J is for Join
Getting involved with your trade association, chamber of commerce, or other industry club is a smart idea. It is even smarter to be active in the associations where your clients participate. Over the long run the people who invest their time in organizations will build a reputation in their business community. Being known in a world full of noise and distractions is benefit that can never be taken away. It can also be a key to promotions and new career opportunities. While it might sound cliché, it is true that people do business with those they know, like and trust. Joining and being active in industry groups is one of the best ways to becoming known, liked and trusted.
Sales people dismiss the idea of joining associations for two reasons. The first one I hear far too often is that there are too many of their competitors in the group. While your own industry organization might only have competitors, your client’s trade group is made up of people to whom you can do business. If you skip out because your competition got their first you are handing them a lifetime of relationships. Being late to the party does not mean you cannot cultivate important connections. It will take time, but if you are present and a contributor to the community, you will enhance your network.
The second reason people say they do not join organizations is the time commitment. To discover the value from joining business association you must do more than pay dues. To have successful return on investment you are going to have to attend the meetings, be active in online chat, and volunteer to serve on committees. Yes, there is an investment, but most people in business waste a lot of time doing “research” (which often means surfing the internet, or doing other useless tasks. Participation with clients, prospects, industry vendors, and even competitors can have a long term impact on your sales and your career.
Most companies will cover the costs of membership and attending monthly meetings or annual conventions. It is common for sales oriented companies to sponsor events or host booths at association events. But to maximize this investment they are better served when someone from the company steps up and is active in the group. If you take on this role, you will also be recognized for your efforts.
If you company will not pay your dues to join groups, you may want to consider paying your own way. Joining organizations is an investment in getting to know many of the movers and shakers in an industry. While present at meetings make it a point to get face time with the people you most want to know. Remember that meeting someone once does not make them part of your network, and it can take seven to ten interactions with a person before they start to recognize you. Thus your expectations from joining group must have a long-term focus.
All opportunities come from people and joining associations, chambers of commerce, and other business clubs will lead you to more success. Associations are more relevant than ever, and membership has its privileges.