Bryant’s University’s inaugural Sales Symposium on Digital Disruption offered students an opportunity to learn from industry experts and think deeply about how to use advanced technology to stay informed and ahead of the curve. Organized by Bryant’s Sales Program, the symposium drew nearly 150 guests, including students and faculty from Bryant and other local colleges, as well as Bryant alumni and corporate sponsors.
University President Ronald K. Machtley and Provost and Chief Academic Officer Glenn Sulmasy, J.D., LL.M., lauded the Sales Program’s efforts work preparing students for the future. “At Bryant, we’re very conscious of needing to stay in front of the technology boom,” said Sulmasy. “That’s why it’s so important tonight to hold events like tonight’s where we learn from experts and ensure that we can continue to succeed through this disruptive period.”
“We want to understand technology and the way that it’s disrupting business so that we can help, educate, and provide the latest opportunities. As an educator, and as a trainer, I want to be able to do that, to provide the best education, the best training, and the best support,” said Stefanie Boyer, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Marketing and Director of the Northeast Intercollegiate Sales Competition. “Bryant is an innovator and that means leading the way.”
Nicholas Garrigan ’19, President of Bryant’s Sales Team, noted the impressive growth of Bryant’s Sales Program in his Symposium remarks. “This is the program's fourth inaugural event I’ve been a part of here, which is absolutely astounding when I put it into perspective,” noted Garrigan. “When I first got here I thought ‘wow, we have a jam-packed schedule.’ Clearly I was wrong, though, because we keep finding a way to add things year after year.”
To prepare Bryant students for success in their field, the Sales Program offers competitions, developmental events, and collaboration with industry partners. In addition to a panel discussion with industry leaders, the Sales Symposium featured a networking session and an adaptability training workshop with improv expert and founder of the Providence Improv Guild Melissa Bowler, who offered guidance on how to manage the unexpected.
A technology revolution
The Symposium’s keynote panel, moderated by Boyer, explored how artificial intelligence and machine learning are used in business and sales, and the challenges and opportunities those changes present to business and sales professionals. Panel members also offered advice for students entering the field.
“If there’s a change going on in your organization, be part of the 20 percent that are leading it, because you’re going to become invaluable to the team.”
“Every organization is transforming into a digital organization. I don’t care if you’re a university, a health care provider, a discrete manufacturer, or a financial services firm,” said Steve Sadler, Vice President Global Sales Learning, Enablement & Transformation at Dell EMC, a partner of the Bryant Sales Program. He pointed to the success of digital businesses such as Uber and Airbnb as evidence. “Data is the new oil. We have to harness the power of data to build better relationships with our customers and to truly gain competitive advantage.”
“Speed, and being able to recognize trends in real time, has never been more important," agreed Bruce Richardson, Chief Enterprise Strategist at Salesforce.com, who noted the myriad of advancements from voice recognition to chat programs to data analysis that have revolutionized sales and other industries. “We’ve never had more data, and the amount of data we’re generating is going to increase exponentially.”
Being part of the change
Ultimately, the panelists said, change is inevitable and will benefit those who can stay ahead of the curve. “This is increasingly becoming a more connected world. You can’t think in silos like we used to. Industries are blending together because they have to,” said Steve Shelgren, Microsoft Alliance Business Development Regional Leader for EY. “As salespeople we have to continue to elevate what we bring to the table and become students of our clients, and the marketplace – that value add you can bring.”
“Raise your hand to be part of change initiatives. You want to be a part of that group, showing that you’re agile and you’re forward thinking,” Jaime Lannon Diglio ’00, Founder and CEO of InFirst Coaching, advised. “If there’s a change going on in your organization, be part of the 20 percent that are leading it, because you’re going to become invaluable to the team.”