“What do you mean you sold the last spot!? We’ve worked together for years and you sold my sponsorship package to my competitors?”
My heart sank.
I had an irate sponsor on the phone, or former sponsor in this case, who clearly wanted to come on board but I didn’t give him the chance to.
I didn’t want to be pushy or rude and I assumed his responses to me were polite “no thank yous.”
I took the issue to my boss and explained that I thought the sponsor had passed. My boss took the call, calmed the sponsor and we made something custom, just for them…and we sold it to them for 25% more than the first option they wanted.
After the call, my boss pulled me aside and asked me exactly what the sponsor said each time I tried to close the deal. I told him I heard the following excuses:
- We don’t have the budget right now
- I’m really busy and don’t have time
- Just send me something by email
- Let me think about it
My boss stared at me as though waiting for the real answer followed by silence from both. “I thought they told you no thanks?” asked my boss in his “you’ve got to be kidding me” voice. I was junior and just sorting things out and I think I just pushed my boss to his limits.
“Chris” he said, “I am going to give you the best advice of your sponsorship sales career.”
“Write this down” he said. “No matter what a prospect tells you…believe them.”
“But that’s what I did” I protested!
“No Chris, you imposed your beliefs onto the situation and you assumed your prospect meant something that they didn’t. In the world of sales, only one word means no…and that’s ‘NO.’”
A User’s Guide to Believing your Sponsors
I have never forgotten this advice and I use it every single day. Hearing no, by the way, is not a bad thing! Hearing “maybe” is a bad thing. Don’t be afraid to believe your prospects and offer a solution to the problem they are offering you.
“We don’t have the budget right now” is not the same as no, it means they don’t have budget right now!
Find out when they do their budget, offer to split payments across their fiscal if they come on board now or ask them what sort of budget they are working with. They will either tell you or give you a firm no. Either way, it’s a win!
“I’m really busy and don’t have time” doesn’t mean no. It means that they don’t have time right now.
The solution is simple. Tell them that you’re sorry for interrupting a busy time and ask them when you should plan to get back in touch. Or ask them if they have time for a 5-minute call to give them a sense of what you have to offer- if they don’t like it, promise them you won’t call them again and at the 5-minute mark they can hang up! It works every time…unless they aren’t interested, in which case it forces them to say a firm no.
“Just send me something by email” is tough as it sounds like a yes…but it isn’t.
Don’t send them a pitch or a sponsorship deck. Use it as a chance to tell them that everything you do is custom and ask them about their goals! Not sure what to ask? Check out my blog post on the Five Questions for Every Prospect.
“Let me think about it” is your signal to ask them what they need to make a decision.
Ask them what you can offer them or, better yet, ask them to bring some of their decision makers to the table and you will do the same to have a conversation about exactly what you can do together.
We feel like we are being pushy if we ask for the sale in the face of one of these objections, but it’s your job to believe in the product you are selling. Your goal is find something perfect for your sponsor and the process you use to do that is to believe everything they tell you…including when they tell you “no thanks.” If you push back after you get a firm no, you are indeed being a pushy sales person.
Don’t make the same mistake I did and interpret your prospect’s answers. How many objections should you overcome? The question isn’t all that relevant in the face of this approach. Find solutions for your prospects until there are no more solutions to be found, at which point wish them luck and thank them for their time…and then ask for a referral.
- About the Author
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Chris Baylis is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of The Sponsorship Collective.
After spending several years in the field as a sponsorship professional and consultant, Chris now spends his time working with clients to help them understand their audiences, build activations that sponsors want, apply market values to their assets and build strategies that drive sales.
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