If you’ve seen Tom or me speak… or if you’ve been to a workshop then you’ve probably heard our rant about ‘No More Special Events’.
A bold few always want to challenge this position:
- “But that’s how we build relationships.”
- “But that’s how we generate awareness.”
No one ever says, “But that’s our CASH COW!”
The reasons most often heard in defending special events are really tied to MARKTING. Substitute the objections above with, “But that’s how we do our marketing!”
Interesting. And, OK. So that begs a question, what about your SALES?
Think about your development efforts in terms of MARKETING and SALES. Right now we don’t use those terms (Enough? At all?). Use MARKETING and SALES as a simple strategic framework. What IF we all agreed that the one big event was going to be the most incredible opportunity for us to tell our story? What if we didn’t pretend it made a ton of money?
If you’re going to keep your event – in the name of building relationships – then tell me what you’re going to be doing to MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS.
If you decide to keep that event then decide it’s purpose. If it’s to BUILD RELATIONSHIPS then set out to make it the best at doing that… but don’t pretend it’s the centerpiece of your funding strategy.
MARKETING and SALES.
BUILDING RELATIONSHIPS and MAXIMIZING RELATIONSHIPS.
A reminder: Best way to MAXIMIZE RELATIONSHIPS is 1:1.
And a question: What if we took that time, energy and effort spent on the event(s) and put that into getting great visits and providing customized experiences with our top 10 or 20 prospects?
It’s the function of marketing to produce qualified leads for sales. I can’t remember where I got this definition but I favor it as it relates to our development efforts. Once you determine what efforts are marketing and what are sales then you can ask, “How are we using this marketing effort to find qualified leads for sales?”
We wrapped up our annual boot camp yesterday afternoon. 40 For Impact Leaders have flown back to different parts of the country – a few cleared customs to other countries. We have a few message points we focus on in day II, one of them being the meaning of dialogue and the importance of dialogue throughout every moment of the sales process.
Dialogue is give and take. It’s asking questions and listening… actually taking the time to process the answer. Sometimes it’s just a lot of listening. It’s engaging the prospect in the presentation… it’s making the presentation about the prospect, not about what you have to say. It’s also about discovery, using questions to learn real information.
This is all in contrast to a monologue or a moment . A monologue is one-sided, not engaging and fails to build on any information from the prospect. By ‘a moment’ I mean asking and then waiting for the answer… stopping at conversation with the prospect’s response.
As a reminder, there are three parts to every visit.
– The Opening
– The Story (at altitude covering your Purpose, Priorities and Plan)
– The Presentation of the Opportunity (the ASK!)
When you present the opportunity the dialogue continues until you meet one of the three conditions:
- You have the commitment matching the opportunity presented. (Eg. You asked for $250K for a project and the prospect has committed $250K for that project).
You have a roadmap for the commitment. (eg. The prospect says, “I’m very interested in helping but have a few more questions first and I would like to make that decision in Q3…” Key idea is that you know what it would take to move toward commitment… you have a roadmap.”)
- You receive new and concrete information that adjusts your understanding of the prospect’s capacity or relationship / interest to the organization or project. (Eg. “Nick we can’t make that level commitment.” You continue the dialogue to determine more about capacity and relationship. “We want to help but $20K would be a very large gift for us right now.” You now have new information forming a new rationale – can continue the dialogue to create a wonderful opportunity around a $20K project or $20K/year.)
Apply the conditions above to this scenario. You ask for $100K to underwrite a science program for the 2010-2011 school year. You have a great visit, the prospect says to come back in two weeks for a follow-up and a decision. You have your roadmap (condition 2). You come back and he says, “I can do $10K”.
This is A commitment but it doesn’t satisfy the conditions.
- Does not address THE ask. $100K for Science Program. He hasn’t said yes or no.
- You don’t have any information about whether or not you can get to $100K. No roadmap.
- You don’t know if he’s saying he doesn’t have $100K or if he’s only 1/10th as interested as you thought.
CONTINUE THE DIALOGUE.
“That’s fantastic. When we were last together we discussed the program. Would it be possible to talk about funding the entire program?”
CONTINUE THE DIALOGUE until one of the three conditions is met.
There are countless ways to ask the key is to realize the dialogue is not over. If you get this concept (and you’re already asking) it will triple your results – at least.
For thinking’s sake: Would it be easier to tag on a few more questions to someone that you’ve worked months to see, strategize and ask? Or, would it be easier, to do that entire process ten more times?
Originally posted July 24, 2003 – Re-posted.
We all know (intuitively or from real experience) that MAJOR GIFTS is the best way to raise the most money… at the least cost!!!
To help you understand Major Gifts… and to help understand why it’s so important to focus on your best and most QUALIFIED PROSPECTS… check out the following story/metaphor.
LIONS, MICE & ANTELOPE
A lion can actually capture, kill and eat a field mouse.
However, it turns out that the energy to do that is greater than the caloric content of the mouse. So, if a lion spent his whole day hunting and eating field mice… it would slowly starve itself to death!
A lion cannot live on mice. Lions need antelopes. Antelopes are big. While they take more speed and strength to capture and kill, once killed, they provide a huge feast for a lion and its pride.
A lion can live a long and happy life on a diet of antelope.
The difference between mice and antelopes is really, really important relative to Major Gifts!
If you’re spending all of your time and energy going after ‘field mice’… your short-term rewards are a feeling of activity and maybe even accomplishment. However, in the long run, you’re going to die.
Do you spend your day chasing mice or hunting antelope???
This nugget comes from an email I prepared for a specific organization implementing a SALES process and SALES approach to funding. I think the points have a wide application – so I’m sharing here.
- 24-Hour Follow-Up Rule
We need to get out our follow-up emails/letters within 24 hours… no matter what. If we wait to write the perfect proposal or pitch, with time, it (1) takes more effort and (2) we lose momentum. I’ll take 80% perfect at 24 hours over 90% perfect in three weeks.
Speed doesn’t kill… time does.
- It’s a RELATIONSHP
The goal is to maximize the RELATIONSHIP at any given time. Funding is a function of the relationship – not the world’s best proposal. Think more about communication and follow-up in terms of a relationship and not a transaction – this will help with #1.
- Re: Referrals – think about ONE ACTION item and a manageable timeline.
It’s great that prospects are saying they’re going to open doors. Focus on ONE action and make it happen. “We’re all about momentum and everyone is busy. To keep the ball rolling, can we talk about making one phone call in the next two weeks?”
One action will lead to more. Undefined action leads to no action.
- “Can you get me a proposal?”
If someone asks this we need to simplify on the spot.
- “Sure thing… are you an email person?” (everyone is)
- “Would it be okay if I summarized points from our conversation in bullet point form and shot that back by email?”
Save yourself HOURS by converting ‘proposals’ to ‘bullet points.’
- Ball is always in your court.
We’re getting a lot of great ‘pending requests’… if someone says, “give me a few days and I’ll get back to you.” We need to say, “That’s great. If I don’t hear from you by Friday, I’ll follow-up next week.”
- Email is for follow-up notes. Use the phone to make things happen.
- Be a closer. Always.
It’s an attitude. Your ability to close translates to lives saved, impacted and transformed. This isn’t about some ‘business jargon’… it’s about real stuff… important stuff. We either believe it or we don’t. And, if we do, then we need to close. If we don’t – let’s quit now.
You just made a great visit… did you ask?
This morning one executive director answered, “Well, no. They [insert prospect] started talking about the economy and I just got uncomfortable.” Yesterday it was, “I can always get some fired up but then I don’t know how to get to the money.”
This list is some coaching for everyone who has ever said, “I felt uncomfortable getting to the ask.”
It may not be the right time to answer yes but it’s always the right time to ask. If this bothers you, see #2.
If you’re uncomfortable you can soften the ask, but (again) always ask.
Asking advances the ball. More than that, a prospect cannot guess what you need. That being said, sometimes we’re just really uncomfortable or worried about messing up – especially in the first few visits. If you need to, here are some ways to soften the ask.
“Would it be okay to have a follow-up conversation about ways to financially support this project?”
“We’re going to need 10 Angel Investors (@$100,000 each). I know this is one of the first times we’ve really had a serious conversation about XYZ. Could we have a talk about the Angel level some time this year?”
“Based on everything you’ve seen here today, are you in?”
Being authentic makes you an immediate sales expert. It can also help you work through your discomfort in getting to the ask.
I do a role play at every Boot Camp. I think a big takeaway is for people to see me fumble my way through parts of the visit search for ways to get to the ask. It’s sometimes even awkward – but always authentic and so it works.
At start of call: “I really want to cover three points on our call if that’s okay. I would love to share where we’re going, get your feedback and talk about how you can help.”
“I’m not really sure how to transition at this point but I think it’s important that we cover the funding plan.”
“If I may, I’m going to circle back to the funding level. I need to be so bold as to push on this a little bit because, quite frankly, there are not a whole lot of people to talk to about this.”
If an investor is giving you 1x in response to a mail campaign, any sort of an event or ‘totally unsolicited’ then he or she would likely give 10x in response to a one-on-one (personal) visit-with-an-ask and 30x if the visit includes a dialogue around the funding plan (as part of the full case-for-support and ask).
This is not scientific but it’s far from arbitrary. This is our own little way of thinking about a measure-of-engagement based on what we’ve seen at many organizations (start-ups to colleges). It’s a way of thinking about
- The potential of your current relationships.
- The potential of new relationships (if we visit!)
- Why we need to be visiting
Everybody says they need more prospects. Instead of trying to get more people to give 1x think about how you can get more people to give 30x!
- 1x is clearly emotional. I’ve seen a lot of people cry at events – but the giving is still impersonal and ‘charitable’ in nature.
- Sitting with someone one-on-one (or 2-1 / 2-2) allows you to listen and respond. It makes the ask personal and seems to trigger another level of discernment in giving – increasing a commitment to an organization ten-fold (10x).
- But to really get the big big gifts (30x) we need to do a better job of walking our prospects through a funding plan and going back and forth, having a dialogue about the ask… giving context and providing the FULL case-for-support. These conversations are much more strategic.
At our seminars I share a story of a school that met with parents and supporters. They asked everyone to “prayerfully consider giving at a level that was significant”. Those that had previously contributed $2000 through the auction responded with $20,000 gifts. The school was still frustrated. They had $1M prospects giving $100K and $100K prospects giving $20K.
As much as the prospects liked the school they had no context for how much money to consider. They had no way of guessing that $1M might be the linchpin for the campaign… there was no discussion that gave the committed families and supporters a framework to think bigger.
This school went back to each supporter with a complete funding plan. For a $1Million dollar ask, for example, they would ask for the $1Million (a specific number). More than that they would have a discussion around WHY the $1Million and what it would enable the school to do (leverage, leadership, timing, etc). The prospects had a broad context in which to consider the ask and many of them increased their gifts by five times and some by 20 or 30 times!
I’ve met with billionaires and many many millionaires. Trust me, nobody has disposable income. Nobody is going to guess that a $1Million will help. $10K or $50K is a lot to anyone! It’s not until we show up that we can get 10X. It’s not until we dialogue about 30X that we can get 30X.
A rhetorical question: Is it easier for you to visit with every current funder and ASK (10X) or to get ten more prospects to give? From there, is it easier to get your best prospects to 30X or to get 5-10 more visits?
This nugget focuses on the power of one idea: authenticity.
At training camp we have everyone practice their presentations, remembering some important keys to success:
- Listening (including discovery)
- The simple process: Share the story then present the opportunity
I want to highlight authenticity because if you get this one idea it makes you an immediate sales (major gifts) expert!
I’ve found so many people have call reluctance because they fear “screwing up.” If you are authentic:
- You can’t mess up – at least not in a way that you cannot recover. If you are earnestly communicating an opportunity to save lives, change lives or impact lives how can that be messed up?
If you’re authentic you can say, “Let me call a time-out and back up. I’m not sure I’m communicating [insert point] clearly.”
- You have a REAL dialogue. I’ve watched so many people give robot-canned-spiels. That’s not authentic.
- You tell your own story, not someone else’s. Authenticity allows you to make a wonderful visit your third day on the job. You can say, “This is only my third day with [org] but I’m loving what we’re doing and I’m thrilled (but also a little nervous) to be sitting with you today.”
How can someone not respect that candor? It also means you don’t have to be the founder or at the organization for 15 years to make a visit.
You will also find authenticity to be incredibly disarming to the person you’re with. It changes the dynamic of the visit from ‘eyeball-to-eyeball’ to ‘shoulder-to-shoulder.’ Think about that dynamic!
Nick and I have been working with some really impactful organizations that, like many of you, came late to the idea that:
“God gives every bird food.
He just doesn’t throw it into the nest!”
At the moment we’re working with an Abbey in Northern California. Beatitude House in Youngstown. The International Baccalaureate Association in Geneva, Switzerland. Father Joe’s Villages in San Diego. American Numismatics Association. Junior Achievement. And many others.
We were with the American Lung Association’s National Development Conference last Thursday and 50 Christian Brothers’ schools on Friday. In two weeks I’m speaking with CEOs and Development Teams from all the YMCA’s in North America.
One part of our MESSAGE is always the same:
NOTHING HAPPENS UNLESS YOU’RE OUT SELLING…YOUR VISION. YOUR IMPACT. YOUR MESSAGE. YOUR IDEAS. YOUR RETURN ON INVESTMENT. Etc., etc., etc.
All of these organizations, and all of you, are deeply committed to your CAUSE and your ORGANIZATION.
Yet, none of you have been ‘TRAINED IN SALES’!
(You’re not alone. Even the Nation’s business schools provide no SALES TRAINING. Yet, in this ‘FOR PROFIT WORLD,’ SALES drives [almost] every company. Without it, all products and services remain ‘on the shelf.’)
I’ve spent my whole adult life in SALES, much of it selling ‘INTANGIBLES’ (large gifts/commitments for great causes and cases).
Nick and I are out ‘PRACTICING’ our craft/art every day.
Here are three really big things that may help you on your next VISIT/’SALES CALL’.
- SHARE THE STORY –> PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY
- Write this on a little card.
- Look at this every time you go to visit/meet with a Qualified Prospect or Potential Investor.
- DISCOVERY. Where’s the best place to find out ANYTHING you want to know about your INVESTOR/PROSPECT???FROM THEM!Remember: SELLING IS NOT TELLING!
ASK QUESTIONS. More importantly, LISTEN TO ANSWERS!
Here are three great questions to help you with your DISCOVERY.
- WHY are you engaged/involved with us?
- Which of these three things (buckets) is most important to you?
- Can you help us Fund this Vision?
- SHARE THE STORY –> PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY. SHARE THE STORY is exactly that. SHARE. THE. STORY.Everybody in the organization can share THEIR ‘story’.
You must also be able to capture the ‘STORY’ of your organization… your cause… your vision.
Then, PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY This is NOT about ASKING PEOPLE FOR MONEY!!!
- It’s about PRESENTING THE OPPORTUNITY for them to make an IMPACT!
- To move from SUCCESS TO SIGNIFICANCE!
- To SAVE LIVES. To CHANGE LIVES. To CHANGE THE WORLD!
Special Note: Ask your Board Members or Volunteer Leaders whether they’d rather go out and ‘ASK THEIR FRIENDS FOR MONEY’ …or
SHARE THE STORY –> PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY.
- AUTHENTICITYFirst, this is about being YOURSELF! If you just started with the organization, say so; and, then explain why you made that decision. If you spent 10 or 15 years working with your organization, explain WHY you devoted that kind of commitment to this cause.Additionally, AUTHENTICITY is about total candor. Sometimes even BRUTUAL HONESTY. (“You’re one of our top investors. You helped us build this plan and we know you want to see it succeed. Can you take the LEAD?”) Nick had a great line last week that was about as AUTHENTIC as you can get. “I have one goal with you today: to have your jaw drop at the unbelievable impact that this organization is having on children. That’s it.”
CLOSE: For those of you out VISITING and PRESENTING… I hope you can use these simple but powerful reminders.
For the rest of you…
- Get out of the office. (GO PRESENT OPPORTUNITIES.)
- Stop doing research. (DO DISCOVERY… ON THE VISIT.)
- Stop doing proposals and grant writing. (GO SHARE THE STORY AND PRESENT THE OPPORTUNITY.)