Professional sales center prepares students to hit the ground running in a relationship-building career.
Students (l to r) Olivia O’Dea, Nico Roman and Maggie Beeler present to Omron Corp. at a technical sales competition.
By Jennifer Anderson
Professional salespeople know that meetings with new clients often don’t go as planned. They’re also aware that how they handle a hiccup can determine whether they close the deal or walk away empty-handed.
Marquette students who made it into the final round of last fall’s sales competition held by the College of Business Administration’s new Center for Professional Selling got a taste of that real-world scenario when their mock meeting with a friendly potential customer was interrupted by a far crankier colleague with complaints about safety issues.
“We wanted to see, in the moment, with the pressure the students were under and in front of all their peers, if they would be able to pause, hear the customer’s concerns and respond with empathy and a true solution,” explains Dr. Jessica Ogilvie, the center’s director and associate professor of marketing. “With that twist, we challenged them to both adapt their pitch to the new information and act compassionately.”
The importance of empathy in any relationship is at the heart of what the program aims to teach its sales students. “The companies we work with love that the first two years of a student’s college career at Marquette are focused on learning how to be a servant leader,” Ogilvie says.
For recent graduate Stephen Poorten, Bus Ad ’22, one of the appealing benefits of the sales program is the emphasis placed on going to work for companies that “align with our values.”
“I had the chance to work with and get to know some amazing companies,” he says. “It’s really a mutually beneficial relationship that creates a talent pool for businesses and provides students with great career opportunities that they’re well prepared for.”
Marquette’s Center for Professional Selling is the only offering of its kind at a Catholic, Jesuit university. It offers three courses — professional selling, sales management and advanced professional selling — and students can earn either a concentration or minor in professional selling. The curriculum is designed to provide students with a pragmatic, ethical and applied-learning experience. As a result of this specialized education, graduates average 2.8 job offers before graduation, find success 50 percent faster than non-sales educated peers and report a 77 percent career satisfaction rating, in part due to the positive partnerships they build with their clients.
“For a salesperson to have long-term success, the selling needs to be relationship focused and not strictly transactional; it’s not about identifying a weakness and exploiting it,” says Dr. Alexander Milovic, assistant professor of practice of marketing. “We try to dispel this myth of the used-car salesman and teach our students that strong ethics are at the heart of any lasting business professional relationship.”