Marketing Feels Bad Because We’re Ashamed Not Because It’s Shameful

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The other day, I was wondering about why there was such an appeal to marketing courses that taught secrets of unconscious persuasion, stealth tactics, invisible influence, secret closes, ninja strategies etc.

The implication of all of these approaches was that no one would notice what you were doing. No one would notice that you were steering them towards buying from you. They would just, unexplainably, feel compelled to trust and buy from you. They’d just leave the conversation with your product proudly in their hand thinking that they had made the decision when, in fact, it was all you and the secret arsenal of tactics you’d deployed throughout the conversation.

Neuro Linguistic Programming comes to mind in this.

I think the reason that these workshops are so popular (and why even the most conscious of us have taken them or been drawn to them) is because we think marketing is bad. We think we are doing something bad by sharing our products or services with others. And so, we’re trying not to get caught (but, of course, we need to do it to pay rent).

It strikes me as a similar dynamic to what I’ve seen in the pick-up workshops offered to men. This same offering of ways to get what we want, as men, without being noticed.

I’m sure there are workshops out there for women that offer the same things.

I see this often in human interactions when someone is deeply ashamed of their own needs and scared to make any requests of others that might meet them.

And so much of it seems to be rooted in shame.

So much of it seems to be rooted in the deep sense that I’m doing something I shouldn’t be doing.

And so, of course, we are drawn to anything that promises that our actions will have the intended effect while going unnoticed.

When this is at play, I notice that we, as humans, tend to become all manner of fake, sneaky, passive aggressive, creepy, controlling, underhanded, plastic and worse.

Recently a friend asked a favour of me she was terrified to ask. She was in a conflict with a mutual friend and she asked me if I’d be willing to commit to not vetting any letters this friend might want to send her way. She wanted me not to get involved in between. I was happy to agree to that as I knew this other friend had plenty of other people who would be happy to read whatever letters she might send and to give feedback on them.

My friend broke down into tears. She had been so scared to ask me. She felt it was wrong. When I said ‘yes’ so easily, some switch flipped in her.

What if there was nothing wrong with asking for what you want?

What if there was nothing wrong with expressing your desires?

What if there was nothing wrong with sharing what you have?

What if it was just a matter of learning how to do so skillfully?

What if it actually felt better to be direct in some matters than indirect?

What if we’re all craving candour and directness?

What if marketing was just saying, “I’m a needy human like you. I have needs. You have needs. Here’s what I’d like to offer you in exchange for your money. Does this feel fair?

What if the reason it feels ‘off’ is because we’re ashamed of doing it not because it’s inherently shameful to do it?

What if marketing could feel good? What if marketing wasn’t about getting anyone to say ‘yes’ but about having a human conversation about whether or not it was a fit? What if this was true about dating too? What if our attention was more focused on the truth of the moment than our goal of what we think we want? What would marketing look like without shame? What would it look like if we felt no need to hide what we were doing?

What if marketing felt bad not because it was shameful but because we were ashamed of it.

Additional Resources:

Courting vs. Seduction in Marketing

The Three Roles of Marketing

The Heart of Selling

Greg Faxon Shares His Unique Take on Selling and Enrolment Conversations

Are You More Comfortable Being Salesy or Subtle?

Be More Repulsive

Get Rejected Faster

 

Interview: Greg Faxon Shares His Unique Take On Selling and Enrollment Conversations

greg-faxonI came across Greg Faxon (pictured here) about a year ago when someone shared his brilliant article Why You Don’t Need A Niche (And 11 Simple Alternatives). Well, as it turned out, Greg got a few clients from my sharing that article and we ended up connecting on Facebook and decided to get on the phone with each other to have a call. During the call, I learned that his central passion was about selling and how to have effective enrollment conversations. This got my attention because it’s not something I do in my own business model but it’s a place of much struggle for so many of my clients.

The first group of clients this is a struggle for are those who’ve never learned how to do them. They’re winging it every time. They get on the phone with a potential client and hope for the best. They’re terrified with being too pushy and often end up giving their client a free session to try to solve the whole thing right there. It’s a kind of collapsed, over giving. 

The second group of clients for whom this is a struggle are those who have learned how to do these processes and, even though they were taught to them by ostensibly conscious marketing gurus, they still feel uneasy about it. It still feels pushy and salesy.

The rest sort of beat around the bush with people in indirect ways or avoid conversations around their business like the plague as if this is a sign of enlightenment.

Personally, I’d rather build my business model so that I don’t have to have these conversations. As Peter Drucker put it, “The purpose of marketing is to make selling redundant.”

Additionally, I’m not a fan of wasting my time in conversations with people who aren’t likely to buy. I’ve got no interest in trying to convince anyone of anything. This is why I’m so big on people figuring out and clearly communicating their point of view, figuring out their niche and creating things like an Are You Sure? page to filter out those clients who aren’t likely to be a good match. There’s a lot you can do to make sure that, by the time you’re talking to them one on one, it’s likely going to go somewhere.

And, even if you filter a whole lot, there are going to be times where people are going to need to talk to you directly about what you’re offering and times when you’re going to want to talk to them to make sure they’re actually a fit. You can call that conversation a lot of things (e.g. sales conversation, enrollment conversation etc.) but sometimes two humans have to talk it out a bit. 

Greg submitted himself to a rigorous interview with me and has given his insights extremely generously here. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did talking with him.

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What’s your story? How did you get so nerdy about enrollment conversations?

The short version is that I’m a guy who has always been really obsessed with transformation. I’ve always been fascinated by what allows people to grow and evolve in different areas of their lives. And so when I found out there was this thing called “coaching”, where that’s what you help people do all day, it was obviously really compelling for me.

I started holding small personal development workshops, and I even picked up a client or two. The problem was, I only made about $1,000 in the first 6 months of my business. In some ways it was really cool to have made money helping people. But I also knew that it wasn’t going to be sustainable.

What I realized was, it doesn’t really matter how good you are at the coaching piece if you don’t have coaching clients. I had been avoiding enrollment conversations because it felt safer to work on my website and think about URL names and get logos designed. That all changed when I invested in my first group coaching program and my coach called me out on the fact that I wasn’t spending time in conversation.

So over the next month I had over fifty enrollment conversations, got some great longer-term clients, and left my consulting job. I actually made twice as much from my coaching business the month after I left my job. In the process, I became really interested in how to hold an enrollment conversation that not only results in an ideal client, but actually transforms the person in front of me. And so that’s where my passion to teach this stuff comes from.

What have been your major influences in selling?

I’ve had a lot of great coaches and mentors throughout the years, but there are three books that I’d recommend for people who want to really understand how sales works in business.

  1. Influence by Robert Cialdini
  2. SPIN Selling
  3. Getting Naked

I’ll be honest though. A lot of the stuff I found around selling just didn’t work that well for me when I applied it to my coaching business specifically. And so that’s why I eventually reached a point where I decided I was going to have to create my own system.

What is sales? What is the role of selling in a business?

Sales is not just the process of exchanging money for a product or service.

Sales is about helping someone visualize and take action towards a future outcome that they want.

Sales is the lifeblood of every business. If you do not sell, you do not make money. If you don’t make money, you don’t get to keep playing the game of business. And if you don’t get to keep playing, you don’t get to keep serving people through that business.

If you want to create transformation in people’s lives, but you don’t know how to enroll people in what that transformation requires, it’s game over.

Here’s the good news:

Sales is not something that you do before the real work starts. Sales is the work. It’s what we do as leaders, coaches, and human beings every day.

What if instead of viewing sales as a necessary evil, you learned to love it instead?

Why do people hate the idea of selling so much?

A couple of reasons:

  1. They see sales as inherently pushy and inauthentic. The fix here is to reframe selling from something manipulative to something transformative. Selling can be one of the most important services you provide for your customers and clients. If you don’t help them make the decision about whether your offer is right for them, or if they don’t know what you have to offer them in the first place, they will never experience the benefit of it. When you view selling as an extension of the product or service you offer, you put more intention into the sale.
  2. They haven’t discovered their own way of selling. One that feels authentic to them. Everyone has their own unique style, and the way I sell will look different from the way you sell. The problem with scripts is that they take us out of the moment with our potential clients and we end up sounding stilted and awkward. The solution is having a system that allows you to play to your natural strengths. That’s what I give people. I really believe that if you don’t like selling, you’re doing it wrong.

You say that sales is one of the best ways to provide people with the transformation they’re looking for. How so?

When someone comes to us with a problem they haven’t yet solved, or a vision they haven’t yet achieved, there’s a reason they haven’t gotten the results they want yet. And it’s rarely because they don’t have enough information.

Often the reason is simply indecision. They say they want something, but they haven’t truly “thrown their hat over the fence” and committed to getting it handled. It’s our job to figure out what’s stopping them from making that commitment. Often times, indecision comes down to fear – fear of failure, fear of success, fear of being judged.

I find myself wondering if this is really ‘indecision’. It sounds like they’ve decided not to, or, at least, not decided to. I notice a resistance to framing it as indecisive when it sounds like, for very good reasons, they’ve decided not to proceed.

I’m not sure I agree. Think about the person who really wants to lose weight, but they haven’t lost it yet. Is that because they’ve decided not to lose weight? Or is it because they haven’t committed to what the transformation requires? If people have already decided, then why do we shoot videos and write marketing copy? Other example: if people haven’t chosen a niche, is it because they’ve decided not to choose a niche? Is it because they shouldn’t choose a niche? Or is there an opportunity to support them in that decision making process? Are there irrational fears holding them back from specializing?

Got it. And I’m curious about your thoughts on this blog post I wrote, “But aren’t people indecisive?” 

I’ve actually shared this post with some of my groups, and I like and agree with the overall thesis. People are not indecisive by nature. But they do need help making the decision – that’s why sales exists.

“They’re not indecisive, they’re just not sure it’s a fit. They’re not sure it’s worth the investment. They’re not sure it’s the best use of their money. They’re not indecisive, they’re deciding. And our job is to facilitate the decision-making process (whether that’s towards a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’).”

I think the lines become blurred here, because if they’re not sure it’s a fit, that to me is what indecision means. They’re not sure what decision to make. The barrier is indecision. That’s why we are having a conversation about their challenges and goals and dreams. In a way where they are not being controlled by their own fear or limitations.

By helping them see clearly what it’s costing them to stay where they are, and all the positive ramifications of accomplishing their goals, we make it easier to throw their hat over the fence emotionally, logically and financially. We make it easier to confront that fear head on – whether they decide to work with us or not.

If we get this part wrong – if we don’t uncover their deeper challenges and motivations enough to flip the commitment switch – then it will be very hard to support them through the rest of the journey (even if we get them to commit temporarily).

If we get the enrollment conversation right, though – if by the end of the enrollment call they’ve committed 100% to accomplishing what they want – then everything after that becomes way easier because we can see when they are falling into old patterns and we can remind them why they are taking this journey.

By helping them confront the truth of their situation, and by inspiring them into action, we provide one of the greatest services one human being can for another.

This seems to me to be where this conversation can go horribly wrong and this piece of digging into the pain and building up the future is one of the parts that often feels like the most manipulative to people on the giving and receiving end. What are your thoughts about this?

You’re right. This is one of those times where we have to be very careful about the power we yield as marketers and salespeople. Because it’s absolutely possible to do this in a manipulative way. This makes me think of a brilliant Seth Godin post called Marketing Morality.

Consider this. If a client comes to me who is wanting to create a certain result in their life, we’re going to discuss the exact same things. That’s how you create momentum and gravity for them. You’re going to discuss why they want this thing now, why they are seeking change. You’re going to talk about the future they see for themselves.

The line that separates manipulation from transformation here is your agenda as the coach. Are you doing this in service to your client or in service to you? Don’t confuse the tool of sales or the tool of marketing with how different people might use it.

These days, I notice people are leery about ‘discovery sessions’ because they’re pitched as a ‘high value coaching session’ and yet – they end up being an hour long sales pitch. What’s your take on this?

You’re right. And I think it’s understandable that some people are leery. But I actually see that as a good thing; it means that if you really overdeliver during that session, you’ll set yourself apart from all of the other coaches out there.

The best way to combat that hesitancy is to build trust before you offer a strategy session and then to be very specific about what you will cover during the session itself. If you know the right way to frame your discovery sessions, you’ll have no problem getting the right people to sign up.

What do you see as the top three mistakes people make in enrollment conversations?

  1. Not having a framework. If you don’t have a consistent, proven system to walk your potential client through, you’ll get inconsistent results. That’s because you’ll be flying on the seat of your pants every time. You’ll be more confident and more effective once you’ve learned the exact steps to take someone through. Now, this doesn’t mean you want to use a script. But you need to understand the optimal flow of an enrollment conversation so that you can inspire your ideal clients to step forward and pay you if it turns out that you are a fit.
  2. Not having your inner game handled. It’s one thing to understand the external strategies of enrollment. But the truth is, you’re not going to be able to enroll many people if you haven’t also installed the key mindsets of successful coaches. Our clients are a mirror for our own doubt, fear, and insecurities. So for example, if you have blocks around money or around your own value, it’s going to be really hard to make any system work for you.
  3. Not leaving enough time. I’m not a big fan of 15 or 30 minute taster sessions. I suggest leaving up to 90 minutes to have your enrollment conversation unless you are very well established and have a lot of demand for what you offer (in which case the enrollment conversation is just more of a formality/sanity check). A good enrollment conversation requires depth, and you need time to go deep. You also need to leave enough time at the end to propose your services if it turns out they are a fit. There’s nothing worse than being all teed up to propose right when one of you has to hop on another call.

This notion of ‘fit’ feels central. I’m curious what you do or recommend that people do in order to really identify and make sure that there is a fit between yourself and your potential client. What do you before the call and during the call to facilitate clarity around this?

One of the most important things here is for you to know your ideal client criteria. So asking yourself in the Connect phase:

  1. Can I help this person?
  2. Do I want to help this person?

You can figure out what the red flags are by looking back at previous clients and seeing what the most successful ones had in common, and which one’s you enjoyed working with most.

Amen. I teach the same thing in my workshops. So important. So, what are the Three C’s? We discussed this in a call we had a while ago. This seems to be central to your point of view on selling.

The 3C Sales System is something that I initially developed just for myself because I had studied all of these complex sales frameworks and I needed something really simple to follow so that I could focus on the person I was talking to. It all came into place when I noticed that virtually all effective enrollment conversations followed the same three steps. When I focused on following my own system, I started getting a lot more clients. And then I shared it with my fiance, who is a teacher and permaculture practitioner, and she made her first sale right off the bat. That’s when I realized I was onto something and so I started sharing it with other coaches and service providers.

The Three C’s are Clarify, Connect, and Commit.

The first step, Clarify, is about getting really clear about the other person’s problems, vision, and challenges. Plus the deeper impacts and motivations behind all of those things. So not only do you get clearer about what the person needs, but they get to step back and finally see the truth of their situation, which is really valuable. Often we can’t see our relationship to our problems and goals because we are so close to them. Think about the person who shows up at the doctor and their arm is hurting, so they want some pain medication. If the doctor finds out that their arm is broken, that’s really important information because the prescription will be different. So the final thing we do in the Clarify stage is to recap what we are hearing, both to make sure we are on the same page and to have them understand what’s really going on. That’s our bridge to the next step.

The second step is Connect. This piece is something that almost no other sales trainers I know even talk about, but it’s one of the most important parts. Connect is all about connecting what they need to the service that you offer. If you get this stage right, they’ll see you as the best fit for their situation (if in fact you are the best fit).

Finally we have Commit. This is where we propose a solution and support them in making a decision to either get this area of their life handled with you or continue to work through it on their own. It’s also where we’ll help address whatever concerns come up for them in a non-pushy way. A lot of people focus on the “closing” phase of the conversation, but the truth is you should spend most of your time in the first two C’s. That way when it finally comes time to make a decision they are totally clear on what they want and need.

So that’s the high-level summary. The cool part about the Three C’s is it can expand or contract based on what you need from it. If you just need to remember the general flow of the conversation, then you have a really simple process to follow. And all of it is expandable, so my clients and I can go deep into each section and learn how to be most effective in that phase of the enrollment conversation.

More on the Three C’s here.

This piece about ‘connecting’ is so compelling. What are the consequences of skipping this step?

The Connect step is all about building a bridge.

Most people go straight from clarifying to closing. The problem with doing that is the person won’t be able to see the connection between their situation and the thing you are offering them. If you get this step wrong, then the person will be really clear on what they need, but they won’t understand why you’re solution is relevant to them.  They may even assume that there’s nothing special about them and that you are just proposing the same thing to everyone you talk to, which shouldn’t be the case.

You shouldn’t be proposing the same thing to each person? How so?

So depending on what your offerings are, you probably have a few ways of helping people. It’s possible that the program you are enrolling for isn’t actually the best fit for that person. It’s possible that your 1:1 coaching is all bespoke, in which case you are customizing each proposal. It’s possible that this person isn’t a good fit for you in general, in which case you shouldn’t be proposing your stuff at all.

Basically, what you are helping them commit to should be different depending on what you helped them clarify.

When we spoke before, you related this to dating, could you share this?

Sure thing. So in dating, there are different levels of intimacy, right? And each step that you go through in the relationship needs to be bridged in just the right way or you’ll get stuck. A great example of this is in the later stages of a relationship, during a marriage proposal. It would be pretty strange if things were going well in the relationship and one person just went ahead and asked “Hey, want to get married? I have the ring here.” Not many people would do that, and it probably wouldn’t be successful. Actually it would be really jarring because there’s no connection between the good time you’ve been having and marriage.

Most couples talk about what the future would look like together. And they tell each other what they like about the other person. This all culminates in the actual proposal, where traditionally one person gets down on a knee and connects the experience they’ve been having up to this point to the life they imagine with the other person. They talk about why it’s such a great fit, and how they’re feeling about the relationship. So when they finally pop the question, there is a clear connection that’s been established.

That’s exactly what we want to do before we propose to a potential client. Minus the ring.

What are some of the things you do to help people see the connection between where they’re at and what you offer?

Remember that the goal of the Connect stage is for them to connect their problems and desires to the solution you are about to propose.

One of the questions I like to ask at this point is “What’s been the most helpful part of the conversation so far for you?” Whatever answer they give here, it reinforces the fact that they’ve gotten clarity as a result of speaking with you. They start to build that bridge themselves between their situation and you as a trusted advisor.

The second thing I do is suggest a game plan for them based on what we’ve learned in the Clarify stage. So I’ll boil down the insights we’ve gotten into a strategy, adding my own insights as I go. At this point I still haven’t offered them anything paid. What I’m doing is giving them a sense of what we would want to work on together, and connecting those things to the results that they’ve said they want. So it looks something like “It sounds like here’s what you need ______ and here’s what we’d do moving forward if we were to work together.”

The final thing I do here is what I call the “Yes Test” (learn more here – it’s tip #4).

You speak about telling people something like, “I feel like we could be a really fit. You’re my ideal client and here’s why…” – Can you say more about this and why it matters?

So one of the really important parts of Connect is that you have to figure out if there actually is a strong connection between what this person needs and what you offer. If there isn’t, you need to send them to something or someone who can better serve them.

A big part of this decision is figuring out if this person could be an ideal client. Can you help this person? Do you want to help this person?

If the answer is yes, then I want you to tell them why. Why are they such an ideal client for you? What specifically tipped you off?

This isn’t just about stroking their ego. It’s really about demonstrating that you have standards, and that they have met those standards. When we feel as though we’ve been chosen for a specific reason, that opportunity is now much more appealing to us. To use the relationship metaphor, this isn’t someone just looking for a one night stand with anyone. This is someone who is interested in me for a specific reason. There’s a fit here.

What are objections all about and what do we do with them?

Objections are a natural response to any commitment that we are considering in our life. Often, right before people get engaged or married, they have doubts and concerns. A lot of times these aren’t rational concerns, but what we’re doing is processing them in advance because we know that once we’re in, that’s it. So objections are actually a healthy part of any good decision making process.

The role of the coach or service provider here is to be a mirror for the potential client as they bring up their concerns. The most common objections are usually lack of time, lack of money, or lack of certainty. This is when people often say “I need to think about it.”

Your goal in the Commit phase is not necessarily to get them to say yes, it’s just to get the truth so that they can commit to a Yes or a No.

What are they really concerned about? What are they scared of? For example, someone who says they can’t afford it might actually be saying that they don’t know how to justify it to their spouse. If you know this, you can help coach them through that concern directly.

The biggest mistake people make in this phase is trying to justify themselves or make the potential client wrong. All this does is create something for them to push back against. So what we want to do is continue asking questions, reminding them of what they talked about in the Clarify stage, and giving them lots of space to process the decision.

One thing I often find when I’m selling coaching is that the objection the person gives is actually pointing right to the thing that’s holding them back from their goals. If they feel like they don’t have enough time, for example, I’ll often ask, “Is that a pattern that comes up for you often? Not having enough time? How might that be affecting your results in this area.” The truth is that we all have the same amount of time, but we get to choose our priorities.

If the person decides not to move forward, it’s because they don’t believe that the amount of money they would have to pay is worth what they think they would be getting. If they say yes, it’s because the perceived value of what you offer, or the cost of staying where they are, is more than what they would have to pay. So helping them see that value and that cost is really important in this phase.

Sometimes people get into this grey zone of ‘should I? shouldn’t i?’ You have thoughts that this might not actually be a good thing. Why not let people stay in the grey zone? And can you speak about the difference between the micro and the macro?

The thing about sitting on the fence is that it’s really uncomfortable. We waste a lot of time and energy there. There’s a lot of power that comes from making a decision one way or the other. There are lots of ways we can combat this, but one obvious way is deadlines. Deadlines are the best. I love deadlines. Because instead of dragging that decision out forever, I have to commit to making a decision by a certain date and time. And then I can put my focus back on actually doing the work.

Part of your duty as the service provider is helping the person make a sound decision. And neglecting that duty, just because you’re scared to stay in that tension with them, I think is a cop out.

So on the macro level, we need to help them commit to doing something different in this area of their life. If nothing changes, nothing changes. So if they’re talking to you it’s probably because something’s not working as well as it could be. They need to really get this loud and clear by the time you end the conversation. Maybe they don’t actually want to make a change, and they’ve just kind of been saying that they will. Well, now we know that and so they can give that up. Either way, how are we moving forward?

Then on a micro level, we need to help them decide whether our solution is what they want and need. This is really critical, because, if it is, we want to get started helping them right away. And if it’s not, they’re going to need to find another solution right away. Wasting time in indecision is usually what gets us stuck in the first place. And that’s where fear and doubt start to creep in. That’s why I’m not a fan of the grey zone.

Do you tell people that one of the goals you have for the conversation with them is to help them make a decision one way or the other? How explicit are you with them about this and your opinion about the grey zone before the call begins or during the call? This seems like it could be an important piece of filtering information for them. I could imagine some people being drawn to that and others being repelled by that like, “It’s not your business to decide what I need.”

The entire time I’m asking permission.

So when I offer the session, I talk about why it will be valuable for them as well as why I am offering the session.

At the beginning of the session, I talk about what I’d like to cover and that, if after that it seems like we might be a good fit, that we can talk about that.

Towards the end of the session, I ask if they would like to hear more about what it might look like to continue working together.

At the very end, I ask what they would need to know in order to be able to make a decision. If that’s something I can address on the call, then we do that. If not, I ask if we can schedule a specific time to follow up together.

I’m never deciding what they need. I’m telling them what I see, asking if they see it, and offering my perspective on what next steps they might consider.

I love that last sentence so much. That’s beautiful. You speak about helping people understand what’s required of them? Why does this matter and how do you do this?

As I’m about to process their payment, I stop and say “Hey, are you really sure about this? Because this is going to take more than just your money. It’s going to take time and energy and bravery. So I want to make sure you’re committed to doing whatever it takes.” I don’t necessarily get specific unless I know something about that person that is a red flag for me. But I do have them re-affirm their commitment. This pause upfront makes the rest of the engagement a lot easier.

If people want to learn more about your work, where do they go and what are the main options?

The best place to go to learn more about me is my website.

One article that I think your readers might enjoy is “How To Fill Your Calendar With Potential Clients (Without Being Needy)”.

And if they want to go deeper into all this stuff, they’re welcome to reach out here and ask about my group and individual programs.

 

“But aren’t people indecisive?”

During my last tour in Toronto leading my Marketing for Hippies 101 workshop, I was asked the same question, twice in different workshops.

“But don’t people have a hard time making decisions?”

And, both times, I had to stop to address it.

The notion that people struggle to make decisions is one of the classic premises used to justify pushy and manipulative sales techniques.

The logic goes like this.

  1. Your product or service is great and high value. It could really help people.
  2. People have a hard time deciding.
  3. So you have to help them decide. Helping them to decide is a service to them.

And that’s actually fine as it goes. It depends what we mean by ‘helping them decide’. What that usually translates into is ‘helping them say yes’ or, stated another way, ‘getting the sale.’

Let me ask you, the first time you fell in love, did you decide to or did it just happen?

Do you remember the first house or apartment you fell in love with? Did you decide to?

When people see something they like, they like it.

This notion that ‘people have a hard time making decisions’ is one of those core beliefs about humanity that feels similar to the notion that ‘kids won’t learn unless we bribe them with gold stars, grades and punishment’.

If I believe that you need what I have (which is the first thought worth questioning) and that you have a hard time deciding things (the second thought work questioning) then I will manipulate you. Those two thoughts are all I need to justify my use of pressure-filled, sneaky tactics to get you to say ‘yes’ to working with me. I’ve heard it said outright by well-known sales trainers that you need to sell yourself on your product so that you walk in absolutely certain that what you’re offering can help those people and then to do whatever it takes to sell them because you’re actually doing them a service by pushing them.

If I believe those two thoughts, I will also be blind to what’s really going on.

They’re not indecisive, they’re just not sure it’s a fit. They’re not sure it’s worth the investment. They’re not sure it’s the best use of their money. They’re not indecisive, they’re deciding.

And our job is to facilitate the decision-making process (whether that’s towards a ‘yes’ or a ‘no’).

If we let go of those thoughts and are willing to accept that we have no idea if others need what we’re offering and we let go of the idea that deciding is hard then what we’re left with is that some people decide to work with us and some don’t.

Without those two thoughts, we can see potential customers as capable human beings who are in the process of making difficult decisions. Some of them will be a good fit for us and some won’t. Some of the ones who are a good fit for us will decide to work with us and some won’t. That’s how it is.

Knowing this, we go embrace the notion of slow marketing and go back to the three roles of marketing, to crafting better packages, to gaining more skill in having conversations with potential clients, to clarifying our niche and our point of view.

Instead of applying more pressure to help them decide, we clarify what we do to make the decision-making process easier. We help them contrast and compare what we do with what others do.

Human beings are not inherently indecisive.

But, if you believe it, you might just become inherently pushy and hard to be around.

Ambushing and Bait and Switches

Small_Biz_HR_Bait_Switch-235x300The other day, I got the following message on Facebook:

Hey Tad, just want to say how much I love you work and continue to follow your blog and content all the time.”

These kinds of messages always find a good home in my world. It’s easy to think that people like me are constantly told how much they are appreciated, but it’s not always the case. You put things out in the world and, sometimes, have no real idea how they land.

So, when someone takes the time to express their appreciation, it means a great deal even if I don’t always have time to respond personally.

Oh you.” I replied. “Thank you.”

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And then the conversation took a turn for the worse. 

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I’d love to tell you more about a really conscious company that offered me a great detox. It’s a 10 day transformation cleanse.
May I share a video with you?

I sighed, “Let’s slow this conversation down just a little bit.” I was already feeling exhausted for having to have this conversation with someone again. I already had a sense of where it was going. “Is this a company with which you are personally involved? Is this a MLM type company (even if it might prefer another term) and, were I to sign up for this cleanse, would you receive any financial compensation?

I wasn’t feeling upset, or at least not that feeling alone and not really towards the woman who was writing to me. It was an upset about how this culture fails us and how the sales training of MLM companies utterly fails people. I was sad that this conversation needed to happen still. Though, given where I began in sales myself and how aggressive and pushy I was, I am in no position to point fingers at anyone.

It’s a network marketing company that supports sustainability and offers non GMO, organic foods and products.” she said. “I offer the product as part of my nutritional services. I prefer these than the past retail products I used to recommend.

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I paused for a moment to decide how candid I wanted to be with her. I decided to be as direct as I could.

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Thanks for clarifying. This isn’t something I’m interested in right now. And… ” I paused for a moment to decide how candid I wanted to be with her and decided to be as direct as I could be. “Here’s what felt off for me with this. It felt like a mini ambush a bit. You opened with a sincere compliment and then, suddenly, I was being pitched. It felt like the conversation was opened in one way and then, immediately, became about something else. A woman I used to date met a woman at a cafe. They had a great conversation. The woman invited her out for coffee and she agreed because the interaction had been so nice. When she got there, the woman began to pitch her on Amway and her heart broke a little bit. Her head was swirling in wondering how sincere the compliments and good connection had been at all. I don’t doubt that your words to me are sincere and I’m grateful for them and… there’s a beauty to directness too. I’m sitting with what might have felt better for me as an approach here. Here’s one I’m imagining

You: “Tad, you came to mind today and I wanted to reach out to you about two things. The first was that I just read _____ blog post recently and I loved it and I love your work and wanted to tell you. And then, as I thought about you and knowing that you’re into health and wellness, I thought you might, or might not, be interested in something I’ve been involved in. Do you ever do cleanses? I don’t know if that sort of things is something you’re interested in.”

Tad: “Sometimes. I should probably do it more.”

You: “I know the feeling. Well, to put it out there, there’s a ten day cleanse I’ve come across and it’s the best one I’ve found. I wasn’t sure if you’d want to know more about it or not but there’s a video I can send you about it. No pressure on this. And a disclaimer, it’s an MLM company so, if you signed up I would make some money but there’s also a direct link I could give you where you could buy it directly and I wouldn’t get any money. I just think it’s a great thing. Again, no pressure, I know you’re busy.

That sort of direct conversation, with context given as to why you thought it might be relevant to me, with the disclaimer about the profit motive might have felt a bit better. It just suddenly went into a pitch. And I appreciate very much that you asked permission to share the video. That feels good. How does that all land for you?” I asked hoping this had not been too much for her but also aware that I had not asked for her pitch at all and it had found me in a Facebook message on my personal profile and leveraged that connection and opportunity for her business.

I reflected on the incredible importance of Permission Marketing in which you don’t market to people without having their permission to do so first.

She replied, “That’s very good. Thank you for for offering that suggestion. Sorry if it felt intrusive. I’m a bit excited about it and what I experienced. I definitely will apply this as it does feel better. My appreciation for your work is authentic and sorry of that felt otherwise.”

It was a relief to feel her openness to my words. I have had to cut off relations with colleagues in the past because they couldn’t hear my feedback on similar issues. “I think part of it is that Facebook is such a personal medium for me and so I assume messages I receive here are in that vein. MLM is a very tricky situation because the level of stigma around it is large (and not unearned). What that means is that, if people even get a sniff that it is MLM there will be pressure present because now they will see you in a particular way. And if they smell it and get the sense that it’s being hidden, all of the alarms go off. This is all true in sales in general but it’s extra true in MLM. There’s a need to be direct but also to keep focused on constantly diffusing pressure.

The-Heart-of-Selling-3D-Ebook-Cover-JPGThe best person I know around this is Ari Galper of Unlock the Game whose work is based in how to constantly be diffusing pressure so that an authentic conversation can unfold. It’s something I also explore in depth in my ebook The Heart of Selling: An Interview with Mark Silver.

Another approach that could feel really good would be to simply message me and say, “Tad, can I pitch you on something?”

I’d likely say, “Ha. Sure. What you got?”

“And then you could give me your best pitch for your cleanse with all of the disclaimers and ‘no pressures’ etc. And then I’d be able to sit with it and see if it felt like a fit. There would be no suspicion about intentions. I think sometimes people think it’s not very ‘hippy’ or ‘conscious’ to be that blunt and direct but it’s actually deeply appreciated if it’s balanced with a detachment, a lack of assumption that this is going to be a fit etc. A hard pill to swallow is that our natural enthusiasm, unchecked, will often read as sales pressure. On your end, if feels like you’re being authentic and effusive and, on the receiving end, it comes across as pushy. It can be hard to tone down our vibe. It can be hard to be chill about these conversations but it’s important to remember that most people have an incredibly hard time saying ‘no’ and so our passion can actually be something that bullies someone into doing something that doesn’t feel right for them. It can have us want to move the conversation faster than is right for the other person. There is a deep need to keep slowing ourselves and the conversation down.”

I reflected on how my colleagues Jesse and Sharla often speak about the importance of surfacing the concerns the others might have before signing any documents. They suggest that you literally stop the conversation and say, “Are there any concerns you have that might stop you from moving forward on this?” and then to really, really listen.

It had me think about my recent practice of creating an ‘are you sure?’ page that interrupts and slows down the buying process.

It had me think about how selling and marketing feel so unnatural to so many of us and how brave people are to even try, like this good woman did, to extend herself and take the risk of offering something she believed in.

It reminded me of how many people have had some version of the following experience:

“I went to a 1/2 day workshop about envisioning your future and I liked the information and the presenter. The women then offered free 1 hour consultation to go deeper and see if we could work together. During the 1 hour consolation I told her something pretty vulnerable (I don’t do vulnerable easy but she seemed like she was genuine) and then later in the call she used that information in a way that made me feel bad about myself and like pressure to work with her. I will never work with her. Now if someone offers free time, I say upfront I just want to know more about your ability to support me but if you are going to do a hard sell I will not waste your time. I really felt like she had no integrity – I’m sure it’s something she learned from her coaching course – but it felt very mean. (Feel free to post this anonymously if you are sharing this with others).”

It reminded me of the heart of my work and my commitment to the idea that marketing can feel good.

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The real work in selling, for most of us, is not about learning how to be more convincing, it’s about learning how to identify and remove sources of pressure so that we can have a human conversation with people instead of giving them a pitch.

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Additional Reading:

To read more thoughts on my notions of how to approach people with graciousness I recommend reading The Classy Cold Approach.

I also recommend reading A Client Says I’d Love to Work With You… And Then You Never Hear From Them Again by Rich Litvin in which he explores the notion of “Questioning their ‘yes'”. Brilliant stuff.

And, again, Ari Galper’s work at Unlock the Game is brilliant here as is Mark Silver’s Heart of Selling program.

Farmers Market Marketing Series #8: 18 Ideas on How to Engage Customers From Your Booth

Selling.

This must be one of the most awkward things that humans have ever created. No one likes to sell. No one like to be sold to. That’s the reality.

But it’s also real that we need people to buy from us. And to do that we may need to engage customers in conversations. There’s a lot to say about this, but the following ideas may be of some use.

ENGAGING IDEA #1: Watch others.

This is likely the most important piece of advice I could offer you. Go to other Farmer’s Markets and craft shows and notice how the different vendors relate (or avoid relating) with the public. You’ll notice that the most successful ones never give off an air of ‘selling’ anything. It’s just a fun, warm and generous experience being in their presence. Take notes and see what style of engagement feels right for you. I can offer no better advice to you than this.

ENGAGING IDEA #2: Know what matters most to your customers.

A presentation I saw made the provocative claim that environmental impact and the food being natural, though it might matter most to be, was not the most important for many. It’s something to consider in our marketing.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 3.55.00 PM

Safety means, ‘will it make me sick?’

Judy Leith Zastre pointed this out to me, “Just as important is the issue of Food Safety. Farmers mostly do things that are great for food safety but are not able to prove it to their customers. There have been big store owners in the past (i.e. name starts Galen Wes…) who claim farmers markets will kill people due to lack of food safety. Using the Good Agricultural Collection Practices (GACP program), a program developed by the food industry participants, not government, you can PROVE that you are doing things right. I’ve used for about 8 years. Makes a great marketing tool! Check out how farmers can get free training in Alberta and possibly B.C. and Saskatchewan.” I suspect most places offer this kind of training.

Nutrition means both what’s in the food (vitamins, minerals, fat etc.) but also other dietary restrictions (is it dairy free, gluten free, vegetarian, vegan, low fat, low sodium, does it have soy, nuts, wheat free?). For more excellent thoughts on this check out this slide show (particularly slides 20 & 21).

This will shift from booth to booth – but it’s good to have a strong sense of what matters most to your customers. It can inform what goes on your signs, what you talk with them about when you meet them and what you post about on social media.

ENGAGING IDEA # 3: Conversation starting signs.

Can you put something interactive and engaging on signs?

One cafe I know has a quiz of the day. There is a question and a multiple choice of four answers. It doesn’t make me come back to see it but it does create the opportunity for a conversation with the cashier which wouldn’t have otherwise happened and that conversation could create a connection that would have me come back. Or what about a joke of the day. A food fact of the day. A gardening tip relevant to something you sell, a nutritional tip, a snack ideas, or some other fun “thought for the day”.

Some sort of conversation starter that has people pause for a moment.

laurahendersonENGAGING IDEA# 4: Connection first.

When someone approaches your booth they are bringing with them a tremendous amount of pressure to buy something from you. They don’t want to disappoint you or hurt your feelings by not buying from you. It’s why they did a whole round of walking around the Farmer’s Market and looking at all of the booths before finally stopping at yours. I think the central focus of the initial meeting is to remove pressure – not to add to it. If you move right into pitching what you do it may push them away. Ideally, your display and signage are clear enough that only people who are interested in what you’re offering engage you anyway.

My friend Jason Guile told me once, “It’s not at all uncommon to attend a farmers market and have a really bad customer service experience. Some PR 101 couldn’t hurt in some instances, and in others, it’s just getting real that not everyone belongs behind the table serving clients.”

Evonne Smulders, who has worked many booth in her days shares, “Prepare, then tuck those notes in your pocket, walk out there and open your heart and tell them a good story. They will want to connect with you as they connect with the land. That’s all. That’s what you taught me and I give it back to you my friend. Connect connect connect.”

Dani Hollis points out, “Smile and address every person walking by. If you are having fun, they will want to join the fun. Start a conversation and it is likely that the customer will buy something.”

Anna Baker reaffirms this all from years of experience, “I’ve worked at our local farmers’ market doing sales for friends who do the farming and here’s my take: acquire or hone your customer service skills. Great products will do well, but the hustle and ability to chat up customers and schmooze a bit can really help sales. Keep it authentic but focus on building those relationships with your customers – it makes a big difference.”

ENGAGING IDEA #5: Have some conversation starters.

Not everyone is an extrovert. Not everyone has a gift for the gab. It can be useful to have some back pocket conversation prompters in the beginning. Once you get the hang of it, you won’t need them anymore. You don’t always have time for a big conversation when the market’s busy, but, when the opportunities are there, it’s good to be ready.

Here are a few for yourself and your staff.

  • Commenting on something they’re wearing and asking about it.
  • Asking them if they’ve bought something else at the market and speaking about them in warm and favourable ways.
  • “Is it your first time here at the market?”
  • Asking where they are from and, if they say, the name of the town you’re in, you might ask them if they are from here originally. Finding out where people are from often opens up wonderful conversations.
  • “If you had a booth here, what would you sell?”

ENGAGING IDEA #6: Remember names.

This is huge.

When I go to a market and a vendor remembers my name, it blows me away and I want to go back to their stall because it feels like we’re friends. This is true of restaurants and cafe’s too. Make it a game for yourself. See if you can remember people’s names and a little something about them each time you’re at the market. If they come back the next week and you get their name right and remember that little thing – watch them come back to you week after week.

Samantha Bennett suggests, “Why not start an initiative to get to know your customers a bit better — ask their names, find out if they’re regulars, discover some of their likes and dislikes. If any vendor (farmer’s market or bricks-and-mortar) ever asked me my name I would fall over with joy. After all, it’s a pretty personal interaction and I’m there every week for crying out loud.”

Felicia Friesema suggests brilliantly, “Keep track in a client book their favorite crops and special requests. This valuable market data engenders devotion.”

ENGAGING IDEA #7: Refunds.

If someone complains, use your own best judgement at all times. It’s often worth it to give them the refund or a replacement for the goodwill it builds over time. Trust your gut in each situation.

ENGAGING IDEA #8: Things to consider for staff at the booth. 

Your staff should not be eating or on their phones unless it’s deadsville. Their job needs to be about engaging people walking by starting up friendly conversations.

“Smile and engage the customer, playing on your phone does not sell products” says Mike Johnston

Be dressed well, not too far up or down. Look the part. Make sure you’re wearing clean clothes and consider wearing name tags. Consider having all staff wear a t-shirt with the farm’s name and logo on it.

ENGAGING IDEA #9: Hire good people and train them well.

Make sure you and your staff know the difference between a Gala, a Cox Pippin and a Pink Lady apple. “I don’t know,” ends the conversation. Customer service should be one of your biggest focuses. What’s worse than training someone and losing them? Not training them and keeping them.

ENGAGING IDEA #10: Engage and educate people.

It seems to me that you want to make sure that your booth is staffed with extroverts who love talking with people in a friendly way. But everyone has their own style. Some are more comfortable being salesy and some are more comfortable being subtle.

My friend Joey Hundert used to work at a hemp products stand at the Strathcona Farmer’s market in Edmonton. He is an incredible extrovert and would regularly have his stand surrounded by a dozen people as he answered questions about hemp oil, hemp seeds and more. Joey knew his science and kept knocking it out of the park. Once he had a few people stopped, more would quickly join to hear his Coney Island style pitches. It was a beautiful thing to watch.

Pro tip: Don’t bring a chair. Chairs encourage you to sit which will make you less approachable.

ENGAGING IDEA #11: Create an experience.

This one isn’t going to be for everyone but it’s worth considering how you could bring more theatre into your booth.

Brent Schmidt says, “I would suggest checking out the Pike Market in Seattle to remind them that to build a business that customers rave about it’s important to remember that consumers buy more than the product.”

Morgana Rae says, “There’s a guy at my farmer’s market who is an artist with rapidly slicing apples into animal heads…and giving you tastes along the way. He creates an audience with entertainment and seduces you to buy.” Something like this I imagine.

apple art

Emily Levy gives more ideas, “For drawing more farmers’ market shoppers to their stall, it’s all going to be about setting themselves apart, like Shayla and Samantha said. Having a product no one else does, or recipes, or someone juggling their produce, or tasting of the produce or a dish made with their produce … lots of options.”

Deb Vail gives this practical tip, “We always had special things for the kids – little single flowers to hand out so they could put in their hair or taste the edible ones. We would walk out of the booth and greet them.”

ENGAGING IDEA #12: Offer bulk prices on lower grade produce. 

Let’s face it, not all of your tomatoes are as good. They aren’t all as pretty. So why not offer it at a discount to your best customers off of the side of the truck. Especially during canning season/peak season when people just might want a lot of them and not care about how good they look..

ENGAGING IDEA #13: Make value added products with your products (e.g. preserves, perogies, sausages etc.)

Instead of just selling tomatoes, could you also sell tomato sauce? Instead of just berries, could you make and sell some jam? Instead of just selling potatoes, could you make perogies? Instead of just selling raw meat could you make sausages?

ENGAGING IDEA #14: Stand in front of the booth.

If you’re able to stand in front of the booth so it’s easier to engage with clients, that’s ideal. So many vendors, hide behind their booths. They sit there and look hopefully at people walking by or not at all. Get out there. Engage and talk to people.

samplesENGAGING IDEA #15: Offer Free Samples

This is not a new idea, and it’s likely something you already do but, if you don’t already, free samples of what you offer at your booth can make a big difference.

If you sell rhubarb and apples could you offer a tasty sample of them stewed together, warm out of a crock pot? Or a slice of pie made from your fresh cherries and then give them the recipe (with a gorgeous picture of the pie on it) if they buy a pint?

Steven Budden shared his experience, “I worked at a few farmer’s markets while I worked on farms and could sell out anything just by telling clients interesting ways they could use items (because I also love cooking).

 

Also, if you sell fish, could you give them some free parsely to go with it? Some free rosemary to go with potatoes?

Pro Tip: Make sure you have the proper receptacles you need for the free samples (e.g. tiny dixie cups, little spoons, napkins etc. (and make sure that’s on your packing checklist)) as well as a garbage container for them when they’re done.

ENGAGING IDEA #16: Bundle Products

Could you bundle some products together with a recipe card for a cool salad or a soup?

Could you make a “Meal in a bag”?

Samantha Bennett wondered about this, “I’d love to see more demonstrations of what to do with all that great produce – maybe offer printed up versions of recipes that use ingredients from a few different vendors – so it’s kind of a treasure map?

 

Andy Larson of Iowa State University shares the ideas in the image below.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 4.46.19 PM

s0467010_sc7ENGAGING IDEA #17: Allow credit card purchases. 

Most people who go to the Farmer’s Market bring cash. And most Farmer’s Markets, wisely, have ATMs. But, why not make sure you’re able to accept credit card just in case. I predict that, within two years, it will be the norm for vendors to be able to do this. You can use a tool like Square Up easily if you have a smart phone.

kombucha-1024x683ENGAGING IDEA #18: Presell Your products.

My colleague George C. Huang shared this, “I once spoke with a young guy who was making Kambucha; it was great stuff! Better than anything you’ve find on a mass, commercial basis. He went around to Farmer’s Markets. But one time, he was bummed out, because he had an upcoming market, but his batch wasn’t ready for sale. I told him to show up and put up a sign and PRESELL his next batch. He nearly sold out his next batch!

Please leave any thoughts, tips, resources or ideas that could help farmers grow their businesses in the comments section below. After a few weeks, I promise to read through them all and weave anything relevant and useful into the blog itself so that they can be of the most use to the most farmers.

The Work of Byron Katie in Marketing: “Why aren’t people buying from me?!”

Byron_Katie_2

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This blog post is the first in a series of posts exploring the connection between marketing and The Work of Byron Katie

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Frankly, I’m tired of hearing people talk about the importance of working on your ‘inner game’ in business. Because most of what I hear feels like self pressuring bullshit to constantly do more, be more positive, be better and keep persisting no matter what. Most of it feels like what John Kenneth Galbraith was speaking about when he said, “The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy; that is, the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness.”

Most of it seems based on toxic assumptions about money and an unwillingness to question this suicide economy we’re a part of.

Most of it seems to have no interest in seeing anything except the possibility of closing the sale and growing our business.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all about perseverance. But I’m more about awareness and being real about our situations. As P.T. Barnum put it, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again. But, if you still don’t succeed, quit. Don’t be a damned fool.”

Most of the inner game work feels bereft of much that I’d call real learning which is, by its nature expensive. Sometimes we just have to quit or drop a certain perspective. Which can be hard. Hard to find it and harder to question it until it loses its grip on us.

And there’s something there. There’s something about the way we are seeing our business problems that actually is the problem.

For years, I’ve delved deep into The Work of Byron Katie and, more than any other tool, it has been a source of incredible insight, genuine learning, deep and unsought humility and humiliation and a profound sense of peace.

10409286_10155034733660195_5413425888966609089_nThe basis is that we suffer because of our unquestioned, stressful thoughts.

And, in business there is one thought I’ve seen which seems to cause more stress than just about any other. But it comes in disguise. It often sounds like, “Why aren’t people buying from me?” asked in a frustrated tone.

But hidden just underneath it, like a tortoise hides in its shell, is often the thought, “People should buy from me.”

This is crucial to understand because it’s a place too many people get stuck. Before you read further or inquire into this on your own… remember: learning is expensive. Really doing the work means encountering unsought and often unwelcome things and it requires you to pay with the thing you can least afford. You pay for learning with what you think you know. 

So let’s explore this idea that people should buy from us and see if it can earn its keep as a worthy and useful idea.

Question #1: Is it true?

This is the first question in The Work. We’re asked to inquire if the thought, in this case, “People should buy from me.” is true.

When I sit with it, I realize it’s not true. I want them to but they don’t need to. Busted. I can skip…

Question #2: Can I absolutely know this is true? 

I absolutely can’t.

Question #3: What happens and how do I react when I think this thought?

If you find yourself frustrated and annoyed with Life and the marketplace because you’re not making it and no one is responding to your offerings… pause and see if you can spot that thought that “People should buy from me.” See if you can notice it. Then see if you can sit with that thought and see how it’s affecting you. Almost like you’re watching some never before seen animal for the first time in the wild to see what kind of a creature it is and how it affects its environment. 

I know when this thought arises for me I immediately feel bitter. I feel resentful of people. I feel powerless and angry. I am jealous of anyone who seems more successful than me. “Why do they buy from that person and not me? I’m a good person!” But then I begin to wonder, “Maybe there’s something wrong with me… Maybe I’m broken.” If they aren’t buying, there’s an urge to push them harder to buy. In a panic, I want to add more hype or pressure. I want to cut my price down. And, at the bottom of it, I feel utterly confused. They should be buying but they aren’t. What’s wrong with this universe? Why don’t I understand it? And, if I’m honest, when looking at my world through the lense of this thought, I am deeply angry with the universe for encouraging me to start a business that will not sustain me. It’s like it tricked me and lied to me. 

I’ve met people who are deep in the thrall of this thought. They are not fun to be around. The energy is heavy around them. They are desperate. Their sense of other people’s boundaries are poor. Their desperation makes them incredibly vulnerable to manipulations of anyone promising them an easy path to wealth and sales. 

If I think this thought I will either collapse or I will apply pressure in selling situations without even meaning to. Sales pressure comes from the agenda to get the sale. If I believe you should buy from me and you aren’t, then of course I will try to make sure we correct this and this will occur as pressure to you.

The tragedy is that they do everything except the thing they need to do. They are utterly blind to what’s required of them because the problem lays out in the world and not with them. If ‘those’ people would just get their heads out of their asses and see what a good person I am and what high quality work I do then every thing would be okay. Damnit. 

When I think this thought, I feel superior to everyone. Everyone else is stupid and blind that they can’t see how awesome I am. WTF is wrong with them anyway?

So this thought lays heavy on us.

10302061_10155034732465195_1931724753386448115_nQuestion #4: Who would you be without this thought?

But, and this is truly the heavy lifting, if we are able to set that thought aside for even a moment and see our same situation without it, a miraculous thing happens. Imagine it. Nothing has changed in the outer world. No one is buying from you. That’s the same, but you are not able to think the thought that they should be buying from you. It’s as if a sieve went through your brain and removed all traces of it. Utterly gone. And yet you’re looking at the same evidence.

When I do this I suddenly feel at peace. Right, they’re just doing what they do. They’re buying what they want to buy. They don’t see that what I’m doing is a fit for them or a priority. And right! That’s my job. That’s marketing. Marketing is about establishing the value beyond the immediately apparent. And, apparently, it’s not immediately apparent how valuable our work is. Or, maybe, I might even be able to see, as humbling as it is to see it, that I’m not as good at what I do as I thought I was.

When you can let go of the thought that they should buy you are freed up to see the real reasons why they don’t buy.

This is so vital.

Underneath the question, “Why aren’t people buying from me?” asked in a curious tone is never the thought, “People should buy from me.”

Without this thought, I am filled with an easy sense of wondering and an openness to learning the truth of why people aren’t spending money with me. I’m open to asking people directly and getting feedback. I’m vulnerable in the best of ways. I’m at peace. I see the evidence of people not buying as just a chance to learn something about life and the market place.

Wow. When people feel this openness from you, they relax. They begin to tell you the truth. You stop getting objections and you get real questions. Or you get a real ‘no’ that you can trust because there’s no long anything in you trying to convince anyone to buy from you – and that makes you more trustworthy.

It might seem like I’m overstating the impact of questioning one thought but I’m not. If people aren’t buying from you and this is causing you emotional stress and frustration and anger at the marketplace, there’s a good chance you’re buying into this idea that they should be buying from you.

10857717_10155034732735195_174396198002034301_nThe Turnarounds:

This last part of The Work is all about twisting the initial stressful thought around and looking at it from different angles. We’re not trying to find the new, true thought, we’re just trying to see more.

Turnaround #1: “People should not buy from me.”

Bam.

Try that one on for size.

Consider if this might be just as true, if not more true, than the idea “People should be buying from me.” If you really sit with this one, what opens up is the possibility to see all of the parts of your business that, frankly, need work. I will likely see all of the ways that I’ve been pressuring people and… wow. God bless these people for not rewarding my desperate and pressuring ways with their business.

Who are these honest angels who have so consistently and kindly not pretended to be okay with my confused behaviour?

I am suddenly open to seeing clearly. I am able to look at the holes in my marketing, business model, customer service, quality of work, and packages and see all of the reasons why it’s so true that they should not be spending money with me.

This can be a vulnerable but life changing moment for an entrepreneur. Looking through this lense, I am able to see my business through the eyes of those not buying and I learn so much.

Turnaround #2: “I should buying from me.”

Honestly, I don’t get much from this turnaround though I’m sure there’s something there.

10622858_10155034733300195_5974786264670751787_nTurnaround #3: “People should buy more from whoever the hell they want.”

This one feels humbling to me. When I look for reasons this is true, I am suddenly brought back to the reality that my potential customers are other, autonomous human beings who exist for reasons other than taking care of my ass. I’m realizing that I want that freedom to buy from whoever for myself. I’d never want to be pressured to buy something I didn’t really want to buy so why on Earth would I put that on anyone else?

Turnaround #4: “I should buy from people.”

I should be buying the advice they’re giving me in their not buying. I should be be believing their feedback. They’re not interested or, for some reason, it’s not a fit and yet I’m not buying it. Huh. What if I was willing to take it at face value? I’ve been making them wrong for years for not buying what I have to offer and yet not making my self wrong for not buying the honest reflections they keep giving me. And they’re so persistently generous! They never seem to buckle and buy from me just to be nice. They really want me to get this feedback. How kind of them!

One of the hugest stumbling blocks I see in business is arrogance. This thought people have that they already know what people need. They already know that their product or service is amazing. And that blinds them to ever seeing that maybe they don’t know and maybe what they’re offering isn’t actually that great. Humility and not knowing, the being open to feedback and curious to know what clients really think, being a safe place to share this will grow your business faster than almost anything I know.

When I am done this, I notice that the thought, “They should be buying from me.” doesn’t hold the same purchase it did in the beginning. I’m free to see a bit more clearly and that seeing allows me the freedom to make the kinds of changes that might actually have them want to buy (whether I think they should or not).

Where does this all leave us?

I have no idea. There’s no empowering belief we’re trying to get to here. We’re just trying to see more. In business, there’s nothing we’re supposed to do or that we need to do, we just need to see more. And, when we see more, we often, intuitively, know exactly what to do. When we stop insisting that our map is right and take a look at the actual territory in which we find ourselves we make better decisions.

When we stop making the marketplace wrong for how it’s responding to our business we have a chance to actually learn something useful from it that might show us the path to grow our business.


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Exactly What To Say If Someone Asks for a Refund

refund (1)

Years ago, I got an email from a client that said something to the effect of, “I feel like the sales letter kind of hyped this up and it wasn’t what you said it was. I went back and read the sales letter and there was nothing inaccurate but . . . it just felt like it wasn’t what was promised. I need a refund.”

Those aren’t the kinds of words I’d wanted to wake up to in my email that morning for my newly launched ebook on niching. It was a slim 30 pager, nowhere near as large or comprehensive as it would eventually become in the form of my book The Niching Nest, and she just wasn’t impressed with it.

And I had to wonder if I should refund her or not.

*

Once you’ve been in business for a while, eventually, someone is going to ask you for a refund.

And how you respond to that moment has everything to do with the growth of your business.

On one hand, you may have been on the receiving end of a stingy refund policy and felt terrible about it or had the refund freely given and felt incredible relief and gratitude. On the other hand, does it make sense to have no boundaries on when and where refunds will be given? Probably not.

But it’s an important thing to figure out because word of mouth is the dominant force in the marketing word. And enough upset customers venting about the terrible experience they had with you because you refused to give them your money and that you’re a big, unfair meanie can do serious damage to your marketing.

But it’s also true that developing a reputation of being a push-over who they can use and then disregard once they’ve received the benefit is also unfair.

So, what you say in the moment (and I promise I will give you some words) is actually the least important part of the conversation.

The first thing is to make sure you’ve got a clear and fair refund policy spelled out and that the customer knows this policy when they buy. This is crucial.

It’s a similar dynamic to the “no shows” I wrote about in my blog post Don’t Mess With Their Rice Bowl in that it’s crucial to have standards that protect yourself as a business.

Simply having a clear policy will handle 90% of the upset. You’ll never handle the remaining 10% because there’s no policy to handle crazy.

The second thing is to understand why they’re even asking for a refund in the first place.

It might be that they’re in crisis or sudden financial desperation. They had the money when they signed up but they don’t now.

It could be that they’ve had a change in what matters. They signed up for a workshop on dating and then met the woman of their dreams. They no longer need it. They signed up to learn how to make money from Donald Trump but then became an anarchist.

But, often, it’s that what they bought isn’t giving them the benefits they’d hoped it would (or they don’t trust that it will).

This is the one I want to focus on.

*

Back to the woman wanting a refund on the niching ebook.

I immediately refunded her money (as I think we should if there’s any chance that the fault was in a lack of clarity in our marketing).

I sat with her words for a while. I felt awful. Here I am, teaching authentic marketing and she felt mislead. Ugh. Worst. 

So, I went to look at the sales page to see just how wrong she was and to be able to point out that she hadn’t really read the sales letter. I mean, sure she had. But not really really. 

But, as I read it, I began to see what she was saying. It was a bit hyped up. I could see that I’d given the impression that it did more than it could actually do and was for a broader group than it actually was. It was humbling to see it. I’d put a list of “This ebook could be for you if . . .” but I’d not made a similar list of, “This ebook might not be for you if . . .” 

I realized that this ebook was actually not for people who already knew niching was crucial and the ebook was making the case for it. It also wasn’t for people who wanted a nuts and bolts how-to guide on niching. It was a primer for people who were considering niching but feeling hesitant about it. 

I took an hour, rewrote the sales page so it felt more true to what it was and sent her an email asking what she thought.

“This is great!” she replied. “I wouldn’t have bought it!”

If we see the role of marketing as being about getting people to say “yes” then the result of someone saying, “perfect! I wouldn’t have bought!” is a failure. This is how so many people view marketing. Even in writing emails they try to write a sexy subject line that gets people to open an email that might not even be of any use to them. 

But if we know that one of the main roles of marketing is about filtering people so that only the right people buy, it’s a huge success. We can actually tone down the hype in our sales copy and get more sales to the right people. 

But what do you do when, despite your best efforts, they’re asking for a refund because it wasn’t what they thought it would be?

But, what exactly do you say?

I suggest the first thing you say is, “I’ll absolutely refund your order.”

If there’s any chance that your marketing was to blame for them buying something that wasn’t a fit, refund the money and consider it a business expenses in market research. Because it is.

The second thing you say is something along the lines of, “Thank you for letting me know my marketing wasn’t as clear as I would like it to be.”

Honestly, when people tell us this, we should be getting down on the ground and bowing to them in gratitude. 

The second thing we should say is something like, “Would you be willing to let me know what I could change on the sales page so that you would have known for sure it wasn’t a fit for you?”

That question might seem simple, but it’s actually huge, it will, over time help you hone and refine your sales copy until no one who isn’t a fit buys at all. That’s the goal. And, often, the feedback won’t even be that big. Just a little change here and there but a small change in wording or emphasis or order can make a huge difference. 

If the refund request is for some other reason, I don’t have much advice other than to have clear policies, sit with it, do what feels right to you and always err on the side of generosity, not stinginess. And, regardless of the reason, see if there’s something you can learn, some business system that would make it less likely that it would ever happen again.

Years ago, a woman attended a pay what you can, weekend workshop I was running. She paid a $100 deposit to attend and then she paid $500 at the end of the workshop based on the value she’d received. A month or so later she sent me an email saying she’d received no value at all and demanding her money back. She was also someone I’d give two hours of free coaching to because she’d gotten locked out of the building by accident. There’s more to the story, but the whole thing felt off. I didn’t feel like I wanted to refund her money but eventually gave back half just to get her out of my hair. If I’d had more money at the time, I might have just given it all back. Who needs the drama?

Refunds can also help you hone your niche . . .

One of the beautiful benefits of people asking for refunds is that you start to see who is a fit for you and who isn’t. Your sense of who your ideal client is comes into clearer relief. Your sense of what you want to do and how becomes more focused. If you will choose to over-respond (vs. over-reacting) to each request for a refund and use it as a chance to narrow in on your role in the community and the niche you want to fill you might be amazed at how much faster your business becomes what it wanted to become all along.

Bonus Thought: Check Boxes

If there are certain catches and conditions of buying from you, it can also be good to list them as boxes to check in the order form. For example, for a weekend, pay what you want, marketing course I might have one for:

DEPOSIT: I understand that my space is not confirmed until I’ve paid my non-refundable $100 deposit. 

PYWY: I understand that the deposit is just to hold my space and, at the very end of the workshop, I’ll be given a chance to contribute more based on a mix of what the workshop was worth and what I can afford. 

Having these as boxes they have to check off help to ensure that important conditions are not accidentally missed by someone skimming over your sales letter (which 95% of people will). 

 

Guest Post: Marketing is Building Trust

bait-and-switchby Tamar Henry

I am in the coaching/personal development industry.

I’m a coach and I’m also a consumer of the industry via other coaches and healers. So are most of my colleagues. While we don’t have to be consumers of this industry, per se, many of us believe that in order to learn the things we want to learn and become the leaders and business owners we want to be, investing in ourselves through other coaches and programs, trainings and certifications is not just preferable, it’s necessary.

We spend thousands of dollars investing in ourselves. A lot of that money is well-spent.

But some of it isn’t.

One of the reasons that trust between practitioners and consumers gets eroded within the personal development industry is that it’s commonplace to market one thing and deliver something else, skimp on value or simply leave out important details. I wonder what the breaking point is. When will coaches, who are here to make a difference, but get burned over and over, exit the industry altogether?

Recently, I signed up for a free session with a representative of a successful coaching business. The session was described to me ahead of time. A coach would help me uncover a subconscious issue that I’m having. Even though I sometimes take issue with the entire idea of “blocks”, I resonated with the owner of the coaching company’s story and what she had to say. I asked the owner if the session would include solutions or ways to address these issues once they had been identified. She assured me that solutions would be provided during the session.

I had the session with a perfectly nice coach who worked for the company. At the top of the call, as is standard procedure, she explained to me how the session would proceed and that she’d invite me to invest in a program – if I was interested – at the end of the call. Later, the block that she identified, and the metaphors she used to illustrate it, did not resonate with me. After that portion of our call, when I asked how I might address the block, she simply invited me to listen to the pitch. In other words, there was no solution to be provided on the call. I’d have to pay for that.

There are a few things that got me quite frustrated as a result of this call:

1) When I signed up for the call, there was no indication that I would only receive a solution in the form of being invited to invest in a program. In fact, an invitation to invest was not even mentioned.

This is what marketing strategist Beth Grant calls failing to set a “covenant.” You set a covenant with someone when you are clear with them that you intend to invite them to invest with you (possibly further if they have already invested) during a portion of a call, talk, webinar, or workshop. I’ve had dozens of free calls with people in this industry and I strongly believe this is a necessary step that establishes trust.

I don’t mind if you invite me to invest with you. In fact, I expect you to invite me to your program (and in many cases I’m excited to hear about it!) but you need to tell me that you are going to invite me.

2) The coach who called me, while personable and sweet, had a method that I ended up being extremely skeptical of. She didn’t really explain whether she was channelling someone or something, using her own intuition or applying a system based on my written answers that I had supplied before the session. The insight and story she came up with just seemed like – I’ll just say it – bullshit.

It didn’t resonate with me.

It didn’t remind me of anything from my life. It just seemed arbitrary and inauthentic. I am not anti-woo, by any means. I believe in past lives. I channel my unborn baby’s spirit frequently. I trust my vedic astrologer 110%. I think the metaphysical world has lots to offer. But there is authenticity and there is fluff. And all I can say is if you subscribe to any of this stuff, you know in your bones which is which. There was a shakiness in this portion of session that I just couldn’t ignore, as much as I wanted to (because any time I am investing my time in something that I think could help me, I want it to work!)

3) Because I only had my “block” diagnosed, but literally no suggestions as to how I might address the block other than pay money to invest in a program (which I was not intending to do as a result of this call), I hung up the phone feeling like crap about myself.

Yes, I didn’t need to believe this was my block (and I don’t), and I didn’t need to subscribe to any of the things this person told me since they didn’t resonate with me. But even though I’m a little embarrassed to admit it – given my experience in this industry – for at least an hour after the call, I felt worse off than before I had the call.

What a waste of an afternoon!

Or maybe not a waste, because I certainly learned something from it and have these insights which I’m writing about right now. That said, how can this be considered responsible or ethical? How, in this industry, can it be considered standard to use a marketing strategy that, in many cases, leaves someone worse off than they were before you talked to them?

I know that many of the leaders in this field think differently or, at least, frame this issue differently. They say that you can’t solve someone’s problem on an introductory/marketing/sales call because then they won’t invest.

I disagree.

While I understand that I want to leave something to be desired so that someone will buy my product or service, I also believe that in every interaction I have with a prospective client (or even current client), it’s my responsibility to leave someone better off than they were before.

Many leaders, I’m happy to say, do subscribe to the idea that it’s not just okay, but necessary to be generous with solutions, to give away your best stuff. And I would say it’s even more necessary today to do just that because the levels of trust in this industry have reached a level akin to California’s water reserve – rapidly diminishing. It’s absolutely possible to provide value in the form of SOLUTIONS to someone, even if they have not yet paid you. You are not reducing your ability to make a sale. You are establishing trust.

Moreover, I would go a bit further: in a field where we are supposed to be helping people help themselves, helping guide people to better lives, highlighting problems to be fixed, without giving at least some airtime (and I would argue more than half the airtime) to solutions is dirty. It feels manipulative and completely out of alignment with the healing work we are trying to illuminate and get out into the world in a way that catches on with multitudes of people.

So, how do you bypass the dirt? First and foremost, I’m going to assume that mostly everyone in this industry means well and they may just not be considering how their marketing is landing with their potential clients.

With that said, if you are a practitioner offering a free session, there are a couple things that build trust and credibility right off the bat:

1) Think about your session as not just marketing, but an offering. You got into this business to help other people solve some sort of a problem, right? You want to offer a solution. So, begin by offering some sort of solution during your free session. It’s okay if your solution includes an invitation where you are able to more fully address the client’s problem, but be upfront about that. When I’m describing my consult to prospective clients, I say something to them like “After I get a sense of your situation, I’ll make some suggestions, one of which may be working with me.” Can I solve their problem in one 45 minute call? Probably not, which is why, if it turns out they are the right match to work with me, one of the most helpful suggestions I can make is the invitation to work with me. Don’t be afraid of offering up some gems during your initial consult that you know would help them immediately. If you give value, even if the person doesn’t buy from you on the spot, you are establishing your expertise and starting off a relationship by creating trust. The more value you can give in a “free call,” the more likely someone is going to buy something from you either right away, or in the future.

2) Creating a form or application for your session gives you a chance to weed out freeloaders who are never going to buy from you or aren’t the right fit AND it allows the people who are genuinely curious about what you offer to get a better sense of who you are and what you’ll cover. You can even use the form to describe the session so that it’s transparently clear how the session will proceed.

Finally, the consumer also has some responsibility in this equation. If you’re looking to take advantage of some free offers, ask yourself if the person is a good fit for you or if you have genuine curiosity about the service they provide. Your time is too precious to be taking advantage of all the free stuff that people offer. Not only is it not a good use of your time, but filling your schedule with free offers could be detrimental to your own productivity and forward movement in your life or business. Tune in to your inner guidance about who really speaks to you and only then, take advantage of a free offer. Don’t be afraid to ask questions during the sign-up process. If there is something you want to get from the session, ask! Treat these free offers as an investment you’re making, because the truth is, you are investing your time and energy, and maybe even possibly, the belief that there are people who truly can offer you the exact support you desire.

A Bit About the Author:

Tamar-008Tamar Henry, “The Curveball Coach,” supports women to navigate the unexpected curveballs of life in their relationships, health, career and fertility. Through neural-repatterning, somatic methods and more, she guides her clients to find peace, relief and joy. Find out more at www.curveballcoaching.com.

Inviting Business – What to Do Before You Do and Two Simple Case Studies

 
striped_welcome_matSo, how do you make the offer without awkwardness?
 
How do we invite people to do business with us without being pushy?
 
How do we make it feel like a warm invitation where it feels like an open door with a welcome mat without the pressure to enter.
 
We’ve all been in the boat where we have something to offer and we want to bring it up but we don’t want it to be pushy, gross or awkward. 
 
Often this results in us not bringing it up at all.
 
Which results in us being broke.
 
It’s an important question, but, I want to suggest that, hidden inside this question, are a number of assumptions.
 
The biggest assumption is that we are meeting someone for the first time. And that is the wrong time to make any kind of offer.
 
Offers work best when they come from a place of real connection and some form of relationship. It might just be a few minutes if the vibe is right but there needs to be some connection present before we make any kind of offer. Another way to say it is that people must feel that we get them. They need to feel that we genuinely empathize with them and their experience. 
 
A simple way to do this, which I learned from my colleague Sharla Jacobs, is this: after someone has shared a struggle that you could help them with… don’t give them advice. Just say something like, “Wow. How is that for you?” and let them vent a bit more. Empathize. Hear them. Try to get what it must be like to be in their shoes. Let them feel really ‘gotten’. This will have them relax and feel much more open to you and anything you might have to offer. A little empathy goes a long, long way.
 
Secondly, you can ask them, “How do you want it to be instead?” and, again, really listen. You’re just getting a sense of your context. 
 
Thirdly, you might ask them, “If I had something that I thought might be able to help that, would you want to hear about it right now?” They might say yes. They might say no. But it’s good to get permission if you have any doubt about their openness. Sometimes that can open beautifully into a conversation about what you do. Other times, you’re at a cocktail party and it’s not the right space to go into it.
 
But we often misunderstand how long it can take for a genuine sense of safety and trust to be built between us and a potential client. We secretly hope it will happen with minutes but, sometimes it can take weeks to years. That’s the reality. And, if you make an offer to someone who doesn’t feel safe with you or trust you… well… that likely won’t go well.
 
There are a number of steps we need to go through to get from being a total stranger to someone being excited to work with us. Robert Middleton brilliantly speaks about this in his analogy of how marketing is like baseball. You just can’t skip bases. These things take time. 
 
What can build safety and trust dramatically faster is working with hubs (i.e. being endorsed by those who your potential clients already love and respect). If you’re at a party and you meet someone by the punch bowl and get to talking, that’s great. But if the host of the party then comes over and says, “Oh my god! Tad is the best person ever! I’m so glad you’re finally meeting him!” and then raves about you… that’s better. That person will instantly relax and feel more safe around you because someone they respect respects you. This seems obvious but most of us don’t weave this principle into our marketing. And you can read my best blog posts about that here
 
So,  working strategically with hubs is a key way to build trust quickly.
 
How do you approach and connect with these hubs? In a low key and classy way.
 
Another approach to to make sure you have a thoughtfully designed business model or sales funnel. My colleague Mark Silver speaks a lot about how the first journey of marketing is about us giving to them. This often takes the form of giving them free samples of our work so they can feel if it’s a fit or not
 
After someone has expressed their struggles and you’ve made space for them to share how that’s been for them and what they want instead you can start by offering them something free. Maybe you email them a blog post, a link to a video. Sometimes I’ll just give people a free copy of an ebook I sell. The key is to start with giving, not selling. If they like that, then you can take a next step. And, if your sales funnel is well designed enough, that may not take a lot of effort.

But safety and trust is not always enough.

And this is really my point.
 
You can build the coziest vibe in the world, and have people want to spend money on you and work with you and still be broke.
 
At some point, you need to make an offer. At some point, you need to invite them to work with you. This might seem obvious but I have seen countless people become incredibly well known and loved in a community and yet secretly be broke (when everyone assumes they’re thriving) because they would never make any meaningful offers. There’s so much collapsing that happens.
 
How to craft a good offer? That’s a topic for another time (though you can read related blog posts here).
 
But, whether it’s via email or in person, we need to put ourselves out there and risk rejection. Which is hard because the whole notion of marketing feels so gross to most people. 
 
Luckily, there are ways we can invite people to work with us that are very low key, down to earth and non-pressurey. Marketing can feel good.
 
The main idea here is to just invite people to work with you. Simple as that sometimes. 
 
But how? What words do you say? 
 
What I’ve found is that when there’s connection and trust built and we’re coming from a centered and composed place, the words find themselves. And they’re usually fairly direct. Nothing fancy.
 
CASE STUDY #1: Workshop Invitation
 
I wrote about an actual example of this that happened to me recently in a blog post about how to invite people to your workshops. The personal invite is so often missed (because we don’t want to come across as pushy).
 
CASE STUDY #2: Meet Up Group Follow Up
 
My colleague and client (and dear friend) Russell Scott and I were chatting about it recently and he was feeling a bit flummoxed with how to create more business from a regular living room get together he hosts called his Wisdom Circles. It was such a beautiful, intimate and warm event and the last thing he wanted to do was to turn it into a pitch fest. So, we spoke about it and realized there was a specific approach he could use that would likely result in many people working with him that would also feel good to everyone involved. You can read more about that here.
 
Sometimes it’s just this simple: a direct invitation.
 
No funny business. No tricks. No stealth marketing tactics. No hard closes. We can make this more complicated than it needs to be. First we create connection and safety and then we just open up a conversation to see if there might be a fit. It’s really just that. Objections tend to show up when people are feeling pressured by us.
 
The-Heart-of-Selling-3D-Ebook-Cover-JPGIf you have any stories of this in your work, I’d love to hear them in the comments below.
 
And if you’re looking for more help with how to invite people to work with you, I commend checking out my Heart of Selling product where you can learn the basics of how to invite people to work with you (and rebook with you if they already have) without any of the awkwardness. 
 
 

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