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Avoiding Mirage Group Sales By Getting A Deposit

Mirage group sales are a dime a dozen to sports franchises. Typically, it’s the type of prospective group leaders, who don’t have a history of purchasing from the team, who direct-contact the sales department, inquiring about potentially doing a group night.

In-bound group sales calls can be an exciting revenue source for both the franchise and account executive. However, if a prospective group leader inquiring about blocking off 500 seats is unwilling to put down an immediate deposit for their buy, that should be a red flag for the sales staff.

And like a mirage, those types of guaranteed group buys don’t materialize the closer that the team gets to that gameday.

Why Group Deposits Matter

Group deposits are just as necessary as season ticket sales, yet there are some organizations who are more willing to take a group leader at their word, rather than formalize the transaction from the beginning. This is where a lot of potential group sales that are “in the hopper” vanish, because no commitment has taken place. This is especially true when those group leaders have no past purchasing history, therefore no leeway, with the franchise.

Everything is about separating the talkers from the actual players. Those group leaders who will not only shoulder the load, but also are willing to put down their own credit card or a company card in order to ensure their experience on a specific night. This is about the group investing in their commitment by using the franchise’s product, so its vitally important that deposits are one of the first processes that the prospective group leader goes through, not one of the last.

This is about eliminating the tire-kicker mentality of group sales. Where a prospective group essentially calls in to get a price break and benefits, and who many times may over-estimate their actual confirmed or interested attendees in their constituent base about coming to the sports product in general. This happens way more than it should, mainly because these type of leaders haven’t even floated the idea of doing a group night to their own folks, before calling the franchise to estimate the costs of attending.

Blame The Mirage Group Leader Phenomena On The Sales Staff

A mirage group leader scenario is ultimately the result of a poorly-trained account executive who really wants to believe in the sale, without going through the process of making sure that the sale comes to fruition. These type of account executives put their trust in the idea of the sale just “happening” while absent any transaction occurring. Getting amped by the idea of a group sale, especially through an in-bound caller, without a deposit, transforms the account executive into dealing with a credulous investor. At least 80-to-90 percent of the time, non-committal group leaders who haven’t placed any deposit toward a sale, drop off of the face of the earth right after initial call, never to be heard from again.

A Teachable Moment For Sales Staff

Without a deposit being placed by a group leader, there is no group. There is no obligation put forth by the prospective purchaser, therefore the account executive’s trust is for not. Sales managers should be adamant about ensuring that this become a teaching moment for an account executive who fails to get a group deposit, as it will likely will not come to any positive result for the franchise.

Even if the account executive decides to hold seats for a non-committal group leader, no obligation exists for the sale to occur. Because there is no reason for the group leader to re-contact the account executive, in order to recoup their initial deposit, or check-in with additional group tickets to purchase. When an account executive makes the mistake of blocking off seats for a group leader who has not committed to a deposit, it should be corrected through an experience lesson provided by their sales manager.

The sales manager should push that account executive who blocked out seats without a deposit to get a “yes” or “no” from the non-committal group leader. This is a great way of showing the account executive that after 20 follow-up calls to the non-committal group leader, going through a second-circle of hell experience of additional e-mails and voicemails with no response, that the prospective group leader will disappear like a mirage, never to be seen again in the distance.

Non-Deposit Groups Are Smaller

More often than not, if a non-deposit group leader finally does come through, the massive potential group that blocked off 200 prime real estate seats three weeks ago now will yield closer to 20. The reasons for the lack of tickets purchased from the group leader will likely be evasive but will expect all of the benefits during the initial sales call when the numbers were estimated to be much higher. The account executive will feel heart broken, knowing that they’ve blocked out a lot of seats for weeks, telling their sales manager that the group was a “lock” to come through, and now, they have to break the bad news at the next sales meeting report.

This is why a lot of group account executives have turned toward a device that they don’t truly understand: The group code. The idea of just having e-mail blasts send out massive group code “cattle call” announcements as a way of even avoiding making the group deposit ask to a specific group leader. All this does is help weigh down the group sales process, diminish groups entirely, and avoid standard sports sales techniques overall.

Why Guarantee Anything With Those Who Cannot Commit?

If the group leader cannot commit a specific number, or at least put down a deposit for what they want to buy, they certainly should not expect the benefits of seat selection or giveaway guarantees from the franchise. Unfortunately, there is always the group sales rep, trying to make their sales quote early in the month, willing to bend over backwards for the group leader, despite the lack of a deposit or any type of formal commitment.

Part of the benefit of putting down a deposit is what the group leader receives in guarantees back from the franchise in terms of what location the group will sit in, price breaks, giveaway item guarantees and any other specialties such as tours. Yet, when group sales reps refrain from getting the deposit or even initiating the ask, they are doing a disservice to the group leader as well. The more money that has put down, the more commitment from the group leader to recoup that by marketing their event, and ensuring that they gain the most maximum value by bringing a larger amount of customers to a franchise’s event.

A standard group sales deposit is 25-35% of the total buy. Some teams request more, but it is at least a starting point with customers. That way, a group sales rep ensures that they will be gaining something for securing seat locations, as well as continually keeping a communication line open between the group leader and the group ticket sales rep. Another facet is to ensure that the group ticket sales rep has two or three different contacts within the group, in order to make sure that if the group leader changes, the group sale itself will not be disappearing with them.

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1 Comment

  1. August 27, 2015 at 9:43 am — Reply

    Great article. It’s a subject matter I am incredibly interested in. Gathering commitment in a group is an incredibly difficult thing to do. One big reason behind it being so is because of the difficulty of transparency within the group. Nobody knows where anyone else is at. By making the entire process transparent, the sheep effect kicks in and groups will pay up.

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