Updated: Nov 17, 2019
As a newly minted entrepreneur, business development and client relationships are a critical part of my work day. I invest a lot of time, effort and thought to working on them.
In this post, I am going to shift from a focus on coaching to a focus on growing a business. While it’s my perspective, I know that many of my network will echo in agreement the sentiments I am about to share about business development (yes, I recommend using business development rather than sales – but that’s for another conversation).
In January 2017 I left the corporate world and was driven by a passion to deliver value to the business community in a different way. I had a vision to support growth through executive coaching, so I launched my own company, Pivotal Coaching. From Day 1 I had a handful of personal clients. These clients were instrumental in influencing and encouraging me to take my approach to market and start my business. I had much to learn about being a business owner yet was ready to take on every challenge this new endeavor was going to generate.
While I am fueled with purpose, I am a mostly fact-based business person. I am not naïve to the fact that I now operate in the competitive professional services market nor to the fact that there still is a slow-growing acceptance and adoption of coaching by corporations. When I start to talk to people about my profession and company, I can typically tell instantly where their views lie; you either buy into executive coaching or you don’t. Based on these challenges in front of me, I knew that I would need every ounce of my business development skills and experience to grow my network, my clients and my business.
Being comfortable with NO in your relationships
There are two advantages to being a nearly 30-year relationship builder - you have a great network to leverage for growing your business and you have relationships who want to help you and your business. I have a phenomenal place from which to grow my business. Most of my business building doesn’t have to be cold calling.
So far this all sounds good, right? Here’s where things get complicated: My network genuinely wants to help me and be supportive. They know they’ll hear from me, they know they’ll take the meeting and they really do want to help me. However, the help I need doesn’t mean always giving me hope or giving me another reason to follow up. My company, my brand, my approach and timing may not be right for them or their company. We both know that. We need to get to a place of agreement; this place of agreement may be a No. Google “pipeline closing ratios” and you’ll quickly see that statistically I’ll only close 25-30% of the opportunities I put into my pipeline. With these stats and my experience as a gauge, I know I need to actively connect with companies and find the right fit. I need feedback to learn where my services fit and who my buyers are. Feedback to adapt my business. Feedback is what will make me successful.
As a professional business developer, I’ve got a growth mindset (well, most of the time, but that’s for another blog), so I look for the challenge and effort in my work ( Is Your Mind Set or Do You Have Mindset?) I remain disciplined in my engagement and follow-up with potential clients until I know they aren’t going to be a buyer. There are many buyers who find it hard to say no or to share what they really think about a product, company or professional. This discomfort in saying No is making my work harder.
Getting To No
In my amazing network, l am meeting with super supportive potential buyers who aren’t saying no yet aren’t saying yes. I had two experiences over the last 2 weeks that made me happy to be told No. In the first case, a company executive who I admire gave me time and transparency early in my business launch to discuss the development opportunities for his company. Over the next 8 months I tried to keep in touch and pick up the conversation. I finally shared an article and in my note asked more directly for how he’d recommend I stay in touch. His response was that his company was not going to go to an outside service provider and there wasn’t an opportunity for us. Thank you!! Now I know.
The second situation was someone I had worked with and was in an interesting change leadership role. I really wanted to meet with him. In my ask for time, I gave him an out. He took it. He was candid and direct. He was immersed and at capacity. Now was not the time to talk - he said he needed 6 months. Thank you!! I don’t need to check in for another 6 months.
My network, the buyers, genuinely care about my success and helping me. It may be awkward to say no to my meeting ask or no to my services offering, yet I encourage more of you to say No to me. I encourage you to be more direct in saying No to other vendors, suppliers and sellers.
The Gift Of No
The gift you give me in saying No is that I now have feedback, as I know you’ll share why you are giving me a no, to shape my sales process and conversations. You also give me back two valuable commodities - time and energy. Even when you aren’t buying, I have you on my pipeline. I think about how I can add value to you and your work. When you say No, I can take you off the pipeline and no longer have to keep you on my radar. I will turn my time and energy to other relationships and new relationships.
Let me be bold here - I am always conscious of your time and how to add value for you. Please help yourself and me by doing the same. Please give feedback and please say No when needed. A No can make me as happy as a Yes. The neutral zone is a very challenging place to work from. We need to work on making a NO a win-win.
How To Say No
The best relationships have great conversations and candid feedback. Don’t hold back on me. If you like me and really want to support my business, help me grow it with feedback and with Nos.
The buyers hold the influence. They are the ones who set the agenda, give the buying cues and set the course for future engagement. By our human nature, the majority of us don’t like to give any form of negative feedback. But we can’t be our best without it. If you are wondering how to have the conversation with me, paint the picture of fit and how a service provider like me fits. Don’t feel comfortable telling me your perceptions about my services and approach? Pick the biggest obstacle/issue and turn the tables to coach me. Ask me a couple great questions. Another approach is to ask my permission to be a mentor and share with me your perspective(s) that you think will benefit me and help my company grow.
Give me feedback. Tell me you won’t be buying from me. This is when the second-best answer is No.
Consider how a No can build up a relationship rather than erode it.
Who do you need to have a different conversation with - and that includes telling them No?
Lisa W. Haydon is the President and Founder of Pivotal Coaching Inc. She left her comfortable corporate career several years ago to follow her passion of helping people realize their potential and companies to realize high performance. Lisa is a growth focused entrepreneur, leadership development consultant and certified executive coach. To her clients, she brings business experience with prestigious corporations and continuous education. Lisa’s work in business operations and B to B sales expertise allowed her to create a differentiated coaching model and client experience. Lisa and Pivotal Coaching are known for 1:1 and cohort Programs in leadership development and sales effectiveness.