Why associations don’t like the “S” word

Why associations don't like the "S" word

A couple of weeks ago I asked my readers why associations seem to fear the word "sales." I received dozens of responses here and on LinkedIn (thanks to everyone who responded!). The reasons I heard seemed to fall into the following three categories:

  1. Associations are non-profits, and "sales" suggests profit. As one reader put it: "I think “sales” carries the assumption of “profit” which goes against the often altruistic missions of associations and non-profit organizations."

    From another: "Because our members ask: If you are not for profit, how can you sell things?"

  2. Bad experiences with salespeople. "Perhaps because we just love car salespeople so dang much. Lying McLiarpants." said one reader.

    Another wrote: "We’ve all dealt with a sales person in the past who we felt has been dishonest with us and ultimately left us with a negative feeling not only of the incident, but also the organization/product that was being sold."

  3. The focus should be on outcomes or solutions, not sales. One marketing director who confessed she doesn't even like the word marketing wrote: "I’d rather be enlightening, delighting, problem solving, educating, or connecting. Those are things where I am providing value to people, not extracting it."

    And from a member engagement director: "I find people are more likely to accept a meeting with me if I don’t call it sales. My job is helping members find the right ways to engage with our organization and connect with our community."

To be fair, several respondents said things like "We have sales people on our staff!" So clearly not every association fears the word! And another respondent noted that many more associations now have business development staff or departments.

I wholeheartedly endorse point #3 above, that we should be focused on solutions, not just sales. Indeed, it's not unusual for me to turn down a sale to a prospect because I don't think I can provide the kind of value they're seeking. And it's also why many sales titles have been changed to things like "Solutions Consultant."

But in the end, we're selling. And I think we should all acknowledge that!

Wes's Wednesday Wisdom Archives

More on Meetings

June 30, 2021

More on Meetings I’ve written before about the importance of making sure your meetings are …

More on Meetings Read More »

Action produces momentum

June 23, 2021

Action produces momentum Another great quote from James Clear: “Motivation often comes after starting, not …

Action produces momentum Read More »

My #1 Best Practice…

June 16, 2021

My #1 Best Practice… A client recently asked me: “If you had to pick a single …

My #1 Best Practice… Read More »

Encourage engagement with prizes!

June 9, 2021

Encourage engagement with prizes! One of the biggest challenges any organization faces when implementing a new …

Encourage engagement with prizes! Read More »

Inertia

June 2, 2021

Inertia One definition of inertia is “to remain unchanged.” My sense is that many association processes, projects, or …

Inertia Read More »

When’s the “least bad” time?

May 26, 2021

When’s the “least bad” time? When working with clients on a new project, especially a …

When’s the “least bad” time? Read More »

A poor launch can set the stage for YEARS

May 19, 2021

A poor launch can set the stage for YEARS It is not uncommon for me …

A poor launch can set the stage for YEARS Read More »

Have the courage of your convictions

May 12, 2021

Have the courage of your convictions Having the courage of your convictions means you’re willing …

Have the courage of your convictions Read More »

Even your online directory is out of date!

May 5, 2021

Even your online directory is out of date! Back in the day of printed directories, …

Even your online directory is out of date! Read More »

Start small

April 28, 2021

Start small When I work with my clients on projects that involve measuring member engagement, …

Start small Read More »

Scroll to Top