By Mike McCue, Editor-in-Chief, Sales and Marketing Managment
I recently made a road trip from Cleveland to Chicago to sit in on part of a strategic planning meeting for The University Sales Education Foundation. The USEF is a nonprofit organization created by the Dayton, Ohio-based HR Chally Group, an industry leader in sales force testing and development.
The goal of USEF is to establish and support effective university sales programs, as well as to manage funds raised for colleges and universities with verified sales education curriculums.
I have written before about the improvements that the profession of sales has made in recent years, from a public relations standpoint. The awkwardness that comes from “hard selling” is largely a thing of the past, with today’s top-performing salespeople serving as industry experts and advisors to their customers. And that’s a beautiful thing. Modern methodologies and technological developments have increased the development of selling as a measurable science--rather than a nebulous art form--and USEF is the kind of organization that can keep that momentum rolling.
Today’s salespeople are better educated than ever before (...another trend you’ll see in coming years). A handful of pioneering universities already have formal sales programs in place, and an internal survey of S&MM readers showed that 59% of respondents planned on one day moving into a non-sales position in the C-suite. The survey size was small, but that’s a hefty percentage, and those who have eyes on the corner office need to know more than closing, selling and forecasting. They need to perfect their selling skills, but they also to learn the language of finance, and formal university programs are giving them those skills.
Regardless of what career path future salespeople decide to take, they'll be better prepared to meet the challenges thanks to efforts like USEF. Howard Stevens, founder and CEO of HR Chally, points out that if salespeople can’t speak the language of finance, they’re going to have a difficult time serving as the trusted business advisors their clients need.
One of the key findings Chally has found over its years of research is that world-class salespeople consider themselves a kind of outsourced manager for a given segment of their customers’ businesses. To do that, they will need to rely on a broader base of business knowledge than can be gleaned from sales experience alone.
“Very few salespeople today can read and interpret a P&L,” Stevens says. “There are a lot more reasons than that to get a real education … but I think it’s an excellent starting point.”
These programs deserve all of the support we can give them. Never forget that rising water lifts all of the boats, including your own!