Let’s Make a Deal: inaugural Professional Sales Showcase under way

sales-1NIU students are testing their sales acumen thanks to NIU’s inaugural Professional Sales Showcase which began Oct. 1 and continues through Oct. 15.

Over the course of the two weeks, nearly 200 sales students are taking part in the unique contest that tests their phone skills and face-to-face sales skills in a role-play situation.

“All students who are taking sales classes right now at NIU are involved,” said Robert Peterson, director of NIU’s Professional Sales program and editor of the Journal of Selling.

“The fact that we offer this is extremely unique. There is no one else in the country that is asking students to do a voicemail, gatekeeper call and a role-play like this.”

Peterson created the showcase to give NIU students an opportunity to experience 21st century sales, which is not the same as it was 20 years ago.

“Technology has significantly changed the sales process,” Peterson said. “Customers are willing to do more and more things on the phone, using technology like conference calls, voicemail and Connect.”

The three-part contest challenges students to leave an effective voicemail, successfully get past a gatekeeper, and engage in a face-to-face role play with a mock customer. Using the KnowledgeShift role-play simulator Mobi-RolePlay, students will be recorded and measured on their techniques and abilities.

sales-2“KnowledgeShift’s simulator creates a real-life situation and allows the students to gain street experience as opposed to just book knowledge,” Peterson said. “The first time I ran through the Mobi-RolePlay, I was blown away by how real it seemed and how easy it was to use. The simulator allows students to experience real-life situations in a safe and scalable manner.”

Judges critique both the voicemail and gatekeeper calls using the simulator. More than 50 corporate executives from 22 area businesses will judge the role play encounter, with the top four students in two categories – 350-level and 450-level courses – competing in a playoff for cash prizes.

Peterson said opportunities like these are invaluable, and professionals in the sales industry confirm its importance.

“This is absolutely important,” Peterson said. “Firms on our sales advisory board come to Northern to hire students. When we tell them the students are learning to leave voicemails and deal with gatekeepers, they love it because that is a portion of sales that has not been taught.”

The role-play scenarios begin the week of Oct. 12 and culminate in the championship Thursday, Oct. 15.

by Jane Donahue

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