Ask association staff members if they are good at sales, and you’ll most likely be told that sales is not their job. The reality, however, is that developing sales skills, and imbedding sales in the culture of the association, is critical for an association’s long-term success.
The first step to incorporating a sales mentality into each job within the association is to get rid of the perception of sales as something no one wants to do. Consultant Jan Spence explains that the perception of sales as sleazy or slimy arose during the time that sellers had all of the information and buyers were warned to beware. Today, information on every product or service available is easily found, so there is no imbalance of knowledge or power.
One of Spence’s blogs shares an example of how a small business can have all staff look for ways to offer services their clients may need but don’t know about, identify new services that can be developed, and be aware of which services offer the most value to the business and the client.
Association staff must also consider themselves in sales, whether they are recruiting new members, soliciting renewals, promoting an event, or suggesting an association service to a member with whom they talk. While some of these tasks are direct sales – memberships for example – many are not. “Selling” membership benefits should occur at every touchpoint with members. For example, does the member know you offer a job board, a group purchase plan, or a discount on multiple conference registrations? Training staff to listen carefully, then identify what other association services can benefit members, must be intentional.
“Training Your Staff to Better Sell Your Association’s Member Benefits” suggests three ways to make sure your staff understands what it means to sell and know how to do it effectively:
- Simplify your messaging Develop a clean, quick elevator pitch that highlights your top two or three member benefits. This ensures that staff have a consistent message and that they focus on the primary benefits.
- Make messaging part of onboarding process New hires should not only know the elevator pitch but should receive complete member benefits training in their onboarding process. A one-page fact sheet with the elevator pitch and list of benefits should be made available to new and existing staff.
- Offer refresher training
Member benefits change so it is important to offer regular refresher training to old and new employees to be sure they are all on the same page when talking to members or potential members.
Another idea is to develop a rewards and recognition program. While you may not set sales goals for all staff, recognizing an employee for taking the initiative to connect a member with the association’s discount purchasing program to save money or to the job board to find much-needed staff when it is not a normal part of the job, demonstrates support of a sales mentality throughout the association.