Winning team in front of Indiana University backdrop.

From left: Isaac Gilliam, Me-Rae Kim, coach Stephanie Mangus, Alex Pouba, and Shamus Cook

A team of four Michigan State University sales leadership minor students won the National Team Selling Competition’s national championship October 30. Shamus Cook (BA Communications ’15), Isaac Gilliam (BA Marketing ’15), Me-Rae Kim (BA Communications ’15), and Alex Pouba (BA Supply Chain Management ’16) brought home this year’s title, led by coach Stephanie Mangus, assistant professor of marketing.

The National Team Selling Competition event brought together 21 teams from elite university sales programs across the U.S. for three rounds of competition designed to require use of all the skills taught through the sales leadership minor, Mangus explained, from assessing the customer’s needs to designing a solution to meet them.

“To prepare students, we watched past competition tapes (MSU teams and other winning teams from past competitions), researched the industry represented in the case, and spent countless hours practicing,” said Mangus. “Part of my role was challenging the students to practice more, stretch their skills, and find out where each of their strengths were in the process.”

The students spent many late nights practicing their presentations while balancing their classes, internships, and other work.

“We started preparing for the competition as soon as we received the case,” Pouba explained. “We spent close to two hours each day for two weeks coming up with ideas and practicing. We practiced in front of many people to get feedback and to learn how to coordinate the entire presentation as a team.”

Their team personality and their preparation stood out at the competition.

“We brought energy into the room, and we were actually having a lot of fun as a team! I think that is what truly set us apart from the other teams,” said Pouba.

As the students celebrate their victory, they also savor how the experience will help them in their future careers.

“My career, and most other careers, heavily involves solving problems and working with people. This competition was an excellent way to combine both of these skills. The judge’s feedback helps me clearly see what strengths I can bring to my future coworkers, and it lets me know what areas I need to improve on so I can be prepared before I even enter the workforce,” said Gilliam.

Teams from MSU’s sales leadership minor program have delivered four National Team Selling Competition championships in the last eight years: 2008, 2009, 2011, and now 2015.

The sales leadership minor is the only program of its kind nationwide that leverages the strengths of two nationally ranked colleges: the Eli Broad College of Business and the College of Communication Arts & Sciences. Students engage in professional internships and 200 hours of experiential learning as part of a world-class education that incorporates innovative sales and sales management research, service to the business community, and outreach initiatives. And these investments pay off for students in the program, who have had a 100 percent job placement rate for the last five years.

“This program is the reason that I found my future career at Thomson Reuters and has continued to inspire my passion for sales,” said Gilliam. “They’ve shown me how to challenge future clients to consider the impossible and help them overcome challenges in creative and thoughtful ways. I passionately believe this program has best equipped me by teaching me the skills to be successful and the opportunities to apply them.”