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YOU'RE THE EXPERT, ACT LIKE IT

Steve DeLay's picture

Don't expect your prospect to know what they want from a sponsorship

I've been selling sponsorships for more than 15 years in the sports business and I've never walked in to a sponsorship meeting where the prospect said, "Here's what I want from your sponsorship."

Sure, the prospect may know what they want to accomplish in their business objectives. They may want to increase retail traffic. They may be planning to launch new products. They may have a goal of being more visible in the community where their employees live, work and play.

What they don't know is how your team can help them accomplish those goals.

NOBODY "NEEDS" YOUR SPONSORSHIP

I chuckle when I hear of sponsorship salespeople saying their first step is a 'needs analysis' with the sponsor. Now, that statement may cause some blood to boil amongst salespeople everywhere. However, let's face it, if the sponsor really 'needed' you and your sponsorship, they would have called you first, not waited for you to chase them down.

It's not too tough to identify sponsor prospects in your market. The typical sponsor categories are pretty easy to identify. Telecom, wireless, banking, auto, insurance etc. Some of those industries may have think they know what elements they want in a sports sponsorship. The car guy usually wants to display some cars. The insurance guy wants leads. The banker wants more checking account sign ups or loans. However, what they don't know is how you can help them do those things.

They may know what they've done with other teams and want to copy it. However, what if those other teams didn't do a good job? What if those teams were staffed with a bunch of stiffs who couldn't activate a sponsorship if their life depended on it? This could cause you two big problems.

  1. The ideas the prospect wants to put in place won't help them accomplish their goals. The prospect doesn't really know what's a good idea or a bad idea. They don't have much, if any experience in sports sponsorships, so don't really have the experience to come up with good ideas. They just know what was done before. The sponsor may think a 'lucky section' is a fun idea but what if it doesn't drive any traffic to retail for them? Does that on-court halftime promotion get them what they want? If not, this approach is a recipe for a quick non-renewal at the end of the year.
  2. Worse yet, what if the other team failed so miserably that the prospect now doesn't believe sport sponsorships work at all? If you try to copy an idea they've done before that failed, the sponsor will just assume it won't work with your team either. Bye, bye prospect and any hope of a sale. Likewise, if you come up with your own poorly conceived idea, you'll likely be quickly shown the door again. Before you say, 'I never do that', look again at your last ten proposals. Are they really good ideas or are you just cutting and pasting and pitching what the team needs sold?

WHAT TO DO, WHAT TO DO?

You have two choices when approaching a sponsor with ideas.

The Laundry List - One way to approach it is provide a laundry list of ideas and let the sponsor choose. I know one team that after the 'needs analysis' provided the sponsor with a 16 page, single spaced list of ideas and elements they could put in to a sponsorship for the company.

The team had essentially put every idea down on paper and said, "Which ones do you like?" They left it in the prospect's hands to decide what they wanted instead of making clear, specific recommendations on what would help the prospect accomplish their goals.

The sponsor of course said, "They all sound great. We like them all. Can you do it within our budget?" The team came back and said the cost for all of them would be more than double the company's budget and again asked, "Which ones do you like?" It was at this point the company hired me to come in and help clearly define what they wanted to accomplish and go back to the team with a specific wish list. Even then the team hemmed and hawed about how much it would cost and what was more important. After more than a month, we're still trying to negotiate a deal.

In fact, we've taken the tact of telling the team exactly what we want within the budget parameters and what our expectations are. The team is supposed to come back with a clear, specific proposal and tell us what is possible. The only reason we got to this stage is because of my experience knowing what a team should be doing in the sales process. It will be interesting to see if this team was listening.

The Right Idea from the beginning - I prefer a more specific approach from the start. Instead of a 'needs analysis', I'll go to a prospect with a specific proposal and idea on how to help them accomplish their specific goals. These days, it's pretty easy to find a company's objectives out through internet research. In fact, the CMO of a major automotive manufacturer said at a recent conference, "Don't start a meeting with 'what are your objectives for the next twelve months?' You should already know that with a simple Google search."

Take a very specific proposal with very specific elements. You should have a pretty good idea before walking through the front door to their office how how each element can help them accomplish their goals. This comes from research and experience with how your other sponsors have used the elements successfully.

One of the key elements you present should be a way for the sponsor to accomplish their most important goal. This could be anything from driving more of your fans to their website, developing a high-visibility community program, driving retail traffic or stronger B2B relationships.

Once you've presented your proposal and explained your specific ideas, you'll get feedback on those ideas. That feedback will determine the next steps. You may be way out of their league in regards to price. You may have to tweak the key promotion idea or alter some of the minor elements. Whatever it is, you'll move the sales process forward with clear, specific feedback and next steps.

As a sport sponsorship salesperson, you're the expert on how your sponsorship can help the prospect accomplish their goals. You know how to execute it. Unless you're talking to Budweiser or Nike or Chevrolet, the prospect doesn't really know what you can do for them. You have to tell them. You're the expert. Act like it.

Steve DeLay is co-author with Jon Spoelstra of Check out "The Ultimate Toolkit to Sell the Last Seat in the House" , a complete How To for teams and colleges on ticket sales strategy, tactics, marketing and training. They are collaborating on "The Ultimate Toolkit - Sponsorships", due out in the summer of 2015. You can reach Steve via email at stevedelay@earthlink.net or follow him on Twitter @SteveDeLay2.

Check out past Sponsorship Sales and Service articles on The Migala Report.

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