There are many different types of groups out there…knitting groups, beer drinking groups, athletic groups, bird watching groups, etc. According to the definition, any time 2 or more assemble, that is considered a group. Your own sales team is a group…a group of people committed to bringing entertainment to individuals and businesses for the purpose of relaxation, enjoyment, and the development of new relationships.
When we look to the entertainment industry, specifically sports, what do groups do? Where does season fit in? What are we striving to accomplish? I worked one off season with a minor league baseball team who had committed their people when they first opened to season tickets for a five year contract. Well, that certainly looked good in writing. And for 5 years they kept a very strong base…they only had 1000 tickets per game to have for the general public, groups, etc. Sound like a salesman’s dream? Sure…but also a nightmare. 5 years came and went, and the philosophy didn’t hold. They went to renew season tickets and what happened? The novelty and newness wore off. No one wanted 5 years…or 2 years. Most didn’t even want one year. So what did the club do? Did they rethink their season plan? Did they rethink the value of their tickets and benefits? Did they rethink their game plans? No. Instead of looking to balance, they accepted the less than 10% that renewed and shifted the entire focus to group sales. The first year, group sales were very strong, keeping the ballpark filled to 2/3 capacity. Again, the novelty and the newness. But then you find the groups that say “we did that last year, we want to do something different this year.” So what happened to the ballclub? They are struggling this year to find any type of base. More importantly, their sales staff is like a loose cannon, not knowing where to fire first. Confusion reigns.
The key is balance and vision. With balance and vision, any club can be successful. First and foremost you need a visionary. Someone who can look, not just to the end of this year or into next, but 5-8 years down the road. Someone who is continually thinking strategically into the future. With this vision, comes balance. Kind of like the martial arts expert who stands on one foot, perched, balanced and ready to face the future.
Think through what the vision is for your staff through this year, into next year and the next and the next. What is it you are ultimately going after? I have always found that if my staff shared, understood, and were part of the planning of this vision, they were more focused and ready to go after whatever it took to achieve it. I know part of your goal is to increase sales, primarily in season. And there is no question that that aspect is crucial. You have to have the base in order to be successful. But the whole concept of season is undergoing a change, so that will be another article.
For now, don’t throw away the concept of the group. If you really build a customer based relationship and not just sell for the moment, any sale is time consuming. Any sale should have customer appreciation and follow up. And did you ever stop to think, that if you marketed that group of 50 – 100 – 500 – whatever size, you have all new leads for season packages? I was never without leads in my quest for sales. If I wasn’t at the library paying my $32 overdue fines, then I was marketing what we had. I sold tickets to my group leader, but then I asked my group leader to submit to me the day of the game a list of all names/addresses of people attending. I gave away a simple gift package to the “group member of the game” which ultimately became part of our philosophy and became a larger gift package so other sales reps could take hold of new leads. Nowadays, starting a twitter account and having your group members join it for prizes will bring you the leads you need.
In going over my sales each year, I found that ½ of all my new season package sales came from group members. The calls were so simple, as you began each call asking how they enjoyed the game they were at. If you’re thinking about commission, you’ve just earned it twice! Once as a group, the second for the season! If you’re thinking about time, look at the time you are saving trying to find new leads. (Side note: never sell a group and then walk away. Call the group leader 3 weeks, 2 weeks and one week before the game to see how plans are going and ask if they need help. Visit them the day of the game. The day after the game, call them to see what they liked, how we could improve, etc. See if they want to bring another group of some type down. Most importantly, send them a hand written thank you note. I always had my salespeople well versed in pre game and post game follow up, and we consistently sold well each year in group sales. Customer based selling just switching over to the group philosophy!)
The next reason for balance with groups is this: until you are sold out every game, we, as salespeople, need to do whatever it takes to fill those seats and generate revenue. Groups pick up where season left off. You sell a group of 30. That’s 30 more people generating revenue to your team, buying merchandise, food, etc. Each of you sells a group of 50 each night, and that’s more than 500 each night generating additional revenue. EVERY sale is important. A well rounded sales person realizes this. Balance.
Lastly, the group sale brings grass roots marketing. Bring them out. Make sure they have a good time. Talk to them prior and after the game to make sure they enjoyed themselves. And what do you have? They are Ambassadors for the club. You have referrals. You have people saying what a great time they had and why don’t so and so get a group together. You have people working for you.
I have always found that my favorite sale was the group sale. Why? Because I got so much more out of it than I think the group member ever did. I got more sales, more referrals, more ideas for groups, generated more revenue for the club and had more people working for me to bring in more sales!
So what we need as a team right now is balance: we need to be on pace for keeping our season goal, and yet we each need to be contributing to the group goal. What? You say you can’t fit it into your day? Hold on…when are the two worst times to call for season tickets? Generally, Monday mornings (everyone’s got meetings planned and charting their week) and Friday afternoons (does anyone other than us work on Friday afternoons?) So, pick your “lag time” – the times when you find you can’t get the decision makers for season tickets and you find it most difficult to call. Switch those times to group times, and capitalize on your day. Or utilize your power hours…one in the morning for season; one in the afternoon for group. THAT’S how you will achieve balance in sales and balance in your day. THAT’S how you’ll make the commissions you want! It’s money all there waiting for you. It’s the balance that will make it happen.
Kathy Burrows, Sold Out Seating
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