Progressive Grocer

DEC 2015

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December 2015 | | 17 Shortage in Sales Let's review one such need, the development of sales talent. In 2005, just 38 schools taught at least one sales course, yet the annual demand for sales reps exceeds 28,000 people domestically, according to Selling Power magazine. Even after universities were made aware of this shortage, they did little to help. Indeed, St. Paul, Minn.-based 3M has been on a crusade to develop sales talent for the past two decades. Te company's Frontline initiative has urged universities to partner with it to build sales talent. Today, the program has encouraged 14 schools to help create candidates for sales positions and improve its salesforce. Times are changing. Currently, many universi- ties have begun to listen to business when it comes to developing sales talent. According to the most recently published DePaul University "Sales Landscape Study," at least 139 schools are now teaching sales. Tat com- pares favorably with the 108 schools that were teaching the subject in 2014. Further, the current environment boasts 28 centers or schools that teach four or more integrated classes to prepare "work-ready" talent. Te real problem, of course, is that all of these schools combined produce fewer than 2,500 properly prepared students for hire. Proper preparation means that while these students are prepared technically for the challenges of the work, more importantly, they have also been attitudinally prepared for their future employment. Meanwhile, the plight in category man- agement is even more concerning. Cat Man Do Today, there are about 10 schools that teach category management from diferent perspectives. Some schools integrate category management into a retail- ing specialty, others into a food marketing approach, and one integrates the subject with consumer pack- aged goods sales. Te Minneapolis-based Category Management Association (CMA) estimates that more than 2,500 new jobs are created each year that properly prepared college students could fll. Te problem, again, is that all of the schools teaching category management produce fewer than 250 graduates annually. Tis is a classic case of universities not searching out emerging business needs and preparing talent. To be fair, the demand for category management positions is quite new. Additionally, on a positive note, some schools are listening, and professional associations can play an important role in connecting businesses to universities. Over the past two years, the CMA's Higher Edu- cation Advisory Council has translated industry need into academic advice for schools interested in the con- sumer packaged goods industry. To aid in this mission, its seven member schools wrote a category manage- ment program development plan, or "starter kit." Tis plan, which is available upon request, identifes how to develop a curriculum and establish a business model to attract industry partners, as well as defning approaches to attract faculty and students to support category management education. Te plan has been presented to several schools, but results aren't in yet. What's clear today is that the demand for category management talent is high, and that supply from col- lege campuses will take some time to develop. Building Momentum One major issue that confronts educators at every school is how to attract students to participate in category management programs. Even where these programs are fully developed, students reach their junior year uninformed about such specialized career opportunities, and with little time to adjust their schooling accordingly. Universities must do a better job of informing freshmen and sophomores about career options so that they can align electives to focus on these lucrative opportunities. To confront this lack of awareness, schools like DePaul have instituted student ambassador programs. In such a program, juniors and seniors assume a men- tor or advisory role and share their positive personal experiences though social media posts, events and promotions directed at underclassmen. To date, these programs are building momentum. Listening to business actively means establishing new curricula to better prepare students to be work- ready. Schools are beginning to develop advanced analytics and shopper insights courses. Aligning these new courses to established category management tracks — such as the three-course track at DePaul, consisting of Science of Retailing, Principles of Cat- egory Management and Cases in Category Manage- ment — provides students with signifcant exposure to the specialty before they graduate. It's no accident that students from these programs are in high demand at CPG companies. Support from Business Universities are beginning to see that students need more and better information about careers. It's also necessary for businesses to partner with universities to support the development of curricula and programs via fnancial resources, executive talent and leadership. Education can support the talent needs of business, but it will take time, expertise and efort to build the educational platforms to produce the talent that busi- ness so desperately needs tomorrow. PG Education can support the talent needs of business, but it will take time, expertise and effort to build the educational platforms to produce the talent that business so desperately needs tomorrow. Daniel P. Strunk is managing director of the Center for Sales Leadership at Chicago's DePaul University and chairman of the Category Management Association's Certifications Evaluation Board.

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