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Are You Victimizing Your Seatholders?

Who wants to make more money in sports ticket sales?  (OK… you can all put your hands down.)

And…who is willing to shame or embarrass their team’s clients in order to get there? (Keep those hands down!  Shame on you in the back row!)

Upselling current seatholders can be a major contributor to any team’s bottom-line growth.  But if your approach sounds like you’re only trying to fatten your commission check, chances are you’re coming off like a real jerk.

The Wall Street Journal recently ran an article from a woman that felt “victimized” by her sommelier (wine expert) while dining with a friend at a fine restaurant in a major city.  The restaurant was well-known for its wine and food, and the author found a 2008 Foillard Cote du Py Morgan on the wine list, which she felt would match what she and her friend had ordered.  At $68, she also thought it was a good buy, and let the sommelier know her choice as he approached their table.

The sommelier, hearing what she had chosen, responded by saying, “Are you fixed on that particular bottle?”  She replied that she’d be open to hearing his thoughts.  He flipped the list back a few pages to reveal a few wines that he like to offer “special” people, and pointed to a 1993 Domaine Jean-Jacques Confuron, Les Vignottes, for $160.  She knew the producer and the year – it was quite good – but it was also $100 more than what she had originally chosen.

“I – I don’t think I’m really THAT special,” she stammered.  But in the process, she felt ambushed.  She had been made to look like a tightwad in front of her friend.  She wound up choosing the $68 wine, but felt like the almost-victim of a $100 upsell.

When she shared her story with friends and a few wine professionals, she was surprised to hear that many have had similar experiences at other restaurants.  One friend from San Francisco had recounted that their sommelier had used that same word – “something really special” – after both she and her husband had each had a glass of wine during dinner.  The “special” wine turned out to be $25 a glass, which was twice what the first had cost.  “And it wasn’t even that good,” she added.

When another friend had asked his sommelier for suggestions between two $40 bottles, he countered with an $80 selection.  Other stories were of those who were looking to spend $80 to $100, but were pushed into considering $180 to $200 bottles.  “Clearly the guy didn’t care about us,” the author’s friend spouted.  “He just wanted to get the check average up.”

How do you avoid being labeled a “victimizer” in sports ticket sales, yet still allow for the potential for growth from your current customers?  Here are the right ways to go about it:

  1. Listen to what they enjoy or don’t enjoy about their current experience, and use that as the reason for your suggestions.

    If your customer brings clients out regularly, and raves about his ability to get one-on-one with them, you might suggest a suite, where he can enjoy a wider range of hospitality options and even a bit of privacy if they’d like to talk business.  If she comments negatively on the strong angle of the sun where she’s sitting, it’s a great time to suggest places in the park that would improve her experience.  By simply suggesting an upsell without a reason behind it, you risk coming off like our sommelier example.

  2. Ask questions that reveal opportunities for your options, rather than suggesting upsells out of the blue.

    Let’s say you have a loaded ticket option for F&B.  It’s better to ask your Season Ticket holder a question like, “Do you ever give these seats to clients to use on their own?”   A positive response opens the door to an add-on with a very tangible benefit relative to how they’ll be using their seats.  Know your products and the options that add value to those seats, and then be ready with a good list of questions that lead you to the answers you need to suggest your upsell options.

  3. Don’t sell what YOU need to get rid of; sell the outcomes that your customers want and need.

    Simply because you have excess inventory in the corners doesn’t mean that the corners are “exactly” what every customer needs.  Listen, take in what they say, and consider the customer’s entire experience before suggesting the section of the arena that management is pushing this week.

Is it wrong for a restaurant to try to improve their per-check average?  Not at all.  But if the sommelier had only gone about it in the right way by asking a few more questions prior to suggesting an upgrade, he might have been more successful.

And now it’s your turn.

Image by dhammza

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