Revenue / Sales / Trends


Skills for today

Author Rachel Wissner, University of San Francisco

Author Kelcey McGeown-Conron, University of San Francisco

Author Morgan Fuller, University of San Francisco

Author Dani Sherman, University of San Francisco

Author Oliver Enos, University of San Francisco

Posted: November 14, 2017

Tagged: sales skills

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, one in every nine workers in America holds a position in sales (Pink, 2012). While the product being sold can vary dramatically, there are a number of skills, qualities, and attitudes that help sellers succeed across industries. Marshall, Goebel, and Moncrief (2003) conducted a study on the qualities that are important to sales managers across industries. David Halberstam (2016) begins his text on sports sponsorships with a chapter on the “Qualifications Required to Succeed” (p. 1). While there are a number of opinions on what makes a great salesperson, there are several qualities that appear on many of these lists, including determination/persistence, organization, listening skills, working as part of a team, and professional development.

The first skill – determination/persistence – can be useful in many different aspects of sales. The first way is to have an “unbreakable determination to overcome all corrupting thoughts” (Halberstam, 2016, p. 2). Specifically, in sales, you face a lot of rejection or negative feelings by potential clients. It’s important to be able to separate and overcome that negativity and keep pushing towards your goal. If you are not determined to succeed, you will fail very quickly in sport sales. Pessimism has no place in sales; every rejection must be faced with optimism. Tammy Darvish, the vice-president of DARCARS, says that persistence is one of the qualities she looks for most in a salesperson (Pink, 2012, p. 55). Not giving up on clients or getting discouraged by rejection is crucial. Just because someone didn’t answer their phone, or says they’re not interested right now doesn’t mean a sale with them will never happen. Remaining persistent will pay off in the end.

A successful salesperson must be organized. Sport sales is a fluid business. Salespeople obtain and follow hundreds of leads to sell a product (Halberstam, 2016). It is imperative that these leads are tracked and organized for maximize potential earnings. Marshall et al. (2003) found that being organized was the fifth most important factor being considered by sales managers when evaluating talent. Marshall et al. (2003) also argue that sales jobs have increased in complexity, and become more complicated to navigate. These changes have made organization a key factor in success. To be successful, a salesperson must keep track of their progress and their leads by writing notes and logging contact with consumers. It is also important to keep all meetings in a calendar and create a system to store contacts. Creating a system that allows for all notes and meetings to be logged in one place is a good way to stay current and keep track of clients (Halberstam, 2016). Remaining organized gives a salesperson a clear perspective and provides a checklist of what needs to be done. By being organized and logging contacts and conversations, salespeople can be prepared to sell to the consumer.

In their study on the perspective of sales managers as to which qualities make successful salespeople, Marshall et al. (2003) found that the most important factor was listening skills. Buyer-seller relationships are strengthened when buyers feel listened to and understood (Marshall et al., 2003). Daniel Pink (2012) states that the sales environment is changing, largely due to the previous information asymmetry between buyers and sellers now reaching equilibrium. With equal access to information, sellers are no longer providing or restricting information, but are now able to clarify and discuss the information with customers (Pink, 2012). In his interview with Tammy Darvish of DARCARS Automotive Group, she explains that if a customer has a question, she works with them to find the answer (Pink, 2012). Listening to the customer and discussing information with them allows sellers to provide the answers to their questions and help guide the client to making the best decision for them.

Cole Gahagan, a recipient of SportsBusiness Journal’s Forty Under 40 Award, gave some advice that applies to both working as a team, as well as the next important skill for salespeople today. “Start with a team. It will teach you about the long hours and you’ll get to know a lot of different aspects of the business” (“Forty under 40,” 2017, para 12). Gahagan stresses the importance of relying on a team for support, but also emphasizes the value in learning various areas of the business. The same can be said for a salesperson looking to sell a product; rely on your team, but also know about the product and the industry of which you are a part. Consumers today are able to gather information quicker than ever before, meaning salespeople have to be even more knowledgeable on what they are selling. Within the context of sport management programs, Dolich (2017) argues that there should be greater “synergistic” integration between the various courses, including sales, sponsorship, media relations, marketing, game presentations, venue operation, etc. (para 6). The results of the Marshall et al. (2003) study put “specific industry knowledge” under the fifth level of importance, indicating that sales managers see the significance of such knowledge, even though many other skills were ranked higher (p. 251).

A sport salesperson that is willing to invest time and energy in professional development will separate themselves from the crowd and enable them to outperform their peers and deliver more value to the customer. This dedication to being a lifelong learner and developing sport industry knowledge regarding trends and competitors is what ensures that the sport seller will be effective with customers (Dolich, 2016, para. 5). The seller must have an insatiable desire to consume sport industry knowledge, understand customers’ business goals, and identify their purchase history (Halberstam, 2016). The seller cannot be afraid to get out of their comfort zone and try new sales tactics if that will enable them to grow professionally and mature their understanding of sport customers (Halberstam, 2016). The sport seller can truly master the art of sales by taking a vested interest in learning new ideas by studying sales methods and practicing learned techniques (Pierce & Irwin, 2016). It is critical that contemporary sport salespeople are comprised of honest people who are committed to meeting customers’ needs.

With these five skills and attitudes towards selling, people in the sales industry are better able to cater to consumers based on their wants and needs. It also can become a more personal, enjoyable experience if salespeople are determined to build strong, lasting relationships with their customers. Working together as a team allows salespeople to share ideas while maintaining a healthy competitive spirit. In addition, remaining organized and diligently listening to customers ensures that salespeople are correctly informed. And finally, pursuing professional development opportunities helps the seller to learn from mistakes and difficult situations in order to improve. Ultimately, these five skills and attitudes will enable salespeople to be more successful today and in the future.




Dolich, A. (2016, July 25). Missing links in sports management programs. SportsBusiness Journal, 19(15), 25. Retrieved from

Forty under 40: What advice would you give to students who are hoping to work in the sports industry?. (2017). SportsBusiness Journal, 19(49). Retrieved from

Halberstam, D. J. (2016). The fundamentals of sports media and sponsorship sales: Developing new accounts. Davie, FL: Halby 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., & Irwin, R. (2016). Competency assessment for entry-level sport ticket sales professionals. Journal of Applied Sport Management, 8(2), 54-75.

Pink, D. H. (2012). To sell is human: The surprising truth about moving others. New York, NY: Penguin.

About Rachel Wissner, University of San Francisco

Rachel Wissner is currently an Olympic Sports operations intern at UC-Berkeley, where she works primarily with aquatic sports. She also provides support to the 20+ additional Olympic sports in the athletic department. In addition to her internship with Cal, Rachel also works for Stanford Athletics as an Event Manager. Rachel graduated from the University of Maryland in 2012 with a B.S. in Kinesiology. While attending, she was a member of the Club Softball team, where she served as the Vice President during her junior year. Currently, Rachel is pursuing her Master’s degree in Sport Management from the University of San Francisco and is set to graduate in December 2018. This article is an edited version of a paper prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Business Development & Sales course at the University of San Francisco.

About Kelcey McGeown-Conron, University of San Francisco

Kelcey McGeown-Conron is currently an operations assistant at the University of California, providing operational and recruitment support to the Men’s Baseball team. Prior to working at Cal, Kelcey supported the Account Management Team at LeadDog Marketing Group for the Virgin Sport Half Marathon and Festival of Fitness. Kelcey has worked with the Oakland Raiders in their Community Relations Department and NBCSports Bay Area in marketing and public relations. She is interested in the intersection of sport and community and youth engagement. A native of Boston, Kelcey graduated from Wake Forest University with a degree in Health and Exercise Science and is currently pursuing a Master’s Degree in Sport Management from the University of San Francisco. This article is an edited version of a paper prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Business Development & Sales course at the University of San Francisco.

About Morgan Fuller, University of San Francisco

Morgan Fuller graduated from Stanford University with a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and minors in Human Biology and Sociology, and is currently pursuing her Master of Arts in Sport Management at the University of San Francisco. While at Stanford, Morgan was an athlete on the varsity Synchronized Swimming team and was a member of the 2012 U. S. Olympic Synchronized Swimming Training Squad. Morgan is pursuing a career in international sports and has a variety of experiences working sporting events, from Super Bowl 50, the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open (golf), and the 2015 and 2017 World University Games. Currently, Morgan serves as a contractor for the United States Olympic Committee in the Games Operations department, working on projects for the 2018 Olympic Winter Games and 2018 Youth Olympic Games. This article is an edited version of a paper prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Business Development & Sales course at the University of San Francisco.

About Dani Sherman, University of San Francisco

Dani Sherman is the Director of Operations for the Academy of Art University’s athletic department. She is a graduate of Mills College, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in Mathematics. While at Mills College, she started working part-time for the Oakland Athletics and discovered her passion for working in professional sports. She is currently a graduate student in the University of San Francisco’s Sport Management program and has worked with the Oakland Raiders and Golden State Warriors. This article is an edited version of a paper prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Business Development & Sales course at the University of San Francisco.

About Oliver Enos, University of San Francisco

Oliver Enos serves as the Compliance & Governance Intern for the West Coast Conference. He joined the WCC staff in August 2017. He is responsible for the administration and continued development of compliance operations pertaining to NCAA and Conference rules and regulations. In addition to his internship with the WCC, Oliver also works as an Event Manager for the Stanford University Athletic Department. Prior to joining the WCC, Oliver worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers, a professional services firm, assisting Fortune 500 clients with cyber security strategy and vulnerability management. Oliver is a military veteran, having served as a United States Marine Corps officer with Marine Wing Communications Squadron 38 in San Diego, CA. A native of Charlottesville, Virginia, Oliver is a WCC alumnus; he was a student-athlete on the baseball team at Loyola Marymount University, where he earned his Bachelor’s degree in Sociology. He is currently pursuing his Master’s degree in Sport Management at the University of San Francisco. This article is an edited version of a paper prepared for Dr. Michael M. Goldman’s Business Development & Sales course at the University of San Francisco.

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