Quite a bit, as it turns out—whether you’re selling, fundraising, or just wanting to communicate more effectively.

What is a “top producer”? We define top producers as the 20 percent of business developers who bring in 80 percent of all new business in for-profit companies or professional service firms—law, accounting, architecture, engineering, and others. But the term also applies to the not-for-profit world of donor development professionals both on-staff and in outside consulting roles, board members, and volunteers who want to see their organizations thrive in pursuing their missions.

It probably goes without saying that top producers in any of these areas are great communicators. But what does that mean, exactly? At Productive Strategies we teach communication skills to three groups of people who benefit from high-level communications skills:

  1. Pure hunters who would describe their job as selling in the not-for-profit world and donor development in mission-driven and not-for-profit organizations. This group actively seeks out prospective buyers or donors.
  2. Professionals whose main job is in their area of professional expertise but who are in some way also responsible for building business or revenue. This group comprises attorneys, accountants, engineers, architects, technology consultants, and, for not-for-profit organizations, board and staff members, and volunteers.
  3. Non-sales or development people who have nothing to do with sales, business development, or not-for-profit development but could benefit from stronger communication capabilities, especially persuasive skills.

Sometimes, the three groups overlap in the same business or organization. For example, one of our clients, Feed My Starving Children (www.fmsc.org ), is a not-for-profit that has been growing about 40 to 45 percent per year since the mid-1990s—remarkably faster than any other not-for-profit organization we know of and even faster than almost all businesses. In the next 12 months Feed My Starving Children will pack a million meals a day and distribute them in more than 70 countries for a total of 365 million meals. These meals go to children who would soon die without food—in this case food provided by FMSC. In other words, these children are not only hungry and malnourished—they are starving.*

For several years we have taught consultative selling skills and developed custom fundraising processes for FMSC’s development teams. (Each meal costs about 25 cents so Feed My Starving Children needs to raise more than $90 million dollars each year.) Some of that money comes from the approximately one million volunteers annually who also pack the meals, and some from others who are donors only.

Earlier this year we worked with the organization’s MobilePack coordinators who arrange packing events with churches, universities, and other organizations in locations without permanent FMSC facilities. This group is communicating not to sell MobilePacks but to have in-depth conversations with individual organizations to determine if a MobilePack event would be a good match. Clearly, the ability to ask the right questions, explain the ins-and-outs of FMSC’s work and MobilePacks, answer questions, and build relationships with MobilePack sponsors is essential.

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