Regional Sales Competition

This past weekend, I had the opportunity to participate in a sales competition for the AMA regional conference in Whitewater, Wisconsin.  I learned a lot about myself and my education in the process and feel compelled to share it with you all by way of this post.  But first, I should preface that with some information about the conference!

AMA Conference2 Regional Sales Competition

NIU students take a quick pic at the AMA Regional Conference

The conference played host to phenomenal guest speakers and numerous networking opportunities.  What I really went for, however, was the sales competition.The competition had two rounds.  The first was an appointment call where we played the role of a sales rep for College Pro Painters (the sponsor of the competition).  On our call we were to speak with the owner of an event planning company who had submitted an estimate request online.

My call went very well and my judges gave excellent feedback.  My approach on the call felt so fluid.  I worked through objections, built solid rapport, and made the appointment to meet face to face with my prospect.   I had a quiet confidence about me in the role play and my judges reinforced this in their comments following my call.  It was very odd to hear such positive feedback, however, because up to this point my experiences in sales usually come up short of a “win”; especially in the NIU sales program.  I am bruised and bloodied in the sales track here but my goodness I’m proud to take the hits if this level of performance is the outcome.

I saw people from other schools walk out of the role play rooms complaining how the objections they received didn’t match the ones they expected based on their preparation.  I couldn’t help but laugh.  I have been groomed to expect the unexpected and with only an hour or so worth of preparation I was able to field any and all objections that were thrown at me.  I have been trained to think outside the box and understand the needs of the customer.  I know to listen before I speak and I understand that if a buyer has a problem that you NEED be the solution in order to make the sale.

Preparation Regional Sales Competition

Before anything else, preparation is the key to success. -Alexander Graham Bell

Most people that know me well understand that I maintain an extreme and sometimes unhealthy level of modesty.  I must deviate from that on this post to help you understand how incredible our sales program is.  When it came time for results to be posted from round 1, I didn’t even feel the need to look.  I already knew I moved on.  I walked out of that room knowing that I nailed the call.  The only reason I even went to see the results sheet that they posted in the hall was to see what time my second round face to face appointment with the prospect was.  It was scheduled a few hours away and I needed to begin preparing.

I prepared until my scheduled time and walked into the room with confidence.  In this final round, I was meeting face to face with the business owner to close a deal to paint his business.  I used tools I had learned from professors here at NIU and I credit them alone to how well my entire experience at this regional conference went.  I felt like a sales “monster” in that final role play.  Not a single thing went wrong.  My judges were spellbound and had nothing to say when I invited them to give any constructive criticism.  They looked to each other and simply shook their heads.  They said they loved my process.  They said it was clean, consistent, and focused on the needs of the customer.  I believe that the judges thought the same about our other students who participated because the NIU AMA chapter ended up taking home two runner up prizes and one first place (which I’m proud to have accepted on behalf of our NIU chapter and the NIU College of Business).

AMA prizes Regional Sales Competition

Three of Six top prizes claimed by the NIU American Marketing Society!

I’ve gone through so much rejection, had so many missteps in MKTG 450 (the highest level sales course at NIU) but all the mistakes have been worth something.  It finally hit me at the competition, just how much I’ve learned in the past nine weeks.  The value of participating in MKTG 450 is undeniable.  It is no wonder why I hear recruiters consistently say that 450 alum are a cut above.  Up to this point I haven’t had anything to validate these claims and the competition really just opened my eyes.  When a single school takes home half of the cash prizes (each winner was a MKTG 450 student), there is something to be said about that schools program and its attention to detail.  I am sure that I’m not alone in my thinking and other 450 students and alum can attest to the growth they’ve seen in themselves;  both personally and professionally based on their experience in Advanced Professional Sales.

Weilbaker D Regional Sales CompetitionI feel that it is appropriate within the context of this blog post to take a moment to thank Dr. Weilbaker, the founder of our sales track here at NIU, for his exceptional work in making this program the powerhouse it is today.  I am certainly not alone in saying that I appreciate what he’s done.  Thank you for your years of service to this institution.  We wish you nothing but the best when this semester reaches its end.  2.0out

Creating Your Own Path

This next post is written by Marek Swierczewski, a Senior Marketing Major at the NIU College of Business.Marek 224x300 Creating Your Own Path

When I first came into NIU I wasn’t sure what I wanted to major in. On one hand my whole life I’ve spent obsessing about cars and racing which led me to believe engineering was the right course of action.  On the other, I’ve already taken business and economics classes in High School and was set to go into management or marketing in college. I chose to go into marketing, but I had another dilemma on my hands; how to get involved? There are a lot of great organizations in the marketing department, like the American Marketing Association or the Collegiate Sales Advisory Board, but none really seemed to fit me. It so happened that my dilemma was solved by my brother attending Cornfest at the DeKalb airport my freshman year.

While at Cornfest my brother ran across the NIU Motorsports Formula team. The team designs, creates, and races a formula style car every year. Well, my brother told me about them and I attended the informational meeting where I found out that a big portion of the competition is a marketing presentation, I was hooked instantly. This was a way for me to take part in both of my passions simultaneously.

Engineering Car 1024x768 Creating Your Own Path

"I was hooked instantly"

It so happened that the team never had a dedicated marketing person on their team, they’ve never even had a business major on the team; I was the first. After some time I realized that there’s a huge business portion to the team that most members don’t even pay attention to. Biggest of all is the sponsorships, the team runs completely with money from sponsors so it is imperative that all members learn how to deal with potential sponsors. I have focused a lot of my time on teaching each member how to deal with potential sponsors and how to properly approach a sponsor. But the biggest part of my job is selling the car and the whole organization to a panel of potential investors in a mock selling scenario at competition at the end of the year. I’ve had to learn all about marketing plans, selling, finance, even production plant layout to be able to market our team as the best investment against over 100 different universities from around the world.

I am on my fourth year with the team right now, I am the head of the marketing department and am currently in charge of recruitment for the team, and I enjoy it more now than ever. The team has given me a way to practice my skills in marketing in an automotive environment which has lead me to realize the perfect career path for me. I am dedicated to join the racing industry as a sponsor relationship manager, and it is because of my four years on the team actually going out and doing what I am learning in my marketing and sales classes that I have been able to truly find my perfect career. If there is one thing that my experiences with the team have taught me is that there are many different ways to put what you learn in a classroom to work. Don’t limit yourself to just taking classes, go out, find what you are truly passionate about, and get involved, it is by far the best way to spend your years in college.

Women in Business Event

This next guest post is written by Elyse Jares, an Accounting Student at the NIU College of Business.elyse Women in Business Event

There are 21% of women in senior management around the world. When I saw this statistic it did not surprise me, especially in the business world. Men still dominate in this field. There are usually only a handful of women in leadership roles. That is why I was thankful to have the opportunity to attend the annual Crocker Program for Emerging Business Leaders at the Drake Hotel in Chicago. Cindy Crocker, 1980 Marketing Alumna, served as Senior Vice President, Investor Relations and Corporate Communications for Equity Group Investments, one of the nation’s leading real estate companies.

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Women in Business panelists (left to right): NIU Business Dean Denise Schoenbachler, Ventas CEO Debra Cafaro, Program Founder & Host Cindy Crocker

She uses her knowledge and success in the business world to inspire NIU College of Business students. The Crocker Program for Emerging Business Leaders gave 50 NIU business students the opportunity to network with NIU College of Business alumni business leaders and the extremely successful Debra Cafaro. The women shared their insights on networking, leadership, their careers, and balancing between work and their personal lives.

When I first got to the event I felt a little out of place and intimidated. I had never been to a networking event or a hotel that nice before. I found myself diving into the appetizers and felt awkward when I had to introduce myself with no free hands. I didn’t know if I should start introducing myself right away or let everyone eat for a while. Once everyone sat down and each business leader introduced herself, everything seemed more relaxed. The keynote speaker was Debra Cafaro who is the CEO of Ventas, Inc., an S&P company with an enterprise value of $27 billion. Debra Cafaro was selected as one of the Top 50 Women in World Business by the Financial Times. She is happily married with two kids. A major concern many women have and society expects is balancing between work and family. Being able to see several successful business leaders who have juggled a family was very inspiring. They made me realize that you won’t always have a balance between a career and family but you can have both as long as you put enough time and passion into each. It was also informative to hear some networking tips like writing down names right after you meet someone and keeping up to date with the sports highlights.

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Refining our networking skills

It is true when people say it is all about who you know. This event was helpful in the way that it showed us what a real networking event is like. Being able to make a lasting impression on someone involves confidence, assertiveness, and putting yourself out there. This event gave all of us the opportunity to practice these things in a safe and comforting environment. Many of these women were in our shoes and graduated with a degree from NIU. Seeing the possibilities of where our lives could be in 10, 20, or 30 years from now was truly motivational. I am so fortunate to have these types of opportunities through the College of Business and especially events tailored to women in business professions.

Carpe Diem

A wise man once told me that you get three options in College: social life, good grades, and sleep.  The catch is you only get to pick two.  This year, I’ve chosen social life and good grades so you may have seen me sleepy on more than one occasion in Barsema.  This same wise man tells me that food shares a very similar formula: Hot, ready, or delicious.  Again, you only get to pick two (think about it, you can’t have all three. Trust me, I’ve tried!).  I think he’s put some real thought into this stuff!  Anyways, as a senior in college, I want to leave no regrets on the table upon graduation.  I will forsake the time that normal people dedicate to sleep to do school work or to go out with friends and make memories that will last longer than any ride on the struggle bus.Struggle e1349968039215 300x122 Carpe Diem

Sure, sometimes I will take a weekend to myself and hang around my apartment or at home; I just try my best not to make it a habit.  People consistently tell me from their own experiences to live college life to the fullest.  Just last week I was scrolling through our student voices blog and that philosophy was reinforced by a post from previous blogger, Nick Lo Vetere.

In his post he states, “The fall semester felt like it was over as soon as it began and the spring semester feels almost as if everything over the past several months happened in a matter of a week.”

He goes on to state that he would take advantage of every opportunity from going out with friends to forming new relationships.   His parting quote from the post reads, “I can only hope that if incoming college students stumble across this post that they go to school with the notion that it will go by quick and they need to take advantage of everything as early as possible.”

I feel that I have waited too long to really begin my own experience especially after being stuck at a community college for the first half.  Now I feel like I am trying to play catch up and I’m jamming four years worth of experiences into a two year timeline here at NIU.  I feel that I have done a fair job but there is only so much time left where you’ll have a month off in winter, a week off every spring, and three months off for summer.  Please heed our advice when we say that College moves very quickly.  As Ben Franklin, one of our nation’s founding fathers used to say, “Lost time is never found”.frankling 300x167 Carpe Diem

Plan out your time early and often and make your college years memorable.  Go on a road trip or see someplace foreign.  Go out to apple orchards in the fall or kayak down a river in summer.  Do whatever you want; just do something!  Go out of your comfort zone and do something remarkable (I’m thinking skydiving for me).  Don’t leave college saying I should have done THAT because who knows when the next opportunity to do THAT will be. 2.0out

 

Fast-Trak MBA

My senior year has just begun but it is already time to start buckling down and finding out where ‘future me’ will be once graduation is over.  The opportunities are endless; I just have to look for them.  From jobs to internships and everything in between, there must be a place for a Marketing Major like me.  But what if I’m not ready for a career just yet and want to continue my education instead?  Well, if you are thinking the same thing then today is your lucky day. I’ve already done the research for you and found some amazing opportunities hosted here at NIU!  One in particular caught my eye.  It is called the NIU Fast-Trak MBA and after doing my own basic digging, I took it upon myself to interview the coordinator of the program, Anthony Preston.

 Why are you excited about the Fast-Trak MBA?

  • The most exciting part is we’ve made a lot of enhancements from our original program.  The first part is our insight program.  It consists of four components.
    • The first is participating in workshops.  Students practice speaking in front of large crowds, business writing, etiquette, etc… things companies really look at but we can’t learn in class.  It is very experiential.
    • The second component is that each student will receive a personal career coach.  It’s his job to make sure that you have a job by the time you graduate.”
    • Each student will be given an ementor.  Each mentor is an MBA alum.  Students can ask their ementor, hey what are you doing in your company with all these different topics?
    • Finally, we’re going to bring in very experienced guest speakers.  We also take students to different companies so they can see all the stuff they’re learning being applied.
      bordeaux Fast Trak MBA

      Bordeaux, France

       

 What else does the Fast-Trak MBA have to offer?

  • Students are traveling to a different country spending 6 weeks in Murcia, Spain or Bordeaux, France depending on the semester.  They’re going to learn the curriculum they’re being taught as well as the different culture.  They’ll be with students representing over 40 countries.  They can learn not only what’s going on in Europe but also what’s going on in countries where fellow students are coming from.  This is all going to happen in 12 months; 2 degrees in 12 months.
    Spain Fast Trak MBA
    Murcia, Spain

What does this program give students that other programs can’t?

  • We really pride ourselves on personal attention in the MBA programs.  All the professors will know your name, and it will be a dialogue.  When we can say that there’s 100% placement of our students working in jobs that they want to work in, that’s something that we’re really proud of.  There’s not one MBA program that is doing what we’re doing …you can’t find it anywhere and it’s accredited. In Chicago there are only 7 accredited schools and NIU is one of them.

 Build your network and make life long relationships

Because the class is so small you’re taking every single class with the same group of students for 12 months.  Those students are there to be your support network and ‘extended family’ for the 12 months.  You build an extreme bond and friendship with your teammates.

 Exceptional balance of work and play

Students will have class Monday through Thursday.  On Friday, Saturday, and Sunday they can actually travel.  Last year students went to Rome, Barcelona, Paris, Madrid, and Switzerland.  With the cheap airfare, students are able to see a different country in a weekend and be back and ready for class by Monday.

Rome Fast Trak MBA

Rome, Italy

As a fan of international travel and challenging workloads I feel this program would be a great fit for me if I should decide to continue my education.  If you could see it fitting well with your interests and goals, go ahead and check out the Fast-Trak MBA’s website at http://www.cob.niu.edu/mbaFastTrak/.  Who knows, maybe I’ll see some of you in France or Spain sooner than you think! 2.0out

Reflections on Barsema Hall

So here I am, sitting in the atrium enjoying a midday hotdog and I can’t help but feel like I’m a part of something much bigger than myself.  The atrium feels energetic and full of life.  It is the proverbial heartbeat of the college and it is such an interesting and diverse place to be in.  Not only is it a place where students take a moment to relax and socialize with their peers but it doubles as a study area where they can complete assignments and other tasks.  This work and play atmosphere provides an interesting dynamic to the feel of the space.

As I finish my hotdog, I step outside where I overlook Dad’s Pond from the terrace.  This is my place to reflect.  In between classes you will often find me here pondering my next move.  It’s as though I’m playing a game of chess with life and my responsibilities are the pieces.  The benches along the walkway provide me with a moment of clarity and the breeze that passes by comes with almost a rhythmic frequency (*contented sigh*).  Just before I get too relaxed, I head back inside to move to my next task. BarsemaSunrise 1024x681 Reflections on Barsema Hall

The thing I enjoy most when I step back inside is the fact that I really feel like a young professional when I enter Barsema Hall.  I am surrounded by the future which is kept in the hearts and minds of my peers and in the walls of the institution.  The future is born from our motivation and our dreams and I get the opportunity everyday to see other students working hard to live out their own!

For the amount of time that I spend in this building I could almost call it home (I’d rather not call it that because then they’d start charging me rent).  The faculty make me feel at home and not a day goes by where I don’t speak with my professors outside of class.  A majority of the time, the conversations never have anything to do with classes or related projects.  Students will walk by and say hi and it all feels like I have an extended family here.  These people have grown with me professionally and worked beside me for the past year.  Going through that process really seems to strengthen the ties between students here at the College of Business.

When I was younger I thought that I’d just become another number in College…how much further could I have been from the truth.hot dog 300x225 Reflections on Barsema Hall

These thoughts I catalogued above came to me courtesy of a few minutes between class and a hot dog.  Imagine that.  Anyways, thanks so much to Dennis and Stacey Barsema for providing this amazing building and thank you to the faculty and students that breathe life into the NIU College of Business.  Give yourselves a pat on the back.  Together, we’ve made a population of students into a community of students! 2.0out

Behind the Music: UBUS 310

With Halloween coming up soon I wanted to talk about a scary story that people often hear before ever setting foot in Barsema Hall.  The story I’m referring to is the story folks tell about UBUS 310.

Long nights, endless cram sessions, and the Starbuck’s employee getting to know you on a first name basis are the typical tales passed down by 310 alumni.  We weave the course to be some sort of monster when in hindsight, I don’t really believe the course should have been that difficult at all.  In many cases it is us, the students, who simply aren’t adequately prepared for such an intense course.  I am not trying to pass the blame down and say that someone else is responsible for our shortcomings.  In the end, it is YOU who ultimately decides your grade.  The point I’m trying to make is that students coming in from community colleges or rising up through the general education courses at NIU can give students a false sense of security in their study habits, leading inevitably to struggles in such a detail oriented class like UBUS 310.

Some students are naturally gifted and have not had to study a day in their lives to get the grade.  I am telling you right now that if you are one of those students, you MUST study for UBUS 310.  I was one of these students and made it through high school and community college with no problem.  However, 310 provided me a swift kick to the rear in terms of my study habits.  For the first few weeks I struggled and didn’t know why! I had always earned A’s with minimal effort in community college…why wasn’t it the same here?  I beat myself up over the matter, thinking I didn’t get the material or wasn’t “cut out” for business until I met with another student and began studying the course material on almost a daily basis.

I see UBUS 310 not as a “weedout” class, but instead, as a great equalizer.  I feel that intelligence, GPA, and IQ have nothing to do with success in the class. Don’t write yourself off if you don’t have “numbers” telling you that you’re smart.  Instead, work smart!  Study daily to retain the most information.  Take good notes to look back on and find a group of friends to discuss the material with.  Furthermore, speak with your instructors.  They are there to help!  I never took full advantage of my professors but now I honestly don’t go a day without speaking with them outside of class.  Make the introductions early and watch your grades and network grow!

Success is not out of reach for young UBUS 310 students.  Keep at it, work hard, work smart, and stay positive.  Learn to adapt and respond to this challenging situation and you will be far better off in your courses and your careers.  A quote from American writer and futurist, Alvin Toffler, holds true.  It reads, “The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.”  2.0 out