Sales leaders in the UK believe they will suffer a decline in business following the decision to leave the European Union.
A survey for the Association of Professional Sales (APS) shows that just under two thirds of those who took part (63%) believe Brexit will have a negative effect on their organisation.
Of these, 94% were worried about the negative impact of market uncertainty. Fluctuations in the value of sterling, possible cuts to investment and new trade barriers were also feared. More than 45% said they feared the pipeline of new sales orders would start to dry up.
“My role is global and so I think my clients will stop spending as they wait to see what additional costs will be expected as the fallout from the referendum takes place. We have already had two projects put on hold,” commented one survey respondent.
Some of this pessimism may be a reflection of how customers are reacting. In the APS opinion poll, almost three-quarters (73%) said their clients felt negative about Britain leaving the EU.
“Many international companies buy from us because we are within the EU. This will be under threat,” said another respondent.
Jobs in the sales industry were also addressed in the APS opinion poll, but here the mood was more positive. More than half of those who took part in our survey (52%) believed the decision to leave the EU would not affect their staffing levels. 7% suggested they may even need to hire more staff.
“Better trade agreements with non EU countries, [and] positive immigration [will help with] attracting global talent,” was one upbeat assessment.
By comparison, 41% feared that staff cuts could be on the cards in the future.
Reacting to the poll, the Association of Professional Sales said in a swift-changing situation people are bound to feel uneasy, but talented sales teams, attuned to their customers needs, can see opportunity during periods of change.
Andrew Hough, CEO of the APS said: “The EU referendum result has not changed the fundamentals of the UK economy. This is not a global crisis but the repositioning of the United Kingdom and possibly the markets we will serve in the future. Having educated, knowledgeable sales professionals will be even more important as we look ahead to the opportunities of selling to a broader range of markets".
Nick Laird, the chief operating officer of the APS, said: “When it comes to business, uncertainty is still the biggest killer. If everything around you appears to be fluid: the markets, your currency and business sentiment, trust between the seller and the customer can be the glue that holds an agreement together. We believe the APS, with its professional registration and code of conduct, is well-placed to help support and develop sales teams to cope with the uncertain market we now face.”
Laird added that sales organisations might need to change the way they do business to respond to the changing times.
“Anxious customers will be watching their costs, but skilled, professional sales people will understand both the psychological and commercial aspects of the transaction and will reflect that in their approach.”
Survey results in more detail:
Positive or negative?
About one in ten (12%) were optimistic about the result of the EU referendum. Roughly two thirds (63%) of those who took part in the survey for the APS were negative.
When asked about their customers, APS respondents were more downbeat. They said 73% of their customers felt negative about leaving the EU.
Half (52%) said they didn’t think the decision would affect their staffing levels. Seven percent could imagine recruiting new staff, but 41% thought they would need to cut staff.
Reasons for negativity
Market uncertainty (94%), cuts to investment (71%), currency fluctuations (62%), concerns about trade barriers (53%), staff retention (30%).
Reasons to be cheerful
New business opportunities (76%), more control as business decisions should be made in the UK without a role for Brussels (66%), less red tape (45%).
Who took part in the survey?
Almost 300 senior sales people took part in the APS online survey, from Tuesday, June 28, 2016. More than 90% of those are either sales managers, sales directors or executives at board level.
The Association of Professional Sales is the leading community for sales professionals. We are building standards, diversity and education. The APS is a not-for-profit organisation, an industry body funded by membership fees from companies and individuals.