Dating, job interviews and partnership meetings are all quite similar because they are conversations with lots of questions. Why so many questions? Well part of getting to know someone is making an assessment. In dating you want to uncover any red flags and decide whether to commit to a next date or the next stage. With job interviews you want to know whether they are qualified and experienced enough to do the job. In both of these examples the assessment is done internally – you don’t directly ask a date ‘are you a psycho?’. It’s done by listening to the conversation and asking further probing questions. Each of us have an internal set of questions that we would like to have answered to reassure us that the time and effort we are investing will be worthwhile.
It is the same in partnership meetings. Here’s a simple checklist of questions that your prospect will be thinking even if they aren’t asking them outright.
Where are you going?
I think charities are the luckiest of all of the sectors. Why? Because it’s pretty easy to build an emotional engagement with your brand. You can talk about the stark realities for your beneficiaries and appeal to a person’s desire to do good. What a business wants to know is what impact they can make to the cause you’re working on, as well as all the other lovely benefits of partnering with a good cause. Organisations that can articulate (succinctly) what the future of their cause looks like are demonstrating they know the answer to some of societies biggest problems. They may not have the solution just yet but with a partner’s help they might just come up with that too. I’ve seen great examples such as “we believe we can cure MS by 2030”, “zero deaths from breast cancer by 2030” and Save the Children’s “no child born to die”.
What do you need from me?
Yes, we know you need money and so do they. What else do you need? It’s surprising how often a charity struggles to talk about what they need from an organisation over and above funding. Corporates bring a range of value with them. Yes, cash but also channels, expertise, audience, resources, PR, staff, point of sale exposure and customers. We all work in corporate partnerships, not corporate fundraising. What are the additional things that this specific business can provide that will shift the dial on your cause? Be as granular as possible and explain why this adds to your strategy and the ideal future that you just painted for them. Garvan Institute identified that their biggest need was greater data capacity so they could work through their research statistics quicker, which is why Vodafone’s Dream Lab was the perfect solution.
Why are you talking to me?
This is getting out of your shoes and putting yourself in their shoes. What is important to them? What do they need? Have you thought about things from their perspective? Can you describe how you are going to help them make money and further their ambition, or how you’re going to save them money by solving a key business issue? The more sophisticated businesses are making decisions with their heads and their hearts. It’s likely that you can easily win over a prospect with the amazing and inspiring content that you have. You can tell them a story about a better life and a better world. Can you appeal to the logical side too and demonstrate in statistics, and metrics? Those hard crunchy numbers will tell the story about why you are also a good investment for their business. Take the time to show why you’ve chosen them as an ideal fit, rather than presenting a standard proposal that’s not personalised to your corporate prospect. Our friends at Officeworks told us about a charity proposal they received which was slick, expensive and came with a video. But the problem was, the charity didn’t address any of the issues important to Officeworks. They hadn’t even bothered to contact them and ask what mattered. A slick presentation was worthless because the charity didn’t address the fundamental question of Why Me?
If you have some prospects in the pipeline that you haven’t been able to get over the line, it’s likely that you need to answer this question with more urgency. Why is it vital that you get support from them now? How is the current environment impacting your beneficiaries and your organisation? What are the timelines around what you’re presenting? How long do your beneficiaries currently wait for your services? If you can create a burning platform about why your cause or organisation needs support now it will be easier for your contact to be inspired into action and move things along internally for you. Brotherhood of St Laurence were able to tell the story of how COVID is making poverty worse and inspired ANZ to make a $1mln donation.
If you can answer these four key questions that your contact wants you to answer, then you have a compelling reason to get the next meeting and to win the partnership. If you’ve had a lot of ‘no’ or ‘not nows’ then you need to spend some time on answering each of these four key questions.