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Selling an Experience with the Boston Red Sox’s Carrie Campbell

 

Carrie Campbell and her team of eight don’t sell a typical good or service. Their “product” is actually the experience of Fenway Park, home of Major League Baseball’s Boston Red Sox. As VP of Sales and Service, Campbell oversees the marketing, booking, planning, and delivery of some 500 non-baseball events a year — everything from corporate dinners to weddings. Campbell recently took the time to tell us how she introduced formal sales training to her team, the importance of a service mindset, and the key to managing a myriad moving parts at one of the sport’s busiest venues.

What was the event landscape like when you joined the Red Sox?

Inbound calls and requests were being addressed but it was just order-taking at that point. There was no sales strategy in place in terms of outreach or relationship cultivation. Leadership recognized the need to recruit from the hospitality sales community in order to make an impact and build upon the business. We were able to keep our best people and recruit sales professionals from the hospitality industry who understood our goals and mission — and who could share best practices to build and deepen customer relationships and develop new business.

And that meant introducing formal sales training?

Yes, we knew that we needed to introduce formal, structured sales training in order to find the right business and increase revenues. We formalized monthly training with a professional firm to cultivate, encourage, and foster our sales mentality. Our sales training occurs every other week with a professional firm — and it keeps us on our game. We endeavor to be thoughtful and gracious and hospitable while being mindful of closing sales, confirming business, and making deals.

It sounds like sales and service go hand-in-hand for your team.

We're delivering an experience that is really important to the customers that are making the investment to come to Fenway Park. Our customer experience spans beyond the sales organization and even beyond our event service managers to the whole operation, to everyone who's going to touch that experience. It could be a tour guide, security guard, catering manager, audiovisual technician — everyone is focused on providing excellent service. One of our pillars around here is that we're in the “yes business.” We strive to go above and beyond to say yes when we can.

Can you share some examples of events you have said yes to?

We’re not confined to Ballroom A, B, or C at Fenway. We've had CEOs stand on the dugout to give a keynote. We do events where we start with cocktails on the Green Monster. We do have a pretty good amount of field access, but sometimes people want to do things that just don’t work during the season, like a picnic for 2,000 people on the outfield in June. It's going to crush the root system in the field, so we can't say yes to that.

Because baseball is still the priority.

The revenue that we're making is used to put the best talent on the field, and everyone recognizes that. We have to be respectful of baseball and of what the field needs. Like if I want to put 300 people on the field and the groundskeeper says, "I can't. I have to do work that day," I have to respect that. But I'm a salesperson, so I'm saying, "Okay, what day could we do it?" We also have a very robust concert business that's handled by a different office in our organization. When you're loading in a stage build for a band, not everything is going to be available to sell for private events. Or maybe the customer doesn't want to be in here when something like that is going on. They want to have more of a pristine ballpark feel. We're constantly working around all moving parts of this multi-use building.

What’s the key to supervising those moving parts?

The Salesforce CRM tool has been life changing for us because everyone has a view into what we're doing now on the operations side. So if they're wondering if they can paint section 32 on an off day, now they're in a place where they can look and see, "Okay, you don't have anything in that area, so it's probably okay to paint. But you can block it in Salesforce so you guys know not to put anything on top of it because we need to paint five sections." Two years ago, when we didn't have this tool, we were in each other's way constantly. We were frustrating operations. Operations was frustrating us. This tool is really helping us with that age-old sales and operations challenge that so many organizations have.

How do you manage your “inventory”?

Major League Baseball doesn't release the schedule for the following year until the fall. Right now, if we get an unbelievable opportunity and it's on a Wednesday in July 2017, we don't know yet if we're going to be in town or not. And then weather — we don't have a dome. I'm not suggesting putting a dome on our beautiful jewel box, Fenway Park, but there's only so much I can do. I’ve learned not to book outdoor events too much until June. We’re a 364-day-a-year business now. But it’s like any job. You start to worry when it gets slow, like, "What's wrong? What's happening?"

What makes your job awesome?

The people I get to work with. They are gracious, thoughtful people who express gratitude and want to create great experiences and to be excellent. That's what makes it worth it. And then, since I'm a hospitality professional first, the icing on the cake is I get to do it here. About twice a month I'll walk out into the stands and get goosebumps. People are emotionally connected to something that's iconic in a different way than they would be to a hotel. Our guests usually have a story, like, "I remember I came here when I was five with my dad," or "That's where my parents met," or "My little league came out and played ball 10 years ago.” Whether you have an affinity for baseball or not, this ballpark has so much history.

Do you have a take on the whole idea of salespeople as a trusted advisor?

There's a stigma about being a salesperson that you are all about the close versus recognizing that not every piece of business is a fit. So if you're advising someone or counseling someone, there may be a point in the [sales process] where you're like, "I don't think we're going to be able to deliver this for you," or "It's not a good fit because of the budget," or "It's not a good fit because of the importance of what you're doing.” I get it. You're consulting with someone. You're advising someone. But I don't think I'd be changing people's business cards to “trusted advisor” anytime soon.

Do you have a favorite sales book?

I love Emotional Intelligence 2.0 by Travis Bradberry.

If you weren’t in sales…

I would be working as a producer on a talk show that's in the mainstream, like Ellen or when Oprah was still on TV. I would love to work for an iconic thought leader or personality like that.

Our customer experience spans beyond the sales organization and even beyond our event service managers to the whole operation.”

Carrie Campbell | VP of Sales and Service, Boston Red Sox

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