The Milspo Sales Academy, a new self-paced online training program, prepares military spouses for high-paying, flexible careers in business development. Ideal for candidates from any background, this program targets strengths that military spouses naturally possess.
Established in February, the Milspo Sales Academy program, on average, is a six-week commitment. The first segment, a week-long sales exploration course, gives prospective students a basic understanding of the field and helps them determine whether they are a good fit for the program. Students electing to proceed then participate in a three to six week boot camp that involves approximately six hours of online work per week. The final part of the program focuses on finding employment, including practice interviews, resume assistance and other formal support for program graduates.
The Milspo Sales Academy is an offshoot of the TechQualled Launchpad program that works with veterans who are transitioning out of the service and trains them for high-level jobs in the tech industry. The program is proving to be a success by having graduated over 200 students in four years and placing them at an 85% rate. Bob Sherriff, CEO and cofounder of the Milspo Sales Academy, saw the potential to expand the scope and create a new program.
“I knew that … the talent required by companies was not there yet. They needed more and more of it and they needed better and better talent. There was no program like this for business development,” he said.
In considering how to effectively address this gap, Sherriff’s team thought of military spouses and began working to tailor the program specifically for their needs.
“We realized that military spouses were this untapped talent pool that was not being utilized. … This job works for them because it’s remote and there’s an actual career path. The pay is great and they can go work for good companies. It really utilizes the talent set that so many of them already have just from their years of being a spouse, like coming into a new place and being able to establish relationships from scratch.”
The family-run Milspo Sales Academy boasts 20 participants: five of whom have graduated, and 15 who are currently active. Four of the five graduates have found jobs within two weeks of completing the program.
One of these recent graduates is Leslie Wernert, an Army spouse with two degrees in aerospace and aeronautics. Despite her academic accomplishments, she has never actually worked in her field. Through at least six moves in the past 12 years, she has worked a variety of odd jobs while serving as a stay-at-home mom for her three boys.
When her kids started school, Wernert felt ready to launch her professional career but wasn’t sure where or how to begin. She discovered the Milspo Sales Academy through an online interview with the cofounder. Intrigued, Wernert decided to take the intro course.
“At the beginning, I couldn’t even tell you what a business development rep was,” she said while laughing.
But after completing the exploratory curriculum, she felt confident proceeding.
“It was exciting and challenging! Tech jobs can be scary and off-putting if you’re not from the field. … But I realized I can do this; it’s not a total uphill climb.”
Sherriff emphasizes that business development work is perfect for individuals from a range of backgrounds. While program candidates need not have a college degree or specific experience, potential students should possess a few important characteristics, including “good-to-great communication skills, the ability to be coached … and grit, which is what military spouses have in spades.”
One good example is Abbey Ehn, cofounder and director of Business Development at Milspo Sales Academy. She is an Air Force spouse of 11 years and a teacher by trade. With the frequent relocation required by military life and the obstacles of professional recertification, the education field wasn’t working for her: Ehn needed something more transportable.
Business development was a perfect solution for her, and she believes it can work well for other military spouses, too.
“Business Development is a lot of research, qualifying and finding opportunities — all things that Military spouses are great at! We are looking for people of all backgrounds. We really want people who are motivated, excited to learn and have grit.”
Two strengths of the program, according to Ehn, include its flexibility and accessibility. All work is done online and the program is entirely self-paced.
“All you need is a laptop and a webcam,” Ehn explained. “If you can give us a month, we can train you.”
Students engage with videos, readings, assignments and one-on-one or group sessions with instructors. They learn about various aspects of technology, develop the ability to assess others’ styles and sell to them, study cash and profit drivers, and gain extensive knowledge about prospecting.
They also participate in role plays and interview preparation, during which candidates receive detailed feedback in both a “mix of positive criticisms” and “cheerleading,” according to Wernert.
Wernert completed the program on May 29, 2019. She has been hired for a full-time remote position with a tech start-up company, called Happyco.
The outlook for other current and future students is similarly good, according to Sherriff.
“We already have people reaching out to us to hire our students. The demand is so strong that, really, our biggest barrier is creating awareness right now within the military spouse community. I have more people that want to hire our students than I have students to place in those roles.”