- Different areas of sales and commercial
- Typical roles in sales and commercial
- Skills and qualifications
- Key employers
- The application process
- Sales and commercial sector graduate jobs and schemes
- More information
Are you naturally competitive? Do you strive to excel at everything you do? If you enjoy pushing yourself to meet demanding targets while providing outstanding customer service at the same time, then a job in the sales and commercial sector may be for you.
Interesting in going into this fast-paced sector? Browse available opportunities in the sales and commercial sectors.
Sales and commercial
As the name suggests, the sales and commercial sector is all about working with customers to sell them the product they need – or didn’t know they needed. With more and more customers making informed choices about their consumption habits and the suppliers they support, the modern sales sector has become much more friendly and collaborative than its cold-calling past. Personable salespeople are highly regarded in the field, whether by individual customers or corporate clients. There are many diverse roles in sales but they all have one main aim: to satisfy consumers while generating the highest amount of revenue possible.
Find out more about the sales and commercial sector.
Every company is looking for the best and brightest talent and, working in recruitment, you may be the one to help them find it. Modern recruiters are as focused on scouting talent as they are on retaining it, and so may be involved in negotiating pay and benefits to make sure both sides are getting the best deal. Recruitment agencies develop a deep understanding of the industry they work in and learn to understand both the skills needed for a role and what kinds of personalities might fit them. They might focus on filling temporary roles for businesses with an urgent need or sourcing more specialist talent like engineers and finance professionals.
As a recruitment consultant, you headhunt the best and brightest talent who will drive growth in your client’s team. Expect your skills to be in high demand, as recruiters work in every industry, from education to medicine to banking. Everyone needs top performers, so recruiters sift through applicants, interview the most promising ones, and pitch them to clients as a valuable investment. As a recruiter, you’ll have the happy duty of informing candidates that they got the job, but you may need to exercise empathy for those who unfortunately don’t make the cut.
Sales executives develop deep insight into their chosen market and use that to sell a product. They are constantly seeking new opportunities for deals and are encouraged to exceed sales targets by earning a commission on top of their salary. The aim of a sales executive is to maximise sales volume and profit, and also to expand their company’s market share so it’s their product that gets to sit on shelves across the world, not their competitor’s. You might work predominantly over the phone in telesales, or out in the field at client meetings and exhibition events. In any case, you’ll do great at this job if you’re goal-oriented, driven, and love working with people.
Estate agents are experts in property. Be it commercial or residential, an estate agent on the sell-side will value a property, market it, and negotiate an optimal sales price with buyers. On the buy-side, estate agents scout properties by performing market research based on the buyer’s specific needs, be they in terms of geography, amenities, or budget. Estate agency is just as social as any other role in the sales and commercial sector, as you may be taking potential buyers around on property tours and making sure both parties are well-informed and supported at every stage of the process.
Working in procurement gives you an insight into the buying side of the sales and commercial sector, as you work closely with buyers and suppliers at all stages of the supply chain, from manufacture to delivery. You may find yourself sourcing the best prices, determining the needs of your client, and drawing up purchase agreements that ensure orders are complying with company policy and the law. As a procurer, you will be highly organised and able to see the big picture, as any ambitious scientific, engineering, or manufacturing project may involve thousands of different components sourced from all over the world – and it will be your job to ensure that process runs smoothly.
Once your firm lands a client, it falls to you as an account manager to keep them happy. You may be the first point of contact for a whole portfolio of clients and will be responsible for maintaining relationships between them and your firm. This may involve balancing multiple deadlines as clients compete for your time, ensuring that the services or products they paid for are delivered on time and to a high standard, and keeping records of any transactions. While there are still reports to write, the majority of these roles are very client-oriented, so an ability to provide outstanding customer service is highly regarded in account management.
Find out more about some of the diverse roles available in the sales and commercial sectors.
You don’t need any specific technical skills to work in the sales and commercial sectors. However, there are certain soft skills that will hold you in good stead for these roles:
- Communication. As a salesperson, a significant portion of your job is building relationships – whether that’s by telephone, email, or at a presentation or meeting. Appearing confident, approachable and putting your ideas across in a digestible way are key skills that can help you win over clients and generate sales. In recruitment, having an empathetic manner that puts others at ease can help you get the best performances out of nervous candidates during interviews. You may find yourself communicating in a written and verbal form throughout most of your workday.
- Time management. Recruiters and salespeople alike have quotas to make – whether that’s a sales goal or filling a temporary position at short notice. Prioritising tasks and managing stress are key to making sure you get everything done on time.
- Marketing. Persuading someone they need something – be it a product or employee – is a key skill in the sales and commercial sector. You may start out researching what needs your product can fulfil and then work on creative advertising campaigns to get your message out there in a way that grabs people’s attention. Social media marketing can be just as important since consumers and workers alike use social media to find products and employers that interest them. Learn more about developing your marketing skills with this Bright Network Academy course on how to get into marketing.
- Commercial awareness. Developing commercial awareness is relevant to every stage of your career, as employers may test how well you know your chosen market or product. Whether through experience or research, salespeople are expected to stay ahead of the curve on the latest products and trends in their sector. For recruiters, this may involve staying up to date with developments in work culture, which has undergone a significant shift in recent times.
While a degree is not always necessary, having one in any subject is strongly preferred – and often required – by employers in the sales and commercial sector. If the product you sell is highly specialised, such as pharmaceuticals, you may be required to have a relevant degree. For roles in recruitment, a degree in human resource management may help you stand out from other candidates.
There are also apprenticeship opportunities available in the sales and commercial sectors. These may be offered by further education institutions or by employers directly.
Experience in a sales or customer-facing environment is highly valued, whether that comes from a part-time job or one of the many internship opportunities in the sales and commercial sectors. Internships can be a great way to get your foot in the door, develop commercial awareness, and learn whether sales or recruitment interest you as a career.
There are a number of accredited qualifications which sales and commercial professionals may undertake to boost their CV and hone their skills. Here are some of the most recognised:
Salespeople may benefit from a qualification by the Institute of Sales Management (ISM), which is the only accredited sales qualification body in the UK. They offer a range of courses for people at all stages of their sales career and are all recognised by Ofqual – the UK government’s qualifications regulator. Most employers regard experience and education as more important than supplementary qualifications for sales roles, so don’t worry if you choose not to get certified at the early stages of your career. Find out more about sales qualifications.
In recruitment, the best-known qualifications are provided by the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). There are multiple membership grades available, including one aimed specifically at students. Human resources professionals are often required to be CIPD-certified and may become certified as part of their university degree.
In addition to a basic salary, many jobs across sales and recruitment advertise ‘on-target earnings’ (OTE), which is how much you can expect to earn when maximising your sales targets. This is an estimate, but it may give you a rough idea of how much you might earn with commissions, which are typically ‘uncapped’ and have no limit to how high they can go. Here are some of the salaries you can expect to earn across this sector before commissions or bonuses:
Recruitment associates typically start at around £20,000 per year, while consultants and coordinators average around £25,000 per year. This rises to between £50,000 and £80,000 for recruitment managers, depending on the firm.
The salary for a graduate sales executive may begin at between £18,000 and £24,000 per year but this may rise to over £30,000 for senior sales executives and over £50,000 for sales managers. Sales directors typically earn over £100,000 per year, though this can be as high as over £150,000 depending on the firm.
Procurement support officers earn a base salary of between £18,000 and £22,000 per year. This rises to between £33,000 and £40,000 for senior procurement officers, while procurement directors can make between £90,000 to over £150,000 per year.
Entry-level estate agents start on a salary of between £15,000 and £18,000, which progresses to an average of £41,000 per year with experience. Senior estate agents in managerial positions can earn anywhere between £50,000 to £100,000 per year.
Account managers may earn between £20,000 and £32,000 per year at the start of their career, rising to between £50,000 and £90,000 for senior account managers and account directors.
Find out more about how much you can expect to earn in the sales and commercial sectors.
Almost all major employers require dedicated sales and commerce and recruitment teams. Here are just a few of the top companies you can work for:
CV and cover letter
The first step in applying for a role in the sales and commercial sector is to complete an online application. This will contain your basic details, education history, and most likely a section for a CV and cover letter. Recruiters only spend a few seconds looking at your CV, so having a good layout is very important. Learn more about how to create a stand-out CV.
Your cover letter is an opportunity to tell the recruiter more about yourself, why you’re interested in the role and company, and what skills and experiences you can bring to the table. It needs to be tailored to the specific role as recruiters are less likely to read a cover letter that sounds generic. Read our tips about writing an impressive cover letter and try out our example template for yourself.
Online and psychometric tests
The next stage of your sales and commercial application is usually a series of online tests. These may draw upon your numerical reasoning, deductive and inductive logic, verbal reasoning, and situational judgement. Many firms create bespoke tests for their roles only and you can often find more information about these on the website of the firm you are interested in.
Prepare for your application by practising psychometric tests.
You may then be invited to a telephone or video interview with a member of the recruitment team. While the telephone interview will be live, the video interview may be pre-recorded on a platform such as HireVue and assessed by an AI algorithm. In either case, you are likely to be asked strength or competency-based questions, as well as to reiterate your relevant experience and interest in the role. Learn more about tackling phone and video interviews.
The final stage of your application is to attend an assessment centre. These are usually full or half-day events consisting of additional tests, interviews, and group exercises. Your personality will be on full display throughout the entire day, so it is important you appear friendly, professional, and maintain the right balance between speaking up and allowing others to contribute their ideas the entire time. After the assessment centre, the firm should respond to you shortly. You can ask for feedback whether you passed or not, which may help you in future
Ready to jump into the world of sales? Browse available graduate opportunities in this rewarding sector and take the first step toward your future career.
If you’re interested in a graduate role in the sales and commercial sector but don’t know where to start, read about how Henry secured his job as a Sales Executive at Volta.
Commercial awareness is a key skill in the sales and commercial sectors. Find out how to boost your commercial awareness with this Bright Network Academy course.