Survey Says…

  • Survey Says...

In June, salespeople and luxury suite holders from an NHL team took part in an in-depth survey to uncover what products customers want to buy and how to most effectively sell premium packages.


Peter Titlebaum, Ed.D., University of Dayton

James Blair III, MBA, University of Dayton

Matthew T. Brown, University of South Carolina                                                                                                        

Ronald Dick, Ed.D., Duquesne University


In the current economy and global marketplace, there is more competition than ever for businesses to earn and retain sales from customers in each of their respective industries. In many instances, companies are turning to the customers to see what they prefer with current product offerings. They are also listening to customers to create new innovations within their company to provide a competitive advantage in their marketplace.

The North American sports industry is not immune to the increased competition, particularly in luxury suite sales for stadiums, arenas, and ballparks. Sports teams also need to realize that by listening to the voice of the customer, they can increase sales, improve client relationships, add to current product offerings, create new, innovative products, and earn a competitive advantage for their organization. 

So What Do Customers Really Want? 

In June 2012, salespeople and luxury suite customers from one NHL team were surveyed. The results provide valuable feedback to the team on where there is a lack of communication between salespeople and customers. The survey results also assist salespeople in determining those products that have little value to customers within a luxury suite package, allowing them to offer different products that the customer really wants. In doing so, the team aims to better maximize resources, improve luxury suite package margins, increase luxury suite sales, and retain customers. Let’s take a closer look at the results.

Which Motivators Influence Purchasing Decisions?

Expanding loyalty and broadening relationships with face-to-face interaction was the highest purchasing decision motivator. Salespeople need to tailor pitches and increase face-to-face communication methods. This interaction can be done by having more personal visits with clients on game-days or at their business locations leading up to game-day. The personal connection is what the customer wants and will result in higher sales success rates. The customer is less responsive to non-personal communication, such as mail, email, or phone calls which may take less time for the salesperson to complete, but results in lower sales success rates.  

What Is the Most Effective Approach To Sell Premium Seats?

Customers answered this question by continuing to respond favorably to personal visits by the salesperson. This connection to the previous section shows that relationships matter. Sports organizations would benefit by training salespeople on personal interactions with customers and providing them with statistical evidence on the most effective sales approaches to utilize.

Although this method may take more time due to travel and scheduling challenges, customers want a relationship with their salesperson and are more likely to purchase under this approach. “The personal presentation of the benefits of ownership was most effective for selling me,” said one respondent. “You don’t make an investment for a suite based on a brochure or a piece of mail.”

Which Items Are Most Likely To Increase the Purchasing Interest of a Premium Seat Buyer?

Purchasers were more interested when they were aware of all the sports and entertainment events hosted by the team at its facility, including professional sports, tradeshows, career fairs, concerts, etc. Clients found value in knowing about all of the possible events as potential dates they could take their business clients to the arena to close a deal or improve business relations. A larger amount of events and active dates on the calendar could provide salespeople a better pitch to clients, resulting in a higher perceived value by the customers.  

The problem may not be with having enough additional events but with the salespeople not making customers aware of all the opportunities they have to utilize luxury suites or premium seating. Teams could increase the perceived value by creating a master list of monthly events and sending them out to luxury suite clients. Salespeople can then add a personal touch by following up with clients at their face-to-face meetings, going over upcoming events, and reminding clients about utilizing their luxury suite purchase more by attending some additional events.

Additional recommendations included highlighting hospitality capabilities during events and offering a free trial experience. These suggestions allow the consumer to see all the capabilities the luxury suite has to offer and to personally experience them through the trial.

Which Tools Provided through Suite Ownership Help Clients with Relationship Building?

Free parking, staff interactions with customers during games, and providing custom and/or autographed memorabilia are three important relationship-building tools respondents would like to see salespeople utilize more. Clients supported the importance of providing staff interactions. One respondent stated, “The suite concierge, the manner in which the team takes care of its suite owners is the best.” Another respondent added the suite hospitality staff “is responsive and friendly every time I call with a question or concern.” Open-ended comments are helpful to organizations to see specific instances or examples of failures or successes with their current customer interactions or operations.

What Renewal and Retention Methods Used by the Team Are Most Effective?

The most effective methods were providing incentives for early renewal, sending renewal reminders by phone, letter, or email, and holding a face-to-face renewal meeting. Utilizing these specific renewal strategies with current customers will result in a more optimal utilization of time and resources for salespeople in an environment more preferred by customers.

The Survey Takeaways 

Other sports and entertainment organizations can utilize this type of feedback to evaluate their current selling process to determine if they may have misjudged their own customers. They can also learn how to better bridge the gap between the salesperson and the customer. It is important for each organization to listen to its current customers to see what products and services they value, since tastes may differ based on demographics, geography, socioeconomics, etc. 

Disconnect between what the customer wants and what products are being offered can result in an organization losing money and not maximizing its limited resources. Teams can better manage costs by providing only products relevant to the customers’ buying decision processes. But again, customers’ tastes and values can change based on different demographics, geography, and other factors.

Once sports organizations compile the results of the voice of their customers, it is important to continue to periodically listen to that voice to see if there are any changes or insights to be offered through a third party. This third party eliminates bias in the results and allows respondents to be more forthcoming with their answers. Organizations listening to the voice of the customer regularly can better adapt to consumer tastes over the competition. The end result will be a positive impact on the organization’s sales and an increase in the overall value of products offered to consumers.

Future Research

Future research into several areas could provide more insight into trends and data. This includes research into the cost of listening to the customer against the improved profit to the organization and research into customer loyalty to a particular organization/brand.

Are you a team, venue, or company interested in participating in future research in the areas of premium product ownership, sales, and marketing?

Write to Dr. Peter Titlebaum at

This article also appears in the 2012 Fall Issue of SEAT Magazine.



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