Sponsorship: The Initial ContactSponsorship: The Initial Contact Part 2 in a series that answers the question, How do I get sponsored and keep those sponsors?
By Lee Wheeler
"First impressions are lasting impressions," as the old saying goes. This holds true in contacting potential partners (notice, I did not call them sponsors) as well. This is the most difficult part of sponsorship, but also the easiest to facilitate. This sounds contradictory, but let me explain. It is very easy to contact them but difficult to do so correctly, and not blow your chances.
Keep in mind that the potential partner you are trying to reach probably gets several hundred sponsorship requests a week. The first thing you need to do is separate yourself from all "others." The key to doing this is to remember that you are not requesting a sponsorship. You have to change your train of thought and think from the potential sponsors' point of view. Peak his/her interest so that they will want to hear more from you. How, do you ask? Well, you have to request a partnership between the company and yourself to increase their market exposure and bottom line. By doing this you immediately improve your chances of getting your foot in the door.
The key is that you are immediately insinuating that the company will benefit from working with you by utilizing the partnership approach. Ideally, in partnerships, everyone benefits. This is what you are offering. In your initial contact concentrate on what the benefits to the company are. Do not ask for anything in return, but show your worth and then let them make you an offer.
Now, do not do this and assume this is all it takes to get in the door. You must have a plan and a proposal ready showing the details of how you plan on doing this.
Do not ever ask a company to sponsor you. All that does is tell them you are looking for free stuff and/or money. They do not need anyone like that on their pro staff. They want people who can be substantiated by the increased revenues, and additional market exposure they provide through hard work, dedication and selflessness.
Industry is changing in that the majority of the companies out there prefer e-mail. This does not mean it is the only way to contact potential partners but it is the most efficient way. It provides you with a means to put together a BRIEF e-mail that will stimulate their interest enough to offer a response.
The steps in initially contacting a potential partner:
- Initialize contact with that marketing person
- Receiving a response
- Cover letter with proposal and resume.
- Close the deal
Find "the marketing contact" - This is sometimes the hardest part of the entire process. Sure you can always find someone at the company to send your request or talk to, but getting it to THE person is the part where most people go wrong.
Do a lot of research on the company's web site prior to attempting to contact anyone. You want to learn what it is they do and how they do it in as much detail as possible, as well as where, their headquarters and other sites are located. You will want to pay special attention to the corporate information page of their web site. This is where you will most likely find the key people you need to, speak with. You are looking for MARKETING. Anyone in this department will work and most times you will do better with someone who works for "the man" rather than "the man (or woman)." They tend to be too busy to look at proposals and such without an employee recommending they look first. Each company is different though, so always be flexible.
Initialize contact with that marketing person
Initially you want to ask who is within the company, you need to speak with about a possible partnership to increase the company's bottom line and exposure. You should mention what market area you are speaking of, but keep this very short and sweet.
Receiving a response
Hopefully you will get a response from the person to speak with or that persons' contact information. They may even come back and ask you to clarify your position. You can give them a little more information, but keep them on the edge. Do not give away too much information and DO NOT ask for anything. Tell them what you are going to do for them. If they continue to ask for more, then at this point you will need to ask to send a full proposal. If they do not ask for more, then you will need to ask to send a proposal to increase the company's bottom line and exposure. If they are interested you can move forward. If not, then be very professional and courteous and thank them for the opportunity. Be sure and ask if there might be a time in the future, that you should consider contacting them again for consideration. Always leave the door open.
Cover letter with proposal and resume
If they do indeed ask for a proposal or say you can send one, then you will want to have one prepared to make some minor adjustments to be able to send. A word of caution here: Do not send it right away. Wait at least one to two days. This will let them know that you are seriously putting some effort into the proposal, as well as give you time to read and proofread the proposal and cover letter. Have someone else read it to ensure you have all the grammar correct. Use spell check!
This may or may not happen. Most of the times they do not need to meet you initially, but be prepared to do so if they ask. I take this one step further by offering in my cover letter to come and meet with them if they feel the need to do so. I want them to feel as though I am willing to do whatever it takes to consummate a deal. Do not show up for a meeting in anything other than business attire. Try to get in touch with a secretary at the corporate office to find out the normal office attire for them. Be candid with her/him and tell her who and why you are calling. When you go to the meeting do not forget to stop and thank them. A personally written card is a great gift of appreciation but keep it professional. This person could be a key ally if you are signed on.
Close the deal
Know when to stop talking. If they agree to bring you on board, stop trying to sale yourself and wrap it up. Be prepared to speak up about what you want, if they ask, but do not bring it up until last or until they do. Stay focused on what you are going to do for them, but do not close the deal without taking care of yourself.
I hope part II has given you a better understanding of the overall process of gaining a winning partnership with a sponsor. Look for part III - Acceptance, to be out soon.
Lee Wheeler is a regional professional angler that speaks at promotional events and seminars across Southeast Texas. He fishes the BASS Open Central Division, Texas Tournament Trail, as well as the Southeast Texas Federation Nation Regional tour.
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