Doug Pitassi, President of Pacific Office Automation
Pacific Office Automation supports launch of College of Business Sales Academy

A CLASSIC DEBATE – is sales an art or a science? We offer the answer from a career sales professional: According to Doug Pitassi, President of Pacific Office Automation, sales is a scientific method that improves with practice. And, to the benefit of the College of Business, Pitassi is willing to share more than three decades’ experience with students looking to hone their skills.

“Sales is a hard skill; it’s a difficult skill to learn,” Pitassi said. “It’s scientific, but great sales takes a lot of practice. Developing great sales skills is no different than playing a sport or a musical instrument. With the piano you practice scales over and over to improve; sales is the same.”

Pitassi, who started his career in Portland selling copy machines, now leads POA, the office management and office information technology solutions provider with locations throughout the Pacific Northwest and southwest.

POA is the title sponsor of the College of Business Sales Academy, a forum for sales training open to all OSU students launching this fall. POA and Pitassi will participate in sharing the reality of the life of a salesman.

Pitassi, who has spent his life fighting in the ring of high-risk, high-rewards commissioned sales, says he’s motivated to create a deeper understanding of negotiating and relationship-building skills and elevate sales skills as a professional skill set. He wants students to understand more about the types of sales opportunities that are just about everywhere in business.

“Everybody sells something; every business needs some level of sales,” Pitassi said. “Whether you’re a doctor, a lawyer or other professional, you still have to secure clients. Therefore, there’s elements of sales that all students need to know, for example, the art of retaining clients, solving a problem or negotiating an agreement.”

POA’s support includes the title grant of $50,000 per year, hands-on involvement during the inaugural sales competition scheduled for spring term and other opportunities.

Pitassi sees a lot of space in the sales academy initiative with other regional and national businesses that seek talent to meet their own sales margins.

According to Pitassi, accessing trained sales professionals is a common discussion point among his network of small- to medium-sized businesses owners and executives. These businesses all seek the same solution – a better supply of workers. Companies relying on a competent and productive sales force can average a turnover rate as high as 35 percent in one to two years. That’s costly.

Area businesses also will have access to the talent pipeline from the Sales Academy, modelled after similar academies across the country. Michelle Barnhart, associate professor of marketing and faculty lead for the academy, is excited by the opportunities.

She’s working with corporate supporters who are lending their real-world expertise. Companies could teach a specific sales technique, or even host a dinner meeting focused on etiquette.

Students earn a resume-boosting certificate of completion from the college for a series of training modules.

“The idea is that we now have opportunities consistently throughout the academic year for students to engage in additional development of their sales skills beyond what they can get in the classes that we offer,” Barnhart said. “It’s a broader opportunity for students from all across the university.”

Barnhart does not shy away from suggesting that the Sales Academy will serve as an elite talent pool, showcasing the students who’ve earned their certificate and put in the extra effort to sharpen their tools for negotiation, problem-solving and deal-closing.

“POA and the College of Business are launching a new opportunity for students to get exceptional sales training before they graduate,” Barnhart said. “We also are providing a forum for interested companies to recruit and hire students who will already have exceptional sales skills on day one.”

Pitassi speaks highly of his own employees from Oregon State, proud of what they’ve accomplished in a few short years at his company. “A big objective for me is to connect with students and convey that there’s a great deal of security in sales, and this is about an investment in your ability to conquer a great skill, whatever product or service you’re selling.”

Danelle Kronmiller, director of strategic partnerships at the College of Business, points out that the POA title sponsorship is just one of the many ways that businesses can turn thought leadership on a solution that benefits an industry in particular or the economy of Oregon as a whole.

“Doug and POA have helped us address one area of concern that his and other sales-driven business models face,” Kronmiller said. “We already have bronze sponsors for the Sales Academy; we have room for more. But ultimately we are ready to execute on the next great idea that will support our students and contribute to the economy of Oregon.”