The conundrum? Why do so few MBAs go into sales?
Sales is the lifeblood of any company. CEOs are often picked from the sales ranks (Chambers, Palmissano, Ballmer, Thompson, Morgridge, Apotheker). Scaling revenue helps drive enterprise value and exit outcomes. Sales management is a discipline that can easily be taught, like marketing, operations, finance. Sales is a career.
And yet, very few MBA programs offer a sales management track, let alone courses dedicated to sales forecasting, pipeline management, strategic selling best practices, quota and sales territory management, compensation best practices.
Why are MBA programs failing to teach the value of sales leadership and the role of sales as a worthy management discipline and career? At Kellogg, where I graduated in 1999, I cannot remember a single class dedicated to sales, and yet, we took cost accounting, operations, international finance, organizational behavior...
When alums visited Evanston, they always spoke of the value of organizational behavior to their careers. When I speak to MBAs, I plead with them to go into sales.
Perennially, MBAs go into consulting, investment banking, brand management, and, sadly, business development. The sales grads are often a null set.
As a CEO, I spend almost all my time selling. Selling my company to recruits, selling our product to customers, selling our equity to investors. The ability to manage a sales process - first meeting to order - and to understand account dynamics (decision makers, sponsors, technical buyers) - is vital.
Moreover, securing product-market fit, a hugely important milestone for any start-up, requires a passion for selling.
I'd love to see some comments that help answer the conundrum, let me start with a few ideas as to why sales falls lower than cost-accounting on the MBA curriculum and lower than investment banking as a career vocation:
- MBAs are risk averse and don't like leveraged (quota) comp models
- MBAs view sales pejoratively as many great sales people are not pedigreed
- MBAs think sales is not strategic
Now, an indictment, why don't MBA programs lead the way here? Where are the courses, the research work, the career placement offices? Why don't business schools teach sales as a discipline?
Would love to hear your thoughts!