February 22 – Realization of the sale: Place of the students of Trine in the national competition | Education
ATLANTA — Nikki Maroney says she likes the sales competitiveness.
The Trine University sports and recreation major proved just how much it thrives on competition, finishing second in the annual National Collegiate Sports Sales Championship held Feb. 7-8 at State Farm Arena in ‘Atlanta.
Maroney, of New Buffalo, Michigan, first learned about the contest last spring when posts from Trine students from the 2020-21 team appeared in his LinkedIn feed. She asked Brandon Podgorski, an associate professor at the Ketner School of Business and adviser to the Trine team, to enter this year’s competition.
“Last year I got really interested in the sports sales industry through a lot of networking calls and the research I had done,” she said. “People who work in sales are very passionate about the organizations they work for.”
Open only to graduate seniors and graduate students, the championship began with a team competition, hosted via Zoom in November. In addition to Maroney, the Trine team included Hayden Jones, a sports management major from Richmond; Caleb Gonya, a sports management student from Angola; and Alyssa Moore, a sports management major from Pendleton.
“Our team would simulate our sales pitch meetings with different buyer scenarios,” Maroney said.
Trine finished 12th out of 37 colleges and universities nationally, ranking first among NCAA Division III schools and Indiana schools, beating Indiana University and IUPUI .
After the tag team competition, the top 100 students were ranked, with each school choosing their top two students to qualify for the 64-student knockout championship. Maroney placed 11th and Jones 64th to qualify.
“When I came back to school in January I started to prepare for the championship round,” Maroney said, “I wanted to get into the Top 10 to show that I had taken into account the feedback that I had received from the first round and that I was serious about this competition.”
A few days before the start of the championship, another place opened up and was given to Gonya. Moore, who was on a 10-day Living Sport Super Bowl LVI camp, did not make the trip to Atlanta.
At the championship, students take on the role of a ticket sales representative for the Atlanta Hawks in a cross-company role-playing scenario. The students received the buyer’s profile before the competition; the same profile was used until the final round.
Competitors attempt to sell buyers full or partial season ticket packages, including premium suites and clubs, played by professional sports team sales staff.
Each student competed against another student from another school in each round. The students pitched the same buyer for 20 minutes and were scored by the same judges in areas such as speech content, delivery, voice and language, with the top score advancing to the next round.
Winning meant standing out to recruiters in addition to bragging rights. Around twenty teams and organizations conducted job interviews during the event.
Jones and Gonya were both ninth seeds in their brackets. Jones fell in the first round to a Kansas State University student who advanced to the quarterfinals. Gonya was defeated in the first round by Arizona State University’s Kyle Gaspari, the eventual champion.
Maroney entered the championship as the third seed. She said the first five rounds, held on Feb. 7, “flew out.”
“Hayden, Caleb and Professor Podgorski were my fashion people for the rest of the rounds,” she said. “We were constantly refreshing our parentheses to see what the scores were.”
Podgorski said Maroney displayed exceptional selling technique throughout the competition.
“Nicole did a great job diagnosing her buyers’ needs, overcoming objections, asking for the sale, and empathizing with the buyer,” he said.
The championship round, between Maroney and Gaspari, took place on a stage at the Atlanta Hawks training ground, in front of everyone present.
“I came in very nervous, but from what others have said, I seemed very calm and natural on stage,” Maroney said. “I felt very good about my pitch and regardless of the outcome I was proud of the progress I had made throughout the competition.”
Maroney received several job offers during the event. Podgorski said Jones and Gonya have also interviewed and networked with professional and college teams.
“It doesn’t matter where you go to school, if you’re willing to work and prepare, you can be successful in the sports industry,” Podgorski said.
Podgorski said the cornerstone of Trine’s sports management also empowers students to be successful in sales. The class includes projects such as selling group tickets to businesses and organizations for the Fort Wayne Mad Ants and hosting and operating the Ketner School of Business Golf Scramble.
“Even if a student decides not to go into sales, they will have to sell something at some point in their career, whether it’s an idea or themselves,” Podgorski said. “This is one of my favorite classes to teach and one our students really enjoy.”