Joel LaChappelle and Morgan Hess earned top honors in a worldwide sales competition using their masterful selling skills with an artificial intelligence bot.
Imagine working for Dell as a technology sales representative and trying to develop a relationship over your mobile devise with a police department IT manager—striving to get him to buy the latest Dell laptop.
While that may not sound too daunting, what if the IT manager was actually an AI bot named Alex Taylor?
That scenario is exactly what students who competed in the RNMKRS (pronounced Rainmakers) worldwide fall sales competition had to do last month.
LSBE students Joel LaChappelle and Morgan Hess successfully applied what they had learned in the school’s Professional Sales program taking first and second place, respectively, in the competition. That’s quite a feat when there were 2,177 students from 50 schools located in the United States, Canada, and Germany—a competition that was open to any school worldwide.
Additionally, LSBE’s Joe Wilson finished seventh, and Brett Rodenberg was in the top 20—meaning four Bulldogs finished in the top 1% in the event held November 18-19. LSBE had over 100 students from three sales classes participate. Forty finished in the top 30%, and 27 finished in the top 20% out of the almost 2,200 students.
As they talked with Alex, the students’ sales skills were being digitally scored on seven components: opening, discovery, presentation, objection, closing, communication, and empathy. They only had 15 minutes!
In preparation for the competition, students honed their sales techniques throughout the semester via simulated interaction with Taylor, the AI customer bot that listened, adapted, and responded as students used voice activation on their mobile devices.
“I practiced each section of the sales presentation separately for a month to ensure that I could perfect each section to the best of my abilities before doing the entire sales presentation as a whole,” said Hess, a senior Professional Sales and Marketing double major. “However, the curriculum of Professor Kratz’s [Professional Sales Program director and Marketing instructor] Fundamentals of Selling class had been preparing me throughout the semester.”
“I feel so honored and grateful to have received first place,” said LaChappelle, a junior Professional Sales and Finance double major. “The sales program gave me the framework and tools to succeed—from John Kratz’s Fundamentals of Selling class, to the UMD Sales Club, to the amazing fellow Bulldogs in the sales program—all these factors got me to the top spot in this year’s competition.”
Out of 10,000 points, LaChappelle earned a total of 9,544. Hess attained 9,361. Individual category scores were also provided so students could learn what they excelled at and what they needed to improve upon.
The competition was a good exercise in learning about artificial intelligence, especially since businesses are utilizing AI more and more.
“It takes a lot of patience and dedication to be able to break-down AI and learn how to effectively communicate with it,” said Hess.
The top five winners from the competition receive access to a personal career coach. Additionally, major global employers hand-select students to hire based on the students’ RNMKRS competition skills.
“Industry demand for entry-level sales is still strong,” said Kratz, who along with Steve Castleberry, professor of Marketing and Business Ethics was also the students’ coach.
“Dell Technologies, United Health Care, TTi, 3M, Fastenal, Northwestern Mutual, and Uline have hired recent grads or those who will be graduating this spring,” said Kratz.
“I can take what I have learned from this competition and apply it to my future interactions with people in the business world,” said LaChappelle. “This recognition will help me get in the door for interviews, and it demonstrates that I have proven sales success.”
Both Hess and LaChappelle plan to use their talents in jobs where they can apply the knowledge gained from their double majors.
“I chose to add Professional Sales as a major to increase my knowledge of sales and learn how to sell myself. No matter what career we enter, we must be able to sell ourselves in interviews. Having this sales major in addition to Finance, makes me competitive in the job market as well.
“LSBE’s Professional Sales major has been overwhelmingly successful,” said Kratz. “We hit our five-year enrollment objective in just 37 weeks, and we only launched last fall!”
Out of LSBE’s fifteen majors, it is now the fourth largest with 98 students enrolled.
“When I came to UMD as a transfer student, I began as a Marketing major. This past spring, my marketing advisor connected me with Kratz who completely sold me on double majoring in Professional Sales and Marketing. The program has been a great way to expand my knowledge and learn skills that I can use in everyday life.”