By Bill R. Shelton, CEcD
Civic leaders are often concerned about who has the experience and background to represent the city’s interests and can best sell the community to prospective new or expanded businesses. The good news is that the people who live in your community – yes, your citizens – are better accepted by prospective businesses and are more effective at selling the community than outsiders.
Additionally, companies appreciate the face-to-face interaction with community leaders and citizens and the opportunity to start building the bonds that make for successful operations and partnerships.
The core of the local sales team normally consists of staff members from local government bodies, economic development organizations and chambers of commerce augmented with elected officials and citizen volunteers who have specialized expertise and a passion for the community.
Here are three things that citizens who live in the community can bring to the sales process that outsiders can’t.
Accountability – When sales outreach efforts are conducted by committed individuals who live in the community and who are ultimately responsible and accountable to themselves, each other and to the community as a whole, the efforts are effective.
Commitments – Business expansions and locations often require the community to commit to infrastructure investments or incentives. The involvement of elected officials is critical not only to guarantee the commitments but also to add the assurance of the community’s participation as a partner and resource for the prospective business.
Emotional Connections – Citizens have broad understanding and insights into the community, including its values and goals. They are able to articulate and focus on the unique mix of assets and features that differentiate the community, and to go beyond facts and figures. Their goal is not just to make a deal and a commission but to bring desirable businesses that have long-term economic benefits to the community.
The Bottom Line
Effective selling is considered the bedrock of successful economic development. Citizens add a persuasive element to the sales process by asking businesses to join them by becoming a member of the community.