7 Networking Strategies that Drive Sponsorship Success

I am asked constantly how to find sponsorship prospects, how to find the right people and how to get prospects to take a call or meeting. My answer is to go back to the principles of sales. People buy from people! Cold calls have a terrible success rate and leading with the sponsorship package is a one way ticket to the recycle bin.

I have invited networking guru and business coach, Michael Hughes, to share some of his most tested and successful sales techniques. Whether you are in sponsorship sales, cause marketing or any other sales environment the tips will increase your revenue.

Now over to Michael:

The world of sponsorship and cause marketing is more crowded and more competitive than ever. When you factor in the economy and the seemingly endless list of requests that pop up everywhere, it’s no wonder sponsors are harder to find and connect with.

Networking, and relationship building, is still the most effective sponsorship strategy today. In today’s technology-driven marketplace, face-to-face contact is a difference maker, especially when dealing with intangible services like sponsorship.

Here are six practical, proven networking success strategies to take your sponsorship sales to the next level and differentiate you from others:

Clarity is Your Point of Differentiation

One of the most powerful sponsorship resources you have at your disposal is the property you’re promoting. Whether it’s an event, activity or project, it encompasses a number of unique components. Invest time to clearly identify and expand on these key differentiators. They are the basis for your value in the marketplace.

Start With Your Current Network

A logical starting point is your existing network: your database of existing/past sponsors (clients), suppliers, stakeholders, donors and friends. These relationships hold within them a hidden opportunity. Rather than canvassing these people again, seek instead to identify, link into and leverage the networks they are part of. They’ll be happy to introduce you and you’ll often meet people just like them.

Network Strategically

Leveraging an existing network is a critical success factor for fundraising success but it’s not enough. Before running out to every event, invest time to clarify the high-value companies or corporate professionals and research what networks they belong to. This allows you connect with them by design as opposed to by default.

When Looking for Sponsorship Prospects…Don’t Prospect!

Professionals don’t attend events to be sold. They attend to meet other professionals and build relationships. The purpose of networking is to bring two individuals together and act as the catalyst for building relationships. Having a peer-to-peer perspective allows you to connect with potential sponsors as equals. If you’re in the right network, you know you’re meeting with people who can help you achieve your sponsorship objectives.

Every Prospect has Value in the Sponsorship Game

Every person has the potential to help you. This truism’s worth increases exponentially when you are meeting the right people. Your job as a sponsorship and cause marketing professional is to discover how your program or your project can contribute to your prospect’s success. That’s why your most important task while networking is to consciously and continuously position yourself as a researcher who has a sincere interest in the needs, issues and passion of your conversation partner. By focusing on value, you demonstrate your professionalism, competency and integrity.

Follow Up is the Key to Success

Successful partnerships with quality sponsors aren’t made at networking events, they develop over time as you build trust, establish a reciprocal value base and confirm the contribution to both parties’ success. The path to this outcome lies in leveraging a networking conversation into a next contact. Your primary objective while networking with high-value contacts is to create a reason to want to meet again. That’s when the selling really starts.

Invest in Real Relationship Building

Success in business and life is about creating and developing relationships. Relationships take time, need to be nurtured and require investment. Nowhere is this truer than in the world of fundraising. Networking is relationships on steroids. When utilized effectively, it can drive the relationship process forward, but will never supplant it. Accept the sales process as a series of interactions that build on one another to create and confirm a relationship that meets the needs of everyone involved.

Michael Hughes is known as Canada’s Networking Guru. Find out more about him at Networking for Results and download a complimentary copy of his 12-page ebook Managing the Networking Experience.