KALAMAZOO, Mich. —Two students from the Haworth College of Business placed second overall at a national sales competition, with one student placing in the top five for individual speed selling.
Seniors Madeline Kastel of Aurora, Illinois, and Austin Miller of Brighton, Michigan, competed in the recent virtual sales competition hosted by the Russ Berrie Institute for Professional Sales at William Paterson University’s Cotsakos College of Business.
The National Sales Competition, in its 14th year, held its first virtual competition. Thirty college students from 15 universities across the country participated in the event. Mary Nielsen, faculty specialist, coached the team and was thrilled with the students' success.
“My main goal was for our team to have fun. I knew that they would grow in their sales skills, but also wanted to make sure the process was enjoyable,” she says.
This year’s competition featured a virtual selling experience, consisting of two events—speed selling and sales call role-play. In the speed-selling competition, students rotated through two-minute Zoom interviews with company executives where they pitched themselves for a job. The second component of the competition was sales call role-play where students showcased their skills by delivering a virtual sales presentation and conducting a virtual sales meeting.
The virtual format of the competition led to some challenges, but the team was able to pivot their strategy accordingly. Nielsen says, “We learned as the competition went on that it was important to maximize face time on the screen versus the use of virtual materials. Austin and Maddie did a great job of adapting the WMU Haworth way of selling to meet the criteria of the judges.”
Kastel, who placed in the top five for individual speed selling says, “The lack of human connection through the screen was hard to overcome. I feel that Austin and I did the best we could, even with the challenge of sitting in a virtual waiting room and the nerves that come with that. I was elated when we finished in second place!”
The technology of the Robert S. Kaiser Sales, Negotiation and Leadership Lab at WMU Haworth was also extremely helpful given the virtual format of the competition. Since Kastel and Miller ended up competing at the exact same time, Nielsen was able to watch them both simultaneously from the sales lab.
“I was so proud of how supportive Maddie and Austin were of one another throughout the competition" Nielsen says. "Their positive attitudes, hard work and excellent sales skills added up to a second place overall finish, continuing the run of exceptional performances by WMU Haworth students in sales competitions.”
The sales and business marketing major has been ranked as a “Top University Sales Program” since 2007 and also consistently ranks as one of the top sales schools in the country.
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