How to Sell a Sponsorship in 30 Minutes
I remember when I sat on my first sponsorship sales call with a fundraising consultant who was MUCH more experienced than I was at asking for money.
At the time, I remember feeling nervous: we were about to ask for actual money for an actual event! It all felt so new to me.
But as we dialed up the marketing director at this company, I realized that asking for sponsorship is nothing more than making sure your offer aligns with their needs — and you need to know their needs in order to pitch efficiently.
If you read last week’s post on How to Sell an Event Sponsorship, you’ll remember that getting a sponsor on the phone is one of the best ways to actually close the deal, so that you can find out those needs.
Most people like to approach sponsors only through email, but successful sponsorship sales REQUIRE a strong relationship, and part of that relationship building process means actually talking to the people behind the sponsorship dollars.
Even if you don’t close the sponsor at that moment, getting on the phone helps you to get to know them better and you could always ask again another time.
Note: If you’re asking for in-kind sponsorship, like product or snack samples, you may not need to go the route of a phone call, but for any significant cash opportunity, phone calls or in-person meetings are the way to go.
Today’s post, I’m going to outline EXACTLY how I structure a call with a potential sponsor, the information that we need to have ready AND the questions that we need to ask when it’s their turn to talk. Let’s dive in!
Sponsorship Call Format
Before you go in to your sponsorship meeting, you’ll want to prepare a small internal agenda for you and your team if you have one. Below is what I suggest:
Introductions (5 minutes)
Agenda overview (1 minute)
Event origins and mission (2-4 minutes)
Event format description (2-3 minutes)
Pause for questions (30 seconds - 3 minutes)
Company marketing goals and mission (3-5 minutes)
Overcoming objections (3-5 minutes)
Next step recaps (1 minute)
Introduce everyone on the call and have everyone go around and talk a little bit about what they do and how they got connected to the call (if it’s one person, just ask them about their role on their team). Tell me about your role at your company as well.
This is where you tell them what you’re going to talk about and confirm their participation. Usually it goes something like this:
“Thanks for agreeing to talk about the event. I thought I’d go over our event mission, its format, and tell you a little bit about why we’re hosting it, and then I’d personally love to hear from you about your company’s marketing goals, whether or not you feel like this event fits in, and how you’d like to be engaged. Does that sound like a good place to start?”
Event Origins and Mission
How did this event come to fruition? Set the stage and STORYTELL about why this event is important. Make sure you mention why you started this event, what the goals and mission of the event are, and who is attending this event. If you haven’t yet sold a ticket to the event, that’s okay. Talk about the types of people who will be at the event — C-Suite executives, stay-at-home parents, donors to your non-profit with disposable income greater than $100 per plate.
The MORE information you have on attendees, the better the sponsorship phone call will go, so if you don’t have a great picture of the potential attendee, it’s going to be hard to get a sponsor on board.
This is important so that a sponsor understands their potential commitment to the event. Is it a 3-day conference? They’re going to assume that they can attend the event. Is it a fundraising dinner? Maybe they won’t want to attend because it’s a short event.
A lot of times, we think that the event is self-explanatory, but taking some time to talk your sponsor through the flow of the event will give them a good picture of it in their mind, as well as possibly give them ideas of how they can lean in for sponsorship (there’s a welcome reception? Oh we should sponsor that!).
Pause for Questions
After we’ve done all of our talking, I like to take a minute to ask for questions, if only to give the person on the other line a second to process out loud the things that they’ve just heard. We simply say “Okay, so that’s the broad overview of the event. Do you have any questions so far?”
Sometimes, there are none, in which case, nice work! They’re tracking with you.
Of course, if they have questions, that’s also great, because sometimes that a sign that they’re interested in getting more details about sponsorship. Which is great!
Company Marketing Goals and Mission
This is where you get to ask the questions and let your potential sponsor talk. I’d start with asking them to give you a brief rundown of their marketing goals this year and how you can be of service to them to fit into those goals.
Some questions I’d ask are:
Tell me about your company’s marketing goals this year. Who do you need to meet? Who do you need on your team? How can we help with this?
What is the most exciting part of this event for you?
Is there a specific activity that feels fun for you to participate in?
Are there any executives who may want to come and meet our attendees? If so, we can build that into your package.
With these questions, we’re trying to find out the most important pieces of sponsorship and how we can make sure that we’re offering them the exact package for them.
Usually on calls like theses, there’s a moment where people ask about the financial investment of sponsorship.
Most people (who don’t know how to close a sponsor) will just send a sponsorship package sheet to a potential sponsor and let them choose among the sponsorship tiers.
In my experience , sponsors don’t quite equate the dollar amount with the value that they’re getting….which is why this step is so important.
You’re trying to steer them in the direction of what will solve their problems, and it’s much easier to do that after asking them all these questions then it is for them to make that decision on their own.
It’s like if you went into a store and tried on two t-shirts of two different styles. Without someone pairing it with other items, you might just pick whichever one is cheaper. But if you understood the BIGGER picture, you’d choose the one that satisfies your actual needs.
I want you to make a suggestion over the phone and say “I think, based on your goals, you’d be a perfect fit for X package.” Then, send them your sponsorship packages, with a “Recommended Package” page. It makes it look like the sponsorship deck was created specifically for them.
Next Step Recap
Now that we’re at the end of our 25 minutes or so, I like to wrap up with action items. Usually, I like to give clients an overview of how the process works, and then let them know when to expect to hear from us. It goes like this:
“We really appreciate your time today and wanted to let you know what happens next. As soon as we get off the phone, I’ll send you the sponsorship levels we discussed. Then, we’ll follow up next week to see if your management team has approved the sponsorship. And if you’d like to get on the phone to talk through questions, we’re happy to do that as well. Does that sound okay? Is there anything else you need from us right now?”
Bing, bang, boom! Thirty minutes and you’re closed!