Key Sales Skills For the Modern Sports Salesperson…


I just had a great conversation with a leader at a major professional league about creating consistency and a level base of knowledge for their sales teams, league-wide.

As I have been working on a few things around certifications and delivering consistent, long-term value through training, it was pretty interesting to have an unprompted call asking me just those questions.

That got me to thinking about what a base level of knowledge for the modern sports salesperson should look like…here are a few ideas:

Strategic Selling:

At the ALSD in Pittsburgh in 2016, I did a session called “The Strategic Seller.” In this session, I discussed using strategic thought to drive sales.

For me, the strategy often boils down to 3 simple questions:

  1. What’s the value we are trying to create?
  2. Who is the buyer?
  3. How do we reach them?

In today’s world, we have more competition in every industry than ever before. And, a larger challenge is that people seem all too happy to take a quick dive into the world of commodity pricing or commodity selling.

Which, to put it simply, means you only sell the same way everyone else is selling and/or you rely solely on price to differentiate you.

Bad idea, all around.

The foundation of strategic selling is at the heart of the great book, Blue Ocean Shift.

In this book, the concept of creating your own market is at the heart of the thesis. In sports, we have moved away from that.

But allowing sports to be mindlessly lumped into the “entertainment” category has done sports a disservice.

That’s why strategic selling is going to be vital going forward. It won’t be enough to just sell, but you will have to sell to your unique strengths and value.

Customer Service:

Customer service is something that gets a lot of lip service in a lot of places.

We talk a lot about putting customers first.

But our follow through is often horrendous.

As an example, I had a colleague in sports business reach out about taking his dad to some baseball games over the summer and I reached out to several contacts at one team, explaining the situation, and asking if it was cool to put this person in touch with them.


Crazy enough, this isn’t unusual.

My question is: If you treat an industry contact like that, how are you treating other customers?

That’s why customer service is vital.

It isn’t enough to have a game and throw open the gates.

We have to show that we care and want people there.

Anything less is going to cost us.

Critical Thinking:

File this under business acumen.

We need our salespeople to be able and willing to think on their feet.

Seth Godin has written that in the future world of work, compliance is just going to be expected and that the true value of work will be in solving interesting problems.

I agree.

But in too many instances, we don’t empower our teams to be proactive, to think and act with their own initiative.

I think Tim Ferriss wrote in The 4-Hour Workweek that he empowered his partners to solve any problem up to $500. It could have been $50. The point is that by empowering customer service to resolve issues, they are usually more creative and more likely to treat customers in a manner that has more impact on their experience.

I think this is super important going forward.

In 2015, I heard an executive from a large financial services company implore teams and leagues to do a better job of training and hiring people to think because they didn’t have time to train the sales agents for them.

That should have been a wake-up call, but it hasn’t necessarily been one.

So we have to do better with empowering our folks to think and act based on their knowledge and relationships.

Those are just 3 things that came out of my conversation, I am sure that I will have more.

What say you?




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