Have you ever travelled on the London underground? In the older Victorian era stations, the new trains don’t quite fit with the platforms. Passengers will hear a cheery voice urging them to ‘mind the gap’. Failure to heed the warning may result in you losing a wallet, a shoe or even half of your leg in the yawing chasm between platform and train entrance. In the gap lies the detritus of 150 years of travel and some enterprising mice with Teflon stomachs. You don’t want to go there.
But in the world of partnerships, the gap is where the value lives- and you definitely want to be there. In his book “Gap Selling”, the author Jim Keenan talks of the importance of diagnosing a client’ problems and identifying the gap between their current state and future, desired state.
Future state – current state = the gap (and your opportunity)
You need to take time to diagnose your prospective corporate’s problems, pain points and hot spots. That means some robust desktop research and a searching discovery meeting. You can’t offer a solution without knowing the problem first. The insights you gather during your diagnostic can make the difference between success and failure when you come to a partnership proposal. When a local Victorian charity approached a corporate about a partnership for their signature gala event, they went straight to their offering (a gold, silver, bronze set of packages- my favourite pet hate). Only when the corporate seemed underwhelmed by their array of logo placements and promotions did the charity start to ask what the corporate was actually interested in. It turns out that they needed to boost staff engagement and all they really wanted was a series of volunteering opportunities. The charity was then able to switch direction and provide a solution that was exactly what the corporate wanted. Ask some well targeted open questions that get to the heart of what matters most to the corporate.
Once you’ve diagnosed the current state and the corporate’s problems and challenges, you can help them build a picture of their ideal future state. Remember that this is likely to be both rational and emotional. A large corporate once talked to me about their declining customer loyalty and the uncertain sales projections. When asked about their ideal future they simply said, “we just want our customers to love our brand again”. If you can follow up with some key questions to describe that future state, you can uncover the true value to their business. For example, “if you can solve this issue, what will success look like? How much will it add to your sales/ brand awareness/ staff engagement scores?” Once you realise the dollar value of the corporate getting it right, you may feel less hesitant about the partnership investment you’re asking for.
This is where you can demonstrate that a partnership with you is the solution. Remember that you’re not selling a program or a sponsorship, you’re selling change. The change that will allow them to achieve their objectives. You can bring your solution to life using case studies, videos, testimonials or props. We don’t all have cute guide dog puppies to melt a corporate’s heart, but you may have a compelling story, a passionate ambassador or award-winning expertise. You are positioning yourself as a valuable resource that will help the corporate achieve their ambitions, whether financial or emotional.
So, embrace the gap as an opportunity, not a potential pitfall. This is where you’re selling the corporate a solution to their thorny problems and a pathway to achieving their biggest ambitions. You can’t do that with a gold, silver or bronze package. The gap is truly where the value lies, but you need to spend some time uncovering what that gap is before you can unlock all the value.