I feel a little dirty. It’s been quite some time since I worked in a corporate sales environment, and, in preparation for writing this post, I wanted to see what sort of sales tips were being promoted and discussed online these days. YIKES! While I did find some really relevant articles with up-to-date tips on selling the way I teach it with my coaching clients today, I also found a large number of posts teaching people some of the old school stuff that needs to be taken out behind the barn and put down for good. As a regular reader of this blog, you probably already know that we aren’t afraid to butcher a few of those “sacred cows” when it’s time…and it’s DEFINITELY time to clean up our membership sales process! Ready to debunk some myths and learn something new? Let’s jump right in!
MYTH #1: Sales is a NUMBERS GAME! You’ve probably heard it a hundred times…if your sales volume is down, you better make more calls. You need to visit more people. You need to work harder. But sales is not now, nor has it EVER been, a numbers game. Sales always has been and always will be a RELATIONSHIP game first and foremost. Now…if you are really good at building solid relationships, then it might become about how many you can build, but we must stop looking at activity as the “be all, end all” indicator of sales success. I would much rather hire a Membership Director who can establish great relationships than one who’s willing to go to every event in town to meet new people. Quality of relationships over quantity EVERY TIME!
MYTH #2: Always Be Closing (ABC)! The biggest problem with ABC is that, in this new age of digital communications and social media, the younger generations have caught on to the tricks and traps we were taught coming up. Try “assuming the sale” or drop a “feel, felt, found” on a young prospect today and see where it gets you. They’re not falling for the “alternate choice” close or the “Ben Franklin” close any more, and if you even THINK about the “impending event” or “take away” closes, they’ll get downright angry with you for being a typical sleazy salesperson. (For those of you who may be fortunate enough not to know these outdated tactics, I offer you a few horror stories in this 9 part series from the HVAC industry!) Instead of using ABC on X, Y and Z, I suggest a much more effective approach I’ll outline next.
I’m sure we could spend hours coming up with a list of what NOT to do when faced with a new sales opportunity, but let’s do a 180 and focus on the positive. Want to learn the secrets I share with my virtual consulting clients when it comes to selling memberships? It’s easy…
Forget “Chamber Show & Tell”…show up with nothing but a pad of paper, a pen and some questions ready to go. When you arrive, forget those old “bonding and rapport” tactics like commenting on pictures you see on their desk. Instead, thank them for their time and ask them questions about their business. It’s not time for you to talk, but to get them talking. You want to learn as much as you can about their business so that you can refer them and so that you can talk intelligently about them. This isn’t the time to tell them all about the wonderful networking and marketing opportunities afforded to members of your organization. Right now, your ONLY mission is to find out what keeps them up at night. Once you learn where the pain is, dig deeper and find out if it’s a problem worth solving…or worth spending money on to solve. If you can get to that point, the meeting is over. Explain to them that you don’t know if you can solve the issues they’ve raised, but that you’d like the opportunity to meet with them again later in the week if you CAN find a solution that you believe would fit their needs. If you can get them to agree to that, you’re done! Head on back to the office and put together a unique proposal for them that outlines their pain and your solution to relieve them of it.
In the long run, there are really only two approaches to sales. The first approach says “Sales is a numbers game. If I throw enough meetings on the calendar, someone’s eventually going to buy one of these membership packages no matter what I say.” The other approach says “I have to build relationships, and that means I have to find problems and help people find solutions.” Which method do you think will lead to longer-term members and easier renewals? It really isn’t difficult. Prove that you are a problem-solver instead of a package peddler, and you and your Chamber or Association will be set up for long term success!