How to Turn “No” Into “YES” When Selling Sponsorships

No doubt about it – if you’re selling anything, you’ll hear no a LOT. In fact, you rarely hear no. You hear several versions of no like:

  • not right now
  • I don’t make those decisions
  • we just don’t have the funds for that.

The trick is to figure out which no is no, and which one means, I need more convincing.

How to Turn a No Into a Yes When Selling Sponsorships

When a “No” Means “No”

Don’t take no for an answer.

You’ve heard that one before, right? I don’t like that phrase because it sounds like a pushy salesman.

So how do you know if someone means no?

There are a few ways, but here are a couple of the most obvious:

  • They will tell you, straight up, “no” or “no thank you.”

The word “no” is powerful. When you hear it, you KNOW what it means. You’ll hear it a lot. Take it at face value and move on. They’ll respect you. They might even consider listening to you next time because they know you will back off when you hear it.

  • They ignore you.

This one is also a pretty solid no. This only applies if you’ve had ongoing conversations with the person and they quit responding.

Sometimes this can just mean they’re busy. Always assume they’re busy. But sometimes people have a hard time saying no to others. There move is to ignore you. Take the hint and move on if you get that sense.

Use The 3 Chances Rule

When selling sponsorships over email, I give people only three chances to respond:

  1. The Pitch – This is the first email including your value proposition and what you’re offering.
  2. The Follow-up – I send this a week later and include some credibility factors. This also helps to remind potential sponsors about your first email if they haven’t responded yet.
  3. The Final – This is the last email I send a week after the follow-up if I still haven’t hear anything. If I don’t hear anything after 2 weeks of sending this email, I consider it a no, or dead lead.

I don’t bug them. If they don’t respond after my third attempt I assume they’re busy or it’s a no. Either way, I need to move on.

When “No” Means “Yes”

Okay, so you’ve got your foot in the door and they haven’t shoved you out of it yet. How do you know when to go ahead?

The thing you have to remember is that people usually have a reason for turning you down. The trick is to find out exactly what that reason is and offer a solution.

Assuming they heard your pitch, they might have one of the following reasons for not moving forward:

  • budget
  • lack of information
  • timing

More times than not, they’ll give you specific reasons in their rejections.

For example…

” I’d like to do this, but I’m just not sure we have the funds.”


“This sounds great, but we don’t have the budget this year.”

Statements like this are just giving you an opening to talk budget and negotiations.

Another way you can tell a prospect might be saying yes (or at least maybe), is if they’re vague or uncertain with answers.

If you can tell they’re not firm with answers, they just need more information. This can be a good time to ask to jump on a phone call, as you can spend time listening to what your prospective sponsor might actually need.

How to Turn a “No” into a “Yes”

I know. This sounds a lot like, “Don’t take no for an answer.”

Here’s where I tell you how to take a wishy-washy yes, which is a maybe, and turn it into a solid YES.

Remember when Mom said, “Matt, I don’t think I want you to eat that 3rd ice cream cone?” You saw an “in.” She wasn’t sure she didn’t want you to have it. She was just thinking about it. With a little more whining, she’d give in.

Same principle here, except without the whining.

1. No Because of Sponsorship Budget

Take the first scenario I gave you before: “I’d like to do this, but I’m just not sure we have the funds.

This is the best type of answer you can get. He’s told you exactly what he needs to be able to make this work – a lower budget.

This is something you can work with. In your initial proposal, you should leave some room for negotiation.

2. No Because of Lack of Information

When a prospect is not firm on their no, and needs more information, ask some questions to find out what they need.

A lot of times, a prospective sponsor won’t even know what to ask. They just know they’re not sure if this is of value to their company.

If this is the case, it’s best to start by asking if there is anything you can clear up for them. If not, just recap the highlights. Emphasize how this particular sponsorship will further the company’s cause and add to their bottom line.

3. No Because of Bad Timing

In cases where bad timing is an issue, find out why and try to figure out a solution or a good compromise. Maybe they’ve just launched a new project and they need to wait a month before pulling the trigger?

Is there a sponsorships opportunity in the future you could go ahead and invite them in on?

Don’t let your need to sell sponsorships overshadow the needs of the companies.

Building a relationship that could lead to a future sponsorship is better than nothing.

Remember, it’s all about building relationships. You’ll learn over time how to read into a sponsor’s no’s and see if there’s an opportunity to create a yes.

Jason Zook's Sponsorship Courses