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Sales and Commercial: Graduate Area of Work
Building and maintaining relationships is a key role of a sales job in a consumer goods industry.
Sales roles usually revolve around customer development, mainly finding and winning new customers while maintaining existing customer accounts. Quite often, graduate sales roles in this sector will adopt a partnership approach, whereby sales representatives from the consumer goods company work alongside retail outlets to achieve maximum profitability in their businesses and maximum possible appeal for consumers.
Depending on the size of the consumer goods company, graduates with sales roles are expected to build relationships with customers ranging from retail outlets, such as major supermarket chains, to distributors, influencers and consumers. What graduates may not know is that they could also find themselves having to work with hotel groups, caterers and brewers.
Graduate sales roles in this sector often work closely with merchandising or marketing. Hence, if you are looking to enter this line of work as a graduate, you can expect to have an overlap of marketing job roles, which are aimed to maximise sales to consumers. This may include managing or participating in brand-related initiatives and executing local promotions.
It is common for FMCG companies to offer graduate schemes specific for customer development to cover different aspects required for a sales role. During the early stages of a graduate career in sales, you may expect to familiarise yourself with account management and building relationships with clients.
If you are enrolled into a structured graduate training programme in this industry, you may be introduced to category management, where you will work on a specific category of products so you can specialise in that area. For instance, it could be toiletries or sports goods. The purpose for category management is so that you can be familiar with the products’ market place, consumers and competitors in order to be able to advise customers on suitable stocks for their demographics.
Day-to-day tasks of a sales job in the consumer goods sector would most likely involve keeping in contact with existing customers, meeting new customers, reaching sales targets, promoting new products and special deals, as well as advising customers about delivery schedules and after-sales service. Some desk work, such as recording orders and sending details to the office and giving feedback on sales trends, should also be expected.
Sales in FMCG often involve the business to business (B2B) model – the selling of products or services from one business to another. Hence, most of your sales efforts will be concentrated in building and maintaining supplier and retail relationships with key companies and organisations.
Sales jobs are often open to graduates from any degree background. However, due to the niche nature of some consumer goods company, food-related, land-based or life sciences subjects may be preferred. On the other hand, having studied business and management-related subjects will put you an advantage as well. Language skills are also valued in this line of work as you will have to speak to customers of diverse backgrounds.
Employers of the consumer goods industry look for specific competencies and skills when it comes to recruiting candidates for a sales role. To succeed, you’ll need to have excellent negotiation skills, good communication and interpersonal skills. Above all, recruiters need to know that you are able to stay confident, motivated and determined even in the face of rejection which is something common in a sales job.
Ups and Downs
One of the most attractive reasons why many graduates choose a career in sales is the potential of earning a high pay in comparison to many other choices. Many positions offer relatively high starting salaries with commission on top. Companies generally pay their sales teams well because they are the ones that generate revenue for the company.
However, as it is up to you to generate revenue, develop relationships, and drive a profitable business for the company, you are often held accountable for the performance of the company. This usually brings in a level of stress. Additionally, developing customer relationships or a sales ‘territory’ is not a nine to five job. It is common for you to have to meet clients after the conventional working hours.
A high income comes high accountability and responsibility to achieve your numbers and goals. It’s important for you to know what you’re signing up for!