Key Tips and How-Tos

Be Strategic in Your Approach

Set Up an Exploratory Meeting with the Appropriate Contact(s)

 Prepare for Your Visit

Conduct Exploratory Meeting Using a 4-Step Approach

Conduct Post-Meeting Follow-up


Be Strategic in Your Approach


  • Review your research about potential system partners, and confirm which prospects appear to have the greatest potential.

  • See:
    Chapter 1-2 Identifying Potential System Partners
    Community Assessment tool
    How to Research Potential Partners tip sheet

  • Focus on a few large potential system partners with multiple delivery points rather than many smaller organizations.

  • Determine your marketing strategy:

    • The best approach is a personal one, working directly with an appropriate contact at the potential partnering agency. Use a recruiter who can relate well to the contact such as a volunteer who is affiliated in some way with the agency. AF program staff will also find it helpful to team up with an AF development staff person when approaching large worksites or other corporate agencies.

    • Click here to see how the AF Indiana and New York chapters used a personal approach to build relationships with managed care organizations.

    • In some cases you might choose a broader marketing effort like sending a marketing brochure or flyer to all of the fitness health club chains in your area with contact information.

    Partner Recruitment Brochure
    Steps to Partnering with the AF flyer




Set Up an Exploratory Meeting with the Appropriate Contact(s)


  • After deciding which potential partner to approach, schedule an in-person meeting. Determine who to contact. Whenever possible, rely on people you know to help facilitate the contact.


  • Ideally, you will meet with the agency decision-maker(s). Your first contact though may be with a gatekeeper whose job it is to screen calls like yours, or with a champion who can get you a foot in the door.

  • See: How to Interact with Gatekeepers tip sheet


  • When making your initial contact, remember these telephone tips:

    • Be conversational
    • Speak with confidence
    • Be passionate
    • See Sample Telephone Call Format below


    Sample Telephone Call Format

    Use this format to help structure your telephone call to set up an initial meeting with a potential partner:
    1. Greetings
    Good afternoon. I am calling for Ms. Agency Decision-maker.

    2. Introduction
    The Arthritis Foundation/ the X state health department would like the opportunity to work with you. I got your name from (mutual contact).

    3. Gratitude
    I appreciate your giving me a moment of your time. I promise to be brief.

    4. Purpose
    We're eager to learn more about your agency, as well as inform you about some potential opportunities that we might be able to offer you and your (employees, members, clients, etc.). [Give example—We believe we can show you how to improve your members’ health status and reduce your costs, while enhancing your visibility in the community.] Are you interested?

    5. Appointment
    I would like 20 minutes of your time. Would Wednesday morning at 10:30 a.m. be good for you or is next Tuesday at 3:45 p.m. better?

    6. Thank you (by phone)
    Thank you. I’ll see you (day and time) in your office.

    7. Thank you (by email or letter)
    Immediately send a confirmation email or thank-you note and confirm the details of your appointment.




Prepare for Your Visit






  • Think of everything that the potential partner might want to know and anticipate possible barriers and objections.

    How to Handle Objections tip sheet




Conduct Exploratory Meeting Using a 4-Step Approach


  • Your goals for this meeting are to:


    • Get in the door
    • Clarify the potential partner’s interests
    • Fnd a common ground
    • Position the AF programs as a solution to their needs
    • Invite them to work with you
    • Get a commitment to work on a collaboration to deliver the AF programs.
  • To accomplish these goals, it’s helpful to follow a structured four-step approach: 
      Step 1). Open—Lower their resistance
      Step 2). Investigate—Ask questions to learn about needs
      Step 3). Provide a Solution—Demonstrate how the AF programs can address their needs
      Step 4). Close—Make the ask and obtain a commitment on next steps

  • See:
    Meeting with a Potential Partner tip sheet to learn more about this four-step approach
    Recruiting System Partners PowerPoint presentation for sample talking points and outcomes data.  As appropriate for your meeting setting, you can use the PowerPoint as a presentation and/or as a reference handout


Step 1 Tips

  • Use good communication skills:

    • Listen.
    • Be professional.
    • Find the common denominator.


Step 2 Tips

  • Focus on your potential partner’s needs.
  • Ask open-ended questions.
  • Point out the areas of shared interest and explain how they relate to the AF programs.


Step 3 Tips

  • Describe successful experiences with similar types of organizations. For example, the AF New York Chapter used its success working with Group Health Inc. to further its partnership with the HIP Health Plan.

    To learn more about the New York experience, click here

  • Realize that the benefits of a partnership must outweigh the costs. Assess the needs of the potential partner, and determine how the AF programs will help achieve their objectives.  Be prepared to define the value of the partnership exchange—what's in it for the potential partner.

  • Discuss your expectations, provide options and determine how much of a commitment the prospect can make.

  • Tailor your pitches to different partners.

    See the Selling Points to Potential Partners reference sheet

  • Handle objections as they arise. Meet nos or maybes head-on by continuing to ask questions and negotiating until you come to some type of agreement.

    See the How to Handle Objections tip sheet


Step 4 Tips

  • Develop a plan of action before leaving the meeting:

    • Identify the next steps.

    • Ask: “When is a good time to follow up?

    • Leave materials that provide more details such as information on the programs, program benefits and evaluation outcomes and partnership expectations.

    See: the Leave-Behind Materials Checklist




Conduct Post-Meeting Follow-up

  • Send a thank you letter and any requested information immediately.
  • Develop a specialized proposal based on the meeting.
  • Make sure you MAIL your proposal within five business days.
  • Call within five days of mailing to follow-up.
  • See other tips below.


Follow-up Tips

  • Be proactive in your follow-up but do not suffocate the potential partner in the process.
  • Follow up to show interest, to differentiate yourself and to keep the momentum going.
  • Follow up when you say you will.
  • Schedule reminders on your calendar to help you remember your follow-up promises and plans
  • Keep others in your office updated about the status of the relationship to coordinate efforts and prevent duplication.
  • Follow up quickly when the prospect says yes. Know the implementation steps and get to work immediately.






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