In recent conversations with two sports properties, each shared that it was revamping the way it solicits, sells and works with corporate partners. And each was doing the exact opposite of the other.
One was adopting an “account-management” structure, eliminating its previous division of labor between business development and servicing in favor of individuals on the team having “cradle-to-grave” responsibility for prospecting, pitching, negotiating, activating, servicing and renewing corporate partners. (Since renewals are included, cradle to grave to resurrection might be a better descriptor!)
The other was abandoning that approach and returning to a “specialist” structure in which, for the most part, salespeople sell and servicing people service.
Which organization is making the right move? If there were an easy answer to that question, everyone simply would adopt the one true successful strategy.
The primary advantage of the specialist strategy is it allows those with specific skills to focus on what they do best rather than operate as a jack of all trades. Business development in particular is a special core competency. Why take someone who is great at finding, selling and closing deals and let them do it only half the time?
On the other hand, account management focuses on creating a seamless path for corporate partners, making their journey through negotiation, activation, measurement and renewal as frictionless as possible. Contrast that with the multiple points of contact and hand-offs that occur in the specialist organization. Brands often cite such circumstances as one of their primary sources of frustration with sponsored properties.
Aside from the human and other resources available to put against sponsorship sales and servicing, the right system for any given property will boil down to how the organization defines success.
A property that prioritizes making sales numbers and that needs or wants to maximize immediate partnership revenue will be best-off choosing the specialist structure. A rights holder that is in a position to focus on what’s best for its partners—with an eye toward the type of long-term revenue strength that comes from repeated renewals and multiple long-term relationships in its sponsor portfolio, will be able to find the value in the account management approach.