SALES COACHING & TRAINING
The Bigger Game
Question: When is a sports franchise a sales franchise?
Answer: When it has a professionally trained sales team with real go-get-’em capabilities.
Anyone who doesn’t realize that a major league sport of any kind is major business has been living in la-la land. Consider the NFL, which generates approximately $12 billion to $14 billion in revenue annually. So how does it work? Well, besides ad revenues, ticket sales can represent a huge revenue stream. And to sell tickets, one sports franchise took a sales-center approach.
When Bryant Pfeiffer was recruited by Major League Soccer (MLS) to help boost ticket sales, his mind went into overdrive. Pfeiffer, vice president of MLS Club Services, decided to create the MLS National Sales Center, the first of its kind in national sports. The center, an intense, 45-day sales training program located in Blaine, MN, is fast becoming for MLS a solid pipeline of sales talent.
And although we’re talking soccer tickets here, the sales-center concept can translate to any company that wants to generate sales revenue and ensure a pipeline of talented new stars. Pfeiffer shares five reasons why companies should think about creating sales centers of their own:
1. Sales centers are a great recruiting source and way to fill the pipeline. “While all sales VPs know that recruiting is important, many times it doesn’t start until a spot comes open on the sales floor,” says Pfeiffer. “On top of that, it can take twenty to fifty business days to fill that spot, and that’s lost revenue potential. A sales center can become a national ‘farm team’ with hungry talent who have already been carefully qualified.”
2. The centers provide better on-boarding and training. “Sales-center graduates are coming in with forty-five straight days of training in all possible sales settings,” says Pfeiffer. “When hired, they make a quick impact.”
At the core of this program is the teaching of the fundamental steps of the sales process, such as building rapport, handling objections, and creating urgency, explains Pfeiffer. In addition, the center records and analyzes audio and video of each sales call.
3. Sales centers often save the cost of a bad hire. By providing this type of program, Pfeiffer says that he is getting only the salespeople who really want to be there. He points out, “If these people are willing to come out to Blaine, not a top ten tourist destination, to spend forty-five days in a dormitory and then relocate to anywhere in the country, they have to be passionate about what they do, in this case, sales and soccer,” he says. “It reveals their character and greatly reduces [the risk of] the team making a bad hire.”
4. Creating a sales center generates an incremental sales-revenue stream. “A percentage of the time, these trainees are selling for MLS teams, so each week they are generating some level of revenue for each club,” says Pfeiffer. “They are calling real-life leads, so they’re not only driving incremental ticket sales for teams, they’re also honing their skills as they are facing real-life sales situations.” Other companies can tweak this and also benefit from incremental sales.
5. Sales centers help train future leaders. Pfeiffer suggests that companies use these centers to teach and instill leadership qualities. “We spend a lot of time focusing on innovation and ways to build character and confidence by pulling people out of their comfort zones,” says Pfeiffer, who works with a local improvisational theater to help candidates learn such things as the ability to defer judgment and use change as fuel for action.
So far the MLS program is working extremely well. “MLS clubs have been lining up, excited to potentially boost their staff with fresh talent that is coming in confident and with an accelerated learning curve,” Pfeiffer says.
– Renee Houston Zemanski
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