A Decade In Sales In Sports, My Top 10 Takeaways

April 21, 2022

*This article was initially posted on Anthony's personal blog at https://salesinsports.com/

I’ve spent almost a decade working in Sales in Sports. Almost ten years, and surely ten seasons – or many more if you think about the Saints and Pelicans dynamic.

With each article I’ve published in the last year, I’ve tried to share ideas and experiences that help others. I think back to 6 Tips to Transition From Top Seller to Sales Manager – I shared these tips because I can relate to this and I know it will help people make that important transition.

And Avoiding a Career in Sales? 4 Things That May Change Your Mind – my very first article! The chance I took on Sales in Sports and the realization that it was my calling was profound. I’m convinced others might be in a similar position – hesitant to jump into sales. So I wrote about it.

And that’s what I will continue to do in 2022 – write about Sales in Sports! Help others.

Something special happens when you write. You become introspective as you reflect on past experiences. You also strengthen your ideas and beliefs.

With that said, here are my top ten takeaways from a decade working in Sales in Sports!

1. Life is Bigger Than Your Career

If this pandemic has taught one thing to those of us in the Sales in Sports industry, it’s that there’s more to life than our careers. When everyone was forced to work from home, parents started to appreciate time with their kids more. And in general, I think we all enjoyed having more flexibility while working during the week. From my perspective, the importance of “life over career” hit me square in the face when my now-wife and I decided to pick up our careers and move to a new city in 2019. I spent about seven years in New Orleans and was leaving a great job as the Director of Premium Sales & Service. Many times I questioned the decision. Is this the right move? Will I ever work in Sports again? While the road was anything but easy, I wouldn’t change a thing. I was consumed in my career and didn’t spend enough time developing other areas of my life. Although it took a drastic change, I’m now more balanced in the life that I want to live. And the best part is, I’m hungrier than ever in my career. Hungry to learn, teach, and grow in the Sales in Sports industry. All because I finally realized that life is bigger than a career.

2. Be A Great Teammate

We talked about this in a previous article and there’s a good reason why it makes my top ten list. When someone leaves a job after several years, they usually reference how special their experience was because of the people they worked with and the memories they created with them. Bottom line, people want to work with other likeable people. Teammates who care about each other create a great culture – be a part of that great culture!

3. Do Your Current Job Really Well

It’s so easy to get caught up in what your next step is or when that next promotion is coming. If you see others around you moving on up, it’s natural to want to do the same thing. This often takes you away from doing your current job really well because you’re focusing on your next step. Simply said, be great at your current job. It’s admirable to be hungry to do more for your organization, but don’t ever forget the most important thing – taking care of your current responsibilities at a high level.

4. Your Clients are Your Friends

Some think that it’s best to keep business relationships as such. That you don’t cross the line into a “friendship.” And that might be just fine for some. In my experience, the business results are too good to not develop a friendship-type rapport with your clients. Now, keep in mind, each client is different. But as a rule of thumb, if you are on this “next-level” relationship with a client, the sky is the limit with your outcomes. Expect more referrals, repeat business, and of course, the occasional invite to a fun event!

5. Passion Trumps Everything Period.

When it comes to recruiting, training, selling, servicing, managing…Passion Trumps Everything. If you can unlock a deep passion for everything you do, your success will soar. Passion fuels your work ethic, curiosity, consistency, and overall performance. If you’re not passionate about what you do, you either need to adjust your perspective or find something else that with really fuel you. People feel passion in your voice, demeanor, and even in the way you walk. It’s your presence. Make it your mission to discover more passion in your career and life.

6. Do the Right Thing

In Sales in Sports, as in life, you’re faced with countless decisions every day. “Should I ask my manager about a pricing adjustment before pitching this?” “Which rep should this sale go to?” etc. There are times where decisions are NOT black and white. When things get grey and murky, use the “Do the Right Thing” litmus test. You’ll feel pressures from your peers or upper management to do something their way, but stick to what’s right. If you think, in your gut, you’re making a decision for the right reasons – whether that be for your employee or for the customer – and things end up going wrong, at least you can straight face the situation that you made the right decision. Stick to your morals, and do the right thing.

7. Top Performers are Irreplaceable

Often we challenge ourselves to get creative, think outside the box, and find new ideas to generate more revenue. And brainstorming is always a worthwhile exercise to accomplish this. However, one thing I’ve learned over the years is that the best training, strategies, and management will never make up for a lack of sales talent. A team of ten “A+” sellers with less training will always generate more revenue than a team of ten “C” sellers with more training and support. I’m a big advocate of training development – it’s one of my passions. But top sales talent is hard to come by and it’s imperative to make sure you take care of those who carry you to your budget. The cost of replacing a top performer is a lot of time, money, and effort. While you should never hold someone back from progressing in their career if they’re looking at other opportunities, you should do everything you can to support your top performers. Think about what their goals are and put them in a position to grow within your organization. Have the mindset that your top performers are irreplaceable and watch your sales operation grow!

8. Be Well Networked in the Industry

Sports is such a unique industry. A lot of what we do is similar to what other salespeople do in corporate jobs…but, on top of that, we work in an incredible entertainment industry! For those of us who work directly for teams, we ride the highs and work through the lows. Big wins fuel us, and bad losses frustrate us to no end. But at the end of the day, whether you work for a team different type of sports organization, we all share the power of Sports. Having said that, it’s flat out cool to make friends at other teams and companies in the Sports industry. It’s fun to congratulate a friend who just one a Super Bowl or Championship. It’s awesome to be able to reach out to a counterpart for ideas when you’re planning for the upcoming year. And when going to conferences, who wouldn’t want meet up with friends and then make new ones? You never know when a friend in the industry will be able to help you down the road. Be well networked!

9. Care About Your Staff

Management 101. Full transparency, it’s really easy to lose track of what’s most important as a people manager. You’ve got sales goals to hit, trainings to execute, countless meetings to attend, and for some of us, a lot of games to work! With all of that said, you can’t forget the importance of your people. They are everything to your operation! Without them, you aren’t getting to your sales goal and you don’t have a great culture. Bottom line, care for your people. Check in on them personally from time to time. You don’t have to pry about things that are private, but let them know you truly care about their well-being, and not just about the sales they generate. Your staff wants to work for someone who really cares about them as people first, and employees second.

10. Embrace Challenges

There are going to be difficult times in your career journey. For some it’ll be more than others, but rest assured, no single career journey is perfectly linear, nor is it all rainbows and sunshine. So, embrace the difficult times. You’ll go through something that seems insurmountable, something that makes you question your job. But by the time you work through some of your difficult situations, you’ll be better off for having experienced them. Think about it. When you first start out in your career, your experience is a blank slate. Five years in, and you’ve surely had to face some challenges. Ten years in, you’ve been through even more difficult experiences. The trend continues. Through each of those experiences you become wiser. And the next time you encounter a similar situation, you’ll be better prepared. There you have it – my top ten takeaways after a decade working in Sales in Sports! For those of you already in the industry, I challenge you to write down your top ten takeaways. The reflection and time you spend on the exercise alone will help you solidify your beliefs and plan for your future. It will help you build goals and might even alert you to what things you can do better going forward. And for those of you looking to get into the Sports Sales industry, these takeaways should help you prepare for your career journey ahead.