With all the excitement surrounding professional sports, it’s no shock that pro sports organizations usually attract highly talented and motivated sales teams. However, it is often surprising to learn that even the best in the industry have challenges moving from B2C selling (e.g. tickets sold direct to fans) to B2B selling (e.g. luxury suites and sponsorships sold to corporations).
One of the main reasons that making the switch to B2B sales is so difficult is that it tends to be more complex than B2C sales. When selling to organizations, there are more people involved in the decision-making process and additional factors to weigh. Rather than making the decision on pure emotional impact, buyers consider whether they will have enough visibility and wonder how they will measure ROI.
Another major component of the challenge is that we are currently operating in a time of rapid business disruption, marked by constant change. Cisco’s Global Center for Business Transformation recently released a research study, in which they surveyed 941 business leaders around the world in 12 industries. According to the results, four of today’s top-ten market-share leaders in their category will be displaced by digital disruption in the next five years.
B2B and B2C are two fundamentally different types of sales, requiring completely different skill sets.
The threat extends not only to big corporations, but also to professional sports organizations. In this volatile environment, salespeople need to find ways to help buyers cope with constant change.
For all salespeople, B2C and B2B, this era is full of starts and stops in communication with prospects and customers. With 24/7 internet connectivity, most buyers have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Not only does every company have a website to present what it wants the world to know about its products, there is also a ton of external information available on Google, Wikipedia, and a host of social media sites to help fill in the gaps. As a result, buyers can quickly form opinions and make decisions faster than ever before.
Consequently, the way that we sell needs to change. In the environment of business disruption, what sufficed as a sales best practice ten years ago, or even five years ago, no longer applies.
Six Steps to Success
With the right processes in place for hiring, assessing skills, training, and coaching, professional sports organizations can be successful in both B2C and B2B sales, paving the way for developing a brand that attracts premium customers. Here are six recommended best practices in B2B sales to build a successful internal sales team in professional sports.
Hire the right people. It's harder to go from B2C to B2B than from B2B to B2C in selling. Most sports organizations spend 80% of their time on transactional B2C sales, then ask the same salespeople to handle B2B sales as well, pressuring their salespeople to do something difficult where skill sets don't match up. The two types of sales are fundamentally different. And they require completely different skill sets.
PRSPX partnered with a team of industrial and organizational psychologists to create an in-depth series of assessments designed to surface the strengths and skills of sales team members, based on the answers to 288 questions. Using these assessments, specific job descriptions are matched to the profiles of job candidates to determine the best fit.
Bad data can end up costing your organization up to 10% of its annual revenue, due to wasted time.
Keep data clean. According to Gartner, corporate data is growing 40% year-over-year. While that information is valuable, it has an expiration date. Recent studies from the USPS show that data goes bad at a rate of 1% weekly. Salesforce.com says that the average sales rep spends 30% of his or her time searching for the right data. To compound the issue, 20% of corporate email marketing does not end up reaching its desired inbox.
In total, bad data can end up costing organizations up to 10% of its annual revenue, due to wasted time. Better data yields more predictable results and requires less labor-intensive prospecting. Never rely on only one source for data. Make sure to pull from multiple sources and have salespeople verify it as they go.
Create affinity and build rapport. Most competent salespeople have strong people skills, but B2B sales require a more complex type of rapport-building. To be truly effective, B2B salespeople need to quickly connect and take the temperature of what their prospects already know, and then build rapport so that buyers are comfortable sharing details about their current situations. Encouraging prospective clients to be candid about their business needs requires B2B salespeople to have a higher level of understanding about those businesses.
But at the end of the day, it is about human-to-human interaction. By listening and establishing a strong rapport, salespeople can find out more about what’s currently missing, and then add true value to the process. By understanding the opportunity and filling the gap, salespeople create buyers versus trying to sell.
Improving a digital presence helps teams educate prospective buyers, generate leads, and convert customers, rather than always having to go find them. Rather than just listing amenities on a website, show prospects why they should invest in premium seating, and how it will help to build their brand.
A digital presence helps teams educate prospective buyers, generate leads, and convert customers, rather than always having to go find them. Rather than just listing amenities on a website, show prospects why they should invest in premium seating, and how it will help to build their brand.
Prepare to adapt. To survive and thrive in an agile business environment, B2B salespeople need to go beyond asking questions to provide fast, tailored solutions on the fly. This type of adaptive selling is key to success going forward.
All buyers want to feel that their problem is unique, and their solution is special. The most effective B2B sales solutions are (or at least feel like they are) highly customized. These days, buyers are looking for “just in time”” solutions that are highly tuned to their particular needs, just like Fitbit is tailored to each user right off the shelf.
Track results on a weekly basis. No one loves reporting, but without metrics, there is no good way to know where salespeople are with respect to their goals, or any way to identify and resolve potential issues before they become huge problems. Trying to sell without analytics is like trying to ski downhill with a blindfold on. Sales leaders need the right information to quickly and easily monitor performance, presented in a format that allows the raw data to be made actionable.
That said, sales managers spend too much time measuring just dials, which is one small variable. The more we measure dials, the more salespeople think their job is as a telemarketer. We need to make sure to measure pipelines three to five times the goal.
The most important result to track is the number of appointments. The strongest qualifier for B2B is if a prospect is willing to meet with us. The hardest part of the B2B sale is getting someone to take time off his or her calendar.
Offer the right kind of training. The key to training people is not knowing something different, but doing something different. We’ve found that more content is not necessarily better, so keep materials streamlined and tailored to specific needs. Predictable processes lead to predictable results, so keep processes simple and repeatable to minimize confusion.
When it comes to methodologies, salespeople need time to learn, practice, apply, and adapt the knowledge to their own style and methods. We have seen this method consistently produce long-term positive results.