Students from across the Continent, and a contingent from the USA, will demonstrate their selling skills in buyer-seller business meetings as the prestigious contest comes to Britain for the first time.
Edinburgh Napier University will host more than 50 students from 20 universities in 10 different countries who are taking part in the event - part of the drive to move sales from the stereotype spiv and put it at the heart of the higher education curriculum.
The first of the competitions - which put students’ skills under the microscope by role playing the pressures of real-life business situations - was organised in Brussels in June 2015 with the aim of addressing a lack of structured sales training and exposing participants to cross-cultural differences.
Supporters wanted to pave the way for a standardised approach to sales education across Europe and foster the creation of a pan-European Sales University Alliance.
Sponsored by cloud computing company Salesforce, the competition at Edinburgh Napier’s Craiglockhart Campus opens on May 31 with a Speed Selling Event which will see students pitching against the clock to professional sales people and getting instant feedback on their performance.
The main competition the following day involves competitors selling to buyers provided by the Royal Bank of Scotland while bracing themselves for possible interruptions and surprises. Those judged to have performed best in semi finals held in five separate rooms will progress to an afternoon final, which will be broadcast live online and to an audience in the Lindsay Stewart Lecture Theatre.
The winners will be announced at a Gala Dinner that evening, which will also give the visitors, from as far afield as Spain, Finland and Kansas State, USA, the chance to try their hand at ceilidh dancing.
Dr Tony Douglas, Edinburgh Napier’s Associate Professor of Strategy & Sales and European Sales Competition Director, said: “I first witnessed sales competition events in the USA some six years ago, and I was so excited by the concept of bringing together industry and students in the Business School environment that I added this event to my list of ‘must dos’.
“Sales by its very nature can be very competitive and the European Sales Competition ticks all the right boxes by connecting the right students with the right businesses, who are looking for more efficient ways of recruiting.”
With talented sales people at the heart of most successful companies, leading business organisations have been happy to lend their support to a competition which spotlights up and coming stars.
Salesforce, Oracle, Gartner, Hudson, Eastern Western Motor Group, Textron and the Association of Professional Sales all back the event, which aims to make sales an attractive career choice.
Edinburgh Napier, home to Scotland’s first university sales division, offers two PG degree programmes with a sales element, and an advisory group drawn from industry helps develop the teaching agenda.
The Business School last month launched its Centre for Sales and Business Development, which will become a hub for the professionalisation of sales through research and commercial activity.
The university now also offers advanced entry to its BA Sales Management course for people with relevant work experience, and has joined forces with universities in Finland, Austria and Germany to research the coaching of sales professionals.
Dr Douglas said: “With the introduction of sales programmes at Edinburgh Napier, we are now able to help students to not just learn about sales but to practise important selling skills such as questioning, listening, presentation and negotiation, using role play as part of our assessments.”