Mount Union Marketing Students Sell to Save Lives

January 05, 2016

ALLIANCE, Ohio – Marketing students at the University of Mount Union are taking experiential learning to a new level by participating in a class project that develops sales skills, promotes sustainability and encourages social responsibility.

Throughout the semester, students in professor Mark McConnell’s Personal Selling and Sales Management class participated in a fundraising effort to benefit Clean the World (CTW), a non-profit organization that collects used soap from hotels, sanitizes/recycles it, and sends the newly-formed bars of soap to developing countries. Every day, 9,000 of the world’s children die from diarrheal diseases, many of which can be prevented by the proper use of soap. CTW has distributed more than 22 million bars of soap to 96 countries since 2009, and receives most of its funding from its hotel and resort partners.

For additional funds to support its mission, CTW also relies on its ONE Project, through which organizations purchase ingredients for hygiene kits (consisting of soap, washcloths and assorted other toiletries), which are then assembled as a team-building activity and donated to a local charity of the organizations’ choice.

The Mount Union sales class functioned as a ONE Projectpartner, in which students were assigned a sales quota of hygiene kit ingredients to sell. Students then sold the ingredients (at $3 per kit) to a variety of organizations and individuals and collectively assembled the purchased kits during what would otherwise have been the class’s final exam period. The assembled kits were distributed to a variety of Alliance-area homeless shelters, food pantries and early childhood education centers.

Given that Mount Union’s sales class is first to ever adopt the ONE Project, students opted to re-brand the UMU effort as SLS360.

“Most college classes have a course code consisting of a three-letter prefix, followed by a three-digit number,” said junior Tim Anderson, a junior marketing major who played a key role in creating the new brand. “SLS is a prefix often used for sales classes, and the 360 evokes CTW’s commitment to recycling.”

The 2015 sales effort resulted in a $7,003 donation to the Clean the World Foundation. In 2014, the first year in which SLS360 was implemented, the donation exceeded $6,000.

In both years, the class’s top performers focused on a business-to-business approach. Rather than attempting to make 100 individual $3 sales, the most successful students made just a few $200-300 sales to local churches, businesses and civic organizations.

McConnell, associate professor of marketing and chair of the Department of Economics, Accounting and Business Administration, explained that SLS360 was launched to address a challenge commonly faced by those teaching college-level selling classes.

“The best way to learn about sales is to sell a real product, to real people, for real money,” McConnell said. “But finding a company willing to entrust their entire sales effort to students for a single semester seemed nearly impossible… until I first heard about CTW’s ONE project.”

In addition to learning about selling, students also learned about social responsibility. “When we passed the $7,000 mark, I went back and looked at the learning objectives on the syllabus,” said Josh Duerr, senior human resource management and marketing major and a member of the 2015 sales class. “Every single objective … prospecting, qualifying, handling objections, closing… came to life in SLS360. But the idea that our efforts will help CTW save lives is especially rewarding.”

Ultimately, McConnell hopes to inspire sales and marketing professors at other colleges and universities to adopt SLS360.

“If a single, offered-once-a year class at a relatively small institution can generate more than $13,000 in just two years, imagine the impact of having SLS360 adopted at several dozen such schools,” McConnell said.

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