22 Sep “My sales process was the equivalent of turning up on a first date in a wedding dress.”
I was given a ‘workbook’ to complete after signing up to ActionCoach’s 90-Day GrowthClub. As I flicked through the pages, I wondered if I’d made a terrible mistake. It was full of terms I didn’t really understand – total variable costs, net profit value & percentage and USP guarantee.
I had a real OMG moment. My PR business was at a fledgling stage and I have a pathological fear of spreadsheets. Some of the people taking part ran firms turning over hundreds of thousands of pounds; surely I would be laughed out of the room?
I quickly discovered that it was quite normal to be a little sweaty palmed and apprehensive at your first GrowthClub. Many of the business owners present had felt the same. They assured me there was nothing to worry about and besides, we were at the prestigious Roehampton Club and lunch was included in the price.
There was a lot to learn, but for me the lightbulb moment came when Sanjiv Dodhia, a local coach I have got to know through networking, did a break-out session on sales.
Sales is something I struggled with. My first ever job was in advertising sales and I was rubbish at it. I didn’t sell a column inch and the sales manager was mightily relieved when I moved into the editorial department – he wasn’t the only one.
I don’t like being sold to and felt uncomfortable trying to sell my services to others. I’d managed to garner lots of meetings through networking groups like Business Over Breakfast in Kingston and I’d written dozens of elaborate PR proposals, but nobody was biting.
I was getting business, but via people who have known me for years. I didn’t have to sell to them because they already know I’m good at what I do. How on earth could I convince a total stranger that I was worth paying?
Sanjiv drew a sales funnel and explained that I was basically getting too excited too soon. My leads weren’t ready for my wordy proposals. I was wasting my time – a lot of time as it happens as each proposal took four hours to prepare.
According to Sanjiv, sales is a process of ‘helping the customer to buy’. To do this, you need to put steps in place to enable them get to know and like you. It’s a bit like a courtship – you don’t ask for the order until you know they’re keen.
The penny dropped. I was doing the equivalent of turning up on a first date in a wedding dress.
I left Growth Club with a new sales strategy in place and promptly landed two big clients – one of them was a retainer, which is music to any PR’s ears.
I don’t even call the process ‘sales’ any more. I meet people, I talk to them, I find out what they need. If we’re a good fit, we talk some more. Sometimes it leads to work, sometimes it doesn’t.
My agency Wow PR Ltd now has 10 clients on the books and I have just taken on a freelance journalist and PA to support me as the business grows. Had I carried on with my flawed sales process, I’m pretty sure it would be a different story today.
Before I started up Wow PR, I often wondered what it is that business coaches do. To keep it simple, they help you see the wood for the trees. They shine a light on your blind spots and as Sanjiv says, help you go from running a good business, to a great one.
I am a regular at GrowthClub now. For very little outlay, I have access to three top business coaches with a wealth of experience between them and I get to network with a broad range of business owners who are all incredibly supportive. And there’s the lunch of course – did I mention that?