The art of selling association memberships is continually evolving. Technology gives us new platforms to sell, but new demands from potential members are continuing to change the very essence of how memberships are being sold.
How will this affect business-to-business sales – the work of trade associations? Let’s look at it’s evolution:
10+ years ago: “Join ABC organization because you are part of the industry and it brings credibility, etc. …” That was the narrative and we conducted this process in face-to-face meetings and with telemarketing.
Today: The value of association programs and services are at the forefront: “Come to the annual meeting,” or “buy our webinar,” or “participate in our certification program.” Our methodology of sales is largely by email and some phone. The approach is less rigorous from a sales skills perspective, but we can reach scale through digital marketing.
The future: Leveraging thought leadership and technical expertise will be the most valuable aspect of association membership. For example,
1) Our association can assist in how to navigate the new air quality standards in California;
2) We will keep you informed about how that new regulation will impact your industry;
3) At our annual meeting, specialists will discuss sustainability or other critical topics.
In effect, we will be selling thought leadership or access to specialized information through thought leader programs.
Our sales methodology shift will take place in the format of podcasts, videos, live streaming and voice-activated intelligence. I want your association to be at the forefront of these formats. When a member asks, “Tell me what’s happening in Congress regarding infrastructure, Alexa,” I want your association’s content to provide the answer.
I think people will still be necessary to connect the thought leaders (the association) with prospect. But, the salespeople of tomorrow will need to be tech savvy, knowledgeable about the prospect and the expertise of the association. That is the opportunity for sales people in the future.