May 26, 2016

Association Professionals: The New Age of Salespeople

Association Professionals: The New Age of Salespeople

Imagine going to your favorite retailer and asking the sales professional a question regarding a product. Now imagine them not knowing the answers to these questions. Would you be inclined to purchase the product? Probably not. Don’t make your members feel the same pain. For many associations, training staff members on the memberships they offer probably isn’t high on the priority list. Association executives may think that membership information is simply common knowledge. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case. Time is money and if your staff isn’t equipped to answer membership questions, you may be losing some. Today, everyone is a salesperson whether they like it or not. It may be time for associations to facilitate formal training on the memberships they offer every day. This may sound like a no brainer, but it’s potentially an oversight for many associations. If engagement and retention are things you are passionate about - I would take note.

In this day and age, everyone is a salesperson.


Every association’s staff structure varies and differs from the next. Some associations have a bustling office with many different professionals running around. Others, are smaller and have a more condense payroll. The size of your staff is fairly irrelevant, as everyone working at an association should understand the basics of the memberships they offer. The fact of the matter is, everyone is in sales now. Every interaction with members can affect the membership experience, no matter how big or small. It’s important for associations to effectively train its staff to understand the memberships that it offers.

Every Interaction Counts

It’s safe to say that almost every staff member has probably interacted with a prospective or current member at some point. The real question is: Were they equipped to answer any membership question? If not, this not only gives off the perception of being unprofessional, but they could have just negatively affected their membership experience. Each interaction is an opportunity to sell or engage a member. If your staff is ill-equipped and not trained on your membership structure, how do you expect these members to gain insight? When staff members don’t have the knowledge to inform prospective or current members, it may hinder your retention rates without you even realizing it. Don’t you want to increase member happiness and retention? It may be time to train your staff about your memberships. Nobody wants to decrease retention due to a missed opportunity to engage and provide knowledge.

View Membership as the Product

Want to successfully inform members while selling memberships? Think of your association as a business, and your membership is the product to sell. When sales professionals are expected to meet a quota, it’s vital that they know the nitty-gritty regarding their product. Often times, obscure questions come up, and if they aren’t equipped to provide the answer, it may cost them the deal. It’s important to be business-minded when training your staff on your memberships. This is something that can advance your association from good to great.

If a member calls your headquarters and speaks with multiple people who are wildly knowledgeable - they will remember that! It may not seem like it, but your staff may have just made a sale. By being pristine with your sales ability, you will advance their membership experience, while assuring them that they are a part of a great organization. I’m not saying that you have to mimic The Wolf of Wall Street, but being knowledgeable about your entire product is a solid start. As the old saying goes: Knowledge is power.

Membership 101

If you quizzed your staff on the basics of your membership(s), would they pass or fail? Depending on the department, some staff members may believe they don’t need to know this information. That’s where they are mistaken. Every staff member, new and old, should have to undergo a formal training to better understand your membership structure. Associations should integrate a training program into its initiatives for seasoned and new staff members. This will allow staff members to understand the full spectrum of benefits, while having the opportunity to ask questions. Trust me, I’m sure every single staff member will feel a sense of relief after engaging in this training session. Whether it’s knowing the benefits and dues structure, how to log in the member portal or how frequently the newsletter gets published, your staff needs to know an abundance of information.

Wondering how you should go about facilitating this training? Luckily for you, that is totally your call. If you want to do a formal seminar-style training, go for it! If your association already utilizes e-learning, you can provide online modules. Associations can utilize training methods its executives deem appropriate. At the end of the day, it’s the context of the training that is important, not the way it’s executed.

Many association executives may believe that their staff is well-versed on their memberships. However, they may be turning a blind eye to a common misconception. If you train your staff on the technology your association uses, shouldn’t they know the basics of what upholds your organization: memberships? If your entire staff is capable of answering every membership question, they are not only engaging your members, but inadvertently selling them. Why don’t you kill two birds with one stone and provide formal training session(s) on your memberships?

To learn more about the importance of members, check out our whitepaper, What Good Is an Association Without Members.