Why colleges ought to get serious about sales – the story continues


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Recently we posted a blog discussing that historically universities have neglected the field of Sales. We went on to explore why the time may have come for that to change. We suggested that instituting programs in Sales would bring benefits not only to the universities and their students but also to the field of Sales and the marketplace. In fact, a recent CNNMoney piece shared 10 business courses we wish colleges offered – and Business Sales was one.

Both Janet and I have an extended history in universities and in the field of Sales. We wrote the previous blog because we strongly believe the topic is of significant importance both to the university community and to the field of Sales. As we discovered others clearly shared that viewed as reflected by the number and quality of the comments the blog generated.

Given all that, we continue to look for others who are writing on the topic. We recently came across an interesting Harvard Business Review blog by Suzanne Fogel, et al. The authors reported a couple of points that were worth highlighting for the ongoing discussion:

  • Research conducted by DePaul at a major industrial manufacturer indicated that among sales personnel hired over a 10-year period, those coming from sales education programs hit the break-even point in their territories 30% faster. Moreover, their tenure with the company averaged 40% longer.
  • In regions desperate for jobs, good sales positions go unfilled for lack of qualified applicants. People unprepared to excel at them fill many sales jobs. For at least five consecutive years Manpower, the recruiting and workforce development firm, has ranked Sales as one of the hardest positions to fill.

In closing the authors make the point – “the best way to launch new sales education programs is for universities to partner with industry.” We suggest that is an idea worth exploring. If both entities come to the party, better results can be achieved in regard to issues such as: faculty for instructing the programs, best practices for crafting the programs, research opportunities, and internships.

In today’s market it is very difficult to sustain a competitive advantage by product line – global competition is too keen and manufacturing technology is too advanced. Today, a sales team must not only be able to sell a competitive advantage; they must be a competitive advantage. This requires exploring new and innovative ways to help future sales people be as good as they can be – universities can and need to play a part.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Richard Ruff
For more than 30 years Richard Ruff has worked with the Fortune 1000 to craft sales training programs that make a difference. Working with market leaders Dick has learned that today's great sales force significantly differs from yesterday. So, Sales Momentum offers firms effective sales training programs affordably priced. Dick is the co-author of Parlez-Vous Business, to help sales people have smart business conversations with customers, and the Sales Training Connection.


  1. . . . I don’t know who coined that idea, but it’s well stated. Universities in general, and business programs in particular have sniffed at the idea of integrating sales and selling into their undergraduate and MBA programs. I think it’s because they regard Sales as an academic program as too gooey, too messy, and too pedestrian. And, it’s rare to find professors whose career paths straddle professional selling and academia. So for now, the closest we can get with most programs is Marketing, which as we know, just ain’t the same.

    My alma mater, UVa’s McIntire School of Commerce, is the #2 ranked undergraduate business program in the US, and I have served on their alumni Advisory Board. Though their Marketing Concentration page mentions ‘sales’ careers in the Why Choose Marketing? section (twice, actually, in the same sentence!), the school offers no sales-specific courses for that curriculum.

    That presents an opportunity for McIntire and other business school programs that must compete for top students not only with other schools, but within their own institutions. What better way than to develop a hard-to-replicate course offering in sales strategy. And the skills mastered transfer to almost every profession.

    As you might expect, I have encouraged the McIntire faculty to consider including course content in selling. As a beginning step, I have created a McIntire Business Development Professionals group on LinkedIn, and I encourage any alum responsible for revenue generation to join.

    If other business schools created similar groups, they would find that a sizable number of graduates are responsible for selling, even though they don’t necessarily carry the title. In all likelihood, those professionals developed their sales skills ‘on the street.’ Why not in the classroom, as well?


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