Making the pitch, winning the prize


by Jess Nickels ('21)

Matthew Dunda, who earned first place at the Rumble in Rocktown, pitches his product to a ‘buyer.’

SUMMARY: The Center for Professional Sales hosted its annual Rumble in Rocktown sales competition with teams from VT, ODU and VCU in attendance.

James Madison University’s College of Business prides itself on its ability to prepare students for post-graduation pursuits, whether continuing their education or starting their career. Fortunately, the CoB has many corporate supporters who understand the value of a JMU education and aim to recruit our graduates right out of the gate. 

The Center for Professional Sales is unique in that it has 18 corporate partners who work closely with the center throughout the year to sponsor sales competitions and networking events and to act as “buyers” for student role-plays and recruiters for mock interviews.

Rumble in Rocktown is one such competition hosted by the center which has recently seen an explosion of growth and participation. This year, the center brought three other schools to Harrisonburg to vie for top honors: Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University and Virginia Commonwealth University.

Richard Tate, director of the CPS, said, “This expansion creates in-state rivalry and camaraderie among the different university sales programs and their students. Our goal is to raise awareness of Virginia sales programs to a national level and to expand corporate presence and participation, which directly results in career opportunities for our students.”

Gathered inside the center in Hartman Hall, students were given a scenario for Prometheus Group and tasked with creating a software sales pitch, which they then presented to the “buyers”.A student shaking hands with a recruiter.

Running concurrently with the competition was a formalized sales-networking event—another area of growth for the center. In previous years the networking event was directed toward student participants in the competition, but, Tate explained, “We want to include more JMU students beyond just the few who actually compete, and in so doing create more value for our corporate partners and expand the sales program and the career opportunities it generates to a campus-wide audience.”

This year, the sales-focused networking event had more than 15 corporate participants and was open to all JMU students, regardless of their engagement with the competition or center. The goal is “to become the premier sales-competition event in the state of Virginia which will  attract a larger corporate audience to our sales program, our students, the College of Business and James Madison University,” said Tate.

The Rumble in Rocktown sales competition serves not only as an opportunity to sharpen skills and engage with employers. It also introduces students to the wide array of jobs and careers within the sales industry. 

Alumna Marrisa Willis (‘23) majored in Marketing with a Professional Sales concentration and had participated in many sales competitions throughout her time at JMU. She said, “Students who have participated in sales competitions and have been involved in the center stand out to employers. Anyone can say that they have a number of great skills, but examples of how you used these skills throughout competitions and within the sales centers will land you the job.” 

Willis, who earned an impressive employment offer from KPMG prior to graduation thanks to her demonstrated experience, said the most valuable part of the sales competitions “is gaining experience in a real-life scenario where there is high pressure to develop the trust of a key decision maker and sell your service or product.” She explained that through these experiences “you gain confidence and expertise that will prepare you for your first sales role post-graduation.”

This year’s Rumble in Rocktown saw students from all four universities battle it out for cash prizes with two Virginia Tech students taking third and second place, while JMU’s own Matthew Dunda, a Marketing major with a Professional Sales concentration, earned first place as well as a $1,000 prize. 

With the support of its corporate partners, JMU’s Center for Professional Sales prepares students for the unexpected challenges they may face in their sales careers and helps them develop confidence, which Willis cited as the most important skill of all. She said, “I have gained confidence in my negotiation skills, objection-handling skills, business-development skills and sales-management skills. My confidence and prior knowledge resulted in me being entrusted with a higher role in my company only five months after graduating.”

Tate says that “without a doubt” the center’s corporate engagement and presence is the most valuable aspect of the CPS. “Last May, 76 of our sales students received full-time offers and 57 received internships as a result of our corporate partnership program,” he said. This program also raised $82,500 in corporate donations, allowing the CPS to continue providing educational programming to students and advancing its quest to become Virginia’s premier sales center.

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Published: Tuesday, October 17, 2023

Last Updated: Thursday, November 2, 2023

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