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The Five Words You NEVER Want to Hear from a Sponsor 

by | August 12, 2022

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What words have you heard from your sponsorship prospects that have left you feeling dejected and rejected?

If I asked you for five of them, they would all probably be variations on the word “no,” right? Like, “no thanks, no more budget” or “well, better luck next year.”

Those aren’t the five words I’m talking about at all. These are words when strung together in a sentence that most sponsorship seekers don’t even realize are the wrong thing to hear.

If anything, these words can excite the sponsorship seeker and fill them with hope that a potential deal can occur, only to have to crash-land back down to earth once they finally realize what their prospect meant.

These words are, in short, the kiss of death to your sponsorship program, at least as it pertains to your chances of working with that sponsor. 

I’m sure I’ve gotten you extremely curious now. What five words am I talking about? And what do you do when you hear them? 

I’ll tell you all and more ahead, so check it out!

These Are the Five Words You Never Want to Hear from a Sponsor

I won’t leave you in suspense any longer.

The five words you never want to hear from a sponsor are as follows: “just send me the proposal.” 

I told you, they’re the five words you’d least expect. 

So I’m sure you’re wondering, what in the world is so bad about hearing a sponsorship prospect tell you to send them the proposal? That should be what you want, right? 

It means the prospect wants to see your proposal and will want to soon negotiate terms with you.

The sponsorship deal is progressing swimmingly, and it won’t be long until your first official sponsor is in the pipeline. 

Or does it mean any of that? 

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What Do These Five Words Mean? 

In my years of sponsorship experience working with sponsorship seekers all over the world just like you, as well as in my years of being a sponsorship seeker myself, I can say with 100 percent certainty that no, your sponsor doesn’t mean whatever you’re thinking they do. 

When they say, “just send me the proposal,” it doesn’t mean the sponsor wants to work with you. It doesn’t mean they want to give you boatloads of money. 

Heck, it doesn’t even mean the prospect wants to see the proposal. 

I know, that’s so confusing, right? Why would a prospect say something as positive-sounding as “just send me the proposal,” when in reality, they could care less if that’s what you do?

That’s simple, although I’ll admit, it’s a bitter pill to swallow.

Are you ready to hear it?

Your sponsors are lying to you

Yep, that’s right, they’re simply not being truthful.

Why Sponsors Feel the Need to Lie

You don’t understand. You did everything right to this point and found some quality prospects. You were nothing but polite to them the entire time.

If they didn’t want to work together, why not just fess up and say so? Honesty is the best policy, after all.

Sure, maybe we’re taught that in school as children, but how often do people really like hearing the truth? 

Have you ever sugar coated it if a friend asks if their new haircut looks bad or that top looks good on them? 

Probably, because it does look bad, but haircuts aren’t forever and the ugly top is just one item in their wardrobe.

You don’t want to hurt your friend’s feelings.

Now, that’s not why a sponsor lies to you. They don’t know you, so there’s no consideration for your feelings yet (sorry to be the bearer of bad news again).

Rather, they lie because they know your feelings could be hurt and they don’t want to deal with the aftermath.

Imagine, for a moment, that your sponsor told you the truth. Instead of saying, “yeah, just send me the proposal,” they’re frank and tell you, “you know, I just don’t see this working out. I think it’s best if we don’t work together.”

What would happen then? 

Well, you could get very angry, which could be uncomfortable for the other party, or you’ll go into defensive mode trying too hard to prove you’re a valuable partner. 

“What do you mean, you don’t see it working out? We have X and Y audience segments and Z assets, and we even came up with a few A activations!” you’ll say. 

So then the sponsor has to tell you again–this time going into all the gory details–about why they don’t want to work together. 

If the sponsor is even more brutally honest, your feelings will be very hurt. You might feel dissuaded from ever pursuing sponsorship again. 

On the other hand, if the sponsor agrees to work with you, it will be uncomfortable because it’ll always feel like you sort of strong-armed them into the arrangement (well, because you did).

So it’s just a whole lot easier for a sponsor to ask to see your proposal, know you’ll send them an email or a letter, and then just ghost you. 

That doesn’t mean it’s right, but it’s easier.

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What to Do the Next Time a Sponsor Tells You to Send Them a Proposal

Now that you know that “just send me the proposal” is a code word for “no thanks, not interested,” how should you handle it the next time a prospect tells you this?

Just tell them “no.”

I know, that feels kind of bold and maybe even a little scary to do, but I still recommend it. 

Well, I recommend it in all cases except those instances when you’ve talked to a sponsorship prospect, had several meetings with them, and then they ask to see your proposal.

If you say no then, you’ve made a foolish mistake. At that point, the prospect–who is more than likely on their way to becoming a sponsor–genuinely does want to see the proposal.

In all other situations though, and especially when you hear this line after one meeting or one phone conversation with the prospect, you want to tell them no.

You should also tell the prospect that you won’t send the proposal until you know what kinds of marketing outcomes they’re trying to achieve, as otherwise, you’re wasting everyone’s time.

You’re wasting your own time sending a stock sponsorship package that doesn’t touch on even a modicum of the prospect’s needs, and they’re wasting their time by reading it. 

So what’s going to happen once you tell a prospect no, you’re not sending them a proposal until you know more about what they want?

Well, one of two things.

If the prospect was never serious about working with you in the first place–which does happen sometimes–then they’re going to excuse themselves or give you another brush-off.

Although it’s upsetting at the moment, you should be grateful because you dodged a bullet. 

This sponsor clearly wasn’t truly interested in working together, which would have meant lukewarm outcomes at best for your company or organization.

Now, perhaps the prospect wasn’t sure if they were interested, but now that you mentioned wanting to learn more about the prospect’s marketing goals and outcomes, they are interested. 

In that case, then you two will end up scheduling a discovery session to talk more about those goals and outcomes. 


When your sponsorship prospects tell you to just send them the proposal, what they’re really doing is brushing you off. 

Recognize it for what it is and instead tell them that since your company or organization only offers customized sponsorship solutions that you need to learn more about the prospect’s problems before you can send them a proposal.

This kind of response weeds out the less serious prospects and ensures that the ones who are interested will want to meet soon for a discovery session!