Wilbur O. and Ann Powers College of Business

Sales Innovation adapts, grows roles to meet program’s objectives


With a growing list of industry partnerships, a commitment to providing students experiential leadership opportunities and a new cutting-edge Sales Lab opening, the Sales Innovation Program is moving forward, unimpeded by the pandemic.

Alana Darby, Sales Innovation
Alana Darby

The Sales Innovation Program was founded in 2019 as a Signature Program within the College of Business through an Academic Cornerstone gift of $2.5 million from Dan ’72 and Nancy Garrison. The program aspires to be a nationally renowned destination for students and executives seeking leading-edge knowledge, skills and research in the sales profession.

This fall, about 60 students are enrolled in the program, which is on a course to becoming one of the country’s finest hubs of sales education, research and executive education.

Sales Innovation is one of eight Signature business-critical competencies identified by Dean Wendy York as a primary building block in putting business education on the map nationally. And, in its early stages, the program is adjusting and overcoming impediments brought on by COVID-19 in achieving its mission.

Audrey McFall, Sales Inn
Audrey McFall

“Our program’s networking sessions, classroom engagements, social selling events, and competitions are all being adapted to a virtual environment,” said Ryan Mullins, associate professor of marketing and director of the Sales Innovation Program. “We are bringing value to students and our program’s partners by taking full advantage of digital platforms to carry out our mission at a very high level during these unprecedented times.”

Courtesy of scholarships provided through the Garrisons’ cornerstone gift, a leadership component has been added to the program through creation of SIP manager roles being held by three senior marketing majors.

“The addition of these manager roles infuses an experiential leadership component to the Sales Innovation Program,” Mullins said. “It incorporates leadership roles and experiential opportunities, both important components of the College of Business’ vision and mission set forth by Dean Wendy York.”

The leadership positions are being held by Alana Darby, SIP engagement liaison to program partners; Audrey McFall, SIP student recruitment manager; and Taylor Rorie, SIP promotions manager.

Taylor Rorie

“Through the engagement and networking liaison leadership position, I’ve learned many things, not the least of which is the importance of communicating, especially now with things being so dynamic and fast-paced,” Alana said. “As engagement liaison for the program, I personally facilitate communication with our partners. It’s been fulfilling and rewarding knowing how much of a lasting impact our partners’ involvement will have on SIP students.”

Sales Innovation now has eight partner sponsors who contribute to students’ development in a variety of ways. The sponsorships give students insights into what employers are seeking in a sales professional and connects businesses with the program’s best and brightest.

“Even during this current economic environment, we have maintained a strong list of industry partners who play important roles in the classroom experience and provide opportunities to share their values and advice to students,” Mullins said.

The newest sponsor is technology provider xiQ, a Redwood City, Calif.,-based company that offers its clients an artificial intelligence-based sales and marketing platform.

“Having a technology sponsor like xiQ exposes our students to cutting-edge sales and marketing artificial intelligence tools that they can use to prepare for sales calls. In exchange for xiQ’s brand presence in the program, our students have access to software that is efficient, high performing and currently being used in the sales world,” Mullins said.

With the College’s new, 176,000-square-foot building now open, students will have access to the Garrison sales lab, which also features more and more advanced technology than was available in Sirrine Hall, including double the number of cameras. Future plans include the addition of sophisticated facial recognition and conversation intelligence capabilities.

“The Garrison Sales Lab is a state-of-the-art facility that offers Sales Innovation Program students the technology that a top-tier sales education program should be providing tomorrow’s leaders in sales and marketing,” Mullins added. “The program is on course to becoming one of the country’s finest sales education hubs capable of preparing students for influential roles in sales or related positions.”

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