By: Titleist / Foot-Joy Rep.
As I sit here in my office typing on my computer, plugging in the orders generated throughout the day, and preparing for the week ahead, I think to myself…..How did I get here? How did I become a Territory Sales Representative for one of the Major Golf Equipment Manufacturers. This is my "How To Guide" on "How To Become a Golf Sales Representative".
The first plan will follow "My Path" into the Golf Sales game working for just one Company and the “Alternate Path” will be a guide to entering the business as an Independent Salesman (obtaining multiple lines of golf related products from different companies).
Step 1: Understanding the Process
While a college degree is not required to become a golf Salesperson, most of the Major Manufacturers (ie..Ping, Titleist, FootJoy, TaylorMade, and Callaway) typically prefer candidates who possess a four year degree.
Majors to consider: Business Administration and/or Marketing….however, any four year degree would be sufficient.
Your college choice is never really that important, but attending a college with a PGM (Professional Golf Management) program is a way to enter into the golf industry and develop contacts that may help get you on board with one of the large companies.
There are multiple ways to get yourself hired by a Golf Manufacturer. I took a road less traveled. I took a job with an independent golf company with the intentions of gaining some quick experience. My intent was to impress a larger company by showing them my commitment to becoming a Golf Sales Rep. After a year of grinding it out on the road, quite far from home, I headed to the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FL. I spoke with several companies while at the Show, explained what I had done in an attempt to impress the large companies, and ended up getting hired by one of them.
Now you might be thinking, “Wow, that doesn’t seem too difficult! A year out of college and already a big time salesman.” NOPE. I didn’t accept a job as a Sales Person, I accepted a job as a Customer Service Representative. That’s how most of the large companies work. You grind it out on the phones for a number of years, paying your dues, learning the ins and outs of the company and its policies and procedures, and preparing yourself for the possibility that someday you will be lucky enough to get into the Outside Sales Force.
For me, it took five years. Five years of taking my 4 year college education and using to place orders over the phone. Not the easiest five years, but the learning experience turned out to be invaluable once I got into the field.
Once I was transferred from the Time Life phone lines to field sales, I was given a small territory to work. After a three year stint in that territory, I was shifted to a much larger territory and my early career goal had been met. I was now an official Field Sales Representative in the golf industry.
Now there is a new goal for my career and maybe it will be followed up by another "How To Guide"……."How To Become and Executive in the Golf Industry."
Step 2: Alternative Process
While hard work and luck played a large role in my rise to Field Sales. I spent five years in a not so satisfying position in an effort to reach my goal. I look back on that experience with pride and affection, but I am certainly glad that it is behind me.
Should you not be interested in taking the slow and steady route into a Sales Rep position, there is another way.
You could become an Independent Sales Rep.
The top six or eight name brand golf equipment companies hire their Sales Reps as exclusive employees. That means that you work for that company only and you may not work for and/or sell another product to your customer base. Larger companies can afford to do this because the Volume of business generated per territory is enough to support the salary and benefit needs of the Sales Rep.
Smaller companies do not have this luxury. They rely on the pool of Independent Reps to pick up their product and promote them throughout their territory. The goal of an independent rep is to represent a combination of products (that hopefully do not compete with one another) that ensures that you can support your lifestyle and your travel expenses. Most independents have one or two major lines that end up paying the bulk of their overall salaries, while the smaller lines are just a bonus to add to the bottom line.
The following is a small list of companies who hire independently: Sun Mountain, Bushnell, Antigua, Ahead, Carnoustie, Straight Down, Adams Golf, Nicklaus Golf, US Kids Golf, Club Glove, Pukka Headwear, etc. Cleveland Golf use to be on this list, but they are currently merging Sales Forces with new parent company Srixon.
Picking Up Your Lines
Unless you are already well connected to the inner circle of the golf business in your area, there is only one place to go when looking to find independent golf product lines, the PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FL.
The PGA Merchandise Show is held at the end of every January. This show is the single largest gathering of the golf industry manufacturers. There is a “Positions Available” board positioned inside the show that lists a large amount of Sales Positions that are open throughout the country. You can take this information and seek out the companies that you are interested in while walking the show floor……and then go ask for the job.
Next thing you know, you are on your way!
Step 3: Decision Time
Now that you have two different paths to becoming a Golf Sales Representative, it’s time to make a decision. There are positives and negatives to any job. All you need to do is determine what is important to you and what would make you happy.
Here’s a list of Pro’s and Con’s of each position:
Pro’s (Company Man):
- Job Stability
- Established and consistent territory sales
- Focus (clear and concise message to customers)
Con’s (Company Man):
- Limited Products
- Unable to adjust to what’s HOTIndependent Sales
Pro’s (Independent Sales):
- Control your product offerings
- Ability to adjust to What’s HOT
- Unlimited income potential
Con’s (Independent Sales):
- No stability
- Competition with other independents for HOT new lines
- No benefits
Do you want the freedom of the independent rep? Or do you want the stability and typically well established position within one of the larger companies? Are benefits important? Or do you feel you can be successful enough to foot the healthcare and retirement plans on your own.
The choice is yours. GOOD LUCK!
Today’s article is part of a Two-Week series on “How To Get Your Dream Golf Job”:
SERIES - Week One:
- “How To Become a Tour Pro” (Monday)
- “How To Own and Run a ProShop” (Tuesday)
- “How To Become Golf Club Designer” (Wednesday)
- “How To Become A Golf Sales Rep” (Thursday)
- “How To Become a Professional Long Driver” (Friday)