WMU students place first in high-profile national sales competition

Contact: Cindy Wagner
State Farm Marketing and Sales Competition winners Burnham (left) and Ross

State Farm Competition winners Burnham (left) and Ross

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A team of two WMU sales and business marketing students was named the overall winner at this year’s State Farm Marketing and Sales Competition, held at the University of Central Missouri in November, and brought home $4,000 in scholarships.

Seniors Hope Burnham, from Kalamazoo, and Caleb Ross, from Mattawan, Mich., earned the top place after a semester of preparing for the competition that included two rounds of sales role-play followed by a 20-minute marketing presentation.

Prepped for success

"What I think helped us stand out is definitely the amount of preparation we did. There wasn't too much they could throw at us that we weren't prepared for," says Ross, who adds that faculty advisor Dr. Kelley O’Reilly, assistant professor of marketing, was instrumental to the team’s success. "Without a doubt, we would not have been able to bring home the gold for WMU without her support."

Teammate Burnham says that, although she and Ross have different personalities and selling styles, it was their competitive natures that formed the foundation for their success.

"This teamwork was essential because what may have been one person's weakness was often the others strength," Burnham says. "Having that balance, but allowing our different styles to shine through, is something that really set us apart from the competition."

In addition to the overall win, Ross took second place overall in the individual competition as well as third place in the sales role-play category and earned a $3,000 scholarship. Burnham also participated in the individual competitions and earned a $1,000 scholarship.

O’Reilly says the strength across events has led to WMU’s success during its three years of participation at the event. Last year's WMU team finished second.

"We come to perform at the highest levels for both the sales and marketing events and do not focus on a single event," O'Reilly says. "This strategy has led to strong performances each year. In previous years, we have come very, very close to winning the title, but this year Hope and Caleb pushed us over the top and brought the trophy home for Western. The judges applauded Caleb and Hope for their enthusiasm, likeability and preparation."

About the competition

The State Farm Marketing and Sales Competition brings together high-performing marketing and sales students for a competition consisting of two primary components: an integrated marketing communications plan team presentation and two sales role-plays based on scenarios involving the sale of auto insurance to fictional young adult buyers. Overall winners for the event are determined by combining each student's scores.

In addition to WMU, this year’s event included teams and individuals from Arizona State, Duquesne, Texas State and Wake Forrest universities and the universities of Central Missouri, Georgia at Athens, Houston, Missouri, Oregon and Southern California.

For more news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.

About the major

The sales and business marketing major has an intense sales-focused curriculum and prepares graduates to start their careers in professional sales and business marketing. WMU's program is considered one of the best in the country and has been regularly named a "Top University Sales Program" by the Sales Education Foundation and is rated the No. 1 program in the country by education-portal.com.