By Ed Brennen
One of the country’s leading cybersecurity firms, CyberTech Security Services, had just landed a major deal with a well-known family entertainment company and needed to hire 500 additional network and security analysts and customer service reps.
As an account manager for international staffing firm Insight Global, Joe Dunn’s job was to convince CyberTech’s director of information technology — in a 10-minute meeting — that his company could find them the right candidates to make the project a success.
“The perception of sales is that you go in and do your song and dance for them, pitching them your idea,” he says. “But at the end of the day, what they really want to know is how your product or solution fits their needs. So, the biggest thing is listening very closely and knowing how to respond thoughtfully.”
Dunn doesn’t really work for Insight Global; he’s actually a junior business major at UMass Lowell. And CyberTech isn’t a real company; it was made up for a role-playing case study at the recent Northeast Intercollegiate Sales Competition (NISC) at Bryant University in Smithfield, Rhode Island.
This was the first time UML students participated in NISC, which also included a speed networking session with Insight Global (a real company) and 30 other event sponsors. The competition drew more than 250 students from 27 schools across the country, including Arizona State University, the University of Arizona, the University of Kansas and UMass Amherst.
Dunn was joined at the two-day event by business majors Alex Condes de Bethencourt Lopez, Jose Munoz and Jack Weafer and biology major Adibah Shaikh. Business major Brendan Alzapiedi was also part of the group but could not attend the competition. The students are taking Sales and Customer Relations with Jeremy Ramsey, a visiting faculty lecturer of marketing, entrepreneurship and innovation (MEI) who led the trip. They spent three weeks preparing for the competition with Ramsey outside of class.
“It’s such a résumé builder,” says Ramsey, a sales professional who joined the Manning School of Business this fall. “To get this intense level of practice, and then participate in something like that, it fundamentally changes you and how you think about what’s required to be successful in the outside world.”
Dunn was among 60 students to advance to the second round of the competition. While he didn’t make it to the final round of six, he says the experience was invaluable.
“Taking what we learn in the classroom and being able to go out and actually apply it is so worthwhile,” says Dunn, a Littleton, Massachusetts, native with a concentration in marketing and a minor in digital media.
The speed networking event landed Dunn a job interview the following week with Signature Consulting.
Munoz, a junior from Lawrence, Massachusetts, with a concentration in management information systems (MIS), also came home with an invitation for a job interview.
“I’d never done a competition like this before, and I would do it again, for sure,” says Munoz, who appreciated the feedback he received from judges during the sales competition and the networking opportunities.
Munoz developed an interest in sales during an information services co-op job at Enterprise Bank earlier this year.
“I saw a lot of salespeople coming to the bank and showing us new services and products,” says Munoz, whose interest in sales, specifically in the tech industry, has only grown in Ramsey’s course.
While he passed on the job interview (“It wasn’t tech-related”), Munoz looks forward to competing in NISC and other sales competitions in the coming year.
Ramsey says sales competitions like NISC are the first step in building a “sales community” at the Manning School — with support from Dean Sandra Richtermeyer, MEI Prof. and Chair Berk Talay and Prof. Yi Yang.
“This is the biggest competition of its kind on the East Coast, and we just jumped right in,” says Ramsey, who plans to take students to a competition at UMass Amherst in March and hopes to one day host such an event at UML.
“The students are incredible; they are such a natural fit for sales,” he says. “A lot of salespeople are first-generation college students who come from humble backgrounds and are willing to do the hard work. There’s a natural synergy here that’s pretty exciting.”
Dunn says he’d never considered sales as a career option until taking Ramsey’s course this semester.
“I’ve always enjoyed talking to new people, and I’ve always been someone who’s confident in those situations where you have to think quickly on your feet,” he says. “Even if I don’t end up in sales, I feel like I’ve learned a ton from this class and from this experience. Everybody can use these skills. Everyone is selling something, even if it’s just negotiating a job offer or pitching an idea to your boss.”