Podcast: How Texting is Changing the Game for Baylor University Sports

Zipcast featuring Dr. Darryl Lehnus

Sports teams across the country are finding new and interesting ways to utilize texting for business, but none quite like Baylor University. In addition to using texting in their ticketing office to promote their sports programs and engage with fans, Baylor is using it as part of the training in their Sports Strategy and Sales (S3) major.

We recently sent a team down to Waco, TX to learn more from Dr. Darryl Lehnus, director of the S3 program. He told us more about how the program’s training has evolved over time, why students and the sports industry as a whole are embracing texting and more. 

Listen to the full conversation below.

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Baylor University S3 Program
Full transcript:

Scott Heimes: Welcome to the Zipcast where we talk about the latest trends in texting for business, customer communication strategies and technology. I’m your host, Scott Heimus, Chief Marketing Officer at Zipwhip and thanks for tuning in.

With technology advances and customer communication preferences ever changing, communication strategies are evolving everywhere. So how does the modern university keep up with the times? We had this question in mind when we sent a team to Baylor University to explore how they’re using texting for business in both the sports ticketing office and the classroom.

What our team brought back from Waco, Texas is an audio postcard. Meet Dr. Darryl Lehnus. He’s the Director of the S3 Program at Baylor University. S3 is the nickname for the Center for Sports, Strategy and Sales. If there’s any program using texting on the cutting edge, it’s probably this one. Here’s Dr. Lehnus.

Dr. Darryl Lehnus: Our program was born in 2004 with just a concept of finding out the entry level position was for young people entering the sports industry and so there was an investigation a committee put together to kinda say, “Where do we start people in sports?” And what we found out, was sales is the beginning entry level point for young people in the sports industry. We talked to professional teams. We found out that they hire people into sales. So nobody had that particular preparation. Nobody was preparing that person for sports teams so we had a chance to start it here and we started it in 2004 with our first enter and then our graduating class of 2006. So we have had graduating classes since 2006.

Yeah when we first started, the whole idea and amazing it was just 15 years ago, everything was about the phone call. Everything was about making phone calls. Everything was about 80 to 120 phone calls a day. You just gotta smile and dial. You gotta keep pumping out the phone calls. The words were grinded out. You just gotta pound the rock. You gotta do all those things that you have to do and so that’s how we started. We started with a phone call. We started with working with the teams. We started out working with the Texas Rangers in a project where we we actually got a lead list from the Rangers, and we called their clients, basically working on maybe clients or customers that they didn’t have the time or energy to get to. Maybe single game buyers from the last two or three years.

So our students were just simply pounding out phone calls. We were dialing, dialing, calling, and calling. Really not even having access to emails for the most part in 2006. So we now have grown from that a great deal, and as we know, the whole communication world in the last 15 years has changed drastically. So we have to look at and what we’ve done in the last few years, we had to look at how the marketplace works, how kids and people communicate this day and age and so we’ve changed the way that we do business.

Try to stay on the front edge, the cutting edge of what’s going on in the industry. So we talked to a lot of sports executives, a lot of people that do sales, and a lot of sales trainers from across the country come through here, because they’re also recruiters. So as we talk to sales trainers, as we talked to teams and talked to them about what they’re doing, and as we talk to our students and how they communicated, we just simply asked what are you using? How are you texting? Are you using it well? No we’re not using it. Finally, we found places in the last few years, that said, “No we use Zipwhip. Zipwhip has been a great application for us and so we started looking at Zipwhip and then we found out that our athletic department had entered into a relationship with Zipwhip. It became very relevant and very easy for us to say, “Can we partner with them? Can we partner with you?”

But really it came about from all the teams that we did talk to that were using Zipwhip and were saying it was the easiest application for them to use. So therefore, we thought that was the place for us to go.

Athletic departments now have turned a little bit more to an outbound reach of sales. They’ve turned into more rather than being order takers letting all the college fans just call in. Colleges have become a little more aggressive with making outbound calls. So in working with our team here at Baylor with Matthew and Justin and Mitch Mann who was their boss, who is also an S3 grad for us. But working with them and finding out what we could do and what they wanted to accomplish and how it fit in our project that we do every spring. We felt like it was much better for us to work internally with Baylor than with a professional teams that we’ve been working with, that we really didn’t have a lot of relationship with, with their fans anyway.

So for Baylor students to be calling Baylor fans made sense to us. But we wanted to find the right kind of application. We wanted to find out and work with these students if we talked to our students, and you ask them how many phone calls do you make a day, and you get the answer of one or two and we all communicate and text. We felt like we wanted to prepare kids for what’s coming in the marketplace and sales and what’s coming is communication through different platforms other than the phone call.

So giving that particular scenario and sitting down with Matthew and Justin and Mitch and saying, “Can we work together on this project? We don’t need the depth maybe that the athletic department needs in the information. We just wanted our young people to be able to communicate with an audience that normally communicates in a certain way, and our kids are comfortable with that. Now we still think the phone call has a place in the sales process, but most likely it’s not the front end anymore.

So again, it’s a matter of using different platforms to reach people in the way that they want to be reached, when they want to be reached, and how they want to be reached. And we had a little beta test last year with a texting solutions company that we knew that it worked because in our responses in our research, we found that we had a 55 to 60% response rate in texting compared to a 5 to 10% response rate on a phone. So we knew that the texting was the way we wanted to go. So the whole concept of Zipwhip on the computers plus the Zipwhip app made sense for the students who could be away from here, and they were much of the time, ’cause they have classes, but could still access the texts that came into them on their phones, but not use their personal cell phones.
So the whole application fit us, and it was a wonderful way for us to incorporate the way people communicate and to grow the way people wanted to be communicated with.

Well let me say this. This project has been a difficult project for students to do in the past. Many times, it is a project that young people say, “I don’t want to do that in real life. I don’t want to make all those phone calls. I don’t want to talk to people I don’t know.” And therefore have left the track of professional selling for sports.

What was happening when we first started the project was simply that students were turned off with the phone call, making 80 to 100 phone calls a day. They determined that this isn’t what they wanted to do in life. It’s not something that they liked, rejection. They liked being hung up on. So they really were turned off and we were losing young people right and left from the program because this is what they thought working in sports meant for them.

So what we’ve seen in the last year, with this project is very clear. I have young people now enjoying the project, smiling. I have young people saying, “I wasn’t thinking about doing sales work but now I am,” because of the successes that they’re finding with sales by texting. We’ve had I think everybody in the class, has made at least a sale by texting, solely by texting without a phone call even being involved. So now when they find that they can communicate with the world in the way they want to communicate and have success, they’re finding that I can do this. This is something I can do and I wanna do.

So it’s really been a complete mental change for our students compared to what we did have trying to convince ’em that you’ll never have a project this hard in the future. This is really a tough project. I have a young man that was going into data strategy and now thinks he wants to go into sales, because of the success he’s had and he had seven straight texting sales for a football opt-in.
So again, that kinda thing is just making kids have more confidence and I think truly it’s because of the texting application that we’ve been able to …

What we find is that the kids become very competitive in the sales side of this. They want to compete with one another, they wanna make more sales than somebody else, and they can do that in this project. So what we’ve also done this year was to bring in a number of professional team sales managers and sales trainers to come in, and watch our kids, work with our kids for a day and it really, really impressed our young people that these people come in and help them and many of them have Zipwhip as an app at their places so they were able to help them to formulate a good text, what it looks like, an efficient text, those kinda things. But it’s made us able to place our kids in a much more digitally oriented world of sales and as teams catch up and I think that there’s a lot of catching up to do from teams in this country to get into the more digital applications and more texting applications for their sales people, our kids will take a firm place in there.

We are placing kids with a lot of major league franchises, the Spurs. We are placing them with the Rockets. We’re placing them with Las Vegas Golden Knights. We’re placing them in most anywhere. We go from coast to coast with our majors from the Yankees and the Mets to the San Diego Padres to Portland, Denver. We’ve got ’em in all these places, plus all the teams in Texas. So it really has been a really competitive program. What makes us a little bit unique is that we are still the only school in America with a sports sales major in the School of Business. So there is no other place like us. We think that our equipment and our labs and our connection center are state of the art, that a lot of places don’t have. So our kids get some real hands on training and this really, in all honesty, this ability to do this texting happens to them as a junior.

So as they go do internships this summer with professional teams, they’re going to be proficient in the way that they handle their connections with their summer internships.

It’s an attitudinal thing for our kids. I mean, the difference with our attitudes with this project has changed drastically. From do I have to do this project, it’s the worst project I have in college. It’s kinda like a moot court in law school where you gotta go through it ’cause it’s so horrible, but this is the project that in our major, everybody dreaded doing. It’s changed that mentality now. It’s now a mentality that, hey it’s not bad at all. I’ve got seniors who did it the other way last year saying, “You guys are so fortunate to have this ability to do this project with these tools that we didn’t have.”
So the whole mental aspect of our students taking a sales position is so much different then it was in the past.

Scott Heimes: Thanks for joining us. Make sure you subscribe to the Zipcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen so you get the latest episodes. And feel free to text us with topics you’d like to hear about or other feedback for the show. Just text 206-582-3740 anytime of the day. Until next time.

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