I have been told that the skills of a fundraiser equate to sales. Having spent over 13 years in the world of fundraising and moving into a sales role, I believe that statement is true – if you are in the business of relationship building. Cultivating relationships and establishing an emotional connection is important when asking donors for money. This same connection can be established when assessing a clients’ needs and/or pain points and providing a sound solution. The reality is, what you are selling has probably been sold before (unless you are the next Steve Jobs) so it is not about what you sell, but how you sell.
Six Key Tips to Relationship Selling (learned by a fundraiser):
- Capture the Right Prospect: Identify and focus on your target markets and ideal clients (don’t chase the sale, chase the partnership). A great place to start is to ask your current clients for referrals. In addition, utilize your current networks to develop a list of prospects and categorize based on hot, warm and cold.
- Hot: You have a personal connection to someone in the company that can introduce you to the decision maker or you know the decision maker personally.
- Warm: An outside contact that is connected to a company/prospect that you are targeting and can make a general introduction.
- Cold: 2-3 degrees of separation from an introduction (thank you LinkedIn).
- Research: Build your own prospect/client montage by collecting information on them before, during and after your first interaction (documentation about someone’s birthday, trip, etc., could prove to be a great reason to re-connect if not break the ice). To start, embrace the joys of social media. Access prospect/company information, connections, alumni affiliations, professional networks, etc.
Start building your montage by answering the questions below (feel free to expand on these):
- Where are they from?
- Number of years in the community?
- What school did they go to?
- Married or single? Kids?
- Number of years with the company
- Past employers
- Are they affiliated with any nonprofit or business organizations
- Do they sit on any Boards?
- Find a Common Ground (in the first 5 minutes): Take your findings and make an attempt to find a common ground – personally or professionally. People like to talk about themselves and what they do and tend to appreciate your interest, if timing is managed properly. This makes people feel comfortable and more open to sharing information.
- Listen: Listen without an agenda. Focus on these 5 letters WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) and remember that when “selling” this is exactly what the person on the phone or across the table is thinking. It is not your stage it is theirs, let them shine. If you are excited about the work that you do and the services you are selling, it does not mean you should steal the spotlight. Talking about why your company, products and services are “the best” does not relate back to the prospect’s needs nor does it showcase your value proposition. It just means that you lost their interest.
- Educate: Your role is to clearly articulate how your services and solutions will address a prospects’ needs. Educate them so they can make their own decisions. Prospects in need of your services crave information that is communicated back to them in an understandable manner. Come to the table with new ideas and solutions. This builds trust which makes the next conversation that much easier. From the first interaction throughout the duration of the partnership, empower them with your knowledge. A loyal client is an educated client.
- Respect their Time. Period.