Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

An Exploratory Analysis of Student Exposure to Personal Selling: An MBA Perspective

Academic journal article Academy of Educational Leadership Journal

An Exploratory Analysis of Student Exposure to Personal Selling: An MBA Perspective

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

For most businesses, maintaining an exceptional sales force has been a continual challenge. Today, these challenges seem greater because demand for sales talent has been described as 'skyrocketing' (Galea 2006; Hoffmeister 2008). Increases in demand are illustrated by reports indicating it is taking longer to fill open sales positions and that compensation in sales is growing at a rate double that of other corporate positions (Nachnani 2007). A separate report revealed the results of a survey of managers which concluded that the most difficult job to fill with qualified applicants was the sales job (Galea 2006). Based on these reports, it could be suggested that firms need to continually seek new sources of potential sales personnel. Colleges and universities represent one of the sources identified to cope with the increased demand for sales talent (Bristow, Gulati, Amyx and Slack 2006; Hoffmeister 2008; Nachnani 2007; Simon 2006). One result of the current recruiting focus of seeking sales talent from students at colleges and universities is that sales has recently been described as one of the top 10 jobs for college graduates (National Association of Colleges and Employers 2006).

While businesses recognize college graduates represent a prime source of talented individuals, these firms also realize these graduates need proper backgrounds to succeed in sales. Companies are seeking individuals who have an understanding of sales and an appreciation of the importance of sales because these attributes reduce both training and associated selection costs (Sales and Marketing Management 2002). According to one recruiter, selecting students who have focused on sales offers "... the difference between (hiring) a student who wants to make sales a profession, or hiring a student who majored in marketing but couldn't get a job in advertising (Simon 2006, p. 40)."

The sales role is becoming increasingly complex changes in the sales position have been described as an organizational "shift from selling products to selling solutions and as managing complex internal and external silo-spanning deals" (Nachnani 2007, p. 15). Thus, the sales job has been described as changing from one in which the main focus was on making the sale to one in which the position requires a variety of additional responsibilities. These additional responsibilities include: developing knowledge about customers' businesses, making operational decisions on topics relating to resources, developing new services, understanding buyer behavior, gathering information, conducting market analyses, developing sales forecasts, and using new technologies (Ellis 2000).

As a way of responding to the challenges and complexities facing today's salesperson, firms are increasingly seeking individuals with Masters in Business Administration (MBA) degrees (Pullins and Buehrer 2008), or are funding graduate studies for their salespeople in the belief that an MBA will give their sales representatives advantages in the competitive and complex sales industry (Butler 2007). A quote attributed to John Lanning, Sales & Marketing recruiter and Training Manager for 3M states, "What is going to be needed in the near future for those individuals wishing to be promoted into sales leadership positions is an MBA... The belief is that an MBA allows the individual to blend textbook knowledge of sales strategy, sales management, sales ethics, etc. with what 3M calls the 'voice of the customer'" (Pullins and Buehrer 2008, p. 15). These arguments indicate firms are not only looking to universities as a prime source of new salespeople, companies are even reaching into graduate programs. A report by Simon (2006) indicates that students are recognizing the importance of sales opportunities. For example, at MIT's Sloan School of Management a sales-related course in their MBA program was offered, this course had an enrollment of 110 students, but only 55 open seats. …

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