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How to turn stakeholders from sceptics into supporters

Eight persuasion techniques to turn the fiercest opponent of your sponsorship from a sceptic to a supporter.

What is worse, a chairman who thinks sponsorship is a waste of money or one who wants to sponsor the golf tournament so they can get a good tee off time? I have come across both in my career when seeking to implement strategic sponsorship, and the sceptics are not only confined to the boardroom.

The psychology of persuasion is a subject well researched by academics and professors, so if you fancy some heavy reading on the topic, we recommend the works of Dr Robert Cialdini. However, for those interested in turning even the fiercest opponent of your sponsorship from a sceptic to a supporter, we have highlighted eight persuasion techniques for you to consider before your next meeting.

1. Make it personal

How is this going to benefit me? To gain greater buy-in to a sponsorship strategy from decision-making colleagues, we need to address the benefits to the individual we are persuading and the organisation.

What are their pain points, and how can our proposed sponsorship alleviate them? If the organisation is struggling with recruitment or stale sales performance, for example, focus your argument on how the sponsorship can be used to attract new talent and motivate the team.

2. Consistency is key

Be clear and consistent in your approach and back it up with evidence. Now is not the time to be flip-flopping between seeking to sponsor football one week and badminton the next.

Repetition builds credibility and confidence in your argument. Persuading stakeholders to change their opinion and provide their seal of approval to a significant investment is rarely something that happens overnight. Sponsorship is a long road, so be prepared to repeatedly state and defend your position.

3. Manage expectations

If you are reading this article, you have likely experienced frustration when persuading internal stakeholders. Taking a shortcut by promising your sponsorship will deliver the world is an easy trap to fall into, especially when you are a passionate advocate for the partnership. However, a failed sponsorship is a sure-fire way to turn a moderate sponsorship sceptic into a die-hard.

Your partnership is not a flash in the pan, so while you may win the battle, you could lose the war. Take the time to discuss and agree on a set of KPIs that will be achieved by the end of the campaign. Once your sponsorship exceeds these, you will have a strong supporter of future partnerships.

4. Listen and learn

Sponsorship stakeholders have skin in the game, and like most of us, they want to know that they have been seen and heard. A good way to pre-empt potential objections is to conduct an internal consultation. By taking a proactive approach, you can identify the sceptics and their concerns earlier and address them rather than having the Chairman raise an objection at the eleventh hour and scupper six months of campaign planning.

Only by genuinely understanding your colleague’s concerns can you effectively alleviate them. Persuasion does not have to be a win-lose scenario; perhaps by listening, you may also learn something that can help alter and improve your existing strategy for the good.

5. Paint a picture

According to Aristotle, persuasion cannot occur in the absence of emotion. Most buying decisions are made because something feels good with the rationale provided later.

When it comes to sponsorship, nice pictures and computer-generated images of the company logo on the side of a race car or the front of a football shirt look great but what is essential is painting a mental picture. To persuade stakeholders, we need them to visualise their involvement in the sponsorship and how it will benefit them.

6. Camaraderie

People buy things from people they like, so building rapport with your stakeholders is crucial. Sponsorship is a journey, and it is one that you will likely be going on with all your stakeholders.

As a leader, your positivity and passion for the campaign must always shine through. Be confident in your approach and allow others to share and contribute. By doing so, you may find a sense of camaraderie develops between you and your stakeholders, and together you can collectively become the sponsorship team.

7. Gather your followers

My son is a fantastic negotiator; he is only two years old, but when he wants something, he can rapidly run through a repertoire of behaviours from nagging, screaming, pleading and crying until he finds the one that works.

For the record, I am not suggesting you throw a tantrum in the boardroom until you get the sponsorship you want. However, creating a following of stakeholders who agree with your approach and utilising their different behaviours to convince the remaining sceptics can be an effective tool if you find your efforts hitting a brick wall.

8. Keep it simple

The final but arguably most important tip is to keep your communication simple. This is who we are sponsoring; this is why we are sponsoring them, and this is what the results will be.

Of course, being the well-researched marketing leader you are, you will have a wealth of data and evidence to support your argument. However, when putting forward an idea to persuade stakeholders, simplicity and clarity of concept are crucial before you can even think about getting into the fun stuff.


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