Sponsorship Discovery Questions – Finding the Right Ones to Ask
The discovery session is a golden opportunity to learn more about your sponsorship prospects and decide whether you two are a fit.
Sponsorship seekers can squander this golden opportunity if they treat the discovery session as a sales meeting (which it is not) or if they ask the wrong kinds of questions or don’t ask any questions at all.
Earlier this year, I did a training on all things sponsorship discovery in my free Facebook group. The link to that Facebook group is here if you want to request membership.
I highly recommend you do, as there are lots of valuable resources in that group.
Today, I want to share that Facebook training with you so you can master discovery no matter where you are in your sponsorship journey.
I’ll reveal some of my favorite discovery questions as well as my best pointers for how to make the most of your future discovery sessions.
Let’s get started!
What Is a Discovery Session?
Before I get into all that, I want to talk more about what a discovery session entails.
What the Discovery Session IS
A discovery session is simply a meeting between you and your prospect where you ask some questions to determine if you two working together is viable.
That’s what it boils down to.
You can have a discovery session anywhere, at a café, in a corporate conference room, through Zoom, on FaceTime, or even on the phone. The setting is nowhere near as important as the quality of the content.
The questions you ask will guide the meeting.
By the time you sit down and have a discovery session, you should have done your audience research and you should have researched the sponsorship prospect as well.
You don’t know everything about them. Let’s be real, as helpful as the Internet is these days, it can’t paint the full picture of a company.
You’re not going to be able to find how many new customers the sponsor earned last quarter or what their year-over-year revenue increase has looked like.
This kind of information is behind wraps.
By asking about these topics during the discovery session, you can paint a complete picture of the sponsor company, including the company’s audience, needs, and challenges.
During the meeting or right after, you can then determine whether your solutions such as assets and activations can solve the sponsor company’s problems.
If they can, then great! You two might end up working together.
By chance, if you can’t help the sponsor, then it’s back to the drawing board for you. At least you only invested a little bit of time into this prospect rather than hundreds of hours.
What the Discovery Session ISN’T
Allow me to reiterate my point from before. The discovery session is not a sales meeting.
That’s great, considering that I always have sponsorship seekers tell me how much they hate sales meetings.
You can put down the sponsorship proposal. Seriously, put it down. Don’t bring it with you on the day of the meeting.
I promise you; the prospect does not want to see it. It’s too early.
You can also skip the elevator sales pitch. Oh, and pass on the sales jargon as well.
The sponsorship seekers who treat the discovery session as a sales meeting usually do it out of a sense of fear.
They may not get another chance to have the prospect in front of them, so they have to shoot their shot, so to speak.
Trying to sell to a prospect without knowing more about their audience and pain points is like being the perfume salesperson at the mall. You’re trying to mist fragrance at anyone and everyone walking by.
You don’t know how old these people are, how much money they make, or what they came to the mall for today.
If you’re trying to convince broke teenagers to buy expensive perfume, that’s a waste of everyone’s time. Yet you still see it happen.
You don’t want to be the perfume salesperson desperately hoping that someone wants to purchase what you’re selling. You want to be the type of salesperson (when the time comes, that is) who knows exactly who they’re going after.
If you don’t focus so much on selling, then you can gather info that tells you whether the sponsor is open to being sold to (or at least buying what you’re selling).
The Three Goals of the Discovery Session
When you walk into a discovery session, you have three objectives you’re trying to complete, and no, none are related to sales.
Here’s what they are.
Asking a sponsor for money isn’t like going to the bank and asking the teller for the same.
It’s the teller’s job to give you money (within reason, of course). It’s not a sponsor’s job to do that.
They’re giving you cash in exchange for outcomes through your assets and activations.
Sure, everything will go into writing and become legally binding, but why should a sponsor company even allow it to reach that point?
In other words, why should they trust you?
This is a good question that many sponsorship seekers overlook. Sponsorship is partnership, and partnership is a relationship. Without trust, you don’t have a relationship, period.
The discovery session allows you the chance to develop that trust with the prospect. You’ll nurture their trust in you throughout the rest of the sponsorship process, but this is where you plant that seed and let it blossom.
Learn About Sponsor Goals
Remember my perfume salesperson example? You don’t want to push a product as the perfect solution without knowing what the problem is.
Instead, you want to learn about the problem and then choose the perfect solution.
You can’t do that without understanding more about the prospect’s goals.
How much more money do they want to earn this quarter or year? How many more conversions do they need? How do they want to expand into a new market?
Once you have these answers, the next part of the sponsorship program falls into place.
Book Another Meeting
This is by far the biggest outcome you want from the initial meeting with the prospect, whether it’s in person or over Zoom. You should end the first meeting with a second already in the books.
This second meeting won’t be another discovery session. You might ask some follow-up questions based on the information you learned in the first meeting, but the subsequent meetings are about getting the ball rolling and eventually negotiating a sponsorship deal.
My Must-Ask Sponsorship Discovery Questions
I already have a resource on the blog where I reveal 37 sponsorship discovery questions that I recommend sponsorship seekers like yourself ask.
In that article, I mentioned that you can’t possibly ask all 37 questions during a discovery meeting. You’re supposed to have a casual conversation where you build trust and rapport, not make it feel like a good-cop, bad-cop interrogation situation.
You should narrow it down to only five to 10 questions at most. Keeping that in mind, I selected my favorite sponsorship discovery questions of the 37 and am listing them for you here.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a nonprofit, a for-profit, a podcast, or a festival, you need to know about the prospect’s audience.
Who are they? Why aren’t they buying the sponsor company’s products or services as readily as they could be?
How big is the chasm between the sponsor company’s current customers and what their ideal customers looked like?
When you know the kind of person the sponsor company is trying to sell to, that makes it so much easier to hand-pick activations and assets that would appeal to that ideal customer.
After the pleasantries about the weather or the Yankees (assuming your prospect likes sports) are over, and once I’ve taken a little bit of time to establish trust between the prospect and I, I’ll start with discovery questions centered on the audience.
Why? Well, to be honest, it makes me look like I know what I’m doing because I’m starting with the important stuff.
Try asking these questions as you delve into your own discussions about the audience with the sponsorship prospect.
- Tell me more about your ideal customer.
- I’m very curious about whether we share common goals and an audience. Could I briefly? Tell you about our audience?
- What kind of feedback do your customers give you that you think we could possibly help with?
- What kind of audience data matters most to you?
Next, it’s time to guide the conversation toward the prospect’s business goals.
You need to understand the sponsor company’s sales funnel, what their standard sales process looks like, and what’s causing it to be clogged up lately.
The following questions will certainly help to that end:
- How do your leads and customers travel through the sales funnel?
- How have you moved customers through the sales funnel with past sponsorship properties?
- What is a successful partner goal outcome to you?
- Where are you having the hardest time connecting with ideal customers?
Success Measures and ROI
What is success? Is it always exclusively about sales and conversions? Is it a marketing campaign done well?
Most prospects will define success the same way, but that doesn’t mean you want to go into a discovery session assuming that you know what the prospect wants and how they collectively perceive success. Please ask!
These questions are good ones to focus on:
- What kind of advertising are you using? Are you pleased with the outcomes?
- How have you worked with sponsorship properties? What’s worked and what hasn’t?
- How much does networking matter to you? Who do you want to meet at a networking event?
- Is brand awareness a major advertising goal? Why or why not?
Discovery Session FAQs – How to Ace the First Meeting
To wrap up, I want to share some FAQs as they pertain to the smaller but still important parts of your discovery meeting. This section will help you nail the meeting from beginning to end!
What Small Talk Topics Can I Focus On?
Small talk is a great way to prove to the other person you’re talking to that you’re human. You can also start building trust from the get-go.
Most small talk topics are appropriate, but you obviously don’t want to delve into sexual topics, religion, politics, or anything too personal.
If you and the prospect are talking about the weather and you say, “it’s a nice day, so I may take my dog for a walk later,” and they go, “oh, you have a dog?” You can talk about each other’s dogs for a few minutes.
You shouldn’t start asking weird questions though like the names of their children or where in the neighborhood the prospect lives. Keep it surface-level.
Can I Tell a Joke to Break the Ice?
The discovery session does not have to be a buttoned-up affair. It shouldn’t be.
If you’re someone who’s naturally funny and you have an appropriate joke, then sure, you can use it as an icebreaker.
However, I wouldn’t use this opportunity to try that new joke you’re working on.
You also want to ensure your joke is easily understood by just about anyone.
Too many pop culture references or even cultural differences can cause the prospect to not understand what the joke is. Once you have to explain the punchline, it’s game over.
Should I Memorize My Discovery Questions or Can I Write Them Down?
You can write down your discovery questions and rely on them if you must, but I recommend lodging them into your brain.
You don’t have to memorize the wording perfectly. This isn’t a spelling bee or a math test.
As long as you get the gist of the question across, then you don’t have to use the exact wording that I did in the section above.
I would really recommend that you focus most on framing your discovery questions naturally. You want to insert them into the conversation so they feel like they belong there.
Am I Allowed to Take Notes During the Meeting?
The prospect is going to give you a ton of great information. You’re going to want to refer back to it later.
Before the meeting gets underway, I recommend you ask the prospect if you can take notes. Maybe you can even record the meeting, but that’s at the discretion of the prospect.
When Do I Ask for a Second Meeting?
As I mentioned before, the discovery session should not end without you asking for a follow-up meeting with the prospect.
Once you two have exhausted your topics of conversation and you’re going to shake hands and depart, ask about meeting again.
The discovery session is a critical part of the sponsorship process, as you can learn about the prospect’s pain points, challenges, and goals. This information allows you to step in and offer personalized solutions that will improve the sponsor company’s ROI or conversions.
In exchange, you get the outcomes you were looking for, such as more promotions and funding.
I hope the discovery questions I shared with you today as well as the additional points I talked about help you ace your next discovery meeting!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
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.