Leadership and teamwork are the cornerstones of many successful organizations. What do you need to do to motivate and inspire a diverse team of people to succeed? In this episode, Lance Tyson spends time with Jason Green, Vice President of Ticket Sales and Service with the Los Angeles Clippers. Jason makes some interesting observations, such as the importance of activity and learning from your experiences early on, and at some point, you have to trust yourself and be willing to make the leap to get ahead. If you’re looking for how leaders truly inspire their team, you will want to listen in on this episode.
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Against the Sales Odds Interviews Jason Green on Sales Motivation and Inspiration
I am so excited about this episode of the show. The person I’m going to introduce is someone I feel that I’ve been with since the day they walked into pro sports. I’ve had the opportunity and benefit of watching this person grow into a seasoned sales executive. I’d like to welcome Jason Green, the Vice President of Sales, Tickets & Service for the Clippers. Jason, welcome to the show. I want you to introduce yourself. Tell everybody about your job and what you are up against on a day-to-day basis.
Lance, thanks for having me on. I’m excited to join you. I oversee all ticket sales and service with the LA Clippers. It’s been a fun couple of years here. There have been a lot of changes. They gave me a couple of guys. For the first time in my career, I get to see what working for a talented team on the court is like, which is good. I’ve been with the Clippers for years. Before my time here, I was in Miami with the Dolphins for four years, overseeing all premium service retention and all of the service efforts there. Before Miami, I was down in San Diego for seven years where I started my career with the Padres as a seller, inside sales manager and cut my teeth in pro sports.
I was thinking back on this interview a lot. As we do these interviews, I’ve gotten the opportunity to interview a few of the people like you who you worked for some of your mentors back in the day. I can remember when you’re in inside sales. It’s probably one of the best stories I ever have. You were in San Diego. We were going to go out to dinner. It was my first impression. I have a seafood tower at Donovan’s. It was Stehlik, Jared Dylan, Walls, all those other guys.
I remember you coming up to me after a training session going, “I’d love the opportunity to have dinner with you guys tonight.” I was like, “You want to come to the big boy table?” You weren’t even an inside sales manager. You were inside sales. I will always remember that about you. The balls of asking the question, number one. Two, the fact that you put it out there like that. That’s my first impression of you as a seller.
Lance, I was coming off of three days of training with you. You drew on the board about one of the things that make a successful salesperson. Ninety percent of them are attitude, bullishness, fearlessness and all these things so I’m like, “Maybe I’ll shoot my shot.”
You did but all senior management knew you asked and we drank to you that night. I remember because it was our routine. That’s what we always do for 1 or 2 nights so we’d love it. You run a fairly large team. Tell everybody how many people work for you.
We’re about 60 deep. We’ve got a 10 to 12-person team, 5% groups team. It’s a pretty robust service and retention. We’re at fifteen. Business intelligence with CRM and analytics also rolls through me so we’re 60, 65 deep.
How many direct reports do you have?
I’ve got Joel, who you know well, our director of sales, Joe Adams, Krystle Hogan, our director of service, Mike Boisvert, our director of strategy and analytics. Jeremy Epley is the premium manager at the forum, which we acquired so I’m overseeing ticket sales at the forum as well.
Hit rewind. You grew up in Cali so you’re back at home. You started as an inside sales with the Padres. You take jobs from Tillman. You think of all the folks that are leaders in different spots. I always felt that the Padres still have an excellent team down there. Back then, they were in their top five in terms of their sales team, looking at their leadership team and stuff like that. Talk about how you are as a salesperson. Were you the best? Are you the greatest? Were you okay? Talk to me.
It depends on who you ask. You might want to ask Justin Petkus. He always had a pretty good view of where I was on the leaderboard. I say that in jest because I’ve got nothing left for Petty. I went almost wire to wire for three years as a seller at the top of the board. I did take a four-day weekend during my tenure, which JT somewhat discouraged at the time but Petkus passed me on the board. I came back from a four-day weekend in Mammoth and Petkus had surpassed me for the one time during my three-year run as a seller.
As a seller, your target is one of the guys that you sold with who’s on your team as your director of sales. Justin Petkus is up at the Sacramento Kings. It was a constant horse race between you. You battled out. What did that competition do for you? A lot of people talk about how important competition is.
The one thread throughout my career is that I’ve always had a good running mate to push whether in leadership roles or sales roles. It keeps you honest. Anytime you’re finding success, it can be easy for complacency to slip in and you start to feel like, “Maybe I’ve got this. I’m doing well. I figured it out.” Having somebody as a running mate helps to continue to push you.
In the relationship that we had with both Justin and Joel, who is in that mix as well, we all made the collective decision that we wanted to commit to our careers in pro sports and success. We would go out to lunch three days a week. Our lunches weren’t BS and gossip. It was, “What appointments are you going on? What’s working well for you? What’s not? How are you overcoming these certain objections?”
90% of what makes a successful salesperson are attitude, bullishness, and fearlessness.
We would do Monday, breakfast with JT where we’d have a book club where the four of us would all challenge each other personally and professionally. Having that foundational support system was important as much as we jest about, poke fun and rib about results in those things. There was such respect amongst all of us about how hard we worked and some of the people that we were. It made it a lot of fun to come to work every day and compete.
I remember that there’s a person I used to compete against. I don’t know if he competed against me but I competed against someone when I was at Dale Carnegie. His name was Bryan Miller. He runs a successful negotiation consulting company. If he’s reading, it’s funny. I remember being out at lunch one time with somebody who wasn’t as down leaderboard for me in the office. His name was Skip Reynolds. He goes, “Do you think Bryan Miller will be taking this long for lunch and he’s always stuck with me. I’m going, ‘Here I am with you,’ and Bryan Miller’s probably not even taking lunch.”
You’ve got to be nice and it would be 7:00 PM. Joel, Justin and I would keep making calls because nobody wanted to be the first one to leave.
In first and out last. If I know something about the three of you, I’ve always asked you this, “You hate to lose more than you like to win.” That’s the thing. When you look back at your sales career, what were some things that you did well? What were some things that you weren’t good at, at all?
As a seller, humility was never my strength. That might seem like a silly thing.
Do you like having your name up at the top of the board?
Not only do I like it but I let everybody know about it. The lack of humility as a seller was probably one of the biggest things I had to work on when I got to leadership. Humility in leadership is so important.
Do you get coached on that a lot? You’re self-admitting, “Maybe I don’t have as much humility as I needed to.” Did you get called out on that by JT or any of those guys?
JT and I might have had a couple of conversations about it.
If he’s reading this, he’s probably shaking his head.
This is great because the irony is JT is our TMBO rep so JT and I work together weekly. I continue to get coaching from him. As a seller, I worked hard. I recognized early on in my sales career that we’re not selling tickets and selling seats. We talked about that a lot. We’re not selling drill bits. We’re selling holes.
Once I adopted that philosophy, it opened up a lot of avenues for success as a seller. Early on, my skill wasn’t good. The first year that I sold, it was before Garfinkel and that crew got to San Diego. There was a lot of coaching. I wouldn’t say there was structural leadership support for salespeople that you see in a lot of teams. As a result, I realized that activity can overcome a lot of stuff when you’re not good at selling. If you 2x everybody else’s activity, at some point, the results are going to start to click. When you started to combine some sales skills in the development of the seller and kept that activity mindset, the results flourished.
You think about it too when you do 2x activity. If you 2x in your experience, you’re 2x-ing your radar. If you’re 2x-ing your radar, we’re not smash-your-face-into-the-wall anymore. You develop the skill or the radar to be successful. That’s what most people miss. “I don’t want to work that hard.” I get it but you’re not getting the experience you need. You talked about two core competencies, which I often have recognized. You won competitions so you had that core of friendly competition but who’s going to stay the longest?
Maybe you said it wasn’t humility. You are somebody that thrives off some recognition, which a lot of people do. That’s important to do. You’re going to get recognized. As a leader, you start moving and getting recognized as being a player so you’re bringing food to the table. They start to say, “We’re going to slate you into a leadership position.” Talk about that transition. How long was that? How long did it take before that conversation? Did you bring the conversation up? Was it brought up to you?
I’ve been selling for about two years when I started to get involved and start developing and building a bench. I’m working on decks for JT for recruiting and training, getting involved with Robert Davis and his inside sales crew and working with them. After three years of selling, Justin and I were promoted on the same day to become co-inside sales managers for the Dodgers. Justin and I got to enjoy sharing an 8×8 office and an apartment. We were roommates too.
I remember the inner bowl of the inside sales team and you were in that back corner. You go from being the person that got to hold the cup up. If you’re going into a hockey analogy, you got to be the person that coaches the people with the cup. What was the challenge of getting into leadership for you? What did you struggle with there?
Understand that people are different and are motivated by different things. They’re not all going to be motivated the same way that you are.
The two biggest things that jump out are when you’re a seller, you control your destiny. If you want to put up bigger numbers, work harder and be better. Put in the extra effort, study time, office hours, go out and produce. As a leader, you’ve got to recognize not everybody’s going to work as hard as you. Every inside sales manager, the reason they got promoted is that they worked hard. They earned it and you’re managing people that may not work as hard as you. It’s understanding how to tap into people. At the end of the day, every team is going to be comprised of A’s, Bs and Cs.
If you’re banging your head against the wall that they’re not all A’s, you’re not going to get anywhere. How do you get the most out of your A’s? How do you keep your competent Bs and try to get a couple of your Bs to A-level? How do you quickly identify who is the C’s who can either become B’s or need to get off the bus? That’s a valuable lesson. Understand that people are different. People are motivated by different things. They’re not all going to be motivated the same way that you are. The earlier you recognize that, the better.
The second piece would be as a sales rep, there’s banter amongst your peers. You taught, “They’re smack talking sellers as we’re competing.” I cry. I have my fair share of that as a seller. You’ve got to remember that when you move into a leadership role that the weight of your words carries a lot more. If you’re an inside sales manager, you’re talking to a sales rep, you rib or joke with them about something, for them, that’s a big deal.
It’s learning the weight of your words. I feel that way, especially as a vice president. If I’m talking to a rep, there are several layers between us. That might be the only interaction that we have had for several weeks and being mindful because you can use that for good but you’ve got to make sure that you’re careful with what you say and how things can be interpreted. Also, make sure that you’re always supporting people, which as a seller might not always have been the type of banter that we were having.
It’s a bit more of smack talk. I like what you said with the A’s, B’s and C’s. Sometimes you do more injustice trying to get a C to be an A. Not everybody’s capable of that and runs a 4440. As long as you’re getting as much out as you can but then you’ve got to look at the ship or crew. How many C players can the organization handle? How many B? How many A? If you’re an A, are you a high maintenance high performer? How many of them can you handle? Not everybody can be an A. Not everything’s a teachable skill. Some people aren’t able to do it. Some are good locker rooms people and some need that. You’re in that leadership role. There are some transitions with the organization. You go from that inside sales manager role to what role? Talk about the next step.
I was briefly promoted to Director of Sales with the Padres during the transition. Tom Garfinkel took the CEO job in Miami and took Chairman Walls who was the VP at the Padres with him. It’s a funny story, how it all came to be in several months but I recognize that my time with the Padres would probably run its course a little bit. I knew that I was going to be looking at other opportunities at the time because of several reasons. The Dolphins weren’t able to hire me because of the people they’ve taken and that freed up. I got a call from Jeremy about an opportunity to come out to the Dolphins. He says, “I don’t know what the role and what the comp is. Do you want to come to Miami?” I said, “Yes.”
It’s a big change going from one coast to the other. You’re leaving home.
It’s the first time that I’d live out of California, moving across the coast to go to the NFL. They were doing a pretty significant restart on the leadership side of that organization. One of the things we talked about a lot is the people you work for. You must want to work for people you trust. Having worked for Walls and Tom for several years in San Diego, I wanted to be a part of what they’re building in Miami and took the leap of faith. As Walls and I cleared things up, I found out a few days later that I was going to be the director of business development overseeing B2B sales for the Dolphins.
I never realized this trend. You were in such a competitive situation, even in a management situation in the Padres. You go to the Dolphins and immediately, you’re in another competitive situation with your peers. Forro is reporting up to Jeremy at that point. You also have David Baldwin there. You’re coming in. On top of that, at the time, there was a major renovation at Hard Rock and it wasn’t even called Hard Rock then.
It was Sunlife. We were there for about a year before the ball got rolling on the renovation.
You get in as director of business development. You have people underneath. You’re reporting right to Forro at that point or Jeremy?
I was reporting to Forro. We had a non-conventional structure. At the time, there’s the adage, “Get the right people on the bus. Figure out where they’re going to sit later.” That’s what they did with my hire.
It’s what Jeremy and Brent Stehlik have always done. It’s one of the things that I love about both our philosophies and that goes right back to Tom. Stack the talent because it’s not rebuilding, it’s reloading the gun. At the end of the day, that’s the strength of their organizations, your stack of talent. Talent first.
It was a short-lived stint as the director of business development. I was overseeing business development, B2B sales. Dave was overseeing B2C and inside sales. About six months in, they split us off. Dave took over all of the new business effectively. I took over all of service and retention.
It was a different role for you. Is that something you fought for?
You’ve been a B2B guy, a business development, salesperson and you’ve got this service. It’s a huge book of business that you fought for. Talk about that a little bit.
It’s a couple of things. One, Walls and I had conversations back in San Diego about my interest in service because it is a big book of business. If you bring the sales process, sales coaching and traditional sales leadership to the retention piece of business, if you can increase retention by a couple of percentage points, you’re talking big numbers. That always appealed to me to take that background to that role. When it came my time at Hard Rock because we were going to the renovation, by moving into that role, my first renewal campaign was reseating the entire seating bowl at the stadium because the construction of the precast was redone. The fundamental seating bowl was different so we decided on receipt for every single season ticket holder.
For four months, we’re bringing people down phone calls, in-person, online and reseating the ball along selling on new premium products. How did your past being competitive and recognized help you in this new role? To set the stage for everybody reading, David Baldwin, if you don’t know him, he’s running all sales and service for Ilitch, the Tigers and the Red Wings. You’re the same age, two front runners.
David will call me, “The old guy.” To his credit, he’s a little bit of a competitive guy as well.
That’s hard for me to believe. If he’s reading, he’s laughing. How did you start to lead? How you’d like to be led? How’d that drive that success that you had in that role?
It’s the same thing as when I was working with Justin. It’s to have somebody who is going to push you. If I can think back to use an example, I always had a manage-up sheet for my one-on-ones with Forro and how I would present the information and manage-up. I remember sitting with Dave and seeing the sheet that he used to manage. I’m like, “That’s detailed, adept and good. I’ve got to raise my game.”
If you want to put up bigger numbers, just work harder and be better.
That’s good and helpful. We constantly push each other. For those that know us, David and I, in so many ways are similar but in so many ways are pretty different. At the Dolphins, we played a good yin and yang on sales, culture and drive results, having a running mate that was able to challenge and push you. Also, somebody that you could go to for advice without having to go to your boss someone who you knew you respected that was good. We both were able to benefit a lot from that and produced strong results. We took revenue by 80% of the 4 years that were there.
Competition and recognition are good things. Know where you have to prove. You start talking about managing up. You’re there and there’s a great success. That organization becomes a top-tier sales organization across the board from a sales management perspective. It’s top five in pro sports, the whole organization top to bottom. It points a lot to how Jeremy had led you. What did you learn about leadership there that started to formulate around this next big role you had? What was the biggest gap you realized you had?
Remembering the results is always going to be the most important thing. As things played out in Miami, for those who don’t know, Dave ended up getting hired over me as the VP, as much as that is going to hurt and we talked about ego and those things. For four years that we were there, Dave drove stronger results than I did and he got the nod. It was a good reminder that at the end of the day, the results are always going to play and it’s always important. From a leadership standpoint in Miami, being able to work with so many talented people was so incredibly immensely beneficial. By learning from Jeremy, the key is if you can hire good people and let them do their jobs. You can accomplish great things. We were able to do that in Miami which was nice.
You start with great organizations like a Super Bowl coaching staff. You win the Super Bowl or an NBA championship and everybody starts looking at everybody who’s with it. You start getting some looks. You get an opportunity with the Clippers. They come knocking at your door and it’s all done the right way. Talk about your decision-making there. There are a lot of things because you were in a great situation. Maybe a situation where you had to do some re-engineering and look at it in a monster market like Los Angeles, one of the biggest stages in the world, if not the biggest. Talk about that.
It was unique. It was a lot harder than you might think. When Dave got hired over me and the team rolls out my sleeve, it was always tough to swallow from an ego standpoint but I feel like I come to terms with that. We have a lot going on with the Miami open coming to Miami in Hard Rock Stadium. There are going to be opportunities. Before the call from the Clippers, it seemed that would be the natural path to go and oversee ticket sales for the open.
When I got the call from the Clippers, it’s like when you get a call the one that you want. It’s like, “It’s the NBA, it’s home and it’s a chance to come home.” At the time, my mom was sick and she was dealing with cancer. It was still a much harder decision I thought because there was such a family tight-knit environment and that trust that we talked about, which is so important. It was hard to get myself over the hump to say, “I’m going to leave this situation, which is good. I’m living in Florida, doing well. My wife and I are in a good spot. We work with people that we like.” Al these things are good to then step out on your own to what is a little more of an unknown.
The Clippers were coming off of LOB City. There’s probably going to be some retooling there. We’re shifting into a lower-demand environment. We had a good breakfast. You’re in town. We came and met. It was a good discussion but at some point, you had to challenge yourself and be the guy. You can’t be, “I’m going to go, facilitate and help at some point.” You’ve got to step out. I took the jump. The biggest piece of it was the time that you’ll be working for new people. At that point, I’ve worked for Tom and Jeremy for 9, 11 years. It’s a long time to work for somebody. There’s a lot of trust built up there so to make that jump was tough. In hindsight, it was the best decision I’ve ever made.
You’ve been in LA and assembled quite a team. The product and course have gotten better over time, which always helps. What’s been the thing you’re most proud of that you’ve done at the Clippers? At the same time, what is it that you keep working on that’s a constant for you?
Stepping into the role with the Clippers, it’s the first time where I had seen change created at different places. I went to change as a sales rep when I was in San Diego and Tom got there. I got a seat at the table creating some change when we were in Miami at the director level and stepping into the situation in LA as an opportunity to architect it. There were a lot of good things in place when I got there but there were also some opportunities.
Looking at how to navigate that, the fundamentals start with people, a process so it’s evaluating people. Some people are still here who are doing a tremendous job. They were here when I got there so to see their growth over the few years was fun. In addition to that, we brought in some new blood as well. On the leadership side, I was bringing in Joel with me from Miami, Krystle Hogan from San Diego, Justin Dunn from Columbus and we re-tooled the ticket sales leadership team.
What I’m most proud of is that before free agency, Kawhi and Paul George were brought into the basketball team, we were leading the NBA in UFSC sales except for Golden State in their new arena. We were leaving the league and new FSU sales. It was a foundation of leadership, hiring, creating processes and a brand new lens to work with the team to build our sales offense. We had an eighteen-month window to ramp that up. That’s probably what I’m most proud of. Once we sign those two guys, the results go through the roof and you get some wind behind your sails.
What I’m most proud of was probably revenue before those guys got there. Looking ahead, we’ve got a new arena on the horizon in Inglewood. It’s making sure that our staff is ready for the challenges ahead of us. You’re selling new premium products. It’s no surprise that we’re in the middle of a global pandemic that could have some impact on the economy, which makes selling a new building fun. I’m super excited about the challenge of working for the Clippers.
There are so many things about the Clippers that make me proud to work for them. It starts with Steve Ballmer, his leadership and his involvement of Gillian Zucker, our team president and being able to work with them to fulfill this vision that Steve has for what we want this organization to be. Doing it in a way where we’re scrappy, it’s not lost on us that there’s another team in the marketplace with a large brand. For us, fighting, being gritty and creating our place in the market is a fun challenge.
Last question on sales leadership and we can start bringing this bird for landing. Something too cliché. You look at your sales leadership, your executive sales leadership, what would you say it’s all about? You’ve talked about managing up, a seat at the table, competition, being humble, not humble and recognition. What is for you?
Everybody wants to be a part of something. All of us want this, whether it’s a sense of community or tribe. Everybody wants to be part of something bigger than themselves. As a leader, it’s your job to create that something. The role of the leader is to define what that something is. If we want to be part of something bigger than ourselves, what is that? You do that through values. Collectively, everybody’s got to be on the same page about what we’re trying to build, what we’re about, what we stand for and what we don’t, what we tolerate and what we don’t.
If you do that, you do that from a place of authenticity. I tell my managers all the time, “I hope the knee that you get outside the office is the same knee that you get inside the office.” Sometimes you’re going to like what I have to say and sometimes not. Sometimes you’re going to get candid feedback. As long as you know that it’s coming from a good place where I care about you and I want you to develop then you start to craft. Every decision you make along the way is going to define what that something is. Over time, through all the decisions you make, you make that something that people are proud to work for, excited to come to work and want to work hard for.
If you hire really good people and let them do their jobs, you can really accomplish great things.
What you said there probably is the thing I appreciate most about anytime you and I talk. We can always have healthy debate and it always comes out of an alignment. There are plenty of things you and I disagree on. I’m going to give my opinion. You’re going to give your opinion. I always know that that’s true inside your organization. Rapid-fire to bring this bird down for a landing. Define success to a 5 or 6-year-old. You’ve got a couple of young people coming up. Not mentally 5 or 6 but let’s say they’re 5 or 6. They said, “Dad, how would you define success?” What would you say in their terms?
Unfortunately, I’ve got a couple of years before I get to explain this. When you think about success, life is a race against yourself. At the end of the day, no matter where you’re at somebody’s always going to have more cookies or Kool-Aid. They’re going to get higher test grades and those things. Success is defined with, at the end of the day when you look in the mirror, did you bring everything that you could?
If you try to play the comparison game somebody’s always going to have less and somebody’s always going to have more. You’re never going to be happy and feel fulfilled because there’s always going to be more. The one thing you realize when you start to grow in your career is you end up getting past where you thought you were going to get when you were 21. You realize it’s still not enough and will never be enough. Success is being able to look in the mirror at the end of the day and feel like you brought it and did everything you could. You are ethical, have sound judgment, good to people and feel good about the person you see.
What is a song that defines you? A song that you’ll play at your funeral and a song you’ll play before a big sale.
I love You Make My Dreams Come True by Howlin’ Notes. I’ve told my wife, “You’re going to have to find the right time to work it in but that sounds got to be my wake.” It’s one of those where every time it comes on, it’s impossible not to smile. You can’t not be having a good time when You Make My Dreams Come True comes on.
A book you gift or something you thought about gifting to somebody at any point in their life.
The book I’ll gift the most is probably Sapiens by Yuval Noah Harari. It’s a great book. If you haven’t read it, it looks back at mankind and how we got here. It’s a good book because it gives a good perspective. Sometimes all of us can get wrapped up in some insignificant stuff. Sometimes you’ve got to zoom out a little bit. Sometimes you’ve got to take the broader picture. You look at how we got here, where we are and where we’re going. The other piece of that is as you read it, you look in so many ways. Things are more divisive than they’ve ever been. When you take a step back and read that, it makes you realize that we have a lot more in common than we probably recognized.
What a way to end this. What a great interview. This could go on for another two hours if we just talk. It sounds like one of our talks that we typically have we did about how you’re related to this show on the way in. Jason, I appreciate our relationship. I love the team that you’re building in LA. Continue to build that grit that you bring to the table. Thanks, Jason.