Crisis. Pandemic. These words are not ones that typically flow off the tip of your tongue. We’re currently in the middle of an ever-evolving landscape in sports business. Our “assets” we tout (the live games) are on pause for most of us, or we are in the middle of the offseason. We may feel like our future pipeline, plans, and commitments are “crumbling like a Nature Valley Oats and Honey Bar.” But believe me, they’re not.
Our industry is built for a crisis. We have crisis in all shapes and sizes every season. “The team is terrible”, “We don’t agree with that trade/free agent acquisition”, “Our tickets didn’t scan/transfer”. These are all crises in their own rights.
Now I get it. This crisis is beyond anything we can control right now. It’s a new frontier for just about all of us. However, if we focus on what we can control and really build a bridge to our current clients and potential stakeholders in our brand, our pipelines and customer relationships WILL come out stronger from this situation.
At the end of the day, the first sale you make with a customer is on you. I’ll never forget when I started my career at the Phoenix Suns in June 2012. I was excited and eager to begin my sports sales journey. A month after I started (to the day!), the proverbial face of the franchise, Steve Nash, was traded to the Lakers. We had to adjust and manage our own crisis. I focused on remaining consistent, having a positive attitude, and over-servicing on the experience/communication with my clients in all aspects. I still take a lot of those teachings from 2012 and apply them to the current business landscape today. I had to “sell” myself before I ever garnered any sort of business transaction from the potential buyer.
Here are a few tips to manage your customers/potential buyers in time of great unknown:
Humanize with Them
As they say in that classic movie High School Musical, we’re all in this together. Give your customers a call and check in to see how they’re doing. Our first touchpoint with them shouldn’t be focused on the business aspect of the relationship. It should be geared towards seeing how they’re holding up and humanizing with them. It’s a strange time for everyone, and a lot of your customers probably have some time on their hands as they’re tackling this current situation. Think of our conversations with them as a potential reprieve to what they’re currently doing. We are the sports and entertainment industry, and our customers hopefully are internally smiling when they see us calling or reaching out. We’re still that escape from everyday life.
Share B2B Best Practices
For your business customers and prospects, a lot of us are in this new “remote” reality. What are your customers doing regarding remote business? How are they interacting with their specific business teams? This concept is new for a lot of us right now and one in which we can share best practices with our customers. Offer up what you and your team are doing from a business focus and how you’re handling the current changes. Maybe they’ll learn something to utilize in their own oversight of their team, or maybe you’ll learn a new conference tool or something to work for your group. Regardless, use this time to share best B2B practices with each other and build a bridge to how businesses operate under these uncertain times.
Organize Virtual Meet-Ups/Lunches/Coffee Breaks
People are yearning for social contact right now. We’re a society that wants to be with one another enjoying life’s best moments. With this time, still set up those coffees/lunches/happy hours but make them virtual. Still have set calls with people but make them a live video. It may not be the same as meeting in-person, but we can’t be picky right now. The live interaction will continue to build that relationship and build that trust as we look to hopefully partner with or continue partnering with this customer after COVID-19 slows down.
Be Intentional with Next Steps
At the end of the day, we still want to build these relationships to either strengthen our current customer base or to eventually build new business relationships. We can’t be tone deaf and just go in for new business activity, but we also can’t shy away from these conversations. If we can work out a business partnership or something that makes sense, then go for it. If now isn’t the right time, be intentional with next steps and set up a check-in time in the future. Be definitive, follow up on the agreed upon date, and go from there. Keeping our pipeline healthy and full of next steps will then give us traction as we get more definitive timelines regarding our own business.
These times may be uncertain, but if we have a positive attitude, work efficiently, and humanize/show passion for these conversations, then we will be better off in the long run with our current customers and potential new buyers. Stay the course, be intentional with our conversations, and let’s continue to build positive momentum.
Josh Belkoff is the Senior Director of Business Development at Sports Business Solutions. In his role, he focuses on sales training, consulting, and development for a wide array of SBS clients. He's conducted more than 35 sales training sessions and trained hundreds of salespeople both in person and virtually over the last few years. He has clients in the NFL, MLB, NBA, MLS, NHL, and NCAA, along with many minor league sporting properties. Prior to joining SBS, he spent nearly six years with the Phoenix Suns, most recently serving as their Senior Manager of Premium Sales. He's always open to helping and networking. If you'd like to set up a call with Josh, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.