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“You, my friend, are in Sales.” Business-to-Business Learning at Acadia

Picture this: It’s the end of the semester, and the waiting area near the boardroom is abuzz. Dressed in suits, and equipped with sales aids, trial closes and customized contracts, students posing as professional sellers are waiting to meet their clients in hopes of signing deals for everything from running shoes, golf clubs and jewelry to life insurance, stadium suites, investment funds and logistics services. Their classmates are posing as buyers: business professionals representing national retail chains, airlines, importers, municipalities, hospitals, universities, and more. Sales presentations will be given. Objections will be made. Deals may (or may not) be signed. All in the span of 12-15 minutes. How does this sound for a final exam? That’s exactly what it is in Professor Charlene Boudreau’s Personal Selling & Sales Management course here at Acadia. Extremely rewarding, is how one student describes this course. It gave me a sense of direction with regards to my career after university and strengthened my knowledge of the sales function in business.

(L-R) Professor Charlene Boudreau, instructor for Personal Selling & Sales Management, with BBA students Candace Conrad and Gabriel Bagnell

Focusing on Business-to-Business Transactions

Much like how people make decisions about what they need and what they buy, businesses go through a similar purchase-decision process. But for businesses that buy things like raw materials and capital equipment from other businesses (i.e. suppliers), this process is often longer, and definitely more complex. High volume, high value purchases are typical, which means a lot is at stake. Personal selling, which involves regular in-person interactions between a company’s designated buyer and another company’s salesperson, is a highly customized marketing tactic that can help a business client find their way. Says Professor Boudreau, When it comes to business-to-business, some companies will spend more on personal selling alone than all of the other elements of the promotional mix combined. That’s more than advertising, public relations, direct marketing, and sales promotion combined. Why? Because it works.

Decisions Based on Trust and Value

But gone are the days of high-pressure selling tactics. Today’s professional business-to-business sales teams leverage knowledge and transparency to build trust and create value for their clients. So, twice a week, for one semester a year, Professor Boudreau meets with students in the course to discuss the ideals of trust-based selling, and take them through the process of creating meaningful sales dialogues. She says things like, Companies don’t buy raw materials and equipment; their people do. And people want to buy from people they like and trust. We can’t always be selling, and always be closing. We have to get to know our clients, and the companies they buy for. We have to listen when they talk, offer honest advice, and propose genuine solutions to fit their needs. This builds trust. If they trust in us, we have a relationship. And relationships are good for business – everybody’s business! Professor Boudreau coaches each student in developing their own unique sales call plan, the plan they will use for their live, face-to-face sales call exam. It’s an exercise that sales trainers call role-play. Some students love it. Some love to hate it. And for others, it’s just what they’re looking for to get them out of their comfort zone.

Everyone is in Sales

Look around you. Almost everything you see and use on a daily basis was bought business-to-business. Companies buy millions of products and services that enable them to manufacture and deliver their own offering. In 2015, Canada was home to 104,563 businesses in the wholesale trade sector (www.ic.gc.ca). And what was bought, must therefore have been sold. On the day this story was written, there were 12,463 sales representative jobs listed on www.wowjobs.ca, 8,371 on glassdoor.ca, and 342 on careerbuilder.ca. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment of sales and related occupations is projected to grow 5% from 2014 to 2024, which could result in over half a million new jobs. It seems that author, salesman, and motivational speaker, Zig Ziglar, was right when he said that everyone is in sales. Maybe you don’t hold the title of salesperson, but if the business you are in requires you to deal with people, you, my friend, are in sales. Another great reason to know about this neat course here at Acadia.

Acadia University’s Fred C. Manning School of Business is located in the town of Wolfville in the beautiful Annapolis Valley of Nova Scotia. Home to over 600 undergraduate students it offers a four-year Bachelor of Business Administration program with majors in six areas including accounting, finance, marketing, entrepreneurship and innovation, employment relations, and technology management. Students enrolled in our program may also take advantage of international study and co-op education opportunities. More information can be found on the Fred. C. Manning School of Business homepage.