Why U.S. Colleges and Universities Should Do a Better Job Teaching Selling Skills

Several times in the last few years we have discussed how honing certain selling skills can offer benefits to nearly all occupations and not just those in selling roles. For instance, in 2014, we noted how being strong in the one crucial skill, the art of persuasion, is not just for those who sell products and services. We went even further in 2015 suggesting most business people would benefit from learning selling skills through self-directed training methods or professional instruction.

Considering the value selling skills may offer, it seems surprising that the vast majority of American colleges and universities are not the best places to go to sharpen these skills. As discussed in this Harvard Business Review story, only a small number of U.S. schools offer dedicated sales education programs. While business programs at many colleges and universities offer a course or two in sales, very few have clearly defined sales programs consisting of many courses.

As pointed out in the story, one reason for the lack of college-level sales programs is that few business faculty have a background in sales. Consequently, there are not enough faculty that fully appreciate the value sales education can offer. Additionally, within higher education, many faculty may perceive sales as being more of a basic front-line occupation while their teaching and research interests tend to lie in higher-level managment issues, such as managerial planning or strategy development

The story makes a strong case that it is time for higher education to re-evaluate the need for sales programs. It points to a statistic from the Sales Education Foundation that states over 50% of college graduates? first job is in sales. Whether this statistic is true or not, specialized sales education programs not only helps students develop a wide-range of business skills, but formal programs are also a mark of achievement listed on a college transcript, which can then be included on a resume or a LinkedIn bio. Ultimately, the impact of dedicated sales programs at the college-level are students who are more marketable no matter what job they obtain.