Transforming Students into Salespeople – by Dr. Dawn Deeter-Schmelz

I have the greatest job in the world.

I am a professor of marketing at Kansas State University.  It’s more than that, however; I teach Kansas State University students how to sell through our National Strategic Selling Institute.

It is a challenge.  On the first day of our entry-level sales class I ask, “How many of you would like to go into sales?” In a class of 48, maybe three or four hands go up.  I go through the syllabus and discuss the key projects.  Recorded role plays.  Getting past the gatekeeper.  Developing your questioning skills.  Making a sales call from start to finish.  I look at the class.  Deer in headlights.

But over the course of the semester a transformation takes place. We dispel myths.  Selling isn’t about talking and manipulating, it’s about listening and asking great questions.  Selling isn’t about taking, it’s about giving.  Students take note. We talk about what it means to be a true professional. Students begin to understand the opportunities. They practice in our sales labs.  They improve and start to recognize their capabilities. They want to be in charge of their own destinies. You can sense the optimism in their attitudes and see the excitement in their faces.  I ask again at the end of the semester, “How many want to go into sales?”  Many, many more hands go up.

I love this transformation.  This semester I am teaching an advanced sales class.  They all get it.  The students have had sales internships and they are motivated to continue their journey.  They are professional salespeople.

The best part? This same transformation is happening at universities across the country.  Each year the Sales Education Foundation puts out a list of the top universities for sales.   The first issue, published in 2007, listed twenty-seven schools.  The latest issue includes fifty-three schools, including five in Europe.  The members of the University Sales Center Alliance (USCA), a consortium of sales centers established in 2002, represent the standard-bearers of these schools.  Importantly, the USCA has established guidelines for curriculum quality and innovation to ensure our students are getting the best in sales education.

Students graduating from these programs are ready to hit the ground running. They have taken multiple sales classes and participated in numerous role plays and professional development workshops.  Many of them have competed in regional and national sales competitions, such as the National Collegiate Sales Competition at Kennesaw State University, to hone their selling skills.  They are excited about sales and they want a career in sales.

These sales students are nothing short of awesome.   They will outsell their peers who have not had these experiences.  And they are waiting for you to hire them.


Dr. Dawn Deeter-Schmelz is the Director of the National Strategic Selling Institute at Kansas State University and the J.J. Vanier Distinguished Professor of Relational Selling and Marketing. She teaches great K-State students how to become outstanding professional salespeople! You can reach Dawn via e-mail at or find her on Twitter or at Sold on Sales, the blog of the National Strategic Selling Institute.