11 Ways to Make the Initial Ask When Looking to Establish a Partnership

Written by Zac Johnson
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It is often intimidating to reach out to an established business with a partnership opportunity. But as entrepreneurs and small businesses, you can make a big impact to show potential partners that you are a worthwhile investment by employing a few key strategies. Thanks to the power of the internet, we are now all on a level playing field and opportunity like never before might just be an email or introduction away. However, for this to take place many of you will need to step outside of your comfort zone to make that initial ask first happen/

The first hurdle is making the initial ask. When reaching out, try to highlight your common goals with the organization or how you can offer value, while not first asking for anything in return. You should also have a concrete plan in place that shows the benefits a partnership would have for all those involved. And never underestimate the power of a confident and humble attitude when it comes to earning their respect.

We asked 11 entrepreneurs from YEC to share their best advice for reaching out to a big potential partner.

1. Use Your Network

Big businesses are just like small businesses — they are composed of people (just a lot more of them). Reaching out to, say, GM is a tough goal, but finding a specific connection to one person in that business is very manageable. Try your personal, professional, family and alumni networks. You’re looking for someone who can introduce you with a warm introduction

John Rood, Next Step Test Preparation

2. Prepare to Bring in Another Vendor

You’d be surprised by what you can accomplish when you team up with another business that offers complementary — not competitive — services. For instance, smaller marketing agencies eager to work with enterprise brands may need to affiliate themselves with larger marketing providers who already have a working relationship with their target companies.

Firas Kittaneh, Amerisleep

3. Find Complementary Goals and Objectives

Reach out to businesses whose products or services complement yours and establish common goals and objectives. When you’re both working toward the same end result, the partnership will be more sound and beneficial to everyone involved. If you’re a financial planner, you probably want to partner with accountants, lawyers and other professional service providers to refer customers to each other.

Nicole Munoz, Start Ranking Now

4. Define the Value You Create

Before hitting send on that email or asking for introductions, spend the time to really hone in on the value that you bring to the potential partner. Even though the mutual benefits are clear in your head, realize that they will be approaching it from a cynical point of view. They know how it will benefit you so make sure they know how it will benefit them. Make it easy to say yes.

Douglas Hutchings, Picasolar

5. Be Ready With the Plan

Larger businesses have larger liabilities, and that means they can’t act with the agility of smaller businesses. A strong plan and enough early notice is very important in order to pique the interest of potential partners, so make sure all your ducks are in a row before you make first contact.

Matt Doyle, Excel Builders

6. Begin With Intensive Research via Web Presence

Before you personally address a prospective partner, begin with thorough research of the company’s web presence. Begin with an in-depth study of the business’s website, taking a close look at case studies. Also, check out the business’s social media pages, observing how they market themselves and interact with their audience. This will provide valuable preliminary information before talks begin.

Obinna Ekezie, Wakanow.com

7. Be Humble, Yet Confident

The key to formulating partnerships with larger or better-established businesses is to be both humble and confident. It’s important that you come to the negotiating table with humility, but while being sure of your brand, product or service. Understand when it’s the right time to listen and the right time to assert yourself, and you’ll quickly earn respect and a new partnership.

Blair Thomas, First American Merchant

8. Identify the Ideal Candidates

Find out what type of business would work well with yours in terms of skills and resources as well as value alignment. Additionally, do the research to see if these ideal candidates have ever done partnerships to see what went right or wrong in the past. This can help narrow the list of established businesses to approach and save a lot of time and effort.

Cynthia Johnson, Ipseity Media

9. Have the Right Attitude

Too many people reach out with a “Here’s what I’d like you to do for me” attitude. If you’re a new business seeking to partner or collaborate, your tone should always be “Here’s what I can do for you.” Have a specific idea in place and present it in a way that benefits the person you’re reaching out to.

Leila Lewis, Be Inspired PR

10. Offer a Very Concrete Benefit

Unless you have a specific number of clients, services or increased visibility to a niche audience that you can offer, it’s not worthwhile for a big business to spend time in partnership discussions with you. Identify a specific gap that would be difficult or expensive for them to execute on in-house and explain how you can provide value in a way that they may not be able or willing to.

Roger Lee, Captain401

11. Start Casual

Always start with a casual coffee meeting to develop a more personal relationship with the established business. Once you are able to connect with them outside of business, it will make them more willing to work with you on upcoming partnerships and projects that are mutually beneficial.

Bryanne Lawless, BLND Public Relations

Are You Making Enough Connections with Your Business?

There you have it, some of the best expert tips from successful entrepreneurs and business owners who have actually gone through the process of making that initial ask, and helped launch further success and opportunities for their companies. If you enjoyed this expert round up, I recommend you also take a look at our previous ones on expert SEO tips and best tips for making money online.

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