Holly Linder (Sophomore – Marketing) stepped forward, prepared to do something that months earlier would have seemed impossible.
She was completely new to sales. Yet, here she was, playing a key role in her team’s pitch to win a lucrative contract with TechBlue, a business optimization consulting firm with offices in Washington, D.C. and Pittsburgh.
The company CEO Claye Greene, listened intently as Linder and her teammates Elise Mowrey (Sophomore – Marketing & Business Information Systems), Kathryn Davis (Senior – Accounting), and Isabel Descutner (Senior – Marketing) outlined why he should hire their company for an analytics project. Greene had to weigh their pitch against strong bids from two other teams.
The exercise, however, was hypothetical. It was part of a sales-focused case competition offered to business and engineering students in the Pitt Business Professional Sales Academy. The academy is designed to teach Pitt Business students the art and science of sales through workshops facilitated by the school’s Executives in Residence.
“The point of the case competition was to sell the invisible,” Linder says. “We were given a request by our instructors, then we sold them something ‘invisible,’ which was our tech services for their company.”
Created several years ago, the Sales Academy is designed for all business majors, not just marketing students seeking jobs in sales (although it’s good for that, too). The academy covers a range of topics meant to enhance students’ skills in public speaking, communication, and persuasion. Companies that have sponsored the Sales Academy include ADP, Cintas, dck Worldwide, Northwestern Mutual, The Pitt News, and Solutions 21.
“Sales is critical in every aspect of business,” says Greene, who is also an Entrepreneur in Residence at Pitt Business and was a co-facilitator of the Sales Academy. “Despite the fact that there are specific roles in companies for sales, every employee in some way, shape, or form is selling on a daily basis.”
The Sales Academy is part of a portfolio of co-curricular programs at Pitt Business. Others include the Real Estate Finance Academy, Digital Marketing Institute, and Industry Professional Networks in analytics, consulting, corporate accounting, corporate finance, and investments.
Descutner, who was part of the Pitt Business student case competition team, joined the Sales Academy because she wanted to learn about sales in a classroom-style setting that was less competitive. She was nervous at first, but the opportunity to interact with companies through the academy built up her confidence and even led to several job interviews with these companies.
“One of the things we spoke about was finding different people’s social styles and adapting your sales styles and methods to best suit the person that you’re selling to,” Descutner says. “Sales is really about paying attention to the other person and putting your attention on them and their needs to find a win-win situation for you and your client.”
Mowrey, also part of the Pitt Business student case competition team, says she enjoyed how the Sales Academy’s lessons provided her with sales knowledge she can immediately use.
“I learned how to use sales techniques to sell something intangible like an idea to my manager or myself in a job interview. Sales techniques are applicable in any business,” Mowrey says.
Ultimately, Linder’s team won the contract — and the case competition. Greene from TechBlue and the other judges voted to award them the contract.
“While I gained good insight on sales, my biggest takeaway for my future career was the confidence the Sales Academy gave me,” she says.
That confidence will serve her well wherever her business career takes her.
Registration for the Pitt Business Professional Sales Academy occurs in the fall semester. Visit the Sales Academy website to learn more. If you have questions or would like to be added to the waiting list for next year’s session, please contact Program Manager Becky Rhoades at firstname.lastname@example.org.