11 MIN READ
I grew up with the notion that if I started reading a book, I had to finish it. Similar to the ‘clean your plate’ mantra, I had no clue there was another way.
If, like me, you entered adulthood preferring to (in some way) fit in with society, even if on a slight slant, you’ll understand the intent to which I’m alluding. In some way, the values from youth, school, city, homeland, church or the neighbor kids weighed strongly on me into adulthood.
How freeing to have a playwright mentor free me from the horrors of lousy novels, biographies, and self-help books that I thought for sure I had to finish.
“I don’t have to finish the book I started?”
He looked at me with eyebrows held high, slightly mischievous.
“Not if you don’t want to.”
What a ‘novel’ concept. I was after all a self-respecting young woman hoping to achieve some success in life be it in the arts, business, or if all else failed, by successfully raising my kitten to be a semi-well-behaved cat (we all need goals). I was delighted to have permission to color outside the lines!
My first career in the performing arts left a lasting impression on several fronts, made so by an inspired director who continued my education in this curious new crayon box. He created an environment of thought similar to what Emily Dickinson shared:
“If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only ways I know it. Is there any other way?”
― Emily Dickinson, Selected Letters
I’m referring here to passion, inspiration, purpose, and delight. I’m referring to creating an intent, a script, a character, a business or passion that you are driven to dive into with fearlessness and resolve. I’m referring to what my inspired director mentor phrased as, ‘letting the beast live!’
So, what does that have to do with sales? More specifically, what does this have to do with sales for the fiduciary, fee-for-service financial advisor?
As a Sales Coach at XYPN, I have the distinct privilege and frankly (in my opinion) coveted ‘job’ of creating content, workshops, talks, interviews and scripts to educate and inspire XYPN members in and around the subject of business acquisition, or in the less exciting vernacular, ‘sales’.
Well, lucky me! With that, I was asked to write on the philosophy I’ve embraced over the years, in my various careers, (the arts and business), for bringing in business!
A story will best reveal the secret I hold most dear.
Let the Beast Live!
Years ago, I remember working on a character sketch I was writing, making tweaks to the script, rehearsing the piece to perform that week at our weekly ‘trial run’ Friday evening performance. 125 to 150 stalwart ‘Maine-ers’ would gather in the large renovated barn converted to theatre space in the Maine hinterlands, a workshop haven to artists who would develop work to then showcase in New York, Philadelphia, Boston and on national tours. It was an exciting and uplifting environment replete with dancers, acrobats, musicians, clowns, comedians and me, a female monologist who loved to tell stories, create characters and bring them alive on stage.
My character’s name was ‘Cynthia’, a self-absorbed summer stock actress thwarted by her love Jerome. Sanguine in moments juxtaposed with gross histrionics, dramatic utterances, a Joan Crawford ‘wannabee’, this character had dialogue and moves that in rehearsal created tumultuous laughter with my ‘artist-mates’ when played correctly.
During the week, in preparation for our ‘showing’ on Friday nights, our artist selves embraced hours of improvisation work, endeavoring to stay in the moment, to ‘go with the flow’ and to create with each new inspiration. We were schooled in physical technique, movement, dance, singing, mime…all a swarthy introduction to the art and science of performance. Our bodies were trained, our voices ready, we had the inspiration of new ideas and we were commanded to ‘let the beast live.’
This evening was to be my first in bringing Cynthia to life in front of an outside (non-peer) audience. Her words were matched with specific moves (blocking) to create comedy pairing her meticulously attired, statuesque self against her roller coaster emotions with physical gestures that brought on a good audience guffaw. All a part of the plan!
As music began that brought Cynthia onto the stage, I recall feeling a certain aliveness within myself, as though her heart was beating, not my own. The words flew from my lips, the rehearsed movements became hers and the audience and I were in sync. There was an aliveness and flow that felt bigger than me. It was as though my body were not my own and suddenly as I became aware of losing myself in her, I stopped. I doubted myself and I stopped as suddenly as when a boulder hits the ground. All else fell away.
Suddenly I had no idea where I was, I became self-conscious and full of doubt, fearing I’d not know my next line or how to move forward. I stood transfixed and paralyzed.
It was in that same moment a breath filled my lungs, like a cadaver resuscitated remembering the words of my acting coach, “let the beast live!” In the three seconds that felt like a full minute, I took a breath and noticed where my body was. Ironically, I was bent over on a chair with my head between my legs, an uncharacteristic but choreographed move showcasing Cynthia’s dramatic upset over losing her lover. I knew physically where I was which informed me where she was in the scene and where I was in the script.
I immediately remembered Cynthia’s outburst just moments before her falling ‘unlady-like’ with head and wide brimmed hat between her skirt and legs. I took a breath and let her again take the stage as I tuned into the audience, into this character I’d created and I ‘let the beast live’. Despite my moment of abject fear, I was brought back in line, letting the action flow, taking the chance as an actor does, to work to connect with her audience, and I did! Cynthia was received with great applause and I was encouraged to embark on my next character creation.
And so it is with sales and for you in working to align with the next person who needs you! You create the moves (blocking), the script, the intent and you schedule your performance, and much like our Friday night showcase, you give it a shot and endeavor to ‘let the beast live!’ Each time it’s new, it informs you and you somehow gather the grit to put yourself on the line, offering up your gifts through conversation and a back and forth sharing with your lead or prospect. And each conversation teaches you something new!
Spaghetti on the Wall
It was many years later while running my special event venue, working with brides and their mothers and fathers, endeavoring to hear what was key on this most important day of a young woman’s life, that I learned to listen to my client’s heartbeat along with my own. Through listening I could share what I had to offer that applied to her, not everything I had to offer, just want was relevant to her. It was ‘letting the beast live’, our dance back and forth, working to get to the core of what she/they wanted and what I could give, with my fair and reasonable pricing for my services attached.
And so do you do the same in working with the people who come to you, who understand the audience with whom you are most passionate about, (your niche) and why. You share your passion and your expertise, while building synergy through asking thoughtful and open ended questions, sharing stories and not just listening, but hearing what is important to your prospect or client. You too are creating something powerful together, much as I had experienced while playing Cynthia and connecting moment to moment with my audience. You are working in tandem with your prospect to create something bigger than who you each are separately.
Your risk is only that synergy isn’t guaranteed. The audience doesn’t always love what you do or align with your humor, smarts or sensibilities. Know that that’s okay as each interaction allows you to assess, come back to the drawing board and try anew, a new approach, a new person. There is always potential for new and better.
It’s the ‘spaghetti on the wall’* effort that matters.
*For you non-cookers…my metaphor refers to testing how ‘done’ your pasta is. If you pull a strand of spaghetti from your boiling pot and throw it on your wall and it sticks, it’s done! If it falls off, you need to cook it awhile longer.
With regard to sales, in essence, you calculate an effort, you schedule the time to put it into action and then you access your success or your inability at times to connect and gather information that, if you’re paying attention, will lead you forward. As you practice, you’ll learn what works, who is better to approach and how to share what you so uniquely can provide to others. Dare I say it, in time, (don’t throw a peanut at me), you might even have fun! (Please write to me when that happens! I’ll treat you to spaghetti)!
That’s the beauty of the sales process. Intention plus listening with the ability to coax a conversation and questions to a desired end for you and for your prospect. They need a solution, you have solutions, and sales is creating a process to assess if you are a fit. And, if you are a fit with your prospect and they you…or, if not, cook awhile longer and throw some more spaghetti on the wall. It’s cheap and not too messy.
The Four Agreements
Don Miguel Ruiz shares in his book, The Four Agreements, A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, four tenets that help us to avoid suffering and experience more joy. Based on Toltec wisdom he shares the following principals.
- Be impeccable with your word
- Don’t take anything personally
- Don’t make assumptions
- Always do your best
How does that apply to you and your process as a financial advisor who is savvy at bringing in clients?
Being Impeccable with Your Word: This relates to doing what you say you’re going to do. I love the adage that:
“The way you do anything is the way you do everything.”
When working with small business owners I like to start with crafting what their short, repeatable and memorable vision is and move directly into helping them to create a culture that resonates with who they are. What are the values to which you ascribe, and do you live them moment to moment as best as you are able?
This is being impeccable with your word and what you hold to be true for you and your company. Make sure your team knows these tenets, and better yet, if possible allow them to collaborate in creating your culture value statements to garner buy in and ownership of those truths you hold most dear.
Don’t Take Anything Personally: A challenging concept no doubt for many of us, but consider: is whatever upsets us, a prospect saying no, or anyone going about being who they are, is it personal to us, or maybe personal to them? What head space in your own brain might you clear up on any given day as you allow others to be themselves. With regard to sales, just get out your apron and throw some more spaghetti on the wall, try again and see what happens. Assess what works, pay attention and align with your prospect and get good at mining for what they need.
Don’t Make Assumptions: We don’t know what we don’t know and might be better off not assuming we do. My mother used to say that:
“Assuming honey makes an ‘ass’ out of ‘u’ and ‘me.’”
Only a mother’s wisdom! Indeed, you don’t know if a prospect wants to do business with you or not unless you ask. And if you gather information through great questioning and repeat the evidence you’ve acquired through your shared dialogue, the areas that fit with what your prospects needs or desires, and the solutions you’ve considered, how will you know if they’re game for being your client unless you ask! They very well might not only need you, but need to be asked to work with you! Ask! And if at first they say no, come back to them with better solutions, (or timing) and ask again. What’s the worst that can happen? Another no? Embrace your ‘no’s’ as around every corner is an eventual ‘yes’! It’s a good thing you like spaghetti!
Always Do Your Best: I wake up every day with a lovely dog named Buddy snugged nearby. I wake up with a small murmur of thanks for a great dog and for a new day to do my best. Some days I’m better organized than others, some days technology doesn’t kick my %&* and some days I’m more patient with others and myself. On other days I just need to acknowledge my humanness and endeavor to do my best again the next day. Know you are worthy, capable and that you ‘got this’.
Create a plan, a small one to start, add to it as you grow. Consider how you’ll bring in your leads, through what great marketing avenues. Consider what you love to do, blogs, talks, Podcasts, newsletters. Get the word out and as people connect with you, do your best to outline your Prospect Fit meeting, and have a plan for a follow up Discovery meeting that works toward closing your prospect, welcoming them as a client. Envision it at the start of each day. Create a plan, work your plan and affirm your success. Do your best, assess what worked and where you can improve. Thank yourself at the end of the day for your great efforts and sleep well. Tomorrow you can try again!
I’ve shared in my webinars and recently with Maddy Roche on the XYPN Podcast, a favorite quote of mine, (and I learned of Coach Arlene’s as well). It’s from the film, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel. Apt for us all:
“Everything will be alright in the end and if it’s not alright yet, it’s not the end.”
Endeavor to give it your best every day and then sleep well! Tomorrow’s another day. You are worthy!
I was asked once what the hardest thing to sell was. It took me less than a nanosecond to answer. The hardest thing to sell is something you don’t believe in.
10 things I know as certain with regard to building your business:
- You need to move forward ‘as if’ you will be successful. You need to envision and affirm where you want to be as often as you can remember. See it, feel it, insist on it or better.
- You need to tune into the needs of the person in front of you and give them your undivided attention, phone away, eyes spied directly into
- You need to ‘let the beast live’ by being the solutions person you know you are, to work to serve your prospect/client with your best abilities and at the highest level.
- You need to daily throw ‘spaghetti on the wall’, try new marketing ideas, new ways of sharing what you do to see what works. Document what works and repeat the approaches, dialogues, content, etc. that is most effective and do it again!
- You need to be fearless in your approach as you try out new ways of sharing what you do and how you do it. You need to immediately forgive yourself for the things you try that don’t work and congratulate yourself for branching out to try something new!
- You need to become savvy at sharing the reasonable cost ‘investment’ for what you offer and the anticipated result that will ensue with your efforts and your prospect’s cooperation to create new and better habits.
- You need to display your passion, your drive for being in the business you’ve chosen and your niche in particular. You need to know and embrace your unique contribution and value to the world! Why you chose to focus in whatever area you’ve decided upon as a Financial Advisor should ring as clear as a siren.
- You need to fall in love with the messiness of being an entrepreneur and relish finding the right systems, approaches, vantage points, resources, people and timelines that will create your incremental successes. Try not to compare yourselves to others. We all have our unique and beautiful gifts!
- You need to have patience and resolve with your progress and be forgiving of the times when you are not. You need similarly to surround yourself with friends, colleagues, family who will support your vision, tell you their truth about things with love.
- You need to give thanks to yourself for being bold, being true to yourself by moving forward into the business you have, knowing how many people you have the power and delight to serve and truly help. And you need to forget perfection and to love yourself for having done so!
And know too that as XYPN's Sales Coach, I’m delighted to be here to share my admiration and support for you!
About BB Webb, XYPN Sales Coach
XYPN Sales Coach BB Webb has a background in both the arts and as an entrepreneur. She first learned about sales while touring her one-woman play across country and later through successfully growing her award-winning Atlanta based special event venue, selling it 14 years later to make a move to Bozeman, Montana.
As XYPN’s Sales Coach, BB’s primary goal is to assist XYPN members in building great relationships, plans and processes for selling their services as Financial Advisors. With a focus on consultative selling, BB’s programs and resources are developed to guide members in creating their own systems and conversations for selling their unique services, fearlessly and with joy.