Reject the fear

Author Michelle Park, University of San Francisco

Posted: June 6, 2016

Tagged: sales skills

Jim Paquette, Athletic Director at Loyola University Maryland, stated, “don’t automatically reject a sales job out of fear or on your perception of what you think sales is” (Sutton, 2015, p. 11). The sales industry as a whole is, at times, viewed negatively due to its constant demand and high turnover rate. Many people that start out with a sales position do not always end up being successful at it. According to Pierce, Peterson, Clavio, & Meadows (2012) over half of those working in the sales industry do not have the personality to succeed in the sales position (p. 151). There is a certain personality type, attitude, and skill set that must be acquired in order to become a successful sport salesperson today.

A successful sport sales person must carry passion and confidence at all times. John Shaver, Director of Corporate Partnerships for the South Bend Silver Hawks, stated that when hiring, he looks for candidates with “energy, charisma, confidence and passion” (Pierce et al, 2012, pg. 151). Sport organizations today look for candidates with specific characteristics, one being passion (Pierce et al, 2012, p. 151). A passionate salesperson will bring enthusiasm, carry a positive outlook and hold a desire to perform well. According to Popp (2015), passion always outweighs sales skills because a passionate salesperson is not selling to make that commission or meet a set quota (p. 12). Instead, passionate people are confident about the products and services they are selling because of the benefits that specific sale has to offer. Furthermore, a confident sales person carries a high dominance personality trait connected to having a strong ego. When interviewing, potential candidates with strong egos will “present themselves with confidence and assure you that they are the one for the position” (Holmes, 2007, p. 83-84). A passionate and confident salesperson may come off strong and aggressive, but these are necessary personality traits that will contribute in making a superstar sales person.

An important skill set that sport sales people must possess is strong relationship building skills. Sales people with strong relational skills will naturally develop and cultivate relationships with each client. The first part in building this relationship is to just listen. The client-salesperson relationship is significantly strengthened when sales people “consistently employ effective listening skills” (Marshall, Goebel, & Moncrief, 2003, p. 250). In addition, a relational sales person carries a high influence personality trait, easily being able to understand other point of views (Holmes, 2007, p. 82). Listening effectively enables the sales person to truly understand the client’s wants and needs in order to cater that sale to fit the client, leading to eventually closing in on that sale.

The second part is then to cultivate that relationship through effective communication. Kayla Chesanek, special assistant to the chief operating officer at the Orlando Magic, shared that in order to start, build up and maintain meaningful relationships, the follow-up is the critical part (Sutton, 2015, p. 11). Marshall et al. (2003) also mentioned that the “key difference between transactional and relational approaches to selling is the effort devoted by the sales person to the ongoing maintenance and management of the relationship” (p. 250). A sales person with strong relationship building skills knows how to maintain relationships through constant communication after the initial meeting. Overall, sales people can “positively affect an organization’s performance by utilizing a customer-oriented approach when establishing and maintaining relationships with clients” (Marshall et al, 2003, p. 248). As a result, a sales person who has good relationships with their clients is likely to continue to close sales to those same clients in the future.

Lastly, sport sales people need to continuously stay patient. Patience falls under the high-steadiness personality trait (Holmes, 2007, p. 82). High-steadiness sales people are patient and persistent, which is shown through their actions and decisions. Closing sales is not an easy task and a sales person will face more rejections than actual sales. Therefore, having the patience to work through the “process intricacies and possibly delay reward gratification” (Marshall et al, 2003, p. 252) is crucial. In addition, the repeated rejections and even harsh rejections must not be taken in personally (Holmes, 2007, p. 81). Sales people need to stay patient and not get upset or discouraged after facing multiple rejections. Patience, combined with a passionate background, will lead to persistence and a drive to overcome the challenges that come. They need the will power to get back up and continue to go out there and make sales, believing and chasing after accomplishing the goal of closing those sales.

Certain personality traits and skill sets must be developed, nurtured and honed in order to become a successful sport sales person. Brad Shank, Director of Group Sales for the Fort Wayne Tin Caps, stated, “previous sales experience is a plus, but it doesn’t outweigh the importance of their personality” (Pierce et al, 2012, p. 151-152). Sport organizations today are looking for candidates who fit the right personality type over those with related experience. As a result, sport sales people today need to have these types of personality traits and skill sets: passion and confidence; listening and relationship building skills; and patience and persistence.




Holmes, C. (2007). The ultimate sales machine. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

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.

Pierce, D., Peterson, J., Clavio, G., & Meadows, B. (2012). Content analysis of sport ticket sales job announcements. Sport, Business and Management: An International Journal, 2(2), 137-155.

Popp, N. (2015). How one event uses fan base’s passion to recruit ticket buyers. SportsBusiness Journal, 18(4), 12. Retrieved from

Sutton B. (2015). Advice to future grads: Make connections, keep an open mind. SportsBusiness Journal, 18(17), 11. Retrieved from

About Michelle Park, University of San Francisco

Michelle is currently a graduate student at the University of San Francisco’s Sport Management Program. She graduated from UC Irvine with a B.A. in Business Administration with a specialization in general management. Currently, she is the Product and Marketing Strategy Intern at Ticketmaster/Live Nation, hoping to upstart a future career in sport data analytics. Her LinkedIn profile is at This article is an edited version of a paper Michelle prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Business Development and Sales class at the University of San Francisco.

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