Recruitment in any industry is tough, but in a relationship business like sponsorship - it is critical. But what do you look for in a candidate? Here are three ‘must have’ qualities to look for when recruiting sponsorship staff.
My Early Years
In my early years as a manager I would be tasked to appoint a new member of the team. I was excited by the new level of responsibility but had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I had a vague idea of what type of person I was looking for but no principles to guide my decisions.
Don’t get me wrong, I think everyone I recruited have been great people but perhaps not suited to the unique role that is Sponsorship or Partnership Manager. The further I have gone on, the more I believe that sponsorship requires at least three special skillets that are mandatory for all people working in the industry.
These are not necessarily personality types either. The cliché is to think that you need to be a super outgoing type; this is not necessarily the case. I have had quiet and diligent people who have had the skills listed below and have knocked the ball out of the park. I have also had boisterous outgoing types who haven’t fitted the bill.
So what do you need? I have found these three skills prove the most value in any good sponsorship executive.
1. Relationship Builder/Listener
The ability to cultivate and maintain relationships is critical in sponsorship. You need to be able to work with all personality types to succeed in this business because you don’t get to choose who you work with … they choose you!
I had a staff member who was great but couldn’t handle the work style of a sponsor. It was something that we had to address immediately as tensions were being raised. Thankfully we were able to address it by seeing things from the sponsor point of view and adjusting the staff member’s attitude accordingly.
You’ll note I have snuck in 'listening' into the skill set. That's because, in my mind, you can’t be a good relationship builder without being a good listener.
2. A Creative Problem Solver
Basically, at its very essence, we work in a problem-solving business. We approach sponsors with the brief of "What are your problems?" and "This is how we can help you solve them".
Problem solving is also needed on the run, particularly when in the middle of an event activation. Those who work in major events will understand where I am coming from. Even the best laid plans come unstuck so the skill is in overcoming them and still delivering a successful outcome.
I’ll never forget when working at a pro sports event, with 80,000 people in attendance, and the star attraction was stuck in traffic. In such situations you need to keep a level head and think clearly about what the heck you are going to do. In this instance, it was some quick phone calls and rescheduling to give our star some more time and I was able to what appeared a seamless activation for our sponsor (phew!)
An old boss loved the old chestnut, Failing to plan is planning to fail" and, as much as that annoyed me, he was dead right. You do need to plan and be organised in this business or you will be doomed from the start. There is no getting around that fact.
My final tip is not to rush into a staff decision. If you don’t find the ‘right stuff’ in any of your applicants then go to market again. It is better to wait a month or two than to rush someone in that is not quite suitable.
Do you have any skills that you think are a 'must have' in sponsorship staff? I'd love to hear them.
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