The season for professional sports teams runs several months, give or take, while baseball (read: Hot Stove League) has an interminable quality. Indeed, for sales and marketing executives working for any of the four major sports leagues (NBA, NFL, NHL and MLB) these days, keeping fannies in the seats – and, more specifically, building season-ticket holders – is a full-time gig. And one that b-to-b sales reps can learn from, according to Steve Woods, CTO for marketing automation firm Eloqua.
“The comparison between a very high-ticket b-to-c sell and a b-to-b sell is quite apt,” said Woods, whose clients include the Philadelphia 76ers, the Philadelphia Flyers and the Sacramento Kings, as well as b-to-b companies Siemens and Sybase, among others. “Season tickets are not cheap and the consideration that goes into that is not dissimilar from the consideration that goes into a typical b-to-b sales scenario.”
Akin to pitching prospects on the b-to-b side, sales and marketing pros who work in the sports industry regularly exchange information with prospective season-ticket holders and take a hands-on approach to building relationships.
“It’s a longer sales cycle for a higher-ticket item,” Woods said, referring to rising prices for tickets to sports events. “What you need to do as a marketer is really guide that buying behavior and understand where an individual is in the buying process…At some point, [marketers] will want to bring in sales to go over details, pricing and finalize contracts.”
Woods had some other tips for b-to-b sales execs that are based on selling tickets to sports events. For example, inviting fans to an open-practice session allows potential buyers to rub elbows with their favorite players and check out the view from certain vantage points in the arena and gives the team (as the seller) an opportunity to understand who among the fans is the most likely to buy, Woods said.
It’s not unlike inviting prospective b-to-b buyers to a breakfast meeting, social event or business seminar. “In both scenarios, you’re making an offer and then providing value with that offer,” Woods added. “But at the same time, by seeing who accepted the [initial] offer of attending a practice session, you can see who is likely to be engaged with your final offer (season tickets).”
Woods stressed that the notion of “mobile thinking” also applies to both sports marketing and b-top-b sales. “Not mobile in the sense of different formats, but ‘mobile thinking’ in the sense of: We’ve got buyers who are physically present but not at their desktop and can’t interact by normal means of e-mail and the Web.”
Promotions on the Jumbotron to win, say, a free pair of choice seats are now the norm at most live sports events. So why can’t sales execs, when they have a captive audience, provide similar plays? During trade shows, for example, sales and marketing execs can create a “call to action” that will cause attendees to take out their mobile phone and engage in a conversation?
Whether incentivizing prospects through “mobile thinking” or pressing the flesh, Woods stressed that you don’t always have to go for the jugular. “By offering interim endpoints that are a little bit less commitment and less effort [sales execs can create] a great two-way street,” he said. “You can nurture [prospects] along, build an affinity and get an understanding of who’s willing to give the time, energy and commitment about learning a bit more about your solutions.”
Disclosure: ZoomInfo is a client of Eloqua.