Sales Sunrise in the Desert

Due in part to the injection of a fresh perspective into its sales and leadership teams, the Arizona Coyotes are tracking to hit a new franchise record for ticket revenue this season and on longer-term horizons.

  • Sales Sunrise in the Desert

I had always heard great things about Jeff Morander, EVP of Ticket Sales & Strategy, and Billy Makris, VP of Ticket Sales & Service, of the Arizona Coyotes. But it wasn’t until I reached out and introduced myself to Jeff that I realized how much our thoughts aligned around growing sales and leadership in a sports organization.

As one of the co-founders of Southwestern Consulting, I get opportunities daily to meet and partner with some of the most successful people in business, both in the sports industry and in non-sports arenas. It is a gift to partner with great companies and people to take their businesses to the next level. When meeting Jeff, Billy, and the rest of the leadership team at the Coyotes, I knew there was something different about these guys.

What Were the Odds?

After our first conversation, Jeff wanted to meet face to face. I explained I would be in Las Vegas speaking for another company. By chance, he and Billy were also there doing business. I would have met them anywhere, as they were finding time for me. But that’s not what happened.

“We don’t view Gary as a trainer. Rather, we view him as an in-house consultant.”

– Jeff Morander, Arizona Coyotes

“We agreed to meet Gary at the airport baggage claim,” Billy recalls. “Although, he was willing to meet us anywhere. Our meeting ended up being at a cabaret table in the Starbucks in Terminal 1. Even though we had all never met before, it’s like we had known each other for years. Gary totally got us and understood our needs with the Coyotes from just a few short prior calls with Jeff.”

“We discussed our organization – our sales culture, our strengths, and weaknesses, including our goals to improve as a sales & service team,” Jeff says. “We also discussed ways in which we could grow as leaders. When we huddled with Gary about our needs, it was a free-flowing conversation, and it was easy to share. It didn’t feel as if it was our first meeting.”

Jeff continues, “[Gary Michels] is a different type of consulting partner than many others in the industry. He is not just another training solution for us. Like us, Gary has a long-term relationship philosophy. Gary is a coach, consultant, speaker, and has an amazing ability to train, inspire, and move people to action. Between the training and consulting sessions with us, he is in constant communication with our leadership team as well as our sales associates. We don’t view Gary as a trainer. Rather, we view him as an in-house consultant who is always there for us even when he is back in San Jose.”

Phases I and II: Research and Consult

Once we agreed to begin working together, the first step was to work within our four-step process (Research, Consult, Create, Embed) that we implement with clients. The Research phase began with several phone conversations and Zoom meetings to learn as much as I could about the Coyotes’ current situation.

“I love how [Gary] has the ability to not only train us on content, but also make us better trainers, coaches, and leaders.”

– Billy Makris, Arizona Coyotes

We wanted to look at any scripting they were using, if they had a sales/leadership manual, and if so, how current it was, how complete it was, and if it was being used. We wanted to understand how people are trained, coached, hired, and worked with to get the greatest results. We sought input from the entire leadership team as we went through this process.

During the first in-person visit, we dug into what was happening on a day-to-day basis with the different sales units. I sat in on meetings, observed morning huddles, and spent several hours shadowing team members, both on the phone and during in-person interactions.

Although the leadership team was doing a great job, there was a hunger to continue growing the team’s performance. They were receptive to ideas, and after two days together, we had 13 different ideas for growth.

Discussion of these ideas and how we would implement growth in these areas, the Consult Phase, took place on that visit and has continued to be part of most conversations.

Phases III and IV: Create and Embed

Once the first two stages take place, we go into the Create phase, constructing scripts, processes, templates, etc., and then to the Embed phase. Embedding refers to any training, one-on-one coaching, and consulting that needs to be embedded into the sales team and culture to achieve desired results.

We are five months into the project with the Coyotes and have addressed several different topics at both the sales and leadership levels. At Southwestern Consulting, we strongly believe that for sales to grow, the leadership team must also be growing, which the Coyotes fully embrace. The sales team has gone through extensive training, coaching, and consulting on: Closing the Sale, Overcoming Objections and Concerns, Mastering the Referral Process, Powerful Presentations, Time Management, The Art of Qualification, and Navigating Buying Styles, which means selling to people the way they want to buy, rather than the way that we are.

When we first began the engagement, we observed that referrals were seldom asked for, and even when they were, it was even less frequent to receive one. Now it is a part of every sales conversation to ask, with polish, for a referral. In addition, we observed that the team was not spending enough time doing what we call IPA’s (Income Producing Activities).

The only two IPA’s in sales are prospecting and presenting. The goal for any salesperson should be to spend at least 70% of the day doing these activities. We built a process and structure, and now the entire team has more activity in the right areas. And we all know that more activity, with the right skillset, equals amazing results.

Leadership Training

In addition to working with the sales team, we have spent quite a bit of time with team leaders via conference calls, one-on-one strategy sessions, and live Zoom webinars. We have covered areas such as: How to Run More Effective Meetings, Powerful 1-1 Personal Conferences, How to Effectively Shadow and Critique Your Team Members, and Management vs. Leadership.

“The team is up 4% year over year and is on track to hit a new franchise record for ticket revenue.”

– Jeff Morander, Arizona Coyotes

The leadership team has absolutely stepped up to a higher level than before and is holding its team members to the same standards. I have often said to the team that they will do one-half of what they do right and two times what they do wrong. The Coyotes have embraced this idea and the learning process.

“I love how [Gary] has the ability to not only train us on content, but also make us better trainers, coaches, and leaders,” Billy says. “I really appreciate his accessibility between visits and webinars. I know he is often texting with our team members or on the phone with them, holding them accountable, and being support to their challenges as well as answering their questions. [Gary] makes it easy for our entire sales team, from our newer folks on the inside sales team to our most advanced senior sales professionals, to take in the content and then quickly go execute it at their pace and in their special focus of the products and services they offer.”

Building People Who Build Companies

Of course, as a business consultant, I want to hear all of these accolades. But even more important to me is seeing my clients grow in all areas of their businesses and achieve the goals we set out to hit at the beginning of the project.

On our most recent update call, Jeff Morander shared, “As we currently sit, the team is up 4% year over year (YOY) and is on track to hit a new franchise record for ticket revenue by achieving 7% projected overall growth. Leading the way is a significant increase of 36% YOY in partial plans, and group sales also has reemerged with a strong increase of 34% YOY.”

It is truly a blessing to be able to work every day with great clients and people that want to grow and be better. One of our company mission statements is, “We build people and people build companies”. For the Coyotes sales and leadership teams, their commitment levels to better themselves and better the people they work with is truly amazing. I can’t wait to see what lies ahead for these great people. I suppose it will be many more record-setting years.



Are you interested in leveling up your team’s sales performance?
Write to Gary at

REGISTER TODAY for ALSD 2019, where attendees will have the opportunity to meet Gary at this year’s show in Chicago during his “Closing for Champions” session.


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