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Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Great Canadian Sales Competition: why you should take every opportunity that comes your way

This post is about why you should take every and all opportunities that come your way. Before I took first place in the Great Canadian Sales Competition, I had no idea that I had any aptitude for professional sales. I knew that I was interested in marketing and advertising, but did not see myself on the front-lines, pitching a product or service directly to clients. Since then, my perspective has changed a little.

Hosted by the Sales Talent Agency, the Great Canadian Sales Competition is a nation-wide competition for students who want to have their voices heard. This was the first year of the competition, and the STA did an amazing job of spreading the word. There were over 200 contestants from all over Canada. Below is a list of the schools that participated:

Students pitched a range of subjects, from the importance of eating healthy to the value of country music. There were also quite a few students who spoke about Sheridan College. You can watch their pitches here. The only instructions were to speak for 60 seconds about something we are passionate about. Some suggested topics were world peace, human rights, and the environment. Of course, I chose to speak about grilled cheese sandwiches.

You can watch my pitch here:

Wow, that was a really inspiring speech. I don't know about you, but I'm sold. That girl really knows what she's talking about.

For the record, there are some pretty amazing things you can do with a grilled cheese sandwich. While I'm on the subject, here's a link to some sandwiches that will probably blow your mind.

For round 2, we were asked to do a 1-2 minute sales pitch on one of the sponsors of the competition. The sponsors are pictured below:

The sponsor I was assigned was G&K Services, a business-to-business uniform and facility services company. G&K also happens to have amazing sales practices, which is one of the many reasons why it is the Canadian market leader in its category. You can watch my Round 2 sales pitch here:

Yet another amazing and inspiring sales pitch. I had no idea that girl was a human until she told me. Well done.

At this time, I should probably point out that what the judges picked up on was my enthusiasm and my ability to sound unscripted. What I have learned is that an important part of sales is being able to have an authentic voice (even if it means sounding a little bit hokey from time to time). All of the top 10 contestants were very comfortable in front of the camera, which is hard to do when you have to learn everything about an unfamiliar company and develop a sales pitch, all in the span of one week.

The final round of the competition took place at the Google office in Toronto. Here are a few pictures from the event:

Like every other office in the world, the Google office has arcade games and ice cream freezers in its many break rooms.

This is a mini golf course on the roof of the building. The course includes miniature versions of the City of Toronto's famous monuments. As you can imagine, most office's rooftop mini golf courses aren't as elaborate as the one at the Google office.

This picture is my personal favorite. Depicted here is a mural made completely out of rubik's cubes. It was donated to the Google office by Rubik's.

In the final round, contestants led a 10 minute sales call where we pitched our companies to prospective clients (the "clients" were role-played by the sales coaches, who were representatives of our assigned sponsors. My coach was Andrew Fitzpatrick, and he was extremely helpful in preparing me for the final round of the competition).

I did pretty well in this round of the competition.

 Matiya Szauer (2nd place), Rachele Benjamin (1st place) and Bethany Chan (3rd place)

So did everyone else.

The prizes were amazing, but what I value most about this opportunity was the chance to network with hundreds of established, successful sales professionals.

And of course, the very esteemed panel of judges:

(from left to right): Duncan Bureau, VP of Global Sales at Air Canada; Chris Adamkowski, Head of Industry at Google; Jamie Scarborough, Co-Founder at Sales Talent Agency; Erin Elofson, Head of Financial Services at Facebook; Michael Back, CEO of HonkMobile

I have learned quite a bit from this experience. Most importantly, I have learned that you should never pass up an opportunity to explore a career option. As a student, it is important that I learn as much about the professional world as possible before I settle on a job. I never would have expected that I could win a sales competition. Now that I have, there are a lot more opportunities available to me than there were before. One of the reasons why the STA chose to hold this competition was to educate students about careers in sales and how rewarding it can be to connect clients with the resources they need to improve their lives, and their businesses (authenticity is key!). I am glad to have learned what I did, and am excited to see where my new-found passion for sales will take me.

Perhaps a little too excited.

My advice for other students is to get involved, keep your options open, and always bet on yourself. You never know what you're capable of until you give it a shot.

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