Guess what is missing from the MBA program? Sales!
I’m now two and half years into the part-time MBA program with Boston University with a little less than one year to go. One thing that surprises me the most is the lack of Sales Management class in the core program. I was educated about managerial accounting, finance, operation management, organizational behavior, marketing, economics and corporate strategy, but not a word about sales. When I got to the time to select my electives I knew that something was missing, so I found only one class called Entrepreneurial Sales Strategy (that I later heard was offered only every other year) and signed up for it. Only one class in the whole program that talks about sales. When I checked with my friends who went to other universities for their MBAs I was even more surprised to hear that this is the common case. Sales is not part of the MBA program!
The irony is that Sales (as I was reminded by my Sales Management professor during our very first class) is the only activity that contribute to the positive side of the income statement.
I’ve learned a ton about running a business so far, but this class was the most transformative one in the MBA program for me. It does make sense to allocate this class later in the program after understanding key frameworks like DuPont analysis, Five Forces analysis, the time value of money, pricing, marketing positioning, among others, yet sales management can help to tie all these things together in a coherent manner with a very clear goal in mind.
Here are some of the key subjects from the Entrepreneurial Sales Strategy class:
- Business Models and Value Propositions
- Building a sales organization – hiring, compensation, organization, and management
- Direct, Indirect and Channel Sales Strategies
- Importance and development of strategic partners and alliances
- Understanding the Selling Process and Sales Cycles
- Implementing Pipeline Management Principles and Forecasting Techniques
- Repeatable Sales Models – what they are and why they are important
- Keys to successful selling including Solution (consultative) selling vs. product selling
- Sales Management, Positioning a sales force as a barrier to entry - differentiation and competitive advantage
- Major Account Selling, Team Selling, Global Sales Strategies
During the course we participated in two team sales activities:
- Sales Challenge – the objective of this activity was to engage in a complete sales process including building the value proposition and sales funnel, leads generation, leads qualification, cold calling, navigating the target organization, and closing. We had to convince a VP of Sales from a company with over 100MM annual revenue to participate in a panel with more VP of Sales from other industries at the university in one of the class evening.
- Sales Audit – each team was assigned a company(a real one), to execute a complete sales strategy and management auditing consulting project, and to come up with recommendations. We got the chance to meet with the CEO and VP of sales in the assigned company, to hear about the strategy and sales activities, and to gain access to real business data.
- The Sales Audit project was one of the highlight of my MBA program so far, I learned during this activity more than I could ever learn from case studies discussions in class. This company is a young SaaS company (Software as a Service), selling mainly through partners (MSP/VAR) and growing their booking more than 45% in 2012. We mapped their entire sales process, identified areas for improvements, and came up with two major recommendation plus other areas for further research. After delivering the presentation in class we also travel back to the company to report our findings.
The key outcomes from this projects were:
We made a difference – the company is actually revamping it sales process following some of the input from our recommendations.
We build great relationships with the CEO and VP of Sales
One of our team mate who graduated after this class was hired by this company
We earned a real consulting experience and learned how sales works in the real business world
We got an A
I know I did good choosing Boston University for my MBA program!!
In summary, the motivation for writing this post came as a result of a comment I heard during our second visit to the company that we audited, it came from both the CEO and the VP of Sales saying that this material was never taught in their MBA program(one of those was done at Stanford). I believe that Sales Strategy and Management are a core managerial skills, even if you end up working as a general manager, business or financial analyst, in operation, it is important to understand your value proposition to the organization and how your activities contribute to the sales activities. For the ones going for an MBA program with the aim working in Sales, Marketing, Strategy, or to start their own business, learning about sales is a must!!