OREM — Utah Valley University students will be able to see how a buyer responds to their sales pitches and body language with new facial coding technology.
The lab is part of a public-private partnership that will give students real-world sales experience. UVU's Woodbury School of Business received a $2 million donation Thursday that will enable students to develop those skills.
Todd Pedersen, CEO and founder of Vivint Inc., donated $1 million and another $1 million came from Vivint to start the Todd Pedersen Professional Sales Program within the school of business in the fall.
"This isn't any old sales program," said Matt Holland, UVU president. "We're partnering with people who do this in the real world and do it as well as anybody."
The donation will fund the new program, as well as a new faculty member, the marketing research center and laboratory, and multiple scholarships.
Holland said the partnership with Vivint "will make it immediately regionally distinctive, and on its way, I think, to national distinction."
Pedersen said UVU and Vivint both have similar worldviews.
"It's about the people around us and helping develop them," he said.
Pedersen said students will develop skill sets that will improve their work ethic, personal confidence and presentation abilities.
"It's going to help them differentiate themselves in the workforce," he said.
During meetings with key businesses and civic leaders as part of a business engagement advisory group, Holland said the thing the business community wanted most was more sales training.
"We've heard something, we've acted," he said. "We do see this as a really critical expression of UVU's determination to listen to and be responsive to the business community.
Holland said the program is a "win all the way around for lots of people."
Neal Farrell, a marketing student at UVU, said he plans to take a few sales classes before he graduates next spring.
"In any profession — from medical to marketing to really anything — you need persuasion skills, and that's what sales is," he said.
The facial coding technology will be in the marketing research center and laboratory in the Woodbury School of Business.
Larry Carter, assistant professor of marketing, said the center will also have a conference room for focus groups with a one-way mirror, as well as audio and video feeds. There will also be three devices to track respondents' eye movement.
"If they're looking at an advertisement, you'll be able to tell not only where they look, but in what sequence do they look at things, and how long do they look at those things," Carter said.
Paul Dishman is the chairman of the marketing department that will adopt the sales program. He said the program is open to any student interested in improving their sales skills or to declare it as a major.
"Everybody sells something sometime," Dishman said. "This is going to be another piston in Utah's economic engine."
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