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Johanna B. Voss: How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy

Listening and asking open ended questions is the magic combo. When asking strategic, engaging, open ended questions, people will tell you exactly what you need + want to hear. Doing this will make it seem more like a conversation vs a “salesy, pushy” interaction with an agenda.

  • What are your expectations of this project/my client?
  • What are the goals of the campaign?
  • Tell me more about that.
  • How did you find my client?
  • What’s the dream scenario with this situation?
  • I love that idea! Where did it come from?
  • Be quiet and listen. There’s power in the pause. She who talks least, wins.
  • When I get nervous, I used to talk. You might even describe it as “run my mouth off and babble”. And when I nervous talk, I might say something that I truly didn’t want to say — offering a compromise I don’t agree with, offering to do something I really don’t want to do and in a negotiation, I might come down on my offer and increase the scope of work. That would really undermine my negotiating wouldn’t it?! As a result I’ve made it a very intentional practice to be comfortable with the silence that ensues in a negotiation. Most people feel awkward with silence so only a couple seconds could pass before they start talking, which will work in your favor.
  • I negotiate partnerships every single day and have a lot of practice with it. That being said, sometimes if I’m asking for a lot of money or a drastically smaller scope of work, I still get nervous. I remember once asking for $100k for a partnership. It was, at that time, the most amount of money I’d ever asked for on behalf of a client. Even made me giddy to say that $100,000 aloud. I practiced in front of the mirror a couple times so I had some muscle memory with the amount. Then when the time came to say it to the agency, I said it, bite my tongue, put myself on mute and paced around my home while sitting in the silence. The practice paid off and I exuded confidence in the conversation.
  • Be genuinely excited! Closing a deal is fun and the beginning of something new and exciting. Perhaps a closed deal means a new client for you. Or it could be a new project. Either way, good things happen after the ink dries on an agreement. You’ve leveled up your business. You’ve expanded your platform. You’ve gained more authority. If you’ve done your work well, both sides are happy with how things turned out and are excited to pivot to next steps.
  • I’m truly super excited whenever I reach a “YES” with a brand or event on behalf of my client. My enthusiasm bubbles over like a little schoolgirl on the phone or over email and I don’t hold back! Sometimes my joy catches people off guard because I will yell out “Wahoo! I’m so excited and can’t wait to work with you on this project. Thank you so much.” My joy is contagious and we have a good laugh together, a great way to start things off on the right foot.
  • Stay present to the conversation in real time. Don’t be so caught up in the next thing you want to say, that you aren’t hearing what’s being shared with you.
  • I was on a call with a brand one day, responding to a client inquiry. I was so sure of why the brand had reached out to my client, that I was organizing my thoughts accordingly. Kinda paying attention to the call, but definitely not showing up in that moment with 100% of my attention. I had asked them how they found my client (always a great question to ask in an initial conversation!) When they responded completely differently than I had expected, it stopped me in my tracks. (Literally, I usually pace when on the phone.) I’m so grateful that I asked that question AND heard how they replied. Otherwise it would have seemed like I was off in left field with my prepared response, looking like a fool and giving a poor first impression for my client, who I was speaking on behalf of.
  • Keep it light and break that ice with humor whenever you feel any tension.
  • As my calls most often involve conversations about money, and I like negotiating for as much of it as I can for my clients, I make a game of asking for extra big numbers. Sometimes it’s worked, much to my delightful surprise and that of my clients! And in the times my requests for big money haven’t landed, it’s easy to pivot and say, “No worries. I was joking — didn’t think you have a budget of one million dollars for an Instagram post! But how cool would that be if you did?” The humor breaks the ice and levels things off a bit so that nerves and expectations aren’t running so high.
  • Be okay with walking away, knowing there’s another opportunity around the corner. Think abundantly, not with a mindset of scarcity.
  • Yes, I fully know this is odd advice for requests on how to be great at closing, but hear me out. When I teach people about negotiating and getting to a yes, the stories and examples they share with me convey this grippiness, holding on tight, clinging to this possible new client. That iron-strong grip conveys a feeling of desperation, as if that is the only possibility in the world of a new client.
  • I’m NOT saying that you’re not invested in this prospective client/lead, because you are. You 100% want to work with this client. If you remember there’s this possible client along with others available to you vs thinking that this is your one and only chance to land a new client, it will shift your energy. Much better to be in conversation with your weight over your heels vs being antsy to pounce on your toes. Take a moment to stand up and practice what that feels like. Shift your way on your toes and then shift back to your heels. Your prospective client can feel that energy emanating from you — be it abundance and possibility (on your heels) or that of desperation and clinginesss (on your toes).



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