Landmark merger for UK sales profession

23rd April 2021 |   Nick de Cent

March 2021 may well prove to be a turning point in the standing in which the UK’s sales profession is held. Two of the organisations serving the sales community have announced a merger to create a unified professional body. The relatively recently founded Association of Professional Sales (APS) is merging with the much older Institute of Sales Management (ISM) to form a single membership organisation for the sales profession.

The merged body will be called the Institute of Sales Professionals (ISP). The move comes after the ISM, which was founded in 1911 and has perhaps been best known in recent years for staging the annual British Excellence in Sales Management Awards (BESMA) dinner, went into liquidation.

Commenting on the merger, APS chief executive officer Andrew Hough told the Journal: “This merger is fantastic news for the sales profession. Together we are stronger and can achieve great things. 

“The ISP will be able to speak with one clear voice for all salespeople and sales businesses across the UK in the work we do with industry and government.”

 “We are delighted to welcome ISM members to join us on our campaign to transform professional sales.”

Former director of the ISM, Patrick Joiner said: “I am convinced that this decision is in the best interests of the membership of the ISM, the former shareholders and the sales profession as a whole.

“The new body will be a dynamic, influential, and effective voice. It will more effectively represent the sales profession at a time when we will be on the front line in generating the commercial activity that will lead our economy out of the post-Covid recession.”

Hough added: “APS and the ISM have always shared the same values. We are both committed to professionalising sales by building skills and knowledge. We both want salespeople to be respected by other professions and by wider society, and we want to recruit the brightest and best to an exciting and well-rewarded career. 

To mark this significant event, the Journal talked to Hough about the implications of the merger for the UK’s B2B sales community.

What does the merger mean for the sales profession as a whole?

AH: In the UK, this clears up what people have been potentially confused about: one body being more focused on the custodianship of sales and the standards of sales, and the other being perhaps more commercial – open to sponsorship and doing magazines and award ceremonies. I think this is an opportunity to blend the best of both of those organisations: refine it to make sure that, going forward, people can get what they are looking for from the new entity. And it also clears up the discussion around chartered status, because if there’s only one professional body going for chartership and there’s no one to object, it makes that Privy Council conversation a lot cleaner and a lot more “pleasant”.

Founder of the International Journal of Sales Transformation | + posts

Nick de Cent is the founder and editor-in-chief of the International Journal of Sales Transformation. A business journalist for over 35 years, he has been covering sales since the mid-1980s and has been a strong advocate of enhancing its professional status. He has freelanced for the Financial Times and edited the Sales Performance supplement in The Times. He also writes and edits extensively on behalf of corporate clients, including a Big 3 management consultancy and a top four global executive search firm.