“We’ve hired six DePaul graduates, and now we’re putting DePaul at the top of our list of university partners,” says Craig Bosworth, vice president of Customer Solutions for MillerCoors, talking about the value of the company’s relationship with DePaul’s Center for Sales Leadership.  [Bosworth is on the left in the photo above].

“I was looking for a stream of candidates who’d be a good fit for careers with our company, and that’s when I found DePaul’s sales program, one of the biggest and best in the country.  I thought, ‘Why not partner with another great, Chicago-based institution?’  Now, after two years, I can’t say enough good things about the students. We’ve got a great relationship with a university that’s committed to preparing future leaders.”

Dan Strunk [on the right], executive in residence and Managing Director for the Center, tells its story:

“Ten years ago, 3M asked DePaul whether we’d like to develop a sales program.  At that time only 13 universities had one, despite the fact that finding the right people is the difference between success and failure for businesses.  So we said, ‘Yes let’s do it.’

"Today, we have 64 business partners—companies that provide funding and internships, guide curriculum design, lecture in classes, coach students, provide technologies and data for projects, and offer outstanding career opportunities. This collaborative effort between business and academia is preparing the next generation of talent.  Everyone wins—the students, the businesses and the university.”

Mike Gaspari (BS ’13) agrees:  “I owe my success to the program.  Constellation Brands recruited me after I presented a case study to a panel of executives from six consumer products companies.  I was hired as a sales analyst; in less than one year I was promoted to a category assortment team, and now I’m in a new position as a category manager for a portfolio of wine and spirits, working closely with a regional retail chain to optimize sales—that’s a very fast career trajectory.  My work is interesting, and opportunities to grow are limitless.  Even better, I’m having fun!”

Students can choose from two tracks: sales in any industry or category management in the consumer products industry.  [Category management is the discipline of grouping products to optimize relevance and sales].  A case study structure in the classes forces students to connect the dots between theory and practice. 

“The work is intense, but rewarding,” says Juan Lopez (BS ’15).  In one class, Fundamentals of Sales & Networking, the students raise money for the Sid Feldman Legacy Fund which provides scholarships to DePaul for two Chicago Public School students every year.  “We had to use all the tools of the trade—cold calling, networking and special events—to find donors,” he says.  “I had lots of ah-ha moments, but the best part was that every cent we raised went toward improving someone’s life.” 

Lopez’s perseverance paid off, as he set a record for contributions to the fund:  “Juan alone is funding 10 percent of the fund’s budget this year.  Talk about amazing sales skills!” says Strunk.  “Our business partners are involved in every part of the program because we’re addressing their needs; we’re preparing made-to-order graduates who are work-ready and who want the good jobs that are waiting.”

Sue Fogel, chair of the marketing department, calls the value delivered by the sales program incredible:

“First, it provides great careers for our students.  People aren’t ‘born salesmen’—it’s a learned profession, and we know how to teach it.  Before we started the program, half our graduates were ending up in sales but weren’t prepared.  We realized that we needed to educate students about what sales careers are really like—the jobs are high paying and sales people are independent, which are the top two conditions students say they’re looking for in a job.

“Second, the collaboration with companies sets our business school apart.  Our students get to work with real data, analyze real cases, solve real problems and suggest real solutions.  That makes the program well respected, not just locally but nationally. We’re building demand for our graduates.”

Claire Hanold (BS ’13) picked DePaul because of the sales leadership program.

“The program is very well known.  Now that I’m on the other side, I see recruiters going after DePaul students all the time,” she says.  As a category analyst for PepsiCo’s Foodservice Division, Hanold is working on micro markets, a new channel built around the concept of self-service convenience stores in traditional settings such as workplaces and health care centers.  She analyzes sales and promotions to recommend product assortments.  “We’re creating solutions to grow the whole channel, not just our own business. I like to say we’re the guys wearing the white hat.”

Kristina Giberson (BS ’11) didn’t start her education in sales but fell in love with the field.  She now works for the Critical and Chronic Care Solutions division of 3M, ensuring that 200 hospitals in her territory have the products they want, working the way they should.  “I don’t sell products; I work with clinicians to solve problems,” she says.  “I owe my career to the program—it opened doors that might have stayed closed otherwise.”

Fogel sees a bigger role for the Center in the future:  “It’s not just about sales; it’s also an edge into the whole business school.”  MillerCoors agrees.  “We’re expanding our relationship with DePaul,” Bosworth says.  “The students have been so impressive that MillerCoors is planning to begin a similar relationship with DePaul’s programs in finance, business intelligence and marketing—we’ll be offering students in those areas the same forward-thinking opportunities that have worked so well in sales.”