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Thursday, September 22, 2011
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NEFA Funding Symposium Delivers on all levels
Over 150 attendees came to Minneapolis this past week to participate in the NEFA Funding Symposium.
The conference opened with a long standing tradition of a short reception for new members. NEFA Board Members join new members in advance of the conference to make sure they get to know each other and the new member has a higher level of comfort during the conference. This year’s crop of new members included some familiar faces who have new roles and companies they have joined. Long time NEFA supporters Dwight Galloway, Jim Merrilees and Brian Bjella were all in attendance at the opening reception.
The conference agenda was a great balance of practical topics relating to building a balance sheet and sourcing funding as well as strong sessions from Peter Bailey from the Prouty Project. It was nice to attend a conference that had more to offer than just industry topics. The sessions on creative thinking and understanding the magnitude of changes to the world around us were informative and thought provoking. Peter Bailey is an excellent presenter and involved the audience in a series of exercises that taught new ways to approach creativity and problem solving.
The conference included a moving presentation of the NEFA Member of the Year to Chris Walker. As many in the industry know Chris has been fighting cancer for several months and even in the toughest moments of treatment has continued to participate in board calls and CLP responsibilities. Chris and his wife drove to Minneapolis and many in the room where moved to tears when Chris accepted his award. Chris Enbom gave a moving presentation speech and later mentioned receiving the most beautiful text message from Chris Walker’s wife mentioning how moved the Walker family was by the kindness of NEFA and its members. It was never more apparent than at this conference that NEFA is about the members and that the members are a family. The NEFA family would do anything it can for each other and this was never more true than at this conference. Members also raised a large amount of money for the Walker family by auctioning a t-shirt from the Chris Walker LoveFest – an event held earlier this year for Chris and his family.
Entertainment included the option of attending the Major League baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Cleveland Indians and enjoying the great restaurants and bars in Minneapolis.
Other sessions at the conference included a series of three related agenda items about how to prepare and raise funds for a broker/lessor. The final session was a very candid presentation by Chris Enbom about the highs and lows of starting and operating Allegiant Partners. This was a great session that made the advice from the other sessions very real and meaningful.
The final lunch of the conference included an engaging presentation from Dave D’Antonio , Managing Director of Everbank Financial. This presentation included practical advice on how institutions assess financing proposals along with some data and opinion about the U.S. economy. Dave did not sugar coat the economic data and gave members a strong understanding of some weak fundamentals that continue to impact the economic recovery.
NEFA President Gerry Egan affirmed that the association is continuing to strengthen the membership and that attendance for this years conference had increased dramatically over last year. Although optimism is cautious everyone is looking to another strong event in New Jersey early in November.
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“Selling In a Down Economy”
by Steve Chriest
Sooner or later an economic bad moon will rise and we'll find ourselves in a down economy, if not a recession. Selling in a down economy is problematic for most salespeople in almost all industries. What can you do, as a professional salesperson, to prepare for selling during uncertain economic times?
There are at least four things you can prepare to do if you expect to sell in a down economy:
- Stay in front of your customers
- Get to the senior levels in buying organizations
- Share success stories to which your customers can relate
- Manage your time as a guardian of your company's resources.
In tough economic times it's vital that you stay in front of your customers, especially your best customers. One major caveat applies to this advice – Only contact your customers when you have something of value to offer them, such as advice, an unusual perspective, or special knowledge. Never, I repeat, NEVER, contact a customer during tough times and ask, “Do you have any deals for me today?” That inane question will drive customers to the nearest exit!
Unfortunately, middle managers are often a primary layoff target when times get tough. This reality, however, presents an opportunity for you to meet with senior managers who otherwise might be inaccessible to you. Forget about “pitching” special programs and offers to senior executives. Meeting with senior executives gives you an opportunity to listen carefully to them and to learn about and understand their concerns and the real challenges facing their business.
Senior managers are usually eager to hear about what other companies are doing to address tough issues and circumstances. Without divulging anything held by you in confidence, sharing success stories with executives is a powerful way to build your credibility and build your business with company leaders. You might, for example, share the experiences of a vendor who used a particular marketing approach to expand their universe of potential customers.
Finally, while it's always important to effectively manage your time and your territory, it's critical to optimize your selling time and guard your company's resources during an economic slowdown. By pursuing only realistic, profitable sales opportunities, you can help ensure the best use of your time and of company resources that are usually strained during a down economy.
In the interest of fair disclosure I should tell you that it isn't absolutely necessary to prepare yourself for selling in a down economy. Keep in mind, however, the words of a college professor who offered this observation of those salespeople who prefer to “wing it” during good and bad times: “Failure comes as a complete surprise, and is not preceded by a period of worry and depression.”
Copyright © 2006 Selling UpTM. All Rights Reserved.
About the author: Steve Chriest is the founder of Selling UpTM (www.selling-up.com), a sales consulting firm specializing in sales improvement for organizations of all types and sizes in a variety of industries. He is also the author of Selling Up, The Proven System for Reaching and Selling Senior Executives. You can reach Steve at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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