3 tips to ace your sports sales interview

by david neumann - inside sales manager, angels baseball | February 06, 2020

It took me about 40 applications before I got my first interview in pro sports. Following an exciting callback from the Diamondbacks, I made the seven-hour drive from LA to Phoenix to interview for an entry-level ticket sales opportunity. Most of the all-day interview went well, but there were a couple questions near the end I completely botched that still haunt me to this day. It was a long drive home knowing I probably messed up the most important interview of my life. As you can probably guess, I did not get the job.

Fortunately, perseverance led me to a second chance. I learned from my failure and did well enough in my next interview that the Dodgers gave me a shot in Inside Sales. Now nearly eight years later, I’ve spent 8 months in Inside Sales, three years as an Account Executive, and three and a half years managing Inside Sales. As a manager, I have interviewed hundreds of candidates, but I still remember the excitement, pressure, and anxiety of being on the candidate side. I’d like to share a few interview techniques that seem to catch my eye and make a candidate stand out. I hope these tips help you make the most of the next opportunity that comes your way.

1. Articulate your career goals

Too often I ask an interviewee about his or her short- and long-term career goals only to hear a generic answer like “I want to learn, grow, and climb the ladder.” That may be true, but those are goals you can accomplish in any entry-level position. Think about it - of all the thousands of jobs and industries you could choose, why is Inside Sales with team x the perfect match for you, your talents, and your career goals right now? You should be able to give a very compelling answer to that question and make the hiring manager feel like this opportunity is a perfect fit.

Let’s back up for a moment—you don’t have to have your entire career mapped out at this early stage (I certainly didn’t). A big part of Inside Sales is learning about the industry and discovering your path. That said, you should at least have a rough idea of where you want to be in, say, two years and five years. The more specific you can be about your career goals, the better. It shows that you’ve done some research on the industry, given thought to your career path, and recognize this position as a great way to get yourself on that path. If you don’t know what a typical career path looks like after Inside Sales, do some research! Many teams have their entire front office listed online so you can see what roles exist in all departments. Use Linkedin to see someone’s step by step career path, and reach out to professionals who are in roles that interest you to ask for advice and guidance.

Bottom line - be prepared to articulate and justify why Inside Sales is the perfect next step for your career.

2. Ask good questions

The questions you ask reveal a lot about what is important to you. I personally like to see candidates ask about topics like training, keys to success in the role, career growth, and the Inside Sales program’s track record of promotions. These questions indicate that the candidate values their career and will likely work hard to achieve success. Your questions (or lack of questions) will also hint at how much thought you’ve put into this opportunity. If you get to the end of the interview and don’t have any questions, it may come across like you just applied on a whim and haven’t given serious contemplation to the job. Getting this position would have a significant impact on your career trajectory. Do you really not have a single question about the job?

Every hiring manager is going to have a different take on this, but below are my personal recommendations on questions that reflect positively on the candidate along with a few questions to avoid.

Questions I recommend:

  • “What type of training and guidance do you provide new hires?”

  • “How many reps on average are promoted internally or externally each year?”

  • “What are some common characteristics you find in your most successful reps?”

  • “What are the biggest challenges that new hires face?”

  • “How would you describe the company/Inside Sales culture?”

Questions I do not recommend:

  • “What is your favorite part about working for the team?”

  • This question isn’t THAT bad, but I find it’s mostly used as filler when a candidate can’t think of a better question.

  • “After meeting with me today, do you feel I am a good fit for this role?”

  • You are basically asking if you did a good job in the interview, which may put the hiring manager in an awkward position.

  • “Do you ever get to meet the players?”

  • This question suggests that you are more excited about the perceived glamour of working in the sports industry than about working in sales. It’s ok to be excited about working in sports, but focus on the job function.

  • “Do people ever move from Inside Sales into other departments?”

  • If moving to a different department is already on your mind, it could be a red flag that you are not committed to giving sales a shot.

  • 3. Use numbers and facts

Every hiring manager has heard a candidate say “I’ll be the first one in and the last one to leave.” That’s great, but anyone can claim to be the hardest worker in the room. If you can give numbers, facts, and stories to support your claims, they become more believable and impactful. This strategy applies to both your resume and to an in person interview. (And yes, any numbers, facts, or stories you share must be 100% true!)

For your resume, numbers and facts show the hiring manager not just what you did, but how well you did it. If you worked in retail sales, don’t just list generic bullet points such as “sold merchandise”, “interacted with customers”, and “provided customer service.” One or two bullet point to summarize your duties is ok, but show the hiring manager what tangible results you accomplished. How did you rank in sales compared to your peers? Did you and/or the store hit its target revenue goals? Were you given more responsibility after six months? Did you sell a particular product better than your colleagues? Find the two or three numbers that best highlight your accomplishments. “Ranked 3rd out of 11 sales associates” sounds much more captivating than “sold merchandise.” Even if you didn’t rank well in overall sales, did you rank #1 in a particular month? Did you get strong customer service scores? Did you win employee of the month one time? You can get a little creative in how you splice and dice the stats as long as everything you list is true.

In your interview, share facts and stories that best illustrate the point you are trying to make. For example, if you want the hiring manager to know that you are ambitious and serious about career growth, don’t just say that... say it and back it up! It might sound something like, “I’m excited about this opportunity because I’m very serious about growing my sales career in the sports industry. That’s why I volunteered at my university’s athletic department, sought out a part-time sales job while in school and read two sales books this year.”

Now you’ve given the hiring manager some concrete evidence to support your statement. Telling a brief story can be effective too. Instead of just saying that you will work hard, talk about the time you out-hustled your coworkers and won employee of the month, the time you got cut from the high school baseball team but worked extra hard and made the team the next year, or the school project that you went above and beyond on.

Getting the interview is half the battle, but you have to convert. I hope these tips help you take your interview game from good to great and land that next big sports sales opportunity!

-David

David is the Inside Sales Manager for the Los Angeles Angels. Between the LA Dodgers, Oakland A’s, and LA Angels, he has sold for 3 ½ years and managed Inside Sales for 3 ½ years. David is passionate about recruiting top talent and training new industry leaders. To learn more about David or the Angels’ Inside Sales Program, reach out to him on Linkedin here.