At Maryland Smith, learning is a cooperative effort. And this semester, representatives from PepsiCo worked with Maryland Smith students to teach them about the ins and outs of the sales industry.
This semester in BMGT 350, a marketing principles course offered to nearly 700 students across 11 different sections, took those principles into practice by partnering with PepsiCo for a class project.
The project, which was piloted during the summer semester and readministered to students this semester, is a business case involving a fictitious restaurant in Washington, D.C. Students were instructed to provide marketing consulting, such as branding and social media services, to the restaurant on a weekly basis.
It’s an engaging and realistic project for students, says course coordinator Roxanne Lefkoff, and it’s something they can still appreciate in a virtual environment.
“The feedback has been very positive because the students feel ownership like this is not just a one and done activity and they become very invested. It's a practical application of the concepts,” says Lefkoff, clinical professor and associate chair of the marketing department at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business. “So when we talk about pricing in class, it's not just a bunch of formulas. It's more like, do you want to have priced the same as your competitor? Or, what kind of deals do you want to have?”
Toward the project’s completion, students are tasked with facilitating a sale to the restaurant to switch its products from other competitors to PepsiCo. The assignment, Lefkoff says, has to do with understanding the whole personal selling process. Students then recorded their sales conversations and had an opportunity to participate in a Q&A session with representatives from PepsiCo.
PepsiCo representative Sherry Stautzenbach says the course builds on an already long-standing relationship with the University of Maryland and is a great way to convey the reality of personal selling to students.
“Through this, we’re able to really give them a glimpse of what sales is like in the field,” says Stautzenbach, director of restaurants, rec and retail at PepsiCo Foodservice. “Our goal, whenever we're talking to a prospective customer is to find ways that we're going to help better their business.”
Maryland Smith third-year student Yash Talreja enjoyed being able to apply classroom learning to real-world scenarios.
“Students really cherish these kinds of opportunities where the companies come in to talk to them,” says Talreja. “The connections that Maryland Smith has to their clients, to their sponsors and to companies that come to recruit is something that we really appreciate. I personally look forward to the opportunity to have more interactions like these in my courses.”
Stautzenbach says she hopes the students remain excited about pursuing opportunities in the sales industry.
“The students were super engaged and fun. It was an exciting atmosphere and I really enjoyed their responsiveness and curiosity,” says Stautzenbach. “It feels like we found some great new prospective employees that were interested in many aspects of the business, not just selling, but also operations and finance.”