Thursday, January 27, 2011

What would Tony Soprano do?

Thanks to Anne O’Donnell and Cheryl Rothbart for leading the January 20th session of the Alexandria Brown Bag. One of the topics we discussed was how to engage the entire staff in the cause of membership.

What would Tony Soprano do?

Wouldn’t it be nice if membership was part of everyone’s job? In reality, trying to make this happen is a challenging, even daunting task. No doubt many membership directors have watched an episode of The Sopranos and fantasized being a bit like Tony Soprano. Hey, wouldn’t it be nice to swagger over to another department and declare, “it ain’t personal, it’s membership!”

Let’s face it, you’re not Tony Soprano; you can’t influence (i.e., intimidate) the way he does.  If you’re thinking about using him as a role model… fuggetaboutit!  Instead, here are some approaches that might work better and more safely:

Think cooperation and reciprocity: Here’s a great example: one Membership Director would offer editing services to other departments. It wasn’t part of her job and it was extra work. However, when it came time to ask other departments to help with membership-related activities, the basis for a cooperative and reciprocal relationship had been established. Instead of pleading for help, she was able to say, “My department helped you out with the editing, could you help us out with a membership-related issue?”

Be communal:  If you’re asking staff to call prospects, why not make it a fun and communal event? One association gathered staff in the Board Room, brought in pizza and made the effort a much more enjoyable task.  Free pizza and a party atmosphere is certainly more motivating that having to sit by yourself, at your desk, making phone calls.

Remember, sales isn’t for everyone: Not everyone is comfortable with cold calls to prospects or members. If someone is genuinely uncomfortable with this task, it’s best to find another membership-related task which is in their comfort zone. Give your colleagues a chance to help by doing what they do best.   

Focus on those who get it: The issue here is effective time management and a good ROI for the time you put in. Therefore, your efforts to engage other departments should concentrate on your colleagues who “get it” – those who believe that membership is truly the business of everyone on staff.  Take the time to find out who these people are and use their support as a stepping stone to win the support of other staff.

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