6 common mistakes made by premium salespeople

by ian tasso - Manager, Premium Sales - NFL On Location, Super Bowl LIV
May 07, 2019

As new stadiums pop up all over the country, and older ones get high-end makeovers, club seating is taking over the sports world. As a result, “premium sales” is being put under the microscope as many teams look to capitalize off this immense growth in both club inventory and demand for the experience.

Whether you’ve been selling club seats and suites for years, or just getting started, it’s no secret that it’s an incredibly difficult job that faces plenty of challenges – many of which you can’t control.

Some, however, you can control – and even though every sale is unique, here are six common pitfalls to avoid, so that you’re not making your job harder than it already is:

1) Trying to make a sale on the first call

Slow down.

As rookie sales reps, we get into the habit of cranking out as many calls as we can and trying to close every single one of them. It’s a great lesson in work-ethic, but it’s a tough habit to break as you graduate to premium sales.

Sometimes it’s good to remind ourselves to slow down in the premium game. Take it step by step. Too often I see reps try and close something with the first touchpoint, and torch the entire sale in the process.

The fact is, you’re not going to sell $100,000 of club seats on the first call. (If you do, nice work, but don’t get used to it).

Think about it this way - if you were running a business, would you drop six figures on something you just found out about? Probably not. You’d want to do your research, talk to someone, and see if it was the right fit. Premium sales is no different. You aren’t selling mini-plans anymore to fans that come to 60% of the games. You’re selling big ticket items, and that takes a bit of time.

Your first call is to sell the meeting. Get in front of them, and let your sales process do the rest.

2) Not doing enough research

Often, what separates an average premium sales rep from a great one is their understanding of the business world.

Can you go back and forth a bit with the CEO about their business? Do you understand who he or she will be entertaining with these seats? Do you work with any similar groups? How do they use the seats? Do you know who you are even trying to get in touch with when you call? Why?

If you can’t answer any of those questions, chances are you’re not ready to reach out.

You want to make sure you understand the business – at least enough to be dangerous – before you make the call. It’s only going to help you earn their time, and eventually a sale.

Take some time and find out who the key decision makers are in the company, learn a bit about what they do, and make a case inside your head for why your premium product could be a fit. Then make the call.

3) Analysis paralysis

On the flip-side, there is a fine line between getting enough information, and getting stuck bouncing around in cyberspace, researching the same prospect for hours.

At the end of the day, premium selling is still very much a volume game. Less volume than say, inside sales, but if you’re not setting enough meetings, you won’t be closing enough seats. It’s as simple as that.

Make sure you know enough to look competent during your meeting with the CEO – these folks can smell it if you’re just blowing smoke.

At the same time, don’t overdo it. You have calls to make. Get in a groove, and let it rip.

4) Wasting time on someone who can’t say yes

Gatekeepers. Marketing assistants. The list goes on and on. While sometimes integral in the sales process, a lot of folks within a company love saying no – but don’t have the power to say yes.

As a sales rep your time is your biggest asset. Wasting it on people who won’t help advance your sales process is a key pothole to avoid.

Building on number 2) “Doing your research,” make sure you know exactly who you are trying to get in touch with, and really drill into it.

Ask the gatekeeper to get passed to them. If they put up a fight, find a new way to get in. There’s so much information available online nowadays, there’s really no excuse for not hitting the right person – or at least knowing who it is.

I’d rather chase the right guy/gal for a few months, than settle for a few mindless meetings with people who keep kicking me around the low levels of marketing.

A great way to do this? Be concise, and understand that you are the expert on your product. You know why businesses use it, and why it could work for them. Act like it, and don’t waste your time on people who’s only objective is to get you off the phone.

5) Not Building Urgency Early On

In my opinion, this is the most challenging part of premium sales.

You’ve fought through the brush to set the meeting. You had a productive chat. Went over some products, saw some buying signs. And then…nothing.

Crickets. No call backs. No emails. Dead silence. What happened?

Well nobody has the magic bullet. There’s a variety of things that can go wrong – but often, the process is just stuck in the mud because either they don’t want to buy, or they’re in no rush to. Either way, you’re not getting an answer.

A good way to avoid this is by building urgency from the first touchpoint. It’s lazy to follow-up with someone and say “seats are selling fast!” What are you – a used car salesman?

On the other hand, if you’ve been hammering that urgency from step one, it sounds real. Make sure they know on call one that there’s a reason you are reaching out, and there’s a reason they should meet with you. There’s also a reason they should do this now, and not wait 4 months.

It’s a great way to avoid getting stuck in the mud after the pitch meeting, and it almost builds in exploding deadlines for you.

6) Aimless Follow-up

In my opinion, this is the easiest fix for premium salespeople. So many reps struggle with it, and it’s such a crucial tool – but it’s a very easy one to get better at.

Nobody likes sales emails – least of all C-level folks with overflowing inboxes. It’s a great way to get instantly deleted or left unread.

“Hey just following up here”

“Just wanted to see if you wanted to buy those seats I asked you about last week.”

“Hey, are you still interested?”

I’m getting sick to my stomach just writing those. What is your point here? Why are you reaching out? Ask yourself that every time before you send a follow-up email or make a follow-up call.

If you don’t have a good answer, then don’t do it. If you can justify it, shoot, you can follow-up 4 times in a day if it makes sense. Seats in the section they were looking at are selling. Another company like theirs just bought. I just drove by your company’s HQ and it jogged my memory to reach out. I just read an article that reminded me of your group. Whatever the reason is, give yourself one before you ping them. It makes you seem more professional, and it resonates more – and pushes action.

Even if you have to manufacture your own reason (“we just hit 80% sold out in that space…Prices are about to go up…” etc) – you always need a reason. Don’t let yourself call or email without one. It gives you a bad reputation in the business community, and will give them another reason for them to say no.

Hope this helps and best of luck!


Ian Tasso has more than 5 years of successful premium sales experience with teams like Van Wagner Sports and Entertainment, the Atlanta Braves, and now with the NFL on location, where he sells premium inventory for some of the NFL's biggest events, including the Super Bowl. He's very knowledgeable about this subject and we're lucky to have him contribute his thoughts to theClubhouse. You can learn more about Ian on his LinkedIN profile here.