Sponsorship sales tips were in no short supply at IEG 2017.

Below, sponsorship decision-makers from companies in the airline, beer and financial services categories share tips on what to do—and, just as importantly, what not to do—when pitching potential partners.

Understand a prospect’s objectives
While understanding a prospect’s marketing objectives is a core component of any successful sales strategy, many sellers still fall short.

“Many times folks cold call or send an email, and it’s more about selling their proposition versus truly understanding what our objectives are as a brand and a company,” said Marques Jackson, MillerCoors sports & entertainment marketing.

“Many times we are told why we should sponsor something. Sellers need to understand our needs, what needs we are solving for and how you can help us solve those needs,” said Molly Sapienza, PNC director of regional marketing.

Sapienza points to properties that pitch opportunities to drive new checking accounts as an example.

“Checking accounts cost us money. That’s not what drives our business. It’s about taking the time to have a conversation and understanding our goals and objectives.”

Do your homework—and ask questions
Sapienza recommends that sellers spend time on PNC’s web site to learn about the company, how it is structured and its involvement in the local community.

Sellers should then use that information to engage local decision-makers and ask open-ended questions.

“The needs in our Atlanta market are very much different than the needs in our Pittsburgh market. It’s about having a dialogue with folks in the market to understand their challenges.”

Sellers also need to look closely at the information on a prospect’s web site. PNC has been pitched opportunities to support middle and high school education initiatives despite clearly articulating its focus on early childhood education (birth to the age of five) on its web site.

“It’s all about better educating yourself on what is important to us.”

Offer up ideas
Sellers who come to the table with ideas—even those that may be off the mark—have a better chance of securing a prospect’s attention than those who do not.

“We’re always looking for ideas. ‘Hey Kelley, I have this crazy idea about how we can provide more value to your top-tier elites by doing this...’ Maybe we can’t do that, but at least I know you’re coming back with ideas, and that’s how you’re going to get a better chance of getting a call back,” said Kelley Winn, Alaska Airlines manager of brand sponsorship & partnership marketing.

“At times there is a disconnect,” said Jackson. “We have a conversation, but not a lot of good ideas or tangible strategies are presented back to us. Once you have a conversation, spend time thinking about the next steps in solving for some of the gaps that we have strategically outlined.”

Keep proposals short and succinct
Some sponsorship decision-makers receive up to 100 proposals a week. Those that are short, sweet and to the point have the best chance of being noticed.

“Think of a proposal as your resume. It has to be well formatted, it has to look good and it has to get to the point. We don’t have time to comb through a proposal that has been thrown together or one that looks like it’s been sent to every other airline,” said Winn.

Sellers should also avoid photos that can increase the size of the document.

“My inbox sometimes gets frozen because of the size of the documents that are attached to the email. I don’t need lots of photos. Just get to the point—what value can you offer and what can you solve for,” said Sapienza.

Know a prospect’s limitations
In addition to understanding what’s important to a prospect, sponsorship sellers should also understand their limitations. That often includes understanding what a prospect can and cannot do when it comes to activating a sponsorship.

Case in point: PNC has been pitched the opportunity to activate on Instagram despite not having an Instagram account. The bank’s social media team largely focuses on sharing bank news and responding to customer complaints.

“Understanding what our limitations are is extremely important,” said Sapienza.

Check your spelling
An age-old sponsor pet peeve: sellers who don’t proof read proposals.

“If I see another proposal that refers to Alaskan Airlines…,” said Winn.

Be patient
“I receive 100 proposals a week. I will get back to you, but it won’t be in a week and it definitely won’t be in 24 hours. Keep in mind that you’re not the only person who has sent me a proposal,’ said Winn.