Originally published on The Center for Sales Strategy Blog on September 12, 2016
Cause Marketingis a buzzword bandied about by many in the nonprofit sector. To some, the concept is a proven method to help organizations solve business problems via an association with a worthwhilecause.To others, it is merely atacticdesigned to pitch and sell sponsorships to nonprofit events and initiatives.
In order for a nonprofit development officer to engage in cause marketing successfully,they need to take some time to understand theneedsof their prospect before presenting a proposal andasking for money. This understanding enables the development of a proposal customized for the prospect based on a business problem, challenge or opportunity. Simply put, one does not exist without the other: Without an understanding of needs,cause marketingcannot happen and theaskis merely just anotherask.
“Seek first to understand then be understood.” Stephen Covey
Many nonprofit development officersaskbefore they assess needs. For example, it is all too easy toaska financial institution to sponsor a nonprofit initiative based on belief in the nonprofit mission instead of taking the time to discover that the financial institution is launching an new credit card and needs help with applications. Imagine the power of linking this need with a nonprofit event —like a fun run or walk— that attracts thousands of credit-worthy people. This transforms theask into win-win proposition that helps the cause and the corporate partner!
Here’s a step-by-step process that world-class nonprofit revenue developers follow to understand client needs. Feel free to take it for a test drive:
Make a personal connection, establish some rapport.
Set up the conversation (clarify expectations, yours and theirs).
Keep your agenda brief (make reference to the valid business reason you used to set the meeting).
Discuss how you do business.
Ask some easy-to-answer, not-risky questions to continue establishing your credibility.
Probe for a broad range of potential needs, problems, challenges, and opportunities, some of which could turn into good assignments.
Use the Needs/Notes note-taking system (divide a sheet of paper in half vertically and listneeds on one side andnoteson the other).
Circle those needs that may be an assignment. It’s an assignment if it is important enough for the client to lose sleep over and spend money to solve AND it’s a problem we can help with (see credit card assignment mentioned above).
The needs phase may be complete when you have two or three promising assignments.
Agree on an Assignment
Summarize the needs you noted on your page.
Ask if anything is missing from list.
Ask prospect to prioritize them.Which is most important? Most urgent?Focus on the most important need you have the capabilities to address.
Test the emerging “assignment” by asking questions about ROI measurement, already-existing plans, potential resources to solve the problem, and how soon the prospect wants to see potential solutions.
Agree on one assignment. This is something the prospect wants help with and wants to work on shoulder-to-shoulder with you.
Analysis of the Assignment
Open up the questioning again. Now your intent is not to learn about a full range of potential needs, but to get in-depth information about the assignment uncovered.
Ask these types of questions (you may want to use a few of these and then draft some of your own as well).What makes this need important? What has prompted it to go to the top of your priority list? What makes it tough? What would success look like? What are some of the things you would need to see in the ideal solution? Why don’t you have a solution already?
Floating preliminary ideas and trial balloons related to your nonprofit events and initiatives is a natural part of this process. You’re not necessarily trying to solve the problem or pitch your sponsorship right then and there; rather, you’re using these devices to learn more so you can build a buyable proposal (a betterask).
Contracting of Next Steps
Ask the prospect,What else should we be talking about?Do you have any questions for me?
Agree on next steps in the process. Announce your tasks. Leave the prospect at least one task.