The Association of Professional Sales launches continuous professional development


Andrew Hough, CEO of the APS

Monday, June 20 2016: The Association of Professional Sales has launched the first ever system of continuous professional development in sales.

Industry executives and thought-leaders hailed the news as ground-breaking and the route to true professionalisation.

The programme has been led by Ian Helps, the chairman of the APS Sales Professionalism Group. Helps is a keen advocate for sales to mend the reputational damage of past-mis-selling scandals by adopting a code of conduct, promoting good practice and embracing self-development.

“What I want to start to talk about is sales professionals taking personal accountability,” said Helps.

The Continuous Professional Development (CPD) programme was announced by Andrew Hough, CEO of the APS, in his opening speech to the association’s 2016 annual conference in June.

Hough explained the APS was negotiating with the government to ensure that – like other industries – sales training would be funded through the government’s Trailblazers apprenticeships levy.

“I hate to tell you this, but the government recognises hairdressers and undertakers before it recognises sales as an apprenticeship,” said Mr Hough.

“So we have got a little bit of work to do before we can put that back on an even keel.”

When the CPD programme goes live in September, it is envisaged that sales professionals in Britain and globally will begin to engage online with bite-size learning content, working towards different levels of professional accreditation and towards qualifications from NVQ to post-graduate level.

The learners will also be engaging with each other in a large-scale, peer-to-peer learning experience.

Core content is being curated by the APS’s 17 steering groups, known as communities, on practical and theoretical aspects of sales. The learning material will be constantly supplemented and kept up to date with new content uploaded by individual learners.

Important selling skills like psychology, communication, collaboration and effectiveness will also be covered.

The content will be stored in the cloud and accessed via the members-only section of the APS website.

Sales professionals are likely to access it under the auspices of their company, and learning can be tailored towards their organisation’s needs, Hough announced.

“[The CPD programme] is sensitive to the fact that 70 per cent of learning will occur within the workplace, so the APS will work with its corporate partners to ensure that individuals take on this wacky idea of continuous self-development,” Mr Hough told an audience of more than 500 industry leaders.

Corporate bodies will also be able to participate. As the percentage of staff engaged in CPD grows, so an organisation will progress towards higher levels of accreditation as an Investor In Sales.

Meanwhile Anglia Ruskin, Portsmouth and Middlesex universities are among the first higher education establishments to be developing their own undergraduate and post-graduate qualifications in sales in line with standards set by the APS.

The APS CEO acknowledged that the move towards CPD, with every sales professional expected to engage in a minimum of 21 hours per years, represented a big change.

“If I’m honest, after 25 years in sales I was raised with being told what I needed to know, and when I got to VP level I got the idea that I knew what my people needed to know,” said Hough.

“But to be a profession, individuals need to take accountability themselves for all the things they are doing, and portray back to their organisation how that weaves in with… the corporation’s self-development framework.”

The launch of CPD was praised by industry leaders and recruiters.

“If I saw that a candidate was registered with the APS and in its CPD programme, then that, for me, is absolutely huge. I would be drawn to them. It shows they have invested in themselves,” said Chris Bishop, EMC’s talent acquisition leader for UK, Ireland and Europe West.

Tim Riesterer, chief strategy officer of Corporate Visions, said that the APS was leading the world in the professionalisation of sales.

“There needs to be another level of professionalism, not brought in by outside consultants but from within the profession. That is truly novel. We are so interested in this idea you have started here, we are talking about this back in the United States,” said Riesterer.

He urged companies and sales individuals to embrace CPD. “You people have started it, you own it, and now it has to go to the next level. Now is the time to engage.”

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