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Where the Good Entry-Level Sales Hires Are

Deeter headshotToday's blog post is by Dawn Deeter, Professor and Director of the National Strategic Selling Institute (NSSI) at Kansas State University and the J.J. Vanier Distinguished Professor of Relational Selling and Marketing. 


Sales leaders face tremendous challenges when trying to find entry-level reps that will succeed out of the starting gate. In fact, as Professor and Director of the National Strategic Selling Institute (NSSI) at Kansas State University, I receive far more calls from businesses seeking to hire salespeople than I do from students looking for jobs.

It’s common to hear stories about what a tough job market college graduates face these days, but most of my students are receiving multiple offers before graduation. However, according to a 2011 Sales Education Foundation article, “ROI: Is a University Education Worth the Price?” the job placement rate for 2009 college graduates was 43.5%, while graduates of university sales programs experience a 90% placement rate. One former student in our K-State NSSI Sales Program, Dan, called me on a Tuesday in July hoping I could help him find a job. I made some calls to our corporate partners; by the end of the week, Dan had several interviews. By the following Tuesday, he had been hired by a great firm to be a sales representative.

At K-State, we are transforming students into salespeople by:

  • Providing real-world experience. Students perform multiple role plays in each class, participate in sales competitions on our campus and at other universities, and take on sales internships.
  • Teaching them how to use sales tools. Students in our Sales Management class, for example, learn how to use salesforce.com. In our Advanced Sales class, students put on a benefit auction to raise funds for our program; as part of the auction each student will make 30-50 cold calls, by phone, to find items for the auction and sell tickets to the auction.
  • Providing a realistic preview of a sales career. Through their role plays, internships, and interactions with sales leaders, students have great insight into their role in the sales organization and what it takes to be successful.
  • Helping build their personal networks. Students interact with “real” sales people inside and outside of class, through our executive mentorship program and interactions with members of our advisory board and corporate partner program.

Howard Stevens, CEO of HR Chally and President of the Sales Education Foundation, notes in the article “The End of Sales Education as We Know It” (2011 Sales Education Annual, Issue 4, p. 47) that graduates of university sales programs:

  • Ramp up 50% faster and are 30% less likely to turn over.
  • Have already demonstrated an aptitude and desire for a sales career.
  • Are more focused and in-tune with the numbers and the sales processes needed to achieve those numbers.
  • Are more aware of the specific skills required to succeed in a sales role.

We are certainly seeing these benefits in our students. As a result of these in-class and extracurricular activities, our students are prepared to hit the ground running in actual sales jobs on day one. They are poised and confident due to their experience gained through role plays, class activities, and internships. One employer told an Advanced Sales student she would start her career with that firm a step above entry level because of her cold-calling and prospecting experiences.

If you are a sales leader seeking to hire well-prepared salespeople, you owe it to your bottom line to check out our program, as well as the other programs across the country. To find a list of programs in your area, check out the University Sales Center Alliance (USCA), a consortium of universities with sales programs working to set quality standards in sales education. Also, explore the Sales Education Foundation, which posts the Top Universities in Sales Education each year.

Where did you find your last great entry-level sales hire? Share your stories in the comments section.

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Craig James

Where can one find the universities and programs that comprise the consortium of universities with sales programs.

This used to be posted somewhere, I believe at SEF, but I can no longer find it. Tthe link at USCA, above (http://www.universitysalescenteralliance.org/memberschools/full/name) yields Page Not Found). The link to the 2014 Top University Sales Programs Listing, above, takes one to the SEF web site, where one finds a link to "2014 Top University Sales Programs Listing", which in turn takes one to a page announcing "SEF publishes 2014 ANNUAL magazine featuring the 'Top Universities for Professional Sales Education' listing, and a link to a Word document containing the text of the announcement - but still no listing.

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