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Darla Moore School of Business

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Innovation inside the classroom

The Moore School and Center for Sales Success’ partnership with Colonial Life gives students the opportunity to tap into their business acumen and creativity to provide momentum behind sales projects with the voluntary benefits insurance company.

When this partnership was created in 2019, Colonial Life wanted to gain outside student perspectives for their projects and provide students with hands-on sales experience.

“This relationship allows USC Center for Sales Success students to develop the skills required to be successful in sales-centered organizations while helping solve Colonial Life business challenges,” said Richard Shaffer, senior vice president of field and market development at Colonial Life.

Beth Renninger, director of the Center for Sales Success and a Moore School marketing lecturer, says Colonial Life was seeking innovative ways to build their sales talent pipeline, and the collaboration provided access to students’ unique skills and viewpoints.

Research shows 88 percent of marketing majors will start their career in sales — it’s 50 percent among all college grads, Renninger said.

“Sales has become a broad and diverse discipline with areas focused on lead generation, relationship building, technology enablement and requires interactions with various business disciplines,” she added. “This experiential-learning power brings this reality to life in an educational experience which facilitates learning and talent assessment.”

Colonial Life has been able to work with students on projects to determine how the organization can attract and onboard recent college graduates and effectively incorporate a virtual component in their selling process. In 2020 and 2021, two semester-long projects focused on driving the efficiency of and enhancing recruiting, sales and marketing.

“A few of the recommendations from the fall that we’ve implemented are incorporating video into the sales process, virtual selling training certification, incentivizing virtual work and sharing success stories,” Shaffer said. “Gaining student insight helps us remain competitive, attract clients and recruit employees.”

Students benefit by doing real research, analysis, synthesis, prioritization of and communication with data to rationalize their approach.

“The pandemic accelerated a shift to a hybrid model in our business — the combination of in-person and virtual sales and client management activities, a business model we’ll continue to drive forward,” Shaffer said. “We want to appeal to all generations. If we can identify the best recruiting and onboarding techniques, we will better position new workers for success.”

As the partnership continues, Shaffer said he looks forward to seeing how students’ future work will impact Colonial Life initiatives. The company is also considering graduate-level projects.

“We’re excited to see this partnership evolve,” Shaffer said. “I have been impressed with the students’ work, questions and engagement in the virtual class and meeting structure."

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