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Steve DeLay's picture

What's your plan to call on the prospects with the money and time/people to buy and use season tickets?

It's happened twice in the last month. Both times I wanted to reach across the desk and grab the person by their shirt and politely smack them and scream, "You're leaving a huge amount of money on the table. Why????"

But, after some thinking, I realized they were leaving that money on the table because it was going to take time and a real commitment to go get it. They thought it was going to be too risky to stick their neck out on the line and ask for the resources to go get that money. And, they probably were afraid because they didn't know how to.

Let me explain each situation.

"Our salespeople were generating 6-8 times what we were paying them so we took them off the streets to call smaller prospects."

This was the Sales Manager for a team in one of the major leagues. The team was in a Top 10 market but had struggled in the standings the last couple years. The team used to be sold out but now was in the bottom five of their league in attendance. Thankfully, they had gotten much more aggressive in the last two years and hired and trained a sales staff to call on businesses. These salespeople were doing $300-$400K in new business yearly for a salary and commission of about $50K. They were making boatloads of appointments and with Full Menu Marketing, closing 20-30% of their sales calls.

Suddenly, the analytics people got involved and realized "Hey, we aren't calling on our past season ticket holders and single game buyers. Let's shift our sales staff over to make phone calls to those people to try to sell them something." Whammo, that ground to a halt the effort to sell to corporations. The salespeople were now telemarketers calling on Joe Fan who had been a season ticket holder in the team's heyday. Sales were okay, probably 5-10% close ratio but the astronomical growth in ticket revenue slowed down dramatically.

I asked why didn't the team just hire 4-5 more inside salespeople to call on those people instead of taking their trained, highly productive salespeople off the streets who were having great success calling on businesses? He shrugged his shoulders and said, "I guess we thought these were better prospects. We'll probably go back to calling on businesses when we run out of these leads."

"Noooooooo" I wanted to shout. "You have salespeople calling on big business and you take them off the street to call on Joe Fan? Go hire more 22 year olds and train them to call on Joe Fan. They probably won't pay off 6-8 times their salary but you don't lose any momentum calling on companies. You get the best of both worlds. You get Joe Fan and your top notch sales staff continues to tackle companies and don't get side-tracked by selling seven game plans."

"Half the businesses in town are run by our alums. We'd probably do tremendous calling on those businesses. We just haven't had time as we've been calling past season ticket holders and single game buyers for the last 18 months."

This was the Director of Sales for a major college in a major city. Their football team was reasonably popular but didn't sell out and their basketball team was awful, near the bottom in their conference and not remotely close to selling out. A concerted out-bound ticket sales effort was relatively new to them and the eight salespeople he had were producing relatively well.

Again, I wanted to reach across the desk and grab the person by the shoulders and shake them and say, "Do you realize how much money you're leaving on the table by not calling on those corporations? Sure, you'll do okay selling to Joe Fan but you CAN do both!"


Why not have a strict, specific plan to call on every single corporation in your town? They are your best season ticket prospects for a number of reasons:

  1. They can afford it more than Joe Fan. As Brandon Steffek said in last month's ticket sales column, target businesses with 10+ employees and $500k+ in sales. Take out retail, government and schools and you have a targeted list of companies that can afford your larger ticket packages much more than trying to find thousands of Joe Fans out there. (See my blog about Feld Entertainment's research that shows families go to .8 ticketed events a year.)
  2. They can use all the tickets. Season tickets in basketball or hockey are 6-7 home games a month. In baseball, 12-14 games per month. That's a lot of games for Joe Fan to go to. Companies can share tickets with clients, prospects and employees. A simple formula for a company is to give each salesperson one game a month for clients or prospects. If the company has six local salespeople, they need six games per month. Presto, full season tickets for hockey or basketball, at least a half season plan for baseball. That doesn't even factor in employees or prospects. This works for major league, minor league or colleges.
  3. Company budgets are more stable. Unlike Joe Fan who might lose a job, have to buy a new car or put a new roof on the house, once you get a company buying larger ticket packages, it gets a slot in their budget and more often than not, stays there, even in challenging times.
  4. Team performance isn't nearly as critical. Joe Fan gets emotional if the team loses six in a row or has an off year or trades a key player. Companies who use tickets to improve their business aren't as concerned about wins and losses as they are about whether their tickets are valued by clients, prospects and employees.
  5. So why don't teams and colleges call on businesses? Let's face it. Calling on corporations who have not expressed an interest in your team is harder than calling Joe Fan. You can sell hope to Joe Fan. You can sell "Wait 'til next year." To corporations, you have to sell why tickets are going to help their business. That's tough to do over the phone.

    Salespeople have to get out and get appointments to see top level executives eyeball to eyeball. They have to have an organized, coherent sales presentation to those executives on how the team's tickets will impact their business. To successfully do those things, it takes guts from the organization. It takes strategy. It takes perseverance because you're going to get a healthy number of 'nos'. Most important, it takes training. A lot of training. But, to get staggering leaps in revenue and increases in season ticket sales, you have to call on corporations with a specific, strategic plan.

    A significant portion of The Ultimate Toolkit to Sell the Last Seat in the House is about how to train salespeople to get appointments with top level executives and how to present to them to get that company to buy something. It doesn't have to be season tickets. It could be a huge group outing, 4-5 hospitality nights or something else. You'll never know what they need until you're in front of them eyeball to eyeball asking the right questions. Regardless of whether you use the type of strategies we suggest in The Ultimate Toolkit (which by the way are proven successful in every market we've ever worked) or some other tools, corporations have to be a key target market to sell tickets. As Nike used to say, "Just Do It."

    Steve DeLay has more than 20+ years selling tickets and sponsorships for teams in MLB, NHL, NBA and Minor League Baseball. He presently works as a consultant for teams, colleges and events and is co-author of The Ultimate Toolkit to Sell the Last Seat in the House with Jon Spoelstra. He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeLay2.

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