3 Things I Did Wrong as a Director of Sales

I've been incredibly fortunate to have had my DoS career alongside some incredibly important leaders. I've also been incredibly fortunate to have recruited and worked with unbelievably talented sellers who have directly contributed to sales growth and success for those organizations. I'm incredibly proud of what our teams have accomplished in my stops in Boston, DC, and Columbus.

That said, I made a lot of mistakes along the way. Some small, some big. Here are 3 of the biggest, and how I've rectified them...or how I would rectify them now.

1) 'Sales is King' Attitude: Part of the reason that ticket sales appeals so strongly to me is that it is the true heartbeat of sports business...and I love being where the action is. Nothing works if people aren't in the building. That said, I absolutely wore this on my sleeve, and it negatively impacted my relationships with key stakeholders I needed within the organization. Ticket Operations, marketing, stadium operations, HR, etc. were all seen by me as enemies impeding success.

Thankfully, my boss at the Crew, Clark Beacom, saw me going down this treacherous path again in Columbus...and put a halt to it. Clark challenged me to develop personal relationships with these departments. Crazy, the more personal the relationships became, the more I understood their side of the challenges, the more compromise we were able to come to, the better the resolutions and the more leeway our sales team got to be adventurous. It's easy to complain about other departments when we allow them to be excuses to our success. It's important that we don't come to want these excuses, we need to come to solutions that benefit all parties by constantly reminding each other that we're all on the same team.

2) 'Hustle Metrics' Place in Sales: I'll admit that I've set call numbers for the teams I've worked with. And I was wrong. I've also seen teams move away from call sheets and just track results. This is wrong, too.

Traditional hustle minimums make the gross assumption that every person sells the same exact way. They don't. That said, not looking at call sheets assumes that those traditional, trackable numbers DON'T help tell a story. They do.

Teams must start looking closely at trackable hustle metrics AND results to understand how each individual rep sells best. If you have two sales reps, let's call them Brett and Zalaski. When you chart both of their high success marks, you see two different stories. When Brett is his most successful, he's making 50 calls a day and having 10 face-to-face interactions a week. When Zalaski is his most successful, he's making 75 calls a day with 5 face-to-face interactions a week. Instead of going once-size-fits-all, we, as managers and directors, need to help our reps find their most efficient and effective selves. THAT's where trackable metrics can help.

3) One-Size-Fits-All Sales Training: In my first 6 months at the Columbus Crew I was not as nearly as effective a leader as I wanted to be. I tried to take the National Sales Center and bring it to Columbus. It was an abject failure...emphasis on the abject.

There is absolutely a time and a place for team-wide sales training. It's maybe once per month or quarter. It's not every week. Teams need to do a better job of doing focused sales training based on organizational objectives. If you need your group sales team to do a better job of creating collaborative engagements and not just sending out links, you need to train them specifically on this. If you need your corporate sales team to do a better job of engaging companies, you need to train them specifically on this. If your 1st and 2nd year AE's are not bringing in the quantity of revenue they need, you need to pull them aside as a group and help them make the transition better. If a specific rep is having trouble handling objections, there needs to be time spent in their one-on-ones focusing on development in this area.

What does all this mean? Instead of more group trainings, teams need to do a better job of more specific, customized training that takes each area and each person into account. There are very few things an entire sales team will do poorly across the board. There are far more BEHAVIORS that your specific teams (groups, season, corporate, premium, service, inside sales, etc.) will struggle within their smaller groups.

Once we learned this at the Crew, our training became something that reps looked FORWARD to, and we saw the revenue size of each area grow to club-record levels. Each rep felt trained on how to do their job smartly and efficiently...and the results followed.

These are just three examples of many things I've done wrong. Making the transition from manager to seller, and manager to director are two of the toughest things sports business professionals will do in their careers. Here's hoping someone can learn to avoid the mistakes I made!

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