Andrew Hough: let’s stop celebrating mis-selling


Andrew Hough. APS Board Meeting at Grange Langham Court Hotel, London. 2.12.15 Photographer Sam Pearce/

Sometimes it seems we can’t stop talking about the mis-selling scandals that have dragged the sales industry’s reputation into the mud.

PPI. Mortgage derivatives. Interest rate swaps. Card protection plans. Bernard Madoff. Boiler room scams.

The financial services sector has figured the heaviest, but recently the energy industry has also been criticised and fined by its regulator for selling the wrong products to the wrong people in pursuit of a fast profit. Even charities have come under the spotlight for hounding the vulnerable to take out direct debits.

Bad selling makes headlines because of the human cost. It should. Rightly, we feel for families that have lost money, pensioners that have been poorly treated and seen life savings disappear. That is why mis-selling has gained such airtime.

But this constant celebration of bad selling frightens the public, and creates the fallacy that that’s all that’s out there. That the monstrous stereotypes in Glengarry Glen Ross, David Mamet’s play about cheating real estate salesmen, are fact, not polemic. That all sales people want to rip you off. And that is just not true.

Truly professional sales people know that it’s only when they sell the right product to the customer, the product that will boost their business or make their life better, that they are doing their job properly.

Cutting corners, and disguising the truth, damages their brand. Worse, it jeopardises the huge and complex sales deals that provide them and thousands of others with their livelihoods.

But the voice of the professional sales person, the honest and ethical sales person, is not being heard at the moment. That needs to change.

The Association of Professional Sales has set about putting sales’s house in order. We are a young body full of ideas and enthusiasm, and our fellows come from senior levels within the sales industry.

Anyone who registers with the APS is automatically signing up to abide by its new ethical code of conduct for the industry.

The code is intended to offer the public reassurance and a guarantee of fair dealing, by insisting that all deals should be conducted with the highest standards of integrity, and that sellers should always aim to do the right thing and thereby get the right results.

Anyone found to have fallen short of the standards set by the code will find their names removed from the register.

The APS is working towards gaining chartered status as the acknowledged professional body that regulates the sales industry, in the same way that doctors and lawyers and accountants are regulated by their professional bodies.


Andrew Hough is chief executive officer of the Association of Professional Sales.