Pictured from left to right: student coaches Jared Wexler, Connor Sprague, professor Lisa Simon, competitor Alexis Anderson, competitor Taylor Curtiss and student coaches Sarah Monday and Darya Charkashyna. Darya Charkashyna | Courtesy Photo

Cal Poly placed in the top five in the National Collegiate Sales Competition (NCSC) and business administration senior Alexis Anderson placed third overall. Both wins have never happened before.

Putting Cal Poly on the map

Lisa Simon, a marketing lecturer in the Orfalea College of Business (OCOB), is responsible for finding students to take with her to participate in the competition. Along with fellow business administration senior Taylor Curtiss, Anderson represented Cal Poly.

“I have taken students to this competition for 12 years,” Simon said. “But [Anderson] was the first student we’ve ever had make it into the championship round.”

The NCSC is a sales role-play competition that took place in Kennesaw, Georgia April 2-6. It is a tournament-style competition in which competitors are placed into brackets and compete in rounds. Competitors are given a product to sell and act as an employee for that company. In each round, their objective is not necessarily to sell the product, but to get another meeting or make it into the next round.

This year, participants were instructed to sell a product by the competition’s sponsor, Gartner, an industrial technology and consulting expertise.

Seventy-two schools nationwide entered this year. With two participants from each school, 144 students competed this year.

“The competitors that we were going against come from schools with extensive sales programs,” Anderson said. “I went in [thinking], ‘Okay, we’re going against some tough competitors,’ but to have made it as far as I did, I can confidently say that it was my proudest moment.”

From the classroom to the competition

Unlike other universities, Cal Poly does not have a sales concentration, sales major or sales minor offered to students interested in pursuing a career in business. Simon’s course Senior Project: Sales Development Program (BUS 466) is the only exposure to sales students like Anderson can have.

“There’s always more to learn, so it’s hard to say if I would’ve done better had I had 10 classes under my belt as opposed to one,” Anderson said. “But I think I succeeded because I enjoy sales.”

The class helps students develop selling skills through sales role-plays. Students learn what to say as an objection to a client’s objection and how to back themselves up through numbers and testimonials. At the end of the quarter, students partake in a mock sales competition, and the winner goes with Simon to the NCSC.

“By competing, they’re really able to reach inside and build their own confidence and their own competence,” Simon said. “By participating in an event like this, it allows [students] to build relationships and make connections with other people in sales — whether it’s students, faculty [or] corporate partners.”

Supporting a future sales minor

Anderson is grateful for the experience as it has reinforced her decision to pursue a career in sales. Currently, a sales minor is in the works to be introduced to the course catalog in 2019, and Anderson hopes other students will take advantage of that opportunity.

“It’s exciting to know that for the future generation of Cal Poly students, if they do have an interest or a dedication towards sales, that they can have those tools here to pursue that interest and to learn more,” Anderson said.

Both Anderson and Simon echoed a hope that students outside of OCOB will take advantage of the sales minor.

“Regardless of what career somebody goes into, they will be selling: whether they’re selling themselves to get into a job, whether they’re selling an idea to a client, to a manager, to an investor,” Simon said. “Everybody is selling and it is a skill is going to help everyone in their careers.”

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