Sales Competition Prepares Students for Career Success

Sales Competition Winners

Oct. 15, 2018

Fourteen University of Montana business students participated in a career-shaping experience as contestants in the Northwestern Mutual Sales Competition last week. The event, now in its fifth year at UM, challenged students to sell a product to a potential client in a role-play setting.

“By selling, that means I need to persuade somebody to understand my way of thinking, my idea, my belief, my recommendation,” said Michael Butler, the Northwestern Mutual development officer responsible for implementing the contest at UM. “It isn’t always about a tangible product, as many people may think, it’s about selling yourself.”

In the process, the students got to sharpen their interpersonal and verbal communication abilities — skills they’ll need throughout their careers.

As each student pitched a product to a live client (Butler), judges watched a live video feed from another room in Gallagher Business Building. Judges included seasoned sales executives, entrepreneurs, and other members of the business community. They evaluated the contestants on everything from their ability to describe the offering to their skill in overcoming client concerns. Students received live coaching and feedback from the judges based on their performance.

For the top three contestants, there was also the reward of a total of $4,000 in scholarships. Northwestern Mutual awarded $2,500 to Kendall Brubaker­­­, $1,000 to Riley Horigan, and $500 to Teresa Zortman.

Brubaker and Horigan will have the opportunity to represent UM in the National Collegiate Sales Competition this spring at Kennesaw State University in Georgia. With students from more than 70 universities from across the country competing in that event, it is the largest and oldest sales role-play competition in existence.

“A lot of the top universities around the country have these teams that they take to nationals. It’s a great opportunity to showcase their students, and it’s great for UM to have a presence there,” Butler said.

Northwestern Mutual initiated the contest at the University of Montana as a way to make a deeper connection with students while visiting the College of Business to recruit for interns and long-term employees.

“The progression of the students, their preparedness and skills, over the five years we’ve been doing this is impressive,” Butler said. “Everyone at the college who has a hand in preparing these students should feel proud.”

Photo, from left: Third place winner Teresa Zortman, second place winner Riley Horigan, and first-place winner Kendall Brubaker­­­ with Northwestern Mutual’s Michael Butler.