Saturday, November 7, 2015

I have been associated with the commercial environment for over 20 years overseeing both sales and marketing functions. During all these years, I have conducted hundreds of interviews for sales and marketing positions. Where it was always very straightforward to outline the education requirements for the marketing functions, I always struggled to mention the right specialized education level in Sales.

While many will argue that this has to be MBA, I rarely or perhaps never discovered any candidate carry an MBA degree with Sales as a specialization. Majority had either Marketing, Management or International business as a specialization. The reason for this trend is that very few business schools actually offer a full-fledged course in Sales while majority focuses on Marketing and other disciplines. That means Sales has not been reconginised as a specialization but a subset of Marketing and hence not a profession.

This qualification gap in sales has been partially filled by training companies or institutions through their customized programs spread over various modules like Sales process, Negotiations skills, Time Management, Customer Service and others. It is no surprise that whenever I have asked an experienced sales candidate about how he manages their sales funnel, the answer is nothing more than a rolling of the eyes. It is no fault of theirs that they have been pushed into a profession for which a formal education is not available. Many companies claim that they  arrange regular product training programs for their sales people, but the issue is how useful these product training sessions are going be when the salesperson is not familiar with managing the whole process of selling. 

The same topic has been very well covered by Suzanne Fogel, David Hoffmeister, Richard Rocco and Daniel P. Strunk in their article Teaching Sales published in Harward Business review a few years ago. They write " Take a look at the curricula of the world’s top-ranked business schools, and you might come away with the impression that sales is unimportant. Most MBA programs offer no sales-related courses at all, and those that do offer only a single course in sales management. Even at the undergraduate level of business instruction, sales courses are sparse".

While Marketing jobs are glorified and always portrayed as the most critical component of an organization, sales rarely gets the same treatment. It is also no surprise that Marketing people are well versed in technology and use of MS office, while majority of the sales people lags in either one of them. I believe that SALES is the THE most critical function of any organization specially those involved in B2B business, whereas the rest are mainly supporting functions helping sales people to drive more sales and keep customers happy. 

So it is critical that more business schools offer specialized programs in sales so that organisations get a breed of talented sales professionals who from Day One are convinced that they want to make a career in selling. This will not only improve the overall impression of sales people, but help companies make huge savings on earnings, which today are lost due to heavy discounting by sales people, due to inexperience and lack of knowledge of the trade.