There is nothing worse than when a pitch meeting goes off the rails. I mean NOTHING.
All of a sudden you are talking about the cost of an impression on a highway billboard instead of the packages you are presenting to a partner.
And at that point, usually, you lose the meeting, your confidence, and usually the potential of your deal coming through.
As salespeople, it is our job to find a fit for our clients.
But sometimes we don’t realize that it is also our job to guide them through why this solution is a good fit.
To do that, you need to be in control.
This is something I struggled a lot with early in my sales career. But when I started seeing that structure is the key to successful pitch meetings I started implementing it and saw amazing results.
This week on The Inches podcast Rich Franklin, VP of Partnerships at the Portland Winterhawks, and I dive into a really great system to structure your meetings and keep them on track.
I’ve seen Rich in action on this and really stole this system for my meetings. It has helped tremendously.
You can listen to the full episode HERE, but as always below are some of the highlights:
The acronym to save all meetings: SPAPA
Of course, we had to give this thing an acronym so you can remember. Because in sales…we love acronyms.
However you want to pronounce it, Rich has a great structure here that can be applied to your meetings as well.
I know we use this at SQWAD a lot now in our presentations.
To be honest, since implementing we’ve actually been thanked by our prospective customers for having a succinct pitch to help them understand the fit easily & quickly.
So believe me when I say this structure works.
Before I dive into the steps I want to make sure we dive into why it is important to have a structure.
When you are trying to gain a sponsor’s business you are taking them on a journey to the destination, which is the package that is best for their goals.
Imagine you went to the Great Wall of China on a tour and the guide started with “ Well, what do you want to know about the wall?”
As a tourist, you have no idea what you want to see or what is important other than it’s the Great Wall of China.
Great tour guides will have a structure for how they can take you through the story of the wall, why it is significant, and with their performance confirm to you why you paid to be given a tour.
The same goes for your sponsorship meeting.
A lot of time brands know that they are interested in sponsoring your team, but when it comes to the details or what they may be interested in looking at… they have no idea.
You are their tour guide.
You know they are interested, you’ve done the first call to see what particularly they are looking to add value on, now it is your job to guide them through the offering and see if there is a fit.
This is why the structure is so important. It helps make it easier for them to decide and buy. On top of it all, they are thankful because you are able to show this while saving them time.
Ok, so now to the structure:
The first step is to summarize. We want to get the prospect and ourselves on the same page from the get-go for why we are together and what I’ve learned from my first call with you.
This can be the goals you both discussed on the phone, this could be a campaign they have coming up and you discussed that our package could help. You want to summarize the particular reason you both are meeting.
Why don’t you start with who you are and your history as a team? Well, that is about you…not them. Remember you are a guide on the journey and this is their journey.
The key part of this is to start the meeting off by letting them know that you listened to the first time you spoke and you are looking to help them solve the problems they have.
This also sets the tone for the rest of the pitch. The following steps now have a goal they are trying to help the sponsor reach. It will help you build context toward what you propose in the next part of the meeting.
I can’t stress how important this is in starting the meeting. You are basically letting them know from the get-go that this meeting is about helping them, not you closing a sale from them. This goes a long way in building the relationship and helping keep them focused and engaged during the meeting.
Ok, you set the table, now it’s time to show them what you cooked up to help them solve their problems.
Here is where you are presenting (proposing) that you thought about the goal they are trying to reach and reverse engineered success through the following assets and activations.
Is a sponsor looking to sell more cars? This is where you present the tools you both will take advantage of to get that person on the lot and buying.
This is where you lay out the full tool kit. Rink boards, digital activations, sponsored tweets, whatever you plan on using to help reach this goal.
This is another setup. You are giving them a view of the tools, but you aren’t giving them the punchline yet. By just showing the tools you use it keeps them curious and engaged in how.
Remember this is a journey, sometimes jumping through too fast ruins a great trip.
You have them curious, which is where you want them. The Amplify is where you start to put the pieces together.
This is where you weave the story together on how these assets will get them to the goal. You are explaining why these assets will work.
In this section, I’ve found it best to use the fan as a part of that story.
For example (this is how you would tie the propose together in a meeting):
“Look nobody buys a car from one commercial. So here’s how trivia will lead people to buy your cars.
First, the fan will play on their phones and answer questions. This is the great first touchpoint you need to start connecting them with your dealership. It grabs their attention and connects them with your brand.
From there we’ll follow up with an offer from your dealership and the team for tickets right on the glass in the ‘your dealership’ section, this is your second touchpoint. The fan is now building that positive brand recognition.
Last the fans who have had 2 great touchpoints digitally now are sitting in the ‘your dealership’ corner. Send your dealer salespeople out to watch the game with them. Buy them beers and really engage with them. Let them connect in a non-pressure environment.
This is the 3 step approach we would propose in this partnership in order to help you all sell more cars with this partnership.”
When you put it into context and tell the story of why these steps and assets will work as seen from the fan’s eyes it makes much more sense to your sponsor.
If it makes sense, it becomes believable that this will work and help them reach their goal.
In the Amplify stage, make sure you are explaining the why for your assets, not just the what.
Here’s where you will have to put some skin in the game. They have a goal, you’ve proposed the what and why… now it is time to quantify how this helps them.
It might be “we plan on pushing this plan forward with a goal of reaching x people and selling y cars.”
You want to put a concrete number here. It could be wrong, but it tells your sponsor you have faith this will work and helps them quantify the value.
This is also great because when you do a recap mid-season and post-season you can keep them updated on whatever tweaks and how they are going to help them reach this quantified goal.
Obviously, be smart on this number. You don’t want to be too high that it is impossible to hit or too low that the value isn’t there. Make sure you are making a calculated guess as you can and then shift from there.
But I can’t stress enough how important it is to have a number. Again it helps show where we all will end up at the end of this journey.
Last, you need to ask. This isn’t the ABC (always be closing) mindset here though.
What you should be asking is “what do you think about this plan?” or “Are we on the right track here?”
This feedback tells the partner 2 things:
1. You care about their feedback.
2. You care about their thoughts on the process you just presented.
This also serves as a great litmus test for you. Did you nail this or are there other places where you can add some assets?
By asking you get more feedback and insights from the client so you can make sure you are really helping them reach their goal.
It can go something like this:
“So that’s our plan of how we’re going to help you reach the goal of selling more cars. But you all are out there selling, interacting with customers, and I want to make sure that we have something here that you believe can help you toward that goal.
Do you think this will help you in that process?”
This ask is clutch and really how you get to the next ask, which is “What are the next steps?”
Being flexible is important
One meeting Rich is diving into the pitch and there is a member of the brand team typing away on their laptop. Not uncommon these days. As Rich is going through his pitch he comes to the part of the digital assets he wanted to include.
As soon as he said digital, the laptop was shut and the person was all ears.
Sometimes we get into this structure and forget that during the pitch meeting we are still getting information from the client. With that, we need to be flexible to ensure we are hitting the points that are important to them.
We definitely don’t want to make a total shift, unless the meeting is really not going well, but spending more time on a section can be super beneficial in finding a fit.
Because when it comes down to it the meeting is about the client’s needs, not yours.
When jumping into the structure make sure you read the room and can make the adjustments. It is vital toward getting the information you need to be able to offer the best packages possible.
Be sure you are flexible, but don’t totally break the structure unless you need to shift to survive.
Start the meeting with something different
I went to a meeting once with Rich at an agency that represented a partner.
He came in with a big bag, which was a bit different than some of the other meetings we’d been to, so I was curious but to be honest I didn’t ask before we got in.
Rich got the laptop ready, thanked everyone for coming, and instead of the usual dive in he jumped into something different from his usual start.
Rich pulled a few pucks from the bag and began a trivia session with them. The first person to answer a hockey-related question correctly won a game puck.
Immediately the attention was on Rich and smiles were all around. The team learned some new things about hockey, warmed up a bit, and got to go home with something unique and memorable from the team.
This strategy was perfect for getting the room ready, loose, and the attention on him for his pitch. It brought full attention to Rich and what he was about to dive into.
When you start your meetings, you don’t have to dive right into the material. As we all know in sales building a relationship and being memorable can be the difference in closing a sale and not.
This is a perfect way to do so. When you open a meeting (especially in sports) a quick trivia game for a branded item will go a long way to standing out and setting the tone for the room.
After the meeting, Rich brought up a really good point on why he does this that shows his experience in the industry.
A lot of times when we pitch a sponsor we aren’t the first to do so. Heck, a lot of times sponsors will schedule them all on one day back to back to be efficient.
When you are a brand and have just sat through 5 straight pitches…you get into a lull.
You’re tired, you’ve probably seen a lot of the same things in the pitch, the presentations start to all blend together.
By starting with a trivia for a branded item you can break that cycle. It’s like when a presenter at a conference asks people to stand up and stretch.
You can gain a HUGE advantage with one easy tactic here that helps set the tone and solidify your structured pitch.
Overall your job is to be a tour guide on the journey of learning about how you can bring the sponsor value with your packages and assets. You are in charge of structuring the process and pitch to make that journey as easy as possible for them to understand.
I can’t stress enough how important structure is to a great meeting.
It helps the sponsor know that you understand their needs, how you’ll help them achieve their marketing goals, and give them hard numbers they can see the value on.
By making it easier on the decision process you help save them time, which a lot of times they reciprocate with a sale in gratitude.
You don’t have to use Rich’s process step for step, everyone is different. But it is a great foundation on which to build your process with.
Try this out in your next pitch meeting and watch the results you get.