The professional selling minor at Winona State University (WSU) is quickly becoming one of the most sought after programs within WSU’s School of Business. Not only was the university named as one of the top universities for professional sales education by the Sales Education Foundation, but the program was also recently accepted as an associate member of the University of Sales Center Alliance.
The minor, which was introduced in the fall of 2011, is part of WSU’s marketing department in the College of Business, and it is one of roughly 100 programs like it in the country. “It is wonderful to be recognized; we are very pleased and honored,” said Marianne Collins, WSU Associate Professor of Marketing and Director of the Center for Sales Excellence. “We’re doing everything we can to advance the sales profession at WSU as well as outside of [the university].”
The most recent class of WSU graduates with the professional selling minor averaged more than two job offers, with 100 percent of these students accepting employment since graduation. “The professional selling minor has gotten really popular in the last few years. The job opportunities are just amazing,” Collins explained. “Our students are walking out of the door with multiple job offers and interviews lined up. [Our students have started jobs with] Fastenal, Red Wing Shoes, WinCraft, Oracle, Whirlpool, State Farm and other national companies.”
The professional selling minor offered at WSU has general business requirements, such as economics and accounting, as well as three core courses — professional selling, advance professional selling and sales management — and an experiential requirement, which, for many students, is an internship with a local business. According to Collins, the minor has an emphasis on communication and presentation skills, as well as everyday business interaction with clients and customers. “[The minor] is really broad and expansive,” she said, adding that students have found use in the minor outside of the profession. “You have to sell yourself no matter what you do.”
One of the most important elements of the minor is the hands-on experience that goes into preparing students for a career in sales. This can be an internship, involvement with the WSU sales team, or both. For students on the sales team, which is an extracurricular activity, their practice and competition involves reviewing a product and selling it while being critiqued and filmed by judges. The WSU sales team has seen a lot of growing success, both locally and at a national scale. At the team’s first national competition in 2012, during which it competed against larger universities including the University of Arizona, Florida State University and Michigan State University, the team ranked in the top 50 percent of all universities participating. “It was the first time we had ever competed; we were thrilled to get recognized in the top half,” Collins remembered.
Although competing well is important, Collins said that the exposure to national businesses is a great opportunity for students on the verge of graduation. “After the National Collegiate Sales Competition in Georgia this past spring, one of our students had 18 companies recruiting her,” Collins recalled. “She had to stop answering emails because it was beginning to interfere with her course work.”
As for student internships, Collins mentioned that she receives about a half dozen emails every few weeks from companies interested in internship opportunities with her students.
“These are national companies and the are very interested in the student graduates that we are producing,” Collins proudly said.
The growing popularity of the minor has also led to expansion plans within WSU’s Center for Sales Excellence, which is set to open in the spring of 2015. “We’re building a new sales center by renovating classrooms in Somsen Hall,” explained Collins. The new facility will include a sales lab, which will include a focus group room, a role-playing room for hands-on sales experience, and a classroom that will be primarily dedicated to teaching sales theory and fundamental business communication skills.
Another growing component of the professional selling minor is the advisory board, which is essentially a board of business professionals who work with the program to prepare students for a career in sales. Currently, the board has two members and Collins stated that she hopes local businesses will want to become involved. “Right now we have a WSU grad who works for a pharmaceutical company out East and a Fastenal representative,” she said. “We’re always looking for people [and businesses for the advisory board].”
For more information on the WSU professional selling minor advisory board, contact Marianne Collins at firstname.lastname@example.org.