The rookie year is always special. When its a rookie on the field, or in the front of office.
The Erie SeaWolves recently added two rookie hires to this year’s crop of workers. Matt Haines is a ticketing intern in his senior year at Mercyhurst University. He’s a quick learner and the president and founder of his school’s Sports Intelligence Club. Matt bears a passing resemblance to Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck. Like Luck, Matt seems to have what it takes to enjoy a successful sports career.
Our second addition was account executive Tom Furhman. At 66 years old, Tom may be the oldest rookie in the history of professional sports sales. Tom has raised millions of dollars in grants and helped create a new state park. He’s even served as mayor of a town in Pennsylvania. Tom is well-connected in the community, yet he’s never been tasked with selling a season ticket or booking a picnic.
Generations Apart, Similar Work Ethic
Matt and Tom are separated by two generations, yet they sit six feet from each other in our sales bullpen. They each have a very different set of life experiences, yet they both want to carve out a successful career in sports. They make for a pretty unusual rookie class, but they get along like old pals.
The pairing of Matt and Tom made me consider my own experience in sports sales. If I was a 21-year old rookie, what advice would give myself? Likewise, what advice can I offer a 66-year old rookie? This may not be all-encompassing, but I’d start here.
Don’t Forget That Rookie Feeling
Working in sports is a privilege. With long hours and personal sacrifices, it may not always feel that way. Eighteen years later, I can still remember how excited I was driving to Jackie Robinson Ballpark, home of the Daytona Cubs. It was my first job in sports, and I was downright giddy to go to work each day. Throughout your career, be sure to savor special moments. As a sales rep, be sure to create those types of moments for your guests. You may have walked on the field or the court 1,000 times, but you can shape experiences that others may carry with them for the rest of their days.
You Can Be As Successful As You Choose To Be
This isn’t meant to be a rah-rah, “reach for the stars” speech. It simply means that you define your own personal brand. The person on the other end of the phone doesn’t know it’s your first job in sports or sales…until you open your mouth. Present your image confidently over the phone, in person and in writing. Seek out opportunities to learn. Read as much as you can — for your own development and to generate leads. Attend professional events, like the Sports Sales Boot Camp, to keep sharpening your skills.
Practice The Discipline Of Gratitude
Your success is not your own. Relationships are the bedrock of a successful career in sports sales. Remember to thank others and congratulate them when you learn of their successes. Catch someone doing something right. Let your customers know you appreciate their support. Build time into your week specifically to write ‘thank you’ notes or let them know the impact they’ve had on your life. You may not always feel you have the time to do it, but schedule time to do it.
I hope Matt and Tom learn a lot from our organization and from each other. I know it’s also going to be a learning experience for me as I strive to share examples and stories that resonate with both of them. If they stay passionate about crafting remarkable experiences, take responsibility for their personal brands, and do the (not so) small things that build relationships, I am certain each will find success.