They say that every dog has its day — but it probably doesn’t hurt if they have a good sales agent as well. Bryant University’s student Sales Team recently helped some furry pals having a “ruff” time get out of the doghouse and into loving forever homes. Partnering with the Hotel for Homeless Dogs, an animal care facility and adoption center powered by the New England Humane Society and located in Cumberland, Rhode Island, they crafted marketing pitches for cuddly canines that made tails wag.
The story begins, says Jessica Maffe ’25, president of the Sales Team, with an organization that wanted to help, and that’s no shaggy dog tale, she notes. The team, which helps Bryant students across a range of majors hone their marketing and sales skills, was looking to do a bit of good in the world, and maybe, just maybe, shine a better light on a much-maligned profession.
“We were looking for ways to give back to the community,” says Maffe. “We've learned so much through Bryant’s sales program and, by going out into the real world beyond the Bryant campus, we were able to put those skills to good use and help others.”
But where to start, they wondered? They wanted to make sure they weren’t barking up the wrong tree, after all. Inspiration came when one of the members of the team suggested the Hotel for Homeless Dogs. “They rescue dogs that either were abused in their past life or just weren’t in a good home. In some cases, they’re saving the dogs’ lives,” shares Maffe. “They're doing something so awesome for the community, that we wanted to help them in any way we possibly could.”
Plus, she admitted, who could possibly turn down those puppy dog eyes? “Everyone loves dogs because they’re cute, they're cuddly, and they'll always be your best friend. No matter what happens, even if you have the worst day, you come home and your dog is still there ready to love you,” Maffe reflects.
So, one fine November day, the group traveled down to Cumberland to meet their quadruped clients — and were instantly won over. “We all fell in love,” Maffe admits.
Maffe was paired with two pit bulls, Max and Ruby, who she is quick to gush were “absolutely adorable.” Even they, though, needed some help. “I think they see a lot of pit bulls at the Hotel for Homeless Dogs because sometimes they have some trouble getting adopted because of the breeds’ reputation,” she notes.
Fortunately, Max and Ruby had a team of sales specialists there to help conquer the stereotypes.
Selling the dream as part of a team
First impressions, especially ones based on misconceptions, can be misleading. Maffe, a marketing major in Bryant’s 3+1 accelerated fourth-year MBA program, knows — and she speaks from experience. “I actually wasn’t sure if I wanted to get involved with the Sales program, originally,” she notes. “I was hesitant because of the stereotypes surrounding the field: that it’s exploitative and dishonest.”
The first day of Professor of Marketing Stefanie Boyer, Ph.D.,’s “Personal Selling” course turned her around. “She explained that sales isn’t about being manipulative and it's not about being that shady, stereotypical used car salesman type that you see in the media,” says Maffe. “Sales is about making connections and helping people find solutions to their problems.”
When the opportunity to join the Sales Team opened up a few weeks into the course she jumped at the chance, and this past semester she took on the president’s role.
Practice makes perfect, she notes — and even unexpected avenues like writing sales pitches for canines can help you develop the skills to succeed. “The Sales Team gives you the opportunity to go out into real world situations and learn about what a career in sales is actually like,” Maffe says.
Working together as a group makes the experience more special. “Making a sale is often an individual thing, but through the sales program we're helping each other and building each other up,” says Maffe. “And we have a blast doing it.”
And, sometimes, she notes, they get to do some good along the way.
The best feeling
The Sales Team prepared for their recent trip to the rescue facility by researching the average rescue animal owner, noting that they were typically first-time pet owners looking for love and companionship — and to do a good deed by helping an animal in need. Equipped with a customer profile, they were ready to help the down-on-their-luck dogs shake paws with a person who would love them.
"It gave all of us a really good feeling. And it helped remind us, ‘Wow, these skills are important and they're valuable and we can use them to help others.' "
But how do you transform unfairly maligned mutts into desirable doggos? Well, in most cases, you just let people know what makes them so lovable in the first place. The team played with the canines, walked them, and learned about their personalities and quirks. Then they got to work writing their pitches.
Some were chipper, reflecting the temperaments of the friskier fidos. "Asher is a lover not a fighter!” reads one. “He enjoys long walks and neck rubs and will always sit on command — as long as there are treats involved. He's looking for a loving home that will show him the same affection he'll bring to you and your family."
Others were a little more soulful. “When it comes to Bailey, her only weakness is her past,” was the start of a pitch for an adorable but timid-looking pup who had been rescued. “She's shy and scared due to her past, which holds her back. However, the one thing that can help her overcome her fears is that one perfect family."
Over the course of the day, the dogs did a little selling of their own. “One of our members wasn’t necessarily a dog person at first,” says Maffe. “But by the end of the event they ended up loving all of the dogs, so I think they converted him.”
At the close of the visit, when the students bid “arf wiedersehen” to their new pooch pals, spirits were high all around and they were confident they had assisted their four paw all-stars in achieving celebrity status. “It gave all of us a really good feeling,” says Maffe. “And it helped remind us, ‘Wow, these skills are important and they're valuable and we can use them to help others.’ ”
The final “paw-roof” of the day’s success was even more rewarding. Max and Ruby, Maffe is proud to say, were adopted a few days after their visit, as have other dogs the students met and worked with on their sales strategies. While she can’t definitively say it was her pitches that made the difference, she’s happy to have been part of the effort.
“Oh gosh, it was awesome, it was the best feeling ever,” she remembers. “They needed a little love and now they’ve found it.”