Toastmasters International has given us a directive. The District Mission states, “We build new clubs and support all clubs in achieving excellence.”
If you are part of the District Leadership Team (Area Director all the way up to District Director) and you want your leadership learning experiences and contributions to matter and positively impact the lives of others then you are called up to spread the word and grow the base of Toastmasters Clubs within your geographic territory.
Every year Toastmasters International receives thousands of inquiries from people who are curious about starting a new club. You may or may not be the beneficiary of these leads however, planning on receiving them, wishing or hoping is not a strategy for living up to our mission. Therefore, you need to be proactive and create opportunities through self-generated leads.
This can be a challenge for people who do not have any lead generation or sales experience. If you are an Area Director, you are responsible for chartering at least one club during your term under the guidance and direction of your Division Director. If you are a Division Director your primary focus should be chartering new clubs in order to help your Area Directors and live up to the District Mission. That means Area Directors need to generate one qualified lead that they are able to convert into a chartered club with the assistance of the Division Director. Division Directors are able to add a New Clubs Chair to the team in order to actively concentrate on this objective. With twelve months to achieve this goal it is a very doable and achievable goal. You have two options, you can work on chartering a community club which requires more time, commitment and a small team of committed individuals or you can charter a closed corporate club which tends to be easier once you find someone within a company or organization who you can partner with.
To charter a community club you need to identify an underserviced community and start with no cost or low cost space. You will need to find someone who can grant you access to space on a weekly basis so that you can begin to promote meetings at the designated location.
For the purpose of this instructional article I’ll focus on self-generated leads for closed corporate clubs because this is a market segment that is much easier to develop in a shorter time frame and it is also exploding. Here is a process that you can follow to find that diamond in the rough:
- Start with your sphere of influence. Write down the names of everyone that you are personally connected with that are located within a reasonable drive time of your home and/or work. These would be people that you communicate with on a regular basis. People who you can phone and have a regular everyday kind of conversation with, without feeling intimidated or running into barriers with (i.e. they will return your calls). Your list would include family, friends, spouses of friends, colleagues, associates, co-workers, members of your Toastmasters Club, neighbors, people who provide you with professional services, people you have done business with (made purchases from), people you go to/went to school with etc. If your young then your list could expand to people your parents know and if you’re beyond retirement age your list could include people your adult children know. Most people should be able to write down a minimum or 50 names and as many as 250 names. If you are new to the area or your sphere of influence is limited then tap into someone else’s sphere of influence.
- Sort your list into two categories to identify high and low potential prospects within the names you’ve listed in your sphere of influence. High potential prospects would be anyone who works for a company or organization that has a base of 300+ people (employees) at the same location that you can tap into. People of influence who can either initiate the process or who can connect you with or at least give you a contact name and number for someone who can start the process. Anyone on your list that you can count on because they really like you and would want to help with a worthy cause is a huge asset! People often think that the most appropriate person to contact is someone in H.R. That is a poor assumption. Your connection or contact needs to be someone who recognizes a good idea when it is presented to them and a person who is willing to take action, advance the process and work towards making a result happen. The higher up in the executive leadership team that you are able to start the process the better! Anyone who considers this to be extra unnecessary work that they would prefer to avoid isn’t a good starting point for achieving success.
- Start with your high potential prospects by making contact by phone and asking if it is a convenient time to chat. The focus of your conversation shouldn’t be “Toastmasters.” The focus of the conversation is elevating communication and leadership skills. You also want to set up a time to meet or have a conversation by phone to get into the meat of the matter with someone who can move things forward or steer you towards someone else who can. Mention that you are involved with Toastmasters as a volunteer and District leader. Then ask them if there are concerns within their company/organization or any emphasis on elevating communication and leadership skills. Ask them (exactly as shown), “Who do they know who, within the leadership team of their company who would be keenly interested in an extremely low cost, proven program used within thousands of companies globally to enhance communication and leadership skills?” If they say, “Me” then they are the person you need to chat further with. If they offer a different name then you need to let them know that you would appreciate an introduction and an opportunity to connect with them. Ask your contact if they are willing to make the introduction and provide you with the person’s contact information. Finding the most ideal contact(s) to connect with is the most difficult part of the whole process. Once you have the right person you need to explain why you’re calling and more importantly, what’s in it for them. Some people will grab onto what you are offering immediately, some people will require some follow up and additional nudging and some will not be interested. It only takes one quality lead and one hot prospect in each Area for you to achieve your goal.
- In the game of networking it isn’t just who you know, it is who your contacts know. The process for your low potential prospects is similar to the process for the high potential prospects. The difference is that you are attempting to work through them to connect with people they know (their contacts).
- Ask them (exactly as shown), “Who do they know who, works at a company with over 300 employees?” Wait for them to respond. If they want more information you can mention your volunteer involvement in Toastmasters and the low cost, proven program used within thousands of companies globally to enhance communication and leadership skills. Once they offer a different name then you need to let them know that you would appreciate an introduction or an opportunity to connect with them. Ask your contact if they are willing to make the introduction and provide you with the person’s contact information. If they give you any names and contact information make sure that you ask if you can reference them when you call the person. When you phone third party contacts the only thing that you must do differently is make a proper introduction. In your introduction state your name, mention that they don’t know you however you share a common connection and then mention the connection’s name. Explain why you are calling and follow the same process and you followed for calling on your high potential prospects. Here is an example of what you should say, “Hello Susan, my name is John Smith, you don’t know me but you know my close friend Tammy Sutherland. Tammy and I were chatting and I mentioned my volunteer involvement in a global organization called Toastmasters. I asked her if she knew anyone that worked in a company locally that might be interested in an extremely low cost, proven program used within thousands of companies globally to enhance communication and leadership skills and your name came up, would this be a convenient time for you to speak with me?”
The work involved in identifying a hot prospect will teach you unbelievable, transferable leadership skills that you will be able to leverage for the rest of your life. The feeling of personal satisfaction and pride that you will experience as a result of laying the ground work and chartering a club will be something you will treasure for years to come!
Written by: Marshall Northcott