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Home / Tips / How to Conquer Your Fear of Selling, with Leah Neaderthal…

How to Conquer Your Fear of Selling, with Leah Neaderthal…

The founder of Smart Gets Paid and sales coach for women entrepreneurs, Leah Neaderthal, joined host Darrell Vesterfelt this week to talk about strategies to “… master business development and land higher-paying consulting clients.”

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In this week’s conversation, Darrell and Leah dig into her unique methodology, the how of selling, and untangling the myths of doing effective client work.

In this episode, Darrell and Leah talked about:

  • How Leah overcame introversion and her fears of selling
  • The “signed” methodology she discovered from reading 65 books related to the sales process
  • Why you need to understand the fundamentals of your sales pipeline
  • How to talk about what you do as a value proposition
  • Why asking smarter questions is at the heart of closing
  • The difference between good clients and bad clients
  • Why recognizing commitment bias can save you time and money
  • And much more!

The Show Notes

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Transcription:

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Hey, Copyblogger community. It’s Darrell Vesterfelt here again. This week, I’m super excited to have my new friend, Leah Neaderthal from Smart Gets Paid on the show. Leah, thanks for being here and welcome.

Leah Neaderthal:

Thanks for having me. It’s so fun to be here.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

So I’m super excited to talk to you because we’re going to talk about a subject I am super passionate about, which is selling. I want to know first off how selling, of all topics in the world, was something that you became passionate about.

Leah Neaderthal:

I’ll start by saying that selling was originally not something I’m passionate about. It was actually something I hated and was afraid of when I first started my first consulting business. But like a lot of people, I realized this was really important. I couldn’t run a successful business without it. I actually got my… I started my career in marketing. I worked for big advertising agencies and in 2011 I quit my job to travel the world and along the way I started a marketing and website design business, firm. My background was marketing. I thought, “How hard could this be?” Right?

What I found was that doing the work was that was a part that I loved. I was really comfortable there. But getting the clients to do the work for was really hard and almost paralyzing. I sort of realized that just because I knew marketing, it doesn’t mean I know selling. So I really struggled. Actually, I even went back and got a job working for somebody else because I was struggling and I couldn’t kind of get out of my own way. Everything felt really uncomfortable and that’s what drove me to get a job again. Within the first two weeks, I realized that was a huge mistake. But, so I decided to… I was really going to recommit to the business and if I was going to do that, I had to learn how to sell. I had to learn how to get clients.

So but I didn’t want to do it the way I’d seen other people do it in the past or people who tried to sell to me. So I had to do it in a way that felt really comfortable to me. I’m a total introvert. I’m not going to shake a million hands, but so I decided to start reading and I read everything I could get my hands on around selling and it turned into 65 books. Everything that I was reading, and I was trying all this stuff with my clients, so everything that felt really comfortable, I kept. But everything that felt salesy I just immediately ditched and I started crafting. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was putting together a selling methodology that really started working and feeling really comfortable. Now I see that it’s possible to go from somebody who hated selling and who was afraid of selling to being really successful selling. That’s what I teach other women how to do now.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I love it. What were some of the books that stuck out of those 65? Were there some that were like really shaped you and shaped the way that you think about selling?

Leah Neaderthal:

Oh yeah. So a lot of the books by a lot of the women sales leaders were fantastic. Jill Konrath, Sharon Drew Morgen, Joanne Black, books like Snap Selling, No More Cold Calling, a book around value-based messaging, no value-based fees. I incorporated it into this methodology. Also, I wasn’t just reading books about selling, I was reading books from social psychology and behavioral economics and linguistics and startups. So much that I’m a lifelong learner, right? So this became like the world’s biggest research project for me and I got to incorporate all of those things into the methodology.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I like it. So tell me about the methodology that you’ve created. I know that you said it’s specifically you teach women, but I’m positive this can go across many different types of people who are listening to this, people who are… Maybe they consider themselves freelancers or solopreneurs, I think writers, designers, editors, developers, no matter who you are, I think this idea of selling is super important. So tell me what it is that you’ve created as your methodology that you now teach.

Leah Neaderthal:

Yeah, well, so the methodology, my program, my methodology is called signed because that’s what we want, right? We want the clients to sign with us. It’s really based in first, an understanding of what is a sales process, right? When you start your business, nobody tells you this. People will say you should have a URL or you should have a website, you should have QuickBooks. Then they say, “Go have at it.” Right? So what is a sales process and what does a pipeline? We talk about things like mindset and how you’re showing up, how you’re describing what you do, which is so important. If you say, “I do PR,” that’s really different than having a value statement that really, about your work that really is grounded in value. So that’s kind of the first chunk.

The second chunk is just the how of selling, right? How do you get leads? How do you comfortably lead a sales process in a way that isn’t pushy but also doesn’t hold back so much that you might let some opportunities slip through your fingers? Then it’s around pricing, pricing, packaging proposals, so that you’re delivering a tremendous value to your clients, but you’re also getting paid dramatically more than you ever thought. It’s also around keeping more because keeping more of what you actually propose because the last thing you want to do is go down the process with a potential client and then they start pushing back on price, right? So we learned there’s negotiating in there and how do you turn your work into more work through referrals and upsells.

Then finally, how do you make all of this more profitable for you in terms of money and in terms of your time. So using technology to make every part of the time that you spend doing business development more effective and easier.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I like it. I think a lot of people who are in the same mindset, again, I think this goes across a lot of different industries. Think if they just do really good work, that’s going to be enough. I know that you talk a lot about this, but why is that a myth?

Leah Neaderthal:

Why is it a myth? Because that might’ve been true when you work for somebody else, right? If you had a corporate job or you worked in a company, that’s what we do. We sort of put our heads down, we do great work, we hope and expect to be recognized and rewarded with promotions or bonuses or what have you, more opportunities and then we started our business. But that sort of putting your head down, doing great work does not get you in front of clients, right? It doesn’t help clients understand that you’re the best person to solve our problems. So it’s kind of this habit that we have to unlearn from corporate because if you sit there at your desk being quietly awesome, nobody’s going to know you.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah, I think that’s totally right. I think the idea is like, well, if I just do good work, then other people will talk about me and they’ll do the selling for me. But that gives up the power, our own power in our businesses and I think that’s really important to bring that back. I think a lot of people, this is something that we’ve talked a lot about, I even taught a seminar on this at Copyblogger is the fear around selling. I’m just really afraid to do it. I think it’s like you said similarly before, because I’ve had really bad experiences with people who do it and I don’t feel like I can become that kind of person to sell. Talk to me a little bit about that. How can I sell, being who I am, whether it’s introverted or extroverted, whether it’s a good presenter or not, good presenter, how do I learn these skills without becoming somebody different?

Leah Neaderthal:

Yeah. Well I think it’s a another myth out there is that there’s only one way to sell. So because a lot of our experiences are with people selling to us. If we have a positive experience, great. But a lot of us have negative experiences. This idea that there’s only one way, that’s a myth out there too. Once you know that basics, you can do it in a way that feels really comfortable to you, right? It’s kind of like learning how to play an instrument or it’s just learning how to get dressed, right? Once you know that the pants go on the bottom and the shirt goes on the top, you can layer on your personal selling style. There’s not just one way to do it, but you do have to know some fundamentals.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Okay. So what are some of the fundamentals? Let’s start there. Tell us some of the fundamentals where we can just get started thinking about shifting our mindset around this.

Leah Neaderthal:

Sure. Well, one fundamental is you have to know how much you need in a sales pipeline. Even that word pipeline can feel too salesy for a lot of people. But it’s really just this, a pipeline means how many people are you talking to? How many opportunities are you sort of nurturing in terms of potential clients and what’s their value of that? So in order to have a full pipeline, you have to have between two and three times as much in your pipeline as you expect or hope to close in the next six months. So if you want to make $50,000 in work and you have $50,000 of pipe in your pipeline, or opportunities that represent that much work then, or that much revenue, then you don’t have enough. You have to have between 100,000 and $150,000 in your pipeline because inevitably something gets pushed, your contact leaves the company or there’s some delay, right? So framing your mindset around, all right, what does it really take to make the money that I want to make is the first step and taking some of the emotion out of it by looking at the numbers.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I love that. I’ve never heard that two to three times before. I think that’s really, really smart. I think one thing I learned early on in my career as an agency owner is that that stuff doesn’t always work the way that even people promise you that it will. So having kind of that plan. We talk a lot, we had just done a podcast a couple of weeks ago with Tara McMullin and she talked about backwards thinking and backwards planning. I think that’s the same kind of idea here is thinking about how much I want to make and then backwards thinking into what kind of a pipeline would need to look like for that.

Leah Neaderthal:

Absolutely.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

So talk to me about some more of the fundamentals. How do I know what people to put in my pipeline or where to find people to put in my pipeline? Things like that.

Leah Neaderthal:

Yeah. Well, so we all want the people who value our work and can afford us, right? So in terms of valuing your work, I think that starts with you. So one of the things I work with everybody on is really describing your work and what you do in terms of value, not just the tactics that you do. I’m a leadership consultant. That would be very tactical. It’s hard for people to figure out where to put you, right, and how their life or their business will be different than as a result of working with you. People don’t really care what you do at all. They only care about what you do in as much as it will affect them, right, in a positive way. So speaking about your work in terms of value is another really important fundamental.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

How do I figure that out? Give me a framework here to think about, because I think it’s really easy to be like, oh yeah, I designed websites or, oh yeah, I am a copywriter. How do I transition that tactical understanding of what I do into a value-based understanding?

Leah Neaderthal:

Totally. So think about a pyramid, right, with three sections. In the bottom… So there are three types of ways to talk about what you do. In the bottom, it’s very tactical, right? I make websites. I write blog posts, very tactical, functional things. In the middle, we talk about outcomes and benefits. So if you design a website, right, what are the outcomes of that website for a business, right? An outcome could be communicating a brand better, right? Or converting website visitors to leads or driving subscribers, whatever, right? Those are all outcomes. When you ladder up all of that, right, when you can solve all those outcomes, it’s an ultimate value, right? That’s at the very top.

So that’s a phrase like, and I’m just sort of kind of making it up, but I design websites that turn viewers into loyal fans, right? This is just me sort of spit balling, but when you start with that value statement, then you’re giving the reader or the listener something that they can get excited about, right, and see how different that is than I design websites.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah, that makes a lot of sense. I think this is a big thing that people miss out on is this understanding of the value that they offer. I think they intuitively know it. They maybe even have a client communicate it to them after they work with them, but it’s something that it was hard to keep in our mind is something that we present to clients or potential clients.

Leah Neaderthal:

Yeah. I think without that knowledge, even saying, talking about what you do in terms of value can feel a little uncomfortable when you first start. But when you, I promise that if you go through this exercise, right, the pyramid exercise and you come up with a value statement, all you’re trying to do is open the door and help somebody understand, give them the tools to understand how you’re special, how you’re different, how you can help them. It makes for a much richer conversation in any environment, whether it’s people on your website, whether it’s people you’re talking to at a networking event or any event, it just opens door for a richer conversation.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah. I like that. I think that richer conversation makes the idea of selling so much easier because we’re humanizing this process a little bit more, right? Now it’s a conversation like, oh, I can have a conversation. I can have a conversation about what I do is a much like easier, even mindset shift than, oh, I’ve got to sell myself, right? Or I got to close this client or something like that. I think that’s a really interesting way of putting it.

Leah Neaderthal:

Yeah. I mean, a lot of people go into this and they think, well, I have to be pitching myself, right? I have to be pitching myself, and that immediately puts you in a position where you can’t have a connection, right. It’s a very one directional interaction. So I tell people, well first of all, my methodology is not about pitching at all, right? It’s really about this conversation. It’s about doing killer discovery to really understand the value that they’re looking for and sort of connecting to that value but not this sort of I have to be selling, right? You can’t see my arms right now but sort of buttoned up, I have to be selling right now.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah, that’s really good. So what is the reframe? So it’s not pitching. You’ve said the word conversation. What is it instead of pitching? How do you teach this if it’s not I’m having to make the sale or make the kill or I think some of those ideas are the things that we really resist, those ideas of like the hard sell, the pitch, the conquering that I have to do. What is the reframe of that? Or going from understanding our value, having that conversation, then how do we actually close a deal or a sale or a client if it’s not that way of thinking?

Leah Neaderthal:

Yeah, totally. So where this starts is actually before a proposal. It’s before a signature. It starts with discovery. So when you have a… Back to this conversation, right? It’s about asking smart questions to really understand not just what they want you to do, right? Write blog posts, make my website. But what is the value that even doing that will bring to their business? Why do they need that? What will happen if this project fails, right? Then understanding that value and just making the link back when you talk about what you do. Then it’s around… Well, I have a whole conversation framework about this, but then it’s sort of making the link to reframing what they say in terms of value, right?

Sometimes people don’t even know why they want something, right, when it comes to the heart of it. When you can even reframe it in terms of, okay, well here’s what I’m hearing, right, and here’s why. That alone provides value to the client, right? Then you say, “Well, here are… Here’s how I work. Here are a few ways to move forward.” Another really important part of this is so you’ve attached your what you do to the value they provide or sorry, the value that they’re looking for. You talk about how you work and a big part of this is talking price in those early conversations because if you are… This is like we’re sort of a whole other ball of wax as it relates to selling. But if you first of all know your pricing and can talk about it, then you can gain agreement and understanding even in that first conversation whether this is your client or not. Because if they can’t afford you, they’re not your client.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

So walk me through this framework again really quickly just so we’re clear. So it’s what I do and I guess we talked about this as the value that I bring, the need the client has, how I work and then if pricing is right. Is that right? Are we missing any steps there?

Leah Neaderthal:

Let me rephrase it or reframe it a little bit. So the first step, first phase is just you’re opening up the conversation to uncover information, right? Your job is not to just talk. In fact you should be talking 30% of the time. The client should be talking to 70% of the time. So just inviting them to talk first, asking questions that really get at not just what they want you to do, but the value that will bring. Then you’re trying to listen for the pieces of this that you can solve, right, the outcomes that you, going back to that pyramid, the outcomes of your work.

So I call this the magic words. So when you’re running a business, when you’re a freelancer or service provider, you generally know the reasons why people are coming to you. You’re just sort of waiting for them to say it. If they say, “Oh we need this website because we’re doing a rebrand or we have a new initiative from our company,” or something like that, then you know those are the magic words. That’s what you need to be attaching your value to, right? So that’s the first section, just sort of uncovering information.

The second phase of this is providing value. The first thing is just repeat what you’re hearing in terms of value, right? When you do that, that alone gives the clients something. You’re not giving away your whole framework, you’re not solving all their problems, but you’re giving them something of value. Then you sort of make the turn. Describe what you do in terms of value, right? Again, not I do websites, but what does that really do? What are the outcomes of that work? I encourage people to just illustrate that using some customer anecdotes, not full case studies, but just some tidbits here and there. So what I would call them middle of the conversation.

then the third part is gaining alignment. I really encourage people to recommend, make a recommendation, right? Here’s how I would see moving forward, right? Here’s how, based on what you’ve described, based on what we’ve talked about, here are the few ways we can work together. Then that’s when you ask about price. You have to name the price. I think that that makes people really uncomfortable. But this is where you can just… You understand in the first, you can do this in the first 20 minutes, you can know whether or not they’re your client, whether or not they can afford you.

Then the last step is leading the client. So I really advocate leading the client in the sense that clients are super busy. They’re crazy busy, just like we all are right? Anything to them that feels like work, they won’t do. So it’s our job as service providers to anticipate the next step and make it super easy. So for example, instead of sending a proposal and saying, “Let me know what you think,” right? Saying something like, “After you’ve had a chance to review, why don’t we find 10 minutes to answer any questions? Should we shoot for Thursday or Friday?” Right? That would be just leading the client. So those are the three key phases, the part where we just uncover a lot of information, we’re providing value and then gaining alignment on how to move forward.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I like that and I think that alignment part is really important to understanding the difference between a good client and a bad client, right?

Leah Neaderthal:

Absolutely. I talked to a lot of people who say, “Well, I’m working with these clients and they really can’t pay me or I’m not getting paid what I want, but I needed the work.” Right? There is a difference between good clients and bad clients and there’s a difference between money. Some money is expensive, right? Some clients that you work with, there’s a huge opportunity cost to that. So instead of going down this whole process and doing a proposal and sending it sort of over the internet fence and crossing your fingers and hoping they say yes and then waiting for them to come back and say, “We can’t even afford you,” just gain alignment at the beginning so you know that whether there’s a fit.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Yeah. I remember one thing I’ve learned early on in my career is that it takes a lot of time putting together proposals for people who can’t afford me. So having that alignment in the calls are super important because I was wasting so much time building proposals and thinking strategy for a client who at the end wasn’t a good fit for me. Then what it did is it kind of tricked me into taking clients I didn’t really want because I needed the money and I had wasted all this time creating proposals for clients that couldn’t afford me and so I would work less than I was really worth and it caused a lot of like kind of a lot of trickle-down headaches early on in my career.

Leah Neaderthal:

Oh my gosh. It happens all the time. I mean, and what you’re talking about in terms of wasting all this time and spending all this time, that’s called commitment bias. It’s the same reason why you might stand on a craps table for hours and hours and hours because something’s should hit. The longer you invest in it, the more likely you are to move slower with it or just you have to have a positive resolution. So we can eliminate commitment bias by gaining that alignment at the beginning, and if it’s not a good fit, saying it’s not a good fit.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

What else do we need to do to avoid… I love that idea of commitment bias. What else do we need to do to avoid clients that we know aren’t a good fit? How do we find that courage when maybe we need the money?

Leah Neaderthal:

That’s a really great question. How do you find the courage when you need the money? Well, I think at the root of that problem is not having enough else in your pipe… Sorry. At the root of that problem is not having enough going on, right? Not having enough in your pipeline. So how do you find the courage to really acknowledge when it’s not a fit? Acknowledge when this money is not going to be worth it, right? When this money is going to be expensive? You have a full pipeline. That’s how you can say wholeheartedly, “I’m not going to move forward with this.”

Darrell Vesterfelt:

So let’s go back. This kind of pulls it back to full circle. How do we or how do you suggest or teach people to have enough of the pipeline that we don’t have those problems on the back end?

Leah Neaderthal:

Well, there are a few ways. So what I don’t want people to do is just sort of put themselves out there, right? A lot of what you hear in the marketplace or in this industry is if you just put yourself out there, the clients will come. That’s really not the case. You do have to have a strategy and a plan. So there are a few ways. I’m a huge fan of LinkedIn. For most of my clients, most of their clients are on LinkedIn. Not on Twitter or Pinterest, whatever, right? So that’s a good place to start. Having a LinkedIn strategy, that is something I also teach my folks. So knowing how to actually be seen as an expert, how to attract people to you and then help them take the next step.

There are other ways to do that also. You can do targeted outreach. So who are the people that you actually want to work with? What are the clients you really want to work with? Going after them. Then finally there’s broad reach. The things that we would think of as just sort of nurturing people, a newsletter, reaching out, having coffees, giving people the tools to refer you. All of that is what I call broad reach and it’s not sort of… It’s really more for referrals than for trying to sell things to your friends and family, but really giving people the tools to know who to refer you to, why to refer you and how to refer you. So those are the main areas.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

That’s really good. What about anxiety that somebody who maybe would consider themselves an introvert or shy? How do we do that level of outreach or do you have any tips on doing that kind of outreach when it may seem against our nature?

Leah Neaderthal:

It’s really against everybody’s nature and it’s actually, it’s definitely against my nature. I think that one of the things I was seeing that I hated was these emails that I would get that say essentially, “Hey, I’ve got consulting. You want consulting?” I mean that’s sort of the gist of a lot of these outreach emails. That’s why nobody wants to get those and then nobody wants to be the one to send those. So how do you overcome that when you are introvert? Well, so first of all, as it relates to email, it’s not about, hey, I do this thing. Let me know if you want this thing. So we don’t want to be that person that sends the email that’s like, hey, I’ve got web design. Do you want some web design? Right? Nobody wants that and that’s not going to be effective.

So thinking through outreach that, again, I mean, I can’t hammer it home enough, it’s like grounded in value. It’s like, hey, I know that when you’re in this role or facing this situation, these types of things can happen. That’s why I’ve worked with people who are in this situation to offer these, to do these outcomes, right, these positive outcomes. If this is on your radar too, let me know. You’re not going to hear from me again. You’re not on any lists. This is just me sending an email, right? Something like that can even take a totally cold outreach and make it more personable and not like the salesy emails we get.

But I also think that you have to put yourself out there in a way that fits with you. If you’re a total introvert, like I am, I can’t go to 15 networking events a night. That sounds terrible. We’re not salespeople, so we’re not just going to pick up the phone, but using social media platforms, using LinkedIn, for example, using the skills that you have that you enjoy. I love writing so I’m always on LinkedIn posting. Some people, if you are more comfortable with video, do that, but just have a plan. My biggest suggestion is don’t try to do all the things. All the things will never work. If you do a little bit of a whole lot, then you’re not going to see results. I would say choose one and do it consistently.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

I really like that. I know that you’ve pulled back the curtain on a lot of things that people pay you money to teach, so I’m really grateful for the generosity that you share with us today. This has been a really awesome conversation, but tell us a little bit about those programs that you have for people who might be interested in taking a next step after this conversation.

Leah Neaderthal:

Sure. So I have two programs. My flagship program is a program called signed. It’s a 10 week coaching program with me and a small group of women who are really committed to running and growing their consulting businesses. That teaches how to land new clients and higher paying clients from end to end. It’s the sections we were talking about earlier. How do you have a sales process and a pipeline? How do we get your mind right and how do we clear some of the mindset stuff that we bring to this that makes us feel uncomfortable? The how of selling, pricing, all of that, right? How do you take people in your orbit and help them become higher paying clients?

The other program I have is called pack your pipeline and it’s a program about how to use LinkedIn to be seen as an expert and start to attract your ideal clients. So the two programs work together. You can think of pack your pipeline as how do you bring more people to you and signed is how do you take those people and close them.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Awesome. Where can we find these courses or where could we sign up for them?

Leah Neaderthal:

You can find them at smartgetspaid.com.

Darrell Vesterfelt:

Leah, thank you so much for being on with us today. This is an amazing conversation and I know I have a whole page of notes here and others are going to as well. Thank you so much.

Leah Neaderthal:

Thank you so much for having me. This has been so fun.

 


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