At Slingshot Sponsorship, we’ve done our fair share of hiring and working with sponsorship sales professionals – considering it’s all we do; you could almost say we are experts at spotting what to look out for. As this is a considerable gripe amongst people looking to hire people and expecting people to work for free (aka commission-only), I thought I’d provide some guidance so you don’t continue to expect getting something for nothing or worse still, being let down and frustrated after investing time and money into making unicorns happen.
- The Black Book. If they start with “I’ve spoken to this brand already because we are BFFs and they’d be very interested in your event/charity/music festival/art exhibition/conference/awards programme/start-up, but obviously we couldn’t make that happen without being retained and hired by you first”, do not hire this person. Firstly, anyone who can do a semi-decent job in sponsorship sales should know at least someone in every brand remotely interesting. So this is basically a base requirement you should be looking for – not a reason to hire. Secondly, a good person in this industry genuinely wants to create opportunities and will do so without needing to leverage a job from it – there would be other ways to frame this if it were a true statement such as, “I actually know a great brand and would be happy to make this happen regardless of whether we got the job, and I’d be happy to try and organise this for an introducer’s fee.” Finally, it isn’t prudent for sponsorship sales people to be discussing properties they don’t represent to brands as it’ll make them look bad (imagine they didn’t win the business). So this is usually not even true to begin with. So don’t hire based on this statement.
- Agreeing with everything you say. Far too often we’ve lost out on pitches because I am quite open about discussing the fact that their property is overpriced and that we won’t sell it for that amount because no one would purchase it at that rights fee. Unfortunately, either sales people don’t know or else they are just agreeing with you because that’s what you want to hear. To be completely honest, without actually doing any strategic or valuation work (which almost never happens at pitch stage), the person you are trying to hire doesn’t honestly know and therefore shouldn’t be agreeing with you on how much it is worth. And if they do so, they are just trying to give you what you want and you are likely going to hit a road block when it comes to properly taking your sponsorship proposal to market.
- Talking about big brands that have nothing to do with your property. A lot of people will have worked with sexy brands if they work in sponsorship, but if you are a choir in Leeds it is very unlikely that Red Bull is going to come along and give you a million pounds to sponsor you (no offense to singers in Leeds). A lot of this is smoke and mirrors, just because they work and know big brands does not mean that these brands would be remotely interested in your property so any kind of discussion like this is completely irrelevant.
Saying this, it’s important to ask the right questions. Here are the top three questions I would ask someone I was thinking of hiring if I was trying to hire someone to sell my sponsorship:
- Where do you think we’ve been going wrong and how do you propose you can fix it?
- What is your process, how many people are required (both from the client as well as from the agency) to achieve the target?
- What do you think the potential could be and how long will it take to get there?
With all this in mind, I cannot stress, people do not work for free. As much as commission-only is very enticing to you, it is unrealistic and at the end of the day, you get what you pay for. So invest both your time and your money, but invest wisely – you’ll be amazed at the results.