Executive-in-Residence Daniel Strunk was one of four people
recruited a decade ago by Marketing Chair Sue Fogel to create what has become
the nation’s largest sales management education and industry-outreach programs
at the Driehaus College of Business.
Strunk teamed up with fellow Executive-in-Residence David C.
Hoffmeister (MBA ’03), longtime Marketing Professor Joel Whalen and Adjunct Professor
Clancy Ryan (MBA ’02) to lead the launch of DePaul’s undergraduate and graduate
courses in sales leadership and the Center for Sales Leadership, which Strunk
manages. The program now offers 11 courses in sales management, enrolling 900
students, and has 46 corporate recruiting partners. It has been featured in The Harvard Business Review
Strunk brings 30 years of executive experience in packaged
and sporting goods sales, marketing and customer management to his role at
DePaul. Below, he discusses the program’s growing prominence and success in
preparing students for rewarding professional careers in sales.
Q: How has DePaul’s
Sales Leadership Program grown since it was founded?
Dan Strunk (DS): Since
it was introduced in 2004, the Sales Program has enjoyed explosive growth,
based on providing students outstanding career opportunities. It evolved to encompass
The Center for Sales Leadership in 2009. We started the program with one class
and 35 students; today we have 11 classes and 900 students taking courses in
any particular term. We have a partner-centric program, meaning that our corporate
partners provide us the financial and in-class executive support necessary to
develop our sales students. We have grown from five corporate partners in 2004 to 46 partners today in three categories (business-to-business, consumer packaged
goods and food service).
Q: What kind of
student should consider going into sales leadership?
DS: At the Center
for Sales Leadership we believe great sales people are built not born. We
believe that business analytics are the key to creating value in sales. Some
schools use Gallup and Chally personality testing to determine sales
capability, but we have not seen any real evidence to support that contention.
We prepare sales candidates two ways: technically and attitudinally. Technical
preparation is a straightforward process that
provides students the core competencies required to fulfill sales
What is not as clear cut, however, is how to dispel the
barrier attitudes that students have regarding the term “sales.” Those
attitudes are the result of our literature and Hollywood propagating the
perspective of sales. “Death of a Salesman,” “Glengarry Glen Ross” and “Tin Men”
are but a few examples of plays and movies that have negative stereotyping.
find it is important to ask students to describe their perfect job. Invariably our
students describe the core elements of a sales representative, such as accountability,
financial reward, the ability to believe in their products and, finally, the
opportunity to work with people. More importantly, after exposure to a single
sales class, 35 percent of students state they will pursue a sales career. It
is our experience that students of all personalities and backgrounds can be
taught to be outstanding sales people. At the Center for Sales Leadership we
prepare students at the graduate and undergraduate levels and with
specialization in business-to-business, consumer packaged goods and food service
Q: What is the career
opportunities abound in sales. According to Manpower, a recruiting
consulting firm, sales positions are the most difficult positions to fill
worldwide. Selling Power Magazine estimates that over 34,000 jobs are created
annually for sales professionals. What we know is that according to the DePaul Educational Landscape Study, 100 institutions teach sales in at least one class
and 26 universities have a sales center with four or more classes, but that all
of those schools combined graduate only 3,000 qualified students for those jobs
each year. Our partners’ recruiting appetite for talent has increased by a
factor of three this year. Consider three of our partners—3M has tripled the
internships they are seeking this year, Pepsi has doubled their requirement and
Textron has come to our program with over 20 jobs to fill. Careers in sales are
at a premium today and for the long term as well.
Q: How has the
business community supported the program?
partnerships have increased 100 percent in the last three years as companies
learn that hiring for sales positions from other companies is no longer
successful because of a dearth of quality talent and significant diversity and
cultural concerns. If not from other companies, then where will they recruit?
What companies are learning is that college campuses are the only source for
quality talent, yet their recruiting programs are woefully inadequate to keep
up with their demand.
3M, our first partner, has been investing in college
recruiting and sales curriculum for 20 years for just this reason. Since 2011
our program partner count has increased from 18 companies supporting our
program to 46 partners contributing to student recruitment, our research agenda
and a healthy partner community. In 2011 we graduated 170 students per year;
today we expect to graduate 200 students per year and look to expand our sales
concentration and minor population to 220 students in 2014. We expect to grow
our business partners as our student population expands.
Q: How has the
program’s faculty contributed to its success?
DS: All faculty
members recruited to support our program have significant related business
experience. We understand that to prepare students for the business world our
instructors need to be able to relate to our partners’ functional needs and
bring that perspective to our classrooms. Teaching in the classroom is perhaps
only half of the requirements for our faculty members. They also need to be
able to provide career counseling and support for our students as they explore
new career choices and think thorough issues like business focus, long-term
growth opportunities for a company and relocation. DePaul’s business faculty
members are part of the reason that our students are so productive when they
reach the work environment because our students have been coached to succeed.
Q: What kind of
research does the Center for Sales Leadership produce?
DS: Research is a
principal source of value for our business partners. Our partners benefit from
exposure to talent, participation in our business community, and access to
faculty members and to the research we commission each year. Our research
mission is to increase the body of practical knowledge for the sales community.
We field a variety of studies to support our partners. Every two years Executive-in-Residence
David Hoffmeister and Assistant Professor Richard Rocco field a Sales Best
Practices Study, which reviews those sales practices that shape successful
companies. In addition, they both collaborate on the Sales Education Landscape
Study that tracks the growth and quality of sales education on college campuses
across the country. In the consumer packaged goods sector we have completed two
category management studies. The first was a review of the practice of category
captaincy. A second study focusing on collaboration of category management partners
is being developed presently by Associate Professor Nina Diamond and Assistant
Professor Marina Girju. These studies are intended to improve the body of
knowledge of sales and to provide our business partners competitive advantage
in the workplace.
Q: What kind of
attention has the program received?
DS: Center for
Sales Leadership faculty members take the promotion of our program very
seriously. Faculty members have been invited to serve on the boards of three
major industry associations: The University Sales Center Alliance Board, The
Category Management Association Board and the University Sales Education
Foundation Board. These positions allow us an opportunity to extensively communicate
DePaul’s commitment to industry service. In addition, our faculty members are
invited to speak at industry conferences around the world. This past year I
spoke at eight conferences, providing exposure to the university’s perspective
on professional selling and category management. Other faculty members have had
similar opportunities. Participating on these stages provides significant
exposure to our program. Finally, publication and publicity is important to
presenting the DePaul brand to the business community worldwide.
While we contribute to magazines through interviews and
write articles for Selling Power Magazine and various blogs, perhaps our high
point was the inclusion of an article written by Fogel, Rocco, Hoffmeister and
myself titled “Teaching Sales” that appeared in the July 2012 issue of Harvard
All in all, we have done a good job of
communicating who we are and what we do, but as with everything else,
improvements can be made. We expect to make great progress in program
recognition in the