Five years ago, I got the incredible opportunity to join the Arizona Diamondbacks sales staff. From moving from Arkansas to Arizona and starting as an Inside Sales Rep to being a Sr. Account Executive of Business Development in my 6th season, I have learned a lot of valuable lessons. Hopefully, sharing them with you can help in your journey through the sport sales world.
Do you even grind?
One thing I learned very quickly upon starting my career: If you want to be successful in this industry, fall in love with the process. Whether you are just starting out or in your 10th year of sales, it is a grind during both the off-season and in-season. Sure, there are some difficult days/weeks/months, but each day is an opportunity to develop if you dedicate yourself and bring 100% effort every day. A saying I always remembered growing up is, “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.” Commit yourself to perfecting your craft and remember, when the going gets tough, take a deep breath and remind yourself how cool it is to work in sports and why you fell in love with the grind in the first place. Then, get going.
There’s no I in TEAM
I’m sure if you have ever played a team sport in your life that you have heard the expression, “There’s no I in team”. There are different sales teams throughout the organization – from the entire sales staff down to your individual sales team (Business Development, Groups, Suites, Service, etc.). When I first started, I knew I needed to get along with my teammates on the sales floor. However, if you stop at just getting along with your coworkers, you are missing the point of a team. It's powerful to watch sales reps share their ideas, techniques, and lead strategies with people on other staffs in an effort to help each other close sales. Yes, we all have our individual goals to hit, but I learned that more importantly, there’s still an overall sales number to hit. We are all pulling at the same rope. I am certain I would not be where I am today without all of my teammates. I am extremely thankful for how they’ve pushed me to be better personally and professionally, and it’s my (and your) responsibility to do the same for them.
How do you react to success?
I was listening to a podcast, and they shared a quote from Nick Saban (Alabama Crimson Tide Head Football Coach). He said rather than practicing plays until you get it right (successfully running the play once), he will practice a play until the players can’t get it wrong. That perspective blew my mind. When most salespeople make a sale, we pat ourselves on the back and get back to the grind to feel the satisfaction of another sale. But Saban’s mindset challenged me. Just because I made a sale, it didn’t mean I did everything perfectly. Heck, if we all did everything perfectly, our stadiums and arenas would be sold out and organizations wouldn’t need sales reps. In this industry, it is key to stay humble in success and take the time to evaluate yourself – after both failures AND successes. The moment we think we’ve got it all figured out is the exact moment we get passed by everyone who isn’t satisfied with just getting by or being “good enough”.
Find ways to keep learning
Wanting to learn is great but having the willingness to always be learning is even better. Reading books or talking with other sales professionals about their successes and failures are certainly great ways to learn, but those aren’t the only ways. It can be something as simple as listening to other reps on the sales floor when they are talking with prospects on the phone, making note of how they respond to certain objections or issues, or even tagging along on their sales appointments to see their technique in action. Find ways to continue to learn and better yourself personally and professionally.
You don’t need a title to be a leader.
It might have just been me, but starting out, I had in my mind you need a title or seniority to be a leader. I had a 1-on-1 meeting with my boss during my first or second year as an Account Executive. With the new title, I knew I could be a leader for the Inside Sales reps, but he empowered me to realize I can still be a leader on our team. He wasn’t saying I was going to be at the top of the sales board but rather I can be a leader with my effort, my attitude, and in earning the respect of my coworkers. Don’t wait until you get a promotion or have a big title next to your name on your business card. If we aren’t being leaders in the role we are in now, how can we expect that to change once we are in a bigger role?
Don’t lose sight of your career goals.
Regardless, if you are looking to start your career in sports or if you’ve been around the block a time or two, losing sight of your career goals is a hazard. It is extremely easy to let the day-to-day work distract us from where we want to go. This is a daily challenge for me. Make sure the work you are doing now is preparing you to take the next step and you have the patience in taking the next step. Seek out people who are in the roles you eventually want to be in. Ask them about their experiences and challenges. What they like and don’t like about that role, what they did to prepare themselves to earn that role, etc. Don’t just wait until a promotion is posted internally or externally to begin preparing yourself to make the jump. At that point, it could be too late.
Christian Larimer is a Sr. Account Executive at the Arizona Diamondbacks and has been with the team for six seasons. He attended the University of Central Arkansas. He's a Clubhouse mentor as well and you can set up a call with him here. You can also connect with him on LinkedIN.