A Sales Enablement Shout-out to Our Colleagues in Academia

When I was recently in San Francisco, with 170,000 of my closest friends attending Dreamforce, I ran into Dr. Robert Peterson, White Lodging Professor of Sales at Northern Illinois University’s College of Business. Talking to Robert made me flashback to the start of my own sales career. IBM took a chance hiring a recent college graduate with a BS and MA in Counseling (never took a business course in my life) to be a Marketing Representative.

For a full year, I took part in an extensive training program to learn skills such as conducting a client-focused needs analysis, configuring solutions, competitive differentiation, strategic account planning, territory management, forecast management, negotiations, etc.  It was an amazing experience, and a very costly investment on the part of IBM. For those of us who had the opportunity to take part in programs at companies like Proctor & Gamble, Xerox, ADP, etc., the education we received changed our lives.

Fast forward to today, at a time when sales is more complex than ever, I cannot name a single company that is offering that level of training to their sales force. So how can sales professionals develop the full set of skills and capabilities they need to effectively engage and service customers? One resource that is stepping in to help educate the next generation of sales professionals is the University Sales Center Alliance.

I have had the opportunity to serve on the board for the Center of Professional Selling at Baylor University, and have work directly with other programs at the University of Toledo, William Paterson University, the College of William & Mary, the University of Georgia, etc. In doing so, I have seen firsthand the amazing work these institutions are doing. The programs they have designed advocate for the continuing advancement of sales as a true career profession (versus something you do until you get a real job inside a company). The troubling thing is that the impressive work of these universities far too often flies under the radar of many of us in the world of sales.

After talking to Robert, I realized that over the past couple of years I have been personally remiss in reaching out to offer my help as an advocate for the work that they do. So to my fellow colleagues is world of sales let me invite to learn more about how academia is supporting the profession you have chosen.

If you click on the following link, you can access the full list of the members of the University Sales Center Alliance. I Invite you to find out more about what these institutions are doing, and look for ways to support their efforts. One great way to get involved is to become a volunteer to, or sponsor of, the annual National Collegiate Sales Association Competition. If you do so you will get a chance to watch these students compete against each other in role-play situations, and you can see for yourself the amazing sales professionals these programs are turning out.

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