New Sales Lab provides students with authentic sales atmosphere
February 4, 2015
The business administration major, within the UW-River Falls College of Business and Economics (CBE), has a new emphasis called sales marketing, also known as professional sales, and after a large amount of research and funding, the CBE has introduced the Center for Sales Excellence Laboratory.
The Center for Sales Excellence Laboratory is known by most as the Sales Lab, which facilitates role-playing exercises and mock sales calls in order to assist UWRF professional sales students in fine-tuning their personal selling skills. The Sales Lab has a recording device that tapes all mock sales calls and role-playing exercises.
Ozcan Kilic, associate professor of marketing, monitors the exercises from another room. Through the use of expensive software, Kilic can give feedback attached to the finished video so each student can see what they did right or wrong following the exercise. Kilic also gives verbal feedback over an intercom during the role-playing exercises or mock sales calls. Kilic also shows the videos during classroom time so everyone can get feedback from their peers.
Kilic got the idea for a sales lab two years ago when he attended a faculty curriculum development workshop in Florida. He said that through research he found that approximately 82 percent of marketing graduates eventually end up in a sales-related job after college, adding that an additional 66 percent of business graduates also work in a sales-related job.
“I thought we should have our students be better prepared for such a position,” Kilic said. “Only one sales class was offered during that time, it was ‘sales effectiveness,’ and I thought it wasn’t enough.”
Kilic received support from his colleagues, most notably associate professor of marketing Stacy Vollmers, and Darryl Miller, marketing and management chair, to establish the professional sales emphasis.
“Sales cannot be taught just through lecture, and the role playing is a pedagogy especially tailored for a sales program where the students have the opportunity to practice the basic selling skills they have learned in the classes,” Kilic said. “And during a process of various role plays they will be able to refine their personal selling skills and eventually be ready for different selling situations.”
When Kilic first started teaching professional sales classes he was renting a tri-pod and a video camera from tech services. Kilic would setup the equipment himself before class and the students would role play.
“It was not natural because they had to act in front of their peers which put a certain stress on them, so we thought we can do better than that,” Kilic said.
Kilic wanted recording capabilities in a natural environment for students to sell to a potential buyer. The buyers in the role-playing exercises would be behaving according to a certain scenario. With the implementation of the Sales Lab, this idea has come to life.
“Students, when they watch themselves behaving according to a scenario, or not according to a scenario, they see what they did wrong and what they could do better,” Kilic said.
Kilic has the ability to share video clips from mock sales calls and role-playing exercises with potential employers. Some employers, like Fastenal, an industry supply company based out of Winona, Minnesota, have become partners with the program.
“[The partners] support our program and they’re therefore entitled to observe the progress of our students who go through this program while they role play,” Kilic said. “And [students] eventually have a more realistic opinion about what they expect from a potential hire.”
Kilic says the CBE is in the process of improving its list of potential partners, which includes all the major employers in the St. Croix Valley, because partners are more likely to hire UWRF professional sales students who have collaborated with them.
“All the companies we have been in touch with, and who support us, are really intrigued because they want students to be sales ready,” Kilic said.
The Sales Lab has state-of-the-art technology, but the program only has one recording room available at the moment. Ideally, a university would have at least three or four sales labs so the role-playing exercises don’t interfere with so much classroom time.
“All the sales programs start with one room and eventually they grow really fast,” Kilic said.
Kilic conducted two years of sales research, in terms of what the potential would be for the implementation of such a program. He found that sales programs are growing throughout the nation. In 2007, there were only 32 programs nationwide, and now there is over 85, according to Kilic’s research.
Recently, Kilic visited Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, to see how its program was evolving. He found that Indiana State has eight sales labs, and that the program had the capability to record actual sales pitches with real customers outside the classroom using similar technology.
“I’ve learned that one room is not enough,” Kilic said.
The professional sales emphasis could potentially offer advanced classes where students would have more opportunities to fine-tune selling skills, but because of low enrollment the classes haven’t been applied yet. While the Sales Lab has only been around since late last year, it has left an impact on students.
“I learned how to interact with potential clients, ask appropriate questions to discover a customer’s need, and what is expected of me as a sales professional,” said alumnus Drekal Hollins, a graduated business administration-marketing student.
Kilic urged students to contact him with questions regarding the Sales Lab or the professional sales emphasis. Kilic can be reached at: 715-425-3335.