Sales tales: Sales Training highlights
ACCE’s annual Sales Training Conference is an opportunity for chamber professionals to learn the latest membership development tips, trends and techniques from some of the best in the biz. This year’s event, hosted in St. Louis with the gracious support of the St. Louis Regional Chamber, brought together about 60 members from far and wide for a little March membership madness.
Here are a few takeaways from the gathering:
Chamber on the Go
Andrew Hoan, president and CEO of the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce, likes his staff to get out into the community for member interaction. Last August, the chamber launched its #BCC Visits initiative, during which chamber staff visited more than 500 local businesses. To get around, the chamber traveled by subway, bus, ferry and foot and used geocoding tools to target areas with the highest concentration of businesses.
“This was a way to deepen our understanding of what our members need and to put a face on the chamber,” says Hoan. “Instead of just getting emails and telephone calls, members actually see a real human being.”
One story stands out for Hoan. When the chamber visited a spin studio, its owner complained about a pothole on the street. The chamber contacted the appropriate agency and the pothole was filled soon after. The chamber would have never known about the pothole, and its member’s frustration, had it not ventured out into the community.
“People won’t open up to you through mass email or over the phone,” shares Hoan. “When you visit them and see for yourself what their issues are, you have clearly demonstrated the value-add of chamber membership.”
Content is king
The content-to-sales ratio should be 3:1, says Kyle Sexton, a marketing strategist and Sales Training Conference presenter. Instead of selling tickets and asking for money, chambers have an opportunity to produce – and lead members to – more engaging and valuable content.
“This economy rewards brands that put value in front of the transaction, not behind it,” Sexton says. “We need to add more value to the conversation and stop asking for money all the time.”
Sexton’s suggestions for chambers? Teach members about business; stop educating them about the chamber. One way for chambers to better engage members is to help them learn how to share their stories with the community.
“We can do a better job carrying on the conversations they care about,” says Sexton. "In order to do that, we need to think like an editor and act like a journalist.”
How you buy is how you sell
When it comes to selling membership, “how you buy is how you sell,” says Duane Weber, Indy Chamber’s director of membership and sponsorship sales. Take car buying, for example; some people spend months shopping around and test-drive six or seven cars, while others do a little research and make their purchase quickly. The key to selling, Weber says, is to tailor the pitch to the buyer’s preferred style of decision-making.
“Some people like to read the fine print,” says Weber. “I’m not one of those people. I’m a strategic, big-picture kind of guy. Just show me a summary.”
Weber says that when the seller’s style is mismatched with the buyer’s style, an uncomfortable experience can result. “As a big-picture buyer, it drives me crazy when a detail-oriented person sells to me. I’m thinking, ‘C’mon! You had me 10 minutes ago!”
Weber’s tip for connecting with prospects that have gone dark: try something unconventional. Give them an opportunity to say no. Send a message asking if they’re still interested; and offer to close their file if they’re not. “It’s okay to say you’re not interested!”
It’s about mission and community, not golf
Dues and sponsorship figures are essentially arbitrary sums, argues Doug Holman, a consultant with Holman Brothers, a firm that specializes in chamber membership. Chamber membership staff treat these numbers like they “came down from the mountain,” endlessly justifying how members will earn a return on their investment.
“We have to sell community,” says Holman. Too often, chambers err by selling events to prospective members, instead of their missions—which is what business leaders really care about. “They’re not paying you because they want to attend your annual dinner or your golf tournament,” continues Holman. “They’re paying you because they believe in what you do.”
Chamber pros are passionate about serving their communities, and this is what business leaders want to support. “There’s simply no way to guarantee results from attending chamber networking events,” says Holman. Instead, the goal is to help business leaders “recognize that without the work of the chamber, the community would be a very different place.”
Chamber pros tackle education pipeline, celebrate graduation
A group of 20 chamber of commerce professionals is celebrating this week because they’ve just completed ACCE’s year-long Fellowship for Education Attainment, which wrapped up Wednesday with an event in Indianapolis.
The 20 Fellows were invited to participate in the immersive fellowship program based on a handful of qualifications. Fellows must demonstrate a commitment to improving the birth-to-career education pipeline in the communities they serve. And, a community’s education attainment goals must be already defined by the chamber of commerce for applicants to be considered for the Fellowship.
“My favorite part of the Fellowship program is seeing how relationships are built amongst the Fellows,” says Michelle Vegliante, senior manager for community advancement at ACCE. “By the final session, they each leave with nineteen close-knit colleagues that they can call on for guidance and support. The transformation from peer acquaintance to lifelong friend is extremely rewarding to see.”
During the year-long program, Fellows study best practices in education attainment through interaction with national experts and inclusion in an unmatched peer-to-peer network that includes former Fellows. Each Fellow develops a Regional Action Plan that identifies and addresses specific education attainment and workforce development issues that impact the community they represent. Work conducted throughout the year-long program is compiled and included in a final summary report.
“There is no greater way to serve your members than by establishing a workforce that will economically sustain your community,” comments Pat Patrick, president and CEO of the Lodi Chamber of Commerce. “Postsecondary education is the answer, and ACCE’s Educational Attainment Fellowship is the best way to prepare for this critical challenge.”
The Fellowship for Education Attainment was launched in 2014 to provide chamber professionals with guidance and resources to mobilize efforts that improve education outcomes U.S. communities. As the Fellowship grows, ACCE tasks Fellows with helping chamber peers around the country build replicable programs in their communities.
“It’s nearly impossible to condense the superlatives about this Fellowship experience into a small space,” says Ann Kisting, executive director at the Chicagoland Chamber Foundation. “The sharing of insights, ideas and resources made this an inspiring, energizing and truly invaluable experience.”
You can meet the 2016–17 Fellows and check out their Regional Action Plan Summaries here.
Cultivating leaders in the City of Brotherly Love
When the Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia asked employers in the region what issues they were most concerned about, the answers it received were nearly unanimous: retention of emerging mid-career professionals.
In partnership with its Young Professionals Council, the chamber’s Education and Talent Action Team crafted a questionnaire aimed at investigating mid-career professionals’ motivators in the workplace and at home. The final product was a survey focused on three key areas of motivation — professional, personal and civic — that was widely circulated throughout the community.
The survey, which received impressive levels of engagement, was designed to help business leaders understand what young professionals value, what they look for in a region and what factors cause them to view work as “just a job,” as opposed to a lifelong career.
The chamber’s survey data yielded some thought-provoking insight on what makes emerging mid-career professionals tick. When asked about workplace motivators, 44 percent said professional advancement was the primary motivator, compared to 34 percent who chose personal fulfillment and 19 percent who selected civic engagement.
The data also shows that income and salary often take a backseat to the possibility of career advancement. When asked about what factors come into play when considering employers, opportunity to grow was listed as the top choice, followed by company culture and income.
The respondents listed safety as their top concern when choosing a region to live in, followed by affordability and rent. (This order was reversed for respondents age 25–29 years old). When asked what factors would cause them to consider leaving a region, public education was the most popular response, again followed by affordability and rent.
Responses to the survey totaled 1,188 participants. Of these, 830 were 25 to 39 years old — the target age range of the study.
The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia hopes to continue its efforts at engaging emerging mid-career professionals by collaborating with chambers in peer cities, who would follow its lead by producing similar surveys and participating in peer-benchmarking.
The chamber will also continue to facilitate dialogue between emerging professionals and area employers to help craft the narrative about what it means to live and work in Philadelphia.
View an impressive infographic and full survey results here.