As professional services provider or consultant… you’re trying to convince others you have the ability to solve their problems. But, says business and sales coach Karen Graves, you won’t make one sale if you don’t believe you can do it yourself.
She has some strategies for building confidence in your abilities, whether you’re in startup or have been at it awhile but haven’t made a breakthrough, so that you have no problem promoting yourself and charging the fees you deserve.
We also chat about:
- Avoiding the “what ifs” holding you back
- Why sales isn’t asking for money
- The right way to interact with a prospect during a sales conversation
- How to avoid tire-kicking prospects
- And more
Mentioned in This Episode: karengravescoaching.com
Davina Frederick: Hello, and welcome to The Solo to CEO Podcast. Where we provide a mix of powerful, thought provoking, and practical information to assist you in your transformation from solo to CEO of a high-impact, high-revenue generating business. I’m your host Davina Frederick, and I’m here this morning with Karen Graves, Founder and CEO of Karen Graves Coaching.
Karen Graves: Hello Davina. Thank you so much for having me. Yes, I love sales and I love to help women sell. Especially women business owners. As far as being comfortable and confident and ready and able to have the conversation that converts.
I’ve been in sales for over 20 years. But, I’ve been in my coaching business for over a decade now. If you’re not selling you don’t have a business. So I make it my point to make sure that women can sell.
Davina Frederick: So, tell me, how did you wind up … what was your background before you became a coach? Before you started Karen Graves Coaching and Consulting were you in corporate doing sales or what was your background?
Karen Graves: Yes, I was in corporate. Yeah, so I was in corporate. I started in pharmaceutical sales. I worked with the company that has the big blue pill for men.
Davina Frederick: Oh wow. Okay.
Karen Graves: Pfizer. Yeah. So, I was a sales rep. Going to doctor’s offices. Then I got promoted through the ranks and I ended up in the sales training and development department. I started with training new hires. Then I ultimately ended up where I was a manager and I was training the training managers to train the sales reps. I guess you could say once I started in sales I never stopped.
Davina Frederick: That is really tremendous training because pharmaceutical sales that is the pinnacle for training, right? For sales training.
Karen Graves: Yes. For sales training it really is. They really pour a lot into your sales prowess and making sure that you’re competent and confident. Then even with the company that I was with there’s the American Society of Training and Development. They were voted number one twice across all industries. It was really seen as one of the pinnacles of selling overall. Just even being with that company.
Davina Frederick: I know that when you left corporate that you were actually kind of excited about it because it gave you a chance to pursue a dream that you had at the time. Which was to be an entrepreneur and start your own coaching company teaching other people sales, right?
Karen Graves: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, I was psyched.
Davina Frederick: So, tell me about that. Yeah, tell me about that.
Karen Graves: And it’s so weird to say because I was actually downsized. It was during the time we were going through corporate downsizing.
Davina Frederick: Yeah? And you were like, “Woo-hoo!”
Karen Graves: Yeah, I was like, “Yeah, this is awesome!” Most people understandably would be like, “I don’t want to be the one I was raising my hand.” Saying, “Please, pick me. Choose me.” And a lot of that came from just having this belief of I was meant to do something different and bigger. And also, this drive and desire to help people kind of my way of helping people, and having some autonomy in the process too. It’s that whole dream of freedom, and flexibility, and starting your own thing and saving the world.
Davina Frederick: And that was back in 2007, right?
Karen Graves: Yeah. In 2007. The end of 2007. Interestingly enough that was when the bubble burst and we went into a recession. The timing may have not been on my side. But, I was still enthusiastic. I was still believing that was the path that I was supposed to take at the time. I’m grateful that I did. I would never change anything for it.
Davina Frederick: And so, did it not go quite the way … The typical entrepreneur story, did it not go quite the way that you anticipated it would go?
Karen Graves: Yeah. I don’t know where that typical belief is that it’s smooth sailing. We really got to do something about changing that story. You can’t expect it to be a little bit choppy. No, it didn’t. I actually failed hard and fast.
And it’s so funny because I think there is this bubble of when you’re in the naïve space … Like I was so naïve in the beginning and I just had all grit and motivation and enthusiasm and positivity. I think when I was in that bubble nothing could stop me.
Davina Frederick: I love that.
Karen Graves: But when that bubble burst it was like I started thinking too much. Then things started to go south. It was because I think I started thinking … It was actually easier at that time because I just didn’t know what I didn’t know. So I was just talking to people and letting them know I was an entrepreneur. Then when I started looking at maybe I’m not doing things the right way or is there a different way it’s supposed to be done? That’s when I started doubting and second guessing and actually sabotaging myself without knowing it.
Davina Frederick: Did that come from encounters with other people? You know, you were digging into it. Going to conferences and talking to other coaches and doing … How did that happen? Other people were telling you about realities?
Karen Graves: Yeah. Yes. I think it was a little bit of the comparison game. It was a little bit of being intimidated by other people being in certain spaces that I’m like, “Oh, I should be doing what they’re doing.” Even at the time … Because when I first started my business concept was really more … first it was sales, but then it was like really kind of helping people launch their dreams. You know, get started. I started second guessing even the direction. I was like, “I don’t know if that’s the way.” Because you know, you’d say, “Hi, what do you do?”
“Well, I help women who want to launch their businesses launch their business.” And then I’d get people kind of cocking their head to the side like, “What?” And then I started getting nervous and doubtful. So it really was having all those conversations and getting the reactions and really measuring myself against others that just started spiraling me away from doing what I was already doing well, and I didn’t even realize it.
Davina Frederick: How did you overcome that?
Karen Graves: It became doing some of the work of just getting my mindset together, and stop comparing and start owning what I do really well. And then also, being bold. Sometimes just making myself do things. Like do a talk, meet people that you don’t know, go to these networking events. Trying to get myself out of that space of allowing myself to be scared or intimidated or resigned or any of those things that just weren’t helping me.
Now, it wasn’t a smooth transition. Definitely took a lot of time for me to even get there. But, when I started noticing like, “Okay, this is ridiculous.” Like, you didn’t start this to be unsuccessful. You started this to be successful. So you can’t just sit here and not do stuff. You’ve got to go do it. That’s what started me moving towards. And just keeping taking steps.
Davina Frederick: And so now you’ve been doing this for a long time. And you actually coach other women. Is this a common story? I already know the answer to this but I want you to answer.
Karen Graves: I know you do. Yeah.
Davina Frederick: Is this a common story? Do you hear this a lot from the women that you have coached through the years?
Karen Graves: I feel like this is the most common story. The difference may be … I think my confidence in the beginning was there because I have a sales background, because I’m used to meeting strangers, because I’m used to going out and networking and being out and about. I think that was not as typical for most people because a lot of times they just don’t know what to do, you know, how to do it. But, that was a part of the work that I had done prior. I find that a lot of women may not be in that space where that was their prior experience. So, for anybody who’s kind of transitioning from a space of, “I’ve never really had to network,” or, “I don’t like talking to strangers,” that may not be their experience. But, the comparison and the hesitations and the doubts and, “Maybe I don’t know. Maybe this is not a great idea. What was I thinking?” All of that is very, very typical.
Davina Frederick: Right, right. I really want to dig into this. You’ve raised so many questions. I can’t wait to get into all of them. Let’s break it down. First one, I want to talk about this introversion, extraversion thing that you just raised. Because clearly when you’re in sales whatever you may be in your heart of hearts … If you read Susan Cain’s, “Quiet.” Susan Cain is I think her name, right? The author of “Quiet.” She talks about introversion versus extraversion.
She says introverts basically get their energy from their alone time, and extroverts get their energy from other people. That’s how she defines that. But, you being in sales you obviously have … whether you’re at heart an introvert or an extrovert … you obviously have this ability to be very extroverted and go out. You’re very comfortable going out and being around people, and working a room and all that kind of stuff. A lot of my clients … I work with a lot of attorneys. And certainly the litigators are often very comfortable being out and doing a lot of public speaking and talking with people and that kind of thing. But, a lot of them are people who are drawn to transactional work tend to be extroverted.
Whether we’re looking at attorneys or non-attorneys or whatever, when you’re dealing with introverted sort of people they think of things involved in sales and networking and public speaking and going out and marketing themselves … and marketing and sales being two different things. Which we’ll get into in a minute … as just their worst nightmare.
What kinds of things can you tell us that will help us if we don’t really love to go out and mix amongst the masses and talk about our business that will help us? Just on a marketing networking level.
Karen Graves: Yeah. Pick what works for you. At the end of the day you ultimately have to connect to humans. There’s no way around it. You’ve got to work with other people. If you’re not the type … what most people didn’t realize about me is that as extroverted as I seem I have really large introversion tendencies. I’m a ambivert. I’m right in the middle. Where sometimes I’m like, “Yes, all people all the time,” and then sometimes I’m like, “Please, I don’t want to see another person for years.” What that translates into is when I network I hate chit chat. It makes my skin crawl. Let’s not talk about, “Oh, look. They have nice cocktails here today.” I can’t. I love deep conversations. I love getting to know people.
Networking is not my favorite thing to do. But, what I do do when I do go network is I find maybe a person that I feel like I can spend some time and spend time getting to know them. So I make it almost like a one-on-one experience inside of a large group. That’s one way to do it if you’re not necessarily like the extrovert or even comfortable. Finding that person that you feel like … just strike up a conversation, “How are you?” If you feel that it’s like, “Okay, really not going anywhere,” move on to somebody else.
Or, set up coffee dates and just do it one-on-one that way. Or virtual coffee dates so they don’t have to … Great thing about technology. You don’t have to be in the same room. Reach out to people via emails. Take a person that you already know and start to get know them better. Deepen those conversations. Deepen the relationships that you already have. You don’t have to do it the way that you feel like an extrovert might do it.
Now there’s people who love to public speak. If that’s your thing, public speak. There are people who love to write. If you’re a writer, write. But, you’re also … when it’s writing and things that are … especially when people try to do social media … you’ve still got to do those things that are going to ensure that what you’re putting out is actually being reached. People are reading it. That means that you’re going to have to take those extra steps to make sure that you’re going to get eyes on your stuff. That can be a little bit more involved. But, still choose a medium, and a method, and approach that really works for your style and way of being. Because the more authentic you can be in it the more natural you are and the more that people gravitate toward your natural way rather than your put-on way.
Davina Frederick: Right, right. I love that. I love those tips. What I really want to pick your brain about is sales. Because salespeople just get turned inside out when you talk about sales. They feel unclean if they think that they have to sell something. And what a lot of people equate sales with is asking for money. And I want to talk about this in terms of there’s sales like when you work for … when you do pharmaceutical sales you’re working for a company and you’re selling somebody else’s product. That’s one kind of sales. But, when you are an entrepreneur and you have a service-based business, a small business, and you’re selling services and you are also the provider of the services that really brings up a whole different challenge because now what you’re selling is you’re selling yourself. You’re selling you and the services you provide.
If you haven’t got to the point where you have a platform and you’re selling your programs that are detached from you a little bit. You know, like video program. You’re actually selling you. You’re the one that’s going to show up and provide the service. Whether that’s a coach, a consultant, a lawyer, an accountant, whatever. I think that’s what makes it particularly challenging for entrepreneurs. Particularly a lot of times for women entrepreneurs that I’ve talked with who may not feel particularly confident in themselves. They may be confident in their ability to do the work. But, they’re not confident in tooting their own horn so to speak. They’ve been taught that it’s unseemly to brag about themselves or toot their own horn.
So, now they have to not only toot their own horn they have to put a price on it. A valuable price on it, right? And say, not only am I really good at what I do, but I’m so good that I charge x-amount-of-money for it. And if you don’t pay it you can get out of my office. That’s what makes sales so challenging for personal services for small businesses, right? So let’s break all that down and see if we can’t help some folks and give them some pointers on how to approach … First of all, maybe let’s address the mindset. Because that’s really … If you can conquer the mindset piece, right? That’s a big chunk of it. Don’t you think?
Karen Graves: It is a huge, huge chunk of it. And you know what? Honestly, it’s exactly was my experience when I started my business. People think, “Oh, you were in sales. It must have been easy.” Actually, just what you said. Selling for somebody else and selling something that you’re not attached to is so much easier than selling yourself.
When I made that transition I had no idea what would come up for me mentally around selling my services. I truly struggled. It’s everything that you said. It kind of brought up the, “What will people think of me when I ask for that money? Am I really able to produce what I say I can produce? What if I suck? What if I fail?” All of these things came up. It was just shocking to me because I just could not understand why I was so challenged. Even my husband was like, “What is wrong with you?” He’s like, “I have never seen you like this. What is wrong with you?”
Davina Frederick: Like, “Who are you and what have you done with Karen?”
Karen Graves: Yes, like, “Where is my wife?” He was like one minute I was just like, “I’m going to go out there and rock it. I’m going to be this successful business owner,” and the next thing I was like in a corner sucking my thumb like, “I can’t do this.” It was just a really strange space to be in. What I find is that the mindset piece is really shifting and sorting through all of the lies that you’re telling yourself. Because it really is just a bunch of crap. It’s all crap. Am I capable? Well, of course you’re capable. Look at everything you’ve ever achieved in your life to be where you are now. You wouldn’t even be embarking on entrepreneurship if there wasn’t a part of you that truly believed that you were capable of being successful. It’s taking inventory of the things that are true.
What is true about you? And so, it’s like how long did you go … for you, you’re a lawyer, right? How long were you in school studying law? How long before you even went to law school did you know that you were going to be a lawyer? How many hours did you invest? You were eating, sleeping, breathing the legal system. Everything about it. When other people were shopping at the mall and not thinking anything about law.
Davina Frederick: Yeah. Yeah Karen. Yeah.
Karen Graves: You know? It’s like all of those things that you did to become accomplished in that area. Just the skills that you had to do. The education, the training, all of that just demonstrates who you are in character. Who you are as far as intelligence. Who you are as far as commitment. And so, really taking ownership of all of the qualities, and all of the characteristics, and all of the traits, and all of the experience, and all the skills. Bringing those to the table. So, when people get confused about why they should charge so much or who they really are and how capable they are, sit down and take inventory. Write it all out. I do this exercise in my class-
Davina Frederick: Number one, take inventory. I love that. Write it all down.
Karen Graves: … yeah. Write it all down. I do this exercise with my clients all the time. Especially when we get to the point of like, “Okay, how much are we going to price your program?” It’s like, “Oh.” And I’m like, “Okay, how many hours did you study whatever their industry is?” How many times a day do you think about this subject? If you have to be a master in 10,000 hours or take 10,000 hours to become a master I can guarantee you that 10,000 and then some is covered for everyone I’ve ever talked to as far as entrepreneurship. And so, not losing sight of your area of expertise. Own the heck out of that baby, okay? It’s like take inventory. And the second piece is own it. Own it and don’t let anybody take it away from you, okay?
So, I find that that’s the thing. And then it’s like also if you think about the inventory and you attach the money and the time to it on what you poured into it … because this is the other thing, what were … I’ve heard this. I think I could probably butcher this a little bit. But, I want to say it was Van Gogh and this woman comes up and she’s like, “I want you to paint me a portrait of myself.” He sits down, he does this portrait. Hands her the portrait and he’s like, “Okay.” She’s like, “How much will that be?” And he’s like, “$10,000.” And she was like, “$10,000? It only took you an hour.” And he is like, “No ma’am, it took me a lifetime.” We have to think about how much time, energy, investments that we’ve already made into our development to be able to give somebody else our masterpiece within minutes.
And so, when we think about the pricing we can’t shortcut ourselves and take away from ourselves because we’re really just saying to ourselves, “Oh, I’m not worthy.” It’s throwing away all that we did to be who we are and to do what we can. It’s a unique skillset. It’s you unto yourself. You’re bringing all of that and yourself into that. And that’s valuable. And it’s especially valuable to somebody because you’re solving a burning problem for them. They have a problem that they need an answer on and they want it fast. You’re taking all of that stuff that you’ve done over the years and years and years, and you’re giving it to them fast. Think of how many people … when you were a lawyer think of how many people came in and they were just like, “Oh my gosh, after an hour of consultation,” they’re like, “You just saved my life.”
“Yeah, I did.”
Davina Frederick: Well, and it’s much cheaper to hire you than it is for them to go and go and do all the things that you did to get the knowledge that you have. So they can go and they can go through all those years of school that you had. And they can go through all those years of working your way up the ladder. All those years of sales and working your way up the ladder in the corporate and go through all those sales training. And then they’ll have the knowledge that you had. But that’s going to cost them thousands and thousands of dollars. Or they can just hire you for a few thousand dollars and get the problem solved in a much shorter path, right? There is that.
Karen Graves: Yeah. Learn it and do it. Exactly. Have the results a lot faster. It’s like you don’t want to go back through my 20 year timeline. You don’t. I can guarantee it.
Davina Frederick: Trust me, you don’t.
Karen Graves: Yeah. When we think about that it’s like giving self-credit and really being honest with yourself. Any time a doubt thought comes up just being like, “Is that really true?” And there might be certain things that are true. Okay, so it might mean that there might be a skillset or something that does need to be developed. That’s okay. But, don’t get caught down the rabbit hole that means you know, “I’ve got to change everything because of this one little skillsets.” And there are certain skillsets that aren’t even going to be worth it that you don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of picking up.
I find that people often get sidetracked. They get off the path of where they’re supposed to be. Trust me. Done that. Been there. Can write a book about it. Don’t want to. All the bright shiny objects of like, “Okay, because I want to resist I’ve got to do this one thing.” Or, “I’ve got to stop procrastinating. I’m scared to do something.” Let me do this instead.
Davina Frederick: Well, here’s the one thing I found is that you can actually still work and make money and have a viable business while you’re learning something new. You can learn skills and still make a living and pay your bills, and fund your dreams while you’re learning new skills that will add value to what you’re doing. It’s not an either or situation.
Karen Graves: Isn’t it amazing?
Davina Frederick: You know? It’s not like you have to stop everything to learn something, right?
Karen Graves: Yes. And I think that’s something that, again, it’s like noticing when there might be that unintentional procrastination or deviation or just-
Davina Frederick: Distraction.
Karen Graves: … unintentional sabotage. Yeah. Yeah, the distractions are huge. They’re always going to be there and available. But, it’s really calling yourself out on your crap.
Davina Frederick: And so speaking of calling yourself out on your crap, let’s talk about avoidance. Avoiding having … when I say sales conversations for all of the people who are listening who have consultations or strategy sessions, I’m talking to you as well. Those are sales conversations. If you’re in business to make money … which is, if you own a business then you’re making money otherwise it’s a hobby or a charity … if you’re in business the goal of business is to make money, it’s to make a profit. So those are sales conversations. So that’s what I’m talking about when I say sales conversations.
Calling you out. Calling people out on crap. Call myself out on crap. Everybody else who has, at some point in their life and career, had a business and avoided sales conversations because they are scary. I have found that the best way to get better at sales conversations is that sort of learning, applying, learning, applying approach. Where you learn techniques for certain ways to phrase things, certain types of question to ask and things like that. But then have as many sales conversations as you can. As many consultations as you can. As many strategy sessions as you can because the more you talk with people, the more questions you ask people, the more you … the better you’re going to get at this. For me an approach that has worked has always been focusing on helping … on really asking questions and really digging deep with somebody and saying, “What is the problem that you’re having that you’re trying to solve?” Putting the focus on the other person. Talk to me about that. What is the approach to a good sales conversation that we should be taking?
Karen Graves: Yeah. So you triggered my mind on so many things. I’m getting so excited.
Davina Frederick: I know, I know. That’s what I’m here for is to trigger you.
Karen Graves: First and foremost it’s kind of like calling out the BS, right? It’s really what you think you’re doing in a sales conversation. Kind of go back to that mindset piece. The reframing of what you’re doing needs to happen. If you’re selling something it’s to help somebody solve a problem. You’re providing a service to solve a problem. People think that sales is typically something away from somebody. If you’re doing it right you’re giving something to somebody. You’re giving them the opportunity and the ability to get out of whatever rut they’re in. When you reframe it just that, right? Start with that. Then when it comes to having the sales conversation … this is where the marketing and the selling kind of overlap.
It’s so much easier to have conversations when you’re talking to the right person in the first place. Everything you said, absolutely. You need to have a lot of them. That’s how you build your muscle. You can’t sit there and build your muscle in your head. Theoretically, I should be great at sales because I’ve been studying in my head for a lot of time. It’s not until you have the real world application that’s going to prove you’re strengthening your muscle.
Actually, you learn so much when you make mistakes. It’s a beautiful learning ground when you don’t do as well as you think you do. Of course, everybody wants to go in and have as many conversations and have people say yes all the time. That’s beautiful when it happens that way. However, it takes a while till you get there because, like you’re saying, there is a formula that needs to happen inside of that. It starts with even just how you’re showing up, it starts with how you’re even conducting the conversation. Is the framing of the conversation, in the questions that you’re asking, the order in which you’re asking those questions, how you’re leading the conversation. You should be in command of the conversation.
Lots of times people get off track and they get stuck in the story of the person. They get lost in the conversation and they don’t know how to navigate back into, “Okay, what we’re trying to do is find out if you have a problem that I can fix. And if you’re the right person and I’m the right person that we should work together. Because at the end of this we’re going to be entering into a relationship that’s going to be kind of like we’re a little married for a little while. It might be for a little while it might be for a long while so we should like each other along the way as well.” All of those factor into the conversation where you’re really doing this consultation to find out if we jive, and find out if I can help you. And then, to find out if you’re at the space and if the timing is right. And also, if your commitment level is there.
And then also if you have the means to invest, right? All of that is what that conversation is. But, really what starts it are the two things that you’re ready for. So your mindset is clear. You’re clear about what your intentions are. You’re clear about who you’re being in it, and then the other piece is you’re clear about who you’re having the conversation with.
Davina Frederick: And theoretically at least, people are not … they wouldn’t be sitting there talking with you if they didn’t have a problem that needed to be solved, if they didn’t think that you were at least somebody that … they have some idea that you are somebody who can help them solve this problem potentially, right? So they have some desire to be there or they wouldn’t be there engaging in the conversation with you. So we start from that place.
Karen Graves: Yeah. You would hope that that would be the case. Yeah. But, you also want to smart target. You want to be about … you want to be 80% sure for yourself that that person is the right person for you too.
You know, because there’s been times in my career … maybe in yours … where you’ve taken on clients that you’re like, “Oh my gosh, this was the biggest mistake. I should not have worked with this person. It was a headache. Or we were a mismatch or maybe I was in over my head.” You want to be clear that … because I think what happened too for, women especially, is we get into yes mode. Can you do this? Yeah. Can you do that? Yeah, yeah, yeah. You know, we’re saying yes, yes, yes and then we end up with a client and we’re like, “I said yes and I should have said no. I didn’t really … I should have been a little bit more discerning or I should have been a little bit more honest, or I should have been a little bit more reserved in my enthusiasm.” So, sometimes you can find yourself … you know, all money is not good money. Some money is too expensive to take.
Davina Frederick: Oh, that’s so interesting.
Karen Graves: Yes. If you want to make sure that you have ideal clients, clients that you really love to work with, clients that are going to make your work joyful, then being sure that you’re doing the things that actually pre-qualify them so that you’re having conversations with people who are, pretty much, they’re 80% sure that you’re the right person too. And they’re also, timing, they’re ready to commit. They’re not just there kicking tires and feeling things out and like, “Oh, I was just curious.” They’re really at that space of, “Oh no, I want this problem solved and I’m just making sure that you’re the person who can because I think you can, and let’s just have a conversation because today’s the day I want to get going.”
Davina Frederick: See, it’s kind of interesting because when it comes to attorneys in the coaching and consulting world you would have more people who might say, “Yes, I can help you. I can help you grow your business.” And particularly when you’re new to coaching and you kind of think every business is the same and you can help and you might get in over your head a little bit on that kind of thing. So I know what you’re talking about there. But, like I find with a lawyer world a lot of women lawyers might say no, no, no to cases because they feel they lack confidence to try it, to do it because it may be that they’re afraid of getting in over their head because of the fear of not being able to do it well, and then getting fired or getting sued. That kind of thing. So, there’s a lack of confidence. When actually they probably … not probably … they’re skilled. They’re competent attorneys and they could do it, but it may be hard. It may be hard. So it’s the opposite. It’s the same thing at play, but the opposite response. It all comes down to the confidence factor, right?
Karen Graves: Yeah. And again, that’s that getting honest. That’s the “Is it true?” You might be turning away a client that you absolutely can handle. That’s the well, what’s getting in the way of you believing that?
Davina Frederick: Well, and we forget the resources available to us. We forget the resources available. Just because it’s hard doesn’t mean we don’t have access to people and resources and research and all kinds of things that will help us get the job done. But, anyway, I went down a rabbit trail away from sales.
Karen Graves: It’s all good because it still about the confidence. Sales is so much easier to make sales and to conduct sales conversations when you are confident. Because in that realm … so say you’re an attorney and you keep getting these people who are coming and you’re saying, “No, no, no, no.” Well then your business is not growing in the direction that you really want it to go and then that’s the story … you know, it kind of solidifies the, “See you’re not rally that good of an attorney as you thought. You can’t handle the big cases.” That’s going to slowly get to the point where it’s like, “Well, I’m not going to take on any big cases. I’ll just be this little attorney that waits for referrals from people who already know exactly what I do.” That can really damage a business’ growth.
Davina Frederick: Right, right. I agree. And I’ve seen it happen with attorneys who have that fear around it. It starts in the sales conversation. That’s where it starts because it’s the fear of, “I don’t have the answers in this moment,” because a sales conversation for an attorney can feel like I have to have the answers in this moment. But, the reality of it is you don’t have to have the answers in a moment of a sales conversation. A consultation is not about having the answers in the moment. It’s about we need to see at this point if you need to tell me what your problem is and we need to see at this moment if we’re a good fit to work together. I’ll explain to you what the process is and generally how it works.
And then, I will … once you retain me I will dig in on this thing and come up with a solution to solve the problem. But, I get paid to solve problems. The sales conversation is not where we do the work. It’s just like being a consultant. The sales conversation is not where we do the work. And we see that with coaches as well. Coaches and consultants. People want to engage with us in a conversation. And often times new coaches especially, new coaches and consultants, life coaches, business coaches, whatever kind of coach you are, fitness coaches we want to jump into solving the problem when people first talk to us. That’s not the time or place. That’s the sales conversation.
Karen Graves: Oh my gosh. Yes. Even when I hear people introduce themselves and they start to talk, they talk about their process. Truthfully, people don’t really care about your process. They don’t care how you do things. I always use the example of like today we had a dishwasher put in, right? When the guy was finished with the dishwasher I wasn’t standing there watching him put in the dishwasher. I didn’t even care what the approach was. I just wanted a dishwasher that worked. Does it wash my dishes? I wasn’t sitting there like, “Now do you take that screw and you screw it right there? And are you going to …” I’m like, “I could really care less. Is it done? Does it work?”
There might be some people who do like to go through the process, but for the most part when you’re speaking to people … and especially when it comes to getting their problem solved … they want to know that they’re going to have that result. What is the result? What’s going to be the outcome of our work? If it’s what I think it is that I need and that I want then we can definitely retain your services. However you get it done is how you get it done as long as I have the result.
Davina Frederick: I’d like to, once we get to a point where they’ve made a decision, I like to talk about then next steps. But that’s once we got to a point where the decision has been made and then I go, “Okay, here’s what happens next,” right?
Karen Graves: Yes.
Davina Frederick: Because then I like there to be clarity for people about … and so let’s talk about taking control, who’s in charge of a sales conversation. Because I think that’s one of the things too. When a prospect shows up and one of the issues that I know, that I’ve seen come up over and over again with clients is they often let the prospect, the person … and that can be whether it’s an attorney, a coach, a consultant, any other type of business owner … the person shows up and they sit down and they just let them get into story. They just let them tell their story. And then they …. so the service provider just loses all control of the conversation. They’re not taking control of that conversation from the beginning. So can you talk about why … talk about that. Is that important? Is it just me?
Karen Graves: It’s hugely. No, no, no. You’re hitting the nail on the head with that. It’s hugely important for service providers to recognize that they are the one who’s driving the bus of the conversation. And that they are the one who’s setting expectation. They are the ones who are directing every piece of that conversation. They’re the ones who … the reason that that person is there is because they saw you as an expert. And so they’re relying on your expertise. And you lose and water down your expertise when they take control of the conversation.
Now, what’s interesting is a lot of times you will have a person who is … you know, the person that you’re providing the service for and they’re interested in your services. They know that they’re going to get to that money conversation. It can be very subconscious with people. They might not even be recognizing they’re trying to distract away from having that money conversation. Money’s emotional. People get all wild and squirrelly around it. It’s kind of to the point of like, “It’s going to cost me something. It’s going to cost me something. It’s going to cost me something. I don’t really want to talk about it. Let me take control. Let me tell you what I’m going to do. Let me tell you how I’m going to control this.”
I find that it’s almost like an unconscious, subconscious psychological battle that’s going on between two people. But, if you as the service provider are really confident and clear and you have your wits about you then it calms and eases not only the process, but it also calms and eases the other person. This is about as woo-woo as you’re going to hear me get. I believe that there’s a lot of energetic exchange that’s going on there too. People feed off of your energy. If your energy is out of bounds their energy is going to be out of bounds. You’ve got to be the one who’s calming them because they’re getting ready to make a decision and they’re really fearful in that decision making process. It’s not really about the money. It’s about, at that point whenever somebody’s in a space where they’re hiring a service provider it’s almost an admission of, “I don’t know enough. I need somebody else to take control.” They’re handing over their trust. They’re handing over … and they feel very vulnerable. Now, they might not come off as that. They might not come off as … they can come off as straight confident. But, they really are in a vulnerable space. And so they’re almost doing anything to protect their vulnerability.
If you’re conscious of at the end of the day most people are coming to you and there’s some type of fear. Your job is to ease their fear and to show them with your confidence and your knowledge and your expertise that you have their best interest at heart and that you can help them then that’s going to help them make a decision that is going to benefit them in the long run.
Davina Frederick: Right, right. I love that. I love that. And if you have … I find that having a systematic process for your sales conversations … I don’t know that people often think about I can be systematic in my sales conversation. In other words, you can have a … you can conduct your sales conversations in a systematic way so that you can pretty much replicate a sales conversation the same way time after time after time again. So there’s a formula to it.
Karen Graves: Oh my gosh, yes.
Davina Frederick: Not that it’s robotic. Not that you’re going to say, “Hello Ms. Graves. I’m Ms. Frederick. It’s nice to meet you.” It’s not robotic, right? But, you will say the same kind of … you’ll have the same pieces and parts to the conversation and they will flow in a very similar manner. I might ask you certain kinds of questions and they’re going to be to elicit certain types of information, and they’re going to be very similar to the questions I’m going to ask the next client, and the next client, the next client, and the next client.
So we know every time you come in you’re going to be seated in my conference room, let’s say if you’re meeting in person or if we’re doing a … I meet with my clients over virtually over Zoom … so I know this is how my clients are going to show up. They’re going to get a Zoom link. They’re going to show up on the call. We’re going to jump right in after introducing ourselves. I’m going to say, “What brought you on the call today?” That’s going to be my first question, “What brought you on the call today? Tell me about your business and what’s going on.” That will be how I start every call. And then this is going to be my next question, this is going to be my next, and then I’m always going to get to this question and ask this question. And then this is how I always conclude, right?
There’s a formula that I follow pretty strictly. There’s certain things that I’m going to be listening for that are going to be red flags to me that are going to indicate to me whether or not this client is a good fit for me or whether or not I automatically say, “Okay, when I hear this I know that I need to probe further because I probably won’t be able to help this person because this isn’t my area of expertise,” or whatever, right?
Karen Graves: Yes.
Davina Frederick: Do you have tips around that?
Karen Graves: Oh absolutely. The main thing in all of this, when you have a formula and you have a process, and you have a proven approach, right? It’s working for you it gets you out of your head so that you can be there present, mentally present with that person across the table from you. Whether that table is virtual or real. Because if you’re in your head you’re not listening. If you’re in your head there are going to be things that you need to be intuitive about and there’s going to be things that you need to be responsive to in the moment. If you’re not able to do that because you’re so in your head like, “What’s my next question? Oh, where is she going with that? I don’t know what to do.” Then chances are you’re going to miss the opportunity to enroll a person into your program and your services.
By far, with my clients I give them a script. I also have virtual sales team that I manage for other companies. Everybody uses a script. I used to be so anti script. I sued to be … I was the main bell ringer like, “No, scripts are horrible. It makes you sound like robots.” And it truly, the reason that we use it is because there’s a psychology behind it. Because there is a banner in which the questions will give you the answers that you need and that you can really problem solve for them in that conversation. It’s really more of a road map than a guide. It’s more of a framework than it is like, “And then say it like this, and then say it like that.” It’s just giving you you’re here, now you’re here in the conversation, now you’re here.
And it’s also that guide for them so that it’s a logical intelligent conversation that doesn’t get distracted or diverted. It allows everybody to be on the same page. If done right it also gives that person tremendous breakthroughs. When they finish that conversation they have been given a service. They feel so much more clearer. They feel … even if they say no and they walk away. They still feel that they received something of value. I’m a huge proponent of do something that works inside your business and that really helps you stay present, and really helps you stay in that driver’s seat of that conversation but also gives them a lot of valuable service in the meantime.
Davina Frederick: I love that. And I love that you call it a framework or a guide. And it does apply, I ca hear all my attorneys now going, “Oh, it won’t work because every case that I have is unique or whatever.” But what we’re talking about is not a script like I said, like you said, that’s written out. You say this and then they say this and then you say this and they say this. We’re talking about a framework, a process, that you take. You want to make sure before they leave that you collect certain information and that you’re sure you share certain information. And that you lead them through the conversation in a certain order.
It’s very much like preparing for direct examination or when you’re preparing for trial. You take witnesses through questions in a certain order. It’s very much that same kind of way. You’re taking your clients through the process in a certain order. That’s for all of my lawyers out there, Karen.
Karen Graves: I would have been like, “Oh, I don’t like to hear that.” But, it’s not so different from what they do all the time. It’s like any time somebody comes to you you’re gathering information to make an intelligent observation to provide the proper information. It’s the same thing. It’s just in a certain framework that works really well.
Davina Frederick: Yeah. Well, we have covered a lot of ground. You and I could probably talk about sales for hours because there’s so much. And there’s such an interesting topic. And there was a time that I absolutely … I mean, I was that person. I spent years in marketing. But, I was not … I was very good at relationships with people. But, I didn’t know how to close the deal. I didn’t know how to close, how to have a sales conversation. My life really changed when somebody taught me actually how to have a … my life and my business … taught me how to have a sales conversation, and how to actually sit down and talk about money and ask people for money and talk about it in terms of my … discuss it in a way that was comfortable for me. And just matter of factly. This is what it is. And then you shut your mouth. And you want to talk about that for just a minute? When you say this is what I charge, how do you get comfortable speaking about money? Literally, do you have some thoughts on that?
Karen Graves: Oh yes. First and foremost, it definitely goes back to being sure that what you’re saying you’re in alignment with. If you’re putting out dollar amounts that you’re totally uncomfortable with it’s always going to come off that way. But, then also … and that goes either way. If it’s too low you’ll be uncomfortable. If it’s too high you’ll be uncomfortable. So finding that space where it might be just a little uncomfortable but you also know it’s right. Making sure that you’re confident with that.
And then what you said was key. Silence. Because once you say it it’s not up to you to get in their wallet, to get in their mind, to work through the mental acrobats that they’re definitely going to go through. I would say out of every conversation for every 10 sales you might have one or two who are just like, “Great. Yeah, here.” If you get 10 out of 10 that’s telling you yes to your dollar amount you might need to raise your prices at that point. But, most times you’re going to have people who are going to have some hesitations around the money. You sitting back and allowing them to process without interjecting, by trying to convince them is going to be a lot more powerful than you trying to get in their head and their wallet. Because that actually takes away from what they need to get through. They actually need to figure it out. If they really want to they’ll figure it out. You might need to, of course, give them some framework around that and help them with that and make sure that you’re asking the questions that break down any limiting beliefs or anything that they might have. But, for the most part it really is their job and you’re holding that space for them.
Davina Frederick: That brings us to objections around money. Objections. One of the things that has been very interesting to me in doing the work that I do, not only for me, but with my clients, is the human tendency just to immediately say no. Immediately say no. You can have a wonderful conversation with somebody. This is what they need. This is what they need. This is what I want. What I want. And then immediately it is, “I have to think about it.” I have to think about it. I have to think about it. Which is no. You remember when your mother would say that.
Karen Graves: Yeah. Oh my god. And I am a mother and I still do that. Like, no. Okay, well come back. Okay.
Davina Frederick: Exactly. And so, you’re like, “Okay, well let’s talk about what you need to think about.” But there’s a lot. My favorite objection is always the spousal objection.
Karen Graves: That’s my favorite, too.
Davina Frederick: The spousal objection exception. The one where they’ve got to go talk to the spouse. It’s really interesting to me because this is a big difference between men and women. Because men just say … they just go, “Which credit card am I putting it on?” And women always got to go talk to their husband. And I say, “Well, what does your husband partner in the business?”
“No, he’s not but we talk about everything about money.” And it’s fascinating to me because men don’t do that in my experience.
Karen Graves: Yeah. Most times they don’t. Most times. Every once in a while I’ll come across men who do, but it’s rare. It’s rare. It’s usually more women do it.
Davina Frederick: So, for me I always question is this a question of I’m using my spouse because I don’t want to make a decision? Or do I have fear around money? Do I have fear of making … do I have fear of putting my big girl panties on. Right?
Karen Graves: Yeah. Making a commitment that I’ve got to stick to and I’ve got to stand behind.
Davina Frederick: So, I’m going to say, “I have to hide behind …” you know because we use husbands as buffers.
Karen Graves: Oh yeah.
Davina Frederick: That’s what they’re there for.
Karen Graves: I have to be honest, there are times now I go, “Oh let me go talk to my husband,” just because I want to be off the phone or I don’t want to … which is not always the right thing or the nice thing, but it’s true. It’s an easy go-to. And I think it’s because it’s so common and so easy to do that we do. Because once upon a time in our society that was the only way we could, right? It’s been drilled into us from generations that you had to go and ask your husband to make a purchasing decision. Well now it’s 2019 and that’s no longer true. But it’s still a part of our DNA. I think the most powerful thing that we can do, especially as women business service providers is that we can empower women to make their own decision and by blasting that objection. To me that is my absolute most favorite objection to get because I will tell you at the end of that conversation that woman is like … she comes out transformed. She’s like, “Oh my gosh, I just made a powerful decision and I made it for me. It had nothing to do with anybody else.” If we can shift women into the ownership in that decision we are actually freeing women from generations of this belief that they have to stand behind a man and that somebody else is responsible for their decisions.
Davina Frederick: Well, usually what I hear from women when they say that they always go, “Well, I’m not asking permission. We just have an agreement that we discuss anything over a certain amount. He would do the same for me.”
Karen Graves: That’s nice. I can appreciate that. I’m married. I can appreciate that and I absolutely applaud people having that level of agreement in their relationships. I think that that is phenomenal and that we should be on the same page in our relationships. At the same time that does not usurp the decision. That still doesn’t take you away from the decision because I always say things like this. It’s like, “Well, let me ask you this. How long you been married?”
“Oh, I’ve been married for 15 years.”
“Okay, so you’ve been married for 15 years. Have you bought things outside of that budget that you really wanted?”
“Did you always ask permission?”
“Well sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.”
“Tell me about a time that you didn’t.”
“Well, I really liked this car so I ended up buying the car and I told him about it later.”
“Okay, when you … what was his response?”
“Oh, he didn’t really care.”
“Okay, so at this point in your relationship you really do know that your husband, as long as you are behind it and committed to it that he’s pretty much going to be behind it and committed to it too, right?”
“So then in this conversation are you going and approaching it like I’m really confident and committed about this and this is exactly what I’m going to do and I’m kind of informing you and this is how we’re going to make it work in our household? Or are you going and saying, I’m questioning whether or not I should do this and I’m really trying to see where you stand on it? Because the latter is you’re still asking permission.”
Davina Frederick: Perfect, perfect.
Karen Graves: Let’s call it what it is. I’ve actually been talking to a woman long time. We had this level of conversation and she did come to the awareness that … and that was her whole like, “We always have these joint decisions,” and when we really stripped it away she was like, “Oh my gosh. I have been hiding behind that man forever.” She’s like, “You know what? I really have been putting the responsibility on him.” And she’s like, “You know what? That’s really unfair.” She’s like, “I’ve been making my decisions his decisions. And it’s really not his decision.” And she was like, “Wait, I think I have a credit card in the mailbox. Let me go get it.” She’s like, “I don’t need to ask him anything.” And it freed her. There’s a difference because even when we’re having those consulting conversations with our spouse we should still be coming to that conversation of at the end of this I’m still clear that this is what I want to do. I might need your help in determining, just making sure that household wise it’s not going to cause any disruption in our household. But, for the most part I’m just informing you this is a decision that I’ve made. Basically, here’s my game plan around it just so you’re clear. Sometimes you don’t even have to have that conversation till after the decision is made.
Davina Frederick: Right. It’s so for me I look at it as if it’s for a business and your spouse is not a partner in the business then that’s how I look at it. Is it a business decision and they’re not a partner in the business then, if you have a partner in the business and you need to consult that then we need to maybe involve all the decision makers in a conversation. But, if you’re the decision maker-
Karen Graves: Yeah. But, if they’re not in your business.
Davina Frederick: … because if they’re running the business, they’re going to be making business decisions. Are you going to run every business decision by them then or are you going to ask them about the people that you’re hiring in the business? And maybe they are a business advisor. I don’t know. It depends. My husband and I are both entrepreneurs and we’re both involved as business partners in different business ventures together. So he’s a business advisor to me. So I value his opinion in that way as a business advisor. So that, I can understand those kinds of relationships. So it all depends on the nature of the relationship. But, that definitely is a big objection.
So many wonderful things we could talk about about sales. It’s been so interesting. I can keep you on for hours, but we probably need to wrap up. Any final thoughts that you want to share with us about … that you want to leave us with today with regard to sales and how to have a great sales conversation?
Karen Graves: Yeah. My biggest takeaway is to remind you ladies that you are doing something of value to somebody and that what you’re providing is of value and should be recognized as such. It all starts with you recognizing I first. When you are sold on yourself then it’s a lot easier to sell to other people. I can guarantee you that if you can get confident and comfortable in the sales process, and you’re selling to the right people, your work will be joyful. You will really enjoy … you can fall in love with sales. I believe you can turn a sales phobic into as salesaholic. That’s always been my thing is you can fall in love with sales. And when you do it you start to see that it really is a beautiful gifting that you’re giving to somebody.
Davina Frederick: I love that. That’s fantastic. Karen, tell us how we can find out more information about you. Where can we find you on the interwebs?
Karen Graves: Oh, I’m all over the interwebs. Well, all over as many people are. But, I am at karengravescoaching.com is my main site. And then you can find me on LinkedIn and Facebook.
Davina Frederick: Oh wonderful, terrific. Thanks so much. I have really, really enjoyed this as I always do every time we talk. I hope maybe you’ll be back one day and we can continue our conversation and go deeper, deeper, deeper.
Karen Graves: I would absolutely love it. Thank you so much. I had a blast.