WMU student places first at national sales competition

Contact: Stacey Anderson
Cameron Musser and TJ Devries

Left to right, Cameron Musser and TJ Devries competed in the State Farm Marketing and Sales Competition. Photo credit: Christopher Deau Photography

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—Two Western Michigan University seniors recently competed at the State Farm Marketing and Sales Competition, where Cameron Musser placed first in one of the sales role-plays and earned $3,000 in prize money. Musser of Macomb and TJ Devries of Tinley Park, Illinois, competed against teams from eight other universities at the event held at the University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg.

Western has been dominant in the role-play category of the competition for many years.

Students were asked to prepare for both sales role-plays and a marketing presentation for the State Farm team. The role-play task was to close a customer on auto insurance and then bring them back to talk more in depth about other insurance needs. For the marketing presentation, competitors presented a comprehensive marketing plan to attract Gen Z customers to State Farm.

Cameron Musser

Senior Cameron Musser placed first in one of the sales role-plays and earned $3,000 in prize money. Photo credit: Christopher Deau Photography

“Selling isn’t how it’s portrayed in popular culture,” says Musser. “It’s about being a good listener and showing buyers that you can solve challenges that they are experiencing in their lives. When I’m selling, I don’t think of the person across the desk from me as ‘the buyer.’ Instead, I try to recognize that they are no different than me. They have hopes, dreams, fears and goals. As a salesperson, it’s a privilege to be able to help the person across from you achieve their goals and solve their challenges.”

Being able to sell in this way is a hallmark of the WMU Haworth sales and business marketing program. Devries and Musser point to three main concepts that all students embrace as sales majors.

  • Be prepared yet adaptive
  • Focus on building long-term, mutually beneficial relationships
  • Add value to the buyer’s world

Musser aptly points out that these core principles are the reason that so many WMU students have taken top prizes in national competitions.

Despite Musser’s stellar performance in the role-play during the competition, the research and practice sessions were daunting at times.

“When they called my name as the winner for role-play, I was so proud that I kept pushing to become better and better. There were times throughout the semester where I doubted that I had what it took to succeed. I leaned on the people in my life that reminded me why I love competing and challenging myself, and they helped more than they know,” he says.

The competition took several weeks of preparation where Devries and Musser met regularly, became close friends, and were mentored by Mary Nielsen, team coach and sales faculty member.

“Mary Nielsen was the best coach I could have asked for,” says Devries. “She provided great insights and made the meetings fun. She was much more than a coach. She was a mentor, friend and positive influence. It was clear that she was invested in much more than the competition. She was invested in Cam and I as people.”

Nielsen notes that the competition experience was wonderful from beginning to end.

“I am so very grateful for the guidance and help from Sterling Massey, our State Farm sales leader and WMU partner. He knows more about insurance than I will ever know, and his manner with the students is outstanding. Cam and TJ worked well as a team, pushing one another and holding one another accountable. The students also had fun together, which is absolutely one of my goals for students who step up and put in the many hours necessary to compete,” she says.

Nielsen also notes that both Devries and Musser were fantastic ambassadors for WMU as they met competitors and coaches from other universities, State Farm executives, and the individuals from Central Missouri University who ran the event.

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