Make a hundred calls, cover the phones, get a sale, ask for a referral, and work the sales table. I’m tired of making all these calls! Some people are disrespectful! Why can’t people just say “not interested” instead of hanging up? My boss is getting on my nerves! Why am I doing all the work? It seems like all the senior reps do is walk around the venue visiting fans or sitting in suites and talking sports with potential clients. Wow, when do I get to move up?
That is how it can feel to be an Inside Sales rep. It’s an entry level position of continual sales training sessions, crammed next to co-workers, making hundreds of outbound calls to prospects and getting paid pennies compared to senior sales reps. We called our inside sales room, “The Dungeon.” No windows, small cubes, no space to stretch out, and a whiteboard showcasing either remarkable or dreadful sales numbers.
I remember competing with twelve other reps for one or two senior rep positions. Not only were we competing for a promotion, but also commissions. When I received my first commission check, that’s when I knew I wanted to be a sales rep for a pro sports team: $550 bucks. YEAH BUDDY! My mind was made up. I saw my efforts determined my pay check as well as my career path. GAME ON!
How do you break into sports?
The most frequent question I hear is “how do I break into the industry?” I immediately turn skeptical because most people usually think it’s about watching games, connecting with players, and being in a fun and exciting environment. But what they don’t know is I’m in sales. In many ways I am no different than the guy selling insurance or home mortgages. I just get to sell the NBA.
Internships. As a hiring manager the first thing I look for in a candidate is internship experience. Internships show an understanding that the job is difficult and not glamorous. It provides exposure to sales teams and management and allows access to build relationships with managers and others in the industry. I often see hundreds of resumes to only hire 2 to 3 reps. The industry is highly competitive and specific keys are essential to getting in. Network at all cost, attend job fairs, read up on the industry, and pick up the phone and sell yourself.
Preparation. The Texas Rangers found my resume on Monster.com, no joke. The Inside Sales Manager for the Rangers at that time had two reps search for candidates on the web. They brought me in for an interview and I met with the Inside Sales Manager and then the VP of Ticket Sales. I’ll never forget the role play with the VP right on the spot: “Okay, Charles sell me something.” Those were his exact words. I was so nervous, but at that moment I remembered my first sales job while at Texas Tech calling alumni for contributions. I used the same pitch again. Ten minutes later they offered me the job.
The typical sport sales career path
The typical career road map consists of three sales positions before moving into the three levels of sales management (manager, director, vice-president).
- Inside Sales: Set a foundation base on work ethic, developing sales skills, and tracking sales performance. Deals are typically discrete transactions for ticket packages.
- Account Executive (season tickets or groups): Manage your customer base, focusing on relationship selling and closing high value deals. Most deals at this level become moderate or complex sales.
- Premium/Suites: Recognized for your achievements, you are now an expert compared to the novice you were when you first stepped into inside sales. All sales are complex with a higher value, as you often sell to corporate accounts.
Generating revenue will lead to a career. Don’t work to reach minimums (i.e., the job description). Go above and beyond. Winners in this business are team players who keep open lines of communication with supervisors and co-workers.
Stay hungry. Stay humble. Stay hustling!