I recently ran into a man we’ll call “Bill,” an executive from an organization that last summer planned to engage my services on a project. I’ve known Bill for several years, and though we don’t know each other well, we have a good relationship.
But not as good as I’d like.
You see, the project did not move forward because of unexpected challenges on the organization’s side. They were unable to commit.
Our discussions and negotiation — not unlike a sponsorship negotiation — were quite detailed with a high level of trust and openness about what we each needed from the engagement. Because of this high level of trust, the ensuing discussion was an important step in our relationship. And then — boom! — the project was not happening. Quite a jolt.
I felt badly for them that their new circumstances precluded them from moving forward. I was also disappointed for both of us. I was excited to work with this group, and I know I can help them make significant improvements. But the time wasn’t right.
It happens. This happens in sponsorship commitments, too.
When I saw Bill the other night, I was truly delighted to see him. He was tentative. “I thought you’d hate me,” he said with a nervous laugh, because of this sudden shift in gears.
While I appreciated his continued truthfulness and openness, I realized I could have done a better job upholding my side of the relationship.
It’s easy to move along with life when something like this happens. That’s what I did, oblivious that half a year had passed and this unresolved energy and emotion existed on his side. Maybe subconsciously it existed on my side, too.
I learned a lot through that exchange, and I’m sharing this story because there are at least 3 important lessons for you:
- Success in sponsorship (and any business development effort) is all about the relationship. Do not underestimate that. (Nor waste your time with online forms.)
- In many circumstances, staying in touch, continuing to build a relationship when a sales opportunity does not pan out, makes sense. (In others — such as when a buyer is on a fishing expedition — it doesn’t.)
- Business development is a life-long learning process.
Here’s to our relationships and learning.