In 2009 I was asked to make a presentation to a group of team owners explaining the reasons that any business owner or CEO would want to spend money with a minor-professional sports team. I was excited to do this because for several years my sales teams had been refining this strategy and we had based our successes on identifying ‘The Four Reasons’.
There is no question that minor league sports sales is a tough business. We don’t have the superstar to hang our hat on and in many markets we’re much lower on the sports entertainment totem pole than we would like to be. We can mitigate some of these challenges simply by improving our strategies.
The goal of any decent sales representative is to fill a void that the customer is experiencing. We ask our open-ended questions to find out where the decision maker feels their business is in need of a boost. In some cases we may even help them realize that there are areas of their business that are deficient.
After having had the opportunity to review and analyze thousands of sales calls, we have found four areas that nearly all of these decision makers have centered their focus. Not coincidentally our inventory can also be categorized similarly making it simple to match our products to their needs. This means that if you understand the client properly you can effectively merge customer assessment, product knowledge and package building which will make the ever-dreaded closing step an easy one.
Reason 1. Marketing: The goal of the business is to increase brand awareness, promote a specific product or simply drive traffic. This is the most common objective of any retail or consumer product business with whom you might be meeting.
Reason 2. Sales development: Any good sales manager will tell you that retaining a customer is several times less expensive and time consuming than finding a new one. In many businesses, time spent on client relationships exceeds all other sales activities and great weight is spent on relationship building outside of the confines of an office. Getting to know their families, creating trust and building consumer loyalty is an area where many sales managers, especially those selling business-to-business, place a lot of focus.
Reason 3. Employee appreciation: Since the dawn of time companies have been going to great lengths to reduce turnover rates and subsequently lower the expense, time and trouble that comes with positional transition. Employee incentive programs may be tied to workplace safety, attendance or any number of other factors that a company may identify to stimulate employee morale.
Reason 4. Community support: This is the area where many sports sales executives fail to take full advantage. Most CEOs place great importance on making their city into a better place to work and live. We should know going into the meeting if the decision maker is on the board of directors for any non-profits or maybe their company has adopted a social improvement initiative such as literacy, green living or anti-bullying. They may also take it in another direction by simply seeing the team as an asset to the community and supporting the team’s efforts with an investment. There is even legislation in various states that requires industry specific companies to fulfill “community reinvestment” requirements. This makes it important for a team to have a non-profit arm and understand the importance of cause marketing.
We encourage all good minor pro sports sales representatives to develop their own set of open-ended questions to address each of these four areas. Once you’ve created your basic questions sit down with your colleagues in your next sales staff meeting and come up with a subset of questions. Remember to keep your mouth shut and let the client talk about the thing they love, their business. Then, because you were attentive, you should be able to creatively product match and have a great chance to gain a new client.
On a side note, this should remind us of the importance of meeting with the “top local executive”. Most department heads will place emphasis on only one of these areas. A CEO however will understand the importance of each of them and will even know how they all can be intertwined. Your chances for success increase several times simply by meeting with the business owner or CEO as opposed to a department director or VP.
TAGS: Sales, Training, Management, Marketing, Sports, Hockey, Basketball, Baseball, Football, Minor League, Consultative, Strategy
Bill Yates is a former pro sports executive who is now the Principal Partner at Splash Management an event management and marketing firm in Fort Worth, Texas. Yatesie’s blog includes his view on a variety of topics.
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