A SURVEY BY THE CEL - COMMERCIAL EXCELLENCE LAB AT SDA BOCCONI HIGHLIGHTS THAT STUDENTS STILL HAVE AN OLD AND STEREOTYPICAL VISION OF THE ART OF SALESMANSHIP
It is an exciting job that allows you to get ahead and offers more autonomy than most. But at the same time, it enjoys a poor reputation and is generally still considered unattractive, despite the appeal of some of its key elements. These are, in summary, the perceptions of university students about the salesman’s craft, as shown in a survey conducted by the Commercial Excellence Lab of SDA Bocconi, the new Knowledge Lab dedicated to the sales industry. Above all, the study outlines a profession which, despite its importance for the labor market, it is still not well understood and is prey to stereotypes.
From the SDA Bocconi survey, performed on a sample of 355 college students, it emerges that most students believe it is not even necessary to have a high school diploma to become a salesperson (54.4%). A quarter of the sample, however, thinks that it a high school diploma is needed.
Second, the basic willingness to work in the commercial sector is medium-low. The sample believed they had a clear idea of what it means to work in sales (5.20 on a scale of 0 = totally disagree to 7 = agree completely), and agree (5.04) that is a profession that makes you proud, allows for success and is interesting and exciting. But statements concerning the job’s reputation indicate a low opinion of the trade. However, the study shows that, with increasing perceived knowledge of salesmanship and its attractiveness, intention to work in the industry also increases.
Also because, when you look at the job’s specifics, the average of the answers highlight factors such as greater autonomy (4.95), independence of decision-making, opportunities for personal growth, and the perception of sales’ importance to the company (these factors together average 4.3). This is despite the fact that respondents also emphasize how this work is undoubtedly stressful (4,82 agreement).
"Sales is a job that students still know little about" explain Paola Caiozzo and Paolo Guenzi, heads along with Marco Aurelio Sisti of the Commercial Excellence Lab, who did the survey. "The perception is still conditioned by certain stereotypes and especially emphasizes a vision of the commercial trade that is antiquated and incomplete, related mostly to the image of the door-to-door salesman or a shop assistant. This interpretation is far removed from the complexity, importance and the quality of professionalism in today's commercial context. Students just don’t know much about career opportunities and professional growth in sales". The labor market requires rather more qualified profiles: "In the US," continue the leaders of the Lab, "a growing number of universities now offer specialized curricula in sales and today it is estimated that 10% of the population is employed in sales roles".
Many stereotypes, therefore, but not necessarily negative. Indeed, the positive stereotype (the seller is very competent person, prepared and dynamic) collects a 4.96 level of agreement, and the negative (selling things no one needs, less ethical than working in other business functions ) stops at 4.15. The picture is in chiaroscuro style, but it tends towards the light, as shown from analysis of the words associated with the job. If the 5 words most associated with sales are money, marketing, products, shop and slyness, in general 44.5% are positive words, while 9.5% are negative. Another 46%, however, are words with neutral connotations (sly can also mean astute, for instance), and can take on different meanings depending on the context. "Even if these neutral terms take on negative meaning" explain Caiozzo and Guenzi, "that still does not alter the positive stereotype of the job that emerges from the survey." Analysis of free association of words to the sales profession also illustrates stereotypes far from reality, as students almost never mention work tools, processes, skills and roles typical of modern business environments.
In conclusion, what is lacking is real knowledge, detailed and truthful, of the many facets that make up the job of the sales representative. "It’s a good thing to work on," conclude the Lab, "because quality sales personnel is in high demand by companies."