An Internship Model for Sports Sales, Marketing, CRM & Analytics

An Internship Model for Sports Sales, Marketing, CRM & Analytics
by Kirk Wakefield – January 2017

After arranging & supervising hundreds of sports internships for the last dozen or so years, Dr. Darryl Lehnus and I devised a system that works well for us.

Ideally, partners provide the internship with the same objective of developing and evaluating talent in view of future employment there or elsewhere. Our partners see intern successes as their successes, as it reflects on their abilities to train, motivate, and model excellent performance.

Among others, the Pittsburgh Pirates B.U.C.S Academy and the New York Mets are ahead of the game in organizing internships and recruiting to careers. While many teams and companies provide summer internships, the Houston Texans (sponsorships) and Houston Astros (CRM) provide 9-12 month postgraduate internships specifically for our graduates to gain more in-depth training before launching careers.

Our best-in-class partnerships do five things:

  1. Budget for internships.
  2. Show up every year to interview.
  3. Provide awards or incentives. (Examples: See StubHub & MLBAM.)
  4. Serve as mentors.
  5. Initiate follow-up with interviews to (a) hire or (b) refer for hiring.

Five Not-So-Easy Steps

From a process standpoint, partners follow these five steps. We’ll explain each in turn.

  1. Prepare students for careers.
  2. Determine parameters & responsibilities.
  3. Define, communicate and evaluate on criteria that predict success.
  4. Hold students responsible.
  5. Review insights & follow-through with students.

Prepare students for careers

Ask employers what they want. Continue to ask.

Too many prepare students for sports marketing or sports management jobs. The only problem is no entry level positions exist for “sports marketer” or “sports manager.” Entry level positions do exist in ticket sales, sponsorship sales & service/fulfillment, CRM, and analytics. Design coursework and programs accordingly.

Business schools have courses in professional selling, database management, statistics and predictive modeling, and data visualization (Excel, Tableau, etc.). Take advantage of these courses in planning curriculum requirements. When employers see you take them seriously, they’ll line up for your students.

Determine Parameters & Responsibilities

Once employers agree, we send them a link to an online form to identify the supervisor, time frame (start, finish, hours per week, pay or course credit), and responsibilities. Most likely you’ve already discussed this, but best to not be surprised at the end of the term that the internship didn’t include a vital part of what they needed to experience.

After selecting the type of internship, the employer completes the appropriate section for what the intern will do. Our forms are below.

Define, communicate and evaluate criteria for success

Every year the National Association of Colleges & Employers (NACE) publish a list of attributes most desired of new hires. These could differ among some, but odds are they are the same. With a little adaptation, we use these for midterm and final evaluations by the intern’s direct supervisor.

Responses on the primary criteria (below) are shared with the intern in a meeting with the academic advisor. We also ask about punctuality, attitude, performance, and overall grade from the direct supervisor of the internship at the employer. The entire form may be downloaded here.

Sports Internship Evaluation Criteria

Specific to our own preparation and values, we ask students to be 2nd milers. When asked to do something (walk a mile), go above and beyond expectations (go the second mile). Supervisors rate the intern accordingly (below).

Hold students responsible

Students should perform well in the internship. We expect that.

We also expect them to reflect on what they learn. Keeping a daily or weekly journal is recommended.At the end of the term, students must submit the S3 Internship Report Form (click to download) regarding a weekly log of hours, assignments, volunteering, accomplishments, application of class material, issues (problems or challenges & resolutions), culture, behavioral adaptation, recommendations, and net promoter score rating for the internship.

Review insights & follow-through with students

Meet with each student to get his or her take on the evaluation provided in Step 3. Usually there are no surprises. Employers do a good job of picking up on areas for improvement that you’ve likely noticed in class. So, it’s nice to have someone else see it and say it.

Generally, these are great times to encourage students in careers. On occasion, you can use these to give appropriate kicks in the pants. We’ve seen these have fairly drastic effects on capable students who needed to get with the program. On occasion, you find some who need to find another program. The wide world of sports, perhaps the same as other industries (but we think more so),demands a high level of commitment. We help students by holding them to a high standard.

Conclusion

Providing good internship experiences takes effort on the part of the academic advisor, student, and employer. But, working together, internships are the foundation for successful careers. No class, book or assignment can substitute for on-the-job reality training.

The very best part of what we do is to see students succeed in their careers.

Feel free to borrow, steal, or adapt any or all of the attached materials! If you’ve found other things that work well, please let us know!

Selling Collegiate Sports: Happy Customers = Sales

Selling Collegiate Sports: Happy Customers = Sales
by Bryce Killingsworth – May 2014

Collegiate ticket sales departments continue to expand. Some hired into these new sales positions have training in professional selling, while others may have worked their ways through college internships into the first open position that suits their aptitudes and attitudes. So, whether we are trained to sell or are just thrown into the fire, it’s always good to examine the fundamentals of adaptive selling–particularly in the collegiate setting. It all starts with creating connections.

Creating connections (prospecting)

sales funnelConsistently creating connections prevents sales slumps. Prospecting fills the funnel to prepare for the future.

In college sports, this aspect seems to be overlooked or at minimum on the bottom of the priority list. Hopefully you have a priority list.

Investing time and energy generating prospects reap the benefits of new business as you build relationships. A few primary ways we prospect at Oklahoma State include: Warm calls (not really cold calls with the data we have), asking for referrals, and networking at our athletic events.

 Analyzing needs (understanding customers)

Understanding customer behavior and preferences will improve customer satisfaction which in turn will increase retention rates. To sell, up-sell and cross-sell to multiple sports, use data to:

  1. identify when a customer places an order,
  2. how they pay,
  3. where they like to sit,
  4. where they are traveling from (residence), and
  5. other data collected that influences ticket purchases.

Consistent–systematic–contact helps inform them of packages and offers and to receive valuable feedback.

[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”350px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Mike Wendling“The more information we have about our consumers the more ‘Surprise and Delight’ opportunities we can orchestrate. These unique touch points show our fans that we care more about them than their check book.” – Mike Wendling, Director of Ticketing Analytics, @WendlingMike[/dropshadowbox]A simple tool our Director of Analytics utilizes to help understand customer needs is by asking a couple of questions when the customer creates an online account with us. For example: Which sports are you interested in? Are you interested in Suite, Club, or Stadium seating? Being creative is imperative at a university as you may be operating with limited funds.

 Addressing customer needs (proposing solutions)

How you address needs can make or break a sale. Remember, you are a problem-solver, there to help make their lives better.

Briefly describe one or more solutions of product, service, or combination of both to offer the customer. Proposing an unknown or unsought, but valuable, solution creates loyal followers. Examples include:

  • [dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”350px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]jess martin“Customer service is not just a skill set; it’s a culture that is contagious when you hire the right type of people. In today’s competitive world, fans desire to do repeat business with organizations that they trust and are comfortable with. Having a great customer service culture in place gives you a definite competitive advantage at earning and keeping their business.” — Jesse Martin, Senior Associate Athletic Director, Oklahoma State University, @JesseMartinOSU[/dropshadowbox]payment plans for a young family,
  • aisle seats for a tall person,
  • top row of the section below the concourse for an elder with knee problems,
  • suite for a company who now realizes the benefits of entertaining clients, and
  • placing customers in a seating section (e.g., West end zone area) to avoid the sun.

Discussing benefits

One of the primary benefits of a season ticket holder is social distinction. Season ticket holders enjoy feeling that sense of a community among fans, but also enjoy recognition as a member of an exclusive group. Creating limited discounts and perks among only the season ticket holder community is vital in order to prove it’s more beneficial to pony up for the entire season.

Utilizing data to identify specific types of benefits to engage season ticket holders may be the deciding factor in closing a sale. It could be exclusive access, memorable experiences, or valuable savings that enhance the value of season tickets. If you have the data to know that Bob buys 4 hot-dogs for his family per game, Bob will most likely appreciate a 30% off concessions discount compared to 10% off apparel at the stadium store.

Overcoming objections

real time sales tracking food & beverage merchandise
Real time sales tracking

In overcoming an objection focus on:

  1. empathizing,
  2. transparency, and
  3. appreciation.

Most customer problems can be readily handled if we actively listening and identify the customers concern. Remaining honest, transparent and open goes a long way.

If you think about it, objections come from customers who want your product. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t waste time explaining. If you’re honest about the best you can do with seating, pricing, etc., more times than not the customer will accept your best option–if they trust you.

To retain customers and gain referrals, show appreciation to customers and even former customers. By responding to the drop in business with nothing but respect and understanding, you create a pleasant experience resulting in valued word-of-mouth. Even without the expected ROI, appreciate them because you’re a professional.

Establishing & maintaining relationships

One of the primary reasons a customer intentionally desires a relationship with you is because you have become a treasured resource.

Maintaining a relationship and becoming a resource begins with consistency and reliability:

  1. Return phone calls,
  2. Follow up on a deadline,
  3. Be available at times the customer needs you,
  4. Ask customers for feedback, and
  5. Picking up the phone.

Asking for feedback with a purpose speaks volumes about your commitment to the service you provide, and how you can better the customer experience.

Pick up the phone. Not just to answer an incoming call. Pick up the phone and call your customers.  You’re a robot to them until you provide some personal connection. And it’s difficult to become loyal to a robot…unless your name is Siri.

 

 

 

 

 

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