BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – For 13 years, the Indiana University Kelley School of Business has extended its customary Hoosier hospitality to dozens of business students from around the country by hosting the National Team Selling Competition.
Last year was the first time that a Kelley team had placed in the top three. Students from other business schools always came away from the two-day competition celebrating a victory and posing for pictures of the winning team.
That is, until this year.
Five Kelley students — Emily Albert, Molly Delaney, Lucas Maggos, Georgia Prock and Josiah Zintsmaster coached by lecturer Dennis Spahr and fellow student Adam Scheck — emerged from among 20 teams from across the country to win the 2019 competition on Oct. 25.
“Each of the schools had a competitive team,” Spahr said. “Past winners — Michigan State and the University of Richmond — were there. Baylor and San Diego did extremely well in their respective brackets and had strong performances.”
Some of the other participating schools offer semester-long courses that focus on sales competitions. Their students practice for months on cases like those used at the National Team Selling Competition.
“I still can’t believe we won,” said Prock, a junior majoring in finance from Bolingbrook, Illinois. “When we were sitting up there, waiting to hear the top three, we definitely did not expect to come out as No. 1. I think this could be because we are very critical of what we expect from ourselves, something that Kelley taught us. We push ourselves to constantly be our best, and we have learned that from being surrounded by Kelley students who do the same.”
“At first, I could not believe that we won the competition because of the level of talent that we competed against,” added Maggos, a junior majoring in finance from Mount Prospect, Illinois. “However, I was overwhelmed with joy and proud that our team’s hard work earned us first place … I felt that we deserved to win as I was listening to the case debrief and realized that our team covered every point that the judges were looking for.”
Spahr, a lecturer in marketing and the team’s faculty coach (pictured right), said this year’s case was more challenging than in the past. The case involved selling technology rather than a consumer-packaged goods product. “Uncovering all the relevant data and calculating the return on investment was fairly complex,” he said. “Even though this was a sales competition and not a financial competition, the team needed to work hard to confirm the numbers were correct — and they were confirmed to be correct by the judges.”
Scheck, a senior majoring in marketing and professional sales from Indianapolis, said his experience coaching with Spahr was invaluable. “As someone who would like to get into a management role one day, this provided a great experience at understanding the dynamics of a team from the other side and the importance of understanding what works well and what doesn’t in a group environment,” he said.
Albert served as the team’s alternate – only because she had a job interview on the day of the competition. “She was an integral part of the team and worked with us in all the preparation sessions,” Spahr said. “I think it’s a testament to the talent on the team when the alternate member is being heavily recruited and has multiple job offers to consider.”
Students also credited the role that the Kelley School and its Global Sales Workshop has played in their professional development. “They teach us the soft skills of talking to potential buyers and clients, presentation skills that are unmatched,” Prock said. “Even outside the ‘role play,’ Kelley taught us how to network and speak to potential recruiters, which is so important to our futures.
“Our coaches … pushed us to be our best,” she added. “They spent hours on end helping us think through things logically, but also letting us make mistakes that we could learn from. They gave us thoughtful feedback and constructive criticism which at the end of the day, was what helped us win.”
In addition to a national title, students competed for $6,000 in prize money – including $3,000 to the winning team. Altria Distribution Co. and 3M were title sponsors, helping to provide meals and lodging for all nearly 80 students who competed.
About 150 Kelley students graduate annually with a major in professional sales, and most double-major in another business discipline. All of them leave with a job at places such as consumer products giants Procter & Gamble, Whirlpool, Kraft, Altria and 3M.
“The fact that this is a team selling competition is very relevant to the ‘real world,’ Spahr said. “In the short term, the students are building their already strong collaboration skills and their confidence to compete in something such as this. It can be very nerve wracking going into a case competition with multiple people sitting in the back of the room literally judging you.
“In the long-term, this experience builds each students’ skills and will translate into job offers with great corporate partners such as Altria and 3M,” he added. “Participating in this competition is arguably harder than a “real world” sales meeting because you’re being judged and videotaped.”
Winning the competition certainly will further bolster career prospects for members of the Kelley team, including Zintsmaster, a sophomore from Roann, Indiana, studying entrepreneurship and corporate innovation, marketing and professional sales.
“After Kelley, I want to jump straight into professional sales, work, and travel for a few years,” he said. “Not only do I feel immense pride and honor from being on a team that represents IU, but this sales competition made me fall in love with sales even more.”