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Sales Students Gain Industry Crash Course and Win Big

UMD LSBE student Chase Sullivan competing in the spring 2020 RNMKRS sales competition
April 28, 2020

Working in the sales industry demands flexibility and the ability to pivot and recalibrate to meet goals and objectives. 

Right now sales students, especially, are learning first-hand what to expect in their future career roles due to the current public health concern.

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Tyler Grimm: spring 2020 8th place winner

John Kratz, Sales Program director, found a creative way to expose his students to an experiential learning opportunity—competing in RNMKRS, the first virtual, mobile selling skills competition. The experience paid off with LSBE’s Tyler Grimm placing eighth out of 1,400 students from 49 United States and Canadian universities.

Each student, acting as a salesperson, used voice recognition technology on their mobile phone to present a product idea to an artificially intelligent, animated customer bot. Participants were scored based on how they performed in specific categories, such as rapport, discovery, and presentation.

Kratz says, "Today's sales tech stack, which is incorporating AI and machine learning, is enabling salespeople to be more effective. What better way to expose students to this reality than to have them sell to an artificially intelligent bot simulating a human B2B buyer."

Students gain more than just experience; their competition performance could even land them a job! Following the competition, student data profiles--resumes and competition scores--are available for review by prospective employers who then have the opportunity to reach out to students directly.

Grimm, a junior double major in professional sales and organizational management, also competed last semester. "Last semester due to technical difficulties and poor preparation, I did not do as well as I had hoped to. Thanks to Professor Kratz and my sales classes, I improved my selling skills astronomically this semester. Since the competition, numerous UMD alumni and business professionals have reached out regarding my performance. It has been great to grow network connections that hopefully will result in job opportunities and friendships throughout my professional career."

For the spring 2020 competition, in which over 100 LSBE students competed, participants strove to convince a fictitious police department IT manager that a Dell line of notebooks would solve his problems.

Chase Sullivan, a junior, incoming Sales Club president, and professional sales and marketing double major, prepared for the competition "no differently than I would prepare for a sales meeting in the real world. I studied the product I was selling, researched the company and IT manager whom I was selling to, and prepared for any objections the buyer may have had."

Kayla Nelson, sums up her experience. "The concept of selling is quite simple; you're helping someone fulfill a need or want they may or may not be aware they have. The execution of sales, however, is another story. Through this competition and the Sales Club, I was exposed to the building blocks and experience needed to be successful in a sales role. During the competition, the biggest challenge was exhausting Alex [the bot] of all his concerns and questions. I was a bit too eager to keep the conversation moving. The key takeaway was to listen more than talk."

Photo: Chase Sullivan competing in the spring 2020 RNMKRS sales competition