WMU sales students claim first place in the Desert Cup

Contact: Angela DeYoung
From left to right: Adam Brayton, Kaitlyn Lay, Madeline Kastel, Hannah Kovachevich.

The team of Haworth College of Business students are, from left to right, Adam Brayton, Kaitlyn Lay, Madeline Kastel and Hannah Kovachevich.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A team of four students from Western Michigan University's Haworth College of Business recently claimed first place in the Desert Cup at Arizona State University’s Collegiate Sales Competition.

Adam Brayton, Kaitlyn Lay, Hannah Kovachevich and Madeline Kastel represented WMU at the competition. Faculty Specialist Mary Nielsen coached the team.

The competition tasked students with two components: speed selling and sales role-play. During speed selling, a team of two students had to give a 90-second pitch to four participating companies, including Waste Management, Paycom, Paradox and Nationwide. For the sales role-play, students acted as representatives from Willscot Mobile Mini, a portable, modular storage solution provider headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona, while Willscot employees acted as buyers for the students.

Over the course of three role-play rounds, students needed to build rapport and attempt to complete a signed lease agreement with their representatives from Willscot. Rounds were progressive and required student teams to adapt quickly by adjusting their approach based on interactions and requirements in each round.

Three of WMU’s students succeeded in advancing to the semi-finals, and Lay and Kovachevich made it to the finals. WMU took the overall team award for the event, outperforming 12 universities, including Arizona State University, Colorado State University, University of Arizona and University of San Diego.

To prepare for the competition, Brayton, a senior majoring in sales and business marketing, states he worked to continually collaborate with the team. “My competition partner and I overprepared so we were ready for anything that could be thrown our way. We worked with Professor Nielsen by role-playing every scenario that we could possibly come up with. When we competed, we could anticipate any obstacles.”

Upon arriving at the competition, Nielsen says, “It felt like gameday, and we were ready for the challenges at hand. We took a moment for a pep talk in the car before we headed into the competition, and as soon as we walked in, we were on. With all the buzz, we made a point to stake out an area to use for preparation and staging throughout the day. Once we had our spot, we were able to strategize, practice and of course cheer each other on as the competition progressed.” 

Adrenaline was running high the day of the competition. “I was excited and anxious when I was waiting to receive our team scores,” says Lay, also a senior majoring in sales and business marketing. “It was challenging and rewarding to be a supportive teammate while rapidly preparing for my next role-play. Overall, we expected a slightly chaotic but successful day, and that is exactly what we got!”

Lay shared her sentiments about Nielsen as a coach and how her input led to their win. “Professor Nielsen was the best coach we could have asked for. When role-playing, she put herself in the shoes of a competitor and intensely analyzed each scenario. We spent an entire day practicing with her. She played both the buyer and seller roles so that my teammates and I could be as prepared as possible. Throughout the competition, she provided us the advice and confidence that we needed. Instead of adding to the pressure, she made sure that we had fun, and that meant a lot to the team and helped us perform even better.”

Despite the stress that comes with competing, Nielsen was proud to see the growth and bonds formed among the team. “This competition was unique because our students were technically competing against each other, but at the same time, points were cumulative for the entire group. It was gratifying to see the team cheer the others on as we progressed to the semi-finals and the finals,” says Nielsen.

The sales and business marketing program at WMU Haworth is nationally recognized as one of the best sales programs in the country with 15 consecutive years on the Sales Education Foundation's list of top programs and a No. 1 ranking from Study.com.

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