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  • Writer's pictureBrett Zalaski

GROUP SALES MONTH: Proactive Group Selling

Group Sales Month on Empowerment of a Salesperson is sponsored by FEVO. FEVO is a sales amplification tool used by industry leading pro sports teams, colleges, and festivals. For more information check out

Guest Author: Alex Strathearn is an up-and-coming star in the #sportsbiz industry, and the current Group Sales Manager for the Reno Aces & Reno 1868 FC. In my interactions with Alex, one thing that has stood out is his proactive and thoughtful approach to group sales. I asked him to share it...and he absolutely hit it out of the park!

The majority of yearly planning and budgeting for group sales is based on a number of different components. These complicated factors that play into the budget goal include market factors, schedule, staff retention, growth factors, etc. This is decided at a higher level than a sales-driven Group Sales Director or Manager. To us, our goal is simple; Retain Current Business & Develop New Business.

If we do this effectively, group sales representatives will reach their personal contributions and sales goals and thus the department will reach their yearly budgeted target. When organizations are in the black...all stake holders are happy. In fact, this is the same for every business, sports related or not. So why do companies or teams fall short? Market factors? Turnover? There are plenty of reasons for failure, but it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact reason.

As sales people, our job is to find solutions for our clients & stake holders. The way to get behind any unforeseen or unpredictable sales woes, is by getting ahead of them. The way to get past any disinterest in your product is by getting ahead of the conversations we are having with those interested in purchasing our product.

Pitcher & Catcher: Which Are You?

A common theme in sales, especially in sports, is the constant re-activeness to things as they come. Our days are busy, especially in season. Our attention-span’s are short. Our minds are focused on how quickly we can finish the next task, whether that be prospecting out new leads, fixing an issue with a client, or anything, really. The goal needs to be to always have a plan to be as efficient as possible.

In the sales process, especially when selling groups, sales reps can fall into the trap of thinking that they have everything under control. They have everything they need in their book of business and pipeline...and it’s just a matter of time until a prospect renews or pick’s a game date to have a group event. Although this is a tactic that has benefits, this is the catcher mentality. Waiting on a group to decide to pick YOU! That's not being in control.

Deploying a proactive approach is a way to get ahead of these potential woes. Boiling it down to the opposite approach of, “We are picking YOU.” When it comes to the deliverable aspects of group sales, there are three things that hold the most importance. Before we even think about asking for a payment or planning the event, we need to know when the event will happen, who will be attending and where they will be seated.

The “catching mentality” as I explained above, is the mentality of waiting for a group prospect to pick you as their event. The “pitching mentality” reverses that cycle in which you are presenting dates to every prospect you work with. You are presenting dates in which your special promotions are being held. You are picking a seating area for your client and you are truly presenting an expert solution to the problem at hand.

One of the biggest road blocks that I have seen my sales reps run into is getting over that hurdle of allowing the game date and seating area to dictate the pace of the sales process. In order to be proactive, sales reps must dictate their own pace of conversation. They must present specific ideas that cannot be passed up on by our Group Leaders. In turn, this will help create the organic urgency needed to make quick and well thought out decisions.

Scouting Report Method

Every sales process is different based on the sport that you are selling and the demand of your product. Think about an NFL front office. Teams are responsible for selling out 10 home games per season and have the market demand to back that up. If you are a smaller organization, such as a Minor League Baseball Club, you have not only 7 to 8 times that amount of inventory to sell, you also have staggeringly less demand.

A method to keep track of how well you are truly pacing can live in a season long "scouting report." This helps us to know, from start to finish, what is on the table to sell.

This scouting report can consist of the following:

  1. Targeted Goals: Create an exact target number that you are aiming to sell for each game. In essence, you are plotting out ahead of time what you need to achieve in terms of budgeted goals. Some teams may focus on weekend events, or on all events. Determining this, and how it ties into your goals, is the first step.

  2. Theme’s & Promotions: Once you have a target “ticket’s sold” goal for each game, there must be a reason why that game is going to be appealing to your clients. What are your themes? What are your promotions? Promoting the promotions in the stadium is a great way to create organic excitement and urgency with your group leader.

  3. Availability: This is a key detail to include this type of report and will outline to the reps what type of timeline their clients must be on. If a premier date is going quick, that urgency needs to be known and communicated effectively.

  4. Target Prospects: The last and most important detail to the scouting report is who it is that you are aiming to target. Like any scouting report in sports, there needs to be detailed knowledge regarding what you are up against. Having common prospects to fit the bill for a certain day or promotion will only help equip reps with the tools to make the best recommendation.

Timeline’s & Urgency

Timelines are crucial to being proactive in a group sales effort. This timeline is important so that all sales efforts are focused around the same objective at the same time. Often, we do get caught in the trap of thinking that this can be achieved by having a well detailed financial pacing report.

From a management level, this makes plenty of sense and is the most effective way to track progress. However, this means nothing to a sales rep if they do not know who they are aiming to sell to and when an effective time to sell a group is and why. Every day that goes by is one less opportunity to achieve your goal. Creating timelines to assist in understanding when those opportunities are best acted on is key to being efficient in your prospecting & closing efforts.

If there is a timeline for sales reps to follow, they can see where their effort is best spent. From a management level, you can also see where you might miss the mark and start putting forth target sales campaigns to close any gaps. If you can get ahead of the unpredictable things holding groups back from booking their event, you can assess where time is better spent and what ground you need to make up to achieve budgeted goals.

Proactive Pipelines

All in all, if sales efforts are well thought out and prepared, then a rep’s success really boils down to the pipeline. Each touchpoint is a step either forward or back to the proposed timeline to effectively book a group.

Before I mentioned knowing the three things that each group must have booking an event. If a proactive approach is being taken, the reps job is to identify which prospects have decided on those three factors and which prospects are ready to book their group outing. Reactive sales reps wait to hear if a prospect chooses them. Proactive sales reps push to know exactly where they stand. Once you know where you stand, you are able to see what gaps need to be filled.

Putting all of these things together is the most important. I started this conversation off with the question of; Why do organizations miss their group goals? That answer is derived from time. Oftentimes, we just don’t have enough time to make up for unpredictable factors. Once we realize that we missed a mark, there isn’t enough time to fix it.

Having a mentality that is always looking to seek answers, instead of waiting for them, coupled with an effective timeline and pipeline approach can let both sales reps and management know what needs to be done and when.

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