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DCE Magazine

Learning to Sell the Future

Fall 2020

In a constantly changing world, few careers have remained as consistently in demand and adaptable to change as that of the skilled sales professional. Rapid advances in technology can disrupt business, communication and commerce, but there will always be a need for candidates who can successfully develop and manage fruitful relationships with clients.

“Professional Sales Readiness gives students exposure to sales roles, sales tools, and all processes needed to excel in sales.” Bernice Burns, Instructor

UCI Division of Continuing Education’s Professional Sales Readiness course prepares students to transition directly from the virtual classroom to a lucrative new career.

Sales can be rewarding and quite lucrative for well-trained pros, especially those fluent in new high-tech sales tools. Problem is, not nearly enough college grads are being groomed to take on these positions, creating a wide gap that few schools are currently addressing, said Debbie Holzkamp, founder and CEO of Virtanza, a leading sales education, certification and jobs placement company.

“Even though 50% of college graduates will end up in a sales position, universities are not preparing students for sales,” she said. “Only 3% of colleges and universities offered sales courses pre-COVID-19. So, my mission for the last decade has been to fill that gap for employers by putting more and more qualified salespeople in the workforce. And for employees, my mission has always been to expose motivated workers to stimulating, fulfilling and lucrative careers.”

It might be easy to overlook sales for a trendier career, but the field offers a wide range of opportunities across virtually all industries and titles, from entry-level inside sales to account executives and managers in healthcare, technology, manufacturing — you name it. And these jobs offer annual income ranging from $65,000 to $100,000 for qualified candidates.

“For instance, on the Acclaim site — the badging platform connecting credentialed students with open positions across industries — there are currently more than 82,000 open sales positions in California alone, and 39% offer compensation upwards of $100,000. One of the positions, for a business development representative at a post-production house, pays $87,000 and requires college-level sales training.”

To address the need for university-credentialed candidates, UCI partnered with Virtanza to offer this online Professional Sales Readiness course designed to prepare the next generation of sales pros for success. Students are trained in the latest platforms and technology, using customized simulation tools that replicate real-world situations.

Filling the sales gap

Sales has always been about cultivating and maintaining relationships with clients, and today’s sales professionals have an array of tech tools that help them master the process in a number of innovative ways, said course instructor Bernice Burns.

“Professional Sales Readiness gives students exposure to sales roles, sales tools, and all processes needed to excel in sales. Students practice prospecting and engaging with Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and sales-engagement technology, conducting critical needs-assessment meetings, writing and presenting compelling proposals, and negotiating and closing deals. And they do all of it with an awareness of and sensitivity to personality and cultural differences.”

With technology enabling growing globalization, the ability to connect with a customer’s personality and culture is more critical than ever. Learning to leverage these new tools to amplify CRM and adapt to a worldwide marketplace is a key component of the UCI course, Burns added.

The Virtanza model provides the latest tech tools and expert instruction that allow students to explore 13 professional sales roles through real-world, employer role-play simulations. Students learn advanced CRM techniques, sales engagement and planning, with an introduction to the same Salesforce and Groove platforms used by Fortune 500 companies.

“ is the 800-pound gorilla in the CRM field,” Burns said. “Considering that early CRM tools were basically electronic Rolodexes — allowing for storage and organization — we’ve definitely come a long way. Today’s systems track key stages in the entire sales process, with customizable reports that allow users to evaluate collected data in every imaginable way.”

Sales pros have access to apps that send and track customer correspondence, display news events that affect client business, even enable sophisticated marketing campaigns, with customer contact and relationship information displayed in front of them at all times.

A custom education

Before the course begins, students are administered the GrowthPlay’s Chally Sales Assessment. This predictive assessment is an industry standard to determine individual sales competencies and pinpoint their most effective roles. The survey allows for a customized educational experience through sales simulation role-plays based on real situations — scenarios written by Virtanza’s technical writers under guidance of sales directors at Virtanza’s employer partners.

“These are actual sales situations that our students analyze and solve,” Burns said. “This experiential learning gives experience in genuine day-to-day customer sales interactions. It helps them explore their future path and figure out what they want it to be — identify a career path and learn the necessary skills for specific roles. Exercises allow students to try on these roles, usually more than one, giving them more freedom of choice than, say, a sales boot camp would.”

Professional Sales Readiness aims to prepare students to step directly from the virtual classroom into their new careers. Burns and Holzkamp offered an example, one of Virtanza’s early students who assessed extremely well for Consultative Solution Sales, Relationship Solution Sales, and New Business Development roles.

“We assigned the student a role-play simulation from a technology firm serving the healthcare industry. They were looking for business development reps who were adept at finding new business, forming relationships, and upselling customers. Dana crushed both role-play exercises. What’s more is that the company hired Dana as an intern fresh from the course, and later as a full-time employee.”

It’s all about providing students with today’s most effective tech tools to enable and amplify age-old values that ensure success — professionalism, resilience, perseverance, and empathy. Those qualities always have been foundations for successful sales pros, Burns said.