Sponsors add an important revenue stream to your event. But there’s one mistake you might be making that can hold you back from winning more sponsorship for your event.

“I see people sending 600-word emails with a proposal attached,” says President and CEO of The Sponsorship Collective, Chris Baylis. “They hope the recipient will open, read, and respond by purchasing a pre-packaged sponsorship opportunity — it doesn’t work like that.”

So when should you send your proposal? According to Baylis, “After the sponsor explicitly asks for one and you know enough about their goals to create a custom package.”

Follow these steps to find sponsors, win their business, and measure your progress:

1. Make a list of potential sponsors

Who will sponsor your event? The answer to that question begins with your attendees.

“It comes down to knowing your event,” says LogMeIn‘s senior corporate events manager Katie O’Neil. “Too many events offer the same access to the same sponsors. If you want to win sponsorship today, you’re going to have to know who your attendees are and how sponsors can help them.”

In other words, event sponsorship isn’t a question of what sponsors can do for you — it’s what they can do for your attendees.

“Let’s say, for example, your event gathers heart surgeons together for an annual summit,” Baylis explains. “Pharmaceutical companies and insurance providers should be on your list. But what about car dealers? Or mortgage bankers?”

Hosting a B2B event? You have a competitive advantage over B2C events. Read about your secret weapon in this article.

With an exhaustive list of prospects in hand, open a blank spreadsheet. Label each column with the following headings: Prospects, Contact Made, Meetings Booked, Proposal Submitted, Follow-up Meeting, Outcome.

When you’re done, enter the name of each prospect under the “Prospects” column. Save your spreadsheet somewhere safe for now — it’s going to come in handy later.

2. Locate the decision maker

As you approach potential sponsors, remember that your goal is not to sell sponsorship — it’s to find the decision maker and ask for a meeting.

“Your sponsorship proposal is like a resume,” explains Larry Weil — also known as the Sponsorship Guy™. “No one submits their resume expecting the hiring manager to call them back saying they’ve got the job. It’s an iterative process, much like sponsorship. It takes time to build a relationship and get commitment.”

The process of approaching sponsors begins with identifying the decision maker. You can accomplish this a number of different ways. Attending an event your potential partner is sponsoring, for example, is a great way for you to make connections. Social media is another good channel for reaching out to a potential sponsor.

Whether you connect with potential sponsors on LinkedIn or through email, it’s important that you keep your messages brief — two to three sentences should be enough. If you’re going in cold, offer a date and time to speak on the phone or meet in person. That way you’re asking them which time works for them, not if they want to meet you or not.

Read these 6 Expert Tips for Cold Emailing Event Sponsors for more advice on going in cold.

3. Listen, listen, listen

Remember: sponsorship is a partnership between your event and your sponsors. It’s a two-way street that requires genuine interest in the sponsor’s objectives and how you can help them achieve their goals.

“The best advice I have for people trying to win sponsorship is to listen,” says Sara Berry, Vice President Partnerships and Marketing for Boston Cannons. “As you meet with potential sponsors, validate your assumptions. Ask them to speak about their challenges and successes. Then listen to what they’re saying.”

Success in sponsorship is trial and error. The more you listen to sponsors, the better equipped you’ll be to create custom solutions that unlock tremendous opportunities for you, the sponsor, and your attendees.

After warming up your prospective sponsor and carefully listening to their goals and objectives, you’ve earned the right to ask for the sale.

4. Track your progress

Go back to the spreadsheet you created earlier and use the remaining columns to track your progress with each prospect.

“Using a tracking spreadsheet to measure your progress helps you focus on moving your prospects through the iterative process,” says Baylis, who uses this method to help his clients document and measure their hard work. “After they compare conversion rates, revenue and time spent, it becomes quickly apparent that e-blasting proposals is the most inefficient way imaginable to win sponsorship.”

Learn more from the sponsorship pros

To increase your chances of landing your dream sponsor, check out these 8 Sponsorship Letter Templates to Hook Event Sponsors.