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Qualities you need to work in the sales and commercial sector

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As a graduate, you’re most likely to find a role in business-to-business (b2b) sales – those are the deals with most impact for a company. We look at some of the skills that could make your career a success.

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A good salesperson is naturally confident, which gives other people confidence in what they’re saying. You have to feel comfortable connecting with strangers and delivering your message.

How to develop it:

  • Try new things. If you can do things that scare you, you can handle anything.
  • Confident people can be themselves without worrying about pleasing others and fitting in. If you find this hard, experiment with saying the words, “No,” and “I disagree,” in your daily life.

Outgoing and likeable personality

Everyone would rather buy from someone they like. The sales and commercial sector is a people-centric business. You need to be able to find a rapport and build a relationship with anyone, no matter how little you have in common. If you have (or can fake) a warm and outgoing personality, you’re more likely to be successful.

How to develop it:

  • Challenge yourself to make connections with people you see regularly but don’t talk to – perhaps the person at your local newsagent or a neighbour.  


When you work in sales you spend a great deal of time communicating with customers by phone, by email, and face to face. You’ll need excellent spoken and written communication skills, as well as presentation skills.

How to develop it:

  • Telephone jobs, such as calling alumni for donations, develop your verbal communication skills and grow your confidence. 
  • Join a debating society, a student council, or even an improv group.
  • Join a student magazine or take responsibility for a society website. Successfully advertising an event online is a great example of your written skills.
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It takes a lot of initiative to go out and find potential customers or create successful deals. A good salesperson can’t just take what the job brings them. You need self-motivation to make things happen.

How to develop it:

  • If you’re asked to do a small task for work or study, stop and think, “What could I do to go above and beyond?”
  • Make lists – write down some short-term goals and the steps you need to take, then plan out your day, week or month.

Learn: what types of sales you can get into.

Drive and ambition

If you feel the need to smash every target you’re given, you’ll do well in the sales and commercial sector. Success is based heavily around targets, with bonuses and commissions as an incentive. It can be a competitive culture, which means ambitious people will thrive.

How to develop it:

  • Ambition is all about getting into the right mindset. If you believe you can be the best, you’ll have more impetus to go out and try. Even if it sounds corny, look in the mirror and tell yourself how great you are.

Resilience and persistence

Even the best salesperson will hear the word ‘no’ from time to time. You need to be thick skinned enough to shrug off a refusal, and persistent enough to come back with a new proposal.

How to develop it:

  • Look on the bright side of any rejection. What can you learn from it and what will you do differently next time? 
  • Set yourself a goal that’s difficult to achieve – a fundraising target for a charity of your choice. Try different strategies, such as bake sales, competitions and sponsored challenges until you raise enough money.

See 10 popular graduate jobs in sales


To succeed in sales, you should spend more time listening than talking. A good listener can find out what a potential customer is looking for and tailor their proposal to match.

How to develop it:

  • There are right ways to listen. Look up the term ‘active listening’ and try the techniques in conversation.
  • Volunteer for a task that involves listening – for example, a peer support helpline.

Commercial awareness and insight

With b2b sales, commercial awareness is vital. It means you can put yourself in your customer’s shoes, understand their business requirements, and describe your product so that it sounds most appealing.

How to develop it:

  • Read about the business world. Compile a list of expert bloggers and good news sites.
  • Look out for trends. You should be able to discuss industry news and explain why it interests you.
  • Use Bright Network's weekly commercial awareness updates to stay in the loop.

Negotiation and persuasion

Selling means persuading someone that they want what you have to offer and negotiating a deal. Good negotiations skills will lead to more sales – the absolute key to success.

How to develop it:

  • Keep in mind that you’re not trying to ‘win’ a negotiation – you’re trying to find a solution that both parties are happy with.
  • Negotiations crop up any time people are together in a group – perhaps working on a project or sharing a house. Whenever you come across a conflict, think about what each party wants to achieve and negotiate from there.

Read Bright advice from a Performance Executive at Betfair.


Working in a team is essential in some areas of commerce, as there’s a lot of collaboration involved. For example, if you’re selling consumer goods to a retailer you may have to work with them to design products that best meet their customers’ needs.

How to develop it:

  • You’ll end up doing group projects or collaborating on tasks many times in your university career. Try to go into them with a good team attitude – be positive, respectful, appreciative and enthusiastic. 

And finally…

If you’re honestly interested in what you’re selling, your enthusiasm will help you do your job better. If you love outdoor sports, you could work in sales for a major outdoor brand. If you enjoyed your biochemistry degree, you could look for a pharmaceutical sales role.

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