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Mondays with Rick: Sales is important for every size of business

Gary Kauffman


Dr. Rick Franza, Dean of the Hull College of Business, discusses a different, timely business topic each Monday in this column. This week, he discusses the importance of being in sales, no matter what business you’re in. The interview has been edited for clarity and impact.

Dr. Rick Franza, Dean of AU’s Hull College of Business
ABD: For many people, their image of a salesperson is a pushy car salesman, or for us older folks, someone like Herb Tarlek from the old WKRP in Cincinnati TV show. When you talk about sales, what’s different?

Rick: It’s not like the caricatures we see on TV and in the movies. What got me thinking about this is that my youngest daughter is graduating from Kennesaw State University with a degree in Professional Sales. I’ve always been a big proponent of that degree because it shows the value of sales being a profession. If you’re in sales, the big thing you’re doing is helping people.

Herb Tarlek of WKRP in Cincinnati was the epitome of a shady salesman.
ABD: Most people would agree that sales are important, but many small businesses will say they don’t have the resources to hire a sales team. How would you answer that?

Rick: Everybody’s selling all the time. Whether you like it or not, you have a personal brand. Maybe you’re not even conscious of it, but you’re trying to get people to support something or convince them of your point of view.

In a small business, someone will have a sales role, whether formal or informal. In a small business, almost everyone has to do it. Some of it you’ll do yourself by how you educate your workers. If you’re in a service industry, everyone is in sales because they’re the ones facing the customer. If that service person is courteous and helpful or knows where to get the answers, they’re helping in sales.

ABD: If everyone in the business is part of the “sales team,” how can business owners make sure they’re doing it right?

Rick: It helps if they have some formal training. Some businesses sell sales training programs. But there are lots of books available on sale. YouTube has videos. Take your time and examine them and find which one is right for your business.

Show your employees what your value proposition is, and why people should buy from you. They have to believe in your product. It’s hard to be a salesperson if you don’t believe in the product, but if you believe in it, you should be able to sell it.

Help your employees understand the value proposition of your business.
ABD: More colleges, like Augusta University, are recognizing the importance of teaching sales. Why did it take so long to start bringing something as important as sales into education?

Rick: The stereotype probably impeded sales education. People saw that stereotype and thought, why do we need to teach people to do that? Well, we teach them to not do that.

Another area with a similar issue is entrepreneurship. What sales and entrepreneurship have in common is that they’re relatively new areas of academic studies. It’s hard to teach something if you don’t have the research.

But that’s starting to change. When I first came to Hull College of Business, I went out to talk to business people – large companies, small companies, it didn’t matter – to see what our students need more than anything else. The big one was sales. So we put that in our curriculum. As far as I know, we’re the only school that requires all of our business students to take a class in sales.

ABD: Research shows that the younger generations view advertising differently than before. Does that drive this new emphasis on sales education?

Rick: A good reason why this growth is taking place is that the younger generation, maybe because they’ve seen the stereotypes, reject the old type of sales models. Especially in business-to-business sales, it’s more about partnerships.

ABD: It sounds like whether you’re young or old, big business or small, sales are vital.

Rick: Sales is the lifeblood of a business. If you don’t sell, you don’t stay in business. A small business can’t survive without good sales.

And if you want to make yourself indispensable in the job market, know how to sell. In the recession of 2008-10, I saw two groups never had trouble staying employed – salespeople and accountants. Sales generate the revenue and accountants track it. Those are jobs that just don’t go away.

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