Cold Calling 101 – Getting Sponsorship For Your Events

Last Updated on October 7, 2021

Everyone talks about the need for event managers to secure partnerships and sponsors, it’s often vital to making a budget work, but rarely do we discuss the mechanics of cold calling. Some planners may take this to mean they should simply make a bunch of cold calls. We should give you better, more specific advice.

Logically, you can’t simply call someone and blurt out your event details and expect them to jump on board – nor can you email someone a bullet list of needs and assume they’re going to read it. If you just vomit out information, many people will simply tune you out.  Like any other sales tool, there’s an art to cold calling – and mastering this skill is important to your career as an event manager.

So, how can you go about maximizing your chances when cold calling potential sponsors for your events?

Do Your Homework (without exception!)

If there’s one thing you take away from this article, it should be Do Your Homework: if you contact someone with only minimal knowledge of who they are and what they do, they’ll know it and you failed before you even started! Cold calling isn’t something you do on impulse. To have any degree of success, you need to research every single person you contact – painstakingly.

When cold calling someone you need to understand the value proposition you’re pushing. What is it about your business or event that their business or they personally value? Often with a corporate sponsorship its exposure – well, do you have the perfect audience?

You should also know exactly how much money you’re looking for in a sponsorship – or, in the event that you’re contacting a vendor or guest speaker, exactly what you want from them (time, travel, a keynote.)

Hint: be decisive with your ‘ask’ if your cold call turns into a discussion. If you waffle, you’ll lose people’s interest, but once you have someone’s commitment you can always collaborate and negotiate.

Timing Is Everything

Especially if you’re calling someone, take careful stock of what time of day you’re contacting people – be aware what’s going on in the world of the sponsors or guest speakers you’re cold calling. An organization that’s already in the midst of an intensive charity drive, for example, probably isn’t going to want to sponsor an event. If you’re looking for a restaurant to support you with a catering partnership – then calling during dinner prep hour may not be a wise choice (or first thing in the AM!)

An important element of a successful cold call is timing. Granted, perfect timing is somewhat luck, but you can certainly think strategically about the best time to contact someone.

Don’t Sell – Talk

The massive onslaught of globalized media has murdered the traditional sales pitch. Because of how much we’re subjected to on a daily basis – the number of people and companies trying to sell us something we don’t need, analyze us as potential customers, ask from us things we don’t really want to give up  –we’ve gotten very good at tuning out the noise.  To get to people today, you better be real. The consumers’ attitude today is – don’t sell, just talk to us. If we want to bite, we’ll bite.

Yes, do your homework (rule number 1), but don’t treat your contacts as marks. Instead, talk to them as you would an acquaintance (note – acting too familiar creeps people out.) Keep things professional but personable – ask them questions, and listen to what they have to say (this speaks to rule number 2.) Yeah, obviously you’re approaching them as a potential event sponsor – you both know that, it’s still just a conversation.

Consider The Medium

Traditionally, the cold call was solely carried out through phone lines (and occasionally, in person.) Thanks to the Internet, that’s no longer the case. Today, there are dozens of different mediums through which we communicate. Although many of the same rules apply, which medium you choose will nevertheless have an impact on how you communicate.

For example, if you’re using email, you need to be very careful to avoid sounding like spam or a little too ‘salesy’, we’re so programmed to hit ‘delete’. Before sending an email, check whether an organization has an on-line sponsorship form for business partners. If they have a system in place, use that and you’ll be far likelier to make it through.

With social networks, it’s a little easier to connect – but be cautious on how you go about reacting out to people whom you don’t really know (remember rule 3.) Generally, stick to the Facebook page or LinkedIn profile of an organization (possibly a Twitter feed, yet it’s public.) You’ll likely come off negatively if you start personally contacting people.

Tip: don’t be afraid to set up a face-to-face meeting if a partner expresses interest. A face-to-face is a job interview and people work with people they know. Now there’s a personal connection. 

After The Call

Regardless of whether or not you were successful in securing the sponsorship, be sure to thank the person for their time. As a general rule, that’s all you’re going to do if you failed – I’d strongly advise against any follow-up emails, messages, or calls. It’s acceptable practice to continue working toward a goal until you’ve heard no, but once you have, respect it.

On the other hand, if the sponsor has expressed interest, feel free to email them more in-depth details on your event, and suggest a follow-up meeting.

Pretty basic stuff, really.

Cold calling is still a vital tool for creating and growing your support network, get good at it. Your job isn’t just handling the logistics of events – it’s managing the people who make them happen. You need to know how to talk to people.  Without support people, you don’t often have an event.