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What happens when you gather 12 nervous students, a panel of judges, a customer with high expectations, and a room full of spectators? You get the final round of the Marriott School Sales Idol competition, held at the campus of Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. Students in the Strategic Account Management class at the Marriott School of Management gathered on Thursday to put their knowledge and skills to the test, and met with a real customer to submit a proposal for services.

Each year the students are taught sales techniques in a curriculum based on the training program of Griffin Hill. This Utah-based company brings employees through a sales and customer service coaching program which focuses on integrity, and that’s exactly what sets this Strategic Account Management class apart from other classes in the same field.

“While this course is grounded in knowledge and sciences of human performance, psychology and marketing we are not satisfied in having students memorize and regurgitate theory. Instead this course takes the student on a transformative journey where they apply the principles, processes, and skills of professional selling and account management through rigorous role-plays and case studies,”says Dr. Sterling Bone, a marketing professor who teaches this Strategic Account Management class at BYU.

BYU Sales Competition Marriott SchoolStudents in the class learn a variety of integrity-based sales techniques, from “case open” to “fulfillment and follow-up”. During the final round of this year’s competition, the 12 participants focused on the case open and needs audit portion of the sales cycle, and I was asked to participate as the “customer”. Since I’m a Manager here at SEO.com, I don’t necessarily need the services they were qualifying me for. I handle the marketing and SEO for my site in my spare time. However, I did learn a lot about my own needs, and the students had me thinking about my website in ways that I never would have considered before. That’s the great thing about working with an SEO firm- you have a second set of eyes looking at your web property, and collaboration can lead to great successes down the road. Speaking of that, why not request a free proposal from SEO.com, and see if an evaluation of your site’s online presence could help you reach your goals?

I met with 12 students individually (in front of the spectators, judges and Dr. Bone), and they asked me questions about the marketing needs of my Utah news site 24saltlake.com. They were each given about 8 minutes to gather all the information about my website that they needed, and made a promise to follow up with me in the near future to deliver a proposal of search engine marketing services they feel would help me reach the goals I’ve laid out for my website.

“Once the Sales Idol [competiton] rolls around the students have put in many hours of preparation, training, and role-playing with the Griffin Hill Integrity Sales System,” Dr. Bone points out.

After the interviews were finished, the judges and I left the classroom to evaluate the students on a number of criteria, including adherence to the sales processes they learned throughout the course. “I think the talent coming out of BYU’s business school is phenomenal,” said Dale Nguyen, Sales Manager for SEO.com. “The students were fantastic, and really used those skills developed through the Griffin Hill system.” Often these students are considered for sales positions with local companies, and Nguyen says many of the students in the competition would be great assets to both the sales and fulfillment departments at SEO.com.

Contestants were critiqued on their ability to speak to the specific needs of the business, if they were well versed in the online search marketing industry, if they could position the product based on real-time information, and if they were prepared to combat competitive objections.

Dr. Bone says that in the six years of the Marriott School Sales Idol competition, some students have even landed jobs with the companies like Kraft Foods, Ecolab, Durham Brands and SEO.com.

There were two classes in the final round, and the winner from each class received a trophy and a gift card. Second place winners also received a gift card. Not to mention the respect of their peers, and the cumulative knowledge and practical experience that they have gained throughout the year.

So, what’s in store for these students?

Keep your eyes on your favorite business magazine. You may see them on the cover in the future.