Niall Martin, Sales Director at Dublin City University
Sales Director at Dublin City University, Niall Martin completed his UCD Diploma in High Performance Sales & Business Development at UCD Smurfit School in June 2021.
Niall Martin has already seen benefits from the UCD Diploma in High Performance Sales and Business Development programme in his role as Sales Director of a commercial department at Dublin City University. “I finished the programme in June 2021, and I’ve already seen tangible results in our business performance” he says.
Those results include improved sales processes and profitability. “The proof is in the pudding,” he adds. “Our results have improved. The programme definitely makes you a better salesperson and improves how you approach the sales process. I can see the numbers being enhanced.”
A law graduate, Niall has been involved in business development and sales throughout his career. “My current role is Sales Director of a commercial department within DCU,” he explains. “The department exists to create non-exchequer funding for the university. A big area of focus for us is international students.”
The motivation to do the UCD Diploma in High Performance Sales and Business Development arose out of a desire to develop his sales skills. He explains that there are a lot of parallels between his department and industry. “We are selling and marketing in the same way. I was working in a role I found very interesting. but I knew my skills were not as good as they might be. I had no specific sales training or in sales and marketing strategy. I felt I could offer more value to the company and that the company in turn could become more valuable if I did the diploma.”
This wouldn’t be his first experience of the UCD Smurfit School, however. “I did a Masters in Business in Smurfit back in 2010,” he notes. “I had been out in the working world but hadn’t come from a business education background and that was a crossover programme. It was very useful.”
He says that working at DCU reawakened a dormant interest in continuing education. “I had been out of the education loop for nine or 10 years and your skills can become dated. You need to stay current. Continuing education at regular intervals in your career is essential.”
He conducted some in-depth preliminary research before deciding on the Smurfit diploma. “When I was considering the programme I conducted some due diligence,” he says. “I found out about the people who deliver it. What I found very interesting at this pre-decision stage was that the people delivering the programme are a mix of academics and pracademics. They are people like Dr Gearóid Hardy and Stephen Boyle who have real world experience of identifying and effecting change.”
Having made up his mind, he commenced the programme in the autumn of 2020. “The programme is really, really interesting. It involves interactive rather than rote learning. We work on practice and theory. And we start to implement the theory in practice straight away. We have benefited from that here in my organisation. In a nutshell, it was a no brainer in the end, the programme has made me more competent and better at what I do.”
That has resulted in a changed approach to his work. “I am no longer following what others have done in the past. I now take a deliberative approach to the strategy behind selling. The whole question of the process has to be considered. Can you take what you are doing, scale it, and build it into a process. Can you develop a playbook so that everyone gets the same experience when they are dealing with the company.”
It’s all about bringing repeatability to success. He points out that you can have very good salespeople with great experience, but their knowledge and techniques are never committed to writing. In short, there is no process.
“While people can be very successful with an idiosyncratic approach, you need systemised, codified process as the foundation for sustainable growth.”
While he regards the lecturers on the programme as excellent, he also highlights the importance of the other participants to the learning process. “We had such a wide range of professionals from other industries,” he notes. “We all come with our own biases and ideas and so on. To have somebody from a different industry with a different perspective challenge these biases is great. The different people you encounter in the class cohort is a major advantage of the programme. You learn an awful lot from the class, and we still reach out to each other. That network is very important as well.”
The network is reinforced through the Smurfit School’s guest lecture programme. “The programme is really excellent, and we still get invited to them as alumni.”
He has employed principles and approaches learned on the programme since completing the course in June. “We utilised them to offer a new service here which in turn enabled us to increase our prices and profitability. When we were doing that, we found that the way we did things was because we always did them that way, not because it was the optimal way of doing things. That’s changed.”
The Diploma in High Performance Sales and Business Development is the first step on Niall’s journey towards the MSc in Business (Leadership & Management Practice) which can be earned on completion of three of the eight diploma programmes on offer from Smurfit Executive Development.
“The Diploma in Strategy, Development and Innovation is next for me,” he says. “I will start that in March 2022 and will probably do the Organisational Change and Transformation programme after that.”
He says he would “100 per cent” recommend the Sales and Business Development diploma programme to others. “From a return on investment point of view it has already benefited me and will in future as well in terms of career progression. It provides a foundation to move up to the next level in your career – either where you are now or in other opportunities which it will help open up.”