Outbound ticket sales: How to create a sales playbook to maximize sales

About Mark Washo

22 year seasoned sports business veteran. Previous sports experiences with Bison Baseball, Washington Bullets (Wizards), DC United, MetroStarts (Red Bull NY), Chicago Fire Soccer, Washington Freedom WPS, Freedom Sports and Entertainment, FSE College

As NCAA programs continue to adopt more revenue-generating practices, activating an outbound ticket sales program appears simple.  Hire entry level sports management grads, provide a desk, phone, and email address, pull past buyer lists and watch the ticket sales role in. While most understand ticket sales is more complex, how many take ALL key aspects of successful sales into consideration?

Jamie Leavitt“Game day name capture initiatives are one of the best ways for us to connect with fans that have formed a habit of waiting to make a ‘game time decision’ and show them the benefits of reserving their seats in advance as opposed to walking up and buying a ticket at the game. We also find that database collection efforts at community events and local sports bars are a key component in creating new relationships with local businesses and organizations.” – Jamie Levitt, Manager of Ticket Sales at Western Kentucky University

The first step to a successful program is commitment

To maximize revenue, the organization must commit to outbound sales over a full calendar year, not month to month or short term (3 to 5 months). After committing to a 12 months sales staffing plan, with a year round sales focus, you are ready to make your ticket sales plan,  your playbook for success.

Create a sales plan or “Playbook” that includes:

  1. The past: Review past season ticket sales reports to look for strengths to build on and opportunities to improve.
  2. The future: Goals setting; annual, monthly, sales rep goals and quotas. Set realistic yet aggressive minimum expectations for your sales professionals, including minimum sales activity expectations and sales targets. Continually track progress towards the goals.
  3. Develop a 12 month ticket sales timeline:  The timeline should include “early bird new and renewal campaigns” while existing playing seasons are happening to capitalize on fan excitement and interest while they are still engaged.  Waiting until after the playing seasons are over to begin new sales & renewals for that sport is not as effective at maximizing ticket sales revenue as renewing and selling new tickets during the season.
  4. Recruit top talent: Don’t cut corners during the recruiting process.  Activate a multiple step process, including a sales role-play interview step to help recruit the strongest candidates.
  5. Hire enough talent: Hire the appropriate number of sales staff based on revenue goals; creating realistic revenue expectations will help you draw conclusions on appropriate # of ticket sales executives to hire.
  6. Create motivating compensation plans with commission and bonus opportunities: Compensation models should provide incentives to sell, which aid in recruiting and retaining top talent.
    tom phelpsFailure to prepare is preparing to fail ~John Wooden          “It is vital to have a game plan for your sales approach just like a coach has a game plan to execute on the field. The key is to have an attack plan for sales prepared once a schedule is made available. Often certain groups dictate the time of year they can attend an outing. For example school base programs, scouts, and ROTC’s need a two month leeway into a school year to plan an activity. An outline will help a sales person know exactly where they stand and what needs to be accomplished at any point of the year. Also, it is a quick and easy way to keep superiors up to date on what a sales representative is currently working on and how they are planning to make the next event a success. — Tom Phelps, Naval Academy
  7. Commit to data base building: Invest in CRM to cultivate leads and grow your data base.  Newer web based models provide 24 hour remote access.
  8. Analyze your pricing strategy:  Based on analytics that consider situational factors, increase the average ticket price with price integrity for single game pricing. Add incentives to encourage season ticket and advance purchase.  Analyze your ticket sales customers buying habits and patterns to guide pricing.
  9. Create season ticket benefits: Find creative low cost ways to provide season ticket benefits (e.g., with corporate partners) to provide added value beyond discounts (i.e., experiences).
  10. Create flexible ticketing packages: Explore options such as vouchers or “pick me plans.”
  11. Develop a group sales pricing strategy: Reward groups with appropriate benefits that include group leader incentives to motivate purchase.
  12. Commit to consistent ticket sales training:  Just like in well-run corporations, sales training must be consistent and on-going.
  13. Promote the promotion: Encourage cross-departmental integration that support ticket sales initiatives with “buy in” from other departments; gain support from marketing/PR/social media and operations.
  14. Create a positive sales culture: Create visible team-wide goals where everyone is committed to revenue generation.  Include motivating reps through sales incentives and contests.
  15. Develop a renewal and retention strategy: Explore ways to activate proactive retention efforts and develop strong customer service, with multiple “touch points” throughout the season.
  16. Ticket Operations: Don’t forget to recruit professional and dedicated ticket operations talent.  Sound ticket operations is needed to support any proactive sales effort. 

It’s important to take as comprehensive as an approach as possible to selling tickets.  Find ways to activate all of the key elements, you will be in a great position to maximize ticket sales revenue!

“It’s always interesting to me, that all of us who work in professional or collegiate sports are exposed to elite athletes who we see practice & train every day, in order to stay at the top of their game. Therefore, it’s surprising that most ticket sales teams don’t commit to consistent sales and role play training. The most successful sales teams in sports (pro or college), have a dedicated commitment to consistent sales training, which includes sales role play, bringing in outside sales trainers and taking advantage of free sales content on social media such as this Baylor sportsbiz article.” ~ Brett Zalaski

Ball State Full House

Ball State Full House

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