Updated Oct. 12, 2010
Five techniques for effective communications with external stakeholders
Establishing effective communications with potential licensees or prospective partners is a daunting task. Successfully getting someone’s attention, developing the business case for a constructive dialog, establishing the proper protocol for effective interactions, and engaging in a constructive dialogue can be complex and time-consuming.
My tips for effective communications with external stakeholders include the following techniques.
- Empathy. Conduct background research on your prospective licensee’s/partner’s business, including market strategy, financial condition, and recent news and events. This increases your chances of conducting successful meetings and negotiation sessions. Additionally, identifying what they need and why it’s important to them (as a result of this research) will help you develop multi-dimensional win-win-win agreements for strategic self-sustaining partnerships.
- Value Proposition: Assume that your target contacts are overworked and paralyzed from information and assignment overload and develop a succinct “elevator speech” on the value and benefits that your institution/intellectual property brings to them. If you can’t get them to see that what you have to offer will improve their situation (better, faster or cheaper are usually key need factors) then they will not be willing to engage. Make it easy for them to want to talk to you.
- Connection. Speak in the language of your potential licensee/partner, being sensitive to the use of acronyms and the vernacular of your office, industry, or institution. Be prepared to utilize multiple communication approaches that best fit the most appropriate communication style for your target audience so that your value message reaches them. Also, employ effective listening skills, which is often the most powerful proficiency that you can develop for effective communications.
- Investment. Results and the partner’s perception of your organization’s commitment to the project/deal are typically commensurate with investments of time and resources. Successful outcomes result from clearly defined deliverables, roles, and responsibilities while proactively managing expectations throughout the process, and this takes time to do well. If you are negotiating or facilitating a big deal, prioritize, plan, and invest your time proportionately. But if it is a smaller partnership, be upfront about the investment level with all stakeholders, and this will allow you to manage the relationship with integrity. In other words, do what you say you will and don’t agree to things that will not provide you the appropriate return on investment.
- Metrics. It is important to clearly define the appropriate criteria for success of the partnership. Ideally, the criteria should be objective, achievable and relatively easy to measure. Once defined and agreed upon by all parties, monitor, track, and proactively communicate the results to key stakeholders on a regular basis. By sharing information on successful or unsuccessful completion of the set goals (metrics), you can help keep the partnership on track or help identify necessary course corrections. The point is to use this information to help the partnership be successful as well as ensure future successes, either through lessons learned or as examples of why others should choose to partner with you too. For more about metrics, check out our paper “How’d We Do?: Establishing Useful Technology Transfer Metrics”.
Strong relationships are a function of trust through consistent communications with integrity. Fuentek’s experience has shown that effective communications is the foundation to executing licensing and other technology commercialization deals and developing new productive external relationships for your institution.
–By Jack Spain