Sales Program Celebrates Growth and Success


On April 24, more than 150 local and regional company representatives, students, faculty, and university leaders gathered at the Rogalski Center to highlight the rapid growth and strength of the SAU Business and Healthcare Sales program and thank those who helped give it a fast start.

University leaders supported the curriculum and creation of a dedicated sales center which launched in Fall 2016. From the very beginning, local, regional and global company representatives served as guest speakers and challenged SAU students to hone their skills through internships.

And, almost 100 percent of the sales program graduates have secured jobs with local, regional, and global companies including Deere & Company, HNI Corp., Cottingham and Butler, State Farm, and more.

Those accolades caught the attention of some company representatives who were at the event but not fully aware of the depth of the SAU sales education and the opportunity it presents.

Less than 14 hours after the event concluded, Joseph Kehoe, director of the SAU Sales Center, already received several thank you emails that included requests to meet and discuss new internship and partnership opportunities.

"Indeed, we are becoming a resource for the community and the region," Kehoe said.

SAU is the only university in the bi-state region – and in the state of Iowa – that offers a sales degree. More than 65 students currently major or minor in business or healthcare sales, and about 100 students each semester enroll in sales courses.

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Caroline Ruhl, CEO and co-owner of Ruhl & Ruhl Realtors, said hiring employees who have a degree in sales is invaluable. "We need people who want to be in sales, who have the skills and ability to listen, and help individuals and families achieve their dreams," she said.

The SAU sales curriculum helps students develop self-awareness through assessment tests and emotional intelligence training. The program also stresses:

  • the importance of relationship building and the time-value of a customer
  • building relationships reliant on trust, accountability, and ethical behavior
  • the value of finding common ground through listening, problem-solving, value creation, and fair dealing.

In addition, students who major in healthcare sales are "road ready," said Kurt Sturmer, DNP, and assistant professor, who formerly worked in healthcare sales.

"Students complete core sales classes and specialized courses in healthcare sales," he said. The additional classes, which include medical terminology, healthcare terminology, and selling in healthcare, help SAU graduates stand out in an extremely competitive marketplace.

"Our healthcare sales graduates have a solid understanding of basic healthcare sales principles and learn about legislation and guidelines that are unique to this specific industry," Sturmer said.

"This program is very unique," said Tony Noel, vice president of sales at Cottingham & Butler, an insurance brokerage firm headquartered in Dubuque, Iowa, with more than 1,000 employees.

The company provided program guidance to SAU early on, and along with other companies, helped fine-tune the program. It also opened its comprehensive internship program to at least seven SAU students and offered six of them full-time jobs, Kehoe said.

In addition to internships, SAU students continue to perform strongly in international sales competitions. And, the sales program has provisional membership in the University Sales Center Alliance, an organization that includes universities such as Florida State, Kansas State, Texas A&M, DePaul, and more. "We are on track for full membership," Kehoe said.

He believes the program will continue to grow in size and quality and deliver job-ready and confident graduates who can immediately add value to a business.

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