Prospecting for corporate partners is unpredictable. Just when the conversation is warming up, you hit an obstacle, or a great big brick wall. If your corporate prospect has just made an excuse that sounds a lot like “I’m washing my hair tonight”, then how do you respond? Do you plough on regardless or call a taxi right there?
In our experience, the typical objections fall into two categories: genuine issues or feeble excuses.
- Just send me a proposal
- Apply in the next round
- No budget/ not enough budget right now
‘Just send me a proposal’ is a guarantee that your document is going to the shredder. Like the Qantas planes lined up in a desert parking lot, it won’t be seeing action this decade. You’ll waste time crafting a proposal that won’t go anywhere. If this request comes at the end of multiple discussions and you’ve uncovered your corporate’s needs and priorities, then go ahead. It’s the culmination of all your work together. But if it’s the first meeting or phone call, then it’s a feeble excuse to fob you off. Similarly, the polite email response with a suggestion to apply in the next round of grants next year falls into this category.
The budget excuse can be valid in the current climate. But if it’s used in the first meeting when the conversation has barely begun, then it’s more likely to be a dead bat. If it’s made by a corporate that’s just posted a 20% increase in profit, then you’re right to be suspicious.
- Not a good fit
- Already chosen our partners, they’re long term
- Impact/ scale not where we want it
- Timing’s not right/internal changes
These are real issues that go to the heart of whether you’ve done your homework and chosen the right corporate prospect. You may not be the right fit for their social purpose, core business or main priorities. Careful research and thoughtful questions will be key to uncovering the answer. Your corporate may have a suite of community partners that they love and have been aligned with for years. Lucky charities- but there may not be room for you too. The issue of impact or scale can be a tricky one. I was in discussions with a big corporate interested in vocational education. Unfortunately, my Australian based charity couldn’t compete with a program in Nepal that cost $100 per head and reached thousands more people. The numbers really mattered to this global corporate.
In challenging business times there are restructures, staff turnover and leadership changes. You need to recognise and be sympathetic to the internal environment for a corporate. If you honour their current struggles, they may be more open to a partnership discussion when the dust has settled.
The best approach to objections is the following:
If you’ve asked the right questions during the meetings with your corporate, you’ll have a good idea of what matters to them. Then you can approach the objections as the opportunity for further information rather than dead ends. For example, clarify what they mean by budget. Do they have an allocated budget for partnerships? What is it? When is it set and by whom? What is their decision-making process?
You’ll notice that questions are the key to unlocking the obstacles and countering objections. You need at least one in-depth meeting with your corporate prospect to ask the right questions. Then you’ll have the information to acknowledge, assess and respond to their concerns or issues. That’s why we strongly recommend never sending a standard proposal. It’s like hitting a target blindfolded, whilst riding a horse. Hold out for a meeting that will let you listen to their prioritise and issues, confirm your hypothesis and tailor your response. It sounds bold to decline an invitation to ‘just send a proposal’ but it’ll save you a lot of wasted time and effort. If they won’t meet with you, then they’re probably not serious about a partnership with you.
Objections don’t have to be the end point of a prospective partnership. With the right questions and some reframing of the opportunity, they can be the pathway to better alignment and a deeper partnership understanding. Don’t book the taxi home right away- there’s probably a bigger adventure ahead.
When you’re ready….here are 3 ways we can help you:
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