For me, my willingness and ability to have conversations with strangers is all predicated on my level of comfort in the situation.
Director of Team Business Development
East Coast Hockey League (ECHL)
The interview with Rich Bello was conducted via a typed conversation. Editing changes were made to make it easier to read while maintaining the voice of the interview.
Tell us about your role as the Director of Team Business Development for the ECHL. What does a typical day look like for you?
My role in the League Office is to assist all of our teams with their sales and marketing efforts by sharing best practices from around the league, and from the industry as a whole. I compile League Reports on the season, group, and individual game ticket sales as well as corporate partnership sales.
Based on trending/timely topics, I organize conference calls to highlight what one or more teams are having success with so other teams can learn and ask questions of those teams. I also organize and administer ECHL Ticket Sales Management University, our internal league sales management training course.
One of the most exciting parts of my job is that there aren’t many typical days. Other than when I am compiling reports, most days consist of attending to whatever requests or questions come my way from the teams. There are also other best practice-sharing projects that I work on (e.g. conference calls, newsletters, in-person seminars) when time allows, and I try to plan those for when I believe that I will have an opportunity to work on them, but every day can bring something new and unexpected.
Your previous roles have all been connected to revenue generation – Account Manager for the New Jersey Devils, Director of Ticket Sales for Seton Hall University, and now, Director of Team Business Development for the ECHL – what led you in this direction and how did you figure out this was your fit?
When I was a student at Seton Hall, I had the opportunity to intern for a ticket sales agency selling multiple different properties across the US including NFL, WNBA, and AHL Teams and a soccer exhibition match with major global club Teams coming to Giants Stadium in NJ. This was my first taste of the sales game and what it took to be successful at it. I never had any problem putting in the time and having the focus to make a lot of calls, but handling rejection and being able to treat each new conversation with an open mindset were skills that I knew I needed to work on developing.
I had other internships in marketing and media relations, but when it came time to find a job after school, the overwhelming number of opportunities existed in sales. I was able to gain employment with the Devils, and once I started, it took me some time to find my footing and establish my style of selling.
Eventually, I learned that my most-effective style was relationship selling, where I would show a client that they were more than just a number to me and it would enable me to gain their trust and eventual repeat business. That was when I knew that I could make it in sales.
At first, what did you like most about being in sales?
For me, the biggest thrill about working in sales is when you’re in the arena/stadium for a game with a big crowd that you know you played a role in putting there. When I worked for Seton Hall, I started selling group tickets for the first time. Being around a youth group that is about to perform or play an exhibition on the court at halftime of a game, and seeing the excitement on their faces, is a feeling of satisfaction that is very difficult to understand unless you’re a parent.
Your role ultimately entails “finding ways to help teams sell more tickets.” What are some tools that you and your team use to identify and develop new business opportunities for the ECHL?
I’m not necessarily prospecting and scheduling meetings with teams in-market, but I work more on the sales process and helping sales personnel at the teams fine-tune it. This involves the best-practice sharing that we do, as well as presenting different sales training opportunities to the teams.
In addition to their sales techniques, I also try to present new technologies and products to the teams that can help them in their prospecting and closing. Some of these have included LinkedIn Sales Navigator, ZoomInfo, and most-recently BombBomb.
In Business Development and Sales, how important is it for you to be naturally extroverted? On the flip side, can someone be naturally introverted and work in a Business Development/Sales role?
This is an interesting question because I don’t think that I am “naturally extroverted” myself. For me, my willingness and ability to have conversations with strangers is all predicated on my level of comfort in the situation. That comfort level is something that can be worked on in a sales job by really learning your product, the best ways it can be used, and the types of people that can use it best. Once you have a clear understanding of these things, your confidence level grows, and you are more willing to put yourself out there to strangers because of this confidence.
So yes, to anyone hesitant about a career in sales because of your natural introversion, I recommend not ruling it out simply based on that hesitancy. If you can feel comfortable talking to friends and family members, that same level of comfort is possible in sales if you really commit to the craft and develop confidence in your game.
Finally, how do you keep up with current trends in the sports industry? Moreover, how do you incorporate them into your sales model and capitalize on them?
I try to stay on top of key industry leaders’ tweets, I am subscribed to several industry newsletters and all of our Teams’ email newsletters, and I keep in contact with friends around the industry. Whenever I see a new tactic used in another league, sport, or even industry, I try to determine how it can be done successfully by the teams in our league.
Hayley's Final Thoughts
You don’t have to be an extrovert to thrive in a sales role! Rich found that although he is more of an introvert, he can still succeed, close deals and ultimately, find a sense of comfort in the situation. Once you have built a working knowledge about your product, confidence comes easy. Many may find sales roles intimidating because of their unpredictable nature but, Rich is a prime example of how a commitment to the craft can change your perspective.