How to Both Care for and Sell to Sports Ticket Buyers

A cynical view of the sales profession is earned by reinforcing bad practices that don’t attract willing buyers, but instead, push them away. Learn to first show empathy for clients’ needs to concurrently close more sales.

Why does sales have a negative connotation? Why do we almost never see kids say they dream of being a salesperson when they get older? Why do sports management seniors often tell us, “I’ll start in sales, but I really want any other job”?

Google Image word clouds of the word “sales”. I’ll wait. Each one is filled with words like pushy, sleazy, risk, opportunity, target, profit, marketing, results, analytics, etc. etc. etc. It’s such a disservice to what our profession actually is.

Our job is to serve our customers. It’s to be a resource for people to navigate the cavalcade of ticket products we throw at them. Simply put, our job is to help people do something they already want to do (go to sporting events) more frequently with more people they care about…and save them some money in the process. That’s it. Plain and simple.

We dehumanize this process and play into the stereotypes from the start. We force reps to make at least 65 calls a day. We track hustle metrics. We teach them negotiation and persuasion skills. We teach them why it’s bad for us if a client takes a few days to make a decision. We teach them to close at any cost. We pay them almost solely with the scalps they take.

We then observe reps who loathe calling ticket buyers or companies. We see them become mechanized robots repeating the same sales pitch over… and over… and over again. We see high turnover. Then we see our fans start to push away in the process. Our sales team is literally driving our fans away.

I had a friend who sold Cutco knives door-to-door. Literally every day, Chris would knock on 100-200 doors and face rejection after rejection after rejection solely in the hope that one of the doors he knocked on needed a decent set of knives. Now imagine if there was a “People Who Needs Knives” call list given to Chris. How incredible would he treat these people? He would treat them, in his words, “like absolute gold.”

That list is a myth in the universe of Cutco sales. It doesn’t exist. That list is very real in sports sales. It’s our ticket buyer list. And instead of treating it like gold, we stampede over it every day. Thousands of calls are made to real, genuine fans of our teams every day with the intent of selling through them… not serving them. Our reps ask four or five questions before they steamroll them with all the available options instead of genuinely learning and caring about the other person on the phone. And we push our fans away instead of drawing them closer.

So what should we do? LOVE OUR FANS. How about opening a call with, “Thank you so much for coming out in the past. It’s a real privilege to serve the incredible fans of our team”? How about asking them questions like “Why was it important to go to the game with your father?” or “What is it about our sport that gets you to the games?”

Why not embrace the negativity and ask people things like “What’s kept you away?” or “What’s a part of the experience you would like to fix?” What if we told them our goal was to “allow you to spend more time in this incredible environment with the people you care about and save you some money in the process”? What if, instead of dialing for dollars, we called to be a resource to our amazing fans?

Sales managers and sales reps make the decision to dehumanize our fans every day, and in the process, they play into every stereotype of a salesperson. They’re pushy. They’re cold and calculated. They’re opportunists.

We can be better than that. Our fans deserve better than that. So let’s teach our sales reps how to embrace our fans and help position them as a resource… not a nuisance.

Brett Zalaski is the Founder of Empowerment of a Salesperson and Co-Moderator for ALSD’s Sports Sales Training Forum.

REGISTER TODAY for ALSD 2019, where attendees will dive deeper into this topic and many others with Brett during the Sports Sales Training Forum, a one-day program delivering more effective, revenue-generating sports sales professionals.