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Employee Spotlight

Not Your Typical Sales Guy

According to BJ Allen, the world of sales doesn’t mean charming a customer at their doorstep or tricking someone into a purchase. Instead, he passionately believes sales helps people find solutions to problems by introducing products or services one may not know ever existed. As an assistant professor of marketing at the BYU Marriott School of Business, Allen now wants to help his students feel the same way.

Professional headshot of BJ Allen.
Photo courtesy of BJ Allen.

“Many students don’t know how cool a career in sales can be,” says Allen. “Often when I approach a student about the idea of sales, the student already has a stigma in their mind of a door-to-door summer job selling a product. Yet, so much more goes into the field than just that.

“Sales contains a combination of strategy, analytics, psychology, and working with people,” he continues. “There’s a whole business side included, making the job different than working with a single customer. This field contains so much flexibility with your family and allows you to earn a vast amount of income.”

BJ Allen and his student, Dustin Leonard, winning an award at a sales event at Podium.
Photo courtesy of BJ Allen.

Allen has always loved the concepts of people and analytics. These two passions eventually led him to pursue a bachelor’s degree in marketing at BYU Marriott, which he completed in 2009. Upon graduating, Allen moved first to Chicago and later to Salt Lake City during his early career as he took on different jobs, including being a senior marketing and business analyst. Yet, despite incredible job opportunities and inspiring coworkers, he still felt a void in his career.

Because of this, Allen began exploring other options; the idea of teaching came to mind after talking to a few BYU professors. Once he started pursuing teaching, he felt wholeheartedly that becoming a professor was the right move for him.

“I still get to pursue my passion for business strategy and analytics, but I also get to teach young adults, help the community around me, and research business problems most interesting to me,” he says.

Allen began this new path to teaching by pursuing his PhD in marketing at the University of Oklahoma in 2012; he ended up finishing his degree in 2017 at the University of Texas of San Antonio. After graduation, he started as an assistant professor of marketing at the University of Arkansas. During this time, Allen also discovered his passion for a particular category in business—sales.

BJ Allen with some of his students at a Sales Society event.
Photo courtesy of BJ Allen.

After his time in grad school and before teaching at BYU, Allen began collaborating with his good friend and former mission companion, Donald C. Kelly, a renowned salesman in the professional world. Each began to think of different ways to combine their sales and marketing strengths. Eventually, the two cowrote a textbook titled Professional Selling: A Guide for the Modern Sales Professional. This time with Kelly sparked a passion for sales in Allen.

Shortly after writing Professional Selling, Allen accepted a position in the marketing department at BYU Marriott where he was assigned to teach the professional sales class based on the curriculum found in his textbook. Allen explains that he designed the structure of his class as the antithesis of everything he didn’t like about school as a student. He wants to make learning practical and focus on skills that students need immediately upon entering the work force rather than skills needed 20 years later.

“One of my biggest accomplishments is when a student, who at the beginning of the semester had no intention of pursuing sales, wants to make sales their career by the end of the class,” says Allen. “Those students often tell me my class became the key influencer in that discovery.”

Outside his work in the classroom, Allen advises the BYU Sales Society. He also networks with high-end sales professionals and invites them to speak with students in the program through seminars and one-on-one mentorship. In addition, he assists students in marketing competitions and loves seeing their success, hard work, and dedication pay off by receiving awards and recognition.

“I love BYU,” says Allen. “I always loved everything this university stands for. This became a dream come true for me to teach what I love most.”


Writer: Sophia Shafkalis