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Sources: Kevin Gwinner, 785-532-2783,;
and Richard McFarland, 785-532-6975,
News release prepared by: Jennifer Torline, 785-532-0847,

Monday, Oct. 11, 2010


MANHATTAN -- To help Kansas State University students develop professional sales skills, a new College of Business Administration initiative will provide educational resources and outreach activities for students and support for faculty.

The Relationship Selling Initiative, also known as RSI, will help students study and practice relationship selling in areas such as professional selling, retail selling, services marketing and business-to-business interfaces.

Kevin Gwinner, marketing department head, said the initiative would help K-State to be recognized nationally as a top 10 institute in the sales area, and would help the university's goal of becoming a top 50 public research university by 2025.

"Going into a program like this will really enhance our students' abilities to get high-quality sales jobs," Gwinner said. "As a department, we've decided to focus on this specific area so we can be a world-class institution in the sales area."

The Relationship Selling Initiative will include a minor or a certificate program in sales that can expand to disciplines across the university, such as engineering or agriculture.

"While many business majors and marketing majors go into sales, there are students from other colleges also going into sales," said Richard McFarland, associate professor of marketing who is helping to develop the initiative. "This is an area, too, where companies are continuing to hire and still have shortages of people."

McFarland recently attended the University Sales Center Alliance annual meeting and helped K-State to become an associate member of the organization. This puts K-State in the company of university sales centers throughout the country.

K-State's initiative focuses on interdisciplinary academic education, highly impactful research and valued outreach activities -- a three-pronged approach that organizers say is consistent with K-State's land-grant mission.

The educational component includes internship opportunities, a speaker series, student scholarships and the development of advanced sales courses. Gwinner said an important educational aspect includes a newly completed sales lab on the third floor of Calvin Hall. The lab has two rooms where students can perform mock sales presentations with each other and with company executives. Video equipment will enable students to interact with remote corporate partners in places such as Kansas City, New York or Los Angeles.

"The sales lab will make K-State one of the few schools in the nation to do distance mock sales," McFarland said. "It can give them the opportunity to participate in regional and national sales contests. A lot of students are getting jobs because contest judges are from companies that hire students."

The Relationship Selling Initiative's research component involves increasing faculty sales research through hiring new faculty members and increasing financial support for research. Outreach activities will include workshops, seminars, and specialized training with external groups and company partners.

"We're envisioning the K-State Olathe campus as a key part of our outreach strategy, enabling us to have access to the Kansas City market," Gwinner said.

The marketing department is in a search process for the John J. Vanier Distinguished Chair for Relational Selling and Marketing, who will lead the selling initiative efforts. Gwinner said the search committee plans to make a decision this semester, with the chosen candidate beginning in the fall 2011 semester.

The department is looking for a corporate sponsor for the sales lab and is also establishing an executive advisory board of sales executives and corporate partners who can help with curriculum development and provide program guidance.