About a million years ago, I was a Psychology major at Western Illinois University.  I’ve long been fascinated by the way the human mind works.  In fact, I take every possible opportunity to continue to study it today.  Maybe that’s why I’m so adamant about my position on today’s blog topic.

Chamber and Association pros ask me questions every day.  They want help with their marketing or in developing their staff.  They wonder about tiered dues versus “Fair Share” dues structures.  I get questioned about how to handle specific issues with Board members.  You NAME it!  But the one question that has seemed to pop up with more regularity recently has been the question of “QUESTIONS”.  More specifically, I’ve been asked “What are the best questions to ask my members during a retention call?” a LOT lately.  When the issue comes up, I’ve typically rattled off any number of responses that certainly answer the query, but I’ve decided that there’s a BETTER way to answer; by tackling the exact opposite question.

Rather than tell you what to SAY, I’m going to suggest the one thing you should absolutely NOT say to a member.  EVER!  Seriously…don’t do it.  Really.

The question?  What can the Chamber do for you?”

Seems an innocent enough question, right?  But let’s take a look at why you should retire it for good.

Your members don’t know what the Chamber DOES…they can’t possible know how to answer the question.  I can prove it.  When you’ve asked the question in the past, or any version of it, what’s the overwhelming answer you hear?  I bet it’s something like “I need help growing my business” or “Bring me more traffic” or “Help me market”, right?  So what do we do?  We offer up tons of help in marketing and traffic-building and bring in speakers to talk about business development and nobody shows up!  That’s because you’ve given them a multiple choice question but no multiple choices with which to answer it.  If I don’t know what you DO, I can’t possibly ask you for help…at least not in a way that I’ll actually accept the assistance.

Let’s jump back to human psychology for a moment.  We FEAR being WRONG more than we CRAVE being RIGHT!  So, rather than tell you they don’t understand or don’t truly know how you CAN help, they resort back to the most common-sense thing they can think of…the one thing you always TELL THEM you do even if they have no intention of taking you up on it.  Networking events and training. Marketing and branding opportunities.    Make the phone, the cash register and the doorbell ring.  Unrealistic expectations, right?  But that’s what most of us are promising, and then we wonder why our retention rates are so low amongst first year members.

I can’t tell you how DESPERATELY I want this next sentence to include the question I really WANT you to use, but maybe you can already guess.  Perhaps you’ve heard me say it 100 times before.  Maybe…just maybe…I’ll write a blog post about THAT one day soon.  But for now, I’d like to hear from YOU!  What question will you use to replace “What can the Chamber for you” in YOUR arsenal?