The university of selling

Until now, there has been no officially recognised benchmark for selling at tertiary level nor salespeople who can claim a university qualification as their own.

On the other hand accounting, finance, marketing, production, engineering, business administration, IT, research & design, human resources, logistics, procurement and even entrepreneurship all have recognised tertiary qualifications in the business stream with many proud graduates.

The nature of the sales role is one that demands practical implementation, so many salespeople have and still do learn and study on the job, never being formally educated or recognised for their efforts. Like tradesmen, they serve an ‘apprenticeship’ (formal or otherwise) that takes them through the various stages of development until they can stand alone, un-supervised. So, yes, they may not have university degrees and may not have studied for three years on a trot to become a ‘qualified’ salesperson, but they are skilful and just as competent as other tertiary qualified business executives.

From a distance, especially to the non-salesperson, you cannot see the level of detail and knowledge salespeople need to learn, develop and apply in order to be effective and successful. Salespeople get trained (formally in some cases but usually informally) over years and learn about their products and services; about their competitors and their products and services, about their markets, customers and their businesses, about marketing and about relationship building; about production, distribution and financial issues.

They learn to understand costs and margins – if not the use of models, then certainly the practical application of them. And in the process, they learn some 18 different selling skills and capabilities just to be effective. If they don’t do that, their chances of being a success are almost null. And even when they have learned all of these things, there is no guarantee that they will be allowed any more responsibility or be taken seriously by senior management or the business as a whole.

Selling as a career, for too long, has been trivialised, even disrespected by management, academics and even by young adults going into business. Do you ever hear anyone tell you that they are consciously choosing selling as a career?

Well, times are indeed changing. With product no longer central to the sales process, every self-respecting business person is realising that without an effective sales operation organisations aren’t going to generate the revenue and margins needed to sustain the business, let alone grow it. People of all persuasions are now aware that selling is everybody’s business and you can indeed learn how to be a really effective sales professional now with the added cache of a tertiary qualification.

Companies like Dentsply, a leading dental supply company, believe in investing in training, coaching and developing their sales force to the highest standards to ensure their clients and their own people can really prosper and flourish and have done so for many years. That is why Dentsply, along with an industrial supply company, are the first companies to have their entire Australian and New Zealand sales force be the very first salespeople to earn a tertiary qualification in sales via a Diploma of Business with Swinburne University of Technology.

As of July 2013, Australia now has 50 professional salespeople with a tertiary qualification solely centred on the profession of selling working directly in the field with clients; and the results are proving very exciting for these sales professionals, their clients and their companies.

For me, personally, this has been a long-held dream. Since 1999 I have wanted to see the sales profession have a place on the university curriculum. Many, many phone calls and meetings later we have arrived at a Diploma of Business which, as far as I am concerned, is just the start.

Now individuals, businesses and sales leaders everywhere can invest in themselves and/or their salespeople and get tertiary qualified. This will help them reduce the ‘learn to earn’ curve time frame, shorten the sales development cycle and fast-track their return on investment and make more and better sales. And finally salespeople can now stand shoulder to shoulder with their business colleagues, having now earned their professional status and place at the university and boardroom tables.

If you want more information about the Sales Essentials Program and how to get a Diploma of Business, please contact us on 03 9533 0000. You or your team may also qualify for government funding.

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.


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