Five Questions for Every Sponsorship Prospect

Prospecting is arguably the most important part of the sponsorship and corporate fundraising process. It is through prospecting meetings with sponsors, geared towards information gathering rather than sales, that you learn whether or not the market will support your goals. If you’ve read my post about sponsorship pipeline building then you know that corporate fundraising favours the sales cycle and not the donor pyramid, so the types of questions you need to ask of your prospects must reflect that.

5 Questions for Every Sponsorship Prospect

Here are the five most important questions you should be asking of when seeking sponsorship in order to be able to create a custom sponsorship package:

  • 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?
  • What would you consider to be the most important elements of a sponsorship package?

I know what you’re thinking: You didn’t get a chance to deliver your sponsorship package or describe your sponsorship levels. Keep reading to find out why this is a good thing, and while you’re at it check out my article on the real goals of the sponsorship sales meeting.

Ask Your Way to More Sponsorship Sales

What do you notice about these five questions? First, none of them are statements! I know this seems obvious but it’s important to pause here to consider this very simple message. You should be asking questions and listening far more than talking about your sponsorship package- this is how to get sponsorship money!

When nerves take over and most people I have worked with move into “spaghetti mode.” They throw every fact that they can think of about their organization at the wall in hopes that something will stick. They hope the sponsor will hear that magic word or key message and write a cheque. The truth is, less is more when it comes to your messaging.

The Best and Most Unique Sponsorship Activation Ideas will Come From Your Prospect!

Of course you should talk about your organization and the good work you do but you won’t discover what your prospect’s cause marketing goals are by walking them through your five-year strategic plan or handing them your annual report!

Be honest with your prospect and tell them that you want to work with them and that you are there to learn as much as possible about them and their goals. Tell them that you don’t believe in a one-size fits all approach to sponsorship and that you want to learn more about their key stakeholders, i.e. their customers.

The Most Important Question Before
Sending a Sponsorship Package

“How does that sound to you?”

Why is this the most important question? Because you would never dream of submitting a proposal or moving to the next step until you have your prospect’s explicit permission to do so.

Some rules about using this question:

  • You can only ask it once you have asked the preceding five questions
  • You can only ask it if you can genuinely draw a link between their customers and your brand
  • You can only ask it once you have heard everything said by your prospect and repeated a summary back to them proving you heard and understood them
  • You can only ask it after you’ve said something like “I would love to work with you and your company, why don’t I take this back to the team so that we can get to work on some ideas…”

It’s Not About Money!

When you are meeting with a prospect please avoid asking them about money! Focus on selling your value and not your price and above all, avoid turning this into a transactional relationship. If cost comes up, use it as a chance to ask them about a range that fits their budget. The truth is, you are going to be building a custom package and don’t really know what the end cost will be. Since it’s a custom package, you will be able to swap certain items in and out to change the cost of the package to fit your prospect’s needs. If you do your job well and really listen, you and your prospect will be able to work together on a fair price that meets both of your needs.

Commit to the process and spend your mental energy focusing on your prospect and helping them achieve their goals rather than trying to sell them a predefined package.

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.

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