Sales has been excluded from the academic landscape, until now. Barrett is one of the first consultancies to ask the question: Should selling be studied at degree level at University?


Based on Barrett’s long standing involvement in sales and the development of sales professionalism, we wanted to fully understand how people think and feel about the profession of selling not being studied at Australian universities and business schools and how strongly they felt about its inclusion.

Specifically, Barrett wanted to delve into the perceptual reputation of the profession of selling within our communities and the “usefulness” of having sales qualifications at degree level, that aimed to improve the reputation of the profession and the people in it. The study attempted to understand the state of existing development for sales professionals and how tertiary education in selling and sales could further assist in ensuring sales and selling is viewed as a profession on its own right.

Barrett’s survey of business professionals was completed mostly by Australian based business owners and leaders, sales managers and sales professionals with the majority aged between 31 and 60 years old. Seventy percent of respondents have a Graduate Degree or above. The survey consisted of 24 questions and the high level results showed that:

  1. More than half of respondents (54%) said that selling does not have good reputation
  2. More an 70% agreed that a tertiary qualification would improve the image & reputation of salespeople and would improve their employability and 82 % agreed it would create better sales standards and better salespeople
  3. 88% said that selling is seen as a vital part of business
  4. 92% agreed that selling should be in the curriculum at Universities and Business Schools
  5. only a bit more of 52% undertake professional development at least once a year
  6. less than 19 % agreed (or were unsure) that skills and knowledge required in Selling are well trained in business and therefore do not require a degree qualification

The overall findings of the survey were significantly in favour of Sales and Selling being studied at higher levels at University, with senior managers and business owners seeing a distinct advantage in developing and employing tertiary trained sales people.

In qualitative discussions held with salespeople, managers and customers throughout Australia, Barrett learned that it is a general belief that the typical salesperson is less than honest, is likely to cut corners or attempt to trick customers into making a purchase decision and even when they interact with the client their sole focus is the product or service they want to sell, rather than the customer’s issues.

Whilst the image and reputation of salespeople today is less than savory, business does understand its vital importance as a function of success, sustained growth and profitability. What is abundantly clear is that a tertiary qualification in sales would improve this image and reputation challenge faced by sales. The only conclusion that can be drawn is that there is an overwhelming need to have some form of tertiary qualification associated with sales and selling within Australia.

Sales and Academia

A combined 70.0% (no and not certain) respondents suggest that the profession of sales is not taken seriously by the academic institutions. This is obviously a perception and whether realistic or not, means that this is the way salespeople see and feel about academic institutions. 46.8% – the largest respondent group for this question, believe that selling should be studied at degree level, as a separate degree, whilst 72.2% believe that selling needs to be on the curriculum at universities and business schools, even if not as a formal degree.

Conclusion: irrespective of whether sales and selling is part of another degree, or a stand-alone degree (as proposed by 48.8% of respondents), there is overwhelming evidence that a degree in selling is needed. That it should be a degree in its own right is a moot point, though research would tend to point toward it being stand alone degree.

The results bring us to consider how do we professionalise selling and create a pathway for the 21st Century individuals to become sales professionals. The thinking and capabilities required to succeed in today’s complex sales environment are in the realms of the standards of MBAs and other business qualifications. Why is that it is noted that medical doctors, engineers, pilots and other skilled professionals invest 6-8 years of their own or business’ money and effort and time into attaining their qualifications, yet the sales industry may have only a few papers within tertiary education? Moreover, other professions are regulated enough to ensure professional development is a must (legally that is) and yet a profession like sales and selling in these markets and times is seen as not taken seriously?

sales is in the shadows

sales is in the shadows

Barrett believes that it is about time selling and sales stepped out from under the shadows of marketing and MBAs to be a qualification in its right.

The good news is that for the first time in Australia, Selling is on the University Agenda: on Wednesday 8 August, partners Barrett and Swinburne University of Technology launched the Barrett Sales Essentials – Australia’s first and only VET accredited, University endorsed sales training and development program providing a Diploma in Business and Certificate 4 in Business Sales.

The launch signals major change for Australia’s business sector and salespeople nationally with Barrett’s Sales Essentials also eligible for Victorian and Federal Government funding.

Through the Barrett Sales Essentials Program businesses now have the opportunity to tertiary qualify their salespeople, increase profit margins and employee retention and recruitment and promote their commitment to quality sales standards and ethical sales practices.

Salespeople, sales managers and business owners will significantly improve their sales strategies, planning, prospecting and sales approach and behaviours to create sustainable business practices and improve results.

Get your complete copy of the Should selling be studied at degree level at University? Whitepaper here.

Remember everybody lives by selling something.

Author: Sue Barrett,

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