Business students win national sales challenge

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Photo of students Alexa DeVos, Kayla Reinhackel and Brian Curlett.

From left: Alexa DeVos, Kayla Reinhackel and Brian Curlett

KALAMAZOO—A student team representing Western Michigan University's sales and business marketing program took first place overall, besting 37 other schools at the Russ Berrie Institute National Sales Challenge, hosted by William Patterson University.

Senior Brian Curlett from Shelby Township, Mich., also was the event’s overall individual champion. Curlett will be invited to the 2014 event to give the welcome address to next year's competing students.

Curlett, and fellow senior Kayla Reinhackel from Dexter, Mich., competed in two events—speed selling and role-play. The speed-selling competition consists of students giving a two-minute "elevator pitch" about why a sales organization would want to hire them. The role-play competition gives the students a scenario in which they meet with a buyer and sell the payroll services of ADP, a firm specializing in payroll and business solutions, to the fictitious "Frozen Treats" chain of yogurt shops. The overall team score is calculated by combining the scores of the two students in these two events. Curlett finished second in the speed selling category while also taking the "Viewers' Choice" award based on the voting of the other competitors, coaches and sponsors who witnessed the speed-selling finals.

A strong tradition

With this win, WMU continues a strong tradition at the seventh annual National Sales Challenge, where sales and business marketing student teams have finished in the top five on three other occasions. This is WMU's first time as the overall champion. In addition, four sales and business marketing graduates have placed individually in the past.

WMU's team spent more than two months preparing for this event. Coached by Dr. Jim Eckert, associate professor of marketing, and assisted by team alternate, junior Alexa DeVos of Byron Center, Mich., the team met weekly, honing their speed selling pitches and practicing their selling approaches for the role-play.

"It was their dedication to their preparation and their strong execution under pressure that secured the top spot," says Eckert. "It is also a testament to what we teach to all of our sales and business marketing students—that when we go up against the best talent from the best programs in the country, we are able to come out on top."

Reinhackel, who drew on her internship experience at logistics firm TQL this past summer in the competition, was thankful for the opportunity to represent WMU.

"I could not be more proud of my team and representing Western Michigan University at the Russ Berrie Institute National Sales Challenge," she says. "It was one of the greatest opportunities I've had in my college career. Bringing WMU a win is not only an example of how strong our program is, but also demonstrates the hard work and dedication of the professors who lead the sales and business marketing program."

Curlett, who has interned with Thomson Reuters, MSDSonline and the Harold Zeigler Auto Group added, "The competition was a great opportunity. It was very exciting to represent Western and compete against other highly talented sales students. It was a great learning experience and will help me continue to become a better sales professional."

About the program

The sales and business marketing program at WMU is one of the largest and most recognized sales programs in the country. The program's intensive sales-focused curriculum prepares students with adaptive, relationship-focused selling skills that lead them to success at many of the country's top firms. Named a "Top University Sales Program" by the Sales Education Foundation since 2007, the program maintains more than 70 active partnerships with companies that annually recruit WMU graduates.

For more information about the program, contact Dr. Jim Eckert at (269) 267-0742 or jim.eckert@wmich.edu.