Subscribe to The Art & Science of Complex Sales

    How Corvinus University of Budapest is elevating the sales profession

    New Call-to-action

    Some time ago, when the entrepreneur Csaba Csetenyi met with his friend, who was at that time the new head of Corvinus University of Budapest, Csaba said a few fateful words that changed the future for himself and for the university:

    “Your school probably doesn’t teach sales.”

    The new head was certain that they did - of course they taught sales, he said. But Csaba had been a successful entrepreneur for long enough to know that almost nobody was teaching sales at the university level in any meaningful way.

    Sure enough, a few weeks later, his friend came back to him and said: “You were right. We don’t teach sales. Would you be willing to come teach a class?”

    Corvinus University of Budapest is now frontrunners along with institutions like the Kelley School of Business in elevating the sales profession through academia. I was honored recently when Csaba invited me to come to Budapest and speak to his class, and want to share here with you a few thoughts about sales and academia that came out of that visit.

    1. Sales is a Critical Element of Business Yet It is Often Devalued - Starting in B-School

    If you don’t have sales, you don’t have a business. Even with massive investment, no business can last without effective sales.

    Yet, until recently, almost no b-schools were teaching it as a discipline. This has resulted in many business school students graduating with no grounding in sales, and the idea that sales is something that you just jump into and sink or swim.

    This attitude reflects historic views of sales around the world. Sales is treated as though it were something sleazy and “low” that only people who are money-hungry and have no otherwise marketable skills will go into.

    Sales is treated as something sleazy. Let's make it noble.

    When most of the public thinks of sales, they think of used car lots and the manipulative tactics of salespeople pushing technology solutions at every problem along with lies and half-truths.

    Within sales departments, there’s often a culture of sink or swim. Some salespeople with “natural talent” will rise to the top and succeed, while others fail out and go do something else. This culture idolizes the hunter who can bring home the big game, without providing any real insight or support for the efforts of the sales team as a whole.

    These problematic views of the sales profession are rooted in the assumption that good salespeople just naturally know what to do, and if they don’t then they’re not cut out for the work.

    At Membrain, I’ve been working for years to elevate the profession through the understanding that sales is a skill that can be trained and supported across the organization, and that the result of elevating the profession is higher overall performance.

    One thing I learned in Budapest with Csaba and his students is that many parts of the world think that the US has figured sales out, and treats it like the skilled profession that it is. This surprised me because, although I’m based in Sweden, many of our clients and partners are based in the US, and we definitely see that US companies are still treating sales like something sleazy.

    And we see that in academia, even in the US, only a few universities are treating it like a profession and offering academic programs. Our partner, the Kelley School of Business, is one of the exceptions and you can read about their work here.

    2. Business School Students Get Excited About Sales When They Realize It Can be a Noble Profession

    One of my favorite aspects of my trip to Budapest was the light that came on in the eyes of students when I spoke to them about sales as a noble profession.

    When we stop thinking of sales as something that people only do if they’re desperate or manipulative, we can attract greater talent to the job.

    We talked about selling as an opportunity to help people get what they want and need. We talked about how sales can be about growing relationships and challenging assumptions to help people achieve more than they thought they could.

    We talked about how you can achieve that, and how training and enablement and tools like Membrain can support that effort across an organization, elevating the profession from a few bounty hunters to an organized and unified team effort to help as many people as possible.

    Seeing the excitement in the eyes of students made me excited, too.

    As more schools pick up on the idea that sales should be trained and elevated as a profession, more students will get excited. The future of sales will get brighter and brighter.

    Academic investment in sales also enables more unbiased and deep research to be performed, which also contributes to the elevation of the profession.

    I’m deeply grateful to Csaba for the invitation to Budapest, for his warm hospitality, and for the work he and theUniversity are doing for the sales profession. I hope in the future, more institutions will follow the lead of Kelley School of Business and Corvinus University of Budapest.

    George Brontén
    Published November 10, 2021
    By George Brontén

    George is the founder & CEO of Membrain, the Sales Enablement CRM that makes it easy to execute your sales strategy. A life-long entrepreneur with 20 years of experience in the software space and a passion for sales and marketing. With the life motto "Don't settle for mainstream", he is always looking for new ways to achieve improved business results using innovative software, skills, and processes. George is also the author of the book Stop Killing Deals and the host of the Stop Killing Deals webinar and podcast series.

    Find out more about George Brontén on LinkedIn