Graduates should have grown out of any irrational fears but it seems, in the graduate job market, 'Sales' is the monster under the bed.
With an average of 73 applicants for every job the graduates, like everyone else, are clearly having a tough time finding work. What is more, candidates feel the pressure is on. Yet, despite the atmosphere of desperation, there is still a real stigma about sales.
We work across all sectors and on all job functions so are well placed to gauge trends. We often have really driven young people shy away from opportunities to get their feet in the door at dynamic companies when they see the word on job specs. Companies we meet tell us that no one has engaged with their job board postings for Business Development roles. The question, however, is why.
Robert Moore, CEO of Smithfield Case, a men's personal shopping service, has had experience of this stigma. 'All businesses are driven by sales, but young people are afraid to get stuck in', he describes. 'It's as though they assume there is someone higher up to finish the sell for them'.
In his business, as in most other small companies, everyone involved has to take responsibility for selling the product, whatever their job description. While marketing is an incredibly popular sector he found that advertising for 'Sales and Marketing' had raised alarm bells. Its only natural that a role where an employee would find ways of reaching out to new prospective clients, engage with them, build a rapport and secure target led sales would be called 'Sales and Marketing' is only natural.
It's an uncomfortable line to tow but there does seem to be a sense that well qualified graduates feel they are 'above' a position on the front line. Salesmen have a bad reputation and a degree is considered a ticket to a 'better' corporate experience.
There is some truth in the connotations of glossy smiles, bad suits and even worse jokes that come to mind. Cold calling is seen as hard graft and anyone who has tried it will confirm the rumors are true. Similarly, inevitably when doing door-to-door sales some doors will be slammed. That said, young people who come to the conclusion all roles are inappropriate are missing a trick.
Turning on the charm over the phone or face-to-face with the sole purpose of selling can be invaluable experience. Throughout your career every interview is a chance to showcase the skills sales roles teach you where, irrespective of the role, you'll be pitching yourself as a product. In fact, almost every role has an element of sales. Whether you're discussing ideas with your team members, networking or having any role in marketing you'll still be persuading others of the benefits of your offering.
The second mistake is that sales roles always require a hard sell. Instead, industry approaches vary; canvassing in the wet and cold differs from wining and dining clients and again to calling a database of leads that have already expressed interest. Even then, irrespective of strategy, being friendly can be enough to engage a prospective consumer in a great product.
Graduates with big ambitions for business should re-think their priorities. Selling is, by definition, the core function of any growing business. The word shouldn't be off-putting but instead represent a chance to make a real impact on turnover and to learn skills that will serve any young person for life.
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