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How to Create A Sponsorship Sales Funnel

by | March 23, 2020

Why you can trust Sponsorship Collective

  • The Sponsorship Collective has worked with over 1000 clients from every property type all over North America and Europe, working with properties at the $50,000 level to multi-million dollar campaigns, events and multi-year naming rights deals
  • We have published over 300 YouTube videos, written over 500,000 words on the topic and published dozens of research reports covering every topic in the world of sponsorship
  • All of our coaches and consultants have real world experience in sponsorship sales

A rookie mistake marketers make when seeking sponsorship prospects is to NOT treat them like any other B2B sales target. Sponsors are no different than clients when it comes to prospecting. You still need to adopt a B2B sales discipline, which means you need to create a pipeline just like you would for your sales process.

While it might seem as though seeking clients and sponsors are two different things (which of course they are), they still need a prospecting pipeline to create a moves management system to track prospects every step of the way. In fact, because your sponsorship revenue goals are easier to define, you can take focus away from revenue and instead concentrate on volume. Here’s how you can create an effective sponsorship prospecting pipeline that helps you meet your revenue goals.

Know Your Revenue Goal

Okay, we did say revenue is not the focus, but it still needs to be defined so you can set your prospecting plan in motion. Look at your event and determine how much funding is needed to make it viable and profitable.

List the Stages of Your Pipeline

Set up a basic spreadsheet to list the stages of your pipeline:

  • Cold prospects: Your list of companies most likely to see the opportunity you present.
  • Cold calls: The initial call or email has been made.
  • Discovery meeting: You’ve snagged that first meeting to learn more and help qualify your prospects.
  • Sponsorship proposal: Presentation of a customized proposal to prospects has been sent.
  • In or out: Are they interested or not?

This is where your measurements change. Instead of constantly counting the money you’ve earned, focus on tracking the volume of prospects at each stage and the activity levels.

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Determine the Cost for Your Packages

You’ve got your revenue goal, so now you need to know how you’ll meet that goal. You first have to determine the costs of your packages. You want to hit the right number that makes it reasonable for sponsors while allowing you to meet your goals. It all starts with determining the value of your packages. Some good ways to apply fair value is looking at what others charge for similar opportunities:

  • Ads in trade magazines
  • Google Ads
  • Local paper ads
  • Banner ads

Consider how much exposure, views, readers, etc. each marketing opportunity offers and apply those numbers to your estimated target attendees and the exposure each asset will provide to sponsors. Your pricing needs to:

  • Show value for sponsorship
  • Offer support for the value it will bring to sponsors
  • Prove the value with a list benefits each level of sponsorship brings

From there, you can move on to the next stage: How many sponsors will it take for you to reach your revenue goal?

Determine How Many Sponsors You Need

Use your revenue goal to determine how many sponsors you will need. It will be basic math:

Your revenue goal divided by your average sponsorship package cost = the number of sponsors needed.

If your revenue goal is $500,000 and your average sponsorship package costs $10,000, you’ll need at least 50 sponsorship packages since you will see variations in the packages you sell.

Set Goals for Each Stage of the Pipeline

Consider how much time you have to get your funding, your revenue goals and the number of sponsors you need as the base to set goals for each stage of your pipeline. You’ll need to estimate your conversion rates in order to target numbers for each stage. By this we mean, how many prospects you might think you can move to each stage. Your numbers will decrease as you hit each stage of the pipeline.

So, your cold prospects/cold calls will be higher than your discovery meetings, your proposals even lower and then your sponsors even lower. This is sad, but a fact of life for any sales process. You can then determine:

  • How many cold calls do you need to make each week?
  • How many discovery sessions you need to schedule each week?
  • How many proposals you’ll need to send out each week?

When you have these numbers in mind you can keep an eye on your volumes under each stage and determine if you need to start filling more cold prospects into the pipeline. You’ll be more aware of how you are managing and be able to see where more focus is needed.

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Prospect Research

So, now you want to start filling that first stage of your pipeline. Don’t go willy nilly about your list. You need to research brands to find the ones that align with your event. What brands resonate with your attendees and what brands want to reach them? Some good starting points for research include:

  • The most logical brands that will attract attendees
  • Brands your competitors partner with
  • Brands who share your audience without going to too general a brand
  • Brands you currently deal with such as vendors and suppliers

Make your list and pop it into your pipeline under cold prospects.

Outreach and Lead Qualification

The number one rule for effective outreach is to know who your contact should be. Use your cold prospect list and search relevant people within the company who will make logical contacts. If you contact the wrong person, you can hit them up for the right person’s name. LinkedIn is always a good starting point and you can search for job titles with the words Brand, Marketing, Business or Product Development, Communications, or Sales. Also, do some networking at events in the industry or that your competitors throw to make firsthand contacts. You can chat them up and get some info on their goals.

Don’t approach cold calls/emails with the sole focus on selling them a package. Instead, help qualify them as leads by trying to show interest in their goals. No one wants an unsolicited sponsorship proposal! If you met them in person, you have an in by mentioning your introduction and asking them if you could pick their brain about something. If you have to go in cold, reach out and let them know their LinkedIn profile looks like they might be able to provide assistance on a special project you are working on. Suggest a time for a call or meeting to pick their brains. This will hopefully lead to your discovery meeting.

Discovery Meetings

While ideally, your discovery meeting should happen in person, it can still be effective by phone or video call. Your goal is to get to know the prospect and perform the ultimate qualifying conversation. This is still not the time to hit them up with your sales pitch. No proposal should appear at this meeting. Think of yourself as a journalist interviewing someone about their recently launched brand.

Your job is to ask questions, listen and glean the most important information from their answers. You want to continue to delve deeper with each answer with more questions to learn about their needs and look for opportunities to gently insert comments about your event. This way your conversation will help them begin to see you can solve their marketing goals. Your discovery meeting will set the groundwork for your potential partnership.

Areas of conversation will include:

  • Their ideal audience and details about how your audience meets those criteria (or if it doesn’t you get a quick answer that they’re not a good fit)
  • Their business goals and how your event might help them meet those goals
  • How they measure the success of their marketing endeavors and how your properties and assets measure up to their idea of success

Good questions to cover:

  • Who is your target audience?
  • How do you normally engage in sponsorship?
  • What does your target market value?
  • What can you tell me about your sales goals for the coming year?

From this conversation, you can determine if they would make a good sponsor. You can then decide what package or sponsorship offer will help them meet their goals and successfully engage their target audience. You can wind it all up with a final question: What would you consider to be the most important elements of a sponsorship proposal?

Proposal Submission

Your proposal includes the following:

  • Title Page/Letter with your logo, event name and tagline, without using the word sponsorship or proposal.
  • Audience/Target Overview with an explanation of who your attendees are and why it is their ideal audience.
  • The Opportunity: Why should they participate, addressing details about the event.
  • Menu of Opportunities: A list of packages that should not be set in levels but instead titled based on the goals they help sponsors achieve. Avoid saying it is a menu and title the page something like Our Opportunities, with packages broken down by engagements, brand awareness, reach your audience, etc. and then the assets available under each opportunity.
  • Sample Activations: Show how your activations help them meet their goals specifically using the info you gleaned at the discovery meeting.
  • The Contact Page: Use not only a clear call to action but also encourage them to share their insights about the proposal. What is missing? What works?

Encourage them to carry on the conversation so you can get to the next level of actually selling the sponsorship.

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Follow Up

After a few days follow up to find out how they’re feeling. See if they have advice on how you can improve the proposal to meet their needs. It’s okay to reach out more than once since you now have a relationship with them. Feel free to share new information about the event, such as the latest keynote speakers, a great sponsor you’ve acquired they might be interested in aligning themselves with, or an exciting instalment or feature you’ve added that they might put their name on or participate in. This helps keep them interested in the potential your event offers.

By focusing on volume at each stage, you remain on top of your prospects. You can determine when it’s time to feed new cold prospects into the pipeline until you meet your revenue goals.

After several years as a sponsor (that’s right, the one investing the money!) Chris decided to cross over to the sponsorship sales side where he has personally closed tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals. Chris has been on the front lines of multi-million-dollar sponsorship agreements and has built and coached teams to do the same.