Dr. Terry Loe, director of KSU’s Center for Professional Selling, started the National Collegiate Sales Competition when he was a professor at Baylor University in 1999. For the first four years, Baylor hosted the nationally recognized sales competition. Then Loe joined KSU’s staff in 2003, and the competition has been conducted at KSU ever since.
This year’s competition began with orientation on Friday and ends with the championship round on KSU’s campus Monday.
Loe described the event as a role-playing competition in which 126 undergraduate students and 16 graduate students from 65 universities are making fictitious sales calls to businesses. The event’s corporate sponsors — half of which are Fortune 500 companies — are bringing more than 300 sales executives, to act as the buyers.
Loe said the competition is set up as an elimination tournament. KSU has a lab that contains nine offices like those the students would enter on an actual sales call, and there are cameras mounted on each of the walls. The “meetings” are broadcasted to judges. Each student has 20 minutes to make a successful pitch and based on their scores from the Saturday sessions, the top two from each flight moved on to the quarterfinals today. Those in third place or below entered the wild card round on Saturday afternoon. Ninety students competed in the wild card round, and 56 total will compete in the quarterfinal, Loe said.
The top 16 advance to the semifinals this afternoon then four from that round compete in the championship round Monday morning, Loe said.
“There are over 4,500 schools in the nation, but only 14 offer a sales degree and between 75 and 100 have a sales program or sales classes,” Loe said. “Historically, sales has not been seen by universities as a true academic, scholarly discipline because of the stereotype people have of sales professionals, which brings the discipline little credibility.”
But Loe said sales is really about finding out what a company or professional needs and asking the questions that uncover needs and goals to find out if the product being pitched can help the potential buyer to meet those needs and goals.
“From the time you open the door to the time you shake hands at the end of a meeting, there is a scientific process that will help the individual become more comfortable and trust you more and not see you as trying to make him or her do something he or she may not want to do,” Loe said. “It’s more about helping people become more profitable, and in our classes, we look at those academic aspects of sales, but we also do role plays. They go out on actual sales calls, they have to develop lists, prospects and attempt to get business. So they are practicing, practicing, practicing and getting a lot of practical experience through the program.”
Loe said KSU has a 100 percent job placement rate for those graduating with degrees in professional sales every year, because companies know the students truly want to work in sales and can step into any sales job and immediately know how to make a sales call and build business for the company and the buyer. There are between 14 and 17 additional sales programs in the beginning stages at other colleges, Loe said, so the discipline is growing.
“There is a need for sales people, and we know that because most of our students graduates with at least two or three job offers in hand,” Loe said. “About 75 percent of the students competing this weekend already have offers. The other 25 percent will leave the competition with offers. In talking to companies like Xerox, NCR, Fed-Ex, UPS, major global companies, they all say to me that if an applicant has had any kind of sales class, he or she goes to the top of the stack.”
Loe said KSU has about 100 students majoring in professional sales and another 230 to 250 who have an emphasis or minor in sales.
Alyse Qaqish, 23, of Canton, and Kenneth Wade, 22, of Kennesaw, are KSU’s two representatives this weekend. Qaqish, a senior with a double major in international business and sales, said she transferred to KSU after one semester at Georgia Tech when she found out about the sales major at KSU.
“The more I found out about it, the more attracted I was to the sales program,” Qaquish said. “They have a 100 percent placement rate at KSU. That’s huge. And my personality is very competitive, driven and ambitious, so I knew the sales program would help me to do well with whatever I pursued.”
Qaquish won KSU’s internal sales competition last weekend, which she said allowed her to compete this weekend.
Qaquish said she is most interested in software as a solution, or SAAS, sales as it deals more with building relationships than closing as many deals as possible. She has interviewed with four companies so far who said they were very interested in her and to touch base with them again closer to her graduation date in July.
Wade said he is pursuing a Bachelor of Business Administration in marketing degree with a focus on professional sales and expects to graduate in May. Wade said he has been approached by many different firms and is in the process of narrowing down his choices. Wade said he has been involved in sales competitions since last fall and placed second in the KSU competition last week.
“Through my interaction with the professional sales professors at KSU, I have adopted the goal to promote what a real sales professional is,” Wade said. “Through these competitions, I have grown personally and have had the chance to see in a close way what my life would be like when I graduate and begin my career in professional sales.”