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Three Keys to High-Performing Sales Teams: People, Product and Culture

Industry trailblazer David Perry reinforced the foundational elements that will lead to sponsorship sales success for any organization at the recent Sponsorship Mastery Summit.

Currently, Senior Vice President, Integrated Sponsorships for Pac-12 Networks, David has a consistent track record of securing significant partnerships for a number of properties, including the Seattle Sonics and Storm, Philadelphia Eagles, Warren Miller Entertainment and Fox Sports.

Expanding on his advice that you need a mix of personalities on your sales team—from the shepherds and farmers who nurture relationships and cultivate growth among existing partners to the hunters and warriors who stake new territory and go for the gold—sponsorship success requires three main ingredients.

The Right People

David shared an eye-opening story from his time at Fox Sports when he made the tough decision to change the makeup of a sales team because it was comprised entirely of warriors—people who were focused only on the big wins. By making room for new contributors who were able to strengthen existing relationships and upsell current partners, revenue increased 58 percent in 18 months.

As that example shows, diversifying a salesforce introduces novel approaches, different ideas, and the ability to connect with a greater array of people and brands, ultimately leading to more sales.

It can take a great deal of courage on the part of leaders to make necessary changes. If there are people on the team who are not the right fit, do what you can to get them where they need to be, but if that doesn’t happen, you’re not doing right by them, their colleagues, or the organization by being afraid to make a change.

On a tactical level, when the sales process reaches the meeting stage sending two or three team members with different personalities or backgrounds to sit down with a prospect is beneficial. It is an effective way to increase the odds of making a personal connection which can be critically important to advancing the discussion and closing the deal.

The Right Product

What you have to sell, sponsorship packages containing the optimal mix of rights and benefits tailored to the objectives of individual buyers have been discussed in previous blog posts and will be featured in many more in the future.

What’s important to note here is the relationship between the product and the second ingredient, people. Specifically, how connected are the two? Do the people selling the product play a role in shaping it?

In the event and live entertainment space, this most often translates to whether decisions around programming, timing, venues, etc. are made with sponsors in mind. Accounting for the needs of partners does not mean giving them undue influence but rather ensuring that everyone recognizes the impact decisions will have on the ability to attract sponsor dollars.

The Right Culture

While there have been volumes written lately about corporate culture, high-performing sales teams require some specific conditions in order to thrive.

One of the challenges is that you have results-oriented people with individual goals they are required to meet, yet it’s imperative that everyone have a team mindset and view success for one as a success for all. Healthy competition can motivate hard work, but it can’t come at the expense of the big picture.

When hiring for sales positions, look for people who will get just as excited by a sale somebody else makes as they would about their own. Place just as much value on teamwork and collaborative qualities as on a track record of closing deals.

A more recent challenge is meeting the expectations of a changing workplace. For years, the norm in sports, entertainment, and events were long hours, many of them spent working while most other people were enjoying their leisure time. It was often expected, sometimes even required, that sales team members show up before managers arrived and didn’t leave until after those managers had headed home.

Now that the importance of work/life balance has thankfully been recognized, and the pandemic showed that presence in an office is not essential to doing quality work, that old-school approach won’t fly. Top recruits for a sales position may no longer be willing to relocate for a job. Consider whether your current culture might cause you to lose out on a great candidate or whether you can be flexible enough to attract top talent.

That is not to say that dedication, passion and commitment are no longer required. They are just demonstrated in different ways that don’t require the personal sacrifices that were once “just part of the job.”

At the core of a successful sponsorship program is a collaborative, driven, unified, and well-trained team. Our team specializes in creating highly customized, comprehensive, purpose-focused training for sponsorship professionals. We equip and strengthen sponsorship sales teams. Expert trainers will help you meet revenue goals, maximize opportunities, and creatively meet sponsor objectives. Learn more here.