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Columbia Business Monthly

‘I Gotta Go Sell Something’

Mar 06, 2018 02:14PM ● By Emily Stevenson
By Dr. Kasie Whitener
President, Clemson Road Consulting
Lead Organizer, 1 Million Cups Columbia

At some point in every entrepreneur’s journey comes the realization that business is driven by sales and that sales are driven by YOU. Every week at 1 Million Cups we ask our presenters what we can do for them. Inevitably, they ask us to “spread the word” about them, to send them customers, to grow their sales prospects.

We try to discourage presenters from selling their services and products to our group, but, inevitably, speaking to us is a sales effort. They are trying to convince us of the viability of their business. I admit I took to the 1 Million Cups circuit last summer thinking I’d earn some customers with all those viability pitches.

What I got was what I deserved: advice.

“Kasie,” said my friend Phil Yanov of the Greenville chapter of 1 Million Cups, “you need a sales plan.” Phil’s the mastermind behind Tech After Five; networking is his business.

Clemson Road Consulting started off fast with two big contracts I earned through connections and timing. People who already knew and trusted me gave me referrals to their own customers who, as luck would have it, needed my exact services right then. Once those contracts settled down, though, we needed more work and I was out of usual suspects for referrals.

It was time to sell. But how? Probably a good time to follow Phil’s advice.

I’d never developed a sales plan before. I had a marketing plan and a business plan and even a growth plan. The latter, of course, would be irrelevant if I didn’t make some sales. I recruited another 1 Million Cups co-organizer, Adrienne Craighead of the Charlotte chapter and managing partner of TorchBearer Fractional CMOs, to coach me in sales.

My sales plan pursued two specific objectives: 1) find the people who need what I can do and 2) make a connection with them. The first would require research and the second communication. Adrienne provided creative ideas for both objectives and weekly accountability.

In research, I started with categories of clients. I would focus on one category for a period of time and then switch if I didn’t get traction. Using databases like trade organization members lists, event attendee rosters, and government contract winners, I isolated targets and began communicating with them through my platform of choice – LinkedIn.

I can LinkedIn like a ninja. Having grown my network to more than 500 people, I have visibility and access to thousands of people who were previously too many steps away from me. Using LinkedIn the way it was meant to be used took some education. I attended super user webinars and developed a habit. I replaced Facebook with LinkedIn on my phone.

After the LinkedIn invite, I asked my new connection for a 15-minute call or a 30-minute coffee meeting. I filled my calendar with these engagements and focused on learning what I can do for these new connections and their businesses. But, not in a “sell my services” way. I took the approach of “I know someone you should know.” I would become a super connector. As my friend and 1MC community member Daniel Andrews of Network in Action says, “Serve others by connecting them to the resources they need.”

Step two of my sales plan was in motion, but much of my sales efforts focused entirely on visibility and making connections. So much that one of my best business buddies, another 1MC Columbia usual suspect, Tom Pietras of Bauknight, Pietras, and Stormer, PA, finally said to me, “People know you but they don’t know what you do.”

In preparing our presenters for their 1 Million Cups 6-minute pitch, we tell them to focus on 1) what you do, 2) why you do it, and 3) who you do it for. I realized I needed to remember my own guidance.

The third step in communicating to prospective clients had to be a succinct explanation of what we do. Clemson Road is a process consultancy organizing, revising, and documenting our clients’ “how” so that they can grow their businesses. We call it process due diligence.

We are a ‘how’ company.

We are also storytellers, gifted at sifting through the mass to get to the message. We generate content for nonprofits, small businesses, and anyone else who has a story to sell.

What, why, and how you do what you do are all important. But they stop being important if you can’t sell.

When I work with entrepreneurs who want to grow their business with social media, who want a better marketing strategy, who think they need to work on their pricing structure, I am now asking, “Why don’t you just go sell something?”

When they say, “How?” I tell them they should have a plan for that, too.