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“Just Send me a Proposal” The Five Words you Never Want to Hear in Sponsorship

Telling people “no” is an uncomfortable experience and people try to avoid it at all costs and so our prospects have come up with an ingenious way to say no without having to say no, and it sounds like this:

“Just send me a proposal”

Which is code for “no thanks.”

The reason it works so well is that as sponsorship seekers we are obsessed with the idea that the sponsorship proposal makes the sale. We reason that once the sponsor hears about our great cause and sees how many benefits we’ve stuffed into the “gold level” of our package, they will jump at the chance to give us money.

The sponsor asks for a proposal to get out of an uncomfortable situation and the sponsorship seeker happily sends over the proposal under the false impression that the sponsor has any intention of reading their sponsorship package.

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Just Say No to Stock Proposals

The next time someone says “Just send me a proposal” I want you to use the most powerful word in the English language:


Take a moment to let that sink in! It should make you uncomfortable because it goes against everything you think you know about sponsorship. Then I want you to say the following:

“Everything we do is custom and I couldn’t possibly put together a proposal without first learning from you what you are trying to accomplish, who you are trying to connect with and whether or not we can help you achieve your business goals.”

One of two things will happen. The prospect will either walk away and never talk to you again (in which case, they never had any interest to begin with) or they will agree to a phone call or meeting.

What are you Trying to Accomplish?

I was speaking at a conference a few weeks ago and having drinks with the other speakers and a few senior folks in the sponsorship industry. One of these folks told me that he sat down with a major sponsor recently and asked “What are you trying to accomplish with your sponsorship dollars?” to which the sponsor replied “no one has ever asked me that in my career as a sponsor.”

Imagine yourself walking onto a car lot to look at a new car and the sales person walks over, hands you a proposal and tells you that you have to pick one of three predetermined vehicles. He then tells you when you’re ready, please fill out the form at the bottom of the page and submit payment.

Just because you are trying to sell sponsorship levels or title sponsorship for an event doesn’t mean your prospect has any interest in these opportunities!

Would you buy a car from them? Not a chance! Yet when we reach out to our sponsors and ask them to choose our charity over the other 86,000 charities in Canada, we do so with a predetermined list of opportunities expecting the sponsor to read our proposal from cover to cover and let us know which level they’ve selected.

Stand out From the Crowd

The next time a prospect tells you to fill out a form or submit a sponsorship package, tell them you are taking a stand against bas sponsorship sales practices and that you only create packages based on the needs of your sponsors. Then ask them for a 5 minute call to talk about their goals, their target audience and the types of things they prefer to invest in.

Try it and two things will happen:

First, you will send out way less sponsorship packages! Despite what you’ve been led to believe, this is a good thing!

Second, you will sell more sponsorship. If you tell sponsors you will only sell them the benefits that deliver on their business goals and that you want to help them achieve those goals, not only will they want to talk to you but they will want to invest with you.

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Chris Baylis is the President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective and a self-confessed sponsorship geek.

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.

Chris now spends his time working with clients to value their assets and build strategies that drive sales. An accomplished speaker and international consultant, Chris has helped his clients raise millions in sponsorship dollars.

Connect with Chris via: The Sponsorship Collective | Twitter | LinkedIn