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Sales Students Compete for Top Spots at Impact Networking’s Annual Sales Competition

Getting a coveted appointment with a new client is the goal of every salesperson who spends their days in and out of buildings, and on and off the phone. At Impact’s Lake Forest headquarters, this was the aim of 60 students from 5 Midwest partner schools taking part in the 2nd Annual Impact Sales Competition. Spearheaded by Impact’s Recruiting department, this competition was designed to give college students majoring in sales and business the opportunity to sharpen their sales skills with a full day of head-to-head competitions, networking opportunities and sales education. The competition included recreating the Impact sales process and learning from Impact’s leading sales staff on how to work towards a successful future in sales.

Impact President Dan Meyer kicked off the events with the keynote that took students through Impact’s 20 years of growth and development, training strategy and the highs and lows of having a career in sales. This presentation emphasized not only the tenacious and go-getter attitude within a high-risk, high-reward job, but also demonstrated Impact’s commitment to fostering an environment of learning and success for future salespeople. This served to set a positive tone for the day and get students motivated for what was next.

At Impact, cold calling is the foundation of the prospecting and lead generation strategy. It’s a crucial skill that can accelerate the success of first year salespersons, which is why it was the model for the first round of competition. Armed with only a page of background information, a goal and what they’ve learned in their classes, competitors used their personalities and experiences to create rapport, and demonstrate solid inferencing and improvisation skills and persistence. Ashley Carnes, Impact’s Director of Sales Strategy, reinforced the morning round’s activities with a presentation on the importance of cold calling. As the head of Impact’s Leadership Institute and a successful saleswoman, Ashley stressed the importance of learning the steps of cold calling, as well as the etiquette needed in order to do them well. As she mentioned later in the day, “The key to good question-asking: Once you ask one question, that’s an opportunity to layer in one more thing. Tell me more.”


The afternoon competitions split the group; 54 students competed in the Silver Round, the Perfect Pitch, explaining to judges why they should be hired as an Account Manager at Impact. Given only a minute, they talked about their school focuses, ambitions and work experience. It was a great opportunity for young professionals to feel the pressure of an interview and learn how to build upon their strengths. Judge Alex Zaban, Brookfield Sales Manager, provided positive advice, “It’s not about anything other than being yourself; who you are and what you stand for”, encouraging students to not just follow a rubric and to just be themselves. This was apparent in students like Nathan Camardo (NIU), a former US sniper, who tied his military experience to the importance of leadership, teamwork and passion with straightforwardness, addressing the room by saying “I believe you’re hiring for a leader – someone who shows up and does the work that needs to be done.” He solidified a second-place position, as well as hand-written contact information from one of the judges.

Meanwhile, the 6 highest-scoring competitors from the Cold Call Competition participated in the Gold Round, the First Appointment. Judged by some of Impact’s top Sales Managers, this staged a meeting with a company’s decision maker to discover business pain points, address questions and concerns and ultimately schedule an assessment. The skill level was impressive and represented a variety of backgrounds, showing that oftentimes confidence and determination is more important than past experience. First placer Keven Bell (UW Whitewater) presented complete confidence, easily transitioning between personal stories and business details, displaying unrehearsed cleverness with lines like “If you were going to take the time we have now and we could wave a wand and eliminate the time taken up here, do you think you’d see the value in our assessment?”. In the end, his professionalism, quick thinking and an ease for rapport pushed him to the top spot.

Seeing these potential salespeople thrive under pressure is part of what the team at Impact hoped students would get out of the competition. Director of Recruiting, Cynthia Bennett, recognized the struggle inexperienced sales reps faced when first starting out, and made sure the competition matched the reality that sales rep face on a daily basis, hoping to inspire students to “create their own success [and gain] motivation to move past the hard part.” The sales staff at Impact was happy to sit down with students after their presentations and offer advice on developing their strengths and improving on weaknesses. It was clear by the end of the day that many of the competitors could have a bright future at Impact.

As students finished the competition rounds, they were given further encouragement and insight from Impact Sales Manager/Partner Alex Kusters, who told students about his personal struggles and the persistence that lead to his current sales successes, and Major Accounts Executive/Partner Brad Rozmarynowski, who further discussed the hardships salespeople face, particularly in the beginning of their careers, and how they can use resources like the competition, training and a few simple rules to help them push past their toughest days.

Each student received feedback from judges (Impact sales professionals and university professors) throughout the day, who pulled examples from their experiences to discuss ways to reduce nerves, how to create business relationships and techniques for turning a “no, we don’t need anything” into a secured appointment. The work was also matched with play, with food truck lunches, raffle prizes, grand prizes for the winners and plenty of networking opportunities with Impact staff and other young professionals. Throughout the day, Impact’s experts were just as enthused to encourage and teach this talented group, who, according to Cynthia Bennett, could be the “next generation of salespeople at Impact”, and across the country.

Participating Schools

  • University of Wisconsin Whitewater
  • University of Wisconsin Oshkosh
  • University of Wisconsin Parkside
  • Ball State University
  • Northern Illinois University

Gold Round Winners

  • Keven Bell (UW Whitewater)
  • Toby Barnes (NIU)
  • Nicole Alt (UW Whitewater)

Silver Round Winners

  • Vinnie Nagaraj (NIU)
  • Nathan Camardo (NIU)
  • Alec Roehrig (UW Whitewater)