The very first sales job I ever had I learned a very valuable lesson: “it’s not about you. It’s about the customer”.
That lesson has stuck with me ever since and illuminated many other areas of my life.
It’s not about me.
It’s about them.
It’s not about my club seat quota or my revenue goal or what’s going on in my life or how I’m feeling today. It’s about what the customer wants and what fits their needs the best. Not mine.
We both know that I have a valuable product. I know what I stand for personally (and what I won’t stand for too) and know I work for a company/team/organization that I believe has a solid foundation of values.
I can tell you about all the features and the widgets and the seat views and how awesome this thing is…but none of it matters unless you make it about the customer and what they want. What REALLY do they want? That’s the real question…and it’s not often what you hear in the first 5-10 minutes of conversation. That leads me to my next point.
The thing about sales is that it’s about people helping people. The moment you step outside that belief and way of being, that’s when it feels weird. Sales is service and great service leads to sales. When you’re not serving, but forcing a product, that’s when you feel “sold” as a customer and when you feel slimy as a sales professional. You can start to see someone pull away, they get tense and start to retreat. Their tone of voice and body language changes. You know what I’m talking about…you’ve probably been on both ends of that spectrum.
People need stuff, sure. And they want some stuff too. They also need someone to care about them and their problem. Sometimes that’s all it takes, someone to listen to their problems and treat them with compassion. Sometimes all you have to do is ask for the sale. Other times you have to lean in a little bit more and really let them FEEL that you have their best interest at heart. Either way, you and your person are as much involved as the actual product.
So let me repeat. It’s not about you. It’s about them. And in many ways, let this be relationship advice too. It’s not about how awesome you are. Someone else just needs to know how much you care, so make it about them. It’s not about you.
Today my wife and I went to one of the local shopping malls to pick up a few items and on our way out, took notice of all the busy lines at the several quick-service restaurants around. (QSR’s as we call them in the biz.) Well, they were all busy but one – the Burger King. This particular shopping mall has very easy access from one of the local highways with a few on and off ramps leading directly to and from two different entrances to the mall parking lot. Because of the orientation of these streets and the parking lot, the Burger king was king of tucked into the corner with no direct entrances from the street, which is probably why it wasn’t busy. All of the other QSR’s and full-service restaurants in the outer mall parking lot were all located near entrances and with quick access from the road, even if not directly adjacent to an intersection.
Now quality and personal preference aside, this particular Burger King was in the wrong location for the unsuspecting hungry shopper. If you were either just arriving at or leaving the shopping mall, you’d have to really want Burger King and really go out of your way to make it over to where this particular restaurant was located. Because there were at least 10 other options that were readily visible from the road, parking lot and mall entrances, it would have been very easy to ignore that one corner where the Burger King was located. Don’t be this Burger King and pay attention to product placement.
So let us now apply this product placement example to sports. Whether its a concession stand with local fare, a rain poncho at a Seattle sporting venue, a winter hat at a Philadelphia venue (did you see that Eagles game today – whoa!), or even a lemonade vendor on a hot day, if your venue retail and concession space hasn’t been studied and its products perfectly placed, you’re losing money. Take a lesson from the Burger King in this area shopping mall parking lot and make sure you are using space wisely and putting your best, most profitable products in the best place to generate revenue where fans can get what it is that they want in a snap. Give people what they want.
And the more you think of your fans in that way – that you’re just trying to help them get what it is that they want when they want it – the better off you’ll be in the long run anyway. If you partner with a concessionaire or retail professional they should be doing this kind of research on their own, but in case they aren’t, it’s worth bringing up for discussion. As the football season winds down, now is the time to review how things went so you can apply these lessons to the emerging basketball and hockey seasons.
Moral of the story – evaluate how well your concession and merchandise stands performs in terms of product placement in addition to how well certain items are moving off the shelves. Product placement is about giving your fans access to what it is they want when they want it.
One of the things you’ve got to be careful of when working in sports is the fact that your perspective might be too close to what it is that you’re doing. This is the case for people in many professions and applies to sports as well. When you work in sports, it’s easy to get caught up in the unique aspects of what makes the job interesting but also sometimes mundane. Remember that even though what you experience on a regular basis is your “normal,” those same things may be, and likely are, a completely new world for others. Don’t be tricked into thinking you know what fans want or what people are looking for in a sport entertainment experience. Don’t be fooled into thinking people will love your teams because of cheap tickets, free popcorn for early arriving fans, or whatever it is that you think you do for them. If you want true connections and want to stay relevant, don’t let up in the development of your team-fan relationship building.
Here’s an example of what I’m trying to get at here – I was listening to a podcast today (I do that a lot by the way and suggest you do the same) where the host and his guests were talking about how they happen to be very tech savvy people and adjust and manipulate their mobile devices to the exact way they know is maximizing the device’s full potential. This particular conversation centered around Apple’s Passbook app on the new iPhone iOS 6 and how it integrates with various loyalty programs from brands around the country. In this example, it was easy for these tech savvy marketers to talk about how they personally go out of their way to make sure their phones and iPads are fully dialed in, but how can we say the same for the general population? Applying this to sports, how can we as sport administrators and executives say with any confidence that we truly know who our fans are and what they want?
Well, to give a brief answer – first by asking and second by observing. And honestly, observation is probably the best way to go. It’s great to ask people what they want because hopefully they’ll be honest and actually know what it is that they want. Studies have shown though that people often think differently than they act though. Because of that fact, you should be constantly observing what it is that your fans are doing (and saying on social media). As the cliche goes, actions speak louder than words.
So even though we work in sports (and it’s awesome to be able to say that), don’t get too comfortable in your job and think you know what people want – especially if you are in an external role. In some ways external operations are the most difficult positions of a department – having to balance the push for revenue with the sometimes seemingly constant requests from fans about what they say they want and what they may actually be trying to say instead.
So here’s the moral of the story – have fun working in sports, but don’t get too comfortable.
Customers pay in three ways: Money, Trust, Referral
That’s it. That’s how they pay. Here’s a bit more of an explanation.
Sure – this is an easy one. Sales. Customers give you money for what it is that you give or do for them. Whether it be service, products, or experience, when a customer gives a sport organization their money, they’re asking for something in return – and in sports they are mostly looking for a story. Most of the time a great sporting event is a great story – everyone they see who wants to know what they did will hear that customer’s story of how the event went down. That customer will have some sort of story about how the play on the field was or how the experience in the stands, concourse, and parking lot was. That customer will have some sort of an opinion and hopefully a positive one that will keep them coming back.This leads me to my next point:
A customer’s trust is their attention. Their attention is how much of you they let fill their mind and their life. Trust and attention lead to more money for you. Because the team-fan relationship you’ve been building is much like the rest of the relationships you have, based on trust and authenticity, even though you may not be perfect, you’re doing your best trying to put your absolute best product on the floor. The reality of this is just that, you’re not perfect. People are not perfect and neither are the organizations those people build. No matter how hard you try, something will go wrong at some point. That’s not to say that you should be satisfied with mistakes – no way. Rather you should be demonstrating to your fans that you’ve always got their best interest in mind when it comes to giving them what they want – a great story to tell and one in which they can play a part. Give them your trust as much as they’re giving you theirs.
Finally, referral. Referrals are every business owners dream. Referrals are a customer’s way of telling you that they love what you do so much they wanted someone else they trust to be a part of the experience too; and by doing so, they’re putting their own credibility on the line too. They share with someone else they trust a story about your organization so compelling that that person ends up giving you their money and trust as well.
By doing and applying the things you do in your personal relationships on a business level, your customers will respond in a personal way – by giving you a piece of their precious resources: money, trust, referral. Today’s world gives us more options of things to do and ways to entertain ourselves than any other point in history. Whatever your interests are, there is someone else out there leading the way in whatever that thing might be. As a result, if you’re not doing everything thing you can to be remarkable in today’s digital world, you’re falling behind. Don’t get left behind. Money, trust, referral – remember these.
There isn’t any other form of programming that provides as much live entertainment as sport. Sports programming makes up more opportunity for a live audience than any other type of program and has better ratings than any other type of programming occurring on a regular basis. And this is especially true during post-season types of events where there is more on the line for the teams participating as well as more focused attention from fans of other teams who might not otherwise watch the participating teams. Plus you’ve got the fence-sitters and others who only watch sports during the post-season for the drama and excitement that usually comes with these types of games. Take the Super Bowl for example – the most watch event of the year, every year.
Considering the amount of live sport already on the air and the demand for more live sports programming coming soon, as evidenced by the major television deals being signed by teams and leagues around the world, media training must be a greater part of the off-field training you provide your athletes and staff as well. If you don’t have someone on staff who knows how to do this, hire a professional and make it mandatory for every person who deals with the public to learn the basics of how to deal with the media and how to speak to a reporter.
I’m not an expert in this area, but I do watch and learn from every broadcast I have a chance to witness. The one rule I will express here is this:
– Never let the person you are interviewing take the microphone from the person holding the microphone
With a public audience, especially one on national television, you have to be able to take control of the message being broadcast for both legal purposes as well as for the purpose of moving things along, making sure they don’t get out of control. When you hand over the microphone to someone not emotionally or intellectually prepared to deal with that type of power, bad things can happen. And even if bad things don’t happen, it can get pretty awkward pretty quick.
So remember this one lesson at your next game and throughout the year…because its the one time you’re overwhelmed with things going on and you let your guest take the microphone and take your audience on a ride they weren’t expecting. In a world of instant internet access everywhere, those words will hit the digital airwaves in minutes and you’ll be all over the news. Don’t let bad news happen. Take control of the microphone.
I hope this lesson was helpful to you, let me know what you think in the comments.