Whenever I am writing for my own blog, or lecturing at a post-secondary institution or delivering a workshop at a conference I constantly talk about doing discovery sessions. I continuously harp on how important it is to learn enough about prospects and their businesses so that you can help them with their issues. It is like making sure you know everything you can about a major gift prospect. Often for us in the sponsorship industry, those issues might be that the prospect needs more sales leads, driving brand awareness or store traffic, engaging their staff in the community or making them feel better about the company they are working for. There is a myriad of issues a business might have, and hopefully, your property can assist them in solving some of them through a partnership with you.
The key is to build the relationship so that the prospect will trust you with their issues. Then they will trust you to help solve their problems. The sales cycle is long, but there are many successes or wins along the way. And as a sponsorship professional (or salesperson in general), you need to count all the wins along the journey to success!
When you book the first meeting—that is a win. When you get to meet the prospect (they didn’t cancel or reschedule the meeting)—that is win. Learning more about their business—that is a win. Collaborating with your team to bring the prospect ideas on how you might be able to help—that is a win. Discussing those ideas with the prospect, and gaining feedback and suggestions—that is a win. Eventually building a proposal (they have asked you for a proposal)—that is a win! Then when you get to present and negotiate—that is a win. And the ultimate “win” in the sponsorship hunt—you close the deal!
It all seems so simple when you break it down into a series of wins! Small steps. They all add up to the big win. A mentor once said to me, “With each of those wins, you are training your prospect to say ‘yes’ as they say yes to a meeting, yes to more information, yes to another meeting, yes to a proposal…
One really important thing I have learned through this process is the importance of engagement. I have found that, when you actually engage prospects to participate, they are more inclined to build the relationship. Sometimes that means asking them to get you information. It might mean them introducing you to others in their company whom you should chat with to learn more about the company and some of the issues. It might mean three or four face-to-face meetings. It might also mean visiting the organization to experience it. As you engage the prospect, the relationship grows. As the relationship grows, trust is enhanced. As trust is enhanced, information is more easily shared. Once you have the necessary information, you can help solve those issues! Engagement of the prospect in this way is critical.
Recently, a study was done with health care providers. You may or may not be aware that “no shows” to doctor or healthcare appointments happen too often and are very costly to our healthcare system. The appointment you failed to show up for could have been used by someone who needed it. Instead, it is a wasted time slot.
The research and study by Steve Martin CMCT and Influence at Work showed that, by engaging people in a simple little task (a change in process, but a simple one), they were able to reduce no shows by 18%! The change was: when a person phoned to make an appointment, the receptionist asked the patient to repeat back the day and time! Alternatively, if the appointment was being made in person, rather than the receptionist writing out the day and time on a business card, the patient was given a pen and the business card, and asked to write in the day and time for the next appointment.
Yes, the Reality Check is that, by engaging people in the process, we achieve greater success! Be sure to engage prospects in your sales process. And, as a sponsor, know that your openness to building the relationship and providing the necessary information will ensure that the sponsorship program ultimately presented to you should be helpful in achieving your goals!
Brent is one of Canada's leaders in sponsorship. With almost 30 years in the sponsorship industry as well as a career in the world of fund development he truly has the understanding of both philanthropy and sponsorship channels. Brent is the author of Canada's bestselling book on sponsorship Reality Check - Straight Talk about Sponsorship Marketing as well as he delivers 25+ speaking engagements a year at conferences and conventions.