Although these are two different areas they are closely connected. Sales professionals are all-round business people who use their problem-solving skills to understand, anticipate and meet customers’ needs. There are two types of sales Business to business (B2B) and business to customer (B2C). Companies sell products or services to their customers by raising their expectations of what those products / services can do for them. The job of the customer-service sector is to ensure that those expectations are fulfilled.

The types of jobs available in this sector include:

  • Customer service manager- working at various levels within a company to ensure that it satisfies and excels its customers’ needs.
  • Customer service representative - the link between the customer and the business or organisation, ensuring customers are satisfied with the product or service, thereby maintaining profitable customer relationships.
  • Media sales representative- persuading clients to buy advertising time/space in a particular medium.
  • Sales executive - sell their company’s goods and services to new and existing customers. In addition to identifying new markets and business opportunities.

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Also see our career sector on Marketing, Advertising and PR.

Jobs and salaries

Job roles are often varied, and you may have a range of responsibilities covering sales and customer service - you will certainly need to have experience in customer service to succeed in selling any product or service. 

Think about what kinds of products and services you might be interested in selling, and perhaps you could even start your own business. Whether you do this or work for an employer, consider membership with the Institute of Sales and Marketing.

Find out more about a career in sales, including the pros (e.g. high starting salaries with bonuses) and cons.

Customer service roles are wide ranging and are not only those advertised with the words 'customer service' - also consider receptionist work, for example. Read more about careers in customer service.

Routes and qualifications

There is no need to have a specific qualification, however, if you're new to stores and warehouse management or lack formal training built around the changing role of modern store operation and management the CIPS (Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply) offers courses and training.

Find out about apprenticeships within sales.

Think about training in customer service at your local college, or if you're already working, your employer may be able to help you find and fund a vocational course.

The ICM (Institute of Commercial Management) also offer courses for students wanting to pursue a career in business and management. Find out more about ICM qualifications.

Funding and support

If you decide to study this area at uni, check out the pages on student finance from, and/or contact the funding or careers departments of the organisations you are considering training with.

Read more about ICM fees.

What’s it really like working in this sector?

To get an idea, take a look at our career videos from people working in the sales and customer services sector.

  • Full-time staff usually work 37 to 40 hours a week. Shift work is common, and there is plenty of scope for part-time and flexible working.
  • Most people in sales and customer service work indoors in offices or shops. Some roles may involve traveling to meet clients.

How many jobs are there in this sector?

  • There are over 3 million people employed in this sector.
  • Increasingly these jobs are based in contact centres, who currently employ over 800,000 staff in this sector.

Location, location, location

Opportunities are available in towns and cities throughout the UK with the majority concentrated in London and the major cities i.e. Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Bristol.

Will a career in this sector suit me?

  • People who work in sales and customer services need to be friendly and helpful, with the confidence to handle complaints in a fair but firm manner.
  • Interpersonal skills are vital as it’s often necessary to strike a rapport with clients.
  • Good teamwork skills are also vital.
  • A comprehensive knowledge of your area of sales/ customer service is often essential.
  • Many jobs don’t require specific qualifications; however for higher level jobs relevant qualifications in management are often useful.
  • Flexibility is often valued.