Ghosting, Friend Zone, whatever you want to call it…sometimes after a great pitch and initial interest from a partner, we get radio silence.
This is not specific to sports & event sponsorship…this happens in ALL of sales. You will get ghosted in sales. It’s part of the game.
Luckily in sports, we have something that can help push a decision along…the season deadline.
Our seasons start at a certain time, if you don’t sponsor before then..you miss the shot.
This week on The Inches podcast Rich and I dive into some tactics you can use to get an answer from your prospect and move the process along.
You can listen to the full episode HERE, but I dive into a few points below.
First…Sh*t happens at deadlines.
Rich has a great story from his father, who sold sponsorship for a sports radio station in Seattle. He wanted to borrow a real Seahawks NFL helmet to bring to meetings with prospects. Some people have never seen a real full-sized helmet so it’s a nice ice breaker to bring into a meeting.
He asked the then GM of the Seahawks, Mike McCormack, if he could borrow a helmet.
Mike asked, “when do you need it by?”
Rich’s father replied with “Whenever you have time.”
Mike’s response “Give me a deadline…sh*t happens at deadlines.”
There may not be a truer statement in all of life. Deadlines are our markers when we are getting things done. It quantifies a time to help people plan out all the things they need to do.
In our sales process, it is our responsibility to put deadlines on our process.
Deadlines actually help our prospects more than us.
As much as we would like to think so, our sponsorship package is not the most important thing on our prospect’s plate. They, like us, have 1,000,000 things to do and think about.
When we give them an arbitrary timeline we actually make it harder on them. They can’t properly plan and set out time for how long they have to decide…so they will put it off for other things that are more “important” and do have deadlines.
When we give them a deadline, we help them plan for when they have to make this decision by.
I’ve literally had prospects thank me for setting a deadline and following up to stick with that deadline. In actuality, it has helped me build a relationship with some clients.
Use the deadline to help your prospect’s timeline as well as your own.
In sports, we have a great deadline..the season
Rich brings up a great point here with sports and deadlines…the season is a great deadline setter.
In his example, he can create an artificial deadline with production items like the printing of the rink board. Obviously to have it up by opening night you need an answer.
This will help your prospect refocus on the package and make a decision.
This is also a great way to see if your prospect is serious about moving forward. If you get no answer…you may have misread the interest and not done a good job in seeing if there was a fit.
Unlike some other sales industries, you can use the start of the season as a great way to put some urgency on your prospect to make a decision.
Setting the deadline in the meeting
As Rich brings up, the best time to set a deadline is at the pitch meeting. Once you have them interested and there is a fit with the asset he brings up a great closing line:
“We have the season coming up so what and who will need to be a part of this decision process?”
You then have all the hoops this will have to go through for a decision. Maybe it’s legal, which you find out will take 2 weeks. This then allows you to backtrack to a deadline.
You can set it in the meeting and let them know how you’ll check in throughout the process.
You then have a set deadline while you are top of mind. Once they leave the meeting to the 10,000 things they have to figure out for the day it is much harder to nail this down.
DO NOT USE DEADLINES AS A SCARE TACTIC
With great power comes great responsibility…thanks, Uncle Ben from Spiderman. But seriously if you misuse the deadline it will backfire on you.
Setting up an early deadline just to get an answer quickly can backfire on you. Obviously, when you check back in they’ll know you were just trying to pressure them into an answer.
This will kill you in the relationship you have with your prospect. It’s sales-y and won’t work very often.
Be patient and set real and authentic deadlines. It will help you in the long run.
It’s ok to get a NO at the deadline
Rich and I both agree this is one of the most important parts of deadlines. The goal of a deadline is not to get to a yes, it is to get to a decision.
If you are stretching the deadline in hopes that it prolongs the process to a YES you are wasting your time.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t stretch it for materials, one last decision, etc. It means that if you don’t hear from a prospect by the deadline don’t stretch it in hopes of a yes.
If you haven’t gotten a yes/no by deadline send an email that lets them know we’re at the deadline, you thought there was a fit, and you are fine either way, but need to know yes/no
Deadlines are for decisions. Whether a yes or no. Be fine if it is a NO and be confident in your pipeline that you can fill it with another prospect if a no.
Overall, sh*t happens at deadlines
Sh*t happens at deadlines is a motto we can live by in life. I would bet 90% of the time you are being ghosted in sales is because you didn’t set a deadline.
Make it a point of emphasis to add this into your sales process EARLY. It will help you when it’s time to close some deals before the season.