I have always said that sponsorship is about relationships. It is! And so is life! When I mention that to people, they agree and talk about their relationships with their clients. The focus always seems to be on the “relationships” between the property and the brand. That is an external relationship. Just as important, though, are internal relationships.
Recently, I was working with a client. His client relationships were terrific. They raved about him. They spoke about how he was always there when they needed something. He was creative and innovative with ideas for them. He knew their businesses well and what they were truly trying to achieve versus just selling them product. Even all the staff at the property spoke about how fantastic he was with the clients. He is to be commended. It is not that often that both the sponsors and the operational staff speak highly about the “sales guy” and his client relationships.
But when I dove deeper, I found that the internal relationships were not as strong. As I noted, everyone thought he was great with the clients, and everyone liked him internally, but the reality was that he really did not have strong internal relationships. (He has since been working on this and is improving, which is fantastic!) Let me explain further.
- Though he had been with the organization for almost a decade, he did not know the other departments. He relied on them for support and delivery of services, but he really did not understand their departments, issues, or pain points. He knew his clients inside and out; he knew his inventory of assets inside and out, but he did not really understand the day-to-day operations that affected his client’s deliverables. When I was in management training with both Red Lobster Restaurants and Chi Chi’s Mexican Restaurants (about three lifetimes ago), they required all managers to work every position in the restaurant (dishwasher, prep cook, line cook, busser, server, bartender, etc.) for a minimum of one week for each position during their 16-week management training program. That meant I knew how to do each of their jobs (not an expert, but I could jump in and help effectively if needed), but more importantly, I knew their pain points and issues. To manage people, I learned that you need to know their jobs! It worked!
- His relationships were with clients outside the organization and within his own department of sponsorship sales. Sure, he knew all the folks in the organization to say “hi,” but he did not have the relationships where he could sit down and have a coffee with them. He needed to work toward being able to have relationships with the key people in every department as he would his clients. He needed to be able to drop by someone’s office or invite someone from another department to lunch or coffee without them feeling bewildered as to what he wanted (because he only did such things when there was a problem or he needed something)! When I was in radio sales, I focused my internal relationships on the creative writers, the lady in traffic, and the producers—not the other sales reps. In so doing, I got great support from those departments when I needed something because I already had a trusted relationship with them.
- He delivered “responsibilities.” Because the internal relationships were not strong, he did not engage those folks in proposal development. Instead, he built the customized proposals, presented to the prospect, closed the business, then told each department what they had to do. As a result, there was resentment. In addition, some of the things he offered were not doable or were not the best approach for the client. He neither understood those other departments, nor did he have relationships of trust with them to be able to make things work. Those people should have all been part of the proposal development, not the recipients of “responsibilities” once the deal was done.
Things are changing at this client property. Internal relationships are being developed along with a better sponsorship program. I always liked John Maxwell’s quote, “The best leaders are humble enough to realize their victories depend on their people.” You can sell great programs, but if you don’t have the internal support of your organization’s staff to deliver, you will fail!
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