Changing the Look Of Sports Sales

sports sales

Kids are the very best salespeople of all. They simply become animated, they chat about what they want, and then they ask.  Somewhere along the way we grow up. We go to school, and become ‘uniform.’  We are all taught math, some getting it, some not. We are all taught English.  Some excel, some do not. This list goes on and on. Then we become adults and we get our sports sales job. And we are told to function in a boiler room atmosphere, where call volume is our only method of accountability, and we are not animated, we don’t really chat about what it is the client wants, but rather what we want, and make a quick ask. All this without really knowing the person. When asked why, the response is often:  ‘but that’s how it’s always worked.’  Well then, why aren’t we sold out?  What is wrong with this picture?

This was a most successful method back in the day where sports in a community was THE entertainment option.  Attending was something everyone wanted to do; it was the place to be.  Fast forward to 2018.  There are loads of entertainment options.  From the arts (symphony, playhouses, musical entertainment, etc.) to youth sports where we spend so many of our days watching our kids playing to amusement parks to sporting events to….the list goes on and on. Yet we still sell as though we are the only option in town, where the boiler room is still trying to function, we tell people results are what counts, yet if we are getting great results but don’t have the right call volume we are written up, and we sell what we need to sell vs what our clients may want.  Worse,  we never get to know the person.

How to change this?  What does the future of sports sales look like? How can we change with the times and let go of the past? How can we stop expecting everyone to lead and function exactly as we did because ‘when I was a seller, this is what made me effective’ or everybody ‘keep calling our past single game buyers” who, in all honesty, have been called so much by everyone they often won’t even answer the phone.

Let’s take a look at the current methods of sales in the 2018’s:

Traditional calling.  Whether calling single game buyers or finding our own prospects, calls out generally means that you will get some calls back.  Since we can’t will a phone to ring on command, this sounds like a great plan for part of your day.

In person visits.  Some people are just better at meeting people face to face and presenting options for them.  They can gauge the reaction better and know when to switch gears. Yet many fear this, because even though they are told an in person visit is worth 20 calls, they are still told they are not hitting call volume.

Social media.  The most feared words to some sports leaders.  How can these kids use something and sell (translation:  I have absolutely no idea what they are’s working but I don’t know what they are doing…therefore, let’s keep people off of it.

Creative selling.  Utilizing our spaces for purposes other than traditional, hosting events that are different from those that have been done over and over to give people a bird’s eye view, etc.  Another dreaded area to some leaders.  This is what the area is designed for. Period.

Staggered hours selling. Not everyone is available from 9-5.  Letting staff work varying hours that they want enables them to be more successful.  Maybe they’re more of a night person, yet we want them there at 8:30 when they are not functioning at their best. But other than an occasional inside sales night staff, we expect our full time people there 9-5.

Now let’s look at the strengths of the staff.  When you consider some are stronger in certain areas, yet we expect them all to function in the same way, is it any wonder that we have bright people that are not succeeding and worse, leaving sports?  It’s no different than teaching math and 1/3 getting it, 1/3 bored, and 1/3 lost. What if we matched the reps more to areas they function best in? What if our sales department was divided by strengths?  For example:

Relationship builders.  Letting this group find their own prospects, be out of the office more and in front of people, attending more events where OUR people are, letting them own a city, etc.  This group would be building the relationships, and finding the right fit, be it season, group, premium or corporate.

Influencers. This group is able to lead people to close.  Instead of scripting and traditional calls, this strength enables people, whether in person, on the phone or via social media use their words wisely to bring prospects to agree to their point of view. This group has a unique way of leading questions and comments to close.

Strategizers.  More and more of the younger sales reps are strong in strategy.  They have a vision, they have ideas, and they are not afraid to move forward with them.  Enabling them to see things differently, create things differently, and invite others to see their vision is a successful way of selling for them.  They will sell some of our premium spaces as prime real estate and will create ways to get sales done that our out of our comfort zone.  Social media is huge to the strategizer, but they are pointed with how they use it.

Executors. This is the group that makes things happen.  They take a vision and make it reality.  They are focused and direct. This is a group that may find they are more successful when, as Nike says, they ‘just do it.’

Strengths vary from person to person, and change every year.  But the very top strengths should be looked at closely and we should encourage our staff to use them in the ways that they feel most comfortable using them.  Giving our staff all the tools they need and empowering them will enable them to go full force.

A future sales team may look something like this:  a mix of people, based on strengths, some of which  are outside almost daily meeting with people, building relationships and turning in sales. Some are focused on social media and creating ideas continually that draw people to their instagram, twitter, etc. and then ‘chatting’ with them, coming up with creative ways to sell on it, etc. Some will be focused on strategizing and coming up with truly unique ways to sell, as well as selling a vision and idea. Some will be focused on executing and will just come in and make it happen.  Some are morning people, some are night people.  Some may find that they function better with social media from noon to 8.  Some may function better with relationship building sometimes during the day, sometimes in the evening. Letting them set those hours and creating their own schedule will enable them to be successful at what they are best at.

We have always said sports is not a 9-5 job.  Yet we get nervous letting our staff work hours that make sense for their best strengths.  As long as the sales are in, what should it matter?  Look at corporations…they have various methods of selling. Yet we stay focused on 1980 and make sure that is the way it is done.

It’s time to let go.  Let’s start recreating our sports sales departments for success.  Let’s take a chance. If you’re not sold out now, what have you got to lose? We can’t fear change just as we can’t fear ideas our staff brings up. If you’re worried about how to hold them accountable, then we should discuss the differences in leadership now also.

How can  you create a changing environment in your own department? The world is changing. Why aren’t we?

Kathy Burrows, Owner, SOS…Sold Out Seating

For Strengths Based Sales Training, or Leadership training for 2020 and beyond:  contact Kathy at:

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Learn more about creative selling at the ALSD Conference in June.  I’ll be there…let’s meet!


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