The Custom Sponsorship Proposal
In my post “How to Get Sponsorship Dollars this Fall” we unpacked the sometimes complicated world of corporate sponsorship. I promised in that post that we would dive a little deeper into building the sponsorship proposal, how to get the prospecting meeting and how to move it forward successfully.
Sometimes, The Best Sponsorship Proposal is…
Nothing at all!
Blasphemy! Ask anyone how to do sponsorship and they will tell you to create a sponsorship proposal and send it to everyone you can. Heck, if you Google the word “sponsorship” Google tries to autocorrect it to “sponsorship proposal.” Here’s a secret: even the best designed sponsorship proposal won’t work if nobody is reading it.
Creating a standardized sponsorship proposal means that you want your prospect to sit down, read the entire thing and then self-select what works for them. This rarely happens and when it does, I bet that if you spent time talking to your prospects about a custom package you would have a happier sponsor and more money on the table.
Before you dismiss me as a lunatic, let me say this: you do still need a sponsorship proposal of some kind and we discussed a menu approach in the first post – but the package is not the most important part of sponsorship sales. Most important of all, you have to realize that the sponsorship package is NOT the sales tool, you are. The best sponsorship packages are designed to drive your prospects back to you to engage in conversation – not to simply make a sale on the spot.
Never Go in Sponsorship Proposal First
When you head to a prospecting meeting, my advice to you is to bring nothing at all. Don’t send the sponsorship proposal by email and don’t bring it with you. I am asked constantly by clients, board members, bosses and my prospects, “Where is your proposal, one pager, leave behind etc?” and my answer is always the same: “How do I know what to give them when I don’t know anything about their goals?”
When you bring a package or one pager with you it subtly tells your prospect that you are there for you, not for them. Instead, head to the meeting ready to ask lots of questions and get to know your prospect. This is also a sneaky tactic to help you get the second meeting and to help you build a custom sponsorship proposal, which we will describe below in more detail.
Getting the Sponsorship Meeting
By now, you have already built a pipeline and you’ve built your assets and know what they are worth. You wouldn’t dare bring a “gold, silver, bronze” sponsorship proposal to your first meeting…but how exactly do you get that meeting?
I am asked all the time, which is the best company or person within a company to talk to. My answer is “the one that will take your call!” A warm contact is always the best contact. Find a way to warm up every call, through a mutual friend, board member or donor who can make the introduction.
Not every call can be warmed up though, so how do you go in cold? Less is more when trying to connect with cold prospects. If your introductory email is more than three sentences, it’s too long and will get deleted. Never try to make the sale on the first call or email; the only goal of the first contact is to see if there is interest in moving forward. That’s it.
When you are going in cold, send a note or make a call and ask your prospect for some advice. Tell your prospect that you would love their thoughts on your event or program, would love to work with their company in some way and would appreciate their thoughts on the best approach. Avoid the temptation to include your mission statement, event details and program outcomes in the first email or phone call. All you want to do is get them to read your email or take your call and agree to spend five minutes giving you advice on next steps.
How to Get Sponsorship: The Prospecting Meeting
The goal of the first meeting is twofold. First, to learn as much as possible from your prospect. Ask them about their goals, needs, stakeholders, concerns…everything and anything. There is no better research tool than the question mark! All of the research in the world doesn’t compare to sitting down with your prospects and hearing about their interests directly from the source.
The second goal of the meeting is…to present a sponsorship proposal and close a deal, right? Definitely not! It happens, but rarely. The real goal of the first meeting is…the second meeting! Remember in a previous section I mentioned that not bringing a sponsorship proposal is a sneaky trick? Well this is why. If you bring a proposal to the first meeting you are almost certain to have guessed wrong about what your prospect wants – after all, you haven’t had a chance to ask them about their goals yet. The other reason to bring nothing is that it lets you gather information from your prospect, go back to the office and put together something tailored specifically for their needs. You have then earned the right to ask them for a quick follow up call to discuss their package or for the opportunity to stop by their office and drop it off to see if you are on the right track.
No Pressure Sponsorship Sales
The thing that most people fear when working in fundraising and sales is rejection. So far, we’ve discussed several opportunities to connect with your prospects without asking them for a thing. Take the pressure off yourself and your team and don’t try to make a sale in the first meeting or the first email, and instead see yourself as a partner, helping your prospects achieve their goals. Be comfortable with the idea that what you are offering may not work for them, and that’s OK.
By using the approach outlined here and in my previous post I have been able to keep a dialogue going with prospects despite several “no thank yous” until we eventually found the right fit for their marketing dollars. My prospects are often willing to continue the conversation after a no because they feel like we were a true partnership and that I am working with them to achieve their goals.
Stay tuned! Part three is going to talk about sponsorship activation, fulfillment and the art of the follow up meeting (and how to use that to close more sponsorship dollars and build a better sponsorship proposal).
This post was originally featured by the good folks at CharityVillage
Chris Baylis is a sponsorship and corporate fundraising specialist. Chris has managed the entire spectrum of the sponsorship process, raising millions of dollars for charities, associations and not for profits and is a board member of the Association of Fundraising Professionals.