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.