Seal the deal – 5 tips to convert prospects into partners

We’re often told that one of the hardest steps in corporate partnerships is ‘sealing the deal’ – converting a hot prospect into a formalized partnership. We know that securing that first meeting with a prospect is a crucial first step, but the journey between that meeting and a formalised partnership is less documented. Large partnerships can take between six months to two years to form, and it can feel like we’re operating without a roadmap. So the Remarkable Partnerships team have put together five recommendations on how to get your prospects over the line.

  • Offer, don’t ask
    When framing the initial approach to a target prospect, we recommend that you invoke the law of reciprocity. This law of social psychology dictates that when we are offered something we consider valuable for free, we are compelled to give that person something back in return. Think about what you can offer to a corporate prospect that will help them with their business priorities. For example, blood cancer charity DKMS formed a partnership with the company that transport their donor stem cells. This enabled the company to selling their packaging as life-saving, rather than just packaging. DKMS used the law of reciprocity to secure the partnership.
  • Look for value beyond money
    Especially during the coronavirus crisis, getting budget signed off for corporate donations can be tough. There is an old saying that goes, “if you ask for money, you get advice. If you ask for advice, you get money” – so looking for opportunities for companies to support you beyond just funding can lead to huge success. For example, a corporate partnerships manager was able to turn the challenge of their services team spending six figures a month on PPE into an opportunity for a company to solve that problem. This led to an initial donation worth hundreds of thousands of pounds in PPE and an ongoing conversation about where the partnership goes from here.
  • Treat them as a partner
    We suggest you start treat a company like they are a partner before they have even said “Yes.” For example, you could invite them to speak at one your events so they can say why they are so inspired by your cause. By giving them this opportunity you give them the feeling of what it would be like to be a fully-fledged partner. In effect they are already living the experience. In our experience this approach significantly increases the chances of them deciding to partner with you.
  • 7-11-4 your prospects
    Knowing when the conversation has been going long enough to make a formalised offer can be difficult. Research by Google suggests that a prospect needs 7 hours of interaction across 11 touch points in 4 locations to be ready to commit to a significant partnership. This means you want your prospect to spend 7 hours dwelling on your content, across 11 interactions such as emails and phone calls, over 4 different mediums such as your website, a phone call or by reading a report you’ve produced. Recently, the corporate partnerships team at SolarAid used these metrics to determine that it was time to formally pitch a partnership to one of their target prospects and asked to pitch to the chairman – the result was an instant yes.
  • Focus on little wins
    Finally, we’d like to share a quote from entrepreneur and best selling author Daniel Priestley, who said that the key to success is to “focus on the little wins and stand by for the quantum leap”. By ensuring that you move your prospects closer to that yes, a little bit each week – by building their emotional connection with your cause, by building your relationship and by getting them to understand the commercial benefits of a full partnership. When you focus on moving them forward rather than securing the partnership, you’ll be surprised by how much more you enjoy it and how quickly they secure themselves.
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