Sales Management Digest

Speaking to Sales Stars of the Future
Selling Power Editors
Ask sales professionals how they learned how to sell, and the answer will likely be "on the job." With a mission to "promote the profession of sales and its role as the driving force to the global economy," the University Sales Education Foundation hopes to change that answer for future generations. In this Q&A, USEF director of research and board member Jason Jordan discusses how sales leaders can give back by speaking to students of selling and what they can gain in return.

Selling Power: Why do you think it's important for sales leaders to speak to students of selling and share their knowledge?

Jason Jordan: There is an interesting distinction between salespeople and other professionals. Unlike accountants, lawyers, and doctors, most salespeople in the workforce today never studied their craft in an academic setting. They have vast practical experience with some sales training, but few have a formal education in sales because universities only recently began adding sales programs to their curriculum. And conversely, most students do not have any practical experience in sales. My experience is that the students love to hear real-life stories from the field, while sales leaders are fascinated to see the discipline of sales being taught in an academic setting. There's an interesting interplay between the two groups, since neither has the experiences of the other.

Selling Power: What resources can sales leaders use to find speaking opportunities?

Jordan: The best resource right now is the University Sales Education Foundation, which is an organization committed to promoting sales education in universities and colleges. We publish annually a list of schools that have formal sales programs, along with contact information for each. That would be a great way to identify some schools where the leaders could engage and add some real value.

Selling Power: When presenting to an audience of students, what are some good ways to connect with them?

Jordan: Again, though many of the schools require a sales internship, students still don't have deep experience with customers. They are naturally excited to hear success stories and other tactical insights that a sales leader would be able to provide. A day in the life of a salesperson would be a great topic to get students quickly engaged and interacting with the sales leader.

Selling Power: What are some important things to keep in mind when preparing a presentation or talk?

Jordan: Remember that the students are relatively new to the field, so be sure to provide a lot of context about your sales reps: what they sell, on whom they call, the keys to success, the common hurdles, etc. Things like this will help students ground themselves and lead to a richer discussion.

Selling Power: What can sales leaders learn from this process? What do they get out of it?

Jordan: I have never known a sales leader to visit one of these sales programs and not walk away impressed by the students and invigorated by the experience. The students are so motivated to succeed in sales that their energy is contagious; however, there are more practical reasons to engage with a sales program, such as hiring future stars. Our research shows that students from sales programs ramp up 50 percent faster and are 30 percent less likely to quit in the first year than their peers without a formal education. Anyone who hires salespeople with one to three years of experience should explore these programs as fertile hiring grounds.
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