The dearth of the salesmen: A career failing to sell itself

There are 20,000 posts advertised a month, but the job can't shake off its negative image

Cold-calling sales assistants have fast become the bane of many households; many feel that only bankers and politicians outrank them in Britain's "most detested" stakes.

Yet, despite the above-average salary, the high number of vacancies and television shows such as The Apprentice and The Call Centre which often show the occupation's more glamorous side, sales remains an unpopular job choice.

Research released from the business information service Companybook this month showed that nationally there were 17 applicants per sales job in 2013, compared with 23 applicants per job across all other industries. In London, there were even fewer, with an average of 14 applicants per sales job; the average was 24 across other sectors.

The industry remains one of the biggest sectors in the UK with roughly 20,000 posts advertised each month, placing it below only engineering, manufacturing and utilities in the number of vacancies advertised. Sales jobs are also relatively well paid, with an average salary of £27,000.

Despite this, the industry is failing to shake off its negative image. One survey, conducted by the pollsters Gallup in the United States last year, found that car salespeople were one of the least trusted groups. Only 8 per cent of respondents said they felt they were "very trustworthy".

"There is still an enigma around sales," said Ben Turner, director at the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management. "The negative press around the mis-selling of payment protection insurance and energy products makes people think that all sales jobs are of a poor nature. This is of course not the case – a career in sales is one of the most important in an organisation, the most enjoyable and the most lucrative."

Most people's experiences of salespeople involve pushy cold callers, and it is this negative perception that may be preventing people applying for jobs. Sales expert and Sales Trainer of the Year Andy Bounds said: "If you say to someone you are in sales, people are less likely to respond positively because it has negative connotations … we've all been sold things in a way that we haven't liked. But when sales is done well it's a wonderful experience for both parties."

It also seems that career progression, or the lack of it, could be a deterrent. Mr Bounds added: "If you go into accountancy you know how the career will progress. In sales it is not quite as clear. They could market it more as a career than a job 'for now'."

Those in the industry have also complained that the occupation is not valued by the education system, with both secondary and business schools putting little time into teaching the skills and knowledge needed. "In the current A level in business studies, there are over 20 mentions of HR, 25 mentions of marketing and only one of sales," said Mr Turner. "You don't need an HR department if your business doesn't sell anything."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'