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University News

Acing the Sale

Montclair’s collaboration with ADP enhances student learning and career success

Posted in: Business, University

Sreeni Kutam speaking on stage
ADP’s Chief Human Resources Officer and University Trustee Sreeni Kutam speaks with students on campus, sharing career insights.

When Gabriella Calderone ’19 faced the challenge of role-playing a sales call during her first job interview, she knew what to expect.

That’s thanks to her coursework at the Feliciano School of Business and Montclair State University’s collaboration with ADP to prepare students for the world of work. As a Business Administration major with a Marketing concentration, Calderone also earned a certificate in Professional Selling and Sales Management, part of a dedicated sales curriculum directly tied to today’s business needs developed collaboratively by Feliciano School of Business faculty and ADP professionals.

“Having the sales certification on my resume and the experience of sales training helped prepare me for the interview, and I think helped me stand out among the candidates,” says Calderone.

The certificate program involves 12 credits of coursework, with students completing a marketing course along with Professional Selling, Sales Management, and Sales Leadership and Negotiation courses, and builds students’ analytical, leadership, customer service and communication skills.

Devon Johnson, associate professor of Marketing, started work developing the program in 2015. After conducting several focus groups with industry sales practitioners and meetings with the Feliciano School of Business Undergraduate Committee, it was decided that a program was needed that prepared students for success on day one. This would be realized through an emphasis on three features: strong relational and personal interaction skills, innovative technology focus and an executive/professional presence in the classroom.

“We were inspired to create a practical sales initiative that combines rigorous academic structure along with practice-oriented industry involvement,” says Johnson. “ADP has been part of the development and the execution to create this successful model, and it is delivering value for our students.”

The integrated learning experience involves ADP sales professionals working with professors and coming to the classroom a few times each semester. ADP associates share successful selling techniques, details on the technology and real-world applications, and serve as role-playing coaches and mentors to provide feedback for students.

Instructor Tom Miller says the certificate program gives students lifelong skills for selling. “You use sales techniques in all parts of life,” says Miller. “Through the certificate experience, students realize if they want to go into sales as a professional job, and they learn life skills of how to be persuasive.”

“I especially remember the lessons on building rapport and the art of closing,” says Calderone. “The sales program at Montclair gave me excellent training, and having the ADP leaders come into class reinforced specific selling techniques and increased my interest in sales.”

Calderone aced the interview and landed that first job before graduation, beginning her career in June 2019 as an associate district manager at ADP. Hitting her numbers, she was promoted to district manager in the Parsippany office within a year.

“Today’s sales environment is continually evolving,” says Barat Dickman, SVP, Worldwide Commercial Operations at ADP. “With the rise of hybrid and remote selling and new tools aimed at tailoring the sales process to each prospect’s unique needs, modern sellers need to be adaptable. At ADP, we’re passionate about training the next generation of sellers to focus on the client’s dynamic needs, to provide solutions that meet the needs of the moment and those of the future.”

Learning from leaders

From complementing the curriculum to supporting the University’s students and the workforce’s next generation of talent, ADP leaders are directly involved in sharing their skills with the University. Dickman serves on the Feliciano School of Business Advisory Board, and ADP’s Chief Human Resources Officer Sreeni Kutam serves on the University Board of Trustees.

In April, Kutam spoke on campus to students and alumni as part of the Feliciano School of Business MBA and Graduate Programs Office executive speaker series, describing his career and personal journey along with insights on the human resources profession.

“I love complex problem-solving, and humans are the most interesting problem-solving opportunity,” Kutam said in explaining how he landed in human resources. Kutam earned his bachelor’s degree in computer science from Andhra University, India, and began his career teaching software programming. He went on to earn his MBA from Purdue University.

“Leadership and teaching are noble professions … they are enabling functions focused on unlocking people’s potential,” says Kutam.

Describing the role of human resources as being “the architect of the DNA of an organization,” Kutam cites problem-solving and critical thinking as among the most important skills students can demonstrate to stand out to employers. “You want to bring quantitative skills to qualitative problems,” he says.

In transforming today’s students into tomorrow’s business leaders, the Feliciano School of Business prepares students to build the skills needed to excel when entering the professional workforce.

“We believe that strong industry partnerships are critical to preparing our students to succeed in an evolving marketplace. The collaboration with ADP is an excellent example of the practical, impactful learning experiences we offer at the Feliciano School of Business,” says Dean Kimberly Hollister. “We’re proud to be working with ADP.”

“I came out of college with a job and felt confident in my sales training thanks to the course approach and direct exposure to industry leaders,” says Calderone. “I was prepared – Montclair opened the door to sales for me and has helped me succeed.”