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Volume 23 No. 24
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Have your sales techniques and approaches evolved for the world of 2020?

During my consulting visits and interactions with salespeople on social media, I am often surprised that some of the sales techniques — with the exception of an increase in analytics — have not evolved significantly since I began working in professional sports more than 20 years ago. In this column, my intent is to provide some simple suggestions that will increase productivity and are more in line with the entry-level sales talent being employed upon college graduation.

1. The phone. First of all, making 100 calls per day (the gold standard) is questionable in the world we live in. Caller ID, call blocking of telemarketers and the reluctance of people to answer a call from a number they don’t recognize all combine to suggest there are better ways of making contact with prospects. Remember the AIDA formula — Awareness, Interest, Desire, Action — should really be AAIDA with the first A standing for Attention, because nothing can occur unless you have the attention of the prospect.

In a related issue, making calls from a landline seems very dated. Equipping the sales team with cellphones is essential and not a luxury. The ability to create and share videos that show opportunities rather than trying to describe them over the phone is a better way to paint an accurate picture and create interest. If you are selling an experience, shouldn’t you show that experience if you have the ability to do so? Create videos showing the inventory and the opportunity but also show people enjoying themselves at the event.

Text, don’t call. Young sellers are more fluent in texting than in conversation and it comes easily to them. Also, while you may not respond to a voicemail, you will always check a text, which could also include the previously mentioned video.

Most people agree that a face-to-face meeting or a trial sampling of attending the event are the most desirable outcomes, as personal interaction and experience has a higher probability of leading to a sale. Therefore, whatever can be used to create that opportunity should be employed.

The Phoenix Suns are thinking beyond the phone in promoting game-day atmosphere as part of sales efforts across social media.
The Phoenix Suns are thinking beyond the phone in promoting game-day atmosphere as part of sales efforts across social media.
The Phoenix Suns are thinking beyond the phone in promoting game-day atmosphere as part of sales efforts across social media.

2. Four Cokes, 4 hot dogs and 4 tickets: FAMILY value packs. The term “family” in this promotion doesn’t fit contemporary times. I cannot believe that in this enlightened time of celebrating diversity and multiculturalism that we use an approach that screams the 1960s. In 2018, the average family size was 3.1 people. Why not adopt the “Modern Family Plan” (Aspire has implemented this) where the value plan still exists, but it is based upon a per-person cost? Remember, an effective promotion of this type needs to be inclusive.

3. The sales cubicle of 2019 is a cellphone and a car. This is particularly true for group sellers. Understanding the social and business needs of prospective group clients is essential to making a meaningful proposal. Scouts have meetings, Little Leaguers play games and schools have PTA groups and other influencers who might be interested in a meaningful field trip or having their athletic teams play a game on a professional court, field or rink. A successful group seller will be out visiting and developing an understanding of how certain promotional opportunities or performances might be the best incentives. This is a level of learning and understanding that will not usually manifest itself through a phone call, but more likely will emerge after a visit that helps to build a relationship. A seller needs to be nimble and mobile to sell in 2020 and beyond — being proactive and not waiting for a return phone call.

4. When does the sale end? This observation comes from my own personal experience. When a sale is made, the prospect and the seller agree upon a seating location that, at the time, is a good fit for the needs of the prospect. As an owner of multiple ticket plans throughout the country, I can assure you that is not always the case. I always requested aisle seats when I bought a ticket plan, thinking I would have some room to stretch my legs. What I didn’t understand was the number of times I would need to stand up to let others leave/return to their seats during the game. I would then wait for seat relocation at the end of the season and request to be moved.

If we adopt the philosophy that lifetime value and longevity is the desired outcome, and that the sales process is fluid and ongoing, there are more timely and effective ways to ensure that the customer is truly satisfied. For example, depending on inventory, a new buyer can sit in his/her seats for the first two games and then be upgraded to a better location that doesn’t dramatically alter the agreed-upon financial commitment for the third game. The seller can then follow up after the game and see if the ticket owner would like to relocate for the remainder of the games in their plan. Remember, not every customer has a solid understanding of all of the available inventory at the time of the purchase.

These are not drastic changes, but they will have an impact upon sales and upon the workforce.

Bill Sutton ( is director emeritus of the Vinik Graduate Sport Business Program at USF, dean of Elevate Academy and principal of Bill Sutton & Associates. Follow him on Twitter @Sutton_ImpactU.

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