The Great Canadian Sales Competition
Sergio Zyman back in 1999 declared that the purpose of marketing is to "sell stuff". Zyman is a celebrated marketer who led coca-cola's marketing strategy and who wrote the book "The End of Marketing" published in the last year of the 20th Century.
At the same time, some renegade rebels challenged the prevailing marketing ethos with a rambling classic called the Cluetrain Manifesto. It emulated the Luther's 95 thesis, with its own 95 thesis on marketing and business practices, formulated by its four authors. The first thesis was that "markets are conversations". Whether it is sales or marketing, conversation matters.
Move on a couple of decades and a team of young, brilliant entrepreneurial leaders at the Sales Talent Agency are putting the zest and hip into sales that was once associated with marketing. Combining industry experts and creating a competition that captures the imagination, they have managed to shine new light on the profession of sales and ingeniously are introducing sales to a whole new generation of millennials. Utilizing a simple competitive approach based on a short video sales pitch, they created the "The Great Canadian Sales Competition".
On Thursday November 10th 2016, the Pilon School of Business Competition Team led by Nehal Phillips, Nicholas Soares and Joanna Wang, invited Katherine Perrin to facilitate a workshop to help students preparing for case competitions.
Our Toastmasters Club are also helping the PSBCT executive with three other workshops.
Perrin is the Ontario region Competition Coordinator and led an practical workshop, during which students got a chance to practice creating 30 to 90 second sales pitches. What followed was an intriguing process that introduced sales to college students in a way that grabbed their attention.
While the idea of pitching a video is straight-forward, the GCSC approach is ingeniously simple and has viral properties that engage young minds who may not otherwise considered the art of selling to be something worthy of due consideration. Why would selling capture young minds when the traditional image of selling has been defined by films like Boiler Room and the cult classic Glengarry Glen Ross featuring Alec Baldwin's "ABC - Always Be Closing", as well as plays like "Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller, which is a a title that does not evoke any inspiration.
The field of corporate sales has not traditionally inspired people to explore careers that include work that is skillful and passionate as anything that today attracts students into the marketing profession. While marketers like Sergio Zyman acknowledge that marketing is a part of the selling process, a student competition brings that closer to a reality, at least for those young students who are exposed to this particular gateway to selling.
The intention of the competition is not simply to introduce students to careers in sales that they would not otherwise recognize, but more importantly teach students selling skills that will help in many other areas of their life also articulated by one of the co-founders of Sales Talent Agency. A winning video by Sara Westwood provides an example of a student pitch : The competition is not looking for a slick marketing pitch, the judges who represent some of the biggest business corporations in the world are looking for raw sales ability and focus on the actual pitch rather than video production. This is a point that Katherine Perrin reiterated as students quizzed her about the production quality standards for their submissions.
The Great Canadian Sales Competition shares the same value that is honoured at Sheridan Bruins Toastmasters Club, as well as on beBee, affinity at the individual level, as well as acknowledgement of investing in the future which is today's young people, and noting the visual and branded age society is gravitating towards as detailed in a beBee infographic.
Both Flynn, the Club President of Sheridan Bruins Toastmasters Club and myself participated in a demo sales pitch video-taped by Perrin. It was a powerful experience, made more so because of the feedback that Perrin was providing all students at the workshop. It is surprising how many facets of selling emerge by going through just 90 seconds of video. While pitching is just one part of the myriad forms of selling skills, it does represent a great doorway because selling, like public speaking, like management and like leadership is a practice.
It is Peter Drucker who constantly re-iterated fields of work that are practice, which also include the practice of medicine. The Great Canadian Sales Competition represents a simple form of practice, but it has powerful effects, and for the students there is also the added incentive of a student competition, which in a few short years has become the biggest student competition in Canada. Thursday night was a great evening, facilitated professionally and introducing students at our college to a whole new way of looking at sales. If the Cluetrain Manifesto was meant to change the world of marketing and did not, perhaps in reframing the world of selling, the words of Sergio Zyman will finally meet with reality in the 21st Century, and perhaps in doing so, also the hopes expressed by those who gave voice to that manifesto in 1999.
Finally, what impressed me about the Great Canadian Sales Competition are the brains behind this initiative. Here is co-founder Jamie Scarborough talking about F.A.C.E. which speaks of a sales acronym that takes into account the 17 year old, as well as 70.