The Washington Times - August 7, 2009, 01:06PM

For sports teams, trying to find a good sales person is tough. Though many think they can do it, few can really hack it when the pressure is on.

Interviews can only tell so much, and resumes can be misleading.

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That’s why sports sales consultant Bill Sutton has organized a “sports sales combine” at PNC Park in Pittsburgh this weekend, where he will work with about 30 candidates in an intense, on-the-job style training environment.

The combine is modeled loosely after the NFL combines, which test potential draft picks on a variety of skills. In the sports sales combine this weekend, candidates will be asked to generate leads by interviewing fans at the ballpark. Then, they will follow up with those fans the next day via phone. Candidates will pay about $400 to participate.

“To me, this is just a better way to get better sales people,” Sutton said. “We’re trying to find a way to come closer to finding someone that can do the job and wants to do the job and can understand the job.

Sutton is  the principal of Bill Sutton & Associates and the associate director of the DaVos Sports Management Program at the University of Central Florida.He came up with the idea for the sports combine after running the NBA’s annual job fair. There, several hundred people would stop by to drop off resumes and interview. But it was like speed dating, he said.

“You couldn’t really see, other than from the interview and resume, whether this person could cut it in sales or not.”
Though the combine is taking place in Pittsburgh, several teams including the New York Knicks, Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Fire. There will be another combine at Madison Square Garden in New York this November and another hosted by the Phoenix Suns in March.

Sutton previously ran a combine with the Thrashers and Hawks in Atlanta, and learned that a first impression isn’t always accurate. He recalled meeting a candidate who used the work “like” in every sentence during the interview, but was a dynamo on sales calls.

“We’ve seen some people during interviews that we thought were can’t miss, and then you see them on the phone and you say ‘wow, we were really off on that person,’” he said.