Business students often enter a degree program with a career path in mind: management, finance, analytics, accounting, marketing or something else.
But not sales. Anything but sales.
Biola University Crowell School of Business Assistant Dean and Adjunct Faculty Beth Starr is concerned about that, and understandably so, since she teaches sales classes at Crowell.
“I have to push back against the negative connotations that sales has among so many students,” said Starr. “Research has shown that over 70% of business students will actually start their career in sales. I want them to see that sales can be about doing the right thing and helping others, and not about just making a sale no matter what. We need more Christ-followers in the marketplace, sharing their love for Christ.”
Starr teaches sales, marketing and management at the undergraduate level and management at the graduate level. In addition to teaching, Starr is the assistant dean of Crowell School of Business, and has oversight responsibility for operations, including undergraduate, graduate, and all online programs. She has a bachelor of science in marketing from Chapman University and an MBA from Crowell. Starr sat down and answered a few questions about herself.
How did you decide on marketing as your undergraduate major?
After I got my AA, I really enjoyed working for organizations in many different areas, so I decided I wanted to get a business degree. While taking courses at Chapman, I had a fantastic marketing professor who really turned marketing into a passion for me. I enjoyed the course so much and loved the projects that we did.
Once we had a guest speaker from Xerox and I was instantly intrigued. I got an internship there so I could get to know everyone and find out what was important to them. After I graduated, I applied to Xerox and I got a “no thank you.” I was devastated! I knew that was where I was supposed to be! I went back to find out why and I learned that everyone had said “yes” except one of the managers. So I set up a meeting with him. He said he didn't think I had the persistence to make it in sales and he wanted me to prove him wrong, which I did by going back! So they hired me on the spot.
What did you learn from your time in the industry?
I spent most of my career in sales and marketing, starting with Xerox. I really enjoy sales and meeting new people. Marketing really gives you the ability to listen to your clients and find out what they are really looking for. Solving problems and helping organizations and people really motivates me.
I learned during that time that community matters. Always put others before yourself and do whatever you can to help customers, even when that means sending them somewhere else, if it’s the right thing for them. Those types of situations are hard, but in the long run you are more respected and it builds trust and relationships that are harder to break. In every class, I tell my students that it takes a long time to build trust, but only a second to break it.
What inspired you to earn your MBA?
Former Crowell Dean Larry Strand and retired Director of the MBA Mentor program Harold Taber both told me they thought I should teach, with all of my experience, but to do that I needed to get my MBA. At first, I thought they were crazy, but over time I realized that was exactly what God had planned. So on to an MBA I went!
You have to make some challenging concepts accessible in the classroom. How do you do that?
This is a continuous learning curve for me, so I am constantly listening to what students and employers tell me is important. Sales is all about role playing and I think the best way to learn how to market your product is to practice, so we spend the semester doing role-playing on how to perfect each step in the process. We start with the first thing that everyone has to market — themselves. No matter what we do in life, you need to be able to show others the value you add. This is especially true for job interviews: How do you stand out? What do you bring to the table that others don't?
What do you do in your free time?
Well, I am a wife and a mom, so I love spending time with my family and spending time with the Lord. I also love to transform furniture — I take old forgotten furniture pieces and bring them back to life and I have a series of how-to videos to help people revitalize their own pieces!
What is your favorite thing about Biola?
I love that Biola is all about the student. When I was an undergraduate student in college, I felt like I was just a number working through a system. But all the faculty and staff at Biola are invested into every student. Everyone truly wants each and every student to succeed at their God-given talent. I also love that Biola is trying to help students understand what their calling is and showing that no matter what that calling is, it can and should be done for the Glory of God.