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News@Ivey · Dawn Milne

Ivey alumna wins 2020 Great Canadian Sales Competition

Sep 18, 2020

Karishma Porwal

Karishma Porwal

If there is one thing Karishma Porwal, HBA ’20, has learned about sales, it’s that the human element is important.

And that mindset led her to win the 2020 Great Canadian Sales Competition (GCSC) during the final round on September 15. Held annually over the course of several months, the GCSC is the largest post-secondary competition in Canada and aims to educate students on sales as a potential career path. Starting out with 2,800 contestants, Porwal advanced through round one and the semi-finals and was one of 16 students selected to pitch to a panel of judges virtually in the final round. In addition to Porwal, two other Ivey students were also finalists: Tierney Sterling, an HBA ’21 candidate, and Kathryn Thang, HBA ’20.

Porwal pitched on behalf of a digital marketing platform called Easypromos as one of their sales representatives and came out of the competition with $7,500 and an invaluable network of sales and entrepreneurship professionals.

A new approach to sales

“I had to break that 'sales stereotype' that existed in my head and I learned that selling is more about having a genuine, meaningful conversation as opposed to pushing product,” said Porwal, who is now Associate Brand Manager of Tylenol and Motrin at Johnson & Johnson. “You need to know just as much about your customers as you do about your product/service. Meeting their needs and solving their problems is going to be way more important than a ‘feature dump.’”

Since the final round was virtual because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Porwal also addressed in her pitch how the pandemic has brought new challenges for businesses.

“In these uncertain times, it is important to be human and understand that COVID-19 has brought new challenges and we're all struggling to cope. Acknowledging and addressing that in my pitch was really important and it started the conversation off on a more authentic note,” she said.

Lessons from Sales Foundations at Ivey

Porwal said she hadn’t done anything sales-related before the competition and didn’t think she’d be good at it. She learned about the competition in her Sales Foundations course at Ivey, which is taught by Entrepreneurship Lecturer Eric Janssen, HBA ’09, MBA ’20, and was encouraged to put herself out there.

Since she’s a passionate climate advocate, she made a short video on composting for the course and decided to submit it to the competition. She advanced to the semi-finals and was assigned to Easypromos. Thanks to help from her GCSC coach and countless hours pitching before family, Porwal sharpened her sales skills enough to advance through the competition and win.

She said the Sales Foundations course also prepared her for the competition by teaching her sales tactics and how to deal with failure and rejection.

“The class taught me to just put myself out there and do things I'd never done before. Eric [Janssen] taught us that failure and rejection are actually a sign of progress and we shouldn't be afraid to fail,” she said. “I would highly recommend the course for incoming HBA2s, whether they see themselves in sales or not.”

Janssen said people find themselves in sales situations all the time, whether they are doing a job interview or trying to get an investor to fund a company. His goal with the course is to give students practical skills that will make a difference in their careers.

For Porwal, her introduction to sales through the course and the competition has led her to consider it in her future career.

“I've learned that sales really is the lifeblood of any business and I would love to be involved with that going forward – putting everything I have learned to use in the real world,” she said.