

Now that we understand how to improve your approach to networking for graduate sales jobs and the ways you can leverage digital tools and platforms to identify, target, and connect with relevant individuals, we can look closely at the five tips that we believe are most important for professional networking success. 

1. Always Bear Networking Etiquette in Mind

When it comes to professional networking—especially for those individuals looking for graduate careers advice—it’s important to always remember the rules and etiquette surrounding the practice. This can help to ensure that you’re keeping things friendly, yet earnest. 

You should always aim for the relationship to be equal and respectful. This isn’t just about getting access to graduate sales jobs, but building long-term connections with those in your field. 

As such, you shouldn’t approach networking from a scattershot angle or focus on only those in positions of power, but instead personalise the way you reach out to each individual, in the same way that you would if you were meeting them in person at an industry event. Put genuine effort into your outreach and relationship-building activities, and you’re bound to see success. 

At the same time, don’t be shy to use your connections to get in touch with other professionals who might be part of their network—even if a friend or acquaintance doesn’t work within your industry, it’s possible that they know someone who does, and that individual may be looking to fill entry-level sales jobs within their organisation. 

In short, make sure that you’re open, trustworthy, and honest. Sales professionals are short on time, and will appreciate you reaching out, as long as it’s not to badger them for an opportunity. 

2. Track and Measure Your Success

Measuring your success in professional networking isn’t about counting the number of connections you’ve made, but assessing the positive impact those relationships can bring to you—and you can bring them. 

The first step is to set goals for yourself. Take an honest look at your desire to network with other professionals, and ask what it is that you’d like to achieve. This could be any number of things, including: 

  • Simply increasing the number of connections you have, and growing your professional network. 

  • Increasing the number of job opportunities open to you. 

  • Connecting with leaders in a field that interests you, to keep up-to-date with the latest news and trends.

Once you’ve set these goals, you can keep track of metrics related to your outreach activities. This could be maintaining a list of the groups you’ve joined, the networking events you’ve attended, and the follow-up conversations you’ve had. 

Now you have an idea of how many quality connections you’ve formed, you can ask a range of questions: 

  • How many opportunities have these presented to you? 

  • Have these members of your network helped you to secure more leads? 

  • Do these members of your sales community provide you with informative, engaging insights into the industry?

This can allow you to evaluate the quality of these connections and how well they align with your professional ambitions—whether that’s securing graduate sales jobs or earning a raise in your current position. 

3. Nurture and Maintain Professional Relationships

Following up with your professional acquaintances is crucial to ensuring the longevity of that relationship. You can’t expect to connect with a peer in your sales field, or a wider community on a platform such as LinkedIn, and not put any work into maintaining that connection. 

Even if you’re looking for graduate sales jobs—and therefore lack the time-served skills and experience needed to offer real insight into the industry—you can still contribute towards discussions, share resources that you’ve found helpful, or assist other community members with their projects. 

You can even instigate your own discussions in these communities by soliciting opinions and graduate careers advice from other members, which can help to strengthen your network. 

At the same time, if a member of your professional network posts on LinkedIn or another platform about a promotion or new job, take the time to genuinely congratulate them on their success. This can build mutual respect and trust between you and your peers, making it easier to reach out to them in the future if you’re looking to move on from entry-level sales jobs. 

4. Attend Networking Events and Sales Conferences

Networking events and sales conferences allow you to meet with others in your industry in person. Make sure you’re dressed professionally and prepared to make a good impression—and don’t forget to bring business cards that you can hand out to people you meet, so they can recall who you are and where you’re based. 

Your preparation should begin in the weeks that lead up to the event, where you can refine an effective introduction and elevator pitch, in which you can clearly state your name and skills, and what you’re aspiring towards in your professional life. 

When you’re taking part in these conferences, make sure to listen actively and attentively to those presenting, and if you have an insightful question to ask or are looking for clarification on a point of interest, make sure to do so respectfully and courteously. Much like your introduction and elevator pitch, you can begin preparing for this opportunity in advance by reading industry newsletters and whitepapers, which will give you an understanding of the latest developments in the field.

Like connecting with your network online, make sure to follow up with your acquaintances after the event, too—you never know whether they’ll be looking for a committed and ambitious candidate for their graduate sales jobs, helping you kick-start your career.

5. Making the Most of Informational Interviews

Typically lasting between 20 and 30 minutes, an informational interview is conducted without the goal of getting a job, but instead gaining an insight into a field or organisation. These interviews can help you know whether a specific industry is right for you. 

Like any interview, however, it’s important to prepare for them all the same. Research the person you’ll be meeting with and their company, making sure to note any recent projects they’ve completed, so you can show genuine interest and respect for the time they’re giving them. This exercise will also help you to prepare open-ended questions that can help you to understand the path that person has taken, and enable them to give you targeted graduate careers advice. 

Make notes during the informational interview, and follow up with the person you met with afterwards to ask for further clarification, rather than taking more of their time than is necessary. Show them you’ve done some additional study, and they’ll be likely to offer deeper insights—or connect you to other professionals that can provide you with more information.

By following these tips, you’ll be able to make the most of your professional networking efforts, and build long-lasting and mutually beneficial relationships with experts and peers in your industry. It’ll also enhance a number of transferable skills that will make you more employable—from communication and negotiation, to organisation and scheduling.

Closing Remarks

Professional networking is undeniably crucial for success in a range of entry-level sales jobs, offering a number of benefits such as career advancement, the ability to discover new customers and learn from experienced mentors, the opportunity to build a robust support network which can help you avoid or mitigate burnout, and the chance to hone your communication skills. 

These advantages not only apply to immediate job prsoepcts, but also set the foundation for a thriving and long-term career in sales. 

Moreover, digital tools and platforms provide abundant opportunities for online networking, with sites such as LinkedIn playing a pivotal role in connecting industry experts with one another. To excel in graduate sales jobs, candidates need to learn how to leverage these technologies effectively, utilising them to identify and target the right people. 

By adhering to networking etiquette, tracking and measuring your success in connecting to your peers and other professionals, nurturing relationships, attending networking events, and utilising informational interviews, you’ll be in a better position to secure any number of graduate sales jobs, enhancing your professional journey in the sales environment.

Expert Graduate Careers Advice and Sales Training

Whether you’re looking for graduate sales jobs or just after some advice to support your professional networking efforts, Pareto has 25 years of experience connecting ambitious candidates with the help they need and the careers that will allow them to realise their potential. 

Contact us today to receive specialist, personalised graduate careers advice and gain access to our network of market-leading employers. 

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