Strategies for Selling to Associations

On a daily basis, association headquarters receive numerous phone calls and emails from potential providers of services and products that associations need, such as conference venues, speakers, hotels, even databases and IT support.  For association staff members, who likely have a phone glued to their heads providing member support (especially at conference time!), these informational calls and emails will likely not make it to the front of the line.

So, if you have a product or service to sell to associations, here are a few strategies you will likely find helpful in turning an association executive into a prospect, and a prospect into a customer or partner.

  •  “Cold Calling” doesn’t work. In fact, it aggravates many staff members, for when someone calls, the caller is forcing staff to react to his/her time constraints, and not the other way around. And no matter how sensitive to people’s time you are, your call will likely come at the worst possible moment for the person you need to reach.
  • Emailing can be effective, only if it’s done right. If the reader is intrigued by your message, they’ll click in further. Remember, though, your email message must be compelling and generate interest and curiosity to result in engaging the reader to that point.
  • Have a domain that identifies your brand. If a potential supplier or professional partner has a “free” domain like Gmail or Yahoo, they likely won’t be taken seriously. Also, many newer spam filters automatically tag these senders as “junk.”  It pays to have a unique and brand-identifying domain.
  • BE a member of an association appropriate for your profession or industry. If you are a professional speaker, for example,  your membership in a state or national association representing professional speakers shows you are serious.  After all, your prospect believes quite strongly in the concept of “association,” and you should too, and be able to demonstrate that.
  • Network personally with your prospects. Joining your state society for association executives as a supplier member affords personal access to an entire roster of prospects, and can be a lot of fun for you at the same time. This demonstrates that your company understands association professionals’ daily challenges.


Many association executives and staff members expect their suppliers to interact with them in the same fashion as they engage their Boards and members.  As such, these easy strategies will help you in engaging the association community in a mutually-beneficial way.