Sales Management & Strategy - Harvard Business School MBA Program

Sales Management & Strategy (Previously Personal Selling and Sales Force Management)

Course Number 1935

Associate Professor Doug J. Chung
Spring; Q3Q4; 3 credits
28 sessions
Paper/Project

Career Focus

This is a SALES course. You can have the most sophisticated technology, the most innovative product, or a fascinating idea for new services; but, at the end of the day, nothing happens without a sale. Sales is the fundamental backbone of trade and business and, thus, this course is vital if you expect to run a business or manage an organization at some point in your career.

Specifically, students should take this course if they expect to join an organization (for-profit or non-profit) where the primary form of go-to-market activity involves personal selling (that is, the use of a sales force to go to market). Students who expect to undertake a leadership role in the management of employees (particularly salespeople) will benefit from this course by learning how to effectively motivate, evaluate, compensate and, therefore, manage these salespeople.

Many industries (including but not limited to management consulting, investment banking, private equity, technology, retailing, healthcare, B2B) execute with personal selling. Furthermore, many in the professional service industries, traditionally not known for sales (such as private practice law firms and auditing/accounting firms) also rely on personal selling as a main method to go to market. This course will provide the fundamental tools to 1) properly apply sales processes and tactics, 2) effectively manage the people who are responsible for sales, and 3) appropriately execute sales strategies.

Educational Objectives

Personal selling is the primary (and sometimes the only) form of go-to-market activity for many organizations, especially in a business-to-business context.

This course focuses both on the tactical components of sales and sales force management as well as the strategic components of sales strategy. Hence, the course will provide the basic frameworks of sales management and strategy. Also, this course will cover the strategic element of linking the sales strategy with the firm’s overall strategy.

The case studies used in the course will cover a variety of industries (door-to-door, enterprise software, professional services, medical equipment, pharmaceuticals, automobiles and parts, digital transformation solutions, retail electronics, software-as-a-service, heavy industries, etc.) across various countries (Sweden, Finland, Germany, Turkey, Japan, India, etc.) both for large-sized, well-established firms (Siebel, Microsoft, Qualtrics, Mercedes-Benz, etc.) and medium-sized firms (Roush Performance, Kjell & Company, etc.).

Rather than the standard HBS case exam, a key element of the course is a field project (either sourced by the student(s) or linked to projects sponsored by our alumni or members in our executive programs) that analyzes the business situation and articulates the recommendations and learnings. Students will be organized in teams for the projects. Several class sessions will be specifically assigned for the project.

Course Content and Organization

The course will begin with a module on personal selling which includes sales tactics (and sales management) in B2B enterprise software, direct sales in emerging markets, sales of professional services; and one or two lectures on selling techniques.

The course will then move onto a module on sales force compensation, the primary form of motivating salespeople to exert greater effort. The contents of this module focus on how to use various different components (e.g., salary, commission, bonus, quota, overachievement rewards, etc.) of compensation to effectively motivate people.

Next, the course will cover key topics in sales such as channel management, inside sales, sales transformation, and key account management.

The course will end with a capstone module that links sales management and sales strategy with the overall firm strategy.
Grades will be composed of 50% participation and 50% project. The end product of a project can take the form of a business case or a research paper that deals with contents learned in class.