Rising stars in WMU sales and marketing program place at competition

contact: Stacey Markin and Mark Schwerin
| WMU News
Photo of Jeremy Juday, Kaitlyn Phillips and Lauren Nowakowski.

From left: Jeremy Juday, Kaitlyn Phillips and Lauren Nowakowski

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—A team of two Western Michigan University sales and business marketing students placed third overall at the University of Toledo Invitational Sales Competition, with one student placing second in individual standings and the other in ninth place.

Junior Kaitlyn Phillips, of Rockford, and sophomore Lauren Nowakowski, of Granger, Indiana, represented WMU. They were tasked with selling 3M VHB Tape, an industrial strength tape, to buyers, role-playing for 15 minutes per round with groups representing different stakeholders at a Display Sign Manufacturing Company.

Nowakowski made it to the semi-final round, and Phillips went on to the finals to finish as the runner up. Students were coached by a student coach, senior Jeremy Juday of Dowagiac, and associate professor of marketing Dr. Kelley O'Reilly. The students met three times per week for two-hour sessions for seven weeks, doing research, practicing role plays and getting feedback on their presentation skills.

"Really owning the role of a rep for 3M was a challenge," Phillips says. "Role-playing can be odd in that you are pretending to be something you are not, and the person you are selling to is doing the same. You might think that would be uncomfortable, but it was actually much easier and more natural than I expected as I became more and more immersed in my role and selling scenarios."

The competition is unique in that it focuses on beginning sales students or students interested in sales as a major, and in its second year is drawing students from across the country to compete.

Nowakowski has yet to take her first formal sales class at WMU, but is still getting competition experience as a younger student.

"I have learned so much about my sales style and how it will help me throughout my education and career," she says.

O'Reilly is proud of the team's third place finish, moving up five spots over last year.

"This year, I engaged a student to coach the team with me," O'Reilly says, "and the success of the team is directly related to how strong Jeremy's coaching was."

First-time coach Juday learned about what it takes to achieve successful results. "Throughout this process, the concept that in sales you really do get out what you put in was reaffirmed for me. Preparation is key. I also learned that sales is a tough concept to teach because there are so many variables to the process. You can only control the interaction from one side of the table, and then you must think outside of the box regarding the responses you could receive at different points throughout the interactions. I think preparing for a competition like this makes us appreciate all the more the tremendous sales faculty we have guiding us in our program."

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