Number-crunching Innovation

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When Coles College of Business student Molly Altmire beat out 134 of the nation’s top students to win the 2014 National Collegiate Sales Competition, she had her polished sales skills to thank, and some help from an innovative teammate.

Six business students made up the KSU collegiate sales team and they practiced together early each morning for several months leading up to the competition. They would meet in the Center for Professional Selling training lab in the Burruss Building to practice their sales techniques for the given product, ADP software. Each practice would include role-plays, watching recordings of their sales calls and critiquing each other, and building skills, confidence and a strong sense of unity along the way.

Developing “The Secret Weapon”

As the KSU team worked through multiple sales scenarios during practices, they noticed a trend. They were doing the same calculations each time, wasting precious client face-time working through the math.

Team member Christian Kennedy, a senior marketing major, had no experience creating apps, but after determining there was nothing out there to help him automate the sales calculations, he decided it was time to learn.

“I spent eight weeks reading about app development,” said Kennedy. “I’d basically fall asleep with the iPad hitting me in the face.”

Using the iPad he won through a previous sales competition, Kennedy created an app the team appropriately named, “The Secret Weapon.” By gathering five or six pieces of critical information, like number of employees and pay periods, The Secret Weapon could quickly calculate annual savings for a company with these basic inputs, making the sale much easier.

“When you’re on a sales call, you want to stay engaged with the prospective client,” said Kennedy. “The time and rapport are really valuable, and this tool allows you to maximize that, while providing the hard numbers buyers want.

Fighting for First Place

When the National Collegiate Sales Competition kicked off in March on the Kennesaw State campus, the KSU team could only send two into the competition. Seniors Julissa Chavez and Molly Altmire were chosen, but fellow teammate Christian Kennedy stood by for guidance as The Secret Weapon accompanied both women into their 20-minute timed sales calls.

“We knew we had a big leg up because of the app,” said Chavez. “The bottom line was we could quantify and the other teams couldn’t.”

Altmire ultimately won first place and helped secure a second-place finish for the Kennesaw State University team.

“Having my team behind me made all the difference. We worked together, we became friends and the app was an advantage,” Altmire said.

“I’m not a computer guy at all, but I had enough background knowledge and was able to learn more,” said Kennedy, who worked in the real estate industry before coming to Kennesaw State. “I think this will make me more marketable to employers and will show what I can do, that I take initiative to solve problems.”

Kennedy is currently in talks with ADP and Mannington Flooring about making The Secret Weapon viable for large-scale use and customizing it for different lines of business.

-- Paula Stanton; Photo by David Caselli