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Steve DeLay's picture

Make every word and every prop in every sponsorship sales pitch count.

Greg Maddux was one of the greatest pitchers ever in Major League Baseball. He won 355 games, the second most ever since the dead ball era ended. How did he do it?

He wasn't overpowering. His fastball regularly topped out at 85 mph. He didn't have a nasty, biting curve ball like Sandy Koufax. He wasn't Randy Johnson tall or intimidating. In fact, Maddux is no more than 5'10".

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What he did was made sure every single pitch he threw had a purpose. And, if he by chance did make a mistake to a hitter, he immediately learned from it. Maddux was inducted in to the Baseball Hall of Fame July 27. He grew up in Las Vegas so the local papers have carried some terrific stories about his prowess, attention to detail and ability to adjust on the fly.


Think about how you do your sponsorship sales presentations and compare it to how Maddux pitched in his career. You don't need a championship winning team or a fabulous new building, just like Maddux didn't need a 98mph fastball. Do you:

  1. Research every single prospect the way Maddux studied and researched opposing hitters? Do you look up everything you can, read annual reports, search the internet, visit your prospect's place of business incognito, study their ads? For example, last week, McDonalds announced they were going to spend the next 18 months rebranding themselves. If you're pitching McDonalds, did you know this? How are you going to adjust your sales pitch? If McDonalds is already a sponsor, have you discussed this with them?
  2. Set up each part of your sales presentation to lead in to the next part? Maddux would set up batters not just at bat by at bat but pitch by pitch. Every pitch he threw had a purpose. Maddux was famous for never wasting a pitch, even on an 0-2 count. Every element you put in to a sponsorship package should have a purpose for the sponsor. No wasted elements. Your job is to explain to the sponsor how that element is going to directly impact their business and benefit them.
  3. Learn from your mistakes? Maddux knew immediately when he made a mistake and what he was going to do different next time. If a batter ripped him one at bat, he'd come in to the dugout and tell Leo Mazzone, his pitching coach, "That guy is screwed next time he comes up." He would adjust during the at bat. If a batter hits one deep, but foul, you can be assured Maddux filed that away. Same with your sponsorship sales presentation. You can think you're completely prepared but then get a 'curveball' thrown at you during the sales call. Are you able to adjust during the sales presentation and reposition your elements or do you stumble and stutter around? Be ready to ad-lib a little. If you can't make sure you learn and are prepared the next time you get to pitch that sponsor.

    The one thing Maddux couldn't do that you can is actually talk to your prospect. Maddux didn't carry on a dialogue with the hitter and tell stories about how he struck out the last guy or got the home run hitter to pop out to third on an off-speed pitch. He couldn't engage the hitter.

    You on the other hand can talk to your prospect. You can use stories and props to make your sales pitch. Have concrete numbers to back up those stories. However, make sure your stories have an impact. Make sure they fit your sales pitch. Don't tell a B2B story to someone only concerned about retail traffic driving. If you're making a sales call with a special, traffic driving promotion included, write up the details, create some mock POS displays, show pictures of how the promotion would work. Use props and engage your prospect. Put things in their hands. Don't just show stuff on an Ipad or laptop.


    Powerpoints don't tell a story. Powerpoint slides put people to sleep. I can't tell you how many Powerpoint proposals I've seen that all look the same. Radio sales pitches, outdoor billboard sales pitches, TV pitches, digital pitches and yes, sponsorship pitches. Do you want to just be lumped in with every other advertising option a prospect has? If not, make your face to face and your written presentation dance with story-telling and differentiation. Tell a story in writing as well as face to face. Don't just throw up some Powerpoints and read everything that's on the slides. You could have emailed the slides to the prospect. Read Seth Godin's Powerpoint tips or Google Steve Jobs' strategy behind making presentations. Make it a compelling story.

    Every sales call matters. Every word you use in verbal and printed form has an impact. The same as every batter Maddux faced and every pitch he threw. Follow his lead and you can be a Hall of Fame sponsorship salesperson.

    P.S. If you're looking for a great book on story-telling, read Peter Guber's "Tell to Win" . Pay close attention to his lay down close strategy for making " Gorilla's in the Mist"

    Steve DeLay is co-author of "The Ultimate Toolkit to Sell the Last Seat in the House" with Jon Spoelstra. He spent 13 years as CMO with Mandalay Baseball Properties creating hugely successful and unique sponsorship packages for teams all around the country. He can be reached at or follow him on Twitter at SteveDeLay2.

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