Sponsorship is sales. Your sponsors are your customers and you are the product.
You need to be able to sell yourself in order to pick up those buyers.
If you don’t have a sales background this can be really tricky and if you’re not used to getting on the phone and pestering people, it’s going to be even harder to get in touch with those that truly could benefit from what you’re doing.
If you want to be successful as a racing driver, that takes money and to get money you either a) have to be rich already, or b) you need to learn how to sell. Here are some tips to help you achieve some success.
Stay positive and believe in yourself
If you think about how much you hate sales, you’ll go into every call/meeting feeling like you can’t win. Commit to a positive attitude at all times, not just when speaking to sponsors but throughout your career. You also need to believe in yourself, if you go into a meeting thinking that you’re going to fail, the prospective sponsor will be able to pick up on it.
Set goals and achieve them
Rebecca Jackson is always my benchmark for goal setting. No matter what she’s going for, she makes a plan and she achieves it. Be it to race at Le Mans, to achieve a certain championship position or a business goal, she gets things done.
Split your goals up into two camps; the thing you want (long-term goal) and how you’re going to get it (short-term goals).
Understand the customer
Your sponsors are your customers so when going in to make a sale, you need to already know the customer inside out and anything you don’t know, you need to learn from them. By asking the right questions, you can uncover their true needs.
Sell to help
Yes, sponsorship will help all your dreams come true but if you think about anything other than how you can help the customer in a pitch, you’re going to fail. Occasionally you’ll find a sponsor who just wants to support you but this still helps them. They get tax relief on that money and they feel good for supporting someone they believe in.
Treat your sponsors how you’d want to be treated. If you can establish a rapport with someone they’re more likely to continue any partnership beyond the initial agreement. You should also establish relationships with people who might not be able to sponsor you now but would be interested in the future. Don’t just drop someone if they can’t front the cash, stay in touch.
Before every meeting or sales call, be prepared with imagery, facts and figures, questions, openers and answers. You should also have an idea of what objections the potential sponsor might have because it’s important to tackle these as they come up.
Qualify the buyer
Stop spending time talking to people about the £20k you need without ever mentioning figures because everyone will be disappointed when the costs crop up or you find out they don’t have the authority to negotiate a sale. Below are a few good starting points:
“Based on what we’ve discussed, the costs for the package that will best suit your needs could be in the £5,000 to £10,000 range. How does that fit within your budget?”
Some prospects won’t want to talk costs but if you can get an idea of what kind of budget they have, at the very least, you’ll know they have some money to spend.
“Is the revenue you’ll get from the sale worth your time?”
For this to work, you already need an idea of how much a customer is worth to them. You need to be able to show that you can bring real business benefit to them because even brand awareness and PR will eventually lead to sales. Do your research, make sure you know how much they’re spending on advertising, the kind of events they attend and where their money is currently being spent. This will give you an idea of whether they’re a £500 potential or a £5000 potential.
“What’s your timeline on this?”
The last thing you want it to find out they won’t be able to make a decision for six months, part-way into your race season. This might be a prospect to nurture but not one to focus your efforts on now.
“Do you feel this adds value?”
When talking about your sponsorship packages, you want to know whether your prospect feels a partnership would be valuable. If the answer to this is positive, you’re halfway there.
Turn up to meetings on time, call when you say you’ll call and always be presentable.
Sell benefits not features
Don’t tell a prospect how sponsorship works, tell them what benefit they’ll get out of it.
Testimonials from other sponsors are proof that using you as a marketing tool works. If you have brought benefit to any sponsor, no matter how small, make sure to get a testimonial from them.
Customers will often tell you when they’re ready to buy. Make sure you listen. Too many people miss these indicators because they’re waffling away about themselves.
Get down to the real objection
“We don’t have enough budget” usually means, “we’re not sure this will add value”. Ask questions to get down to the real reasons the prospect is unsure about buying.
Ask for the sale
When you think a buyer is ready, ask for the sale.
If you don’t make the sale, make another appointment
Sometimes people need time to make a decision or they’ll have to bring other people in to discuss it with. If they need this time, that’s fine, but make sure to get another appointment while you’re there otherwise you’ll be chasing and chasing.
Follow up, follow up, follow up
This is where most drivers fall down. Don’t just send an email or make one call. You need to follow up. Emails get missed and voicemails forgotten about. Be persistent.
There are some businesses out there that have racing drivers coming to them all the time with pitches for sponsorship. You need to stand out and you need to be memorable. You might do this through humour, with a unique look, or simply by being the most valuable and professional. Look to others to see what works but don’t do the same thing, because you’ll never stand out.