Some of students are visibly nervous, signaling their apprehension. A handful seem calm, even confident. But is it real or false bravado?
This is what Duleep Delpechitre wants to learn today.
It’s Regions Day on Campus at Illinois State University.
Delpechitre is an associate professor of marketing at the sprawling campus in Normal and he wants to put his highest-level students through the ringer, with the help of local executives from Regions Bank.
“It’s pretty intense,” Delpechitre said. “These are advanced sales candidates, and one of my objectives is to make this interaction as realistic as possible.”
So cut the chitchat, hide the smiles. For Regions bankers, they have a role to play, whether it’s going through mock career days or hearing dozens of sales pitches – another example of the Delpechitre’s outreach and Regions’ participation.
“In sales, we know you’re going to hear ‘no’ more than ‘yes.’ So when the Regions executives come in, we supply them with directions on the personality they must take on. It requires some acting. We tell them, ‘be stubborn, tell them to stop wasting my time.’ “
It’s tough academic love. And it works.
“I’m blown away by how great these students are,” said Marianne Davis, the Regions’ Branch Manager in East Peoria. “Every time we do one of these, I think about what it might be like trying this on a complete stranger. These students are walking in dressed in suits, meeting someone they’ve never met. It makes it all more relatable.”
For Delpechitre, that’s the goal.
Each year, he brings in up to 50 corporate executives from the local market to take part in several real-world classroom experiences with his students.
“The class I teach is very much hand’s on,” Delpechitre said. “In fact, the my advanced is almost all role-play, where students meet with professionals to sell products.”
To help his students progress and find good jobs, Delpechitre has developed relationships with companies throughout the area. He first reached out to Davis three years ago, and the response was enthusiastic and instant.
“She immediately jumped on board. She was excited,” he said. “Every semester, for the last five semesters, we’ve had executives from Regions come here and get involved. We’re blessed because they really engage our students, and they give feedback on many different aspects from sales skills to career advice to fine-tuning resumes.”
For the Mock Buyer experience, Delpechitre cajoles the Regions team into playing the role of disinterested vendor with stern faces and sharp-tongued responses and no time to waste. For Davis, it requires some acting ability.
“I can tell the students spend a lot of time preparing, and many have overcome obstacles to get here,” Davis said. “Grading is difficult. If they don’t pass, we’ll give them constructive feedback.”
Getting other Regions associates on board is a simple request. Joining Davis for the Mock Buyer session were Area Investment Executive Mitchell Flatt and Financial Consultants Brandon Crane and Keith Maurer.
Last spring, a Mock Buyer sessions focused on technology as one student pitched a web-design process. But in his presentation, he only provided screenshots for Davis.
“I asked him, ‘If I’m buying technology, why can’t you actually show me how it works?’ And he said, ‘My laptop broke and I’m a poor college kid, that’s why.’ That’s as real as it gets.”
In the Mock Buyer sessions, students get 20 minutes to make a pitch and the Regions executives hear from 18 to 20 students throughout the day. A video team records the sessions so that feedback continues after the bankers are gone.
“Afterward, we’ll reflect on what they did right and where they need to improve,” Delpechitre said. “I think this enhances their sales ability. So it’s truly helpful when executives from Regions come in, participate and play their roles. It’s a whole different ballgame. They not only give us a perspective on sales, but on management. Marianne’s willingness to get involved makes a difference.”
Delpechitre said his students, starting as sophomores, get to meet local business influencers and learn how to network, which will help them launch and advance careers.
“It just makes sense to have this partnership. We focus on relationship selling and Regions focuses on relationship banking. Our students benefit from this.”