Industry and social entrepreneurs meet – some thoughts, social entrepreneurs part III

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Have you ever thought about how you as social entrepreneur should prepare when you meet business people in huge companies? Are there some specific issues you should be aware of?

I asked this several times to myself. Expectations management might be key for preparation when social entrepreneurs meet managers. But there is much more.

What should you tell? How to present? Whom to contact? Which are your key messages and last but not least what do you want to achieve?

Business people live in their own, partly also inside the company, different business worlds with a specific culture, language and goal setting. The company culture defines how people are connected, who talks to whom, how decisions are taken. The language at times is characterized by specific wordings, references to certain SOPs (standard operating procedures) and the functional driven terms which are defined by the expert knowledge and function-driven professional education. A marketer talks in a different way than a controller or HR colleague.

Often they are specialists in specific functions. Whether marketing, communications or IT people – they all want to achieve specific outcome and goals which have been defined based on the overall strategic planning. The bigger a company is, the more global a company acts, the much more difficult it becomes to oversee the single parts and functions and to know details of what other functions or locations do. ‘Inside networking’ often is limited to colleagues who somehow are connected to the own specific activities. Sure, there is a huge interest to know what others do, but the interest is often simply a question of time and resources.

So what, if you meet them and talk to them?
If your idea is good and convincing, the people in the room will be excited by your idea. When the meeting ends there will be also a huge willingness to support you and to work together somehow. But …
The huge administration and complexity does it not make easy to talk to the right people inside, to find someone who takes over the driving part for change and move ahead with a new way of thinking inside. Someone who feels responsible. And who brings your idea into the company at a broader level.

If you as social entrepreneur want business people in the meeting not just to know about your project, but really start a fruitful partnership, you should prepare some essential material which helps business people to spread your message and getting the right buy-in inside.

You have got a chance to meet a group of business people inside a company you’ d like to collaborate with and set up a win win for both parties?

Some tips you should consider:

1. Prepare yourself and find out more about the company. Some basic company facts and numbers will help you to show that you are really interested in them.
2. Do not just discuss on your own projects, but ask questions if and how they can imagine a potential partnership.
3. Make clear what is ‘in’ for them.
4. Be precise on your expectations – show where potentially there are possible ways of collaboration.
5. Be prepared to answer upcoming questions.
6. Prepare a brochure or a few slides which explain what you are doing. This will help them to share with others inside and to communicate within their networking structure.
7. Add pictures and best practice examples when you talk and show them also in your slides. The better you are understood, the better your idea will be remembered and convince others in internal discussions when you are not present.
8. Be aware that you “sell” and market yourself. Business people are used to good presentations. This does not mean that you have to do your presentation with the latest technology. But the material you show needs to be prepared well and should contain some facts, key messages, storytelling and vision.
9. And make it easy to find your contact details. 😉

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