In its first full academic year, UNCW’s Center for Sales Excellence and Customer Delight has already attracted the attention of the business community and of students. And it has already been accepted as an associate member of the University Sales Center Alliance (USCA), an international consortium of academic sales centers whose faculty members work to advance the sales profession through teaching, research and outreach.
“We got on the list because of the courses we offer,” center director and University of North Carolina Wilmington marketing faculty member Vince Howe said Friday. “We’ve also added some sales courses.”
Through its affiliation with USCA the center – located within the Cameron School of Business’ marketing department –can offer its students the opportunity to become a Certified Sales Student. Certification, which Howe says is a kind of “branding for the sales profession,” is achieved through a program of specified sales coursework and activities.
Thus far in the center’s short life, six students have earned that certification, which prepares them well for the high-tech world of sales, Howe said, explaining that today’s sales approaches are far more consultative and less transactional than they used to be.
Word about the new center is out among companies in the region; Howe said he's received a substantial number of calls from businesses looking to interview his students.
“Companies are looking for people with good communications skills and high self-esteem, who can walk into a C-suite and feel comfortable,” he said. “Buying teams are often composed of several people, each of whom has issues that need to be resolved before they are ready to buy. A typical sales cycle is 13 months.”
And selling software, like the Salesforce platform, is geared to young people who are well versed in social media platforms and have learned the basics of putting together presentations, Howe said.
"The main objective of the Center is to increase engagement with all stakeholders in the Professional Selling Environment," Howe has written in the past. "We envision the Center as the nexus for students, faculty, sales professionals and other stakeholders in order to meet the challenges facing the Sales profession today and tomorrow."
As part of that objective, the center aims to introduce students into the field of professional sales and help them to land jobs.
"We're having zero problem placing our students," Howe said. "We are having [companies] come to us as sponsors. They can donate money. We can put them in front of classes, have them come to our career fair. The demand is pretty amazing to me. The calls I get on a weekly basis are amazing."
During spring semester this year, the center sponsored two events to give students a real taste for how technology and evolving expectations are are changing the sales industry.
On March 27, it held its first Sales Enablement Technologies & Trends forum.
Representatives from major local companies Nutanix, SAS, The Hana Group, AI Bridge and Syneos Health shared their experiences on current sales enablement technologies and best practices.
Three weeks earlier was the inaugural Internal Sales Contest, hosted by banking software company nCino. The competition had 24 participating students assume the role of nCino sales representatives. The company’s sales team, in turn, took on the roles of prospective bank customers. Students were required to create a customized sales pitch.
“It was a great chance to take everything I have learned through school – especially at the Cameron School of Business in a variety of different classes – take all that information and knowledge and turn it into a real live sales pitch that is similar to what I would be doing in the sales field after UNCW,” Sean Butler, the competition winner, said Friday.
To prepare for the competition, Butler said he studied information about nCino that Howe and marketing faculty member Mark Pelletier provided, and he checked out the company’s website. He also met with his Cameron Executive Network mentor Cary Ostby to review the material and his presentation. Butler also viewed videos of presentations from the previous year’s National Collegiate Sales Competition, held at Kennesaw State University in Georgia.
“I reviewed the top five finishers from last year, especially the winner, and looked for areas I could improve on,” Butler said.
The experience confirmed for Butler that sales is his preferred field and helped him pull together what he has learned thus far in college.
“It really made everything click together,” he said.
Conversations with several nCino staffers after the March Internal Sales Contest ultimately led to a summer internship offer there for Butler. There’s the possibility of a future opportunity for him with the company after he graduates from UNCW in December, he said.