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An Elevator Pitch to the Top
“Good afternoon, my name is Erin Iwamoto and I would like you to remember me as the girl that fearlessly gets the job done.” The opening line of Iwamoto’s 60-second elevator pitch — delivered to judges at the 2018 Northeast Intercollegiate Sales Competition — shows how the Marketing and Global Perspectives major with no previous sales experience managed to win second place in the national competition. More than 180 students from across the country competed.
“I’m not interested in numbers but I am interested in people," says Iwamoto, a junior who is the highest-placing Bentley competitor to date. “I love the fact that each new potential sales client is going to be different. It’s the most challenging part of the job but the most intriguing, too.”
Which may be the reason she performed so well in the competition. The stereotypical car salesman looking to make a quick buck doesn’t make a successful salesperson in today’s market. Listening to what clients need and finding the right product or service for them does.
“Sales is not a one-size-fits-all career,” Iwamoto says. “It’s about the people -- knowing how to read body language, adjust to them and get people to open up to you.”
Jim Pouliopoulos MBA '94, director of Bentley’s Professional Sales Program, agrees. “The best salespeople excel at building rapport with their prospects,” says Pouliopolous, who is known around campus as “Pouli.” “They don't immediately begin pitching about their product or service without understanding the prospect as a person first and not just as a potential buyer. Erin has a natural ability to quickly build rapport with people she speaks with.”
To prepare for the sales competition, Iwamoto listened closely to advice from her coaches, management lecturer Gary Johnson and Bentley alumni Dave Bakstran ’80 and Brendan Kelly ’14, who told her: Clients are not going to listen to you unless they trust you. So when it came time for the competition and Iwamoto’s elevator pitch, she got personal:
“Growing up on the island town of Sitka, Alaska, with only 14 miles of paved road, I learned how to turn my curiosity about the world into an ambition,” she told the judges. “When I was just 16 years old, this motivated me to work two part-time jobs while attending high school in order to afford a semester study abroad program to Costa Rica.”
Iwamoto went on to explain that at age 18, she wanted to further challenge herself and applied to a business school 3,000 miles away from her home – Bentley University.
“Here, I proved the strength of my interpersonal skills and leadership capabilities to become one of the 20 percent of applicants selected as a residents’ assistant. My ability to adapt to new environments and my passion for learning about the world have been the drivers of my success. As an addition to your team, I will bring that same mentality to make sure we collectively achieve the company’s goals and pioneer toward success.”
Going into the competition with no sales experience demonstrated Iwamoto’s determination. The event, which was held at Bryant University in Rhode Island, each year attracts talented collegiate sales teams from across the U.S. and Canada for a two-day, multi-round competition in which students role-play as representatives of a consulting firm. Bentley’s team, which won second among 24 teams based on points from all student competitors, prepared by meeting with coaches during activity periods to role-play various sales scenarios.
On her own time, Iwamoto watched YouTube videos of past competitions to see what competitors did and didn't do well. Pouli says this kind of collecting and curating information is critical for successful salespeople. “The amount of information available online is overwhelming. An effective salesperson collects information and curates and shares the relevant content when prospects need it. In this way, a salesperson supports the prospect's buying process but does not force the prospect through the process.”
After networking with judges — and winning second place — Iwamoto says she knows that she has what it takes for a career in sales. “Being judged by employers who are scoring you and giving comments was anxiety-inducing,” she says. “But knowing that I was able to get through that and place second in such a great competition leaves me a lot more confident moving forward.”
And just to be sure, Iwamoto will spend this summer in Dallas, working as a sales intern at Gartner, an information technology research and advisory company.