On behalf of the CBE, we would like to congratulate Dr. Carlin Nguyen on guiding his students Alicia Charro, Eileen Wang, and Vanessa Aguiar to winning first place in the first-ever Annual Cal State University Sales Competition in November 2020. The two-day event consisted of an individual competition and a team competition in rooms filled with both judges and job recruiters who sponsored the event, ranging from Oracle, T-Mobile, ADP, Unum, and more. We had the pleasure of speaking with Dr. Nguyen and the team to learn more about this unique experience.
According to Dr. Nguyen, “All of the students role played as the seller. In the individual competition, the students sold to someone who was the influencer, user, and gatekeeper. Their objective was to persuade the buyer to recommend their product to their bosses (the decision-makers). In the team competition, the students had to convince the CEO and CFO to use their product rather than the competitor’s.”
You can see in the video that the buyers (CEO and CFO) tried to take over the sales call by asking a lot of questions and raising concerns. Like Eileen mentioned, “You’re not just selling the product, but you’re selling the value of the partnership; why they should choose to work with you and not one of your competitors.”
They learned how to build rapport, conduct a needs analysis, present their solution, handle objections, and then attempt to close the sale. “And there was objection after objection,” Vanessa explained. “It was extremely nerve-wracking and even intimidating, but it’s so worth it.” Not to mention, their team of three had to compete against five or six other campuses’ teams of five and six so they were certainly at a disadvantage, though it did not deter them.
Going into this experience was unlike anything they have ever done. Neither student had ever entered a competition of this nature and with that said, “If you were to watch us role-playing at the very beginning of this experience, we would be totally unrecognizable compared to how we performed at the actual competition,” Alicia tells us.
But that is the beauty of it – the experience, the journey. “It is a whole different thing reading about it than actually applying it, like swimming for example. You really do not know how to swim until you jump into the pool and that is the case with the sales process. You have to deal with the nerves and anxiety because you are put on display,” Alicia added.
The benefits of the competition are endless. For Alicia, it was not only the sales experience but after endless Zoom practices and role-playing, she walked away with friends for life. “Eileen and Vaness are two of my closest friends now.”
For Eileen, it was being able to “actually apply play out the sales process.” Not just for obvious reasons, but because “The skills you learn in sales are fundamental anywhere you go, with any industry. You always have to know how to effectively communicate – with your boss, with your client, with your audience.”
For Vanessa, she was able to really break out of her shell. “I've only worked in retail and sold to teenagers and customers; and now I’m on the other side selling business-to-business with higher volume and a lot more at stake. You must be very particular and specific with your words, giving us that real world experience without even working first. That said, it is okay to fall on your face sometimes, we have learned from so many mistakes along the way. It will benefit a lot of people, even if you are not going into sales. Because in the end, you do not have to be in the sales industry to know how to sell yourself,” Vanessa added.
While there is no sales program currently in the CBE, these three students are thrilled to be a part of its beginning. The competition is open to any class, not just seniors so the sooner a student starts out, the better.
Alicia explains, “Had it not been for Carlin and this opportunity, I would not have a job waiting for me after college.” This experience allowed her to network with a job recruiter and secure a post-graduate job with the cloud-based business solutions company, Oracle.
From networking with recruiters, resume-building, becoming mentors, Eileen, Vanessa, and Alicia cannot thank their professor enough. “He helped us so much – through coaching and simply gaining perspective on the sales world,” Vanessa tells us.
She continues, “For those of us graduating, we definitely recommend to rising students to continue with Dr. Nguyen and make it part of the CBE tradition.”
Dr. Nguyen hopes to get more students involved this semester as he prepares to start a sales club, participate in another competition, and build our sponsorship network.
To learn more or sign up, please email Dr. Nguyen at: [email protected].
To watch the video of the competition.