What are the qualities team's should be looking for when hiring ticket sales people?

Hiring for any position within a sports organization is an inexact science. Hiring for ticket sales talent can be even more challenging because often times we are screening from a candidate pool with little or no sales or sports business experience. Recruiting, therefore should be a year round, daily process. Regardless of the size of your Human Resources Department, or lack thereof, ultimately it is the responsibility of the hiring Manager to take ownership of the process. The relationship between Manager and employee begins with the initial phone interview. As a hiring Manager, you are representing not just the job, but are a reflection of the ‘front porch’ for the entire organization. Here are some tips we suggest in finding the best talent for ticket sales positions:

1. No ticket sales experience necessary. We can teach sales and relationship building techniques once they are hired.

2. Never rush into a hiring decision. Inevitably you will hire a second or third rate employee that ends up not being the best fit and you’ll be left to start over the recruiting process once again, resulting in lost time and resources.

3. Focus on key characteristics. At The Aspire Group we rate every candidate based on 7 Key Characteristics we find the most successful sales and service people invariably possess. We use the acronym ‘W.H.O.P.P.P.P.’ which represents ‘Work Ethic, Honesty, Openness to Learning, Positive Attitude, Productivity, Passion for Sports & Sales (i.e. Commitment) and Potential for Leadership.

4. Take time to calculate the opportunity cost for each vacant position. Every ticket sales (position) seat should be a profit center. If the seat is sitting empty, we are losing money and missing opportunities. Simply put, an empty chair in your sales team doesn’t sell any tickets.

5. Recruit for Bench Strength. Have sufficient A & B players ‘on the bench’ and ready in your recruiting pipeline at all times. Drive recruiting time to zero.

Besides recruiting based on the 7 W.H.O.P.P.P.P. characteristics, cultural fit is critical. We use existing staff within the organization to visit with candidates face-to-face during the interview process to screen for cultural fit. Based on The Aspire Group’s experience in hiring several hundred ticket sales and service consultants over the past 6 years, we have also found many of our peak performing sales leaders were involved themselves in high school and/or collegiate sports themselves. Furthermore, they’ve specifically been involved in team sports (soccer, lacrosse, football, hockey etc.). Their activity outside of the classroom and off the field can also be very telling. Were they involved in extracurricular or volunteer activities? If so, did they climb the ranks into leadership positions within those groups? These are key indicators for success.

Recruiting takes time, energy and patience. Our performance analytics indicate that for each 100 resumes we receive, we find 5% which are worthy of a job offer and of those 5%, only half will accept the position because they’ll likely have other offers. Don’t give up too soon. Hiring right on the front end will save you significant headaches down the road. Happy recruiting.

Once the initial training is done for ticket sales people what are your suggestions for ongoing training?

All too often we hear horror stories of entry level ticket sales employees who are handed a lead list and told to ‘Go Get Em’ with little or no training. This results in failure and invariably drives the person out of the organization, and often times out of the industry completely. Training should be integrated into every staff meeting you hold. Our staff at The Aspire Group are trained to always have their notebook and pens in hand because there is likely a teaching moment around the corner. We encourage regular check-ups for every sales consultant to sharpen their skills. We refer to this as the Sales Swing Doctor, where every person is evaluated based on 90 essential sales and service skills. The concept is based on the game of golf whereby there are 18 holes with 5 areas of evaluation for each hole (thus 90 total).
Once you have established your year-round Ticket Marketing, Sales & Service Calendar, we encourage you to establish a training calendar that ticks and ties with the season. Are you about to launch season ticket renewals? Planning a digital marketing campaign to past single game attendees? Introducing a new ticket product such as an exclusive premium seating package? Have an upcoming ‘open house’ or ‘select-a-seat’? You get the picture…for each and every one of these ‘events’, we should have dedicated training to equip our sales and service teams for success.

Is there a budget guide line you would suggest team follow for this ongoing training? i.e. a percentage of ticket revenue?

Did you know that we forget 80% of what we learn every day? Repetition is the mother of learning. Ongoing training, and retraining in fun, innovative ways is crucial for sustained success. Repeating the same old tired role plays with your sales team is simply not enough. The best external sales trainers customize their training to the needs of the team. In our experience the best external sales trainers are Charlie Chislaghi and Mike Boswell (aka Boz). Both of these trainers deliver enthusiasm which is contagious, while motivating the individual to hold themselves accountable for improving their sales technique. We recommend bringing in an external sales trainer at least twice per year. We suggest building in $5,000-$15,000 into your annual budget to accomplish this. Our experience with these trainers indicates the cost of the training should pay for itself within one week of their visit. You should expect a minimum of 25% improvement in productivity following training in the first 3-4 weeks after the training and leveling out to 15% improvement even after a couple months. This is, however dependent on follow up from the on-site sales manager to reinforce the technique regularly.