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Sales & Business Development

Sales and business development are related but separate areas. Roles may focus solely on sales or business development, or be a mix of both. Business development is matching a product (physical product or industry solution) to the market. Sales is bringing that product to the market.

Sales and business development roles can be found in all industries. You could work in finance, retail, health or transport. You could sell houses, holidays or mobile phones. You don't have to commit to one industry as you can take your experience and / or qualifications in sales and business and move to different sectors if you want to. Sales and business development might be business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C). Most large companies - from car manufacturers to pharmaceutical companies, to entertainment companies or energy suppliers - employ graduates in sales and business development roles. 

You can expect to work in a target-driven environment, where you may have the opportunity to earn bonuses based on your performance. You may be required to travel to your clients / customers. Your skills in communicating and building relationships will be really important. 

Roles in sales and business development are open to graduates from all disciplines. You may require or be offered additional training and qualifications relating to the industry or company you work for.

For sector statistics, please visit the Consumer Goods Industry Report on My Career Zone Digital. This overview of the business sector in the UK from Prospects is also useful.

Career Zone Employability Schemes

These employability schemes can help increase your work experience and networks in this area.

  • Career Zone Internship schemes: Internships are a great way to gain experience and insight into a career area.  
  • Ask an Alum: A fuss-free way to connect with University of Exeter alumni to ask careers questions.  
  • Career Mentor Scheme: A popular employability scheme which matches a student or graduate with an experienced professional, for sector insight and one-to-one careers advice and guidance, over a 6-month period. 
  • Exeter Award and Leaders Award will help you develop skills in team work and management in order to better prepare yourself for your career.
  • Part-time work: Career Zone provides support with finding casual work alongside your studies.
  • There a number of Guild societies to get involved with during your time at University that could provide you with the necessary skills for your first role. Balancing your time between part-time roles, study and/committee contribution in a society can really show employers how flexible and organised you are. You may be able to gather relevant experience in team work, customer service or communication by contributing to clubs and societies during your studies.

Information Resources

Have a look at the following brief videos for an overview of this sector:

This video describes how to use the  LinkedIn Alumni tool. Why not see if there are any Exeter alumni working in this sector that you can get in touch with?

If you would like to do further research into this sector, the following webpages may be useful:

  • Business, consulting and management from Target Jobs- Sector information, along with tips for getting hired, information on employers and specialist sector advice
  • Sales from target Jobs- Sector specific support on the key areas of having a career in sales, such as commercial awareness and topics such as commission
  • Business, consulting and management from Prospects – A summary of the business market, with insight into a variety of careers
  • Sales from Prospects – A summary of the UK sales industry, jobs, training courses and more
  • Selling Power – Leading digital magazine for sales managers and sales VPs, offering an insight into the sector
  • The Economist - The Economist is an international weekly newspaper printed in magazine-format and published digitally which focuses on business, international affairs, and more
  • Professional Academy – Professional Academy offers training, qualifications and insight into various areas across all business sectors. This link discusses how to start a career in sales

It is worth exploring Advertising, PR and Marketing and Retail and Buying. Although there are key differences between these sectors, there is useful overlap which can aid in your sector exploration, as well as placement or job search.

Help With...Finding a Graduate Job explains the range of help Career Zone can provide with your job search. Handshake advertises many graduate opportunities. Outside of Handshake, there are other sites you can use in your job search.

It is worth considering smaller companies, where you may have more autonomy and early responsibility than in larger companies. Managers and even directors are often more accessible in small companies, which means you will have more opportunities to work with and learn from them.

As jobs are not always advertised, it can be useful to develop your networking skills and also apply speculatively. If you are specifically interested in a company, always check their websites regularly and see if there is a mailing list for new jobs as they are advertised online.

As many large organisations need sales and business development staff there are graduate schemes available across most sectors. Graduate schemes are focused on training on the job, supported by professionals experienced in the area and by training and development opportunities. Sometimes this will include industry qualifications specifically in sales and business development, but you may also have a variety of projects in other parts of the business over the duration of the scheme, in order to give you a broader understanding of the organisation as a whole.

 If you want to get more of an idea about which companies are offering graduate roles in sales and business development, visit the following websites:


Any of Career Zone's internships with an element of customer service or communication with others will be useful experience if you want to work in business development or sales. 

There are a number of virtual internships on The Forage in this field. Virtual internships are a good way to understand the sector better, and can also look impressive on a CV or application. 

Other experience

Take a look at Career Zone's employability schemes (listed above) as many of them will be relevant for this sector. 

We run a range of skills sessions which are relevant to this career area, such as presentation skills and managing people.

Equally valuable experience can come from activities which are also fun. For example, getting involved in selling event tickets for a student society, becoming a course representative or volunteering as a fundraiser for a charity would all develop skills which are valuable in business development and sales. 

Team work is crucial for this sector. Listen to our CareerZone Podcast on collaborating with others.

Short Courses

You can also demonstrate your interest with short courses.

As an Exeter student, you can take courses from LinkedIn Learning for free. The Digital Hub’s Guide to Linkedin Learning will help you explore the courses available to you and show you how to access them. There are a range of course which are sales focused such as "Become a Sales Representative" or "Asking Great Sales Questions".

MyCareerZoneDigital also has some courses that will help you develop some of the key skills for administration and management, such as;

If you have studied a related degree, check if your course is accredited by one of the professional bodies. Being a member of a professional body is voluntary however, it can be valuable for developing networks, continuing your professional development, and generally keeping up to date with what's happening in the sector. 

  • Institute of Sales Professionals – The leading, not-for-profit international professional body for sales. They offer membership, internationally recognised qualifications, and a world leading CPD platform

If you would like to pursue postgraduate study before entering your chosen sector, please visit our Postgraduate Study information page for more information about choosing further study. 

It can often be useful to gain postgraduate qualifications in the relevant subject area if your undergraduate degree is in a different topic but, beware, there are many courses on the market, and they are not all equally successful in getting you that "dream job". You can always complement your degree with professional qualifications to show your commitment towards the industry (see Professional Bodies section).