The Mentality of a Great Sports Salesperson

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No matter your field or place in your career, sales is a way of life.

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Get your mind right and your game tight.

To succeed in sports sales, you have to have the right mentality. I’m not talking about a sales only mentality and a numbers quota. I’m talking about a mentality focused on relationships and growth.

The interesting thing about sales is even when you aren’t in sales, you’re in sales. Sales is a way of life and for everything you do, you are selling yourself.

You can’t ever forget that. You are a brand as much as the experience you are selling, so the minute you compromise your integrity, you compromise your ability to sell.

There are a few qualities that stand out to me when I think of a great salesperson. I asked several veterans and young professionals in the sales world about their thoughts on what it takes to be a great salesperson and this is what they had to say.

ATTITUDE

Having a great attitude is a key element to being a salesperson because without the right attitude, you aren’t going to be focused on selling more than a ticket. Ticket sales is about selling an experience that uses a piece of paper in the form of a ticket as the entry cost.

I asked Kathy Burrows, a top saleswoman in sports and CEO of Stop Selling Tickets!, what she thought it takes to succeed in sports sales.

“When I hire, I hire attitude. I can teach skills. But, I can’t teach attitude. You either have a great attitude that makes you want to learn, or you don’t. I don’t care if you went to college for sports; I don’t even care if you went to college. What I do care about is if you have a desire to fill needs and a hunger for learning.”

As you can see, a great salesperson isn’t successful because of their degree or status on paper, they succeed because of their ability to add value and learn.

I followed up my conversation with Kathy with rising star, Patrick Burns who is an Account Executive for the El Paso Chihuahuas. He told me in his first year one of the most important reasons for his success and others is, “hav[ing] a willingness to learn with the ability to have an open mind.”

Patrick understands that he doesn’t know everything and for him to grow in the industry he needs to be a sponge for information and enjoy the process of growth.

In sales, there are going to be rough days where you don’t sell anything or feel as if you aren’t making progress. There are also days where you absolutely crush it and feel invincible.

As Patrick goes through these experiences he says, “Don’t get too high with the highs, and don’t get too low with the lows.”

Just as many athletes trust the process, sales professionals have to do the same. They have to do it with their ears open and mind thirsty for knowledge. When you have the right attitude, you set yourself up for positive growth and advancement.

GRIT

The second characteristic that makes a great salesperson is GRIT. NYT Bestselling author, Angela Duckworth, defines grit as “the perseverance and passion for long-term goals.”

To put it plainly, grit is the unwavering desire to persevere in the face of adversity to achieve a goal. An amazing example of the power of grit comes from studying West Point’s seven-week training program called Beast Barracks. After studying these experiences and including a grit scale, Duckworth found that grit was directly correlated with the success rates of the cadets.

This is no different than sales.

Bill Guertin, CEO of Stadium Gorilla Sales Training, feels grit is the quality that drives success in the sales world.

“In my experience training over 100 sports sales teams throughout North America, I believe GRIT is what separates the champions from everyone else. To love what you do, and have the mental toughness to stick it out and keep doing it when things are bleak and unsure, is what mostly every successful sales rep in sports has in common. That’s GRIT.”

When I asked for an example, he went on to say, “When I watch a role play exercise with a rep using a bullet-point style script, I can sense when they’re giving up or whether they’re willing to make a mistake or two and plow through the call. The gritty ones aren’t afraid to fail, especially in training environments where they know learning is taking place.”

When you have grit, you are willing to do what you have to do to succeed. You are willing to try new things even if you might fail.

To sum it up, attitude and grit are two qualities that make for a great salesperson. They aren’t the only qualities that make for successful salespeople, but they definitely are qualities that successful salespeople possess.

It is important to remember you are your greatest salesperson. Whether it’s selling tickets, premium seats, or sponsorships, you are always selling yourself. Sales can be a tough business, but if you are willing to persevere and learn along the journey, then you will be able to succeed in this dog eat dog industry.


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This piece has been presented to you by SMU’s Master of Science in Sport Management.


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