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Katie Davies

In the graduate jobs market, sales roles are often still seen as scary, undesirable or even ‘beneath’ well-qualified graduates. Many young people shy away from great opportunities to get their foot in the door at dynamic companies simply because they see the word ‘sales’ in the job title.

However, this preconception that many graduates have is not completely accurate. Not all sales roles consist of cold calling, door to door or call centres, in fact, almost every role within a business includes an element of selling. Whether you're discussing ideas with your team members, networking or developing new business initiatives, you'll still be persuading others of the benefits you’re offering. So, if you can master that, then learning and developing a career in sales can give you invaluable experience to progress.

Within the STEM fields, sales roles are very different. They require graduates to have an in-depth, technical knowledge of their degree field and are expected to work more as an advisor or consultant to clients. Graduate sales jobs in STEM fields can be a great challenge, a fun career and a nice way to make a living.

A recent report by Highfliers found that top employers in the UK have received 4% more graduate job applications so far in 2019, compared with the equivalent period in the 2017-2018 recruitment. So, with the graduate job market becoming increasingly competitive, it doesn’t make sense to rule out good jobs and companies because of the connotation of one word.

So, let’s take a closer look at why graduates shouldn’t be afraid of sales roles in STEM fields:

Effectively utilize your degree

Many sales roles, specifically within the STEM industries, require candidates to couple their expert knowledge of a specific degree discipline with their communication skills. They are rarely cold calls, mostly, these sales roles are more advisory, or consultancy led, as companies will actually need the product that is being sold.

For example, Sales Engineer roles require candidates to understand extensive engineering product ranges and be able to offer technical advice and engineering solutions to issues a client is facing. Typically, Technical Sales Engineers will work on bespoke solutions, unlike most standard sales positions.

Similarly, Solution Sales involve candidates asking companies questions about their business needs. This information will then need to be digested, with solutions suggested in response to their ‘problems’. These roles are extremely evidence-based, with candidates required to be analytical ‘experts’ in technical fields. Therefore, graduates who have studied STEM courses are usually perfect for these types of sales roles.

Meet and talk to new people every day

Sales roles will help you to effectively boost your communication skills, as you’ll be meeting and chatting to new people every day. This will help you to learn about different professions and expand your personal and professional knowledge. Of course, not every client will become your best friend, but you’ll be surprised at how many friends you make along the way.

graduate sales roles

Ben Dingwall, a Business Manager at TRB Chemedica described how he started his career in sales:

“I found myself in sales because, as an Applied Biochemist, the thought of sitting in a lab for the next 40 years didn’t excite me very much. I’m a social person, which meant a pharmaceutical or biotech sales role complimented both my personality and academic background.

“Field sales allowed me to travel around, managing my own diary and meet new people at different locations every day.”

You don’t need to have a certain ‘type’ of personality

STEM graduates are more likely to be able to relate to their customers, especially if they are also scientists, engineers or similar. Sales roles within the STEM fields do not always attract ‘extroverts’, instead, some positions may be more focused on sourcing analytical and organised candidates. So, if you know your stuff, you can be confident in a STEM based sales role.

Sales roles are very fulfilling

Every customer or client has slightly different needs, and in a sales role, it’s your job to determine these and give them what they want. You can ask questions, discover how to make their life easier, their business better and increase their revenue. This process can be extremely fulfilling when you do your job well, with both parties reaping the benefits.

One graduate who was placed in a sales role at Banner Chemicals faced the same reservations about sales, however, he quickly realised that the role he applied for wasn’t exactly what he thought: 

“I never liked the idea of a sales job, but I see my role as more of a technical consultancy when I discuss products with customers, as opposed to a traditional sales pitch.

“I enjoy being able to solve problems for customers by finding out what projects they have ongoing, what issues they’re dealing with and sourcing where products from our range can fit in to help them resolve the issues.”

Having worked for the company for three years and excelled in his role, Banner Chemicals recently promoted him from his graduate position to a more senior placement.

Amazing career prospects

Sales roles can offer graduates great career prospects. You will learn invaluable and transferrable skills that will allow you to develop your professional experience. Plus, once you’ve gained that all-important experience, due to the competitive nature of this market, you’ll find that companies will likely ‘snap your hand off’ if you have good sales experience.

graduate sales roles

This type of job also opens up plenty more opportunities that can lead to a wealth of different career paths. From leadership to senior management, key account management, marketing, product management, commercial, entrepreneurial positions, business development, an MBA, teaching or training & development, there are endless opportunities.

Ben from TRB Chemedica highlights the amazing career prospects graduate sales jobs can offer: 

“I went from university to a molecular biology sales position, then on to a Key Account Manager for one of the biggest corporate companies in the world. Now, I lead a national team of sales reps for a swiss based medical devices company selling into the NHS and private health care industries.

 “Sales roles certainly aren’t for everyone; you need to be driven and confident in your own abilities. But the good salespeople of this world are incredibly desirable to employers.”

Many companies will also offer graduates added benefits and training to help develop their professional experience. Jodie Murray, a STEM recruitment consultant has seen many candidates progress from graduate roles: 

“Sales roles are a great starting point as many companies are willing to offer specialist sales training as part of their graduate roles or schemes. They offer good career prospects, with candidates able to diversify into more consultancy led work or project management.”

You can control your pay check and enjoy bonuses

A graduate sales job directly compensates you for the hard work you’ve done. These roles are usually structured so that each person is rewarded and recognised for every aspect of their work. So, the harder you work, the more you get paid!

Mark Newland, a STEM Graduates Recruitment Consultant, is very experienced in placing graduates in engineering-based sales roles:

 “A lot of the time these roles will have a bonus structure in place to compliment the graduate starting salary. Therefore, technical sales positions have the potential to be extremely lucrative for entry level grads.”

Grow your referral network

At the start, a sales role may be a bit challenging, but isn’t that the same with every new job? It’ll take a bit of work to gain the trust of clients, however, once you do, you can then ask them if they have any friends of colleagues with similar needs. Once customers trust you and recommend you to their peers, you can stop selling and start networking and helping people.

TRB Chemedica Business Manager, Ben, knows first-hand how beneficial growing your network can be: 

“My job at TRB means I work with some of the most talented and world-renowned orthopaedic surgeons and sports doctors in the UK. I meet with them face to face and find out about their treatment regimens and advise on products which may prove beneficial to their patients. I’m constantly reading scientific papers to stay up-to-date and become a product expert across the field.”

Lots of variety

No two days are the same for someone working in a sales role. Every client is a new opportunity and that means you may have to think of different ways to secure a deal. Whether it’s a new discount, an additional product, or setting specific terms, every client will give you the chance to try out different ways of selling.  

graduate sales roles

STEM Graduates Recruitment Consultant, Jodie Murray, highlighted the variety a job in scientific sales can bring:

“One day a week you might be either in the office or working from home, sending out invoices, prepping presentations and organising meetings. Then the rest of the week can be spent on the road, meeting with medical or laboratory-based clients, offering insight into products and presenting to the teams, pitching ideas and sending over quotes and invoices.

“Sales roles are great if you enjoy stimulus, meeting new people and use your degree to get out and about, rather than be stuck in a lab all day.”

Flexible working hours, travel and benefits

The majority of sales roles offer candidates amazing benefits, from flexible working hours to the potential for worldwide travel. Salespeople are also always very well treated by the companies they represent, so expect to be well-remunerated, earn bonuses, receive car allowances, health insurance and be invited to international exhibitions and conferences.

A recent graduate now working at Banner Chemicals described why he loves his sales job:

 “I like the freedom of arranging my own diary for the week which means it’s not your everyday ‘9 to 5’. You build your customer base through developing customer relationships, which means ‘cold-calling’ is hardly ever a task that you carry out. And each sale is different, some requiring more work than others, which keeps the workload challenging and exciting!”

Sales roles are fun!

For anyone who has what it takes, a sales role can be hugely rewarding, beneficial and fun. What could be better than a job where you have the opportunity to talk about a field that you are passionate and knowledgeable in and get paid well to do it!

Sound good? We have a number of amazing sales roles available within the STEM fields, from technical sales engineers, to graduate field service engineers and science-based sales roles, there are so many opportunities available. Check out our job board for more information or contact one of our recruitment consultants today by calling 0151 236 8000.

If you enjoyed this blog, why not check out our guide to writing the perfect graduate cv personal statement. Or, if you're looking to apply for a graduate job, read our blog on top jobs that are closing this month

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