Working Your Sponsorship Sales Funnel

By Michael Kithcart

The best salespeople are constantly sharpening their skills. Sponsorship Mastery Summit was created with this in mind. It’s a two-day workshop for sponsorship leaders and their teams, September 25-26, 2019 in Seattle, Washington. It features industry experts facilitating interactive sessions for mastering the art and science of sponsorship. The learning and exchange continue online for three months with webinars and information on topics key to sponsorship success, such as working your sponsorship funnel. This blog provides a sneak peek of what we’ll cover in the online training.

Feeding the Funnel

All sales executives know about the sales funnel. There needs to be enough activity feeding the funnel to generate enough opportunities to keep the process flowing through closing a sale. We all know this and yet we have to get back to basics like this when we aren’t getting the results we want. Aside from not having the right product to sell or the wrong timing, there is almost always some piece of the process that has been skipped or that isn’t being done effectively that gets in the way of achieving goals.

Close examination of the fundamentals is how we can often find the tweaks necessary to get an out-of-balanced funnel back to fully functioning. How would you describe what your funnel looks like today? This blog outlines predictable conditions and solutions to various funnel figures and how to get yours looking more like a fluid funnel of success.

Top-Heavy, Bottomless Funnel

This is how the funnel looks when you’ve identified many prospects and calls are being made but progression is not happening. This is concerning because this is the start of the sales process and if this part isn’t right, you’ll never get a shot at working a prospect to a client. If your funnel looks like this, dig deeper into these areas:

  • Are the prospects right for your event/organization? Are they currently spending money on sponsorships? Do you believe they are a good fit for your event? If not, they aren’t true prospects. Clear them out of the top of the funnel and replace them with qualified leads that make sense.
  • Have you come up with valid business reasons why each prospect should be considering your event/organization? Competition is fierce and this is a big way to cut through the clutter. If you don’t know why a prospect should become a sponsor, what makes you think they’ll figure that out?
  • Are you really making an effort? Be honest with yourself. Is your funnel top-heavy because you’re not making enough calls, sending out the warm emails or reaching out consistently until you’ve made contact with the decision maker?

Thick-in-the-Middle Funnel

This is how the funnel looks when you are conducting calls and scheduling meetings, asking questions and gathering information, but then things stall out. Proposals have been created but they aren’t getting presented. This can create a major backlog. Getting the middle unclogged is important in building efficiencies and providing the right opportunities to sponsors. If your funnel is expanding from the middle and little is getting past this area, here are some things to consider:

  • Do you have the right decision maker? Perhaps you’ve had a meeting and learned more about what the brand might be interested in sponsoring—were all or the right decision makers in the room? Before leaving a first meeting, ask who will be making the decision. If you haven’t met them, get a second meeting with the right people. Your solution will be more targeted, and you’ll have a better understanding of any objections the real client might have.
  • Do you have the right information to create a customized solution? If the right people were in the room, did you dig deep enough to truly determine the objectives you could best satisfy? Or was the information collected superficial and now you’re having trouble finding a good opportunity? Getting clear and going deep from the beginning will help proposals move through the sales process more smoothly.
  • Are you presenting in person or at least doing a walk-through via video or phone? Perhaps you think you have the right opportunity and you can’t wait to get it in front of the potential sponsor. When they don’t want to meet, or scheduling becomes difficult, you opt to just send them the proposal. Your excitement could be backfiring. Set the next meeting up at the end of the first meeting. If that doesn’t happen, insist on presenting in person or via video conferencing. Closing percentages are greatly reduced without this.

Wide-Bottom Funnel

This happens when all of the above has gone well and you’ve presented an abundance of proposals, but the deals aren’t closing. You’ve put in a ton of hard work, and there were buying signals along the way but very few or no yeses. So, what gives?

  • Did your proposal meet a need? It’s highly likely that what you presented wasn’t the right solution to meet the brand’s marketing needs.
  • Could the potential sponsor imagine themselves in your opportunity? When the solutions presented are generic or a standard package, potential sponsors often can’t see their brand being a part of it.
  • Was your pricing on point? Sometimes pricing is not in line with the values of the asset or in line with the market. Other times, it could be vastly different from what the client normally spends for similar sponsorships.
  • Did you really ask for the business? Did you do so directly? If so, how many times?

Be real with yourself in evaluating your sponsorship sales funnel. Is your funnel representative of where it should be based on the part of the sales process you’re currently in? If not, consider the above steps you can take to better fill, maintain and clear out your funnel.

About the workshop: Sponsorship Mastery Summit takes place September 25-26 at the Hyatt Regency Lake Washington and features industry experts facilitating intensive and interactive sessions for mastering the art and science of sponsorship. Participants collaborate with thought leaders, hear from big brands, explore new ideas, and leave with a simple sales plan, an improved story, sponsor leads, a sales process, best practices and new connections. The learning and exchange continue online for three months with webinars and information on the most relevant and important topics key to sponsorship success. Learn more and register here.

About the author: Michael Kithcart is the chief strategy officer of Caravel Marketing. Throughout her career, Michael has transformed organizations, created divisions, organized start-ups and enhanced the effectiveness of individuals and teams. She is a leader in working with organizations to develop strategic initiatives that meet and exceed sponsorship sales goals.