As part of our ongoing blog series, we interviewed Dr. Raj Agnihotri from the Debbie and Jerry Ivy College of Business at Iowa State University.
Dr. Agnihotri currently serves as the Dean’s Fellow and Director of Ivy Sales Consortium. Prior to this, he has held many prestigious roles at other universities while also launching the Consumer Research Center at Ohio University.
In addition, Dr. Agnihotri has conducted significant research culminating in 40 articles published as per Google Citations, with some appearing in well-known marketing journals, and with three of the articles being award winning.
Dr. Agnihotri’s academic areas of expertise include professional selling, sales technology, and social media in the B2B sales process. Give our interview a look!
1. How long have you been teaching marketing? What made you want to pursue it?
I have been teaching marketing courses for over 15 years now. When I was pursuing my MBA, my plans were to go back to industry. However, life always gives us unique surprises. I met with some great professors and mentors. I learned how much is needed on the academic side of business. We need good research as so many critical questions remain unanswered. And, I love interacting with curious minds! So, the Ph.D. route seemed most appropriate.
2. What is your favorite course to teach and why?
Two of my most favorite courses are the following:
Foundations of Professional Selling
This course combines professional selling theory with actual practice. Students learn skills needed for successful careers in sales and marketing. I like the fact that I can help my students gain awareness of the important role and value that sales play today in a competitive business world as well as a general awareness of the attributes of successful salespeople. An awareness and appreciation of the fact that “everyone sells” and how personal selling of one’s self and ideas is important to career success is also fascinating.
I like to teach this course because it serves an introduction to hands-on instruction for selected information technology/social media resources that ordinarily support the sales professional and the sales process. It includes the selection of productivity tools, sales team applications and enterprise-wide technology solutions. It is refreshing to see when my students gain an understanding of the value of sales support technology in supporting the productivity of the individual sales professional, the sales organization and the business enterprise.
3. Tell me a little bit about yourself (education background, any other relevant work experience). What types of organizations are you involved in?
Before entering academia, I held a number of sales and marketing positions with startup ventures and major corporations, mostly in the technology sales area. I currently serve on the advisory boards of startups based in the U.S., Europe, and India. I served on the faculty of prestigious Samson Global Leadership Program at the Cleveland Clinic from 2014 to 2017.
I regularly give sales seminars and conduct workshops for industry professionals from North America, Brazil, Europe, and India.
I am a co-author of ABCs of Relationship Selling (McGraw Hill, 13 ed.), a market leader in sales classes globally, and its contents can be found in four international versions. Numerous sales trainers around the world use its selling process to prepare their salespeople.
4. What do you consider to be the most important and/or interesting aspect about the current state of marketing?
The emergence of digital platforms has paved the way for consumers’ participation in the marketing. No longer is marketing and market separated. They need to co-create value for each other. This is the only way to survive. I love this new reality.
5. What types of research do you do as part of your role? How do you incorporate it into your coursework?
My primary areas are social media in B2B sales, salesperson performance, and creativity. I believe that to be effective, teachers should incorporate cutting-edge research findings in extending the material to a class. Often business school textbooks are lacking in the presentation of real-world situations, and case studies are not sufficient to convey the actual processes that occur in a real business setting.
In order to overcome these inadequacies, I reach out to the surrounding business community and regularly invite guest speakers to present their views and experiences with the material being covered in class. Along with that I incorporate recent journal publications that may challenge current marketing thought process. I know that I have a better chance of touching all of the students on some level that is relevant and interesting to them.
6. Where do you feel the future of marketing, particularly digital, is heading?
Digitalization is just the beginning. With AI and IoT, more changes are coming.
7. With digital marketing changing at such a rapid pace, how do you see marketing being taught differently in the future?
I do not believe the basis of marketing theories and notions would change, however, the applications are being impacted significantly due to the emergence of digital marketing.
8. What advice would you give to young marketing professionals?
I suggest: Stop thinking like a consumer, start thinking like a manager.