The website for cutlery firm CUTCO says its Santoku-Style Cheese Knife is sharp, subtle and functional, with the ability to glide through or break off chunks of cheese. You can easily use the same description for two University of Alabama at Birmingham seniors who sliced and diced their way, via simulated selling of the CUTCO knife, to Top 3 finishes at the recent Pi Sigma EpsilonSouth/West Regional Conference Pro-Am Sell-A-Thon.
UAB School of Business seniors Kayla Jones, majoring in industrial distribution, and Amanda Windsor, majoring in industrial distribution and marketing, finished second and third, respectively, at the recent competition, which featured 19 students from 11 universities, including Louisiana State University, the University of Georgia and California State University, Fullerton.
“Jones and Windsor understand sales is not simply a presentation; sales is about talking, listening and a communication process," says School of Business instructor Kenneth Miller, Ed.D. "That is why they made the top three. Simply put, they get it. They know the fundamentals and how to assertively interact with the buyer to gain a commitment.”
Jones and Windsor are members of the UAB Sales Certificate program, which is a select group of roughly 20 students chosen from 50 applicants. The program, which is in its fifth year, is hosted by the UAB Center for Sales Leadership and run by Miller and John Hansen, Ph.D. It provides students with extended training in business-to-business selling techniques; in other words, alumni don’t need the training programs that large businesses generally require of recently hired college grads.
“The PSE competition made me realize that I will use the skills I learned in UAB’s certificate program for my entire career in the business world,” says Windsor. “What helped me most in the competition was the understanding that sales is not about selling a product — it is about selling relationships.”
Jones, who is vice president of marketing for the Delta Alpha charter of Pi Sigma Epsilon, agrees. "Since placing in the PSE competition I have been contacted by several employers, and I probably would not have placed had it not been for the Sales Certificate Program," she says. “Now I’m focused on nationals both in networking and competing. I look forward to placing there as well.”
The national PSE Pro-Am Sell-A-Thon will be held in San Diego on April 5, 2013. All Jones and Windsor know at this point is that the competition will require them to respond to a Request for Price for a service or product from Level 3 Communications, a provider of state-of-the-art data, voice, video and management solutions around the world.
Miller says an RFP requires a different selling technique than Jones and Windsor used to place in regionals, but he is confident they are ready: “We do a lot of sales role-play in our class, so the national competition won’t be their first rodeo.” Giddy up!