Stop for a minute to consider the terminology we use when we talk about Sales. Pain Points. Powerful Persuasion. Campaigns. Leverage. Control. Commissions.
And when our minds are focussed on these concepts, do you think the people on the other end of the ‘sales conversation’ get the feeling they are being ‘sold’? Yep. You bet they do.
Ever wonder why people are working to wrap up the ‘convo’ with words like, “OK, hey thanks for the info, appreciate that, let me give this some more thought, and get back to you.” ? They are feeling stressed, and want to get their bearings. Sales is about Tension. Creating Uncertainty. Not pleasant. And, ask Tony Robbins, what do people want? Pain or Pleasure? Exactly.
Membership Organizations definitely need Members to survive. But the truth is, people need Membership to engage, to explore, to experience valuable services and opportunities for personal and professional growth.
Our job, as Membership Organizations, is to offer these opportunities that help people, as Members, fulfill their potential.
“The purpose of a business is to create a customer” (Peter Drucker)
Note that Peter Drucker did not say ‘sell’ a customer. He said, ‘create’ a customer.
How do you ‘create a customer’? Well, if you’re a membership organization, you create a series of programs and opportunities that are specifically relevant to the people you want to serve. And then you ‘offer’ those programs and opportunities effectively, through a marketing approach that targets your service audience, and reaches them, with convincing content, that engages and excites them, about just how much better they could be with you, rather than without you.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I have worked with some exceptional salespeople. The act and art of persuasion is a wonderful thing. And some people are simply exceptional at using their charisma, and presence, and product knowledge, to make sales. But, as Membership Organizations we have to decide if we are first and foremost about ‘Sales’ or about ‘Service’ as in serving a need, fulfilling a mandate, delivering on a mission.
A time to Review and Renew
The pandemic has forced all of us to take a step back. To reconsider what’s important. Many are changing jobs to find new opportunities that are a more natural, a more authentic, ‘fit’, with how they see their lives (writ large) unfolding.
As membership organizations, we need to do the same. Evaluate, or reevaluate, our programs and services, the opportunities we are creating, or not, for the people we want to serve. Then, we need to adjust accordingly.
To do that, we need to, first of all, reach out to, not only our existing members, but non-members, and ask them, what they need to succeed.
And, what they don’t need.
Most importantly, from the point of view of membership development, we need to reach out to these audiences, and invite them to share their needs with us, and, in the process, begin a new conversation – a conversation based on service, and support, of shared goals and desired, pleasant experiences.
Listen First, to Understand
In these conversations, we need to emphasize our mandate is not to sell a product, but to serve a member. We can only do that, if we understand what, exactly, those needs are.
Then, we need to consolidate, and customize our programs and services to address those needs, mindful of our goal – to develop membership.
That is to say, we are not trying to give stuff away for free. We are trying to develop Membership. Paying Memberships.
An Honest Self-Assessment
This is where we need to take a critical view of what we are currently offering, and how that service or program, specifically helps us ‘create a customer’.
We may find, if we are honest with ourselves, that Governance, while important, does not create a customer. That Advocacy, while important, does not create a customer. That Research, as insightful as it may be, does not create a customer.
That Programs and Services, accessible through Membership, exclusively, create Customers.
Equipped with this array of focussed programming and service-solutions, we can then ‘market’ or offer same, to an interested group of people most likely to be engaged by the prospect of accessing valuable and exclusive opportunities to grow.
Search for Authenticity in Relationships
No organization grows without outreach, marketing, engagement, but as people change, certainly in the wake of stressful experiences, they revert to more authentic preferences for relationship-building, based on service, rather than sales.
We need to develop, not disturb, people, to drive out the notions of fear and coercion, not only from our company practices, but from the way in which we interact with our publics, most importantly how we determine to go about recruiting and sustaining membership.
It is time, I believe, for Membership Organizations, to start positioning themselves, and re-positioning themselves, as mandated to serve, through a combination of great Programming, Marketing and Support. And to offer a pleasant, positive, participatory experience of Service, based on potential, rather than the tension, pressure and pain, often associated with Sales.