Dexter Finley and Chris Landmann Guest Post: National Collegiate Sales Competition

CSU’s Thomas Ingram, a professor of marketing in the College of Business, has the opportunity to take students to Kennesaw State University in Atlanta, Ga., for the National Collegiate Sales Competition.

NCSCThe National Collegiate Sales Competition is the largest and oldest sales role-play competition in existence. Its goal is to enhance the practice and professionalism of the sales profession. Participating students are provided a venue for sharpening their sales skills in a highly competitive environment, while also networking with their peers and top professionals in the field.

Last year, under the leadership of Ingram, Shantil Byrne and Christine Richardson excelled at the competition. Byrne received the top individual award given at the competition. Richardson finished first in her division in round one and advanced through to the quarterfinals.

Competitors for 2012 were Chris Landmann and Dexter Finley. While they did not advance as far as their predecessors, they were able to gain some useful insight into the world of business competition. Finley and Landmann agreed to share their experience here on the blog for the benefit of other undergraduate students who may be considering participating in the competition. Part I will be written by Chris Landmann, and Part II by Dexter Finley.

Part I

I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in sales, and when I heard about the competition, I saw it as a great opportunity to gain some experience in the field. The first time I became aware of the National Collegiate Sales Competition was when I read an article in the hallway regarding last year’s competition. After that I contacted Dr. Ingram to try out for a position on the team.

To prepare for the event, my teammate Dexter and I researched the product we were selling which was NetSuite, a customer relationship management software. However, most of our time was spent roleplaying different scenarios with each other.

Working with Dr. Ingram was an amazing opportunity for both of us. Having much success in the field of sales, his coaching was something that we would not have been able to find anywhere else. He worked with us throughout the semester to prepare us for the competition, giving his input on our sales technique while allowing us to grow and add our creative ideas as well.

The competition gave me an experience that I would have never gotten if not for being a part of the event. The competition is taken very seriously by the participants and the judges alike. As it mimicked an actual sales call, I was able to develop my skill as a future sales representative earlier than I ever would have. Additionally, I was able to gain experience in teambuilding, working with Dexter and Dr. Ingram. I learned how great sales people act, and that is to help others.

I advise future participants to know their product and their customer inside and out in order to truly be an expert on their offering. The ability to support and learn from your team member and Dr. Ingram are essential to gaining personal growth and success through the experience.

Part II

I became involved in the NCSC through my sales class from last semester. The sales class was taught by Tom Ingram. We had a big group project at the end of the semester, and Chris Landmann was one of the guys in my group. For our sales project, we decided to sell NetSuite. The goal of the project was to sell a real product to a real company, but everything was role-played. This is when I first heard about the sales competition. We watched videos from the competition to help ourselves out for the group project.

Over the winter break, Dr. Ingram contacted me and asked if I would be interested in participating in the NCSC with Chris, as we both gained experience with the product to be sold at NCSC. I gratefully accepted.

The competition was an experience of a lifetime (not to sound cheesy). It took place at Kennesaw State University (KSU) in Atlanta, Ga. There were about 62 universities that were participating. Two students represented each school, but some of the universities with bigger sales programs brought extra people there to learn. Students were put into “offices” of eight or so, where they would compete against each other (your competition was against those in your office). After the first round, the top two competitors moved on to the next round. The rest of the competitors were then put into a wild card round. In order to move on from there, you had to be the very best in your office.

As far as how the sale actually worked, KSU had several small rooms with a video camera in each of them. Judges were in other rooms rating each individual sale. When the competitor walked in, there was a buyer already sitting, ready for the competitor. The clock started immediately, and the competitor had 20 minutes to make the sale, while being rated in different categories by the judges in another room.

I learned that it is very important to be genuine AND enthusiastic. I also learned more about my capacity for work. This competition took a lot of time out of my life (which was busy already with work, school, and being married), and the time really stretched me. But it was completely worth it, as this was a great opportunity to compete, learn, and meet new people.

My advice to future participants is to know the product thoroughly. Don’t be caught in a situation where you do not know how the product will help your potential buyer. Also know that selling is not scripted. You may think you have some kind of script, but the buyer you are selling to does not have that script. Look for the ways in which your product best fits with the buyer. If the buyer has no interest in benefit “X” of the product, then don’t try to sell the product on benefit “X.” Don’t be pushy, but don’t take “No” either. It’s convoluted, but it’s sales.

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Top 13 Tips for Business Plan Competitions

By: Katie Kershman

A team of students from the Global Social and Sustainable Enterprise MBA Program  recently finished second in the Camino Real competition! Later this year they will have the opportunity to compete at the national level. GSSE is one venue for receiving a Master of Business Administration at the College of Business. The team has generated 13 tips for a successful business plan presentation that I thought you guys would find interesting. This is relevant for business case competitions and those people interested in getting an entrepreneurship certificate. It provides a bit of insight into what the competitions are like and what it’s like to present your business idea to potential funders.

  1. Stand your ground.

The judges are going to be very aggressive with their concerns, opinions about investment potential, etc. They appreciated that we first acknowledged what they had to say, but also that we stood our ground and demonstrated that we had done our homework and had reasoning for our approach.

2.  Think through the small details.

Even though teams won’t have time to present on everything, the judges seemed surprised and impressed with those who had thought through the small details and were able to demonstrate that they know the ins and outs of the business they are trying to start. For us, this was our supply chain/logistics details.

3. Acknowledge the weaknesses and discuss how you are going to mitigate them.

We took the opposite approach and it didn’t pan out for us. We tried to avoid acknowledging the holes, and they called us out on them right off the bat. In retrospect, it seems better to be up front and talk about how you will address the unresolved issues going forward.

4. Approach from a business, rather than a social, angle.

Stepping outside of the GSSE audience, we didn’t realize how socially focused our message was sounding. We really had to change our approach to “what does this translate to for investors?” The new approach seemed to work out for us.

5. Hold the judges’ hands.

Assume that all judges are looking at your venture from a standard Western perspective. This is especially important for international ventures:Break it down so that they are following with you at the pace you are going. Make them concentrate on what you are saying rather than what you said three minutes ago. As an example, we had to walk the judges through the slum environment we will be working in and describe how smaller package sizes meet the cash flows of our consumers; two very different environments than what the judges were used to that really didn’t make sense without providing contextual background.

6. Have prototypes of your product if possible.

This helped us tremendously in enabling the judges to relate to what we were trying to bring to market. We created a mock packaging prototype and brought a sample of our flour product as well.

7. Interact with the judges

Two things the winning team did that we didn’t do: (1) Provide handouts of our slides with lines for notes so that they can follow along, and (2) shake the judges’ hands and introduce yourself prior to the presentation.

8. Pitch it!

Go first. Make a big impression. Leave your notes behind. Practice, practice, practice! Tailor it to the audience. If they are investors, make it about them:Why is this an attractive opportunity for them?

9. Demonstrate return on investment.

Investors are looking for ten-fold returns on their investment. Seriously!

10. Invest in yourself.

No investor is going to take you seriously if your founding members are not also financially committed. Why would they invest in you if you won’t invest in yourselves? Investment can also be “sweat equity.” Be sure to value your time and opportunity costs into the equity you take in your firm.

11. Be conservative with financials.

Overestimate your costs and sell the worst-case scenario. If you can sell the worst case to investors, it is only up from there.

12. Build your presentation around your business plan.

Your plan is your first impression of your team, and the judges have studied it inside and out prior to your presentation. Make your first impression count. Build your presentation around your plan and try not to deviate too much from it. Too much deviation confuses the judges, and they’ll feel like you’ve withheld information from them.

13. Plan according to the length of the presentation.

30-45 minute presentations are LONG. Make sure your presentation clearly communicates your messages.