Slow down to speed up

Posted on February 13th, 2022 to Uncategorized

If you’re anything like my clients, you’re a founder of a service-based company that offers your clients solutions in your zone of genius — and, you’ve experienced some amazing growth.

However, you might be here, reading this blog, because you’ve got some pain points in your sales process.

Believe me when I say: You’re not alone. Some of the smartest business owners I know run into sales challenges — heck, even the smartest sales people I know need help sometimes.

Including me.

A number of years ago, I spent six months as the Interim Head of Sales for a startup that was selling scalable coaching services to blue chip companies. Coming with more than a decade of experience selling media, plus a passion for coaching, I felt confident I could hit the ground running and make some big sales quickly.

Best laid plans…

Turns out, my experience as a top-performing salesperson in media didn’t exactly translate to success in selling large-scale coaching engagements.

Selling a service like coaching into the human resources department was a totally different ballgame. The folks I was selling to were overworked, overwhelmed, and — much to my chagrin — weren’t all that interested in meeting with me. Those that already offered coaching to their employees weren’t interested in the innovation we were sharing. Those who didn’t already offer coaching had “no budget” or “no time” to entertain the benefits of working with us.

When I did figure out how to get face time with a potential client, the conversation would go well, and they would ask me to send along a proposal, which I would do ASAP — and then, crickets.

I would get so excited when submitting my thoughtfully-crafted proposal, and I would be so hopeful that they’d want to work with us — and then to be “ghosted” was gut wrenching. I couldn’t figure out what was going on: Was I misreading their interest? Was it something I said?! Were my proposals terrible? Or, worst of all, was the service I was selling just not going to work?

Finally, one day while speaking to the Chief People Officer about our services, I took a chance and asked her what she thought was happening with these other HR folks who weren’t getting back to me. What she said changed everything:

“They don’t know how to buy what you’re selling.”

She was right. People weren’t ghosting me because they didn’t see the value in the offering; rather, they weren’t getting back to me because what I was proposing felt complicated to get approved in their organization — and especially because they were already feeling maxed out, they simply didn’t have the energy required to pick up the ball and run with it.

So, the next time I was asked to submit a proposal, I did things differently.

Instead of my usual breakneck pace, I slowed the sales process down a bit. I leaned into curiosity and empathy, asking my contact what it would take to get this idea approved (both tactically and energetically).

It felt a little risky to slow things down and get more intimate with my prospective clients, but what I learned was groundbreaking. It turns out, the folks I was selling to were itching to innovate with the type of coaching we were offering, but they didn’t feel confident in pitching their ideas internally — thus, proposals like mine often sat on their desks, collecting dust.

Over time, I learned that, to get my proposals over the finish line, I was going to have to help my internal champions pitch internally. Doing so, I landed the first 6-figure contract the startup had ever had — pretty cool!

How about you? Where are you trading speed for progress? Where might you slow down to speed things up?

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