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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.

Click here to view the article.

  • 29 Jun 2020 6:01 AM | Anonymous

    The danger of waiting to sell group tickets

    I was wrong.

    That’s why I’m giving you this warning.

    I assumed when we set our plans to restart the Macon Bacon season July 2nd, groups would be the product that buyers would flock to. 

    After all, the economy had plummeted so how many businesspeople were going to buy season tickets or ticket packages to entertain clients or reward employees?

    Single game buyers would come out if they felt safe (we have taken plenty of precautions) but they are too hard to predict and control with weather and who knows what other issues that might come up for them.

    My thought was groups were going to be climbing the walls to do things, even in a socially distant manner.  Here’s what we’ve learned:

    • If they aren’t getting together, they aren’t getting together.  For example, a typical staple group type like churches still aren’t having much in the way of services, even in Georgia which has been pretty open.  We heard from a number of returning church groups that they didn’t feel comfortable endorsing and organizing a ‘group outing’ when their church still had limitations on mixing and mingling. 
    Same with companies.  If the companies weren’t yet fully back in their offices, many of our returning corporate groups said they couldn’t support company outings for employees to get together if they couldn’t even get together in the office.  Likewise, salespeople weren’t meeting with clients very regularly so having a suite night or Party Deck night was going to be a tough slog to get clients and prospects to come out.
    • We just don’t talk any more.  Many groups weren’t having their typical monthly meetings in person to share activities and events.  Sure, they could still send out emails and post on their group’s Facebook page and other simple tools but the lack of in-person gatherings have really hurt communication.
    • Where are you?  Groups we had booked before the pandemic were fine.  They already had dates picked out and had spread the word.  New groups??  Big challenge.  We’ve had trouble finding them, even with an extensive effort during the lockdown to chase new group leads.  Once we have gotten them on the phone, we hear concerns about quick turnaround and spreading the word. 

    WHAT TO DO?  WHATEVER TO DO?

    Thankfully, our staff didn’t just rub their hands and moan ‘woe is me’.  Like everyone else, we’ve improvised.

    • Zoom sales calls.  Our outside salesperson last week scheduled nine Zoom sales pitches with companies to talk season tickets and group outings.  The weakness is the ‘show rate’ for Zoom calls or scheduled phone calls isn’t nearly as high as in-person meetings but you do the best you can.  On the bright side, she thinks 3-4 will close for outings this season.
    • Old-school.  I had to admit it but because we have to spread out seating for groups, we’ve had to go a little old school with helping group leaders sort out ticket orders, take group member orders over the phone and send out emails for the groups.
    • Single game push.  Those of you who know me know I hate relying on single game sales.  But, this year is different.  We have to do what we have to do.  We’re focused on capturing names and building our database of emails and social media followers as part of it.
    • Database building.  I was talking with the Director of Group Sales from the NBA last week who said he took to hear some of what I’ve been preaching the last few months on finding new group contacts and has kept his staff’s focus on just that with huge dividends in new leads.  As soon as the NBA has a schedule for 2020-21, he’s expecting a big run up.

    Take my warning to heart.  We’ve had tremendous response from smaller ticket packages in our re-start but groups take more time.  If you’re not starting until fall, get ready for a grind.  Start now with database building and be prepared for a lot more work.

    The Macon Bacon start at home this Thursday with another game on Saturday night.  We’re ‘sold out’ with our coronavirus capacity at 1200.  In next Monday’s column, I’ll let you know how it went and what we learned so other teams can learn from what we did right and what we did wrong.  Happy 4th of July.

  • 23 Jun 2020 9:06 AM | Anonymous

    Every spring, you have a decision to make about your yard.

    Do you supply a steady diet of fertilizer and water the grass regularly?  Do you replace the dead spots with new grass seed and better dirt?  Do you plant new flowers in the flower beds?

    Or, do you just do the same thing you did last year and the year before and keep your fingers crossed that the grass will grow and flowers will miraculously spring up? 

    Will you get weeds? Or, will you control your destiny and get lush green grass and vibrant, colorful flowers?

    YOUR TICKET SALES STAFF

    It’s the same with your sales staff as you bring them back on board to start selling tickets again.  Are you going to keep your fingers crossed and hope they work out with the same structure, training and strategy you had in the past or are you going to find a way to water, fertilize and improve your staff and strategy?

    Evan Gitomer wrote an excellent article on Linkedin about the need to change our inside sales staffs for teams.   Gone should be the days of 15-25 inside salespeople grinding out phone call after phone call and arena meetings to sell Joe Fan.  Managers should stop trying to evaluate work ethic and sales aptitude and desire through beating the inside sales staff down with the worst leads.

    The costs are astronomical and the ROI, if you’re a minor league team or a bottom of the barrel major league team that Joe Fan ignores, is tough to justify.

    Here’s what I recommend to all my consulting clients and I live and breathe it at the Macon Bacon.

    • Use technology.  Virtually all of our sales to Joe Fan come from email marketing and digital advertising.  Our ROI is typically $20:1.  Even in the last few months with such a challenging environment, our ROI is still $12:1.  Beginning after July 4th, we are rolling out an online class for Digital Ticket Sales so you can learn how we’ve done it.  Ironically, I’ve had team owners and team presidents tell me they’ve sold just as many season tickets to date this year to Joe Fan as they had last year, even without sales staffs because they continued to do digital and email marketing and are still getting sales.
    • Use interns for Joe Fan.  Sure, we still have some part-time interns calling on Joe Fan.  However, they only call the people who open the email we send them AND click on the link.  This way, it’s a follow up call and much warmer as the fan has already seen the information we want to present to them.  Our interns in Macon still only get 5-10% connect rate on the phone but at $8.25/hour, the ROI is much more reasonable.
    • Spend your staff budget on group sales and B2B ticket sales.  Right now it’s hard to get meetings, especially if your community still isn’t back in the office but the real ticket sales staff ROI is tied to better group sales and ticket sales to the business community.  However, you need a strategy for those two areas.  In the coming weeks, we’ll be launching a brand new online training program for Group Sales and will have a special announcement related to B2B ticket sales.

    With limited capacity reducing your ability to maximize ticket revenue, you need to be perfect selling tickets for your next season, whenever it is.

    Are you going to have weeds like every other year or are you going to have flowers this selling season?

    If you have questions or I can help with your strategy, call me at 702-493-2661 or email me at stevedelay@theultimatetoolkit.com.  The call or email is free and I’m delighted to help.

  • 08 Jun 2020 7:00 AM | Steve DeLay (Administrator)

    The caller was more frustrated than he was panicked.  He was Director of Ticket Sales for a minor league team.

    “Ownership just came back with our budget for next season,” he said.  “They want a 70% increase in group sales.  That’s impossible!”

    “Is it?” I asked.  “Are you 100% sure that if you called on every single group prospect in your market and get a reasonable conversion rate that you couldn’t get a 70% increase?”

    There was a long pause.  I could almost hear his brain working.  It was as if he called merely to have me commiserate with him and I let him down.  Finally, he spoke up again.

    “What do you suggest?” he said grudgingly.

    He had already done the group audit, determining how many groups in each major group category had come to a game last year.  I asked him to calculate a couple more things:

    • What was the average number of tickets for each group in each category?
    • What was the average ticket price for each category?  Businesses would of course likely have a higher average ticket price than schools or church youth groups.

    “That’s easy,” he said.  I’ll just plug a couple formulas into my spreadsheet.

    Then, I told him to reach out to a list broker, someone like Ron Contorno at Full House, and ask for the total number of group prospects in his market.  Taking the total number and subtracting those that came out last year would give him the remaining possible groups in each category.

    When he had that done, I simply told him to look at the remaining possible groups in each category and estimate how many more he thought he could get.  I told him to be reasonable, not some pie-in-the-sky projection.

    Then, multiply those likely new groups times the average number of tickets from their category and the average ticket price.  Lo and behold, he had what his growth possibilities were for the next season.  He got to within about $20,000 of where his bosses wanted him to be.  We tweaked a few estimates and group renewal percentages in certain categories and he got to their budget request.

    The plan was aggressive but he got there all without creating some crazy, wacky, labor intensive theme nights that take a ton of work with no real sense of whether they will work.  (Anyone having to toss Nursing Home Night, or (insert nationality) Night and other crazy ideas that never sell more than 100 tickets?)

    Now, I told him there are some keys for making this process work:

    • He has to assign a specific salesperson to each of the growth categories.  And, they have to work those categories all year long.  This effort won’t work if your sales staff starts searching for new groups only a few months before the season starts after they’ve scoured the market for months trying to selling season tickets.
    • Management of those salespeople becomes critical.  Sales Managers should be meeting weekly with salespeople to review progress on calls to those specific group categories, new group leaders reached and new groups into the pipeline.
    • Tracking data moving forward allows you to compare year over year progress and truly find out which categories move the needle for you.

    It’s not easy to see big growth but it’s doable.  More than ever, with a challenging economy and the slow re-opening of our local economies, you’re going to need a detailed, granular plan to be successful increasing ticket sales.  Doing the same thing you’ve been doing is not going to be sufficient to get the growth you need.

    If you want to talk further about how to put together your detailed group sales budget, give me a call at 702-493-2661 or send me an email at stevedelay@theultimatetoolkit.com.

  • 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.

Call Steve at 702-493-2661

stevedelay@theultimatetoolkit.com

18716 Nautical Drive, Unit #6

Cornelius, NC 28031

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