How to Sell Tickets to People Who Won’t Answer the Phone

How to Sell Tickets to People Who Won’t Answer the Phone
*This post was written by Kirk Wakefield – June 2017

Do you answer a call from an unknown number? Neither does anyone else.

Americans spend upwards of 4 hours a day on smartphones, but odds of answering an unidentified caller are about one in four. Millennials are even less likely to answer: Phone calls are seen as intrusive, impersonal, presumptive, time-consuming, and annoying.

According to Nielsen, Millennials spend more time on mobile devices than on TV. So, how do we reach them? We find them where they are and sell the way they like to buy.

Geo-Targeting: Raiders Case Study

Where people come from influences how they buy–and how much they’ll pay and when. Working with our partners at StubHub, we find out-of-town fans are willing to pay significantly more, even as game time approaches. Below we see the difference in ticket prices paid for Raiders games in 2016, which is similar to other markets with respect to time and distance. Using geo-targeting, we can target campaigns (e.g., Google AdWords; emails) based on location.

 

Single-game buyers and, increasingly, multiple-game buyers prefer choosing individual games (vs. ticket plans) when they want to buy and when they want to go. Young consumers have always been variety-seekers. But, Nielsen reports all buyers are increasingly focusing on a wider variety of entertainment options than in the past. Buyers aren’t just thinking about your team (i.e., the Raiders). They may just as easily click on the next Groupon, social media offer, or Yelp recommendation.

Today’s ticket buyer is twice as likely to visit ticket websites (primary & secondary sources) than to directly contact the team. Younger buyers expect frictionless[ref]Read more about frictionless service here.[/ref] experiences. That’s why teams optimize for mobile sales and distribute tickets on secondary markets to take advantage of buyers where they are and how they want to buy.

What do buyers really want?

You need to know how seats are moving in the open market to appropriately set season ticket and individual game prices to maximize revenue.

Ticket distributors (e.g., Eventellect) and sellers (e.g., StubHub) help teams understand the dynamic nature of markets by analyzing what inventory sells through and at what prices. Sample data for an NCAA property (left) illustrates a typical pattern of average ticket prices (ATP) by seating area and the percentage of those tickets which sold (STR: Sell Thru Rate).

Buyers are less price sensitive for sports & entertainment events than for pretty much anything else. [ref]Wakefield & Inman (2003), “Situational price sensitivity: The role of consumption occasion, social context and income,” Journal of Retailing, Vol 79(4), 2003, 199-212.[/ref] Here, the highest priced premium seats ($900+) and the Field Club ($250) seats sell through well (75-80%). The lower STR (67%) for Stadium Club seats suggests needed adjustments to improve perceived value compared to the more or less expensive seats nearby. The high STR on New Alumni seats suggests the team could raise those prices, but may have overshot the mark on the Gold Zone seats. Without this data, this team would continue to leave money on the table or empty seats with inefficient pricing schedules.

The right side of the charts above show the hottest seat sections on the market for this team. If they offer inventory using dynamic pricing, share revenue with a consolidator, or (opaquely) distribute via a ticket provider like StubHub, they will capitalize on the high demand for specific sections (e.g., Benchback I and Gold Zones W and CC).

When should we release inventory and adjust prices?

Most individual game tickets sell during the week prior to the event. Well over a third sell in the last 72 hours. As the sample data shows below, advance ticket buyers are willing to pay more (ATP = $128) compared to those buying in the month leading up to the event (ATP = $72).

When should tickets be released for individual purchase? Earlier is better. Some teams hold tickets back to release close to game time. But, we can see this is not the best time to get the highest price. In a forthcoming journal article, we find that experienced sports & entertainment buyers have learned it’s better to wait to buy. But, if you want to sell high–like to out-of-town visitors and other infrequent, inexperienced buyers, supply needs to increase well in advance.

Conclusion

We’ve been analyzing retail pricing strategies for over 25 years. Pricing strategies in sports are quickly catching up with corporate practices, but much less is known about pricing intangible services than pricing tangible goods and products.

If you’d like to learn more about opportunities to analyze your ticket data or gain more insights, feel free to reach out to our friends at StubHub: Charlie Rockman, Nick Rudolph, and Adam Budelli. If your organization is interested in collaborating in our research center, please contact Kirk Wakefield.

 

Best Ticket Campaign Ideas

Best Ticket Campaign Ideas
by Darryl Lehnus – June 2017

Kicking off the S3 StubHub Ticket Campaign Competition

Learning best practices is one of the most valuable elements of the meetings, conventions, and seminars we all attend. To that end, with partnered with StubHub to launch the annual S3 StubHub Ticket Campaign Competition at the 2017 S3 Board Meetings this past January. We’d love to have more great submissions for this year’s (January 16-17, 2018) meetings. Click here to learn more.

Finalists for the 2017 competition were Joe Schiavi, Detroit Pistons; Evans Adonis, Charlotte Hornets; Stephen Gray, Austin Spurs; and Adam Martelli and Chase Kanaly,  Houston Astros.

Shoot for your Seat

Joe Schiavi, Detroit Pistons

The Shoot for your Seat campaign was an interactive initiative to generate leads through invites from sales staff and marketing communications. Held during an off-season time frame (September), prospective clients were invited to the Palace for a fun four hours of activities. The attendees went through a series of station interactions with Piston personalities, introduction to new stadium food, a photo booth, behind the scenes staff-guided tours and the ultimate opportunity to take a shot from half court to win free season tickets. Phone follow-ups to everyone occurred within three days after the event. The results were dynamic as $100,000 in new sales were generated with an ROI of the event at 8-to-1.

Holiday Pack Mini Plans

Evans Adonis, Charlotte Hornets

The Hornets shared a “Holiday Mini-Pack” campaign that offered great flexibility and a nice Christmas present. The target audience was past holiday pack buyers and potential buyers who connected with Hornets via the email sent or linked the Hornets’ website. Leads were distributed to all sales reps with a window of November 7th thru December 30th to close the 5-game mini pack. Buyers could pick any 5 games for their packages (excluding Golden State). To motivate quick closes the first 300 buyers received a Mitchell and Ness Buzz City hoodie as a gift. The hoodie was a good gift for a friend or family member for Christmas. The campaign created an increase in holiday pack buyers averaging 30 packs a week for the duration of the campaign.

The Ballpark Pass

Adam Martelli and Chase Kanaly, Houston Astros

Some of the hardest MLB tickets to sell are the Monday-Thursday games early in the season. The Ballpark Pass focused on the 10 Monday through Thursday games in May. The primary target audience was millennials seeking a social experience. The value package of $49 includes all 10 games with tickets delivered digitally to smartphones with day of game seat assignment. The rationale behind the digital approach and seat location was that millennials place less emphasis on location and more on social experience. Sending tickets digitally is a common experience for this audience. The success of this campaign was to increase the database in this merging demographic and to increase attendance at low demand games without undercutting season ticket sales efforts. The Astros created 967 passes for almost $50K in new revenue and created an overwhelmingly positive digital experience for the target audience.

College & Career Readiness Game

Stephen Gray, Austin Spurs

The Austin Spurs took a single game approach to focus on middle and high school students. The College & Career Readiness event took a low attendance weekday game and converted it into a new revenue generator. They recruited over 40 colleges and companies to have a presence (booths) on the concourse to interact with the students. The game promotions and halftime encouraged healthy study, eating and living habits. Halftime included the Spurs iconic George “Iceman” Gervin challenging students to stay in school, lead a drug-free lifestyle, and to support anti-bullying.  The game sold 2480 group tickets in 2016 and doubled its numbers for 2017. A key to its success is the organizational buy-in at all levels with a complete focus on high school aged demographics and their educational careers.

2017 S3 StubHub Ticket Campaign Winner

Based on a vote of the 65 managers and executives attending the S3 Board Meeting Advisory meeting, the winner was Stephen Gray and the Austin Spurs “College & Career Readiness Game.”  Congratulations to the Austin Spurs and their staff for truly creating such a successful event!


Campaigns at a Glance

Below are the overview slides of each campaign. We look forward to your entry at the 2018 January 16-17 S3 Board Meeting! Click here to register.

Does Grit Lead to High Performance in Sales?

Does Grit Lead to High Performance in Sales?
by Kirk Wakefield – June 2017

What is Grit?

Angela Duckworth made an industry out of her own passion and perseverance toward a long-term goal–her definition of grit–and measuring it in others.

Controlling for other factors (SAT scores, IQ, self-control, and the Big 5 personality traits), she and her colleague’s research[ref]Duckworth, Peterson, Matthews & Kelly (2007), “Grit: Perseverance and Passion for Long-Term Goals,” Journal of Personality & Social Psychology.[/ref] found the grit items (click here to see if you have grit) to be good predictors of performance among spelling bee contestants, Ivy league students and West Point cadets. Gritty children work harder and longer, performing better in national spelling bees. Gritter students attain higher levels of education among those of the same age, but grit does appear to increase as we get older.[ref]Duckworth &  Quinn (2009), “Development and Validation of the Short Grit Scale,” Journal of Personality Assessment.[/ref]Gritty cadets are more likely to complete training. Those with more grit experience fewer lifetime career changes.

The question is: Is grit a good predictor of sales performance in professional sports? In particular, accounting for popular DISC behavioral measures and factors under sales management’s control, does measuring grit offer potential help in recruiting and retention of salespeople?

The Study

Data were collected from 307 salespeople (89% < 4 years experience; 67% males; 98% with at least college degrees) and 34 managers from 18 professional teams in MLB, NBA, MLS, NFL, and NHL. Respondents provided demographics and completed measures of:

  1. DISC behavioral profile
  2. Grit
  3. Impression management (to account for social desirability bias)
  4. Adaptive selling skills
  5. Extent of sales training provided by the organization
  6. Confidence in selling skills
  7. Job satisfaction
  8. Sales performance relative to others in department (dollar sales, new packages, major accounts, exceeding targets, helping supervisor & dept hit goals)
  9. Selling effort relative to others in the department (hours, effort, contacts made)

Different from other studies, we collected sales performance and effort evaluations on exactly the same items (#8 & #9) from the direct supervisors of each sales representative. Each sales manager examined current sales performance (in dollars), rank ordered those in the department, and then completed the performance evaluations for the first quarter of the 2017 year. In total, we were able to match 288 responses (i.e., inside sales and account executives) with supervisor evaluations. [ref] We conducted a second study among sales staff (N = 144) across the entire East Coast Hockey League with similar results. [/ref]

The Results of Grit

The types of achievements studied by Duckworth each culminated in an event (i.e., completing college, West Point, or a Spelling Bee). A sales career is a series of continuous competitions, where standings update daily, and the conclusion uncertain. Does grit directly predict performance?

Among salespeople in professional sports, grit indirectly influences sales performance in two important ways:

  1. Grittier salespeople give relatively more effort than other salespeople, including hours spent selling and the total number of contacts made. In turn, effort (work ethic) drives performance in this data.
  2. Grittier salespeople are more satisfied with their jobs, which means lower turnover. Satisfied salespeople give more effort, which leads to higher performance.

Bottom line: Hire gritty salespeople. Use the grit scales as one input in recruiting. Mean grit score among cadets (3.75) and our study (3.82) would be a good baseline.

Grit scores at the highest levels may be a function of impression management, saying what we want to hear. But, either way, people who say they have more grit are evaluated by their managers as giving more effort. In a battery of measures, grit scores offer insight. [ref]If potential reps willingly admit having little grit (i.e., scores low on the grit scale), you should believe them.[/ref]

The Effects of DISC Behavioral Styles

This study largely confirms what we found before regarding DISC behavioral styles among salespeople, with some additional insights. Salespeople with more dominant behavioral styles (High D’s) perform better than those with low dominance traits.  Why? The data shows:

  1. High D’s are more likely to be confident in their sales skills.
  2. High confidence in selling skills is a strong predictor of performance.
  3. High D’s are more likely to use adaptive/consultative selling.
  4. High C’s are less likely to use adaptive/consultative selling.

Bottom line: Use DISC behavioral profiles for recruitment and development. But, be careful: Some high SCs (low D) can be very competitive and have the ability to focus on goals. Confidence in selling skills is a much stronger predictor of performance than DISC behavioral styles. The good news is good sales training builds confidence.[ref] In other words, good salespeople are born, but you can also raise them.[/ref]

The Effect of Sales Training

Effective sales training helps salespeople know how to: (Average grade across all teams.) [ref] For measures, see: Sujan, Weitz, and Kumar (1994), “Learning Orientation, Working Smart and Effective Selling,” Journal of Marketing. [/ref]

  1. Interact with customers (92)
  2. Provide appropriate service levels (88)
  3. Behave with customers (92)
  4. Handle objections (89)
  5. Handle unusual problems/situations (80)
  6. Deal with criticism (85)
  7. Present specific team strengths (86)
  8. Highlight specific benefits (91)

[dropshadowbox align = right width = 40%] Adaptive selling skills (disagree/agree; *reverse scored):

  1. Each customer requires a unique approach.
  2. When I feel that my sales approach is not working, I can easily change to another approach.
  3. I like to experiment with different sales approaches.
  4. I am very flexible in the selling approach I use.
  5. I feel that most buyers can be dealt with in pretty much the same manner.*
  6. I don’t change my approach from one customer to another. *
  7. I use a set sales approach. *
  8. I find it difficult to change my presentation style to certain buyers.*[/dropshadowbox]

Overall, reps positively rated sales training. But, being good is not good enough. The more profound effects on sales confidence are at the highest levels: We found training needs to be excellent (90+) to help reps exude confidence. The data also shows effective sales training increases goal clarity and adaptive selling skills. The latter has a huge (statistically speaking) effect on sales confidence.

Bottom line: Focus sales training on adaptive selling skills, particularly in dealing with difficult situations with critical customers. Include the adaptive selling skills scale to your recruiting toolbox.

Do Salespeople Deceive Themselves?

In a word, yes. Nearly 70% of the sales reps rated themselves higher on the very same questions we asked managers about each one. Some by a lot.  In fact, on a scale ranging from -5 (much worse than others in the department) to +5 (much better than others in the department), 55% of reps rated themselves one point higher than their managers did on all items. About one-third rated themselves two whole points or higher than their managers did.

What does this matter? The strongest effect on sales performance and sales effort by far is the margin between self-evaluation and manager evaluation. Sales confidence, DISC profiles and effort all significantly help predict the manager’s performance evaluation. None come close to the effects of being in touch with reality. Those with perceptions closest to (furthest from) their managers are the best (worst) performers.

Bottom line: If one-third of reps are clueless about their performances and more than one half widely overestimate relative performance, how well are we communicating? Given industry turnover issues, we expect more intentional and consistent one-on-one professional development and career goal setting meetings would reduce the deception gap and improve performance.

Conclusion

Grit does not have a direct effect on sales performance, but does help predict effort and job satisfaction. Effort leads to performance. Satisfaction leads to low turnover.

DISC behavioral styles offer guidance in knowing who will succeed. However, since sales confidence improves with experience and training in adaptive selling, DISC profiles should be only one factor considered in hiring.

Our view is that the DISC is better suited to teach adaptive selling and to get people in the right seats on the bus. Further, the DISC scales exhibit poor psychometric dimensions–which we are refining. If your organization would like to participate in the next round of studies with improved DISC scales, grit measures, and our impression management scales (AKA BS Meter), please contact us here.


How Managers Can Use this Research

Based on conference calls to review the research with participants, some offered comments on action plans.


Shawn McIntosh
Brett Zalaski

Brett Zalaski, Vice President Ticket Sales & Service, and Shawn McIntosh, Senior Manager of Inside Sales, Houston Dynamo

As someone who believes in continued learning and training, we loved seeing that confidence was so closely linked to a rep’s job satisfaction.

Markets change and the people we sell to are constantly evolving.  As sales managers it is critical to continue to focus on adaptive selling skills in order to keep our reps confident and happier.

Kris Dolen
Mark Johnson

Kris Dolen, Sales Manager, and Mark Johnson, Guest & Member Relations Manager, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

This research is extremely insight. We are excited to do more digging into the research and the works of Angela Duckworth. Our two biggest takeaways:

  1. Great questions to use for 1-on-1’s with each member of our team are to ask: “On a 1-10 scale, where 1 is the worst and 10 is the best,
    1. Where do you think you stand among your peers?
    2. Where do think your peers would rank you?
    3. Based on my score for you of (X), what do you need to do to get from where you are to where you want to be?”
  2. Understanding the DISC profiles:
    1. Will help me become more self-aware of the different styles among team members.
    2. Will help with Situational Leadership of my team, which is a great way to train & build confidence.
Rob Erwin

Rob Erwin, Director of Ticket Sales, Dallas Mavericks

This study gave our management some new concepts to consider with regards to recruiting and retaining a best in class staff.  I intend to apply more questions during the interview process to discover the candidate’s measure of grit.  I hope this will in turn help better predict their effort once they move past the honeymoon portion of their hiring.  Separately, given the statistics on reps deceiving themselves, I will continue to evaluate how we can clearly communicate with our staff regarding their individual performances.

Geno Fata

Geno Fata, Manager of Inside Sales, Arizona Diamondbacks

After reading “Grit” by Angela Duckworth last year, I’ve been increasingly curious as to how grit applies in a sports sales setting.  My hunch was “grittier” sales reps would be more likely to succeed over their less gritty peers.  It is valuable to know that in a sports sales setting, grit heavily influences both effort and job satisfaction, as those are two crucial indicators of success in our program.

We plan to use takeaways from this study in a few different ways – evaluating grit both in candidates and our current sales reps by administering the Grit Scale, and supplementing it with a few supporting questions that will either reinforce their Grit Score, or call it into question.

The study is also a great reminder of the importance of quality and on-going training, and regular perception vs. reality exercises between sales reps & managers – making sure our reps perceptions of their performances are on par with our evaluations of them.

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