By Cliff Foster
Sales education is becoming increasingly important at MSU Denver—and for good reason: According to one estimate, nearly 60 percent of all business students are headed for a sales-related job after graduation.
Count Jordan Long among them.
The December marketing graduate has been working at a large John Deere dealership in Commerce City since May. He’s a yard coordinator who keeps track of the comings and goings of machines and attachments and hopes to move into equipment sales.
“I grew up around [agricultural] machinery and know how to use it. It’s just an industry that I like,” he says.
Long, a sales student, represents the kind of candidate companies are looking for—those with sales training and a commitment to the profession. Scott Sherwood, the sales professional in residence, says a business can spend $100,000 to train a professional sales rep, only to see half their trainees leave before the end of the first year.
The School of Business is improving the odds for employers while providing students with an education in the expectations and rewards of a career in sales. The Sales Certificate Program, which brings recruiters and sales professionals into the classroom, is preparing to expand this semester with additional partner-companies and a plan to be formally recognized by the University as a Center for Professional Selling.
The idea of a sales center took shape in fall 2011. For a fee currently set at $5,000 a year, a company gains special access to students taking sales courses and to those pursuing the sales certificate.
A representative of the partner company visits classes throughout the semester, providing advice on issues such as resume-writing and interviewing techniques. In return, the company enjoys an inside track on recruiting candidates educated in sales techniques and skills, cutting down on training costs and improving employee retention.
MSU Denver’s 18 credit-hour Sales Certificate Program, with three core courses [Personal Selling, Advanced Selling, Sales Management] filled out with electives, is open to any junior-level undergraduate student regardless of major. The Marketing Department may offer a minor in sales by the end of spring semester.
The evolving sales center at MSU Denver—the only one in Colorado—currently has three companies signed up: Northwestern Mutual’s Greenwood Village office; Fastenal, a distributor of industrial and construction supplies; and Paycom, which provides payroll services. The center is shooting for 10 partner-companies by the end of the spring semester and perhaps 20 by the end of 2014, giving students more choices and providing the center with a revenue stream to support its operations and develop scholarships.
It also intends to pursue associate membership in the University Sales Center Alliance to raise the profile of the program and its students and help in recruiting companies.
There’s been an uptick in the number of students enrolled in the personal sales class this semester, reports Clay Daughtrey, associate dean of the School of Business. “The more students we get, the more corporate sponsors we can get,” he says. “We need to get interest from all different types of majors on campus, not just the business school.”
And gaining interest shouldn’t be too difficult. Sherwood says sales professionals are in demand and even rookies can start in the $60,000 to $70,000 range.
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