William Paterson University has launched a graduate sales degree in response to industry interest for a program that gives sales specialists better business understanding and long-view strategic thinking.
The Executive Master of Science in Sales Leadership will be informed by an advisory board of over a dozen sales industry experts, including Greg Hewitt, CEO of DHL Express U.S.; John Hand, president of Complete Document Solution; Leigh Bresnahan, vice president of sales at McKesson; and Ed Bitterle, chief talent acquisition officer of ADP, based in Roseland.
“These are people who have done sales and have led teams who are charged with recruiting sales,” said Prabakar Kothandaraman, chair of the Department of Professional Sales at William Paterson University said. “They understand what we’re trying to do.”
William Paterson was one of the first universities to offer an undergraduate program specific to sales. The program has been around for a number of years, but Kothandaraman said many established middle managers don’t have the same perspective as undergraduates fresh out of school.
“You have a lot of middle managers who probably have not had an opportunity to formally get trained in sales education,” Kothandaraman said. “They’re also being charged to train, motivate and lead these guys who are coming out of undergraduate curriculum with a different set of motivations.”
Managers in sales today are “hit from three sides,” he said. In addition to newly graduated employees having different expectations, the needs of customers and executives also have changed in recent years. Customers look for sales representatives to have a better understanding of their business’ needs and executives want sales people to take a strategic long view as opposed to meeting quotas in the short term.
The graduate program is built to aide sales professionals established in their career.
“This is not for undergraduates to jump into this position,” said Siamack Shojai, dean of the Cotsakos College of Business. “This is for people who have been out there and have a lot of experience.”
The interest in a graduate sales program came from professionals disappointed with the lack of opportunities to continue education in the field on a higher level. According to Kothandaraman, some sales experts would pursue an MBA degree but feel let down by the lack of focus on the industry.
“If you sample MBA curriculum, there’s almost never a mention of sales. They pretend it doesn’t exist,” Kothandaraman said.
The new graduate sales degree will be offered beginning in the fall.