Broadway actor Eddie Cantor once said, “It takes 20 years to make an overnight success.” The Terry College is thankful that marketing professor Kevin Ellis isn’t that patient. The past six months has yielded an unprecedented number of “firsts” for the Terry College Sales Program. Terry not only won the team and individual phases of the National Collegiate Sales Competition (NCSC), but it was also victorious in the team phase of the International Collegiate Sales Competition (ICSC), and the individual phase of the State Farm Sales Competition.
This trifecta was the product of multiple students gaining valuable instruction, coaching, and experience from the Terry Sales Competition and the State Farm Sales Lab—resources that Ellis spearheaded during the past decade. When multiple students earn top prizes at the highest levels of competition, it is a telling indication of the strength of the program as a whole and a credit to Ellis and colleague Rich Gooner for teaching advanced concepts that are effective beyond the frontline sales environment.
“We’re not teaching to the test, we’re teaching to what the industry wants,” says Gooner, a marketing professor with over 20 years of experience in consulting, brand-category management, sales force development, and executive education. Gooner and the quartet of Terry seniors Steve DeCarlo, Jaime Gutch, Jasmin Metso, and Alexandra Turac illustrated as much at the ICSC in Orlando. DeCarlo and Gutch were the winning duo for the ICSC’s team phase, besting 64 schools.
“The buyers and company representatives at the ICSC are sophisticated sales people responsible for tens and hundreds of millions of dollars of business,” says Gooner, who notes that Terry’s overall performance at the event impressed the corporate judges who flock to these competitions to recruit talent. “They appreciate the sophistication of the sales approaches that our students are using.”
On the same weekend as the ICSC, Ellis and the team of Daniel Gannon and Alex Woodruff made a similar impression while selling insurance and investment instruments at the State Farm Sales Competition at Central Missouri University.
“It was the Terry’s first business-to-consumer sales competition,” says Ellis, who helped Gannon and Woodruff adapt from a B2B to a B2C environment. Woodruff won the solo competition and the duo performed well enough that Woodruff placed third overall in the combined team-individual scoring. “With business-to-consumer sales, there’s a great deal of sensitivity required from a personal standpoint when working with consumers—particularly with insurance as a product, because you’re impacting someone’s life and family.”
Woodruff also competed at the NCSC at Kennesaw State, earning a semi-final appearance and a top-15 finish. However this time, it was teammate Ashton Carter who took top honors, besting the 134-person field, and combining with Woodruff to propel the Terry team to a first-place finish out of 64 schools. It was a fitting way to cap the Terry Sales Program’s extraordinary run and serves as a testament to the work of the students, Gooner, and especially Ellis.
“Kevin deserves so much credit. What he does with the available resources in this fiercely competitive environment of collegiate sales programs is extraordinary,” says Gooner, who explains that its Terry’s consultative, engaging approach over a scripted, algorithmic sale strategy that is the difference. “When the buyers see it, they say ‘that’s what I want from an employee.’ It’s a turn-on to see that what we teach and coach is what they want to hire—and it wins.”