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Sales Leadership
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In the first of the new CPSA SalesProTips series, Kristen Harcourt is joined by one of Canada’s only women with a Sales PhD as we discuss what makes sales a great career choice and how the academic opportunities to master sales at Canadian institutions are about to dramatically increase.

Our guest is Karen Boehnke Peesker, PhD. Research Associate at the Cranfield School of Management and Principal at KAM Sales & Management Consulting.

Listen to this episode and discover:

* What makes Sales a good career choice?

* Why should Canada's young people study Sales?

* Who's making waves in Sales training? Which universities and institutions are helping to develop Canada's next generation of Sales leaders?

Want to hear more? Check out these bonus soundbites:

* How can we better equip our upcoming sales reps and leaders so they have the academic and vocational education to succeed?

* When it comes to getting more from sales teams, what are some of the unique challenges in larger organizations?

* What does such a strong academic background, combined with years of global corporate experience at IBM and Lexmark, and consultative experience bring to the table for your clients?

Read the edited transcription:

Kristen H: Welcome to the CPSA Sales Tips for the Pros series. In this episode, Dr. Karen Peesker will be joining us to have a discussion on developing sales people of tomorrow. Karen is a motivating business educator, consultant, and researcher focused on sales leadership. She spent 16 years working at IBM and Lexmark, leading global sales and marketing teams. She leveraged her global corporate experience into consulting and researching to assist clients in accelerating salesperson performance and building leadership talents.

Karen is the author and co-author of numerous academic articles and business cases. She holds a PhD in sales leadership from Cranfield School of Management in the UK and an MBA and HBA from Ivey Business School in Canada. Her current research examines leadership factors influencing sales performance. Welcome, Karen. It's great to have you here.

Karen Peesker: Hi, Kristen. It's great to be here. Thank you for having me on your show.

Kristen H: Karen, what makes sales a good career choice? What are the short and longer term benefits compared to say operations, HR, or marketing?

Karen Peesker: Well, when talking with students about their choice of career, we often talk about the value of a business degree as a foundational component, and the importance of learning the numbers, as the numbers are such an important part of every aspect of a business.

An undergrad degree in business provides a great starting point. However, once you get into an organization, you realize immediately that the essence of every organization involves engagement with customers of some form, both internal and external, and it is then that you can understand the importance and impact that sales has to every business.

I don't know if you've ever heard people say this, but some people say their business is entirely marketing or engineering driven. And perhaps they don't value selling skills to the same extent. In that case, I often think it's possible that the individuals are not considering the impact that they have in their business internally, and that their ability to build and sell their business plans requires selling expertise.

In fact, many startup CEOs quickly learn their key role is to sell their organization to investors and new talent and partners. As a result, sales is an excellent career choice. And you asked about the short term and long term benefit. In the short term, an organization fundamentally needs to raise cash and have effective cashflows to fund the business. They may produce a great product or service, but if they don't have an effective sales organization, they won't be able to generate cash, and therefore all those other functions you mentioned, HR, operations, they're not required. Without revenue, there is no business. That's the short term.

In the long term, sales provides a platform to enter new markets. To find new business opportunities. To enable geography expansion. To create partnerships and alliances which dramatically leverage an organization's core capability. Sales as a career offers all of these choices. And then as a result, also as from a personal perspective, it provides an opportunity to be responsible for a business, and with that comes a degree of independence and really great flexibility, as well. For those who perform, compensation can be really rewarding.

In summary, sales is the lifeline of a business and that makes it a fantastic career choice.

Kristen H: Yeah, that brings me to the next question. Why should Canada's young people study sales?

Karen Peesker: Well, I believe Canadian students should study sales because the most important job in a company is to bring in the revenue and engage with customers. I think we should teach young people that professional sales can be an enriching and rewarding career that can take them across the globe and position them to do well financially. Because that's what it is.

Professional selling and sales is also one of the most common jobs for students after graduating. Research suggests that 60% of all business majors and 88% of marketing majors begin their professional careers in sales-related roles. By starting my own career at IBM and Lexmark in sales, it led me to a global career where I worked in 15 countries across five continents leading sales and marketing teams. That was a pretty exciting opportunity for a young woman coming from Markham, and it all started in sales.

There are so many opportunities for young people who embrace professional selling. Their need to engage with customers is also important for long term career development. In organizations, it's often considered that engaging with customers and the process by which you undertake in doing this is a critical skill required for the development of senior leadership capabilities.

At IBM, it was often talked about that said that you could not be president without having carried a bag. Meaning that you would not become an executive without having spent time in the field selling. Selling and customer engagement experience continues to be an important skill for leaders across all industries.

In summary most students in a career will do the job of selling, whether it's selling a product, selling their ideas internally, selling themselves versus other colleagues to obtain a new position, for example, or selling to customers. It is fundamental to teach students some selling skills that will build their confidence and help prepare them for future work experience.

If a young person in Canada has dreams of becoming a business leader, working internationally, or even starting up a new company, they must develop selling skills at some point in their career.

Kristen H: Karen, you are the only or one of the only women in Canada with a sales-related PhD. Tell us why you decided to pursue sales through academia.

Karen Peesker: I had a near 20 year career of engaging with customers, both internally and externally. And as I think about the impact that the skills of selling and leadership have to an organization, I'm passionately committed to understanding how sales can be led, managed, developed, and aligned better within an organization.

And just as at one stage, finance and accounting were primary topics in business education, business education is expanding now into new streams, including marketing, technology, and entrepreneurship. To me, a core component of the ecosystem of an organization is sales. Sales is a growing field of study, and working with top academics in this field of study and researching and working with exceptional sales leaders has made this a thoroughly enjoyable experience.

Kristen H: Who's making waves in sales training and which universities and institutions are helping to develop Canada's next generation of sales leaders?

Karen Peesker: Well, Kristen, I think Canadian universities are truly world class. We are so incredibly fortunate to have such outstanding institutions across our country. What is interesting is many leading universities in Canada are now considering how they integrate components of the sales profession into formalized coursework. It's an area of development which will enrich our students and provide a platform for growth, to be utilized for these students once they enter they public or corporate world.

There are a few schools who are doing this to help develop our sales leaders in Canada. In Montreal, there's a leading university called HEC and they just created the Montreal Sales Institute, and it was launched just this spring, in 2017. My understanding is it's one of the first sales institutes in Canada. Their mission is to create a Sales Excellence Center which will be the reference for education and research in Quebec and across Canada. As well, my understanding is the British Columbia Institute of Technology has a focus on sales, and by doing this, it has led to more job placements for their students.

Also, students are leading the way, demonstrating the demand for self-education within universities. At Ryerson, there's a student-led group called the Ryerson Sales Initiative who are focused on learning about sales as a profession, and encouraging the university to teach it. Other student-led groups have been lodged at Queens, Ottawa and Laurier, to name a few.

And executive education in sales is growing. I'm involved this week with a program at Schulich and they're leading the way in this area. In the CPSA, the organization we're talking to today, is the leader in sales training and development. Recently, they put together a certification process for sales professionals. It's very similar to a kind of process that you would find for a certified accountant. It's a competency-based framework which outlines key sales competencies and skills, such as prospecting, client relationship development, negotiation skills and sales leadership.

The CPSA is planning to create the designation and they're investing in designing this framework so that educators in Canadian university and colleges can participate and produce graduates with these important skill sets that employers are currently looking for in students. Overall, there are great opportunities in Canada to embrace the sales profession, and to teach sales, in both universities and colleges, to prepare our students, and ultimately increase job placements and perhaps corporate sponsorship.

Kristen H: Wow! It's exciting to see everything that's happening here in Canada. Karen, to recap, what are your top two or three reasons to choose sales as an academic discipline?

Karen Peesker: The fact is students are coming out of school with finance, marketing, operation, and HR knowledge. But they're not prepared for the discipline of sales as a profession. Every component of the business has a role to play, and the old adage is true. Nothing happens until someone sells something. In the vast majority of business-to-business engagement, professional selling plays a key role.

I'll give you three reasons, I think, that are important to choose sales as an academic discipline. Reason number one: Organizations hire to grow their business and they hire individuals who are low risk hires and who will perform. Formal sales credential will speed up on the onboarding for companies and will enhance the personal success of the students in the sales profession.

Reason number two: Sales in today's market demands a thorough understanding of customer's business and solution set, and that needs to be applied for transformative outcomes. Business acumen applied with proven frameworks for customer engagement will enhance the likelihood of success.

And reason number three: Sales encompasses so many roles within an organization, including technical sales, sales analytics, sales compensation, territory mapping, go-to market strategy, channel management and strategy, marketing and sales collaboration and sales leadership. Sales can be an enriching and rewarding career, and it provides clear opportunities for career progression.

We teach accounting. We teach marketing, finance, and strategy. We should also consider teaching sales as a critical component of academic studies.

Kristen H: Well, Karen, I have to say you've shared so much valuable insight with our listeners today, and I would love for you to let them know how can they find you?

Karen Peesker: Probably best through LinkedIn and my web page, as well, which is KarenPeesker.

Kristen H: Awesome. Well, thank you for joining us on the show today, Karen.

Karen Peesker: Thank you. I've really enjoyed the process and speaking with you today, Kristen. Thank you very much for having me.

Kristen H: And thank you for joining us for the Sales Tips for the Pros podcast, brought to you by the CPSA.

Enjoyed the interview? Check out oodles more articles, videos and podcasts in the CPSA Learning Hub.

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