Associations are outsourcing work and will be out sourcing even more in the years to come. Listen in as JP Moery taps into 30 years of being on both sides of the equation and provides six best practice tips for building and managing relationships for associations and consultants.
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Hello, and welcome to JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. President of The Moery Company, JP’s mission is to arm today’s associations with insight and strategy to thrive in a progressively complex and competitive business landscape. Twenty-first century associations must move forward with a little bit of hustle and revenue development at their core. Here’s JP.
Today I’ve got some tips for associations and consultants alike: how to manage your relationship.
In my 30 year career in the association and consulting space, I’ve spent almost equal time being the client (the association) and the consultant. I’ve got insights and perspectives that I’d like to share with you.
The following six things might be helpful for you in managing these relationships better, and in a more productive way, in the year ahead.
First, tell the consultant the real reason you’re considering them. Why do you need their help? Too often the client talks in circles about why they need help or making up excuses as to why the association needs the help. And, in fact, I think it’s empowering for the consultant, and very helpful, to know exactly the reason why they’re being asked to be involved in this project, including, “I just don’t want to do this.” I’ve got a guy who mows my lawn every week. I can make up a bunch of reasons, however, the fundamental reason is: I don’t want to do it. Go ahead and tell that consultant, and be very transparent, about the reason why you’ve asked them to become involved.
Second tip I’ve got for you: let the consulting firm do it. Fully. If you don’t want to do it in the first place then you’re probably not very good at it anyway. Let the professionals do it. I have had more mistakes happen because the expert, or the specialist, wasn’t doing the work. Or, the client wouldn’t allow the consultant to actually do what they hired them to do. It’s unproductive, it’s a waste of the consultant’s time and, frankly, it’s a waste of the association’s money. Hire them and then get out of the way.
The third thing that is productive is this: give the consultant the chance to get off the hook during the sales process. Ask them the following questions, “What is a red flag in terms of this project that I’ve described for you? Is there anything that’s unreasonable or that I might not have right that you need to tell me about now?” Give that consultant the chance to answer that question.
I’ll give you an example that I used to see in membership recruitment all the time, “Hey, Moery Company! Hey, JP! We want you to sell membership for us.”
Fantastic! We’re going to do it! Man, I’m fired up!
“Okay, tell me about the program right now and how we can help!”
“Well, we recruited five new members last year and we’ve got a new chairman. We’ve got a lot of people that are in this industry that we don’t have as members. We want to recruit 5000 new members this year. It’s a special program and initiative. We’re calling it Project 5000.” The numbers may be a bit expanded, however, it’s pretty close to the truth of what a client told us during a sales call. That may sound crazy, yet, the consultant may not tell you that that because they don’t want to jeopardize getting the business from you. I advise our association clients to ask the consultant this question, “Hey, this is what we think the project is about and here’s what we want to accomplish. Is there anything that’s unreasonable, or outside of the norm, that you need to tell me about now that we need to talk through?”
This leads me to number four: get clear expectations on feedback. Here’s an example: ask the consultant for a weekly report in writing. Request transparency. When I’m wrong, I want the consultant to tell me. Because when you’re wrong, as the client, I’m going to tell you. Get some real expectations and clarity on feedback and how you’re going to communicate back and forth. Talk about that in the sales process, it makes your whole relationship so much more productive. We get hung up by telling the client, or the association, things that they really don’t need to know. We’re afraid of it because we haven’t set up a feedback mechanism. It is really important to do that during the sales process.
The next item, number five: set clear goals. I know this is kind of elementary, however, it is essential to do it during the sales process and before you close the deal. What are the results, by when, and who is going to do it? Agree to that at the launch meeting, not after the fact. I can tell you, in our sales projects, I get really nervous when they say, “Well, we don’t know what the goal should be, but let us get back to you.” Or, “We’ll figure it out down the road.” In the rhythm of business and the cadence of closing deals, I’ll go ahead and sign that contract.
Here’s what ends up happening: I knew that this association had not been closing a lot of sponsorship deals. We crushed it! We were able to sell twice as many sponsorships in a shorter time frame than they have ever brought on board. I walked into our meeting thinking, “Man, we’re going to resign this deal. We’re going to make more money, for both of us, it’s going to be fantastic!” The association came back and said, “This really wasn’t what we expected. We expected it to be 3x instead of 2x.” Such a demoralizing thing for our team that really put a lot of work. Our team thought they were successful and celebrated that success.
We never got bad feedback from the client. They weren’t mad; however, they didn’t renew. They said they did not renew because we didn’t meet their expectations. Whose mistake is that? Frankly, it’s mine. All because we did not get clarity upfront and we didn’t push to get those clear expectations. Clear feedback, understanding, and how you’re going to communicate as well as setting the goals and expectations of the project, including deadlines are probably two of the most important pieces of information that I’ve got to relay to you today.
Here’s the sixth and final piece of advice: build one month of consulting into the agreement after the project is finished. Let’s say you want a dues review, you’d like for someone to restructure your sponsorship program, or whatever the project is. More than likely, during the project, you’re going to learn things, you’re going to get some feedback, there’s going to be some unexpected learning that you’re going to get. Or, you might need implementation advice or consulting in that area after the fact. Maybe you need to do one more final presentation to a different group of leaders in the association. This month gives you a little margin. It gives you time and the opportunity to address items which might not be expected that you learned about during the project. The association doesn’t have to go back and take advantage of the relationship by saying, “Hey, can you do one more report out to the board?” The consultant doesn’t think, “Gosh, you know, they’re taking advantage of me and they really should be paying extra.” Go ahead and build another extra month of consulting. It’s a minimal fee to cover the opportunity to continue to work together and tie up any loose ends that might need to be tied.
I hope these items are helpful to you because here is what is absolutely getting ready to happen, and it’s already occurring in the market that I can see: companies are going to be outsourcing more work, there’s no doubt about it. The better we get at collaborating and working with subcontractors and consultants, the better your organization is going to be. Thanks for listening, can’t wait to speak with you next time on the Association Hustle.
We hope you enjoyed this edition of JP Moery’s Association Hustle Podcast. We’d love to connect with you. Check out our blogs at moerycompany.com and subscribe to our weekly newsletter. You can also connect with JP on LinkedIn and Twitter @JPMoery, as well as The Moery Company’s Instagram and Facebook page. To purchase a copy of JP’s book, Association Hustle: Top Strategies for Association Growth. Go to JPMoery.com.