Sell Sponsorships as You Would Play a Golf Hole

After 20+ years in association exhibit and sponsorship sales, it strikes me how many parallels there are between golf shots and the sales cycle. Whether you play like Tiger Woods, Lexi Thompson, or Brooks Koepka or slap it around for an occasional weekend round, the goal is the same – to shoot a low score by getting the ball into each hole in a minimum number of shots.

Effective association sales professionals know that it takes the right “shots” at the right time to close a deal. “Grip it and rip it” may work. But many sales cycles can be like an unforgiving golf course where the pros often play like the rest of us –

  • Treacherously long, penalizing rough: How to get in the door and make a great first impression?
  • Daunting, unforgiving hazards: Pigeonholed with a non-decision maker?
  • Lightning-fast greens: Overselling, or speaking when you should be listening? Getting the proper read?

Converting a cold lead or a lukewarm prospect to a customer isn’t easy, but if you think in terms of playing smartly, one shot at a time, avoiding trouble, knowing how to recover, taking what the situation gives you, trusting your instincts, and calmly executing, then you can successfully reduce the number of shots (or calls) it takes to close an account!

Tee Shot/New Prospect

  1. Define your goal and plan your call before you smile and dial.
  2. Do your pre-call research.
  3. Know the person and the company and what you are going to ask/say before you begin.
  4. Use the tools available at your disposal (LinkedIn, Google, industry publications, their company website)
  • You must know the hole and the best landing areas before your tee shot.
  • Select the right club and visualize where you see the ball landing: in the fairway.
  • Straight and medium is much better than long and wrong.
  • Get off to a good start and in good position for your next shot.

Lay-up or Approach Shot/Warm Prospect

  1. With an honest assessment, evaluate your position and what needs to be done.
  2. Will one presentation alone get you closer to the sale, or do you envision multiple steps to gain credibility and buy-in?
  3. Are you asking questions and truly learning about what matters to them?
  4. Are you creating desire and a sense of urgency for taking action?
  5. Objections: do you recognize, acknowledge, and explore first, before responding?
  • Take dead aim.
  • Avoid trouble by erring on the safe side.
  • Factor in the wind and your lie. Club selection is critical.
  • If you can’t reach, then lay-up.
  • If in trouble: know how to recover. It may cost one stroke, but smart shots here will avoid a “big number”.

Pitch Shot or Chip Shot/Hot Prospect

  1. As you get closer to agreement, determine the shortest path to yes for your prospect: what can you do to make it easy for them?
  2. Realize that perhaps blessing is needed from above.
  3. Use positive forward-looking language, projecting them as having already gained their benefits in the future.
  4. Be natural, be yourself. Use humor when appropriate. Make it fun, creative, and memorable!
  • You need skilled finesse shots, like chips, pitches, and sand shots to get on the green and close to the hole. Practice. Lots of practice.
  • Know your own game and what’s in your bag.
  • Select the right club with the best loft for the situation: judge how much to fly versus to roll.
  • Give yourself a chance to “get up and down”.

Lag Putt/“Verbal”

  1. Be an active listener, and be responsive to subtleties and loose ends that might matter.
  2. The relationship and trust you’ve built may be the thing that solidifies the sale.
  3. Be a charming “guest”, so that “check-ins” are comfortable. Keep the door open.
  4. Ask tough questions if necessary. Then shut-up and listen.
  5. Be patient, calm, and reasonable. Smile: The sale matters, but not that much.
  • If on the green but far from the hole, deftly yet assertively lag to within an imaginary four-foot circle around the hole. (The hole is only 4.25 inches in diameter.)
  • Don’t overcook it or undercook it lest you have extra shots coming back.
  • Try to make it, but if you don’t, now you are left with what should be an easy tap-in.
  • Who knows, it might even go in!

In the hole!/A New Customer!

Fist pump, celebrate, congratulations!

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