I thought I was a reasonably good salesperson.
I had grown my agency from a single person start-up to a thriving business with a very nice portfolio of blue-chip clients.
We kept busy preparing pitches for the RFPs that came our way. I would meet someone at a networking event, they would ask what work we did, I told them we did ‘everything marketing’ and then took their order.
Other clients referred us to their peers and friends. I was confident in our great sales and new business model based on word-of-mouth and good relationships.
But then I met Dan Tyre, the 6th HubSpot employee and master of his “Pride of Sales Lions”. My life as a salesperson and as entrepreneur changed forever.
I am grateful for being one of the lucky few selected for HubSpot’s Pipeline Generation Boot Camp, facilitated by Dan. From the first moment, when Dan introduced himself and what we were going to be doing, I knew I was in for something completely different.
And I was right.
What I learned over the eight weeks that followed might be helpful to you, too.
Be Helpful – to Everyone
The first thing to do to be a good salesperson is stop selling.
If you put yourself in your prospect’s shoes, you know how irritating it can be to answer the phone, or to get repeated emails from a salesperson who is blandly quoting the script, trying to sell you something that you don’t want to buy.
What do you do if you aren’t selling, you ask?
It is so simple; it almost seems trite.
But when you try to put it into action, it soon becomes apparent that it really does turn a sales conversation on its ass. I used to head into those conversations, heart in my throat, focused on what I wanted to get out of it, usually a signed contract, a certain fee or terms.
Now, before I start any sales conversation, I do my homework with an intention find out what I can about the prospect, and how I can help.
- Do I know someone who also knows this person?
- Could I ask my friend for an introduction, or permission to mention her name?
- What does her career path look like?
- Where does she live?
- What are her interests?
- What kind of stuff does she write about?
- What industry is she in and what services does her company offer?
lt takes 10 or 15 minutes to be reasonably informed.
Why is this important?
Because it really marks the end of cold calling. I do my homework because cold calling is uncool and unhelpful.
And it generally sucks, for both parties.
How do I help prospects?
- I offer the insight and guidance from my decades of experiences working with similar types of challenges
- I give them access to information I have found useful: blogs, ebooks, whitepapers, video content. Some of it is from Fountainhead, and some of it from other sources. But it has to be valuable and of high quality
- I listen
Be Yourself (No Matter What They Say)
People buy from people. Humans buy from humans. That is an indisputable truth.
Make it your goal to get to know your prospects by asking relevant, open-ended questions. Generally, people do like to tell stories about themselves and in particular, their work.
Let your own self shine through in your every interaction.
Even if you have scripts you need to work with, put your own voice into them.
Our amygdala, or ‘lizard brains’ automatically detect when someone is not being authentic and if you sound scripted, people will know right away and put their guard up.
That is not being helpful.
It might seem counter-intuitive to practice being authentic, but it works. Repeat your greeting a hundred times out loud “Hi John, this is Denise Powers, founder and CEO of Fountainhead in the Cayman Islands”.
Figure out what you are going to say and repeat it until it starts to feel comfortable.
And then, be prepared for it to not go anything like you had planned, because after all, the person on the other is a human and this is not Hollywood.
Does your company offer a specific set of services to a very specific audience?
Chances are, the answer to this question is going to be ‘no’.
It did not take long before I got the clear message that I was not going to survive the 8-week boot camp if I did not take that big step back and solve for the question: ‘what EXACTLY does your company do and who do you do it for’?
There is no halfway answer here.
Read up on how to effectively position your company and the benefits of segmenting your audience. It is the most important thing you can do for your company, your team, your client, and yourself.
Having been left stammering in more than one role play call during the boot camp that did not go as I had expected it to, I quickly learned that the Girl Guide mantra of ‘be prepared’ is more than important.
But with ‘be prepared’, ‘be flexible’ must follow.
Again, this comes with practice, so be patient with yourself. You won’t get it perfectly right at the start and you will get better with practice.
Think about a list of possible objections. It might seem like that list is limitless, but it really isn’t.
Start an objections database, logging them all and you will soon figure out exactly what to say when you encounter one.
Add value to the person, by giving as much as you are receiving.
There is another benefit of being prepared, being helpful by adding value and actively listening to your client.
You will never again need to ‘split the difference’ or be hammered down on price. You will start getting the fees you so richly deserve.
Focus on the Future
Creating a vision board was job one in the Pipeline Generation Boot Camp.
At first, I felt like this was a scrap booking camp, but it really did put things into perspective. Putting my life’s aspirations together on a board really brought into clear relief why I am doing this entrepreneur thing, why I have put so much on the line to do it and why I get out of bed each day.
I do love it, but admittedly, some days it is tougher to love than others, and a vision board helps to remind me of why I am in this game and why I need to pick up that phone.
My vision board
You can’t be truly helpful unless you are ready to listen.
When you finally have your prospect on the line (and it might take all the prescribed efforts – four phone calls, voicemail messages, video messages, LinkedIn connections and follow up emails), your next task is to listen.
You can only do that if you STOP TALKING!
And pause more.
This will hurt, but it is worth it.
Ask open-ended, insightful questions. Keep good notes because you will need them later.
You can’t help if you don’t listen.
Be the refuge in a storm to the human on the other end, who has frustrations, wants, fears and most importantly, aspirations of where she wants to go and what she wants to accomplish, for her business and personally, for herself.
What can you do to help her get where she is wanting to go?
It feels as awkward as hell at the start.
I made mistakes that I redden a little to think about. But I threw my ego where it belongs, in that little round filing cabinet under my desk, and moved on, learning and getting better.
What I did learn, was that I was starting to love the conversation.
I learned something from everyone I talked to.
I gave something to everyone I talked to.
I reminded myself to feel good about my accomplishments.
And most importantly, I realised that I felt an enormous amount of gratitude that I was doing something that was benefiting both parties.
Now when I pick up the phone to call someone new, it doesn’t feel so weird. I can’t wait to see what story will be revealed.
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