A job in sales is the best way to break into the sports industry since the majority of jobs in sports have a revenue-generating function. For example, when I worked for the NBA’s Washington Wizards, the PR department consisted of three employees, the game operations department consisted of four people, and the marketing department consisted of five people.
On the other hand, the team had more than 50 employees whose main function was in sales or customer service.
Despite being told by a senior NFL executive that it would be “impossible,” I landed my dream job in sales for the NBA’s Washington Wizards when I was just a shy, inexperienced, 21-year-old student with no experience or contacts in the sports industry.
3 Lessons to Land Your Dream Job:
1. Leverage Your Existing Network
As you may have heard, over 70% of all jobs are filled behind the scenes through networking and personal contacts. This is especially true in the tight-knit sports industry. Therefore, the best way to break into the industry is through networking, not through “hiding” behind job boards like thousands of other job-seekers who want to work in sports. This is even more important when you want a job in sales. Salespeople need to be proactive, resourceful, and good at dealing with other people. It’s pretty hard to show employers that you have those traits if you are merely applying to jobs online. Before you spend any time looking for jobs or trying to get connected to new people, make a list of your current resources (people and organizations).
You will probably be surprised to learn who you already have on your side, and this personal network list will make your job search 10 times easier than trying to get a job in sports on your own. In general, your current network is composed of three groups: your academic network (current/former classmates, professors, faculty, Career Center, and alumni from your college), your personal network (friends/family), and your professional network (current/former bosses, colleagues, and customers). Even a young job-seeker should be able to generate a list of at least 100 people and a number of organizations that he/she is affiliated with. If you know 100 people and each of them knows 100 people you don’t know, you are only an introduction away from 10,000 people right now! In other words, you probably have access to people right now who could help you get your dream job in sports sales.
2. Join the Industry
You also need to ask yourself this question: “Where can I go in-person and online to connect with senior executives currently working in sports?” The fast answer is that there are associations, conferences, networking events, and online discussion groups (i.e. LinkedIn groups) where you can network with sports executives. These individuals will be aware of job openings not being advertised to the public, and they’ll also know who the real hiring managers are for those positions. This is ultimately how I landed an interview for a job in the NBA. After meeting a senior sports executive at a networking event, he introduced me to five other people he knew in sports, and one of them introduced me to senior management for the Wizards.
Note: HR is not the real hiring manager unless you want to work in the HR department. If you want to work in sales, you need to get in front of the people running the sales departments in your target companies.
3. Demonstrate Your Sales Skills During Your Job Search
When you are pursuing a sales job, employers pay extra attention to the way you conduct your job search. The way you “sell yourself” during your job search will be used as a measure of how you will act as a salesperson on the job as well. This is a benefit of going after a sales job. You basically get to show the employer your “on-the-job” skills during the interview process. So, when you walk into any interview, you better have strong evidence for the employer in regard to why they should hire you. Bring evidence for prior achievements related to sales/marketing, evidence that you are passionate about sports, and endorsements from people who have seen the quality of your sales/marketing performance.
You also need to ask great questions in the interview, a “secret” used by great salespeople. When you ask great questions, you get the prospect (i.e. hiring manager) talking about his favorite subject (himself), and you can learn information about the employer/position that you can use later in the interview to show why you are the best person for the job. In addition, you need to ask for the sale at the end of the interview and get clarity on next steps before any interview ends. Great salespeople never leave follow-up in the air. Lastly, expect the hiring manager to ask you to role-play during the interview process to show how you would sell the organization’s products and services. Make sure you have practiced this ahead of time. It’s way too important to improvise this likely scenario.
I got my dream job in sports sales and so can you! Do whatever you can to get in front of people working in sports and demonstrate your sales skills during your job search. You just need one break to get your dream job, and it’s closer than you think…
Comment below with your lessons to break into Sports Sales! Make sure to send us a tweet @sportsnetworker