Premium Seating Has Changed Over 30 Years. Why Hasn’t Your Sales Strategy Changed with It?

Instead of selling employee appreciation and client entertainment, rephrase suites as second offices and open up multiple products to clients in order to close more deals and align with the recent tax law changes.

Most of the emails I get in my inbox from premium sales reps relate to their clients not seeing returns on their investments. That’s a problem, obviously. If they don’t see the value, then why should they continue to do business with us? Fortunately, this problem is one we can fix.

In looking at our premium areas, the first things we tend to say revolve around using them for employee appreciation and client entertainment. At this point, we are selling them on our product. We are using generic phrases from the 1980's and 1990's when sports and events were the big guys in town, and selling premium space was much easier. Stadiums, ballparks, and arenas continued adding hospitality areas, and they had no problem filling them. Enter 2019.

Hospitality areas are redesigned, the number of suites is lessened, and yet, we still say they are for “employee appreciation and client entertainment”. How can clients measure employee appreciation and client entertainment other than how many times they did it? Meanwhile, we give them no education on the ways premium seats can be used, how they can track success, and how we can help them. We are Einstein’s definition of insanity in that respect.

What should sales reps do?

Let’s look at what we are really selling, what the needs of a company in today’s world really are, and how we phrase the sale and educate the company. As one rep said this past week in training, “I am starting to realize that it’s not what I’m selling, it’s how I’ve been saying it that hasn’t resonated well with companies.”

So how can we get better at selling our prime real estate?

What are we selling?

Are premium sales reps just selling a suite at a sports facility? A climate-controlled, all-inclusive prime seating area? Let’s put our realtor’s hat on for a minute and view it in a different light.

How about instead of a suite, what we are selling is:

“A 500-square-foot, high-end, prestigious second office across town that comes with a comfortable loveseat, oversized chairs, high-top chairs, a bar area, a stocked refrigerator, dishes, silverware, etc. just like an upscale apartment. A caterer is at your fingertips. The room is light and airy, with a wall of windows overlooking the most amazing backdrop. Using it year-round enables your sales reps to have a consistent place to entertain, do business, and create new business.”

The important thing is to recognize we are not selling a suite. We are selling our premium real estate, and it should be viewed and described as such.

What are the needs of a company in today’s world?

Companies aren’t entertaining current clients as much as they used to. They realize touch points are important, but they do so in other ways: emails, videos, gifts, etc. Less is done in entertaining. But what they are putting their marketing dollars into is prospecting. Companies are looking for more business, and we can help them find it.

What else are they in need of? Less structure when prospecting? More variety in their spending? It’s crucial to find out the specifics in order to word the message effectively and how we see the suite best used. It’s important to remember that our prime real estate can evolve into different uses based on needs, just as that extra room in a house can be a storage room, an office, a craft room, a playroom, etc. The room becomes what we need.

How do we phrase the sale and educate buyers?

If we are simply restating what we’ve said for the past 30-plus years (client entertainment and employee recognition), it’s no wonder we are getting glazed looks. How can we word it based on needs? What if our prospect is an hour or two away from our facility, yet does business in our town? Again, why don’t we suggest the following:

“Our suites can be utilized as your second office across town. They are a comfortable yet luxury setting that has the most amazing backdrop where your sales reps can conduct business in and out of season. Your second office can also be used for team meetings, board meetings, brainstorming sessions, holiday parties, employee celebrations, etc. You pay only the rent. No heat, electricity, water, taxes, etc. We take care of all that for you. With an in-house caterer, you can have food at your fingertips. Parking is on-site, and your landlord is seconds away, should you need us.”

Doesn’t that approach describe and educate on usage in a most descriptive way?

If the client wants options, why can’t we create those premium options?

Why do we lock clients into only one thing at a time – suites, hospitality areas, premium clubs, etc.? Why can’t we offer multiple things throughout the year, in which clients can use our options based on needs/availability?

For instance, there may be times during the season when hospitality with others is right for the client's prospects and reps. At other times, they may want to take their clients to an upscale bar setting, which would be our premium club areas. When it gets down to doing business, they may want our suites. Why can’t we customize packages with an allotment of each option, thus giving them a more inclusive experience? Conversations for this strategy could sound something like this:

“As you begin to prospect new business, picture your reps and prospects in a more open, inclusive hospitality area with high energy and excitement. As you build that excitement and get to know the prospect better, more conversations can be had in a quieter, more exclusive setting in our premium club. To close a sale, bringing the prospect and their guest(s) together with your rep and some great current clients in a suite gives them the opportunity to discuss particulars while feeling valued and respected.”

How does the new tax law affect us?

The new law tells us we can’t deduct entertainment, but if food and beverages are billed/sold separate from the tickets, we can deduct those expenses. With this clarity, we should stop all-inclusive options and bill food and beverage separately. These legislative changes also reinforce that we should utilize our prime real estate (suites) for more than entertainment, and instead as a true second office for businesses.

Why can’t we have suites in use both in season and out, off days and game days? Why can’t we separate the food portion from the meeting portion? Why can’t we encourage businesses to have meetings before games to truly use suites as second offices? Our suites sit empty in the offseason, and often intentionally to save on heat or air conditioning. However, if suites are honestly used as second offices, the investment is justified as more than entertainment and remains a legitimate tax benefit. It also gives businesses that are one or two hours away an opportunity to have an “office” in our area, and it happens to be at a unique location. With so many companies renovating buildings and renting out small office spaces, why aren’t we doing the same?

To sell, especially to sell our most prestigious areas, takes persuasive influencing, and we best do that by enabling clients to see the many uses, describing our prime real estate in prime real estate terms, and educating buyers on how to best use the product. Remember, we are the specialists in our field, and specialists will describe, explain, and educate, then recommend what to do. Why should we be doing anything less?

Kathy Burrows is the President and Owner of Sold Out Seating.