Give the People What They Want
The other day I was in my Mastermind meeting with Dr. Nadia Brown and La’Vista Jones. We meet once a month (along with Isha Cogborn) to give each other insight and support on our business models and strategies.
Dr. Nadia is a sales expert who helps entrepreneurs scale their business by building strong sales cultures.
She had been working with La’Vista on architecting both offer and workflow paths for her clients.
The path they had defined was:
1) Sales operations assessment to identify and strengthen needed infrastructure and procedures to manage sales conversations
2) Sales training for teams
3) Monthly retainer to coach and mentor both the founder and their team in having effective and fruitful sales conversations
Dr. Nadia said “I have been having really great sales conversations with clients who are interested in starting with the half-day training session to get founders and teams on the same page about a sales approach, method and culture. Is that going to mess up the order of my offer flow?”
As an operations expert, La’Vista made the very valid argument that she would want to be careful to not get the whole team fired up about selling if the infrastructure to support sales was not in place.
“That makes so much sense,” Dr. Nadia said, “I have just had so much ease in the conversations where I talk about sales training. They are excited, I am excited, and it feels so easy.”
I piped up.
“As someone who recently had that conversation with you (my team is fired up to learn sales from Dr. Nadia!), I will tell you what makes sense from my side.”
“I know that we eventually want to build out a complete, flawless, automated sales process that builds a strong sales culture. But right now, what feels like the right and most urgent first step is getting us all on the same page as our certification business is taking off. We are having sales conversations right now, and doing them well feels like the smartest place to start.”
We don’t always do things in the “right” order
Have you ever known that you needed to accomplish a big, urgent goal like complete a grant application, or write your book, or improve your credit score?
Sometimes in attacking that big, important goal, we do some things to get us motivated, prepared or eased into the task.
We might decide to:
- Drive to Starbucks and buy a huge coffee
- Sign up for a writer coaching program so that we feel emotional and technical support as we write the book
- Spend 30 days listening to money affirmations and journaling or seeing a therapist who specializes in financial trauma before addressing our credit score
If someone is standing outside of our life looking in, they may be flummoxed.
“Why in the world are you wasting time and money getting coffee? Aren’t you under a deadline?”
“Everyone knows that in order to write a book, you just have to move your fingers across the keyboard. How hard could it be?”
“If you want better credit, just spend less, save more and pay off debt! What’s the big deal?”
The big deal, for individuals and organizations who are committed to making big important change and addressing goals, is that sometimes there are big internal and external barriers that need to be removed before they get to the “most logical” actions in exactly the right order.
To that client, it doesn’t matter that it isn’t “logical” or “the right order” to do things in, because they have a deep understanding of the nuances in their business.
And it can be frustrating to them if they are trying to get support from a service provider who pushes hard on the “right” thing to do first, when they are saying clearly and enthusiastically that they want to start somewhere else.
Often that “somewhere else” is that offering that feels accessible and good to them, and that feels good to you to deliver. It is perfectly ok to start somewhere that is not always the “most logical” step from an operational or problem-solving perspective.
The important caveat
That said, and as Nadia, La’Vista and I discussed, you always want to be transparent with your prospective clients about why you might be starting to work with them on an engagement that is not in a typical order.
You can say something like this:
“Pam, I am excited that you want to train your team on effective selling. I am happy to deliver that workshop, but before we do that, I will review with you the specific items we typically go over in a sales culture assessment. If you are sure that you have a good enough system in place to support conversations with prospective clients without screwing everything up, then let’s dig in with the training.”
This way, the client is aware that they have work to do to completely solve their problem, but they can start with something that is energizing and will lead to some short-term wins.
You also have a responsibility to be transparent if you feel like they are taking steps that will either foil their chances at success, or are excuses that will keep them stuck in inaction.
As service providers, we are not always the best judges of that.
When I was writing The Widest Net, my daily runs to the drive through at Starbucks were lifelines for my emotional well-being. I had daily conversations with my favorite baristas, and shared my elation and frustration during the writing process.
When I got my first hard copy of the book, I rushed to the drive through to show them. We all shed tears of joy together.
Was the quickest path to writing the book just to sit my ass down and write?
But the most effective path for me included detours that made the task more palatable, fun, and supported.
By giving your clients what they want, you will open the long-term path to what they need.