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International student athlete Harry Soederlind and Sales Professional In Residence Mark Michalisin

Harry Soederlind ’22, a marketing major and international student athlete at The College of Saint Rose, took top honors among business students across the country in the Fall 2021 RMMKRS Virtual Sales Competition, the largest and first-ever competition of its kind, which was sponsored by Dell. Over 1,600 students competed to sell a product to a potential buyer on their phones or tablets, having sales conversations in a simulated elevator with an artificially intelligent (AI) customer bot that also scored students. To be successful, they had to keep the bot continuously engaged as they ascended. All combined, competitors took 15,000 simulated elevator rides. Soederlind was one of eight regional champions in the north division.

RNMKRS, a free online tool for students and faculty to learn, practice, and demonstrate selling skills, asked competitors to role-play a scenario as a Dell sales executive pitching a Notebook computer to the IT director for the Sunflower Fire Department, a potential buyer and the “face” of the animated bot. They were judged on how well they built a rapport with the client, understanding the problems they face, offering solutions, handling objections to offers, and sealing the deal. Soederlind had to craft a pitch that was intriguing from start to finish, “to keep the bot’s interest at each level as we went up in the elevator. I had to make sure it kept listening to me.”

Sales Professional In Residence Mark Michalisin held numerous speed sell drills in class, giving Soederlind and other competing students the opportunity to practice and refine their pitches.

“It is a great competition to put all the lessons and theories in action that were taught in class,” Michalisin stated. “Confidence is key in sales. My advice to Harry and all my students is to always be confident in your ability and believe in yourself.”

In addition to Soederlind, Michalisin’s entire Personal Selling and Negotiation Class of 26 students also participated in the competition. Despite all of his preparation, Soederlind was still surprised by his win.

“I’m not the most social of people, and I was a little worried. But Mark makes the material from class so easy to understand, and that made the task of an elevator pitch seem like nothing to be afraid of,” he said.

Michalisin prepares his students for competitions and their future careers by frequently sharing his favorite Vince Lombardi quote, “Everyone has the will to win, but very few have the will to prepare to win.” He believes Soederlind truly embodied this statement and differentiated himself from the competition by, “constantly practicing and making the commitment to do his best. I am very proud of him.”

Soederlind is proud of his win, but also recognizes the hard work and dedication of his fellow classmates.

“We have great students right here at Saint Rose and I’m proud to represent the College, both athletically and academically. No matter where my career takes me, I will always prepare to win and be successful,” he said.