End of Semester...and Sales

Posted by Jack Derby, Head Coach on Fri, Dec 19, 2014

Tufts Fall, 2014 2 resized 600The semester is just about over.  11 weeks of classes and then two weeks of final presentations came to a close Wednesday.  

Now all that remains is the final grading which I'll struggle through this coming weekend.  



Grading students, like grading sales and marketing people during annual reviews, is always the toughest part of any semester for me.   


  • A superb semester
  • Heavily involved, bright students, but I always expect that at Tufts
  • Six complex assignments from real life companies filled the semester
  • Very satisfied companies; very dynamic students

A few comments from this semester...

From one of the marketing project companies: 

"The Tufts group exceeded our expectations this semester. Our executive team loves the content and presentation of the deliverables."

From one of the students: 

"I just wanted to email and say a HUGE thank you for absolutely everything this semester! I don’t think I have been more driven in any class to succeed. I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of class, the three hour block never failed to just fly by" 

Jack's 3 Rules

At the end of every semester, following the last company presentation, on the last day, and just as we approach the end of class time at 4:30, I always outline "Jack's Three Rules":

1.  Consistently Learn
This comment on "consistent learning" comes right after I make the statement that "everything we've learned in this semester is now obsolete".  The point that I make is that these juniors and seniors now have an even greater responsibility to learn more, to study even harder, and to drive themselves further as they leave this class and head out into the real world looking for full time jobs and summer internships.

Since this is a marketing course, I also remind them of a consistent theme throughout the semester, and that is that nothing changes today at a greater velocity than the very complex world of sales and marketing.   Although they leave this class deeply experienced in SEO tactics, blog creation and the other aspects of Inbound Marketing, I also point out that those skills will rapidly deteriortate unless they push themelves to consistently learn more.  

This is also a success trait that I find in the best salespeople. They read more; they study harder, they experiment more.  Summarize that attribute it in one phrase:  they are more curious...and therefore, more successful.

2.  Network Constantly
The majority of my students leave this class with excellent jobs and internships.  Many of those connections come from me and my business connections since I know a couple of people in Boston.  But, more and more, the connections come from other Tufts alums who've graduated from this course over the years.   From this current class, seniors have received offers from giants such as Google, Fidelity, Deloitte, NetSuite and Intuit to sector leaders like Brainshark, Hubspot and Silicon Valley Bank.

Between me and Chris Colbert, a dynamic speaker and highly experienced marketer, who comes into class half way through the semester as a lecturer, we end up using "the network word" hundreds of times over the course of 13 weeks.  And, it's true.  Where do we go when we want a job for our kids, or a connection to a lead for a potential sale, or the best surgeon or lawyer when we have personal problems?  We go to our trusted networks.   

What do the most successful salespeople do when they work with their "A" tier customers? They drive themselves, and they work relentlessly to become the trusted partners of those customers.  In school, at work, in Sales, and in life, making, nurturing and keeping these life-long connections is a major tenant of both our comfort and our success. 

3. Break Some Rules

I tell my students that when I graduated from BC many years ago, I had been accepted to go to graduate school at the University of Chicago.  It was the plan, the straight road, the expectation, and what I was supposed to do.  But, during that summer, much to the chagrin of my parents, I broke a number of rules and spent the next couple of years in the Peace Corps... and it changed my life forever.  

As a result, I encourage these just-about-ready-to-graduate, freshly scrubbed seniors to take a deep breath and break a couple of rules.  One of my students is more than anxious about getting a job, but would also like to take time after graduation to hike the entire Appalachian Trail, and so we worked together to figure out how to do both.  Yesterday, we reviewed her above-market rate job offer, with stock options, with superb benefits and a start date of September 1.  She's going to have to do some quick walking and a bit of running to make it to Mt. Katahdin by the end of August, but by stretching a rule of just not accepting a normal start date of two weeks after graduation, she ends up with a superb job and realizes her dream at the same time.

Breaking rules also applies to the best salespeople who are more innovative and more disruptive in their approach to their customers and prospects since they will push themselves and their bosses to do whatever it takes to deliver value and not just sell products.  

The end of semester...and the year

The end of this semester also brings me to the end of the business year.  In addition to having the privilege of teaching at MIT and Tufts, and working working with the gifted Maia Heymann and the brilliant James Geshwiler in my role as Chairman of Common Angel Ventures, I often need to remind myself to focus on running Derby Management where, it has been another solid year for the firm.   Great customers, superb relationships with partners and associates, a lot of fun and more than a few interesting challenges.

One of those challenges this year was time away last summer to deal with prostate cancer, which ended up to be very successful.  Interestingly, that journey led to the discovery of major heart disease, so I will disappear for January, February and a bit of March as the docs at MGH put me through the paces of bypass surgery, which will severly cut into my snowboarding time this season.  

What I've most realized through this discovery and decision making process over the past few months is that my best sources of information and comfort have come through associations I've made through this blog.  On that note, thanks very much for reading, thanks for your comments during the year, and mostly, thank you for your friendship.

Have a safe and warm holiday!


 Jack Derby 

Head Coach  
Derby Management...for 25 years
-Sales & Marketing Productivity Experts
-Business & Strategy Planning Specialists
Box 171322, Boston, MA 02117
Jack's Cell: 617-504-4222 

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