Program for Excellence in Selling Grabs Top Ten Title in National Competition
The Program for Excellence in Selling at the C. T. Bauer College of Business finished eight out of 60 this month at the National Collegiate Sales Competition (NCSC), the largest and oldest competition of its kind.
Participants from the top sales programs in the country demonstrated their skills through a series of high pressure role-play scenarios that mimicked an actual sales call. The students had to “sell” a product to a business professional while a panel of judges watched on via closed circuit video broadcast.
Undergraduates Joy Jiang, Clarisa Miranda, Nick Nitschmann and Lillie Parks made up the Bauer team that traveled to Kennesaw, Georgia to compete. The four battled against their classmates for the spots at the beginning of the semester and devoted the time leading up to NCSC honing their sales pitch.
“Each Friday for two months, we came together for four- or five-hour practice sessions,” Jiang said. “During that time, we practiced our sales presentations, videotaped each other’s performances and offered feedback on things we could do better.”
Making it to the competition team was only part of the contest. Only two could represent Bauer College in the competition, so the teammates spent time working individually as well.
Jiang used a strategy crafted with help from the team’s coach, Amy Vandaveer, an executive professor in the Department of Marketing & Entrepreneurship. “She helped us come up with flash cards to practice on our own. Each card has a different variable in the sales scenario. I tried to get anyone I could find to practice with me!”
After evaluating the team, Vandaveer and other faculty from the Program for Excellence in Selling selected Jiang and Nitschmann to fill the slots at NCSC. Parks and Miranda then took on coaching roles, helping strategize between sessions and offering support to their teammates.
“The Program for Excellence in Selling students we selected this year to represent Bauer and the University of Houston are exceptional,” Vandaveer said. “They have blown me away in their preparation, enthusiasm, dedication and support for each other to bring home a win for their school.”
“I was very excited to have them represent such a great university. They made all of us proud.”
PES program manager Rachel Cheney, who works closely with the students, observed the team’s growth over months of preparation.
“The team has a great dynamic. I have watched them critique each other and brainstorm scenarios to work on. They have each been extremely motivated to help the other out,” she added.
In this year’s competition, students sold customer relations management (CRM) software. While the product stayed the same, the buyers changed each round of the competition, three rounds total.
“You have to be pretty well-versed in your product and be ready to adapt your sales presentation to any type of buyer,” Jiang said.
“For our first round of competition, we knew we would be selling to the owner of a flower district. Once you advance, you find out who your next sales target is. It could be anyone. They could be outgoing or they could be reserved. You have to be prepared for anything.”
In the last round of the competition, finalists role played one at a time while an entire auditorium of conference attendees watches via live feed. This would be nerve-racking for any normal person, but for these student professionals it’s exactly the type of high-pressure scenario they train to tackle.
Jiang and Nitschmann advanced to quarter finals, and Jiang made it to the semi-final round. Their performances positioned the University in the top ten overall.
The students say the preparation for NCSC alone has been invaluable in their pursuit of a sales career.
“I felt like a strong sales person before, but now I feel like I would be confident selling anything as long I know the process,” said Miranda.
She said the team’s shared spirit was a powerful motivator at the competition.
“We all went to Georgia with the same hopes,” she said. “We have one of the top sales programs in the country, and we all wanted to bring national recognition to our school.”
By Lori Reichardt