Closing the deal: ten fundraising tips

Paul Pelletier

The “ask” is the essential part of the solicitation process. You may ID, research and cultivate the prospect as much as you like but only the hard ask will get you a check.

You have done a great job up to now. You have identified your potential donor, and you know he has the funds. You did your background research. You know who his friends are and have already achieved third-party endorsement.

Before visiting, you sent him information on you, your campaign, your opponent, this race specifically, and where he has the most personal interest in it. You set the appointment and arrived early. You opened with enough personal talk to put him at ease. You have explained why you are running and how your election would not only improve your community but also him personally. You have given him the “secret” insider’s view of the campaign by showing him recent polls, a part of your campaign plan or an endorsers sheet. You have even told him why you need his donation.

Yes, you have done well. Your case has been so well-presented that you let out a mental sigh and lean back in the chair. The prospect takes a few moments to review the material you have given him, then thanks you for coming and wishes you the best. What happened? Didn’t you do everything the right way? Why couldn’t he just see it too?

The problem is that you didn’t close. No one will ever donate to you unless you ask for the money. The “ask” is the essential part of the solicitation process. You may ID, research and cultivate the prospect as much as you like but only the hard ask will get you a check.

Imagine yourself as a restaurant owner. You have built a beautiful facility, classy and gorgeous in every way. You hire only the best in help for cooking, service and even cleanup. Your wine cellar is fully stocked, and the menu would make any food critic sing your praises. Still, night after night nobody shows up. You’re going out of business unless this changes. And how can you change it? Ask for the business. Run ads, do tasting shows, donate food for charity functions, get your message out by closing the deal. Soon you will be opening a chain of restaurants.

It is the same in your political campaign. You must ask for the vote. You must ask for the check. All too many candidates do not ask and then wonder why someone else is giving a victory speech on election night.

In order to do this, you must overcome several attitudes of your prospect. Perhaps these will he indifference to you or the race, or even the entire political process. Perhaps he will be skeptical that you can win or that you will do what you say you will. He might even have true objections or concerns about your race before he comes to acceptance.

Ten proven closing techniques that will work in various situations are listed below. Rehearse and practice them with your finance director so they become second nature. Take along a friend who also knows the prospect as well. He or she can provide you with backup. Next time you’ll get the check!

1. Just ask. The meeting is going well – make your move! “Mr. Jones, can I count on your contribution of $_____?” (Remember: Always ask high.)

2. The prospect closes. You can assume from the conversation that the meeting is going well and that the prospect will contribute. “I like what you’re saying. How much would you need from me?”

3. The either-or close. The meeting has gone well, but you don’t feel that the prospect will give now, so you give him the option of “will you give or will you give?” “Mr. Jones, would I be able to count on your contribution today, or should we expect to see a check from you by Friday?”

4. The half-nelson close. A very effective method. You must feel the prospect out for what he feels is important, then you emphasize your position on those issues. He will contribute to you if you see eye to eye (i.e., you force him to tell you what he wants). “Mr. Jones, what would you like to know about me that would help you make up your mind on supporting my candidacy?”

5. The follow-up close: If a major donor prospect is hesitant about supporting you, follow up the meeting with a letter, thanking him for his time and listing issue-stance comparisons between you and your opponent. Seeing the facts on paper makes them sink in and may bring him around to your team. Following up is the key. “Mr. Jones, now that you know my position on X and Y, I hope that I can count on your support.”

6. The third-party reference. The prospect may want to know who else has given you money. This is a credibility test. Be ready to list someone whom he may know or know of – and respect. This method is perhaps the most effective. The third-party should call the prospect to solidify this position. “Mr. Jones, your friend Ms. Smith has endorsed my campaign and asked me to contact you because she knows that you are committed to good government.”

7. The lost sale, revisited. After what appears to be the final rejection, question the prospect as to why you have failed. In short, ask the prospect why he will not support you.

Prospect: For the last time, NO!

Candidate: Mr. Jones, I owe you an apology, sir.

Prospect: Oh, that’s all right. I understand your situation.

Candidate: Well, I feel badly that I may not have presented myself well, and I’m sorry.

Prospect: No, it’s not that, it’s just . . .

Candidate: Sir, I don’t want to make this mistake again, I mean, where did I go wrong? Please tell me so that I don’t scare my next possible supporter away.

Prospect: All right then. You failed to satisfy me about your commitment to no new taxes, and your plans for attracting new business to our state.

Candidate: And that’s it?

Remember: The prospect has said “no, because” and not “no, never.” No is just another word for Yes.

8. The process-of-elimination close. This close is for the prospect who will not tell you his reasons for not supporting you. It requires the candidate to get the prospect into the habit of saying “no.” The reason for this is that in the process of elimination, “no” comes to mean “yes.”

Candidate: I feel there must be something I haven’t made clear to you, Mr. Jones. Can you tell me what it is that you are uncertain about? Is it my stance on education?

Prospect: Good heavens no, I’m in complete agreement.

Candidate: Well perhaps it’s my background that you’re unsure of?

Prospect: No, I agree that you are totally qualified for this office.

In the end, the prospect admits that everything is OK, or he reveals his genuine objection. You can then work on closing the sale by satisfying his concerns.

9. The “I’ll think it over” close. This is the most powerful weapon used by the prospect. You never know if it means yes, no or maybe.

Prospect: Well, I’ll think it over.

Candidate: Thank you Mr. Jones, I’m delighted that you would consider supporting me.

Prospect: Well, that’s right. I will give it careful consideration and I’ll get back to you later this week.

Candidate: So that you have all the facts, while I’m still here, perhaps you could tell me what it is that I haven’t satisfied you about. Is it my stand on property taxes? Can I answer any more questions?

And now you are back to the “process of elimination” close.

10. The final objection close. The objective is to obtain the prospect’s agreement that there is only one reason for not supporting you – possibly your stance on abortion – and that you know that reason. Listen carefully to his reasoning all the way to the end and be sure that this is the only objection.

Prospect: I’m sorry, but I just do not agree with you on the _____ issue, and I just can’t help you.

Candidate: (looking dejected, really beaten) I see, well that’s it then, Mr. Jones. Look, just to make sure that I understand your point, and so that I can see why it outweighs everything else that we agree on, could we discuss that matter so that I could understand your commitment?

Prospect: Ah, well, it’s just the right thing to do . . . and . . . ahh. . . . Your opponent and I see eye to eve on this one . . . and . . .

Candidate: Yes. . . .

Prospect: and your opponent and I basically agree on one issue alone . . . and ummm . . . what the heck . . . maybe the other issues do outweigh this one . . .

Even if the prospect sticks to his objection, he has now admitted that he likes you except for one reason. Now you go into the half-nelson.

Remember: Overcoming objections and putting your best foot forward is what gets the check.

Do’s & Don’ts of an Effective Fundraising Close

The Do’s

* Relax. You’ve been through worse than this.

* Research your prospect. Know his “hot buttons.”

* Do your homework. Know your district.

* Be optimistic, aggressive, sincere and excited about the race.

* Be convincing. You must believe in yourself first.

* Ask for a specific amount.

* Express urgency in receiving the contribution.

* Make a second, third, fourth appeal.

* Make your own contribution first.

* Always say “thank you” in a timely manner.

* Spend 50% of your time fundraising.

The Don’ts

* Don’t be late for your appointment.

* Don’t empathize with your prospect.

* Don’t take your potential base for granted.

* Don’t broach a volatile issue first.

* Don’t be argumentative. Remember, you’re a guest.

* Don’t leave empty-handed; at least ask for their vote and the names of additional prospects.

* Don’t lie about your record or positions.

* Don’t forget to say “thank you.”

* Don’t forget to spend 50% of your time fundraising.

All the Right Signs

Verbal Signs: The prospect may say something that shows that he’s in agreement with you, or he may ask you to repeat something you’ve already made clear, just to reassure himself. Watch for language like “us vs. them.” It indicates that acceptance has happened – cut to the close!

Non-Verbal Signs: Watch for body language: a slap on the back, nodding agreement, writing a check.

Important Points:

1. As soon as you have asked a closing question, be quiet. Don’t fidget or speak, just keep calm and quiet. There is no pressure like silence.

2. There’s no doubt that if you do not speak first, your prospect will, by either agreeing to donate or stating why not. If he agrees, close the sale. If not, go back to either re-presenting your case or using a different close.

3. Above all, don’t be discouraged. Studies show that, on average, one out of two people still won’t give no matter what you do. Just set up the next appointment and move forward. Enough people will say “yes” in the end to make your campaign a winner!

Paul J. Pelletier is president of Direct Campaign Solutions, a political consulting firm that specializes in fundraising with offices in Florida, Texas and Washington, DC.

COPYRIGHT 1999 Campaigns & Elections, Inc.

COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group

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