The Executive Committee of Sales and Marketing Executives of Greater Boston, Inc., was considering a proposal under which students from several area colleges would each spend a day with SME-member company sales personnel to gain better insight into the world of selling. SME-Boston was a local chapter of SME-International, a worldwide association with about 30,000 members. SME-Boston had over 200 members, representing 190 companies.
Stuart Freeman, president of the Boston chapter, received the proposal for a “Salesman-for a-Day” program from Tom Alden, a member of the marketing faculty at a local college. Several months previously Freeman and Alden had discussed together some of the problems in getting more college students interested in selling careers. Alden mentioned that the majority of his students had no appreciation or feeling for selling simply because they had never done any. Also, it was his opinion that, among many college students, selling was considered a low-prestige job. As a result, he reasoned, many qualified graduates never even consider a career in selling. Alden then set about to develop a program through which college students could at least become familiar with the life of a personal salesman and gain some understanding of what selling is about. The result was his proposal, entitled “Salesman-for-a-Day,” which he submitted to Freeman in the hope that the Boston SME chapter would consider it.
Under Alden’s plan, sales executives of the various Boston SME-member companies would be contacted by mail, using SME-letterhead stationery, and asked to participate by identifying one or more salespeople who would agree to have a college student accompany them on their calls for a day. The salespeople then would be mailed a form on which they were to indicate the date, time, and place of meeting with the student. A student would be selected and his or her name forwarded to the participating salesman (which also served as confirmation that the plan was still on). Every effort would be made to assign a student to a salesman who sold a product or service of interest to the student. Finally, the student would meet the salesman and accompany him for the entire day. It was envisioned that the whole procedure, from contacting the sales executive to notifying the salesman of the name of the student and confirming the date, time, and place of meeting, would take no more than two weeks. If done at the beginning of the semester, ample time was guaranteed to arrange a time convenient to both the salespeople and the students.
While the initial program was to be strictly voluntary, Alden felt that each student should complete a questionnaire indicating the value of the salesman-for-a-day program to determine whether the program should be continued. Alden also foresaw the day when the salesman-for-a-day program would be made into a requirement for the selling and sales management courses that he taught. Further, he also had the idea that he could run a parallel sales executive-for-a-day program, if the proposed program met with success. Alden was enthusiastic as to the possibilities of his salesman- for-a-day plan. Freeman shared that enthusiasm, especially since he had been searching for innovative programs to be pursued by the Education Committee. He believed this was a “natural” for that committee, and he agreed to present the proposal, with one amendment, to the Executive Committee for possible adoption. The amendment was that three of the participating people, a sales manager, a salesperson, and a student, would be invited to one of the regular monthly SME dinner meetings to discuss the results of the salesman-for-a-day program with the membership.
Source: Richard R. Still, Edward W. Cundliff, Normal A. P Govoni, Sandeep Puri (2017), Sales and Distribution Management: Decisions, Strategies, and Cases, Pearson; Sixth edition.