Case Study: Attracting new sales talent to meet changing customer requirements

Springhill Hospice Learners
Royal Mail

In an increasingly challenging and competitive market place, Royal Mail’s vision is to be recognised as the best delivery company in the UK and across Europe. The business is committed to its corporate responsibility and managing its impact on the world: it aims to have a positive relationship with customers, employees, communities and its wider environment.

Royal Mail
Date 2020
Region UK-wide
Size 1000+ employees
Sector Transport & logistics

Sales revenue in 2019/20

Apprentices employed

% increase in younger recruits

Customers helped

The Challenge

Royal Mail recognised that its existing sales function wasn’t adequately keeping abreast of rapid advances in technology and a changing customer profile. It identified a range of demographic challenges including a maturing sales force with 60% of employees over the age of 50 and in 2017 none of the 300+ sales staff under the age of 25.

Furthermore it realised that existing teams lacked the knowledge in emerging areas such as digital and social selling and ethical sales. Because of this the future generation of new sales revenue was at risk.

Inspiring new degree apprenticeship

Responding to the challenge Royal Mail, working with Middlesex University and Consalia Sales Business School, introduced a new 3-year Business to Business Sales Professional integrated degree apprenticeship that would attract a younger profile of sales talent. This programme provides a relevant, new and innovative sales learning curriculum. It incorporates knowledge, skills and behaviours that meet the requirements of future sales professionals, who could apply the learning in a highly competitive sales landscape.

The programme’s ethos is one of collaboration between partners ensuring relevant learning is applied in the workplace and that the sales apprentice has a learning journey which is well-rounded and based on a high-quality developmental experience. The programme was designed to incorporate the required knowledge in order to do the role, whilst including content that would be attractive to the target market of Millennials and GenZs.

Sales Operations Leader André Lahiff explains:

Ensuring we have a future-fit workforce of new generational sales professionals, equipped to deal with changing customers’ needs, remains critical to the future business success of Royal Mail.


The organisation has been instrumental in trailblazer work around the creation of this Level 6 pathway apprenticeship contributing to developing the standards and design of this new approach. Royal Mail was then first to launch the 3-year programme committing to employing 30 apprentices via this route over 3 years.

It wanted to reach a diverse audience from different pockets of society and used its own internal network of current employees to ‘spread the word’. Over the 3 years, 30 apprentices were recruited from approximately 250 interviewed – such was the demand for the programme.

Positive return on investment

In 2016, only 6.4% of the sales team at Royal Mail was under the age of 34. In 2019 this figure has increased to 12.6% and there has been 30% increase in the recruitment of sales BAME employees.

As well as creating a future talent pipeline of skilled sales apprentices, cohorts 1 and 2 from the programme have also been credited with contributing to the achievement of new sales revenues of £1.4 million in 2018/19 and £2.7 million in 2019/20.

Apprentices on the programme are being used to challenge the status quo and bring fresh ideas into the company. One apprentice returned from a networking event with ideas about digital selling and an Instagram sales pipeline that were subsequently implemented.

The new approach has resulted in high levels of performance and valuable contributions from the apprentices, increased confidence in their workplace practice and many overall improvements in learning. This has led to the introduction of a new digital customer management team wholly manned by the trainees which has increased the number of customers the apprentices are responsible for from 2,888 to 6,000.

Other companies are also taking note of the impact of the integrated degree apprenticeship and large organisations, such as Amazon, PWC, and Eon Energy have expressed an interest in using it to benchmark their own programmes.

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