Making a Difference

Robert S. Kaiser Sales, Negotiation and Leadership Lab opens to students

During fall semester, the typically bustling sales lab traded students for construction experts, as the facility underwent an expansion and major renovation. Now, students and faculty are getting their first chance to use the facility, which bears the name of the lead donor to the project Robert Kaiser, B.B.A.’78, owner and chief executive officer of Gallagher-Kaiser Corporation.

The Robert S. Kaiser Sales, Negotiation and Leadership Lab is a vibrant, modern space that will serve more than 320 majors as they progress through the rigorous, hands-on curriculum of the best sales program in the country.

Facility snapshot

The project transformed the current lab space:

  • Doubling the square footage
  • Renovating existing meeting spaces and role-playing facilities and adding two role-play rooms and a board room
  • Creating a new façade
  • Replacing all furnishings
  • Upgrading technology, with:
    • A cloud-based video learning system, accessible from anywhere, worldwide
    • Enhanced ability to pinpoint areas for student improvement with detailed notes embedded in videos of role-plays
    • Opportunity for greater collaboration via new software
    • Student accounts with archival footage of role-plays
    • Ability for students to share footage with prospective hiring managers

The excitement from students is palpable as they reap the benefits of learning in the new facility, which realistically simulates sales scenarios. “As an incoming sales and business marketing student, I look forward to the opportunities granted by the Robert S. Kaiser Sales, Negotiation, and Leadership Lab, which will allow for the growth and refinement of students’ professional selling skills,” says sophomore Cooper Frost. “This facility demonstrates the energy and professionalism of the program and Mr. Kaiser’s commitment to excellence.”

The facility is an extension of the sales and business marketing curriculum, which is highly experiential.

Points of Pride

With a 100 percent post-graduation success rate, the sales program is more in demand than ever, and our students continue to demonstrate why they are the best. Russ Berrie National Sales Challenge: Students have consistently finished first or second.
National Collegiate Sales Competition: WMU has finished in the top 10 nine of the last 14 years, including seven top five finishes. WMU has one of the highest percentages of top 10 finishes of any of the 70+ universities who have competed during the same time frame.
University of Toledo Invitational Sales Competition: WMU placed first as a university, and WMU students placed individually—first in the first year and sophomore division and second in the junior division in 2018.
International Collegiate Sales Competition, Sales Management Case Division: WMU students took fifth overall in 2016—WMU’s first year of competing in this event.
State Farm Sales and Marketing Competition: In 2012 and 2013, WMU had the top individual student and finished second overall as a university. In 2014, WMU was the university champion. In 2015 and 2016, WMU students took third in marketing presentation and second in sales. To date, students have won more than $35,000 in scholarships at this competition.

“The ability to role-play and record real-world sales scenarios in the environment of the new Robert S. Kaiser Sales, Negotiation and Leadership Lab is truly invaluable,” says Dr. Kelley O’Reilly, associate professor of marketing. “Through multiple interactions and role-plays, students develop a level of confidence that cannot come from classroom interactions alone. Because students have the ability to watch and evaluate their own recordings, they are able to refine and improve naturally. The facility opens the door to new and innovative ways for sharing best practice examples with students and provides recruiters with a sneak peek at our amazing student talent.”

The project would not be possible without Kaiser, who recognized the impact his gift could have on the future of the sales program.

“My father always told me, ‘You can have the best product, but without the ability to effectively sell it, you will not be successful,’” says Kaiser. “I have learned firsthand how essential the sales function is to a corporation. That is why I am especially proud to give back to the place where it all started. I am honored to help advance the education of my fellow Broncos—the next generation of business leaders.”

Construction continues as the front façade and donor recognition display are completed.

Why upgrade now?

Success—it is what defines the sales and business marketing program at Western Michigan University. Ranked No. 1 for “Top U.S. Sales Schools” by Study.com and recognized since 2007 as one of the “Top University Sales Programs” by the Sales Education Foundation, the program’s reputation for excellence draws increasing numbers of students.

At the program’s inception, there were 49 majors. Now 18 years later, enrollment has topped 320 students, necessitating a lab expansion to accommodate the major’s growth. The lab’s technology upgrades make the space a state-of-the-art learning environment once more.

The expansion and renovation will help preserve the program’s status as the premier sales program in the country. In addition, the facility will now be an ideal setting for seminars and possibly a regional sales competition. 

Giving opportunities

Sales and business marketing alumni have been supporting the lab expansion project through their donations. These gifts help fund operational costs, software maintenance, student travel to competitions and new programming.

Executive Club

  • Visionary: 3-year pledge of $1,000 per year
  • Benefactor: 3-year pledge of $500 per year

Leadership Circle

  • Platinum donation: $1,000
  • Gold donation: $500-$999
  • Silver Donation: $250-$499

Individuals who give $250 or more will have name and graduation year (if applicable) displayed on the donor recognition display. Several rooms within the lab are available for corporate naming for four-year terms, with the option to renew.

Interested in making a gift?  Visit wmich.edu/sales-lab or  call (269) 387-5050.