Recruiters Are Clamoring for Students in Sales: The Extraordinary Success of the Cappo Sales Track at Michigan Ross
On a recent afternoon in the spacious fifth floor atrium of Blau Hall, recruiters from 26 companies were waiting, eager to hire a select group of undergraduate students from Michigan Ross and other degree programs at the University of Michigan.
Those students are taking part in the Cappo Sales Track, a series of Ross courses designed to train students in the fundamentals of sales. Although it has only existed for four years, it has skyrocketed in popularity among both students and employers.
In its first year, just five students started the track. Last year saw 88 students, and next year is set to take between 130 and 150, says Follet Carter, who has led the program since its inception.
“We’ve been pretty successful at placing the students that sign up for the program in jobs,” Carter says. Often these are high-paying sales jobs at companies such as IBM and Gartner, which invest heavily in further training for new hires in order to ensure their success.
“Selling is a very viable profession for college graduates,” Carter said. “Although it’s not always regarded as a career path, in reality, selling is something that we all do every day. Whether we’re working in sales and selling a product or whether we’re working in finance and selling an idea, we all have to sell.”
Working in business-to-business sales can be a particularly lucrative career choice, Carter adds. “In a B2B environment you’re dealing with solving problems, you’re working with C-level executives, you’re working in environments where it’s not unreasonable to think that you’re going to be CEO of a company someday.”
The Cappo Sales Track has been a popular choice among students outside of Ross: Nearly 80 percent of last year’s CST students were pursuing a degree in Literature, Science and the Arts at U-M.
The growth of the program, its word-of-mouth reach across the university, and its popularity with employers were all a pleasant surprise, said Damian Zikakis, director of the Career Development Office (CDO) at Michigan Ross. Indeed, the CDO launched the annual Sales Track Career Fair in the fall in order to accommodate all of the companies that want to hire Cappo students.
Michigan Ross may be ahead of the curve in meeting the demand for sales education. A 2016 Harvard Business Review article, “More Universities Need to Teach Sales,” says more than 50 percent of college graduates, regardless of major, will work in sales at some point in their careers. The article also explains that many companies struggle to find qualified talent to fill open sales positions. Rapidly changing markets, due in part to the increasing popularity of online retail, means sales workers need to be more adept at digital sales and marketing, for example, than ever. But historically, business schools haven’t included sales education in their curriculum.
For Gabriella Fitzgerald, who graduated in 2016, the Cappo Sales Track was a huge benefit in helping her secure her sales job at Oracle. “I felt more prepared, confident, and skilled than any of my peers [in the Oracle training program],” she said. “The sales track provided me with this advantage over my peers, and was without a doubt the most valuable aspect of my education at Michigan.”
Sonya Bahn, who is graduating next May with a major in communications and a minor in entrepreneurship, will start a sales job at LinkedIn in Chicago next year. “I’d recommend the Cappo Sales Track to any and all students,” she says. “Knowing how to sell is a big part of one’s professional career.”
“The Cappo Sales Track educates students not only on sales fundamentals, but how to apply those skills within the workplace,” says Melissa Schoenfield, a recruiter for News America Marketing. “When we look to hire entry-level candidates into our sales development program, these students are standouts among their peers in their immediate preparedness for a sales position. They quickly assimilate into corporate life bringing valuable sales skills, industry knowledge and experience with them on day one.”
The Cappo Sales Track is made possible through a significant gift by Jeffrey Cappo and his sons Michael and Eric Cappo of Ann Arbor, Mich.