Students benefit from sales leadership program
Published: Monday, September 16, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 16, 2013 00:09
The Sales Leadership Program has been helping undergraduate students secure jobs in professional sales since 2001, but according to program leader and instructor William Ryan, not enough students are aware of the program until it’s too late for them to take the prerequisite classes necessary for program entry.
The program includes a set of required classes (Intro to Marketing Management, Professional Selling, Sales Management and Leadership, and a Sales Internship), roleplaying exercises, competitions, networking events and guest lecturers who discuss various topics in sales management. Students who complete the program can graduate with either a Certificate or a Minor in Professional Sales.
The Program hosts about a hundred students every year, many of whom are majoring outside of the School of Business, pursuing degrees such as communications, economics and sports management.
“Half [of our students] really want to go into sales,” said Ryan. “The other half recognize the value of sales in other fields. You’re always selling your ideas.”
Professor Mary Caravella, who teaches Professional Selling, agrees that the skills gained from the program can be applied to careers outside of sales. “The program covers a lot of the general skills that are helpful not only to get a job but to be successful in their job,” said Caravella.
Ryan, who began working with the program in 2011, comes from a strong marketing background.
“I’ve got a good feel for what companies are looking for,” explained Ryan. According to Ryan, the program’s curriculum has become more experiential, having been enhanced through the addition of internships and hands-on activities.
“[The students] learn the academics of sales, and also really understand how a sale works in the business world,” said Ryan.
One of the program’s biggest draws is that it connects students with employers. This Tuesday, students will hear a guest from Enterprise speak about the importance of customer relationships. Students have the opportunity to role-play with companies and the companies provide students with feedback.
The Sales Leadership Program at UConn hosts its own trade shows in which all students in the program can practice their sales skills. The program also sends two students to a regional and a national sales competition every year. The Northeast Intercollegiate Sales Competition at Bryant University is coming up this November and the National Collegiate Sales Competition at
Kennesaw State University in Georgia will be held in March.
At these competitions students are filmed as they pretend to sell a product to a consumer and are then judged by a panel.
Ryan said that participation in these competitions is “considered to be a marquee resume builder.”
More and more colleges are realizing the importance of sales education, according to Ryan.
“Sales programs at colleges are growing nationally. Twenty years ago there were a handful of schools that offered a sales track. Now there are upwards of a hundred,” he said.
“Many companies are geared up to hire college graduates right out of school. We’re talking Fortune 500 companies,” said Ryan. These companies all have sales training programs for new employees to “learn about the customer, the product, and the service.”
Ryan says that he is impressed with the success of the program’s alumni. “It’s really amazing how many UConn grads have moved up in the companies and are doing really well,” said Ryan. “Now they’re in management, and they like hiring UConn people.”
Chris Czarnowski, who graduated in 2012, competed in the National Collegiate Sales Competition during his senior year and participated in a sales focused internship during his junior year.
“The program helped me significantly in securing and succeeding in my current career,” said Czarnowski, who met a Human Resource director from his current employer Tyco Integrated Security at a mock trade show. “Practice of the sales cycle and fully understanding the theory behind it has helped me to succeed at work.”
Julia Zaslavsky, a 7th-semester marketing major and communication science minor, said she joined the program because she wanted to learn more about the field of sales and get some experience before deciding on a career.
“This program would be great for someone who is interested in a career in sales or someone who is looking to develop their communication skills,” said Zaslavsky, who will be graduating this coming May. “The program has helped me feel more confident interacting with others, especially in a business setting. Someone who is really personable and communicates well would succeed in this program.”