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EPISODE 32: Handling Sales Calls as a Writer

by May 4, 2021Podcast

In this episode we will cover:

  • Anxiety about selling
  • Learning to detach from the outcome of sales calls
  • Common red flags on sales calls
  • Shifting your perspective from “sales call” to “application call”
  • Building in recovery time
  • Our pre-call, call, and follow-up process

Some writers hate talking to people. And even if you’re not super introverted like us, facing down a sales call can still be pretty anxiety-inducing. After all, if you can’t land clients, you won’t make money.

The problem is writers often head into a sales call so focused on their need to make money, they ignore all the red flags screaming, “Don’t book this client!” You need to learn to detach from the outcome, or you’ll end up with clients who aren’t a good fit for you.

 

In this episode, you’ll learn:

  • How to deal with sales call anxiety and detach from their outcome
  • Common red flags to watch for on sales calls
  • How to shift your perspective from “sales call” to “application call”
  • Our step-by-step pre-call, call, and follow-up process for sales

 

This episode breaks down a lot of common concerns and questions about running a sales call. But if you have more questions about our process, tag us on Instagram @northstarmessaging and ask away!

 

Additional media and services referenced in this episode include:

You Are a Badass at Making Money by Jen Sincero

Master Coach Lisa Carpenter

Brand Your Voice podcast episode 24: Price Yourself for Success

TRANSCRIPT

Jessi:
Welcome to the Brand Your Voice Podcast, where we’re digging into how you can create personality-driven content that connects and converts. I’m Jessi…

Marie:
…and I’m Marie. We’re the co-founders of North Star Messaging + Strategy, where we support business owners in outsourcing content without sacrificing authenticity.

Jessi:
Every brand has a unique voice that sets it apart. We're digging into how to capture the way your brand communicates from the words you use to the stories you tell. So you can create more compelling content that strategically helps you meet your business goals.

Marie:
And if you choose to outsource that content, you'll be able to do so with confidence, knowing your brand voice is in good hands and you can reclaim your time. We're so glad you're here and hope you enjoy this episode.

Jessi:
Welcome back to another episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. And today we are talking about how to handle sales calls and specifically how to handle sales calls as a writer. Although if you are a business owner who is getting ready to hire a writer, this may also be helpful for you to keep in mind what to listen for in those calls. For those writers out there, I kind of want to just start by acknowledging the elephant in the room, which is that a lot of writers become writers so that they don't necessarily need to have a lot of one-on-one conversations face to face or zoom window to zoom window with people.
I know that early on, I kind of fell in this boat back when we started our business, I was working as a high school teacher and I saw more than enough people during the day. I didn't want to add onto that. I wanted to go home and write, and I wanted to do that behind my computer screen, where I didn't necessarily have to be on anymore. And that is completely legitimate. Whether you are an introvert who just doesn't really want to have a lot of face-to-face conversations all the time, because they're really draining. Or if you just find sales calls a little scary, that's totally normal. And I want to make sure that, you know, that that's just acknowledged, and that it doesn't have to be that way. It doesn't have to be a scary thing or something that you dread in fact, right before we started recording this episode, Maria and I were reflecting on how we actually have grown to love sales calls.

Marie:
So weird but true, I mean, it kind of got the starry eyes because yeah, I mean, if you'd seen us years ago, you would be shocked that we would say that. And I was like, I'm actually really excited for this episode. And it's doesn't sound like me at all, but it's because it doesn't sound like the me of five years ago at all. I think the secret ingredient here for enjoying sales calls is detaching from the outcome. And I know that's really hard to do, especially if your business feels like, wow, the whole revenue for the business is reliant for like the next whole month is relying on this conversation about to have with the prospect. Like if you were having- if you were in a place financially as a writer where, um, every sales call that you have on the calendar is a victory because you know, that that's your like one or two shots for, you know, reaching your financial goals, it can be really, really, really, really hard to detach from the outcome. But I encourage you to do it anyway. Easier said than done. And we're not the people necessarily to guide you through that process. I'm going to give a plug here for Lisa Carpenter, who was a huge mentor and help for me through this process. But because the person that you're having that call with is going to be able to tell that you have desperation in your voice, and you're not going to be presenting yourself, your skills, your services as confidently as possible. Because yeah, you're setting up a power imbalance when you don't detach from the outcome, right. When you are saying, Hey, yeah, that'd be great if this works out, but like, if it doesn't, it leaves space for something else, that's a better fit for me coming in. Now you're setting yourself up as an equal to the person that you're having the sales call with. Remember they want to work with you and you want to work with them. You can approach this as equals. Yeah.

Jessi:
And I kind of want to talk a little bit about that transformation that going from, you know, feel filled with anxiety over those early sales calls, you know, really feeling that way to the business from them and anticipating them, waiting for them. And then after they were over kind of obsessing over how they went or, you know, whether they went well and to where we are today, where, when we see sales calls come through on the, on the calendar and we get ready for them, we're really jazzed about it and really excited. So, kind of starting with where we were, Marie, I'm curious if you can remember what it felt like in those early days of our sales calls. Cause I think we kind of had slightly different experiences.

Marie:
Um, yes. This is, I really apologize if this is TMI, I don't know who's listening to this. You don't know me, but I'm about to tell you about my bladder. I have nervous bladder, and boy would I get it every time it was time to like, I would get, you know, sales call time- I'd be like, I don't know if I can handle this. Is that weird for me to take this call from the toilet? Because I just would like wake myself out into that place of like I need this sale. I need the sale. And I remember hearing at one point like, a strategy that was like, if you do some like free consulting for a prospect on a sales call, it's great because it's kind of like a snack for them, right. An appetizer, they get to kind of get a flavor for what you're like. And then they may be more likely to hire you, because they already see the value in you. And I do understand where this is coming from. I believe this advice actually came from the coaching world. And it may make a little sense there, right? Because a coaching portfolio is a very different thing from a content writers portfolio. Right. You know, there's certain people like, I know, I don't know if she's still doing this, but Lacey Sites for a while in her podcast was doing like, she would do like live coaching on our podcast. Right. And so like, sure, if you're doing something like that, what Lacey's doing, there's a chance for someone to get a flavor for what it's like to work with you. But like a lot of coaches don't have outlets like that. They don't have the resources or whatever to have a podcast.
And so having that person on the sales call walkway with a small wind, they were able to help them with, yeah, I can definitely see the value in that. But what I would do is, you know, I would start giving them, you know, our prospects, I would start giving them, just episodes, just like the waterfall, not a pee but of value. Right. Sorry. I'm I really apologize if I'm grossing someone out. If you hear this forever, you know, that's the way it goes. I deserved that, but I would become this waterfall of knowledge and of advice and consulting and it was overwhelming. I could see people's eyes just like start to glaze over because I was like trying to offer so much consulting that they were just like, I don't even know how to implement that. I'm feeling overwhelmed right now.
So I'm not telling you as a writer, not to offer some strategy consults on a sales call. I will tell you I don't do that anymore. And one of the reasons is because yeah, I didn't quite know when to stop, but the other reason is at this point, it doesn't feel an integrity for me. I don't know them and their business well enough yet after a 15 minute, 20 minute conversation to be able to offer really salient consulting advice for them. And so that is better saved for when I've had a deeper conversation with them after there's been sort of that quote unquote energetic exchange of money and resources and time that you hear about, I know Jen Sincero, has written about this before in You Are a Badass at Making Money. I think it is. So that may be something to check out. We'll put that in the notes, but, yeah, I mean, I just, I would like overcompensate for my fear by trying to be too valuable to them and then overwhelm them. What's the bottom line.

Jessi:
Yeah. I think that's like case of, you know, taking your fear and as a result, overcompensating. I definitely did this too. Although I think I did it in a different way where I kind of just turned into like a yes person where if someone would ask me if I could do something, if I could do something, if I could do something, if I knew something, I would just like, yeah. Uh huh. Yep. Yep. Totally understand how to do that. Knew that, know that even if it was something that I wasn't as familiar with and it wasn't because I wanted to lie, it was because I, well, part of it is because I come from the teaching world where it's, you kind of learn as you go, is very much the, the way things operate in that world. And that was the mindset that I was in. It was sort of a, like just say yes, and figure it out later because you need this, which was not a really great place to come from in a sales call. And what that led to, besides me scrambling to figure out a whole bunch of stuff that I didn't even want to figure out because it turns out it wasn't really something that we were passionate about providing as a business.
It also led to me being so focused on the goal of converting the potential client that I ignored red flags that popped up, that I ignored when boundaries were just not even crossed, just like blown over. Like for example, the call that was booked was a 20 minute time slot and an hour and a half, we're still talking. Like, yes, that's on me for not upholding the boundary. And it also says something, you know, there's a very different feel from a client who you're having a good conversation with and it goes over and there's this moment of like, Oh, I know we're going over, but is that okay? Like, can we keep talking? It's like, Oh yeah, I have some time, versus just a complete disconnect from that. And you know, it takes a little bit of, you know, kind of intuiting, whether it's a respectful... we're intentionally sacrificing this boundary or an unintentional, we're just blowing past it. But in my experience with those early calls, there was a lot more boundary, bumping up against boundaries. And there were a lot more red flags that I didn't use that red flag as a red flag. I used it as a, well, this is gonna suck, but let's keep going.

Marie:
Yeah, totally. I think there's a- like do a gut check right on like, are we deciding to like grab each other's hands and hop together over this adorable picket fence of our boundaries because it suits both of us or is this other person in a tank? And they've just like blasted over your chain link fence.

Jessi:
Yeah, please, please. If the latter is happening, that is a sign that the conversion does not need to happen, which goes back to detaching from the outcome. If you're attached to converting every single prospect who comes your way, you will inevitably end up with clients who are not good matches for you. And that is a relationship that you have now forged and are now potentially stuck in for longer than is healthy and comforting for either of you. So just kind of keep that in mind.

Marie:
I'm glad you use the word relationship Jessi, because like, okay, if we think about this in terms of dating, right? Like let's say you go on a first date with somebody and you're like, I have a seafood allergy. Right. And then like, okay, well, I thought we could go to the seafood restaurant. And I mean, this is like a blatant, you know, hopefully this will never happen to you. But like, if everything you tell them, like, I don't like folk music and they're like just blasting folk music the whole time in the car. And if, you know, like everything you say, they're going against your boundary, are you gonna want to date that person? Or you want to get married to that person? Like, probably not like it's probably not going to get better. And it's the same thing with a sales call. Like this is your first date, basically. So yeah, I, and honestly, like, we can say this because Jessi, you and I have seen, observed and waved goodbye to, as we pass the red flags. So many times in those sales conversations, it's like, we're like the culprits number one and number two here. And not because one of us is worse than the other, but just yeah. Two entities that are, have been have traditionally been terrible at this.

Jessi:
Yeah. And we've learned, and even though we've learned, and even though we have, uh, really stepped largely past this, where now we see the red flags and we have gotten comfortable with saying, I don't think we're a good fit. Here's why, if it makes sense to say why, and here are other options for you, we've gotten way more comfortable with that. And still the occasional red flags lifts through it happens because we're constantly adjusting, you know, what those red flags are, why they exist. And you know, they don't have to be a red flag because it's like, Oh, they're a vial person. It might be a red flag just because it's not an industry that you're equipped to support or, you know, it's the, their timeline doesn't make sense. That's something that is a red flag that we have blown past so many times where the client, potential client is a great fit in every regard, except they need everything like next week. And we're like, I guess we could do it. Sure.

Marie:
And then you spend that week hating your life. Right. Cause you're like, cool. I'm writing a novels or content in a week. Yeah. So I think, yeah. Types of businesses, like whether it's the industry or maybe it's something you have like a moral objection to, or it's something that you just don't know a lot about, or you just don't feel equipped to serve whatever or a type of content again, that you don't feel equipped to provide. If you're not sensing that there is mutual respect like that, honestly, to me, that's like red light, like great, time to be graciously extricating yourself from this conversation right there. Cause that is not going to get better. For us, another red flag is trying to haggle in a, especially in a non respectful way, right? Like I'm trying to think of how to do this without calling this guy, this client out.
There was a client who asked for us to move faster and to charge less because of one specific concession. However, that concession that they asked for literally applies to all of our clients. And I was like, you're not a special snowflake. Okay. Like everyone we work with is just the same in this way. And so why would I honor that. Now I'm just getting this sense that you're going to be difficult to work with. And then I worked with him. UGH shouldn't have done it. And spent the whole time regretting the process.

Jessi:
Yeah. I also, I do want to say with like with haggling around prices, sometimes there is a way to do it respectfully a client, many times a client has come to us and said, I really want to work with you. But this service that you pitched us is not in my budget. And we will work with them to find something that is in their budget. If it makes sense mutually to do that. And sometimes it doesn't and we can say, okay, well, you know, we recommend you go to these people instead. But if it does, we often have ways to work with them.

Marie:
Payment plans or like alternates, yeah.

Jessi:
Yeah, totally. There are ways to allow that discussion to happen if you want. That is your decision to make, if you're, if your prices are firm and there are, there's no haggling that is absolutely allowed. If you do want there to be an opportunity for some wiggle room for certain clients, that's allowed to, as long as it's respectful. That's the key here with everything we talk about today with everything involving sales calls is the key is respect, respect, and communication.

Marie:
Yeah. If you were seeing entitlement come in... this is not going to get better. This is going to get worse and you're going to hate working with them.

Jessi:
Yeah. And I want to say really quickly about entitlement. I'm really glad that you said that because I think this goes back to something we talked about in a previous episode, and I can't remember which one, but this, this mentality sometimes that exists around, especially if you're a task-based writer, which we talked about in the last episode, where it really is just like, I am trying to hire someone for bottom dollar to just get this work out. And therefore it's not a profession that is deserving of respect. And if you find yourself in a conversation with someone who seems to have that sort of lens over hiring a content creator, please run. Please run very far, very fast.

Marie:
Because if it's, it's a very slippery slope from, I don't respect the work you do, because you know, it doesn't pay well or whatever, to I don't respect you. I remember having a conversation with a client every time I had a conversation with this client, including the sales call, I felt small. I felt, you know, I just felt like a child. And it's because this person couldn't step outside of a power imbalance. It was because they didn't respect the work that we did, but they needed it. They just didn't want to do it. Which makes no sense by the way, right? Like why anyway, that's another topic for another day. But like, if you're feeling that way, because they're showing that they don't care about your boundaries, they don't have respect for you, that they are, they feel entitled to what you have. It's not going to go well.
And by the way, CEOs listening to this, if you're talking with a writer to hire and they're acting this way, run the other way, run the other way. This is not a one way street.

Jessi:
Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So we've talked a lot about everything that we've ever done wrong in sales calls. Um, so let's, uh, let's maybe shift-

Marie:
Not everything.

Jessi:
Yeah. We, we promise there's a reason we liked them nowadays. Now that we've just like spent, I don't know, 10, 20 minutes just talking about all the awful things and scared you all off. If you're still with us, we do actually like sales calls now. And we're going to tell you why. The first and most important piece of this is goes back to what I said earlier about relationships and communication and what we did a few years ago now that completely changed the way in which we take sales calls on was we stopped thinking of them as sales calls. Instead we call them and we think of them as application calls that may seem like a very small inconsequential change.
But what that messaging does is it allows us to truly capture what the conversation is. It is a conversation between two peers who are looking for an opportunity to potentially support one another. And both parties are really applying to work with one another. And there is a opportunity for both to say, yes, let's move forward. And an opportunity for both to say, this is not a great fit. It's an application between two people. It is not, you know, one person just, you know, it is one person selling to the other, but when it's framed as a sales call, it makes it harder to detach from the outcome. When it's an application call, it allows you to detach a little more.

Marie:
And I would honestly argue, you are selling to each other because yeah, one is selling your services for a price. But the other is saying, Hey, I want you to sell me your time and energy and creative output like that is you have a, as a writer, you have a non-eternal quantity, of those things right. That's not the right word, but basically, you know, you are, you have to be sold on them too, if it's going to be a really great relationship. And I also believe, honestly, that sales calls or application calls, I'm just going to keep calling them sales calls just for colloquialness. That they can have a process behind them, like everything, because we've talked about in other episodes, the more you're able to create processes, the less creative energy has to go into these repetitive things. It can be a process. It can be stress-free because the outcome really doesn't matter. You know. But, I also believe that sales call processes can work for all of your diverse clientele. That you can have a, and we're going to talk, stick with us because we're going to walk you through our, a very high level version of our process, towards the end of this episode.

Jessi:
Yeah. And I think the process piece is really important too. When, considering what I mentioned at the very beginning of this episode for people who may get really tired and, you know, drained from a lot of sales calls with other people, a lot of on-time as it were, because you can incorporate preservation of your energy into your process. So for example, something very simple that we do is we only have sales calls on certain days of the week. So we know that those are the days where we need to be on, but we also have a recovery day built in right afterwards because it's just something that exhausts us after awhile. Both Marie and I are very introverted and our energy gets drained from conversations in zoom. And, you know, on top of our sales calls, we also have other calls with clients and team members happening.
And so we have built days into our week as recovery. That's a part of the process for the call itself is making sure that there's recovery time from the call. So that's, that's part of making them less something to worry about and get anxious about. And, you know, feel like you're anticipating it the point where it becomes something that you dread instead of look forward to. Setting those boundaries around. When did those calls happen? How long are they? Sitting in a zoom room for a sales call for an hour is a lot 20 minutes is what we have for our calls. And that's usually more than enough. And it's just enough time for us to get to know each other, get to know if we can really help one another. If this is a relationship we want to continue beyond the call and then talk about next steps.

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. You know, other things that we believe about sales calls, just going back to that relationship thing, you know, this, the sales call is the start of the relationship. It's like the first date. This is not a transactional process, even though it kind of is. I mean, I don't view it that way anymore. I view it as a relationship. And so therefore saying no to someone or someone saying no to you as a good thing, right? Like, again, if you're on a date with somebody and they're like, I don't want to see you again. And then you keep trying to see them, like you're going to become their stalker if you continue down that path. Right. It's the same thing with this stuff, right? Like if someone says no, and you know, some people will say don't take no for an answer. I would not say that. I would say, keep the relationship open, but don't feel you have to force a transaction right now. Right. Because this just leaves space for the right fit to come along.
And I would say too, that like part of that keeping the relationship open is follow up. Follow up is key whether or not- okay. If somebody doesn't want to work with you right now, maybe they just aren't ready or whatever and you want to maintain the relationship. Even if they're not ready to buy from you send a, follow-up tell them you appreciate their time. You know, and we'll talk a little bit about our followup process later on. But, for us, that's where we do the selling. We don't actually do the selling during the application call. And if somebody is like not a great fit, then you can just thank them for their time and that's it. That's okay.

Jessi:
Yeah. Yeah. So I think, you know, the common experience these days that we have with application calls is, because you know, Marie and I are still very much the ones doing all of the, all of the sales calls in our business even though we have a team of writers supporting us in other areas. Usually after we have a call with a potential client, we'll kind of check in with each other and be like, Hey, how'd that call go? And these days typically the responses, Oh my gosh, I love so-and-so. It was so great. They're doing such great things in the world. I was able to, you know, get that they are excited about the potential of working together, you know, and, and part of that is because we approach those calls as a puzzle where we're figuring out how to help someone. We're not necessarily offering consulting like Marie mentioned earlier, but we are showing them that there is a pathway to helping them with whatever problem they came to us trying to solve. Whether it's content overwhelm, whether it's capturing their voice, whatever it may be, we are offering them solutions that by the end of the call, hopefully they feel really good about. And even if we decide that we're not a good match, we are giving them some sort of direction. And so that allows the sales calls to really feel invigorating. Even if they're draining, they're still invigorating because it's really just being viewed in my mind as an opportunity to meet a really awesome person, you know, and then also help them, which are two things that I just love doing anyway.

Marie:
Yeah, absolutely. And sometimes the best way to be of service to someone is to let them know like, Hey, I'm going to refer you over here. And that's absolutely great, you know. Again, I think, you know, we can be gracious no matter what happens in these calls. That's something that, I mean, look, I'm Southern nights strive for that. You don't have to strive for that. That's fine. But if you're worried about it, know that like even a no can be a gracious no, from you.
So, shall we dig into our very high level sales call process?

Jessi:
Yeah, let's do it. So we tried to put this into the kind of easiest to remember steps because I know that processes are very helpful as long as they're not overly complicated. So we're going to walk you through high level, how we handle before, during, and after a sales call. And that way you can kind of take what works, create your own version, know that this is a process that we've refined over the last 10 years or so of doing this. And the reason that each piece of this is in the process is because we've found that it allows the sales call itself to feel easy, to feel light and to feel like something that it is easy to detach from the outcome of.

Marie:
Yeah. So pre sales call is your messaging. So we don't really have a way for someone to just get on a call with us. We ask them to fill out a questionnaire. It's not very long it's basically just like, in fact, if you go to Northstarmessaging.com/contact, you can see it for yourself. We just ask a few questions about like, what's going on for you, you know, why are you looking at hiring a content marketing team and, you know, to somebody refer you because we will give a referral commission basically, here is our stance on, diversity inclusivity. Do you, can you abide by this because everything we do, yes, it'll be in your voice, but also it has to align with these values. Do you have a budget in mind, a few things like that. Do you have a timeline in mind?
Sometimes from that questionnaire, we are already able to tell somebody is not a good fit, right? Like Jessi was saying, yeah, everything's great, but I need this tomorrow. Okay, great. Not a good fit for us, right. For you maybe, you know, or maybe they're just like, you know, they're, they can't say yes to our DI statement. And so that's, you know, something we can't support, or I remember there was one person who was, seemed like an absolutely lovely human being. I think they're doing great work. But, their work was extremely focused on like, and heterosexual couples in counseling. And we're a team with, you know, LGBT values and team members. And we were like this, you know, I just don't know that anyone's going to be super interested in writing for this. Like, I don't know if we can bring the passion to this project that, that maybe we should be bringing to do it justice. You know, and so sometimes we were just able to tell from the beginning, like this isn't maybe a perfect fit for us and that's okay. So we start off with a questionnaire and then it allows them to book a time on our calendar. Like Jessi said, 20 minutes. They get to choose the time that works for them. And it delivers the zoom link to them automatically sends them a reminder, and that is the pre-sales call process.

Jessi:
And so then we get into the actual sales call itself, and this is split into a couple of different sections. I'm starting right off with just reinforcing those expectations and boundaries, making sure that, you know, they know how much of their time are we going to be taken up today and being respectful of their time. And, you know, the kind of implication there is that there'll be respectful of our time as well. And what'll happen during that call. What, what are during that 20 minutes, what's going to be the purpose of that call. And obviously they know they're signing on for a sales call, but it's helpful to reiterate, you know, I'm going to be asking you a few questions about your business, and then we'll talk about whether or not we're a good fit, whether we can support one another or how. And then from that is the most important part of the sales call, and that is listening.
This is really the most important part of any call that you have with another human, especially as a, as a content creator who is reflecting the voice of someone else, uh, listening is such a crucial, crucial piece of the sales call process. And so, Marie and I run our sales calls slightly different, but we both fall back on, you know, diving right into asking them to talk a little bit about why they decided to book a call, what kind of support they're looking for a little bit about their business, and yes, you can get all of that information ahead of time through the inquiry form and through the, through looking at their website and things like that. But it's always helpful to hear them talk about in their own words. And so that listening piece, and just letting them talk about why they want to talk to you is the next step after just kind of saying your hellos setting expectations for the call.

Marie:
Yeah. And you can always ask them follow up questions that time too, which is another strength of having the conversation as opposed to just having a questionnaire. Questionnaire is a great place to get started so that you're on the same page. You can kind of go into the call knowing what's coming, but the conversation really happens as you listen. So then, the next bit of this sounds like something you could probably skip over because it sounds redundant, but it's really important. And it's reflect, reflect back to them, state back to them in their own words, what you understand is going on for them and what they need. And then have them confirm that you've heard them correctly. They will feel so heard and so respected and validated when you do this. Also, if you invite them to get a little bit more context, you can ask them a few more questions and this time, if you would just want a little bit more detail, but it shows that you're invested in them and that you want to know more, you know. People always say like, you know, you, if you have a conversation with somebody and you're just asking them a lot of questions, they walk away from the conversation feeling great and like, you're a fascinating person, even though they may not actually know anything about you, and I'm not suggesting you do that. I think this is a two way street where you need to learn about each other. Um, but start off by listening to them. Cause a yeah, they'll feel great. And B, if there is some kind of red flag or enough sort of, like yellow flags that this seems like a problem, you'll be able to start getting that figured out during that time period.

Jessi:
Yeah. So give them the floor first. And the other thing that this helps you with is when you get to the next phase after reflecting, and it's, you'll kind of have an idea of what you want to offer them, especially if you offer multiple services. So, I actually had a sales call yesterday and in the call during the initial phase of it, they were talking a little bit about what they needed and when they submitted the inquiry form, they said on it that they were looking for sales copy. And so I went into the call kind of anticipating that maybe they had a launch coming up. Maybe they wanted some sales pages or email sequences and things like that. But when I asked them to talk about what their specific problems were, they were actually talking about how they felt like they were having a hard time sinking into their own voice, and that was making it so that their content wasn't as persuasive as it could be.
So that's what they meant by sales copy. And so by listening to that, I was able to reflect back, okay, so what I'm hearing is, it's not actually creating content that you are struggling with. It's the way the content is conveyed. Is that correct? Am I reflecting correctly? And they confirmed it. And that allowed me to go out of the listening in the reflect phase, into the next step, in our process, which is support where we share our own process and how it fits in with their needs. So in this case, I went in and my suggestion for them was our brand voice intensive, where we can get really clear on what their voice and message is so that they can feel confident in the content they're creating. If I had based that call just off of the inquiry form, I would have gone in offering launch copy, which includes the brand voice intensive, but also a whole lot of other stuff that they didn't actually need. And so by starting the call off with listening to what they had to say, reflecting it back with them, and then asking a few more targeted question or questions around, okay, who's creating your content. Do you want to hire people on what are the services that you offer and how does your content that into that, that let me know during the next phase that, okay, this is the best service to offer. Now that I've determined that we're a good fit and we do have a service that kind of fits your needs.

Marie:
Absolutely. So, you know, and then on the flip side of that, if you can tell that they're not a good fit at this point, again, sort of graciously thank them for their time, but then recommend where you think they ought to go next, based on that. Like maybe what they, like, I had a conversation with a gentleman recently who was like the sweetest person. I'm like, Oh, I just, I have such good vibes from this person, but you don't have a marketing strategy, a high level marketing strategy at all. And if you don't have a high level marketing strategy, and that means that your content marketing strategy is... even if that's doing great, it's just going to be sort of floating, you know, without a tether. And I really think you should talk with someone who has more of like a marketing consulting background high-level and then come and talk with us when you're ready for the content piece.
And so I referred him on to someone that we've worked with in this capacity that I trust. And he was like, great, I'll be back when I'm ready. You know? And I was like, great, that sounds wonderful. Right. And so it doesn't have to be like, uh, you stink and suck. It's like a, this is what I recommend based on our conversation. If however, you do need more clarification on things like their values or anything that might be a bit of a red flag for you. Now's the time to clarify that if you haven't already during the previous, like asking questions and reflection stages.

Jessi:
Yep. Yeah. So once you talk about that next of course, give them space for questions and answer any questions that they might have about your services, how you might support one another. And so at that, at that point in the call, you know, you've, you've set expectations of what the call is going to include. You've allowed them the space to talk about what they need. So you've set expectations, you've listened, you've reflected back what need and ask clarifying questions. And you've shared how you can potentially support them while giving them space to ask questions, you know, clarify questions about your process, what the investment might be, all of those sorts of questions that a business owner may come to you with to make sure that you are a good fit. Then at the very end of the call, the next thing to do is to just make sure that the next steps are really clear and I've found that this is actually something that people really appreciate because often it isn't clear.
And then the relationship it's sort of like going back to the dating analogy, it's sort of like, you take someone out to dinner and then the bill comes and you pay the bill and then you just like, get up and walk away without like inviting them to like walk away with you. And so like, you've finished the conversation, but something was left hanging and then you, you start texting them and they either ghost you or maybe texts back and you don't know, there's no like set and we're going to follow up. We're going to continue the conversation. So at the end of every sales call, what we say and the way that our process works is we let them know that we will be sending them an email follow up to basically summarize everything that happened in the call within the next 24 hours. If they, if we decide that we're a good fit for each other, potentially, we'll also let them know that if they decide they want to move forward, their next step is to reply to that email and let us know, and then we'll let them know what follows from that. You know, they get a contract to deposit requests, things like that. If they're not a good fit, we'll let them know. We'll follow up in 24 hours with an intro to someone who may be a better fit for you. You know, the brief summary of the call, all of that. So regardless they know that within 24 hours, they're going to get some sort of, follow-up saying, you know, just essentially tying the bow on the sales call, whether it's tying the bow to go to the next phase of the relationship together, or tying the bow to transition it into something else with someone else.

Marie:
Yes. And you, dear listener may have a burning question, which is when do we talk about money? Because this is the part where people, people don't dislike sales calls, except for the fact that people talk about money. It deals with money and it freaks people out. Right. And so, my answer is not the answer. You have to pick what works for you, but here's how I operate. And that may actually be different from you, how you operate Jessi, I'm not sure, but here's what I do. I always have my pricing sheet handy. And as we're talking, I'm kind of like, if I identify a service that is a good fit for them, I will have that number kind of ready to go. And honestly I go based on like social intuition, if they ask me directly, I will absolutely tell them if they don't ask me, but I would like to tell them because I can just tell that that would be supportive for them, then I will do it. If they don't ask me and I think we're just ruling and grooving and it doesn't seem like finances are the biggest concern for them. Like, it's a bigger concern that like, we get their voice right. Or something like that.
Sometimes I don't even think to do it and then I will put it in the follow-up. I always put in the followup regardless, because then I'm like, that way you don't have to sit here and scribble down numbers. Right. And when somebody comes back to me, like I've had different reactions, right? Like if I'm like, okay, this service cost, you know, $3,997 or something like that, $4,000 essentially. Right.
I've had people like practically their mouth falls open at that. I've had people who have a poker face and I have no idea what they're thinking. And then I have people who are just like, okay, cool. Right. And they're like just send me the invoice. And I'm like, okay, well, I need you to like confirm, in writing. Cause we gotta get a contract before I can take your money. And that's how we do it. We don't actually take credit cards over the phone. We want them to sign a contract first. But in any case, again, it goes back to detaching from the outcome, like if somebody's jaw drops and they're like, I cannot, that's $4,000 to like $40. And I'm like, correct. That's right. Absolutely. You're right. That's what it is because you don't have to justify it. Right. But if you want to, like, you know, you've got years of experience, like you've got reasons to justify it. If you feel the need to do that, but you don't have to. And so sometimes, you know, that doesn't happen that often for us, but every now and that'll happen. I'm like, yes, that's correct. I just confirm it as if maybe they were just like, I didn't hear you. Right. That's how I respond.

Jessi:
Yeah. And, just to, I don't know, reassure you, maybe my process is pretty much identical. Nine times out of 10 at the end of the sales call, when I'm asking them, you know, what questions do you have for me? One of the questions that they have is what is the investment? And that's where the conversation goes. I let them lead the charge on that because, for some people, it really isn't a concern. They've already decided that they want to work with us. And some of our services do have the pricing on the website. Some don't are a little more custom, but I let them lead the conversation just because, you know, they know if it's important to them or not. And if I feel like it is something that really needs to be talked about on the call, I will bring it up. And I will talk about it. And this is also where the, uh, conversation we had a little earlier about haggling and whether that is appropriate or not for you personally, that can happen. Often what I will say is you, this is the cost, this is the investment. I'm going to, you know, don't write it down, it's fine. You don't have to scribble numbers. Like Marie said, I will include all of this in the follow-up email. And that's usually when that conversation of like, this is, you know, out of my budget, but I still want to work with you. That sort of stuff. Those conversations, usually in my case happened over email rather than during the call. Usually, you know, whatever I say, the investment is on the call that's what it is. And the, any to that conversation happened afterwards, which, um, actually leads to the follow-up, which is still part of the sales call process. So I want to talk a little bit about that and you know, what happens once you get off that call.
Marie mentioned that, you know, often the sales happen in the follow-up, they all happen in the followup for us. The other thing that we do though, that I think is, is newer to our process and the last couple of years, but it's also really helpful is that gut check and formalizing it. So after we get off a call, if we see those red flags that we used to be like, eh, you know, it's just two red flags we can survive. We actually like, we actually, we actually mark that. We actually in our-

Marie:
Project management system.

Jessi:
Thank you. And our project management system, we have all of our prospects listed out. And at the end of the call, we'll put any notes from the call that we want to remember when we write the up email. And we'll also make a note if we saw those red flags and mark them as not a good fit for us. Or if it's someone who's a really good fit, but maybe they want all their content next week, we'll mark them as you know, not a good fit right now. So there's like the, not a good fit ever because it's setting alarm bells ringing, and then there's the, they would be lovely to work with, but right now it's not a great time. And so that helps us with our followup process in general, to make sure that we're not ghosting on anyone.

Marie:
Right. Absolutely. I wanna circle back to one other little thing that people might have questions about, about the sales call itself, which is timeline. And one thing we've discovered is when somebody is like, so when can you get started with this? Especially as our business in particular has continued to grow and become more complex with more team members. But even before, we have resisted answering this question during the sales call, because we need to be able to go look at our calendar, go look at our, our availability and make sure that we can actually give them something that is true because we have definitely been known in the past to promise a timeline that wasn't actually going to work for us, or it would, but only a great stress, putting great stress on us, which then doesn't yield as great of a deliverable.
And so we're like, Hey, if you can just hang on 24 hours, I promise I will get you a pretty solid estimate of when we could get going on this project and what the timeline would be in the followup. But at this point we do not promise a specific timeline on sales calls that may be different for you. But I think broadly speaking, when somebody asks you a question and it's something you don't know the answer to, you know, like Jessi said, she was in teacher mode and that's kind of fake it till you make it in some ways, you can take that strategy. It has not put our business under the ground to do that. And the times that we've done that, but also it has not put our business under the ground to say like, you know, I don't know, let me just look into that and I'll put it in the follow-up email for you, you know?
And also I think letting people know like, Hey, so just so it's clear, like we rule right, your social media posts, but we will not choose the image for it. Or we don't perform hashtag research or like whatever your boundaries are. Like, let them know like, be like, I do this, but not this I can recommend to from some great people for that. Or I recommend that you work with a social media strategist for that or whatever it is. Even if you don't have a specific person to refer to. But I think just like being really, really, really clear about where your services start and stop is something that is universally appreciated by a prospect.

Jessi:
I will say one thing that I do when people ask for timelines is, I won't tell them when we can start, because often there are a lot of schedules being juggled and we don't know which one of our writers might be taking a process project and things like that. What I will tell them though, is for this type of project, this is typically how long it takes. So if someone is calling us about launch copy, I can say, you know, typically from beginning to end launch copy takes about eight weeks to create in total, like all of everything, plus getting in your intensive to kick off the process when that starts depends on our intensive availability. And I can't promise that over the phone right now, so I can still give them a sense of like, from beginning to end, this process will take this amount of time when it starts, will depend on, you know, other things that we'll follow up with later. So that that's kind of how I give them the reassurance of a timeline without actually giving them the reassurance of an exact timeline.

Marie:
Yeah. So to very quickly summarize our sales process, it's pre-call then during the call, we set expectations, we listened to them, reflect back to them and we support them. And then finally we have follow-up. So we don't have a catchy acronym for you, sorry, but hopefully that's helpful. And does just seeing the framework, cause we talked a lot about all the specifics within it as we went.

Jessi:
Yeah. And we'll include this in the show notes so that you can see the process as we've laid it out. Of course this is high level and it is general and there's a reason for that because your business is not our business. And, you know, we have a team of multiple people that we are working with. We can take on certain projects that may not be in your purview. And so, you know, this is a starting place. And what we want to challenge you to do for your homework is, two things actually. Thing number one is to take this high level framework that we've provided for you and tweak it so that it fits you. Try to keep the high level pieces in place, because I really truly do think that it is so important to have those pieces of listening and reflecting and talking about your support in that order, where you're getting the floor to the potential client first. But then go in and figure out, okay, but what does this look like for me? See if you can create your own version of this process that you feel good about.
And then part two of your homework is to test it out. You can do this. If you have an application call or a sales call on the books, if you don't or even if you do, and you want a little bit of low pressure practice, do a role-play sales call with a trusted friend or biz buddy, you know, talk to one of your friends, say, I want you to pretend to be a potential client. Don't really, you know, fill out my inquiry form as if you are a potential client. Don't tell me more than that. Let me look at the inquiry form ahead of time. And then let's hop on this call and see how it goes and just try to run it like you would a sales call and you can do that as much as you want to get more practice and to feel more confident with the process.

Marie:
Exactly. So happy selling, you can do it and just like the shampoo commercial, cause you're worth it.
Thanks for joining us for this episode of the Brand Your Voice Podcast. Make sure to visit our website, Northstarmessaging.com, where you can subscribe to the show on iTunes, Spotify, and more.

Jessi:
If you found value in this episode, we'd love for you to leave us a review on iTunes and share it with your friends. Thank you and happy content creating.

For additional content strategy and branding tips, check out northstarmessaging.com/blog. Also, please tag us on Instagram and let us know you’re out there! @northstarmessaging 


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