Sponsorship collective logo

Stop Guessing in Sponsorship 

by | May 2, 2022

Why you can trust Sponsorship Collective

  • The Sponsorship Collective has worked with over 1000 clients from every property type all over North America and Europe, working with properties at the $50,000 level to multi-million dollar campaigns, events and multi-year naming rights deals
  • We have published over 300 YouTube videos, written over 500,000 words on the topic and published dozens of research reports covering every topic in the world of sponsorship
  • All of our coaches and consultants have real world experience in sponsorship sales

Have you ever been to a magic show and the magician correctly guessed the number you were thinking of or the card you were holding without having seen it?

It’s pretty cool, right? Okay, I’ll give credit where it’s due. It’s very cool. 

Yet if that magician had guessed wrong, it wouldn’t be so cool anymore. 

Magicians don’t profess to be mind-readers, and on that note, neither do many sponsorship seekers. Yet you’d be surprised by the number of clients I’ve had or secondhand stories I’ve heard where a sponsorship seeker acts like they know what’s better for the sponsor even better than the sponsor does.

If this sounds like an issue you’ve had in the past with your sponsorship prospects, then make sure you check out this post. I think it will help!

Are You Guessing in Sponsorship? 3 Ways to Tell

No sponsorship seeker wants to be guilty of assuming they know all the sponsor’s pain points and needs. I can get that. It’s not the best look, so why cop up to it?

Well, admitting it and rectifying it will make you a better sponsorship seeker. So, just between you and me, let me know if you’re guilty of making the following mistakes. They’re all indicative of you guessing what the sponsorship prospect wants.

 3 Ways to Tell

Your Sponsorship Proposal Is Ready Before You Even Choose Prospects

The sponsorship proposal isn’t the most critical part of your sponsorship package, but it is important, especially if you’re using it correctly.

Your proposal is an opportunity to showcase your highly curated audience data and display your assets in an appealing menu. You also gather all the details of the potential sponsorship deal in the document for the prospect to review.

Since the content in the proposal is fluid and should be customized to every prospect you meet, you shouldn’t already have a finished sponsorship proposal on deck and ready to go before you even pick up the phone to talk to a prospect or send a single email. 

Going back to what I mentioned in the paragraphs above, the sponsorship proposal is one of your best opportunities to break down your audience data and prove to the prospect that you have audience segments that they want.

If you put together your proposal before you even narrowed down your prospects, then your audience data can’t possibly be that highly targeted.

The result? You could miss out on a potentially very lucrative sponsorship opportunity.

After all, as I always say, a sponsor doesn’t want to work with you. They want to work with your audience.

Assembling broad audience data in your proposal because you’re not targeting anyone in particular is absolutely to your detriment. 

Sponsors don’t want to hear about groups of mid-30s women. They want to know how old these women are, if they’re married, whether they have kids (and how many), where in the world they live, what they do for work, and how much money they make.

It’s these kinds of data segments that get a prospect intrigued about the idea of working with you. 

New call-to-action

You Use Gold, Silver, and Bronze Menu Pricing

Here is the telltale sign that you’re guessing in sponsorship. This is like the bumpy red rash that indicates chickenpox. 

You know what I’m talking about. 

You’re trying to sell your sponsor a gold, silver, and bronze sponsorship package.

This is by far the most inflexible way of presenting your assets. I won’t get too much into the details here, because I’ve spoken ad infinitum about how much sponsors hate seeing these kinds of sponsorship packages and how they feel strong armed into making a decision.

I do want to stress how often this means of packaging your assets can blow up in your face.

For example, late last year, I had a member of my Sponsorship Accelerator Program write to the group about a problem she was having with a prospect.

She said her prospect didn’t like her asset pricing and wanted to slash the costs in half. Considering this prospect wanted the assets in the bronze tier–which is already the lowest priced–this client of mine was going to miss out on a lot of money.

I know it sounds easy to vilify the prospect in this situation, but it actually wasn’t their fault. When I talked to this client a little more, I learned that she didn’t know anything about her sponsorship prospect.

She just threw a bunch of assets at him in a gold, silver, and bronze package. The prospect wanted the bare minimum of the assets, and even worse, he didn’t want to pay full price. 

That’s because when you assume you know what a prospect wants, there’s a huge disconnect between the assets you’re serving up and their value.

A sponsorship prospect is often willing to pay top dollar for an asset or activation that can directly solve their problem. When all you give them is window dressing such as logos, you’re not solving anything.

Thus, you could have a prospect come to you like they did my client and say they’re only willing to pay half price for your assets. 

You Don’t Know Anything About the Sponsor That You Didn’t Find on Google

I have one more way to determine if you’re guessing what your prospects want. 

What do you know about them?

Yes, that’s a very simple question, but right now, I want you to take a minute and jot down everything you know about your prospect at the moment.

If all you can tell me is what year the sponsor company went into business, who the current CEO is, what their products and services are, and how many locations they have, you don’t know enough. 

You probably found that information on Google during a cursory search. 

Even if you can tell me who their VP is or sales manager, that doesn’t really matter. It means you found the company’s LinkedIn page, but that too doesn’t tell you the kind of valuable information you need.

Who is the sponsor company’s target audience? What did their sales look like last quarter compared to this time last year? Or two years ago?

Where is the company struggling to connect with its audience and why? What kind of marketing and sales tactics are they utilizing, and is it working? 

These questions get to the meat of the matter, which is understanding what a prospect’s challenges are rather than simply guessing. 

New call-to-action

How to Stop Guessing in Sponsorship – The Discovery Session Is Key

It’s okay if you’re guilty of having guessed what a sponsor needed and pushing your agenda until the prospect stopped returning your calls or emails. 

Like any mistake, what matters the most is learning from it so you don’t repeat it again.

Fortunately, there’s a very simple solution for assuming you know what the prospect wants. 

It’s known as the discovery session. 

If you’ve even casually browsed the blog before, then I’m sure you’ve heard me talk about discovery sessions. For those who are brand-new here, allow me to get you up to speed. 

The discovery meeting or discovery session is a meeting where you sit down with a prospect and ask them the kinds of questions I listed in the last section.

You delve deeper than what a Google search or LinkedIn results page can tell you. You discuss their target audience, current sales and marketing targets, and where your prospect has fallen short (as well as why).

Why do you want to know these things?

Well, because the prospect’s answers inform your next steps.

If the prospect tells you that they have issues with X, Y, and Z and you know you can help them, then you would meet again to begin discussing solutions.

Only now would you sit down and determine what your assets will be. You could start putting together your sponsorship proposal as well. 

This time, when you present a sponsorship menu to the prospect, they’re not going to turn their nose at you. They certainly shouldn’t offer you only half price.

Your solutions are highly tailored to the prospect’s problems. You’re not just throwing logos or speaking opportunities or social media promotional posts at the prospect and hoping those solutions will help. 

You’ve instead taken the time to get to know what the prospect needs and then cherry-pick solutions that are proven to be beneficial.

Much more importantly, you’ll feel confident as you proceed with this part of the sponsorship program. Guessing can leave you doubting your decisions, and often, that’s very rightfully so. 

Once you learn how to conduct a discovery session and extract the most information out of it, you won’t have to assume what a prospect wants anymore. You’ll know! 

Tips for Making the Most of a Discovery Session

As highly advantageous as the discovery session can be, that’s only if you use it to the fullest. The following tips will help you have a productive conversation with your sponsorship prospect so you can decide how to proceed.

No Sales Talk

I have seen so many sponsorship seekers assume that their first meeting with the prospect is the chance to close the deal. 

This is usually why they walk into that meeting with mountains of papers, including their sponsorship proposal.

Well, the reason these sponsorship seekers usually don’t get a second meeting is that a prospect doesn’t want to feel bombarded with sales talk.

Save the elevator pitch for someone else, scale back on the sales jargon, and please, please, leave the sponsorship proposal at home.

The discovery session is about discovering the prospect’s problems. That’s it. 

If the meeting goes productively, then you’ll have subsequent meetings. Those aren’t sales meetings either, so don’t feel the pressure to sell, sell, sell right then and there.

Should you be willing to sit back and let the process play out a bit, then you’ll naturally get to the point where you progress to negotiating with the sponsor. Keep scheduling subsequent meetings and be patient. 

Just Listen

When a prospect talks, you should keep both your ears and your mind open. Stop thinking about what you’ll say when they finally quit talking, as that’s not really listening.

Instead, truly get to understand what a prospect’s problem is. Repeat language back to them that the prospect said just so you’re sure of their wording. 

Becoming a more active listener like this will help you lock in and absorb the most information you can during the meeting.

Of course, I’m not telling you to memorize every last thing the prospect says. You can always ask to take notes or record the meeting so you can review the details later.

Rather, I’m just telling you to listen to what’s being said instead of always planning your response. You’ll be surprised at how much more information you seem to retain!

New call-to-action

Ask Follow-up Questions

I know I said no sales jargon, but sometimes prospects use jargon as well. They don’t always do this intentionally; it just sort of bleeds into the conversation.

Even if your prospect isn’t using jargon, they may not always speak in a concise enough way that you fully get their gist. 

I liken some sponsorship prospects to onions. You might have to peel back a few layers before you get to what’s really going on.

The best way to do that is by asking follow-up questions.

My favorite follow-up question is, “what do you mean by that?”

For example, if the prospect tells you that sales are low this quarter, ask them, “what do you mean by that?”

Now they have to elaborate. They could tell you that their new product hasn’t sold as expected or that their sales numbers are down 35 percent compared to last quarter and 50 percent compared to last year. 

You won’t have to do it every single time, but don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions if you don’t know what a sponsorship prospect means or if you want more information than what they initially give you. 


In sponsorship, guessing at what a prospect wants is the wrong way to go. You’ll rarely guess correctly, and thus, you’re wasting both their time and yours.

Instead, you want to ask the kinds of questions that can guide you to outcomes, such as, “what are you trying to achieve?” “What are your goals?” “How can I help you achieve those goals?” “How can we measure together whether this was successful?”

When you start your future sponsorship relationships this way, you’ll find that your prospects are a lot more receptive.

If you need further help with solidifying your sponsorship program, I highly recommend you check out my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program.