It’s that time of year when many of us look back and reflect over the past twelve months and resolve to do a few things better in the coming year. Often times we set far-reaching goals such as exercise more and eat less, stay in touch with family and friends and work smarter. While I can’t help you with the first two goals, this post outlines four practical tips you can use to sharpen your sales and relationship-building skills!
1. Fish Where the Fish Are
Being actively involved in industry organizations is a great way to become (or stay) connected. Commit to participating in at least two professional organizations – not just your industry affiliation – it’s wise to choose one where your prospects will be represented. As director of development for a cultural institution in Atlanta, my team was responsible for raising several million dollars annually in unrestricted revenue. I always attended events, receptions, openings and business meetings where the corporate marketing folks were – rarely (if ever) did I spend valuable networking time solely with other fundraisers!
An added benefit of being active in industry associations is that many times your best prospects are subject matter experts who regularly speak at industry functions, panel discussions, conferences, etc. Buy a ticket, wait in line afterward to say hello and congratulate them. At this point, don’t push, just introduce yourself and begin to build a relationship. Another option is to become an expert yourself – if you choose wisely, you’ll likely find yourself on the same panel with some of your best prospects.
2. Get Your Foot in the Door
- With events and news from 41 different markets, a good place to start is The Business Journal.
- Another organization that offers national and local professional development and networking opportunities is the American Marketing Association.
- Targeted to our specific industry, the Cause Marketing Forum hosts an annual conference with a number of valuable networking opportunities.
One advantage to strategic, integrated cause marketing partnerships is that several corporate departments must be involved for true success. This opens up multiple opportunities for you to get your foot in the door and begin developing relationships with marketing, public relations, community affairs or human resources staff. You may find the corporate foundation culture more welcoming and receptive and a good place to start. You should also network with decision-makers at the national, regional, local levels or those individuals specifically charged with operational or franchise responsibilities.
3. Mission Match or Mission Impossible?
The right cause and the right corporation are essential ingredients for successful partnership growth. Be open to understanding the needs from both sides of the table and, rather than view opportunities one-dimensionally, look for the win-win. This can be a challenge so you may want to seek professional support from an agency like ours
which has extensive hands-on experience with both corporations and non-profit organizations.
4. One Last Double Check
Today we have access to an incredible amount of information. Always take an extra couple minutes before a meeting to scan the corporation’s website for relevant or sometimes, even, breaking news. Be sure to check out the news release section – if they’ve written a release, you can bet it’s important to management. You can learn about new product launches, personnel changes, and financial news, giving you a peek at some of their latest organizational priorities. Oh, and don’t forget to Google the person you are meeting with, you’re bound to learn something that could lead to a bonding moment. Honestly, there is absolutely no reason to not be over-prepared!
I hope these tips help get your cause marketing sales going and if you would like to share an idea that has helped you work smarter, we’d love to hear from you.
school of fish