HBS Team Places Third in MIT Sloan Sales Competition

MIT Sales Competition 2011As a prominent HBS entrepreneur-in-residence put it so eloquently, “Sales is sex, marketing is masturbation.”  Marketing is being alone in a room, staring a computer with the door closed.  Sales is interaction—meeting people, going door-to-door, pressing the flesh so to speak.  Though both sales and marketing have their time and place, this begs the question: why exactly does HBS not have any sales classes?

Luckily for the student body, the HBS Sales Club exists to teach this desperately needed skill set.  Sales Club Co-Presidents Caleb Williams (OE) and Nikita Singal (OG) replica breitling, along with Sales Club member David Roth (OF) used their sales prowess to place third out of the top teams from twenty-five other business schools last week in the MIT Sloan Sales Competition.

The competition consisted of two cases: a 15min one-on-one sales pitch and the second case was a 25 minute group sales presentation where each school was represented by their top 3 students. Students role-played specific assignments while presenting their final sales presentation to a board of VIP judges.

Unlike the other 24 business schools, the HBS team did not use a single PowerPoint slide in their pitches, relying instead on their own wit.  Williams described, “I kind of wanted to prove to myself how far we could get using pure sales art…  It was a gutsy move…[but] shows just how far the art alone can take you.”

All three team members stress the importance of sales experience and education at business schools.  Sales, they describe, is applicable in any business and in any career.  Individuals always have to sell, be it a product, an excel model, or an idea.  Williams said, “Show me any post-MBA career path, and I’ll show you a path where the ability to sell is crucial.”  Singal further described the downside of not having sales skills–“The greatest of ideas end up never being realized because someone did not know how to sell them.”

Not only is sales ability important, it is rewarding replica watches uk.  As described by Roth, “[The sales] process — taking something abstract and turning it into something we can connect with emotionally — is inherently creative and exciting and just generally a great experience when you can pull it off in real time.”

In terms of whether HBS should have a sales class, Williams agrees that it would be beneficial.  Given that professors who have worked in industry as well as entrepreneurs who visit HBS almost always mention sales as the most important skill to lean in business, it does beg the question as to why education on the subject is sorely lacking.

Williams calls attention to the case study method itself as one of the potential reasons.  He said, “But because sales is a skill as well as conceptual knowledge, the case-method would need to be augmented with exercises and role-plays.  The class would probably follow a format similar to Negotiations.”  “With the new FIELD curriculum,” said Singal, “there must be a way to integrate this discipline into the first year.”

Although an HBS sales class is not currently available, Williams was generous to provide his “secret” to sales success: don’t sell.  “A good sell is where you lead the customer to give your presentation for you (kind of the way a professor leads a class discussion), flushing out their pain, and then asking them how they would like to proceed.  It’s really that simple, but it takes a lot of practice to learn how to sell without selling.”

In contrast, Singal provides career advice. “Take up a sales job… be a shoe salesman at Nordstrom for a few weeks, sell door-to-door tickets to a community concert or volunteer for a non-profit’s phonathon.  Any kind of real world sales experience will teach you a lot about sales, about yourself…and of course, a lot about humility!”


  1. Nikita,
    This is fantastic, realistic,practical and Have actually experienced this theory in my hospitality world.

  2. Hi Caleb,
    Really proud of the way you have utilized your sales skills and the G.U.T.S. system in the competition. As we both know, Sales is the Million Dollar Skill. In particular I love that you avoided the traditional Power Point presentation. Prospects do not make commitments because of literature and gimmicks but because the product or service fulfills an urgent need.
    Sales is both an art form as well as the science of human behavior and can be the reason a business succeeds or disappears quickly. You have learned these skills well young Padawan, Awesome 🙂
    Author of “The G.UT.S. © Sales Method

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