By: Mollye Rhea
In part one of this series, we discussed strategies for identifying potential corporate partners. Now, let’s focus on how to prepare for the first meeting and cultivate the relationship afterward.
Study Your Prospect
Before you meet with a potential corporate partner, it is essential to do your research. Review the prospect’s mission and values to tailor your pitch to their interests and needs. It will demonstrate to the prospect that you have taken the time to learn about their organization and are genuine in your interest in building a mutually beneficial partnership.
As you are researching, jot down questions that come up from the information you find. Prepare a list of questions to ask the prospect during the meeting to learn more about their goals, needs and potential interest in partnering with your organization.
Review your sales materials to ensure they’re tailored to the prospect’s specific interests and needs.
Listen More Than You Talk
The first meeting with a potential corporate partner is an opportunity to learn. It’s crucial to ask open-ended questions to learn more about the prospect’s interests and goals. Ask follow-up questions to clarify their needs and wants. Remember, the goal of the first meeting is to land a second meeting. Use the information you gather in the first meeting in the second to demonstrate relevancy and pique interest in further exploration.
Here are some examples of open-ended questions you could ask to learn more about the prospect’s interests, goals and decision-making process:
- What are some of your company’s most significant challenges right now?
- What are some ways that you see your company making a positive impact in the community?
- What are some partnerships that your company has been involved with in the past?
- What have you learned from them?
- How do you measure the success of a partnership?
- What other decision-makers are involved in partnership selection?
Remember to take notes so that you can hit on their goals and pain points in your follow-up emails. For example, if the company is struggling with employee retention, you could send an email highlighting how your organization’s volunteer opportunities could improve employee satisfaction.
Highlight Your Assets
During the meeting, highlight your organization’s assets. Never assume that the prospect is already familiar with your organization. Provide a clear overview of your organization’s mission and goals and share how you see them potentially aligning with the prospect company.
Highlight your program outcomes that relate most to the company’s goals and target audiences. Discuss the benefits of partnering with your organization and, if appropriate, share some high-level case studies that spotlight activation ideas you have in mind.
Here are some examples of things you could share:
- Program outcomes that relate to the company’s goals and target audiences
- Potential benefits of partnering with your organization like increased brand awareness, positive impact in the community and employee engagement
- Use social math to express program goals and results. For example, A $1 donation provides three meals. $100 buys 50 books.
You could also share some topline activation ideas you have in mind. For example, if the company is looking to increase employee engagement, you could suggest a volunteer day where their employees can work with your organization on a specific project. If the company has a strong focus on sustainability, you might want to highlight areas of need in your organization’s green initiatives. We recommend not going in-depth on activation strategies in the first meeting. Think appetizer, not entrée.
Cultivate the Relationship After the Meeting
After the first meeting, it’s important to follow up promptly to thank the prospect and provide any additional information or materials they requested. Integrate first-meeting learnings into customized concepts to secure a second meeting.
Don’t limit your communications to pushing your sales agenda. Continue to communicate with the prospect to nurture the relationship. Here are some examples:
- Send regular updates on your organization’s activities and successes
- Invite the prospect to special events, webinars or conferences
- Send an article or research study they will find of value
Landing corporate partners takes preparation, effort and time. Our research shows that a new partnership commitment most often takes 7-18 months to close. This is a marathon, not a sprint.
The No. 1 ingredient for success is understanding the corporate partner’s needs.
By studying your prospect, highlighting your assets, listening and cultivating the relationship after the meeting, you are well on your way to establishing meaningful, high-impact partnerships that help you achieve your mission.