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Advancing Sales as a Profession

How top business schools are changing the face of sales.

By
Jeb Blount

How are top business schools like MIT Sloan, Harvard, and Wharton changing the face of sales?

This weekend I was a judge at the International MBA Sales Competition on the campus of MIT in Cambridge, MA. Students from top business schools including Harvard, MIT, Wharton, Tuck, Kellogg, Stanford and even London Business School competed for top prizes sponsored by Google, Gallup, SAP and SalesGravy.com. Acting as a buyer I spent the day listening to and judging the sales skills of individuals and teams who, working through complex sales cases, sold me on their solutions.

Just like the real world of sales competitors were forced to deal with difficult questions, unpredictable outcomes, unfriendly buyers and pressure to close the deal. As in any competition, there were winners and losers however, all of the students learned valuable lessons that will follow them as they become the next generation of business leaders. One of my fellow judges pointed out that even if these students never actually work in sales they will have an appreciation for the importance of the sales profession to the long-term success of a business.

But the International MBA Sales Competition has significance that reaches far beyond the walls of these elite business schools. Along with the National Collegiate Sales Competition, which is its undergraduate sister, the International MBA Sales Competition signifies the continued acknowledgement by academia that both the soft and hard skills used in selling are critical in business and worthy of the classroom. After being ignored and treated as the red-headed-stepchild for most of the last century, Sales is finally being recognized as a professional discipline. Today a growing number of universities are adding sales specific degree tracks to their business schools. And at MIT, an institution known for innovation and technology, the 2nd largest club on campus is the Sales Club. Seriously!

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