As young academics working at other universities across the United States, three newly hired faculty in the Carson College Department of Marketing and International Business say they were “sold” on WSU when they learned about the potential of developing a professional sales program on the Pullman campus.
Since joining WSU Pullman, this trifecta of faculty sales experts—Bitty Balducci, Kevin Chase, and Alec Pappas, in conjunction with WSU Vancouver leadership—have extended the Center for Professional Sales to WSU Pullman.
The center has successfully prepared students for marketing careers in professional sales and customer account management for years at WSU Vancouver under the direction of marketing professor Ron Pimentel. The program offers a professional sales certificate and collaborates with leading local businesses to provide students with hands-on experience and skills needed for any type of persuasive communication.
Pimentel recently retired, and Julie Nelsen joined WSU Vancouver to serve as the formal director of the system center governing sales education at both WSU Vancouver and WSU Pullman.
“The sales programs at WSU Vancouver and WSU Pullman won’t be expected to do the same things,” says Chip Hunter, Carson College dean. “Students and faculty research areas will be different, but we’ll have one center structure with shared college identity and administrative efficiency.”
The center has the potential to foster research as well as build students’ skills and connect them with job opportunities, he says. “It also builds upon the framework of our Next Carson Coug undergraduate program that develops students’ technical acumen as well as the professional and soft skills that allow them to solve real business problems.”
Sales program accelerates at WSU Pullman
Since the professional sales certificate launched at WSU Pullman, student demand for sales classes has increased dramatically. “We’ve seen staggering enrollment growth since fall 2020—from 30 students to over 200—and 23 students are pursuing sales certificates this year,” says Chase. “We anticipate demand for the professional sales certificate will continue to grow as students get exposure to sales.”
Recent graduate Reed Ellis took his first sales class in fall 2021 and learned more about the breadth of opportunities available in the sales field and effectively engaging with customers. He says one of his favorite things was the interactive nature of the class. “I learn by doing. That was something unique about this class. We practiced role-playing and interacted with other students to help the material sink in.”
Ellis also participated on the sales competition team, a new opportunity traditionally offered at WSU Vancouver but now available at WSU Pullman. Team members compete regionally and nationally in front of sales recruiters and managers. Typical events include both speed selling and multistage role-plays where students compete against each other in mock sales calls. Speed selling is beneficial for the hiring process, as students practice their skills, says Balducci. In this event at the regional and national sales competitions, competitors give a 90-second pitch to ten companies. “It helps students perfect how they express their strengths to employers,” she says. “A concise, clean presentation is essential to a real-life interview in front of employers looking to hire.”
New initiatives attract nonbusiness students and corporate sponsorship
The WSU Pullman sales faculty have established events and competitions exclusive to the WSU Pullman campus, including a fall and spring competition that simulates a 15-minute sales call with a customer, role-played with sales program partners. “Students learn strategy, and it’s a fun way to build their skill set,” says Pappas. “About 40 WSU Pullman students participated in the 2021 inaugural event and about 50 in spring 2022.” Pappas also advises the WSU Pullman Sales Club that’s open to any WSU major. Club activities refine students’ professional development and offer engagement with recruiters, he says.
These new initiatives have sparked interest in partners of the professional sales program where companies help fund activities to recruit students for sales-related roles. Corporate partnerships are available at four different levels, each with six options of engagement benefiting both the partner and the center.
“Most importantly, we see students across WSU benefiting from these efforts,” says Chase, pointing to alumnus JD Vargas (’21), a humanities major who completed the professional sales certificate and sales classes. Upon graduation, Vargas interviewed with more than a dozen companies and received four job offers. He credits much of his success to the skills he learned in the classroom: “Every interview I had revolved around the sales certificate. That’s what got me the interviews in the first place.”
To learn more about the WSU Center for Professional Sales or the WSU Vancouver sales program, please contact Julie Nelsen at firstname.lastname@example.org. To learn more about the WSU Pullman sales, program, please contact Kevin Chase at email@example.com.
Every interview I had revolved around the sales certificate. That’s what got me the interviews in the first place.
– JD Vargas