New program at ASU teaches sales skills, professionalism

by Michael Wilkey ([email protected]) 181 views 

Arkansas State University junior Tristan Adkins said he wants to work for a venture capital firm in Northwest Arkansas with analytics and numbers when he graduates. However, he said the best route to take for getting the job is to first learn sales.

The Wood Sales Leadership Center at Arkansas State University started in January 2016 with about 24 students, said Dr. Shane Hunt, dean of the College of Business. The Robert “Bob” Wood family donated $1 million to the ASU College of Business in October 2015 to help create the center.

Hunt said the center, modeled after similar ones at Florida State and LSU, has a meeting room, two recording studios and satellite links to allow people to teleconference.

“It is huge,” Hunt said, noting the program will meet a need for developing sales people. “I have not met anyone in business who hasn’t said they need talented sales people.”

The plan has called for the development of a bachelor’s degree in marketing with an emphasis in sales as well as a minor degree in sales, Hunt said. The students will learn core business classes as well as accounting, sales and marketing, plus supply chain marketing as part of the four-year program, Hunt said.

As for occupations, Hunt said the program will be geared toward several industries including banking, real estate, insurance companies and non-profit organizations. There is also a professional component to the program, Hunt said, noting students will get an opportunity to do internships at businesses. Adkins said the internship option was important to him and that the program will allow him to network.

“They say there is a shortage. In a recession, companies are always looking to hire sales people, not public relations, not marketing but sales,” Adkins said.

The numbers seem to bear this out. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the employment of sales occupations nationwide is expected to grow at least 5% between now and 2024 with about 780,000 jobs created.

BLS figures show that sales engineers, with a bachelor’s degree, may annually earn up to $96,340, while sales people in the financial services area with a bachelor’s degree may earn $72,070.

Adkins said he has learned that sales has changed especially dealing with social media and the new information age.

“It is about how you provide services, build relationship and solve deep, imbedded problems,” Adkins said.

Adkins also said there is an expectation by professors to act and look professional in the classroom just like in the real world. Hunt said the program also has an advisory board, made up of companies like Aflac and the Memphis Grizzlies, to help students stay up to date on professionalism and other ways to build their career.

“What we have done is absolutely transformational. What the Wood Family has done, we are eternally grateful,” Hunt said.