ISU students use new Sales and Negotiations Laboratory to reinforce what they learn

October 26, 2010

Students toiling in a new laboratory at Indiana State work to improve their chemistry - though it isn't quite an exact science.

In the new Sales and Negotiations Laboratory in ISU's Scott College of Business, students practice sales calls and negotiation sessions to hone their skills and develop what they've learned in class. Jon Hawes, a professor of marketing and director of the Sales and Negotiation Center, created the lab to help sales students. In his classes, students read and discuss the material they are learning and then watch someone engage in a selling technique before they practice it themselves in the lab.

"So it's a very lengthy but well-developed learning system that we've put together for them," Hawes said, "and the lab is integral to that."

When a class practices in the lab, students are divided into groups of four. In each group, two students team up. In a sales simulation, for example, two students sell a product, while the other two students act as buyers. Each set of students receives instructions on how to proceed throughout the event, with a basic set of parameters set to determine how they would succeed.

In one exercise students from Hawes' classes experienced in the lab, one pair of students had to role-play as representatives from a multi-billion dollar consumer goods manufacturer selling cereal to buyers from a chain of 20 grocery stores. For the simulation, students received statistics and additional information, which they used to help them complete the deals.

For senior Karl Person, a marketing major from Merrillville, the session went well. He was a buyer in his group, and he was able to complete an agreement with the sellers.

Though he was aware of the lab's existence before the start of the semester, he didn't realize he was going to be using it until he read the syllabus for Hawes' class. The simulation of the cereal exercise was his third time using the lab.

"I'm not so nervous now doing it," Person said. "At first I was really nervous, but if I keep doing it, I won't be nervous as much. Like they say, practice makes perfect."

In the lab, cameras are set up to record the sessions. Hawes then posts the recordings on the Internet so students can later watch and review their performance.

The reviews have helped Person, as he said the footage allows him to see the strong aspects and work on the weaker aspects of his interactions.

Hawes' classes use the lab several times throughout the course of a semester.

"The differences between the first interaction and the last interaction prior to graduation are just compelling and profound in terms of the differences in what our sales students are able to do," Hawes said. "We are very, very proud of how our students experience improved confidence, an enhancement of professionalism and even better communication skills as a result from working in the lab."

Senior Lauren Martin, who currently has Hawes as a professor, said that the practices in the lab help to put her "in the situation."

"It's different sitting in the classroom and reading a textbook about how you should go about sales calls and talking to people for the first time," said Martin, a marketing major from Schaumburg, Ill., "but when we get to the sales lab, it's more of a real life situation where we're actually going through the things that we have learned."

Since Martin doesn't have a lot of work experience in the sales industry, she said that she can tell employers of her experience with sales simulations in the lab, and "they find it really interesting that we have a program that we're able to role-play and go through different scenarios," she said.

"So as far as especially me, graduating in December," Martin added, "I'll be interviewing with companies and that's just a plus for me."

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Sales-Negotiation-Lab-Class/DSC1903SalesNegotiationLab/1055192549_sEJY7-L.jpg (ISU/Kara Berchem)
A camera set up in the Sales and Negotiations Laboratory in Indiana State University's Scott College of Business records students during a simulated sales session.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Sales-Negotiation-Lab-Class/DSC1911SalesNegotiationLab/1055193035_cJ7tQ-L.jpg (ISU/Kara Berchem)
Indiana State University senior Karl Person, a marketing major from Merrillville, speaks to his group during a session in the Sales and Negotiations Laboratory in ISU's Scott College of Business.

Photo: http://isuphoto.smugmug.com/Other/Media-Services/Sales-Negotiation-Lab-Class/DSC1807SalesNegotiationLab/1055188731_huv2z-L.jpg (ISU/Kara Berchem)
Professor Jon Hawes speaks to his class before students prepare for their session in the Sales and Negotiations Laboratory.

Contact: Jon Hawes, director of the Sales and Negotiations Center, Scott College of Business, Indiana State University, 812-237-2286 or jon.hawes@indstate.edu.

Writer: Austin Arceo, assistant director of media relations, Office of Communications and Marketing, Indiana State University, 812-237-3790 or austin.arceo-negrich@indstate.edu.