How to avoid the common sales myths
Since we started working with high school fundraising groups several years ago, we’ve learned many things about our sponsors. Our primary objective is to help groups reach a predetermined sales goal. And while we’ve encountered sponsors that had previously experienced success, we found many others who hadn’t.
What drives us as a fundraiser company is to focus on helping previously unsuccessful sponsors achieve good results. And as we explore deeper into why they fall short, we learn the reasons why. Some of the things that they think they should be focusing on are good and are based in fact while others, although they seem logical, are based more in theory or assumption.
When it comes to catalog sales, there are 2 basic myths that many high school sponsors seem to focus on. One, they tend to overemphasize the importance of finding the right sales brochure, and two is minimizing the value of the prize program.
It’s true that your students have to believe in what they’re selling; however, you as the sponsor still need to do the convincing. It’s been said that a properly motivated salesman will be able to ‘sell snow to an eskimo’. Unfortunately, sponsors seem to falsely think that their students will intrinsically buy into the group’s need for money, and thus automatically make sales without the need for external motivation.
If your group isn’t properly prepared and inspired to sell, your catalog simply won’t matter because very few potential customers are going to see it anyway.
Rather, here are 2 things that you should consider that can help you experience an effective high school fundraiser:
1. Have a Fundraising Plan
In reality, the sales catalog should be one of the last things sponsors decide on when it comes to planning a high school fundraiser. Most people think that if they can just find the perfect catalog with the right items to sell, then they'll make a lot of money. And to top it off, if the brochure is really good, people will flock to buy. The reality is, very few catalogs sell themselves. One must first establish a solid fundraising foundation by having a well-designed sales plan. Here are 5 questions that must be considered before choosing your catalog:
- How much money do you need to reach your fundraising goal?
- How many students do you have in your group?
- How much will each student need to sell to achieve the group’s overall goal? (The average profit per item found in a catalog is about $5.00)
- What types of incentives are you willing to offer to encourage students to sell? (As much as you would like your students to be inherently inspired to make sales for the good of the group, for the most part they tend to be motivated by extrinsic rewards)
- Is your individual student sales goal reasonable? (One word of caution when goal setting. Just because you have a goal doesn’t mean it’s a realistic one. Perhaps you’ll need 2 fundraisers to reach your objectives. The higher your goal, the greater likelihood that you’ll discourage your students from selling. We’ve found that asking high school students to sell 10 or more catalog items over a 2-week period of time is optimal. This is less than 1 items sold per day. You can always offer additional incentives to encourage students to sell above 10.)
2. High School Students Need Additional Incentives
We’ve already discussed the fact that one of the biggest mistakes that high school sponsors make is thinking they don’t need incentives at all when using a fundraising catalog. It’s also very common for sponsors to think that the basic prize program is enough by itself. They’ve obviously taken a step in the right direction by seeing the need for extrinsic motivation; however the basic prize plan offered by most fundraiser companies is never enough, especially for high school students.
Some are even willing to compromise the quality of their prize program even further in exchange for a higher profit percentage. Many sponsors make the mistake of focusing on negotiating a higher profit percent while forsaking the need for a solid promotional plan.
Regardless of the purpose, most students will respond to a sponsor who's willing to use good incentives. Even when dealing with a lower profit percentage, many sponsors have found that effectively promoting their sale ends up making the group more money in the end. On the other hand, sponsors receiving a higher profit with no prize program tend to be over confident and complacent. They feel they'll already make more money because they're starting off with a higher profit percentage. What these sponsors fail to realize is you can’t take percent profit to the bank, you take money.
Once you have these things in proper perspective, it’s time to implement your game plan. In the end, it probably won’t matter which catalog you choose. Your high school fundraiser will most likely be successful.