Practice Makes Perfect (Pitch)

Saint Joseph’s inaugural North East Sales Tournament (NEST) made its debut in the University’s new Sales Excellence Center, featuring Perfect Pitch and Role Play competitions. Not only do students have the opportunity to hone their sales skills at these types of events, but they also frequently walk away with interviews lined up and full-time job offers.

Mandeville Hall during sunrise

by Diane Holliday

Marketing major and business intelligence and analytics minor Julia Butler ’23 ended the fall semester with more than she expected. Not only did the graduating senior and student body president win first place in both rounds of Saint Joseph’s first-ever NEST sales competition (earning her $2,000), but she also landed a full-time job with event co-sponsor Gartner, a technology research and advisory company that’s ranked No. 4 by Forbes as one of top 10 companies that give the toughest job interviews.

The NEST, or North East Sales Tournament, took place last semester and pitted 29 students from St. Joe’s, Temple and West Chester Universities against one another for a day-long competition in SJU’s new Sales Excellence Center. Students were given a hypothetical case study from Gartner and co-sponsor Paycom about a company that needed to cut costs while also improving its online customer experience.

During round one, Role Play, students had nine minutes to pitch their solution to the buyer in an office setting equipped with microphones and top-of-the-line cameras that sent a livestream feed of the pitch to a panel of judges.

“The interview rooms in the Sales [Excellence] Center are extremely conducive to creating a real-world-like meeting space where we could truly practice professional interactions and sales,” says Butler. “We were able to record our presentations and later review them to engage in thoughtful reflection and discuss areas for improvement for the future.”

In round two, Perfect Pitch, competitors had just 90 seconds to make their elevator pitches. The champions of the Role Play round concluded the day with a curveball case, during which the “buyer” had been fired and the student now had to present to another colleague who demanded quicker action and shorter timelines.

“I was anxious about the competition as it was my first time performing as a seller,” says marketing and business intelligence and analytics double major Julianne McGuire ’23, who won second place in the Role Play competition. “As each round went on, though, I could feel myself becoming more confident with my abilities. [NEST] opened my eyes to the field of sales, as I discovered a passion for problem-solving and connecting with people.”

[NEST] opened my eyes to the field of sales, as I discovered a passion for problem-solving and connecting with people.

Julianne McGuire ’23

Igniting a passion for selling and problem-solving was one of the reasons Saint Joseph’s new Sales Excellence Center was established. Located on the second floor of Mandeville Hall, the suite features six rooms: four simulation rooms for interview practice and buyer-seller competitions (the ones equipped with cameras that allow students to watch back their presentations), a meeting room for Saint Joseph’s Sales Club and office space for Donald Townsend, MBA, associate professor of practice in sales and marketing strategy, advisor for the Sales Club, head of the sales certificate program and lead organizer of NEST.

“The people at the competition could not believe the facilities. We had [judges] all over the country and were able to calculate the winners in about 15 seconds,” says Townsend, noting that other competitions can run well into the night just to tabulate first-round winners. 

The Sales Excellence Center is not only a physical space but it also comprises all of the students enrolled in the University’s sales certificate program.

“Everybody sells,” says Townsend. “If you’re a doctor, a lawyer, whomever, you need to know how to communicate.”

Saint Joseph’s is one of 50 universities in the National Collegiate Sales Competition to offer the certificate, which gives students a leg up both in the world of sales competitions and in the job market.

“Sponsors at these competitions are looking for the best of the best, and they’re hungry to hire the best of the best. All of our students enrolled in the certificate program who competed in a sales competition this fall had jobs lined up and other companies knocking at their door by November,” Townsend says. “If you have the certification, you can start out a job six months to a year ahead of everyone else and you usually earn 20-25% more salary because you’re trained at the university.”

All of our students enrolled in the certificate program who competed in a sales competition this fall had jobs lined up and other companies knocking at their door by November.

Donald Townsend, MBA

Associate Professor of Practice in Sales and Marketing Strategy

Butler echoes the value of the certificate and the opportunities she’s gained through competitions like NEST and the Sales Excellence Center.

“I met with 21 companies at a competition [in Florida] and walked away with business cards and connections for every single one of them,” she says. “Becoming involved in the sales program and working with Professor Townsend opened up so many doors for me, including an initial interview [with Gartner], three more after that and ultimately a full time job,” says Butler.

How’s that for a win?


NEST will return in November of 2023. Interested in being a sponsor, judge or competitor? Contact Donald Townsend, MBA, associate professor of practice/sales and marketing strategy.