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  • Brett Zalaski

How a #SportsBiz Sales Rep Can Navigate a Tragedy

Updated: Mar 18


There's no doubt that the outbreak of COVID-19 is unprecedented in modern #sportsbiz times. Seeing every league that has games cancel games is certainly extraordinary. It doesn't mean that there haven't been circumstances that can mirror it in some way. In fact, I was a part of one.


In August of 2017, Hurricane Harvey struck and devastated the Houston area while I worked for MLS' Houston Dynamo & NWSL's Houston Dash. We were out of the office for two weeks and saw multiple games on both the Dynamo and Dash side impacted by the events...including both the Dash matches cancelled. Yet we managed to finish the season UP 30% in revenue for the second half of the year, with group sales & partial plan sales up dramatically. The sales team also rallied to produce almost 20,000 group tickets in 3 home games over a 1.5 week home playoff run...just a couple months after dealing with the tragedy. I've never been more proud of the fortitude and resiliency of a community I've lived in...or a sales team I've worked with.


So...how? How could we grow despite losing two weeks of office work at a crucial part of the season? When the people and organizations we worked had budget challenges they were facing in an uncertain time?


It's 100% about communication and compassion. We immediately called all of our season ticket holders asking if they were 'ok' and how we could help. We then called all of our partial plan holders and group leaders to see the same before we asked for money. Organizationally we also became a donation center, and almost every employee put in shifts to help the community. Our immediate response was compassionate and impactful.


Then we asked for money. We didn't do anything for free. We communicated the value of our product as a way for people to return to normalcy. We were compassionate when people couldn't afford to go forward. And we attacked new opportunities with the energy and passion that our product deserves.


So...my biggest advice?

  • Be genuinely supportive of your fans first.

  • Be genuinely compassionate of people whose lives may have been upturned.

  • Don't apologize for moving the business forward, and don't give bulk tickets away.

  • Sell the power of the product and a return to normalcy. People crave that normalcy in a time like this.

  • Don't hesitate to communicate. Start all this as soon as you can.


In my non-expert opinion, it's going to be a while before we play games...for any sport. This is a genuinely surreal situation that will ultimately, directly or indirectly, impact millions of Americans. But it can't be time off. Time off means that you start from scratch when you get back. Let the moment pass, then get back on the phone. Even if you're out of the office. It doesn't matter what your team does...you, the rep, can do everything above to ensure you're showing compassion...and starting the conversation for when things return to normal.


I love the quote here. After this passes, time will either be an excuse for it being lost, or an opportunity that was seized. Don't walk out of this global challenge behind. Use the time to push forward.