Q&A with Academy Director Louise Sutton: Navigating the Challenges of Professionalising Sales Careers

27 July 2023

We’re delighted to announce that our Academy Director Dr. Louise Sutton has completed a Doctorate in Professional Studies (DProf) at Middlesex University.

The Doctorate in Professional Studies enables candidates to use the knowledge and experience they have gained in their professional lives and apply it in an academic context.

We sat down with Louise to ask her a few questions about her thesis and how it relates to her work at Consalia.


What was the title of your thesis and why did you decide to base it on this topic?

The title of my thesis is “Navigating the Challenges of Professionalising Sales Careers: A Case for Degree Apprenticeships in Sales”.

I chose this topic because it’s what I’ve spent my past five years doing! Well seven years now, but when I started I had spent five years working on the sales degree apprenticeship programmes. Everything from putting the bid in to develop the apprenticeship to implementation. The “navigating the challenges” part of the title comes from the fact that the challenges started from Day One, trying to help the government stakeholders recognise the importance of B2B sales. And there were many, many more hurdles from there! So that’s why the title is what it is.

Obviously I didn’t do it on my own. The Level 6 apprenticeship standard was developed with the industry “Trailblazer Group”, the ISP and university representatives and then Consalia partnered with Middlesex University to develop and deliver the Level 6 programme. I led those initiatives and the development of a Senior Sales Leader apprenticeship programme at Level 7. So I felt I should do something with all the experience I had gained in doing that. Also a few people, both from Middlesex and from outside the university, started to say to me that I should write about this experience.

So, I originally went to Professor Darryll Bravenboer, Head of The Centre for Apprenticeships at Middlesex, to ask whether I could do a master's programme. It was Darryll who said “You could do more. There’s enough content here for you to do a doctoral programme.” So I applied and here I am!

Louise Sutton celebrates her graduation with Consalia CEO Dr. Philip SquireDr. Louise Sutton celebrates her graduation with Consalia CEO Dr. Philip Squire

What significance does your thesis have for the future of degree apprenticeships?

Whilst the thesis focuses on degree apprenticeships in sales, much of what I wrote about applies to all degree apprenticeships and in some way to apprenticeships in general. I think it’s going to be relevant for a lot of people because I think I’m probably the first person working for a training provider that has put this perspective into a thesis, into an academic context. I want it to raise awareness of the challenges we faced with a wider group of people.

In my thesis I write about the complexity of delivering apprenticeships. Degree apprenticeships have an extra layer of complexity on top of academic degree. People are starting to write about these challenges, but I think I’m the first one who’s written from a training provider’s perspective specifically on degree apprenticeships.

Consalia also has a unique perspective as a relatively small, niche training provider. The challenges we have faced are quite different to those of a larger organisation delivering a wide variety of apprenticeships across different disciplines.


How does this relate to Consalia's vision in helping to make sales the world’s most sought after profession?

Okay, well, I'm going to come at this from a different angle. I think the output from the degree apprenticeship programmes, which is obviously what the thesis is all about, are our apprentices, our graduates. They are the ones who are now trained and qualified and have experience in selling. They know the theory and the latest frameworks to sell with professionally and with ethics at the core of their practice. They are the ones who are helping establish sales as the most sought-after profession. I really believe that.

In our apprenticeships we talk about what Peter Critten called “learning reach”. Our apprentices are going out and sharing what they’ve learned throughout their organisations, and then all these people are starting to sell more professionally and transform the industry as a whole. Peter would call it a “ripple effect”. We’re already starting to see a few more universities offer sales as a subject. But we still need more!


What's next for Dr. Louise Sutton?

I want to do more writing. I’d like to break down some of the challenges I discussed in my thesis into more detailed areas of focus.

In my thesis I write about stigmas in sales, and I’d love to go into more detail on that. There is definitely a stigma about apprenticeships and vocational learning. So it’s really important that we champion these things and share how brilliant they are. But why does that stigma exist? I would say it exists in sales because most universities still haven't embraced sales as a discipline.

During my thesis I also came up with a new framework for a coaching model, so I want to publish that in more detail. I’m also already involved with helping Consalia in a research project looking to identify best practice in delivering degree apprenticeships. So there’s plenty of things I want to do! My academic journey doesn’t stop here, that’s for sure.



Could you or your team transform sales at your organisation with degree apprenticeships? Click here to learn more about the programmes Dr. Sutton developed with us.  

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