We are always asked how we are able to sell so much advertising. This question is then followed up with whether we would be interested in helping them with their fundraising. As flattering as this is, fundraising is not something we do, but let’s face it–fundraising is sales, period. So be it program book advertising sales, performing arts digital signage advertising sales, or yes, even fundraising–sales is sales. And if you don’t have a sales process, you will fail.

Saying this, if you make a large number of calls during the week, yet have few or no closes, you need a way to up your game. Fortunately, this isn’t as hard as it can seem. Whether you’re new to fundraising or seem to have lost your edge, the solution is the same: Using the right method to deal with prospects’ objections. Nearly everyone who doesn’t instantly agree with you has some objections in mind that are keeping them from saying “yes.”

Handling these issues properly will change you from being yet another commercial caller into an effective fundraising professional.

All it takes to improve your closing rate is following a simple, four-step formula. You should see results quickly, and of course, improve even more with practice. Here are the four steps:

  1. Listen. Don’t interrupt if a prospect voices objections. Instead, listen to the comments in their entirety. People are put off when they are talked over. Listening also gives you a chance to really understand what is causing them to balk at donating, and this understanding will allow you to arrive at an effective response.
  2. Probe. Learn more about the objection. Ask why the prospect is saying what he/she is saying, and then ask if there are any other reasons not to “move ahead.”
  3. Classify. Determine whether it is a real objection, an excuse, or just a delaying tactic. Keep this classification to yourself. It is just to help you decide your next move.
  4. Respond. The proper response makes the difference between yet another failed sales call and success. We suggest using what we call the 3F Technique. First, say that you can appreciate the way the prospect feels. Then, say that others have felt the same way. Finally, move on to say that these “others” have found specific benefits from giving to your organization, and say what those benefits are. Finally, ask again for the donation to make the close. You’ll note that all of the bolded words start with “F,” which is why this is called the 3F Technique.

Other Tips

Like anything else, it helps to practice in order to get things to go smoothly. Try working with a friend or colleague to think up things that an imaginary prospect might say, and then practice responding to those objections. Then, when you call or visit real prospects, you won’t be left standing there trying to figure out what to say.

Another thing to watch out for is a tendency, conscious or not, to overemphasize the “feeling” words. This can be very obtrusive and off-putting if it seems as though you’re trying to force them into a feeling, rather than thinking, state of mind. While that actually is exactly what you’re doing, it should not be done in an obvious way. Instead, the prospect should feel as if you are simply conversing rather than trying to box them in. Then, they’ll be much more receptive to your message.

As you get more used to using this technique, you’ll begin to feel comfortable with it, and your sales will improve even more. If everyone in your organization’s fundraising department takes up the practice, the difference to the bottom line will be obvious.

Before you can start fundraising, you need to get leads to call. Be sure to advertise your fundraising department in your performing arts program books so that your current patrons are motivated to contact you. Inbound leads are always the easiest to convert since they are already interested. To learn more about using your performing arts program books to promote your own organization’s fundraising efforts, just contact us. We’ll be glad to help you improve your group’s financial health. Good selling!

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