Q&A with Director of Popular Donor-Funded Sales Certificate Program
As the University of Michigan Ross School of Business approaches the 10-year anniversary of the Cappo Sales Track program, otherwise known as the “Ross School Undergraduate Certificate Program in Sales,” we reached out to the director of the program, Follet Carter, to hear from him about the history and impact of this unique program.
What is the Cappo Sales Track Program?
With generous funding from Jeffrey E. Cappo, of Carmel, CA, and his sons, Eric E. Cappo, BBA '08 and Michael J. Cappo, BBA ’10, the Cappo Sales Track program is a unique academic offering that helps to inspire, ignite, and prepare students across the University of Michigan to understand the role of sales in corporate operations as well as to describe sales as a potential career opportunity. Through a set of integrated courses, the program focuses on three goals:
- to create greater awareness of the sales function and sales careers;
- to give undergraduate students an avenue to understand in sales both business-to-business as well as business-to-consumer sales); and
- to promote career services and recruiting opportunities that enable students to secure sales-related employment.
Why should students consider careers in sales?
Selling is the function responsible for creating revenue for every business worldwide. Meaningful positions are available in both business-to-business and business-to-consumer sales. Sales representatives work with senior-level executives helping to solve problems that face a business operation. The quality of the students required to fill sales openings is a perfect fit for Michigan graduates. Compensation for jobs is always a major determinant for career choices being made by undergraduates and the sales function has the opportunity to leverage a salesperson’s income. Performance is measured objectively so the numbers are the numbers.
Additionally, many studies show that more than 50 percent of senior executives in business have had a sales position at some point in their careers. The goal of the program is to teach students the importance of sales in running a business. The program is not intended to encourage students to pursue a career in exclusive sales, although about 50 percent of students who complete the program do enter the sales profession.
Has the program been popular with students?
Absolutely. We began this program in 2014 with five students. By the end of 2017, there were 100 students enrolled in the program. Annual demand continues to increase. Based on the impact the demand was placing on class availability for Ross students, the program enrollment was capped at 300 students. To control the student enrollment at 300 students, students in the 2020 classes and beyond have had to complete a formal application process.
How many students participated in the program during the 2022-2023 Academic Year program? What academic areas did they represent?
There are currently 300 students enrolled in the program. Approximately 125 students earn the sales certificate each year upon graduation from the University of Michigan. We have had students from a wide range of academic disciplines at the university, including those focused on liberal arts, engineering, sports management, kinesiology, pharmacy, pre-med, and entrepreneurship. We’ve also had many international students.
What’s the most recent enhancement to the Cappo Sales Track program?
Thanks to the philanthropy of the Cappo family, we are now offering a new course called Business-to-Business and Industrial Marketing (MKT 314). This course has been a game-changer for students interested in pursuing a career in business-to-business (B2B) sales. A Michigan education is a great fit for B2B sales representatives who often work with C-level executives helping solve problems facing a business operation. Also, B2B marketing is very different from the consumer side. Therefore, students need to understand these differences, which creates many meaningful career opportunities in B2B marketing for Michigan graduates as well.
What are you most proud of about the program since its inception?
The most important achievement of the program is the impact it has had on student’s career decisions and meaningful successes as they leave the university environment to begin their working lives as adults. We get numerous letters from former students reflecting on the knowledge we have delivered and our impact on their lives.
Let me quote a past student: “I’m still one of the youngest members of our 50+ person sales team, but I led all North America last year in new sales while covering a client book of some of the most prominent asset managers and hedge funds. I showed up on day one with a knowledge of creating value and selling that came as a huge surprise to some of our most tenured reps.”
I’m also proud of just being involved in this program and the students who participate in it. Honestly, I don’t look at my role of teaching and managing the Cappo Sales Track program as ‘work,’ per se. I look at my role as making students aware of career choices and showing them the incredible importance of learning to sell, whether it’s a product, a service, or — most importantly — themselves.