It’s kind of rare that you come across a completely unique process in the sports industry. Sure there are advancements in the business of sports, things like dynamic ticket pricing, analytics, even social media is an advancement on the method of communication and marketing.
But truly unique doesn’t come around all that often, when it does, you take note.
Want to work with a pro team? What’s the advice you hear all the time – look into sales. Right? I mean I’ve never worked in sales myself, but I’ve done enough of these interviews to see a pattern when it becomes obvious.
Sales is the lifeblood of every sports organization because without sales there is no event. I remember going to a Major indoor Soccer League game as a kid – it was the Dallas Sidekicks vs. the Cleveland Crunch… now I lived in Boston, but it was a touring exhibition to try and get more fans nationally.
The game featured Tatu, who was one of the greatest indoor soccer players in the world… and no one was there. I mean no one.
It was pretty clear this league and this team wasn’t going to last… no tickets sold, no revenue, no operation.
It makes sense why teams focus so much of their energy on sales and sales training.
More than half of the entry level jobs in sports are in sales, and all teams both high and low, have sales academies for their entry level inside sales crew. This is where they get the hardcore training in how to become an elite salesperson in sports… or they find out it isn’t for them and they bail.
But what about everyone else? What about someone who wants to work in a different department? Where do they get the training necessary to thrive in the industry?
Teams have more than just sales people on staff, so what are they doing to train those people, and keep that talent in house?
Well, the Oakland A’s identified this problem. They changed the typical pro team sales academy, deciding to take a holistic approach to training.
The focus of their elite training program, called the CORE, wouldn’t be just on sales…it would be Communications, Corporate Partnerships, Marketing, Strategy, or Community Engagement. Why? Because they wanted to create an incredible staff, and keep them with the A’s. The best way to do that is by finding their perfect spot, not just spoon feeding sales.
The CORE stands for Culture, Opportunity, Results and Education – and it is led by the Eddie Eixenberger and Christopher Flynn. Chris joins us on the podcast this week, to explain more about this incredible program:
1: I’m a big fan of branding - giving product or group a name, purpose and tag line… at the Oakland A’s you’ve really done that, branding your sports business development academy “The CORE”… can you explain a little more about the program and how it was created?
2: Almost every team has a sales academy where they train their inside sales staff to sell tickets…but you guys are going one step further than just sales, you’re also training these new academy members in Communications, Corporate Partnerships, Marketing, Strategy, and Community Engagement – why was it so important to have a more holistic and complete version of training outside of just sales?
3: CORE stands for Culture, Opportunity, Results, and Education –All great terms, but I love in particular the two middle terms: Opportunity and Re
sults – can you explain why these two in particular are such an important part of the A’s sports business development?
4: I’ve watched your LinkedIn feed and one of the things I find amazing is that you continually bring in guest speakers from the industry to educate and inform your academy members, and you appear to have a book club of sorts… obviously this relates to the ongoing education pillar of CORE – does this approach really differentiate you from other team academies?
5: Your title has CORE right in it… Sales manager, The CORE – what is your exact role as it pertains to the A’s and these new academy members?
6: 18 members from all across the country joined your inaugural “CORE” development academy – I imagine you had a huge number of applicants… how did you decide on the right fits for your program and culture?
7: So let’s say I’m lucky enough to get into your development program, yes I know I’m too old, but let’s pretend for a second I’m a college graduate… what does my day to day look like while I’m immersed in the program?
8: We have many people listening in our audience, many are recent college grads, but there is also a section of people looking to change careers into sports… what if you are someone with a lot of experience in selling but maybe not sports… is it possible to find you way in with a team?nn
9: Let’s talk about you personally – why did you get into sales, and what has sales taught you about yourself?
10: What’s the right attitude for jobs in sales? Is it confident? Aggressive? Organized? What attributes would you assign to top sales people?
11: From afar, it seems like the sales process has changed some – I go on my LinkedIn feed and see people trying to sell game tickets there, and I know I get calls when the Boston Red Sox are in town, since I’m from Boston, and I know I get some retargeting ads on facebook and other digital channels… how much has sales changed in the digital world we live in today, or am I overestimating the change and it’s still a phone call world?
12: You clearly do a great deal of training and working with various people on their approach and strategies in selling… if you could boil it down to one big piece of advice for the people in our audience, what would you say the key to successful selling comes down to?
Listen to all of Christopher Flynn's great answers on The Work in Sports podcast!