Dear League Leaders,
Selling the League to Tough People - “Fence-sitters”
We had a membership coffee in June at a new coffee shop (incidentally operated by Literacy Volunteers to subsidize income cut by NYS). The League's "hook" was to invite community members to talk about issues that concern them. (See title below.) The very informal presentation was on target. The chemistry was there. One prospect’s reaction to the League and the cost ($60 PMP) both seemed positive. But when the time came for signatures, the meeting ended with the prospect saying, "Everything sounds good, I'll and get back to you." The membership team sent the appropriate materials and followed up with a phone call.
Weeks go by. And as you fail to get a decision, you slowly change their status in from "blazing hot" to "warm" to “cool” and then finally to "whatever." Fence-sitters are among the most frustrating "tough customer" types to deal with.
There are four types of fence-sitters -- each with a different underlying issue. They are The Internally Conflicted, The People Pleasers, The Dissatisfied, and The Future Members Who Just Need More Time.
Here are some thoughts on how to handle them:
The Internally Conflicted - With these people, there’s some kind of internal debate...perhaps with a family member who may not agree with some League positions or they may have limited income. If you pick up these clues, your goal is to uncover the internal debate and then provide ideas, compromises, or solutions to get them all on the same page - your page.
The People Pleasers - Often, the real reason someone leaves you in limbo is because they don’t want to deliver the bad news that they want to join but they nervously hem and haw when you ask if they’ve made a decision. Stay in touch by putting them on your email bulletin list and move on.
The Dissatisfied - After meeting with you, the prospect isn’t really excited about any of the ways they could be involved within the League. They haven’t given you a “No” yet because they’re still looking around. Keep and touch and keep sending them timely tidbits. If you’re lucky enough to get them on the phone or get an email reply, they often give the indifferent response “yeah, I'm still considering the League.” There may still be opportunity with this fence-sitter type, but you haven’t provided enough value yet. Get creative with your ideas.
The Future Member Who Just Need More Time - When they said, “Sounds good” they meant it. They’re actively putting things in motion to join (i.e. retirement in a few months, kids to young, etc.) . Keep the dialogue flowing. Ask them questions. Continue to build the relationship. Include them on your next email blast. Be patient.
Marcia A. Merrins
LWVUS Board of Directors
Trainings and Meetings Chair
PS Title for Membership Coffee: "Redistricting? Economy? Consolidation? What Concerns You? The League of Women Voters Wants to Know! Join Us for Coffee and Conversation"