6 Vital Lessons from Dell for Successful Sales Apprenticeships

7 mins

Dive into Dell's Sales Apprenticeship Success. Learn 6 vital lessons for a thriving programme. Transform your workforce with our impactful sales apprenticeship courses.

IT global powerhouse Dell has been running a well-established global graduate program named the 'NextGen Sales Programme' for the past 15 years. Whilst a highly successful programme, Dell were seeking to build an alternative talent pipeline to run alongside their NextGen programme, which would allow them to connect with a previously untapped talent pool and bring in fresh and passionate talent into the business. 

Dell dispelled common misconceptions about apprenticeships, understanding that life skills and maturity don't require a university background. This shift in mindset recognised the potential of sales apprenticeships and the value of non-graduate talent as a long-term investment. With this newfound perspective, Dell secured funding for its first cohort of apprentices to be integrated into the public sector team. 

To understand what lessons were learned and what tips could be provided on implementing a successful sales apprenticeship programme, Dell’s HR partner, Giulia Hendy, discusses her experiences and advice. 

6 Key Actions for Maximising the Performance of Sales Apprentices

Dell wanted to create a culture and environment where sales apprentices could thrive and see the company as a long-term career prospect. Here are Giulia’s 6 vital things you can do to ensure the success of your sales apprenticeships. 

Align the Role and Responsibilities of the Sales Apprentices  

  • Dell's leaders demonstrated a strategic approach to aligning and understanding the roles and responsibilities of the first cohort of sales apprentices, emphasising the importance of clarity and structured training.

  • Recognising the value of knowing the specifics of the apprentices' future roles ensured that the apprenticeship program was designed with a clear understanding of the job requirements. 

  • By structuring the training with the key components of the sales position, the leaders aimed to provide the apprentices with a comprehensive foundation of relevant knowledge and experience that would allow them to succeed. 

Select the Right Apprentices for Your Culture 

  • Dell's approach to selecting candidates for their sales apprenticeship roles involved a departure from their traditional focus on graduates. 

  • Instead, they intentionally target individuals aged 19 and above who have pursued further education post-GCSEs, such as through college or A-levels.

  • This shift reflects Dell's belief that individuals at this stage bring maturity and readiness essential for success in the sales apprenticeship roles, highlighting their commitment to aligning talent and maturity in the program.

  • This strategic shift also reshaped Dell's approach and transformed their hiring practices, leveling the playing field between graduates and apprentices. So now, regardless of academic background, individuals who successfully complete initial training and confirm their roles find equal opportunities within Dell. 

‘We purposefully targeted individuals who have gone on to college or have done A-levels as we felt those in this demographic have the life experience and skills to be prepared and excel on the programme’ 
- Giulia Hendy, HR partner at Dell

Create Buddy Systems and Support Networks  

  • A buddy system was strategically implemented for their new cohort of sales apprentices to ensure a robust support mechanism throughout their journey, fostering an environment where they can maximise their performance. 

  • This intentional pairing ensures that apprentices have immediate access to a network of experienced colleagues doing the same job they've been hired for, offering a long-term perspective on their roles. 

  • This internal support structure is designed to provide apprentices with constant assistance, allowing them to navigate challenges, seek answers, and receive ongoing support. 

  • By embedding this system, it aimed to minimise instances where apprentices are left to figure things out independently, fostering a collaborative culture.

‘We created a very robust support mechanism that meant if apprentices had the drive and passion to succeed,it gave them the best chance for a long and prosperous career with Dell’ 
- Giulia Hendy, HR partner at Dell

Top tip: It is a great idea to have the previous cohort of apprentices mentor the new generation of apprentices, as they will be able to pass on their experiences and best practices to aid their success.

Place Importance of Personal, Face-to-Face Experiences 

  • A high value was placed on personal, face-to-face experiences in shaping the learning journey of the sales apprentices, enhancing their acquisition of essential skills and enriching their overall apprenticeship experience. 

  • Despite the program being on-site only three days a week, the emphasis on face-to-face interactions played a pivotal role in fostering self-sufficiency among the apprentices, especially when working remotely.

  • In the face of suggestions by some leaders for a fully virtual apprentice program, Dell upheld the importance of in-person engagement. The company recognised virtual programs' limitations in hindering apprentices' network building and restricting the absorption of tacit knowledge obtained through immersion in a physical environment.

  • Acknowledging the significance of diverse perspectives, Dell worked alongside Pareto and implemented a deliberate strategy of taking apprentices off-site, providing them with opportunities to interact with peers from different companies.

Start Slow and Prove Sales Apprenticeships are Right for You

  • Dell took an initial cautious approach to the implementation of their sales apprenticeship program by initially conducting it on a small scale, serving as a proof of concept. 

  • Recognising the importance of building trust and belief in the program's effectiveness among stakeholders, they opted not to hire in large numbers immediately. 

  • Careful consideration was given to the selection process, with a focus on inviting only those deemed suitable during the initial assessment to participate in the program. 

  • This deliberate and measured strategy reflects Dell's dedication to ensuring the program's success and underscores their commitment to responsible and effective growth in this innovative initiative.

‘We didn’t want to go too fast with our first cohort and hire too many people, which could lead to failure. So we concentrated on trailing a smaller cohort to ensure it was right for our business and we could ensure its success’ 
- Giulia Hendy, HR partner at Dell

Ensure Sales Apprentices Could See a Clear Career Path 

  • An environment was successfully created for sales apprentices that encourages them to plan their careers with the company for the long term. The idea of a 10- to 15-year career within Dell, without the need to look for opportunities elsewhere, is a realistic and attractive proposition for the apprentices. 

  • The sales apprenticeships provide a structured framework with opportunities for career progression and leadership roles. 

  • Dell also offers diverse paths, allowing specialisation within specific and niche departments and teams, demonstrating the company's commitment to accommodating the varied aspirations of its workforce throughout their careers. 

  • Dell’s conversations with their apprentices further highlight their positive view of a lasting future with the business, showcasing the company's success in instilling loyalty and dedication. 

‘Now, the great thing about Dell is that regardless of whether you’re a graduate or an apprentice, once you’ve done through the initial training and you’ve been confirmed into a role, the opportunities for career progression are the same’ 
- Giulia Hendy, HR partner at Dell

What were the Results of these Sales Apprenticeship Strategies?

In May 2023, Dell initiated its first cohort of apprentices for the sales apprenticeship level 4 program, anticipating their full readiness for assigned roles within approximately 18 months. Surprisingly, within 7-8 months, these apprentices exhibited notable readiness and competence in managing a portion of their future responsibilities. This unforeseen progress has led Dell to recognise apprentices as a valuable talent pool for addressing future organisational requirements.

‘I want to highlight that by following these step and ensuring that you build a truly supportive network for your apprentices, you will give your sales apprenticeship the best chance of success and attract talent that can help shape your business’s future’ 
- Giulia Hendy, HR partner at Dell

For more information about how Pareto’s Apprenticeship programme has transformed Dell’s talent strategy, discover our fascinating case study - Building an Alternative Talent Pipeline through Untapped Talent.

Is Your Company Culture Fit for Sales Apprentices?

Dell's evolution from initial misconceptions about sales apprenticeships to establishing a successful program has been a transformative journey. Overcoming preconceived notions that certain roles required university-educated individuals, Dell realised that apprentices could contribute significantly to the company's long-term success with dedicated support. The introduction of the sales apprenticeship program levelled the playing field and provided opportunities for talented individuals who hadn't attended university.

The key strategies implemented have played a pivotal role in ensuring the success of its sales apprenticeship program. Aligning roles and responsibilities, creating buddy systems and support networks, valuing face-to-face experiences, and offering clear career paths have collectively contributed to a thriving environment for sales apprentices. Dell’s success with sales apprenticeship highlights the potential that talent pools that may have usually been ignored have the potential to shape the future of businesses worldwide. 

Inspired by Dell’s Sales Apprenticeship Success?

Whether you're seeking passionate individuals to drive change in your business or aiming to upskill existing employees, our sales apprenticeship courses are designed to train the people you need to ensure your future success. With over 25 years of experience, our commitment extends to developing close partnerships with you to ensure every learner has the opportunity to work, learn, and realise their potential in a safe and supportive environment.

Contact us today and enhance your workforce with targeted and impactful sales apprenticeship solutions.

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