After about three months and a decent degree of success, my sales manager asked me to do a presentation to the other trainees about what I was doing every day. I was surprised as I didn't think I was particularly good - I certainly didn't fit the description of that mythical figure, the "born salesman." When I looked at my colleagues, I saw infinitely better salespeople: smooth talkers, quick closers and pros - some of these folks were so good that I was ready to buy from them!
I asked my manager why he'd want me to give that kind of talk, noting that I just do the same old thing every day: dial the phone, get someone on the line who will listen (preferably a decision maker), talk about a mutual fund I thought was really cool and ask them to buy it over and over until they bought it or hung up on me. He said "Exactly! You're Boring! That's the key to success in this industry."
Considering the myriad of ways we can distract ourselves from the mission at hand, maybe we can all use a bit more "Boring" in our lives. While this experience was in the financial services arena, it translates equally to the nonprofit environment and our fundraising efforts. Boring works - and I'll dare to say that it can even trump inbred talent - when applied consistently.
Here's why it worked then -and still does:
I had a plan to follow: Smith Barney was a big "white shoe" firm - they crunched the numbers to be sure the right person was taking up sales space. They knew the metrics for sales success after years of experience and calculations. It was pretty simple - if you made 300 calls and presented to at least 10 prospects, you'd open one account. You just needed to do that X number of times to get your desired number of clients.
I was passionate about my product: I opened all my accounts with a mutual fund that leveraged the massive consolidation that, at the time, was going on in the banking industry. I did this because I understood it, found it easy to explain and could describe it in about 15 seconds. It didn't matter if I was on the phone, at a deli, the gym or wherever - I loved talking about it and did to anyone that would listen.
I did the same thing every day! Unlike today where salespeople have other tools (or distractions depending on how you use them), there was only one approach to getting my business started: finding prospects and converting them. No facebook or email to check, no tweeting or instagramming - just talking to people about what you were passionate about. All the time, not just on the clock.
While I recognize this approach may be a bit nostalgic (it was the 90's - remember them?), I think much of this still applies to our work in the charitable industry. You still need a game plan for meeting new donors and that should be part of your work every day. In terms of passion, it's pretty simple - find yours. If you're working with a nonprofit that doesn't get you excited every day, there are thousands of others that would welcome your support.
We work in an industry where we get to change the world - one of the best ways to do it is be wonderfully "Boring."