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Steve DeLay's picture

Success in selling to corporations takes 100% commitment. You can't half-ass it.

I'm frustrated.

Here's why.

Just about every team I work with wants to boost sales to corporations. It makes sense. Corporations typically have more money. They have more people to use the tickets and are usually more reliable in renewals. They don't have to worry as much about car repairs or needing a new roof or Junior heading off to college.

So if companies are the biggest and best untapped market for big increases in season tickets, ticket packages and hospitality, why do teams only go part way in their efforts to sell to them? This is some of what I see happen from teams:

  1. We'll only call on the largest companies. Teams will cherry pick the largest 300-400 companies in their market and assign them to their 'premium' sales staff and try to sell them suites. Or, they might just focus on law firms, accounting firms and financial since the word has spread they are the best targets. Ironically, my experience is the best corporate prospects to buy tickets are actually the companies between 20-200 employees and mainly industrial. Why? You can usually get to the decision maker who is many times the owner or President. You don't have to jump through a bunch of hoops to get a yes or no. And, they have plenty of local clients, plenty of local salespeople and are more engrained in the community.
  2. We'll mix in companies with our individual leads I love this one. A team will tell salespeople to try to make 3-4 meetings/week with companies. Mix those meetings in with your 60-80 calls/day to the leads the analytics department gave out. If you're a salesperson, which sounds more appealing? Get in at 7:30am and make 40 calls to CEO's to schedule a face to face appointment and then spend your day out on appointments or stroll in at 8:30, only call people who are fans of the team and hang out at your desk all day? Selling to corporations is hard. Getting appointments is hard. Carl Lahr from the Clippers once mentioned to me, "Getting appointments is a lost art. Anyone who can do that will be tremendously successful." What happens when you have salespeople try to do both is they naturally gravitate toward the easier conversation. They may not sell as many dollars but it's a much friendly call to call someone who is already a fan.
  3. We'll call companies for a month or two. This is along the same lines. A team will 'do a blitz' in a particular area of town for a month or two and see what happens. Instead of blanketing all the businesses with sales calls and appointments, they will have their sales staff spend one or two months focused on businesses to see what happens and then go back to calling on Joe Fan. Again, what's easier for the salesperson? You guessed it, Joe Fan is friendlier. I know one team that had 7-8 salespeople calling on companies with great success but then pulled them off for three months to make follow up calls to a Joe Fan lead list. When that list dried up, the salespeople couldn't get back in to gear to call on companies. They had to ask me to come in and get the staff re-focused.
  4. We don't need corporations. We have enough 'fans' to fill the building. That's terrific if you're winning every year and competing for the title and if the economy is rolling. What happens if your team hits a dry spell? Four years ago, the Phillies and Twins were #1 and #4 in average attendance. This year they are #22 and #23, off 20,000 and 15,000 people per game respectively. I'm not saying an aggressive corporation attack would have staved off a drop but I'm betting it would have dramatically softened the fall and when the team performance turned back around, those corporations would still be there. The biggest challenge with Joe Fan is once they walk away after the team hits the skids, it's incredibly hard to get them back. When Joe Fan cancels, they also seem to cancel their emotional attachment to the team. Even if the team starts winning again, they don't automatically come back. The Red Sox never got their sellout streak going again, even after winning the World Series in 2013.
  5. Training for calling on corporations? Why is that any different? Even teams that want to focus on selling to corporations don't put the time and effort in to teaching their sales staff how to really zero in on the tools for getting an appointment and making the right sales presentation. The teams will try to do receptions or influencer parties and hope they capture some big fans who just happen to be top execs at companies. The sales pitch to a company is dramatically different than selling to Joe Fan. Don't pretend you've covered it in your 30,000 foot overview training. You have to get in to the nitty gritty.
  6. Back when Jon Spoelstra and I were selling the New Jersey Nets, we had to focus on selling to corporations. There weren't people in Northern New Jersey who were actually fans of the Nets. They may have been NBA fans but more importantly, the business community needed our tickets to reward and recognize employees, develop and sustain relationships with prospects and clients.

    Back in the early 1990's, we had 22 salespeople who did nothing but call on corporations. We increased ticket revenue by 300% for the team with that approach. I'd be willing to bet there is no team in any league right now that has that many salespeople focusing 100% of their time on companies. I guess they don't want a 300% increase.

    Help me stop being frustrated with team's efforts to call on corporations. Someone tell me you have a bevy of salespeople who spend 100% of their time, 12 months out of the year with that focus. If you'd like to create that focus but aren't sure how, check out The Ultimate Toolkit - Selling to Corporations There is a treasure trove of information on the steps we've taken to help teams succeed selling to companies.

    Steve DeLay is the co-author with Jon Spoelstra of "The Ultimate Toolkit to Sell the Last Seat in the House", a complete strategy, tactics and training system for teams and colleges to sell more tickets. There are 110 teams using The Ultimate Toolkit to sell more tickets to companies. You can reach him at or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeLay2.

    Check out past Ticket Sales Thursday posts on The Migala Report.

    Check out past Ticket Sales and Service articles on The Migala Report.

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