University of Tennessee

Composed Under Pressure, Haslam Sales Teams Deliver in Competition

October 29, 2018

For Maggie Yewel, an undergraduate student at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville’s Haslam College of Business, this fall’s sales competition at the Professional Sales Forum was not only a lot of fun, but also a key part of her education.

“Whether you win or lose, you gain experience that will benefit you down the road,” Yewel says.

Along with her partner, Hailey Rust, Yewel won first-place and is proud of the level of preparation her team brought to the table. “I think we prepared just the right amount and went into the room completely calm and ready for anything.”

Undergraduate Hailey Rust says future participants in the competition should practice with their teammates in advance.

“Know more than enough information about the companies the judges represent,” she says. “Make sure you and your partner are on the same page since it would look bad to say two different things.”

Both students said they won the competition not only because of preparation and collaboration with one another, but also with the help of their professors. Tom Van Dorselaer, executive director of the professional sales forum, and Daniel Flint, Regal Entertainment Group Professor of Marketing, provided mentorship.

“Dan and Tom helped tremendously with preparing,” Yewel says. “They helped us be ready for any objections or questions that might come up and gave us peace of mind going into the competition.”

Yewel credits Van Dorselaer’s class, Professional Selling, with having taught her to “take control of a sales call and handle any objections a client may have.”

Van Dorselaer pointed out that the teams winning first, second and third place in the competition were all comprised of women.

“I am excited to see more and more women interested in careers in professional sales,” he says. “I was delighted to see the hard work, talent and creativity of all the teams that competed. Our winners were exceptional and impressed our corporate judges with their sales acumen and professionalism.

Van Dorselaer says corporate partners are finding worth in their relationships with the forum. “We have become the number one program for recruiting across many of our partners,” he says. “Our students are better prepared for careers in professional sales than in any other program I know.”

Fifty-eight students competed in 29 teams during the sales competition, and 23 companies sent executives to serve as judges and buyers for the competition.

Additional awards included:

  • Second Place: Cheyenne Turner and Katherine Cantrell
  • Third Place: Gabrielle Hensley and Caroline Grindstaff
  • Dynamic Deal Closers: Allison Clarke and Haley Putman, Ellen Kliebhan and Alex Atkinson, and Anna Cotten and Makenzie Morgan  
  • Incredible Needs Identification: Jonathan Diegel and Eric Pelehach
  • Outstanding Objection Handling: Matt O’Connell and Harrison Moser
  • Champion Style Creativity: Brenna Pulliam and Eva Yates

The Haslam Professional Sales Forum also featured a mega recruiting event during which more than 600 face-to-face interviews between students and sponsors were conducted. The program was launched in 2017 and now has 23 partner companies. One partner company, AT&T, will hire 10 Haslam students into their business-to-business sales leadership program this year. Others include: Whirlpool, Mondelez, AT&T, Cintas, Ryder and PepsiCo.