Potential sales certificate program to launch for Ivy College of Business


Courtesy of Raj Agnihotri

Raj Agnihotri, Dean’s Fellow in marketing, director of the Ivy Sales Consortium and associate professor in marketing, with members of the Ivy Sales Team.

Kirstie Martin

The Ivy College of Business certificate in professional sales is a new course of study that includes role-play exercises, sales presentations, industry-based case studies, team projects and other directions of study.

Iowa State’s Ivy Sales Program is being developed under the leadership of Raj Agnihotri, Dean’s Fellow in marketing, director of Ivy Sales Consortium and associate professor in marketing.

“The program has been developing on two fronts,” Agnihotri said. “One is that we are in the process of developing a professional sales forum and the other is the professional sales certificate.”

The certificate in professional sales program is being built with an emphasis on application and practice.

“The process in real life is brought into the classroom through this program,” Agnihotri said. “Students are evaluated by actual executives. These real executives are seeing our students in action, which makes for very hands-on learning.”

The idea of the program is to give students an opportunity so they have a better idea of what professional selling is, according to Agnihotri.

“Things have evolved and now business is more focused on customer relationships,” Agnihotri said. “Especially in the business-to-business, it has become a very sought after career. However, students are not prepared for it. When this program is approved we will be the only one in the state of Iowa to offer such kind of a certificate.”

According to Agnihotri, data suggests more than 60 percent of job opportunities are associated with sales or customer-facing areas in today’s economy.

“There’s a disconnect between the job opportunities and the students being ready for it,” Agnihotri said. “Students are finding the perfect job, but are not ready for it. And companies are investing their time, training and money into the students and both are losing out because of the high turnover rate.”

The Sales Education Foundation, a non-profit organization that elevates sales profession through college and university programs, recently named the new Ivy certificate program a “Top University Sales Program in 2019,” according to the Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business website.

“By taking the classes that are the sales certificate classes, I was able to get the opportunity to compete in the sales competition,” said Jack Wilgenbusch, student on the Ivy Sales Team and junior in marketing. “I’m actually going to Florida in November to compete for the Ivy Sales Team against hundreds of other colleges.”

The professional sales certificate program is designed for any undergraduate student, even those outside of the business college.

“The biggest thing with the sales certificate program is that no matter what major students go in, they’re going to be selling something,” Wilgenbusch said. “This certificate program gives students the ability to learn how to sell and learn how to sell through relationships.”

The program is for those at the undergraduate level and includes three required sales courses.

“All these sales classes will be very heavy on experience learning,” Agnihori said. “We need to give the practice. Within the new expansion, there will be a state-of-the-art sales center. Labs will have offices where students can do sales negotiations, presentations and we can critique, assess and review.”

Wilgenbusch said he has taken a few of the sales classes because they are currently available within the Ivy College of Business.

“A lot of people don’t understand what sales is; they kind of think it is manipulative and it is about making a buck,” Wilgenbusch said. “But these classes have helped me understand that it is kind of just about achieving the greater good.”

The new sales program will move to a space within the new 45,000 square foot Gerdin Business Building expansion. The building expansion is scheduled to open in January 2021 and the new space will include a dedicated suite for sales education and real life practice.

Currently all the sales classes are in motion but the sales certificate has not been approved by the faculty senate. The faculty senate is set to vote on it Friday. If it is approved, the certificate program will launch in the spring of 2020.

“Unlike a minor, it will show up on a diploma,” Agnihori said. “Certificate level, I think we are one of the unique programs […]. For us, we are serving the land-grant through this program.”