With a changing landscape that demands greater focus on critical thinking, analytical skills and the ability to negotiate, business-to-business sales is increasingly capturing students’ attention. At FIU’s College of Business, they’re tackling the selling hands-on.
Using role-playing techniques, 42 students in the FIU Professional Sales Program participated in the annual Sales Tournament. At the March 6 event, they were tasked with selling an iPhone 6 Plus to a medical facility executive during a 15-minute in-person meeting. All of the buyers and judges in the competition were executives from Miami-based companies.
Now in its second year, the sales tournament introduced a Spanish-language track, where the selling and buying conversation was conducted in-language and students were judged by local Hispanic sales executives.
“There’s such a need for candidates and employees that are bilingual that it’s important students recognize it,” said Erika Cabrera, sales recruiter at ADP, which provides human resource, payroll, tax and benefits administration, and one of the judges. “We do a lot of business with a variety of cultures, especially in Miami, and Spanish is what I search for.”
Of the students who participated in the March 6 tournament, 18 also did it en español.
“The sales process is the same regardless of language,” said Rafael Soltero Venegas, visiting instructor in the College of Business’ department of marketing. “The biggest challenge that students face in sales is practice, and that’s what makes the process more effective.”
There were five winners in each segment of the tournament:
- English-language: Gerardo Van Dalen, Gloria Leviron, Gabriel Sarria, Carolina Chavez and Lisan Leal
- Spanish-language: Shadya Duenas, Rosangel Espinoza, Alessandra Paez-Bozzi, Gisella Roseney, and Mary Vizcaino
Of the five winners in the Spanish-language competition, three advanced to Round 2 in the English-language competition – Rosangel Espinoza, Shadya Duenas, and Mary Vizcaino.
“From a strategic standpoint, it’s a great opportunity for students to learn sales skills in both languages,” said Nancy Rauseo, R. Kirk Landon Undergraduate Teaching and Student Engagement Fellow, and faculty advisor to the FIU Sales Club. “We’re also fulfilling a need that companies have – to get better talent.”
Perez-Bozzi, a Venezuelan student majoring in international business marketing, described the tournament as tough.
“When you want to present a product to a company, you have to sell it differently than to a friend; you’re looking at something you know from a different perspective,” she recalled. “For me, the English competition was harder because of the language, but the buyer was easier than the one in Spanish.”
Sales tournament proves a tough assignment.
The presentation required students to build a rapport with the buyer, identify his needs, showcase the product and its positive impact on the business, address any objections from the buyer, and ultimately close the sale.
The buyers weren’t always quick to seal the deal. In one Spanish-language session, the hospital CEO manipulated the conversation, focusing on fees rather than the product. Another buyer wanted to know how the iPhone 6 Plus would help him stay connected with the clinic’s sales force and to manage patients’ medical records.
“We’ve seen how students creatively address issues of security and problem solving,” said Guillermo Benites, CEO of Miami-based technology company Axxis Solutions. “It’s challenging to sit before a professional to pitch a product and be able to defend it; they’ve done a very good job at preparing.”
One student salesperson offered the buyer a 15-day pilot plan, promising “if we don’t sell you, we go back to where you were before.” Overflowing with confidence, another student came with a contract in hand… and got it signed.
The FIU Sales Program includes a Professional Sales minor, a certificate program, and a Sales Team that competes at national events. The program’s goal, to provide students with the basic selling skills and valuable techniques that will give them an advantage in the business-to-business sales field. For Sales Program faculty, adding a Spanish-language track was a logical next step.
“Our dream is to become the center of sales training for the international market,” said Soltero. FIU’s plans call for expanding the 2016 tournament to make it an international competition, extending it into various Latin American countries including Mexico and Colombia.