The winning sales pitch
Photo courtesy of Suresh Sundaram July 24, 2020
Inaugural UD virtual sales competition part of Lerner class
University of Delaware student Cassidy Pieper’s passion for selling began at age 15 when she became a sales associate for Boyd’s Flowers in Wilmington, Delaware.
Using her natural talent and the knowledge gained from the Sales Management and Selling (BUAD 470) course, Pieper was named the first-ever Lerner Sales Student of the Year in Lerner College’s inaugural Sales Competition sponsored by Stanley Black and Decker (SBD) in May.
“This competition was a great opportunity for our students to put their selling skills they have learned in class into action,” said Suresh Sundaram, an assistant professor of marketing and faculty director of the professional selling and sales management minor. “Most importantly, this was a one-of-a-kind learning experience for our students as they prepare themselves for their future careers.“
Originally created as a daylong-in-person event, the competition was converted to a multi-day virtual format due to the novel coronavirus. From May 11-15, 85 students from two sections of BUAD 470 and one section of the Sales Practicum (BUAD483) demonstrated their sales skills over Zoom video conferencing to 18 SBD employees who served as buyer-judges for the competition. The winners were determined by a panel of judges, composed of the three sales faculty and two representatives from SBD, and were announced at an awards ceremony on May 26.
“I was thrilled and honored being selected as the Lerner Sales Student of the Year,” Pieper said. “I was not expecting to be the student selected, so when I was I was so excited and thankful that the judges saw my passion and enthusiasm I had for the competition.”
According to Sundaram, the competition was “modeled after national and regional collegiate sales competitions.” Sundaram created UD’s sales minor in fall 2018. His vision for a sales competition came together soon after speaking with SBD’s Global Training Director Dan Alia, UD Class of 1999, and National Recruitment and Program Manager Sarah Halvorsen. SBD's motivation to support the sales competition was to further improve on their successful recruiting of UD graduates into their Management Leadership program.
“Sales skills can benefit everyone, no matter their career choice,” Alia said. “The practice of identifying a problem or need, digging in with good questions to uncover the true nature of the issue, and then presenting a solution in a confident way to help move that individual or business to a better outcome is a skill that can benefit more industries or professionals than just sales.
“The reason we support these types of competitions is simple — when we are recruiting and hiring, we get more experienced and better qualified candidates within the walls of SBD, who deliver results sooner because of their sales abilities walking in the door.”
The competition used a real-life SBD sales scenario normally used for training purposes. Students acted as an SBD enterprise solutions specialist holding a fictional 10-minute sales call to secure a follow-up meeting with the head buyer of fictitious firm, Miller Electric, whom they met briefly at the February 2020 International Building Show in Las Vegas.
During the call, students were tasked to uncover the needs of the buyer, complete a short presentation of the proposed solution from SBD and gain a firm commitment for a follow-up meeting. To prepare, students reviewed key details of the scenario and attended three briefing sessions conducted by Halvorsen over a two-week period. Students were given a copy of the grading principles used to evaluate all the role plays.
“I felt the Sales Management and Selling course prepared me greatly for the Sales Competition,” said marketing major Tayla Beckles, UD Class of 2021, who placed third out of her class in the competition. “In class, we learned in great detail what it truly meant to be a great salesperson. Professor Sean Kriner really instilled in us a great foundation in order to succeed in the competition. We did role plays in class practicing selling various things to our classmates, and we learned various techniques on how to sell to people.”
Alia and Halvorsen conducted an internal briefing session for the SBD volunteers to provide them with all the information to allow them to portray the buyer’s role and also to brief them on the grading principles.
“We were blown away by the students in this competition,” Holvarersen said. “They took it seriously, prepared thoroughly, asked solid questions and really highlighted their abilities to walk through the sales process and, ultimately, gain a commitment to move the process forward.”
Adjunct Professor Sean Kriner said that he was also impressed with the transformation of his students: “The first day of class they barely spoke a word. It was almost like they were on Candid Camera and wanted to get a laugh at my response. As I watched the videos of each student competing in the spring Sales Competition, I saw a complete transformation: smiling, engaging, in control and moving the action toward a sale. I was amazed. Even though I had coached them for months, seeing the transformation was brilliant.”
Said Sundaram, “The thing that was most satisfying was when I heard the SBD personnel reach out to me to say how impressed they were with the students and the selling skills they demonstrated. Several of them commented that the students demonstrated a number of skills that even some experienced salespeople do not.”
The awards ceremony recognized nine winners representative of the top three students in each section in addition to the Lerner Sales Student of the Year. Lerner Dean Bruce Weber, Senior Associate Dean of Faculty Rick Andrews and Business Administration Department Chair Hemant Kher spoke to students at the virtual awards ceremony. Winners received Amazon gift cards and products donated by SBD.
The winners were:
BUAD470 - Section 10:
3rd Place: Tayla Beckles
2nd Place: Paige Anglace
1st Place: Kate Zangla
BUAD470 - Section 11:
3rd Place: Lauren Wolf
2nd Place: Alyssa Siciliano
1st Place: Cassidy Pieper
BUAD483 - Section 50:
3rd Place: Shayna Schwartz
2nd Place: Brianna Bannach
1st Place: Hadleigh Carroll
The fall Sales Competition is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 5, 2020. Semi-finalists and winners from the competition each semester will be selected and trained to compete at regional and national level collegiate sales competitions. SBD has also committed to financially support the professional selling and sales management minor as strategic partners starting in July. Additionally, the professional selling and sales management minor will be financially supported by Diamond State Financial Group, Beacon Hill Staffing, Enterprise Holdings and Paychex. Individuals and companies interested in helping students succeed in sales or supporting enhanced programming can contact Jalen Randolph at email@example.com for more information.