Why Isn’t Sales Taught in Business School?

Why isn't sales taught in business school?

If the famous business phrase, “Nothing happens until a sale is made…” is true, why isn’t sales taught in business school..?

In business, sales might be the most important function of all.

So why isn’t sales a prerequisite for anyone who attends business school today?

Should Business Schools Teach Sales?

Business schools started during the industrial age. They were historically about upper management…

And business schools are schools after all… With an emphasis on compliance, fitting in, passing the exam and listening to the professor.

But what about sales?

In sales, you’re usually on your own.

The only “exam” in sales is whether you made your quota or the company met its target…

And there is no map for sales.

Show me a business with a clear sales map and a set of instructions and I’ll show you a frayed telephone book and a phone.

The value in learning about sales is in the numbing process of understanding the numbers game. The discipline of being told no more often than yes.

It’s hard work.

MBA Students Are Missing Out

To the uninitiated graduate student, sales doesn’t seem to be missing from MBA curricula at all.

Students prepare for the b-school “case study method”, writing a business plan, calculating internal rates of return (IRR) and net present values (NPV)…

They never even realize sales is missing.

sales isnt taught in business school

The dearth of curricula in MBA sales training reinforces a cluelessness about the real world for entrepreneurs…

It encourages a lack of perspective about sales and makes engaging in sales seem like an unsavory, disrespected, alien practice…

Unfortunately, sales is rarely taught anywhere… Even in the most entrepreneurially-minded business schools.

I can say from personal experience, when I attended the MBA program at Babson College, it was not a requirement to take a sales class…

I do remember being required to take an accounting class.

I think getting over the fear of cold calling and developing the discipline to sell day after day is more important than accounting in an technology driven, entrepreneurial environment.

Unless you’re Amazon, sales is a local requirement. Sales can’t really be outsourced to a robot, or moved offshore.

Accounting? Not so much.

Where Are The MBA Sales Courses?

Babson’s current curriculum offers a course called “Selling Ideas, Products and Services to Executives“…

Here’s the description:

MBA9502 Selling Ideas, Products and Services to Executives (formerly titled Business Development through Professional Selling) The growth of business revenue depends directly on a firm’s ability to create additional value for current and potential customers. This 2.5 day intensive course will focus on the professional selling process, to include identifying opportunities, gaining access to and engaging decision makers, asking high gain questions, building long term relationships with decision makers and influencers, presenting winning proposals, handling resistance and objections, completing the sale or obtaining commitments and following up. The course will use the value creation methodology to identify solution options aimed at creating value and enhancing the other party’s (e.g., customers) competitiveness. The course will use a number of inputs to share current academic thinking and best practice. Course participants will also be challenged to apply the learning to potential opportunities. The art and science of ethically and effectively convincing another party about self, ideas, solutions, products, services, etc., is an imperative for everyone, whether in family or social settings, profit or not-for-profit ventures. It’s a life skill. This course is therefore for everyone. Prerequisites: None This course is offered in both Fall and Spring

It’s only a 2.5 day course, though.

Apparently Harvard Business School has a class called Introduction to High Technology Sales by Lou Shipley.

Here’s a description from the course requirements:

The course covers how to make an in person and telephone sales call, how to build compensation systems, assign territories, manage inside sales, hire and fire salespeople, the role of sales operations, sales forecasting and training, and sales in the age of social media. The real stuff. Not the 10,000-foot ‘strategy’ perspective.

And 16.7% of the final grade involves taking an actual salesperson to lunch.1

Some deans of business schools obviously realize that sales is important.

According to a 2012 Harvard Business Review article, around 20% of business schools (then) offered a sales course. But far fewer are requiring a sales course of their students.


  1. Sounds f-ing awesome!