Late last year, I made my best business decision yet. I hired a sales coach.

One morning after my workout I was sipping my cup of Earl Grey, reading an online story about Rachel Sheerin, owner of She Sells. I liked that she focuses on helping women in creative fields. I emailed her immediately. We met. We clicked. I signed on for a month of intensive sales coaching. Since then, my confidence has grown in every way and so has my business. 

Here's what I learned.

1. Really get to know your ideal customer. 

The first time we met, Rachel asked who my ideal clients are. I laughed and said, "Anyone who pays well and on time." I was surprised to not have better answer. We then talked about past clients and envisioned prospective clients. What do they read, drive or watch on TV? What are their values? We then pored over images from royalty-free photo websites Pixabay and Unsplash to find images to use on my business website. Honestly, it seemed a little much before it started making sense. 

You need to be able to spot your ideal clients wherever you go -- gym, coffee shop, networking groups. And prospects need to see themselves in what you present on your website and social media. 

2. Nail your story.

In life B.R. (Before Rachel), I took for granted people's understanding of public relations. But my ideal clients include individual professionals who may never have worked with a PR pro. I needed to better explain what PR is and why it's important. As a lifelong storyteller -- as a journalist turned PR pro -- it was humbling to realize that my own storytelling needed some work. 

Take every opportunity to deliver your pitch. Try it out on your spouse or partner, your best friend, those in your networking groups. What questions keep popping up? Make sure to provide answers on your website and marketing materials. 

3. Make email work for you throughout the sales cycle.

Rachel: "Do you know about Gmail canned responses?" No. But now I have pre-written emails at the ready -- with minor customizations -- for every step of the sales process. I have a pre-meeting email with a short electronic questionnaire, post-meeting follow-up email, proposal and contract delivery emails and post-client email with a survey.

You might not use these canned emails every time. But they will come in handy as you stop over analyzing each email or next step. And while you should make the effort to customize these prepared responses, they do offer a sense of professional detachment. You will no longer feel like this is the make-or-break email for your next ideal client. Canned emails are a good email habit, one that can expedite landing new clients. 

4. Have a website that sells for you.

Before sales coaching, my website lacked a single call to action, except on the contact page, where I provided my contact information. Now there is one on every page.

"Hire Amy!" 

"Contact Amy"

"Learn More"

5. Ask the right questions.

These days I go into meetings with prospective clients knowing I need the answers to four questions, which you can adapt to your industry.

What prompted you to reach out to a PR pro?

What are your goals for PR?

Have you worked with a PR pro before?

What kind of investment are you looking to make to achieve your PR goals?

If you don't get the answers to those four questions, your proposal is a shot in the dark.

That last one is the toughest. You might have to offer a range. Don't let it rest with non-answers like "Well, I wouldn't have any idea" or "Let's see what you come up with."

6. Assume the sale.

Used to be that I'd email a prospect a proposal and then check in. No urgency and, as with my website, no call to action. Now when I send proposals, I am more likely to include a contract and payment instructions, such as a customized PayPal link.

Show your prospects you are ready to get to work for them.

7. Remember: Silence is golden.

After you quote your price, "Sit back and shut up," Rachel says. This is hard. We often want offer explanations or justifications. Don't do it. You can negotiate later, but don't undercut yourself from the get-go. 

Sometimes your best tactic is silence.

8. Bottom line: It's your business.

There are no rules. It's your business.

Your fees are your fees. It's your business.

You can say yes. You can say no. It's your business.

I don't know about you, but sometimes I need to be reminded that it's my business. (Thanks, Rachel.)

9. You got this. And you're killing it.

Rachel helped me see that I am already successful. There's no waiting for success. Sure, I want bigger and better things and always will. But right now, in this moment I am doing something great, something others dream of doing but don't have the guts.

Published on: Feb 21, 2018