Trailblazing sales professionalism

24th December 2017 |   Chris Alder

The first participants in a landmark government scheme offering apprentices a Bachelor’s Degree in B2B Sales are getting ready to start their courses in the New Year. We ask: how will the new apprenticeship benefit the sales profession?

If anyone had said to me at the start of the year I would be in this great position by the end of it, I would never have believed them. I had absolutely no idea this might happen. I can’t believe it.



Graham Davis

The employer

Graham Davis
Group Sales Director of Royal Mail

“I was chair of the employer Trailblazer Standards Group that formulated the apprenticeship standard earlier this year. Our main aim is to put sales on a professional footing.

“Some 500 young Royal Mail employees aged between 18 and 24 applied to join the new sales course, for the chance to study for a degree in sales. These were shortlisted to 50. Just 13 were successful and they have attended an introductory day at Middlesex University and are expected to start the course in January.

“We are a 500-year old business and we’ve needed salespeople probably for the last 25 years, since overseas rivals started coming in and the mail was deregulated.

“The demographic of our 320-strong sales force is middle aged and we are trying to sell to our customers as 50-year-old Royal Mail people.

“Our apprentices are keen, enthusiastic, and really understand what is going on today and are able communicate with our customers using tools such as social media. They are helping and mentoring us as well as giving our leaders and existing salespeople renewed purpose.

“Many more people are employed in sales generally than in any other profession, but the job has been seen by some as maybe not quite ethical. Now apprentices can spend three years working on the job for a great employer and end up with a professional degree, and no debt. It’s a great deal.”

Harrison Leigh

The apprentice

Harrison Leigh
B2B sales apprentice at Royal Mail

“I see this as a huge opportunity for businesses as well as individuals.

“In terms of Royal Mail, this is going to change the demographic of the current sales force, which could be said to appear relatively old. Bringing in younger people with more energy and a fresh mindset and fresh ideas has got to be good thing.

“For instance, social media is essential for communicating these days and older people may not be as au fait with it and other similar tools as their younger colleagues.

“This is important, because customers seem to be getting younger, and we are able to resonate better with them on a personal level.

“For me personally it’s a great opportunity to get on in the world of sales. I had already signed up to go to university via the conventional route, then this came along instead. Now, I can learn on the job and get a full university degree with no debt. And to be among the first group of students to do the course is an opportunity that is just amazing. We are grasping as much knowledge as we possibly can.

“If anyone had said to me at the start of the year I would be in this great position by the end of it, I would never have believed them. I had absolutely no idea this might happen. I can’t believe it.”

Louise Sutton

The bid leader

Louise Sutton
APS apprenticeship consultant

“I have been leading the bid for the apprenticeship programme since April 2016, working alongside the Association of Professional Sales, which represents sales professionals in the United Kingdom, and consultancy Consalia, which has partnered with Middlesex University to deliver a BSc (Hons) Professional Practice in Business to Business Sales Degree Apprenticeship.

“This is a real game-changer for sales. This initiative is opening up a new career path for school leavers, who have previously tended to fall into sales. Some may have done marketing degrees and then drifted into sales. Now we are hoping that more people will consider sales as a ‘first choice profession’, rather than fall into it.

“It is also creating opportunities for training providers, as employers look for partners who are capable of delivering programmes to the standard set by the government.

“These apprenticeships will attract people from other areas of business to go into sales. We see this project as a fantastic enabler to bring in the right talent.

“Young people are very keen to get involved. Potential students are already looking at employers’ websites for information, and we are now looking to employers to advertise roles.

“We’ve had fantastic support from employers who are ready to deliver on this initiative. We are creating the opportunity for young people to see sales as a distinct career of choice. Final approval has yet to come from the government but we expect it to be given the green light early in the New Year.”