To Sell or Not to Sell: That Is the Question

It is not currently business as usual in the sports world. If businesses aren’t waiting around to take our calls, or are not even open, what can sales professionals do right now to serve their clients and prepare for the future.

The call came in from a distraught sales rep. “SELL!” their owner kept telling them. “If you want your job, you will close deals. Businesses are open, even if they shouldn’t be. They are waiting for your call.”

If I had a nickel for every call/email I’ve been getting from reps saying something similar, I’d be sitting on a beach drinking Mai Tai’s right now.

But sitting on a beach I am not. And facing the most unthinkable problem to ever hit sports and entertainment consumes my day. Of all the questions, calls, and emails I get, this one disturbs me the most.

Let’s face it. These are NOT usual times. Businesses are not hanging by the phone just waiting for us to sell them something. They are hanging by their TV’s to see if they will still be open, or when they might be able to reopen. Businesses that are open have workers who are focused, exhausted, and trying to provide a necessary service. Everyone is experiencing some level of stress, and we want to do business as usual?

Now more than ever, customer service is front and center. Customers expect good service. They expect we will fulfill a need, be it a business needing help entertaining clients, providing a party for a client, or fundraising for a group. They expect we will act a certain way, confident we will provide a great experience and all is well.

What we forget is people buy emotionally and justify it logically later. That emotion is what brings a sale to fruition. So why, at a time like this, do we focus on transactional things instead of emotional things? What are the things we should be doing in times like this?

Instead of selling, we should be listening. We should be strengthening those bonds with our clients and our prospects. It’s not about the sale. It’s about caring. Sports brings normalcy to a world. When sports are suspended, that normalcy is shattered. People are frightened. They want to talk. They want us to listen. That is comfort. That is building a strong bond.

We should be working on a strategy now that will have a positive impact for the future. Everything we do right now as Plan A should have Plan B for what impact this original strategy can have for the future. Utilizing our sponsors to create some educational pieces with us can replace our game day yet help them now, and in the long term, create the new way we sell Education Day. If we bring our foodservice partners in to do some videos on 30-minute meals on a shoestring, what impact can they have in the future? What about a sales package that includes cooking classes?

We should be prospecting. This is the time we can prospect, research, find our conversation starters, qualify, and be prepared to hit the ground running when it is the right time to sell. Gathering 40 new prospects a day over ten days or so will enable us to bounce back with success.

We should be creating our plan for return and for cancelled games. These events should never be treated as rainouts, as the circumstances are so unique. Whatever strategy we create should include value adds for people staying with us. We care.

We should keep people connected. Whether it’s season ticket holders or premium buyers, people want to feel connected during these times. How can you best do that? A virtual networking event? A workshop on lawn care from your operations people? Some teams are doing virtual games complete with sponsorship. What happens when you start engaging them? More want to join in. People who we don’t normally have. Use these times as informative, entertaining, and enlightening since so many schools are out and people are working from home.

We should be redesigning how we work with nonprofits. More than ever, they need our help now. And redesigning how we help them make money is crucial. Bundling packages with unique opportunities and selling at a base plus donation price can enable our nonprofits to make $500 for each seat sold. And this is something we can be selling now to the public, as it enables everyone trying to help.

We should be preparing for a future in sports we’ve not seen before. For the past three years, I’ve been helping teams prepare for 2020 and beyond. Yet change has been hard. What is happening now? We are videoing our teammates and clients. We are considering giving an option of un-played games being rolled over into deposits for the next season. We are offering the most unique opportunities, such as sponsors engaging our education programs, our foodservice offering tips on what to cook on a shoestring, season plans that are all vouchers. Out of the most challenging of times, we start to think differently. We start to think, “If this can work now, then…” Sports as a whole will evolve from this situation, and now is the time we can best be creative and find ourselves creating opportunities never heard of before in sports world.

In July when hopefully this situation has passed, will we be able to say we used our time to fulfill our mission statement? Or did we use our time to scare away our customers? Did we strengthen relationships? Or did we alienate? Did we work with the nonprofits that needed us? Or did we focus strictly on what we’ve always done? Did we challenge ourselves to think differently and pave the way for our future? Or did we resign ourselves to doing the same thing and hoping for different results?

Without question, this is a challenging time in our world. How we choose to rise to it will determine the future of our organization. Choose wisely.

How are you rising to the occasion?
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