Graduate sales jobs continue to grow steadily, with the number of open roles up by around 65% since 2021. For those motivated by high earnings potential, a career that can make a difference, and the opportunity to learn new skills and knowledge, the sales industry presents candidates with the opportunity to grow professionally and personally and encounter numerous opportunities for career advancement.
This guide first discusses how sales graduate schemes offer an alternative route for candidates that hold degrees in comparison to other entry-level roles in the sales industry, before exploring the top five industries for graduate sales jobs in 2023, including the financial services and banking sectors, pharmaceuticals, the various technology industries, fast-moving consumer goods, and renewable energy sales. Interspersed throughout is our expert advice for graduates seeking sales training and a career in this fast-paced, dynamic professional landscape.
How are Graduate Sales Jobs Different to Other Entry-Level Roles?
There are many misconceptions surrounding the sales industry, but one of the most common is the belief that entry-level sales roles and sales graduate schemes are the same thing. As we’ll shortly see, whilst the two roles are similar in many respects, and graduate sales jobs can vary from employer to employer, there’s typically a clearer focus on imparting the skills you’ll need for a specific career trajectory.
Sales and business development continues to be one of the most popular sectors for graduates, accounting for around 32% of graduate positions, with recruitment for these roles surpassing pre-pandemic levels by 20% in 2022.
Before we get into our list of the top 5 industries for sales roles, let’s take a closer look at how graduate sales jobs differ from other entry-level roles in the industry.
Education. Graduate sales jobs are often aimed at university graduates, allowing you to leverage your skills in research and your passion for your field of study to enhance your ability to generate revenue. Additional responsibilities such as market and client research may well fall to graduate salespeople, who will have the ability to deliver reports that other salespeople can utilise to forecast the quality of a lead.
Career mobility. Sales graduate schemes will often have a clearly signposted trajectory for you to follow, letting you know exactly what you need to do to progress to a higher-level role, which will grant you more responsibility and a larger base salary and commission.
Results-driven. Graduate sales jobs will often be more focused on meeting targets than other entry-level sales roles, with line managers and senior colleagues working with and coaching you to realise your potential, providing more structure than other entry-level positions.
Additional training opportunities. Alongside sales training, sales graduate schemes will often provide learning and development in a range of areas that will aid your work, such as customer relationship management or data analysis, giving you a well-rounded skillset and aiding your ability to manage key accounts.
The ability to work with different departments. Graduate sales jobs will often allow you to work with multiple teams. This will enhance your product knowledge, enabling you to more effectively reply to customers’ objections and pitch to decision-makers.
Whilst both sales graduate schemes and entry-level sales roles offer opportunities for professional development and training, graduate roles are typically part of a more structured programme, which will provide clarity on your career path, albeit at the expense of a predictable workload. Graduate sales jobs will often encourage candidates to take on additional responsibilities to support their learning and professional growth—offering a fast track to higher levels of seniority.
If you’d like to learn more about graduate sales jobs and how you secure a placement in 2023, see our recent guide to The 5 Transferable Graduate Skills Employers Look For and see our expert advice for graduates looking to leverage their competencies in communication, collaboration, project management, and critical thinking to support their career progression.
The Top 5 Sectors for Graduate Sales Jobs
Even amidst economic uncertainty, the various sectors of the sales industry continue to propel businesses forward, generating high levels of revenue and enabling growth. Even then, as we venture into 2023, the landscape of sales has transformed, driven by changes in consumer preferences, technological innovation, and broader changes to the way business is conducted as a result of the increasing digitisation of our roles and responsibilities.
Now that we understand how graduate sales jobs differ from other entry-level sales positions, let’s look in more detail at the five sectors that are driving growth and experiencing high demand for representatives.
According to analysts, the employment of sales representatives in the finance industry is expected to grow by around 7% by 2032, a faster pace than the average rate of growth for all other sectors. Sellers of commodities, securities, and financial services are expected to experience a growth in demand as global economies continue to scale and businesses seek out sound advice on investment and banking.
Alongside this, technological advancements are encouraging this bright outlook for those who sell services, as well as finance and accounting technologies.
Within the financial services and banking industries, employers expect candidates to possess robust skills in communication and customer service—especially considering many of the high-value clients and key accounts a salesperson will be expected to manage when working within the sector—alongside initiative, analytical and critical thinking, and a detail-oriented outlook on work.
As a result of these requirements and the high levels of remuneration on offer from many of the organisations making their mark on the economy, sales graduate schemes in finance are often some of the most competitive to secure, with candidates expected to hold a degree in a related field, such as business, economics, or mathematics, with many applicants often holding advanced skills and postgraduate qualifications before they apply to work in the sector.
With the increasing demand for pharmaceutical products—and the technological advances that are making personalised medicines and cell and gene therapies viable—graduate sales jobs in the pharmaceutical industry are on the rise.
Pharmaceutical sales representatives often have a complex job, travelling to meet with healthcare practitioners and key opinion leaders to expound the benefits of a new therapy or supplement. This means that graduate sales jobs in the pharmaceutical industry require candidates to develop in-depth product knowledge and the ability to convincingly and effectively pitch to life science experts. As a result of the high level of in-demand skills, salaries for these roles have increased by 10% over the last five years.
Most organisations seeking pharmaceutical sales representatives look for candidates who possess a degree in a related life sciences field, such as biology or chemistry, although this isn’t a necessity—especially since professional certification is common amongst pharmaceutical sales representatives, with Certified Sales Professional (CPD) and the Certified Professional Manufacturers’ Representative (CPMR) qualifications providing candidates with the skills they need to comply with industry regulations and grow their careers.
Graduate sales jobs in the technology sector are on the rise, offering candidates a high earning potential within what is often a fast-paced and dynamic work environment. This is especially true for roles working with software-as-a-service (SaaS), which is undergoing constant evolution—creating an exciting work environment for sales representatives who are interested in maintaining robust product knowledge.
Unlike the two prior entries on this list, technology sales has a lower barrier to entry, making it easier to secure a sales graduate scheme within the sector and kick-start your career, especially if you’re passionate about learning new technologies and their applications. This can help you to find real value and purpose in your work, since you’ll spend each day discussing how the product or service your employer offers is able to resolve their unique pain points.
In the sales industry, technology is a unique case, with many leads and prospects looking to communicate with representatives remotely—given the advances in telecommunications software over the last few years, this presents a significant benefit for product demonstrations, whilst allowing representatives the ability to work from home, increasing their work-life balance.
Similarly, the technology sales industry allows representatives to explore opportunities in a range of sectors beyond software and IT, from BioTech and HealthTech to FoodTech, GreenTech, and CleanTech, meaning that you can discover and work towards a role that best suits your passions.
Between now and 2028, openings for graduate sales jobs in tech sales are expected to rise by 4%, driven by the demand for representatives who can understand and actively listen to customer needs, analyse and leverage customer data and sales enablement technologies, and identify new opportunities for up-and-cross-selling.
FMCG—or fast-moving consumer goods—is a sales industry with near limitless growth potential. Organisations across the sector provide consumers with a broad portfolio of products which cater to their daily needs, and sales graduate schemes abound which cater to a wide range of roles, from snacks and drinks to the sale of domestic cleaning products.
Candidates looking to enhance their chances at securing graduate sales jobs within the industry would set themselves in good stead by understanding the FMCG lifecycle and processes, from product design to engineering, branding, and supply chain optimisation, which will give them the well-rounded knowledge they need to effectively advise their clients, many of whom will be large retailers and eCommerce market leaders.
The fast-moving consumer goods sales industry is also an excellent choice for graduates who are interested in travelling through their job, with organisations operating in the FMCG space likely to work multi-nationally, providing their representatives with high earning potential and the opportunity for overseas assignments.
Sales professionals working in this sector will often be experts in account management and customer excellence, keeping meticulous details on their clients and regularly following up with them in person and via other channels to agree on sales, retail prices, the negotiation of long-term contracts, and the payment of invoices and retainers.
At the same time, candidates with a knack for data analysis are likely to be well-suited to a sales graduate scheme in FMCG, since they’ll often be presented with the opportunity to research territories for market potential and supply managers with reports on customers’ pain points, needs, and interests. This means that sales experts in FMCG can play an active role in the ideation and development of new products and services based on product-market fit.
5. Renewable Energy Sales
Given the increasing demand for sustainable, renewable, and green energy alternatives to fossil fuels across the globe—especially as governments aim to achieve their Net Zero targets—there is a growing call for sales representatives who can sell these products to businesses and consumers.
From consultants offering advice to businesses looking to reduce their carbon footprint, to energy representatives directly selling wind and solar products to consumers and other organisations, the burgeoning renewable energy market is poised to support a broad range of sales graduate schemes. With the global market for renewable and alternative energy valued at $1.1 trillion in 2022 and anticipated to grow to $3.6 trillion by 2030, this particular sales industry will prove to be lucrative for representatives for the foreseeable future.
Graduate sales jobs in renewable energy will often seek out candidates with the ability to understand and relay technical information, requiring expert communication skills that will allow them to demonstrate and explain products and services to those outside of the industry, making it an ideal fit for those with an interest in the green energy revolution that’s already underway.
Alongside this, renewable energy salespeople will require strong problem-solving competencies, given the complexity of decarbonising our other industries. Knowing how to address clients’ issues and objections will help representatives to build trust and credibility, turning leads into loyal, repeat customers.
Given the rapid technological changes that occur as we move from year to year, adaptability, resilience, and foresight are paramount skills for graduate representatives to develop. Sales training can provide you with the skills and abilities you need to achieve long-term career success, but you also need to be committed to your own personal and professional growth to achieve real results.
By committing to a sales graduate scheme, you’ll be able to help a business to curate an unforgettable customer experience, whether you’re working directly with consumers, or supporting other organisations to address their unique pain points. Being able to innovate and think creatively will help you to not only understand the trends that are shaping the sales industry, but actively participate in forming those trends yourself as you gain more experience and expertise.
The landscape of graduate sales jobs in 2023 offers promising opportunities for those seeking dynamic and long-term careers within the broader sales industry. Characterised by significant growth, graduates are provided with an ever-clearer pathway for personal and professional development.
In this guide, we’ve explored our advice for graduates on how sales graduate schemes differ from other entry-level positions, highlighting their emphasis on education, structured career mobility, a results-driven focus, and the additional sales training opportunities they provide. We’ve also seen the top five industries for graduate sales jobs, finding finance, pharmaceuticals, technology, FMCG, and the renewable energy sectors at the forefront of demand.
Each of these sectors presents candidates with its own unique demands and advantages, whether that’s the financial industry’s high earning potential, the stability of pharmaceuticals, the fast-paced and creative environment of technology, the limitless growth of FMCG, or renewable energy’s contribution to sustainability. These industries offer diverse paths for graduates to explore, but they all share a common thread: a need for adaptable, resilient, and forward-thinking sales professionals.
Committing to sales graduate schemes provides the opportunity to shape not only your career but also the evolving trends within the sales industry in 2023 and beyond. Graduates can look forward to a rewarding journey within the field, with the potential to make a tangible and lasting impact.
Expert Sales Training and Advice for Graduates
At Pareto, we’ve been supporting graduates for over 25 years, helping them to connect with market-leading firms and exciting opportunities in all sectors. Whether you’ve recently completed your degree or you left university a few years ago, we’re here to kick-start your career in the sales industry.
Contact us today to discuss your ambitions and realise your potential.