“Should we be selling?”
It’s a question I’ve heard a lot over the last six weeks.
“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:
- 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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org