One thing never changes in the business world

F1 Grand Prix of Singapore – Qualifying

When Covid brought lockdown to the UK early in 2020, it introduced me to a new world of digital technology in the business world, as it did for people worldwide. I’d never imagined that one day I’d be delivering my professional “speaking” and “training” activities to an audience of up to 100 + faces, just visible in little boxes on a computer screen. Not being unable to judge the audience’s reaction isn’t good, but it seems we have to get used to it.

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Without minimising the tragic events of the past two years, in a changing world, my belief that change invariably creates opportunities stands firm.

Within four months of the lockdown being introduced, I was delivering on-line mentoring to young people in America, Mexico, Europe, North America and Australia, all seeking help in the increasingly important skill of acquiring commercial partners to help fund their motorsport plans.

It took some getting used to the changes in my working schedule, to cope with the time differences to suit various nationalities, but it wasn’t long before I found myself sitting in boardrooms of some amazing companies worldwide, virtually of course, monitoring the performance of my individual clients.

Slowly, positive results became the norm and sponsorship deals successfully concluded, albeit often quite small initial agreements. It became apparent that the programme was working.

Importantly, I was constantly being told by my clients that they were surprised at how simple the acquisition process that I had been outlining, actually was. This endorsed my findings throughout many years of training young drivers; too many of them complicate the sponsorship sales process.

I’ve always found that if you focus on the fact that every company has to sell more products or services to stay in business, there is usually a conversation to be had. How a company achieves that, of course, has changed dramatically over the years and it’s all too easy to forget that primary objective. In the ever-evolving landscape of the business world, one thing never changes: the importance of implementing effective tips to drive revenue alignment, ensuring a harmonious synergy between various business functions for sustained growth.

Another critical factor in the sponsorship acquisition process is to get to the decision-makers in a business. Don’t get stuck in what I call the “middle-management mire”; critical decision-making doesn’t usually happen at that level. Speak to the man or woman at the top, it’s easier to work down rather than up.

Getting in at the right level is the major reason that I have done so many deals. Cold calling, as it is often called, is looked down upon as being “foot in the door” and yet nearly all of my 120 + deals from Formula Ford to F1, including the likes of Fedex, Gillette, Hiscox, AutoGlass and Petro SA, started with a cold call to get a meeting. The key is to sell the idea of the meeting, not the sponsorship deal.

That brings me to a problem I’m encountering, particularly with UK companies. So many seem to be shutting themselves off from the world outside, making it incredibly difficult to speak to anyone in the organisation. All you hear is the ever-present Covid excuse, coupled with working from home and staff shortages.

Surprisingly, I’m finding the opposite is true in many other countries, where the doors are firmly open for business and there is no hiding behind the Covid excuse.

Another aspect of my mentoring experiences came as a pleasant surprise, particularly involving those clients from North America. It quickly became apparent that they were able to communicate in such a relaxed style, whether on the phone, or on the screen, as opposed to the those I often come across in the UK, who seem to find that e-mails are their only form of business communication. We all know how easily misunderstood badly phrased e-mails can be. I asked several of my mentoring clients in the United States about this and they told me that in American schools, colleges and universities, the ability to communicate well in a business sense is taught throughout a high percentage of their curriculum, both orally and in written format.

Like it or not, the ability to ‘sell yourself’ is so important in life, not just in business

That ability to communicate effectively at all levels of business is a key part of the sponsorship sales process. Like it or not, the ability to “sell yourself” is so important in life, not just in business.

Another ability that is difficult to teach is that of “making things happen”. An amazing example of what I mean by this came at Silverstone just before the Covid lockdown.

Derek Warwick had asked me to run an annual sponsorship training course for the BRDC Rising Stars. During my last course I had shown the attendees a detailed case study of an exceptionally high-value sponsorship deal that I had negotiated in my early career in Formula Ford.

By necessity, the photos on the screen were black and white, but I stressed that the structure of the deal was just as relevant today.  After a few minutes one of the youngster’s fathers who was sitting at the back of the room, stood up and asked me if he could speak to the audience. What he told them came as a surprise to us all.

“I noticed that many of you switched off when you saw the black and white case study photos. Wrong! What Brian is telling you is as relevant today as it was all those years ago…. How do I know? Because I work for that company!

With sponsorship, you can create a level playing field in respect of competing against drivers with wealthy families or connections. Investing time and effort into learning how you can help a company sell more products or services, pays dividends. I know, it’s what I had to do.

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