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The Ultimate Toolkit Secrets Revealed


Stay up-to-date on everything going on in the world of ticketing, sponsorship and marketing

with one of the best: Steve DeLay


Congratulations to Jon Spoelstra for being named one of Sports Business Journal’s Champions of the Sports Business Industry.

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  • 26 May 2020 8:01 AM | Steve DeLay (Administrator)

    Welcome back from a three-day weekend and the unofficial start of summer.  It also should be the unofficial start to selling tickets again.

    I’ve been saying throughout this coronavirus challenge that your mantra should be Survive and Advance.  I’m stealing from Jim Valvano and his famous 1983 NCAA basketball team as they worked upset after upset to win their now legendary championship.

    I want to add one more word to that mantra.  Survive, advance and prosper.

    Prosper? 

    You might be thinking, “Prosper?  I’m just trying to get back to even.”  Or, “I just want to get my sales staff back in the office.

    The prospering I’m talking about is expanding your fan base.  Specifically, who to target and how to expand your sales effort to widen your fan base and ultimately increase attendance. 

    DON’T WORRY ABOUT THESE FANS

    You already have the hard-core fans.  Don’t worry too much about them.  They are the ones who have joined your Zoom season ticket holder calls.  They are the ones who have engaged on social media as your broadcaster has done an online interview with your coach or top player.  Unless they’ve lost their job or are in an older, high risk category, they should be back next season.

    For now, don’t pay a lick of attention to your social fans either.  These are the ones who decide to come to your games on a whim, not necessarily because they are a big fan.  If it’s $1 hotdog night, $1 beer night or some other crazy entertainment act, they’ll show up if there isn’t a better offer that night.  Don’t stress right now about your single game buyer budget as you have no idea what the future holds when you start playing.  Control what you can control.

    HOW ARE YOU GETTING THESE FANS?

    There are three types of prospects you can truly make deep inroads in to now with the right strategy.  Yes, even during a pandemic and 15% unemployment, you can still sell tickets and expand your fan base.

    • Casual fans.  These are the fans who may go to 2-3 games per year.  They like your team and your sport but can survive without it if needed.  You on the other hand can’t survive without them.  These are the fans that are perfect for 5 game plans or 7 game plans.  Don’t expect them go from 2-3 games to 36 or 41 games, especially in a challenged economy.  However, mini-plan sales can keep you afloat until the economy turns back around.  At my team, the Macon Bacon, we’re going to hit our 5-game plan budget number of more than 1000, despite the pandemic, a month-long delay and the challenges in the economy.  To succeed, your mini-plan needs to have real value with extra benefits, not just a discount.  Check out the Macon Bacon 5-game plan page to see more.  https://www.maconbaconbaseball.com/tickets/5-game-plan/
    • Group Buyers.  This continues to be the most undeserved area in sports tickets.  As the economy and society return to some normalcy in the coming months, people will be looking to socialize and gather.  They’ll want to gather not just as family and friends but as part of their school, church, youth sports league and more.  Now is the time to find those group leaders and discuss what they want to do and how they want to do it.  Sure, it’s a little harder to get commitments to buy right now with the uncertainty, but they will come back, provided your staff is saying the right things and making the right offers.  Nearly 300 salespeople from the G-League and WNBA just completed Group Sales Superstar to learn just that.  Check out www.groupsalessuperstar.com to see what they picked up.
    • Companies.  The common theme from teams in the last three months has been, “We have to do a better job selling companies.”  Companies are most stable, less likely to cancel at the whims of team performance or the need for a new roof or new transmission and generally spend more money.  However, selling to companies is dramatically different than selling to hard core fans or even casual fans.  You have to answer the question for your prospect, “How will owning your sports tickets help my business?”.  Especially in a challenged economy, your sales pitch needs to evolve.  Not sure how to do that? We can help.

    We’re getting back to work, finally.  The fall sports season looks promising despite the gloom and doom you are hearing.  Control what you can control.  If you need help, check out the tools at www.theultimatetoolkit.com or give me a call at 702-493-2661 or email me at stevedelay@theultimatetoolkit.com.  I’d be delighted to help.

  • 18 May 2020 7:15 AM | Steve DeLay (Administrator)

    Coastal Plain League baseball may be the first sporting events in front of live crowds and those fans are eating up tickets.

    If you’re wondering whether fans will go to sporting events, let the Macon Bacon be your white rat.

    2½ weeks ago, the Macon Bacon and the rest of our Coastal Plain League teams announced our first games would be held July 1, a one-month postponement.  More important, we’ll likely be the first live sporting events played in front of fans.

    Now, let’s be clear.  That doesn’t mean playing in front of sold out packed houses.  In Macon, we have a normal capacity of about 3200.  We’re going to play to a max crowd of 1306 after reducing our capacity to meet social distancing requirements.  In Savannah, the Ferrari in our league, they are playing to a capacity of roughly 2,000, down from their normal sold-out crowds of nearly 4,200.

    We, of course, have taken other steps to protect our fans and staff and communicated those steps clearly and frequently to them.  More importantly to our business, here’s what we’ve seen from our fans and sponsors in the last two plus weeks:

    • For this season, we had to relocate virtually every single ticket package buyer to meet new seating rules.  How did fans respond?  To date, just 1.7% of our revenue has deferred to next season.  Every single deferment was related to health issues from fans in high risk categories, mainly age related. 
    • We’ve lost just 3.7% of our accounts including groups to deferment or refunds.  Most group losses were because the bulk of our home schedule changed when we had to postpone the start of our season.  Sure, we had some groups cancel or defer but they were mainly groups like nursing homes who quite frankly shouldn’t come or performance groups who haven’t met or practiced since the shutdown started.
    • We’ve sold more than 100 new five game plans.  In fact, we’re on target to hit our original 5-game budget number, despite the pandemic.
    • Sponsors are thrilled that we are playing and ‘getting Macon back to normal’.  Only one sponsor deferred and that was because their school related program couldn’t be executed in the spring.

    These successes are a tribute to the fans of Middle Georgia, the hard work and service of Macon Bacon staff and the willingness of our communities to use common sense and do the right thing to get their lives back to somewhat normal.

    STOP WAITING

    What does this mean for you and your team? 

    If you don’t start playing until fall and you’re ‘waiting’ to see how your community responds, you’re wasting valuable marketing time.  If you’re a fall/winter sport and have laid off your sales staff and aren’t planning on bringing them back for a few months, you’re going to make the 2020-21 season a train wreck and put yourself further behind then you already are.  And you’ll likely start so far behind for 2021-22 you’ll struggle to recover.

    Some teams have woken up to new marketing strategies and are having success.  We’ve documented how UNLV Football has generated nearly 1,500 season ticket deposits with a $1 down campaign and four-month payment plan.

    Other teams, for some crazy reason, are still waiting to start marketing.  I watch TV and see car ads, cell phone ads and clothing ads.  I get the same steady emails from Kohl’s, Target and other vendors.  Just because the unemployment rate is high, doesn’t mean you should stop trying to market.  During March Madness, coaches frequently say, “Survive and advance.”  For 2020, you’re trying to survive and advance to 2021 and a return to more normalcy.

    People will buy.  People most certainly will buy.  The Macon Bacon are proof.  UNLV is proof.  What the heck are you waiting for?

    P.S.  I have just completed teaching my ticket sales class at Johnson & Wales in Charlotte.  I have 3-4 graduating students who have finished and flat out nailed their group sales training from Group Sales Superstar.  If you’re looking to hire, email me at stevedelay@theultimatetoolkit.com and I will send you their videos.

  • 11 May 2020 7:26 AM | Steve DeLay (Administrator)

    The question is really quite simple.

    “Does this corporate partnership help your prospect accomplish their business goals?”

    In the post-corona-virus world, the days of companies buying a corporate partnership with a team or event or venue to ‘support’ the team are going to be long gone.

    With unemployment setting records not seen since the Great Depression and national GDP in major negative territory, corporate partnership dollars are going to be much, much harder to come by unless you can show a tangible impact on your partner’s business.  This goes way past just branding and impressions.  Does your partnership proposal also:

    • Help your prospect acquire new customers in some way?  This could be through traffic driving promotions, B2B events and activities or creating referral incentives.  Despite what you may pitch, new customers don’t come from an outfield wall sign, dasherboard or program ad.
    •  Impact their existing customers?  What good is driving new business if all your partner is doing is filling a leaky client bucket?  Are you helping them strengthen relationships with existing customers so their competition doesn’t steal them?
    • Reward their employees for a job well done?    In this day of very tight budgets and layoffs, existing employees have to do way more.  Bonuses and raises may be out of the question right now but what about memorable employee rewards, VIP experiences and behind the scenes events and activities?
    • Help make a positive impact in the community?  I don’t mean slapping a partner’s name on an existing community program that you are already doing.  I mean devising a truly impactful community program that generates droves of positive publicity and feel good for your corporate partner.

    Let’s face it, branding is nice but without 2, 3 or 4 more of these above points, your partner can get more branding and impressions with a highway billboard or cheap radio spots.  You have to do much, much more.

    WE’VE CREATED A NEW SPONSORSHIP TOOLKIT

    Because of this dramatic need to change, we’ve revamped The Ultimate Toolkit – Sponsorships and created The Ultimate Toolkit Sponsorships – New Strategies, Tactics and Promotions.  This new Toolkit focuses on the nitty gritty of how to answer that key question,

    “Does this corporate partnership help our prospect accomplish their business goals?”

      Here’s what we’ve included:

    • Strategy & Tactics – Volumes I - IV.  You’ll learn our philosophy step by step on pricing sponsorships, packaging, prospecting, finding weird sponsors, non-traditional sponsorships and more.
    • Sponsorship Promotions Bible – In this manual, we lay out step by step exactly how to build sponsor promotions that move the needle.  This isn’t putting a logo on a tee shirt and talking about impressions or slapping a partner name on a fireworks’ show.  This is the nitty gritty about how to answer that key question.
    • 70+ sponsor promotions for you to download and steal.  We’ve taken some of our best promotions in the nearly 30 years I’ve been in this business and written them all up for you to download and tweak to your needs and pitch tomorrow.  Sell one of these promotions and it alone will pay for The Ultimate Toolkit SponsorshipsNew Strategies, Tactics and Promotions.
    • Every other week phone call with me to talk strategy and implementation.  I’m not a lawyer.  I don’t charge by the 10-minute phone call or email response.  For the first three months, we’ll have a set, hour-long call every other week where you set the agenda on what you want to discuss.  It’s having me as your consultant at no additional cost.  After three months, you can still call me any time.

    Our goal with this new Sponsorship Toolkit is to help you move the revenue needle in trying times.  The investment will pay off tenfold if you use it right.

    The newest, slimmed down version of our Ultimate Toolkit Sponsorships – New Strategies, Tactics and Promotions is also priced right for the post-coronavirus world at $2495 or $499/month for five months.  You have to decide this week though.  I’m only going to sell ten of them as I have a tight schedule for calls and want to make sure I deliver for each of those ten new Toolkit partners.

    If you have any questions or want to learn more, check out https://theultimatetoolkit.com/Sponsorship-Toolkit, or give me a call at 702-493-2661 or send me an email at stevedelay@theultimatetoolkit.com

    I would be delighted to help.

  • 04 May 2020 5:54 AM | Steve DeLay (Administrator)

    Believe it or not, the premise for this column came from a tire store.

    Last Friday, I had an emergency need to get two new tires for my car.  They were showing threads.

    Like everyone else, I don’t go to tire stores more than once every 4-5 years.  This visit, three things struck me as incredibly different.

    • They met me at my car.  Instead of me having to go inside to the store ‘showroom’, the employee came out to me.  A requisite step in maintaining social distancing.
    • I drove my car in to the repair bay, not an employee so nobody else touched the inside.  Never before at any time when I need a car repair of any sort had I been allowed to drive the car in to the bay.  It was always a store employee.  The story always was, ‘Our insurance won’t let you.’  Guess that is no longer the case.
    • Their ‘waiting room’ was now out in the repair area.  In order to spread waiting customers out, the tire store had repurposed a repair bay to set up more chairs to maintain social distancing in their ‘waiting room’.  Before, an auto repair store would always put the fear of God in you if you walked through the repair bays.  Now, they were inviting me to sit there and watch my car being worked on.

    I asked the manager about the changes.  His answer,

    “We had to figure out how to do business in this coronavirus environment or we were going to wither and die. 

    As we debated new ideas on how to do business with new rules and guidelines, I would get push back from staff and hear things like, ‘We can’t do that.’  I would shoot right back and ask, ‘Why not?’  Nobody ever really had a good answer, just some mumbling about, ‘we’ve never done it that way’ or ‘our insurance won’t let us’ (even though nobody had asked the insurance company).  I would just tell them, ‘Figure it out.  This is what we have to do.’”

    Those same phrases came up with my own team at the Macon Bacon last week as we began the social distancing relocation process.  Because we are dealing with limited inventory and have to move virtually every single account to a new seat for the 2020 season, there were going to be challenges.  The team wanted the process to be perfect but that’s not possible in this day and age.  As those challenges came up, I would simply say, ‘Figure it out.”  It didn’t take long before our Bacon team started asking themselves, “Why not?” and figuring it out on their own.

    LEADERS MUST GIVE A CLEAR VISION OF WHAT IS EXPECTED

    To do business in this new world and sell tickets and sponsorships, team execs have to give a clear vision of what is expected.  This means a vision way bigger than how many calls and emails should be sent out each day by your sales team.  What does the vision look like for the short and long-term for the survival and success of the organization? 

    The tire store manager laid out his vision that they were going to stay open and had to maximize revenue while taking safe care of employees and customers. 

    We made it clear to the team in Macon as we are going through the coronavirus seat relocation process that the words ‘refund’ and ‘roll back to 2021’ were not in our vocabulary unless absolutely necessary – a delicate balance of short term priorities to ensure survival of our business and our long-term relationship with our clients.

    Once you give a clear vision as a leader, you will quickly be able to stop asking, “Why not?” and shift to helping your staff ‘figure it out’.

    THE SALES AND MARKETING STAFF MUST BE PREPARED TO ‘FIGURE IT OUT’

    No boss wants to hear, ‘What do you want me to do?’ when an employee is faced with a problem.  As a salesperson or marketing director for a team, it’s time to ramp up your game and your creativity.  You figure it out.

    • Marketing budgets have been cut.  Yep, revenue is down so expenses have to go down.  Find a new way to increase the ROI from your ad spends.  Shift to different forms of advertising, collect more email addresses.
    • People have been laid off/the economy is bad so nobody will buy.  True, the economy isn’t good.  But it’s going to come back – maybe quicker than we all think.  Will you be ready with new payment plans, a strong ‘dormant’ list to call on and new ticket products that better fit new budgets?
    • I can’t get anyone on the phone because offices are closed.  Email, voice mail messages, internet research, referrals all can lead to connections, phone ‘meetings’ and sales. 
    • How do we ensure fan safety while still maximizing revenue?  Look around and steal ideas from others who are doing it.  Plexiglass shields between your concessions worker and customer like they’ve installed at grocery stores and gas stations.  Put seats in places you never thought about putting seats before to add more fans (i.e., the tire store ‘lobby’ in the repair bay)

    If you and your team are going to survive and prosper in this economy and the post-coronavirus world, you are going to have to figure it out and every day ask yourself, “Why not?”

    If you need some help figuring it out and someone outside of your organization to challenge your thinking and ask, “Why not?” give me a call at 702-493-2661 or send me an email at stevedelay@theultimatetoolkit.com.  I’d be delighted to help you challenge the status quo and plan for a new world.

  • 27 Apr 2020 5:17 AM | Steve DeLay (Administrator)

    “Should we be selling?”

    It’s a question I’ve heard a lot over the last six weeks.

    My answer?

    “Absolutely, unequivocally yes.  With a couple caveats.”

    But, before you rant and rave and tell me I’m crazy - and before we get to my caveat - let’s first tackle some of the reasons teams tell me they are not ‘selling’ right now.

    • The economy and unemployment.  “Nobody has any money to spend on tickets.”  Very true, 26 million people have filed for unemployment in the last five weeks alone.  Horrifying numbers.  More are sure to come as businesses try to hang on until they can re-open.  However, if your team isn’t trying to generate ticket and sponsorship sales and make progress toward revenue for your next season, whether it’s this summer or next winter, you’re going to be adding to that number, whether you like it or not.
    • Too many deaths and bad news.  “People will think I’m crazy for calling them in this environment.”  My feeling is the 24 hour news cycle is bringing everyone down.  As I said in my column two weeks ago, I think society is tired of the ‘woe is me’ messaging and wants something to look forward to.  The news actually is good as the curve flattens and cases start heading down.  As of late last week, more than 22 states are already in the Phase I category and can start re-opening some businesses.
    • Uncertainty.  “Nobody will spend any money right now without knowing what the future will be.”  This could be accurate in some harder hit markets.  But in other markets that haven’t been hit very hard, fans are quite frankly anxious to spend money and be part of re-opening their economy.

    Now, let’s talk about why sports teams need to be selling and how to do it in a socially acceptable way.  Teams and salespeople absolutely, positively need to move the selling process along as far as they can.  This is much more than ‘checking in with season ticket holders’ and ‘making sure everyone is okay.’ 

    If you aren’t marketing and aren’t selling, your fans may start to wonder if you’re even coming back?  Of course a major league club is going to play again at some point but if you are a minor league team and disappear from the marketplace, your prospective new fans, new group leaders and potential sponsors may start thinking your team is gone.  Good luck rebuilding your brand as soon as that mentality starts.

    You have to get going.  You have to sell or your next season is going to be a disaster on tickets and sponsorships.  Do it with these caveats:

    PRODUCT CHANGES

    • Alter your down payment/deposit rules.  Make it easy to for the fan to buy.  This includes low deposit amount.  One client of mine has rolled out a $1/seat deposit campaign and solely through email and digital marketing generated more than 600 new deposits in 24 hours and nearly 1200 over four days.  It was so successful they needed an ‘all hands on deck’ strategy with additional staff to call every new deposit within 48 hours to get seat location preferences and payment plan details nailed down.  Sure $1 down isn’t a huge commitment and there is relationship building necessary but the client felt like they would convert 70-80% to sales. 
    Another team had waited on additional renewal efforts due to the pandemic and after we talked, they reduced their renewal deposit commitment and got 135 new FSE renewals in four days, just from sending out an email and their limited staff making follow up calls.
    • Easy payment plans.  With technology these days, it’s easy to set up electronic payment plans and protect your team if someone by chance defaults.  We’re all used to payment plans and monthly charges on just about everything else we do so why not give your season ticket and package buyers the ability to start monthly payments later and go deep in to the season or even 12 months on payment plans?  The lower the monthly payment or the further out those payments start, the easier it is for someone to commit.  Automobile manufacturers are doing this right now - advertising that your first payment isn’t due for 90 days but you can get a car now.
    And, don’t make the rules so egregious for the 1 or 2% that might default.  No interest, payments can be charged on any day of the month, take the payment plans in to the season.  Make it easy for your customer to buy.
    • 100% refundable.   I’m with you.  There is still a lot of uncertainty.  For some fall teams, there is still a chance they may not play.  Take the pressure off your fan and tell them that if something changes in your team’s situation or their situation, their season ticket or ticket package or group purchase is 100% refundable.  You’re building a long-term relationship with the fan, not a one year relationship.  If they lose their job, take a pay cut or have other problems, don’t force them to continue buying your tickets.  And, don’t even tell them their deposit can be used for other tickets or merchandise.  Just give it back to them if they have to cancel.  You’ll likely have a long-term friend when that fan gets back on their feet.

    SELLING CHANGES

    Train your sales staff to alter their sales approach to soften their sale.  The salesperson can still go through 75% or more of their sales pitch.    The sales process has four basic steps.  A salesperson can still go through all or almost all of those steps without getting someone mad or offended.  They just may have to soften their ask for the order.  Let me explain.

    • Who are your prospects?  Seems like a pretty simple question, doesn’t it?  For groups, your prospects are schools, churches, youth sports teams, companies etc. 
    For Joe Fan, it’s single game buyers,  sweepstakes entrants, past season ticket holders etc.  If you don’t come out of this shutdown with your most robust prospect list ever, your marketing department has completely failed you.
    • Who is the person within that prospect to talk to?  Let’s face it.  Group sales takes a lot of phone calls to find that prospective group leader.  At a school, is it the PTA President, Band Director, Athletic Director, someone else or all of the above?  At a church, is it the Pastor, Youth Coordinator, Choir Director?  Those calls take time.  Your salespeople have time right now.
    For a single game buyer, is it the person who is on the single game account, someone else in the family, friends or a combination?  Right now, a salesperson can absolutely be making those calls to figure out who the decision maker is.
    • What are the prospect’s goals, wishes and desires?  For groups is it fund-raising, socializing, education?  What are their likes and dislikes of other group outings they’ve done?  What is their typical price range they like to pay?  What else do they like included such as food, drinks, fan experiences? 

    For single game buyers, what was their experience like last year?  On a scale of 1-100, how would they rate their experience and if not a 100, what would it take to make it a 100?  Where do they like to sit?  Who do they come with?  How many games per month would be ideal?

    These are all very easy questions to ask and start developing a relationship with your prospective buyer.  No harm or high pressure at this point. In fact, the fan likely will be thrilled to talk about sports and not about coronavirus.

    • Asking for the order.  Here’s where a salesperson may have to alter their approach.  This change is based on their market (opening up soon, already opening up, not opening for months) and how the prospect has responded to the conversation.  If the conversation has gone exceptionally well and the prospect indicated real enthusiasm, the salesperson can absolutely talk about your new low initial deposit amounts, 100% refund program and payment plans and see if they can nail down a sale.

    If the prospect has exhibited some hesitation or concern about commitment, the salesperson can simply say:

    “This has been a terrific conversation.  I understand your situation.  Let me do this.  I’ll send you an email summarizing everything we just talked about.  This way, you’ll have it and my contact information.  Since everything is changing daily, would it be okay if I checked in with you in two weeks to see how things look then?”

    The salesperson then sets a specific date and time for a follow up and goes on to the next call.  The goal for each salesperson is that when the time is right and your market opens back up, their first 50 calls result in 40 sales.

    Can this work?  No doubt.  I have clients that I’ve talked through this with and completely changed their perspective on what their sales staff should be doing right now.  They are selling!  My own team, the Macon Bacon sales staff is selling through Zoom calls and phone calls.  It works if you have the confidence and your staff is trained.

    If you want to talk through this and need some help, give me a call at 702-493-2661 or send me an email at stevedelay@theultimatetoolkit.com
  • 13 Apr 2020 5:07 AM | Steve DeLay (Administrator)

    It’s coming.  Most likely sooner rather than later as we as a nation make progress battling this nightmare.

    I’m talking about when we can go back to work and start selling tickets again.  None of us really know exactly what that will look like or when it will happen but it will happen.  And, you’ll have to do double the work in half the time to catch up. 

    Here are areas you have to be thinking about:

    • Budget.  The budget you started with for your next season is thrown out the window.  How are you calculating your new ticket revenue budget and your ticket expense budget?  If you’re planning on revenues to be down, you have to be planning on expense reductions.  No owner is going to blindly accept a lower revenue budget and the same expenses as before.  Have you thought completely through where your expense cuts are going to be and what your revenues will look like if you restart May 1, June 1 or July 1?
    • Staffing.  Many teams have laid off salespeople during this time.  Those salespeople may be collecting unemployment and waiting by the phone for the call to return or may be off pursuing some other career dream.  Other teams have used this time to purge less productive/desirable staff.  Do you 1) know how many salespeople you’re going to be allowed to have and 2) have you already started the process of interviewing and recruiting?  You don’t need to hire them right now but make sure to have them teed up to start as soon as you get the go-ahead.
    • Training.  Old salespeople or new salespeople.  It doesn’t matter.  You’re going to need ramped up training to help them handle new objections related to a flailing economy, ballpark/arena cleanliness and safety and other problems.  Do you have your sales training material together and are you ready for the moment the lights go back to put a training on?  Or have you at least talked to your preferred sales trainer about getting on their priority list to schedule  them as soon as possible?  There is going to be high demand for the best training so get cracking now!
    • Databases.  I hope after my harping on this for the last month that you’ll come out of this shutdown with the best group and individual fan database your team has ever had.  If you’re behind now, get caught up before it’s time to start firing again.
    • Sales events.  The shortened sales season means you have to do much, much more than grind out phone calls or appointments.  You’ll need mass sales events to talk to dozens of prospects at one time.  Those events will be challenged by social distancing guidelines and other government issued rules.  Have the events already planned out so it’s a quick adjustment to accommodate those rules.
    • Marketing plan.  This is critically important.  You’ll likely have way less marketing budget at your disposal so how are you using it to quickly (within days) enact your ticket sales and marketing plan?  Email marketing and digital advertising will be even more critical in this next shortened selling season.  If you need help, check out our digital advertising page  for suggestions and ideas.
    • Ticket Operations.  A shortened selling season means every minute counts for your sales staff to maximize revenue.  Make sure your ticket operations department has every ‘i’ dotted and ‘t’ crossed so your sales staff doesn’t get bogged down with ticket delivery problems and customer service issues.

    This promises to be the most unusual selling season in our lifetimes, whether you’re a summer sport or winter sport.  Those that are prepared now will be the teams that prosper.

    Are you ready to fire all your bullets and hit your target?

  • 07 Apr 2020 5:05 AM | Steve DeLay (Administrator)

    “Woe is me.”

    I know.  I’m in the same boat.  The Macon Bacon staff is working from home.  Our revenue streams have trickled to drops.  Other businesses all across the country are all facing the same nightmare right now.

    But, sports should be different.  We’re supposed to bring joy and fun and excitement to the community.  Not only in up times but especially in times like this.

    However, I talk to too many teams who are telling me they are calling sponsors and ticket holders and saying, “I hope you’re okay.” Or, “please stay safe”, Or “We’re all in this together.”

    Those teams are sending out social media messages from players saying how much they miss the fans.  Etc, etc, etc.

    STOP!!!

    You may think this politically incorrect but I’m telling you right now….STOP!  Nobody wants to hear it any more.  We know we’re all in this together.  Enough. 

    Your fans want to laugh.  They want some positives.  They want to forget about this nightmare.  Here are two steps for you to do that and at the same time build your brand, your following and position yourself to sell boatloads of tickets in the future.

    BUILD YOUR FOLLOWING AND INTEREST

    As a sports team, you have the opportunity to bring joy, fun and smiles to your fans.  Now is a tremendous time for your team to be impactful in the community, get more engagement and build your team’s brand identity in your town.  Yes, you have to be cognizant of your market’s situation.  Everyone’s situation is a little different.  However, what I’m suggesting to you is you can deliver that fun, joy and smile with unique and fun content.  Here’s the important part:


    It does not have to always relate to your sport.


    Remember, all of your followers are not hard-core fans.  In fact, I would bet less than 15% are really focused on your actual sport and your players, especially if you’re in the minor leagues.  They like your team and what it represents, having fun and enjoying a night out.  But, they don’t eat, sleep and breathe your team.

    So, with your content, don’t just focus on past game highlights and player interviews.  Make sure it’s interesting to all your fans, not just the hard-core season ticket holders.  This could be through irreverent videos you create, funny memes and other laughs. 

    Let me give you a few examples:

    • Just in the last two weeks, the Macon Bacon have played the Savannah Bananas in MLB the Show, battled on Twitter, Electronic Connect Four (Bacon wins!) and also sent out a Where’s Kevin graphic.  All garnering laughs, likes, retweets and shares.

    COLLECTING EMAIL ADDRESSES

    Now is also a fabulous time to be creating ideas and engagement to collect email addresses.  You can use voting polls, opinion polls and enter to win contests.  These can be nominally connected to your team with the goal of asking fans to vote and win a prize.

    And, keep in mind that joy and those smiles mean they will think positively about your team or your sports property when the time comes to once again buy tickets and merchandise and help your revenue streams.

    Remember, joy, fun and smiles to your fans in such times of trouble.  And, remember, the more people who follow your team, the more engagement you have.  Now is the time to get fans on board with following your content and collecting their email addresses.

  • 30 Mar 2020 10:05 AM | Steve DeLay (Administrator)

    I know.  It’s terrible. 

    The season has shut down.  Sales have dwindled to near zero or below zero.  Sports property staffs are starting to see layoffs.

    I know it’s terrible because I face the same challenge with my team, the Macon Bacon.  I also have talked to dozens of team execs in the last two weeks. 

    One thing I tell all of them - There is one huge positive that can come from this unprecedented sports shutdown. 

    It gives you time.  Specifically, it gives you time to build your business plan.  A business plan that answers the question:

    “What’s it gonna take?”

    Here’s the deal though.  You have to finish the second half of the question.  “What’s gonna take to do xxx?”.  You know what ‘X’ is.  I don’t.

    ‘X’ could be:

    • How do we return from this shutdown with a dynamically better sales staff?
    • How do we go up 15% in group ticket revenue next year?
    • How do we increase season ticket sales to the business community by 200 seats, 300 seats, 500 seats?

    HOW TO GET APPROVALS

    Before we dive in to how, I’m going to make two big assumptions.  

    The first big assumption: You asked yourself the question, “What’s it gonna take to (fill in the blank here)?”  

    The second big assumption: You need to get approval from at least your boss, or your owner.   Here is a two-step process that will get you an easy approval:  

    Outrageous Preparation. Very few bosses, including me, respond well when an employee comes up and wants to send up a trial balloon on a new idea. It usually goes something like this.

    Employee:  “Hey, I’ve got a new idea.  What do you think about this?”  (Insert here a very sketchy description of any new idea that you may have heard lately.) 

    Boss: (Because the idea is sketchy and not fully fleshed out, the boss will automatically and instinctively see the problems with the new idea.)  “Have you thought of this?”  (Insert any objection to the idea that the employee floated in front of the boss.) 

    Employee:  “Well, yes, ah... ah... you see... that could be worked out...I think...”

    Boss:  “See yah.”

    Sure, I might have over-simplified this little discourse.  Maybe.  I could have put stronger words in the bosses mouth like, “That’s a stupid idea,” or “That won’t work,” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it.”   Any of these phrases would, of course, scuttle the idea.  Repeat this a few times, and the employee will finally get the message.  If the employee stays with the company, that employee will be covered with scar tissue that will always be there to remind them of the personal risk of proposing new ideas.

    Preparing Like You’re Going in Front of the Supreme Court

    There is an antidote to that.  Preparation.  Real preparation.  Written preparation.   People might have a different interpretation of what real preparation is.  Let me put it this way:

    Imagine you’re defending yourself in front of the Supreme Court, where if you win, you walk away scot-free and if you lose, you go to prison for life.  How much would you prepare?  Would you prepare just enough to wing it?  I don’t think so.  I think you would prepare more seriously than you have ever prepared for anything before in your life.  I suspect you’d prepare with maniacal fervor.    

    Well, that’s the type of preparation I’m talking about here.

    The Supreme Court, in your case, is anybody you need to say ‘yes’ to what you’re recommending.

    This preparation isn’t a trial balloon.  You’re preparing to get the idea accepted

    This preparation isn’t a trial balloon.  You’re preparing to get the idea accepted.

    The written part of the preparation shouldn’t be in volumes; think in terms of a written Executive Summary that will be six or seven pages.   

    The written preparation (or ‘Executive Summary’) should consist of the following:

    • Foreword:  What are the present conditions of your team in areas that would be affected by the initiation of the new idea?  This could be a summary and graph of how your team is trending in group ticket sales for the past three years.  This has to be an unemotional and accurate picture of the situation.  If it is not accurate, or if it is skewed by emotion, then your opening premise could be seriously challenged.  If the opening premise is wrong, then the solution will be considered wrong.  This foreword is a vital point in establishing your case. The length could vary from one to two pages.
    • Concept:  This is a concise written statement of what the idea is. This could be the concept of increasing group sales by 50% over three years and what it would take to achieve that.  

    This Concept section should be one to two pages.

    • Rationale:  Why the team should initiate the idea?  What’s in it fr the team?  This may seem obvious, but when there are more sellouts, concession sales go up, sponsorships become more valuable, it’s easier to raise ticket prices the next season, etc.  What does that new ticket revenue mean to the team?  This is a good place to insert budget analysis.  How much is the new revenue; how much is it going to cost?  How long will it take to get the idea working and the revenue rolling in?   Do a simple cash flow.  This could take about two pages.
    • Problems:   These really are the objections you would expect to encounter in trying to sell the idea.  Trust me, there’s no way you would skate through the oral presentation without facing some serious objections.  After all, your bosses are experts when it comes to objections.  The strategy here is to think of the precise problems and precise objections before the boss does.  By thinking of objections before the boss does, you’re preparing how to overcome those objections.  You’re preparing yourself to win.  How you handle these objections in front of your Supreme Court is the determining factor whether you win or lose.   Take several pages in this area if need be.
    • Summary:  This is a Call for Approval and a timetable.  One or two paragraphs.

    One word of warning about this written document.  

    Watch the hype!   You shouldn’t use exclamation points!!!!   Go through the document and look at every adjective, adverb, and wildly assertive sentence.  Eliminate those that you find.  A proposal that is hyped too strongly will lose its credibility.  

    You can use hype, but not in this document.  It’s easier to use hype and emotion during the oral presentation without losing credibility. In the oral presentation, you are talking, it’s not being recorded, it won’t be examined and re-examined like a written document.

    Presenting in front of your Supreme Court.  

    You’re now prepared to meet the devil face to-face.   This is your chance to be F. Lee Bailey or Johnny Cochran.  

    First and foremost, never, ever, ever, ever go in front of your Supreme Court to present a big idea without practicing.  You’d never go make a big sponsorship or ticket sales pitch without practicing, would you?  No way you step in front of your bosses, your owner or anyone else on your Supreme Court without extensive practice.  I would even go practice it in front of an audience of your fellow staff members.

    Now you’re ready.  At the beginning of your oral presentation, tell your Supreme Court that you have all of what you’re going to talk about in writing.  Show them the spiral bound booklet that you’ve prepared.  That’s show, not give.   If you give your Supreme Court the booklet, your oral presentation is over because your Supreme Court will jump ahead, page by page, leaving you mumbling to yourself.  

    By just showing the booklet, you are underscoring the fact that the meeting isn’t just a trial balloon of what do you think?   It shows that you are serious.  This will set a very good stage for you.

    Once you’ve shown your booklet, you start innocently enough by just re-stating your foreword.  This isn’t a reading.  This is more conversational, setting up the idea.   If you’re accurate in relating the present situation, you’ll be able to smoothly go to Point B, your concept.  

    If you’re not accurate in reading the present situation, or you tried to skew the situation to fit your concept, be prepared to fight and lose a battle here. By losing here, you lose it all.

    ORAL PRESENTATION

    Your oral presentation should flow in the same order as your written Executive Summary except that you’re talking it.  

    While explaining Point B, your Concept, you may encounter objections.  Try to delay defense of your Concept at this stage by saying something like, “I think we have the answer for that, but first let me finish describing this concept.”

    When you start talking numbers, you should have them on a separate piece of paper.  Hand the piece of paper to the Supreme Court like you’re presenting evidence. If the numbers are reasonable and not pie-in-the-sky, this should be a smooth part of the presentation. 

    Your finishing statement is simple.  You summarize, you present the booklet to each member of your Supreme Court and you give the timetable for when you would like to start.

    Handling Objections

    The Supreme Court (or maybe just the Supreme Justice) may look through your ‘Executive Summary’ or they may put the booklet down and just start spouting objections.  Here is where you can really impress.  

    The Supreme Court will ask a question or state an objection, and because you have prepared for it, you can answer something like this, “Yes, we have considered that problem and we feel the solution is blah blah blah blah blah blah blah blah and the answer is on page 6.”  That type of response often stuns your Supreme Court, although they’ll make their best effort to hide it. 

    (If you’ve recruited some soul mates to help in the presentation, make sure each person has a carefully rehearsed role.  There should be only one captain or “play-by-play person.”  The others on the team should remain silent except when it is appropriate for them to contribute as a “color commentator.”  You don’t leave these roles up to chance; you’ve practiced them.)

    FACING THE NAYSAYER

    I’ve gone eyeball-to-eyeball against some of the best naysayers in the world.  These people have made a career of saying no.  And yet, when I’ve used the steps described in this chapter, my batting average is about .900.  That’s nine hits out of 10!  I attribute that high batting average to preparation.  

    There are some things in this world that aren’t fair, and after preparing for my Supreme Court, sometimes the oral presentation was too easy.   It wasn’t even a contest!  

    It wasn’t easy preparing the written document.  But, once that was done, it was easy in getting the approval.   

    These victories are based on human nature.  You see, the Supreme Court is ready and prepared and poised to say no.   The Supreme Court can easily reach back and pull out a few objections.  But, the Supreme Court is not ready and prepared and poised to meet an executive that is so well prepared.   When the Supreme Court throws out an obvious objection, the executive has a decisive and well thought out response.  C’mon, that’s not fair to the naysayer!  

    THIS SOUNDS LIKE A LOT OF WORK

    You’re right.  To get a big idea and a big boost to your business plan is a lot of work to get approved.  But, you have time right now, for the next 20-30 days, to put this written plan together and get it approved.

    If you want help with your big idea, give me a call or send me an email.  I’d be delighted to be your ‘naysayer’ to help you test out your theories and ideas.  You can reach me at 702-493-2661 or stevedelay@theultimatetoolkit.com.

  • 23 Mar 2020 12:02 PM | Steve DeLay (Administrator)

    We aren’t listening.  Not even close.

    If we want to get back to normalcy and get sports started again, we as a society have to pay attention to our government leaders and follow their directions on how to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

    However, we aren’t doing that.

    Let me give you two simple examples I experienced first-hand, just this last Saturday.

    The golf course didn’t seem to care.

    For the first time in months, the weather in North Carolina was finally spring.  80 degrees and sunny.  My brother and I decided to go play golf.  I have been spending a little time with him and his family off and on the last few weeks in a socially distanced acceptable manner so we figured we were safe.

    He checked on the course website to make sure they were open and the course had guidelines for what they were doing to prevent the spread of the virus:

    1.      One person per cart.

    2.      All sand trap rakes removed

    3.      No need to take the flag out

    4.      No towels in the carts, no scorecards

    5.      Employees using hand sanitizer regularly.

    “Okay, sounds perfectly reasonable.  Let’s do it,” I thought.

    I get to the course and:

    • Employee walks up and says, “Let me take your bag for you.”  I notice he had just taken someone else’s bag and also pulled up in a golf cart that someone else had just been driving.  No hand sanitizer in sight.  “No thanks,” I say.  “I’ll load it myself.”  He seems put off.
    • “Where is my individual cart?” I ask.  “We’re too busy.  You’ll have to share with your brother,” I’m told.  I’m sort of okay with that because I’ve already been hanging around with my brother during the week but now we’re a foot apart instead of six feet apart.  And, what about everyone else who is sharing a cart?
    • I notice when I load my own bag on the cart that there are towels already on the cart that someone had put there from the club.  I have no idea who put them there and no idea if they’ve washed their hands.  Odds are no because they were so busy.  I pick up a stick and take the towels out without touching them.

    •  I go inside to pay.  “Where do you want me to stick my credit card so you don’t have to touch it?” I ask.  “Oh, don’t worry about it.  It’s no big deal,” says the 65+ year old person working the counter.  Thankfully, they had some hand sanitizer on the counter so I wipe down my card with it before handing it to her and then tell her to put it back on the counter after she’s done with it and I hand sanitize it again.  She hands me a pen to sign the receipt.  I have to ask for a tissue to pick up the pen and then throw it away as soon as I put the pen down.
    • This all takes place before we even set foot on the course.  As we head to the first tee, the 70+ year old starter stops us and touches the cart in 4 or 5 different places to make sure he has the number, it’s charged etc.  Thankfully, I had already disinfectant wiped down the handles, the steering wheel, the strap and anywhere I or someone else might have touched.
    • As we play, I see other groups fist-bumping, high fiving and taking out the flag on putts.  Silly.  Or, stupid!

    We can still be outdoors and enjoy the beautiful weather but for goodness sake, pay attention to stop the spread.

    Dog lovers don’t seem to care either.

    Done with golf, I head home and take the pooch to the dog park.  When I arrive, I realize there is a latched gate and a chain link fence we have to go through to get in.

    I pick up a stick to unlatch the gate and then use the stick to open the gate.  A lady behind me impatiently says, “Come on, it’s no big deal.  Hurry up.”

    We get inside the dog park and like any pooch, Nina poops a few minutes in.  I pick it up and look for the garbage.  The garbage can still had a metal top on it.  Hmm, time to find another stick.

    However, in a span of 3-4 minutes, I witness three other people walk over to the metal can and barehanded take the top off and drop in their dog’s poop.  I find another can in the dog park that didn’t have a top and throw away Nina’s doings in that one so I don’t have to touch the can or a top.

    On our way out of the dog park, I’m looking for another stick to unlatch the gate and open it.  While I’m doing that, two other people use their hands and open and shut it.  I find a stick and use it to open the gate.  Once I’m through, I shut it and as I’m hooking Nina’s leash back up, three more people use their hands to open and shut the gate.

    What does it all mean?

    You can accuse me of being paranoid.  You can accuse me of being too cautious.  However, I want our economy, our society and most importantly to me and my personal success, I want sports to restart again.

    If we don’t listen to the smart people battling this problem, we’re in for a long nightmare.  I urge you for the sake of our economy, your team and your jobs. 

    PAY ATTENTION.  DON’T BE STUPID.  LISTEN TO THE EXPERTS.  LET’S MAKE THIS GO AWAY AS QUICKLY AS WE CAN BY FOLLOWING THE GUIDELINES THE CDC HAS ESTABLISHED.  DO YOUR PART.

  • 17 Mar 2020 10:48 AM | Steve DeLay (Administrator)

    Normally, I would use this forum to talk about ticket sales strategy or training.  However, this week is not normal times as teams are forced to send sales staff to work from home and games are canceled.

    I work with numerous teams and leagues and spent all day on Monday on calls talking about how to keep salespeople focused and productive when either working from home or having nothing to sell since games have been postponed or canceled.

    For the first time in a long time, you have time to plan, train and organize.  Take advantage of that time.

    Here is a list of ideas and subjects gleaned from calls with the G-League, WNBA, ECHL and other clients.

    WHAT TO DO WITH YOUR SALESPEOPLE

    Establish Clear Expectations for your staff.  This is critically important.  There are technology questions to be answered about computers, CRM access and phone capabilities if they are working from home but in either a work from home scenario or no games scenario, make sure each salesperson knows their activity metrics for calls, emails and online research.

    Once you’ve established those metrics, here are some areas you can get a lot accomplished in a slow time:

    Sales training.  Normal sales training involves getting together in a group setting with a sales trainer or with internal training.  Right now, that’s not as easy.  A couple years ago, we took all the group sales training content in The Ultimate Toolkit and turned it in to an online training class.  Now is the perfect time for online training.  You can go to www.groupsalessuperstar.com to learn more.

    As a special recognition of the challenging times we’re in, we’re offering our online training for $100 off per salesperson for the first 50 salespeople signed up.  Just go to www.groupsalessuperstar.com/individual.   Where it says “Have a coupon, click here to enter your code”, enter the code ‘virus’ and you’ll see a $100 price break applied to the price.  If you have any questions or want to sign up multiple people, give me a call at 702-493-2661 or send me an email at stevedelay@theultimatetoolkit.com
    Group Audit.  Now is your chance to review how deeply you’ve penetrated specific group categories.  To do that, simply perform a Group Audit.  A Group Audit helps you determine the number of prospects in your market in each key group category and then how many you’ve actually gotten to come to a game. If you are in the midst of the current sales season, you can perform a group audit of where you are right now.  If not, you can build one from the last year. Click here to see more specifics on how to do a Group Audit.  This will give you an instant target list as soon as the lights are flipped back on and you can start selling again.

    Group sales database building. No team I’ve ever worked with has maximized group sales.  After you’ve completed your Group Audit to determine which categories are your growth opportunities, assign those categories and leads to salespeople to build your group sales database.  After your Group Audit, you have your benchmark starting point. Then on a weekly basis, have your one on one call/meeting with the salesperson assigned to that category and make sure they are adding new contacts and relationships.

    Top 100 Business Audit. Have you gone through the top 100 employers in your market and determined how many have bought tickets from you?  Season tickets, hospitality and/or group tickets?  Have they bought enough?  Sure, they could also be sponsors but that doesn’t mean their ticket purchases are high enough to meet their needs.  Identify those that are ‘short’ and build a strategy on how to get those larger companies more involved – specifically, who is going to call on that prospect and at what level? 

    Group Renewals Evaluation. Now is a terrific time to review all the group buyers from your most recent complete season and what percentage came back the next year.  Don’t guess at the percentage of accounts that bought again.  Analyze them all by looking not only at accounts but also seats and dollars renewed.  Then, talk to your sales staff on why particular groups did not come back.  You likely will discover that your sales staff just didn’t make enough phone calls to that preferred group buyer.  Build a strategy now for when you know you’re playing again to immediately attack this group.

    Client relationship calls.  A terrific time for your sales and retention staff to get to know your season ticket holders and group leaders in a more personal way.  Have an organized process and system for your salespeople to make calls, what questions to ask and then where to ‘store’ that information in your CRM.

    BUSINESS PLANNING

    One area that management can tackle now – separate from sales activity - is business planning for next year.  Whether you’re a winter or spring sport that has been canceled or postponed, you have some time to lay the groundwork for next season and ideas and strategies you’ve never had the time to think through in depth because you were playing a season.  You can also use this time for your action plan for when the lights go back on.

    When I was Chief Marketing Officer at Mandalay Baseball Properties, we always had our business planning meetings in April, less than a month after our season started.  Bob Murphy, Mandalay’s COO and President of the Dayton Dragons always wanted to have those business planning meetings in February or March so we could get even further ahead of the curve.  You now have that chance and the time to think of the future.

    I’M HERE TO HELP

    Like everyone else, my business travel has been curtailed.  However, I am available by phone.  If you want a complimentary review of your business plan, want to bounce some ticket or sponsorship sales ideas off me or want help with www.groupsalessuperstar.com, feel free to give me a call at 702-493-2661 or email me at stevedelay@theultimatetoolkit.com

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