The buzz in the association industry over the past several years has been largely focused on member engagement—how to get members more involved, how to track their participation, how to tweak events and marketing based on engagement analytics. For all the time spent discussing how to get members more engaged in associations, little has been paid to how associations can better engage with their members.
In the end, it all comes down to focus.
Management consultant John Spence recently wrote on how asking great questions, being an intense listener, and taking great notes can make a crucial difference in sales success. In essence, when you listen to people—when you focus on what they’re telling you—you show them respect, which directly results in a better (and most likely more profitable) relationship.
The idea easily translates to the membership sector. How can it not?
When we turn off distractions, focus on what we’re hearing, and actively participate in conversation with each other, we get a deeper understanding of one another’s concerns. We not only show that we’re interested, but the knowledge gained helps us to better problem solve the situation.
Spence suggests the following nine steps to focusing during any member (or prospective member) interaction:
- Turn off all electronic devices and distractions.
- Bring a professional notebook to take notes in.
- Always have an extra pen on hand.
- Show you’re interested though body language and eye contact, or through verbal cues if you’re on the phone.
- Clear your mind of clutter by internally repeating what the member is telling you. This will also help you retain what he or she is saying.
- Use symbols and emphasis in your notes to help you recap the conversation before you end it.
- Transfer the notes into a clean copy and summarize them.
- Send the summary to the member to confirm you’re both on the same page.
- Keep a copy for yourself so you can refer to it days, months, or even years later when you need to reconnect.
Focus and follow-up like this is rare in personal communication these days. Try this with your next committee meeting, member lunch, or prospective phone call. You might be surprised on how much engagement you’ll receive from a simple page of notes and a few thoughtful questions.