UFV Business Students Take on Oregon State University Sales Competition

We all love our comfort zones.  Comfort zones are all about the familiar, the friendly, and the predictable.  The problem is, not much learning happens there.  At least not the type of learning that lasts for the long term.  That type of learning happens when we are outside of our comfort zones and are experiencing the unfamiliar, the challenging, and the unpredictable.

Kelli Rollins and Nathan Olsen are third-year BBA students who chose to get out of their comfort zones this semester when they signed up to participate in the Pacific Northwest Collegiate Sales Competition, an event sponsored by Oregon State University.  Students from eight American universities participated in the sales competition on April 17 with UFV being the only Canadian university taking part.

All UFV BBA students are familiar with sales role plays from their BUS 221 Professional Selling classes.  In BUS 221, two students work together to prepare a script of a conversation between a buyer and a seller and then perform role plays of that script in class and on video. The seller builds rapport with the buyer, asks questions to determine the buyer’s needs, presents their proposal, demonstrates their product, and closes the deal.

A sales competition such as Oregon State’s is similar to the role-play assignments in Bus 221 except…there is no script.  The student plays the seller role, and the buyer role is played by a businessperson who the student has never met.  The buyer can take the conversation in many directions and so it is up to the seller to adjust on the fly and to lead the conversation towards a purchase.  It is like the difference between acting in a rehearsed performance on Broadway versus improv theatre.  The seller must be prepared to answer a variety of technical questions about their product which, this year, was a temperature scanning device with facial recognition.  And lastly, the entire presentation takes place virtually with three judges watching.  (Remember the scene in the Hunger Games movie where Katniss gets in an underground elevator and is taken to the arena above where she will have to battle to stay alive?  Sales competitions are a little bit like that!)

Kelli and Nathan’s preparations for the sales competition started back in January, meeting weekly online with their coach, Associate Professor Mark Breedveld.  During the weeks to follow, a variety of others gave freely of their time to support the training process, including UFV Director of Campus Planning and Facilities Management, Mark Goudsblom; Ricoh Senior Solutions Consultant, Tapinder Tiwana; Sandler Sales Training Owner, John Glennon; and Retirement Concepts General Manager, Glenn Hocking. Thanks, too, to Curtis Holder, Global Sales Manager of Tryten Technologies, for providing the use of a mobile tablet station on competition day.

For the third year in a row, the US-based Sales Education Foundation (SEF) has recognized UFV as being a “top sales university.”  What this means is that the UFV School of Business is among the ranks of 155 North American universities that offer a program of academic courses in sales.  Just four of those universities are in Canada.  The Sales Education Foundation is affiliated with Dayton University and is dedicated to elevating the sales profession through university education.  Their annual magazine with the full list of university sales programs can be found at www.salesfoundation.org/news/sefannual/