Meeting 4

How to Approach “I’ll Pass” from a Prospect

For this blog, I wanted to share a story with you that happened recently.

I’m currently working on a new event for a client of ours, and a colleague suggested a possible sponsor prospect for the event. After doing a little digging on the prospect’s brand, I totally agreed that it would be a fantastic fit. So I set out to establish a connection with the brand.

I was lucky that my colleague was able to get me the contact for the head of marketing — so I didn’t have to spend too much time on the contact info — but as many of you could probably attest to, finding the contact can at times be the easy part because you haven’t had to face the possibility of a “no” yet.

I reached out to the brand with my short and sweet intro email, and attached my introduction deck about the event. Then I waited… I was fully expecting to have to reach out again in a few days, but to my surprise first thing the next morning a response popped up in my inbox. Now I’ll be honest, in my experience when I receive an email involving event sponsorship that quickly it’s usually on the positive side. Typically, if they aren’t interested, I tend to get no response at all until I keep checking back in with them. I was pumped that this was going well. I brought my mouse up to the email and clicked to open it…immediately my mood sank. It read simply, “We are going to pass on this.” Now my first reaction was to just delete the email, check it off my prospects list, and move on, but I really wanted to know why this event didn’t warrant at least a discussion. So instead of hitting delete I wrote back.

“Thank you [XYZ] for your response, although disappointing I do really appreciate that you got back to me. I don’t want to eat up any more of your time, but I handle partnerships for several large events in the Pacific NW and California, and I am interested in knowing what kind of events, if any, you would consider for [ABC Company]?”

I totally thought that I wouldn’t get an answer back since they had already passed, but to my surprise this is what I received:

“Not really sure, we are really careful with watching our expenses so typically mostly [Expo] events since that targets our core customers. Your [event] sounds like a great opportunity, but is probably too expensive.”

With that email I realized I had a major hangup: they didn’t know the pricing so she assumed it was out of their price range, when in fact this event was quite affordable. So I gave it one last try.

“That makes a lot of sense. I do think you would be surprised by how inexpensive it is, and it could be a great way to ‘thank’ your core customers, or even your employees. The top sponsorship is [$X], but I can even create a custom one for your brand as low as [$X] – [$X]. The big thing for [XYZ Event] is community partnerships, so they are very willing to work with pricing when it comes to great brands and companies. I am not trying to be ‘salesy’ I just think it could be a great fit for that part of Oregon, and I would love to put something together for you. I totally respect your decision to pass, so I don’t want to just send you stuff without your okay, but if you are willing to look at something custom to a budget then please let me know. Thanks again [ABC]!”

And you know what happened next? I got this email:

“Ok you can send me some information and I will take a look at it.”
I wish I could tell you that I was able to turn this “pass” into a huge sponsorship, but that didn’t happen. I did send them something custom with a few options, and it did end up getting sent further up the chain than it had before, but ultimately they still passed.

So, why am I sharing this with you? Because I was still able to turn a hard “pass” into a “maybe” and that’s what you have to keep trying to do. I was also able to build some kind of connection to the brand’s gatekeeper that one day could end up being a “yes”. We often times look at the immediate, which is booking the sponsorship right now, and that’s important, but the long game is also very important. This year’s “no” could be next years “yes.” My advice, and what I continually have to remind myself, is not to take the rejections personally, and to look at them as opportunities to find out why your event isn’t the fit for them, because other opportunities could arise in the future.

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