Sponsorship sales have never been more important to the bottom line as exhibition organizers look for new ways to boost revenue streams. Here are a dozen proven tips to help your sales efforts and build exhibitor satisfaction. The first four apply to sales management, the last eight to salespeople. Good luck!

Begin with Management: The sales manager (or outside sales consultant) should identify all individuals, environmental factors, selling tools, relevant information and variables that expedite sponsorship sales — or serve as an impediment. All strengths should be built upon, missing components should be added, and barriers should be removed.

Lead by Example: Sales managers need to perform as well or better than any team member. Only then can they effectively train, coach, and motivate salespeople to higher performance levels. All teammates must feel that their leader genuinely cares about them and their success. Random acts of kindness are highly effective. The leader might, for example, bring doughnuts and coffee to early morning meetings, while getting every team member in a mindset for the day where they expect to win every time.

Ask for More: If you have sold 100 percent of your sponsorship opportunities at list price ahead of schedule, you either need to create additional sponsorship inventory, increase your existing price structure, or possibly both.

Prove It: These days, every marketing dollar spent needs to be justified. Take advantage of the research supporting the value of sponsorships offered by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research. “Sponsorships can increase qualified booth traffic by as much as 104%”, according to CEIR studies.

Focus on Controllables: Many salespeople get stressed out about things they can't control. Instead, focus on what you can control, such as your attitude toward the prospect, your enthusiasm, and how prepared you are to answer questions.

Open Well: To initiate a dialogue and keep it going, you must first effectively establish rapport and credibility with the prospect. As well, in a short and simple phrase, arouse some curiosity by making a legitimately compelling claim. The objective here is to get the prospect listening to you, liking you, and thinking, “Tell me more.” Make sure they quickly see the sponsorship opportunity you're offering. You have approximately forty-five seconds to accomplish this phase.

Stay Customer-focused: First ask questions about the prospect's objectives. Then, make sure that your presentation relates directly to their dominant reason for buying. With all of the proper research data, you'll soon learn to quickly diagnose exhibiting objectives, listen for all buying cues, and prescribe the optimal sponsorships solutions that have been proven to maximize the return on their objectives.

Stress the Three Strongest Benefits: People buy benefits, not features. It's not what it is, it's what it does. No one ever wanted a quarter-inch drill. What they really wanted was a quarter-inch hole. Paint powerful word pictures when communicating these benefits. What you are selling are consequences, so stick to the high points, and be careful not to overwhelm the prospect with too much detail.

Be Sincere: If you are truly committed to engaging in transactions that benefit everyone involved, your good intent will shine through. Remember, that no one ever really cares how much you know, until they know how much you care.

Master the Fundamentals: Know your prospect and a modicum of information about their business and industry. This knowledge, combined with a mastery of selling skills and thorough knowledge of your sponsorship packages will dramatically increase your closing ratio.

Don't Undermine the Sale: Virtually all sales research reveals that price is almost never the primary objection. Too many salespeople panic and immediately try to salvage a sale by deeply discounting at the first hint of an objection. What message do you really think this sends to the prospect? In fact, don't ever use the word “price” when pitching sponsorships. Position your sponsorship packages as profitable investments that all of the data suggest that they are. To the prospect, this implies a return to be realized.

Turn Objections into Questions: When you encounter an objection, welcome it. Never ask the prospect why he or she feels that way. It's always easier to answer a question than it is to overcome an objection. When you try the latter, you're telling the prospect that he is wrong. Try selling anyone anything after telling them they're wrong.

Isn't it better to say, “You know John, I understand how you feel. Some of our most successful clients felt the same way until they enjoyed all of the competitive advantages and dramatic increases in booth traffic and sales conversions that this sponsorship delivers. That brings up a question. Could you benefit from this opportunity despite your concern about [whatever the expressed concern]?” You will probably find that this approach gets you the results you've been looking for.

Charles Allen is Chairman & CEO of the C.W. Allen Group, LLC, Birmingham, Ala., with offices in Chicago; Orlando; Tucson, Ariz.; Las Vegas; and Los Angeles. The company specializes in sales training, professional speaking services, as well as sponsorship sales and services for exhibitions. Contact Allen at charles@cwallengroup.com.