When you run your own business, the hardest thing is working out what you need.
As entrepreneurs, we want to grow our businesses. But for some of us, we approach selling like it’s a poison gas. Like sarin.
At least, I did. And then I realised – really late in the picture, guaranteed – that instead of putting systems in place, I should have put sales in place first. Because, you know what? If I’d done that 12 months ago, I would be in a different position right now. I would be leagues ahead of myself.
This realisation dawned on me fairly gradually. It picked up a few months ago – and I went to an amazing sales workshop with James from Insider Foundry. That guy is a selling machine. It was fantastic, but I couldn’t see it applying to me. I got a lot out of it in terms of CRM management, and how to set up funnels, and the framework for that was an incredible learning curve.
But cold calling? Pfft.
Although, my plan – you know, the one I thought I knew everything about – was taking ages. By tracking acquisition, I worked out that I had flat lines in my acquisition metrics. FLAT. LINES. For weeks on end.
Immediately, I thought, this ends TODAY. So, motivation was 1000%. I jumped into the Majoran Coworking Facebook group and asked for a sales and accountability coach. I had realised that I needed someone to tell me what to do, because my own ideas were a load of dogshit. Or rather, not completely, but they were better for long-term. You know, when you’ve already got your first hundred customers and you’re in marketing phase and not startup phase.
One of the guys there, Luis Penascoza, who had been coached by the equally amazing Jason Cross (founder of Aston Club) phoned me within five minutes and offered to help. Meanwhile, in the group, an accountability group formed really fast: So now, we have a bunch of us working together on Thursdays to drive accountability for ourselves.
Luis talked to me about my existing plans, and how many leads I had. When he found out that I hadn’t phoned any of the leads, he laughed good-naturedly. That’s how we got to the point where I was explaining my barriers to cold calling, and he was addressing them.
Like, all of them. Suddenly I didn’t have any excuses left. Every possible concern that I had was discussed and eliminated. I couldn’t hide any more. I actually had to suck it up and just fucking do it. The question was, how though?
Coach – actually, I call him Sensei now – shared with me his sales script. He asked me to write one, test it on ten people, and then call him that Friday and test it on him. My script had to be understandable by a 12-year-old kid.
Whoaaaa role play. Scripts. Fuck, man, my comfort zone was a bajillion light years away, on another planet waaaaayyyy over there. But I has asked for a whip-cracker, and that’s what I got. I set to work. It took me two or three days to simplify the first paragraph. I am not even kidding. Getting down to the bare bones of what I offer was fucking hard work.
But I did it. I started asking friends when I could call to run through it and got NOT ONE RESPONSE. NOT ONE.
So much for having supportive friends. Good luck, next time any of them asks for a favour.
Anyway, I managed to test it on two. One was my aunt, who is also my accountant. She is in Melbourne. She turned into a sale and surprised the pants off me. The other was the artistic director at one of my dance schools. She turned into a sale too, and asked me to help get it past her board of directors.
By this point I was gobsmacked. Those two were what I needed to prove to myself that YES, I do offer a service of value. Yes, people do need it and are interested. No, people don’t know how to look for it – and so tend not to. And yes, by calling them you hit them when there is opportunity to get involved and they haven’t actioned anything yet. The same day, I role played this in person, got a bunch of feedback and discussion, and went off to make corrections.
Friday rolls around. I hadn’t had any more people willing to help me (seriously, I’m beginning to think that my friends suck), so I read the script aloud a lot, made a heap changes. I phoned Sensei thinking yeah man I’m on it, and got even more corrections.
They were things like:
- addressing concerns
- long sentences
- not breathing
- how to close a conversation
- and more simplifying
It was honestly like learning how to talk to people, all over again. Cue a whole lot of notes, a promise to rework over the weekend and to call on Monday.
Monday, I called the Sensei. The script had changed a fair bit. There were more opportunities to address concerns, more ways for the other person to say yes or no. More pathways in the conversation. It flowed, I smiled, it felt good.
And I got a big happy congratulations, and permission to go try it from Tuesday. It took a week to get there. It was longer than I expected (and also, in hindsight, nowhere near as long as it could have been!).
The first day of doing this was yesterday. I decided that in-person, my strike rate is about one sale for every five people. On that basis, I did some pre-qualifying of firms by scouting them online. Then I started to call them. Out of five, I had one outright no, left three messages or got times to call back, and scored one meeting to discuss a way forward. Currently, that lead has a high possibility of closing.
So the figures so far bear out my in-person experience.
The challenge will be to keep it up, to ring 15 leads every week, and aim to get a meeting with one of them from each session. If I can do that, and do it consistently, then my business will grow unlike any business I’ve ever been in before.
The lesson is: You gotta work out exactly what you need. I had to work out that I needed someone to kick my arse and make me do things. It started by needing more sales. I knew that I wouldn’t do it without the impetus, instruction, debriefing opportunities, and support, of someone else. You can’t do everything on your own, and to fix your weaknesses you have to get help.
What I needed was a coach; a champion and whip-cracker. What is it that YOU need to get you to the next stage?