Hosting a regional sales competition has long been a goal of the Professional Sales Institute at Illinois State University, and this spring that dream is becoming a reality.

A group of 40 students representing 14 colleges and universities will take part in the Redbird Regional Sales Competition the first week in March.

Dr. Duleep Delpechitre, selling and sales management assistant professor, explained the event will serve as a training ground for preparing students for the 20th annual National Collegiate Sales Competition hosted at Kennesaw State University in Georgia April 3 – 6.

“We call it the Super Bowl of all sales competitions,” he said of the national event, “because 70 plus schools come from all over the country. It’s extremely competitive.”

This year, Gartner, a leading research and advisory company, will serve as the new sponsor for the program, so participating students will be challenged to learn and practice selling a different product from past years. Given the novelty of the situation the ISU faculty decided to host a sales contest that would give students the opportunity to hone their skills in a challenging and competitive environment similar to what they will face at the national event.

The Redbird Regional will kick off March 1 with an orientation and welcome program, and the multi-round competition will take place the following day. Corporate representatives will serve as buyers and judges as the students engage in simulated sales role-play scenarios to sell Gartner products. After the first round, the top 16 students will compete, and from there the playing field will be narrowed down to the final four.

“It gives our kids another practice another opportunity to learn, to demonstrate their skills and sharpen their tools prior to the national competition in April,” observed Dr. Delpechitre.

ISU is hosting an internal sales contest Feb. 16 in order to select the College of Business’ top four competitors. These students will take part in the Redbird Regional, and the two best ISU performers will advance to the national event in April.

“The objective is to improve the sales skills of our students and partnering university students,” shared the professor before relating how the participants will benefit from roundtable discussions and workshops about polishing their abilities. “Sales is all about learning. I always say selling is like swimming. You can’t read a book and learn how to swim. You’ve got to stay in the pool and see how good or bad you are and what you need to do to be a good swimmer. Selling is the same thing. You’ve got to do it over and over again to understand your strengths and, more importantly, understand your weaknesses. Then, you can improve those and become better at it.”

About a dozen companies are serving as sponsors for the Redbird Regional event, and Dr. Delpechitre explained how they will have the benefit of observing “a rich pool” of soon-to-be graduates who will be bringing their sales skills to the job market.

The professor also described the upcoming competition as an opportunity to highlight the strength of the ISU sales program.

“It is also a great way for us to build our sales institute brand. Our goal is to be one of the best sales programs in the country, and I think this is one step in that direction,” he concluded.