Only two in ten UK students consider a career in sales

Sales roles are notoriously hard to fill. Therefore, Inspiring Interns carried out a survey on 2,500 recent graduates on their perception of sales jobs.

Sales brings up images of a loud, chaotic office – row after row of suited youngsters behind busy desks, calling up elderly citizens and convincing them to purchase insurance they don’t need.

Of course, this is not the reality of sales. Sales differs depending on industry and what is being sold; one sales job might be very different from another.

However, research demonstrates that many UK graduates are hesitant about taking a job in sales, despite the fact that on average 20 per cent of live roles on graduate jobs boards are related to sales.

Graduate recruitment firm, Inspiring Interns conducted a survey on 250 university students on their perceptions of sales jobs. They found:

  • Only 2 in 10 would consider sales as a careers option.
  • Common reasons for not considering sales as a career include “not wanting to pester people” (34 per cent), “finding it boring” (28 per cent), “lack of creativity” (17 per cent), “high pressure” (13 per cent) and “competition at work” (8 per cent).
  • 65 per cent assumed that those in sales are required to make 100+ calls a day.

This may well be the case for some sales roles, but the average sales person makes 60 calls a day.

Students would be more likely to consider sales if they came from degrees in economics, business and marketing.

Reasons given for considering a role in sales include “using presentation and negotiation skills” (36 per cent), “high pay” (25 per cent) “it’s fast-paced and exciting” (18 per cent), “face-to-face interaction” (12 per cent) and that “it’s challenging” (9 per cent).

The research also demonstrated that job titles are important when advertising for sales roles. Account executive and business development executive were reported as the most popular titles, at 50 per cent and 35 per cent respectively. Sales executive in contrast only received 10 per cent and field sales executive a mere 5 per cent.

Why consider a role in sales?

  • The average starting salary for graduates for a sales role is £23,000 (Total Jobs) and most sales roles have commission on top – something uncommon in other industries.
  • Sales staff are required in a variety of industries.
  • A role in sales gives you experience in communicating, negotiating, giving presentations, being adaptable and flexible.

Sam, head of sales at Inspiring Interns, comments, ‘Sales roles are the hardest to fill. There is a perception that sales roles aren’t as fulfilling as other careers, but sales can be fulfilling as you are working directly with people every day. It requires being thick-skinned but also possessing and developing excellent communicative skills. Having strong passion and knowledge for the industry you’re working within is imperative.’

James, 21 – business development executive at a large marketing firm comments, ‘I wasn’t sure about going into a sales role as I had the idea it would be totally demoralising and not using the skills gained in my degree. Six months in and I love the job. It’s not all cold-calling but also attending meetings with leading specialists in many fields and pitching our services. It’s made me more confident and comfortable speaking to people from all walks of life.’

Owen Gough

Owen Gough

Owen Gough is a reporter for He has a background in small business marketing strategies and is responsible for writing content on subjects ranging from small business finance to technology...

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