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Students Attempt to Close the Deal in Personal Selling Class at USD

Thirty-two students participated in a selling competition May 3 to culminate their work in a personal selling class, a required course in the University of San Diego’s business school.

Taught by Tim Becker, the course teaches the ins and outs of sales to juniors and seniors.

The competition served as a final exam, where students put together a sales plan for a product and pitched it to one of 13 volunteers from local businesses who served as buyers.

“This class is completely unique compared to any other classes I’ve been taking , the experience is so lifelike, and it helped to have a personal interest in the product that I chose,” said junior Derek Ouellette, who pitched his Hai flat irons. His father, Richard Ouellette, is chief executive officer of the Poway company that makes the product.

Becker has also been president of Total Recall Learning Inc. since 1998. The company provides learning software that targets long-term retention.

Junior Sean Zanganeh sold a membership to an athletic club, and said he will remember what he learned in Becker’s class in real life situations.

Patti Gerke, a real estate agent for Carmel Valley-based Prudential California Realty, has volunteered to sit in as a mock buyer during Becker’s class for three years now.

“I’m a very big proponent of the whole process, as my background is in education, and now I’m in sales. I wish I’d had an opportunity to work out the kinks in front of classmates rather than clients,” said Gerke.

She noted that the students’ confidence, follow-through, and apparent ability to close a deal were constants in all of the pitches she judged.

Jennifer Boehm, a junior, said she’s glad the class is over.

“It was a truly demanding class, but one that taught me how to work my angle to target a client’s needs,” said Boehm.

Business professionals who volunteered their time for the competition included Erin Bundy, recruiting coordinator for New England Financial; Gretchen English, owner of Gretchen English Esthetics; and Garrett Bleakley, college unit director for Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.

“Two of the buyers stopped me at the end to say they’d wished they had made contact with the students earlier to offer them jobs, or at least talk about possible internships,” said Becker.

Advice that the businesses had to offer included knowing the customer, positioning the business around profit, following up, and treating potential clients as possible lifetime business relations rather than making a quick sale.

“You’re always selling yourself; it’s not all about your product,” said Gerke.

She advised the class that not knowing every answer is all right during a sale because it invites a follow-up meeting.

Joanne Chen, Total Recall Learning’s public relations specialist, also sat in as a judge and said the students’ confidence and eye contact impressed her the most.

Becker also teaches a services marketing class, which was scheduled to participate in a similar trade show competition last week, with nine judges evaluating the students’ efforts.

“It (the selling competition) was an interesting experiment in testing my own limits and abilities, and even more interesting that everyone took it seriously,” added Zanganeh.

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