Students from the Sales Leadership Minor took third place at the 2018 National Team Selling Competition at Indiana University, carrying Michigan State University’s reputation for sales prowess forward another year.
MSU frequently places in the nation’s top sales competitions. Spartans took first place in the National Team Selling Competition in 2017 and 2015, claiming the title five times in the last 10 years, and individuals from the Sales Leadership program claimed the National Collegiate Sales Competition championship in 2018 and 2016.
“Michigan State is known as a powerhouse,” said Assistant Professor and Coach Justin Lawrence, Ph.D. “Our students are all very talented individually. The way they came together as a team was very impressive.”
Competing before a National Audience
The October invitational brought top-level sales talent together from 24 colleges and universities across the U.S. The teams applied knowledge and skills from their sales courses to a realistic sales situation, with the final round of competition taking place in front of a national audience.
MSU’s students studied a business case and mastered it, identifying the business needs, consumer demographics and the product in an effort to make a compelling pitch to the judges. With Communications students and one student from Engineering, the team developed clear roles that spanned the marketing, operations, financial and leadership aspects of sales.
“It was very comprehensive,” said Lawrence. “Each of these diverse roles were filled, and it made sense how everything was coming together.”
Junior Rachel Carle said the entire team was overthinking every detail the night before the final round. The judges threw a curve ball into the competition, requiring teams to make major adjustments in their initial plans. With the coach’s guidance, the team took a step back, scrapped their ideas and scripts and started new.
“We realized our natural talent for public speaking and for being conversational, not scripted,” said Carle. “We knew this case inside and out. We showed up that next day with open minds and big smiles, and we performed the best we had the whole competition.”
They were one of only three teams selected to make their pitch in front of the full audience of 200, an experience that students said built their sales skills and their resumes.
“My experience of competing on this team was phenomenal,” said Senior Ross Manssur. “My peers were just as dedicated and passionate about sales as I was. We all had the same competitive fire in us, that pushed us to put in the work and hours to get to where we did.”
Leading Students to Success across Disciplines
The Sales Leadership Minor, a program shared between the Eli Broad College and ComArtSci, challenges students to leverage marketing and communications skills to rise to the top of business and sales. Through focused curriculum, internships and experience on site with corporate partners, students learn how to successfully lead selling and buying and manage a sales force.
“It was a nudge in the right direction from my advisor that led me to sales,” said Nicolle Brennan, a senior who’s double majoring in Communication and Kinesiology with a minor in Sales Leadership. “There are a couple of different ways to fulfill the requirements of the minor, and I really like that. The extra things like the sales competition are my favorite part of the program.”
After her first class in Sales Leadership, Brennan decided to pursue a position in pharmaceutical sales. She completed an internship through the program that led to an offer of a full-time position after graduation.
Students come to the Sales Leadership Minor by way of different paths, finding the skills they gain complement a wide variety of majors. Whether it’s Interior Design, Business, Marketing, Communications or Kinesiology, the minor can enhance a portfolio and lead to a lucrative career.
“I was previously an Interior Design major until it hit me that I needed to pursue a career that involved relationship building,” said Carle. “I need to be able to collaborate with others on a daily basis, and that is exactly what these programs have given me.”
Entering Sales Leadership
Manssur discovered the minor through the Made in Italy study abroad program, designed specifically for Sales Leadership Minor students.
“I was inspired by the incredible professors I had in the program, and seeing how far they had gone and well they had done for themselves with the Communications degree,” Manssur said.
The Sales Leadership Minor sustains 100 percent job placement, and many of these students have already accepted offers to begin work after graduation.
“You will not succeed if you don't step outside your comfort zone,” said Carle, who competed this year for the first time. “Life is all about taking those big steps. Being uncomfortable and taking the risk helped me to grow and mature an incredible amount within my sales career.”
By Melissa Priebe