As of the beginning of this year, Wittenborg University of Applied Sciences has a new International Sales Director, Tim Birdsall, who has been a sales trainer for 15 years, consulting for companies like IBM and many others.
Birdsall, who wants to double Wittenborg’s student numbers by the end of 2019, believes that as students become more assertive, this requires a comprehensive and highly engaged response from universities’ sales teams. “Students are more demanding from year to year. The questions about study programmes are more specific. Our people need to engage with students at a very detailed level before they feel comfortable,” he said in an interview. Birdsall will be based in Vienna.
How do you see you role as international sales director at Wittenborg?
Our priority will be to develop an (education) agent strategy that allows Wittenborg to double the student body by the end of 2019. We focus on building good relationships with agents because they are often in the same town as their students – they understand their wishes and the economic realities better than we ever can. The second priority is to help an already professional internal sales team structure their activities and raise the level of self-awareness.
This position finally gives me the opportunity to implement some of the best ideas that I know, and avoid some of the mistakes that lots of companies get lost in.
What has your involvement with Wittenborg been up to now?
I have been close to the growth of Wittenborg over the years, and recently I have done some corporate training programmes under the Wittenborg Corporate Development banner. I have not been a lecturer, but sometimes I am called in to do staff training.
What will your new job entail and what are the particular challenges of the sector?
A big part of the job will be travelling to the locations where our agents are running roadshows and study fairs. This needs good preparation and follow-up. Coupled with the training of the internal sales team and gaining a full understanding of the Wittenborg portfolio, I think my time is going to be pretty full.
Have educational institutes always had sales directors or is it a recent necessity?
I don’t know how common the actual title “sales director” is - I expect Europeans have a traditional view of sales, and will probably not put it into their titles. What I do know is that we are the only institution that makes a full sales training promise to each and every student regardless of the programme they are studying. Sales is still seen as “not completely serious” by academic fraternities, and I would like to change this.
How will you position the Wittenborg brand?
Students are more demanding from year to year. The questions about study programmes are more specific; our people need to engage with students at a very detailed level before they feel comfortable. The Wittenborg brand speaks for quality, intimacy, business and a completely international educational experience in English.
What business credo do you live by?
“Add value in every conversation you have.”
What sort of student were you?
Terrible! Luckily, I come from a family of educationalists. I trained as a cook to avoid going into teaching, but it came back to get me in the end!
What are your interests outside your job?
Skiing in winter, sailing in summer.
Do you have a family?
I am married and have two teenagers.
by Anesca Smith
©Wittenborg University Press