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Two USM Schools Partner on Unique Sales Project

Mon, 04/22/2019 - 02:26pm | By: Bailey Harris

The School of Marketing and the School of Performing and Visual Arts at The University of Southern Mississippi have partnered to offer a unique experience for a diverse group of students looking to practice their skills. Dr. Chris Balaski, professor of sales, and Dr. Monica Hayes, professor of theatre, oversee the initiative. 

Advanced Professional Sales course students and Improvisation course students put one another to the test during role play scenarios. The theatre students acted as potential customers while the professional selling students pitched their product, Federated Insurance. This allowed both groups of students to practice the skills they are learning in their respective courses. 

“It benefits both classes; the sales class gets to practice on people that aren't their fellow classmates and we get to use the skills we are learning in our improv class. We don't know what is about to happen, which is what improv is all about,” said Becca Watts, a student from the improvisation class. 

This is not the first mock sales scenario the professional selling students have been a part of this semester. Balaski's students performed mock sales pitches to representatives from real sales companies, including Frito Lay/PepsiCo and Zoetis, an animal health supplier. Students researched each company and developed pitches for their products. 

“The role plays are very nerve racking but they really do help,” said business student Katie Byrd. I want to be a sales representative and this helps prepare me to set up a presentation, given that is what I will do in my future career.” Byrd is majoring is Merchandising as well as working toward a Professional Selling Certificate. She is set to graduate in Fall 2019. 

The partnership has been so successful that both professors agree they will be doing it again in the fall. 

"This is a tremendous experience for students from both departments. Collaborating with Monica, we were able to design the scenario, determine the information for each respected group and include it in both our syllabi so students can get credit,” said Balaski. “This is as close to a real world sales call as we can create. 

He added, “I would like to thank our corporations that are partnering with us, Zoetis, Frito Lay/Pepsico, and Federated Insurance. They provide input in creating the scenarios and profiles, meet with our students to answer questions and explain common objections, and provide sales materials.”