It’s the start of the Australian school year and parents have been cleaning out the shops for new shoes, uniforms and eye wateringly expensive stationery. Of course, they need the must-have Harry Potter themed drink bottle at a bracing $45!
February is when everyone is best dressed and ready to go. That’s why schools do their class photos now, and not in December when outfits are frayed, and everyone looks like they’ve been through Tough Mudder. February is also the prime time for corporate partner prospecting. For corporates working on the Australian tax year it’s when they’re tweaking their forecasts for the last quarter and starting to plan for next year’s budget. You want to be in their heads now, rather than wait until budgets are locked down in April/ May.
If you want to be best dressed for partnership prospecting, don’t leave the house without checking these four things.
A credentials document
Of course, you won’t be sending out standard proposals to cold prospects. Not unless you want to be greeted by a deafening silence. You need a nicely presented credentials document as the warm -up act to get your prospect excited and inspired. Think of it as your greatest hits reel, in brochure form. It should have plenty of lovely images, highlights of what you’ve achieved and a strong focus on why you’re a compelling partner. It’s great as an intro document or a leave-behind after your first meeting. You won’t be reading it to them, but you may be referring to juicy statistics or case studies that make them want to read more. Make it engaging and easy to flip through, as no-one wants an encyclopedia. You wouldn’t read your resume to a first date, so just include enough to make them want to swipe right.
Prospecting by the ASX Top 100 list or your boss’s random sticky note ideas is a fruitless endeavour. It’s like Monty Python’s 200m freestyle for non-swimmers. You need a shortlist of carefully chosen targets to maximise your time and effort. How do you get to a shortlist? It’s a careful process of identifying your strategic needs, your assets, what you have to offer and who might be a great fit for you. You get to your shortlist after some thorough research and eliminating a bunch of corporates that are already with your competitors, don’t fit your values, or have strategic priorities/ CSR pillars that don’t include your cause. Don’t waste your time and effort on corporates that don’t fit, even if they have big profits.
If you’ve done your research properly you should have a hypothesis about why you’re a good partner for your target corporate. Hint: it’s not about your need or your funding gap. Your research should give you some clues about the corporate’s priorities, needs and operating environment. Then you need to explore the solutions your organisation can offer. The first meeting or two will allow you to test that hypothesis and tweak your approach. For example, if corporate ABC is operating in a fiercely competitive industry and is struggling to recruit talent, you’ll need to outline how you can help to inspire staff and make them an employer of choice. You need a starting hypothesis to guide the conversation, test your understanding and go deeper into their pain points.
A meeting plan
We know that partnership people are creative and resourceful, but they also tend to be wingers. Let’s go in and ‘wing it’ for the first meeting and see how it goes. Wingers in corporate partnerships can get lucky, but they’re more likely to find they’ve got their pants unzipped or their skirt tucked into their knickers half way through. As golfing great Gary Player said, “the more I practice, the luckier I get”. In this case, you need to prepare with a meeting plan. Which areas of your research do you want to test? What do you know about your meeting contact? Which objections do you expect? If there are several people attending the meeting, which role will you each take? You want to get the most out of each prospecting meeting, so take the time to create a plan.
We’re in the lunar year of the rabbit, which is supposed to be calm and prosperous. If you want to make the most of peak prospecting time, keep a calm head and make sure you’re well-prepared to make the most of the juicy partnership opportunities awaiting you.