Students planning a career in sales typically major in sales, business or marketing and take supporting classes in communications to enhance speaking and interpersonal skills. Academic credit can also be earned by landing an internship with a company that offers on-the-job sales training. College classes and practical experience can provide the skills needed to achieve success in the lucrative but highly competitive sales profession. A recent college graduate with a professional sales degree may receive multiple job offers, according to Bloomberg Businessweek's article, "Sales Hits the Big Time at B-Schools."
Courses in sales teach students to effectively sell diverse products and services to a wide range of consumers. Students become proficient at identifying potential buyers, showcasing what they’re selling and closing big deals. Acquired techniques can be applied to making many types of sales, such as real estate, pharmaceuticals, software or manufactured goods. At schools such as Florida State University, professional sales majors role-play sales transactions in their classes and complete a practicum that integrates theory with hands-on experience in a sales position.
Sales majors take business courses to grasp the economic principles of supply and demand that drive pricing. Competitive pricing can increase sales volume, but sales professionals must first calculate the overall profit margin at different price points. In addition, business classes in budgeting, accounting and finance help students in sales understand commissions, revenue projections, expenses, taxes and deficits. Business classes may also cover ethics, negotiations, contracts and business law, which is helpful since many sales involve a legally binding agreement.
Marketing classes help sales majors identify, interpret and adapt to consumer purchasing trends. For instance, students in the sales management program at the University of Akron take marketing courses including Professional Selling, Marketing Research, Buyer Behavior, and Marketing and Sales Analytics. Marketing classes teach students how to design exciting advertising campaigns and promotional events that generate product interest and reinforce brand loyalty. Successful sales professionals stay abreast of trends in consumer buying and adapt their sales pitch accordingly.
Students interested in a sales career often take communication classes as general education electives or as a concentration within their major. For instance, Michigan State University offers a sales communication specialization designed for business or communication majors that boasts a 100 percent job placement rate, according to the school’s website in 2014. Communication classes help students learn to listen, establish rapport, build trust, avoid misunderstandings and resolve unforeseen problems that may arise during transactions. Communication skills maintain positive public relations between buyers and sellers.
- Florida State University College of Business: The Professional Sales Major
- The University of Akron: Get a Sales Management Bachelor of Business Administration (B.B.A.) Degree
- Michigan State University: Sales Communication Specialization
- Big Future by the College Board: Major: Marketing
- Ball State University: Major in Professional Selling
Dr. Mary Dowd is a dean of students whose job includes student conduct, leading the behavioral consultation team, crisis response, retention and the working with the veterans resource center. She enjoys helping parents and students solve problems through advising, teaching and writing online articles that appear on many sites. Dr. Dowd also contributes to scholarly books and journal articles.