by Kirk Wakefield – July 2013
Sports franchises may draw some of the less-discerning masses with dollar hot dog night and all-you-can-ingest seating sections, but luxury seats and suite buyers expect intimate personalization.
You can’t get intimate with an advertised special or promotion night. As with any other relationship in life, intimacy doesn’t lend itself to just anyone who makes an offer. As customers, we are only willing to commit ourselves to those who take the time to get to know us, understand what we like or prefer, and are interested in our past. Then, maybe, we can talk about having a future together.
What does it mean to delight customers?
Consumer psychologists have studied the concept of consumer delight–the consequence of surprise mixed with joy–for over two decades. Not all surprises are good, of course. Surprise mixed with anger results in outrage. Good to avoid those types of surprises.
More aggressive, proactive properties now go beyond trying to satisfy customers to interact on a very personalized basis. Why?
Selling suites and luxury seats caters to an expert clientele dissatisfied with what everyone else gets.
Fans with limited resources and experiences (novices in terms of sport & entertainment consumption) may be excited just to see a game from the upper deck. But expectations are much higher in premium sales situations and it takes much more to truly delight expert consumers.
Start with knowing your customer
Steve Massi, Director of Marketing and Client Strategy at International Micro Systems, explains, “Customer delight is driven by one primary insight: Know Your Customer. At IMS, we transform our customers’ businesses through unique utilization of real-time customer-centric data, resulting in more relevant customer engagement, customer experiences and organization-wide ROI.”
How can this kind of technology lead to delighting customers? The STADIS© Data Integration, Promotions and Engagement Platform empowers properties to use customer data two primary ways:
- First, to drive real-time behavioral engagement and incremental revenue at the transactional “moment of truth,” and
- Second, by making this customer-centric data accessible and actionable to develop more relevant offers, communication, and customer experiences.
Mass/group focus vs. Individual focus
Pre-planned, scripted elements of the event experience are aimed at masses or groups. No surprise there. And no delight.
Venues with commercial messages seen on TV surprise no one. Bored or annoyed would be more like it.
Groups brought on the court for special occasions are expected. The only possible delight is when the little kid in the dance squad performs in some unexpected way. Of course, those in the group benefit from belonging, connecting, and recognition (see Fan Intimacy matrix). Semi-scripted portions are more enjoyable.
We only begin to make real progress when we begin to reward and acknowledge individuals with meaningful, relevant methods illustrating our understanding of the customer as an individual.
Brandon Steffek, Director of Sales at Full House, helps properties delight customers by incorporating variable information into the designs and content of email and direct mail collateral. Through analyzing market and customer data, Full House can use variable information such as surnames, demographics, company names, industry specific images and content to appeal directly to the behaviors most applicable to customers. Brandon emphasizes, “This approach creates a more personalized and meaningful touch to our email and direct mail efforts both internally and for our customers.”
The Oakland Raiders, for instance, can personalize emails and mailings to individuals who’ve leased a suite in the past or are identified as potential suite customers.
First thing to do
The first thing you must do to delight premium customers is simply to understand that’s the goal. If you think it’s just to sell them space in a seat or suite, provide an entertaining experience, and good service, they can get that at a lot of places. If you continue to do only what expected, you’ll keep getting what you’ve been getting.
The second thing you must do is take advantage of the technologies available to us today to market, sell, and service on an individual personalized basis. We’d love to hear your ideas and examples of ways you’ve found to truly delight premium buyers in your markets. Leave a comment or tweet to us @BaylorS3 and @KirkWakefield.
by Dan Rockwell – July 2013
All successful relationships require trust
Good salespeople build relationships because organizational success depends on it. If trust is something “they” do, you are the problem.
Research shows three important consequences related to trust and performance.
- Overall business performance for organizations is higher when salespeople trust their managers.1
- Individual sales performance is better among salespeople who engender high trust.2
- Employee retention is higher in organizations with high manager-employee trust because the quality of life in the workplace is better.3
How do sales managers and salespeople build strong, resilient relationships?
You learn to behave
Stephen M.R. Covey, says, “Relationship trust is all about behavior … consistent behavior.” (From: “The Speed of Trust.” Today, seven years after publishing, it’s still #2 in Business-Life, Ethics, on Amazon.)
Covey explains 13 behaviors common to high-trust individuals:
- Talk straight. Let people know where you stand. Use simple language.
- Demonstrate respect. Genuinely care and show it.
- Create transparency. Tell the truth in a way that can be verified. Err on the side of disclosure.
- Right Wrongs. Apologize quickly. Make restitution where possible.
- Show loyalty. Give credit freely. Speak about people as if they were present.
- Deliver results. Don’t overpromise and underdeliver. Don’t make excuses.
- Get better. Thank feedback and act on it.
- Confront reality. Take issues head on, even the “undiscussibles.”
- Clarify expectations. Disclose, reveal, discuss, validate, renegotiate if needed, don’t violate, expectations.
- Practice accountability. Take responsibility for results. Be clear on how you’ll communicate.
- Listen first. Don’t assume you know what matters most to others.
- Keep commitments. Make commitments carefully. Don’t break confidences.
- Extend trust. Extend trust abundantly to those who have earned it. Extend trust conditionally to those who are earning it.
Do you want to move up?
Axel Köster, General Manager for the Manhattan Group, recruits executives and managers for premium properties such as the Peninsula, Regent, Hilton and others around the world.
“No matter what the industry,” Axel shares “at the top level of any successful organization you must have someone you can truly trust. If you want to move up in your organization, the most important thing you can do is build a reputation for trustworthiness.”
The bottom line is success in relationships and relationship selling depends on your trustworthiness. And so does the trajectory of your career.
How do we improve trust? By being intentional about it. Make a copy of Covey’s 13 behaviors. Put it in front of you at work. Find a peer who wants to do the same thing. Keep each other accountable. Practice being happy.
Bill Yates, Senior Associate & Partner at the Sports Advisory Group, adds, “Provide solutions to their problems and you’ll be rewarded with trust.”
Continue building trust with colleagues and clients and whether you move up the career ladder or not, at least you’ll be one of the happy ones.
- “Making things happen through challenging goals: Leader proactivity, trust, and business-unit performance,” Crosley, Cooper & Wernsing (2013), Journal of Applied Psychology.
- “The interrelationships of empathy, trust, and conflict and their impact on sales performance,” Plank & Reid (2010), Journal of Marketing Management.
- “Trust your teammates or bosses? Differential effects of trust on transactive memory, job satisfaction, and performance.” Gockel, Robertson & Brauner (2013), Employee Relations.
by Kirk Wakefield – July 2013
Preparation is the key to selling efficiency
Preparation is on anyone’s top 10 list of what makes successful salespeople. Successful preparation is based on asking the customer the right questions.
Knowing the right questions is one thing. But knowing the right answers can lead to more sales and more efficient selling (i.e., close ratios).
A little research
One of our NFL client partners wanted to help their sales staff get a head start in understanding individual suite rental customers in preparation for the upcoming season. In the two weeks after the season ended we collected responses from a sample of 20% of individual decision makers from the previous season’s rental customers. Among other things, we wanted to know the answers to three basic questions and the relationship between these answers and how likely customers would be to buy again and refer others.
Three basic questions
Corporate buyers are likely to be passionate fans, but that’s not the reason they are buying. They are buying because they believe potential clients are passionate league or team fans. So, sure, it helps if they love the team. But in an NFL city, odds are most everyone locally or regionally has at least some affinity for the team. This leads to the first basic question you need answered.
Where does your business come from?
The results show the vast majority use the suite to build relationships with local (71%) and regional (84%) customers. However, those indicating they also have extensive global (37%) and national (68%) markets are significantly more likely to recommend renting suites to others, representing your best promoters and referral sources.
If the premium buyer’s customers are primarily local and regional, promoting the team angle may be useful. But if their customers are more national or global, then we really need to ask what else influences the choice to rent a suite.
What influences which game you’d like to select?
Too many salespeople assume price is the main issue. Don’t start there.
From our sample, almost 1/3 aren’t really concerned about the price. More importantly, concern about the suite rental price had no bearing on whether or not they’d be likely to rent again next season. Statistically speaking, what did?
The most likely return suite rental customers were those who wanted to (1) know who the opposing team was, (2) review the entire schedule when it was released, and/or (3) who were planning a special occasion.
Why are those good answers for you? Because it means they’ve already decided in favor of buying, the question is which game? Greater concern for knowing (a) the kick-off time, (b) day of the game, or (c) the price had no influence one way or the other on likelihood of using a suite the next season.
The upshot is that if you focus efforts on prospects in a true-decision making mode (team, schedule, occasion), your close ratio should be higher.
Compared to other options, how would leasing a suite from us help you win business?
We aren’t the only game in town. Our clients can entertain in other sports & entertainment venues. The heart of this question is what is it about leasing from us that helps meet your objectives?
What we see from our study is it’s not what you think. Most don’t think leasing a suite guarantees closing a business deal.
The big insight is that a suite offers the best chance the invitation will be accepted and won’t fall through. What your clients really want is just to make sure they have a chance to close a deal.
What’s the worst fear when we throw a party? The people we wanted to come don’t show up. It’s been the same since high school; now we’re just playing for different stakes.
A second big insight is predicting who will be our best promoters and source of referrals. The ability to predict a client’s NPS (Net Promoter Score) is highest among those who strongly believe the suite provides the best return on objective (i.e., the chance to sell) and is the best choice for doing so in the market (viz., “differentiator in the customer entertainment universe”).
Premium sales isn’t as simple as asking these three basic questions, but it sure helps. The key is in preparation. Teams like those who commissioned this research know that knowledge is power. Now let’s go get some.
by Deno Anagnost – April 2013
The secret to success with sales events is paying attention to detail and then follow-through, as we discussed in our first article. Now we get down to specifics of how we executed one of our sales events at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Who: We invited 150 of our top premium prospects interested in buying Stadium Club Season Passes or seats in our Legends Suite product. These potential customers were fairly far along in the sales process. Other departments involved were our:
- Events department in setting up and planning the event,
- Creative Services department for designing the email invitation for the event, and our
- Database Marketing department to help us identify the best possible leads to target.
What: This was an exclusive cocktail party for prospects to meet one of our all-time greats and to get a behind the scenes look at our state of the art training facility. The idea is to offer an experience they can’t buy and can’t get anywhere else.
When: The Mike Alstott Cocktail party was held Wednesday March 13th at 6pm-8pm. Wednesdays is the least scheduled night of the week for kids’ sports, so we scheduled it for prospects to attend right after getting off work.
Where: The party was located in the main lobby of One Buccaneer Place, the training facility and headquarters of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The main issue is convenience, but also enough space for ease-of-movement to not feel crowded, but also not too big so guests could feel isolated. We also wanted to make it easy for our sales reps to get around to all the guests.
Why: The purpose for this event was to make it easier to get face to face with key decision makers and show them the type of events they would be a part of in the future once becoming a Stadium Club or Legends Suite Member. Each event is designed to drive revenue, and create a one of a kind experience for our guests.
- Invitations: Personalized attention by first inviting over the phone and then an email invitation to the event so we could fill all of our available space for the event.
- Arrival: Upon arrival guests were personally greeted and invited to enjoy appetizers, beer, wine and soda.
- Entertainment: An acoustic cover band helped transform our lobby into a high end lounge.
- Opening: Director of Sales Ben Milsom thanked the crowd for coming and provided a run down of how the evening would go.
- The Main Event: Mike Alstott took photos and signed autographs with our prospects.
- Selling: During the event we had all hands on deck. Account Executives engaged their prospects further in a sales discussion which involved asking for, and receiving orders for seats face to face at the event.
- The Takeaway: Each guest received a tour of our facility and left with a framed photo taken of them at the event and also received a Buccaneer flag.
Results: From this event we were able to close important sales in a great experiential setting. Guests were in the right frame of mind and our reps were able to listen and share the benefits of membership in the club.
by Ben Milsom – March 2013
“Business is social. So my number one tip for impressing our recruiters is connect and interact with us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter” says Monika Fahlbusch, SVP of Global Employee Success at Salesforce.com.
We have far more advanced tools than ever to find information about anyone. For the right price you can buy software to provide detailed information about anyone you want to meet, including their friends and spouses. I was recently on a phone call with a colleague of mine discussing a potential job candidate. He paused and said, “Let me check their LinkedIn page before calling them.”
There’s no where to hide anymore. You really can’t afford to. Social connectivity can make or break your personal brand, help you get to know your clients or prospects better, and can even get you that dream job. If you’re in sales and service, social media is critical to your success:
“Social media allows for a 360 degree view of the customer with so many more touch points to the customer and interaction it is easier to get a full view of what the customer needs and wants.” ~ Bryan Apgar, Associate Vice President of Sales and Business Development, www.websitealive.com.
People expect you to know more about them than in previous years. With LinkedIn and company websites, one should never ask a prospect, “What do you do? How did you get to this position?” or “Please tell me about your company.”
Let’s get personal
I retrieved this email from my deleted folder. The names have been changed to protect the guilty.
[dropshadowbox align=”center” effect=”lifted-both” width=”650px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Hello Ben,
I hope this email finds you well. I wanted to follow up on an email that was sent to you earlier regarding Clueless.
Clueless is a global leader in support software. Our tool, Clue-On enables you to create, manage and deliver content in multiple formats with one click. I have attached some general information for your review.
I would like to schedule a quick call to chat with you about our product and see if it might benefit you and your organization. Would you be open to discussing this?
Bill is sending hundreds of these emails a day hoping five people will respond. He only personalized by changing my first name. Bill even asked the dreaded open-ended question. If Bill mentioned what I do, some potential challenges I may face, or even searched LinkedIn to find a mutual connection, I would have responded.
With so much information available it only tells me Bill and his company are too clueless or lazy to use it. I doubt I’d ever respond to this company in the future.
” Teams need to do everything within their power to provide outstanding customer service because one bad experience can be exacerbated when released in the digital and social media world.” ~ Jeff Eldersveld, Director of CRM and Analytics, Columbus Blue Jackets
What to do?
In this environment of social connectivity and transparency I recommend:
- Be different. Emails and texts are common, personal touches make a big impact.
- Dig deeper. Know your client or prospect and ask them questions you can’t read in their LinkedIn profile.
- Care about your personal brand. Be sure you are up to date on how you want your brand to be perceived.
by Charles Johnson – February 2013
Make a hundred calls, cover the phones, get a sale, ask for a referral, and work the sales table. I’m tired of making all these calls! Some people are disrespectful! Why can’t people just say “not interested” instead of hanging up? My boss is getting on my nerves! Why am I doing all the work? It seems like all the senior reps do is walk around the venue visiting fans or sitting in suites and talking sports with potential clients. Wow, when do I get to move up?
That is how it can feel to be an Inside Sales rep. It’s an entry level position of continual sales training sessions, crammed next to co-workers, making hundreds of outbound calls to prospects and getting paid pennies compared to senior sales reps. We called our inside sales room, “The Dungeon.” No windows, small cubes, no space to stretch out, and a whiteboard showcasing either remarkable or dreadful sales numbers.
I remember competing with twelve other reps for one or two senior rep positions. Not only were we competing for a promotion, but also commissions. When I received my first commission check, that’s when I knew I wanted to be a sales rep for a pro sports team: $550 bucks. YEAH BUDDY! My mind was made up. I saw my efforts determined my pay check as well as my career path. GAME ON![dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-both” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]Truths of Inside Sales
- If the glamour of sports is what attracts you, buy season tickets.
- A career in sports sales requires internships, networking, extreme work ethic, and proven competitiveness.
- Winners always go above and beyond what is expected.[/dropshadowbox]
How do you break into sports?
The most frequent question I hear is “how do I break into the industry?” I immediately turn skeptical because most people usually think it’s about watching games, connecting with players, and being in a fun and exciting environment. But what they don’t know is I’m in sales. In many ways I am no different than the guy selling insurance or home mortgages. I just get to sell the NBA.
Internships. As a hiring manager the first thing I look for in a candidate is internship experience. Internships show an understanding that the job is difficult and not glamorous. It provides exposure to sales teams and management and allows access to build relationships with managers and others in the industry. I often see hundreds of resumes to only hire 2 to 3 reps. The industry is highly competitive and specific keys are essential to getting in. Network at all cost, attend job fairs, read up on the industry, and pick up the phone and sell yourself.
[dropshadowbox align=”right” effect=”lifted-bottom-right” width=”250px” height=”” background_color=”#ffffff” border_width=”1″ border_color=”#dddddd” ]
“The best piece of advice a professor gave me in college is, “It’s not who you know; it’s who KNOWS you!” Meeting someone is the first step, but maintaining a relationship with them is CRITICAL to your success. These relationships will allow you to stand out among a crowded and competitive pool of people who want to get into the industry. In addition, you’ll get much better advice, innovative ideas, and growth opportunities because of the relationships you have… not because of the business cards you’ve collected.”[/dropshadowbox]
Preparation. The Texas Rangers found my resume on Monster.com, no joke. The Inside Sales Manager for the Rangers at that time had two reps search for candidates on the web. They brought me in for an interview and I met with the Inside Sales Manager and then the VP of Ticket Sales. I’ll never forget the role play with the VP right on the spot: “Okay, Charles sell me something.” Those were his exact words. I was so nervous, but at that moment I remembered my first sales job while at Texas Tech calling alumni for contributions. I used the same pitch again. Ten minutes later they offered me the job.
The typical sport sales career path
The typical career road map consists of three sales positions before moving into the three levels of sales management (manager, director, vice-president).
- Inside Sales: Set a foundation base on work ethic, developing sales skills, and tracking sales performance. Deals are typically discrete transactions for ticket packages.
- Account Executive (season tickets or groups): Manage your customer base, focusing on relationship selling and closing high value deals. Most deals at this level become moderate or complex sales.
- Premium/Suites: Recognized for your achievements, you are now an expert compared to the novice you were when you first stepped into inside sales. All sales are complex with a higher value, as you often sell to corporate accounts.
Generating revenue will lead to a career. Don’t work to reach minimums (i.e., the job description). Go above and beyond. Winners in this business are team players who keep open lines of communication with supervisors and co-workers.
Stay hungry. Stay humble. Stay hustling!