Okay, I admit it. I do like to sell. Every job I’ve had since I graduated Vanderbilt has been a selling job. I’ve sold Fritos and Funyuns, Stove Top Stuffing and Shake N Bake, Lunchables and leftovers. I’ve even sold MBAs and PhD’s (grammarians, I looked that one up here). But most often, throughout my career, I’ve sold ideas, and whether I like it or not, by association, I’ve sold myself. And I’m not alone. So says Dan Pink in his most recent book, To Sell Is Human, which I mentioned in my last post: “People are now spending about 40% of their time at work engaged in non-sales selling…persuading, convincing, and influencing others to give up something they’ve got in exchange for what we’ve got,” says Pink. If this is true, then the one skill our MBA students need for success in their personal lives and careers is selling.
So, I’ve taken on the task of developing a course in selling as it applies to career success. I plan to blog about the class as I go—about the ups and downs, challenges and resources I found helpful.
My first mistake (or so I’m told) was to originally name the class “selling” anything, when in an MBA curriculum. MBAs, I was told, don’t want to sell, nor do they want to learn about it (which is not unlike the rest of us—read more Pink). So before even researching the question, I changed selling to business development—Business Development for Personal and Career Success—so that I wouldn’t scare anyone with the title. I soon found though that Chicago Booth has a course called Entrepreneurial Selling, taught by Professor Craig Wortmann, founder of Salesengine.com and author of What’s Your Story? Using Stories to Ignite Performance and Be More Successful. He has two full sections a year of students interested in selling. And he tells me there are others.
I’ll make some more mistakes along the way in this new adventure. I’ve recruited eleven brave second-year Darden students to go along with me on this pilot course. I plan to use them to co-create. I’ve assembled many insightful resources and a couple of excellent outside speakers. I plan to learn and fast adapt as we go together. But the one thing about the class that will make it different from most MBA classes is that the students won’t just learn about selling—they actually will have to go sell. Part of the class and grade are a couple of in-person cold calls, targeted to further their career aspirations.
We’re going to have fun.