Presented by Phil Horn
Senior Vice President, Sales and Service
Sacramento Kings



In this excerpt from the Sales Team Alpine Retreat Executive MindXchange Chronicles, Phil Horn explains how to use data and innovate to keep customers—in this case season ticket holders—engaged and coming back, even when the home team is not exactly having a winning streak. 


Too often, sales leaves service set up to fail. A data-driven and experiential sales strategy will lead to a successful retention process before the sale. This session showcased best practices for proactive collaboration with your service and strategy teams to utilize customer feedback to disarm your buyers during the sales process leading to manageable expectations and maximum revenue throughout your retention efforts. 


  • Insight into how to use existing customer feedback to enhance your sales process and shorten the sales cycle
  • Tools to shift your retention efforts from reactive to proactive WOW moments using predictive customer insights
  • Framework to create a cohesive organization by turning your sales team into service evangelists


Sacramento Kings background: They have one of the greenest and the most technologically advanced arenas in the world and they are one of the most tech-driven companies in the world. Their previous two arenas had some of the longest sellout streaks in the NBA from 1985 on, but then the organization went through a potential relocation effort with falling revenue streams.  They were unable to compete and pay out big contracts. The team was then purchased by new ownership with new energy with sights set to improve. They built a new arena in the heart of downtown Sacramento and explored and implemented other ways to improve customer service — and revenue. 


  • The Sacramento Kings new Golden 1 Center is top-rated in the NBA and is located in a very diverse city
  • Building a new arena completely transformed the business. It gave them the ability to compete in a new landscape
  • But it wasn’t enough to have two of the longest sellout streaks or a waiting list to get into Golden 1- they haven’t been to the playoffs in 12 years!
  • They needed to learn how to evolve, adapt and innovate
  • They created something to help retain season ticket holders no matter how the team was doing. They implemented an “and-1” philosophy – that extra step employees should be taking to please the customer
  • Preventative maintenance: They call all season ticket holders and talk to them about whether they are going to renew or not very early in the season – instead of waiting until the end
  • This allows them to start gathering data points on those they may lose. They built a regression model built on customer indications showing that they might not be renewing
  • For instance, if they aren’t attending any games, they will call early on in the season to see what’s happening and suggest ways to utilize tickets more frequently
  • You can apply the same principles as above to prospects because they go through the same issues – provide solutions to common problems during the sales process instead of waiting until something becomes a service issue after the sale


Phil’s game plan:

  • Data – Leverage surveys, behaviors, conversations
  • Experiences – Create events, education, personalization, experiences
  • Collaboration – Share and celebrate best practices
  • Social – Be accessible, responsive, encourage conversations
  • Accelerate – Be faster, smarter, more targeted


The Kings applied many different tools from their sales 3.0 playbook to create and enhance the customer engagement experience. Since the average attention span is getting shorter, they have heavily leveraged bite-sized videos produced by the service reps that might include a highlight reel of a fan’s favorite player, to encourage future attendance.

  • They have also explored using AI to better respond reactively to top-level conversations with fans allowing reps to spend time on more proactive experiences for their customers
  • They are investing in hiring creative and engaging people, then taking the reins off and allowing them to really be creative


Sacramento Kings Scoreboard:

  • 13% increase in overall customer satisfaction
  • 10% increase in satisfaction with service rep
  • The 3-point play:
    1. Adapt to behaviors of customers and environment
    2. Evolve your sales and service relationship
    3. Implement proactive approaches


It’s all about anticipating the next play by staying 2 seconds ahead of your competition!