Developing Sales Talent, Part 3: How To Keep Them Motivated, Energized

Developing Sales Talent


Travis Apple, Pittsburgh Pirates
Leigh Castergine, New York Mets
Charlie Chislaghi, Kansas City Royals
Bryant Pfeiffer, Major League Soccer
Jamie Spencer, Tampa Bay Lightning
Janet Duch, San Diego Padres
Moderator: Bill Sutton, Bill Sutton & Associates and University of South Florida

At the recent SBJ/SBD Ticketing Symposium, sales executives from across sports talked about building a successful sales culture.

Today, we feature Part 3 of the discussion. Check back every day this week for more from this engaging and informative session.

Click here for:
Part 1: How To Find It And How To Make It Fit
Part 2: How To Build A Sales Culture

SUTTON: We work in a business where if you make 100 calls and you are successful three times, you’ve done pretty well. So we have this constant need to overcome, to stay positive. We had this young lady at a sales combine this past week in Pittsburgh who was a boxer. I said, “Tell me about the first time you boxed.” She said, “Well I got two black eyes, my nose was bleeding and I got a cut lip. I walked out thinking I’m never going back, this is crazy, why did I do this?” But then she said, “But, no! I can’t quit like that!” And when she told that story, all the sales managers in recruiting perked up, because that’s what you’re looking for. So, how do you keep people fresh, how do you keep them motivated, how do you keep them energized, in a business that’s really, really tough?


WALLS: At the end of the day, if we’re giving our team direction and support, we’ve noticed our retention has increased. We put a lot of focus into, specifically our service team, and our group sales staff, knowing that their retention matters the most based on all the studies that we’ve done. Everything from tools, to autonomy to compensations. Tools — my staff, every time they’re on the phone, they have a variety of things they can invite a prospect to. Whether it’s a game, a face-to-face appointment at the ballpark, but on top of that every week we have a standing event that’s maybe cocktails on the field or lunch on the field. Every month we have a major event that they can invite someone to, maybe select a seat in the clubhouse. As it relates to autonomy, this is big with millenials, and we’ve noticed it’s helped with engagement. We give our service team $300, they’re expected every homestand to host two events, small events, so they can touch 90 percent of their accounts face-to-face before renewals. We give them $300, and they get to decide how they want to use that. It might be Bingo with their older season-ticket holders, or martinis with their ladies season-ticket holders, but they have that autonomy. As for compensation, we’ve totally gone away from that pot at the end of the rainbow goals, hit your goals and you get a big bonus. Everything we do now is short term. It’s even beyond results, a lot of my team gets compensated based on metrics that get them to results. Our service team gets not only compensated on their renewal percentage, but also touch points, face to face, they get compensated bonuses based on how they scored in customer surveys on how their service was. Those are things we’re doing to increase retention.

Leigh Castergine says the Mets set monthly sales goals that compound as the year goes on. The team also offers "big fish" bonuses for large sales.
Photo by: MARC BRYAN-BROWN
CASTERGINE: The complications that we’ve made in pricing and benefits, translates actually into what we’re doing on the staffing perspective as well, especially with our compensation. Our compensation and contracts now, you need a legal degree to go through just how complicated these are. It does takes a lot of work in pulling commissions, but we have decided that we need to make those goals much smaller. We set monthly goals. If you hit your monthly goal, it’s actually a cumulative goal, so it compounds, as you hit each month. If you don’t hit that month, it starts back at zero, so it gives them a clear way to stay on track and hit that overall goal at the end of the year. We do smaller bonuses based on those thresholds that we’re tracking — face-to-face appointments, calls, etc. But we also have what we call our "big fish" bonuses, so if you hit and generate a big sale. Instead of just looking at it as selling full seasons, we’re very revenue focused, and one of the things that we really do focus on are those large sales. So there’s going to be an additional bonus if you close a large sale during a certain period of time.

APPLE: We have a sales champion every week, that gets a WWE championship belt. We also have the Great One board, for Roberto Clemente, that talks about the intangibles. But the thing that goes even a little further, is getting to know each of your personnel as a person, as an individual, not just a professional setting. We know that they’re happy personally, they’re happy professionally. So figuring what motivates each individual. That’s the biggest challenge in managing, is one person is motivated by money, the other one is time off. We do a lot of contests, a lot of incentives. Getting away from the office at 4:30 when we don’t have a homestand goes a long way. We’ve taken our staff paint balling, white water rafting or happy hours. Maybe it’s because they like to shoot me or drown me, but a lot of it is getting to know them as an individual and as a person, that’ll help them to motivate to see what it is at the end of the tunnel for them.

PFEIFFER: I’m a big believer in keeping the environment fun. One of the things we’ve tried to do is build a deadly playful and deadly serious culture at the sales center. While we’re trying to build rockstar sales people, we’re also trying to expose them to other aspects of development. One example of that is, we have a partnership with a local improv comedy theater in Minneapolis, where trainees not only attend shows, but they actually work with the School of Improv teachers, and perform on stage. Our full-time trainers know how to teach all of the “Whose Line Is It Anyway” kind of exercises. There are a lot of parallels between the fundamentals of improv and the fundamentals of sales. While we’re trying to teach people the basics of ticket sales, we’re also trying to build confidence. What an amazing environment, when you can get people comfortable doing those silly exercises, and then pick up the phone and calling strangers is a lot easier.

CHISLAGHI: With millenials, if they think they have to sit in an office all day, that’s because they’ve manufactured that bias in their own brains. They come in with the bias that, 'I’m going to be a boiler-room telemarketer.' When, in fact, everybody up here is giving them the keys to the organization to get face to face with prospects, with customers, to grow relationships and build confidence, build trust. Frankly, I think that’s the best incentive you can give any millennial.

SPENCER: Going back to the war room that we developed, at 8:30 in the morning, we have a standing meeting. It can be repetitive, people are groggy, but it's really more or less to get them out of bed and make sure people are there. But, I got an idea from Jacques Lemaire, who I admire as a hockey coach. He’s an amazing team builder, he can win with any players you give him. One of the things I learned from Jacques watching is that we have this rotating captain patch. So every month, Jacques Lemaire would bring the team out for practice and announce who the captain of the month is. Now you might say that’s the craziest idea ever, because we need a captain for the full season. But it kept everybody sort of leaning forward at that practice. So we’ve now adopted that into our sales force, we have a rotating “C” patch. We announce the captain, they know when their week is, and they can plan out the sales contests, the rhythms of the week, and they have to read and react, and have a plan. They have to see how the staff is: Are they tired? Are they working well? Are the revenue goals to high? Do we need to change things at all? So I think the key is to make it a daily, a step ladder. We all get these big budgets, “hey you’ve gotta go get a million dollars in new business,” and you’re going, “holy cow.” But what do you have to do today to get that million seven or eight months from now? Making it very simple, tangible, fun. We get in that war room at 8:30 it’s like, don’t worry about that million-dollar goal, worry about today — two season tickets, a group sale, two prospects, get someone to an event, and do some touch points. You know, make it very simple, and it’s amazing the results. All of a sudden you add that up over 365 days, and they’ve got 10 percent above their goal, and they’re making money.

CHISLAGHI: I think everyone here has said this, that they walk the sales floor, they walk the sales office. Their new hires know that their managers, even at the most senior levels, are invested in them as individuals, not just a budget line-item number. And I think that is central to growing for allegiance among people.

SUTTON: As a consultant, I walk into a lot of different organizations, and when I have to play my Angel of Death role and get rid of a sales manager it’s always usually for the same reason. They’re never on the floor, they’re always in their office, their office is down the hall from their sales people, they’re totally disconnected from their sales people. So go back and look at your organization, and figure out where your sales manager is, how far away is he from his people. Is he or she engaged with those people every day? Are they coaching them? Are they developing them? And if they’re not, that’s part of your issue.

Check back tomorrow for Part 4 of the Developing Sales Talent discussion.


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