SBJ/May 2-8, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

MLS training center adding classes for ticket sales veterans

Major League Soccer’s National Sales Center is expanding its curriculum to include classes for existing MLS ticket sales representatives and managers.

MLS
A high percentage of graduating classes like this one from the National Sales Center have found jobs with MLS teams.
The center will hold four regional workshops and a to-be-determined number of weeklong training sessions at the center that are designed for existing MLS sales staff, according to Bryant Pfeiffer, vice president of club services for MLS. The center now holds 45-day courses for classes of 10 to 12 students who hope to work in ticket sales for MLS teams. Pfeiffer said the center receives an average of 100 applications for each class.

The Blaine, Minn.-based center, which opened in July 2010, has graduated 41 of 42 attendees and placed 39 of those as full-time ticket sales representatives at 13 MLS teams. According to the league, graduates have generated more than $1 million in total ticket sales.

Pfeiffer said the league originally planned to hold six or seven sessions annually, but it scaled that back to four.

“We’ve found that [holding] four classes [a year] is better from a recruiting standpoint because it seems to be on pace with the hiring flow from the teams,” Pfeiffer said. “The placement rate is exceeding expectations.”

MLS declined to discuss the cost of the center, but said that teams do not pay a fee or cover any expenses when they hire the center’s graduates. Pfeiffer referred to the center as a “significant investment” by the league. Students do not pay to attend the center, which includes dormitory housing, and the league provides students a stipend to cover travel and living costs.

The center employs one full-time employee — center director Brett Zalaski — and brings in a handful of outside teaching consultants, including members of a local comedy company called Brave New Workshop, who help the students develop improvisational skills along with their selling techniques.

In the course, students sell actual ticket packages for existing teams. The center alerts the teams when new classes are graduating and sets up interviews with clubs.

Kris Katseanes, director of sales and services for FC Dallas, said students from the center recently sold a two-ticket package for the team. “We got to know [the students] and familiarize them with the product,” said Katseanes, who has hired five of the team’s 21 ticket reps from the center. “If someone has 45 days of hands-on training, it gives them a big leg up.”

Pfeiffer said the curriculum for the shorter courses will include variations of the courses now taught. Michael Harloff, senior director of sales for D.C. United, employs two center graduates on his staff of 10 ticket representatives. Harloff said he plans to send current sales staff to the shorter courses.

“It sort of looks like a master’s degree program — you take a veteran rep and make them even better,” Harloff said.

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