Sales students continue high performance at national competitions

Contact: Mark Schwerin
Photo of winning competition team with Dr. Jim Eckert.

From left: Khaja, Eckert and DeVos

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Western Michigan University sales students continued to perform at a high level at national competitions, finishing fifth in a field of 40 universities competing in this year's Russ Berrie Institute National Sales Challenge.

The two-person team was composed of Asad Khaja of Kalamazoo and Alexa DeVos of Grand Rapids. In addition to the fifth-place finish, Khaja placed in the top 10 individually for the role-play portion of the competition, which was held Nov. 19-21 at William Paterson University.

Last year, WMU captured first place among 38 competing universities. Additionally, sales and business marketing student teams have finished in the top five on three other occasions, and four sales and business marketing graduates have placed individually as overall champions in previous years.

Sales and marketing students also have distinguished themselves in several other recent competitions, including earning first and second place finishes in the 2014 and 2013 State Farm Marketing and Sales Competition.

A two-month effort

DeVos and Khaja worked with Dr. James Eckert, associate professor of marketing, multiple times per week for two months to practice tactics for all three elements of the annual competition, which included a sales challenge, a referral-role play challenge and a speed selling challenge.

The referral role-play competition, in which Khaja landed in the top 10, is a scenario competition in which students act out how they would respond to a given situation. The challenge involved meeting with a bank branch manager to set up a mutual referral relationship where the given company and the bank would share leads and customers. The goal was to agree to work together into the future and immediately exchange one good lead each.

Khaja's placement in the individual competition and the additional success of DeVos in role-playing and sales challenges increased the team's overall score, boosting them into fifth place.

Both DeVos and Khaja graduate this month and have already accepted full-time positions—DeVos with Stryker Medical in Kalamazoo and Khaja with Optio Data in Grand Rapids.

About the program

WMU's sales and business marketing program 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. Ranked No. 1 by for 2014 and 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) 387-5799 or

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