I Want to Work In … Selling
- General Information
- Medical Sales
- FMCG Sales
- Export Sales
- Media Sales
- Computer Sales Support
- Questions asked to Kent graduates at sales interviews
- Further Information
- Related Careers
You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.
Graduate sales posts should not be confused with sales work in shops, door-to-door
sales or telesales! Most students view sales as a thankless job but the reality is very different. The work is nearly always salaried (plus bonuses for good performance). You are likely to have a company car, blackberry and laptop, and the work may offer progression into sales management, marketing, sales training and other functions. Because of the negative image of sales, it's much easier to get good quality sales jobs than jobs in related fields such as marketing.
Ford Retail commissioned a study of over 200 sales executives to analyse traits when hiring sales people. Each person’s results were compared against their sales profits, sales volumes and customer service rating. The study found that those who achieved the most sales were open communicators with strong verbal reasoning skills and an ability to build rapport. However, those rated highest for customer service were strong in empathy and were supportive, relaxed and consultative. "Our philosophy is to create customers for life, not just make an initial sale, so we need to recruit well-rounded people who can perform well in both the sales and the customer service aspects of the role".
You may be responsible for sales of a product (e.g. food, pharmaceuticals, software, cars or manufacturing equipment) or a service (e.g. mortgages, legal advice, advertising space). You will maintain relationships with clients, negotiate prices and specifications, gather and disseminate information. You will obviously need extremely good people and communication skills, and employers will generally place a higher value on these than on the subject or class of your degree.
Medical Sales representatives are employed by pharmaceutical companies to promote medicines to doctors and pharmacists. You are largely your own boss. Your company car is your office but need room at home to store company gifts and samples. Constant people contact but can be lonely. Can spend a lot of time sitting in doctors waiting rooms. A useful route into areas such as marketing and sales management. Can progress in sales to sales management, or move to marketing or training. Promotion depends on mobility, experience and ability.
PROFILE: Medical Sales RepresentativeINVOLVES: Visiting doctors, nurses, midwives, pharmacists etc to make presentations on medicines developed by the pharmaceutical company you work for. Tasks include:
EMPLOYERS: Pharmaceutical Companies
- Spoken communication
- Outgoing personality
- Self Motivated
- Able to work independently
Medical sales recruitment agencies and other vacancy sources:
- Pharmajobs - "has day in the life of a rep", plus tips on how to get in. www.pharmajobs.co.uk
- Pharmiweb Medical Sales Recruitment www.pharmiweb.com
- Ashfield Healthcare http://careersuk.ashfieldhealthcare.com takes about 200 graduates a year as trainee medical sales reps
- Quintiles Innovex www.quintiles.com/careers recruits people into the healthcare sales sector, including medical sales and clinical research.
- Royce www.roycejobs.com Pharmaceutical sales recruitment company. Opportunity to break into medical sales. Full UK driving licence required. Salary £19k-£23k + ote.
- Chase Recruitment www.chasepharmajobs.com/graduates recruits graduate trainee medical sales representatives. Vacancies all year round and applications taken at any time.
- The Holmes Academy www.theholmesacademy.com/for-candidates.html recruit graduates into medical sales
- STAR Medical www.starmedical.co.uk recruit Medical Sales Representatives for the Pharmaceutical and Healthcare industries throughout UK and Ireland.
- Pharmaceutical Field www.pharmafield.co.uk
- Advance Medical Sales Jobs www.advancerecruitment.net specialists in medical sales recruitment and medical marketing reps recruitment for healthcare and ethical pharmaceutical companies within the UK.
- Zenopa www.zenopa.com specialise in medical, pharmaceutical, healthcare, dental & science sales vacancies across the UK.
- See also our list of scientific recruitment agencies, many of which offer technical sales jobs www.kent.ac.uk/careers/sitephar.htm#agencies
- Certus www.certussales.com Sales Jobs in the pharmaceutical and medical industries. Recruit graduates for entry-level roles.
- Guided Solutions www.guidedsolutions.co.uk specialise in Medical Device, Pharmaceutical and Scientific recruitment introducing graduates to entry level medical sales and pharmaceutical sales positions.
- PM Live www.pmlive.com/jobs
- For even more recruiters see our scientific recruitment agencies page
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A Canadian managed to trade up from a red paper clip to a house in a year of internet trades. First he traded the paper clip for a novelty pen which he traded for a doorknob. This was traded for a camping stove, then a 1000W generator > a beer keg > snowmobile > trip to Yakh> large van > recording contract > year rent free accommodation > afternoon with Alice Cooper > Snow globe > Hollywood movie role and finally a 1920's house in Canada!You can read the full story on BBC News
- See the excellent Prospects Occupational Profile for Medical Sales www.prospects.ac.uk/links/MedExec
- All About Medical Sales www.AllAboutMedicalSales.comDetailed information on Medical Sales as a career.
- Pharmaceutical Field Magazine www.pharmafield.co.uk magazine for medical sales professionals.
- Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI) www.abpi.org.uk trade association for more than 70 companies in the UK producing prescription medicines.
- 2011 article about the changing role of the medical sales executive www.inpharm.com/news/110110/pharma-salesman
- Should drug firms make payments to doctors? www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26890072
- The end of salesmanship? www.pharmafile.com/news/192659/end-salesmanship
Sales is a key route for developing a career here : if you have experience of managing an account with Tesco, many employers will be very interested in you. Many sales directors in FMCG companies have started their career in graduate sales. You may become an account manager which involves building successful customer relationships and working with contacts to develop plans for the retail environment. One benefit of the work is that your work has a visible impact on business results.There are three main areas of sales:
- front line sales: managing a business-to-business relationship to maximise sales and profit for both sides and to reach common goals. This may involve visiting retail buyers nationally and even internationally to negotiate, develop and manage long term account plans.
- trade marketing: communicating to customers in an in-store environment to influence their behaviour
- category management: analysis, interpretation to optimise range, space and layout
Export sales managers are responsible for managing the sale of products or services to overseas customers. They research potential markets,combining the results of market research with their knowledge of consumer tastes and the cultural and political background of the countries they are responsible for, in order to decide what to sell and how to sell it. They negotiate with customers (often in a foreign language) to try to make a sale. They may have to decide whether the product can be altered to meet the client's requirements or whether special discounts can be offered. They organise sales promotions, negotiate contracts and arrange the transport of goods.
PROFILE: Media Sales (also called Advertising Sales)
INVOLVES: Initially: selling advertising space in newspapers, magazines, TV & radio. Telephoning potential advertisers to persuade them to buy space. Keeping records. Making calculations for costs of adverts. When more experienced: visiting clients (companies & advertising agencies). Generating fresh ideas for features. Generating income & new business.
www.MediaSalesJobs.co.uk information site for graduates wanting to get into media sales. Detailed overviews of the media industry and how to get a job – written by hiring managers in the industry.
PROFILE: Computer Sales Support
INVOLVES: Backing up computer sales staff with technical information & support. Demonstrating & presenting products to customers. Making sure that the product meets the customers requirements. Writing sales literature. Writing tenders & proposals. Working out future areas for sales growth.
Questions asked to Kent graduates at sales interviews. See also Answers to 150 interview questions
If you have been to an interview or assessment centre recently please fill in our interview report form to help other students.
- Tell me about yourself? (Newport Spectra-Physics)
- Why did you choose to study at Kent? (medical sales interview)
- Why did you study Chemistry? (medical sales interview)
- Why did you choose you degree course/university? (GSK: Field Sales)
- A few questions about my university course. (Sales Internship - ICI)
- Tell me about your degree. (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- Are you happy with your A-level grades? (medical sales interview)
- Why do you want to work in sales? (GSK: Field Sales) (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- Why did you want the job? (medical sales interview)
- Why do you want to work for us? (GSK: Field Sales) (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- Asked to talk through my whole CV: from earliest employment. (GSK: Field Sales)
- Where do you want to be in 5 years time? They like people who want to stay with the company – so research career progression so when asked where you want to be in 5 years, you can say with them, but give an example of ‘higher up the ladder'. (GSK: Field Sales)
- Where do you want to be in 5-10 years? (Newport Spectra-Physics)
Competency questions. See our page on How to Answer Competency-based Questions
- When have you set yourself goals in jobs, and how have you reached them. (Sales Internship - ICI)
- When have you effectively lead a group? (Sales Internship - ICI)
- What are your main skills? (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- Within a team, what role do you play? (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- Are you organised. Give an example. (GSK: Field Sales)
- How would you cope in a ‘lonely' job. (GSK: Field Sales)
- What skills have you gained from your previous jobs that would be useful in sales. (medical sales interview)
- Really hard! One was to give an example of a situation where I had to get across an unpopular opinion – how this was taken by others, etc. (medical sales interview)
- What experience have you had of dealing with difficult customers. (GSK: Field Sales)
- Questions revolved around what I had said, why did you do that, what did you learn? (medical sales interview)
- How are you going to convince a client about a particular Citibank product. (Citibank)
- Provide examples of how you would convey technical information to customers. (Newport Spectra-Physics)
Commercial Awareness Questions. See our page on How to answer Commercial Awareness Questions
- Why do you want to work for this company? (Newport Spectra-Physics)
- Questions about the difference between a bond and an equity - general commercial awareness questions. (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- How would you rate your knowledge of finance? (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- How do Bloomberg make money? (Bloomberg graduate sales)
A salesman, tired of his job, gave it up to become a policeman.
Several months later, a friend asked him how he liked his new role.
"Well," he replied, "the pay is good and the hours aren't bad, but what I like best is that the customer is always wrong."
- Who are Bloombergs competitors? (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- What are the differences between equities and bonds? (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- What is the current price of a barrel of oil. (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- They showed me some of their product range and asked me what they did. (Newport Spectra-Physics)
- How would you cope with a large territory? Again, I think they were testing me here – they made it sound like a really horrible job (I think they wanted to see how enthusiastic I was.) (GSK: Field Sales)
- If you had a blank country how would you go about installing and introducing the Bloomberg terminal? (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- The head of a big company has a brother who works for Reuters. He has no time on his hands. How would you convince him (his company) to install the terminals? (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- I think they tried to catch me out too: I was asked if I had a good idea to improve sales on my team's territory, would I share it with teams nationwide? (GSK: Field Sales)
- How would you deal with an angry customer? (Newport Spectra-Physics)
Tests given: (See our practice aptitude tests)
- Verbal test 35 minutes and 35 questions. Numerical test 30 questions in 35 minutes. Pie charts, graphs and tables: very hard. (medical sales interview)
- We were given a numerical aptitude test. This lasted 35 minutes and we had to answer 40 questions. The questions were very much like the ones on www.shldirect.com (Sales Internship - ICI)
At an interview for a sales job in the United States an interviewer reached into her drawer and tossed a hand grenade onto the table. "If you're so good, sell me this!" she demanded.
The candidate didn't miss a beat. He said "If you're talking personal protection, this is the way to go. It's portable, easy to use and will scare off even the toughest gang member.
No sale: my tiny hand gun fits into my pocket perfectly. This grenade will rip a hole in it.
The candidate offered her a free grenade holster.
He got the job.
- Had to pretend to be a company boss and presented on why the car I had picked should be chosen. Then had to rank our different cars in a group and come to agreement. (medical sales interview)
- The first thing we had to do was a group exercise. We were given 15 minutes in silence to prepare for a group discussion, by reading about 6 memos and emails regarding a developing crisis in an imaginary company and making notes.
The discussion lasted 45 minutes and we had the 4 selectors sitting around the room (i.e. not at the discussion table). The discussion was actually really good fun as everybody brought different views onto the table and we had to agree on a compromise. In the interview, I was asked lots of questions about the group discussion we had just had. Things like who took leadership roles? Who was quieter? Why we decided what we did? Who was most influential in the group?
In the group discussion, being yourself is very very important. If you are naturally a person that takes the lead in a group, take the lead, don't try and fight your instincts. (Sales Internship - ICI)
- One Group Exercise. Three choices of articles. Had to come up with a presentation based on the article. Could be a role play/debate. (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- Ten minute presentation (was given the title beforehand) “How would I develop my GSK territory?” (GSK: Field Sales)
- Interview was based round a ten minute presentation I had to give about a "recent personal achievement". (medical sales interview)
- The usual: smile, make eye contact. DON'T PANIC! Was quite intimidating but all questions could be dealt with if you take a minute to think. (GSK: Field Sales)
- Be confident, friendly and most importantly, know why you want the job. (medical sales interview)
- BE YOURSELF AND HAVE FUN!!! Don't be nervous about the interview, it goes sooooo quickly!!! The man that gave me my interview was really laid back and as soon as he came in and we had done the customary "handshake", he insisted I took my suit jacket off (it was boiling hot) and that led to a really laid-back atmosphere. (Sales Internship - ICI)
- Use relevant examples to show skills. (GSK: Field Sales)
- Prepare. Visit the website, know something about the current markets. (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- Research the company. Have a good idea of commercial awareness. Be yourself. (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- PREPARE - read around/about the industry etc. DON'T just use the website. (GSK: Field Sales)
- Make sure you have researched the company: and the specific area of it you would be selling in (e.g. over the counter sales). (GSK: Field Sales)
- Take a hard copy of your presentation (printed-out) – they were impressed by this and it was a good idea as the laptop crashed anyway. (GSK: Field Sales)
- Second interview was based around my application form (which I had forgotten to copy!). (medical sales interview)
- This job is particularly about individual effort rather than teamwork. You have to strike a balance in your answer in this field (Citigroup)
- Prepare for a lot of competency questions regarding sales, customer interactions. Do your research on the company and their product ranges. (Newport Spectra-Physics)
- Very enjoyable if somewhat daunting experience. (medical sales interview)
- Looked like a good place to work, very professional environment. (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- Excellent place to apply. (Bloomberg graduate sales)
- ICI seemed like a really really welcoming and modern company. The selectors and interviewers were sales managers and they seemed really friendly and down-to-earth! (Sales Internship - ICI)
- Was very structured: there was clearly a checklist and a set of questions that had to be asked, but by the end because I gave relevant examples it turned into more of an equal conversation. (GSK: Field Sales)
- I think they wanted to see how I coped under pressure: I got the impression that I hadn't got the job, but this was probably just to test my reactions, as I was made an offer. (GSK: Field Sales)
- Occupational Profile – Sales Executive www.prospects.ac.uk/links/salesexec
- The Institute of Sales & Marketing Management www.ismm.co.uk
- ModernSelling.com www.modernselling.com substantial jobs & careers section. Covers issues on selling as a profession.
- Meta-morphose www.meta-morphose.co.uk - an international training company which places graduates into professional field sales roles, in companies of all sizes worldwide, while providing a year's training and support
- Pareto Law www.paretolaw.co.uk training company which places graduates in high-profile sales and marketing jobs.
- Graduate sales jobs with BMS Graduate Recruitment www.bmsgraduates.com lots of useful content including employer videos: employers go on camera and offer tips and advice on everything from writing a good CV, dealing with interviews through to job searching.
- The Institute of Export www.export.org.uk
- Business schools need to sell sales as a viable career option (Financial Times Article)
- Marketing Careers Page
- Recruitment Consultancy this is a mixture of sales and personnel management.
- Sales Promotion – involves direct marketing, PR and events management.
Last fully updated 2012