In the sales world, there is such thing as an ‘assumptive close’. This is where a sales person ASSUMES the customer is ready to buy – So they skip past the close and work on the mechanics. For example, “Tell me when you would like to take receipt of your item and we can get started on the paperwork.”
In our social impact world, I’d like to repurpose TheAssumptive Close. I don’t think of this as a closing technique, instead, I think of it as an attitude and a mode of communication that helps you continue toward a closed commitment.
There are times when a prospect is CLEARLY ‘in’, but we haven’t yet confirmed the commitment. Perhaps you had a great visit and the prospect said, “I want to help – financially – give me some time to look at my other obligations…” If I were to coach you through this follow up strategy, I’d say, don’t think about HOW or IF you’re going to have a numbers conversation on the next visit. Instead, remember the prospect has already said, “I’m IN!!!!”
So, you can continue to move forward with this ASSUMPTION in the next conversation.
Too often, we see uncertainty and doubt creep in. I was with an Executive Director last week, and in this case, she was trying to figure out how to bring up the gift again. She had doubt about the commitment and – absent of a mental model – moved backward and started trying to figure out how to ask – again. Just thinking about this as an ‘Assumptive Close’ helped her frame the next conversation.
The predisposition (framing) for the next conversation was as simple as this: “I’m looking forward to getting together tomorrow and talking next steps. It’s great to know you’re ‘in’. We are so incredibly grateful for your support.”
You can ASSUME it will close and you can communicate with that belief in mind!
Here’s a topic that comes up often with some of our coaching clients – Especially when there is lack of role clarity around maximizing relationships!
A NATURAL PARTNER (N.P.) is a person (either inside or outside of your organization) who has a strong relationship with your organization and an existing relationship with the Qualified Prospect(Q.P.) – Or a reason to believe one can be established quickly!
Externally, Natural Partners can be on your Board, they can have a business relationship with the prospect, they can be members of the same club or organization or they can be fellow community leaders, etc.
Internally, the Natural Partner can be anyone from the President/Executive Director to top senior leadership, to a staff/programming person who has a great relationship with the prospect.
It’s important that you determine the difference between a RELATIONSHIP MANAGER (R.M.) and a NATURAL PARTNER.
The RELATIONSHIP MANAGER does not necessarily have to have an existing relationship with the prospect. Their job is to do exactly what it says – MANAGE THE RELATIONSHIP. The Relationship Manager is always a member of the ‘Green Team’ – I.e., directly responsible for maximizing relationships on behalf of the organization/impact. It is perfectly fine for multiple people within the organization to have a relationship with a Q.P. – as long as the Relationship Manager has been defined.
The NATURAL PARTNER can have an existing relationship, or the ability to create one immediately, but most importantly, they play and instrumental role in Team Selling. They can:
Help get the visit! Opening doors is one of the most productive things N.P. can do!
Predispose the Prospect to a great visit! A N.P. can send a great note ahead of the visit – “I know you’re meeting with Sharon on Friday – I’m so excited for the two of you to meet, for you to hear about the vision and getting more involved in our impact! I’ll check in with you after”
Follow Up! A call from the Natural Partner (after a check in with the R.M.) can be hugely beneficial. “How did it go? What did you think? What can I do to help?”
I’m consistently reminded by clients and boot camp alums of the power this one insight has on them.
Don’t make decisions for your prospects.
Most recently, I got a note from the head of advancement for a college who told me this ONE insight TRANSFORMED fundraising for him in 2016. So, I think this is the perfect insight to reflect on as we start the new year.
Don’t assume the prospect has a ‘giving level’ just because they gave at X the past three years. Maybe they haven’t been asked.
Get comfortable with the Clueless Close. This is a great example of a way to ask – authentically – in which you’re not making a decision for the prospect.
Use this insight to question assumptions. At some point this year a natural partner will say to you, “You should ask for $X. That’s the right number for this prospect.” Unless that statement is product of extraordinary strategy and dialogue with the prospect, don’t make a decision to LIMIT the ask. (Don’t worry about under-asking or over-asking. (See tip #6 in 9 Tips to Help You Get to the Ask.) When you catch this thinking you can coach yourself by asking, “What would this prospect give if they were totally committed to the impact? If this was their number one cause?” See if you can build your comfort to ask from this place. Related: I sometimes find myself saying (with TOTAL authenticity), “It’s not my job to try and decide the appropriate investment level for you. It’s my job to make sure I make the best case for how we can have an impact and then let you decide if that’s right for you.”
Guard against the voice inside that says, “Maybe now is not the right time to ask.” We exist to save lives, change lives and impact lives. Deciding it’s not the right time to give a prospect the opportunity to save, change and impact lives goes against everything we are trying to teach.
Point of emphasis: This is an insight (or a guiding perspective), not a strategy.
The lore of the elevator pitch comes from the early days of Hollywood when one would hope to trap an executive in an elevator and ‘pitch.’ The Elevator Pitch is an enduring shorthand that represents the simplest description of what you do.
You need brevity and simplicity… but simplicity alone is not your goal! Your goal is to get the other person to say, “I get it!” or “I want to learn more!”
The Elevator Pitch is dead. What we aim for is Elevator Engagement.
We achieve our goal more effectively and efficiently if we focus on the two-way (engagement) and not the one-way (pitch). Instead of spewing for 20-60 seconds (even if succinct), think about one great question you can ask the other person to get them ENGAGED in a conversation.
At our boot camps we do an exercise to illustrate that you can actually communicate WAYYYY more in 60 seconds by simply asking one or two questions than you can by talking (however concise you may be). It works because:
In asking a question, you start with the other person’s construct (or gestalt!).
We become fully engaged when we are talking. So, the simple act of getting the other person to talk changes the level of engagement. (This is Dale Carnegie 101!)
If you start with a question, you immediately learn what is pertinent and non-pertinent. You can use a short amount of time on relevant information.
Finally, we can position our work in their words. LISTENING is one of the most powerful selling skills in the world.
Earlier this year we were helping an organization make a neuroscience pitch to a foundation. The executive director was asked to appear before the foundation board and ‘make a pitch’. We had to reprogram her default, one-way pitch, to instead starting with a question to the panel of eight. She simply asked, “Has anyone ever had experience with a stroke, or a family member that’s had a stroke?” The board chair raised his hand and then spent two minutes talking about the importance of neuroscience research. Others jumped in. They were engaged — fully.
The executive director was able to simply build on the conversation. Though she had eight slides prepared, she found she only needed to use three of them (in response to the conversation). The board said it was one of the best pitches they had ever received – that’s because she didn’t pitch; she engaged.
She was awarded the grant!
Nota bene: There are many circles (usually tied to funding communities, e.g., silicon valley and nyc / financial) where a ‘pitch-deck’ is standard affair. Don’t let the ‘pitch deck’ put you in ‘pitch mode.’ As in the neuroscience story, you should focus on engagement. And, of course, we’re partial to the one-page pitch deck!
We help social entrepreneurs and really cool organizations implement a true sales model for philanthropy. The word SALES is supposed to grab your attention!
“You’re in sales, get over it.” – Tom Suddes
Most of us got into this work for the IMPACT, not the fundraising… and certainly not ‘SALES’!!! But ‘SALES’ holds the key to resourcing the impact we want to have. Pat Williams and Jim Denney are co-authors of some the world’s great leadership biographies – from Bear Bryant and Coach Wooden to Mother Theresa. Here’s how Pat Williams writes about Walt Disney as a salesperson. Note: I’ve pulled dozens of nuggets out of the book and threaded them together. As always, just read the book – How to Be Like Walt: Capturing the Disney Magic Every Day of Your Life
Virginia Davis (Walt’s original Alice) told Pat that Walt Disney was a great salesman: “The more I examined Walt’s life, the more I saw what a profound insight this was. From the very beginning of his career, Walt was a salesman— one of the greatest salesmen the world has ever known.”
Many people look down on selling as somehow beneath them. I hope you don’t make that mistake. All the wealth in America can be traced to the fact that somebody somewhere sold something to somebody else. Selling is one of the most honorable professions around— and one of the most rewarding. It is also one of the toughest. What does it take to be a great salesperson? I would suggest five qualities that every great salesperson must have. Build these qualities into your life and you can sell like Walt. Those five qualities are honesty, enthusiasm, confidence, courage and persistence.
Honesty.All great salespeople are honest. Does that surprise you? That’s probably because you have been raised on the stereotype of the fast-talking used-car salesman in the plaid jacket. Sure, shysters abound, and they give a bad name to the honest salespeople who make their living by trading value for value. But the best salespeople are people of integrity. A great salesperson lives on repeat business. The key to repeat business is trust, and the key to trust is integrity. Anybody can sell to one customer one time. A great salesperson builds relationships of trust on a foundation of truth.
All great salespeople are fired up about their product. Enthusiasm is contagious; it affects everyone around you. How did a twenty-year-old cartoonist convince a group of Kansas City businessmen to part with $15,000 so he could open his studio? Enthusiasm! Voice actor Corey Burton told me, “
Walt was excited about his projects, his movies, his theme park. When he was excited about something, his excitement fired up everyone around him. That’s how he sold his dreams.” Disney film editor Norman “Stormy” Palmer recalls Walt’s power to motivate. “Walt’s enthusiasm made over-achievers out of all of us,” he told me. “You got caught up with his energy, you believed in his ideas, and you wanted to please him. He transmitted his excitement to all of us. If it hadn’t been for Walt, there would have been a lot of times we would have settled for less than our best.”
Confidence. Confidence is not a feeling, it’s an attitude choice. Even if you don’t feel confident, you can still adopt an attitude of confidence. You may not be comfortable selling yourself or your product, but so what? Nobody is comfortable selling. Nobody ever became successful by staying within their comfort zone. If you want to succeed, you have to do what Walt did: take a big, confident step outside your comfort zone, and start selling your dreams.
Courage. Psychological studies show that high-achieving, successful people are not overly concerned about what others think. This was true of Walt Disney. He never catered to his critics. He never worried about rejection. He kept selling his dreams. 5. Persistence. Walt absorbed the blows and soldiered on, fueled by a total and utter belief that his vision was right. Walt was successful because of one rock-solid Midwestern value. It’s called perseverance.
It’s worth bottom-lining these three gems:
The best salespeople are people of integrity.
Enthusiasm is contagious.
Confidence is not a feeling, it’s an attitude choice. (Write this one on your MIRROR!)
I’ve just returned from a trip to Ireland. I had a number of great meetings with social entrepreneurs and conversations about ‘social entrepreneurship’.
In Ireland and certainly here in the states, I think Social Entrepreneurship still represents TWO frames. The first is having to do with earned income. (I’m reposting thoughts from 2008 below)
The second frame is more broad. It represents the entrepreneurial attitude for change or impact. It’s this second definition that I like and it’s also this second frame that is starting to define the social sector. Go to a nonprofit conference and notice the average age. Then go to a similar conference organized for ‘social entrepreneurs’ and again, note the average age.
We’re obviously fans of the social entrepreneurship because the very term invites challenging thinking and norms. That being said, I don’t think one room (or conference) is superior to another in terms of commitment or values. It’s worth noting that the conversation-at-large is generationally shifting. If it weren’t for the IRS I could argue that in 30 years we might not have a ‘non profit sector’; it might become the ‘social (entrepreneurship) sector’.
This is an excerpt from the forthcoming For Impact Guidebook about Leadership Circles.
Every organization should have some form of Leadership Circle. In its simplest form, this is ONE baseline-major-gift level of support, positioned as the cornerstone of your annual fund. The Leadership Circle is not just another giving level – It’s a funding program and a strategic pillar of your funding model that qualifies prospects, simplifies stewardship, provides flexible funding and annuity! You’ve heard of Occam’s Razor; this is ‘Occam’s Ask’. It’s set at ONE level between $1K and $10K – messaged around your mission and vision in a way that represents your simplest and strongest sell.
HOW TO MESSAGE: (Examples)
STORY: “We would like to invite you to be part of the Leadership Circle – a group of 100 families, individuals and/or businesses that are extremely committed to the mission of the YWCA. Membership requires a minimum $10,000 investment in the fund, renewable annually. Each year, these funds will be used to make the biggest impact in the areas of after school programming, innovation and scholarships. But, ultimately,The Leadership Circle is about investing in our vision to transform our community.”
COLLECTIVE IMPACT: “This Leadership Circle level is significant because the collective power of its members – providing the core funding support that allows the YWCA to be an efficient organization, responding to the most important needs of women and families in our community. Additionally, this Leadership Circle has the impact of $2M in endowment for each 10 members.”
In working with over 1,000 organizations, I can’t think of a time when an organization didn’t benefit from a Leadership Circle. As a tool, its versatility rivals duct tape.
A FEW WAYS TO USE THE LEADERSHIP CIRCLE:
As a QUALIFIER. The Leadership Circle can be a GREAT ASK on a first visit. The story around the Leadership Circle should be tied to your simplest and strongest sell and if someone commits the $10K then you KNOW they are serious about your impact.
As a component of your overall FUNDING MODEL and CASE. It’s helpful for top funders to see that you’re building a base. This should offset the perception (and reality) that you’re going back to the well with the same funders again and again. It’s really helpful to be able to show (in your plan) that at the same time you are asking for LEADERSHIP SUPPORT, you are also building giving-based-relationships through the Leadership Circle.
As a MOMENTUM BUILDER. If you’re working on leadership support for a major project the Leadership Circle can be a powerful momentum builder. It’s one thing to go to your board and announce you THINK you will have some leaders on board. It’s another to back that up with the cash flow and commitments from 20 new memberships in your Leadership Circle.
As an ANNUITY and ENDOWMENT EQUIVALENT. The membership base of support becomes an annuity. For example, 20 families at $10K is $200K per year which is the equivalent of having $4M in endowment!
As a FOCUSED way to TEST and BUILD TALENT. Having a Leadership Circle offers a safety valve for new salespeople. “When you don’t know what else to do, ask for a membership.” This is a clarifying directive. Asking for a membership does not eliminate the potential for a larger gift – if anything it qualifies the relationship (offering objective insight to the sales manager.) If a new major gifts officer fails to close a $1M gift it could be for a number of reasons. Maybe it’s a prospecting issue. Maybe it’s the story. However, anyone should be able to close Leadership Circle membership. Having developed dozens and dozens of new major gifts officers, I cannot emphasize the importance of this idea. It’s the simplest way to build confidence and funding momentum.
As an engagement strategy that PAYS. ‘Nuff said.
As a STEWARDSHIP CIRCLE. Get rid of all events and focus that energy on just providing stewardship and thanks to your Leadership Circle investors! Here is an idea, make it someone’s job to simply get every member of the Leadership Circle to your organization to SEE the impact (return-on-investment) in a given year. Good things will happen.
As ‘BUDGET RELIEF.’ Everyone wants ‘unrestricted funding’. A better message would be around budget relief. I would encourage you to try and create a funding model in which the Leadership Circle monies are unbudgeted. You can then report back to membership the IMPACT of their COLLECTIVE investment.
As a way to get into a PLANNED GIFT. Participation in the Leadership Circle for a few years offers a rationale to get ask for a planned gift to PROTECT the annual gift. “You’ve been giving $10K every year as a member of the Leadership Circle. Could we ask you to PROTECT that with a gift from your estate?” A $200K planned gift would ‘protect’ the $10K. Bonus: This can also be part of a TRIPLE ASK.
Fundraising on a Napkin summarizes 30 years of fundraising achievement into simple, bold and actionable ideas that any organization can use – Non Profit, For Profit, Social Entrepreneur or NGO.
Whether you’re looking for strategic clarity, ‘sustainable funding,’ a jumpstart in major giving or just no-fluff advice that works – Fundraising on a Napkin delivers on all fronts. Over 3.5 hours, we will share stories ‘from the field’ and the successful and innovative ideas that have transformed thousands of organizations and raised over $2B, including:
How to get strategic clarity
How to simplify your message and communicate the vision
How to find and engage with great leaders, prospects and champions
How to build a high performing leadership team
How to build an effective culture around funding the vision
How to ask
This high energy, motivating session will give you a road map you can follow to re-design (or design) your organization for impact and income success.
WHAT TO EXPECT
Example-based coaching throughout the day
Lots of interaction so you don’t get bored – this is not one of ‘those’ workshops
Proven frameworks and, to the extent that we’re able with time, one-on-one strategy to help you apply the frameworks
No power point (see no. 2) but lots of visuals
Simplicity. Complexity is not actionable, so we give you the tools that will have the greatest R.O.I. to your organization in the near term (next 100 days) and longer term (next 1000 days.)
Value that goes beyond funding! We’re all entrepreneurs, so while we always want to create value in the form of funding results, there is a huge personal development theme to everything we do.
WHO SHOULD ATTEND
This workshop is for Executive Directors, Board Leaders and Development Professionals – Any and all responsible for shaping and implementing funding strategy.
This works as a napkin message – It’s powerful and simple.
I don’t do the ‘standing-on-a-podium’ thing, but I’m not above shouting IN ALL CAPS to make a point:
NO MORE SPECIAL EVENTS!
I get the occasional challenge, “But Nick, events are how we build relationships!” Or, “Our event gets the word out!”
In years and years of doing this, no one has ever said, “Our event is our CASH COW!”
WHY are you doing the event? Is it to raise money? Or, is it for MARKETING? (Start with WHY.)
It’s really helpful to make a distinction between MARKETING and SALES. Here is a great nugget to bridge the relationship between MARKETING and SALES:
It is the job of marketing to provide qualified leads for sales.
I hear many people who want to defend events with a marketing rationale. If you want to run events as a part of your MARKETING STRATEGY – great! Just don’t PRETEND your events are great fundraisers. And if MARKETING is the end goal, then how much are you telling your story at that golf outing?
Also, if you’re going to do an event to ‘BUILD relationships’ then it begs the question – what is your strategy to MAXIMIZE relationships?
NB: We’ve been on this rant for a few decades now. There are events that raise money – a lot of (net, net, net) money. Here are some examples:
The EVENT is the IMPACT. There are some organizations whose impact is using a community’s ability to raise money. For example, Pelotonia here in Central Ohio, which has raised over $100M for cancer research. They are in the event business: the money they raise from one event a year is given directly to cancer research (read: curing cancer!). Pelotonia is in the EVENT BUSINESS – most organizations (i.e., you) are not.
But what about WALL STREET?!?! Those ‘guys’ (I think, often citing Robin Hood as a model) all get in a room and give MILLIONS! This is an anomaly, not a model. When you can get a bunch of hedge fund titans in a room to throw their egos behind your philanthropy, have at it!
RECOGNITION EVENTS. These are events where the money was not raised, but simply RECOGNIZED, at the event. In all of these cases, I submit that more money could be raised if we were clearer on the WHY. While the organization might be ASKING because of an event, people aren’t GIVING because of the event; they are giving because of the IMPACT!
Instead, we PREDISPOSE the prospect or potential investor before, during and after the visit. We predispose them to our phone call to set up the visit … we predispose to the visit/presentation itself … and yes, we even predispose to the follow-up!
The word PREDISPOSE means to make someone inclined, in advance, to a specific action or attitude. You need to be predisposing potential investors:
To expect your contact,
To look forward to visiting with you about your amazing organization,
About your goals for the visit and how much time you need,
About when to expect your follow up and what you will be communicating in your follow up.