Tips and Tricks to Survive in Sports Sales

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Think there is pressure working in sports sales? How does 18,238 empty seats look to you?
Work in any industry long enough and you'll have stories worth sharing.

Sometimes they are mistakes you can laugh about now, other times they are strokes of luck, that were rooted in preparation you've only learned to appreciate years later.

The chance to take a stroll through the memories and experiences of a veteran sports sales leader like David J. Halberstam doesn't come up all that often.

In this third excerpt from Halberstam's critically acclaimed book, The Fundamentals of Sports Media and Sponsorship Sales: Developing New Accounts, Halberstam shares his own experiences as a prism to teach you the fundamentals of the sports sales industry

How do I learn and improve?

Take your sales manager on sales calls. The good sales managers will allow you to make the presentation. Show your boss how well you present and how effectively you can run a sales call. Some bosses have tendencies to take over meetings and make the pitches themselves. When this happens, urge your boss to allow you to make the presentation yourself; otherwise, you’ll never learn.

What should I be mindful of when in front of a prospect?

Be respectful in the presence of a prospect. There’s an old line. True or not, the person with the most money always thinks he or she is the smartest one in the room. The client brings a big fat checkbook.

How do I show clients that I care about them?

Stay in touch with clients who are between jobs. Give them leads on employment opportunities. Make them feel good and important. It will pay healthy dividends when they do land on their feet.

How do I show gatekeepers that I appreciate their help?

Send gatekeepers a note or a memento from the goodie closet after they have helped you set up an appointment. Gatekeepers can be great friends or an irritating thorn in your side.

Is there something that I might be doing that’s overbearing?

Don’t get in people’s faces. Give people their physical space. Don’t stand inches from prospects’ faces when talking to them. It might work on the basketball court if you’re an NBA defender but not at a conference or party during a pleasant exchange. If you happen to have bad breath, bad body odor or are doused with perfume or cologne, look out. The people you’ll be talking with will be looking for the closest exit sign.

Give me an example of something I can pick up eclectically.

I was sitting in my periodontist’s waiting room one day while he was consulting another patient on a potential implant. When the doctor came out to greet me he overheard the patient asking his dental assistant specific questions about immediate care after implant surgery. How long will I have to ice my mouth? How long before I get a permanent crown placed over the implant? The dental assistant replied to each specific question with lengthy discourses on the long-term advantages of implants. Hearing this interaction from afar, the periodontist hollered to the dental assistant in the other room, “Just answer his questions!”

It was a lesson for all of us in sales

Don’t go on long-winded, unprepared dissertations when asked something specific. “Answer the question” with specific answers. Don’t over talk or oversell. No screeds, no lengthy speeches. Questions are to be answered concisely, firmly and confidently. If you don’t have the answer, say so. Otherwise, your rambling will be construed as a diversion or sales tactic. The prospect will then begin having doubts. When asked, “Will our sponsor tickets be courtside?” answer yes, no or “I will have to get back to you.” Don’t go on a long pitch on the virtues of every seat in the building.

Give me a tip on an effective Voicemail

Doug Brand formerly of Campbell Soup says that he gets so many voicemail messages, it’s difficult to listen to all of them because callers ramble and don’t get to the point. Product managers like Brand are busy. They’re consumed with internal and agency meetings from dawn to dusk. It’s impossible for them to interact with every seller who reaches out. Brand says just economize your message in as few words as possible. “Tell me how you can wow me! If I think you really can, I’ll call you back.” He discourages verbose voicemail messages that include perfunctory and disingenuous salutations. He exhorts sellers to be on their game!

Are there figures of speech to avoid?

Be circumspect. One day in Memphis, I was at an ad agency and we were talking about a particular sponsorship and how it can be packaged. I said, “There are different ways to skin the cat.” The buyer’s face turned colors. She stopped me abruptly and almost threw me out of her office. As it turned out, she was Memphis’ number one cat lover and on the board of the Memphis Humane Society. I said, “Oops!” That was that. Learn quickly.

How does sports’ seasonality play into the equation?

Timing is everything. Pitch when the sport is on the minds of the American constituency. So when the baseball post-season hits the calendar, viewers are watching the World Series. Fans are engaged. It’s a perfect time to pitch next season. Advertisers are saying, “Hey, this is something that we should consider for next year.”how to prepare for your sports job search ebook

What’s the best way to take ownership of your early sales career?

One phrase is always top of mind. My first boss, Ken Swetz at Katz Media, used it often. “Excuses serve those who make them.” Get the job done. Ken was magnificent at turning a word. When he was pitching something and a decision was imminent, he would call the decision maker and say, “I feel like an expecting dad!”

Provide an example of being respectful of a prospect.

When you take the Visa client or a member of one of its agencies to lunch, don’t pay with American Express. The thought hit me too late, while I was eating my meal. Frankly, I almost regurgitated my lunch right then and there at the table. At the time, I wasn’t a Visa subscriber. Luckily it wasn’t a real fancy joint, so I opted to pay by cash. I suspected though that the client wondered whether I owned a Visa card. Thankfully, he never asked

How do you handle malaise?

Never feel self-pity. Work harder and with greater determination. Charlie Weis, Notre Dame’s one-time football coach says, “It’s one thing to hope you’ll win and another to believe you’ll win.”

You’re at the controls. Stick with it, ride the waves of the sales vicissitudes. You’ll be better off for it. Don’t give into despair. Everyone goes through tough times. Good sellers survive through thick and thin.

Self-pity is an anathema in sales.

What should I remember when on a pitch?

Your prospect shouldn’t sense any personal issues you might have. When you’re making your pitch, brim with enthusiasm. The pioneer and popular baseball announcer Red Barber always called games under the mantra of ‘leave your problems at home.’ The audience, he said, doesn’t care.

You’re like a Broadway actor who’s performing the same show for a 50th time. The audience doesn’t know it’s your 50th performance. You have to make the audience feel like it’s your first. Sound fresh.
By Brian Clapp | May 09, 2016
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