Tech Sales - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Tech Sales

Course Number 1932

Instructor Lou Shipley (Senior Lecturer at MIT Sloan)
Senior Lecturer Mark N. Roberge
Fall, Q1Q2, 3 credits
28 Sessions

You've got that game-changing idea; you're sure of it. With passion and energy, and by articulating your vision, you've attracted investors to your startup.
The hard part is done, right? Not even close.  Nothing happens until a sale is made.  That simple point - sobering reality, really - underlines the critical importance of sales to the entrepreneur and the general manager. Almost every business plan ‘assumes’ a level of sales, but that assumption is critical and urgently meaningful to your business. Without sales, the entire business model is an exercise in frustration and futility.
The purpose of this entrepreneur-focused course is to demystify sales and help you understand how to sell and manage sales teams. This course is essential if you're considering a startup after HBS, or expect to manage a sales organization at some point in your career. At the end of this course you will have a thorough understanding of the sales process - from making an effective sales call to the vital role of sales whether it's a startup or a large, established company.
One common misconception is that product innovation alone is a winning tactic. It’s not. Often the make or break success factor is exactly how a firm goes to market - with its sales force.  The rules have changed - innovations like ‘freemium’ models and social networking are changing the status quo and forcing managers to consider new ways to structure and incent sales teams.
Sales is the one function that cannot hide behind the veil of corporate doubletalk; sales goals are either made or not. Understanding sales is critical to becoming a successful CEO. Markets are not totally rational and the businesses with the best sales teams will usually win. 

The course covers how to make an in person and telephone sales call, how to build compensation systems, assign territories, manage inside sales, hire and fire salespeople, the role of sales operations, sales forecasting and training, and sales in the age of social media. The real stuff. Not the 10,000-foot 'strategy’ perspective.


Preparation and class participation is a requirement. We will cold call students to open class. Every class is associated with a short assignment, and all students are required to be ready to discuss the assigned material.

There will be several oral and written assignments. There will not be a final exam. Each class will be 80 minutes long and will be broken into three parts: a cold call opening in which a student presents his/her course of action as outlined in the case, class discussion of the case, and a presentation by the professor to emphasize the key leanings from the case.

More than one unexcused absence will affect your final grade.


  • Class Participation 50%
  • Take a Salesperson to Lunch 16.7%
  • Video recording sessions 16.7%
  • Assignments 16.7%