Renewal starts on day one…

At many organizations renewal business doesn’t get the attention and reward it deserves.  I realize new sales is often where most growth occurs.  However, for every dollar you lose on failing to renew a sponsorship, you need to replace with one dollar of new money just to get back to even.  You could have a great year in new business, but if you lose a few big partners then the growth is stifled or negated all together.  So why do companies often pay their salespeople a smaller commission or bonus on renewals compared to new business?  Why do they also not reward the service people who play such a significant role in the success or failure of a particular partnership?  This does not only apply to the sponsorship world.

I’ve been a loyal Directv subscriber for over ten years paying over $100 per month.  Each year I also purchase the MLB On Demand package for roughly $200.  I recently discovered my new neighbor received the NFL and MLB packages for free along with a monthly rate nearly half of what I’m paying.  So my ten years of loyalty and thousands of dollars in fees ($14,000 after doing the math) don’t amount to much compared to someone new.

Conventional wisdom says it is more difficult to find new business, therefore there needs to be higher incentive.  This may be true, but should it come at the expense of renewing your existing customers?  Retention shows you are delivering on your commitments, providing value, meeting objectives and most likely exceeding expectations.  All of these things take a lot of time and energy.  Renewals may seem easier than new business on the surface because the relationship is already established, but a lot needs to happen along the way to keep sponsors on board.

The renewal starts on day one and I don’t mean when the contract is signed.  It begins at the first pitch meeting by showing how you care about their business, understand their goals and how you plan to help.  This is not just for the salesperson, but the service person as well who should be in attendance if at all possible.  In most cases, the salesperson closes a deal and then hands it off to a service person putting them at a disadvantage.  The client often feels a sense of abandonment.  If the service person is involved from the beginning, they are able to see how the deal evolved and hear firsthand what’s important to the client.  They are also able to contribute with ideas and insight.  They are more vested in the success of the partnership because they helped bring it to fruition.  The tone is set for collaboration and a unified front with the sales and service team.

Once the deal is signed the salesperson should remain involved even though the bulk of responsibility shifts towards the service person.  Not many sponsors appreciate the salesperson who shows up at the end of an agreement to attempt a renewal after having little contact throughout the term of the deal.  Continuing to build trust, showing you care and exceeding expectations will help lead to long term partnerships.  Sometimes things are out of your control and external factors may cause a partner to leave.  Companies are sold, CMO’s leave or economic forces alter the circumstances.  Setting this aside, strong communication and bringing new ideas to the table will keep sponsors engaged.  Ultimately results will play the most significant role.  Monitoring and showcasing this throughout the process is crucial and not just at renewal time.  Long term partners create a foundation to build on.  If this erodes, you may find yourself digging out from a hole to find steady ground.

Jason Klein () is the founder of 88 Marketing and offers customized sponsorship sales and client service development training for properties.  For more information please contact him at 310-319-9124 or visit http://88marketing.com/sales-training/