Sales vs. Retention; which is more important to your organization? There are as many job descriptions for membership professionals as there are membership organizations. Not only that, I would bet money that any membership development professional reading this blog has had a “fluid” job description from the time they started the position. An Executive may have an awkward experience with a sales team member, and when the position suddenly becomes vacant, they decide that is an opportunity to change the body of work for that position. Or maybe sales goals aren’t being met so the sales structure gets redefined. Or the decision is made at budget time that a position needs to be added in order to see growth in the New Year. And on, and on, and on, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.
I believe that this pattern needs to end and that the focus should shift for better results. We know a few things about recruiting new members:

  • It takes time to on board them.
  • It takes time to educate them.
  • It takes time to get to know them.
  • It is more expensive to recruit new ones than to keep existing members returning.

I’m not suggesting that new sales should be eliminated, but that if the focus could shift to engagement and retention, the results could be significantly greater.


  • Existing members already have some “skin in the game”, they joined, they’ve paid, maybe they have participated on some level.
  • Existing members are aware of the organizations value on SOME level, giving us the opportunity to build on that knowledge and potentially increase engagement.
  • We have an established relationship with existing members and an introduction to strengthening that relationship and gain new insight into just how a membership in our organization would benefit THEM.

If we spend all our valuable time building prospect lists, doing drop by visits, and working to bring new members to the table only to have to write off almost the same number for non-renewal where’s the win? How about adding a position that was more of a “concierge” role? Think about what that person does for you when you are staying in a hotel:

  • Always on call and at your service
  • Quick to answer questions and help find solutions
  • Listens to individual needs and makes recommendations on products and services that could meet those needs
  • Provides guidance and direction on local resources
  • Facilitates connections

If we had someone devoted to this work, THEN we become a source for solutions and add VALUE for members at whatever level is meaningful. They would renew because they know us, like us and trust us AND maybe, just maybe, as satisfied customers they encourage their friends to get involved, because we are the best thing going!! Members would believe we actually ARE there to provide value and not just any value, but something important to them.
This “membership concierge” position could be more valuable to long-term sustainable growth than an active sales focused team. Growth that not only keeps them coming back, but also supports loyal, satisfied customers who testify to your value and, in telling their stories, bring new bodies to the table. So…we want to hear from you. What are YOU focused on? What will you be focused on moving forward?