Sports Business Journal – The da Vince Code: The Art and Science of Effective Sales

By Greg Economou

“Next!” shouted the dour head of human resources.

Leo’s head shot up in anxious anticipation as he gathered himself for his first sports industry job interview. As he walked through the door of the interview room, he blurted out, “Hi, I’m Leo.”

“Well, hello, I’m Karen, the VP of human resources – welcome,” the woman said. “I see

you are interviewing for the account executive position in our sales department.”

“Yes, ma’am,” Leo replied. “For the record, what is your full name?” Karen asked. With the feeling of strong ancestral pride giving him confidence, he declared, “Leonardo da Vinci.”

“OK Leo, tell me about yourself. Why would you make a good account executive, considering you have no previous experience in sports?” Karen inquired.

Having already practiced this speech a thousand times, he was ready. “Well, I am confident once you hear about my background, my abilities, and my thinking as it relates to the job, you will think very highly of my candidacy.”

“Go on,” she said.

“Well, not to brag, but the online encyclopedia, Wikipedia, calls me the ‘archetype of the renaissance man’ and an ‘Italian polymath’, meaning I am known as one of the world’s most successful scientists, mathematicians, engineers, inventors, anatomists, and botanists, as well as one of the most famous painters, sculptors, musicians, and writers,” he continued.

“Wow!” Karen exclaimed. “Then why do you want to work in sports marketing?”

“Well, I have a deep passion for sports and want to use my abilities as both a scientist and artist to achieve greatness in this realm,” he replied. “You see it is my opinion that truly successful sales efforts are the result of a well­balanced combination of science and art, and that if each are addressed and mastered correctly, the sky is the limit.”

“My, that is very deep thinking. We can’t afford to miss out on a candidate like you,” she said.

“WOW!” Leo shouted. “Thank you – please let me know and I will cancel the remainder of my interviews – except the one about painting a portrait of a girl named Mona Lisa. I can do that nights and weekends.”

***

So, what is the point of using a metaphorical story to represent the important dynamics of the selling process? Well, in today’s economic environment, selling has become significantly more difficult. The combination of a struggling economy and more competition for each dollar makes for tougher sledding than ever before. Hence, it is vital for all properties to ensure that their overall sales force is as effective and efficient as possible.

Likewise, it is more imperative than ever for sellers of any type to master all aspects of the sales process, understanding how to maximize the science of selling while also being an extraordinary artist in the actual practice of sales. Without being equally adept at each makes it difficult to truly succeed at either.

The science of selling

Too many sellers underestimate the importance of science in the selling process, instead placing an unbalanced focus on the artistic qualities, since those are the more visible and heralded of the two elements. However, the scientific and methodical aspects of sales are equally, if not more, important because they create the foundation for success. The science of sales involves some of the following elements:

  • Understanding the sales landscape, including mastery of a sports property’s inventory, insight into the marketplace, and complete knowledge of the competitive landscape. For example, the NBA’s team marketing and business operations unit provides an incredible amount of ticketing and sponsorship information for its teams, including important benchmarking studies that help each property understand what best practices to implement to increase performance (i.e. pricing, discount strategies, category management, etc.).
  • Developing a powerful sales management platform, including the 
organization and management of all sales‐related data and information. Sports properties that use customer relationship management or sales optimization tools are far more adept at identifying and qualifying prospects, as well as determining sales stages, probabilities, and projected amounts. Such efforts help clarify priorities and subsequent strategies and actions.
  • Sales process deployment and evaluation, including sales campaign management and oversight of the marketing support required to support sales efforts. For example, the New Jersey Nets do a stellar job using corporate communications to support sales initiatives — providing much needed “air cover” to help their “ground troops” move forward. 

The art of sales 

The art of sales requires different talents, including some of the following elements:
  • Strong showmanship and presentation skills, boasting the power of effective communication and persuasion.
  • An ability to adapt to any given situation, especially as it relates to reading the audience and key influencers within the group.
  • The perseverance and resilience to stay the course during the sales process. Selling is not easy, hence, persistence is perhaps one of the most important qualities a seller can possess. 
In the end, mastering the scientific side of the sales process helps dramatically improve the artistic side. First and foremost, it allows the seller to “fish where the fish are,” increasing the probability of success before ever making a pitch. Secondly, it provides the necessary framework, information, talking points, and perspectives required to confidently and effectively make a sales pitch.

 

In other words, da Vinci was a much better artist because of his understanding of anatomy, physiology, botany, technology, nature, etc. Likewise, he was a more effective scientist because his artistic ability served as a great vehicle to express many of his scientific ideas.

Therefore, not only should the leaders of organizations analyze the efficiencies and effectiveness of their sales operations, individual sellers should evaluate their own abilities as scientists and artists, striving to become the next Leonardo da Vinci of sales and marketing. This will make for more successful and masterful sales efforts.

Greg Economou (geconomou@mac.com) is a veteran sports marketing and management executive with more than 15 years of team, league and agency experience.