The competition was fierce. On the line were a $500 scholarship and a trip to the National Collegiate Sales Competition. Ten BGSU business students mustered all their knowledge and sales skills to convince the owner of a Marathon gas station to not only install an ATM machine but also to pay for it.
Playing the role of the station owner in the Student Sales Competition was Lavelle Edmondson, an Advanced Business Development representative from Marathon Petroleum Co., which was also the primary sponsor of the competition. He and the students all approached the role-playing session as if it were real.
The students each had 15 minutes to make their pitch, visiting the “owner” in a staged office. In preparation, they had been given the raw data about the station, the ATM and associated costs and fees. Each had developed an approach tailored to the setting and the potential buyer. Edmondson quizzed them on a number of factors, from profits to how the machine worked.
And just to further test the concentration of the would-be salespeople, during the sales pitches, marketing faculty rang the telephone and conversed with Edmondson. “We set it up to throw them off,” said Christine Seiler, marketing.
All the sessions were videotaped for review by the judges, a group of marketing and sales executives from a number of area companies. In addition to Marathon were ADP, Aerotek Commercial Staffing, DayMark Safety Systems, Huntington Insurance, Libbey Glass, Liberty Mutual Insurance and Total Quality Logistics. Also judging was marketing faculty member Dr. Mearl Sutton.
A short video of clips from the interviews revealed the various approaches. All asked questions of the proprietor and explained how the system works. One “salesperson” showed favorable comparisons with other companies’ ATM plans; one even presented a schematic design of the store and where the machine could comfortably fit. All seemed thoroughly prepared.
The competitors were Jordan Atherine, Krystina Bove, Adam Farley, Mitchell Frost, Brandon Gerber, Aaron Kent, Rick Koenig, Kristen Radilovic, Ashley Timmons and J.D. Vasko.
The winning pitch
The winners of the competition were announced Nov. 20 at the annual banquet hosted by BGSU’s American Marketing Association chapter. Taking top prize and a $500 award was Ashley Timmons, a senior from Centerville majoring in business administration and specializing in marketing and supply chain management. Timmons was chair of the chapter last year when it was named among the top chapters in the world.
“We got the raw data but then had to do the number crunching to make sure we could explain the plan so they saw it as a benefit and their best opportunity,” she said.
In second place was Jordan Atherine, a senior from Bowling Green majoring in marketing. He and Timmons will advance to the National Collegiate Sales Competition, to be held at Kennesaw State University in Georgia Feb. 27 and 28. He will receive $300.
In third place was Aaron Kent, a senior from Zanesville specializing in marketing with a minor in entrepreneurship, who won the competition last year. He will receive $100.
The judges were enthusiastically complimentary of all the contestants, but singled out Timmons for her ability to connect. Rob Bules of Libbey said, “They all did their homework. They studied their customer and tailored their presentation to the customer. They asked probing questions, like who the decision maker was in the business.
“But Ashley had the whole package. In addition to having the verbal skills, she sequenced her presentation really well.”
Rod Lewis of DayMark agreed. “Overall, she had the ability to work within the sales process. She knew how to build rapport and create an overall comfort in the relationship. She exuded confidence and was just totally smooth and natural. She made great eye contact and was poised and assertive. She’ll be running a company one day, I’m sure.”
Many of the businesspeople, including Lewis, have known the students for some time, having met them at career fairs or hired them as interns.
Noting that “up to 50 percent of college graduates get sales jobs,” the skills the students have learned will stand them in good stead, according to Dr. Gregory Rich, marketing department chair. He remarked on how impressed he was with this year’s group of competing students. Kristen Radilovic, for example, he said, “works as the night-shift manager at Pizza Hut, carries 18 credits with a solid GPA, is an AMA officer, organized the recent trip to New York for the AMA and helped organize this dinner. On top of that, she took the time to prepare herself for this competition. That’s why she’ll be successful!
“We’re all aware of the bad economy, and you’ve heard it’s pretty tough out there,” Rich told the students at the banquet, “but a recent study mentioned in both Forbes and Business Week listed sales representative as number one on the list of the 20 most recession-proof jobs.
“Sales executive and product manager are also on that list, but to get to those positions you have to first be a sales representative. The BGSU College of Business Administration provides the courses and the extracurricular activities to prepare you for professional sales jobs—and there are many great opportunities in this area.”