The students who put their skills on display during role-played sales calls were the stars of the annual Terry Sales Competition Oct. 24. But thanks to a State Farm donation of $96,000 for the construction of a dedicated sales lab in Sanford Hall, the students had a stage worthy of their performances.
"I don't want to use the Olympics cliché of bigger and better than before, but this year I might have to, because the technology exceeded expectations," said marketing professor Kevin Ellis, who designed the competition to hone students' sales skills in a realistic environment that includes feedback from judges and sponsors with years of corporate sales experience from State Farm, Eli Lilly, Altria and E&J Gallo.
The new technology built into the State Farm Sales Lab further enhanced the realism of the competition setting, with sales representatives (played by students) paired with buyers. Each sales presentation was transmitted through a live video feed to a remote location so the judges did not have to be in the same room as the seller and buyer.
"It blew them away," said Ellis. "So much so, that our corporate representatives approached me to ask if there was any way during a down time of the school year that they could come in and use this technology with their employees."
The sales lab includes six small presentation rooms for sales role-playing exercises, a screening room that can display six presentations simultaneously, and a multifunctional break-out space.
"The idea that you can sit in one room and view a whole set of presentations from another sales lab room, record them, and then a student or a company can go in and watch a presentation anytime they want makes it no surprise that we're getting these inquiries," Ellis said.
As strong an impression as the State Farm Sales Lab made on the judges, sponsors and guests, Ellis said it was the skill and preparation of the students that continues to make the most lasting impression.
"The networking went extremely well, and State Farm has already expressed the desire to invite 20 of these students to an event where some internships may come out of it," he said.
Terry marketing senior Latarsha Johnson of Savannah, Ga., won the $1,000 top prize with her performance in the finals and will join second-place winner and fellow senior Mason McFalls of Swainsboro, Ga., on the team that will represent Terry College at the National Collegiate Sales Competition next March.
Johnson summed up the Terry Sales Competition as well worth her investment of time and effort.
"[It was] an amazing opportunity to gain real-world business experience," she said. "It was quite challenging to demonstrate the product, follow sales protocols, and overcome the buyer's objections in a 20-minute presentation. However, this was one of the most rewarding experiences that I have ever had. Not only did this competition give me selling experience, it also proved to me that I made the right decision in pursuing a career in sales."