When my kids were small, we had a weekend stopover in Amsterdam. It broke up the butt-numbing monotony of a long- haul flight to the UK in economy class. I excitedly showed them the canals, the architecture and the glorious Van Gogh museum. When I asked my son what he liked best about the trip, what did he say? “Mum, they served hot chips in a cone, with mayonnaise instead of tomato sauce!” I’d failed to appreciate the perspective of a 7 year-old. For him, the joys were in the small things.
The management writer Charles Handy once flippantly compared a British workgroup to a rowing team: eight people going backwards, without talking to each other, steered by someone at the front who wasn’t doing as much work. But his perspective was challenged by an oarsman in his audience. Quite the opposite, he asserted. It was the perfect example of a good team. The rowers wouldn’t have the confidence to try so hard if they didn’t have absolute trust in each other and in the small person at the front who did the steering.
Perspective comes naturally to some, but for others, they need a prompt to know what to look for and the types of questions to ask. Think you’re really good at this? Check out this oldie but goldie video and see if you can get the right answer. Did you find the twist at the end?
Perspective is an important ingredient for successful partnerships. Building meaningful relationships that will sustain over time requires a deep understanding of your partner. Here are some things to remember.
Put yourself in their position.
Perspective is about stepping into your partner’s shoes and finding out what’s important to them. Think about what’s keeping CEO’s awake at night. Take the time to ask the right questions and understand their priorities. Some of the corporates who spoke to us last year told us of being inundated with partnership proposals. Many of them were templated approaches from organisations that hadn’t tailored them to the corporate and hadn’t asked them the key question: ‘’what is important to YOU right now?”.
An alternative approach is to get market intelligence from a corporate’s competitor. When we worked with a non-profit targeting Specsavers, we didn’t just research the company itself. We asked a contact at OPSM, who gave details of the key drivers in the industry and what he saw as Specsavers’ relative strengths. You’ll find that competitors are remarkably frank about someone else’s business!
We know you’re passionate about your cause and eager to sell your crusade. But if the corporate is not instantly riveted by your case study of cancer research, homeless people or hungry children, then don’t judge. Don’t make them feel wrong, or that they’re in a privileged position. It’s not because they’re bad people or all corporates are evil. They are simply dealing with competing priorities and an inbox full of urgent matters. Sometimes the timing is not quite right. Suspend judgement and try to understand their perspective. Then you’ll have a better shot at demonstrating how you’re helping to solve their priorities. Pushing your crusade when it’s not appropriate is like a tourist abroad. She can’t speak the language, so responds by speaking English VERY loudly and slowly.
Empathy and emotion
Build connection. Relationships flourish when there is a greater understanding of each other, needs and priorities. That requires listening and acknowledging what your prospect is feeling. “Your staff are feeling disconnected from each other with remote working? I can see it’s a big concern for you.” Once you’ve demonstrated empathy, you are better placed to suggest a solution. “You might be interested in how we helped Company XYZ to improved staff engagement and raise morale…” Don’t be that worst date ever, who only talks about themselves.
Perspective allows relationships to flourish and creates deeper, more authentic connections between partners. Then you’ll have the basis for partnership that really lasts.
If you need help to open up conversations with new prospects, then join us for our next Partnership Acquisition Skills program.