Seventeen NIU Professional Sales Students will hit the road on a Huskie bus next Sunday, December 16th to jump-start their sales career. This intersession class – Professional Sales in the Field, otherwise affectionately known as “Sales on Wheels” – provides firsthand exposure to five companies, all partnering organizations with NIU’s sales program. The sales program offers the class out of the Department of Marketing in the College of Business.
This year’s five participating companies are: McKesson Pharmaceuticals, Enterprise Holdings, Sherwin Williams, Fastenal, and Impact Networking. Collectively, their operations are located in Indianapolis and St. Louis. Class topics will range from relocation and “living on the road for a week as a sales professional,” observing corporate culture, reviewing compensation and benefits packages to networking with over 25 HR and sales executives. Along the way, the students will also meet with Enterprise CEO Pam Nicholson, who recently landed in the top 20 on the Forbes ranking of the “Most Powerful Women in Business.”
Lydell Curry, of Plainfield, Illinois, a senior marketing major in pursuit of his professional selling certificate, believes this class to be an investment in his future. Along with the knowledge he’ll gain, Curry has set his sights on securing a high-paying sales role next May.
“This class provides an amazing opportunity,” Curry explains. “I’m more than willing to give up a portion of my semester break in order to be able to differentiate myself because of this experience. Interacting with at least 25 corporate executives over the course of a week is an experience you just can’t get in the classroom. The entire experience will give me the tools I need to be successful in sales and help me grow professionally. I want to learn from these executives exactly how to hit the ground running when I begin my sales career.”
Since its inception in 2013, more than 100 NIU sales students have taken the “Sales on Wheels” class over winter break. The idea of going on the road with a class originated when faculty explored new ways to expand their students’ perspectives, particularly with regard to accepting good job offers outside of the Chicago area.
“We wanted to educate sales students about the career upside when companies relocate them. As we explored ways to do that, we came up with the idea of actually taking students to bordering states so they could experience new areas, different ways of life and viewpoints,” says Charles H. Howlett, Director of NIU Professional Sales.
The class has a team-based structure. The student teams discuss and present on topics such as relocation, company benefits, how to use the class experience to land a job, FICO and credit scores, understanding salary compensation types and social media. As part of their final exam, the students select a company they’d like to work for, and then they develop a personal budget. The exercise requires that they consider and factor in cost of living, starting salary, taxes and monthly expenses.
This year’s class will also have the opportunity to meet with one of the country’s most powerful women in business. During their last stop at the Enterprise Holdings corporate office in Clayton, Missouri, students will interact and present to over a dozen upper management executives including CEO Pam Nicholson, who was recently ranked by Forbes as 17th in its list of the “Most Powerful Women in Business.”
Marketing senior Lydell Curry is excited by the opportunity.
“I’m very sure that being a CEO is unbelievably difficult,” he says, then adds, “I would love to know how Enterprise has managed to remain an industry leader in such a competitive market. I would also really like to know what it takes to be a CEO and maybe ask Pam Nicholson if she would mentor me.”
Sales on Wheels 2018 will wrap up with a holiday celebration in the Enterprise boardroom. As it happens, Enterprise corporate will celebrate “ugly sweater day” at that time – and CEO Pam Nicholson should be well prepared to represent based on a gift presented to her from last year’s Sales on Wheels class.
by Charles H. Howlett, Director of NIU Professional Sales, with Michelle De Jean, contributing