Networking in National Business Competitions

By MEGHAN MEIER

KENNESAW, Ga. – It was built on the importance of fun. A matrix designed to exercise business relations and to strengthen student abilities in corporate marketing. Under the conception of Dr. Terry Leo, Director of the Center for Professional Selling at Kennesaw State Univeristy, the National Collegiate Sales Competition was established in 1999 to meet these ideal goals.

In a fictional setting, the goal of the NCSC is to teach its competitors how to deliver and maintain a marketable sale to potential corporate partners. Allotted 20 minutes per role-play, each competing student is categorically judged based on individual performance and the combined score of all competing teammates.

After his faculty position at Baylor University, Leo made his way to Kennesaw State University in 2003, where he made the Coles College of Business the head operations to host the NCSC annual event.

Now, celebrating its 15th consecutive year beginning March 1, this four-day event will bring together the world’s top leading companies and 67 universities worldwide under one roof.

“All I am doing is trying to help improve the lives of people or improve companies,” Leo said.

There was no such thing as coincidence when it came to the creation of the NCSC. It was built under methodical practice and love for the development of business. Based on Leo’s past relations at Mississippi State University, it was there the concept of the NCSC began to take place.

As a student and baseball player, Leo had the opportunity to compete in two of the College World Series. It was at the ballpark, where players gave it their all to exceed the scouts’ expectations. Here, the idea of players and sponsors coming together helped choreograph the ideal representation of what the NCSC stands for today. Rather than sponsors observing players from the crowded stadium, the NCSC fills the halls of KSU with corporate sponsors and judging panels that meet and evaluate the competing students.

This intimate access allows students to gain personal knowledge about themselves as emerging business employees and about future prospects in the corporate world.

Competitive Approach

Playing baseball for Mississippi State University and attending the College World Series became the two elemental foundations on which a national business competition should be based. Within the competing walls, the scouts and players cohesively illustrated the context of what Leo was trying to create in an organization fit for university students. Doing so, he created a competing network that not only spans the North American continent, but across Europe as well.

“The goal was to have a national competition, and I envisioned the College World Series, which I participated in,” said Leo. “We don’t really have a season, but I envisioned all the schools in the country that taught sales and had sales programs of some kind to have a national competition.”

When the NCSC opened its doors for the first time at Baylor University in 1999, 13 universities and eight companies were first represented in the competition’s events. Growth and popularity rapidly followed Leo as he traveled to KSU to join the Coles College of Business in 2003.

With greater recognition to the program, the NCSC introduced four new faculty members, including Leo, and registered 32 universities to join the NCSC that year. Now moving to this year’s events, the NCSC and KSU will be housing some of the world’s Fortune 10 companies and networking 67 universities worldwide.

Among competing universities, students from the United States, Canada and Belgium will flock to Kennesaw State University to compete in strategic role-play simulations and meet the many sponsors who will be attending the organization’s most anticipated career fair.

Although the role-play enactments are the core focus of the NCSC, the two-day career fair helps incorporate the networking relationships of both the students and corporate sponsors alike. Attending gives businesses the chance to extend and build their company’s reputation and partnerships.

Targeted Networking

More importantly, advertising among these companies help sustain mobility in this fast-paced profession. For participating companies such as Aetna Inc. and Verizon Communications Inc., the event provides students and company representatives the opportunity to shake hands and create future opportunities.

“It’s a one-stop shop,” said Mary Foster, Coordinator for the National Collegiate Sales Competition. “When they go to recruit, they are sending people from all over the United States to recruit from different universities. And they are getting all [of the students] right here who are interested in sales. Because if they go to the regular career fair, not many will be interested in sales.”

For 23-year-old Brian McMarron, Pro Sales Major and Sales Team Competition for KSU, preparing for the NCSC was a long and dedicated process. Representing KSU along with his business team and coach strategist Dr. Gary Seldon, preparation is two months in the making. Focusing on role-playing scenarios and confidence-building techniques, McMarron readied himself for the inevitable.

“It goes back to being comfortable with being uncomfortable. I’ve been doing five to six role-plays every day for the last two months, “ said McMarron. “So, I’ve put myself in many situations that I have multiple buyers. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into. So, you just get comfortable with whatever. So when that does happen, it is just a flip of a switch.”

Of course the NCSC is educational to all students who attend. It is a reputable tool that promotes equitable business and means of teaching students how to sell themselves as profitable marketers. However, among the preparation and long hours in the role-playing rooms, it is also about the networking. It is about connecting with those future employers and the possible opportunities of potential employment.

Promotion of Event Nearly Year-long Process

Although the NCSC only lasts four days, producing the competition is a yearly process for staff members. For Bethany Swafford, Student Programs Coordinator, 10 months is dedicated to finding the necessary aid and volunteers to work the morning and evening shifts.  To run efficiently, the NCSC needs a functioning body of 250 to 300 volunteers. Since this is a university event, Swafford first turns to KSU students who wish to volunteer or want to make connections with sponsors attending the career fair.

“Generally we start with KSU students,” said Swafford. “ Once I have that core, I say to them ‘If you have friends that you know who graduated from here or you know from the area who are looking for jobs or just want to volunteer…’[and go from there].”

Shifts at the NCSC are flexible. Volunteers are able to prearrange their schedules with the help of the NCSC staff. Those who do participate in volunteer efforts must commit to a minimum of four hours. Volunteers wishing to commit more hours are not denied, but are welcomed to put fourth more hours if they wish to do so.

The directed focus of the NCSC is to bring universities and cooperate sponsors nationally and abroad under one roof. A year in the making, NCSC staff worked diligently, using media networks to keep in touch with sponsors and universities attending. However, Swafford and her volunteer unit provided the ideal amalgamation of business and social media.

Popular social networking such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn were used to announce the NCSC time and events throughout the student body and other sponsoring partners attending the competition. More formal use of communication such as email and promotional flyers were also distributed throughout the campus to reach students and faculty.

Using these multiple forms of communication to promote the NCSC not only creates a web of networking relationships, but also connects individuals with similar interest in sales.

“It’s very humbling. There’s not very many of us, but it is what we do,” said Leo. “All the schools come to it. This is the first competition in the world like this. And it is now the biggest and oldest.”

Since its conception, the NCSC has grown exponentially. With its unique approach to networking and role-playing scenarios, the competition has stepped on to an international platform that ignited the interest of students across the globe. For both universities and sponsors alike, the creation of the NCSC not only produced a competitive edge of business, but also brought forth innovative ideas and promising venues for future endeavors.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s