Sales on the university agenda? The final results

Sales has been excluded from the academic landscape, until now. Barrett is one of the first consultancies to ask the question: Should selling be studied at degree level at university?

Why?

Based on Barrett’s longstanding involvement in sales and the development of sales professionalism, we wanted to fully understand how people think and feel about the profession of selling not being studied at Australian universities and business schools and how strongly they felt about its inclusion.

Specifically, Barrett wanted to delve into the perceptual reputation of the profession of selling within our communities and the “usefulness” of having sales qualifications at degree level that aimed to improve the reputation of the profession and the people in it.

The study attempted to understand the state of existing development for sales professionals and how tertiary education in selling and sales could further assist in ensuring sales and selling is viewed as a profession in its own right.

Barrett’s survey of business professionals was completed mostly by Australian-based business owners and leaders, sales managers and sales professionals, with the majority aged between 31 and 60 years old. Seventy percent of respondents have a graduate degree or above. The survey consisted of 24 questions and the high level results showed that:

  • More than half of respondents (54%) said that selling does not have good reputation.
  • More than 70% agreed that a tertiary qualification would improve the image and reputation of salespeople and would improve their employability, while 82 % agreed it would create better sales standards and better salespeople.
  • 88% say that selling is seen as a vital part of business.
  • 92% agreed that selling should be in university and business school curriculums.
  • Only about 52% of salespeople undertake professional development at least once a year.
  • Less than 19% agreed (or were unsure) that skills and knowledge required in selling are well trained in business and therefore do not require a degree qualification.

The overall findings of the survey were significantly in favour of sales and selling being studied at tertiary or university level, with senior managers and business owners seeing a distinct advantage in developing and employing tertiary-trained sales people.

In qualitative discussions held with salespeople, managers and customers throughout Australia, Barrett learned that it is a general belief that the typical salesperson is less than honest; is likely to cut corners or attempt to trick customers into making a purchase decision; and, even when they interact with the client, their sole focus is the product or service they want to sell rather than the customer’s issues.

Whilst the image and reputation of salespeople today is less than savoury, business does understand its vital importance as a function of success, sustained growth and profitability. What is abundantly clear is that a tertiary qualification in sales would improve the image and reputation of sales. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that there is an overwhelming need to have some form of tertiary qualification associated with sales and selling within Australia.

Sales and academia

A combined 70% (who answered “no” and “not certain”) of respondents suggest that the profession of sales is not taken seriously by academic institutions.

This is obviously a perception, whether realistic or not, that indicates how salespeople view academic institutions. The largest respondent group for this question, 46.8%, believe that selling should be studied at degree level as a separate course, whilst 72.2% believe that selling needs to be on university and business school curriculums, even if not as a formal degree.

Conclusion

Irrespective of whether sales and selling is part of another degree, or a standalone degree (as proposed by 48.8% of respondents), there is overwhelming evidence that a degree in selling is needed. That it should be a degree in its own right is a moot point, though research would tend to point toward it being standalone.

The results prompt us to consider how do we professionalise selling and create a pathway for individuals to become sales professionals.

The thinking and capabilities required to succeed in today’s complex sales environment are in the realms of the standards of MBAs and other business qualifications.

Why is it noted that doctors, engineers, pilots and other skilled professionals invest six to eight years of their own or a business’ money, effort and time into attaining their qualifications, yet the sales industry may have only a few papers within tertiary education? Moreover, other professions are regulated to ensure professional development is a must (legally, that is) and yet a profession like sales and selling, in these markets and times, is seen to be not taken seriously?

Barrett believes it is time selling and sales stepped from the shadows of marketing and MBAs to become a qualification in its own right.

The good news is that for the first time in Australia, selling is on the university agenda. On Wednesday, August 8, partners Barrett and Swinburne University of Technology launched the Barrett Sales Essentials – Australia’s first and only VET accredited, university endorsed sales training and development program providing a Diploma in Business and Certificate IV in Business Sales.

The launch signals major change for Australia’s business sector and salespeople nationally with Barrett’s Sales Essentials also eligible for Victorian and Federal Government funding.

Through the Barrett Sales Essentials Program, businesses now have the opportunity to tertiary qualify their salespeople, increase profit margins and employee retention and recruitment, and promote their commitment to quality sales standards and ethical sales practices.

Salespeople, sales managers and business owners will significantly improve their sales strategies, planning, prospecting and sales approach and behaviours to create sustainable business practices and improve results.

Get your complete copy of the Should selling be studied at degree level at university? white paper here.

Remember, everybody lives by selling something.

Sue Barrett is a sales expert, business speaker, adviser, sales facilitator and entrepreneur and founded Barrett Consulting to provide expert sales consulting, sales training, sales coaching and assessments. Her business Barrett P/L partners with its clients to improve their sales operations. Visit www.barrett.com.au

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