Whether they represent international sports properties with multimillion-dollar sponsorship budgets or local events with low-five-figure budgets, rightsholders should revisit their sales strategies on a regular basis to make sure they are getting the most out of their sales effort. 

IEG SR recently asked a handful of veteran sellers for tips and tactics on closing deals in today’s sales environment. Below, they share five tips on selling sponsorship in both bull and bear markets.

Keep it simple. With sponsorship decision-makers juggling multiple tasks, most do not have the time or energy to wade through multipage documents. As a result, sellers should highlight opportunities in a short and sweet one-page document.

“You have to get your message across in the first sentence or paragraph. No buyer wants to read 42 pages of stuff. If the document has a staple it won’t be read,” said John Korff, president of Korff Enterprises, the organizer of the Aquaphor New York City Triathlon presented by RCN and other events.

The triathlon this year secured Aquaphor as a new title sponsor, replace a long-running partnership with Nautica Apparel, Inc.

Listen, listen, listen. While listening to a prospect’s needs has always played a critical role in the sponsorship sales process, it has taken on increased importance as companies apply closer scrutiny to marketing expenditures.

For example, the NHL is spending more time with prospects to fully understand their business and marketing objectives.  

“In the past it was more of a straight pitch and proposal. We’re spending more time than ever with prospects to understand their needs so that we can deliver a customized solution that delivers against their key objectives,” said Kyle McMann, vice president of integrated marketing with NHL Enterprises.

That strategy involves establishing a two-way dialogue that moves well beyond the league’s capabilities deck, he said.

“The key thing is to do more listening then ever so that you can come back with a insight-driven solution that makes your property something the prospect needs to have to fuel their marketing mix.”

Think like a buyer. Properties should put the needs of sponsors front and center when developing sponsorship packages.

“Understanding client needs rather than property wants is the key to bringing good ideas to the table. Good ideas transcend economic downturns to a greater extent than ideas based on the needs of seller,” said John Brody, president of partnership and business development with Wasserman Media Group.

Cut price escalators.Although the thinking may run counter to a long-running practice, one sales vet thinks properties should drop annual price escalators in multiyear deals.  

The thinking: sponsors should receive a discount on long-term partnerships.  

“The sponsorship industry is the only industry where it costs more money for multiple years,” said Rick Jones, CEO and captain of FishBait Marketing. “I don’t get the concept. You walk into a Sam’s Club and it costs less to buy a package of three items than buying the items individually.”

If rightsholders can’t drop escalators, Jones believes they should structure deals in the opposite way: a payment structure in which the sponsor pays more in the first year of the contract and less in the following years.

“The sponsor will pay less in year three. It’s an insurance policy.”

Play up exclusivity. While some properties have moved away from exclusive deals, others believe the benefit plays a key role in closing deals. 

According to the 2012 IEG/Performance Research Decision-makers Survey exclusivity is the most important sponsorship benefit with 62 percent of respondents ranking the benefit a 9 or a 10 on a 10-point scale.

“While the economy has forced folks on the client side and property side to make adjustments, we have found that exclusivity still plays a major role,” said Norris Scott, NASCAR’s vice president of partnership marketing and business solutions.

Scott points to NASCAR’s Fuel for Business Council as an example. The B2B networking event is only open to official NASCAR sponsors.

“Competitors may be in the sport, but they’re not in the room.”