Sales lab gives marketing students hands-on experience


Photo by Leighann McGivern

Leighann McGivern

A new professional sales lab in the Business Administration Building will help students in the marketing department learn real-life skills and create digital portfolios for future employers.

The sales lab, a former fifth floor copy room, was transformed to resemble an environment students might encounter if they were making an actual sales call, said Pamela Grimm, chair of the marketing department.

Grimm said one of the benefits of the sales lab is that students can perform mock sales calls, which are recorded for evaluation.

“We wanted to have recording equipment so we could record those mock sales calls and then go back over the calls with students as a learning mechanism,” Grimm said.

Ellen Daniels, an instructor in the marketing department and faculty advisor of Pi Sigma Epsilon, is responsible for envisioning and securing funding for the sales lab, Grimm said.

“She’s somebody who’s working in the profession, so she always has great ideas, and she’s very good at selling her ideas,” Grimm said. “It was really up to her initiative – that’s really what got this into place.”

Daniels said she has been teaching sales classes at Kent State since 1992 and, until this year, didn’t have an adequate space for students to practice sales calls.

“I’ve been in the dean’s conference room, I’ve been in storage closets, I’ve been in empty offices — wherever I could find space that would allow us some privacy and would allow me to use a video camera because it’s really important for students to be able to watch how they did,” Daniels said.

Two sellers sit across from a buyer at a desk in the sales lab while three cameras record the calls from different angles.

“We can split the screen, so if one person wants their part of the role play, we can get just them or we can put them both together, so it’s kind of cool,” Daniels said.

Upper-class students in the Advanced Professional Selling and Personal Selling and Sales Management courses will also utilize the sales lab as part of their curricula.

“It’s more important than a test, a quiz or anything else for (students) to actually be a seller and learn how to communicate,” Daniels said.

Daniels also said the secondary use of the sales lab is for students to do mock sales calls that can be recorded and sent to potential employers.

“The thing that I envision with this is for students not only to be able to have it as part of their classroom but for students to be able to videotape and then download onto a flash drive or a disk their role plays so they can use it as part of their portfolio,” Daniels said.

Grimm said the marketing department received funding for the sales lab from Group Management Services, Inc. According to its website, GMS is a local organization that helps companies “remove the administrative burdens of running a company, allowing owners to focus more time on their business.”

Grimm said the organization has been actively involved in Kent State’s sales program for some time. GMS has hired several alumni from Kent State, who were instrumental in installing the sales lab.

“They’ve been on campus a number of times and have been coming in as speakers,” she said. “So this is really extensive work they’ve been doing for quite some time with our sales.”

Daniels said the business fraternity, Pi Sigma Epsilon, will use the lab to prepare for its national convention, where three of its members will compete against other students across the country.

“They’ll get a scenario in the mail, and they’ll say, ‘You’re a sales person for XYZ Corporation and you’re selling this product to this person,’” Daniels said. “Then the students will have to develop their sales pitch.”

Brian Waller, senior communication studies major and vice president of PSE, said he hopes the sales lab will prepare his team for nationals.

“Just overall, the lab will give our team work-related experience and a competitive edge,” Waller said.

Waller will compete at the national convention with fellow PSE members Shaun Minko, senior marketing major, and Meagan Dzurinda, senior managerial marketing major.

“Just seeing yourself in an interview kind of helps you improve your skills,” Dzurinda said.

Although installation of the sales lab was finalized over winter break, Grimm said the department hopes to install monitors in the instructors’ offices so they can view the calls without having to be in the room.

“We’ll actually have a monitor set up that will show the interviews as they’re happening,” Grimm said. “That’s the only piece that’s not in place yet.”

Grimm said, in the future, she also plans to use the space to perform mock interviews with students preparing to enter the job market or applying for internships.

“I’ve done mock interviews with students for many years now,” Grimm said. “Having the ability to record some of those so students can take a look and learn from what they’re doing — that’s huge.”

Contact Leighann McGivern at [email protected] .