JOSEPH MICELE: Okay. We’ll go ahead and get started. Thank you for everyone who logged in this evening to attend our event. This is the UAB Collat School of Business.
Online Undergraduate Business Degree’s webinar event discussing the business-to-business marketplace, issues and opportunities.
Before I begin this event’s event and introduce our panel, I would just like to go over a few things with you.
You are in a listen-only mode. We are broadcasting this webinar and you should be able to listen through your computer speakers.
You are able to ask questions. You can just type them in the chat box or the Q&A box to the right of the screen. We will have a period towards the end for question-and-answer with our panelists. We will hold questions until that time, but we will make sure that we get your questions answered for you.
You will be able to obtain copies of this evening’s slides. You will also be able to obtain a link to the recording of this webinar. Both the slides and the recording links will be emailed to you tomorrow afternoon.
Okay. Let me go ahead and introduce our panels first. My name is Joe Micele. I will be your moderator for this evening
We are joined tonight by Dr. Michele Bunn, assistant professor at the Collat School of Business and program director for the online Bachelor of Science and Marketing program.
We are also joined by Dr. John D. Hansen, associate professor at the Collat School of Business and director of the Center for Sales Leadership.
Before we turn it over to our panelists this evening for the presentation, just a few quick notes I’d like to review with everyone. First, regarding ranking and accreditation for the University of Alabama at Birmingham and the Collat School of Business, the University of Alabama at Birmingham is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and the Collat School of Business is accredited by the Association to Advanced Collegiate Schools of Business, otherwise known as AACSB.
It has been ranked as having one of the best online Bachelor’s programs by US News and World Reports 2015 rankings of best online programs, and it also has been ranked as having one of the best online graduate business programs. US News and World Reports has also ranked it among the top 14 up and coming schools and the Princeton Review lists the Collat School of Business as one of the nation’s best 295 business schools.
The UAB Collat School of Business Online Undergraduate Programs are 100 percent online degree programs and an extension of UAB’s dynamic traditional campus. It features the same award-winning student oriented faculty as the campus programs. It provides relevant and actionable knowledge by innovative curriculum, technology driven instruction methods and a climate that fosters continuous improvement.
The program provides opportunity for collaboration, networking and relationship building. And you also have access to a 24/7 technical help desk.
I will now go ahead and turn over the presentation to our panel for the evening and we’ll start with Dr. Michele Bunn.
MICHELE BUNN: Welcome, everyone. I’m very pleased to be here this evening with you. Thank you for participating in the webinar. Dr. Hansen and I are going to talk about the business-to-business marketplace this evening for a few reasons. In particular, if you’re thinking about a degree in marketing, you most likely think about business to consumer marketing. And that’s great. It’s a great place to understand what marketing is and what is a marketing strategy, but what we find is that there actually are many more transactions that take place in the business-to-business marketing place. And we think that there are many opportunities.
We’d like to explain business-to-business marketing to you tonight and just expose you to the concept of business-to-business marketing. So what I would like to talk about before I turn it over to Dr. Hansen, we thought we would just take a minute and talk about what it is, business-to-business, and what is business-to-business marketing. There are probably many of you that are on the call that work in the business-to-business environment already and so you may be aware of that, and others may not be.
So we think that because there are so many more transactions taking place here, and because the business-to-business marketing space has really opened up to new technologies and new techniques, we think there are some key trends here that you might want to be aware of and, in particular, some opportunities.
And what you’ll see in the end is why should you care is because we really think that there are some rewarding opportunities for jobs and, in fact, some very high-paying jobs that you might want to consider at the end of your road when you finish you degree and graduated.
So I’d like to start explaining business-to-business very simply. Business-to-business firms meet the needs of other businesses. And so I’d like to walk you through what we call a supply chain and, again, some of you may even work in the supply chain environments.
On the right-hand side here, you see the final customers. Customers can be either consumers or businesses and to meet the needs of those customers, we have retailers and wholesalers. So they’re one part of the many entities in the supply chain.
If you think about retailers and wholesalers and where they store their goods from, we have another sector which is manufacturing. So manufacturers provide goods and services to retailers and wholesalers who, in turn, sell those to you and I (inaudible) consumers to other business customers.
And, of course, manufacturers have to source a great deal of supplies and materials so in this chart I’m showing you on the left side, that manufacturers might buy raw materials are supplied and also equipment.
And then in addition to that, if you think about how the goods and services get to you and I, the consumer, or to the final business customer, there’s another sector that we call business services and facilitators.
So this might include banking to be a business service, consulting, some companies outsource their IT function or payroll function. And then there are other facilitators which would be transportation companies, for example. And those are all key players in this entire network that we call the industry supply chain.
So if you take this whole sector together, each industry has its own supply chain. And I’d like to give you a few examples.
If you look on this chart, all the relationships, all the transactions on this chart are business-to-business transactions except for that little piece on the right that would include sales directly to consumers.
So let me give you a couple of examples. And I’ve been in business-to-business for a long time. It’s actually a pretty exciting field, especially today when we think about this industry supply chain, not just as supply but as value.
So I want you to think about in this next chart how business-to-business entities provide value for consumers and for other businesses. So I actually — if you don’t mind, I have a bag of (inaudible) here that I’m going to open up because I get a little hungry when I’m doing a webinar.
I’ve got some crispy porkies here and what I want you to think about is the fact that when you and I get hungry and demand food products, that creates a demand for many, many products. So the demand for business products is derived from the demand for other products.
For example, I stopped at the 7 Eleven store and picked up my bag of porkies and that 7 Eleven store exists because hungry consumers are stopping by to buy products. I have a problem when I go shopping, if I go in a 7 Eleven store and I start looking at all the business-to-business products that the company has purchased like beverage dispensers, display equipment, cash registers, things like that.
So the only reason those things exist is because you and I love crispy porkies. And that’s why those retail 7 Eleven stores exist.
If you continue up the supply chain there, the snacks were manufactured, of course, exists because we enjoy our snack foods. And I know some of you might be salty snackers, like me, and some of you might be sweet snackers. You might like your donuts and cookies instead, but either way, that creates the demand for business-to-business products.
And, you know, I don’t want to scare you, but if I look at the ingredients on this bag of pork rinds, it includes fried pork skins, salt, sugar, wheat flour, soy flour, monosodium glumate, dehydrated tomato, onion, spices because I got the flavored kind, (inaudible) ground chili pepper and garlic. So these are all the ingredients.
So trust me, I didn’t wake up this morning wishing that I had more dehydrated tomato in my life. But I did wake up thinking this morning I might stop and guy a bag of crispy porkies.
Next time you open a snack bag, have a look at the bag itself. Because the bag itself is actually not a bag. It’s actually mylar film. So, again, you probably didn’t wake up this morning wishing for more mylar film, but if you ate — if you ate some cereal and it was packaged in a bag inside that box, then, you created the demand for the business-to-business product that include mylar films, packing machinery and many other ingredients.
So, you know, I’m having a little (inaudible) here that I wanted to mention another example, and I won’t dwell on it too much. But I just want to show you how in your day-to-day life and when you think about consumer products, you can actually start to think about the number of transactions that take place in the business-to-business environment and how all that demand is created.
So, here, that’s a Toyota Prius. I don’t have one of those. I would like one of those, but in the example here, you can see how our demands for automobiles has created the demand all the way through the supply chain including engines, (inaudible) tires, all the other components, parts that go into an automobile.
So if you look back to my previous slide here, all of these businesses, all of these transactions are business-to-business transactions except for that final sell to the consumer.
So that’s the way that I define business-to-business marketing. And I hope that’s helpful for you to just see how big of a world we have out there in the business-to-business marketplace.
So let me make a few points then about what I think are some of the trends and opportunities. It’s interesting because business-to-business marketing has really just come into its own in the last 16 years. And we are not adopting many of the concepts that has been used in (inaudible) for years before us.
But one of those is the idea of value. And so every company along the supply chain must provide value. What that has done for business-to-business marketers is it’s made them think very differently about their role in the supply chain and how they serve their customers.
And I know that Dr. Hansen’s going to talk about sales in a few minutes and about how sales people are very, very important in providing value to the customers.
The second point that I wanted to make here is that for the most part in business-to-business marketing, we’ve always assumed that the buyers were rational, that somehow, some way, because you are a professional buyer, even though you had emotionally bought some crispy porkies on the way at to work, once you walked in that door for work and had to buy a forklift truck that day, that you left all your emotions outside. And that’s not true. We know business-to-business buyers tend to be more rational because they’re doing it for the job, you know, it’s your job to buy products and might be buying some material paneling equipment or whatever you’re buying, you have to be very systematic and analytical.
But we know that people buy products, not companies, and people have emotions. So, again, when we talked about sales in a little bit, you might consider how important the relationship is and how it plays into those emotions.
The third point I wanted to make here which is a key trend is the millennials. There are many millennials who are moving into the B-to-B buying positions. This is some data from Ad Age (ph) very recent. And it shows that in 2012, 27 percent of B-to-B buying positions were filled by millennials and that had jumped to 46 percent by 2014.
And many of you on the call may be a millennial or you may be an older student returning, nonetheless, in business-to-business, we need to consider that millennials are moving into that B-to-B buying position and they may not buy the same way that older buyers do. They may not get their sources of information from the same places. They’re very tech savvy. We know that. So that’s a big consideration in B-to-B marketing.
And, of course, one of the biggest questions in B-to-B is what should the world with social media be? I know that when social media burst onto the stage, many B-to-B companies said, oh, gosh, we need to be on Facebook, we need to be on LinkedIn, Twitter, and just for the sake of being there, they jumped in with two feet.
Those have settled down a little bit now and many of you may be on LinkedIn. If you’re not, I suggest you start a profile and get into LinkedIn and please by all means, look for me, and invite to connect with you. I’d appreciate it if you mention the webinar. But we see that as one of the key bases for B-to-B marketing, the professional social media tool that’s being used.
We also see a great deal of opportunity for jobs in the social media area and in contents management. So many people who would have previously thought of doing concept marketing for B-to-B have now seen some big opportunities in B-to-B because it’s such a growth area of social media.
And the last point that I wanted to make about some of these key trends and opportunities is the idea of long-term relationships and partnerships. This is a key distinction between B-to-C and B-to-B. I don’t have a close long-term personal relationship with the folks at 7 Eleven that sold me my back of crispy porkies, but if I were a buyer and I bought material handling equipment from manufacturing plants, I would probably have quite a deep and long relationship with the suppliers who we’ve been dealing with for a long time.
And, in fact, when you think about both vendors more in a partnership relationship, just think back to what I was saying earlier about adding value. That long-term relationship, that partnership adds value in a supply chain. So it’s very, very important, and we think that’s another opportunity for those of you that might want to work in B-to-B markets.
So I wanted to click back to this industry supply chain before I turn it over to Dr. Hansen. One of the thing that I tell my students is to think about the career that you would really love, like very often, we have students who would love to work at professional sports, for example. I always wanted to be the marketing manager for the Buffalo Bills, but that’s really a sad story. I know that. But I were passionate about NFL and professional football, then I would think about the supply chain of products that are involved in that industry, if you will.
And so if I can’t be the marketing manager for one of the major NFL teams, maybe I can work in a business-to-business environment for a manufacturer of construction materials that go into some of these stadiums and I would specialize in construction industries that build venues for sporting events.
The reason I say that is because every day I would wake up and I would be in that industry supply chain someway somehow. So it’s another way for you to think what is your passion. Maybe you want to be a golfer. Maybe you want to be a professional singer, whatever it is. If that’s your passion and that doesn’t quite work out for you, there’s another place for you along the supply chain so that every day you wake up in the world of that industry and really feel the passion that you would enjoy.
The other — and the last point that I wanted to make is most times for our graduates and for most graduates with an undergraduate degree in marketing, the entry level position is sales. So if I just add onto this industry supply chain the opportunities for sales, and this is one of the points I was making about if I wanted to work in the sporting industry, I could work somewhere in sales along the supply chain and there’s a great deal of opportunity here.
So with that, I’m going to turn it over to Dr. Hansen. Please be sure to send me your questions and I can answer them afterwards.
So, Dr. Hansen, I’m going to turn it over to you now.
JOHN HANSEN: Great. Thank you, Dr. Bunn. Okay, guys. I want to talk to you about the field of professional selling and though I cannot see you, I would assume that one or two of you are currently rolling your eyes as you hear the word sales. One of the things I oftentimes do when I am teaching my face-to-face classes is ask students, particularly at the start of the term, how many of you are interested in a career in professional selling, and, perhaps, not surprisingly, many students say that they are not. And there’s a variety of reasons for this.
One of those I will note as I proceed forward with this presentation is that we have all been sold to and we have all been sold to poorly. And because of that, the general public tends to hold a consistently negative perception of sales people.
What I’d like to do over the next couple of minutes is talk to you about some of the misperceptions that exist as it relates to professional selling and, more importantly, from your perspective, talk about some opportunities that may exist in this field.
I’m going to take a step back here, and one of the things I wanted to do is talk to you about the results, and I won’t bore you with these, but the results of a pretty significant study that was conducted and finished just a few years back.
This study was conducted over a 14-year span and it encompassed 80,000 professional buyers. So those individuals Dr. Bunn was just talking about, an organization went out and talked to 80,000 of these folks over a 14-year span. And the general premise of the study was pretty simple. They asked these buyers why do you buy what you do, what drives your purchase decisions.
And as you can see here, there were four primary factors identified by the buyers. Those being product, price, the provision of a total solution and then the sales person or, more specifically, sales person competence, knowledge, ability to do the job, things of that sort.
Now, I want to give you some numbers here in terms of how the buyers actually responded. Eighteen percent of the buyers said they buy based on price, not surprisingly. Price is important. Twenty-one percent of the buyers said they buy based on product. Twenty-two percent said they buy based on the provision of a total solution. And that is a solution that is — it works across all facets of their business. It’s not isolated in nature.
However, the most important factor by far driving their purchase decisions was the sales person. Thirty-nine percent of the buyers said they buy based on the sales person.
Now, when I teach my students, I always ask them, does this mean that things, such as product and price are not important? Of course not. It doesn’t mean that at all.
What it does mean is that it’s become increasingly difficult to differentiate on the basis of those two facets of the overall offering. And what more importantly it means as it relates to the sales person piece is that it’s the people that make the difference, people make the difference.
And as Dr. Bunn just showed you, when you look at the supply chain, the people are professional sales person and professional buyers. And as Dr. Bunn mentioned, there’s this constant search for value and what drives buyers’ value perceptions and what we see is that it’s the sales person in an era where product and price are becoming increasingly similar across offerings, people make the difference, the sales person makes the difference, and buyers will buy from those sales people they trust.
The challenge we see relates to my second piece here, and I ask the question, how well are sales person performing. So as a second part to that study, the individuals conducting the study ask the buyers to critique a particular sales force/sales person they purchase from, the highest possible ranking you could provide for a sales person was world class.
So let’s just say hypothetically we’re talking on a scale of one to five, five being best. That five would be world class.
Unfortunately, only .03 of one percent of all sales forces were categorized as world class. As such, we have a significant sales force effectiveness gap at play in industry right now. And all that means is there is a tremendous gap, a real disparity, if you will, between the level of value buyers associate with the sales person and the level of performance they believe they are actually receiving from the sales person.
And this has caused significant change in the industry from a change in terms of how companies look at the sales force to importantly from your perspective, a change in how they hire for these sales roles and also importantly a change in the professionalization that is expected of sales people.
Briefly, I want to just talk about three contributing factors that were identified as causing this sales force effectiveness gap.
Number one is a senior leadership and really a lack of understanding with respect to what drives beneficial outcomes in sales. Specifically, the authors of the study talked about the black box view senior leadership unfortunately tends to take. Many folks in sales in senior leadership perhaps somewhat surprisingly don’t have a sales — significant sales background. And as such, they really don’t have a good understanding of cause and effect when it comes to the sales function.
So they may at a very high level within the organization, pull some levers in the hopes that things are going to happen. And things may happen. But they really don’t have an understanding of all the other things occurring in between cause and effect.
Classic example here is if you want to motivate your sales more, you take every single sales person to pure commission and you may indeed see a significant rise in sales in the short term. However, if you have a sales force that is purely commission-based, it’s quite possible that your sales people aren’t going to have the customer-orientation necessary to ensure the development of long-term relationships.
And what we found is that senior leaders in some instances lack this understanding. So that’s one problem.
Problem number two is that many of the sales training programs we see are inadequate, both as it relates to sales process training or I should say this, the majority of work you see being done by companies either focuses on sales process training which is the steps one should take when selling so you do this, then you do this, then you do that, et cetera. And then also self-improvement programming. These are things the sales person does on his or her own in order to better ensure their success within the organization.
However, the third point is particularly relevant here. Far too many sales people are unprepared for their career. Historically, guys, there has been no real focus at the university level on sales.
I would argue that the primary reason for that is there was a long-held belief that you didn’t need a particular skillset to go into sales or there was a belief, and we’ll talk about this a little bit later, that really good sales people are born. They’re not made. They are born great talkers. They’re born extroverts. And those are things you just have or you don’t.
And as such, there’s no real need to focus on this at the university level or even invest too heavily in training because if that’s the case, sales success becomes a matter of recruitment and not development.
However, we have come to realize that’s not the case. Instead, you have to prepare for a career. And as such, given the effectiveness gap I talked about a little bit earlier, companies are really looking for good sales people, and universities are developing programs and certifications as we have done here at UAB.
Even with this, and Joe is going to send out a follow-up email to you, a recent piece produced by MPR talked about the fact that they still can’t fill these jobs. As you can see here, the title of this piece is It’s Getting Harder to Sell Sales Jobs. In the very first paragraph, you see highlighted there and you can click through this link when Joe sends it out, talks about the fact companies still can’t find enough good qualified sales people.
Now, in this piece, they’re specifically talking about technical sales people. And these are sales people that have to have a very high level of product knowledge and application knowledge, but I would argue that that’s where most sales jobs today are headed.
So we still have this shortage that exists in terms of the supply of highly qualified sales people. And this is an issue that is really problematic for companies but a great opportunity for you all.
So I’ve mentioned the term professionalization a few times. And you may be wondering what the heck does that mean and why should I care. And I note here in the title of this slide, a changing field, and I offer a couple of quotes. The first I previously mentioned, we’ve all been sold to and we’ve all been sold to poorly, and as such, the US public tends to hold a consistently negative view of sales people, and many of you may feel that same way.
However, one of the other quotes I bring in here and this is drawn from a PBS special that was aired a couple of years ago entitled The New Selling of America. They say the best sales people are not sales people. The best sales people, and I would agree with this, don’t even necessarily think of themselves as sales people. They take a different approach to the job.
When I teach class, one of the things I tell students is that in my opinion, really good sales people are persuasive problem-solvers. They solve their customer’s problems understanding that they have to be persuasive in doing so because there are typically seven or either other companies with sales people representing them wind up hoping to solve that same problem.
From a professionalization piece, and this ties into the fact that the best sales people are not sales people, we have seen a radical transition in terms of how the job is carried out.
Number one, the focus is transition from individual transactions to long-term mutually-beneficial relationships, buying companies realize today that they just can’t pit suppliers against one another on price all the time. If they do that, they may get price, but they’re not going to receive that accompanying layer of service necessary for success and they want those relationships, as Dr. Bunn was talking about.
We’ve seen a transition from sales people being information providers and really nothing else to trusted advisors. Now, when I say information providers, you may be thinking, well, that’s an important piece. And it is. And it was particularly important before we transitioned into this era of technology we now have.
I’ll tell you, guys, 20 years ago, I was out in sales and, oftentimes, I would go and meet with my buyers and I would provide them information they weren’t aware of. So
I was an information conduit between my company and theirs.
Nowadays, when a sales person goes in to visit a buyer, he or she knows everything. They know everything in advance because they have the technological means through which they can gather that information outside the presence of the sales person.
Nowadays, in order to maintain these relationships, the sales person has to be viewed as a trusted advisor. Now, there’s two components to that. Trusted, they have to have high levels of character. An advisor, you’re not going to let anybody advise you unless you think they also have a high level of competence. And that’s what came through in that study.
We’ve transitioned from a focus just on products to solutions, as I talked about a little bit earlier. This is not to suggest that products themselves or services — I’m talking about the tangible, I mean, the core offering here, and that can be a tangible good or intangible service. It’s not to suggest that that’s not important, but, rather, it’s the totality of the offering and how that fits in to an overall solution that helps solve the customer’s problems. Sales people have transition from simply being valued communicators to valued generators.
And going back to what I said a little bit earlier, it used to be sales people would go out and they’d talk about products in large part because products were the primary source from which value was derived from the perspective of the buyer.
Well, nowadays, a lot of products have become commodities. Buyers view them as being very similar. As such, buyers recognize that the sales person, the person is the primary source from which value is generated, and that completely changes the job. And from general canned sales presentations where you minimize the script can go out and recite that script over and over and over to true sales professionalism.
And when I talk about professionalism, I’m talking about the obvious, and that’s ethics and sales. But I’m also talking about candied communications, you know. Everything you do as a sales person being of highly professional, truthfully in everything, managing expectations, following up when you say you’re going to do something, all of those things which sound simple, but, unfortunately, in the past have been left behind, we’re seeing much more focus on this in today’s business clinic as buyers just won’t buy from sales people who are not professional in their dealings with them.
So what does this mean for you? And this is what’s most important. There are tremendous opportunities in this filed. Business-to-business opportunities, there’s nothing wrong with someone selling at retail. But that’s not what we’re talking about here. I’m talking about an individual, for example, who instead of selling in the aisles at Walmart goes to Bentonville, Arkansas and represents a manufacturer who is selling to Walmart. And that’s a completely different situation.
Companies’ hiring practices have changed. I’ve been involved in sales centers for a number of years now and I used to hear that we don’t want to hire new graduates because we don’t feel as though we can trust them. They’re not ready. That’s changed. What you hear now is we don’t want to hire individuals from other companies because they have picked up habits that are going to be difficult for us to break. As such, we’d rather hire this new graduate, shake them, mold them, develop them such that they can be a future asset for our organization.
I’ve talked about the fact that they’re the renewed focus or a new focus, I guess I should say, on professional selling at the university level. We have a sales center here at UAB. I also talked about the fact, and this is a constant challenge I deal with in my classes, a belief that great sales people are made and not born.
Because I’m telling you, you don’t have to be the back-slapping, fast-talking extrovert that many of us think of in sales in order to be successful in sales. In fact, those folks aren’t as successful. Okay? Some of the best sales people I’ve ever seen — I knew someone at the place I used to work who managed a billion dollar annual account for us. He managed the entire Home Depot account for us. It was a billion dollar account. And, to me, he was an introvert. But he was a fantastic sales person because he asked great questions. He listened and he acted upon what his buyers were telling him.
Another thing I’ll say is for any of you who are interested in our sales program and classes that exist within it, the skills and trades acquired within the sales program benefit anyone, not just those who go into sales. We really focus on questioning, listening, communication skills, persuasion, things of that sort, and whether you’re talking about everyday life or a sales role or another role in business that might not technically be defined as sales, those things will benefit you.
So echoing what Dr. Bunn said, I encourage you all if you have any questions about this, I’d welcome the opportunity to talk more with you about it. I think that we have a unique program at UAB, both in terms of our general marketing degree, our focus on business-to-business, but, also, our narrow focus on professional selling as well.
And with that, I’m going to turn it back over to you, Joe.
JOE MICELE: Great. Thank you, Dr. Hansen. Thank you, Dr. Bunn.
We can now go ahead and open the floor to questions. As I had mentioned towards the beginning of the presentation, you will find a chat box and a Q&A box both to the right of the screen. Please go ahead and type your questions in there.
We also are joined tonight by Zach Harvard who is a member of our enrollment team for the UAB Online Programs. If you should have a question related to enrollment or admission, you can go ahead and ask that as well and Zach would be happy to answer it for you.
Okay. Here is a question for Dr. Bunn and Dr. Hansen. Can you provide some examples of types of professional selling positions one would get with a Bachelor’s degree from UAB?
JOHN HANSEN: Sure. And, Dr. Bunn, I’ll start with that.
MICHELE BUNN: Go ahead.
JOHN HANSEN: And then I’ll let you follow up. And let me begin by — I’ll talk a little bit off on the jobs I had, and I’ll talk about some of the jobs that our graduates typically go into and where they transition after they take those jobs.
I work for a Fortune 500 consumer package goods company that even many, many years ago was a little bit ahead of the curve in terms of hiring individuals off campus for sales jobs. And I started working with one of our major accounts when I first started. I was what we like to term a missionary sales person, kind of a funny name for a job, but, basically, that means you do things to drive demand. However, you don’t write orders.
So I would go in and visit this major account, and I was actually going into stores, and I would — it wasn’t glamorous to start with, but I would do things such as merchandizing, product knowledge event marketing in order to drive sales through at retail, thereby allowing our national account manager, our VPs of Sales to selling more at the corporate level.
I was able to move up within my organization and prior to my leaving, I was one of those individuals who was calling on our big retail accounts — that for us was the Home Depot, Lowe’s, Walmart, just to name a few.
So you see a lot of folks who sell in those type roles. You see individuals who will sell into manufacturers. They may be selling items that are used in the manufacturing process. We have a lot of folks in our program that go to work for distributors. For example, Granger, and so if you work for Granger, you have a couple of major accounts, then you would go out and service those accounts to ensure that they had all products necessary for their business to run and operate smoothly.
You know, there’s a range of different jobs just to name a few there.
Dr. Bunn, I don’t know if you have any others.
MICHELE BUNN: Well, I’m glad you mentioned missionary sales. You know, students who are interested in that, you can Google missionary sales and get some definitions of it. But these are people who go out and develop their relationships and not necessarily write the orders directly.
I had a student a couple of years ago who went to work for Hershey and, you know, if you’re a sweets snacker, you’ll like Hershey’s chocolate kisses, but this student went to work for Hershey and his job was to visit the various retail outlets in advance of each of the seasons. So Valentine’s Day, for example, back in December, the student would be visiting the major retailers in that territory and talking about what were going to be the key promotions that were coming from Hershey’s for that Valentine season.
And then, of course, the buyers would buy directly from Hershey’s and from their sales representatives. But this was what you called the missionary sales position.
What I would suggest that you do if you’re at all interested in sales or want to know more about the types of position is to go to monster.com or salary.com and search for some of sales positions (inaudible) a sales position that sounds like something you would aspire to do and I would keep that taped on your refrigerator and think about, you know, what it would take to get there.
But missionary sales is one of them. The other thing I want to mention is there are some companies that have very good entry level sales management, training programs. I just wrote a recommendation to a student recently for Enterprise Rent-a-Car. They do a great deal of business-to-business selling, and Enterprise is listed on the Fortune 500 best 100 companies to work for in the US. And they have a great sales management training program.
So you would likely see those kinds of opportunities on these websites, like monster.com, and you could look at those just out of curiosity and say, oh, you know, there’s Enterprise, I’ve heard of Enterprise, what would the sales training program look like.
So whoever asked the question and others that are interested, I would recommend that you do some of that research, job research.
JOE MICELE: We have another question here.
MICHELE BUNN: Got another —
JOE MICELE: Oh, I’m sorry. Dr. Bunn, were you going to continue?
MICHELE BUNN: I was going to ask you if you had another question for us, Joe.
JOE MICELE: Yeah. Yes, I do, actually.
A question here is — and I apologize, let me just make sure I’m reading the question correctly. But can you talk about sort of what industries are very popular right now for going into entry level sales positions? Are there any specific — are there any trends towards any certain industries?
MICHELE BUNN: Is that a question particularly for me or Dr. Hansen? Or either one?
JOE MICELE: I think — they didn’t specify so either one of you, please.
MICHELE BUNN: All right.
JOHN HANSEN: Why don’t you start, Dr. Bunn?
MICHELE BUNN: Yeah. So, yeah, you know, what I was going to say is I think the technology area is certainly a no-brainer. Dr. Hansen mentioned that earlier and that MPR link talks about the shortcomings there in terms of sales focus. The other place that I’ve seen a lot of opportunity is industrial distribution. Industrial distributors are becoming much more sophisticated and they’re looking for — they’re actually looking for younger sales people that have the technology skills that can use those technology skills and leverage that, you know, through these training programs.
So those are two areas I think of off the top of my head is any technology business is big now, and, in particular, industrial distribution.
JOHN HANSEN: Yeah. And to that point, and the marketplace piece talks about this in terms of technical sales. There is a terrible need for technical sales specialists. Now, let me just qualify what I’m saying here.
When we talk technical sales, we’re talking about individuals with a high, high level of technical expertise as it relates to their product offering. Historically, we have seen engineers morph into the sales role. And what they would do is they would find engineers who had a unique skillset in that they were engineers by trade, but also had the ability to go out and build and maintain long-term customer relationships, but there’s just not that many of those folks at all.
Perhaps, in part, because of that, one of the things you see in our program is the ability to be a — what is it, Dr. Bunn? It’s an engineering ID student with the focus on professional selling, and, guys, I want to be honest with you, you come out with some background like that and you have some significant opportunities awaiting you.
So that’s one area we see. We have the traditional companies come on campus quite a bit that you might expect based on some of the things you see out in the marketplace today.
Dr. Bunn mentioned companies like Enterprise, the financial service providers are constantly on campus with us. And, you know, though, that job is not for everybody, there are some folks who do remarkably well in it. And when I say financial service companies, I’m talking about the Northwestern Mutuals of the world, those type of companies are always looking for good sales people.
We have the consumer package goods companies that come on, much like the industry I was in. We really — I’ll be honest with you. We run the gamut in terms of what we see. I don’t personally think we have one specific area where you’d say the vast majority of our jobs are there. It’s pretty widespread.
MICHELE BUNN: The other one I wanted to mention is medical equipment and supply sales. So the healthcare sector is very big. And so, you know, with some training and some product knowledge, and I’m not talking about pharmaceutical sales. We have many students who think pharmaceutical sales is a glorious job. It’s not the job that it used to be, in part, because it’s very difficult to get face time with a physician. But there is much more opportunity.
I have a number of students who have gone to work for equipment manufacturers, medical equipment manufacturers. They really like it because they’re calling on hospital staff members who have problems that they’re trying to solve with these, you know, the equipment or supplies.
But another area I’ll mention and I don’t know if this relates directly to this question, but the previous one, in terms of entry-level positions is inside sales. So —
JOHN HANSEN: Yeah.
MICHELE BUNN: So we’ve been talking about sales as if it’s all outside sales, but one entry level position that’s important is called inside sales. And I don’t mean taking — you need to be careful. There’s a lot of variety in inside sales jobs. So you want to — and this is again where you can look at salary.com or monster.com for some examples. But look for an inside sales job where you already have established customers. You probably have customers who are calling you and you’re helping those customers buy.
There are some inside sales jobs that are like telemarketers where you’re making hundreds of calls in a day to try and sell. You don’t need to do that. That’s not a great opportunity —
JOHN HANSEN: No.
MICHELE BUNN: — for someone with a Bachelor’s degree in marketing. But inside sales where you have an established set of customers and you’re helping those customers solve problems and helping them buy, that’s a great place to start so —
JOHN HANSEN: And let me — and I’m going to say one other thing and you bring up a good point, Dr. Bunn, in terms of not all jobs are created the same, and what are some of the differences in a B-to-B context, and, you know, when I transitioned out of that missionary role and I had a traditional sales job and a portfolio of customers, I don’t know, I probably had 500 customers in my geographic territory, and maybe 50 of those customers accounted for 90 to 95 of my business within the territory, you know, it wasn’t as if I was picking up the phone every day trying to find somebody to talk to. My customers were on a rebate with my company meaning we gave them so much money back in return at the end of the year so long as they did so much business with us. And as such, they were contacting me towards the end of our fiscal year to ensure that they were where they needed to be as it related to that rebate.
And that’s — and, you know, you get in again to the nuances of the B-to-B sales type role and, again, I talk to students who say, I don’t want to do that, Dr. Hansen, I don’t want to be this pushy, you know, sales person and, look, you got to hit your numbers in sales. Don’t get me wrong. But it’s — that’s not the job we’re talking about.
We’re talking more about these, you know, that type situation I just described and long-term relation type jobs and those two things are very different.
JOE MICELE: Great. Thank you. We have a question here for Dr. Hansen.
Dr. Hansen, one of the attendees wanted to know if you could talk a little bit more about — you had mentioned technical or engineering sales, a little bit more about what that entails.
JOHN HANSEN: Yeah. It’s a type of role that requires an exceedingly high level of product knowledge, more than would be required in most jobs, and it also requires a high level of application knowledge.
I’ll give you a good example. I have a good friend who works with a company outside of Chicago you probably know, Navistar, and Navistar is a massive global company in scale, but by and large, Navistar sells engines. And they sell very, very large engines for large vehicles or trucks and, you know, most of the 18-wheelers you see rolling across this country, they probably have an engine or the truck was produced by Navistar.
And what’ll find — and I say this because I taught an exec ed course out of Chicago many years ago, or five, six years ago, and I had a number of engineers in this executive ed course, and this was a marketing strategy course, and they were working on their MBA because they had morphed from pure engineer with a very, very high level of technical knowledge and expertise and application understanding and everything you would expect from an engineer, but they had morphed into a role where they had transitioned from just that to where they were now interfacing with the customer, and they were required to have a high level of business understanding along with a high level of product understanding and what I’m talking about.
So when I say technical, I’m saying you have to have an exceedingly high level of application knowledge, product knowledge, which is different from what I did when I was — like I was selling to retailers who resold my goods. I needed to understand my products but not to the extent that we’re talking about here. I didn’t necessarily need to understand the nuances that you would need to the extent that you would in a “technical type sales role.”
Now, what we’re seeing and why I say that is because companies are now taking a different approach where they are looking for individuals who first off have the skills necessary to build customer relationships and then they’re diving in deep into the product such that they become the technical expert.
And I hope that makes some — you see a lot of technical sales people calling on manufacturers. Perhaps, they’re selling a good that goes into the manufacturing process, a component, and they really have to understand how that product operates and will operate in the final finished good that manufacturer is attempting to produce.
JOSEPH MICELE: Great. Thank you. We have another question here and looking at the time, we’re going to have to make this the last question.
And I think this can go to either Zach from our enrollment team or maybe even, Dr. Bunn or Dr. Hansen, you can add onto this as well.
The question is does UAB offer any kind of service that would help with job placement upon receiving your degree or any type of help with internships and things like that to be able to go out into the work force with the degree?
ZACH HARVARD: This is Zach speaking. Just as far as that, I do know that we do have (inaudible) that’s a service that we offer for students. Once you do become a student at UAB, you will have access to that. But from there, you’d be able to have access to multiple and different resources.
One of those resources is the career service department that will be able to help you not only with resume building and actually readjusting your current resume and making it more effective, but at the same time as well, they’ll be able to assist you with interview questions.
We also do have employers that go on Dragon Trail to hire directly from UAB, prospect, you know, graduates and so forth.
JOSEPH MICELE: All right. Great. Thanks. I hope that answered the question there.
As I had mentioned, we are going to go ahead and make that question our last one for this evening’s session. I would like to go ahead and share a couple of few final details here in relation to the programs, the undergraduate Bachelor of Science, various business discipline programs.
The application dealing is July 20th with a completed file being due on August 3rd. Just to help clarify a little on that application deadline means turning in the actual application which you can get doing to that from your enrollment advisor.
Completed file would be all of the documents needed along with that application so transcripts, any kind of transfer credits, any other supporting documents that are needed with your application.
Classes begin on August 24th for the fall term. You can always contact your enrollment advisor toll free at 1-866-803-0883 or locally at 1-205-909-6894.
Thank you again for everyone who attended this evening. A special thank you to Dr. Bunn and Dr. Hansen for your presentation and discussion this evening. We hope you enjoyed the event.
Again, if you have any additional questions, you can always contact your enrollment advisor and they’d be happy to answer any questions you may have.
Have a good evening and thank you again.
MICHELE BUNN: Thank you all.