The very first sales job I ever had I learned a very valuable lesson: “it’s not about you. It’s about the customer”.
That lesson has stuck with me ever since and illuminated many other areas of my life.
It’s not about me.
It’s about them.
It’s not about my club seat quota or my revenue goal or what’s going on in my life or how I’m feeling today. It’s about what the customer wants and what fits their needs the best. Not mine.
We both know that I have a valuable product. I know what I stand for personally (and what I won’t stand for too) and know I work for a company/team/organization that I believe has a solid foundation of values.
I can tell you about all the features and the widgets and the seat views and how awesome this thing is…but none of it matters unless you make it about the customer and what they want. What REALLY do they want? That’s the real question…and it’s not often what you hear in the first 5-10 minutes of conversation. That leads me to my next point.
The thing about sales is that it’s about people helping people. The moment you step outside that belief and way of being, that’s when it feels weird. Sales is service and great service leads to sales. When you’re not serving, but forcing a product, that’s when you feel “sold” as a customer and when you feel slimy as a sales professional. You can start to see someone pull away, they get tense and start to retreat. Their tone of voice and body language changes. You know what I’m talking about…you’ve probably been on both ends of that spectrum.
People need stuff, sure. And they want some stuff too. They also need someone to care about them and their problem. Sometimes that’s all it takes, someone to listen to their problems and treat them with compassion. Sometimes all you have to do is ask for the sale. Other times you have to lean in a little bit more and really let them FEEL that you have their best interest at heart. Either way, you and your person are as much involved as the actual product.
So let me repeat. It’s not about you. It’s about them. And in many ways, let this be relationship advice too. It’s not about how awesome you are. Someone else just needs to know how much you care, so make it about them. It’s not about you.
Data analytics seems to be getting a great deal of press lately. The emergence of “tech” as a social norm, the evolution of the internet and the attention of the big four social networking giants (Google, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn…although I’ve seen some good arguments about who that last one should be) has brought data and its study (data analytics) to the forefront of our attention.
So what’s the buzz about data analytics?
Well, for one, it’s been around as long as math – pretty much since the beginning of time; and we’re just now starting to realize how “cool” it is to actually look at math as something fun because let’s admit it – that’s what data analytics is – statistics…and statistics is math.
Data analytics is the use of information that can be broken down and compared and contrasted in different ways from which, once analyzed through different lenses or perspectives, conclusions can be drawn about whatever it is that’s being studied (that’s my own definition). Hhmm, that sounds dense. Let’s say that in a different way. Data analytics is the analysis of data for better outcomes.
Let’s Try Something Together
Look at it in terms of your personal finances…do you track your monthly expenditures? This is the easiest way to use data analytics and to learn on your own. Open up MS Excel (yes that program that can with your copy of MS Office with the “X” on it that you haven’t used since college) or whatever spreadsheet software you have, Google Docs is a great alternative, and start by making a spreadsheet that looks like the screenshot above. (When you do this on your own, replace the “X’s” with actual positive or negative numbers where appropriate)
Label the first column Assets/Liabilities, the next 31 columns labeled consecutively from 1-31 and the last column TOTAL. Below those columns enter everything that you spend money on and everything that puts money in your bank account under the corresponding date that the money enters/leaves your bank account. For most of us, our “assets” are our day jobs – call this “work” or “salary” in your spreadsheet. Each asset or liability gets one row and each transaction goes under the corresponding date. If you get interest on your bank account, call that “interest”. Do that for everything you could consider an asset.
Then, whatever you spend money on, track that on your spreadsheet as a negative balance, since those are liabilities or things that cost you money. Do this for an entire month and, WA-LA!, you have data! Do this another month and POOF!, you have some real information for data analytics. And guess what…this stuff actually matters to you (or at least it should)! If you have no idea how to do analytics, just think of it as the digital version of balancing your check book. I realize I shouldn’t take for granted that most people know how to do this, but for the sake of argument I will. Once you’ve built up a couple of months of expenses and income, you can begin to make some real data comparisons regarding your money situation.
Now think about this exercise in terms of what your sports business is doing…probably something much more complicated with many more variables – that’s ok. Statistics takes some time to learn and data collection and analysis doesn’t happen overnight. Also, just like this example, data collection must come before data analysis. You can’t analyze what you don’t have!
Cleanliness is Next to Godliness
Also important to remember is that your data must be “clean”. By that, I mean that you must use the same nomenclature, phrasing, listings, and categories for every piece of information. Everything MUST be consistent. You can make this is as complex as you want, however this goes both ways; the less information you track the less work this will be, but also less meaningful – the more information you track, the more complex and challenging the analysis will be, but also the more meaningful the conclusions will be in your final results. Now this is not something to be intimidated by, but this is how to use data analytics in a very simplified example.
Data Analytics in Sport
In a sports business setting, the work you are using data analytics for is much more complex. For example, you’re using data analytics to figure out athlete health and performance, you’re using it in the box office to track sales and customer buying activity, you’re using it the marketing office to track advertisement and online engagement and effectiveness, you’re using it in the concession stand to track what items are selling the most and at what particular venue locations on what days and at what points during the game and so on and so forth. If you want to learn to use data analytics, I strongly suggest you start by tracking your own financial situation. Once you’ve gotten a few months of worth of data and figured out everything you can on that front, it’s time to advance to more complicated avenues.
If you want help or have any questions or comments, drop me a message on Twitter or LinkedIn and let’s work together and start a conversation. I hope you enjoyed this post and learned something new. My challenge to you is to actually start tracking your own finances. By doing so you’re both taking control of your financial future and learning a useful professional skill! If you’d like to support Bill’s Sports Business Blog, please sign-up for the newsletter and consider using my Amazon Affiliate link. At no additional cost to you, I’ll make a small commission on your purchase. The proceeds from your use of my affiliate link directly offset the costs associated with this blog. Thank you for your support.
Happy 2015! I didn’t realize how long it’s been since I last posted on Bill’s Sports Business Blog and I apologize to you, my readers. Right about the time I stopped posting, was also the time things at my last sports business job got crazy. A couple people in my office ended up leaving for other opportunities and it turns out I ended up leaving a few weeks later too! Yup, Bill got a new job. As a result of all that stuff going on, I didn’t really have a lot of time to myself, which left no time for posting to the blog. I’m sorry about that readers. BUT, I do think I have some interesting advice on how to get a job in sports – or at least I hope you find this information useful, depending on where you are in your career. I figured since I am only a few months into my new job I’d offer a few tips on how to break into the industry and get a job in sports.
For the purposes of this post, I’ll target my advice to those who are looking to get a job in sports and are just getting started with their career. Certainly it helps if you are entering the early stages of your career and just getting started working in general, but some of this could apply to anyone looking to get a job in sports.
FIGURE OUT WHAT YOU LIKE TO DO
First, you’ve got to figure out what you like to do and what you’re personal interests are, as there are several avenues to take. Are you a creative person? Do you enjoy art, drawing, painting? Are you a technical person who enjoys data, statistics and numbers? Are you a people person who likes talking and interacting with people on a constant basis? No matter what you like to do, there’s probably an application for your skills in sports somewhere. Consider sports information/statistics, IT, analytics, marketing, sales, ticket operations, equipment, operations, coaching, counseling and legal counsel to name a few. Some of those areas have more strict application requirements, but like I said, if you’re at the beginning of your career, the world is your oyster – or playing field…haha.
DECIDE ON WHAT LEVEL OF SPORTS BUSINESS YOU LIKE THE BEST
Where do you see yourself – really? If you really want to work in sports business, it can’t be all about the money. Sure there are some jobs that pay very well in sports, but the likelihood of you ending up in a high paying job in a short amount of time isn’t likely, so take that aspect off the table and think about what’s more important. With so many people wanting to work in sports, the competition for getting most sports jobs is as tough as the competition on the playing surface.
So – where do you see yourself, really? Did you love your little league team and find yourself managing the local club while you were a student in high school? Maybe a community organization would be a great fit. There are probably several non-profit and for-profit sport organizations in your local community – go see what they’re up to and start a conversation.
Did you enjoy playing high school sports and like how everyone came together to celebrate with their friends and family? Maybe that’s where you belong. There are more high school sports programs than probably any other level of play, so opportunity at that level seems rather abundant.
How about college sports? DI, DII or DIII? You’ve got quite a variance of experience and competition to choose from and really the only way to figure out what fits best for you would be to go see a couple of games and watch everything but the game itself. By that I mean take a careful look at how many workers are there, what the setup is like and what the game presentation is like. Another thing to consider with college sports is the size of the organization you want to work for – small, medium or large. Do you prefer to be a part of a smaller team, where everyone involved is expected to contribute to the greater good by performing many different tasks? Or do you think you’d prefer to be a part of a larger organization that requires most employees to specialize in something specific?
Next, there are the pros – the top level of competition. This is usually what people think of and dream about when they think about working in sports. If your dream was to be the head coach of the Seattle Seahawks or the general manager of the San Francisco Giants, what a great dream! Never stop dreaming, but also be realistic. The relatively small number of those types of positions makes it statistically unlikely that most people will ever advance that far in their career. That’s not to say that you can’t find enjoyment and have a great career in pro sports doing something other than being the top boss.
CONSIDER OTHER OPTIONS
Depending on what your skills are, you should also consider other ways to be involved in sports business. There are many different industries that directly support sports business or are tangential to sports business organizations. By that I mean, consider working for a venue, stadium or arena. Working for a building or building management organization is a great way to see all sides of what it takes to make events happen on a regular basis. You get to see sporting events, entertainment events, community events and a whole array of different people that make things happen. This is the type of organization I work for now and am learning new things everyday.
Another way to look at getting a job in sports is to consider being a referee. I was a referee in graduate school and absolutely loved every minute of it. It was a ton of fun being involved in the action in a very important role, plus its an excuse to stay active and in shape year round. The other thing that’s nice about being a ref is that it’s not a full time job; that way you can stay involved in sports, stay in shape, and do something else you love.
On the other hand, do forget about non-mainstream sports and endurance sports – think bowling, biking, obstacle races, running – basically sports other than football, baseball, basketball and hockey. Those areas are growing rapidly and are great options to be involved in sport in a different way. Again – it comes down to who are you, what do you like to do and where do you see yourself?
The last option I want to mention is working for an organization that supports the business of sports. There are apparel and equipment manufacturers, media organizations, consultant groups, food and beverage organizations, specialized video and game presentation organizations and numerous other ways to get a job in sports without actually being “in” sports. Think about all the different pieces that make TV games happen – well…maybe that’s difficult because you don’t know what’s out there yet, which brings me to my next point:
NETWORK AND GET TO KNOW PEOPLE
The best way, in my opinion, to get to know if a job in sports is for you is to actually go talk to someone who works in sports. Go find someone who does something related to whatever it is that you think you’re interested in and find out what they do on a day to day basis. Also find out what it took them to get where they are and how long it took. Find out what kind of education and training they have. Find out what kind of work-life balance they have. Many people say that work life balance doesn’t exist in sports, but I say those people are bitter. Of course there’s balance, there has to be or you burn out and quit. Do we work a ton of hours in sports? Yes. Do we love it? Oh yes, absolutely (most of the time). But, it does take a supportive family and a strong personal character to make it work with a family.
Long story short, go meet people and talk to them about where you are in life and where your interests lie. If you’re honestly just looking for advice, I’m sure most people would entertain your questions or at least be able to direct you to someone who can help. I would. Send me an email and signup for updates in the side column.
There’s no easy way to get a job in sports. It takes a lot of hard work, thoughtful action and due diligence to get what you want. So figure out your passion, apply your skills and talents and show up everyday with a positive attitude, ready to do whatever is necessary to get the job done. If you do that, regardless of whether you end up with a job in sports, you’ll find happiness. The world needs more people who are alive with their passions and do the work they love. Don’t focus so much on “I want to work in sports” but instead on “I want to find a career (not a job) that I love.” Do that and the rest will work itself out.
Thanks for reading Bill’s Sports Business Blog. For further reading on this subject, check out one of these Sports Business Books (affiliate). I hope you find something you like – I appreciate your support of my blog.
I just finished reading this book two days ago and all I can say is WOW! Jon’s ideas are definitely outrageous but definitely get you thinking outside the box when it comes to increasing your team’s bottom line in a way that builds your brand positively and creatively. No matter what particular area of sports business you call your own, there is something for everyone in this book. The ideas and examples speak directly to managers working in marketing or ticket sales but also provide a great deal of insight for entry level professionals trying to come up with that next best idea that will get them noticed. For team administrators at the VP or Director level, Marketing Outrageously Redux: How to Increase Your Revenue by Staggering Amounts (affiliate) gives you concrete advice on how thinking outside the box translates into bottom line results that generate positive outposts of memories in your customers’ minds without damaging your public image.
Jon lays out his ideas for marketing outrageously with 17 “Ground Rules” that cover topics such as “Ground rule #1: If you aren’t willing to take a few risks in marketing, become a bean counter” (page 19) and “Ground Rule #6: If you mimic the market leaders, you’ll just add to their dominance.” (Page 97) In addition to being an accomplished NBA executive and established author, Jon Spoelstra is probably also famous for developing the “rubber chicken theory” as well.
The rubber chicken theory is an application of basic advertising principles that finds a way for your message to be not only delivered by also consumed by your target audience. The purpose of a headline is to get someone to read a subheadline whose purpose is to read the first paragraph, whose purpose is to read the second paragraph and so on and so forth. Basically a way to get attention and keep your customers moving along the sales escalator. If you want attention, you need a headline (something that will transmit a rubber chicken like a round poster mailing tube), a subheadline (a rubber chicken) and a message (a letter or message to your customers). I won’t give away the punch line, but the story gets really good right about here. To learn more about the rubber chicken theory and how awesome it is, buy Marketing Outrageously Redux: How to Increase Your Revenue by Staggering Amounts (affiliate) and see for yourself! I promise, you won’t regret it. Even if you think your organization might be caught off guard by “outrageous thinking,” you can’t not be entertained by some of Jon’s real life examples. He’s intelligent, witty, entertaining and an excellent teacher in this book.
Customers pay in three ways: Money, Trust, Referral
That’s it. That’s how they pay. Here’s a bit more of an explanation.
Sure – this is an easy one. Sales. Customers give you money for what it is that you give or do for them. Whether it be service, products, or experience, when a customer gives a sport organization their money, they’re asking for something in return – and in sports they are mostly looking for a story. Most of the time a great sporting event is a great story – everyone they see who wants to know what they did will hear that customer’s story of how the event went down. That customer will have some sort of story about how the play on the field was or how the experience in the stands, concourse, and parking lot was. That customer will have some sort of an opinion and hopefully a positive one that will keep them coming back.This leads me to my next point:
A customer’s trust is their attention. Their attention is how much of you they let fill their mind and their life. Trust and attention lead to more money for you. Because the team-fan relationship you’ve been building is much like the rest of the relationships you have, based on trust and authenticity, even though you may not be perfect, you’re doing your best trying to put your absolute best product on the floor. The reality of this is just that, you’re not perfect. People are not perfect and neither are the organizations those people build. No matter how hard you try, something will go wrong at some point. That’s not to say that you should be satisfied with mistakes – no way. Rather you should be demonstrating to your fans that you’ve always got their best interest in mind when it comes to giving them what they want – a great story to tell and one in which they can play a part. Give them your trust as much as they’re giving you theirs.
Finally, referral. Referrals are every business owners dream. Referrals are a customer’s way of telling you that they love what you do so much they wanted someone else they trust to be a part of the experience too; and by doing so, they’re putting their own credibility on the line too. They share with someone else they trust a story about your organization so compelling that that person ends up giving you their money and trust as well.
By doing and applying the things you do in your personal relationships on a business level, your customers will respond in a personal way – by giving you a piece of their precious resources: money, trust, referral. Today’s world gives us more options of things to do and ways to entertain ourselves than any other point in history. Whatever your interests are, there is someone else out there leading the way in whatever that thing might be. As a result, if you’re not doing everything thing you can to be remarkable in today’s digital world, you’re falling behind. Don’t get left behind. Money, trust, referral – remember these.