March 13, 2016
The Great Canadian Sales Competition is the biggest student competition of its kind, centred on grooming tomorrow’s business leaders through a series of rigorous challenges. Over 1,600 students across Canada participated in the first half of the competition, which started on Oct. 19 of last year. One of the students who succeeded in attaining a position among the top 25 finalists was Capilano University business student and president of the Capilano Undergraduate Business Enterprise of Students (CUBES), Ali Abassi. This week, he flew to Toronto to compete in the final round at Google’s downtown headquarters.
As he explained to the Courier just days before he took off, there are three stages to the competition. “First you submit your initial pitch, which is 30 seconds on video. You can do anything you like. Me specifically, I pitched the profession of selling, like the ability to be persuasive,” said Abassi.
The competition guidelines told students to begin with a topic they already knew. If they succeeded in making it to the second round, they would be presented with a company to pitch for.
Out of the 1,600 students across the country that submitted pitches, only 338 were chosen and were then paired with a company and asked to pitch on their behalf in a two-minute video. “The challenge wasn’t necessarily with the initial pitch,” said Abassi, “So the difficulty was in that you had to do the two minute pitch and you didn’t have the option of editing your video or anything. It had to be in one take.”
Abassi was given the company Grand and Toy and rehearsed for three hours before submitting his video. He was then picked to be part of the final 25, who will compete in Toronto at the finals. As an incentive, each of the top 25 students are provided with free airfare courtesy of Air Canada to the competition.
This is Abassi’s first year taking part in the competition, which began two years ago. Some of Canada’s top executives are invited to sit in on the final round where students go through a mock sales meeting with a customer. The executives present are all sponsors of the competition, including Google, Dell, Air Canada and Purolator. “Each student has been assigned to represent one of the companies that are sponsoring, entering a mock sales meeting and facing a potential buyer who is actually someone from that company,” explained Sonya Meloff, founding partner of the Sales Talent Agency and co-founder of the Great Canadian Sales Competition.
Even in its short history, the Great Canadian Sales Competition has seen a spike in applicants. “There’s just been a tremendous amount of interest, we hope to build on the momentum for next year,” said Meloff. “I think one of the things we really want as a message is you don’t have to think you’re going into sales to realize how important sales is.” She explained that pitching applies to any industry and is an important skill to have to succeed in any field.
Abassi has been working with a coach from Grand and Toy to prepare for the competition. “Every finalist gets a coach,” he said. “And the coach is from the company that you’re pitching with, so in my case I’m working with the National Sales Director for Grand and Toy, and just one-on-one he’s going to be coaching me through FaceTime and video chat so I can prepare for the final round.”
Each finalist will have seven to 10 minutes to present to a panel of five judges, and then a final five will be selected to present again to another panel in a mock sales meeting.
“What I’m looking forward to is the networking event that’s going to be taking place right after the competition,” shared Abassi, “Where the finalists basically get to hang out with the industry professionals and network. Last year, every student that was part of the finalist round walked out with a job offer, so it’s definitely a fantastic way to meet potential employers.”
He added, “I think the major benefit is I’m going to be meeting people all across Canada that are very like-minded, that are high achieving students so we’ve all been selected for a very similar skill that we have… and the ability to communicate effectively.”
Story originally published in the Capilano Courier