Selling in a Tough Environment

Lets face it, most of us work in a difficult sales environment.  This doesn’t mean that we sell a bad product or work for a bad company/organization.  What it means is that we face fierce competition or work in an economy that is weak.  When unemployment is up, like it is in a lot of cities, it makes it very difficult to sell a product that can be labeled as a discretionary or “luxury” spend.  Put in competition for those discretionary dollars and you now face a difficult selling situation.

Given that we’re in these situations, it doesn’t make any sense to make it difficult to buy.  However, some of us still do that.  Status quo does not work in these situations.  So, whether you work for a team in the middle of a labor situation, work for a team that has no owner or an owner in financial distress, or you simply work for a team with a “rebuilding” product.  You can still put up league topping numbers if you create a low barrier to entry and sell your sellable assets.

Create Low Barrier to Entry – During the NHL Lockout in 2004 when other teams laid off employees and cut marketing budgets, the LA Kings got aggressive with their offers.  The Kings took season ticket deposits.  Buyers could lock into a season location with only a $100 deposit and not make any additional payments until hockey was back.  They took deposits for 900 season tickets, which was more than the other teams who simply sat still and waited for the situation to get better.

Another example of this comes from the NFL.  During this past NFL lockout, many NFL teams made it simple for their Season Ticket Holders by only asking for a 10% deposit to renew or buy new seats.  Then the balance was due when football was guaranteed to come back.  In essence, they made it easy for the Season Ticket Holders to say yes while they waited for a CBA resolution.  If those same teams forced their customers to pay in full, the outcome would have been disastrous.

Expand your product menu – The times of having a rigid product menu are over.  If you are asking your customers to purchase items that they don’t want, they’ll either not buy, or will buy from another source who will allow them purchase exactly what they’re looking for (ie secondary markets).  Many teams ask the buyer to purchase a set amount of games with a set schedule.  For example, the “Eastern Conference Package” and this features a list of A, B, and C opponents and contains all days of the week. OR, the “Weekend Package” which features weekends but does not feature all the big games.  This forces the buyer to purchase two plans to get all of games he wants to see, which may leave him with many games that he can’t use.

Three (3) seasons ago, the Bobcats went to a flexible pick plan menu for partial plans.  Customers could select games that fit their preferences and schedule, with variable restrictions.  Someone could pick only weekends, where others may want to pick out better opponents.  The result? A million dollar increase in partial plan sales.  Have a selection of products to choose from that will appeal to your customers wants and needs.

Leverage your sellable assets. – Now, I know this may contradict the above a bit, but hear me out.  If you have a product that your meets your customers wants and needs, you more than likely have the opportunity to package it.  The question is, how much can you package in with it before it becomes undesirable to your customers?  Remember, being too aggressive will cause your customers to buy from another source.

A team that did a good job of this is the Phoenix Coyotes.  In 2008-09 when the Phoenix Coyotes were taken over by the NHL and then declared bankruptcy, the team took to selling their sellable assets by focusing on what was guaranteed and attractive…arena shows.   Want to rent a suite to Paul McCartney?  The Coyotes had suites to rent, but you had to be a season ticket holder to gain access.  They did this for all of their arena shows that summer.  The team sold over 100 new fulls and an estimated $400,000 of other products by using this method.  Would that help your bottom line?  Package in your sellable assets to create more value for your lower demand products.

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