Fundraising Is Sales; Ask These Questions
Have you ever heard that quote in the title? If not, you might want to brush up on your sales skills. It could be the difference between getting a donation or not. Let’s set the record straight, I’m not diminishing fundraising as just “sales.” I’m elevating sales as a process and technique to help us be more successful in our fundraising.
For some fundraisers, “selling” something may mean closing a gift or receiving the check. It could simply be hearing the words, “You can count on me. I will have the funds ready for you by Friday.” We spend much of our continuing education listening to the latest and greatest means and methods for raising money. We spend way too little time on psychology! Sales psychology, to be specific.
I am not minimizing the importance of technology, analytics and metrics. They’ve become important tools in equipping us to converse with a donor—especially today. However, without admitting to ourselves that sales training is necessary, we could be leaving money on the table more often than not. There is a popular sales definition that says, “The sale begins when the prospect says ‘no’—everything else is just order-taking.”
Haven’t we all asked for a donation and the prospect says “yes?” Of course we have. We get credit for the gift, and rightfully so. We made a great presentation. But a presentation is not the same as a carefully crafted sales-process ask. When the prospect says anything but “yes,” there is more going on than just a “no.” We probably did not have the tools during the process to know how to create value for the donors. They need more information from us—but even they may not know it. They just know it isn’t right, so they do not say “yes.”
Don’t panic! This is to be expected, especially as the gift amount we ask for increases. The donor will give you signals as to what he or she needs from you to make the right decision. The larger the ask, the longer the process. We must respond to what donors need, whether they say it or not. This is what I mean by sales process and technique.
Here are just a few sales questions we should be asking ourselves before we ask a prospect for a major gift:
• How can we get the prospect talking before any other conversation takes place? In other words, how can we quickly create rapport and chemistry for this meeting? Ask them a question that will get them talking about themselves. Then, we should weave our short comments into the conversation, so that the meeting takes on a tone of dialogue and not interview or sales pitch. They will feel more comfortable during our meeting to ask questions that will help the process, rather than keeping quiet and hindering the maximum gift opportunity.
• How can we get donors to tell me how they really feel about our request without putting them on the spot directly? Ask them who else would be joining them in the decision-making. Ask what that person would say about the ask. When they tell us what the other person might be thinking, we will know what our prospect is thinking. Now, we can plan our strategy for an immediate response or for a follow-up meeting—whichever is appropriate in that situation.
• How can we be prepared to overcome any objections the prospect may have? Remember, the objection is nothing more than a question about value. We need to show the value of the gift, so it will be recognized in the mind and heart of the donor. Do not be afraid to ask for objections. Getting them out on the table early will keep us from wasting time, and it will eliminate them from arising in future discussions or during a more critical time in the meeting.
Keep in mind that a sales pitch is not the same as having a solid sales process and technique. If we are prepared, our prospects will lead us directly to their need to give the right gifts for our organization to fulfill its mission.