By Bob Little

Like it or not, everyone gets involved in ‘selling’ to some extent – either in a corporate or personal capacity.

Those who get involved in selling and marketing in a more formal sense can now sign up to a set of new qualifications which are part of a long-term national framework initiative to raise the parity and esteem of vocational training.

Published by the Institute of Sales & Marketing Management (ISMM) www.ismm.co.uk , these qualifications fit into a framework, called the Qualifications and Credit Framework (QCF). The QCF is a database of qualifications mapped to a grid showing on one axis the level of difficulty and on the other axis the ‘size’ of the qualification.

The levels go from one to eight, and the size is determined by name, with ‘small’ qualifications being called Awards, ‘medium’ ones Certificates and ‘large’ ones Diplomas. Qualifications comprise units which different awarding organisations, such as the ISMM, share, and each unit is worth a certain amount of ‘credit’, based on the size of the unit.

“Currently available are Awards at level 1; Awards and a Certificate at level 2 and Awards, a Certificate and a Diploma at level 3,” said Denise Edens, the ISMM’s Director of Education. “There are also level 4, 5 and 6 Awards, Certificates and Diplomas.”

The ISMM is the UK's largest association for sales professionals and its annual British Excellence in Sales & Marketing Awards (BESMA) are the most prestigious awards for the sales profession. Founded in 1911 to promote standards of excellence in sales and sales management and to enhance the status and profile of sales as a profession, the ISMM supports, represents and promotes the sales profession. It has been the authoritative voice of selling and the custodian of sales standards, ethics and best practice for many years.

The ISMM is also responsible for establishing benchmarks of professionalism in sales. It is the only membership body recognised by the UK Government regulatory body Ofqual as an awarding organisation to offer qualifications in sales, marketing and sales management.

The ISMM’s qualifications have been written by practising sales trainers and reviewed by companies, colleges and universities to make sure they cover all the up-to-date content needed to succeed in a sales role today. They contain some theory, such as understanding the sales cycle and the ‘7Ps of marketing’, as well as skills such as negotiating and closing sales.

ISMM qualifications are recognised by Ofqual, the UK Government qualifications regulatory body, which ensures that qualifications are of the highest standard through its rigorous quality assurance procedures.

Denise Edens added:

“ISMM qualifications can be taken full or part-time, by classroom, blended or distance learning. At levels 1 and 2, students don’t need any experience of working in sales but it helps to have more experience at level 3 and above.

“QCF qualifications are designed to fit around work and family, consisting of small bite-size units which can be taken one by one, banked and built up over time. Learners are entitled to their own nationally recognised Learner Record where they can bank all of the credit they’ve achieved. “

Most of the ISMM’s new qualifications involve assessment via assignment or work-based evidence of achievement, although learners attempting level 1 will sit a multiple choice exam.

“Training providers - called ‘Open Centres’ – offering these qualifications can be found on the ISMM website under ‘Education’,” said Denise Edens. “All of our training providers have been through a quality assurance process to make sure that their delivery is of high quality.

“In addition, to help learners, we’re writing study guides to support their learning. These guides have been tailored to each unit’s assessment criteria, so learners can use the guide for self-study or as part of their course.

“The notion that sales people are only as good as their last year’s sales is starting to disappear,” she added, “and, with the sluggish economy and the emergence of sales academies, employers are looking for sales people who have something over and above the average. Those who can show that they’ve invested in their professional development, on top of a great track record and excellent references, stand a better chance of moving up the career ladder.”