When pro football scouts, player personnel directors, and agents attend practice sessions at the Senior Bowl all-star game in January, NFL jobs are on the line.
In addition to determining who among these college standouts has the right stuff to be chosen in the upcoming NFL draft, a ton of networking goes on behind the scenes as teams plan for both the draft and the free-agent signing circus that follows.
When the Terry Sales Competition heats up on the third Saturday in October, it’s a lot like the Senior Bowl, says Eli Lilly district sales manager Scott Rech.
“We’re a lot like football scouts when we’re here,” Rech says about the competition, which is now in its 11th year and features 64 Terry undergrads competing in simulated 20-minute sales calls to pitch the customer relationship management product NetSuite as judges look on.
“Here’s a situation where you have a number of companies that are willing to give their time and tell students how to improve. As much as this is a clinical, controlled setting, it still gives these students the opportunity to give sales a second look. And it gives companies an opportunity to come around, hand out business cards, and encourage students to look at their organization.”
Eli Lilly sales professionals Chris Karabinos and Mike Akins, two of Rech’s recent Terry draft picks, returned to Athens to judge the 2011 competition. Both were former participants in the sales competition. Karabinos says that the sales competition was the most influential event he participated in as a student at the University of Georgia.
“It made me realize that I wanted to be in sales. It was the most professional atmosphere that I could have been in,” says Karabinos, who was an alternate for the Terry team that went to the 2011 National Collegiate Sales Competition. “It’s pretty intense to have up to 10 judges seated to the right of you in a room while you present to a customer, but it’s also interesting how the competition lines up with what we're doing in the professional world.”
As valuable as competing was for him, Akins says that sitting on the other side of the table as a recruiter and judge helps him see how the learning process comes full circle.
“That conversational style and building of the sales cycle that was taught to us here wasn’t something we had the perspective to completely understand when we were students,” says Akins, who explains that perspective changes once they gain on-the-job experience. “They will begin to connect the dots to what they experienced in this competition and see that the information has real value.”
Mike Homans, who won the Terry competition and its $500 prize, will graduate this year in marketing with an emphasis in sales. Homans credits marketing lecturer Kevin Ellis for pointing out the career opportunities that come along as part of the college’s certificate program in sales. In addition to coordinating the Terry Sales Competition, Ellis advises the UGA chapter of Pi Sigma Epsilon marketing and sales fraternity and teaches undergraduate courses in sales.
For students like Homans, the fact that the event has 27 sponsoring organizations brings another benefit: jobs. Last year, the 100 Terry marketing students who graduated with the sales emphasis all landed jobs after graduation, including 46 who accepted offers prior to graduation.
“The networking opportunities associated with his contest are fantastic,” says Homans, who had a summer internship selling presentation software for the legal profession. “I interviewed with more than a dozen companies during one semester.”
Rech says he didn’t have this type of preparation at his college program.
“I tell Kevin Ellis this all the time: I’m amazed at what these students get. If had this program when I went through school it would have made a big difference for me – not only in my development, but with the clarity of what I wanted to do. Every time I come to Terry, I tell the students that if they don’t take advantage of the opportunities that they get on this campus they are wasting four years.”