Whether you close the deal or not, it’s important to keep the love alive and well! In this final installment, we cover suggestions for how to create a strong relationship (if you’ve signed the deal) and how to keep the relationship going (if you haven’t).
As with any relationship, you have to work at it. There is no right or wrong way to handle these opportunities; each partner organization is different and you’ve got to know how to maximize the relationship no matter what stage it is in.
You’ve signed a Deal
Congratulations you did it! Now the hard work really begins – creating the implementation plan, finding common ground, making compromises, defining success and creating the magic that will make you a slam-dunk for a CMF Halo Award! Below are a few recommendations to keep the love alive including the following:
- Who’s On First: Assign a project lead on your team who is responsible for day-to-day management; someone has to be manning the details. Ensure you know who your go-to person is within the organization.
- Establish a Kick-Off Meeting: An official start to the project where you review roles, goals and next steps. Don’t forget to discuss expectations and communication style preferences. First and foremost: Define what success looks like. If you can’t agree on success metrics for both organizations you may miss the mark and risk losing your partner for future projects.
- Schedule a set touch base call:once a month, every other week, once a week…whatever is appropriate for that period of time with the project. It’s so simple, but keeping people updated on progress is critical – help to establish expectations, show movement and ensure people know when you’re hitting key milestones.
- Develop Progress Reports: Using a consistent schedule, create something you AND your day-to-day contact can use to educate management about what’s being accomplished. This should NOT be a list of tactical steps completed, but rather large milestones (secured key media channel partner, signed celebrity spokesperson, completed communications package, configured roll-out strategy; held nationwide training calls, etc.)
- Side Thought: These reports can serve as a valuable place to list challenges/solutions and key decisions for learning and improving process with future efforts.
- Keep an Eye Out for Scope Creep: Inevitably the environment evolves; things change. Change is a good thing because it can create new opportunities that weren’t there before. But, watch out for scope creep that takes you away from your goals, and your organization’s definition of success. On the flip side, don’t stay so focused on your original thinking that you don’t allow new opportunities into planning.
- Get All Key Decisions in Writing: I hate to have to say it, but when big decisions happen get agreement in writing (email is just fine). I don’t say that because I think people are evil and out to get us, but because people are busy and can sometimes forget decisions that are made. Having to track-back decisions made 4 months ago can be time consuming and put everyone on the defensive. Just get it in writing and save yourself the headache!
- Remember to Celebrate: Last, but not least, don’t forget to have a celebration event once the initiative is launched. Once it’s finished or at various key milestones, stop and celebrate the small victories. And, don’t forget to report back with a full-scale wrap-up report. Always include discussions around “How could we do this better next time?” No one is perfect and asking the question shows you care about improving the process and outcome for both sides!
No Deal: Now What?
Sometimes it takes months, even years to establish a partnership. Internal politics, new staff members, long business planning lead times, resources, etc….there are lots of reasons why you could be in partnership limbo land for awhile. And, it can cause you to want to scream and cry, instead here are a few things you can do to keep your organization top-of-mind:
- Thought You’d Find This Interesting: When you run across an article related to their organization or an issue they are dealing with – hopefully something good, send it with a “Congratulations on the wonderful news…,” “Saw this piece on XYZ and thought you’d find this interesting”,etc. Also, information on new data related to their business or new cause trends is also good to send.
- Competitor Watch: If you see something or learn of something regarding their competitor, shoot them a quick email with a link: “Hi Sharon, I thought you might find Acme’s new cause initiative interesting. Notice how they are combining transactional cause elements with system-wide employee engagement.”
- Potential Connection for You: If you meet someone who might be able to help THEIR goals in some way, pass the information along. “Hi Bill, I met a gentleman by the name of Bob Smith and he runs an XYZ company. I thought you might want to have his information given our lunch conversation a few months back. If you’re still considering a new CRM strategy, he might be a good person to talk with.”
- Engage In Something With Us: Invite them to gatherings, events and/or tours. Offer them opportunities to see your work in action. The opportunity to experience something is what creates an emotional connection, and remember, people buy on emotion and rationalize with logic.
But as Kenny Rogers says: “Know when to hold’em and know when to fold’em.” Sometimes it becomes clear that it’s not going to work out. It’s OK to decrease communication or move on all together. Perhaps you can add them for a follow-up next quarter or next year. Now turn your attention on another prospect. I would love to hear from others and what tips they would add to managing and cultivating relationships.