15.387 | Spring 2015 | Graduate

Entrepreneurial Sales


Course Meeting Times

Lectures: 2 sessions / week, 1.5 hours / session

Course Description

‘Nothing Happens Until a Sale is Made’

Nothing happens until a sale is made. That simple point underlines the critical importance of sales to the entrepreneur. Almost every business plan ‘assumes’ a certain amount of sales, but that assumption is the tipping point. Without sales, the entire business model is an exercise in frustration and futility.

The purpose of this course is to demystify sales and help you understand how to sell and manage. If you are considering a startup after Sloan, this course is a must. At the end of this course you should be able to understand the role of sales in a company whether you join a startup or work for a large, established company. This course is geared towards the entrepreneur. We have recently added a new section to the course called ‘startup sales toolkit.’ Should you be joining a startup this section will help you understand exactly what tools you need to hit the ground running.

The entrepreneur must not only understand the sales process but also embrace that the ability to sell is the single most critical success factor of any new enterprise. This course does not approach sales from the vaunted perspective of ‘strategy’. It gets right into the very practical and tactical ins and outs of how to sell technical products to a sophisticated marketplace. Then it moves into the more complex subject of how to build and manage a sales force. The course covers subjects such as building compensation systems, assigning territories, resolving disputes, managing channel conflicts, opening sales offices and other complex sales and sales management situations. It also will provide a ‘startup sales tool kit’ you will need if you a startup out of Sloan or move to one in your career.

In a larger sense, the entrepreneur and the manager has to “sell” his or her vision to perspective employees, to angel and venture investors and to strategic partners. While all true and all necessary, this course focuses mainly on selling to customers, whether that is through a direct sales force, a channel sales force, or building an OEM relationship. A few cases focus on selling to investors and strategic partners. Sales is the one function that cannot hide behind the veil of corporate doubletalk; sales goals are either made or not made. Every entrepreneurial activity leverages off of that single fact. Markets are not totally rational organizations and the firms with the best sales teams will usually win.

‘The Company with the Best Sales Force Wins’

One common misconception is that product innovation alone is a winning tactic. It is not. Often the critical success factor is exactly how a firm goes to market—with its sales force. But the rules have changed—innovations like ‘freemium’ models and social networking are changing the status quo and forcing managers to consider new way to structure and incent sales teams.

Class Requirements

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.


15.387 must be taken for a letter grade or Pass / D / Fail.

Class Participation 25%
Take a Sales Manager and a Salesperson to Lunch 25%
Video recording sessions / Simulation Results 25%
Assignments 25%


There are two types of assignments: written assignments and video role-play assignments. Written assignments consist of (a) short, written case preparations for class and (b) two 2-page papers based on interviews with sales professionals.

Written Assignments

Case Preparations
Every class is associated with a short, case-based assignment. All students are required to be ready to discuss these assignments. You are required to turn in 11 written assignments over the course of the class.

Take a Salesperson to Lunch
You are to identify, get an appointment, and meet with an experienced salesperson about what it means to be an effective salesperson.

Take a Sales Manager to Lunch
You are to identify, get an appointment, and meet with an experienced sales manager about what it means to be an effective salesman and an effective sales manager.

In-Class & Simulation Assignments

Elevator Pitch Competition
Teams of 4 have 3 minutes to pitch a technology product to a panel of customers. Every team member must participate!

EchoPort Sales Competition
Compete against your classmates in a web-based sales simulation to find out who is ‘The’ hunter of the class!

Video Role Play Assignments

In order to help you appreciate the difference between theory and practice, you will have the opportunity to perform what you learned in front of a video camera. Approach this exercise as you would any sales call between you and a customer—the object is to convince the customer to buy your product!

Course Info

As Taught In
Spring 2015
Learning Resource Types
Lecture Notes
Activity Assignments
Media Assignments
Presentation Assignments
Written Assignments