Precarious Assumptions in Association Sales



“Dangerous Assumptions” was a hot topic during a recent morning meeting with my staff.  We often make precarious “assumptions” in the membership and sponsorship sales game. Here are a few:
#1 Just because you have a relationship with a potential prospect, doesn’t mean the deal is a slam dunk.  We hear this a lot in the association space – the “of course they’ll buy” attitude based on an established relationship with a prospect.  It’s bull. I’ve been in a few membership strategy meetings, and had the experience in which someone will say, “Oh, I know Frank at ABC Association – that’s a slam dunk.”
Heck, I have great relationships with tons of people in the association space, who haven’t engaged The Moery Company as a client. It’s not that we don’t have a great relationship – we do. The fact they aren’t a client is not their fault.  It’s mine because I have yet to effectively convey the value of our services. Relationships are nice to have, but these won’t ensure your deal will happen.
#2 The “ought-to-be” member or sponsor. I love this one. I’ve heard this throughout my career and even now in the membership/sponsorship area. Just because the board, the membership committee, or the leadership think a company “ought to be” a member or ought to be a sponsor – doesn’t mean they will be.
“Hey, we’ve got this great sponsorship program – Huge company XXX ought to be a sponsor!” Really? What can you do for the prospective sponsor to really move the needle for them? Just because leaders and the board of directors think someone ought to be a sponsor, doesn’t mean there is any realistic alignment.  What is your association’s solution for their business development goals? Be ready to articulate your answers before you go on a wild goose chase not based on reality.
#3 “They’ve been a sponsor for years, so it’s an easy renewal.” Our sales data tells us it takes more sales contacts (i.e. work) to renew a sponsor; then to sign a new one. The dynamic is counter-intuitive, but there are often more factors we need to overcome and demands to address with recurring sponsors.
The take-away here: don’t make assumptions about your sales game – ever. The successful sale is still about your value proposition, problem-solving, and helping these folks achieve their business objectives.  The assumptive narrative is a dangerous one, don’t take the bait.


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