Here’s a topic that comes up often with some of our coaching clients – Especially when there is lack of role clarity around maximizing relationships!
A NATURAL PARTNER (N.P.) is a person (either inside or outside of your organization) who has a strong relationship with your organization and an existing relationship with the Qualified Prospect(Q.P.) – Or a reason to believe one can be established quickly!
Externally, Natural Partners can be on your Board, they can have a business relationship with the prospect, they can be members of the same club or organization or they can be fellow community leaders, etc.
Internally, the Natural Partner can be anyone from the President/Executive Director to top senior leadership, to a staff/programming person who has a great relationship with the prospect.
It’s important that you determine the difference between a RELATIONSHIP MANAGER (R.M.) and a NATURAL PARTNER.
The RELATIONSHIP MANAGER does not necessarily have to have an existing relationship with the prospect. Their job is to do exactly what it says – MANAGE THE RELATIONSHIP. The Relationship Manager is always a member of the ‘Green Team’ – I.e., directly responsible for maximizing relationships on behalf of the organization/impact. It is perfectly fine for multiple people within the organization to have a relationship with a Q.P. – as long as the Relationship Manager has been defined.
The NATURAL PARTNER can have an existing relationship, or the ability to create one immediately, but most importantly, they play and instrumental role in Team Selling. They can:
Help get the visit! Opening doors is one of the most productive things N.P. can do!
Predispose the Prospect to a great visit! A N.P. can send a great note ahead of the visit – “I know you’re meeting with Sharon on Friday – I’m so excited for the two of you to meet, for you to hear about the vision and getting more involved in our impact! I’ll check in with you after”
Follow Up! A call from the Natural Partner (after a check in with the R.M.) can be hugely beneficial. “How did it go? What did you think? What can I do to help?”
Prior to his post at Manchester United, he managed Aberdeen, a Scottish Football Club. He learned about the importance of ZOOMING OUT to lead. My emphasis in bold…
Watching is (an) underrated (leadership) activity…it costs nothing. For me there are two forms of observation: the first is on the detail and the second is on the big picture. Until I was managing Aberdeen and hired Archie Knox as my assistant manager, I had not appreciated the difference between watching for the tiny particulars while also trying to understand the broader landscape. Shortly after he arrived at Aberdeen, Archie sat me down and asked me why I had hired him. The question perplexed me, until he explained that he had nothing to do since I insisted on doing everything. He was very insistent… Archie told me that I shouldn’t be conducting the training sessions but, instead, should be on the sidelines watching and supervising. I wasn’t sure that I should follow this advice because I thought it would hamper my control of the sessions. But when I told Archie I wanted to mull over his advice, he was insistent. So, somewhat reluctantly, I bowed to his wishes and, though it took me a bit of time to understand you can see a lot more when you are not in the thick of things, it was the most important decision I ever made about the way I managed and led. When you are a step removed from the fray, you see things that come as surprises– and it is important to allow yourself to be surprised. If you are in the middle of a training session with a whistle in your mouth, your entire focus is on the ball. When I stepped back and watched from the sidelines, my field of view was widened and I could absorb the whole session, as well as pick up on players’ moods, energy and habits. This was one of the most valuable lessons of my career and I’m glad that I received it more than 30 years ago. Archie’s observation was the making of me. As a player I had tried to do both– paying attention to the ball at my feet whilst being aware of what was happening elsewhere on the field. But until Archie gave me a finger wagging, I had not really understood that, as a manager, I was in danger of losing myself to the details. It only took me a handful of days to understand the merit of Archie’s point, and from that moment I was always in a position to be able to zoom in to see the detail and zoom out to see the whole picture.
Stepping back to watch from the sidelines is not natural (at least not to me!) This story has powerful leadership insights and implications for all of us.
Ferguson, Alex; Moritz, Michael (2015-10-06). Leading: Learning from Life and My Years at Manchester United (p. 18). Hachette Books. Kindle Edition.
“Every really good, really experienced CEO I know shares one important characteristic: They tend to opt for the hard answer to organizational issues. If faced with giving everyone the same bonus to make things easy or with sharply rewarding performance and ruffling many feathers, they’ll ruffle the feathers. If given the choice of cutting a popular project today, because it’s not in the long-term plans or you’re keeping it around for morale purposes and to appear consistent, they’ll cut it today. Why? Because they’ve paid the price of management debt, and they would rather not do that again.” – From the Hard Thing about Hard Things by Ben Horowitz
I’ve never heard anyone talk about ‘management debt’. What a powerful concept! It smacked me between the eyes! This is a powerful frame for leaders because it puts the notion of DEBT on indecision. Decision/indecision doesn’t just have a ‘cost’; it has a ‘debt’! It allows us to ask, “What debt will I incur in NOT dealing with this tough issue?”
We’re big on the need to have one Master Prospect List! A great MPL rates and ranks your entire pool of Qualified Prospects/Relationships in descending order or importance. However, deciding who you’re going to see first is very different from simply starting at the top of your Master Prospect List and working your way down.
Instead, begin like Archimedes on his best day by trying to LEVERAGE your commitments – building on each visit and commitment as you move along.
Here’s a great way to think about ordering your visits: ‘MO-COs,’ ‘LEAD-COs’ and ‘CO-COs’.
MO-COs are MOMENTUM COMMITMENTS.
These commitments are not necessarily about magnitude or size but rather ‘COMMENSURATE’… ‘SURPRISE’… ‘STRETCH’ gifts. These are the ‘EARLY ADOPTERS’ who get it, buy in, and provide the MOMENTUM to get going. In Good To Great, Jim Collins’ would call these ‘FLYWHEEL’ commitments. In order to get a FLYWHEEL moving at the beginning, it takes a lot of energy. But once there is some MOMENTUM… the wheel flies!
LEAD-CO’s are LEADERSHIP COMMITMENTS.
LEADERSHIP can literally TRANSFORM the organization, the campaign or the project. These are ‘Top of the Pyramid’ lead gifts that prove that our best prospects and investors have stepped up and give everyone the confidence needed to make the campaign or project happen.
“LEADERS LEAD.” – Bob Werner
Thanks to my friend Bob, a big time Mensch and Jewish philanthropic superstar, for the quote. I believe that success (or failure) is a direct result of LEADERS LEADING. If no one steps up as the INTERNAL leader, a campaign is doomed from the get go. If you can’t find at least one EXTERNAL leader or CHAMPION, it ain’t gonna happen either. (My preference is 3 CHAMPIONS.)
If leaders are not ENGAGED and PASSIONATE, then it becomes ‘The Suddes Group Campaign’ or ‘The Executive Director’s Campaign’, etc. Tom Mucks, another successful former Suddes Group partner, says, simply: “Passion and commitment from LEADERSHIP will overcome all obstacles.”
CO-CO’S are CONNECTOR COMMITMENTS.
Going after some of your most important ‘CONNECTORS’ early on is a terrific strategy to not only get their financial commitment (which may or may not be significant) but also to generate REFERRALS and STRATEGY on getting visits with your best prospects.
SPECIAL NOTE ON REFERRALS AND 3º OF SEPARATION:
Remember you are only 3º away from any QUALIFIED PROSPECT!! (Forget Kevin Bacon and his 6º – It’s actually been determined that it’s 2.78 ‘moves’/connections between Bacon and all other actors.) CONNECTORS and other NATURAL PARTNERS allow you to be one or two CONTACTS away from your best prospects. This is very, very important! Realizing you are only 3º away from ANYBODY who is a QUALIFIED PROSPECT lets you use your NATURAL PARTNERS (Champions, Board Members, Key Volunteer Leaders, Current Investors) to get you there.
Extra Special Note: I am only 3º away from the Pope, the President and the Prime Minister of Israel. And, I’m only 2º away from the Dalai Lama! How? Because of my CONNECTIONS and RELATIONSHIPS, I can get to ‘someone’ who can get to ‘someone’ who can get to the Pope, the President and the Prime Minister.