Editor's Note: This story originally published on MyGolfSpy in July of 2008. The information is every bit as relevant today as it was nearly nine years ago. The Sales Rep who wrote it is still with the same company but now manages a significantly larger territory. We've updated the text to reflect current brands in the industry. We made some grammatical changes as well. The story addresses a question we're often asked, so we wanted to bring the information back and make it easily accessible to an audience that has grown significantly in the time since the original publication date.
By: A Sales Representative from Large Golf Company
As I sit here in my office typing 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" for Becoming a Golf Sales Representative.
UNDERSTANDING THE PROCESS
The first plan follows my path – working for just one company - into the golf sales game. The Alternate Path offers a guide to entering the business as an Independent Salesman (obtaining multiple lines of golf related products from different companies).
While a college degree is not required to become a golf salesperson, most of the major manufacturers (e.g. Ping, Acushnet (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 in any discipline is sufficient.
Your college choice is never really that important, but attending a university with a PGM (Professional Golf Management) program is a way to enter into the golf industry and develop contacts that could help get you on board with one of the large companies.
The list of PGM Schools (this list may not be complete) includes Ferris State, New Mexico State, Mississippi State, Penn State, Methodist College, Campbell University, Coastal Carolina, Clemson, Florida State, etc.)
There are multiple ways to get yourself hired by a Golf Manufacturer. I took a road less traveled. I accepted a job with an independent golf company with the intention of gaining some quick experience. My hope 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. There, I spoke with several larger companies and explained what I had done in an attempt to impress. Fortunately, I 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 in sales; I accepted a job as a Customer Service Representative. This is 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, its policies and procedures, and preparing yourself for the possibility that someday you might be lucky enough to move into the Outside Sales Force.
For me, it took five years. Five years of using my 4-year college education to place phone orders. It wasn’t the easiest five years, but the learning experience proved 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. My early career goal had been met. I was now an official Field Sales Representative in the golf industry.
Now I have a new career goal. Maybe we can follow this up with another "How To Guide"…”How To Become an Executive in the Golf Industry."
THE ALTERNATIVE PROCESS
While hard work and good luck played a role in my rise to Field Sales work, it’s also true that 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’s behind me.
If the slow and steady route to a Field Sales Rep position doesn’t appeal to you, there is another way.
You could become an Independent Sales Representative.
The leading 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 it throughout their territory. The goal of an independent rep should be to represent a combination of products (that hopefully do not compete with one another) that ensure that you can support your lifestyle while covering your travel expenses. Most independents have one or two major lines that contribute to the bulk of their overall salaries, while smaller lines can add a bonus to the bottom line.
Companies that hire independently: Sun Mountain, Bushnell, Antigua, Ahead, Levelwear, Straight Down, Volvik, US Kids Golf, Club Glove, Pukka Headwear, Jofit, and many others.
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, which is held at the end of every January, is the single largest gathering of the golf industry manufacturers. There is a “Positions Available” board positioned inside the show that lists a significant number of Sales Positions that are open throughout the country. You can take this information, walk the show floor, seek out the companies that you are interested, and ask for the job.
The next thing you know, you are on your way!
STEP 3: DECISION TIME
Now that you understand the two different paths to becoming a Golf Sales Representative, it’s time to make a decision. There are positives and negatives to any job. What you need to do is determine what is important to you and what would make you happy.
Here’s a list of Pros and Cons of each position:
Pros (Company Man):
- Job Stability
- Established and consistent territory sales
- Focus (clear and concise message to customers)
Cons (Company Man):
- Limited Products
- Unable to adjust to what’s HOT in the marketplace
Pros (Independent Sales):
- Control your product offerings
- Ability to adjust to what’s HOT
- Unlimited income potential
Con’s (Independent Sales):
- Lack of stability
- Competition with other independents for HOT new lines
- No benefits
Do you want the freedom that comes with being an independent rep, or the stability and typically well-established position that comes with working for 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!