How to Sell Social Media Sponsor Activations

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Many teams struggle with selling social media assets. In my opinion there are 2 reasons why:

  1. Cultural Issues
  2. Skill Gaps

A few years ago, I was a fairly lone voice in my position on selling social media assets to corporate sponsors.

Today, digital assets are premium buys and social remains the most dynamic property available. Trouble is, many teams are challenged in selling it (it’s a solution sell, not a transactional sale) and some sponsors think they need it but don’t know what to do or why.

One challenge that holds up sales teams is the classic QUOTA. The development or standardization of social assets means that quotas will go up, and sales manager/director targets go up in turn. This is a cultural issue – teams continually are looking for revenue stream development, yet some stand in the way of adopting this category of digital inventory. Broader thinking is required here…

The other problem is rooted in skill.

I mentioned that social is a solution sell – one that takes a different set of skills and discovery questioning. Often, sponsors need some guidance here to develop a social strategy for the deal. In this way, many web/technical resources have become “sales engineers” of a sort – as they better understand the platforms involved – and can lend good skill sets to these sales conversations.

Since some sellers struggle with how to sell social assets – here’s a list of questions to use in your own sales process to help uncover deals with social media activations:

  • What are your own goals with social media?
  • How does your company handle admin of your social sites?
  • How does social fit into the rest of your marketing mix?
  • What results will make a promotion/activation a success for you?
  • What , specifically, would you like to accomplish here?
  • Are they any examples of successful social campaigns that resonate with you?
  • What are your expectations of my team/brand?

What we’re trying to avoid here is “Do you want to buy some Facebook updates and Twitter posts? They are $X each – how many would you like?”. These are simply conversation starters to get your partners talking – there are endless ways to structure a promotion, but you need to start somewhere.

Here are some other tips:

  • Keep it high level (to start)
  • Bring ideas and facilitate brainstorming
  • Understand their goals and experience
  • Work to conceptualize with your internal resources
  • Present options that meet those needs
  • Be prepared to adapt/adjust

One last thing… both problems – Cultural and Skill – are very solvable for organizations looking to uncover the dollar. I can help with both.

Social $ales Visibility

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One of the big challenges that teams are facing when selling social media sponsorships is dollar visibility.

The rapid rise of activations in the social space has teams building deals/packages with social elements, but without a breakdown how these items are priced out. Now, that’s a good problem to have – but teams need to be careful as they are setting standards and precedents on how their social inventory is valued and priced.

Some teams have hundreds of thousands of fans/followers – this is a premium buy for a sponsor and should not be treated as a value add activation. Innovative sponsorships look to position the social element at the core of the deal and then build in value adds around it. If you are suddenly “throwing in” custom tabs and contests on Facebook, you run the risk of having to justify any increase in this area down the line. Teams need to be aware of how social sponsorships can factor in renewals, and how this is positioned against new business.

Beyond that – social $ spend is a number that teams need to be tracking. If their in-house/CRM systems are not set up to track it, then there needs to be some sort of excel sheet that accounts for what % of deals or entire social deals that are being quoted and sold to your corporate partners.

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Selling in the Social Space

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“Social media is not about making money, it’s about relationships”

Watch out for statements like this…

Social media as it relates to sports teams, organizations or athletes is about marketing. The last time I checked, marketing is about making money – isn’t it? Marketing is not sales (obviously), but it is about awareness, brand, positioning… and there are several tools available to do this in order to drive sales.

There are many who continue to drive home the message that social media is about “relationships” – and yes this is true, but isn’t all marketing? The same for sales; I have trained dozens of sales people on the value of “relationships” as it directly relates to sales. Social media is a marketing tool – its time to demystify exactly what social media is and does from a marketing perspective.

Now, having said all that, there is 1 very important rule to marketing and selling in the social space…

It’s Not Yours

Your fan page is exactly that, it belongs to your fans. It’s a place you build for them. As such, you are best to not go around selling things left and right as it will turn your fans off. The vast majority of the social content online is generated by them. Listen to what they tell you and give them what they want.

With sports brands, its possible to build a fan base of several hundred thousand fans quite quickly – but remember, they can unlike and un-follow you just as fast.

If something is wrong, they will tell everyone about it – and in doing so, will tell you about it as well. You can’t control that – but you do have the opportunity to address it, deal with it/fix it and tell them about what you learned and what you did about the problem. These things happen in real-time, so you need to stay on top of it. Similarly, there are times when its best just to leave things alone.

Remember: Fans first… and success here depends on the triple win for the fan, the team and the sponsor alike.

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6 Questions for Jay Feaster

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I recently connected with Jay Feaster (NHL Insider on NHL Radio, Blogger for The Hockey News and EVP and GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, 2002-2008) and asked him the following questions about social media, sales and sports:

1. What impact does social media have on your  bi-weeky blog on the The Hockey News (or your work with NHL Live)?

Social media really doesn’t impact my bi-weekly blog for THN.com. I am not a Facebook person and I don’t use Twitter or follow anyone on those social media outlets. I read the newspapers and beat writer blogs from around the NHL, I always check TSN.com, I try to keep up on what Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun  and E.J. Hradek write on ESPN.com and I often read HockeyBuzz.com; however, I don’t use the social media sites. I also watch as many games as possible every night and I make it a point to catch NHL on the Fly on NHL Network.

2. From your perspective at the Executive level – what do you most dislike about sales people?

I dislike sales people who don’t understand the product and those who don’t respect the product. I believe the Hockey Operations Dept and the Sales Staff must work together in order for an organization to be successful. However, it is important that the sales staff understands the demands on the players and respects the chain of command. It is also frustrating when the sales personnel treat everyone in the same manner. B/c the demands on the players are so great we need to make sure that it is our VERY BEST customers we are “rewarding” with the special perks of a player’s time, travel with the team, etc. Just as in Las Vegas you won’t see a casino comping the once-in-while customer who gambles a couple hundred dollars, but rather takes care of the true “high rollers,” it needs to be the same in our business. We need to truly reward the very big spenders!

3. What qualities/skills or attributes do you think are required to make a good sales person?

I want our sales people within the organization to be hard-working, honest, bright, knowledgeable, personable, and able to relate to our potential customers. You need to be driven and you need to have a passion for what you are doing.

4. In your day-to-day work as a GM and/or EVP, did social media factor into your work?

It didn’t factor in all that much in Hockey Operations; however, it would be a much bigger factor now than it was prior to my departing the team in July of 2008. The organization needs to use the various social media outlets to its advantage, and were I managing a team now I would certainly utilize the technology. (I would look to Ted Leonsis and the Washington Capitals for the blueprint or road map on how to do it best b/c I really believe Mr. Leonsis has the Caps at the cutting edge of the social media phenomenon.)

5. Are you a regular linkedin user? What does linkedin do for you?

I enjoy linkdedin and I use it on a regular basis. I like to see what my former colleagues are doing and the various groups they have joined. It is a great way to keep in touch with people and network at your own pace and pleasure.

6. What gets you interested or excited about the NHL or member clubs use themselves regarding social media?

Again, I think we can all learn a great deal from the Washington Capitals and how they have made use of the various social media forums. There are so many uses an organization can make and it’s clear that player agents are aware of the value such sites have for their clients. We live in an information age, and it is great to be able to get critical information to our fans quickly and, in many cases, in real time. Without a doubt, in the event I am fortunate enough to land another job managing an NHL Club, I would make extensive use of social media as a way to stay in touch with and inform fans. The more we can do to make fans feel like “insiders” the better our chances of retaining those fans for life, and social media helps make that possible.


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Sales and the Transfer of Brand Credibility

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I often ask sales people to define the word “sales”.

We all know what it means, but it can be hard to define. I think it is important to sometimes reframe what we are doing – take a look at it from a higher level and this can help inform our perspective on what we do, how we do it and how we can improve it.

Essentially, “sales” represents the transfer of credibility from the seller to the brand.

A sales person starts with nothing – perhaps a cold call, and they work through the sales process by establishing and reinforcing their credibility to the point when the buyer feels they trust and believe the seller and agree to sign off. At that point – the seller has worked hard individually to the point where credibility has been built and then has been successful in transferring that credibility to the brand they represent – A tall order for sure.

Now, sure – of course marketing can help with building that brand (either in advance or during the sales process), but it really comes down to individuals. People connecting with people. For that very reason, sales people are one of the most important hires that an organization can make. These people are walking and talking your brand every day.

Who says sales and marketing do not understand one another? They are different sides of the same thing.

Linkedin and Selling the Social Space

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As sales teams look to incorporate social media space into their inventory, I think its time to focus for  a minute on Linkedin.

Many people call Linkedin the “Facebook for business”. I’m not 100% in agreement with that statement, but Linkedin certainly is a powerful and important social network. Personally, Linkedin has been vital in my own experience having been the stating point for projects, clients and even full time jobs. I consider being on Linkedin a must.

As sports sales teams are out there looking to increase their sponsor business – and for many accounts, this means the incorporation of social spaces, I think it makes sense for sales departments and marketing teams to spend some time ensuring their presence on Linkedin is strong.

Here’s how:

  • Update your “Company” profile – Marketing should have a look at this; be consistent with other messages
  • Ensure that all sales people have profiles – using Linkedin as a business development tool is essential in this space…
    • Reach out/connect with sponsors/contacts = Re-enforce existing relationships
    • Continue to build out networks and contacts
  • Is the Executive/Management team represented? This lends to credibility…
  • Consider starting a business networking group for your teams’ fans
  • Link to other social media platforms

If you are selling the social space, you need to be on Linkedin. It just makes sense.

More about using Linkedin as a business development tool by clicking here.

Why Math is Like Sales (And Why it’s Not)

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Sales is a numbers game – how many times have you heard that?

Managing sales by numbers is part of it, but these metrics are more applicable to early sales process functions like business development activities.

X number of calls – Y number of appointments – Z number of meetings

It makes a lot of sense to track these ratios as they will indicate strengths, gaps and required efforts to keep a sales funnel on track. Later sales process management by numbers is focused on average sale value, closing ratio and funnel management.

Here is where I am going with this… Sellers have a direct impact on their numbers early in the sales process, and their ability to control and affect the sale decreases as it moves along… Sellers have direct control over their own production, but buyers have control over the dollars (by and large). Too many sellers try to take back that control far too late in the process – at the close.

equationsThe Math Analogy

Closing is simply like the “=” in sales. It is a function – a result. Mathematics does not happen at the point of “=”, it is a process that results in a value and the same goes for sales. In order to achieve the correct value in math, the process needs to be completed by following the rules and doing them in the right order. The calculations are similar to qualifying in sales – I have said many times that in order to be a better closer, you need to be a better qualifier – either way – if you rush through the calculations or the qualifications, you will get a result, but likely not the correct one. Sellers who focus too much attention on the “=” are missing the point of sales as  it has already happened; the “work” of sales is complete, closing is simply the result of a competent sales process.

This math process analogy can help sellers envision what closing is all about. Math is like sales in a vacuum – a repeatable process. In the real world, sellers are using psychology, presentation skills and benefiting from good timing.