We’ve all been there. You start negotiating a sponsorship that you thought was a dead cert to renew, and it’s suddenly looking like a lost cause. You hadn’t seen the warning signs they were planning to exit, but to be honest, weren’t really looking, and now you’ve got a potentially unsalvageable mess on your hands.
The best option is to avoid this situation altogether, by creating and implementing a great sponsor servicing plan. You’d be adding value to the relationship, working closely, and asking the hard questions. Unfortunately, that doesn’t always happen.
So, in the spirit of last-ditch optimism, here are some tips on how to rescue a sponsorship in five minutes.
The first thing you need to do is understand why they are planning to exit. There are many possible reasons, some which may be salvageable and some that probably aren’t:
If it’s in the “probably not” category, try to make the best of a bad situation and ask for referals and/or references. If it’s in the “possibly salvageable” category, move to the next step.
If they’re planning an exit because of a failing on your part, you need to own straight up to that. Actually say, “We realise we haven’t been as responsive to you and our other sponsors as we should have been. These are the steps we’re taking to address those issues so it never happens again.”
Of course, you shouldn’t say that if you haven’t done anything to actually change the situation. (And you really need to, before you lose any more sponsors because of it.) You should also invite them to air any and all grievances, so you can address everything.
Even if it’s not your fault – and a lack of results is generally due to the sponsor not leveraging well – cop some of the blame. You could say, “We realise you and some of the other sponsors haven’t been getting optimal results, and we probably could have assisted more with finding ways for you to leverage this for your target markets.”
If results and/or money are a factor in their planned exit, you need to offer to work with them to reinvent the sponsorship. A few of the things you can offer to do are:
You’re right if you’re thinking that it will take a lot longer than five minutes to run a leverage brainstorm or do research or hold a leverage workshop. But it will only take five minutes to have the right conversation with the sponsor to see if they are open to participating in those activities, and will hold off on their decision for a little while. And it will only take five minutes to own up to your organisational issues and tell them how they will be addressed.
The key is that you have to take decisive action. Every day that ticks by with “exit” on their mind, it’s closer to unsalvageable. While you’re not going to be able to save every sponsor that is planning an exit, you should be able to save some of them. And the measures you take to save those sponsorships will be very valuable in servicing all of your sponsors, reducing the need for saving anything.
For all you need to know about sponsorship sales and servicing, you may want to get a copy of The Sponsorship Seeker’s Toolkit 4th Edition.
You may also be interested in my white papers, “Last Generation Sponsorship Redux” and “Disruptive Sponsorship: Like Disruptive Marketing, Only Better“.
If you need additional assistance, I offer sponsorship consulting and strategy sessions, sponsorship training, and sponsorship coaching. I also offer a comprehensive sponsorship capacity-building service for large, diverse, and decentralised organisations.
Please feel free to drop me a line to discuss.
Please note, I do not offer a sponsorship broker service, and can’t sell sponsorship on your behalf. You may find someone appropriate on my sponsorship broker registry.
© Kim Skildum-Reid. All rights reserved. To enquire about republishing or distribution, please see the blog and white paper reprints page.