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Several positions I’ve held in marketing and public affairs -- which included control over national sponsorship budgets -- put me in the position to receive some of the best -- and worst -- event sales pitches.
The ability to make an event a success is an art, which is why proven sponsorship salespeople are in high demand. But not everyone can afford to hire an experienced fundraiser. So, here are a few tips that may help net you a sponsorship, or at least will prevent you from making a potential sponsor cringe.
DO your homework on the company. Try to find out any new initiatives or visibility/reputation challenges they may be facing and come prepared to share how your sponsorship opportunity can help them reach their goals.
DON’T send your request for sponsorship to the wrong person, or misspell the prospective sponsor's name or include the wrong title. These irritating mistakes are easily avoidable by calling the company or doing a quick Google search to confirm the accuracy of your information.
DO have a package ready with details (costs, benefits, etc.), past successes (attendance, demographics, positive attendee feedback), and current and past corporate supporters. People who called and pitched over the phone and didn’t have a detailed package available when requested made me to question their professionalism.
DON’T make this personal. During sales calls, I’ve had people cry, attempt to guilt trip me, or share their tales of woe. This was my company’s money, not mine, and it was my responsibility to secure high ROI on any sponsorship.
DO remain flexible. Your sponsorship package is a starting point for negotiations, so be ready to do the dance of give and take and think outside the box in order to close the deal. If the company does not have dollars available, don't forget to ask for product or other in-kind assistance, which can, sometimes, be a bit easier to approve.
DON’T threaten to go over my head or go behind my back to my boss. I was hired in this position because of my ability to make savvy decisions, and any good leader will send you right back to me. After pulling a stunt like that, what do you think your chances are for “yes” next year?
DO assign someone to your sponsors that is responsive, great with problem solving, and adept at treating them like VIPs during the event. That means they can assure seating is assigned, wristbands and other credentials are readily available, and introducing attendees to high ranking officials, celebrities, and other notables without being prompted. Challenges pre- and during events are how many sponsorships are lost.
DO send a results report to sponsors after the event. This is helpful for their reporting and increases your chances of a “yes” next year. A handwritten thank-you note and nice picture of the sponsor with any notables that attended (or perhaps with their team) also goes a long way.
Jetta Bates-Vasilatos is founder of Twist Communications and a life stylist with 10+ years of award-winning consumer engagement/strategic planning experience for luxury and global brands like BMW and Coca-Cola. She also serves as an on-air correspondent and writer with a focus on luxury and experiential tourism, lifestyle, sustainability, and personal finance (how to be chic yet savvy). Jetta has appeared on stations such as WCIU-TV, KBS-TV(Korea), ABC-7, CLTV and KBC-TV (Kenya), writes for national print publications such as Essence, Recommend, Ebony and HomeStyle Design and is the host of the Jettasetting segment on WVON radio.