Our semi-finalists and coaches report on sales coaching and their experience with the European Sales Competition 2020.
Simulating a real sales process in the business-to-business sector and awarding prizes to the best junior salespeople is the aim of the annual European Sales Competition (ESC), an international sales competition – an exciting task in a challenging situation. The three-day competition took place virtually in early December 2020. Two students from the Marketing & Sales Management Study programs, Elisabeth Putz and Dominik Dunkler, were semi-finalists in the international competition. We have summarized their experience reports in these articles:
>> Great things never come from your comfort zone
Elisabeth Putz, Student of the Bachelor’s Program in Marketing & Sales
>> Performance at the push of a button
Dominik Dunkler, Student of the Master’s Program in Marketing & Sales Management
The two students were coached by Marina Prem, Academic Coordinator for Sales & CRM, and Christoph Haudek, external lecturer at FHWien der WKW and management consultant specialized in sales. We have summarized their impressions of the competition, the coaching sessions and the outstanding performance of their students here:
The importance of “Sales” and “Sales Management” in the study programs as well as in practice is underlined in this paragraph:
As a student from the Marketing & Sales Management Study programs at FHWien der WKW you can apply for the ESC 2021! The next competition will take place in Turku. Interested students can contact Academic Coordinator Marina Prem at firstname.lastname@example.org at any time and will be taken into consideration!
Great things never come from your comfort zone
Experience report by semi-finalist Elisabeth Putz
I just find sales totally exciting. So when Ms Prem sent out an email to apply for the ESC, I really wanted to get the 6-week coaching from the pros so that I could learn even more about negotiating.
The virtual setting
The ESC ran via an online platform, negotiation simulations themselves were via Zoom. After grouping with a total of three rounds, each participant was assigned one slot per day, in which a 1:1 conversation was then conducted via Zoom. At first it was a bit challenging to get familiar with all the virtual rooms. It then got easier and was definitely doable. I really felt that the organizers made the best of the situation. I was able to get to know the members of my group at the beginning, but unfortunately there were very limited networking opportunities due to the online format. We did, however, have the opportunity to introduce ourselves to the companies. The sponsors picked students for 1:1 recruiting interviews. This was a really great opportunity!
The competition & the preparation
The most exciting part for me was the first interview, an elevator pitch. I only had three minutes to convince the other person of my product and be guaranteed another 15-minute interview. The second round lasted 15 minutes and was for needs analysis and product presentation. The third, 20-minute round again consisted of needs analysis and product presentation, but with a person from a different department. The challenge here was to identify the wishes and needs of the counterpart from different departments. At the end of each round, a follow-up meeting had to be arranged.
We prepared for the ESC with 6 weeks of online sales coaching together with our sales coaches Marina Prem and Christoph Haudek. Dominik and I had many simulations and also practiced online besides the coaching sessions. We built the coaching according to the stages of a sales call and always simulated the phases we had learned so far. The focus here was clearly on needs analysis. It was particularly important to the coaches that we respond to the customer’s needs individually and ask specific questions. They gave us countless valuable tips and shared their knowledge with us.
What I take from it
I definitely came out of my comfort zone before and during the ESC! It was a very intense time in which I really learned a lot, personally as well as professionally. The coaches motivated and encouraged us and managed to bring out the best in us and to believe in ourselves. Furthermore, the ESC helped me to have more courage. From the preliminaries to the last round in the competition, there were many situations that required courage and I am very proud to have shown it. I will use this courage in my studies as well as in my professional life and always keep in mind the saying “Great things never come from your comfort zone” by Ms Prem.
Performance at the push of a button
Experience report by semi-finalist Dominik Dunkler
I’m a curious person in general and I see competitions as a chance to grow and sharpen my skills. It was the first competition of this kind for me. The opportunity to prepare professionally for this ESC event by means of coaching is something I don’t take for granted and it was full of opportunities.
The virtual event
In terms of organization, the entire event was postponed from July to December 2020 because of COVID19. The event took place online over three days. Roughly, it was divided into three parts: the sales competition, the info lectures and the networking areas. The networking part reached its limits in the digital format and I’m more the type who shakes hands. Despite this, my focus was very much on the competition. Thus, each student certainly had individual experiences. There were also presentations by all three sponsors (Salesforce, Gartner and Paloalto). I found the interview with a recruiter from Paloalto particularly interesting because it was more personal and extensive. I also didn’t know the company until then. I also found the info talk on data security interesting, as well as the information about opportunities and programs for graduates. Overall, I got a better picture of all three companies and I am still in contact with them.
The sales coaching sessions
Marina Prem and Christoph Haudek provided an organizational framework with regular coaching sessions. I count these as the highlights because I found them instructive and appreciative. And of course, there was always a bit of humor! The coaching sessions took place on a voluntary basis at set times via Zoom together with fellow participant and FH buddy Elisabeth Putz, whom I also got to know and appreciate more during these coaching sessions. There were specific tasks after each session that related to the ESC rounds and the sales call setting.
We solved the tasks partly on our own, partly Elisabeth and I conducted joint coaching sessions (like sparring partners) and then presented our approaches in the next coaching session. I learned about Salesforce and Roxcel Trading (seller and buyer companies in the ESC setting), and of course about CRM. Since I already worked professionally with a CRM system, I was able to put my knowledge and experience to good use, I think. In my opinion, the focus in the coaching sessions was on interpersonal communication (verbal and non-verbal), emotionalization and storytelling, question structure and needs analysis, objection handling, and generally the individual sales and selling phases (from initial contact to closing).
I conducted the three-minute initial round standing up and with the front camera of the smart phone, since I also handled it that way during the coaching sessions. I didn’t want to change anything about that. It was an elevator pitch, aimed at being able to generate interest and get to the point or appointment quickly. Mentally, I prepared by going over important coaching points (active listening, focus on getting started, keeping eye contact, camera position, speaking slowly etc.). Keeping eye contact virtually is not always easy. In the second round (15 minutes), the focus was on needs analysis, i.e. understanding the counterpart and eliciting information with targeted questions, and also leading the conversation. In the coaching sessions, we paid attention to both rounds, but focused more on Round 2 because it was more challenging and longer. Only after the two rounds were we told if we were in Round 3 (semifinals). In return, we had an interview with a new person, but it was very similar to Round 2. I found the sales rounds exciting and new, because you had to perform at the push of a button and talk to a potential buyer, while being observed and evaluated unnoticed by three to four people.
What I take from it
Overall, it was worth it to step out of my comfort zone and take on new adventures, exciting and enjoyable things can happen even in the Corona year!
Virtual settings and conversations will increase, both personally and professionally and in my studies, these acquired experiences will help me. I would like to continue to improve my digital presentation skills. The experience and the feedback I received encourage me in my choice of studies (Master‘s Program in Marketing & Sales Management) and my professional focus on sales.
Sales coaches on the ESC 2020
Marina Prem is Academic Coordinator Sales & CRM for the Marketing & Sales Management Study Programs at FHWien der WKW. She teaches and coordinates external lecturers from the private sector, business field projects and international guest lecturers.
Christoph Haudek is an external lecturer at FHWien der WKW. As a management consultant with focus on sales, he passes on his know-how and expertise in courses such as “Customer Management and Sales Negotiations” and “Sales Management”.
The fact that the ESC 2020 was cancelled in spring was initially disappointing for Marina Prem. She was all the more pleased when she was informed that the competition could take place online. Christoph Haudek sees the first-time staging of the ESC in the Corona year as an online competition as a good alternative. The event was well structured and divided into several rounds, and the participants were able to prepare specifically for each round in advance. For Marina Prem, the main challenge was that it was the first time and therefore more research as well as setting up a suitable structure was necessary.
Particularly exciting for the two lecturers from FHWien der WKW was the search and selection of suitable candidates in advance as well as the regular coaching sessions with theory and practice. The focus here was on strengthening the individual strengths of the candidates and applying targeted focal points with regard to questioning techniques and presentation in sales talks. The dedicated commitment of the two participants was a particular highlight for both of them, as the cooperation with the students was carried out in a particularly professional and appreciative manner.
Looking back on the coaching sessions, Marina Prem summarizes:
“The students really developed during the coaching sessions and it was a pleasure to see how they soaked up the feedback from us coaches like a sponge, inquisitively asked questions and showed a strength in self-reflection. The students also went through exercises and simulations in pairs between coaching sessions and grew from it. Impressively, there was never a sense of rivalry and they supported each other!”
She describes the collaboration with sales coach Christoph Haudek as follows: “Christoph Haudek was a valuable support and a competent teacher and coach throughout, from the preliminary round to the final!”
Unfortunately, the individual rounds were not accessible to coaches. The organizers had arranged for participants to face a client online via video conferencing. Members of the jury (provided by the hosts) were on without video to evaluate the conversations.
On reaching the semi-finals, Christoph Haudek has the following words of praise:
“I am thrilled with the commitment and determination with which both finalists approached our coaching sessions, they then saw the result at the finals. For me personally, both are winners, winners in professional and winners in personal terms, I congratulate both from the bottom of my heart and am proud of them both. I would like to thank Marina Prem here again for her great commitment and appreciative approach to the students!”
Marina Prem also expresses her heartfelt congratulations:
“Congratulations again to Elisabeth Putz and Dominik Dunkler for making it to the semi-finals! They can be really proud of themselves for getting out of their comfort zone and putting on a great performance, I certainly am! I think it’s remarkable how the two students trained together for the competition and supported each other as they learned, practiced and grew. It was rewarding to work with them both! At this point also THANK YOU to Christoph Haudek for his tireless efforts and dedication & know-how he brought to the preparation for ESC 2020!”
Sales Management at FHWien der WKW
“Sales” or “Sales Management” plays an important role in the Marketing & Sales Management Study Programs, both from a professional point of view and in terms of its significance in practice. The high demand in the economy for professional salespersons reflects the importance of this field and underlines the high significance for companies. FHWien der WKW therefore strives to educate its students in this field in a practice-oriented manner using the latest technologies. Graduates understand how complex and important this topic is for companies and thus also for them as possible future employees.
For example, in the course “Customer Management and Sales Negotiation”, software is used that uses biometric data to reflect the emotions of salespeople. Based on this “Biometric Sales Coaching”, the students receive not only comprehensive feedback from the instructors but also deeper insights into the course of the conversation as well as the associated personal emotions.
Nowadays, a deep understanding of the customer is not only a prerequisite for the sales department, but also for all employees or persons in charge who represent an interface to customers. The individual response to the needs of the counterpart is what Sales Excellence is all about.
Would you also like to become a sales expert? Then apply now for our Bachelor’s or Master’s Programs in Marketing & Sales Management!