How to Differentiate Yourself in Association Sales



Not a month goes by in which a very well-meaning and ambitious person calls me and asks, “Hey, I’d like to pick your brain about how you sell to associations.”
What I’ve learned over time is the necessity to truly differentiate yourself in the association market by following a unique and counter-intuitive approach in doing so.
Here’s my methodology:
First off, I facilitate discussions about association topics. I’m not saying you need to be an expert on associations; but, to get started – I’d recommend hosting an event like a luncheon or a webinar to learn about the association’s biggest problems. We’ve had incredible success inviting chief operating officers and membership people to come together and talk about topics that affect them. Again, this is not about me being an expert on associations; it’s actually about listening to what they have to say about the issues they face.
And, listen, listen, listen. Listen carefully to the content. Listen to their challenges.  Based on what you hear from them is the opportunity for you to mention – “Hey, we can help with that.” But, don’t.  Most importantly, you are learning about the pain points and what’s truly important to them.
Once you facilitate the discussion, circle back and tell them what you heard. You can address them directly in a follow-up note or a quick email to all the people who participated. Typically, I will also go live on Facebook to report on what associations are currently talking about.
Once you’ve gone through the process of facilitating discussions, listening, and recounting with your audience what you’ve heard from the discussions – you are now well positioned to offer observations and advice. And, then attack this methodology again and again and again and again!
Most of the people selling to associations won’t take the time to play long game and get to know the associations. What do they end up doing? Cold calling associations. And, they have no basis to do so. I don’t cold call anyone anymore. My focused engagement has enabled me to develop relationships – so, when I do reach out to pass along some intel – we have an established familiarity and something to talk about. My perspective is always put the market first.
Hey, if you want to sell more associations:

  1. Facilitate discussions
  2. Listen
  3. Tell them what you’ve heard
  4. Take the opportunity to share observations and advice
  5. Repeat!

You’ve got to work it.  Over time, you’ll become the person others recognize as the one in the know.  When you become that person – BINGO!


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