We all want to help new members avoid being “that guy” — the one who doesn’t know the unwritten rules and doesn’t understand what to do as a member, usually resulting in a bad experience or unmet expectations. Yesterday’s post recommended that the first step with any new member is to ask questions to learn about their needs and expectations — to listen.

The second step is to teach. Many of your members (vendor, supplier, associate, affiliate) joined in order to make new contacts that will lead to new sales. To help them avoid the “that guy” label, you must take the time to teach them how to successfully network and develop business in your organization.

What you teach will depend on your organization’s culture, but here are some general guidelines:

  • Focus on relationships, not pitching your product. People are much more likely to listen to or buy from someone they know and trust. Your membership opens the door a bit, but it doesn’t get you inside; you need to do some work to get there.
  • Find ways to get involved in the organization and to work side-by-side with fellow members on events, committees, special interest groups, community service projects, whatever. Take the time to get to know them as people, not prospects.
  • Think about giving, not getting. Show up at a meeting with the mindset of “how can I help you?” and see how you feel when you leave. The other members will feel better about you, that’s for sure.
  • Don’t ignore your fellow vendors. So often new members concentrate only on developing relationships with their prospects — big mistake. A fellow vendor can make introductions, be a good reference, and send business your way — cultivate those relationships as well.
  • Learn about the industry. Keep up on issues, news, and trends that occupy your prospects’ minds. Demonstrate by your knowledge and actions (and your checkbook doesn’t hurt either) that it’s your industry too; after all, your revenue does depend on it.
  • Manage your expectations. You (or your boss) want results but relationships take time. Building a reputation takes time. Building trust takes time. Yes, it might take more than a year, be ready for that. Your dues are a business development investment.

There are plenty of resources out there on the right ways to network, yet you’ll find that not everyone seems to apply theory to practice. You know your group’s culture and how a member can best get ahead, give them that insight.

There are several ways to teach them:

  • Schedule a “marketing” meeting with them, not an “orientation” meeting, the label matters. Discuss marketing opportunities that would fit their goals and product. Give them some pointers on networking and relationship-building. Share member success stories that illustrate those guidelines.
  • Assign new members to veteran members. Ask the veterans to call new members, share advice and experiences, and invite them to the next event where they can introduce them around.
  • Make sure all your new vendor members receive networking/business development guidelines by both mail and email. Give this advice to them in as many ways as possible — one of them is sure to stick.
  • A few times a year invite all new members to a panel featuring two regular and two vendor members. Incentivize attendance — if they come, they get a deep discount off their next event registration. The regular members explain how to earn their business. The vendor members share how they developed the relationships that led to new business.
  • Be the social media coach for your members — hold classes on how to use social networking and media tools to market their businesses effectively.
  • Dedicate a section of your web site to the special needs of your vendor members. Feature interviews about the success stories of vendor members. Keep the content fresh — find new resources about networking and post or link to them. Publicize all your marketing opportunities and include testimonials lauding the value.

What else can we do? How are you helping your vendor members do business with other members? What are you teaching them?