Close More Deals By Selling Benefits, Not Features In Sports Sponsorship

“People want a 1/4 inch hole, not a quarter-inch drill.”

This quote (paraphrased) sits in the office of Rich Franklin as a reminder that our customers want solutions toward their goals…not the features that get them there.

Sometimes we forget this in sponsorship when talking to our brands. We get so enamored with the assets we have (signage, social media, digital activation,

And sometimes there are pressures from our sales goals. Listen when I was a salesperson in the game I felt the same thing. You have certain assets that haven’t sold yet and your goal has in it to fill them. There are definitely those structural pressures.

But if we want to win long term in sponsorship…we can’t sell features. No matter the pressure, no matter how enamored we become with the assets we have.

This week on The Inches Podcast Rich & I dove into why it is so important to sell benefits and not features in our sponsorship meetings. You can read hear the whole episode HERE but as always below are the key highlights.

“People want a 1/4 inch hole, not a quarter-inch drill.”

This saying is so important because it gets you in the right mindset when thinking about how you will get a customer.

For me at least it is a constant reminder that the client is not buying the physical item.. they are buying the desired outcome.

It also is a reminder that there are many ways to drill a hole.

You work at a hardware store and someone comes up to you and asks “I am looking to drill a hole”. As a salesperson ( I hope) your first action isn’t to grab a drill off the shelf and ring them up.

What comes next is the question “what surface and how big of a hole?”

Why? Because you are trying to help them find the best tool to get the job done.

A power drill, hand-power drill, you can hole punch it out if the wood is thin enough are all ways to reach the desired outcome.

Hell, if they don’t care how accurate the hole placement is you can shoot a 1/4 bullet through the wood (probably not the case…but here to cement the different ways to solve the problem).

Above are all features..but we have no idea if there are any better than the others for this customer unless we find the desired outcome.

Benefits matter more because the FIT is the entire game

In sponsorship, it is no different from the scenario above.

When clients come to us (or we convince them to come to us by going to them through outbound) they are looking for an end outcome that helps their company grow.

They don’t want to buy our signage. They want to buy the awareness that comes with it in hopes that when your fans are in the supermarket they choose their product.

This is why understanding FIT is so important before we even bring up assets. We need to establish their goals, desired outcomes, and hopes for marketing plans to understand which features would be a fit to solve this.

Finding FIT is the entire game because of this. If you don’t find fit, it will be hard to be successful.

We also have to be fine with walking away if there is no fit

The most beautiful part of this mindset is when the rare but great moment when we walk away because there isn’t a fit.

To truly harness this idea that you are there to help your customer reach their end goal, you are fine with saying we don’t have any features to help them get there.

Now, I will caveat this by saying the reason you should be really diversifying your assets, or features is so you have the assets to cover every marketing goal a sponsor may come to you.

But, the key here is if you really live by this mantra you are fine with walking away when there isn’t a fit. And it really boils down to understanding that no long-term relationship can be built if you focus on features.

When I sold restaurant ads in travel guides I fell into this. I sold sections in the book I had to fill rather than understanding the specific goals the restaurant had.

For example, if a new restaurant wanted to attract travelers I made the mistake of putting them in a section of the book without really understanding what set them apart. We put their logo on the page and it was passed over when looking over the options.

As you could imagine, the ad performed poorly (well, the perception of it did because there is no trackability with a paper ad..but that is a topic for another day), and when it was renewal time the customer churned.

What I learned to do is go eat at the restaurant when they moved into the lower end of the funnel. I ate their food, observed their atmosphere & experience, and was able to craft a much better listing (the feature).

If a restaurant had an amazing or unique entree, I would suggest they put an image of the meal as the ad instead of the logo. If they were located next to an attraction I would suggest they post their ad on a page that highlighted that attraction.

Their placement was the feature here, but I would focus on the benefit when selling. “ You will be the only sushi restaurant on the page, this is going to really help you stand out to visitors and drive customers.”

This change brought value to them. People would come in and ask for the entree they saw in the book or mention they saw the attraction in the book and saw the ad.

By understanding the end goal and organization I was able to sell on benefits. If I felt that we couldn’t help them, I would walk away and thank them for their time…no matter what my sales goal was.

I’ll end this mini-story with I never missed my sales goal because I was able to fill my pipeline to the brim with this benefit mindset. It works so well you have no problem walking away.

At SQWAD we have the same mindset. If I can’t help you sell more sponsorship (benefit) with one of our activations (features)…I’ll walk away.

Listen more than talk in finding fit…and do the research

Ed Reed is one of the best safeties to bless the football field. He was an athlete with amazing ability…but so are many players in the NFL.

But this isn’t what set him apart, it was his manic film study.

He studied so much field that he could tell if the play was a run or pass for a team based on the way a certain player broke the huddle. If they jetted out to get set..it was a pass. If they were slow to the line…it was a run.

If we really want to have a benefit mindset…then we have to be manic about the end goal of our sponsors. This starts with listening and research.

Before you even get on the phone with a sponsor, you need to go to their website and look over their news section. Do they have a bunch of new hires? A community initiative? A new product launch?

These are all free pieces of information that help us have an initial idea of how our benefits will fit their goals.

When you reach out you have some ammo for the call…but you shouldn’t assume you have the answer. It is VITAL to listen.

Ask the questions, shut up and listen, and start to think about how your benefits will help their end goal.

Your customers are the cheat code…they have all the answers to the test. Finding a fit first comes with listening.

Your assets are a pathway to the end goal

We’ve basically talked FIT to death. You’ve found the FIT, now what do you do?

The next step is to craft our assets to help them reach that end goal. You find the features that help them reach the end goal.

Again, your unsold inventory or sales goals cannot filter in here. Take all that out and find the assets that push fans to the end goal. It is like crafting a journey or story path to the end result.

If it is a Milk brand and the end goal is to increase sales you need to map out the path to this end goal.

See a sign or read in-stadium, play a game to win a coupon for a milk discount, re-target the fan with segmented milk ads on social media, and a special bottle in the supermarket branded with my team logo is the optimal pathway I would craft to reach the end goal here.

Maybe add in a promotion from a player for the influencer effect.

It wouldn’t matter if I had 10 ticket packs to sell in my sales goal sheet and I wouldn’t add it in because it doesn’t fit the end goal as well as the others. There would be no fit there.

When you craft your assets to sell, you have to be fanatical about the benefit of FIT before you offer it.

Overall, always sell benefits

I think you all get the point now, but this is really the difference between a huge sales year and a ton of renewals and missing the mark.

No amount of hustle or outbounds can replace the value of understanding your customer’s end goal and selling benefits.

Benefits, benefits, benefits. Always sell the benefits.

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