Being successful at securing sponsors is not about being ‘salesy’ or ‘pushy’ or trying to be something you’re not.
It’s about being as effective as you can be in the time you have available – understanding and exploring common goals, screening potential partners efficiently, building relationships and moving through the process at your partner’s pace.
The last thing you want (or have time for) is to be tripped up by something that you were not expecting to happen – some question, delay or objection that you can’t move past.
If I was asked to distil sponsorship sales into just one concept that made it easier for corporate fundraisers to success, that concept would be ‘it’s not about what you say… it’s about what you ASK.’
The sponsorship sales process can be broadly broken down into 3 parts.
Part 1- Approaches and Meetings
When you create a sponsorship strategy, it’s vital that you know the steps you need to take in order to make the most of every approach you make. Sponsorship conversations are never short and decisive, they tend to be long and meandering and take time to ensure both parties are ‘on the same page’.
Every corporate fundraiser knows there is an element of ‘sales’ involved in seeking and securing corporate partners. Unfortunately though, when we talk about ‘sales’, it can also go hand-in-hand with differing levels of anxiety about the best way to make an approach or how to make the most of meetings with potential sponsors.
The ‘approach and meetings’ phase in the sponsorship sales process includes moving from ‘fear and into gear’ by being proactive in your sponsorship approach. It involves:
- doing your research of the brand you are approaching and trying to understand what business problems they might be looking to solve with sponsorship
- reaching out to them to speak – either via the phone or face-to-face.
- asking great questions to ensure you are screening them as a potential partner and most importantly becoming crystal clear in your mind about what they are seeking from a partnership.
- that will then dictate whether or not you feel your organisation can deliver.
This phase encompasses starting from a position of knowing what it takes to make the right approach to a potential partner and moving from there to building rapport, securing the meeting, and beyond!
Part 2- Navigating Objections, Concerns & Questions
In the beginning, the sponsorship sales process is geared towards making the right approach that gets you a meeting with a potential sponsor.
Sponsorship meetings can take time to secure and while each encounter can be as unique as the person you are meeting with, there are common elements to each of them, especially when it comes to understanding (the very natural part of the process) questions and objections.
As fundraisers, if we can learn how to embrace the ‘objections, concerns and questions’ phase and use them as a barometer reading of how engaged your potential partners are, rather than see them as something to be feared or avoided, we will really thrive in sponsorship sales.
It is completely natural for someone to have some concerns, or questions when they are being asked to spend a significant amount of money without much knowledge of what it entails.
If you are considering a major purchase – a car, holiday etc, don’t you absolutely want to know all the details, what’s involved an what you get for your money?
Sponsorship is the same, and by putting yourself in a marketing manager’s shoes and understanding that they are feeling pressured to get the maximum benefits for their brand out of their marketing budget, it can help you shift into more of a ‘what do you need from me to understand if this will work for you’ mindset, rather than ‘please don’t ask me any questions or raise any objections, I’m afraid I’ll go to pieces and not know how to respond!’
Part 3- Conversations that Convert to Contracts
Closing or converting all the conversations you’ve had with a potential partner into a ‘sale’ can be the most exciting (and nerve-wracking) part of the sponsorship process.
Conversations that convert to a signed contract are a milestone worth celebrating and the point at which you need to ensure your team and Board are prepared for the next phase of the journey – this is where you ‘open’ the relationship and start really getting to know each other as you collectively put your ‘shoulder to the wheel’ to achieve your mission.
Getting to this point though, takes determination and courage and it is where most charity sponsorship seekers lose confidence, try too hard or simply avoid (or forget) asking for a sponsor’s investment. Can you relate?
It can be helpful to reframe the role that ‘closing the sale’ plays in the sponsorship sales process by thinking of this phase as just continuing to ask a sponsor what the next steps are (and perhaps answering more questions and addressing more concerns) until the next step becomes a signed contract. Breaking down into little steps feels much more achievable than feeling like you have to walk out of a meeting with a ‘yes’.
Are you wanting a more in-depth step-by-step breakdown of the sponsorship sales process?
There’s everything you need here in our 12-month course to help you feel completely comfortable and empowered talking to brands about why sponsorship with your organisation would be a great investment of their marketing budget.