Mail does not always arrive and kits often get misplaced. E-mails also go astray. Therefore all information kits issued should be followed up with a telephone call to ensure they arrived and to find out if the prospect requires further information within a week of being sent. The details of the conversation should be recorded and another call scheduled. The prospect should be communicated with until they have joined or indicated that they will not be joining, in which case they will be put in your prospect relationship management process.
Cold calling prospective members
With good lead generation in place you should be making fewer “cold” calls and more “warm” calls into your prospect pool. When making any call it is important to appreciate that while you are ready to sell, many of these people may not yet be ready to buy. This is where a good understanding of your pipeline can assist you in turning a cold call into the start of a beautiful, long term relationship.
It is advisable to have prepared a script and also rehearsed how you respond to objections. During the call avoid reading verbatim from the script as that can turn off prospective members. Instead use it as a guide and ensure you follow good telephone etiquette – be informed, don’t interrupt, keep background noise to a minimum, end the call at an appropriate time, speak and enunciate clearly, and be polite. If you are calling as the result of a referral mention that fact early on in the call.
Look for the obvious targets
Sometimes there are opportunities waiting for you to find them. People who are not members but actively attend association events should be targeted with direct mail campaigns. An effective tactic is to send a simple letter bringing to their attention how much they could have saved to date if they were members and asking if they would like to join to start saving now.
Build trust with prospective members
Experts who can identify your prospects’ challenges and provide an expert solution
Dependable and will always do what you say you will do
Open and honest
Concerned about the prospects’ interests as much as your own
Likeable and are someone the prospect wants to deal with
Create urgency to join
Your marketing and sales materials need to have a call to action. This is more effective if there is some element of urgency to join. While discounting is one option it would be worth considering other options first. A free gift or extra month on the duration of their membership may be both cheaper than a discount and more appealing.
Avoid “information vomit”
Some salespeople simply spill the entire scope of their knowledge about membership to the prospect. As many associations have an extremely wide scope of services there is a good chance the prospect isn’t interested in them all. It will be one or two services that will actually encourage them to join. When faced with everything the decision to join simply becomes too hard.
Do a bit extra
If you have a high value, hot prospect then invite them to a networking event free of charge. At the event be sure they receive special attention – especially from board members or executives who may be present. Ensure they are subtly identified (eg: through a mark on their badge).
Have an A4 page with information about each segment, their main challenges, preferred services and other information that will enable you to deal effectively with the call.
Focus on hot issues
If there is a “hot issue” in your industry that you are actively working on, you should target affected prospects for membership. People are more likely to join when there is an issue close to their hearts on the agenda.
Make it easy for people to pay you
As many different payment types as possible should be made available via as many different channels as possible. People should be able to pay online, telephone, fax, post or in person. Payment methods should include: cash, cheque, Paypal, American Express, Diners Club, Visa, MasterCard, BPay, and direct debit. Ensure that all your collateral including membership application forms, conference registration forms, etc. advertise these channels. This makes you appear open and approachable. If you fail to utilise an available channel then you risk alienating those members who feel most comfortable with that channel.
Use testimonials – in all forms!
Use testimonials and include names and photos where possible. Don’t restrict yourself just to active members. Get quotes from your board and committee members, members who resigned and then rejoined, members who aren’t very active but still enjoy being members, and happy ex-members. Try video testimonials on your website or at events.
Learn how to deal with objections
A skilled salesperson rarely receives objections as they have learnt to anticipate and deal with objections before they have even been realised in the head of the prospect. Generally, when you encounter an objection early in the sales call it is because you have started offering solutions before finding out what their problems are.
For example, if the objection is regarding the cost of membership then this is generally because the salesperson hasn’t effectively communicated the value of membership to the prospect. This is a signal to further investigate the value of the membership with the prospect – if the key benefit of your membership is professional development then discuss with your prospect the value of that professional development in terms of their own career goals and aspirations.
Use the "three questions" approach
You are better off guiding the conversation to the most appropriate service through a careful choice of questions. Consider the following example:
Person 1: Good morning, XYZ Association, Mark speaking.
Person 2: I’m thinking about joining and was after some information about membership.
Person 1: I can help you with that. First, can I ask you a few questions so we can determine what services are going to be most relevant for you?
Person 2: Sure.
Person 1: Thank you. First of all, what industry are you in?
Person 2: I own my own practice. We have about four physios on staff.
Person 1: Thanks. Generally people who own their own practice seem to be most interested in the discounts on things like merchant facilities, the ability to network with others in the same situation or the lobbying that we do. Can I ask which of those interests you the most?
Person 2: I’d say I’m most interested in the networking.
Person 1: OK. Why is that?
Person 2: Because I’ve really been thrown in the deep end here. I’ve only had my own practice for a year and we’ve grown really fast. I’d really like the opportunity to meet others and find out how they deal with it all. I was hoping you might be able to help me with that.
Person 1: We certainly can. In fact we have a lunch for our special interest group in that area just next week. Did you want to book in?
Person 2: How much is it?
Person 1: As a member it would be $49. As a non-member it is $69. If you are interested in joining anyway you could do both now and save yourself the difference. If that sounds like what you're after, should we go ahead and organise your membership?
Person 2: Sure.
Person 1: OK, based on all the information you’ve given me your membership fee would be $583. Did you want to join up now and book for that lunch? You can pay by credit card over the phone.
Person 2: We generally pay via cheque.
Person 1: Not a problem. I can send you an invoice. Would you prefer that sent by fax, post or email?
Person 2: Post is OK.
Person 2: Fantastic. If I can just get a couple of details from you we’ll get you booked in to this lunch and your membership activated…
Had he not been interested in going ahead with the membership you would have gone back to the list of three things and addressed the next one he was most interested in.
Closing the sale - Ask for the sale
A sale is generally a series of small commitments. Commitments are represented by the way the prospect moves through the pipeline - approval to receive information, to meet with you, to attend a seminar are all vital steps in the process. Therefore when all other aspects of the sales process have been effectively carried out the close should be a non-event. Directly ask them to join. Many sales have been lost simply because the salesperson was too afraid to ask.
Try to avoid "forced closes". These are the “trick” closes so often promoted by hard sell proponents. These closes cause untold long term damage and should be avoided.
However you can employ techniques such as giving them two choices (eg: pay by the month or the total amount) instead of asking if they will join.
Watch for "close" signals
Keep alert for signals that the prospect is ready to purchase. Comments you may hear include “I like what you’ve said”, “That price is lower than I expected”, or “I didn’t realise we could join that quickly”. On hearing those questions you can use open ended questions to find out if the prospect is ready to make a decision.
Provide information about previous success stories
Is a prospecti is raising common objections consider providing information about previous success stories. You may even give them the opportunity to have a chat with a satisfied member in the same situation as the prospect. This can be extremely effective.
Send an invoice – not an application form
Should the member decide to join during your conversation it is important to create the perception with the prospective member that they have already joined (even if something like your approval process means that they haven't). Otherwise, if you just send an application form they may reconsider their intention to join.
Therefore, if someone agrees to join over the phone then sign them up right away. They will never be as interested to join as they are at that moment. Take their credit card details, sign them up and send a new member kit. If they don't have credit card facilities then send them an invoice. This is particularly important as the more quickly you can engage a new member the more likely they are to renew. Delays caused by waiting on approvals can affect your acquisition rate. If your association has an approval process then investigating setting up a provisional membership that enables someone to join pending approval. If approval is not given, they get a refund and the membership is cancelled.