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Students hit the road with ‘Sales on Wheels’

January 14, 2019

Seventeen NIU Professional Sales students hit the road on a Huskie bus last month to jump-start their sales career. This intersession class – Professional Sales in the Field, otherwise affectionately known as “Sales on Wheels” – provided firsthand exposure to five companies, all partnering organizations with NIU’s sales program. The sales program offers the class out of the Department of Marketing in the College of Business.

The five participating companies were: McKesson Pharmaceuticals, Enterprise Holdings, Sherwin Williams, Fastenal and Impact Networking. Collectively, their operations are located in Indianapolis and St. Louis. Class topics ranged from relocation and living on the road for a week as a sales professional, observing corporate culture, reviewing compensation and benefits packages, to networking with over 25 human resource and sales executives. Along the way, the students met with Enterprise CEO Pam Nicholson, who recently landed in the top 20 on the Forbes ranking of the “Most Powerful Women in Business.”

Lydell Curry of Plainfield, Illinois, a senior marketing major in pursuit of his professional selling certificate, said this class was an investment in his future. Along with the knowledge gained on the mid-December trip, Curry has set his sights on securing a high-paying sales role next May.

“This class [was] an amazing opportunity,” Curry explained. “I [was] more than willing to give up a portion of my semester break in order to be able to differentiate myself because of this experience. Interacting with at least 25 corporate executives over the course of a week is an experience you just can’t get in the classroom. The entire experience gave me the tools I need to be successful in sales and to help me grow professionally. I learned from these executives exactly how to hit the ground running when I begin my sales career.”

Since its inception in 2013, more than 100 NIU sales students have taken the “Sales on Wheels” class over winter break. The idea of going on the road with a class originated when faculty explored new ways to expand their students’ perspectives, particularly with regard to accepting good job offers outside of the Chicago area.

“We want to educate sales students about the career upside when companies relocate them. As we explored ways to do that, we came up with the idea of actually taking students to nearby states so they could experience new areas, different ways of life and viewpoints,” said Charles H. Howlett, director of the NIU Professional Sales Program.

The sales class has a team-based structure. The student teams discuss and present on topics such as relocation, company benefits, how to use the class experience to land a job, FICO and credit scores, understanding salary compensation types and social media. As part of their final exam, the students select a company they’d like to work for, and then they develop a personal budget. The exercise requires that they consider and factor in the cost of living, starting salary, taxes and monthly expenses.

The class also met with one of the country’s most powerful women in business. During their last stop at the Enterprise Holdings corporate office in Clayton, Missouri, students interacted and presented to over a dozen upper management executives including CEO Pam Nicholson, who was recently ranked by Forbes as 17th in its list of the “Most Powerful Women in Business.”

Curry was excited by the opportunity to meet with Nicholson and to learn “how Enterprise has managed to remain an industry leader in such a competitive market.”

Sales on Wheels 2018 wrapped up with a holiday celebration in the Enterprise boardroom. As it happened, Enterprise corporate was celebrating “ugly sweater day” at that time – and CEO Pam Nicholson was well prepared to represent based on a gift given to her from the Sales on Wheels 2017 class.