Minister welcomes report on sales and SME productivity

(From left to right) Mark Pawsey MP, Vice Chair, All-Party Parliamentary Group for Professional Sales; Stephen Kerr MP, Chair; Kelly Tolhurst MP, minister for small businesses; Gillian Keegan MP; John McNally MP; Bill Grant MP

Thursday 17 October 2019

Minister Kelly Tolhurst has joined fellow MPs and sales leaders at Westminster to welcome a new parliamentary report on how increasing the selling power of small and medium-sized businesses can boost UK productivity.

In its first report, published as Britain prepares to leave the European Union, the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Professional Sales highlights the problems in Britain’s sales sector which have affected the country’s ability to do business and focuses on a plan of action to tackle the issues.

The report, compiled by the Association of Professional Sales (APS) from the APPG inquiry of  witness statements, interviews and research, sets out 24 recommendations that can be condensed into four key changes that Britain needs to make:

1 Learn: study sales ethics and techniques in schools and colleges and create sales research centres at universities.
2 Train: help SMEs to develop sales skills, to manage sales better, and to embrace digital sales technologies.
3 Respect: recognise sales as a profession with a standards body established by Royal Charter to ensure high ethical standards.
4 Lead: appoint a sales tsar to take responsibility for driving change, and for ensuring that this vital part of the economy is understood at the heart of government.

Ms Tolhurst, minister for small businesses at the department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) told MPs and sales leaders at the launch event at Westminster: “This report rightly points out that it is an opportune time to focus on the UK’s ability to sell. Brexit represents an excellent opportunity for SMEs to win new deals in new global marketplaces. We want to raise exports as a percentage of GDP from 30% to 35%, towards the top of the G7.

“We remain committed to supporting business throughout the Brexit transition, by building resilience and grasping the opportunities of trade that present themselves.”

Ms Tolhurst, a businesswoman herself, began her career in sales and marketing. She was given degree-level training by her employer, and went on to set up a successful small business. She said: “I welcome this report because it does focus on sales in tackling productivity in SMEs. As the report highlights, improving leadership and management and increasing tech adoption is pivotal in helping SMEs to improve their productivity. And I know that first hand.

After delivering her speech, the minister devoted more of her busy schedule to take questions from APS members and academics and stayed on after the event to meet and discuss ideas with business leaders.

In what was a very warm reception, she said: “Salespeople by their very nature are great at spotting opportunities and running with them. These are exactly the people who will help to make the most of the opportunities that Brexit will give us, and drive the increase in the UK’s productivity.”

The cross-party group for professional sales is chaired by Stephen Kerr MP, a long-standing sales leader and a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales.

Stephen Kerr MP (left) talks to APS members at the event.

Stephen, who hosted the evening, said: “What this document allows us to do is to make a really cogent, evidence-based presentation to people who decide policy and change policy. This is a momentous time in our country‘s history when we need to focus on our country’s productivity as never before.

“To use one of the Prime Minister‘s favourite words of the moment, we need to turbocharge SMEs to grow their business through sales. There are 24 recommendations in here. It’s beautifully written.”

Andrew Hough, APS Founder and Co-CEO, sees the document as the start of important work with SMEs and the government.

He said: “This provides the APS with a great opportunity to take this excellent report forward, to engage with small businesses and reflect their views to ministers. We will be lobbying for the key recommendations to be adopted by the government across education, apprenticeships, skills and for professional sales to be recognised by royal charter.”

You can read the full report by clicking here.

About the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Professional Sales
Purpose: To improve recognition by Parliament and industry of the importance of sales and its impact on the UK economy; to promote and advance sales as a profession; to boost the success of British industry, especially in international trade.
Click here to see the full list of MPs on the APPG for Professional Sales

About the APS
The Association of Professional Sales (APS) is a not-for-profit organisation reinvesting in the sales profession to build standards, trust and education. The APS acts as the secretariat to the APPG for professional sales and has also worked with the government, business leaders and academics to establish sales apprenticeships up to degree and master’s level. The Association is campaigning for chartered status to give skilled, ethical salespeople the same recognition as other professions like accountants, architects, and engineers.