This story is featured in the Fall 2016 edition of the HPU Magazine. Inside the Harris Sales Education Center, students hone their pitching skills and learn how to sell their value across the board.
The rooms inside Cottrell Hall look like an executive suite, complete with modern furniture and the smell of new leather.
But for members of HPU’s Professional Sales Club, the rooms are their laboratories, places where they practice and begin to dream.
Hooked to the wall is a video camera that looks like a big microphone. Sales Club members can record and critique every role-playing negotiation and produce a virtual resume for any potential employer to see.
Moreover, though, the Harris Sales Education Center has become a safe space. Students settle their nerves. They make mistakes, gain confidence and learn the art and science of selling.
Larry Quinn, the chair of HPU’s marketing department and director of the selling program, loves that. He helped create the sales labs.
Four years ago, after participating in other collegiate sales competitions, he thought a sales lab could better prepare students for the world of work.
Last fall, HPU unveiled Cottrell Hall. It’s a $22 million, two-story building that feels like a big fishbowl, with its walls of glass and its 43,000 square feet of open space used for classrooms, experiential programs and the sales labs.
The rooms complement well HPU’s new business school curricula. Last year, the Earl N. Phillips School of Business began offering a sales major, a sales minor, a sales major with emphasis on furniture and an MBA with a concentration in sales.
With 4,500 colleges and universities nationwide, Quinn says HPU is one of only a few that offer a comprehensive professional sales degree program.
HPU already had the students and the professors. Now, HPU has the tools.
“This swells my chest,” says Quinn, stepping into a sales lab a few steps from his office. “Our students will come in here and stand taller. They’ll realize, ‘I’m not a kid anymore. I’m walking into an executive office.’ They have that sense of ‘I can do this.’
“When that happens, they’re bulletproof. They realize they can go anywhere.”
Conductors of Confidence
The Phillips School of Business Sales Club uses the labs to prepare for four sales competitions, two career fairs and the constant two-minute elevator pitch exercises club members work on every year.
Jamison Orr, the club’s co-president, sees the benefit right away. “It’s the experience itself,” says Orr, a business administration senior from Falmouth, Massachusetts. “When we walk into a beautiful office for an interview, we won’t be mind-blown by the whole situation. It could be our first interview. But it’ll feel like our sixth or seventh. I’m a firm believer that the more you practice, the better you get.”
The sales labs are invaluable tools.
But really, it’s the club’s two advisors — Quinn and marketing professor Randy Moser — who help the students shine.
Quinn and Moser have 90 years of combined sales and marketing experience, and their teaching style draws students into discussions like moths to an outdoor light.
Moser is a longtime executive coach; Quinn, a former sales executive with Xerox. Moser frequently rolls out advice on life that students call Moser Mantras. Quinn talks about the importance of the Platinum Rule.
The Platinum Rule is treating people how they want to be treated. Jaime Durie, a Sales Club member from Saco, Maine, understands that.
Last November, at a sales competition in New Jersey, she stood before six tables of judges and got ready for her two-minute elevator pitch. Her jaw started to shake, her throat tightened and her stomach turned into a knot.
The words, she worried, wouldn’t come.
But right behind her stood Quinn.
He whispered to her: “You’ve done this 100 times. Pretend it’s me.”
With the first judge, Durie felt her eyes well with tears. By the last judge, she felt awash with confidence. Quinn’s encouragement worked. Practice did, too. And to think, a year ago, she walked into Quinn’s office and asked about the Professional Sales Club.
In May, Durie graduated with a degree in psychology with a minor in biology. When she did, she already had a job — selling dental supplies and equipment in the Boston area for Henry Schein.
“I don’t think I would’ve gotten this job if it wasn’t for High Point,” Durie says. “I know people my age who have no idea what they want to do. But I figured it out, and that is a good feeling. I wouldn’t be where I am now if I hadn’t walked into Quinn’s office.”
Finding the Leader Within
In May, Sara Katherine Kirkpatrick became the third generation of her family to graduate from High Point University.
Kirkpatrick, a business administration major from Thomasville, North Carolina, left campus as a Presidential Scholar, the founding co-president of the Sales and Entrepreneurship Clubs, and a member of the track team.
She was a heptathlete, participating in seven events from running the 100-meter hurdles to throwing the shot put. On the track and with the two clubs she helped create, she learned how to persevere.
Seven months before she graduated, after meeting a representative from General Electric, GE picked Kirkpatrick as one of 13 college students nationwide hired for its commercial leadership program.
Kirkpatrick beat out hundreds of other students. She comes from a family of leaders and entrepreneurs. High Point University helped her fine-tune that gift.
“High Point lets us start things,” Kirkpatrick said a few months before graduation. “They send us to sales competitions and entrepreneurship conferences. I get to know the dean. I sit in small classes. High Point connects me, supports me. There are so many opportunities.”
And Cottrell Hall? Kirkpatrick laughs.
“We all joke that they built that building for us,” she says. “We get to show it off, and it is so much fun.”
View this story and more in the Fall 2016 edition of the HPU Magazine: