There’s a bit of a stigma around “sales.” Everyone can think of bad salespeople, the ones who try to get you to buy something you don’t need. Fair enough. That’s not what we’re referring to with “sales.”
Sales to me, simply equates to talking with people to learn about what they want to do, and figuring out whether there’s some way we can help them do it. Whether it’s through an introduction to someone, helping them find resources they didn’t know about, or something else. If there’s a need that’s clearly defined, then there’s probably a solution somewhere. A great salesperson (or development person) connects those dots. That’s all. Win-win.
Nonprofits are no different. Altruistic people with amazing aspirations want nonprofits to help them connect their time, talents and treasure with people that need it most. But they won’t always stumble upon what might work best on their own, day to day. So development is sales, helping them see where their best opportunity for impact lies. And sales – when done well professionally – is exactly that. Connecting people with opportunities they want. That’s all.
Sales isn’t a bad thing. In fact, it’s what makes nonprofits and corporations alike work. Every entrepreneur is a salesperson. Their first sale is to convince someone, at some time how they can make people’s lives better and easier. If they can’t, their company won’t go far. How good they are at selling determines the height of their wave that creates impact.
And so without sales, there would be no companies. And no nonprofits. Every nonprofit founder has to be a pretty amazing salesperson to convince others to join in an effort that will most probably take a lot of time, talent and treasure — to be rewarded most often simply with smiles!
So if you’re in development, be thankful. It’s “sales” in the best sense. You are letting people know the best ways they can help solve problems, in the most efficient and effective ways possible. You are showing the wonderful donors, advocates and volunteers how and when they can do the best good. And that means a lot to them.
Professional salespeople know that the only good “sale” is when you open a long-term relationship with someone based on a win-win scenario where you both learn and grow and solve problems. Development is no different. Helping people learn and decide the best way to help other people is probably one of the best roles out there.
So being an excellent salesperson is part and parcel of being a great development person. It’s all about being as useful, helpful, and relevant as you can to the people you’re helping. And development professionals will probably be the first to second that!
What do you think? Please let me know @CharityIdeas!