Your Sponsors Are Lying to You
What if I told you that all sponsorship prospects are liars? That would sound very outrageous to you, especially if you’ve worked with sponsors or you have current active deals.
I wouldn’t tell you this though if it wasn’t true. In today’s post, I’ll explain more about this claim of mine as well as what you can do about it. Whether you’re a first-time sponsorship seeker or this is your fifth go-around in sponsorship, there’s lots of useful information for you ahead!
Yes, Your Sponsorship Prospects Are Lying to You
The title and topic of today’s post were inspired by a Seth Godin book called All Marketers Are Liars. Except in marketing, I don’t think everyone is lying. Now, sponsorship, on the other hand…that’s different.
It’s my opinion that all sponsorship prospects are liars. Now, I know this sounds needlessly grim, but know that I’m not telling you this to dissuade you from chasing your sponsorship sales goals. Rather, I’m telling you this to prepare you.
Allow me to explain.
Not too long ago, I was out with my wife walking my dogs. My wife, in usual conversation, asked how my sales calls were going that day. I told her that they were going well because my sales calls always go well.
I’ve actually never heard a prospect tell me “no thank you” or “please don’t call me again.”
Instead, most prospects I speak to say the same thing. It goes a little something like this.
“Wow, that sounds really interesting. I would love to learn more. Can you send me a proposal?”
Maybe there’s a little more to it than that, but you get the gist of it.
It sounds good, right? I’d even go as far as to say it sounds promising.
And it’s true, those words do seem encouraging if you take them at face value. Yet doing so will very often result in disappointment, especially for first-time or second-time sponsorship seekers who don’t know any better.
Despite that response from sponsorship prospects, I don’t have a 100-percent close rate. My rate of sponsorship proposals submitted, which should be between 30 and 50 percent, is instead around 40 percent.
This means that 60 percent of the prospects I speak to on any given day are lying to me. When they say they’re interested, they aren’t. When they mention wanting to see my sponsorship proposal, they really don’t want to.
Why Do Sponsorship Prospects Lie?
You’re confused. Why would a sponsorship prospect tell you one thing but mean something else?
It’s simple. That’s how society works.
According to a 2019 study from the International Review of Law and Economics, avoiding conflict is a pillar of American society.
It’s how the American West developed. Conflict avoidance is a way to prevent violence so you can stay alive and usher into a new era.
It’s no wonder then that avoiding conflict has become ingrained in us. You see it all the time in your everyday life. Here are some examples.
Let’s say that you apply for a job and you get called in for the interview. You thought the interview went well enough, but the hiring manager eventually chose a candidate they liked better. When you don’t hear anything for a week and call to inquire about your status, you get a generic answer.
Then the next day, you receive an email informing you that someone else has been hired. No one told you that over the phone, even though they very well could have. Why? They want to avoid conflict.
Here’s another example that I’m sure most of us have experienced at least once (or we know someone who has). You’re on a date and it’s going horribly. You can’t wait to get out of there, go home, change into your sweats, and watch some Netflix.
You can’t say any of that though, so you stick it out until the end of the date. Then, when your date asks if they can see you again, you give a noncommittal but somewhat positive answer just to get them off your case.
You have no intention of seeing them again, which you may explain later in a text. Or you’ll block their number and ghost them. Your choice.
Again, it comes down to avoiding conflict, and that’s what your sponsorship prospects want to do too. Very few are going to be upfront and tell you that you’re boring them or that they have no intention of working with you. That would create conflict.
Most will give you the runaround, pretending they’re interested. Then when you send your sponsorship proposal, you hear nothing. You’re being ghosted by your prospects.
How to Determine When a Sponsorship Prospect Is Really Interested vs. Faking It
Listen, it’s not like your sponsors intend to lie to you. They’re not being malicious either. They’re doing it because conflict avoidance is part of social decorum.
That said, their lying is problematic. When naïve sponsorship seekers take the words of a prospect at face value, they can make a lot of quick assumptions. They might turn down other potential prospects because they think they found the one already. They could secure event space or start selling tickets because they assume their event is going to be paid for.
Then, when they find out that none of this is true, they’re left reeling, not to mention scrambling.
So how do you know when your sponsor is just appeasing you versus when they’re serious? You’ll get better at sniffing out the authentic replies from the feigned ones with time, trust me. Until you get there, here are some handy tips.
If a sponsorship prospect is really, truly interested, you might not even have to be the one to follow up first. They could initiate contact. Yet that won’t be the case all the time, so don’t be afraid to pick up the phone or send an email.
Now that you and the sponsor aren’t sitting face to face in front of each other, their reply will be a lot more telling. This is when you might start to hear excuses, such as “well, I talked to so-and-so in our other division, and he isn’t sure if we can allocate the funds.”
Or you just might not hear anything at all, as I’ve said.
Give it a few days after a seemingly successful sponsorship meeting before you follow up. This time, go into the conversation with the mindset that your prospect is lying to you. If they still sound just as excited as before, then the deal could still be on. Anything less than a positive response though isn’t good.
Don’t Stop Prospecting
Going back to the example of dating, if you have a really good first date with someone, do you stop going out with others? Most people would say no, of course not. You’re still single so you should see who else is out there. Who knows, you could meet someone even better!
That’s how you have to treat your sponsorship prospects too.
You’d stop dating other people if your sweetheart wanted to go steady just as you should stop prospecting when your sponsor wants to sign a deal. Until then, you’re allowed to prospect, and you should.
This prevents you from missing out on other valuable opportunities while you’re waiting for this one to materialize. If it doesn’t, you’ll not have wasted too much time.
No Rash Decisions
After a few meetings with a prospect, things are moving towards a deal being struck, but you aren’t there yet. Until you sign that contract, you can’t assume that you and the sponsor will work together.
That means holding off on decisions surrounding your event that require a sponsor’s involvement, such as paying for services or vendors. If the sponsorship deal falls through, then it’s on you to have to foot the bill!
In sales, one of the worst responses you can hear is “maybe.” Just as bad if not more so is a “yes” from a sponsorship prospect who doesn’t mean it.
It’s about more than getting your hopes up. When you think you have a sponsor on the line, you can hastily push forward on event decisions. By the time you learn the sponsor isn’t seriously interested, it’s often too late to take those decisions back.
If your sponsorship program needs a boost, I highly recommend checking out my free training called How to Grow Your Sponsorship Program. It’s full of very valuable advice such as sponsorship areas where your time, focus, and energy need to go.
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.