Sales students shine during two national competitions

Contact: Cindy Wagner
Photo of the winning student teams.

From left: Milantoni, Bone, Bell and Warner

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Students in Western Michigan University's heralded sales and business marketing program have again earned high honors at two recent national sales competitions, the National Sales Challenge and the State Farm Marketing and Sales Competition.

Junior Matthew Milantoni, of St. Clair Shores, earned the top spot for speed selling at the National Sales Challenge, the second time a WMU student has earned the honor. Milantoni and senior Melody Warner, of Battle Creek, also won second place team honors at the competition.

WMU students also finished strong in the State Farm Marketing and Sales Competition, with senior Lauren Bone, of Livonia, and junior Sam Bell, of Prestwick, Scotland, placing second overall as a team.

"These competitions are another great and positive experience for our students," says Dr. Kelley O'Reilly, assistant professor of marketing. "Our students represent the program, department and college in a professional and impressive way."

National Sales Challenge

The challenge includes three events: speed selling where students deliver a two-minute personal pitch; a 15-minute referral role-play where students meet with a business partner to try to restart a relationship and gain referrals; and a sales role-play, a second 15-minute meeting to determine the needs of an organization and set up a future product demo. Milantoni and Warner were coached by Dr. Jim Eckert, professor of marketing.

In addition to winning the speed selling portion, Milantoni was voted Viewers' Choice in that category. He also placed fourth overall. Warner earned third place overall and was one of only two students placing the top 10 in all three events.

"My favorite part of the competition was the minute before we entered the role-playing room or began a speed selling round," says Warner. "That feeling of pure anxiety, adrenaline and confidence happening all at the once is something I will never forget. It was definitely emotionally and mentally draining, but it reminded me that I'm doing what I love and that sales is the best career choice for me."

WMU earned the second spot among 36 participating schools, including Florida State University, University of Toledo, Ball State University, Baylor University, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and University of Dayton. The event is hosted by William Patterson University in New Jersey. WMU has placed in the top five for five consecutive years at this event.

State Farm Marketing and Sales Competition

In addition to placing second overall as a team, Bone placed third overall and Bell placed fourth individually. The duo also placed third in the marketing presentation category. Together, they earned $7,200 in scholarships. O'Reilly coached the team.

The State Farm Marketing and Sales Competition consists of 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. The event was held at the University of Central Missouri.

"Sam and I knew WMU had prepared us to win. At the end of the day, practice makes perfect, and we took all the right steps to place in the top three," says Bone.

"The sales focused classes in our program were instrumental in giving us a competitive edge over the other schools," adds Bell.

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 with 96 percent of graduates actively engaged in the field within six months of graduation. 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

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