When it comes to college athletics, the donations and revenue generated through ticket sales and sponsorships are vital to achieving success. Colleges that generate more money have a distinct advantage as they have more money to invest back into the school and facilities, which aids immensely in recruiting future student athletes and coaches.
Although I’ve never worked in college athletics, I do have some experience in revenue generation in the NBA with the Phoenix Suns, most recently as their VP of Ticket Sales. In sales, every deal you make is important and they’re all vital to achieving success. That being said, the large deals and big donors you sell are more important as they have the ability to take your organization to the next level.
So the question becomes, if the big donations are so important, how do you get more of them? In my experience selling and leading a sales team there are a few keys to attracting and ultimately selling large deals and big donors:
1. Fish where the fish are – The higher the price, the more limited your prospect list. It doesn’t matter how good you are with your sales techniques and processes, if the prospect doesn’t have the means to purchase at that level, you’ll struggle to sell them premium products. Target prospects that live in affluent areas, have high discretionary income, and/or are operating large businesses. Chances are they have the means, and if so, you have a shot.
2. Be unique – Targeting high net worth individuals isn’t revolutionary. As such, these people have most likely been approached by salespeople before and can smell a pitch a mile away. Be unique in your approach. Don’t try just cold calling all day, or you run the risk of never getting a conversation. Mail a gift, drop by the office, buy breakfast for their team, send a hand written note, try and be creative and find ways to initiate a conversation.
3. Build a relationship first – People love to do business with people they like. Before you ever get to a pitch, you need to make a connection and build a relationship first. If they’re going to write you a check for that kind of money they need to be personally invested in you, the school, and your cause and very clearly see how it can benefit them. Invest in building the relationship first and the revenue will follow.
4. Be patient – The larger the deal, the longer the sales cycle. It may require multiple conversations, meetings, lunches, dinners, and events that don’t have much to do with you or your product before you get to the product pitch. Understand that each step in the process is important. If you try and rush the process and your prospect feels as if they’re getting sold, you run the risk of losing them all together. We all want to make a sale but try and be patient.
5. Don’t be afraid – There is a tendency when going after high net worth individuals or C-level executives, to be intimidated. People often times put themselves on a different level and get nervous when talking with and dealing with these prospects. Don’t be. They’re people just like us and although they may be in meetings all day and short with their time, it doesn’t mean you’re on different levels. Prepare in advance, be confident in who you are and what you can provide them, and when you get your opportunity speak succinctly and with confidence and conviction. At this level, confidence can earn you respect. Without it, you’ll struggle closing large deals.
As mentioned, all sales you’re making are important as it takes a village to make an athletic department go and achieve your revenue goals. However, the revenue impact of big donors makes a significant impact on the bottom line and should always be one of your top priorities. Hopefully by keeping it at the top of your mind and using some of the advice above you too can attract larger donors! Best of luck out in the field.
Bob is an established coach, trainer and thought leader within the sports business community. If you’re interested in setting up a career coaching conversation to learn more about how you can get promoted in your job click here for more information, or email bob at firstname.lastname@example.org