Carrying forth the spirit of what is already a historic season, the Washington Commanders brought to life another forward-thinking franchise first by hosting the inaugural Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) Sales Symposium on Nov. 15 at FedExField.
"I signed up because it was the first time I had seen such a thorough and hands-on opportunity with a professional sports organization catered toward HBCU students," said Rashaad Shakir, a 21-year-old sports management from Delaware State University, who attended the event.
A collaborative effort spearheaded by Chanelle Reynolds, the Commanders Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Programs Lead, and Sam Barlow, the Director of Inside Sales, the symposium is part of the Commanders' continued efforts to elevate business operations and identify the best talent. Through establishing new and nurturing existing relationships with local HBCUs, the franchise is eager to bring on board and train the next industry rock stars.
"This wasn't your typical panel discussion where you came, got empowered and left," Reynolds explained. "The goal was to have attendees walk away with practical skills, and the best-case scenario would be to land an actual position within the team."
The symposium was full of experiences and sessions that were informative, inspiring and practical. After a warm welcome from Andrew Sidney, Vice President of Ticket Sales & Service, a few of the Commanders internal partners, such as the Black Engagement Network (B.E.N.), talked a bit about the culture within the organization and shared what it is like to be a Washington Commander.
Programming then pivoted to all things sales. Barlow and others discussed revenue generation and opportunities within sales before diving more specifically into the world of inside sales. The event then moved on to a training session where attendees were trained on each component of the actual call roadmap used within the inside sales department at the Commanders.
"My favorite part of the experience was going through the sales script and improving my pitch, tone, and volume," Shakir said. "It was my first time doing anything like this, and I learned a lot about how to better my communication along with the reasoning behind why certain things are said and why certain points are emphasized."
Toward the middle of the day, the students enjoyed a networking luncheon with the Black Engagement Network, the team's African American employee resource group. Later, attendees participated in a tour of the stadium and saw where all the magic happened- the sales floor. With excited faces, they all witnessed first hand the excitement and energy of the Commanders ticket sales department. Once the tour was complete, the students took a photo on the field.
Finally, the attendees had a unique opportunity to hear from some of Washington's transformational leadership team, including team president Jason Wright. And while the hard skills and motivation lessons imparted were invaluable, every attendee at last Tuesday's symposium gained another thing just as precious – connection between a special group.
"The network I created there was truly priceless," said Howard University senior Anninah Henry.
Before the day came to an end, each attendee received a one-on-one interview with the team to join the Inside Sales team. Several job offers were extended at the event, and more will be extended within the coming weeks.