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K-State Today Student Edition

February 14, 2012

What's in a name: Sales initiative receives makeover to help students in future careers

Submitted by Communications and Marketing

A few adjustments to a program in Kansas State University's College of Business Administration will help sales-minded graduates hit the ground running.

The Relationship Selling Initiative recently received approval from April Mason, university provost and senior vice president, to rebrand itself as the National Strategic Selling Institute. The newly minted institute has a fresh emphasis to match.

Dawn Deeter-Schmelz, J.J. Vanier distinguished chair in relational selling and marketing and professor of marketing, said the program was initially started a year ago to provide students with professional sales skills, educational resources and outreach activities. While those goals still remain, the updates help the institute reflect what's going on in the business world today.

"The name didn't express our vision for the program," Deeter-Schmelz said. "We still take a relationship-based approach to dealing with customers, but strategic selling is more reflective of the key account management approach being used today."

The marketing advisory board also wanted the name to communicate the national prominence the program is working to achieve. Ali Malekzadeh, Edgerley family dean of the College of Business Administration, said renaming the program is a large piece of the college's intent to take the program to a national level.

"We are very pleased that Provost Mason recognizes the importance of changing the name, and we are excited about the future of the National Strategic Selling Institute," he said.

The new name aligns with the institute's new emphasis, which focuses on three areas:

* National prominence in the academic community. This can be achieved through world-class sales research, faculty development and leadership in the sales community. The institute's research will also aid the university's goal of becoming a top 50 public research university by 2025.

* National prominence in the business community. Deeter-Schmelz said this will be accomplished by getting business practitioners involved in the classroom for their knowledge and experience.

* National prominence as an educational program. This is perhaps the most primary concern, Deeter-Schmelz said, although the other goals are critical to the success of educational prominence. Once achieved, more students will be attracted to the institute to work toward a place in one of the world's most rapidly growing careers.

"Companies need sales people because they bring revenue into the firm," she said. "This institute will help Kansas State University provide firms with skilled students who can hit the ground running."

Students taking part in the National Strategic Selling Institute, offered through the college's department of marketing, often receive the same training that an employee would get at an entry-level job. Deeter-Schmelz said students have the opportunity to practice in sales labs that function as mock offices, using the same technology implemented at Edward Jones Investments.

"Instructors watch videos of students and give feedback so students can see what they've done and how to improve," she said. "It's like a coach going through a game video with an athlete. It changes the whole dynamic."

Faculty Senate is currently considering two additional sales classes. Once they're approved, Deeter-Schmelz said the department hopes to offer a university-wide minor or certificate program in sales, adding to the wide variety of programs offered in the College of Business Administration.