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Sales education program among top in the nation

Sally Cook '11 garnered an internship at 3M over the summer. She also set the all-time record for business majors at St. Kate's by conducting 43 informational interviews.
Sally Cook '11 garnered an internship at 3M over the summer. She also set the all-time record for business majors at St. Kate's by conducting 43 informational interviews.
Photo by Rebecca Zenefski '10

The Sales Education Foundation (SEF) named St. Catherine University among the Top Universities for Professional Sales Education in 2011 — the only university in Minnesota to make the cut.

In The SEF Sales Education Annual, the foundation recognized St. Kate’s for hosting programs that prepare students for careers in professional selling. Universities that achieved the honor required a minimum of three sales-specific courses and offered internships in sales to students.

“We offer a sales major and that’s what makes our students different,” says Center for Sales Innovation Director Lynn Schleeter.

Schleeter says while many students enter the sales profession with degrees in marketing or other majors, the sales focus offered at St. Kate’s prepares students for the real-world situations they will encounter after graduation. A degree in sales also enables students to get a foot in the door at large corporations and effectively work their way to the top. As students learn the landscape of these organizations, they can navigate opportunities for advancement that lead to positions in upper management or international business.    

“International business is a hard entry point,” says Schleeter. “You may have that interest, but where do you start? Many times, I try to explain to students that companies don’t just hire you to take an international role as a new college grad. You’ve got to build up to that role, whereas sales is your entry. That’s your first job, and that’s where you learn how the business operates. Often, you start in sales and then you can move to marketing, then to management and company leadership.”

SEF also praised St. Kate’s Center for Sales Innovation for conducting original research and offering continuing education programs focused on the complexity of sales, as well as providing leadership development programs to advance women sales leaders.

Studying business at St. Kate’s

St. Kate’s offers degrees in accounting, business-to-business sales, small-business entrepreneurship, marketing and management, healthcare management and the coveted healthcare sales program — the only healthcare sales program in the United States offering a minor, a major and a certificate. 

The University also gives students exceptional opportunities for building their business skills and networking with professionals in the field, including new courses like the “Sales for Social Impact” and invitations to participate in regional sales competitions.

“We can take a number of students to these competitions; whereas [at other larger schools] they’re all competing internally for a chance to go,” says Schleeter.

St. Kate's students also reap the benefits of the successful business partnerships that evolve in the Center for Sales Innovation, just down the hall from their classrooms.

More companies are looking for the opportunity to get in front of St. Kate’s students, says Schleeter. “They build internships that match our curriculum,” she explains. Business professionals are also joining students in the classroom as guest speakers and offering coaching tips as students enter competitions or seek out internships.      

Sally Cook ’11 took advantage of all the skill-building and networking St. Kate’s businiss programs had to offer. By competing in sales competitions, participating in the one-of-a-kind Mayo Innovation Scholars Program and conducting a sales internship with 3M, she maximized her career potential while she was still a student at St. Kate’s.

“Sally set the all-time record; she did 43 informational interviews,” says Schleeter. “Usually, we ask a student to do five. She’s had multiple job offers, and she’s now working her way through that process to determine which one is the best fit.”

"Sales for Social Impact"

Students at St. Kate's have even had the opportunity to try selling products in a different social climate, where poor people are trying to make a living in east Africa. “Sales for Social Impact,” a course on social entrepreneurship taught by Schleeter and Assistant Professor of Accounting Faye Larson, challenges students to formulate a business plan for the poor in countries like Kenya or Uganda. 

The course, which was offered at only six universities last year, requires students to determine if the country has a viable market for selling a certain product and to create a business plan around that product. It includes a sales component, a marketing component and an accounting component.

The best-laid plans from last fall are currently being implemented in Uganda, where public health major Latifah Kiribedda ’12 has actually volunteered to help implement the business model.

“It’s one of those unique classes where you get to benefit people in real life,” says Kiribedda, who hails from Uganda. “You feel you are making a difference just by being in class.”

This fall, 10 universities including St. Catherine University will offer the course.

For more about business majors at St. Kate’s, visit the School of Business and Leadership.

Aug. 31, 2011 by Melissa Kaelin

See also: Alumnae/i, Business, Faculty