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It's Hard Work

Updated: Nov 15, 2019

Where there’s talk of sales, there’s talk of growth.

We are surrounded by messages and stories of the need for companies to grow, and the aspirations of companies to grow more. Support start-ups, export, scale and even foster partnerships. The work that most often contributes to the successful outcome of growth is sales. Selling matters - but selling is hard.

Over the summer I worked with CPSA on a project that defined the competencies for a great sales person. We created The Professional Sales Competency Framework. The profession needed it…how companies hired and how people positioned themselves as sales people were on the extremes. For those of us who believe in relationship, needs based and strategic selling, we cringed at some of the sales skills we saw practiced.

I’ve just returned from a business development trip. I put my sales coaching processes and my business development skills to the test. I’ve had many experiences in my preparation, execution, engagement and results. This week I was selling my business, selling my services and focusing on acquiring new clients. I sell B to B. I sell my 3 coaching programs: Pivotal Selling, Pivotal Leadership and Leading Growth, workshops and 1:1 coaching

During my 3-day business trip to Toronto, I was reminded of how hard sales origination can be. My trip sees me wanting to add a few additional competencies to the CPSA list model I helped create last summer. Let’s start with the foundation for generating sales and having great sales meetings.

What was the plan:

  • Toronto is a defined market of focus and is part of the growth plan

  • I know my ideal client. I have both a pipeline and a lead list of names

  • My planning began 4 weeks in advance of the trip

  • My goal was 4 – 5 meetings a day

  • I had 3 types of meetings to make happen: evolve qualified leads in my pipeline, create new opportunities and network to establish or nurture existing relationships in the market. My priorities where the first two

  • I had intentional asks for each meeting request I sent. I followed up when I didn’t get a response. One attempt isn’t adequate

What was the effort?

  • Many emails and juggling of schedules plus last-minute changes

  • Location consideration and travel logistics: a big geography, planes, trains, taxis, subways and walking

  • Doing a minimum of 30+ minutes of prep time for each meeting (I use a meeting prep process that’s part of the Pivotal Selling Program)

  • Travel time between meetings

  • Embracing the challenge of not knowing where to go or where the meeting would go

  • Showing up to meetings prepared, listening, understanding and leveraging strong sales competencies

  • Confirming follow-up from each meeting

  • And we can’t overlook the pack mulling of luggage and laptop, getting lost, killing time between meetings, finding food and the search for clean bathrooms

How did I do?

  • My meetings didn’t come together as I had hoped and meetings were still being confirmed the night before

  • I started the week with the wrong mindset…I was discouraged that the week wasn’t all I had set out in my objectives

  • Each meeting exceeded my expectations

  • A couple cold meeting asks were exceptional. A big thank you to the openness of those who said yes to me! What if I hadn’t asked? I am really glad I did!!

  • I have a number of follow-up items and planning for next conversations

  • My pipeline has grown and existing pipeline opportunities have additional momentum

What’s my advice for you?

In addition to mastering your sales skills, make sure you are also working on:

  • Your growth mindset (Is Your Mind Set or Do You Have Mindset?)

  • Discipline in meeting planning and preparation

  • Thinking with strategy, trends and curiosity

  • Using great open questions, listening and understanding for meaningful conversations

  • Embracing being uncomfortable and not having your normal habits or routines

  • Resilience and adaptability in reacting to changes

Three days of proactive calling was a really good reminder of how hard it is to do this type of selling. There are some professionals that do this every day of every week. Before you diminish any value of sales and sales professionals, remember your own efforts at business development, remember this post and, most importantly, remember how essential sales are to the growth of a company and the success of our economy. Appreciate the breadth of skills a great sales person has and the effort they put into their work.

I believe everybody needs to sell. We grow up with sales skills. Who doesn’t have a story where they convinced their parents to change their minds, buy them something or let them stay up past their bedtime? Somewhere along the way we’ve forgotten how to sell or we’ve let ourselves develop a mindset that sees us believing we can’t sell.

We all can sell. We just need to find the style that works for our personality.

If you’re open to trying (What if you could be even better), start with how you conduct meetings. Leave your agenda off the table, engage with mindset and the right questions, and find a way to be helpful.

There are three principles to great business development meetings that I cover in Pivotal Selling meeting planning:

Now what?

I left each meeting feeling very engaged, energized and optimistic on how the conversation could continue, the potential for working together and the ability to close a sale. When the euphoria of my great meetings wears off, I’ll take an objective look back at them and assess what I might have missed. As you know from my blog, Growing with No, I have a hard time getting my relationships to be more direct in their buying intent and their feedback for me.

This story is to be continued as we know B to B selling is a longer sales cycle. I have more work to do to move these meetings to a close or to a No.

P.S. - It wasn’t all work; I made time with friends, shopping and dinner with a mentor.


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.

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