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February 08. 2014 12:13AM

Christopher Thompson's Closing the Deal: A sales lesson begins


 

Last week, my column, "A Brilliant Move by SNHU," highlighted the recent launch of a minor in professional selling offered by Southern NH University. I received a lot of feedback from readers, mostly those working in business and in sales. I also received a note from Bob Nadeau, a professor at Plymouth State University who directs the school's Professional Sales Program.

Bob agreed that teaching sales in universities is long overdue. Bob also shared a statistic that I found very interesting. Of the 4,158 public and private colleges and universities in the United States, only about 100 teach sales. Bob also referenced a study that found professionals in non-sales jobs spend 41 percent of their time influencing, persuading and convincing others.

In other words, they are selling.

Bob also pointed out that PSU launched its sales program in 2008 and that the only other recognized programs in the Northeast are offered by Bryant University and the University of Connecticut. PSU's sales program, he said, is larger than Bryant and UConn combined, in terms of enrolled students. So when it comes to New Hampshire universities, PSU blazed the trail.

With UNH also launching a sales program two years ago, it's great to see New Hampshire universities being ahead of the curve when it comes to teaching students real life skills. For that reason, students studying at these state universities should consider themselves fortunate.

Micheline Anstey, the professor at SNHU I mentioned in my column last week, invited me to be part of her professional selling class and help prepare her students for a sales-related project they will be working on this semester. As part of the project, I gave the students an overview of the company I work for and the specific product they will be selling. I then gave them an overview of the prospect they will be selling to.

From there, the students will work on researching both the prospect as well as familiarizing themselves with the company and product they are selling. It's not going to be easy. There's a lot to learn and a lot of research they'll need to do in order to effectively prepare for their final project: a role play-style presentation in front of their peers, professor and judges from local businesses.

This type of real world experience is invaluable. As I pointed out during my discussion with the students, it doesn't get more real life than the assignment they have this semester. As a matter of fact, it's the same exact assignment I give to people I am interviewing for sales positions.

During the interview process, once candidates make it through the first few phone screens, we give them a research assignment. That research assignment consists of researching a prospect company and also researching the company they are interviewing with.

They then have to document their research and make an attempt to make a link with how the company and product offerings will help address the prospect's business needs and issues. It's a challenging assignment, but one that demonstrates their business acumen, written communication skills and overall sales ability.

It's almost guaranteed each student will finish the semester with acquired skills they can apply immediately to real life situations, either on the job or during the interview process they will go through to begin a career in sales or some other related position.

I'm thankful for the opportunity to impact each of the students' success and hope they find value in my involvement.

Christopher Thompson (cthompson@catch22solutions.com) writes "Closing the Deal" weekly for the New Hampshire Sunday News.


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