How to manage the new generation of sellers

by Murray Cohn – January 2013 

Part 1

“I want it all. I want it now.”

On a recent team visit I met an entry level ticket seller who’d been there two months.   He said, “Murray, I am ready to manage my own staff. I know everything I need to learn about ticket sales.” Laughing, I looked at him and said, “I have been doing this for 25 years and I still learn every day.” I added, “Plus, to make that statement, it might help if you were first on the sales board instead of eighth out of twelve.”

This is not an isolated incident. The #1 question I’m asked by salespeople is “What’s next?” My best advice is, “Be the best at what you are doing first.”[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Top 3 Takeaways

1. The answer to the impatient seller who wants to move up: “Be the best at what you are doing first.”

2. You must manage millennials differently because their expectations revolve around immediacy, entitlement, and instant gratification.

3. A 3rd year seller does 300% the amount of a first year seller. If you lose that person, you need to hire three people just to be even. [/dropshadowbox]

The days of a ticket salesperson patiently working for several years within the same organization, moving up the corporate ladder, and retiring with the gold watch is over. This new generation is very different. We must manage them differently because their expectations revolve around immediacy, entitlement and instant gratification.

To illustrate the differences, we surveyed VPs, managers, directors and first and second year sellers. We asked would you rather have more money or a bigger title?  Among the young sellers, 82% wanted a bigger title, while 76% of the sales leaders wanted more money. We also asked for their ideal contest prize:

  1. $100 cash
  2. public recognition and lunch with the team president
  3. a day off
Ben Milsom

What would you want? Well, the salespeople wanted the day off (74%), while two-thirds of the managers and directors selected recognition and lunch with team president. Why? As Ben Milsom put it, “When I was selling I wanted to get to know the leaders in our organization, develop those relationships, and pick their brains to learn how I can continue improving in my position.”

Flavil Hampsten

Vice presidents in all of the major sports leagues report the amount of ticket sales turnover has become an epidemic. As Flavil Hampsten points out, “Teams must then spend more time recruiting and basic training rather than selling and making your staff better.”

So why does this matter?

A typical third-year seller will sell 300 percent the amount as a first year seller. If you lose a 3rd year seller, you need to hire three people just to be even.

Many teams make the mistake of making their top seller the manager in order to keep them. Many of these have no management skills or training. A great seller does not necessarily make a great manager. The same is true in coaching. How many great players are great NBA coaches?

How can we do a better job of managing this generation? How can we keep our star sellers? In next month’s issue, with examples from around the NBA, I’ll give you five ways you can get the most out of your sales staff and sustain your own career in management.

Special thanks to Keith Allison for the cover photo.  

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