Skills required today

Author Kyle O'Malley, University of San Francisco

Posted: June 6, 2016

Tagged: sales skills

When people hear the word sales, it feels like the common reaction of most is to give that “oh great, here comes another person trying to sell me something which I don’t want” kind of look. Sometimes people may even roll their eyes (myself included). Purchasing things is supposed to happen because we want to buy, not because somebody else needs to sell something. In past experiences when in the market of tickets, sporting good items, shoes, and any number of other things, much of the overall experience at a given store is directly tied to the way in which the sales people approach, interact, and advise on purchasing decisions. However, during many of those experiences, it seemed more like a process of them walking up and proceeding to ask what item you are interested in, targeting that specific item, relentlessly trying to get you to buy it, and then feeling the need to ask if you want to add on any of the other accessories or additional ticket feature packages. The end result usually being a consumer who feels buyer’s remorse about the transactions they just made.

When we talk about sport sales people, there are such a wide array of items needing to be sold for any given sport organization. Companies may need to hire sponsorship sales people, season ticket sales people, team store sales people, concessions sales people, suite sales people, and a whole host of other types. With so many different hats needed to be worn in very sport organization, it is paramount that the right people are hired to fill these needs and make sure the company is functioning at the highest level possible without compromising their revenue or the experience of the consumer.

Before management even begins the interview process for these different roles in the organization, they should have a clear-cut list of skills and values/attitudes the candidates must have. In Chapter 5 of The Ultimate Sales Machine, Holmes brings this idea into play when he speaks on how he went from interviewee to the person conducting the interview. In this chapter, Holmes states that “Hiring someone like this is not about luck. It’s about understanding the personality characteristics that fit the job for which you are hiring and having the tools to identify the candidates that possess those characteristics. Personality profiling is the key to finding superstars” (Holmes, 2008, p. 81). These sentences echo the notion that identifying what skills you believe are most valuable to a given position and your ability to target people with those skills and values can create a very successful sport sales group and person.

Holmes goes on to mention that the four key traits that a sales person should possess are dominance/ego, influence, steadiness, and compliance ( Holmes, 2008, p.81-82). These four characteristics make a lot of sense when you think about what the typical required tasks are of a sales person. First, the sport sales person must have a sense of willingness to dominate their competition and believe so strongly in themselves that they will push themselves for the betterment of the organization because their ego is strong. Secondly, a sport sales person must have influence. Influence in this sense means that they are capable of communicating at a very high-level with potential consumers and management. Being able to clearly, effectively communicate leads to a willingness to listen and trust in what you are saying. This skill enables the sport sales person to successfully promote their sales pitch to consumers. Thirdly, there must be a steadiness about the individual. The person cannot get too high when a major sale goes through, or too low if a major sale is unable to be completed. They must be able to work well with others and exhibit patience in their efforts. The last major skill required is that of compliance. This is a vital piece because in sales there can sometimes be a grey area when someone is trying so hard to finish off a sale to a client or consumer. It is really important that a sport sales person exhibits this attribute because you want someone who will be conscientious in their actions and make sure to have a plan that is safe of any rule-breaking or the aforementioned grey area when trouble might arise.

The key factor to all of this is determining the essential skills which can be transferrable to a variety of different sales types and organizations. According to a study done by Marshall, Goebel, and Moncrief, which takes sales managers and has them rank the level of importance of particular skills, it should be noted that several of this skills are similar to Holmes’ four values. In this study, the results show that “the top-rated item is listening skills. This supports previous research that buyer-seller relationships are significantly strengthened when sales people consistently employ effective listening skills” (Goebel, Marshall, & Moncrief, 2003, p. 250). An important part of effectively communicating and having influence on the buyer is how well you listen to the wants and needs that they have. Effective listening skills can help develop strong sport sales people from both a sales perspective and a management-relationship one as well. Among all of these, is an overarching idea which I think is important to mention and really brings these pieces together. That is the idea of making sure that the values and skills fit both within your organization internally, but also what you are projecting externally for everyone (potential buyers) to see. Dannon Yogurt and the NFL played this card perfectly during the recent NFL Draft. According to the SportsBusinessJournal, “Dannon’s Oikos Triple Zero brand of Greek yogurt is presenting sponsor of Draft Town and will offer sampling. A Ferris wheel in the middle of Draft Town will carry Oikos branding, while the Danimals kids yogurt brand is underwriting NFL Play 60 clinics” (Lefton, 2015, para 3). Within this piece there are a couple things to focus on which illustrates skills, knowledge areas, and values used by both parties to strengthen their respective buyer-seller relationships with both each other and their individual markets. First, Greek yogurt has become an increasingly popular commodity over the past few years and thus more companies have begun listening to the demand from buyers searching for a healthier, protein-rich alternative to regular yogurt. The NFL is also seen as a league which has some of the premier athletes in the world. Combining a healthy, muscle-building protein with the premier athletes in the world is a perfect projection to potential buyers. Secondly, the NFL has been pushing their Play 60 campaign for quite some time now, and it seems to still have wind behind its sails. However, every once in a while it is important for a business to add an extra “gust of wind” here and there. Incorporating Danimals, a kids yogurt drink, to benefit participants in their clinics at Draft Town demonstrates more knowledge of current trends which can aid in the success of both companies. These primary skills, knowledge of current markets, and values are essential to sport sales people today when pitching partnership ideas or just building buyer-seller relationships.



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

Holmes, C. (2008). The ultimate sales machine. New York, NY: Penguin Group.

Lefton, T. (2016, April 25). Sponsors boost activation at Draft Town. SportsBusiness Journal, 19(3). Retrieved from

About Kyle O'Malley, University of San Francisco

Kyle is a second-year student in the University of San Francisco Sport Management master’s program. He has been involved in a multitude of areas including football/stadium operations and as the Women’s Basketball Visiting Team Liason at UC Berkeley, Strength & Conditioning graduate intern at St. Ignatius Prep School, Warriors Camps Coach for the Golden State Warriors, Freshman Basketball Head Coach and Freshman Baseball Pitching/Outfield Coach at Archbishop Riordan, and a lead tournament assistant for the Pac-12 Women’s Basketball Tournament. Kyle is extremely interested in working on the team and player side of collegiate and professional sports. Specifically, Kyle aspires to become a scout, coach, or front office executive within professional football, basketball, or baseball based on his previous and current experiences in those capacities. Kyle was born and raised in San Diego where he attended Grossmont College to obtain his Business Administration associate’s degree and play baseball. He then transferred to San Diego State University where he worked for the San Diego State Men’s Basketball team as a student manager throughout his time there. During one of his summer’s between school he worked for the Philadelphia 76ers during their Sixers Camps. He has published on The Scorecard at and can be contacted at and/or via LinkedIn at This article is an edited version of a paper Kyle prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Business Development and Sales class at the University of San Francisco.

IImage by CLF, "Adidas Europass Gloria", Accessed via Creative Commons license.