Laura McLeod, assistant professor of practice in marketing, knows the power people can exert when they strengthen their communication and selling skills. Amidst a professional background working in both big and small companies, she joined the College of Business in 2016, intent on giving students enrolled in the undergraduate certificate program in sales excellence the maximum opportunity to succeed.
“Sales is one of those areas that’s easy to talk about but quite challenging to actually do,” said McLeod. “I had the chance to work with young people and interns at my previous jobs, and found myself enjoying that immensely and getting a lot of energy from it. When the opportunity arose to join the College of Business and work with sales students, I was really excited about the opportunity.”
McLeod specializes in working with students in the sales program. One of her greatest joys is seeing the results when students are able to use their selling skills to land the right job.
“Helping students package their experience and skills is what I try to do. A lot of it goes back to being strategic about what a student has to offer that sets them apart, and making sure they communicate their abilities effectively. The thing that gets me most fired up is when I can work with a student to help them get a great internship or job. A lot of that is networking and connections, so when I can help them think creatively about getting in a good situation it’s really powerful.”
Working in the corporate environment at The Coca-Cola Company, as well as Nature’s Variety when they were a local startup, McLeod knows the differences between managing a recognizable brand and creating awareness for an emerging product in the marketplace. It can be crucial for getting students to think about how they want their future careers to look.
“There’s great things about both environments, but they are very different. It helps to talk to students about those experiences because there are a lot of terrific startups in Lincoln, and there are also some bigger, more established companies. Some of our business partners have sales cycles that are six months long, and salespeople at other companies are making 10 sales a week. I help students think through the differences so they can understand their own pace and select the opportunity where they can be most successful.”
The sales program continues to grow since being established in 2015. Any student at Nebraska may apply regardless of their major – although all students interested in the program must take Sales Communication (MRKT 257) as a pre-requisite.
“There are students interested in going into sales full-time, and the program helps them develop skills to be very successful sales people when they graduate. There are also students who may not go into a sales position, but they may want to be an accountant, or an attorney or a dentist, and they realize that having sales skills is really important for client development. I love helping those students become more confident in their ability to sell,” said McLeod.
As the advisor to the Nebraska Sales Club, McLeod reaches additional students not necessarily working to earn a sales certificate in professional selling. After starting the student organization in the spring, the club is up to more than 50 members.
“The sales club gives us a chance to connect with students who either found out about the sales program too late in their college career or who can’t fit it in with their major course requirements. They can learn from sales students and participate in activities like the ‘internship slam’ where students talk to each other about their internship experiences. My hope is the club builds visibility for the sales certificate program and becomes a pipeline that encourages more students to apply.”
Dr. Ravi Sohi, Robert D. Hays Distinguished Chair of Sales Excellence, chair of the marketing department and executive director of the Center for Sales Excellence, presented McLeod the Departmental Teaching Award during the past year. He believes her professional experience shows up in the jobs students from the sales program receive upon graduation.
“Laura has been a great addition both teaching classes and relating to students. She brings her practical experience to the teaching environment and the students love her for that. From a mentoring and advising point of view, the input she provides students is well received. They know what to do when they graduate and they trust the information they’ve received, because they are hearing it from someone who has industry experience,” said Sohi.
To learn more about the Center for Sales Excellence, visit: https://business.unl.edu/sales