Converting the Sale

It is one thing to work hard and move business forward. We all appreciate the folks in our organizations in the revenue development area (development officers, fund raisers, sponsorship managers, account executives, and many others) who are fantastic at networking, cultivating, schmoozing, and impressing. But if they can’t close the business, we are in trouble. Eventually, we must ask for the money, deal with objections, and either close the business or move on. The “dreamers,” as I call them, are those who keep thinking, “That account is going to close and it is going to be big”-and it never happens!
Recently, I was delivering a workshop on sponsorship sales and closing the business. That is what prompted this commentary. Many people think it is all about the process and that is partly true. In sponsorship (or any other sales organization other than commodities), a relationship must be built. There must be a product that will assist sponsors in achieving their identified goals. They must like and trust you. The price must deliver a fair opportunity for the sponsor to make a reasonable ROI and also be a good deal for the selling property. At the Partnership Group – Sponsorship Specialists™, I am responsible for bringing in sales. I prospect and then do discoveries. I determine what the prospect is trying to achieve. I try to be a solution provider. I am there to help them make more money. That is my job. I build the relationship and then I build a customized proposal to meet their specific needs, goals, objectives, and budget. Then I “pitch the package.” When closed, our exceptional team of industry-leading consultants deliver the services to our clients.
In my mind, there are five key elements in making the sale and I would like to share them with you.
1. Learn to listen and ask a lot of questions.  Remember, you are there to learn about them, not espouse the greatness of your organization. Listen intently and make notes. Understand their business, goals, and budget. Learn about their issues and success. Every time they answer your question, follow up with another. Make it conversational and appear (if not really) to be enlightened and interested; hence, all the questions.
2. Don’t talk about yourself. This is not about you and your organization. It is about them (the sponsor)-and only them. Refer to key strategy #1 above. I like the old saying, “Learn to say less to more people.”
3. Determine their needs. Successful sales come from providing sponsors with solutions to their problems, be they a need for more sales, more leads, more positive PR, or stronger engagement of employees. When you can provide the solution to their needs, they will buy from you versus the competition. But before you can provide solutions, you must know their needs.
4. Custom build the proposal. Be as specific as you can. It doesn’t matter if it is in PowerPoint, video, Word, or on a napkin. So long as it is customized and specifically meets their needs, you will have a winning pitch. Don’t throw out a lot of excess assets or “stuff” in the pitch thinking it will enhance “the ask.” If they don’t want tickets, don’t put them in. If you don’t know if they want tickets, go back to #1, #2, and #3 and get the information required. Remember, you will not be able to solve all their problems and needs. Show them how you can effectively (and cost efficiently) solve specific needs versus trying to convince them you can solve all their problems. You can’t! And make sure you ask for the business. Yes, ask them if the proposal meets their needs and show them the signature line!
5. Listen again and listen intently. Once the pitch is made, it is time to listen again. Hear what they say. If they have objections, respond to them. Give clear answers and show them how your pitch can deal with the objection. Or adjust the pitch to overcome the objection. Get all the objections out and determine what the real ones are. Then eliminate them along with all the red herrings. Once the objections are dealt with, they should be ready to sign unless they are not telling you everything you need to know. When they say, “I’ll get back to you” or “Let me circulate this around the team to get their feedback,” you know you have issues. You must address them right now or this will be one of those accounts that neither says “no” nor closes. We all hate those!
I truly believe that, if you follow these key suggestions, you should do well in sponsorship sales. I have been selling sport and cause sponsorships for over 25 years. I have been selling the services of our successful company for over a dozen years. These tips are a major part of my success. I hope they become part of yours.
These are just one person’s thoughts. Yours are welcomed as well. Please add your thoughts or comments below. Thank you for reading and your feedback.

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