7 behaviors of the sports industry’s best salespeople
by Bob Hamer | October 13, 2017
I’ve technically worked in sports since 05’ if you count the internships with the Charlotte Bobcats and spring training with the Arizona Diamondbacks. All of my professional experience over the last 12 years has been in sports sales and I’ve covered the full spectrum of jobs during that time.I worked for salespeople and in a ticket booth as an Intern, I was in sales myself and managed sellers and sales managers at the Phoenix Suns and for the last three years I’ve trained sports salespeople all over the country.Recognizing people as being “the best” is subjective, I realize that. However, I’ve observed, worked with, and worked for many salespeople over the years and have seen many of them grow to the top of the industry. These same people have been recognized in the “40 under 40”, they’ve sold deals that are written about in the Sports Business Journal and they’re atop all the sales boards in the markets I visit. Their skill set and personalities might be different but I’ve seen 7 consistent behaviors exhibited by these sellers that have enabled them, in my opinion, to become best in class. Here’s what they do and hopefully we all can learn from them:
1. They aren’t “salesy” – It isn’t always about maximizing someone’s budget, hitting them with the sales line, or putting a hard close on them. If your prospects don’t enjoy the experience working with you or you sell them something that isn’t a great fit, they won’t come back. They’ll also be less likely to buy more product from you or refer you to others they know. Be sure to take the long approach, don’t over-extend them, ensure they have a good experience at the start and then gradually take them up the ladder.
2. They’re product knowledge experts – Product knowledge won’t get you a sale, but it can lose you one. You have to know it inside and out. The best sellers I know are experts on their product. They know the club spaces, what’s included, pricing, vantage points and why the nuances of each space make sense for each unique prospect. They don’t take a one-size-fits-all approach. You can’t just pitch the club or courtside seats because you were told to start high and work down, you have to connect the dots between what’s important to them and what you have to offer. The pitch has to make sense and the better you know the product, the easier it is to do that.
3. They’re confident – Confidence can take many different forms but it’s paramount to selling at the highest level. In your heart you have to truly believe in your product and the solution you can provide a business, family, or fan. If you don’t, or you question why someone would pay that much for seats, you’ll struggle. Also, the best sellers are so confident in their sales pipelines, that it doesn’t matter if any one sale falls through because they have plenty of others to make up for it. If you don’t believe in yourself or your product, or if you’re desperate during the sales process it can turn off a prospect and make your job a lot tougher. The best sellers never waver, they are confident while not being arrogant.
4. They genuinely love the game – For many, it isn’t about selling, it’s about helping others. They don’t see it as a grind and just hitting quota or making sales calls. They love going to games and events and meeting new people, building strong relationships, socializing and helping others experience the magic of pro sports and entertainment. They enjoy the chase, the pitch, and the deal but above all else, they love the sales game. It may sound surprising but there are many sellers out there who don’t enjoy selling. The best ones all do though. It’s not work for them, it’s fun.
5. They motivate themselves – Most of the best sellers are motivated by one of the following three things: money, autonomy or mastery of the craft. They don’t need to be micro managed, they don’t want as much data, analytics or the fancy dashboards (although I’ll argue it helps). They don’t need all the sales meetings, flash promos, or the sales contests. They’re driven on their own to sell, make money, or be the best in class. It’s a mindset, and for all of the best sellers I know, they just want to be given their materials and be left to go out and make it happen. They don’t need someone else (or something else) to motivate them.
6. They work on their craft – Many of the top sellers in the industry have been at it for a long time and they didn’t get there overnight. But what’s been consistent for many is they are students of the game. They are always reading, blogging, learning a new industry, or researching happenings in their communities. They’ve tinkered and enhanced their processes over time and have continued to learn and grow. If they stopped once they had achieved “success” they wouldn’t have continued to grow their business each and every year and eventually risen to become best in class.
7. They build relationships – The most common trait among the best salespeople is they build great relationships. They don’t just have clients, these are people that they truly care about like friends, and the feeling is mutual. These salespeople spend time face to face with their customers. They get to know them, they over-deliver when they can, and they ensure they have a good experience. The salespeople also find reasons to stay in touch with their clients when it doesn’t have anything to do with selling them something. They enjoy making people happy or helping their businesses grow, above the commission they earn, and their clients can feel that. If you genuinely care about others and have a desire to help them, you’ll build strong relationships and it’ll grow your business exponentially.Whether you’ve been in sales for 6 months or 10 years, hopefully some of these character traits and behaviors can help you succeed both now and in the long term. Hopefully one day we’ll be talking about you being among the industry's elite. Good luck!