Practice Makes Perfect (Pitch)
Marketing major Julia Butler ’23 ended the fall semester with more than she expected. Not only did the graduating senior and student body president win first place in both rounds of Saint Joseph’s first-ever NEST sales competition (earning her $2,000), but she also landed a full-time job with event co-sponsor Gartner, a technology research and advisory company that’s ranked No. 4 by Forbes as one of the top 10 companies to give the toughest job interviews.
The NEST, or North East Sales Tournament, pitted 29 students from Saint Joseph's, Temple and West Chester Universities against one another for a day-long competition in SJU’s new Sales Excellence Center. Students were given a hypothetical case study from Gartner and co-sponsor Paycom about a company that needed to cut costs while also improving its online customer experience.
During round one, Role Play, students had nine minutes to pitch their solution to the buyer in an office setting equipped to livestream to a panel of judges. In round two, Perfect Pitch, competitors had just 90 seconds to make their elevator pitches.
The champions of the Role Play round concluded the day with a curveball case, during which the “buyer” had been fired and the student now had to present to another colleague who demanded quicker action and shorter timelines.
“I was anxious about the competition as it was my first time performing as a seller,” says marketing and business intelligence and analytics double major Julianne McGuire ’23, who won second place in the Role Play competition. “As each round went on, though, I could feel myself becoming more confident. [NEST] opened my eyes to the field of sales, as I discovered a passion for problem-solving and connecting with people.”
Igniting a passion for selling and problem-solving was one of the reasons Saint Joseph’s new Sales Excellence Center was established. Located in Mandeville Hall, the suite features four simulation rooms for interview practice and buyer-seller competitions and a meeting room for Saint Joseph’s Sales Club.
“The people at the competition could not believe the facilities,” says Donald Townsend, MBA, associate professor of practice in sales and marketing strategy, advisor for the Sales Club, head of the sales certificate program, and lead organizer of NEST. “We had [judges] all over the country and were able to calculate the winners in about 15 seconds,” he says, noting that other competitions can run well into the night just to tabulate first-round winners.
The Sales Excellence Center is not only a physical space but it also comprises all of the students enrolled in the University’s sales certificate program. Saint Joseph’s is one of 50 universities in the National Collegiate Sales Competition to offer the certificate, which gives students a leg up both in the world of sales competitions and in the job market.
“All of our students enrolled in the certificate program who competed in a sales competition this fall had jobs lined up and other companies knocking at their door by November.” - Donald Townsend, MBA, associate professor of practice in sales and marketing strategy
“All of our students enrolled in the certificate program who competed in a sales competition this fall had jobs lined up and other companies knocking at their door by November," Townsend says. "If you have the certification, you can start a job six months to a year ahead of everyone else, and you usually earn 20-25% more salary because you’re trained at the University.”
Butler echoes the value of the certificate and Sales Excellence Center.
“Becoming involved in the sales program and working with Professor Townsend opened up so many doors for me, including an initial interview [with Gartner], three more after that and ultimately a full-time job,” says Butler.
How’s that for a win?