Originally published on Talentegg.ca (Nov 21, 2012)
When I graduated from university, I had a pretty piece of paper which stated that I had a BBA.
What I didn’t have was a job.
I studied marketing and strategic management in university and I was determined to work in marketing.
I always thought sales meant a heavily commission-based role involving cold calling people. No one really explains career opportunities in sales while you’re in school.
However, an opportunity came up to join my previous co-op employer on the sales team.
I thought long and hard about it. Should I hold out for an opportunity in marketing at a company that I had never worked at? Or accept a position in sales with a team I knew and loved working with? I chose the latter.
An introduction to sales at a CPG company
I had never considered a career in sales prior to my co-op experience at Nestle. I always thought sales meant a heavily commission-based role involving cold calling people. No one really explains career opportunities in sales while you’re in school.
But in a large consumer packaged goods company such as Nestle, there are a variety of roles that fall under the sales umbrella.
For example, Retail Development Representatives work at the store level to meet the needs of store managers and ensure our brands are represented in store. A representative may work to secure prime shelf space for our product during a promotion.
In the office, we have a Retail Development team that focuses on top-level retail development strategy while the Customer Development team works with retailers to build pricing and promotional strategies, secure listing opportunities and ensure that all of our products have adequate distribution in stores.
Most Sales Managers have worked in the field as Sales Representatives at some point in time. I’ve also found that, in a lot of companies, many members of the executive team have worked in sales at some point in their careers.
My job? Supporting sales with data
I’m one of the Sales Analysts on the account of a major Canadian grocery retailer. Most of my responsibilities involve working with data to learn about our past performance in order to prepare for the future. Microsoft Excel is a key tool in my role. I also use other tools such as Nielsen and COGNOS.
I have a set of weekly and monthly reports that I’m responsible for updating. These reports typically use point-of-sale data to show trends as well as track market performance. Other projects I work on evaluate our performance during a specific event or track sales for new products.
My job often involves finding out what the final result the managers are looking for is and coming up with a way to use the data to get to that result. For example, I create tools to track distribution of new products and ensure that we are gaining share as anticipated. What’s neat about my job is that I get to see how my reports are leveraged in sales presentations or to forecast sales. It’s challenging, fast-paced and every day is different.
I think working in sales is a great place for any new graduate. It demonstrates that you have strong presentation and negotiation skills, and the ability to think on your feet. It’s a great way to get your “foot in the door” and work with a variety of cross-functional areas.
If you weren’t considering starting your career in sales, you should.