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“To do together what we could not do separately to advance the sales (education) profession.”

USCA - A Look Back

The Beginning

The genesis of the University Sales Center Alliance (USCA) can be traced to a common purpose shared by the sales faculty and directors of the first university sales education programs. The University Sales Center Alliance was founded in 2002 with the overarching goal to improve the sales profession through education, research, and service. The leaders hoped that the establishment of the USCA would enhance the credibility of sales among its practitioners, future practitioners, and the general public. The directors and faculty of university sales centers have always had a passion evolving from purpose – the purpose of improving the lives of individuals and organizations, one student, one salesperson, one individual at a time – through the honorable pursuit of sales activities intended to help customers solve important problems.

 

The idea for the USCA was incubated at the first university sales competition. Since that time competitions have played a dual role in establishing incubators for the growth of sales programs and, most importantly, exposed academic sales programs to the business community. In 1999 there was only one university sales competition, by 2007 three national sales competitions and three regional university sales competitions had been developed. There are now over 15 local, regional and national university sales competitions. The business community has been drawn to USCA programs and industries by its interest and need for qualified salespeople and has been an essential driving force behind this growth. The Sales Education Foundation also was established in 2007 and shined more light on sales education, university sales centers and the USCA.

  Plant - Beginning            

Establishing the Alliance

The idea of establishing an organization such as the USCA began with conversations dating back to the 1990’s among sales faculty and directors of the first university sales centers. Since the first centers were formed, there has been a tradition of sharing ideas and helping others advance the cause of sales education. These sales professors had an understanding of the need to work together to grow sales curriculum and understood the benefit of establishing sales programs in higher education. They also recognized how this could enhance sales as a profession.

 

The USCA has been an organization comprised of experts in the field working together to establish and share best practices based upon empirically supported research. This work continually improves upon the standards in the field and further establishes the credibility of the sales discipline. It also enhances the perception of integrity and character of the sales discipline. These efforts support other continuing activities which sales professors engage in to recruit quality people to the sales profession.

 

Two individuals at the inaugural National Collegiate Sales Competition (NCSC) in 1999 at Baylor University in Waco, TX discussed the idea of actually bringing together the sales center directors on a regular basis. The conversation began as many conversations had among the few other sales professors and directors of existing sales centers concerning how to assist each other in overcoming common obstacles and achieving shared goals. Dr. William “Bill” Weeks, Director of the Center for Professional Selling at Baylor University and Dr. Ramon Avila, Director of the Center for Professional Selling at Ball State University decided then to invite all of the sales center directors to Ball State University’s campus in 2002 for the first meeting of this new group. Additional dialogue among existing directors occurred at both the 2000 and 2001 National Conference in Sales and Sales Management (NCSM). Dr. Jon Hawes, Director of the Fisher Institute for Professional Selling at the University of Akron and Dr. David Shepherd, Director of the Center for Professional Selling at Kennesaw State University, were also very actively involved in supporting these collaborative efforts.


             

Original Mission

The initial USCA meeting was known as the 2002 Sales Center Summit and was attended by directors and associate directors from nine universities. The inaugural meeting included Ball State University (Dr. Ramon Avila, Dr. Scott Inks, and Dr. Joe Chapman), Baylor University (Dr. Bill Weeks and Dr. Terry Loe), Illinois State University (Dr. Mike Williams), Northern Illinois University (Dr. Dan Weilbaker), University of Toledo (Dr. Dave Reid), Ohio University (Dr. Barbara Dyer), University of Akron (Dr. Jon Hawes), University of Houston (Dr. Eli Jones) and Kennesaw State University (Dr. David Shepherd).

 

The original mission or theme of the meeting was “To do together what we could not do separately to advance the sales (education) profession.” The group raised two important questions: (1) What is our purpose? and (2) What can sales academics do to promote the professionalism of sales? There was agreement that there was a need to have an academic focus (not being perceived as a trade school), and a need to establish “professional standards” (to be published and communicated to other sales centers). There was also strong agreement that the first mission was to support other schools in order to build the sales education field! After much discussion, the mission statement developed at the summit was “To advance the sales profession through academic leadership through: Education, Research, Outreach, Sales Education, Sales Research, Sales Resources, Sales Center Professional Standards, Corporate Involvement, and Service Ideals.”



        Original Mission in Pic      

Naming the Alliance

Two names were put forth for the name of the group at this first meeting 1. University Sales Center Alliance and 2. Alliance of University Sales Centers). University Sales Center Alliance was passed unanimously. Additionally, four criteria were established in order to become a member of the USCA.

 

  1. Certification by the Sales and Marketing Trainers group (SMT) (which has since been dropped from the criteria due to administrative difficulties)
  2. Sales education must be an area of focus in the university
  3. The University must recognize the sales center within its organizational structure (Sales in the name of the center)
  4. Faculty must be academically active in the sales area.

 

Each criterion was approved unanimously. The group also decided to meet twice per year. The spring meetings were to be held in conjunction with the National Conference in Sales Management and the fall meeting would be hosted on a rotating basis by a member of the newly formed USCA. These fall meetings at member schools were targeted to facilitate the sharing of ideas and providing an opportunity to gain firsthand knowledge of the facilities and centers on other campuses.

      

       

Growth

The considerable need for qualified sales professionals has been present since at least 1798 when Eli Whitney introduced mass production and was further spurred by Henry Ford’s development of conveyor belts and the assembly line. Without exploring the details it can be said that the academy has somewhat reluctantly accepted business schools into the mainstream of academe, but the acceptance of sales as a field of serious study has taken longer and many universities still are reluctant to provide full support. Due largely to the work of pioneering sales researchers (many of whom have been honored with Lifetime Achievement Awards by the Selling and Sales Management Special Interest Group of the American Marketing Association), other sales faculty members, and the early organizers of the USCA, sales has emerged as a field of study in colleges and universities and the business community has enthusiastically welcomed these initiatives.

The expansion of the USCA has encouraged the growth of university sales education which has been further spurred by the continued high demand by industry for qualified entry level salespeople. Importantly, there was and continues to be a growing awareness by industry and students of the existence of universities that offer high quality sales programs.  Individual sales faculty and programs around the U.S. have drawn the attention of university administrations to the demand by industry for quality sales hires and also exposed potential students and industry to the need for university related sales programs. University sales competitions played a role in helping raise awareness of these programs and in connecting programs to the USCA. This work by universities hosting sales competitions also showcases the academic sales community to the business community.

 

Strong interest in university sales education continues to grow. The Sales Education Foundation (previously the University Sales Education Foundation) was founded in 2007 and has spurred interest in academic sales programs. The SEF has contributed to the exposure of university sales education to the business community and has worked with members of the USCA to continue highlighting university sales education and its importance to industry and the economy. Many members of the business community have discovered the value of university sales programs for salesforce recruitment. Some of these firms have provided financial and other resources to help fund operations of sales centers. These partnerships have been essential to the growth of university sales education and the USCA.
USCA Growth Chart through 2016

Continuing Need for the USCA

The need for talented salespeople has not abated. With over 4700 colleges and universities in the U.S., the USCA has huge opportunity for future growth. We expect the USCA to continue to grow and play a vital role in cultivating university sales programs well into the future. With well documented research indicating that graduates from USCA programs experience lower turnover and faster ramp-up times, sales candidates from USCA programs will continue to be in high demand.