How Academia is Working to Meet the Demand for Sales Talent

by David Pierce – April 2015

Sport management professors often hear from the industry that we aren’t doing enough to identify and cultivate sales talent. I’ve talked to many frustrated sales managers who are disappointed in the ability of sport management programs to deliver sales talent. While we are still behind where we need to be, there is a critical mass of faculty taking a proactive approach to solving the problem.

Six things academia is doing to meet the need for quality sales professionals

Adding classes

Laura Miller
Laura Miller

Sport management program directors recognize the need for sales in the curriculum. In the early 2000’s, only a handful of programs offered a sales class. By 2010, 20% offered a sales class, and many programs have added one since. Dr. Laura Miller, Program Director at California University of Pennsylvania, recently spearheaded the addition of a sales class.

“We want our curriculum to meet the needs and demands of the sport industry and the area of sport sales remains at the forefront. No matter what direction our students take following graduation, having experience and a skill set in sales will ultimately set them up for success.”

Adding hands-on sales projects

Sales is an applied skill. Unless you’ve actually gotten on the phone and talked with people you don’t know, you haven’t really sold yet. Several of the universities that have added a sales class also include a hands-on project where students sell tickets or sponsorship for local sport organizations.

Delivering real-life sales training

Sam Caucci
Sam Caucci

Adding a class and a project doesn’t mean much if students aren’t trained on how to sell. In addition to traditional lectures, role plays, and mock calls, faculty are integrating a new product called The Sales Game, created by Sales Huddle Group (@SalesHuddle). CEO Sam Caucci shared,

“With the average millennial growing up in an environment where they have played over 10,000 hours on a gaming platform before 21 years old, the Sales Game platform utilizes gaming mechanics to give students the necessary experiences that will better prepare them for the situations they will be in when they begin their sales career.”

Creating talent-rich events

Jim Kad
Jim Kadlecek

Events such as the Mount Union Sport Sales Workshop and Job Fair, organized by Dr. James Kadlecek (@kadlecjc), bring together aspiring sales professionals and sales managers for training, performance, assessment, and interviews. “The students are getting trained by industry professionals that are training them the same way they train their own staff,” said Dr. Kadlecek.

Conducting research

As part of their job duties, sport management professors must conduct research. While sport sales research is just in its beginning stages, consider contacting a professor in your region to determine how you can collect data that may help you determine who to hire and how to best evaluate talent.

Identifying Talent

Those faculty who have invested heavily in a sales infrastructure are passionate about identifying talent and communicating it with sales managers who are interested. If you haven’t done so, reach out to the sport management programs in your region and find out who is spearheading sales initiatives. They will be more than willing to establish internship, externship, practicum, and job shadow opportunities for the students that performed well in sales courses.

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