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[EDITOR’S NOTE: This Special Women in Sales episode podcast , hosted by Gina Stracuzzi, featured an interview with Erika Sheets. She is founder of Coffee Sales, Inc. a Sales Team as a Service company.]
Find Erika on LinkedIn.
ERIKA’S TIP: “Get really honest in assessing yourself and doing that self-inventory to figure out where are you on that spectrum right now, in terms of cheerleader or cheerful leader. What does that really look like? I would challenge you to really think about the calls you’ve had, listen to some of your own recordings, and even ask a trusted peer or manager for their input on that. Then I would say a fun way to test out how comfortable you are in being more of a cheerful leader is to go back to the last deal you lost and see if you can rework it, rework your conversation and your pitch as more of a cheerful leader than whatever you did once it was lost. That’ll tell you really where you are. How comfortable do you feel or not feel, and how do they respond to that, which will be also very telling.”
THE PODCAST BEGINS HERE
Gina Stracuzzi: Erika is the co-founder and head of business development for Coffee Sales, but it’s not about coffee. It’s sales solution outsourcing, and I’m going to let Erika tell you all about it. Welcome.
Erika Sheets: Thanks so much. There’s a funny little backstory to our name, but essentially what we do is we are a sales-as-a-service firm serving a particular niche. We’re a complete outsource solution for high ticket sales in coaching and transformation based offers, typically in health and wellness. We are an alternative to the conventional approach of hiring and building and managing your own in-house sales team for clients that have the particular offers we specialize in.
Gina Stracuzzi: Do you want to tell us a little bit about your background first and how you got to Coffee Sales?
Erika Sheets: Without dating myself too much, I’ve been in sales and sales management for well over 25 years. I started out in corporate telecom back in the early 1990s when it was hot because of long distance deregulation. I had a variety of experiences working on both sides of that competition court. Then I made the switch to online education and coaching about 10 years ago, and that’s where I’ve played and stayed. What my role typically was there, inside of the company, I was the one building the team, launching the revenue stream, helping to launch the company.
Once I left my last gig on that, my partners and I really felt like this is something that it’s hard to do and it’s hard to do well over time and in volume. Instead of taking a more typical route of developing a signature system and going in and training other clients and companies to do that, or helping them build their team, or helping them train their team, we felt like we could make it even easier for people and just do it all for them. We built the team, we run the team. We have our secret sauce methodologies that help at every step of the sales cycle and conversion journey. We really offer a low risk, much easier management solution for people in our niche.
Gina Stracuzzi: Today we’re going to be talking about how to crush high ticket coaching and transformation sales in 2023. This is about the time when everybody’s thinking along those lines, “How am I going to make the next year even better?” I love what you said, that being a cheerleader robs people, and that I found very interesting. Talk to us a little bit about that, what you mean by that.
Erika Sheets: One of the things I think my team probably makes fun of me for saying a whole lot, is that their value as a closer is in being a cheerful leader, not a cheerleader. What I mean by that specifically is anybody can just validate what a lead says. Like, “This isn’t the best time. I’m going to do the next one,” and so on and so forth, for all the reasons why. Even though they really want something, a transformation of some kind in their life or business that they haven’t yet gotten, they’re wobbling about stretching into the place and person they need to be to start making that happen and create it. If what the sales closer is doing is really just validating that and understanding that, and yessing their no, and just being a cheerleader for them, it’s not really serving them.
I go even farther to say that it actually robs people. The reason why it robs people is that it takes some compassion, but no skill. If you’re a cheerful leader, you have compassion and skill. In fact, when you’re a cheerful leader, you help them find a way to bet on themselves, to get that change that they want. You are helping them, work with your client as their mentor through your client’s offer, and you are more compassionate than a cheerleader. That might sound controversial, like, “How is that even possible?” But the reason why is because you are actually helping them get something they really want, but they don’t yet have and can finally get when they start here and now. If you can help stretch them into that, then they have begun the process of something different to get a different result, and they’re in a different place than when they first got on with you.
Gina Stracuzzi: Basically you’re trying to challenge them to think beyond all the reasons why they can’t do something and really focus on why they can. Which is difficult sometimes because, one, they might be out of their comfort zone, or maybe it’s going to cost money that they didn’t initially budget. But as we know, if you want something, there is money for it.
Erika Sheets: A cheerleader just makes them feel good and comfortable. Good and comfortable means nothing changes. Good and comfortable means they still don’t have what they want. Good and comfortable means that they’re missing out again. We all know that if you want a result that you haven’t gotten before, you’re going to have to do some things you’ve never done. There’s all kinds of phrases and memes and things out there about how everything you want is outside your comfort zone, and there’s a lot of truth to that. Being a cheerful leader should take them through a sequence in the call that, by the time you get to this part where you’re making a powerful invitation to them to get the transformation they want, by working with your client as their mentor and your client’s offer, by the time you get to that, you have built trust and rapport. You have a clear understanding of what it is they want, why they don’t have it, how urgent it is for them. There is a foundation leading up to that. But at the end of the day, what we found is the core of our secret sauce and why we’ve been so successful for so long with high ticket sales and in volume, is because it really takes coaching skills with sales skills in an alchemy. That’s how you become that cheerful leader.
Gina Stracuzzi: Well, then it begs the question, how do you help them really articulate what it is they need. Because you can’t do any of the things that you’ve talked about if you don’t know what it is you’re after. That I think is probably sometimes the hardest step, is to really articulate and get it out in the atmosphere, out in the universe, so to speak, what it is you actually want. Not just more sales or bigger clients, but what is it that all of that means? Do you take them down that path?
Erika Sheets: Yes, and successful salespeople like yourself know that whenever somebody wants something, there’s really more underneath it. I want to be making another $5,000 a month in my business, let’s say. Maybe they’re talking to a teammate of ours who’s representing a client that has a yearlong mastermind in taking their business from one level to the next. Well, the next question should be like, “What will having that $5,000 a month do for you in your business? What will you have then that you don’t have now? What does that look like? How does that change your day? How does that change your stress level? How does that change your team? What does it feel like if you step in and imagine that you’re already there? Now, step back into where you are today, what does that feel like? How urgent is it for you to get from where you are now to where you want to be?”
You get down to the real reason that people want anything, which is typically those kind of foundational needs. It could be about their lifestyle, for example. Maybe they’d be able to hire team members to take a portion of the work that they have, and they could spend another two hours a night with their kids during the school year, or whatever it ends up being. Whatever they start out by saying, they typically think they’ve figured out that $5,000 a month for their business is the answer. But what the question is, is that they may or may not have thought a lot about why they really want it.
Another popular thing would be around, let’s say, losing weight. Like, “Why this?” “Well, I want to lose 20 pounds.” “Okay, great. What will losing those 20 pounds do for you?” You boil it down, and boil it down, and boil it down, and then you ultimately get to the place where it’s really about how you feel and the level of peace in your life, and not having to think about what you’re going to wear, and whatever it is.
This is why we say we use an alchemy of sales skills with coaching skills. We wrap a sales conversation inside of a bit of a coaching experience. We help them give us all the answers we need. Because as you also know, great salespeople are really good listeners. They ask good questions and they’re good listeners. People will often tell you exactly what it is the secret is to them moving forward. Then if you’re listening really well, and you can reflect that back nicely to make sure you understand, you’re using that when you’re making a powerful invitation and making a match with the offer.
Gina Stracuzzi: For our listeners, if they’re working on their own or within a big department, how do they shift into being a cheerful leader? How do they help others come along with them?
Erika Sheets: I think it starts with a mindset and a decision, and a realization or kind of taking your own temperature to figure out, “Where am I on this scale today? Am I closer related cheerleader? Am I closer related cheerful leader? Do I waffle a bit in certain circumstances? Maybe I’m more one way or another, depending on who I’m talking to, what level of person I’m talking to, what dollar amount the offer is.” Those kinks can vary a little bit. Doing a little self-inventory would probably be step one.
Then once you understand where you are or what your tendencies have been, and maybe you even need to go back and listen to your own call recordings and really analyze it as if you’re a little disassociated from it, as if you were listening to a teammate and not necessarily yourself, to see what you think you’re doing and what you’re actually doing. You could even get a buddy and ask for their opinion, and have them listen and give you some feedback. But doing a self-inventory to figure out where are you tending to be right now is definitely a first step.
As a second step, then you want to make a decision, where do you want to move to? If you want to move more towards the cheerful leader, that’s great. Then there’s some how-to’s. One of the ways that I think is fundamental, we utilize a call outline in our teams. It’s not really a call script, because every word can’t be scripted in these kind of offers, but there is a sequence that we move people through. One of the things that we do pretty close to the beginning of every call is a preframe. This is where being the leader of the call starts. Which is you are letting them know what it is we’re going to do here today. “Today in our such and such call, I’m going to hear a little bit more about your journey on this so far and what hasn’t worked. I would like to better understand what your goals are, the timeframe that you’d like to achieve them in, how important this is for you. We’re going to discuss what the opportunity is, what’s included, how it works, why it works, why this might be the right mentor for you, and we’ll see if this is actually a good match and determine some next steps. Does that sound good?”
You’re telling them what’s going to happen and then you’re getting permission from them when you ask them to agree, or not, maybe they don’t agree. But they’ll typically say, “Yeah, that sounds great.” Then you’ve got permission from them to continue to lead the call, because another thing that can happen, especially in coaching and transformation based offers is people can get down rabbit holes or off on tangents because they’ve really typically been through a lot and tried other things. Some of that background is very useful, but sometimes it gets to a point where you need to reel them back in. Having given that kind of frame for the call allows you to be able to do that pretty easily, which is great. But you immediately establish yourself at the beginning of the call as like, “We have a game plan here, and I’m going to walk you through this. I’m going to be your advocate. I’m going to be your leader. I’m going to be your coach.” I think that that sets the stage really well.
Gina Stracuzzi: Do you have any statistics around how using this kind of approach betters sales?
Erika Sheets: Yes. I would say on mass over 10 years, not necessarily, because there have been different things that have been going on during that time. But what I would say as a couple of examples is in our last gig where we were inside a company doing this, we helped launch the fastest growing health coaching school in the country and toppled the 800-pound gorilla that had dominated the industry for 20 years. We were able to be extremely successful there in terms of very quick revenue growth for a high ticket offer. The first eight months, of which we didn’t really even have the website up, we had a course catalog and a CRM. I think that we certainly developed a lot more, and that helped, but I really think that even with all the gee whiz technology that’s out there, and we utilize a lot of that gee whiz technology, and that’s another thing that’s very unique about our company, but at the end of the day, that interaction on the phone is key.
I secret shocked our competitors crazy. I was doing that very frequently, and I was really always shocked to hear that most of the people were in a position almost like a call center, or an order taker. Were there a human website just waiting to answer questions, “How can I help you? What questions do you have?” Just waiting and really having the lead be the leader of the call, and have the lead set the agenda, and have the lead take them wherever the lead wants to go. Then I was also pretty shocked that most of the time people just didn’t ask for the business. Again, they answer all the questions. They may even do a little bit of that show up and throw up, where they end up just dumping tons of information about the program onto the person in the call. Then they just sit there and they’re like, “Well,” and they never really ask. They wait to hear. If someone says, “Okay. I’m going to do it, sign me up,” or, “Hey, I’m going to think about it. Thanks for your time.” Even places that are very successful in their numbers, it was really shocking to see how much of that was.
In our business now, in the last two and a half years, we launched in May of 2020 during a worldwide economic shutdown. That tells you that we’re a certain level of crazy, for sure. We were really quite successful. In terms of numbers, we have helped our clients grow anywhere from 50% to 80% in their revenue. We have had clients triple their monthly revenue with us. We also really hone in on profitability for them. Oftentimes when we start working with a client, they’re using a ton of discounts and promos that are dollar related or discount related that really aren’t necessarily a needle mover. There can be other kinds of bonuses wrapped in or other value wrapped in that doesn’t eat away at the profit.
There are a number of areas where we have been really successful, but one of the big value proposition that we talk about is when we’re entering with a new client, oftentimes the founder has been doing a lot of these sales calls themselves. Not all of them, but many of them. As you know, that takes up hours, and hours, and hours. The reality is, it takes up a huge amount of time on their calendar. Even if they’re doing really well at it, there’s always a portion of people who aren’t going to move forward, and then they feel like that’s been a waste of their time.
To get all these hours back that they didn’t have, and not lose any money, but then turn around and still be able to scale, it allows them to then spend more time at the front end of the funnel, or in delivery of their services, or in whatever ways serve the business best based on their zone of genius. The specific numbers for each client vary a little bit, both in terms of their goals and what is most valuable to them. But overall, it’s wins in multiple categories.
Gina Stracuzzi: I was talking to someone just the other day about the value of coaches overall, and now there are coaches in just about everything. Sales coaches is one of those areas where it’s slowly becoming a thing. It seems like your model is heavily based on coaching. Is coaching something that you recommend for sales teams overall?
Erika Sheets: Definitely. We’re all believers in the power of coaching as part of transformation of any kind. No doubt about it. If you think about the most successful people out there in any area, athletics, business, they’ve all got coaches, no matter who they are. If they’re the absolute pinnacle, if they’re the best history has ever seen, they probably have a team of coaches, not just one. Coaching in general, a coach should be able to help you be a better version of yourself than what you’re doing and getting on your own, because they should have skills and they should have accountability and support and leadership that helps you stretch into a new version of yourself.
We have our own take on that when it comes to sales and how we utilize the magic of coaching as part of sales, especially for these kind of offers. Because even if it’s for a business, for example, if a client offers a yearlong mastermind for your business to move from one level to the next, it’s still quite an emotional decision. When you’re dealing with that, being able to utilize coaching skills is key.
Gina Stracuzzi: I love that because I think selling is one of those things, each company has its training, and they onboard you. Then there comes that day, often way too soon, where you’re just on your own. Especially now in this virtual hybrid environment, there’s not people around you necessarily to ask for help, or support, or just generally, “Am I doing this right?” Or, “I have a question about this.” I really applaud you for bringing in coaching in such a profound way. Before I ask you for your last action step for our listeners, tell us how we can get ahold of you.
Erika Sheets: Our website is www.choosecoffee.io. You can get ahold of me there, and there is a form you could submit and you can contact me there. I’m also on LinkedIn under Erika Peters Sheets. I’m happy to take direct emails as well, which is on my LinkedIn and on the website, but it’s firstname.lastname@example.org.
Gina Stracuzzi: We always like to ask our guests to leave the audience with one action step they can put into place today to improve their selling. What do you have for us?
Erika Sheets: I would say the main action step would be to get really honest in assessing yourself and doing that self-inventory to figure out where are you on that spectrum right now, in terms of cheerleader or cheerful leader. What does that really look like? I would challenge you to really think about the calls you’ve had, listen to some of your own recordings, and even ask a trusted peer or manager for their input on that. Then I would say a fun way to test out how comfortable you are in being more of a cheerful leader is to go back to the last deal you lost and see if you can rework it, rework your conversation and your pitch as more of a cheerful leader than whatever you did once it was lost. That’ll tell you really where you are. How comfortable do you feel or not feel, and how do they respond to that, which will be also very telling.
Transcribed by Mariana Badillo