Executive Mastère Spécialisé® Commercial Management and Business Development – Interview with Pascale Patat-Dubouis and Nelson Jourdan

Launched in 2019, IÉSEG’s Executive Mastère Spécialisé® Commercial Management and Business Development is proposed on the Paris-La Défense campus. This degree program is designed for professionals wishing to develop their range of skills for sales management positions. We interviewed Pascale Patat-Dubouis, Academic Director of the program, and Nelson Jourdan, a 2021 graduate and now Sales Manager for Jarnias Group, to learn more about the program and what it can offer.

Nelson – why did you choose this program?

I came from a construction engineering background and discovered the sales dimension when I joined Jarnias Group, my current company. I then realized that, in order to succeed, I needed to be accompanied and my manager immediately suggested that I take a training course. I was looking for a program that would not only allow me to progress in my current position but also allow me to project myself into the next position: sales management, for which I would eventually become responsible. I therefore wanted a training program that would allow me to apply the knowledge gained directly in the company. Finally, I wanted to be able to meet professionals – whether professors or fellow students – from all horizons to challenge my experiences and ways of doing things with them and to discover how a sales function is being experienced in other sectors of activity.

Pascale – how was this program designed to meet the needs of the participants, with what objectives and how has it evolved over time?

Sales, trade and business development are not a single profession, but rather many and varied professions. For example, one can have a commercial responsibility in B2B towards customers; one can also be the manager of a general or specialized supermarket, or even have an expert position in business development. However, in all these professions, there are 3 common denominators:

– Sales is a complex job, because customers are complex and there are more and more factors (like digital, CSR…) to take into account;

– Sales is a deeply human profession. We often have, more than in other professions, managerial responsibilities with jobs under pressure and people who are sometimes difficult to manage. Leadership is therefore extremely important;

– Finally, the sales person is the one who brings in the sales revenue for the company. He or she must therefore be very close to the CEO  and actively participate in the company’s strategic definition. The Commercial Director is a true strategic partner for the CEO.

By taking all these elements into account, we have designed a program aimed at “equipping” sales people in a wide variety of positions and sectors of activity in these three dimensions. We therefore support professionals who are currently in their position and who need to progress because they are taking on new responsibilities, because they are preparing for the future or because their job or company is changing… but who do not have the time to be in training full-time because the business must continue. Hence this format of 3 days of learning every 3 weeks, including one Saturday, in order to offer maximum flexibility to participants, who can thus combine professional activity and education.

Participants in this program often have highly specialized technical skills, but do not necessarily have the necessary management, marketing or sales skills to move into management positions. This is the case, for example, for engineers and lawyers.

Each year, we develop the program to constantly improve it. We rely in particular on the participants’ feedback after each course as well as on the assessments made with the class representatives. We also get feedback from professors and expert speakers, and exchange information within the School with other academic directors to see how other programs are evolving. Every 18 months, we schedule an exchange with the Professional Advisory Board (composed of a panel of professionals, including CEOs and sales managers), as well as with alumni, to discuss their vision and the adequacy of our program with today’s world and the expectations of companies. Thanks to all these exchanges, we bring our program to life, just as we would bring a department to life in a company.

Nelson – what do you think are the greatest assets of the program? What has been most useful to you for the future? And how did you manage to balance the 3 aspects of your life (professional / personal / student)?

I think that the most important thing about the Executive Mastère Spécialisé® in Commercial Management and Business Development is the exchanges that we can have, whether with our professors, the external speakers or the other participants in the class. This allows us to discover other sectors of activity (B2B, B2C, mass distribution, pharmaceuticals… which are really different worlds). The other strength of the program is the ability to create surprise among the participants, to bring something new and to broaden the field of possibilities in one’s activity.

What was most useful to me was the range of tools offered to us, whether related to management control or decision support for managerial tools, for example. In short, everything related to the sales profession and which is common to all sectors of activity.

Before starting my training, I already had a busy week: my working hours are quite long and I practice a competitive sport, which implies regular training sessions and games. In order to free up time to follow the program and do the work that is required, I had to be more efficient and effective in my daily work. I was fortunate to be supported internally by my company: both my manager, who let me organize myself as I wished, and my colleagues, who were understanding of my situation. This is very important, because this was not the case for everyone in the program and this can make things very complicated. I was also supported at the family level – it was necessary to know how to keep a “zen space” in order to get away from work and student work to clear my head.

Pascale – how did you make this program professional? What about the involvement of companies?

First of all, half of the experts who intervene are academics and the other half are professionals who are familiar with teaching. We work with professionals who have an appetite for transmission. This allows us to have part of the courses taught by people with real business experience. Many academics are very keen to cooperate with companies. As soon as we can, we bring in professionals who come and talk to a class for an hour, who participate in the construction of business cases…  Application assignments are also very important: the participants must take ownership of the theoretical content and apply it to their work environment. This is important because we know that in the context of active pedagogy, it is much more effective to apply what we have seen from a theoretical point of view in the month following a course by trying to link it to the issues at stake in the company, rather than preparing a single exam for the term. This obviously creates a demanding pace, but it allows you to assimilate what is seen in the program in a very efficient way.

Nelson – how have you valued your degree? Where are you in your career today?

Being a graduate is already a way of valuing the program in itself because, in France in particular, degree are important and being valued more than training courses that “only” lead to a certificate.

The Executive Mastère Spécialisé® Commercial Management and Business Development has enabled me to directly increase my level of responsibility in the company because, by bringing in new skills, you get closer to the commercial and general management of the company, you speak the same language and you are able to bring in other perspectives and your own vision of your job. As a business development manager, I managed 7 people and I think that this training also allowed me to make my team more efficient. I have also significantly increased my employability – I realize this because I am regularly contacted by companies for positions that match my profile.

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