Becoming a GM
Ice to Eskimos
I speak often to high schools and colleges about careers in sports marketing and I always, always, always tell my students to follow their passion. I tell them that in sports we spend an awful lot of time working so why not work at something you LOVE? “Choose a career you love!” But here’s what I’m beginning to realize…..you’re working even when you think you’re not. The culture is changing and the lines are continually blurring, especially for us in sports.
I recently went to watch one of my sons play hockey in a junior hockey weekend tournament. So on a Saturday morning I woke up threw on some clothes and my Trenton Titans rink jacket and drove the two hours to the game. I stood with a hot tea and watched the team that was on the ice while I waited for our game to start. I saw a few guys watching me, which I thought was strange, and then they moved closer to where I was standing. After a few more minutes, I notice a couple of other guys do the same thing. I thought maybe I knew them so I tried to look at their jackets, hoping it might ring a bell. And then it dawned on me. As I was looking at their jackets to find out where they were from, they had already seen MY jacket and thought that I might be a good person to get to know. A guy watching a game wearing a professional hockey team jacket – he’s probably a scout. To them, I’d be a good person to get to know.
We all look at the jacket. If you’re looking to make a connection for your kid to play college hockey and you see two guys – one wearing a Lawrence Little League jacket and one wearing a Boston College jacket, who ya gonna stand next to? The same holds true for me. I’ve done business at the deli counter, while at the park with the dog, at my kid’s school functions all because of my jacket – whether it’s my hockey jacket, my lacrosse jacket, baseball or even my well-worn Arena Football jacket. The jacket is now a serious tool in the sports marketing toolkit. It starts a conversation. The guy at the deli counter is a personal trainer on the side, the kid running in the park is looking for his break, the mother of one of my child’s classmates sells advertising. We’re all working.
There are no business hours. You don’t even need to pack your business cards, just throw on your jacket. I can tell you I certainly am passionate about my work, but do I love it that much? Sure I can be more conscience of what jacket I put on when I leave the house, “Hmm ticket sales are down for the next two home games….better wear my Titan’s jacket.” But who wants to live like that?
I have no answers, but I know that the proverbial office is open 24/7 and the new working philosophy is to always be on. It’s the new way to do business and as Dylan says, “Better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone.” And I will.
But for now, I have a bunch of winter jackets that I’m hanging up for the warm weather.
- Rich 3.27.13
Your First Step on Becoming a GM
In sports, we all start off at the same place – sales. Most of us started off as a ticket rep or doing ad sales – putting in long hours, spending time on the phones, and canvassing local businesses. Everyone wants to walk through the door as the GM or Director of Game Day Operations or the Broadcaster. But unless of course your father owns the team, that’s not happening. You have to be able to sell.
I’ve spoken to many young people about sports marketing and sales and I’ve interviewed countless people trying to break into the business. I tell them all the same thing. Unless you’re ready to sell, this isn’t the place for you. I always follow that up with selling really isn’t all that hard if you believe in the product. We’re all natural sellers. My best advice is to not be afraid to ask, relax, and use common sense. When I speak to sports marketing classes, I always ask, “Have you every convinced your parents to stay out later than you’re normal curfew? Have you every convinced them to borrow their car, and give you money?” Right away you can see it click in their head. “If you did this at least once, you can sell.”
Get rid of the used car salesman stigma. Get passionate about a team, and prove that you can sell. Once you start selling then you can apply for the Broadcaster’s job. You can be the Broadcaster AND you can sell. You can work game day operations AND you can sell. You’re sports employment opportunities will open up.
If you can sell, believe me…you’ll have plenty of options.
- Rich 11.4.12
Ice to Eskimos
“You’re so good you could sell ice to Eskimos.” I was thrilled to hear this from my first boss years ago. I was good – I must be good. I’ve heard this time and again throughout my entire professional life. But here I am thinking about whether selling ice to Eskimos is actually a good thing.
I guess it means that you can sell ice to someone who actually doesn’t need it. Is that really a good thing? Eskimos don’t need ice. For arguments sake, they live on ice, they live in ice (igloos), they drink ice (in some form). Actually, the one thing they don’t need is ICE….so why try to sell them ice? So I guess that’s where the compliment comes in. You must be the greatest sales person in the world because you can sell ice to people who don’t need it! But my experience tells me that after that initial sale, you will not have a repeat customer because THEY DON’T NEED ICE.
So really to be a good sales person we need to sell them what they need, not something they don’t. We have to be consultative. We need to listen. We must do our homework to identify exactly what their needs are, where their gaps are, and meet them there. After preparing a proposal that fits their needs and selling them something they need the subsequent sales will come. To me, that makes much more sense.
So ask yourself, “Do I want to use my talent and make a quick one time sale, or do I want to gain a long-term client?” We don’t want to sell them something they don’t need or already have. We want to build a long term customer – fill a need for them in their business. That’s how we’re going to build our base. That’s how we’re going to stay in business.
So selling ice to Eskimos might not be such a great compliment after all…..Rich. 7.3.12
I always wondered about those couples in college who got engaged after she demanded a ring – the ultimatum. Would he have eventually asked her anyway? Would she always wonder whether he felt obligated to ask or whether he really wanted to?
Fear-based decisions….never a good idea.
Why operate out of fear? – fear that you won’t hit your numbers, fear you’ll lose your job, fear that if you don’t ask her she might leave.
Operating out of fear never turns out well unless you’re running from a bear. We’ve all seen colleagues, bosses, and friends with that quiet desperation that makes us want to run out of the room.
Don’t make fear-based decisions. Don’t force a sale to make your numbers. Don’t deliver ultimatums to clients or colleagues. Desperation is transparent and it cheapens your value. If you get to that point, ask for help, talk it over….wait it out. Ralph Waldo Emerson says, “In skating over thin ice our safety is in our speed.” Be cool and ride it out.
- Rich 6.30.12