Tuesday , February 27, 2018 - 5:00 AM
Editor’s note: This story was produced in conjunction with the Weber State University Department of Professional Sales.
OGDEN — Weber State University’s Professional Sales department is turning 50.
The program, which started in 1968 with 15 students enrolled, has been at the forefront of sales education in the state and across the nation.
Desiree Cooper-Larsen has been a professor in the professional sales program since 1984. She said the school has been successful because it was built by people who believed in the importance of sales education.
“They had a reputation of being of the highest caliber and being student-oriented,” Cooper-Larsen said.
According to numbers provided by Weber State, the program has a 99 percent job placement rate, and most graduating seniors are offered at least three jobs.
Mikelle Barberi Weil, director of the Alan E. Hall Center for Sales Excellence, said 85 percent of program’s graduates stay in Northern Utah.
Every year, more than 600 Weber State students declare professional sales their major and about 180 of them graduate, Barberi Weil said.
In 2013, the Alan E. Hall Center for Sales Excellence was formed and the program was fully accredited by the University Sales Center Alliance. The program is also a member of the Sales Education Foundation.
In 2017, the Sales Education Foundation named Weber State’s sales department one of the top programs in the nation.
Vel Casler, a sales professor, said the program is one of the few in the nation where graduates can earn a Bachelor of Science degree in professional sales. He has been teaching in the program since 2001.
Casler said the program’s biggest challenge is that many people don’t understand the difference between sales and professional sales. He said the program teaches students all aspects of sales.
“I ask my students, ‘How many of you are interested in helping people … in solve problems?’” Casler said. “That’s what we do in professional sales.”
He said the program prepares students to be successful in the professional world.
“Our graduates go out and do extremely well,” Casler said. “There are many success stories that we can now point to.”
Alan Martin is among the successful graduates of the professional sales program.
Martin is the CEO of Sidewalk Books, an Ogden-based company that specializes in providing in content distribution at college campuses. It was founded in 2007, a couple of years after Martin graduated from the program.
“I’m not sure any program can prepare someone to be a CEO, much less a startup CEO. … There are too many variables and unknowns,” Martin said. “But the professional sales program is real in the right kind of ways.”
Martin said the program takes a realistic approach.
“We did things like personality profiling, public speaking … studying negotiations,” Martin said. “This is what the real world looks like and I think the professional sales program understands that.”
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