May 29, 2009 at 03:27 PM
written by Jim Loria

Key Learnings: "Recruiting" Partners the Right Way

Key Learnings is a regular weekly posting that covers insights and stories from thought-leaders within the sponsorship industry. Our fourth key learning comes from Jim Loria who has over 30 years of sports management experience and for the past 10 years as served as President of the USHL's Sioux Falls Stampede.

Before making that first sales call, consider this strategy or thought process:

Pretend that every client you meet is a "Student Athlete" and your team/organization is the "University." If businesses were "Student Athletes", and could only accept one "Scholarship" (therefore only sponsor one local team in each city), how would that make us all feel?

So then, invest more time into your relationships. Date first before trying to walk to the alter during the first conversation. Don't lose track of your client even if you do not get the account activated. Work on your reputation.

Even though you are employed with a sports team or organization, you are like an independent contractor and running your own business. With that stated, put yourself in the life of that "Student Athlete" (i.e. your business customer) and realize just how many phone calls & e-mails they get every single day from the numerous local radio, television, newsprint, publications and outdoor billboard sales reps plus the charitable organizations, people seeking donations for various personal reasons, multiples of pro sports team executives, college marketing and local high school athletic personnel, etc. pitching your "Student Athlete"... all wanting the same thing - $$.

So now, with all the incredible pitches in a day from so many schools, your "Student Athlete" can only sign with one "University!" Should you be the fortunate one to secure that scholarship to your Sport Team University, you (as the Dean of the "U") have to maintain a relationship year-round with your "Student Athlete" and discuss goals, expectations and agree on the Tuition fees! But then, think of your "Student Athlete"... what is he/she feeling about your "University?" Did your sales pitch live up to his/her expectations? Did they prosper under your tutelage? Did you mature this athlete (meaning increase the sales revenues). Did your "Student Athlete" have FUN away from studies? Will they feel good about enrolling for the next semester at your "University?"

You want your "Student Athlete" to graduate from your "University" and stay on as a prominent & contributing "Alumni Member!" (i.e a good partner case study!). As usual with Alumni, you want this "Student Athlete" to begin the process of recruiting other students to your "University" (providing business referrals) versus transferring out and enrolling at another "University" (competing sports team) due to poor performance on your part, lack of follow through and basically just not delivering on the promises of your sales pitch.

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