I was trained in the dark arts of “sales”—learning the tricks to make money, sell things, and persuade others to follow along. I wasn’t particularly great at this skill, but I was trained in it, nonetheless.
Graduating college into a recession (raise your hand if you graduated in 2008 or 2009), I ended up with a job in sales. In two of my jobs, I had the task of selling something that nobody wanted for organizations that seemed hell-bent on not selling things. On the other hand, I also found myself at a stellar organization called NuGrowth Solutions, where they treated people well and took an approach to sales I really liked.
The sales approach I learned at NuGrowth Solutions was titled “consultative selling.” In short, this term simply means selling as advising rather than arm-twisting. It was client-focused vs product-focused. The process I learned began with being curious and interested, and then offering to solve a problem.
I had always learned to be persuasive, practice my arguments, and have logical explanations to get a person to take action. But in this new phase, I found myself practicing listening and asking questions. During cold calls, I was taught to have a list of questions at my disposal rather than a list of scripts to read to someone.
I finally felt comfortable in sales. However, I wasn’t quite GOOOOOD at it yet. I felt ethically at peace and was actually happy to help rather than to sell.
Fast forward a few years: Allie and I are starting The Wonder Jam. We sit down and I do what any sales-trained person does—I made a list of people to contact. I started reading through local publications to find lists of businesses, then I checked their website, then I emailed them introducing myself.
As I was trying to get our client roster up and running—think networking meetings, coffee dates, and happy hour invitations—I found that my previous training was working very well. I’d ask lots of questions and get a really clear picture of where someone needed help. If the help they needed was something we offered, I’d send an estimate. If not, I’d say something honest like “You don’t need a website right now,” or “You should spend more money on X rather than hiring us.”
You can’t even imagine how happy people are when you sell them something besides yourself.
But all of this work gave Allie and I a lot of work. So we quickly canceled all networking activities and solely focused on client production. We’d do ZERO networking for three or four weeks. We wouldn’t even respond to new inquiries. We were dedicated to taking care of the people who paid us.
And then, before we knew it, we’d find ourselves needing money. So we’d go hit the networking hard.
Then we’d get way too busy again. So we’d stop sales and marketing activities.
Then we’d get desperate for more money and more new work. So we’d ramp up sales and marketing activities.
Seeing a pattern here? It was a cycle of craziness.
So we developed a system: a) We learned smart sales activities (did I really need to be spending hours each week at happy hours?). b) We learned what was needed to really speak to those people. c) We developed a schedule and habit to make sure we kept a sustainable level of marketing/sales activities WITHOUT becoming full-time salespeople.
While these methods and tactics have evolved as our team has grown, the principles are still the same.
As we worked with more and more one-person, service-based businesses, Allie and I quickly realized that these people were experiencing the same problem we once had tackled.
Whether I was talking to a plumber, photographer, mixologist, or health coach, the problems were the same: people felt either a) entirely absorbed in sales and marketing with little time to actually do the work OR b) they felt sucked into production without the time and energy to do the sales work they needed.
An effective sales process doesn’t mean you have unlimited clients and therefore you have to hire a lot of folks; growing a team isn’t everyone’s goal (and it wasn’t ours for a while).
We ended up launching a workshop (and an accompanying online course) directly tied to helping one-person, service-based businesses get their head straight when it came to sales and marketing efforts.
If you search the internet for marketing tips and tactics, you’ll soon grow overwhelmed. There are endless blog posts and videos about how to master marketing and reach a lot of people.
But what if the goal is to do just enough? Enough to make sure you don’t run out of work, and enough to actually do the work.
You don’t have time to only focus on blogging, email marketing, Instagram, commenting, Facebook groups, Pinterest, meetups, coffee dates, and conferences. You need to do the work that you’re hired to do, and you need to do it well. And that’s exactly why we created our More Clients for Your 1-Person Business workshop.
If you’re interested in checking out our methods, you can sign up for the online version here. Or keep an eye out for the in-person version that we’ll host this winter.