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  • Writer's pictureBrett Zalaski

How to Sell a Losing Team

I've had a half-dozen people write into the site about how to sell a losing team. It was definitely on the list of topics to cover. But, at a conference a few weeks ago, I heard MULTIPLE senior executives for pro sports teams say, 'If only our team would get us a few more wins...,' and I was aghast. And that propelled this article up the list.

It's one thing for a #sportsbiz sales rep to say something like this. They get battered with it by fans every day. But when senior executives give credibility to this statement, well, from a mindset standpoint, it makes the reps job impossible.

Successful people have a successful mindset even when they aren't successful. By asking the team to perform, you are abdicating any responsibility for your own actions. People still buy tickets when teams are losing. So flip your view. Famous businessman Jim Rohn has a quote I love: 'Don't wish it were easier, wish you were better.' Seek solutions..and since I've primarily sold losing teams, I have a lot of experience here. So what works when your team won't help you?

  1. Nobody goes to games to see their team win: People go to sporting events fundamentally for two reasons: 1) They want to see something awesome happen. 2) They want to share that experience with people they care about. While #1 is helped by winning, there are always a TON of reasons to go to any sporting event...because the hope of a record set or a SportsCenter Top 10 is ALWAYS there. And, even then, #2 is the most important reason people go. People care about shared experiences even more today than they have in the past. That has to be at the center of our pitch. Consistently centering the conversation on both of these things will make your job in the tough times much easier.

  2. Customers who complain, care: It's easy to look at social media when the team is losing and become more negative. It's easy to remember the phone calls of complaining that stick out more when the team is on a losing streak. What's easy to forget is that they could also just not say anything...which is far more devastating. People who go out of their way to complain usually really do care. So instead of feeling frustrated or defensive, feel empathetic. Remind them that no one wants this team to win more than you do (you have to talk with fans like them all the time!). Regardless of how colorful their language, tell them you appreciate their comments. It's a statement that they care, and that's the foundation of what this team was built support. Remind them of the two things above. And remind them that they care. And that we need their help more now than ever.

  3. Everybody wants to be there when hope turns to results: People abandon teams in long stretches of tough times because they've lost hope. Your job is to know your product well enough to constantly provide that glimmer of hope to fans. Don't argue about team performance, rather, remind people that they want to be there when the ship finally turns. Because every true fan absolutely wants to be there when the ship turns. Team success ebbs and flows. Fans know this. And fans do fear missing out when success flows, so talk to them about why you believe the next win streak or championship season is right around the corner. They can disagree with you. And that's fine. They have a right to do that. So don't argue with them...educate them. Point to statistics, achievements, or things you've seen. Talk about what you hear your player operations department saying about why they have hope. Talk about the player you saw on the practice courts late one night when you were leaving the office. Fans fundamentally WANT to the light that allows them to do just that.

The quote on the right here is true. It's true for great teams, and it's true for great salespeople and sales teams. Great salespeople don't search for excuses...they find solutions. If you aren't the #1 person on your team's sales board, your job isn't to think the people ahead of you are luckier than you. They are just figuring it out better than you. If your eggs are in the 'team success' basket, then you'll never be the best salesperson on your team...because you'll just benefit as much as everyone else on your team when the tide turns. Great salespeople aren't waiting for the team to get better...they see this as the time to prove to people they can truly sell tickets. You fight, you battle, you find solutions, you won't be held captive to wins and losses to determine your success. Leave that to the sales reps who you pass on your way to the top.

This isn't easy. It's tough to consistently strap your helmet on and attack the challenge of a losing team. I gave you three bullet points above that have helped me...but I've also got my ass kicked a TON of times along the way. But you gain way more personally and professionally for trying your damndest when it's the hardest.

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