Although it took a few games of phone tag to coordinate a time when you could both talk, you finally got on the phone with your target sponsor. Even better is they agreed to your request for a meeting!
This is what all your hard work, research, and preparation have been leading up to. Through this meeting and several more, your target sponsor will decide whether they’d like to partner with you.
If you have no idea how to handle the first meeting, this post is for you. Ahead, I’ll share my sponsorship sales meeting strategy for more fruitful interactions between you and your target sponsors.
What Is a Discovery Session?
Before I get into all that, I want to make sure we’re both on the same page about what a discovery session is.
If there’s one takeaway you get from today’s article, let it be this. A discovery meeting is not a sales meeting.
This is where my clients tend to get confused. If a discovery session isn’t a sales meeting, then what is it? A discovery meeting is the initial meeting with a target sponsor where you learn more about what they’re trying to achieve.
That’s it. That’s the objective, that’s the goal.
You want to better understand your sponsor for several reasons. One, so you can determine if you two are a match. Also, by learning more about their goals and objectives, you can come up with strategies to help the sponsor achieve those goals.
My Tried-and-True Sponsorship Sales Meeting Strategy
Now that you’re clearer on what a discovery meeting is (and isn’t), let’s talk about how to gear yourself up for success.
Before you got to the point of having the discovery meeting with the target sponsor, you found someone within your own company who knows them. This is the start of building a relationship, something that’s important if you want long-term sponsors.
Sometimes it’s easy to forget in the flurry of sponsorship seeking that your target sponsors are people too. If you’re friendly with them, they’ll want to keep you in their orbit, which can lead to more opportunities for you down the line.
That’s why the first part of the discovery meeting is all about building rapport and engaging in small talk. Spend at least five to seven minutes doing this. If you’re having a hard time thinking of how to break the ice, I wrote an in-depth article that will guide you through the first sponsorship meeting. Give it a read!
Discuss Your Audience
The getting-to-know-you conversation will naturally trail off, and that’s when it’s time to knuckle down and talk business. Your first topic of conversation is your target sponsor’s audience.
Who is their target audience? Do they have a niche audience? Which customer avatars does your target sponsor use? Once you have a complete and thorough understanding of the target sponsor’s audience, then you can move on to the next part of the discovery meeting.
Talk about Their Goals
What does your target sponsor want their audience to do? Buy more product X or service Y? After getting to know their audience, you can now openly discuss your target sponsor’s goals. Besides the motivations of their audience, how does the target sponsor get customers? How do they measure success? You need answers to all these questions.
By this point in the discovery session, you clearly understand the target sponsor’s audience as well as the sponsor’s goals. Yet can you help them?
That’s what you’ll ascertain during the next part of the meeting, which is where you identify the roadblocks that are keeping the sponsor from achieving their goals.
Is it that they have goals that are too lofty? Maybe they don’t understand their audience well enough, or they could afford to segment their audience further. Whatever the issue(s), you must know. That’s the only way for you to be sure whether you can help the target sponsor.
If you can’t, then it’s back to the drawing board.
Sometimes it takes seeing a problem with a fresh set of eyes to come up with a solution. You might have a few ideas for your target sponsor’s issues, and you want to talk about these now. Jot down the ideas as you spitball them, as they could become your assets or activation opportunities later.
When you take the time to learn about a target sponsor’s problems and then work with them to come up with solutions, you show what a valuable partner you could be.
Are You Making These Mistakes During Your Discovery Meeting?
If this will be your first discovery meeting, no one is expecting you to do everything perfectly. Yet the following mistakes are egregious enough that if you make them, you might not get asked to a second meeting by the target sponsor.
Have you ever sat in a meeting at work that seems to have no purpose? Your boss or manager talks and talks seemingly about nothing, but they’re using office jargon so their words seem important. When they wrap up their speech and you think you’re off the hook, they call up someone else to talk. And so it goes.
Meetings like that are frustrating to no end. While you’re sitting there, you have a mountain of work piling up for you to do.
You don’t want to make your target sponsor feel that way. As you talk, they’ll imagine you as the teacher from the Charlie Brown TV specials, you know, the one who drones instead of speaks actual words. Your message is lost.
Just like it’s not okay to wing it during a work presentation, it’s certainly not okay to have an off-the-cuff discovery session. Plan your objectives and then execute. That’s the only way to get the above steps done in 30 to 40 minutes.
Being Too Salesy
Let me repeat what I mentioned earlier in this article. A discovery meeting is not a sales meeting. If you’re spending your prep time ahead of the meeting going over your elevator pitch, then you’re wasting that time.
You’re not trying to sell the target sponsor on anything yet because you don’t even know if you can help them. Sure, you have a decent idea since you researched the sponsor, but you don’t know everything about them yet.
Imagine going to the doctor and being prescribed a medication before you even describe one symptom. You don’t want the medication because it might not heal what’s ailing you. That’s exactly how the target sponsor feels when you come in trying to sell.
Bringing Everything but the Kitchen Sink
As a first-time sponsorship seeker, sometimes you can really show your hand. Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a target sponsor being aware that this is your first sponsorship opportunity, but you don’t want to make yourself look like a rookie unnecessarily.
One of the best ways to do that is to walk into the discovery meeting with a binder of paperwork. You printed everything relevant to the meeting, and you made copies for everyone.
That would be great if this was a sales meeting, but again, it isn’t. At the very least, you can print out or write down your discovery questions, but that’s about it.
Pushing Your Sponsorship Proposal Right Away
The one document that should absolutely, positively never come with you to a discovery meeting is your sponsorship proposal. Please don’t take that to mean that your proposal is useless (especially if you wrote yours using my template). It isn’t.
It’s just that the target sponsor doesn’t want to see your proposal right now.
“Okay, Chris,” you’re thinking, “but if the discovery session is only the first meeting, can’t I bring my sponsorship proposal to the second meeting?”
No. Simply put, you should never produce your sponsorship proposal unprompted. If it takes under the third or fourth meeting for the target sponsor to ask for it, then that’s when you can finally hand it over.
Between the first meeting and then, the target sponsor might request other documents from you such as project outlines, but until they want the proposal, leave it at the office.
Asking the Wrong Discovery Questions (or No Discovery Questions at All!)
Discovery questions are only as valuable as their content.
This something I’ve touched on before on the blog, but it bears repeating now. If you ask questions that you can easily find the answers to by reading the sponsor’s LinkedIn profile or the about page on their website, that’s a wasted question.
And no, you can’t ask infinite questions during a discovery meeting. You only get five to seven, so you have to pick good ones.
In this post, I have 37 discovery questions you can choose from. I recommend poring over the research you already have on the target sponsor and then choosing discovery questions that bridge the gap between what you already know about them and what you don’t.
Not Asking for a Follow-up Meeting During the First Meeting
I talked before about rookie mistakes that first-time sponsorship seekers can make, and here’s another one. Before you wrap up the discovery session, ask about meeting with the target sponsor again.
If you don’t, then you’ll go back to your office, they’ll go back to theirs, and you’ll once again resume the game of phone tag you were playing before. The longer things go without a follow-up meeting, the more unlikely that second meeting is to ever happen.
The first sponsorship meeting isn’t a sales meeting at all, but a discovery session. During this session, you’ll define the sponsor’s target audience as well as the sponsor’s shortcomings so you can come up with ways to achieve more of their goals.
When done right, the discovery meeting can be your first step towards a sponsorship sale. If you need help getting more meetings with target sponsors, I recommend you check out my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program!
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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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