"MBA students generally do not seek out entry-level positions in sales," Belch says.
But students with that attitude may be overlooking opportunities, says Jane Trnka, executive director of the Career Development Center at Rollins College's Crummer Graduate School of Business in Winter Park, Fla. "We work with some larger organizations, and the caliber of their clients would expect the MBA-level or seasoned person," she says.
Companies that are desperate for strategies to navigate "this very challenging" economy are also seeking MBAs with sales training, according to Roy Cohen, a career coach and author of The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide.
"In a world where all of the rules have been turned upside down, even traditional companies need bold, creative, entrepreneur-minded soldiers. Sales and selling drive every business, even white shoe law firms," says Cohen, who compares the Acton challenge to NBC's The Apprentice for its use of "hustle, insights, and chutzpah" to measure business success.
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Colin Myers, president of the MBA class of 2013 at the Crummer school, appreciates learning the nuts and bolts of sales. Crummer is one of many schools that hosts elevator pitch competitions, and Myers won first prize and seed money at the latest competition by pitching SunVoter, a website with information about Florida political candidates that he cofounded with classmates.
No matter what kind of job a recent MBA is seeking, it will require understanding sales to influence people, make recommendations, and substantiate arguments, Myers says.
"People going door to door—that might not be ideal for some people. Maybe someone who gives an elevator pitch wouldn't necessarily be the best to go door to door," he says. "The advice and the key there is to find out where your strengths lie and utilize that, but still have an understanding of why sales is important."
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