New business is a team game

If you’re responsible for creating new corporate partnerships at a charity it can be quite a lonely experience. You’re expected to conjure up partnerships from nothing and the new business target weighs heavily on your shoulders. In the middle of the coronavirus crisis, because we’re all working from home, these new business roles can be more isolating than ever.

Over the last two months, we’ve held over 90 free brainstorms with charities on how to shift their corporate partnerships approach in response to the coronavirus crisis. One of the most important messages from these sessions, which keeps coming up again and again, is new business is a team game. As Michael Jordan says, “talent wins games, but teamwork and intelligence win championships.”

Here are five important areas where we recommend you involve your colleagues, so you get the support you need to succeed.

Discovering problems

Understanding the big problems that are preventing your charity from achieving its mission can really help create corporate partnerships. This is because you can take each of those problems to companies who are perfectly equipped to help you solve them, so they will feel compelled to partner with you. However, we speak with so many corporate partnerships professionals who tell us they don’t know what those big problems are. The reality is, they need their colleagues to share these challenges. For example, one of our charity clients discovered from a colleague that they needed food for their beneficiaries. On the basis of that conversation, they approached a company and that has turned into a new partnership. We recommend you ask to be involved in an internal working group so you can discover some of these compelling problems. If this isn’t possible you could organise a virtual coffee with colleagues who can help you find this information.

Partnership ideas

Creating an exciting idea that is tailored for your target prospect, dramatically increases your chances of securing a new corporate partnership. Have you ever tried creating one of these ideas on your own? It’s almost impossible because you don’t have anyone you can bounce your ideas off. But if you’re responsible for new business you might get yourself stuck, because you think that your colleagues are too busy to help generate ideas. And yet the truth is, they often want to be involved and getting buy-in at the start of a partnership idea is much easier than getting agreement at the end. Our recommendation is to organise a brainstorm and invite your colleagues. Get ready to be amazed by the quality and diversity of ideas you generate as a team.

Securing meetings

Securing a meeting is probably the most challenging and important step towards creating a new corporate partnership. You can try it on your own, by sending a cold email or giving them a call, but what if that doesn’t work? You could ask your colleagues, friends and contacts if they know anyone at the company because a warm introduction increases your chances of securing a meeting. If you’re unable to find someone who has a contact at the company, then you could brainstorm with colleagues to identify alternative ways to approach the company. Working as a team increases your chances of securing meetings. We recommend that you start by connecting with your colleagues, trustees and partners on LinkedIn so you can see if they have any direct contacts with your target prospects.

Prospect meetings

Early on in my career, I attended the majority of prospect meetings on my own. I thought it was much easier that way because I didn’t have to consult a colleague’s diary in before booking a meeting. I also thought I was saving myself time, because I didn’t need to brief someone else before the meeting. However, there was a pivotal moment when I was Head of Partnership Fundraising at Alzheimer’s Society when we decided to start involving colleagues from other departments in our prospect meetings. In particular, we involved colleagues from services, so they could give first-hand accounts of supporting people with dementia. This shift in our approach dramatically increased our success in securing corporate partnerships. Therefore, we recommend you involve other colleagues in your prospect meetings, particularly people from services or a senior colleague, so you can show the company how keen you are to partner with them.

Staying motivated

If you’re responsible for winning new business, it’s vital that you stay motivated and keep in touch with what’s possible. However, sometimes you get a “no” from a prospect or you can become despondent because results aren’t coming as quickly as you hoped. That’s when it’s really important to reach out to a colleague or someone in your network. In our experience, when you’re feeling low, conversations with others can be transformational. We’ve seen this in the brainstorms we’ve been having with charities over the last two months. One person said, “this is the best zoom call I’ve had since the start of lockdown.” Another said, “I feel hope for the first time in three weeks.” So we recommend you book in that zoom call or pick up the phone. Everyone needs a lift sometime.

We hope these examples are inspiring and useful to you. We know from experience that your new business success will increase when you involve colleagues and work as a team. In other words, it’s easier to create corporate partnerships when we work in partnership with our colleagues – so go do it. Together.

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