Sell It Like It Is
Professor Richard Condé Teaches the Art & Science of Sales Leadership
By Laura Wagner
Dr. Richard Condé always wanted to be a college professor, but his road to academia detoured when he accepted a role as a sales leader (yes, sales).
“I initially resisted going into the field of sales because of my professional background,” admits Condé, an Assistant Professor in the Marilyn Davies College of Business. But after landing a role as a sales executive at Travelers insurance, he found sales to be the perfect intersection of his three interest areas: operations, psychology, and analysis. “Balancing the operational details of inside sales with the psychology of selling turned out to be my sweet spot,” he said. “Especially when you add the science into it—the analytics that show you what works. It’s like putting a puzzle together.”
Condé later moved to another insurance firm where he led nearly 400 inside salespeople. Before the era of Zoom, inside sales teams worked from a central location and conducted client interactions on the phone, while their outside sales counterparts visited clients face-to-face. Outside salespeople were often credited with being the most critical players in the sales process, but Condé’s stint in corporate America taught him the opposite.
“Inside salespeople had to have all the skills of outside salespeople—including conveying warmth and sincerity over the phone—plus operational savvy,” Condé said. Their phone calls were monitored throughout the workday, with managers coaching them and providing immediate feedback on their performance. “An inside salesperson is always being watched. That creates an environment of continuous improvement,” Condé explained. “And in the middle of all that, they have to sell—while dealing with extreme oversight.”
Condé’s curiosity about the science behind successful inside sales interactions nudged him closer toward his ultimate career as a researcher, but two other factors also came into play. First, he noticed that first-generation college graduates who came to work for him as inside salespeople didn’t thrive in the corporate environment. “They didn’t understand the game,” he said. Having moved from Bogotá, Colombia, as a young person to the rural Oklahoma town where he grew up, Condé related to the first-gen struggle and became interested in how to address it. He also learned that he was ready for a challenge beyond corporate America. So he decided to take his curiosity and experience to the classroom.
After earning his Ph.D. from University of North Texas, he received offers from several universities, but UHD stood out for one simple reason: “When I interviewed with UHD, I recognized the students—they were me years ago, working while trying to get an education for a better future,” he said. “I saw the opportunity to influence the program here, but mainly I wanted to help the students grow in their careers. My goal was to help them understand that by integrating their own individuality with what they learn in our program, they can excel.”
The concept of self-determination is a key area of research interest for Condé. “Most published research is on outside sales,” he said. “My research focuses on the importance of having an inside sales leadership culture that’s grounded in self-determination theory.” Inside sales leaders often use controlling measures because they believe that’s the way to better outcomes, but Condé feels the opposite is true: “Great outcomes depend on people having agency, self-determination, autonomy—those are the things that help people succeed.” He’s recently begun branching his research out to sales operations and the effect of technology on the sales process. His publications include the only academic paper focused on Hispanic sales agents, and he’s currently writing a paper on gender and sales.
By offering an MBA with a sales leadership concentration, UHD is ahead of the curve, said Condé, adding, “Ours is one of a handful of sales management or sales leadership MBAs offered in the U.S.” Sales is a critical component of every business, he noted, and the rapid changes technology has brought to the field would seem to create a demand for more education around successful sales leadership and selling practices. But so far, larger universities have shied away from sales as an MBA concentration.
“More change is imminent in the field with the arrival of artificial intelligence,” said Condé. “What I focus on is preparing the future sales leader in my classes for what’s going to happen next in sales, not what’s already happened. Not only have I been an inside sales leader myself, but I’m a consultant for industry folks who are working to keep up with the rapid changes. I bring that perspective to the classroom. And because UHD offers this program, our students will have an edge over the sales leaders who are still using techniques from 20 years ago.”
Outside the classroom, Condé supports his students through a LinkedIn group he established called Condé’s Cohort, where he shares relevant industry articles, strategies, and tips. “I wanted students to understand the power of networking and to see that the learning never stops—you must have a growth mindset. Great executives always learn. Bad executives think they know it all because they have the job title,” he explained. “I share information to this group to set the example for this kind of thinking. And the cohort has now become a community of support our graduates will have throughout their careers.”
His best advice to students? “Anyone can be whatever they want in life. I wasn’t the best student as an undergraduate, and here I am,” Condé said.
And as to why UHD? “I came to UHD because I loved the culture, the students, and the community here, and I still do,” he said. “But I stay because of the students.”
To learn more about Dr. Condé’s consulting practice, visit insidesalesgeek.com.
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD) is the second-largest university in Houston and has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974. As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive, four-year university led by President Loren J. Blanchard. Annually, UHD educates approximately 14,000 students, boasts more than 66,000 alumni, and offers 45 bachelor’s degrees, 12 master’s degrees, and 19 online programs within four colleges: Marilyn Davies College of Business, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, College of Public Service, and College of Sciences and Technology. UHD has one of the lowest tuition rates in Texas.
U.S. News and World Report ranked UHD among the nation’s Best Online Bachelor’s Programs for Applied Administration and Best Online Master’s Programs in Criminal Justice, as well as a Top Performer in Social Mobility. The Wall Street Journal/College Pulse ranked UHD one of the best colleges in the U.S. for its 2024 rankings, with notable distinctions: No. 1 for diversity (tied) and No. 3 for student experience. The University is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, a Minority-Serving Institution, and a Military Friendly School. For more information on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit uhd.edu.