Developing Group Sales Off-Season Goals

Initiating Group Strategy

A group sales strategy should be developing as the final horn sounds during the last home game of the regular season. Unfortunately, your team came up a little short this season and you will not be attending the post-season.

Sports business professionals will sit there and watch their team exit the ice, begin to reflect.

The Game of “What If”

What if we won that game?

What if we did or didn’t make that trade?

What if that civic organization would have purchased those tickets?

Anyone who has worked in the sports industry has asked those questions immediately following their season, especially if their team falls short of the post-season or their ticket sales goal.

Reflect And Move Forward

In any sport, regardless of if you are a player or employee of a team, it is important to reflect on your past season, understand what worked and did not work, and move on. Anyone who has played a sport at any level has heard the phrase, “Championships are won in the off-season.”

This statement is true whether you are a player on the ice or team employee in the front office.

I have worked in the sports industry for 9 years with 4 different teams in 3 different leagues. My favorite question from people not in the sports industry is “What do you do in the off-season?”

For those that work in the sports industry, this can be a humorous question because we understand how much preparation it takes in the off-season to grow our ticket sales numbers for the upcoming season. Below are a few steps you should consider taking with your sales team this off-season to ensure you hit your group sales revenue goal for the upcoming season.

Relax And Recharge

Immediately following the season everyone should take a few days to relax and recharge. Managers should take their sales team out for a long lunch, pick a few days to leave the office early and everyone should take time to clean their desk or office space.

It has been a long season and you have worked a lot of long hours and weekends so you deserve to have a few days to recharge before you head into the off-season.

Spend Time Reflecting

After you recharge your batteries you should reflect on your past season. Think about what worked and did not work while it is still fresh in your mind. Sales managers should put together a post-season recap of their group sales by using information from CRM, Salesforce, or Archtics.

If you put together a business plan at the beginning of the season you should compare your post-season report to your business plan to see where you succeeded or came up short. This information will be vital to managers as they look to prepare for the upcoming season.

Develop The Group Sales Big Picture

Managers should create their business plan that shows the “big picture” and explain how the ticket sales team will reach their overall group sales revenue goal.

Sales reps should also put together a business plan that shows how they plan to hit their individual group sales revenue goals this upcoming season. Ticket reps should include a recap from the previous season (if they were with the team or in a group sales role), theme nights that they plan to host next season (new or renewal group leaders), new group categories they plan to attack, how they plan to prospect new group leads, include their own personal hustle metrics and finally how all these things put together will help them achieve their group revenue goal.

Once the business plans are completed, the group sales reps should present their business plans to the management team and the group sales manager should present their business plan to the group sales team. By doing this you will create an environment of trust and transparency going into the off-season.

Garnering Off-Season Deposits

Create a process that will allow your current clients and new prospects to place a deposit for the upcoming season. Even if you have a lot of ticket inventory to sell, you can still create urgency around fan experiences, limited meeting spaces, or specific weekend games or opponents. By having a group deposit process in place you can start a priority list that will give your best clients priority on game selections. By doing this you will receive a small financial commitment from the group leader which is easier to convert into a group sale once the schedule is released, and it will give your group sales team something to sell while the rest of the organization is focused on season tickets and partial plans.

Get Face-To-Face Meetings With Group Leaders

The off-season is a great chance to get face-to-face with new prospects and current clients. As a group sales rep, you should make it a priority to meet with 10-15 people a week. These meetings should be a mixture of new clients and your group renewal clients. If you are meeting with a new client, then you will go through your standard needs analysis to better understand how you can help their group.

If you are meeting with a current group client, then you should be discussing ways to grow their event or uncover other groups they are a part of that could lead to a second, third or even fourth event!

Most teams will also help their sales staff get face to face by hosting special events throughout the off-season at the arena. These events have been effective for many teams, especially if they have targeted events that focus on specific group categories i.e. host a church leader event for youth pastors, a nonprofit event for executive directors or a youth sports event for youth coaches.

The Multiple Questions Of Group Prospecting

In your post-season recap review the group categories you sold this season and see if you can uncover new group opportunities for next season.

For instance, if you sold a local college fraternity 100 tickets to a game.

How many other fraternities did we sell?

How many fraternities and sororities are at that university?

How many other social clubs are at that university?

How many staff members does that university have?

How many universities are there within a 25 or 50 miles radius?

This is just one example of taking a single group night that purchased from this past season and uncovering hundreds of other group leads/prospects. The best group sales reps I have come across are excellent prospectors and find a lot of their own leads by simply looking at what they have had success with selling.

Initiating Around The Team Schedule Release

Once the schedule is officially released it will be all hands on deck. Group sales reps will still be responsible for selling new business and going on appointments. However, their focus in the short term will be to convert all their off-season group deposits into actual group sales.

If you have an off-season group deposit process in place then you also will have a deposit conversion process. Make sure you take your time as your go through this booking process. Allow your group leaders to “request” their top five games/dates, desired price points, fan experience packages, or private meeting spaces.

The reason you ask for multiple game dates is because there is bound to be crossover when you collect 300-400 group deposits. In order for you to maximize your group sales revenue you need to have multiple options that groups are willing to consider. Once you complete this process you will have maximized your off-season efforts to secure group deposits.

After you fulfill your group deposit priority list your group sales team will be off and running. Fan experiences, meeting spaces, and seat locations will now be available on a first come, first served basis.

Nick Myers

Nick Myers is the Director of Group Sales & Hospitality at the Columbus Blue Jackets, overseeing a sales team which has grown total group sales revenue by162.5%, seeing franchise records in each of the past two seasons. Myers will be a speaker at the 2016 Sports Sales Boot Camp in Pittsburgh on the subject of "Attacking Group Sales," with fellow Blue Jacket co-worker Jessica L. Smith.

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