26th Annual Colleagues in Jesuit Business Education Meeting

Experience level: 
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Trent Wachner James Zboja

Personal Selling as a Discipline? How Does Sales Education Fit in Jesuit Pedagogy?

An ongoing debate in marketing academia is whether sales should be considered an academic discipline or a vocational endeavor. There is certainly somewhat a focus on application over theory in most personal selling curricula. However, the centrality of sales in business in general calls for an emphasis on the soft skills required to succeed, regardless of discipline. This research investigates this debate in general and posits whether and how a Jesuit university can best serve its students by teaching personal selling as part of its business curriculum. The academic merit of business education itself was once a topic of debate in the early years of business schools. Opened in 1920, the first bulletin of the Creighton College of Commerce, Accounts, and Finance states that “Until the beginning of the present century, it was generally assumed that a young man could attain to successful leadership in the industrial, commercial, or financial world only by serving a long apprenticeship in some particular field of business activity and acquiring knowledge by his own individual experience” (Cahill and Hendrickson, 2022, p. 23). So, to, more recently, it goes with sales. Historically, universities considered sales “trade-school stuff” and did not offer sales courses (Cespedes & Weinfurter, 2016). More recently, the sheer numbers of graduates starting their careers in sales warrants increased consideration. Take into account that, according to the Sales Education Foundation, more than 50% of college graduates will take their initial post-graduation job in sales; that number increases to 88% for marketing majors (Harris, 2018). Further, it should be asked whether sales as a discipline can help promote certain Jesuit Values-among them being social justice. Selling in and of itself does not promote social justice, but could selling products and services that align with social justice provide sufficient benefit to suggest Jesuit Curriculum actively offer more sales courses and programs? Products that are ethically sourced, environmentally friendly need salespeople. In addition, since sales requires a high level of communication and interpersonal skills, as well as the ability to adapt to changing circumstances and handling rejection, many salespeople invest heavily into personal development. This emphasis on personal development could construed as a form of curas personalis such as promoting the whole mind, body and spirit of the individual. Finally, a salesperson who prioritizes building long term relationships with customers, who focuses on understanding their needs and providing solutions that benefit both the customer and the company, who conducts business with integrity and honesty, would be acting in accordance with Jesuit values. Ultimately, teaching sales at a university can provide students with valuable skills to compete in the workforce as well as contribute to their personal and professional development. It is important to consider how personal selling skills can co-exist and even further Jesuit values for students, So, how are Jesuit universities approaching sales in their curricula and how may Ignatian pedagogy best influence and/or benefit from teaching sales? Cahill, Hendrickson (2022), The Creighton University Heider College of Business: Igniting Greatness for 100 Years, Creighton University Heider College of Business, Omaha, NE. Cespedes & Weinfurter: https://hbr.org/2016/04/more-universities-need-to-teach-sales Harris: https://memoryblue.com/2018/12/college-sales-programs/#:~:text=According%20to%20the%20non%2Dprofit,the%20numbers%20go%20even%20higher.