Selling Collegiate Sports: Happy Customers = Sales

About Bryce Killingsworth

Development Associate A&S at Oklahoma State University Foundation

Collegiate ticket sales departments continue to expand. Some hired into these new sales positions have training in professional selling, while others may have worked their ways through college internships into the first open position that suits their aptitudes and attitudes. So, whether we are trained to sell or are just thrown into the fire, it’s always good to examine the fundamentals of adaptive selling–particularly in the collegiate setting. It all starts with creating connections.

Creating connections (prospecting)

sales funnelConsistently creating connections prevents sales slumps. Prospecting fills the funnel to prepare for the future.

In college sports, this aspect seems to be overlooked or at minimum on the bottom of the priority list. Hopefully you have a priority list.

Investing time and energy generating prospects reap the benefits of new business as you build relationships. A few primary ways we prospect at Oklahoma State include: Warm calls (not really cold calls with the data we have), asking for referrals, and networking at our athletic events.

 Analyzing needs (understanding customers)

Understanding customer behavior and preferences will improve customer satisfaction which in turn will increase retention rates. To sell, up-sell and cross-sell to multiple sports, use data to:

  1. identify when a customer places an order,
  2. how they pay,
  3. where they like to sit,
  4. where they are traveling from (residence), and
  5. other data collected that influences ticket purchases.

Consistent–systematic–contact helps inform them of packages and offers and to receive valuable feedback.

Mike Wendling“The more information we have about our consumers the more ‘Surprise and Delight’ opportunities we can orchestrate. These unique touch points show our fans that we care more about them than their check book.” – Mike Wendling, Director of Ticketing Analytics, @WendlingMike
A simple tool our Director of Analytics utilizes to help understand customer needs is by asking a couple of questions when the customer creates an online account with us. For example: Which sports are you interested in? Are you interested in Suite, Club, or Stadium seating? Being creative is imperative at a university as you may be operating with limited funds.

 Addressing customer needs (proposing solutions)

How you address needs can make or break a sale. Remember, you are a problem-solver, there to help make their lives better.

Briefly describe one or more solutions of product, service, or combination of both to offer the customer. Proposing an unknown or unsought, but valuable, solution creates loyal followers. Examples include:

  • jess martin“Customer service is not just a skill set; it’s a culture that is contagious when you hire the right type of people. In today’s competitive world, fans desire to do repeat business with organizations that they trust and are comfortable with. Having a great customer service culture in place gives you a definite competitive advantage at earning and keeping their business.” — Jesse Martin, Senior Associate Athletic Director, Oklahoma State University, @JesseMartinOSU
    payment plans for a young family,
  • aisle seats for a tall person,
  • top row of the section below the concourse for an elder with knee problems,
  • suite for a company who now realizes the benefits of entertaining clients, and
  • placing customers in a seating section (e.g., West end zone area) to avoid the sun.

Discussing benefits

One of the primary benefits of a season ticket holder is social distinction. Season ticket holders enjoy feeling that sense of a community among fans, but also enjoy recognition as a member of an exclusive group. Creating limited discounts and perks among only the season ticket holder community is vital in order to prove it’s more beneficial to pony up for the entire season.

Utilizing data to identify specific types of benefits to engage season ticket holders may be the deciding factor in closing a sale. It could be exclusive access, memorable experiences, or valuable savings that enhance the value of season tickets. If you have the data to know that Bob buys 4 hot-dogs for his family per game, Bob will most likely appreciate a 30% off concessions discount compared to 10% off apparel at the stadium store.

Overcoming objections

real time sales tracking food & beverage merchandise

Real time sales tracking

In overcoming an objection focus on:

  1. empathizing,
  2. transparency, and
  3. appreciation.

Most customer problems can be readily handled if we actively listening and identify the customers concern. Remaining honest, transparent and open goes a long way.

If you think about it, objections come from customers who want your product. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t waste time explaining. If you’re honest about the best you can do with seating, pricing, etc., more times than not the customer will accept your best option–if they trust you.

To retain customers and gain referrals, show appreciation to customers and even former customers. By responding to the drop in business with nothing but respect and understanding, you create a pleasant experience resulting in valued word-of-mouth. Even without the expected ROI, appreciate them because you’re a professional.

Establishing & maintaining relationships

One of the primary reasons a customer intentionally desires a relationship with you is because you have become a treasured resource.

Maintaining a relationship and becoming a resource begins with consistency and reliability:

  1. Return phone calls,
  2. Follow up on a deadline,
  3. Be available at times the customer needs you,
  4. Ask customers for feedback, and
  5. Picking up the phone.

Asking for feedback with a purpose speaks volumes about your commitment to the service you provide, and how you can better the customer experience.

Pick up the phone. Not just to answer an incoming call. Pick up the phone and call your customers.  You’re a robot to them until you provide some personal connection. And it’s difficult to become loyal to a robot…unless your name is Siri.






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