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MLS National Sales Center: Inside Look with VP Bryant Pfeiffer

Are you looking for a new innovative way to bring qualified account representatives to your sport? Are you interested in breaking into the MLS?  Do you want to work in soccer (futbol), but have been told you don’t have enough ‘sales’ experience?

The sports ticket sales landscape in the MLS is currently in an evolution, and Bryant is right in the middle of it. If you’ve had the pleasure of meeting Bryant Pfeiffer, you know that he is a talented resource in the MLS Club Services department with years of sport sales experience.

The MLS started their own National Sales Center to help train those who have a specific interest in breaking into the sport industry through the MLS. I had to reach out to Bryant to find out more.

Kristen:    So to make sure we get this correct, what is your exact role and responsibility with the MLS National Sales Center?

Bryant: My primary role involved developing the business plan and selling it in internally at MLS.

Fortunately, Don Garber (MLS Commissioner) is a very forward thinking person and embraced the concept immediately.  From there, it was taking the project from ideation to development.  We set a goal of launching 30 days after we received the approval and funding from MLS so it was a mad scramble.

We were fortunate to hire a talented individual named Brett Zalaski who does most of the day to day heavy lifting as head recruiter, trainer, coach and placement officer.  I travel heavily with my regular responsibilities with MLS Club Services so am not in the NSC every day, but try to have a regular presence as my schedule allows adding to the curriculum, support Brett and the students.

Kristen:    Let’s get right to it! Most sport organizations create their own entry level opportunities for sales representatives. What is the vision behind the MLS National Sales Center?  Why start your own sales training center?

Bryant: At its core it is a talent development program.  The goal is to accelerate trainee’s learning curves in ticket sales so that when they are hired by a MLS club, they can hit the ground running and make a much quicker impact to the club’s bottom line, and their own pocketbook.

Kristen:    And, do you consider yourself a pioneer?

Bryant: I don’t think so.  Many people in this industry have talked about or attempted variations of this type of idea over the years.  If anything I’m resourceful, creative, and have blended those attributes with strong experiences from my sales days along with a passion I’ve had always had for developing sales talent.  In the end, the moons all aligned.

Kristen:    Blaine, Minnesota? Many might not know where that is on a map. What is so special about this location?

Bryant: Blaine is roughly 20 minutes north of Minneapolis.  Certainly not a tourist destination, but the NSC has office space on the campus of the National Sports Center, the largest Amateur Sports Complex in the U.S.  It is like a small college campus.

The offices overlook an 8,500 seat soccer stadium surrounded by an additional 50 soccer fields, an 18- hole golf course, a velodrome, and a ice hockey complex (US Women’s Hockey team trains there).   During their stay, the trainees live in dormitories on campus and have a meal plan in the full service cafeteria 100 yards from the NSC.

Kristen:    This leads me to the question I get asked most often, “How do I break into the sports industry?” And I hear you have graduates from over 22 states and 3 different countries. Who do you feel this opportunity is best suited for?

Bryant: We are seeing the majority of candidates ranging from recent college graduates to 3-4 years out of school.  We look for people who can convince us they are passionate about sales and growing a soccer nation!

Kristen:    And I hear you all are about to reach a certain milestone. Can you tell us more about that?

Bryant: On May 5th we will conclude our fifth session since inception and will place our 50th trainee in a full time sales position at a MLS club.

(image: Session IV graduation class and the Director of the program Brett Zalaski)

Kristen:    How are you going about preparing these students to be great candidates for the MLS teams?

Bryant: The program consists of a super charged 45 days of sales training curriculum.  We start with creating a selling foundation and then expose trainees to different selling environments they will face as account executives ranging from phone sales to face to face meetings to game nights.  Students receive real life experience by selling for MLS clubs during the program.  There is heavy use of audio and video feedback as a learning tool.

We are also attempting to build confidence and one of the more unique ways we do that is through teaching the fundamentals of improvisational comedy.  We try to create a culture that is “Deadly serious, yet deadly playful”.

Kristen:    Sounds like quite a unique experience Bryant! A path of innovation can most often lead to a greater level of success. Good luck!

For those who might be looking to connect with you, what do you recommend?

[email protected]

For those looking to apply for an opportunity to attend the MLS National Sales Center, where should they look?

Check out our website at www.mlsnationalsalescenter.com to apply for upcoming 2011 sessions.

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