Rotary Sales 101: Selling “small” versus selling “big.”


It may be my particular curse to think that success in life, in Rotary, in just about everything, comes down to sales and selling.  I know.  I know.  There are a lot of important ingredients to success.  And for happiness.  But it seems to me that those people who have the knack for dressing up an idea into a sellable product and then professionally presenting it to folks inevitably meet their goals and objectives.  They get the girl.  They win the game.  And…they have vibrant, growing Rotary clubs.

One of the topics I’ve been covering with club leaders in my travels around the District has been the concept of “selling small” versus “selling big.”  Early in my financial planning career I worked for a behemoth financial firm and learned how to sell big firms to potential clients who were scared of working with a company that was too big for them. Then I left the big firm to start my own very small firm and had to learn how to sell “small” to potential clients concerned about working with a company too small for them.  Now my small firm is becoming a big firm and I’m engaged in teaching our team how to sell big.  It doesn’t matter whether you are small or big, you just need to know how to sell it.

Rotary clubs have the same challenge.  Small clubs have to learn how to sell “small’ to people interested in joining their club.  And large clubs have to learn how to sell “large” to their prospective members.  The rules are the same.  Large organizations need to be able to sell “scale” and “impact.”  Small organizations need to sell “flexibility,” being “nimble”, and being “personal.”

Before I give you my sales “pitch” for large and small clubs, you have to watch this clip of Chris Farley and David Spade in the most horrific sales pitch of all time from the movie, “Tommy Boy.”  No matter how bad you think you are at sales, I promise you that  you are better than Chris Farley in this clip.  Farley at his best….

OK.  Time to flip a coin to see which pitch I write first.  (NOTE:  Both small and large clubs are beautiful in the eyes of Rotary, and in the eyes of this DG.  So please don’t be offended when reading how to best position either kind of club.  Excuse me while I find a coin to flip….back in a second.  OK.  Tails it is.  Small clubs first.)


Bill/Mary, I am so glad you came to visit our Rotary club today.  As you spend this time with us, I ask you to see this club not how it appears today, but how it is going to look tomorrow and in the future.  That’s because we have a small and committed group of people here who really believe we can make our community a better place to live.  But we need to grow.  And when you join us you will find that we are small enough that your ideas, your energy, and your creativity can be immediately translated into action in our club.  It’s important that you fully understand that our small size lets us be nimble in incorporating new ideas in our club, and your new ideas are critically important to us.

You will find it easy to get to know everyone in our club because we don’t overwhelm you with a long list of members to get to know.  You are going to like the people you get to meet in our club, but equally as important, you will find that they are very interested in you.  Believe it or not, you will represent a significant percentage of our club’s membership….at least for now.   Your views count.  And your fellow members will care about your ideas.  I’m not sure what you think should be done to improve our town, but if you bring just a few friends with you to join our club you will find that you have an immediate impact on our Board.  And an immediate opportunity to lead.  Are you interested in being a leader in the community?  In just a few years that’s exactly what our club is going to be…and you have a great opportunity to be a leader among the leaders.  If you have a vision….this would be the place to find a means to express it.

Finally, I’m not sure where you are in your business life.  But we don’t have five of your classification in our Rotary club.  You will be the only representative of your business or industry in our club and you will find that our members will look to you for information about your field of knowledge.  And you will find that after some time doing community service together, our members will naturally want to do business with you if they can.  Why?  Because we all want to do business with people we know, and this club will give you the opportunity to get to know our members, and for us to get to know you, in ways that you could never experience in a larger organization, or in one of those horrific leads/networking clubs.

OK.  Are you sold on a small club?  Good.  Now let’s move on to a large club.


Bill/Mary, I am so glad you came to visit our Rotary club today.  When you visit, notice that even though there are a lot of people in the room, a whole lot of strangers are going to want to meet you.  You are going to be surprised at just how warm and fuzzy our club makes our new guests, and of course, our new members, feel.  Even though we are a large organization, we specialize in making all of our members feel welcome, and important.

Why important?  Because we are a large organization with a large impact on our community.  We rely on our new members to step up to leadership positions in our committees, and because of our size each of our committees offers anyone who wants to be a leader a chance to step up and be one.  For many this is the one place they get to practice their leadership skills in a group large enough to make a difference.  Our club has the scale to do a variety of different projects in the community and we rely on our committee leaders, and our committee members, to make those projects relevant in meeting the needs of our neighbors.

If you join this club, you can immediately take pride in knowing that you are joining one of the most powerful forces for positive change in this town.  If you want to make a real difference, then this is the place to be.

I don’t know where you are in your career, but another thing our club offers to our members is a tremendous opportunity to network.  Due our size you will find community leaders from just about every aspect of our city, including business, government, and the non-profit world.  They will be as interested in meeting with you as you will be meeting with them.  In fact, we like to say that Rotary is the original social network.  You are going to be surprised at just how personal membership in a large organization can be.

Are you sold on a large club?  Good.  Mission accomplished.

Selling big and small is just one part of the sales and selling mission for your club.  What is your  UVP (Unique Value Proposition)?  Does everyone know your club’s particular elevator pitch?  Do they know your club’s mission in the community?  When someone asks, “why should I join your Rotary club?”  what will you say?  When everyone is on the same page with this, your work is done.  Your club will  grow like wildfire and you will smile at all of the good work that your club is doing in the community.  Good luck!




3 thoughts on “Rotary Sales 101: Selling “small” versus selling “big.”

  1. Greetings from Nasik, India?
    I liked your blogs and information about Rotary.
    With best wishes for your successful Rotary year.

    Datta Deshmukh.

  2. Hi Ken – thank you for the article “selling big – selling small”. Ken I am a member of a club in district 9820, we currently have a membership of 65 – the directors are thinking of capping it at 70. This is mainly due to venue accommodation. I strongly support “selling big”. Do you have other relevant comments to help me speak to this at our next Club Assembly?

    Thank you

    1. I suppose my comment would be to ask the Directors to visit Rotary clubs with more than 100 members before coming up with an arbitrary “cap” of 70 members. The fact is that more members ALWAYS means more new energy, more new ideas, and more opportunities to scale your service projects in your community to have more impact. If the problem is the venue, that can be remedied if someone is willing to do the work. Or, perhaps a satellite club might be a good solution.

      Not sure if this helps but its the best I can come up with on a Sunday morning after Halloween night.

      Best of luck,


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