Strategies & tactics

Author Christian Martin, University of San Francisco

Posted: June 6, 2016

One of the most important assets for a sales person to have is an understanding of sales tactics and sales strategies. When creating successful fan experiences in sports, a recent article by Howard & Sergi (2016) explains that the tactics are merely the product of the strategy that is placed behind them to make them effective (p. 16). Furthermore, tactics are typically short-term for “short-term money” while strategies are typically long-term for “long-term money” (Howard & Sergi, 2006, p. 16). An example of this difference is mentioned by Howard & Sergi with regards to food and beverage service at a stadium where excellent hospitality at these vendors can be a strategy to help increase future ticket sales rather than solely focusing on selling certain food and beverage products (2016, p. 16). According to Holmes (2007), only 1% of executives are masterful thinkers in both tactics and strategies (p. 59).

Knowing both sales tactics and strategies is also important because when combined with organizational skills, the salesman can start to develop a sales plan to keep the salesman on track and work towards getting the most value out of a business relationship. In a 2003 study of business executives done by Marshall, Goebel, & Moncrief, the researchers found that business managers ranked organizational skills as one of the most important qualities in a salesperson (p. 251). The researchers felt that this trait was ranked so highly due to the complex nature of the sales environment and how buying organizations have become more difficult to navigate (p. 250). In a sponsorship sales context in sports, Skildum-Reid & Grey (2014) recommend creating an organized inventory of all the things that a sport entity could potentially sell a sponsor as an effective way to approach negotiations with that sponsor (p. 87).

Another important asset for a sales person is to have good communication skills so that the salesperson may be able to build rapport with the customer to help make the sale. One of these communication skills is being a good listener, which is important for the salesperson in understanding the customer’s needs and pains. According to Marshall et al., listening skills ranked as the number one most important skill for a sales person to have in their 2003 study (p. 251). Listening skills are also important in relationship building with the customer and help in showing the customer empathy, which, according to Holmes, is especially important in the closing process (2007, p. 83). According to Holmes (2007), empathy can also serve as a huge asset to a salesperson because it helps the customer build trust with the salesperson (p. 82).

Another good communication skill for a salesperson is to have excellent follow-up abilities. Follow-up skills were ranked second highest in importance after listening skills in the 2003 study by Marshall et al. (p. 251). The authors believe the reason for its high ranking is that consistent follow-up with a customer helps a salesperson to build and maintain a relationship with the customer, thereby allowing the salesperson to leverage that relationship to make a future sale/sales (p. 250). Furthermore, every sale is different, so it is important for the salesperson to be able to adapt to the customer and their buying situation. The ability for a sales person to adapt his or her sales style from situation to situation or “adaptive selling” was ranked by the 2003 Marshall et al. case study as the third most important selling trait (p. 251). Good adaptive sellers may be able to convert a customer in situations where others cannot by leveraging their quick thinking, creativity, and the communication skills mentioned above.

It is also critical for a salesperson to know the product or service that he or she is selling, its benefits, and how the product or service may satisfy a customer need or pain. To know a customer’s pains and needs, it is important to gather as much information about the customer as possible, which can be acquired through research and interactions with the customer. In most cases, the customer does not know the same information as the salesperson about the product the salesperson is providing, so sharing information with the customer about the product’s features, advantages, and benefits can be very helpful in making the sale. Holmes (2007) calls this selling technique “educational-based marketing” and notes it to be an extremely effective form of selling (p. 65). Holmes (2007) further recommends being a “market expert” as a powerful position for selling because these insights inform potential buyers about trends and information about what they should already know about their market (p. 74). In the case that the buyers do not know this market information, it can be seen as very valuable to them.

Another good quality for a successful salesperson is having a strong ego and drive to make sales and reach sales goals. Holmes (2007) states that a “strong ego is crucial in sales because it means you will have the drive and personal ambition to close as many sales as possible and the armor to not take repeated and often harsh rejections personally” (p. 81). Holmes (2007) also states that a salesperson need to have a strong ego because it takes a salesperson an average of 8.4 rejections before he or she will likely set up meeting with a potential client to make a sale (p. 83). With such statistics, salespeople will be faced with rejection more times than not, and it is important that salespeople can keep themselves motivated to overcome this rejection. Furthermore, the Marshal et al. (2003) case study stated that “tenacity-sticking with a task” was also among the top competitors for the most important trait for a salesperson to have (p. 251). The authors feel that this sales trait was ranked as one of the most important traits for a salesperson because the sales environment is very results-based and competitive, and that those that usually accomplish their numbers goals possess this trait (p. 250).

Lastly, as Skildum-Reid & Grey (2014) would add, sales is more team game than an individual game, so it is important that an organization develops its sales plan for a salesperson to have an understanding of his or her role on the sales team so that he or she can follow through on the team’s sales strategy (p. 81). Holmes (2007) recognizes that the most successful salespeople possess a combination of the traits that have been mentioned above and are not solely strong in one area (p. 82). Therefore, salespeople who are lacking in particular sales traits may have to leverage the different strengths of their team members in order to convert a customer.




Holmes, C. (2007). The ultimate sales machine: turbocharge your business with relentless focus on 12 key strategies. New York: Portfolio.

Howard, D., & Sergi, J. (2016). How contracts for services tie into a culture of fan care. SportsBusiness Journal, 19(4), 16.

Marshall, G. W., Goebel, D. J., & Moncrief, W. C. (2003). Hiring for success at the buyer–seller interface. Journal of Business Research, 56(4), 247-255.

Skildum-Reid, K., & Grey, A. (2014). Sponsorship seeker’s toolkit (4th ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

About Christian Martin, University of San Francisco

Christian Martin is currently a graduate student in the Sport Management Program at the University of San Francisco and employed at Street Soccer USA. He aspires to be a leader in the international soccer industry and speaks four languages (English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese). He is also an entrepreneur, having started his own promotional coffee mug business (Undercover Mugs), and operates a motivational website ( A San Francisco native and world traveler, he loves experiencing the diversity of people, food, and traditions. Follow him on Twitter @thefurnace1 or LinkedIn This article is an edited version of a paper Christian prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Business Development and Sales class at the University of San Francisco.

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