I haven’t taken an official poll, but I would imagine that many business owners have found themselves in the same place as I was earlier this year. I have zero sales training. Yet, I realized, in order to achieve my growth and scaling goals for Filament, sales are essential. (Duh, right?!)

Filament was founded because I believed I could help other business owners market their products and services. Because I was good at marketing. I also started this business because I believe I can be a great employer, creating great jobs and growing my local economy. Those two things don’t necessarily go hand-in-hand. It took me about four years to realize that if I truly want to scale this business and achieve both of those goals, I need to change.

The change required is a tough one. I decided to step away from the day-to-day marketing functions that I love, and trust my team to serve our clients. (Yes, I’m still involved, but I’m trying to delegate more, and empower each person involved to do what’s best without my permission). And, I need to sell. Not the haphazard type of sales that we’ve been lucky to close, but truly develop a sales process that can be assessed and improved. Oh, and it has to be effective, too.

Remember when I said I have zero sales training? This was about to change. I reached out to my agency support team at Hubspot, and asked for help. Shortly after, I received an application to join their Sales Skills Bootcamp, led by David Weinhaus.

Sales People Act Like LionsAs a lead-in to our fist class, David explained that we must all commit to be LIONS:

  • We hunt as a pack
  • We’re fierce, yet graceful
  • We move quickly, and with purpose

Now I know I’m in the right place. Next, I’ll give you my key take-aways from this incredibly helpful eight-week course.

Start With Your Sales Story

For four years, I didn’t have a sales story. I hesitantly explained a little about what we do tactically, but I spent a lot of time writing it out in proposals, and fighting with unaligned expectations once the contract was signed. Here’s what I learned in bootcamp:

In Sales Focus On Your Prospect First

Focus on your prospect first – why are they seeking a change? When a prospect asks, “so what do you do?” your sales story can be simple. And, it can be broken down into what’s called the “3 Sale – Sale”:

  1. Tell them about what problems you address, and for whom
  2. What solutions do you use to solve those problems? A great tip here: focus on outcomes vs. tactics
  3. What makes you different than everyone else?

Find The Gap

This step has been one of the most challenging for me over the years. It’s all about finding the true need of the prospect. For a long time, I took what I was told at face value. I might hear, “I want to do social media because it will help with branding,” and think, okay, we can do that. But later, that customer comes back to me and says, “this isn’t working – I’m not getting any business from social media.” I didn’t dig deep enough. In this example, the true need was increased revenue, not branding.

In bootcamp, I learned that there are three levels of questions to ask, and that they get more difficult as I progress through the conversation.

  1. The basics: your first attempt to find out what the current situation is, and decipher if your product or service would be a good fit.
  2. The specifics: working to clarify and pin down specific plans, challenges, and goals, ie: 20% revenue growth in the next 6 months.
  3. The meaning: why do they need to hit that goal? Pressure from a board or boss? Personal bonus on the line? There’s always a reason why – but this is the most difficult thing to get your prospect to tell you.

David encouraged us to practice a technique called the “5 Whys.” Ask at least five why questions to get to the meaning. This is uncomfortable when you’re actually on a sales call! But I did commit to asking one more “why” than usual, and I got great results.

Sell Your Value

I never talked about price until I presented a proposal. What a waste of time! Now, I feel much more confident answering the question, “so what do your services cost?” in the first meeting. And, I don’t avoid it. Why? Because it gives me an opportunity to get on the same page with the prospect, understand if we should move farther into the sales process, and help them understand the value of our services.

Especially in a service-based business, it can be difficult to tie your fees to value. My key take-away from this section of bootcamp was that there’s a logical way to anchor fees to what the prospect finds valuable. Here’s a great example:

My prospect has already shared that they want to grow their monthly revenue by $20,000 next year, which would be an increase of $240,000 over 12 months. Now, if that’s new money, it doesn’t seem like such a stretch to ask how much they intend to invest in marketing to get there. In our industry, the average marketing investment is around 10%, so we can discuss the idea of investing $24,000. You could also talk about the value of a person’s time (ie: how much would it cost you to hire an employee to do this work, or do it yourself vs. contract us?)

Close The Sale

Here’s a tough lesson for most non-salesperson business owners. Ready for it? If you want to close the sale, you’ve got to ask for it. Now, if your sales process is solid, this should come naturally. But, it seems like even when you ask for the sale at the end of what you believe to be a great sales process, you’re often faced with objections.

To close the sale you must ask for it

Here’s a quick outline of a strategy that I learned to handle objections. First – settle those emotions (you know your amygdala is firing)! Then, think LAER:

  1. Listen – to understand
  2. Acknowledge – show them that you want to be helpful
  3. Explore – demonstrate that you truly understand the objection
  4. Respond – when you’re ready to offer a solution

My other key “closing” take-away, was to make sure you’re offering the right solution at the right time. Sometimes, my full blown services retainer isn’t the right fit…right now. Could I offer a short-term solution that positions my company for future business? Why yes, yes I can.

A Few More Sales Tips & Tricks

  • The “Give and Get” – give a quick but useful tip or insight, and follow it up with a question to gather information that you need
  • Set An Agenda – communicate what you plan to achieve first thing, and get agreement from the prospect! (I never did this before and it has saved so much time and kept me on track!)
  • Come back to it later – if at first you can’t get the prospect to tell you what you need to know, move on, and circle back later in the conversation

So, my eight weeks in Hubspot Sales Bootcamp were extremely helpful, and the techniques I learned have already changed the way I’m growing my business. Any business owners out there who can relate to the realization that they have to become a sales person (even against their better judgement and will!?!?) And, if you’ve made this transition, what tips can you provide to those of us starting out on this path?

Raise Your Hand If You Never Wanted To Be A Salesperson!