One of the biggest challenges nonprofit cause professionals face is new partner acquisition. Dare I use the dreaded “S” word? Sales seems to be a dirty word in the nonprofit professional’s vocabulary but it doesn’t have to feel that way! In this series of blog posts, I will share a few tricks of the trade I’ve learned in my 20+ years selling partnerships in the cause arena.
EFFECTIVE PROSPECTING; IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT WHAT YOU’RE SELLING. IT’S ABOUT WHOM YOU’RE SELLING
David Dunlop, the Senior Development Officer with Cornell University who developed the concept of moves management, described the concept as “changing people’s attitudes so they want to give.” While most nonprofits apply this theory to major gifts fundraising, it can be successfully applied to cause alliances too. But there’s a twist when applying this to the cause segment – you have to know whom you are selling from a business perspective as well as a personal perspective. Once you know more about your prospect, you will be better equipped to motivate them to want to partner with you – just like Mr. Dunlop teaches. Here are a few tips to help you with cause alliances moves management.
The first step in effective prospecting is research. You need to conduct business due diligence as well as research the individual you are pursuing. On the business side, you will obviously research the company website to learn about their brand and products. What jumps out as a priority in their marketing language? Who are they targeting? Also pay particular attention to “About” pages. Most companies will showcase their Corporate Responsibility philosophies, policies and partners. Review their Press Center to learn what their latest initiatives include. Last, but not least, conduct similar research on their competitors so that you can understand their segment better. In addition to understanding your prospects’ potential competitive challenges, this will help you expand your prospect list too as you learn more about other players in the industry segment.
From a personal research perspective, be sure to check the Linked In profiles of those you are pursuing. Look for a personal point of synergy to help break the ice. Perhaps you will find that the individual previously worked at one of your sponsoring companies. Check the Linked In function to see whom you know in common. Did you, or anyone you know, attend their Alma Mater? Beyond Linked In research, Google their name to see if it leads you to any articles they’ve been featured in or perhaps written, workshops they’ve taught, etc.
OPEN ENDED QUESTIONS
The other key to successful prospecting is asking effective, open-ended questions. This will uncover information that you can’t find through advance research. Here are five of my favorites to get your creative juices flowing:
- Can you tell me more about your role with the organization?
- What is your planning and budget cycle?
- What are some of the biggest challenges you are facing this year?
- Has your company participated in cause partnerships previously? (NOTE: If your research uncovered current partnerships, then ask more information about that particular partnership).
What worked well or not so well?
- What efforts do you make to engage your employees in cause and/or community
BONUS: The age-old best open-ended question: What else should I have asked you that I didn’t?
In summary, the more you know about your prospect, the more you will know which hot buttons to push and what features and benefits to promote so that the company will want to partner with you. Or, to borrow from the Moves Management philosophy, you will figure out what will motivate your prospect to want to partner.
In upcoming installments of Secrets to Cause Selling Success, we will cover important topics such as:
SECRET 2: TENACITY
Fear of rejection consistently ranks in top 10 lists of human fears. And, I suspect this fear is a major culprit in blocking cause sales success. In upcoming post #2, I’ll share tips for bolstering your sales outreach plan (and courage!).
SECRET 3: CLOSING
The number one reason a sales person fails is that they don’t ask for the business. In upcoming post #3 of this Trade Secret Series, I’ll share effective closing techniques to help you clinch the sale.
If you need more direct assistance, For Momentum offers a variety of sales support services from Sales Readiness to Pipeline Development and Outreach Support. We’d love to help you solve your sales challenges! You can email me at MollyeRhea@Formomentum.com.