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Perkins visits Portsmouth University Business School

The Shadow Minister for Small Business, Toby Perkins MP, visited Portsmouth Business School yesterday as part of his wider research into the teaching of sales skills in the UK.

Portsmouth University is the only British university to teach sales skills at a post-graduate level.

Mr Perkins’ visit was inspired by a recent round table meeting with sales professionals including the Head of the Marketing and Sales at Portsmouth, Beth Rogers.

Toby believes sales skills are vital for the growth of UK plc and has been calling for more emphasis to be put on sales education in schools, colleges and universities.

He is concerned that professional sales skills have been undervalued in business studies courses, posing a particular problem for small businesses.

Beth Rogers said:

“Toby has a passionate interest in sales education, as do we, and it is encouraging that he is determined to address the sales skills gap which exists in the UK.

“If the UK is to fully and quickly recover from recession we need to develop the professional salespeople and sales managers that employers need and value.

“You don’t get to grow quickly internationally by being cheaper, you get it by knowing how to grow your revenue by being smarter and better at creating value for customers with very different needs – this is at the root of what we teach our business studies undergraduates.”

A few months ago, Mr Perkins started working with the Institute of Sales and Marketing Management to find ways for government to help the sales profession become more credible and to provide better training and clearer career paths for young people.

He believes that what is required to professionalise sales is a research base underpinned by a partnership between government, academia, industry and professional sales institutes.

The UK Commission for Employment and Skills has reported that sales and customer service are among the skills most lacking in the workforce and are also among the jobs with high vacancy rates.

Mr Perkins explained:

“So many firms know the truth of one of the oldest adages in business; until someone sells something, nothing happens.

“But whilst sales is certainly key to businesses across the UK, it is also a key component of our economy in its own right. Famously the NHS is the world 3rd largest employer, behind just the Indian Railway and the Chinese Army . Yet at 1.7 million people it falls some 500,000 behind the number employed in sales and customer services roles (9% of all the people employed in the UK.) 

“Despite sales key role in our economic prosperity, a source of employment and revenue growth, there has been so little attention paid to how to encourage young people to pursue a career in sales and so little idea how to help people be good at it. 

“This is why I’m investigating the different paths to boost sales skills, in the work place, in schools and colleges and high education institutions and why I came to Portsmouth this week.  I found the trip to be extremely helpful and the lessons I learnt will form a vital part of our work going forward.”

Toby met with undergraduate and postgraduate students and lecturers and saw first hand the work they do as part of their course, including role-plays, dissertations and reports.  He also spoke to and audience of students and staff on his vision for the future of sales skills.

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I am Toby Perkins, Labour's Member of Parliament for Chesterfield. If you would like to get in touch with me, my office is open and can be reached by phone on 01246 386 286. I also hold regular surgeries so that constituents can meet me and I can take up their concerns. If you would like to make an appointment then please do contact my office. Thank you for visiting.

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