The Power of Curiosity in Sponsorship
Albert Einstein once said: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
Yet there’s also the saying that curiosity killed the cat, which is supposed to dissuade us from being inquisitive.
Exploring your curiosity to the fullest is a benefit to your sponsorship program, not a hindrance. In this post, I’ll explain why.
Why a Dash of Curiosity in Your Sponsorship Program Is a Good Thing
When you approach a sponsor with a curious mindset, the last thing you’re thinking about is sales. Instead, you’re inquisitive, as I said. You’re eager to learn, either to quell your own interests or to become a better sponsorship salesperson.
What you might not realize is that carrying that mindset does make you a better sponsorship salesperson simply because you’re not trying to sell, sell, sell.
You’re not using mumbo-jumbo jargon; you’re not pushing an offer that isn’t even customized to the sponsor. You’re not running your elevator pitch and trying to desperately convince the sponsor they need what you’re selling.
Think about the perfume salesperson at your local mall. Almost every mall has one. Unlike the employee in the food court offering free samples, this one has something you know you’re not very interested in.
So what do you do when you see the perfume salesperson approach you? You give them a wide berth.
You are that perfume salesperson when you start pushing your sales materials on a sponsor too early. The sponsor will likely give you a wide berth too.
Being curious though will captivate a sponsor. They notice that you’re listening intently when they speak, that you’re asking genuinely thoughtful questions. Even though you might not have a solution for the sponsor right this second, you’re doing your due diligence, so to speak.
This can help you craft solutions for the sponsor later that could really wow them.
How to Be More Curious in Sponsorship – Ask These Questions
Imagine this. You sit down for a discovery session with a prospective sponsor. You looked through my list of nearly 40 discovery questions and picked five or so to ask the sponsor.
As you asked the questions, it became readily apparent to you that the sponsor is struggling with sales. Then, at some point during the meeting, they say as much. You have a sales background yourself, so you assume you have the solution to their problem.
I’ve mentioned this before on the blog, but it seems worth bringing up again now. Assuming anything in sponsorship is a mistake. Unless you know for sure what the sponsor has tried, then you can’t be sure that your solution will work.
That’s why you need to put on your curiosity hat and ask elaborative questions that will get the sponsor talking and help you glean the information you need.
Here are some such questions to incorporate into your discovery sessions.
What Do You Mean by That?
As a sponsorship salesperson, you’re not the only one who can fall into the business jargon trap. Sometimes your sponsor might do it too, either out of habit or to seem important.
In other instances, they talk too vaguely or they’re discussing a topic they assume you should know (there’s that word again), but you have no idea what they’re talking about.
You want to look like an expert in front of a prospective sponsor, and I get that 100 percent. However, it’s a lot worse to nod your head and pretend you know what they want and then completely mis-deliver on their objectives. You need to ask for clarification when you need it.
For example, the sponsor says they want more brand awareness. Ask them what do they mean by that? Quiz them on what brand awareness means for them and how they measure brand awareness.
It might take several instances of you asking this question, but eventually, the sponsor will be 100 percent, undeniably clear on what they want. You might have thought after hearing the magic words “brand awareness” that logo placement could have sufficed as an asset.
Then, as the sponsor continues talking, you realize that logo placement is lightyears away from how they want to build their brand.
It could be that the sponsor doesn’t define brand awareness the same way you do. Although they thought they wanted brand awareness, after asking them a few times what they meant by that, they realize they’re after a different goal instead.
This is not something you would have ever discovered had you just asked the question once and moved on. Now you know the sponsor better and can tailor solutions to their issues.
Why Do You Think That Is?
This question forces the sponsor to stop and think a spell, which is why it’s a good one to ask. It’s also a useful question in that it provides you with more valuable information.
Let’s say that your prospective sponsor worked with an influencer last year to increase their audience reach. Their goal was to grow their audience by 35 percent, which is a reasonable goal. Yet their audience reach increased only by 15 percent.
Then you ask the sponsor “why do you think that is?”
Is it that the influencer was a poor match for their target audience? Did the sponsor not define, segment, and niche down their target audience? Did they not promote the partnership using the correct channels that most resonated with their audience?
As your sponsor describes why their campaign failed, this gives you good ideas of what’s been successful and unsuccessful for them.
Maybe their audience niches were defined, but their marketing wasn’t so good. If this is something you can help with, the ideas in your head will already begin churning.
What Have You Tried That Has Worked?
Sponsors have a problem that needs solving, hence why they want to work with someone like you. Not all their problems are such major struggles though.
You also want to ask your prospective sponsor about what methods and tactics they’ve utilized that have earned them the results they were looking for.
Make a note of each tactic and technique, as you could potentially utilize them in your own partnership with the sponsor. You could even make tweaks to your approach to further improve upon it and deliver a higher ROI for the sponsor.
What Assumptions Are You Making About Your Sales Goals?
Yes, there’s that word yet a third time, assumptions.
Listen, we all make assumptions about our own sales based on historical data. Yet if the pandemic proved anything, it’s that life can permanently change in an instant. Thus, you can’t always rely on the old way of doing things and expect that everything in the future will stay exactly the same.
Your prospective sponsor should be experiencing growth year after year, but is their projected future growth realistic? What data are they using to draw their conclusions? This is handy information to have as well.
When a sponsorship prospect answers your questions, are you delving as deep as you can into their answer or are you just assuming you know what they mean and moving right along to the next question?
If it’s the latter, that can explain why your sponsorship sales are sagging. You’re looking at the sponsor’s needs and problems through your worldview and letting your assumptions color the solutions you offer.
What you should do instead is ask for elaboration. One simple question–what do you mean by that?–when asked a few times can reveal some great information about what a sponsor is really looking for.
It’s sort of like mining deep for gold. It takes a while, but once you strike that nugget, all the effort is worth it.
If you’re looking to revamp your sponsorship program for more success, I highly recommend you sign up for my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program. My nine-part blueprint will help you systematize your sponsorship approach.
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.