Selling and sales management internships benefit from in-person return
Written by: Tim Brouk, email@example.com
The Purdue College of Health and Human Sciences’ selling and sales management internship program heavily relies on interpersonal connection. From the hearty handshake to reading body language and unmasked facial expressions, soft skills enhance sales and management jobs.
“Those are things still done best face-to-face,” said Keith Molter, Hospitality and Tourism Management lecturer and instructor of the online Field Experience in Selling and Sales Management summer class. “When they do face-to-face, that gives them real-life situations where they’re getting real, in-time questions from the customer.”
Molter was happy to report that the majority of his 94 students are currently in the field absorbing experience in leading national companies from coast to coast. Since the class is online, the students report from their hometowns as they talk and write about what they are learning from companies they reached out to on their own.
The students are required to complete at least 140 hours in their internship while earning favorable reviews from their direct supervisor. A few students are still conducting virtual internships, but Molter is happy to have most on-site, learning all aspects of sales, marketing and management.
Among the many abnormalities of 2020 were virtual internships for thousands of Purdue University undergraduates. While students still gained valuable experience during the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the beginnings of fulfilling careers, some missed out on the in-person, hands-on elements of traditional internships.
“Zoom is good for what it is, but there’s still no substitute for the face to face, real-time experience,” Molter said. “These students really need that exposure to people that are real customers. There’s a difference between a classroom situation and real-life situation. And the employers are thrilled to have these sharp students back.”
DuraMark’s the spot
While 140 hours is the minimum internship requirement, senior Carter Cates expects to surpass that number as he clocks in 40 hours a week, Monday through Friday, at the Westfield, Indiana, headquarters of DuraMark, a leading designer and manufacturer of warning labels for heavy machinery. With its eye-catching orange dominating every design, the company collaborates with industries around the nation to mass produce potentially life-saving warning labels.
One of Cates’ early responsibilities concentrated on selling new informative labels for the inside of driver’s-side doors of GM vehicles to dealerships all over the United States. These labels detail tire pressure and other safety measures. The account is a big one for DuraMark, and Cates is helping spread awareness of the new labels via phone calls and email.
Another project is looking ahead to labels with QR codes. Once scanned with a smart phone, these labels take the user to a digital home for safety tips and operational instructions.
“That’s definitely going to be a creative innovation moving forward,” Cates said. “I’m going to love where that’s going to go.”
Cates shares an office with two other interns. The work consists of a lot of phone calls, email and management of databases, but he has had many opportunities to learn just about every facet of the creation, manufacturing and distribution of the DuraMark labels. Cates has lent his hands in packaging label kits for companies as well as the shipping of the products. A supply chain engineering technology minor, the senior is appreciative of gaining multidisciplinary experience, soaking in new knowledge every day from one-on-one conversations or sales meetings where ideas and leads flow.
“I want to learn from these individuals that are higher up than me,” Cates said. “If I can just listen to them and get their take on things, I could get some new tactics to use.”
Aside from some additional pandemic-related policy paperwork on his first day, Cates was relieved to receive a traditional, steady, in-person internship.
“For me personally, I’m an individual that loves to create and build relationships on a daily basis,” he said. “Being able to not be remote here at DuraMark has been an immaculate experience so far.”
Hot house market(ing)
The housing market in Indiana is an active one, and senior Katie Loring is learning the ins and outs of selling homes with Cressy & Everett Real Estate, based in South Bend, Indiana. Working with real estate agent Sarah Dalton, Loring rides along for home tours and photo shoots. She established and manages Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts — increasing her social media marketing experience in the process. Dalton’s prime home sales demographics are people in their 30s and 40s who are active on social media.
“They’re about to start a family or have just started a family, typically,” Loring said. “That’s really where I’ve put most of my efforts.”
A native of nearby Granger, Indiana, Loring’s familiarity with the South Bend area has enhanced the comfort level of her internship, which only helps with the in-person nature of her internship.
“In sales, you have to establish a confidence with what you’re doing, and it’s a lot easier to do that when you’re comfortable, and (Dalton) has made me feel comfortable,” she said. “And you have to make the buyer feel comfortable with you.”
When Aubrey Kuhn started her sales management internship June 1 for Frito-Lay in the Los Angeles area, her role was heavily impacted by pandemic protocols — mask-wearing, limited face-to-face, in-person interaction and few off-site visits. But after a few weeks, many of the precautions were lifted, and Kuhn said she has benefited a great deal from interacting with Frito-Lay staff, clients and customers in the market — from the office and warehouse to grocery stores and gas stations. Coming off Frito-Lay’s busiest weekend of the year with Independence Day celebrations galore, Kuhn has soaked up experience while increasing distribution of those cookout-enhancing bags of Doritos, Sun Chips and Fritos.
“It’s a lot of helping out around the distribution center for whatever they need,” Kuhn said. “The benefits have been unlimited. I’ve been able to network so much. If I was virtual, I guarantee you I wouldn’t have met two-thirds of the people I’ve met.”
Kuhn said her overall experience so far has felt safe. Most of the people with whom she has interacted strictly adhered to all safety measures and most have been fully vaccinated. While the pandemic impacted her past year-plus of studies at Purdue, she is grateful to have an in-person internship before her senior year starts this fall.
“It’s been a little difficult,” Kuhn said, “but I’m super thankful and fortunate for the opportunity to be in-person because the experience I’ve gained here is absolutely nothing that I would have gotten if it were virtual. I’m out in the market working with customers and consumers literally every day. If it were virtual, I would have never gotten that experience.
“I’ve been given a really good taste of what a career could be like.”