$1 million sales center sets UD apart, allows mistakes

By: Meredith Whelchel – Managing Editor, News Editor

University of Dayton students and faculty members dedicated the Fiore Talarico Center for Professional Selling, Thursday, Oct. 17. The center, supported by a $1 million donation, from Talarico encourages students to set their fears aside and start making mistakes.

Talarico, a 1974 alumnus, is a retired Houston businessman who bought and sold around 40 companies nationwide, according to a UD press release published Oct. 15.

He said the center gives students hands-on, real life experience ahead of many other sales students seeking full-time employment.

“We have to allow our students to get above their competitors,” Talarico said. “We want them to make their mistakes here, not when they’re going in for a job interview or sales presentation.”

The average UD sales graduate earns a base salary between $50,000 and $65,000, according to the press release.

According to the UD sales club website, more than 61 percent of business majors enter the sales industry to begin their careers.

The center, which was completed in January, includes two office-style sales labs, a conference room for group presentations and a lobby area, all of which are monitored, Talarico said.

“Sometimes the hardest part is just getting past the door,” said Tony Krystofik, the Talarico Center director. “We’ve installed cameras to give them an opportunity to review the footage, see their mistakes and improve.”

Students access their video footage through a software program used by 29 other sales labs nationwide, Krystofik said. Using a profile system, each student’s portfolio contains video footage of sales calls, time-stamped professor evaluations and grading rubrics, he said.

Krystofik said the center’s sponsors can view a student’s portfolio, with their consent, using a company-wide username and password. Sponsoring companies include Lexis Nexis, Reynolds and Reynolds, Henry Schein Dental and TEKsystems, he said.

Ron Lamb, president of Reynolds and Reynolds, said the center mirrors the way an education major would train in a classroom before receiving their license.

“We’re looking to bridge the gap between education and the trade,” Lamb said. “When we’re hiring employees, we not only look for core values, but experience, which sets UD students apart.”

Lamb said company recruiters will instruct classes, judge exams and provide feedback for students remotely to enhance their learning experience.

Lamb said Reynolds and Reynolds accept one-tenth of 1 percent of the job applications they receive, demonstrating the company’s high-performance standard and the increasing competitiveness of the field.

“We now have an incredible facility here the backyard,” he said. “UD is the gold standard for how to put together a sales center. This one is an absolute crown jewel.”

Hollie Ballard, a senior marketing and leadership major with a sales emphasis, said the sales lab refined her job interviewing skills, as she is currently talking with seven companies regarding full-time employment after her December graduation.

“Every time I got into a job interview, I revert back to what we practiced in class, and what we’ve done in the sales labs,” Ballard said. “Each time I go back and watch my sales videos to see how I worded things, how I presented myself, etc. I know I get better every time.”

Ballard, also a member of the UD sales team, said they have an opportunity to meet with companies or team members and practice their pitches in the center.

“The representatives from Henry Schein [Dental], who were here Monday, were able to give us great feedback after the role-play that most students wouldn’t get to have,” she said. “It’s in the feedback meeting where you realize ‘Oh, that’s when I should have trial closed’ or ‘I could have asked another open-ended question.’”

As the sales teams begin practicing for upcoming competitions, junior marketing major Megan Anderson said the teams already have a leg-up on the their competitors.

“[The center] helps take the nerve out of the whole process,” Anderson said. “During our competition in about two weeks there will be judges analyzing our every move, but doing this takes the shock-value out. The sponsors you meet with prepare you for anything and everything.”

Anderson echoed Talarico’s sentiments of students making mistakes at the center first, instead of during their career.

“He really hit the nail on the head with that,” she said. “The sales labs allow you to leave the call and learn from it. This is going to help me when I’m looking for a job, competing against someone twice my age. I’ve already made my mistakes and I’m ready to move on.”

Anderson said she’s thankful for the hard work Talarico has put into the development of the center.

“He’s just so inspiring in all that he’s done,” she said. “It’s great to see the dedication he has to sales and UD. He’s not the type of person that’s like ‘Look what I did’, it’s more ‘Look what’s for you.’”

Talarico said he hopes the center will help students realize everything is a sale.

“In every situation you’re in – whether it’s a job interview or sales call – you’re selling something,” he said. “If you don’t sell yourself, who’s going to?”

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