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Do Athlete Managers really need to "Show me the money"?

Posted by Philip Stoneman CEO/Founder M5 Management on 6 January 2016

When I'm asked about what M5 Managements' business involves, I say "My business is Sports Management and we educate our clients on maximising their personal brand in order to secure income from their career as a professional sports person. When a strong personal brand and high level sporting performances are combined with M5's industry relationships and commercial expertise - we deliver great long term outcomes for our clients."

Following this I typically get the following responses:
1. "Wow that sounds interesting"
2. "What do you really do?"
3. "Who do you manage? (This is code for "Anyone famous?")
4. And then indirectly, I get asked "Show Me The Money"

The movie Jerry Maguire and the iconic "Show Me The Money" scene has inspired many sports loving executives to follow their passion and take the jump into sport management. A word of caution though as I've known some highly credentialed business executives that have found their new careers as athlete managers a very challenging adjustment. In simple terms they under estimate the day-to-day sales requirement, which is not to their liking. Why? Because showing the money, is very, very hard.

The most successful sports manager understands the value they offer their client is the capacity to secure new income.  I'm not saying that the skill in negotiating a new playing contract, sponsorship renewal or preparing a compelling athlete proposal is easy. What I am saying is the ability to prospect, cold-call, develop industry relationships, evaluate an opportunity and close and deliver does separate "the men from the boys and the women from the girls". In the light of day, the real value of a manager comes down to "showing the money".

When we made the decision to go 'all in' with M5 Athlete Management, we also had to re-commit to our business values. We couldn't just be a sports agent that traded on contracts; we were passionate about our charter to offer a level of service to our clients that truly reflects the values of our mission statement. That is to "set the industry benchmark as a leading provider of commercial sports management, consulting and athlete management services"

In my personal experience I see four core fundamental skills that the best Athlete/Talent managers have;

1. A deep desire to help their clients succeed,

2. An understanding of marketing fundamentals related to the business of sport and talent brand development,

3. An natural ability to build trust allowing athletes to feel they can discuss any issues relating to their life as a professional sports person,

4. A professional commercial acumen and a heightened understanding of the sales process and skill to identify new business.

It is no doubt important to understand the worth of the client's brand and the behavioural responsibilities that go with being a professional sports person. It is equally important to be that steadying influence in good and bad times that all athletes encounter. However, will three out of four keep your clients loyal to you? Perhaps not!

I have spent time lecturing students in Sports Management and the very first question I ask a room full of students is, "What is the number one skill you need to be an effective athlete manager?" Unfortunately never has anyone ever said "You need to be able to sell".

If I were to offer one piece of wisdom about becoming a successful Athlete/Talent Manager, it would be to learn and like the fundamentals of Win-Win selling. The other three skills although very valuable are not going to be enough to keep your client 100% satisfied, you need to be able to "Show Them The Money".

Author: Philip Stoneman CEO/Founder M5 Management

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