publication date: Sep 4, 2012
author/source: Janet Gadeski
Salespeople have a lot in common with fundraisers, according
to a new study
by Steve W. Martin
of the USC Marshall School of Business
there are also some startling differences.
Martin found seven traits among top salespeople. Surprisingly,
the first is modesty. Top salespeople emphasize the team of skilled people that
stand behind the product, he says.
Good fundraisers are equally careful to stay out of the
spotlight. They put donors and their mission impact at centre stage all the
Eighty-five percent of the top performers Martin studied are
highly conscientious. They have a strong sense of duty and take their jobs
seriously. They take control of the sales cycle rather than allowing the
customer to drive the process.
Donor-centred fundraising is just the opposite. The donor
sets the pace and tone of the relationship, and the fundraiser respects her
timing. But there's still a role for conscientiousness: sensitively moving the
gift process along, persistently focusing on the gift's urgency and potential
Top sellers want results. So do top fundraisers. Both keep
their goals in mind and constantly compare their performance to their goals.
For salespeople, Martin says, that means strategizing about
the people they're selling to and how their products fit into the organization,
rather than focusing on the products' functionality.
For fundraisers, it means knowing their donors and how the
charity's work fits into their hopes values and preferences. It may even mean
modifying the gift - timing, amounts, pledge period, designation - to align
with the donor's capabilities and interests.
Hunger for knowledge is high among top salespeople. They
want to close gaps in information so they know if they can win business. They
are active and inquisitive during conversations with customers.
Fundraisers too must be inquisitive, although with much more
care. Closing a gift is not a matter of directly presenting a strong business
case. We connect with the donor's heart, mind and soul, Fraser Green
's three foundations of donor loyalty. That information
is just as essential as the facts a salesperson seeks.
Top sales performers are less gregarious than their fair-to-middling
counterparts. Martin says dominance is essential to "gain the willing obedience
of customers such that the salesperson's recommendations and advice are
followed." Those who are too friendly have trouble building up that upper hand.
Even though "dominance" is not what fundraisers want,
there's something to be said for maintaining clear boundaries with donors. The
distance may be narrower, given our focus on heart, mind and soul, but it's
still important to maintain.
We represent our charity, not ourselves. We walk the
tightrope of working for the donor's best interest, but also our charity's. The
same boundaries that top salespeople maintain may well be a key to building
trust (not dominance) in us as professionals. And it helps avoid the unrealistic
expectations we've all read about in ethical case studies.
This one's obvious. The faster you bounce back from
disappointments and losses, the sooner you're prepared for the next
Top salespeople aren't easily embarrassed. Fundraisers can't
be embarrassed about asking for money. Remember, you're asking for a mission
you believe in, not for yourself.
Read more here
Janet Gadeski brings
two decades of experience in fundraising and nonprofit management to her work as
Editor of Hilborn Charity eNEWS and
President of Hilborn. Her
fundraising and management experiences range from a public radio station to The
United Church of Canada Foundation, which she served for five years as its
first President & CEO.
Contact Janet by email.