Now that the foundation for a successful sales department is in place, it is time to execute the vision.
Your sales team should learn, love and master the basic sales process of prospecting, overcoming objections, closing sales, and delighting customers after the sale is made, said Cris Frankel, director of sales at Naylor Association Solutions. Building a process in every area of your sales department allows you to easily duplicate it at scale.
Educate your sales team about what they’ll be selling and about your association’s values, said David Freeman, group publisher at Naylor.
“Your sales team, whether they’re in-house or outsourced, is going to be an extension of your association,” Freeman said. “During the sales cycle, your sales team might have more one-on-one communication with members than the association, so make sure they thoroughly understand your association’s values, communication expectations, and standards for communication.”
To have success in a sales cycle, you need to provide your team with information about the needs and motivations of the different audience segments they’ll be contacting and how your association’s product benefits that specific audience segment. During the sales cycle, follow up with your team to see how they are using the info and tools you gave them, and how it’s going over with prospects.
If you gain new information for your sales team to deliver to potential clients, don’t hesitate to use it, Freeman said. New information might be an update about an upcoming trade show that will be relevant to information that business members currently seek or advocacy news from the association that affects an advertiser’s category.
“For example, while working to sell in some healthcare media during the last Ebola outbreak, we targeted infection control companies for advertisements in our hospital publications,” Freeman said. “Those were the types of companies that would really want to be in front of the hospitals that were trying to contain the outbreak.”
Your department will benefit from sales leaders who oversee certain groups of sales representatives, Frankel said. The right leader is the one who knows the business inside and out and knows how to coach the team for success.
Frankel recommends setting appropriate quotas for your salespeople – one that is realistic and another that is a stretch goal.
Combining all of these factors makes for a winning sales team. Frankel believes that the bottom line of his job as a coach is to make everyone on his team feel special and like it’s not only possible, but inevitable, for them to win.
If you choose to outsource sales to an outsource partner, Freeman advises asking them these key questions:
- Do the company’s capabilities match your association’s financial and communication goals now and five years in the future?
- Can an outsourced sales partner help you achieve those goals sooner rather than later?
- Do they know what your member engagement goals are?
- Do they understand how your members use your communications?
- Will your outsource partner help you establish a feedback loop for members, advertisers, and other potential stakeholders that leads to real change?
- Do both parties understand how the outsource partner will support your communications, events, administrative duties, or other tasks? In other words, does everyone know their roles and responsibilities?
Engagement is going to be a huge predictor of how likely a member is to renew their association membership and associations are always trying to increase member engagement, Freeman said. So, you should also ask what the outsource partner can do to help increase member engagement through the event, publication, software, or whatever product you work on with them.
The decision to start and build a sales department is both stressful and exciting. While it may seem overwhelming to take these first steps, Naylor Association Solutions is comprised of leaders like Frankel and Freeman who want to be there to share their knowledge and help your association reach its goals every step of the way.
Whether you choose to start a sales department in your association on your own, or through an outsource partner like Naylor, the reward is sure to pay off in the end.
- A Q&A about the recommended ratios for new versus renewal advertisement sales in association publications.
- How to test out new marketing tools
- Implementing an annual performance benchmarking plan