Sales Articles

European Sales Competition 2021 boosted employment possibilities

Probably the largest event for sales educators in Europe on 2021 – the European Sales Competition ESC 2021 – was held on November 17th-19th 2021 in a virtual meeting platform Tavata. Totally 60 competitors from 13 different countries – 10 European countries + invited visitors from Indonesia, Thailand and USA – competed in the 7th edition of the European Sales Competition. All competitors were students, representing 25 different higher education institutions.

The ESC 2021 event was launched to search and train top class future salespeople, capable for challenging international business-to-business (B2B) sales. All individual competitors’ performances were carried out as 20 minutes role-playing meetings, during which each competitor went through a typical international online B2B sales negotiation. The winner of the ESC 2021 was filtered through four eliminating competition rounds.

The top 4 competitors in the ESC 2021 were Sjoerd Smeltink from HAN University of Applied Sciences (the Netherlands); Taric Jahic from FHWien der WKW (Austria); Artur Schmal from Hochschule Aalen (Germany) and Andre Ostheimer from Technische Hochschule Aschaffenburg (Germany).

Totally 335 active participants – talented students and also great number of sales experts from universities and businesses – took part in 48 different events of the ESC 2021, like competition rooms, workshops, and keynote speeches. Most of the time, participants were hands-on involved as judges, buyers, or competitors as part of the developing sales role play scenario, which was all the line created in close cooperation with the 2021 Case company PinMeTo.

“It was a very exciting and interesting experience to see how competitors managed to do their research about PinMeTo and understand how to present its values throughout the competition. From business perspective, we got multiple new fresh point of views for our sales teams”, says Iiro Antero, Country Manager from PinMeTo.

European Sales Competition serves also as a cost-effective platform for fresh sales talent recruitment for cooperation partners. Additionally, it provides valuable opportunity for all participants to widen their professional networks in international settings. As a tangible impact, several competitors received immediate job offers from cooperation partners already during the competition.

“Shortly after the start of the event, I was contacted by two international ESC 2021 partner companies and at the end one more. Furthermore, my network on LinkedIn expanded by a considerable number of good new connections”, sums up finalist Andre Ostheimer.

Implementation of the ESC 2021 was enabled by Gold level cooperation partners Gartner, Shopify and Qualtrics Experience Management; Silver level partners LinkedIn, Tavata and Palo Alto Networks; and Bronze level partners The Academic Association of Sales Engineering (AASE) and StratX Simulations.

The ESC 2021 was hosted by the Turku University of Applied Sciences (Finland), and the Competition Director Timo Holopainen felt relief and satisfaction after the intensive event: “Real experts have it and several students get it always during competitions, namely passion towards sales. It motivates me to organize these very intensive and impactful events”.

“Quality of competitors was really high. In all competition rooms, our international panel of judges had to utilize their full observing and assessment capacity to find best performers“, summarizes the ESC 2021 Head Judge Harri Lappalainen from the Turku UAS.

Joy of Sales

“SEX sells” is a common saying in advertising. However, the question remains

“Is selling sexy as well”?

In 2014, the Harvard Business Manager magazine featured an article by Phil Kreindler and Gopal Rajguru titled “The Crisis of Sellers.”

We interviewed 300 buyers who bought products or services worth at least $ 75,000 a year and asked them to rate the sellers ‘performance, and nearly half of the customers (45%) were dissatisfied with the sellers’ performance in B2B.” In a previous survey in 2004, only one in five customers (18 percent) was dissatisfied.

As sales manager, this finding should make you think. In particular since over the last years, an increasing investment on supporting sales functions with trainings and digitalization (i-pad, smartphone) occurred.

But what has changed?

Buyers have become more professional. Information is easier and faster to access. Most companies have a sophisticated purchasing process. Buying centers examine potential suppliers very carefully. Above all, the EXPECTATIONS of buyers on their business partners has increased immensely.

A social issue comes along with it – sellers have a rather low status among the population (in contrast to firefighters or doctors), as evidenced by a global GfK study from 2016.

Young people want to have a cool, sustainable and meaningful job. The work-life balance must be right – all signs that selling is not sexy, right?

Not quite!

Today, an increasing number of acquisitions take place on the internet. The unpleasant “cold calling” over the phone or in person does not work anymore.

Consequently, there is more focus on a professional appearance on social media (Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, …) – a digital twin (avatar) represents the extension of my person. Networking and a digital understanding lead to more success than many calls each day.

The following attributes are crucial for a good seller today, like

  • Knowledge,
  • Curiosity,
  • Empathy,
  • Understanding
  • Connected thinking.

Selling today is an honest consulting at eye level. The prejudice that selling is all about quantity and hard selling belongs to the past.

It is all about interpersonal contact!

And isn’t it more fulfilling to be interested in other people and their business challenges and being able to help?

That’s exactly when humans find somebody “sexy” – to find someone who has an interest in oneself, emphatically reacts and supports me in my concerns and help.

Not for nothing do many people find firefighters “sexy”. Precisely because, they offer support and help, and we trust them.

Be a problem solver, be proud to help people – and become a “selling firefighter”!

(@Eigner A., 2019)

Sales Talk Articles from exchange students of Turku UAS:

From Sales Funnel
to Customer Journey

5 March 2021

The right handling
of Objections

3 March 2021