Sales … whose job is it?

Oct 30, 2023

Thanks so much for this question in the Answers community after last week’s article which inspired today’s message …

When looking to grow your association’s revenue do you go out and hire a sales professional to get the money rolling in? Or do you get everyone on your team selling the dream?

It’s a classic debate between putting one person in the driver’s seat or getting the whole crew to on-board. Both options have their pros and cons – and it’s certainly not a one-size-fits-all decision. Here are a few things to consider:

The Role of a Salesperson.

Think about hiring a professional salesperson as hiring a sniper – someone who’s good at finding and making sales fast. They know how to answer questions, guide people through the signup process, and get the job done quickly.

Beyond just speeding up revenue generation, a talented salesperson can bring other benefits to the table. They’re often experienced with CRM systems, able to segment potential leads, and can tailor their approach effectively. Plus, a dedicated salesperson frees up other team members to focus on their core tasks, making the overall operations more efficient.

But there are risks. While a salesperson can quickly rack up sales numbers, they might focus too much on getting “the sale” at the expense of long-term relationships. This could translate to high member turnover rates down the line. And, hiring a skilled salesperson comes with a cost—salary, commissions, and maybe even a sizeable budget for wining and dining potential high-value prospects. Other staff can feel resentment at this expense – particularly if their incomes are significantly less.

The Power of an Embedded Sales Culture.

Imagine if everyone in your team became a sort of mini-salesperson. From the front desk to the CEO, everyone knows what your association offers and can chat about it comfortably. This isn’t just about selling; it’s about creating a sense of community. That way, your team can leverage their own unique skills to connect with new members on a more personal level.

This approach isn’t just about increasing revenue; it offers broader benefits that touch different aspects of your association. For instance, a cohesive sales culture can serve as a built-in customer retention mechanism. When every team member is a brand ambassador, the quality of interactions with members usually improves, boosting retention.

Additionally, when everyone is involved in sales, they also become more engaged in their other roles. It adds a sense of collective ownership and purpose, which often leads to an increase in overall job satisfaction and productivity.

But there are risks. A culture focused on sales can sometimes lead to inconsistent messaging if not managed carefully. Each team member might bring their own ‘flavour’ to the sales pitch, potentially diluting the core value proposition of the association. Also, training an entire organisation to adopt a sales mindset can consume considerable time and resources.

Sometimes, emphasising a sales culture can inadvertently take focus away from other key operational areas. When everyone is responsible for selling, who’s left to innovate or manage existing programs effectively?

The Hybrid Approach

Do you really have to pick one over the other? Can’t you have your cake and eat it too?

The answer is yes, you absolutely can. A hybrid approach lets you enjoy the strengths of both strategies while compensating for their weaknesses.

Have a dedicated salesperson for the heavy lifting and everyone else contributing to the sales culture. This way, initial inquiries are dealt with quickly, and all other interactions provide added value.

How Does a Hybrid Approach Work?

First, consider that a dedicated salesperson is like your striker — quick on their feet, making those important plays. They’ll handle the initial inquiries and get prospects across the line. (I don’t usually use sports analogies but the Matildas have inspired me). 

On the other hand, an embedded sales culture is like your team’s overall fitness — it keeps the engine running smoothly. Every touchpoint, whether a conference, webinar, or even a newsletter, becomes a sales opportunity. This ongoing commitment to sales and community is essential for long-term growth and member engagement.

Implementing a hybrid approach requires: 

  • A Considered Strategy: Have a strong strategy that resources regular training sessions and workshops for the team. Your leaders must walk the talk, encouraging the team to live and breathe this sales culture.
  • Strategic Division of Labour: Allocate specific tasks to the salesperson, such as following up on leads and managing enrolment. Let the rest of the team focus on value-added interactions, like member engagement and community building.
  • Regular Coordination: Keep lines of communication open between the salesperson and the team. Regular meetings ensure everyone is aligned with the membership growth objectives.
  • Cross-Training: Even if you have a dedicated salesperson, cross-train other employees in basic sales techniques. This enables team members to step in during busy times or to provide a more personalised experience when the opportunity arises.
  • Monitor and Adjust: Continuously track the performance metrics of both strategies. Are you seeing increased engagement from one particular aspect? Or perhaps better first year retention rates? Use this data to tweak your approach accordingly.

The hybrid model isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer, but it can provide the flexibility to draw on the best aspects of a dedicated salesperson and an embedded sales culture. You get speed and efficiency along with a deeply ingrained sense of community.

If you have any questions you’d like me to answer in a future Association Insight, please email [email protected] or tag me in an “Ask the Community.