GROWING GREAT GROUPS
Best Practices for Building a Solid Group Sales Strategy
What do these two words mean to leisure service operators? What feelings do they evoke? Plenty of us picture hundreds of school-aged children descending upon our front gates for their end-of-year field trip…and we run for cover. We might also relive a feeling in the pit in our stomachs as we anticipate the negative metrics associated with group events (i.e. lower per capita spending). But a solid Group Sales strategy can produce fantastic results–when we set ourselves up for success. To be successful, we must:
Understand Market Potential
Leisure service operators must identify who they wish to attract to their facility. Will they target teachers of school-age children? Will the focus be Corporate event clients? Or is there another focus? To maintain a successful Group Sales portfolio, leisure service operators must first identify each of the market segments they wish to cultivate.
Offer an Appealing Product Lineup
Just as it is important to have a competitive Admissions product lineup, Group Sales products should also be offered in tiers and with options. It is important to note that not all True Buyers (those individuals who have the authority to approve spending on Group Sales products) are created equal. Whether we are talking of schools or corporations, budget requirements and specific needs vary. The True Buyer appreciates options and responds best when those options resonate.
Below is an example of how options might be structured for a Corporate Christmas Party:
- Option 1: Full Park Buyout ($80,000)
- Option 2: Africa Continent Party ($50,000)
- Option 3: Event Pavilion and Flamingo Terrace ($30,000)
Group pricing must be competitive while also accounting for differences in quality and value. In other words, an aquarium in the Midwest might institute a pricing model whereby in the winter months, their product lineup retails for $5 to $7 more per student than the local zoo. They know that in the harsh winter climate of the Midwest, a visit to a warm, indoor aquarium is marketable and worth the difference in price.
Aggressively Pursue Business
Within each of the chosen market segments, there must be a strong plan to connect with and appeal to True Buyers. If the plan is to expand school group business, it might make sense to hire a well-connected teacher who can use their connections to build a successful program. Perhaps the plan includes expanding the corporate event business. To that end, a key objective might be to strengthen relationships with external event planners, the local Convention and Visitor’s Authority, and the Chamber of Commerce.
Relationships drive the engine of business. That is why Sales Representatives must do all they can to foster meaningful relationships with their True Buyers. This will ensure that the buyers’ needs are clearly understood and can be fulfilled flawlessly. Armed with this information, the Sales Representative leverages the trust they have worked to cultivate with the True Buyer. When they provide the most appropriate product recommendations, more than 50% of True Buyers will say Yes!
With the business booked, the priority shifts to–
Execute Product Delivery Well
All of your efforts to build Group Sales business will mean nothing without proper execution. That begins with Order fulfillment. It is essential that the point-of-sale system is set up to accommodate Group Sales orders. Here are five essential functions that a POS system must do:
- Create and Manage Specific Customer Accounts.
2. Build and Manage Ticket Orders.
3. Apply Deposits and Partial Payments.
4. Suspend Ticket Printing/Activation.
5. Print Invoices.
Additionally, executing well includes the operational ability to deliver on all promises. The aim here should always be to satisfy the needs of the True Buyer. If the teacher who is paying for the field trip wants their class to participate in two experiments, but students express a desire to climb the rock wall instead, the teacher’s desires win out–always. Likewise, if the True Buyer tells you that it is important that everyone at their Corporate event simply has a safe and enjoyable experience, the focus would be different.
The Sales Representative must be accessible for the True Buyer. If the Sales Representative is out of the office, then a qualified surrogate should take over or the Sales Rep should provide True Buyer with their contact information and instructions to call if they need anything. Near the end of the visit, the Sales Representative and True Buyer should meet to summarize what was provided and to gauge satisfaction. What the True Buyer says should not be a surprise to the Sales Representative who has maintained close contact with the True Buyer throughout their visit.
Follow-Up and Generate Repeat Business
The most cost-effective way to generate Group Sales revenue year after year is to secure repeat business. A successful Group Sales portfolio of business is typically comprised of 80% repeat business. To generate repeat business, past clients must be happy with their latest experience. (Remember the question is what have you done for me lately?) That is why it is essential for Sales Representatives to execute well and then to be in touch with the True Buyer in the days following the visit.
The right Group Sales strategy meets the needs of its prospective clients. By providing products that satisfy needs and objectives, executing well, and maintaining a strong relationship throughout the entire cycle, Group Sales representatives will secure additional business and maximize revenue for years to come!