I could never sell sponsorship…or could I?
People ask me all the time why I’m still selling sponsorship. Then they follow-up with a “wow, I could never do what you do”. I ask myself the same question all the time. Then I remember that I love to build creative marketing solutions for brands that can be leveraged across multiple stakeholders and activated through all other forms of media. Oh, and working in sports and entertainment for a living is cool, too. When I ask them if they’ve ever considered coming over (to what my fellow sponsorship sellers and industry colleagues refer humorously to as the “Dark Side”), 90% of the time they reply quickly with an abrupt “no, never, I couldn’t handle the stress or the fear of rejection/failure associated with that role”. I usually respond with a well, have you ever tried? Have you ever sold anything before? How about yourself – perhaps for this job? You may be selling yourself short. Besides, selling sponsorship is so far from selling photocopiers. In fact, it’s a whole different ball game, altogether – a game that requires a very different kind of skill-set then what you see glamorized in a number of well-known Hollywood films like Glengarry Glen Ross (1992) or Boiler Room (2000). Based on my experience, the best sponsorship development executives have a great balance of creativity combined with the persistence, patience and relationship building skills of a more traditional sales person.
Seth Godin, one of my favourite marketing minds, recently posted a blog that could change your thinking about sponsorship sales or other things in life that you might quickly otherwise dismiss. It’s entitled: Not even once?
“It’s so easy to have a black and white list of the things you’re not capable of doing. A hard limit, a boundary that says you just don’t have the genes to make art, speak up, write, give a speech, be funny, be charming, be memorable, come through in the clutch, survive an ordeal like this one… it’s easy to give up.
In response, we ask, “not even once?” Never once have you been funny or inspired or connected? Not even once have you been trusted, eager or original? Not even once have you written a sentence that someone else was happy to read, or asked a question that needed to be asked?
Now that we know it’s possible, the real question is, “how often can you do it again?”
– Seth Godin
Thanks to my friends and industry colleagues (Phil, Adams, Vancouver Whitecaps; Shawn Burt, Road Hockey to Conquer Cancer; Jeff Deline, MLSE; Sam Galet, IMG; Derek Gross, NFL; Peri Luel, XMC; Paolo Pastore, NBA; Laurel Walzak, NHL; Greg Wood, UFC Canada, and others), who I’ve shared many conversations with over the years, I was able to pull together a list of the most important characteristics shared by the top 20% of successful Sponsorship development executives:
- Subject matter expert (i.e. expert in sponsorship marketing)
- Consultative (solutions provider)
- Persistent, tenacious, respectful (not annoying)
- Passionate, dedicated, focused
- If you have other characteristics, we would love to hear your thought via the comment section, below
Last time I checked, there really wasn’t a manual for selling sponsorship; and how could there be when every sponsorship marketing product, by its very nature, is fundamentally different. That was the genesis for deciding to post my version of a sponsorship sales GPS that will help you find success in sponsorship sales or at least give it a try… you never know, you may love it.
Sponsorship Sales GPS:
In part 1 of Sponsorship Sales GPS, it’s important to remember the basics. To get things started, ask yourself a few questions before you even pick up the phone (after all, preparation is the true mark of a professional).
1. Would I consider myself an expert in sponsorship marketing?
- If you’ve had a chance to read my other posts, this will sound very familiar. You wouldn’t work in an industry where you weren’t an expert so why would sponsorship by any different. What are you relying on? This goes for both sides of the table. If you can’t speak intelligently as a subject matter expert then how can you position yourself as a consultant or solutions provider?
2. Do I believe in my product, my industry?
- Sure, it can be frustrating when someone doesn’t return your call; declines a proposal or flat-out doesn’t call you back, but if you don’t truly believe in what you’re representing, it’s time to rethink why you took the job in the first place? My litmus test is “would I buy this if I was on the other side of the table, if it was my money?” I know, it’s a powerful question, but how can you convince someone else, if you can’t convince yourself?
3. Do I follow the latest trends and best practices?
- Can I talk intelligently about the industry as a whole or just what I’m selling? Are you trying to create everything from scratch or can you take best practices and creative activation ideas from around the world and adapt them in your market? We live in a world with unlimited access to relevant information and sponsorship marketing is no different. There is a ton of great resources out there and easily accessible. You can find great information on sponsorshipalliance.com or other content-rich sites like IEG’s sponsorship.com; Kim Skildum-Reid’s powersponsorship.com; Brian Gainor’s PartnershipActivation.com; and SponsorPark.com, just to name a few. Don’t even get me started on Twitter. Just type in Sponsorship and create a list.
4. Would I consider myself a marketer first, and a fan second?
- For the most part, this has been true and I think one of the main reasons for my continued success in this industry for over a decade. You don’t need to be a huge fan of a particular sport, art or other form of entertainment to sell sponsorship marketing programs. In fact, the
more objective you can be, the better. I hear it all the time from aspiring sports marketing executives: “I’m such a huge fan, I’ve been a season ticket holder since I was 6”. That’s great, but can you remove yourself from being a super “fan” and become an objective marketer who can connect-the-dots between property and brand; why it strategically makes sense for their business vs. why it’s such a great sport or how great the team is on the road?
Stay tuned for Sponsorship Sales GPS Part 11.
Quick shout out to everyone who has been reading my posts, providing comments and signed-up to receive my blog directly to their inbox (if you haven’t, you can sign-up to the right of this page). The response has been overwhelming to date with visitors from all over the world. I’m excited to build our community here at Sponsorship Alliance and look forward to your continued thoughts, feedback and suggestions going forward.