Four Questions that will Kill Sports Comeback Strategies

Most sales and marketing leaders in professional and collegiate sports are beginning to look beyond today’s chaos and focus on strategies to get their organizations back on track. They know that the crisis will end…eventually. When it does, they are going to have to hit the most aggressive revenue targets of their careers on condensed timelines. They will face demand challenges that they never would have considered before the crisis. To complete the perfect strategic storm, most teams are facing these challenges with fewer salespeople and reduced marketing budgets.

The most comeback effective strategies will be assembled by innovative leaders who seek to answer questions that accept these realities. They won’t panic. They won’t look at this as a game of three-dimensional chess that can only be solved by an army of expensive brainiac consultants. As they build their comeback strategies, they won’t waste their limited time attempting to answer questions related to distractions over which they have no control. And they certainly won’t focus on strategic questions that suggest tomorrow’s unique challenges with relabeled versions of yesterday’s approaches. These are the types of questions that will decelerate sports organizations’ comebacks:

How many daily dials should the sales team make? Today? In the future?

This question could suggest a belief that a subtle tweak to yesterday’s KPIs are going to bring you and your team safely to the other side of this storm. Unfortunately, it won’t. If raw activity levels have been a driving force of your revenue strategy, it’s time to re-evaluate.

Given the challenges in front of us, we all expect to work harder. Our comeback strategies must focus on working smarter.  Maximizing the success of each salesperson through focused outreach efforts will be vital to comeback strategies. These leaders will lean more heavily on quality of interactions versus quantity of interactions:

  • Who should we engage?
  • When should we engage them?
  • How should we engage? Otherwise stated: What value are we bringing to the calls that will ultimately lead to revenue for the organization?

Related content:    Six Reasons KPIs Fail Sports Teams       Over Emphasis on Activities in Sports Sales

When is my hiring freeze going to be lifted?

If your organization has a hiring freeze – most do – we have to assume that the freeze won’t be lifted until we are well on the other side of this storm. More bluntly stated, the cavalry is not coming; you are going to have to get your organization through this mess with the team you have.

Instead of waiting for reinforcements, the sports business leaders who are poised to lead their teams to heroic results are asking:

  • How can we ensure that we are extracting maximum value out of every member of the team?
  • How do we ensure better organizational collaboration across business groups?
  • How do we ensure that we are getting everything we can from our vendors?

When is this whole Covid mess going to be over?

Obviously, this question is necessary for scenario planning purposes, but frankly this question isn’t relevant to a focused comeback strategy. Covid, and its painful economic ripple effects,  will end when it ends and there’s not a damned thing you can do to change the timeline. In the history of the planet, no one has ever built a successful business strategy around uncontrollable events.

We all believe that the pandemic will end. Instead of focusing on when, our strategies have to revolve around how to prepare for the conclusion that we know is coming:

  • How are we prepping our team to be ready for new challenges?
  • How are we going to hit the ground running with fewer sales and marketing resource, when we finally know we can have 100% venue capacity?
  • How are today’s sales and marketing efforts going to impact tomorrow’s results?

Where are demand levels going to be when we resume fully active outbound sales efforts?

We’ve all seen survey data that suggests demand is going to fall off a cliff. Likewise, we have all talked to people who say that they are sick and tired of being cooped up. These folks are ready to overdose on human interaction; huddling with 50,000 of their closest friends has become their definition of utopia.

The only thing that we can safely conclude from these competing points of view is that there will be some shift in where we will find the demand. It seems likely that total demand is going to decrease for some period of time, but no one can definitively prove this – or quantify the level of decrease.

This leaves few options: plan for a worst-case scenario or hope for the best-case scenario. A comeback strategy that relies on hope is a strategy that is destined to disappoint.

When thinking about future demand, then, our strategies, need to answer questions like:

  • How do we uncover hidden pockets of new demand?
  • How do we align our remaining sales and marketing resources to ensure that we convert as much of that demand as possible into revenue?
  • How do we create a pathway from season ticket members to come back if they want to take a year off (or are forced into that decision by social distancing regulations)?

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In addition to the calamitous health impacts that this crisis has had, the excruciating economic fallout has directly impacted so many of our friends and colleagues in professional and collegiate sports. To the extent that there is opportunity to be salvaged from the chaos, those of us who are fortunate enough to have retained gainful employment have to find it. The comeback of sports will be a function of how we prepare to tackle new realities. Distractions are omnipresent and profound. However, business leaders who acknowledge the challenges and focus exclusively on what they can control will drive the financial comebacks for their teams – and indeed the entire sports industry.

James Dries