Nation’s first sales leadership master’s begins at William Paterson University

Todd Evans, Copy Editor

The Christos M. Cotsakos Business College officially announced the creation of an Executive Master of Science in Sales Leadership, last month.

This graduate degree is the first of its kind in the U.S. for sales professionals wanting to specifically further their education at an executive level.

A reason for the program’s creation is “a general MBA [Master of Business Administration] focuses on overall business management and while doing so doesn’t pay any attention to sales and related functions,” said Dr. Prabakar Kothandaraman, Russ Berrie Institute of Professional Sales executive director.

The program will begin next fall with a class size between 20 to 25 people with the mode of instruction being a hybrid of online and in-person lectures. About 65 percent of the program will be online according to Cotsakos College.

Students will complete their master’s in an estimated 11-months said Kothandaraman.

The curriculum will include education about data-driven decision making, sales processes, sales design, finance, talent management and sales leadership. About a third of curriculum will have the students working on projects directly related to their current employment.

“The ideal candidate is anybody who has at least 5 years of meaningful experience in business … at an executive level or extremely high managerial position,” said Dr. Siamack Shojai, Cotsakos Business College dean.

As the program is catering towards those already established in the professional sales industry it will be required for those wanting to enter the program to submit a letter of nomination from their employer for eligibility. If a candidate is self-employed they will need to submit an essay along with a letter of commendation from a customer familiar with their work.

Besides the new graduate degree being “a sign of maturity of our program” it will continue the fight against “a social stigma … where if you say ‘I’m a sales person,’ there is baggage that is immediately tagged onto you,” Kothandaraman said.

“Professional salespeople do not receive the recognition and the professional prestige that they deserve despite the fact that many of them are … highly skilled and highly trained and successful,” Shojai said.

William Paterson University, through its Russ Berrie Institute of Professional Sales, was also the first university to start a professional sales undergraduate degree program in the nation. Now more than 100 colleges offer similar degrees or concentrations.

“Until recently many business school academics would always not feel very warm to the idea of teaching sales inside a classroom and that, unfortunately, is true even in many of the top tier schools,” Kothandaraman said.

The University of Toledo, with consultation from WPU, is in the process of creating their own professional sales graduate program.

Shojai believes that WPU is an innovator in collegiate business education due to the working class nature of the student body where many students work off campus and are the first generation in their families to attend college.