Turning Your Passion For Hockey into a Career You Love
Turning Your Passion For Hockey into a Career You Love
By AJ Lee | October 06, 2017
You’ve been playing hockey your entire life. It started on the street in front of your house, and then quickly shifted to the ice. You’re passion for the game is undeniable. In your eyes, hockey isn’t just a sport — it’s a way of life.
The hockey industry is a tough one to crack, but if you can get your foot in the door with one of the major equipment manufacturers a flood of opportunities open up. If you choose that path, there are two sales routes you can take: the retail division or the pro division.
Hockey Jobs: Retail Division
On the retail side, you’ll be working closely with brick-and-mortar retail stores — think Pure Hockey, Canadian Tire, Gunzo’s or your local hockey store. Sales representatives are assigned locations based on territory.
While the primary goal here is to produce sales, and lots of them, it’s also important to be able to educate retailers on product changes and enhancements.
Has the taper changed?
Have previous issues been addressed in the latest model?
Customers may come in with an idea of what they’re looking for, but more often than not they are visiting a store seeking advice or, at the very least, a little assurance. Since you won’t be working directly with the end-user, it’s extremely important that this information is passed along to the person who will.
Another important aspect of the retail division is understanding how location and customer demographics will affect sales.
Filling a store with top-of-the line models in a low-income area won’t bode well for your bottom line. Although hockey is a notoriously expensive sport, that doesn’t mean everyone is willing to pay top dollar.
Customers will also vary immensely in age, experience and skill level — you need to be able to offer the right products that match these customer needs.
The primary goal is much different on the pro side of things.
While sales are still important, the No. 1 goal is to grow the manufacturer’s brand. Getting a star NHL athlete into your brand’s gear has enormous marketing value. They are, quite literally, walking billboards for these companies.
Potential customers see their favorite athlete wearing a particular brand, and it immediately draws their interest. This helps boosts sales for the manufacturer and helps build their credibility.
“If it’s good enough for Sidney Crosby, it must be good enough for me.”
As a pro rep, it’s important that you’re able to talk to players on a personal level as well as a technical level. You want the player to feel comfortable talking to you about any issues they may be experiencing. Your ability to collect and analyze player feedback is crucial toward your success as a pro rep.
Pro players may not always know exactly what changes they’re looking for in their equipment or how to describe the issue they’re having. It's the pro reps who have to use personal experience and familiarity with hockey terminology to dissect the true nature of the problem and come up with solutions. Solutions make the pro player happy, which means they are more likely to stay with your brand, and in turn more likely to speak positively about it.
At the pro level, no two players are exactly alike, so assessing their needs and interpreting their issues is paramount to success.
Hockey Jobs: Which Role Is Best For You?
Although both retail and pro reps are both essentially just selling hockey equipment, the differences in clientele, overall goals and the knowledge needed are fairly extensive.
Unless you were able to play hockey at a high level (collegiate, juniors, semi-pro or pro), the road to becoming a pro rep will be a tough one.
Several pro reps today are former NHL players — people who understand what current players are going through, when they can be approached or when to give them space. They’ve had experiences with reps before, and have learned how to find middle ground between too much contact and not enough.
If you have a strong passion for hockey but don’t have the firsthand experience, a retail rep is a great option. Although it’s much more about sales, you’re still able to work with the latest and greatest hockey equipment the industry has to offer.
The knowledge you’re passing along is also extremely important. Not only are you helping the retailer understand the product they’re trying to sell, but you’re also working to educate the next wave of young hockey players.
Helping young players get the right equipment for their playing styles can go a long way toward building their confidence and enhancing their development.
In both positions, it’s extremely important to understand your products at a high level.
There is a lot that goes into finding the perfect piece of equipment — player size, playing style, position, etc. — and it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the number of options. As equipment continues to get more and more customized, the importance of these reps can only grow.
AJ Lee is the Marketing Coordinator for Pro Stock Hockey, an online resource for pro stock hockey equipment. He was born and raised in the southwest suburbs of Chicago and has been a huge Blackhawks fan his entire life. AJ picked up his first hockey stick at age 3 and has yet to put it down. He went on to play hockey at the college level for Illinois State University while earning his Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing.
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