Are #SportsBiz Sales Reps About to Become Extinct?
This website has got a lot of content requests over time. On our way to 800 so far. We've had content requests come from over 200(!!!) sports teams and properties. The most specifically asked question to the site has not been about direct sales. It's about the future of the industry.
I keep hearing sales reps are less and less important. What's the future of the sales rep in sports?
I've heard my boss talk about automation and data, a lot. Are sales reps dying off?
Will my job exist in 5 years?
Those are just a few among the two dozen questions I've received very similar to this. I'm really appreciative that #sportsbiz sales reps want my opinion on this...genuinely. Here's the problem with my answer (that will follow)...I can't see the future. My crystal ball is in the shop. What I can give is my opinion based on all the trends I'm seeing and researching, what I'm seeing from sales departments in other industries, and tons of conversations I'm having with people all over the #sportsbiz landscape. So, here goes...
My short and long answers will come in the form of pseudo-Facebook relationships status options: My short answer is, 'No.' My long answer is, 'Yes, but it's complicated.'
In the short term, the vast majority of season ticket sales are done by sales reps. Fans have just not become used to purchasing these tickets online yet. For most teams, the vast majority of partial plans are sold by sales reps. Some teams have significant online action here, but most teams rely on what their reps do. While there is a move towards digital sales for group sales, the basic function there is to amplify the relationships the sales reps are creating...not replace. Thus the reps remain a critical part of group sales.
So, while most teams rely on season tickets, group tickets, and partial plans as the backbone of the way they fill their stadium...I think y'all are good for the time being. But that's when it gets a little more complicated...
The industry is changing. Data, automation, digital, etc., etc., etc. It's all happening...and it's all really important to make us smarter and far more efficient as organizations. As we continue to make smarter and smarter decisions, there will be less and less need for sales reps. But I have a genuine belief that 'less and less' will not mean 'none.' With all the changes in buying patterns and customer behaviors moving towards flexibility and customization, I do believe we'll need to see a far higher reliance on individual game ticket sales...which would mean less reps. But I also know that even if we innovate on season tickets...there will always be an education process we have to make to our fans to sell it because we'll never have enough money to mass market it. That will always entail sales reps. And, as attendances continue to fall, group sales is becoming more and more critical across the land...and that will always be best from rep relationships. There's no way to digitize group sales.
So do I think sales departments will get smaller in #sportsbiz? Yes, I do. I think we'll start to see more reps turn into business intelligence/digital marketing types which will lighten head count, but see those people with more base salary...so just shuffling deck chairs there. I wouldn't be floored if we also moved some more resources to group sales moving forward, if we innovate smartly on season tickets.
Do I think, over the next decade, sales departments may start shaping differently? I do. Do I think that sales reps are a dying breed? I don't.