As you make preparations to follow up on leads and begin reaching out to key contacts within corporations and organizations it is important to keep in mind that perceptions will be formed based on your actions and the attitude that you project. As an ambassador, you are an extension of the Division, District and Toastmasters International. To the prospect that you are contacting initially there will not be any differentiation. To them you are Toastmasters! Therefore, there is a need for professionalism throughout your interactions with people. Always keep in mind that it is the small things that make a big difference when people are forming their initial opinions and perceptions. You don’t know what their experiences are, you don’t know what they expect therefore, it is critical that you put your best foot forward. As you start the chartering process, you will be the primary contact, recognized expert and go to person for answers and information. Prospects will judge you and also the organization based on their experiences. Therefore, you are encouraged to keep the following key points in mind:
- Conduct yourself as you would expect a respected business professional to. Schedule appointments for telephone conversations, meetings, etc. and then honor your commitments. Your appearance is critical! Make sure that you dress appropriately. If you aren’t sure what is acceptable in terms of business attire then ask someone who has more experience and a proven track record of success in the business world.
- As an organization we promote the advancement of communication and leadership skills. Therefore your “A” game is essential! Communicate with clarity and accuracy. If you don’t know the answer to a question there is no shame in not knowing. Offer to find the answer, do so and then respond with the information requested in a timely fashion. Always keep in mind that there is a great deal to learn for someone who is new to Toastmasters. Don’t put a firehouse down their throat and turn on the flow. Provide enough detail to satisfy their curiosity and concerns and direct them to additional resources that they can digest at their own pace and on their own time. Gage each person independently and give those who seek in-depth detail everything that they ask for.
- Be quick to listen and slow to respond. Prepare yourself with questions in advance and seek first to understand the organization, the people you are meeting with, the culture of the company, their experience with Toastmasters and the motivation for their interest in chartering a club. Listen first and speak second! The information that is provided will help you better understand the needs that exist, the motivating factors and sense of urgency to move forward. Information offered will provide you with clarity regarding their internal decision making process and how they intend to introduce Toastmasters to their employees. The sweet spot is a minimum employee base of 300 which should be enough to start a club and also replenish members as churn occurs. Be sure to include this question in your initial assessment. Smaller companies sometimes start off thinking about forming a Corporate Club and then decide to open it up to the community once they understand the dynamics involved.
- Make it look and sound easy! Remember that you are often collaborating with someone who already has a full time job. Many of the Corporate Club inquiries that are generated through T.I. originate with someone who was given an assignment or task by a coworker, supervisor or employer. There is a possibility that they are looking for a reason, justification or excuse for why this isn’t a good idea. If they think that starting a Toastmasters Club is going to add unwanted workload to an already jammed schedule or the nature of what is required is overwhelmingly complex then they are going to report this information back to the decision makers and kill the opportunity. That’s why understanding their motivation is vital. You need to keep things simple! Your first and most important goal is to explore whether or not there is enough interest to proceed. The best way to accomplish this is holding an informational session (Lunch and Learn) at their facility. Ask for a very low level of commitment. The only thing you need upfront is a confirmed date and their willingness to promote the event and fill the room with as many people as possible. If upon the completion of this session there is a respectable level of interest (15 or more people) then you can move on to the next step, if not, no harm at least you’ve done your best.
- Think in terms of next steps! You are the trusted advisor and expert. Once the ball is in motion your priority is to maintain momentum and keep it moving in a forward direction. Like an expert strategist you must be thinking about what needs to happen next and where you need to go from where you are. They don’t know what to do otherwise, they wouldn’t need your assistance. Therefore, you must take the lead and make sure that you end each conversation, meeting and step in the chartering process with where we need to go from here. As long as you lead the process in a professional and respectful manner they will trust and appreciate your guidance.
- Identify an internal champion(s)! If you are on a mission to charter new Toastmasters Clubs then you want to work the process. With that in mind you need to identify the emerging leaders within the new group that is forming. The quicker you can get these people to seize ownership of “their” club, the quicker you can move on with confidence to the next start up opportunity. What their people can and will do behind the scenes and within the company when you’re not there (or able to) will magnify your efforts a thousand fold! They have access to internal email distribution lists and information that you cannot tap into. Often, they will take the ball from your initial contact (because they don’t want to be involved) and run in into the end zone! They are also able to influence others and the outcome that you desire. Look for the people who lean forward a little further, express their excitement and interest in getting involved as more than a member. Seek those who already have a foundation of leadership skills and core competencies that will help to establish a solid foundation. Not the ego maniacs, the people who have a servant attitude and the desire to help this new club on the road to success. Get these people what they need in terms of information and training, set them up for success and then go somewhere else and duplicate the process!
- Be consistent and timely with your follow up and follow through! Your sense of urgency and responsiveness to questions speaks volumes! Although we are all volunteers, it is very important that we provide our new club prospects with the highest level of service! Your sense of urgency will set the pace and will often be reciprocated in their sense of urgency to follow through and expedite the chartering process. Do as you say you will do, be consistent in your actions and do so quickly as a sign of respect for their time and interest in starting a club.
Starting new clubs is an absolute blast! It is simple but it isn’t always easy. It requires some strategic planning and some advancements in the thought process. It promotes the development of leadership skills and the outcome is tremendously rewarding! As you begin Chartering Corporate Clubs you will discover that implementing these tips into your routine will make a massive difference in how quickly you are able to expedite the process and the degree of success you experience!
Marshall Northcott, Immediate Past Division G Governor, Founder’s District
2014/2015 President’s Distinguished Division