Earlier this week, nearly 30 Fortune 500 companies, including Liberty Mutual, AT&T, Hewlett Packard and Dow Jones, visited KSU's Coles College of Business where the 12th annual National Collegiate Sales Competition was hosted March 5-8. The sales competition pits top sales students in a test of live one-on-one sales call challenges.
After the competition, some of the companies recruited among the 350 students who participated in this year's event. Between 60 and 65 percent of the students who competed were hired, said Dr. Terry Loe, director of the Center for Professional Selling at KSU's Coles College of Business.
Loe said the participants represented the top sales students in the country, who companies seek because of their knowledge of sales and because they're able to hit the ground running after they've been hired. Up to $60,000 can be paid to new sales hires and companies don't want to waste that money, he said.
"The companies are so desperate to get good sales people because in the past there's been no training ground in this area of sales. Universities historically did not teach in this area or do research. Now, for the last 15 to 20 years, more universities have begun to do it."
At the competition, the top two sales students from each university individually competed in selling software. Each 20-minute sales call was broadcast live to locations on campus where college faculty from across the country and recruiters from sponsoring companies participate as judges and evaluated each student's performance.
"The pretend buyer had certain needs that the sales people were trying to find out so that they can sell and do a presentation, or provide a solution to that particular problem," said Loe.
The students were judged on such things as their professionalism, how well they set up the call, the rapport made with the buyer and the questions they asked.
The undergraduate team division winner was Bowling Green State University. KSU placed fifth. Texas State University was the graduate division team champion.
Chris Roell, 22, of Marietta, competed at the NCSC with fellow KSU senior David Maloof, 25, of Atlanta. Both are marketing majors. Their strategy, they said, was to ask good questions and listen to the buyers. They finished as semi-finalists.
"The knowledge that you are being observed by judges and even prospective employers stays in the back of your mind, but thanks to our training and practice it does not hinder our ability to perform," Roell said. "In fact, the nerves make the thrill of competition that much more exciting."
Maloof said he isn't worried about landing a job after graduation because companies will also be in need of good sales people. He said he wants a sales career in the field of technology-based services.
"As one of the only revenue generating functions of a company, a strong sales force is always needed," Maloof said. "I feel confident that pursuing a career in sales is smart because having the ability to bring in revenue and profit is always an extremely important asset to any organization."
Curt Barker, Owens Corning's vice president of North American building materials, distribution sales, agreed. He stated, "Despite a challenging market, identifying top sales talent will continue to be a priority. The opportunity to grow share in difficult market conditions can clearly be led by a highly engaged sales organization."
Over the NCSC's 12-year history, more than 2,000 students and faculty from across the U.S., Canada and Mexico have participated in the event. Sponsors provided funding to schools to defray the expenses of competing students and participating faculty.