Finding a Job in Sports Sales: Advice From a Team Leader

finding a job in sports sales
Looking for a team that wins? See how effective their sales team is at bringing in revenue. Sports sales are a big piece of the organizational puzzle.
Picture an NBA team’s organizational structure for a moment – where do you think the staff is most heavily weighted?

The Scouting department? Marketing? Accounting? Facilities management?

All false.

The largest portion of any team organization is the group directly related to revenue – the Sales team. Corporate sponsorship, inside sales, group sales, season tickets, luxury suites; the people tasked with selling these assets are the deal-makers whose successful work helps fund the rest of the organizational structure.

Sales teams are the model of ROI - professional organizations know, you invest in talent here and there is money to be made.

For Kevin Duplaga, Director of Ticket Sales for the Miami Heat, finding the right talent to add to his sales team is an on-going process.

“Everyone does not sell the same exact way, so we look for a variety of salespeople that enjoy finding new business. We look for people that are competitive, give relentless effort on a daily basis, and are team players. Elite salespeople are self-starters and are driven from within to improve their craft.”

The search for these elite, competitive, relentless, team playing, self-starters is a full-time job in and of itself, and considering the majority of first-year sales people flame out, finding new inbound talent channels is imperative.

“We have had success finding new salespeople at the job fairs,” adds Duplaga. “We have also had success hiring top performing sales people within the sports industry. Additionally, we have had success hiring salespeople from outside of sports.”

If working in sports sales requires a relentless nature, it sure seems hiring sales people does too.

For more on what Duplaga advises for finding a job in sports sales, and how he figured out he was made for a sales career, here’s more from the Miami Heat Director of Ticket Sales:

After graduating college you began your sports career in minor league baseball - besides the obvious difference in resources and attendance numbers - what are the main differences between working in the minors and working for a major pro team? 

Duplaga: I really enjoyed my experience working with the Richmond Roosters as well as the Fort Wayne Wizards. The biggest difference between working in the minors and working for a major pro team is you have an opportunity to work with a variety of departments in the minors because the staff is much smaller.

After graduating college, I knew I wanted to work in sports but I was not sure which area of the business I wanted to explore. I learned at the minor league level that I really enjoyed learning about customer needs. I also enjoyed the responsibility of creating new ticket sales programs to drive revenue to sell out our stadium.

In the minors, you find out what areas of the business you enjoy the most. Then when you are presented with an opportunity to work for a pro team when the expectations are higher you know exactly what it will take to have success in that role.

You were a sports management major – do you believe there is an advantage for someone who wants to work in sports sales and studies sports management vs. someone who goes to college and studies business administration?

Duplaga: I think it is valuable to take as many personal selling classes as you can while you are still in school regardless of the major you choose to study if you want to pursue a career in sales.

Internships are also extremely valuable. Sometimes students take an internship only because it is a required part of their curriculum. I look at internships as an opportunity to learn part of the business. In internships, you get a taste of many different jobs within professional sports. You then have a much better idea as to which career path you want to take once you graduate.

If you want to work in sales, you want to get as much sales experience as you can while you are still in school to separate yourself from other potential applicants.

There is a great deal of churn in most sales teams, many people struggle to adapt to selling and get weeded out, what do you believe makes one person thrive and another fail?

Duplaga: Sales is a skill that you can learn.

The people that choose to make the commitment to learn the sales process typically thrive. The people that love daily competition also thrive in sales.

People entering the industry may not understand the commitment to the actual work it takes to be successful in sales. You are initially setting up face-to-face meetings and making outbound phone calls to prospects.  People want success immediately. It takes work and you have to be skillful to build your customer base.

I tell people all the time, if you want to work in sports your best shot is by learning sales - agree or disagree?

Duplaga: I do agree. Sales teams are always looking for top performers. If you are looking to get into sports you can advance your career very quickly if you have success in sales.

Describe your ideal hire - what technical skills do they have? what soft skills do they have?

Duplaga: Competitive & Self starter, Understands the sales process, Understands customer needs, Great communicator, Tells compelling stories, Builds great rapport with customers , Uses technology such as LinkedIn for prospecting, and Bilingual
By Brian Clapp | December 17, 2015
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