Colorful graphics in student sales proposals, above, one of the assignments for the Professional Sales Readiness course.
“In any aspect of life, you are selling yourself to others. Sales relates to life more than you’d imagine.” — Dustin Highnote, OSU Sudent
College students discover that professional sales is a realistic career choice in a new course in the Fisher College of Business at The Ohio State University. The Professional Sales Readiness course offers sales education and certification in a virtual classroom through a licensing partnership between Fisher College of Business and Virtanza.
Eight OSU students received certification in Professional Sales Readiness this summer during the inaugural class May 8-June 27. Enrollment is now underway for the course’s fall class, which starts Aug. 30. The for-credit course is open to business and non-business majors.
Dustin Highnote enrolled in Sales Readiness because the course was a summer business course open to non-business-majors. He quickly learned that his stereotypical concept of the “used-car salesman” is not a true reflection of the craft of consultative sales. “I was not thinking of sales at all when I came into the course,” Highnote says. “But after getting into the course, and seeing what is actually involved, I’m thinking about it.” He plans to expand his future job search to include sales positions.
‘Seeing where that takes me …’
John Urbine’s eyes were opened by the course, too. “I am considering a sales job between undergrad and grad school and seeing where that takes me,” Urbine says. “Even if you don’t work in a sales-centric role, the concepts regarding negotiation and selling are applicable to just about any other job imaginable.”
The course teaches the four-step Virtanza Sales Process. This presents sales as a straightforward series of steps for doing research, building a relationship, presenting the customer with a solution, and maintaining ongoing supportive contact. It’s not about hard sell or “pitching.” The course begins with a highly predictive personality assessment. The Chally Sales Assessment gives students a look at their natural match to 13 different types of sales roles. Case study scenarios of customer situations involving real companies are the basis for role-play practice assignments. Job-hunting students are afforded access to interview with these same companies. This unique and important education-to-work pathway is a Virtanza hallmark.
On-target preparation to succeed
For example, Dana Saul came to the course knowing she wanted to pursue a career in sales. She’s now working as a sales intern for Updox, one of the companies whose customer scenario is the basis for a role-play assignment. Updox offered students the opportunity to interview for the internship, and Dana jumped at the chance. Updox is a collaboration platform that helps healthcare companies manage business relationships with patients, vendors, and other stakeholders. Saul emphasizes that her class experience was on-target preparation for joining Updox. “I sit in the sales department at Updox and hear people doing their sales calls,” she says. “It’s so similar to the presentation I made for my Updox proposal. What we did in class is exactly what salespeople do every day!”
The Virtanza partnership highlights many of Fisher’s strategic priorities in undergraduate education. These include the use of technology and opportunities to apply classroom insights to real-world scenarios and challenges. The aim is to prepare the next generation of leaders for technology-enabled sales roles. Why? A February 2019 Indeed snapshot shows that 31 percent — or 1.1 million — of U.S. job vacancies are in sales. A 2017 Bureau of Labor Statistics study projected that employers will need to re-staff 3.9 million sales jobs in 2019.
Students meet remotely in ‘virtual’ classroom
Professional Sales Readiness is taught via the Webex video conferencing platform. According to instructor Bernice Burns, the remote classroom was a new experience for most students yet presented no technical challenges for them. Connecting through Webex at the appointed class time, participating in discussions, and even being videotaped during role-plays quickly became routine.
In addition to Burns, a veteran sales professional, the course featured guest lecturer Debbie Holzkamp, the founder of Virtanza. Both place a high value on being easily accessible to offer support and guidance to students. Further, they welcome student suggestions for course enhancements.
The course is fast-paced, Burns cautions in the first session. Highnote definitely concurs. “Keep up with it!” he advises future students. Assignments range from a “reflections” paper about their sales survey profile to preparing a complex customer proposal in MS Word and PowerPoint. This is delivered in front of the group and videotaped for feedback and coaching. Pairs of students are assigned to work together on scenarios involving a specific customer. Each is responsible for his or her own presentation. Yet they also have the bonus of a partner to practice with for coaching. Highnote was paired with Makaya Johnson for two role-play assignments on the needs assessment step in the Virtanza Sales Process. The two launched their own virtual classroom: They met and practiced by video chat on Facebook Messenger. They took turns being the customer and the sales associate asking questions to determine customer needs.
Professional Sales Readiness takes a holistic approach to sales career exploration. It teaches sales skills, negotiation techniques, even how to handle various personality types. But there’s more. The strong sales-related content is complemented with in-depth individual skills analysis, personal branding, and resume instruction. The curriculum and instruction are designed to gradually build students’ skills and their confidence in their abilities.
Led by industry veteran Debbie Holzkamp to respond to the urgent need for sales education and job placement, Virtanza is equipped to transform the professional sales candidate market with its unique education curricula and placement solution. Virtanza offers practical, effective sales programs for higher education and bridges the gap between recruiters and candidates.