Montgomery Business Journal

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Total Resource Campaign Benefits Volunteers and Businesses

September 2016
By David Zaslawsky   
Photography by Robert Fouts

River Bank & Trust executive Gene Crane learned valuable lessons from being a volunteer salesperson in the Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce Total Resource Campaign.

Crane, executive vice president/business banking manager, said his experience with the TRC has elevated his sales game. “What I learned early on from the Resource campaign was that if I would do my homework – spend a little bit of down time before an appointment and think about who am I going to see; what they do; what might their match-ups in the Resource campaign be and bring an idea.”

“I have probably since that time done a better job on the banking front of better preparing before I go see somebody. This is not exactly rocket science, but the Resource campaign was so reinforcing of how pre-call preparation and strategic thought improves success rate.”

Ann Osten, president of Sadie’s Global Travel who sold $100,000-plus in sponsorships in each of the last two TRCs – including a record of $137,000 in 2014 – said that she “probably” is a better salesperson because of her TRC experience. “We are always learning, and I have learned new techniques and I have learned new ways to be creative in the way I present things,” she said.

One of her clients has been Neptune Technology Group President Chuck DiLaura. “To be perfectly honest, I was an easy sell,” said DiLaura, who has increased his sponsorships to more than $7,000. “What she (Osten) has done well is presenting the various opportunities in a way that has not been high-pressure. It was, ‘Here are the different things we’re doing – what would work best for you.’ She didn’t sit there and throw the kitchen sink at you. She would answer all your questions. Listening to those different opportunities, you would sit there and say, ‘OK, that sounds interesting.’” That is why Neptune became a Diversity Summit sponsor, DiLaura said.

Neptune sponsored the Annual Meeting, River Region Economic Summit, Diversity Summit and ads in the Montgomery Business Journal last year. “We’ve had a budget, which we have actually gone up a lot more than what we originally started,” DiLaura said.

“We’re probably at the limit of what (we’ll spend). We will not go down. I will probably stay at the same level, but listen to what else they have going on to decide if we want to try something different.”

One thing Osten has learned as a volunteer salesperson in the TRC is “discerning what amount of information” she sends to the decision-makers. “When I’m dealing with the decision-makers, they don’t want to read a paragraph in an email,” Osten said. “I have fine-tuned how I present options depending on who I’m talking to. From that standpoint, it has made me a better (salesperson).”

She said that she tries to simplify things by using bullet points and is very aware of taking as little time as possible from the decision-makers. “I have been able to refine what I present to them because I have determined that it’s so important to find out what their needs are – what they hope to gain from the Chamber opportunities,” Osten said. It’s carried over from her business when she asks travel clients what they want from their trip.

Crane sometimes wears two different hats when he calls on potential TRC sponsors – the volunteer salesperson hat and his River Bank & Trust hat. He talked about seeing a banking client and also talking about the Chamber. Other times he would talk to someone he had no banking relationship with about the TRC. “While together inevitably a question would ensue about the bank and what I do at the bank and our services,” he said.

“I can absolutely recall some opportunities that came out of that. We were at the table. That’s all I can ask for. I got an at-bat out of it. I got to make my proposal.”

It’s not just a case of making a proposal, but gaining access to company executives and decision-makers who the TRC volunteer salespeople would not otherwise interact with. “You’ve got to get to the person who can make the decision,” said Crane, who in addition to being a volunteer salesperson has also been a team leader and was the TRC chairman back in 2008. “It’s never been more true than in the Resource campaign: If you’re not dealing with the owner of the business or the manager or the decision-maker … they are generally the person that controls the checkbook. They’ve got the strategic vision.

They’ve got the sense of community – the desire to be involved in the Chamber.”

Osten credits the TRC with “broadening my network of contacts,” but it’s been so much more than gaining some business clients through her volunteer sales. “I am able to meet new people; new contacts; expand my network; and I’ve gained so many friends – not just business contacts, but friends,” she said. “I consider all the people that I reach out to as friends. I have established a relationship and a rapport with them. I like to get to know them and their families. I just enjoy getting to know people. I’m a people-person. I like learning about what they do as well because I (might) be able to help them in the future.”

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