January 30


Lessons from Leaders: Kathy Burrows

Katie Rudy

January 30, 2022

customer experience, employee experience, event experience, fan engagement, fan experience, fandom, leadership, season tickets, sports business, ticket sales, training

How to Sell Experiences Over Tickets

Lessons from Kathy Burrows 

Selling an experience doesn’t mean selling the pomp, circumstance and atmosphere around the game, it means presenting a game day experience that fits each customer.  

This week’s Flip the Switch podcast features Kathy Burrows, president and owner of Sold Out Seating.  After a career change from nursing to selling tickets with the Cleveland Indians, Kathy began teaching teams around the country to sell experiences over tickets.  Selling an experience comes from throwing out the”100-calls-a-day” benchmark, developing and mentoring sales staff and asking pointed questions to personalize the event experience.  

Here were our three favorite Q&As:

(12:52) Coaching Leaders to Coach Sales Staff
How are your 1:1 meetings structured?  Are these meetings simply “check-in updates” or are you working on strategies to grow and improve?  As a leader, use the time to coach your staff on prospecting or sales strategies. What have you observed that could be improved?  What could your staff work on between meetings?

(25:18) Offering Different Experiences for Different Customer Segments
How are you structuring your season ticket plans?  Are they the same for businesses and super fans?  What benefits do they want vs. what do they expect?  Even with a lean sales and support staff, how can you accommodate personalized plans?

(41:00) Building a Part-Time Sales Team
Fans love to have “their person” to contact with questions about their tickets, their account, their experience.  How can you provide that experience with a part-time sales staff?  Introduce your customers to the team that is happy to serve them and make them feel a oneness with you.

Our take:

Attendance at sporting events had been declining before the pandemic. From 2014 to 2018, attendance across FBS schools fell 7.6%.  In 2019, the average college football attendance was 41,856. College football wasn’t alone. In January 2020, Sports Illustrated reported that MLB attendance dropped 7.1% since 2015 and the NFL posted its lowest numbers since 2004.  

Largely, the industry expected attendance to rebound following a year of empty stadiums and arenas due to the pandemic.  However, the pandemic continues to present challenges, stadiums aren’t filled to capacity as expected and the no-show rates are even more staggering.  

Fans want more control of their experience and to change the decreasing attendance narrative is going to require some creativity and personalization of events.  Front office and college athletic departments had staff limitations before the pandemic-induced reductions and the “Great Resignation”.  If you are operating even leaner than before, it may seem impossible to customize an experience for every fan.  

It starts with redefining the term “experience”.  Our definition of experience is different from first-time fans, casual fans, super fans and business partners.  Ask a few simple questions to understand what’s important to them.  An experience also doesn’t have to be an in-seat mascot visit or a trip to the sidelines.  Some fans just want a seamless experience (thanks, Amazon!) Offer parking when they call or make parking options easy to find and bundle online. They want the chance to catch a foul ball or a home run?  Know your lineup and guide them to those seats.  A business wants to have an out-of-office outing?  Great, here’s a suite and offer to connect them with catering!  

We all know the definition of insanity – doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  If you are ready to transform your sales process, consider some of Kathy’s principles to engage your sales staff to sell out your experiences over tickets.

For the full episode and show notes, click here.

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