5 Steps for Setting Yourself Up For Success In a Sports Sales Career


As I flew back from the Seattle Sports Marketing and Career Fair this past week, I couldn’t help but think about the hopeful sports professionals that trekked from other parts of the country to interview, to learn, and to understand the sports process.  There was an enormous amount of valuable information shared in the sessions, from food and beverage ideas to corporate partnership ideas to how to learn to be a first time manager.   This was a conference that was truly engaging and the attendees really wanted to gain as much knowledge from professionals as they could.

An interesting factor for me was engaging with the candidates attending as to how to set themselves up for success in sports sales.   Some were earlier in college years, some were graduating, some were graduated, some were in the midst of a career change and some were already working in sports.  Not everyone necessarily knows what they want to be when they enter college, but internships and summer jobs in fields they are interested in is a great start to knowing if sports, particularly sports sales, is a field you want to get into.  Finding opportunities to practice the sales and teams that offer this as an intern is key.  Many of the candidates there this past week were interested in sales, and to me, that was very heartwarming. Some candidates were looking for a career change, and brought with them a wealth of managerial experience, finance experience, and more. There were definitely a lot of options for teams looking for candidates to weave into their staff.

When you think about it, every graduating class has maybe 50 graduates in sports management.  Multiply that by the number of colleges in your half of the state that offer the program (say there are 20) and you quickly have 1K candidates just from your own area that are new grads, not to mention those in a career change.  What sets you apart? Other than internships prior to graduating, what are some steps that can get you set up for success in sports sales?

Building relationships: importance of networking at events such as this.  

No matter how much you wish, I haven’t known a sports team that came knocking on your door telling you they want you.  They don’t even know about you.  So you send in your resume to the job sites and don’t know why you don’t get a response.  What are you doing differently to get that response?  One thing is to go to events such as this where you can gain valuable knowledge,  meet some of the sports greats, build a relationship and learn some of the ups and downs they had in entering sports.  This gives you the opportunity to start your networking and relationship building which is crucial in sports world.

Getting out of your comfort zone.

Attendees came from New York, Idaho, Chicago…not just the West Coast.  This was quickly noticed as they were out of their comfort zone, yet sincere in learning more and getting that step into their career.  Some connected with us ahead of time, which was definitely out of their comfort zone, yet they wanted to know how to best prepare and how should conversations go.  These are candidates for sports that are sincere about getting in, and want to present their best foot forward so they have time to practice, be less nervous and go in with some confidence.

Follow up after.

Anytime you attend a networking event or meet someone in the industry who has gone above and beyond, follow-up is key.  Looking at the sports execs that were there, they also came from across the country and gave up precious team and staff time to help prepare those looking for careers in sports.  Many of them took the time to not only interview, but also talk more casually after, especially at the after hours mixer.  How important do you think that thank you is? What will make you stand out more than the others? Mention something you may have talked about to spark their memory and now you have a true relationship starting.

Choosing a team.

A strong message that came out in some of the sessions was choosing your first team.  The content was similar by all panelists:  this first position most likely is the most important one you will have. It will either lay the groundwork for the future or will be a negative impact.  Choosing the team is huge.  Think about it…we are looking for a sports job.  Someone is interested in us.  We panic.  We might not get another offer.  We grab it without knowing anything about the program, and 3 months in, we are frustrated.  Or, we have a couple of options both major and minor league and feel that the major league name will give us everything we need.  Yet the program is very different from the minor league one and we simply dismissed it because the team didn’t have the name all your friends would envy you for.  What is important isn’t the name of the team. What’s important is the program they have to coach you and set you  up for success. Which leads me to the last step,

Interview process.

How many times do we go through the interview process listening  and do little talking and are excited when offered a job.  But wait!  In sales, there is an 80/20 ratio:  80% of the talking is done by the prospect and 20% should be done by the seller. So if you are not doing most of the talking, they are not truly interviewing you. The conversation should revolve around questions that you need to think through and answer that will let them get a feel for who you are.  Then, there should be an overview of the program.  Once done, they will ask if you have questions and this is key.  You need to know if you are a good fit for their program, so you also need to have 5 or so questions ready to ask to see if what you are seeking is truly what is offered. For instance,  how do they onboard you? What is the initial training program like? How long is the program? How often during the program is training added? How often do they have 1:1 coaching sessions? Who will be your mentors?  Are there openings at their team at the end of each program or, if not, do they help place you?

Our job as leaders is to help coach our future of sports.  Whether mentoring, interviewing, or employing, let’s make sure we help them prepare well.  And as new candidates and new hires, we need to be a sponge to learn as much as we can and appreciate all that mentors do for you. If you follow a process, the chances of landing the right first job for you is quite high.  If you simply keep applying without any process at all, this will probably be the same way you proceed in your career.  How do you want to stand out? What is your plan? The opportunity is up to you.  As Jeff Yocum, President and Founder of Marquee Search shared, he still has his rejection letter framed … but that rejection letter was the catalyst to move him forward and keep at it to get a position with the organization that rejected him and years of success.  Wonderful stories such as his were key to helping those attending that persistence, patience, and building relationships and trust are key.

So if you are thinking of a job in sports, simply applying probably won’t make it happen.  You have some homework to do prior to that application!

Hope to see YOU at next year’s Seattle Sports Marketing and Career Fair Sept. 30 and Oct. 1.  There are already plans going on to make it bigger and better…but most important is that it was created to be the most informative and affordable for those looking for that next step in sports or those looking to break in.  The lowest price you will pay is now, so plan ahead!

Meanwhile, plan your year out for success!

Kathy Burrows, Founder and President: Sold Out Seating

Finishing up trainings for the first quarter, 2019.  If you haven’t planned yours, call to interview me and let’s see if we are a fit!

Sales / Leadership training:  kathy@soldoutseating.  

Kathy’s Sports Sales Mailbag…send YOUR questions by Tuesdays at 5 EST…everyone will be anonymous!  Send to: kathy@soldoutseating.com

Need a sports sales training book?  http://www.ticketsalesbook.com/



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