By DAN SEUFERT
Union Leader Correspondent
PLYMOUTH — Where salespeople got their college degrees is not likely to come up when someone is trying to clinch a deal with a customer, but employers are beginning to notice, says a professor at Plymouth State University, which is among a growing number of colleges that have added sales degrees to their offerings.
“For years, businesspeople had their own training schools for their salespeople. That’s how it was for a long time,” said professor Robert Nadeau of PSU’s College of Business Administration.
Now, salespeople with college instruction are far better prepared to deal with modern customers, who are far-better informed buyers than in days past.
“Fifty-seven percent of customers are armed to the teeth with information about the products when they arrive,” Nadeau said.
PSU’s Professional Sales Leadership Program, which offers five courses and was started at the university in 2009, has been named one of the best locations for hiring sales professionals by the Sales Education Foundation, which just released its annual list of Top University Sales Programs.
Plymouth State, which offers the degree as a minor or as a certificate, also recently placed in the top 20 schools in the nation at the National Collegiate Sales Competition in Atlanta, the world’s largest sales competition.
Nadeau said his students go through an eight-step consultation sales process, which teaches them skills like advanced networking, how to qualify a prospect, how to build trust with a customer, how to ask a customer or client the right type of questions, how to make an engaging presentation, how to handle objections, how to gain commitment, and how to follow up.
His graduates average a 50 percent faster “ramp-up” time in training and 30 percent less turnover once hired, he said. And sales jobs, even during the worst economic times of recent years, have been plentiful, Nadeau said.
PSU sales program graduates are averaging 2.8 job offers before graduation, and most are starting in jobs making $50,000 or more. After one or two years on the job, many are making $100,000 or more, he said.
It helps that the college has a Sales Advisory Board with companies like Microsoft, IBM, Hewlett-Packard and Grappone Automotive on it, he said.
Jamison Clouthier, a PSU sales graduate who works for Hewlett-Packard’s Americas CloudStrike sales and strategy team, said, “The PSU sales program helped me get my career off the ground by helping me build a solid foundation to what professional sales truly is.
“The program enabled me to practice what had been taught in not just role-plays and classrooms, but at the (Atlanta competition),” Clouthier said.