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  • Brett Zalaski

Guest Blog: Top Tips to Adapt to Your New Team & Market

Jacob Hanselman is one of the rising stars in #sportsbiz. He's gone from MLS' National Sales Center, to one of the top reps in MLS with the Chicago Fire, to a standout Inside Sales Manager in MLS & the NBA, to a record-setting Director of Ticket Sales with the Colorado Rapids. Jacob's sales and coaching ability is only matched by his passion for the industry. I can't imagine a better person to write this article.


Congrats, you’ve recently landed an entry-level job with a professional sports team among hundreds of applicants all around the country! In most cases, you are going to be moving to a new city to start your job, but now what?


The Mindset of a Job vs. Career and Sports vs. Sales

Thus far I’ve used the word job rather than career, and sports rather than sales, to describe the position that you are about to embark on. I’ve always been a firm believer that those that succeed in the long-term view their role as a platform to grow a career in sales through sports. If you view your role as an entry-level sales person as a foot in the door job to fill time before you can transition to another department; I’m sorry but this may not be the read for you.


In most entry-level positions there is a 50% or less promotion rate to the next level, and, in most cases...often times lower. So, given those numbers, how do you differentiate yourself, adapt to your market and set yourself up for long-term success? Here's 9 pieces of advice from my experiences in four markets over the last eight years in the NBA and MLS as a rep and manager...and what I’ve seen that has separated those within our sales team that dominate their market...and those who don't.


1. Write Down Your Why

One of my favorite exercises that our Inside Sales Manager, James Bryant, does with each of our new Inside Sales classes at the Colorado Rapids during our orientation is a 'What’s Your Why' exercise on where their motivation comes from, what/who inspires them, and what is going to be the spark that will continue to push them to reach their career goals.


Action Step: Write Down Your Why with Your Top 10 Goals. Make each goal specific and have timeline in which you wish to reach each goal. Put this somewhere you will see it each day.


2. Find a Mentor

You’re not going to walk in the door and be the best salesperson on the team...but that doesn’t mean you can’t proactively seek out a top salesperson to observe and learn from consistently. While every salesperson has an individual goal, that doesn’t mean every sale has to be closed individually.


Action Step: As you get started, ask your mentor to attend meetings, or join in on scheduled calls. Often, not only is this a learning experience for you, but also a great learning experience for that top rep that is seeking to move into a leadership role.


3. Surround Yourself with Those That Raise Your Level of Personal Expectations

The best teams are those that raise the expectations, and level, of those around them. I was fortunate to join the Chicago Fire in 2011, where I joined a very talented staff that produced seven different Managers and Directors within the industry. A little over a month into my tenure, we had a friendly call competition come up at a Cubs game between Zachary Dicken (now Sr. Director of Ticket Sales at the Fire) and myself. The goal was to break the club record of 300 calls in a day. A little over a week later, we went for 500+ phone calls, 8-9 hours of talk time, and knocked out 40% of our yearly goals as a result of the efforts. Once pushed to your limits, and you train your mind to what you can do, the normal expectations become a breeze. That doesn’t happen without a respectful and friendly level of competition that makes everyone around you better...and raises the bar for the team.


Action Step: Find a colleague(s), that are going to hold you accountable, push you out of your comfort zone, and challenge you to get better each and every day.


4. Explore Your City, Neighborhoods and Competitors

One of the great experiences of moving to a new city is getting to know the local culture, businesses, and destinations. Sports fans are not only passionate about the teams they support, but the city they live in!


Action Step: Attend sporting events for the other teams in your market...but don’t just go to the game. Keep a running log of every company, group, and business you see. Choose a new local restaurant or bar try each week, within the city, and write down each business you see in the surrounding area.


5. Focus on Improving Your Sales Process & Specific Sales Situations

There are many great Inside Sales programs across the sports industry, and the best have a refined process that has helped create the pathway for others success. Hopefully the reason you’ve chosen to work for the team that you do is a belief in the people around you, and their ability to put you in a position to succeed. Listen to the process their describing, work to implement it, and, with the help of your manager, consistently improve the specific steps of the process.


Action Step: Break down your sales process and focus on tangible goals to improve different areas of your process each week...and have some fun with it. At the MLS National Sales Center, to focus on open ended questions, we always had a bell at each trainee’s desk that everyone else would ring anytime a close-ended questions was asked. Now, as a huge fan of The Office, I have the opposite effect of Dwight getting a mint...I still flinch when I hear a bell!


6. Deliberate Domination

Sales is a numbers game, and each year, month, or day, is measured on tangible results. Your management staff will know exactly what the key metrics that can map out your path to success. When I was in Sacramento, we broke down every sales rep’s yearly goal to get the number of calls each rep would need to make daily or what we called Deliberate Domination.


Action Step: To figure out your daily metrics utilize the following formula:

  • Yearly Goal/Average Deal Size = Number Accounts Needed to Close

  • Number of Accounts/Closing Percentage = Number of Meetings Needed

  • Meetings/Calls to Schedule a Meeting = Number of Total Calls

  • Total Calls/Days in Sales Cycle = Average Number of Calls Per Day

Now if you want to improve the time it’s going to take you to catch the top person on the board, once you know what it’s going to take to hit your goal, multiply that number by 1.5 (raising the amount of work you need to do) and work each day to close that gap.


7. Invest in Yourself and Set Ahead Consistent Time for Reading & Personal Development

We live in generation where we have the constant ability to learn at our finger tips with the use of the internet to find blogs, websites, books and podcasts. Each day I read Seth Godin’s blog and scroll through a few positive quotes on Instagram when I wake up to start the day in the right mindset (that actually started as a habit of writing a quote in sharpie on the wall of my room in high school...sorry Mom and Dad!), and end the day reading at least a chapter of a book whle at the gym.


Current Top 5 Reading List for New Reps:

  • Start with Why – Simon Sinek

  • Purple Cow – Seth Godin

  • Sales EQ – Jeb Blount

  • Raining Making Conversations - John Doerr and Mike Schultz

  • GRIT – Angela Duckworth


8. What You Do In The Dark Puts You in the Light

I’ve always been enamored by the strength and conditioning programs of elite athletes, and the mental edge that it translates to over the rest of their life through that planning and preparation. Over the last 10 years, I’ve found the creation of written workout programs to have a direct correlation to the ability to push yourself through those days you’d rather not be in the gym and overcoming the delayed gratification of results. This is the same delayed gratification that exist within sales.


Action Steps: Choose habits that can help you ease stress while also helping you improve your mental game. These can be habits such as weight-lifting, running, golf, yoga, etc. Then, on a weekly basis, set your sleep patterns, workout schedule and food menu on Sunday evening to create consistency in your week and reduce having to make last minute decisions around your personal and mental health. Lastly, spend one hour on Sunday night prioritizing your work week and create a list of the most important items to accomplish that week, and start your Monday morning with the number one item on your list...and then attack!


9. Treat Every Day as an Interview

Always look for what I like to refer to as 'Opportunity Time,' and find a way to put yourself in a new position that will push you out of your comfort zone to better position yourself to continue moving forward in your career.

This is setting time aside time to help other departments and colleagues, working late to accomplish an organizational goal, time to read a book a month, making those 10 extra calls a day, setting evening and weekend appointments, asking and accepting criticism, role playing with peers, and continuing to focus on the fundamentals even when you already are the top salesperson on the team.


Know that the decisions you make compound over time, and your career is a marathon, not a sprint. Continue building positive equity in your personal brand, within yourself and your organization, each and every day with the decisions you make.


Action Step: In those moments of doubt, ask yourself, 'How does settling for good rather great today accomplish your WHY? And are you willing to look back a year, 5 years and 10 years from now and be 'ok' with cutting a corner that could’ve been the difference between good and great?