It was a great honor to receive the USC Marshall Business School MBA Program Golden Apple Teaching Award last year. The award is presented to the professor who has had the greatest impact on their students as voted by the members of the graduating class. Here’s my thoughts about salespeople and MBAs…
Should You Go Back to School and Get an MBA? That can be a difficult question to answer. Since there are over 400+ different universities that offer MBA programs across the United States, let’s first take a look at the three basic programs you have to choose from.
Full-Time MBA Program: You drop everything you’re doing to head back to school full time and live on or near-by campus. Admission to most full-time MBA programs require several years of work experience and they’re not easy to get into. For example, USC’s 2013 MBA admission rate was only 27% of the 1,800+ applicants. You will also need to take the GMAT test (which is like the high school SAT test but on steroids). Preparing for and taking the test is not going to be fun either. Plan on spending a minimum of $100,000 for tuition (plus living expenses) to complete a two year program at a top 25 school. I know students who have amassed loans totaling over $150,000 to complete their studies.
Part Time MBA Program: Classes for these programs are conducted on weekday evenings and weekends over a two year period. The good news about these programs is that you’ll be able to continue to work (if you don’t travel too much). The bad news is you will be swamped with assignments, readings, and studying for tests. Your schedule will be fully booked and you will have very little free time for yourself or your family during the school year (20% of USC’s part time MBA students are married and the average age is 28). The costs of these programs are about the same as a full time MBA. Depending on the university, your classes may be conducted separately or integrated with the full-time MBA students (which I prefer).
Executive MBA: These two year programs are specifically designed for more “senior” managers who work full time. For instance, there are 119 Executive MBA students in USC’s 2013 class. The average age is 38, average work experience is 15 years, and their average income is around $170,000. The curriculum of these programs are more real-world project/problem/case study based (as opposed to classroom-based teaching). It costs about $120,000 to complete USC’s EMBA program.
So, Have You Been Thinking About Getting an MBA? Here’s my “general” rules of thought. Be forewarned, these are only my generalizations based upon career stage and I can guarantee that your personal situation is unique.
Salesperson late 20s-early 30s: This is the best time during your career to get an MBA . I strongly recommend you pursue a part-time MBA if you can honestly answer YES to the following question, “Do you have the wherewithal to persevere through two hard years of studies?” If you plan on a long sales career, an MBA will be extremely useful in several different ways. First, it separates you from the competition in the customer’s eyes by providing you with a more polished/sophisticated business acumen. It will also help you get to the next stage of your career faster and increase your network of business connections immensely. Maybe you have been in sales for a few years and don’t feel a sales career is right for you. Why not go back to school full time? Trust me on this… this is one of the few times when you will have the opportunity to re-chart your life’s direction.
Salesperson Mid 30’s-early 40’s: If your family obligations aren’t too considerable and your work schedule is manageable, I would recommend pursuing an Executive MBA. Yes, it is a lot of money. Yes, it is a lot of work.
Salesperson late 40’s and up: Focus solely on your job and maximizing your income. Sock as much money away as possible and spend as much time as you can with your family.
Sales Management Recommendation: Regardless of your career stage and whether you are a new or seasoned sales manager, get an Executive MBA! You’re going to learn tons of new stuff from some incredible faculty/industry influencers and work on projects with talented (and well-connected) classmates. Equally important, it may make the difference between getting that big promotion, landing your next job, or having the new business venture you have always dreamed about funded.
I have one final piece of advice regarding an MBA… Your Mileage May Vary. I have personally witnessed students who have leveraged their MBA with great success. Conversely, I also know students whose expectations were never met. In one respect, an MBA is just another business tool like your smartphone or laptop. You can use your phone to cold call a prospective client and then your laptop to create the proposal that result in closing a multi-million dollar deal. But first you have to know how to use the tool, and most importantly, take the initiative to use it.
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