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Students deliver top performance in national sales competition

by Jeanne Baron

Nov. 23, 2011 | WMU News

Photo of Casie Vella, Jim Eckert and Nik Werre, WMU.
Vella, Eckert and Werre
KALAMAZOO--A two-person team from Western Michigan University placed among the top five both individually and overall in the fifth National Sales Challenge staged Nov. 9-11 by the Russ Berrie Institute for Professional Sales at William Paterson University in Wayne, N.J.

With their performance, Casie Vella, a senior from Canton, Mich., and Nik Werre, a senior from Marina del Rey, Calif., have again shown that WMU's Haworth College of Business has one of the country's leading sales and business marketing programs.

The three-day RBI National Sales Challenge brings together top sales students from across the country to meet and network with representatives from major corporations as they compete in two sales events.

In the Sales Call Role-Play event, students engage in a 15-minute sales call with a business executive who evaluates them in areas such as ability to gather information, identify needs, present solutions and gain a commitment as well as in their approach and overall communication effectiveness. In the Speed Selling event, students create a two-minute sales pitch about themselves and meet individually with executives as they highlight why the executives should hire them.

Vella and Werre, both sales and business marketing majors, competed against 54 students from 27 schools during the 2011 challenge event. They finished fifth overall, tying the defending champs from Elon University while placing ahead of many of the best selling schools in the country, including the University of Toledo and Florida State, Baylor and Ball State universities.

At the individual level, Vella finished fourth in Speed Selling and eighth in Sales Call to come in second overall. Her performance marked the second time in the five-year history of the competition that a WMU student has placed first or second on an individual level.

Werre finished fifth in Speed Selling. Together with Vella's fourth-place finish in that event, they had the best combined finish of any school in the competition.

Dr. James A. Eckert, WMU associate professor of marketing and advisor to the team, notes that the University has competed in the RBI National Sales Challenge since its inception in 2007.

WMU's team placed third in 2007, with Chelsea Biermacher taking first as an individual. Although the University didn't place in 2008, its team racked up three trophies the following year, and came home last year with a second-place overall finish as well as two individual trophies.

For more information, contact team advisor James Eckert at or (269) 267-0742.