In the 2014 Sales Decathlon, hosted by Northern Illinois University, a Broad senior took silver. Zach Doerr (BA Marketing ’15) won second place in the annual event, which concluded October 4. Doerr, part of the sales communication specialization, also placed first in two events and third in another.
The Sales Decathlon, created by NIU’s Professional Sales Program, “offers students a chance to pit their talents versus others to see who can better meet the client’s needs. It mimics the complete sales process, from leaving a voicemail, executing a call, and perhaps closing the sale. You must be sharp in each of the 10 events, or someone else will take your prospect, period,” emphasized Robert M. Peterson, the program’s director.
The competition began in March with approximately 150 students from 21 universities across the U.S. and Canada. During the three initial competition rounds, students utilized sales skills taught in their collegiate sales programs to complete the first steps that would eventually lead to making a face-to-face sales call on a prospective customer. Industry partners from 60 companies reduced the field to the final 20 student athletes, who were invited to NIU.
In the preliminary events, Doerr placed first in crafting a voicemail for a prospect and third in making a call to a gatekeeper to secure an appointment. At the NIU competition, he took first in elevator pitching, which was done in a real elevator in the time it took to travel 16 floors, and second in the final event: the actual, face-to-face conversation with the person who could make a purchase decision. Only the four best competitors made it to this final event, which determined the Sales Athlete of the Year.
It was Doerr’s first time at the decathlon, but his fifth sales-related competition as a Broad student.
“I really like the problem-solving, networking, relationship-building aspect [of the competitions],” Doerr said. “It’s a fantastic learning experience. I love the competitive atmosphere, the travel, representing MSU to 10 other schools, working with professors to prepare, and networking with competition sponsors who are looking to recruit new salespeople.”
He made some significant sacrifices to compete—the on-site finals took place during MSU’s midterm exams and the Career Gallery Business Exchange. But the experience also allowed him to showcase his skills for potential employers.
“I came to MSU for the sales program,” Doerr explained. “It’s a world-class program.”
Doerr’s experiences in the sales communication program led to an internship at Bell Helicopters last summer, where his passion for sales and love for flying came together.
As Doerr flies off to parts unknown after May, it’s clear he will be helping others solve their problems through consultative sales.