The Sales Call: Friend or Foe?

What I learned during my time in the trenches with PGB 501

Pipeline Generation bootcamp - learning how to make sales calls

As a creative professional with many years in business, I’ve always prided myself on my work and my reputation. Thus far, they have served me well – garnering frequent referrals and lots of repeat business. However, as a business owner – and someone who likes to eat, own a home, etc. – I have come to understand that proactive sales efforts are a fundamental factor of life. Yuck.

In the past, my partner and I have hired various sales people to go forth and land some us some new fish. Big ones. We figured that armed with a slew of our finest project samples and the right contacts it would be a breeze, and all we’d have to do is sit back and figure out how to grow fast enough once the wave of new clients crashed over us. So … that never happened. Bummer.

We thought maybe it was a personality thing – we just hadn’t hired the right people. We thought maybe the contacts were stale and we just needed to dig a little deeper through the rolodex. I mean, how hard could it be? In our experience, once we got into the door we typically got the business. All these guys had to do was make an introduction.

What we failed to understand – stupidly – was that traditional “sales” people are from a bygone era. Most of us can smell sales people … and tend to run the other way as fast as possible. Right?

The thing that worked for us in meetings was, well, us. We’re friendly, we’re good at what we do, and we go out of our way to be helpful. The answer was simple: we had to take control of our sales efforts ourselves. But how?

Inbound, baby!

One of things that got us into gear was our introduction to Inbound Marketing as a concept and the HubSpot platform as a practical way to implement it.  My inner coward was psyched! Here was a way I could use technology and creativity (2 of my favorite things … after Star Wars) to cast a wide net out into cyberspace to attract qualified leads without actually having to do anything proactive. Problem = solved!

Unfortunately, while inbound does really work it takes time and effort. For a small agency like ours, it’s tough to find the time while you’re cranking out project work. When you’re not, it’s too late to start blogging. A more consistent and hands-on approach is required.

Do I really have to call people?

The primary hurdle for me – as with most of us – was in my head. The thought of just blindly reaching out to unsuspecting business people and begging them for some small piece of business was giving me hives. Beyond that, I had no earthly idea how to go about it. I started to have flashbacks of all my failed and ham-fisted attempts at calling girls to ask for a date. Would it be weird if I just called a prospective client and then hung up?

Having discussed this dilemma with our HubSpot account manager Elizabeth (who had been needling me to get out there), she suggested I might be a good fit for HubSpot’s Pipeline Generation Bootcamp. Having no idea what that was, I signed up immediately. That’s just how I roll.

Introducing Dan Tyre, super genius

Soon thereafter I received an email from the mysterious teacher of this thing that I hated and we scheduled a time to connect via video conference. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. I did a little research on him – Dan Tyre, Hubspot sales guru and mentor – before the call. From the very outset he had me. His energy and positive attitude were infectious, and in very short measure he diagnosed exactly what my issue was and told me he had the cure. I was in.

Fast forward to late January, when I received my initial invite to Pipeline Generation Bootcamp, Cohort 501 (PGB 501 … the lions, for us in the know). I found myself amongst seven other folks with very much the same story as my own. We were all very good at helping others market and sell their business, but lousy at doing it for ourselves.

Predictably, the solution to our collective woes was staring us all in the face. We would have to call people, and Dan would teach us how to do it (without puking).

It’s all about connecting

Over the next 8 weeks, my fellow lions and I participated in 8 amazing and impactful group discussions. It was equal parts therapy and learning, sharing big wins and little victories while learning the core philosophy and skills needed to successfully connect with a prospective customer. That’s really the trick, after all … making that first connection.

In the end, it boils down to a process. We practiced our greeting and ice-breaking skills (it sounds silly, but it’s critical!), we learned how to overcome objections and drive the call where we needed to, and – perhaps most importantly – we learned to how to listen. Sometimes it’s just not the right fit, and you have to listen and navigate through the process to see where … and if … you could provide value. The goal wasn’t to sell, per se, but to offer help. That resonated with me in a big way (and didn’t feel icky).

Dan also coached us through the process of doing the necessary pre-call research so that you actually had something helpful to offer up. This was critical, turning a traditional “cold-call” into more of a “warm call” (again, less icky). Along the way we participated role-playing exercises, practicing all these skills and becoming more and more confident and adept at handling the call.

Let’s make it happen

After 8 weeks, I’m now at the end of the process. It was a great experience, and I learned some invaluable skills. To be honest, I’m still scared to death … but I know now I have the tools to push through. Ironically, some of the initial “testing of the waters” emails I sent out per Dan’s instructions actually bore fruit, and during those 8 weeks my little agency has been SLAMMED.

The thought of bringing in new business now seems absurd … I’m just trying to find time to sleep.

BUT. But. I know that like all things, this too shall pass. I’m far behind in the process at this point, my fellow lions having lapped me several times over in their outreach efforts. However, I realize that it’s all too easy to fall into that same old trap. I’ve been getting better (and bolder) in my ongoing sales efforts … looking to connect and offer just the right tip or bit of advice to score a new client relationship. It’s a process, it’s in the works, and it will happen.

If you’re reading this, maybe it already has ;)

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