Selling Local Sponsorships for Nonprofits: Convincing Thinkers, Feelers & Deferers


I've written four other posts to get you to this point: you're sitting across from a decision maker and you finally have a shot of actually selling a sponsorship. Of course, you may not be talking to just one person. You may be pitching to a whole group. If so, you should check out an earlier post I wrote: Analyze, Organize, Energize: Keys to a Powerful Presentation. Rather than focusing on analyzing your listener(s), or how best to organize your key points, or dealing with the butterflies that invariably come with public speaking, this post looks at the means of persuasion and what actually gets people to yes.

Since I started selling sponsorships I've concluded that decision makers can be lumped into one of three categories: thinkers, feelers and deferers. No decision maker is ever just one. It's never that simple. Everyone is a combination of all three to some degree, but one dominates and that's where you need to focus your pitch.

Thinkers. Facts and figures are the mainstays of thinkers. These are the folks that pour over my sponsorship packets, look at the graphs, ask me how we collected our data and are most interested in the bottom-line return on their investment. A lot of marketing directors are thinkers, which isn't surprising. They constantly have to show their bosses how a campaign has achieved this goal or driven these sales or met its ROI. The biggest question you need to answer for them, although they may never tell you this directly, is "does this sponsorship make sense for my business?"

To demonstrate how you might mix and match appeals for feelers and deferers with thinkers you can present the facts and figures they love with creativity and passion. Another strategy is to use evidence from sources the prospect knows and respect. For example, pick a well known and respected business that invests in cause sponsorships and use them as a case study.

Feelers. Emotions drive the decisions of feelers. Going back to the sponsorship packet, they don't fixate on the graphs and charts and numbers. They look at the pictures from the event, listen to the anecdotes I tell them as they insert themselves into the narrative of the opportunity. It's not about the sponsorship making sense, it's about it feeling right for their business. Do they emotionally connect with you as a person? Is your cause right for their business?

Because most nonprofit professionals are well versed in emotional appeals, we tend to do well with this type of decision maker. But there are hazards. We tend to overdo the emotional appeals and desensitize the prospect. Instead of saving them for the knock-out punch, we flail our arms until the prospect surrenders--or leaves the ring. Your uppercut may be your signature punch, but you won't last long if that's all you've got. Mix it up with appeals that speak to the heart and the head and you'll increase your chances for a knock-out.

Deferers. Of the three types of decision makers, deferers fascinate me the most because they are men and women of deference and faith. When the sponsorship packet is opened in front of them they don't look at the pictures like a feeler or pour over the stats like a thinker. Nope, they linger over the page where all the sponsors are listed. They make their decisions based on what others have already decided, even if they don't know them! If ABC company is involved, they want to be involved. If you can get Mr. Smith to tell them it's a good idea to buy a sponsorship, well, that can seal the deal. They're not patsies, mind you, but credibility and reputation mean a lot a to them--certainly more than it does to thinkers and feelers.

But here's the rub when it comes to deferers. Sometimes the person they're deferring to is YOU. Deferers want to work with people they admire, respect and trust. And it's not enough that you as a nonprofit professional bring good tidings from others. You must be that man or woman. Just as they are trustworthy, you must be trustworthy. Just as they are competent, you must be competent. And just as they are professional, articulate and polished, you must be those things too.

You are a surrogate for the great men and women deferers to for their decisions. The king's messenger just doesn't carry his seal, he too is finely dressed and well spoken. Be the king's man.

In the next part of series on Selling Local Sponsorships for Nonprofits we'll look at ways to close the deal.