Rookie Preview flips the script on sales program

Shreya Ravi | Mercury Staff

UTD’s Pro Sales Concentration revealed plans for a revamp of Rookie Preview, its sales role-play scholarship mandatory for marketing majors. The new program, starting in spring, will give marketing students the opportunity to personally network with top companies.

Rookie Preview is an opportunity for marketing students to kickstart their careers in the competitive field of sales. The competition, hosted by the Center for Professional Sales, has drawn judges from top companies including IBM, State Farm, Oracle, Adobe, HPE and Liberty Mutual; students who perform well in the competition have a chance to get recruited for sales by these companies. Rookie Preview is part of Introduction to Professional Selling or MKT 3330, a mandatory course for marketing majors, where participants use what they have learned to present a 15-minute sales pitch to a representative of a participating company. Winners receive sales scholarships of $1,000, which are awarded to them during the fall or spring Rookie Preview Awards Dinner.

“The [Center of Professional Sales] exists for the sole purpose of connecting the students with the industry,” director Howard Dover said.

After COVID-19, participation declined — only about 20-30 percent of students and companies invited attended the Awards Dinner, according to Dover, and students were able to opt out of the competition through an alternate assignment. Now, the Center for Professional Sales is changing the program format to increase interaction with participating companies. Semiramis Amirpour, a professor of instruction of MKT 3330, said the new format will incorporate networking events immediately after the competition in the morning instead of much later in the evening at dinner time. The new competition will also have multiple buyers, allowing students to network with multiple companies instead of just one.

“COVID changed the view of working into the evening,” Dover said. “Corporations are of the view that we aren’t going to make our people go to a dinner at 9 to recruit people.”

Sales alumnus Hermon Afewor said participating in the Rookie Preview in spring 2017 helped him land an internship at Liberty Mutual. Afework, who now works at Beck Technologies, said Rookie Preview helped him build skills by simulating a professional sales environment with real stakes.

“Rookie Preview put me in front of every person that I have now worked with,” Afework said. “It gave them the chance to look beyond my resume, by seeing them face to face and getting to interact with them.”

Dover said UTD was among only 15 universities with a program like Rookie Preview 10 years ago, but now about 200 similar programs exist, including at Texas A&M and Kennesaw State University. This creates a challenge for companies, making it difficult for them to decide which university event to attend. Previously, students were not able to meet judges outside of the competition, which made networking more difficult, bringing about the decision to change the format.

“If I had a penny for every time a student came back and said that Rookie Preview has changed [their] life,” Amirpour said, “I would be rich.”

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