The Sponsorship Sales Cycle
The successful sponsorship sales cycle includes 7 stages and each one proves to be crucial to the success of the cycle. Therefore, it's important to pay careful attention to each of the stages in order to not only secure the right sponsors, but also to retain them long-term.
This seemingly long process might seem daunting, we know, but don't worry. We'll walk you through each one so you can move ahead confidently and eager to tackle your sponsorship sales program.
Whether you're starting out with a new sponsorship program, or you're revamping your current one, it's essential that you follow the entire sponsorship sales cycle to establish a sustainable program.
The 7 Stages
The 7 stages can be summarized as follows:
- Build inventory
- Prospect attentively
- Deliver a compelling proposal
- Execute a formal agreement
- Coordinate all the details
- Execute the vision
- Review and renew
1. Build Inventory
As described by Chris Baylis of The Sponsorship Collective, “Why start here? Because your inventory of assets (what you will sell) tells you who you should be talking to. It guides your budget! No assets, no sales."
Initially, before you can even begin selling, you need to know what you have to sell. Even more-so, you need to know the value of what you have. Once you've identified the assets and their values, you can move forward knowing exactly what you're working with.
Many people who aren't creatively inclined will struggle with this fundamental step. If that's you, we recommend getting other colleagues on board to help you brainstorm (buy them some food, turn the music on, and start writing ideas down together). You could also hire an agency to help you (we can help!).
To demonstrate the flow of asset identification, we're listing out some examples of sponsorship assets to help you get started:
- Naming rights or presenting sponsorship
- section, area, or building
- day or weekend at the event
- event, performance, seminar, awards
- Dedicated space on-site for sponsor to activate via:
- Signage on-site
- pre-event street banners
- press conference backdrop
- staff apparel
- Digital assets
- social media (think contests, co-created content, sponsor takeover)
- e-newsletter (let sponsor introduce a promotion)
- website (typically just signage opportunities here)
- Media and PR inclusion in:
- press releases
- print advertising
- broadcast advertising
- outdoor signage
- radio advertising
- ad space in event program
- tickets to event(s)
- VIP passes
- access to celebrities
The possibilities for sponsorship assets are endless!
You could even take this further by custom designing a new program with your sponsor or including one of your sponsor's preferred charitable organizations into your event.
The next and final component of this first stage is to figure out the value for each asset you've identified. We talked all things valuation in our post titled "Sponsorship Valu-What??"
Finally, you will have your complete inventory.
2. Prospect Attentively
As long as you know what you have to offer – inventory, audience, and mission – identifying the right sponsors should get easier. You're looking for brands/companies who have:
- the budget to buy your assets
- the need/desire to reach your audience
- the same values as you
Once you have your prospect list, you’ll have to contact them in ways that will appeal to them. Simply e-blasting them most likely won’t do the trick. You’ll want to personally contact them, researching how they’d prefer to be contacted. This may be through social media such as LinkedIn, or via a referral.
Make sure that before you contact them, you have done your homework. You need to know who the brand/company is, and even go as far as trying to find a connection point for the person you're going to be speaking with.
If you're going to be calling them, it might be a good idea to have a script prepared. This will help avoid rambling and ensure you deliver the entirety of your message with clarity (nerves have a tendency to fog our thinking and you may only get one shot!).
If you've made it this far, you're a champ! Now comes time to present your vision. Read that again. It's not about the assets, even though those are necessary, it's about the vision those assets can bring to life.
But don't panic! You shouldn't be doing this completely alone.
3. Deliver a Compelling Sponsorship Proposal
Whenever it's time to have a conversation with your prospect sponsor, you need to do one thing: LISTEN.
Seriously, this is the most simple thing you'll do in this sponsorship sales cycle, and yet it can also be the hardest for people to do. Don't try to sell your assets right away. Just l-i-s-t-e-n.
What you originally thought would be perfect for them, may not be once you hear their goals, available resources, and preferences. Don't blow it by offering something they don't want.
Ask questions, and listen to what they need.
Before you end the meeting, let them know that you will be taking all of their needs and preferences in consideration and meeting with your team to deliver a unique proposal that caters to their personal goals. It's important that they know you are providing a special, customized offer and not just throwing them a bundle of assets at a fixed rate so you can meet your sponsorship revenue goals.
Make them feel like they're part of your property/event/organization, and they belong with your audience. If you can convince them of that, you can sell them on any price. Again, sell the vision, not the assets.
Be sure to include demographic information, photos/videos, and all they're going to get in the proposal. This should be obvious, but just in case, don't forget to also include the price and your contact information in the proposal.
If you need more help for this part of the sponsorship sales cycle, take a look at our "5 Essential Steps to Creating an Enticing Sponsorship Proposal."
Now, this is the stage where your sponsorship sales cycle might be the most nerve-wracking. You can cross your fingers and toes, pray if you do that, and just stay calm! Once you've delivered your compelling proposal, you will have to patiently wait for the response.
4. Execute a Formal Agreement
They loved your proposal and you've got yourself a new sponsor! Yayyyyy!!
As soon as the proposal is agreeable by your sponsor, get an agreement in place. You might want to consider executing a multi-year contract and offering a discount for this term. It's worth it!
Other items that you may want to include in your agreement are:
- First right of refusal for renewal at conclusion of contract
- Performance incentives
Don't delay getting your agreement in place, or you might lose the sponsor. Nothing is “final” until the contract is signed. Speed is as important as accuracy in this stage.
5. Coordinate All The Details
Perhaps a good place to start would be with our post, "Sale to Service: What Happens After The Deal Is Signed?"
Your sales person may have to handle the deal from A-Z, or you may have another person or department entirely that takes care of delivering all the promised assets. If the latter, you'll want to be sure that everyone involved is part of the account transition.
The service team needs to fully understand what the sponsor has expressed and been promised.
If there are special requests or challenges, now is the time for the sales team to communicate with the service team. Communication is the key to success in this stage of the sponsorship sales cycle.
Do not allow your sales representative to hoard the relationship. They may like being the favorite, but your customer is best served if they feel they have a special relationship with your entire company. No matter who they speak with, they should feel known and understood.
The sales rep should also stay present, even if not directly involved, as they will be the one to handle the renewal later.
As for making sure the promised assets are delivered, your service team should be organized, detail-oriented and curious; asking lots of questions will help them fully understand how to best deliver. They should also consider several different scenarios and be able to adjust in case things change or don't go as planned.
Completing this stage properly is crucial since your sponsor’s success (and therefore yours as well) depends on it.
6. Execute the Vision
First of all, someone familiar (whether sales or service staff) needs to be present and available throughout the execution. Whether it's on-site load-in or digital assets being published, your company needs to be within reach to answer questions, clarify instructions, and generally make your sponsor feel supported.
The best way to deliver well, is to put yourself in the sponsor's shoes. For example, if you're driving to a new location, where you need to setup an elaborate activation in a place you've never been to, what are some questions you might have and challenges you might face?
Some basic questions might include:
- Where is the power supply?
- How do I connect to the internet?
- Where are the restrooms?
Same goes for digital execution. If you and your sponsor are co-creating a promotion, it will be crucial to remain in constant communication on the design part, as well as when and where the promotion will be published. If you surprise your sponsor (or in other words, blind side them), they won't be prepared. And THAT, would not make them happy.
Remember, your ultimate goal, is to make them successful. Their success is your success.
In fact, if you can make this investment from your sponsor successful, the last stage will be MUCH easier.
7. Review and Renew
You may be exhausted from the lengthy sponsorship sales cycle at this point, but the last stage is imperative for your long-term success so don't give up quite yet.
We know... this is quite an intense process, and that's exactly why some rightsholders elect to outsource their sponsorship programs to agencies with experience, expertise, and resources – like Tandem.
But if you're doing it on your own, hang in there, this is the home stretch!
At the end of the deal, when all promised assets have been delivered, you need to provide your sponsor a wrap-up report. This should include photos, videos, data, and any other notes that show what and how you executed the deal points.
Immediately after you've sent them the wrap-up report, you should initiate the renewal conversation. Ask about how they felt partnering with you, any challenges they faced, how they feel about the data you've reported, and any ideas they might have for the future.
Then you start the sponsorship sales cycle all over again! Minus the inventory building and prospecting. See, it DOES get easier!
We suggest coming up with a new vision that supports growth for the future, and keeps them excited about continuing this relationship with you.
If you originally signed a multi-year deal, it may not be necessary to re-think the vision or assets, but if you didn't, you definitely want to show them you're striving to continuously deliver the best. Honestly, even if it is a multi-year deal, you can still add to the deal if it's mutually beneficial based on previous experience.
Long-Term Success Trumps Short-Term Sales
Given these points, it's worth it to NOT take shortcuts when going through the cycle. Each stage carries its own level of importance, and like a puzzle, is a necessary part to your long-term success.
If you follow these 7 stages of the sponsorship sales cycle, you will see results in the long run. You will notice how solid your relationships are, and witness growth in your deals year over year.
When all you do is sell an asset here and there, you won't have the same investment or retention because the "sponsor" isn't actually being integrated with your organization / event. You need to ensure all parties become interwoven, that everyone has real skin in the game and benefits from the deal.
In this industry, short-term sales cannot, and will not result in long-term success. Instead, it will guarantee your sales team is constantly struggling to catch up on sales numbers, never having a solid foundation to build upon.
You can't grow without a solid foundation.
In conclusion, as we often say, and have already stated in this post: renewing a deal is better than seeking a new sponsor. So in essence, follow the steps – you'll be glad you did!
WORK WITH TANDEM TO ACHIEVE A POWERFUL SPONSORSHIP PROGRAM
If you’re struggling to do this all by yourself, Tandem Partnerships can help. We have the connections, team, and resources you need!
ASSET IDENTIFICATION & VALUATION SERVICES AT TANDEM PARTNERSHIPS
Don't know where to start? Tandem can help you identify your assets and determine their true value using proven methodology.
TANDEM'S STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT
Take it a step further and invite Tandem to explore your financial objectives, audience, and offerings to receive a personalized strategy that produces results.
SPONSORSHIP SALES & SERVICE BY TANDEM
Tandem can also secure sales for your sponsorship program and execute successful fulfillment of promised assets to your partners. We'll also do everything we can to renew the deal for you!
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