Students developed strategic solutions to real business problems for seven sponsoring organizations.
On May 11, 36 students from the Jerry S. Rawls College of Business at Texas Tech University faced off in the Sales & Customer Relationship Strategy Competition. Hosted virtually by the Center for Sales & Customer Relationship Excellence, the competition was the culminating event for students who spent the last five months working to solve a business problem for one of seven sponsoring companies.
“Although we cannot fully replicate the value of an in-person event for students and sponsoring companies, we are very happy that we have been able to use technology to host a safe competition and offer this quality experiential learning opportunity for our students,” said Atul Parvatiyar, director of the center and a professor of practice in the Area of Marketing and Supply Chain Management.
Established in 2019, the competition is designed to give students both a theoretical background and applied experience in the field of sales. Students learn how to build customer relationships and sales strategies and how to effectively apply those skills in selling products, services, or ideas.
Parvatiyar said the challenges of running a virtual competition are reflective of the need for adaptability and flexibility in business, even before the COVID-19 crisis.
“The pandemic has only increased the demand for remote sales professionals,” he said. “Business and sales are fast-moving, global industries. Customers are not always in the same geographic location which is why the email, phone call and web meeting skills developed in this competition will prove useful as our students navigate the professional world.”
The virtual format also served as an opportunity to increase the global reach of the competition. Industry professionals from four continents; including Asia, Australia, Europe and North America were able to meet future sales leaders studying at Rawls College by participating in the competition, either as a judge or a representative from one of the seven sponsoring companies.
ATX Promos, an Austin-based company that provides national brands with promotional products, branded apparel and executive gifts tasked students with developing a sales strategy that would help the company better understand how to penetrate new target markets, how to improve their online/social media presence, and find new business opportunities. Students conducted a competitive analysis and examined the patterns of needs and wants within each unique market segment before developing a sales strategy that would reach the new target markets.
CKW Commercial asked students to explore how one of the company's three subsidiaries, Blind Depot, a window treatment vendor, could strategically modernize their current business mix to profitably double their annual sales revenue by 2025. Students identified three target segments for CKW Commercial and made recommendations to implement a proactive, omni-channel marketing strategy.
Dell asked students to help determine how the company could grow sales of their Infrastructure Solutions Group (ISG) products within the small business sector. After gaining an understanding of Dell Small Business, ISG products, and the data storage industry as a whole, students conducted market research to identify key market segments and made marketing strategy recommendations that would allow Dell to penetrate each segment.
First Financial Bank
First Financial, a leading community bank, tasked students with developing a strategy to help the company further penetrate and develop its banking community through loan growth and effective digital positioning. Students completed a customer discovery process, benchmarked First Financial Bank against key competitors and conducted a digital audit before offering recommendations to drive loan growth and digital optimization.
Fort Worth Youth Lacrosse Association (FWYLA)
After experiencing a lack of participation by both players and volunteers, the Fort Worth Youth Lacrosse Association asked students to identify underlying issues and make recommendations as to how the organization could overcome those challenges. Through focus groups, individual interviews and secondary competitor research, students made recommendations to help promote the organization, increase membership and sponsorships, and spread general awareness about FWYLA.
Mahindra is the number one selling tractor brand in the world; however, the company currently ranks lower in the United States. To better understand why competitors are outperforming Mahindra in U.S. sales, students were asked to determine what strategies Mahindra's top-performing dealers in the U.S. are currently using and make recommendations as to how lower-performing dealerships can implement the identified strategies and ultimately increase sales.
Texas Tech University Advancement
The Office of Intuitional Advancement asked students to develop a sales strategy to channel future and current donors to continue donating to Texas Tech University. Students interviewed current donors, recent graduates, analyzed donor trends and ultimately made recommendations as to the best communication channels to reach potential donors based on their demographic information.
After each team delivered their live presentations to the panel of international judges, they anxiously awaited the winners to be announced during a virtual awards ceremony.
During the awards ceremony, Parvatiyar commended all of the teams for the tremendous work they did in challenging times.
“You have done a fabulous job. I want to thank all of you for putting in the hard work, the extra work and long hours,” said Parvatiyar.
While the competition was indeed a lot of work for students, it was also an exceptionally rewarding experience.
“This was just overall an incredible opportunity,” said student Jennifer Hicks, a member of the ATX Promos team. “I don't know anyone else at any other college who has had an opportunity for this like we did. So this has been an incredible experience overall.”
As both a team coach and judge, Matt Glendon, director of marketing and product management at Mahindra, believes that the competition is even more rewarding for the sponsoring companies.
“We certainly appreciate the hard work [students] put in,” said Glendon. “Each group got tough questions and each group answered them with conviction and it says that you believed in what you were saying and that you were knowledgeable about the topic.”
Student Paige Hamm, a member of Glendon's team, was thankful for an opportunity to put all of the skills she has learned at TTU to the test, “As a senior this was a great opportunity to see how I can take what I have learned in all of my marketing classes and bring it together in one real-world experience.”
Thanks to the generous sponsoring companies, winning students took home scholarship prizes totaling over $35,000.
The Dell Small Business and Mahindra teams tied for third place. Each team received a $2,500 scholarship to split among team members. Second place was presented to the First Financial Bank team whose members split a $10,000 scholarship.
The top prize went to the CWK Commercial team. Members split a $20,000 scholarship.
Students who were not recognized as members of the top teams also received a small scholarship to reward their efforts.
Parvatiyar encourages all students, regardless of their major, to consider participating in future Sales & Customer Relationship Strategy Competitions as a way to refine professional skills, further sales knowledge and even get noticed by recruiters.
“This competition provides all Red Raiders with a hands-on opportunity to apply their classroom learnings and continue on their way to being well-rounded future business leaders.”
You can view the award's ceremony in its entirety here.