Several years ago, I wrote a chapter in “Ahead of the Game: What Every Athlete Needs to Know About Sports Business” about choosing a sponsorship sales agent. Since then, I’ve heard from athletes and corporate brand managers reflecting on their thoughts on picking sales agencies. I want to share a few of those thoughts with you.
Don’t judge a book by the size of its cover.
Some consumers are more inclined to shop at larger stores assuming that “big is better.” Wal-Mart is best, right? Not necessarily. large sales agencies often staff accounts with junior (i.e., less expensive) professionals. Clients hiring large agencies may believe they will have access to an army of seasoned sales executives, when in fact they’ll have one rookie two years out of college. Instead of relying on the sheer size of the “Wal-Mart agency,” ask “how many professionals will be dedicated to me on any given day?”
Meet your agent.
When interviewing prospective sales agencies, it’s great to meet the agency CEO and his/her executive staff. However, you’ll want to size up the individual who will actually be making sales calls on your behalf. Ask, “who will be my brand ambassador?”
Test their creativity.
Many agencies want you to think they can muscle their way into a sponsorship sale by using a high-profile contact list of clients and friends. While a glitzy Rolodex creates the perception that an agency is “connected,” knowing the CEOs of Pepsi, Target or Visa cannot benefit a client if these friends are poor brand fits. Friend-to-friend sponsorship deals rarely happen because they lack an authentic connection with the client’s brand.
Ask a prospective agency about their process and the way they sell. Look for creativity in the way they communicate your brand and the potential value proposition that you represent to the sponsorship community.
In sum, the advice offered above involves putting aside assumptions about what makes for a good sales agency and what does not. Ask questions, assume nothing and ensure that your sales agency knows you well and can creatively project your brand in the marketplace.