As business owners, you have an infinite amount of opportunities to increase your income and make money. Making money is something I absolutely love to talk about, and the more squirmy you feel about making money, the more I love to talk about it just to let you know. Because until you gain comfort with all things money and sales, you will, unfortunately, continue to struggle. We really want to create a lot of ease because that’s the other thing we get to do as business owners; we get to create more freedom for ourselves. The more money we make, the more freedom we actually get to create.Now you might be thinking, it’s easy for me because of whatever story you might be telling yourself, but it honestly has not been easy. This is why this is my message.
Before we get into my favorite sales tools for 2022, I want to do a little chat about my background.
I used to be like, “Oh, my god. I have to sell more.” Selling feels like hustling. Making more money felt like I had to hustle more. That actually wasn’t true at all. Our first business actually went bankrupt, and in my opinion, because we were credible experts in business strategy and building teams and running a manufacturing operation, but we weren’t experts in sales. In hindsight, selling was an afterthought. We had made some initial headway with a few clients and then got stuck working in the business and doing very little business development or actually any revenue generating activity. So much of what I teach and so much of what I believe comes out of this experience that we had.
When John and I walked out of bankruptcy court, we vowed to do two things.
We vowed that we would share our story openly and vulnerably so that others can learn from our mistakes, not necessarily our successes but our mistakes. We want to destigmatize the inherent struggles that come along with small business ownership because it’s hard. Owning a small business, being self-employed, whether you’re a freelancer, you call yourself a service provider, whatever the heck you want to call yourself, you are responsible for making sure that you have income coming in. That’s hard.
Two, we would invest in skills that will make us money including learning how to sell. The first thing we always, always invest in is our skills that will help us make money. Why? Because that is the first lever that we need to pull to build wealth. We need to be able to make money. This goes for you as a small business owner. If you have a partner who is working a nine to five job, this goes for them as well because the more skills they gain, the more they can go and ask for a raise and negotiate for themselves. That’s true across the board.
Around that time is when I started getting more involved in coaching and developing the sales team at my corporate job.
I was lucky to have a great relationship with the VP of sales who loved to talk a lot. I learned to love to listen. Really, that was where I started, way back in 2010, to learn about sales. Then I started a blog in 2012 and realized that unless I figured out how to get eyeballs on my blog posts, nobody was going to read them. I would spend a lot of time writing them. This is like when you start anything, you need to have all this patience for delayed gratification, you’re doing all this work and it’s not being recognized. You have to put in all this effort to learn these new skills and there’s very little external validation that is happening. You have to be really intrinsically motivated when you’re starting new things.
I started a blog in 2012 and I wanted people to read it, so I spent hours upon hours, upon 10,000 hours learning how to communicate the value of my writing, promote it, and ultimately sell people on reading it. Everything, you’re always selling. If you want your kid to take a bath, you are selling. If you want your spouse to agree to go to see a movie on Saturday night, you are selling. If you want someone to sign up for your free opt-in, you’re selling even though you’re getting an email address for it and not cash, you’re still selling. You are always selling people on an idea, on a concept, on your value, on whatever it is. This is a skill set that we need to have. The skills I learned blogging, and how to communicate the value of my work and how to promote it and how to sell people into reading it, actually helped me improve my skillset at work where I was in a strategic human resources role.
I remember walking into my conference room and pulling my team together and I said, “What do you think we do here? What’s our job?” I got very typical human resources type answers: “We hire. We fire. We train. We develop.” I said, “No, we market and we sell.” We started to look at how we were operating within the organization from a marketing and sales perspective. It changed how our department started to become received. More people started showing up for training, we started doing more research, and because of that skill set that I was developing on the side through a blog, I received my biggest increase; I received a 10% increase from my ability to market and sell the value of my department.
Flash forward, another four years, and John was stepping into a leadership role in the company that he now owns and I was starting this business.
We both aggressively continued with our sales training and began supporting each other in debriefing our sales experiences. Both of us are introverted, a bit socially awkward. I feel like I’m getting less socially awkward as I get older but hey, still have it, a little bit, and we’re quiet, we’re deep thinking. John can be a little shy, so perhaps not your typical sales moguls. We’re not glad handers or super charismatic.
My dad on the other hand is very charismatic, he’s a glad hander. He just really excels at sales. By the way, my dad’s favorite training, sales training was reading the book by Dale Carnegie How to Win Friends and Influence People. To this day, he still says that was his most influential read. Believe it or not, considering he’s my mentor, I actually haven’t read the book, but maybe I will this year. We were not feeling like we were this typical sales mold, but I can tell you that I went from genuinely hating how it felt for me to sell to it being one of my favorite things ever. For all my husband’s shyness, he’s a phenomenal salesperson. I really love talking to John about sales and hearing how he approaches things and how he languages things. I just shut up and listen when we start these conversations.
Before sharing my favorite sales tools, I want to share an important mindset shift that I needed to make.
I made many along the way of stepping into developing my sales skills and becoming a confident salesperson. But I want to share one mindset shift but I’m also going to share a personal philosophy that I have. It’s really simple and people get super tripped up because it’s simple. My personal philosophy is be helpful, be human, be humble, be thoughtful and helpful, and be curious about what people need your support with. Be human, meaning be empathetic. Be able to see and hear people and be humble.
Listen, what goes up comes down. Gravity. Yet we only see projections of revenue always going up but we never see that it can come down. It can. We can have great months, we can have not so great months. We can have great quarters, not so great quarters. We can have great years, not so great years. Always be humble, you always have to be doing the work. You always have to be going back to basics. You always have to be learning. You always have to be human and helpful. You’re never too good for that. That doesn’t mean you don’t have confidence, you can be an incredibly confident person and still be humble. As a matter of fact, sometimes I think the most deeply confident people are the most humble because they get it. That’s my personal philosophy.
Here’s the one mindset shift that I had to make.
As a business owner, your primary role is as a commissioned salesperson. Even if you are large enough to start building a team—and if you are, hey, hit me up, if you need a sales consultant to help you train your team and get your systems and processes in place—but you’re also still most likely overseeing and directing that activity. God help me, because I’m seeing this happen in the online space, do not hire salespeople until you are a competent salesperson. You can’t direct others to do something that you don’t know how to do. It’s a huge waste of time and money. Build the skill. Don’t abdicate. Don’t avoid it. This is how you build a sustainable business because you have to be able to catch your own food.
This is so frustrating as an expert who just wants to do the work you love. You just want a coach. You just want to consult. You just want to therapize, is that a word? You want to just design graphics and write copy and be the marketing specialist, or the accountant, the attorney, the executive coach, the project manager, or the corporate trainer, whatever it is that you do. But you can’t do that unless you’ve sold the work.
For me, that was crushing. It was crushing because as a performance coach inside an organization, my clients just showed up at my door. I didn’t have to sell anybody on anything. They just showed up. That was incredibly frustrating when I started out; that in order for me to do the work that I was so passionate about doing, I first had to do this other work that I really didn’t like. That was not so much a strength of mine even at that point. However, I believe that until you can accept that your first order of business is to be able to help prospective clients decide if they want to work with you, then you’re going to continue spending a lot of money on marketing tactics that might drive traffic but don’t convert to money in the bank and ultimately a payday for you.
A few episodes ago, I was sharing about social media and small businesses because I got asked about what marketing techniques we teach inside The Bold Profit Academy. To be clear, what we teach is how to proactively sell a premium service or program so you can get paid a salary that’s commensurate with your expertise. We teach you how to find high quality leads, find the quickest and most profitable sales opportunities, create predictable revenue, and then what to do with the money that you make. That doesn’t always mean that you need to be using social media to market, or that you have to be having any complicated marketing techniques at all. You can make sales without doing marketing. If you want to make more sales, you need to do some marketing. When people ask me what’s my social media strategy or my Instagram strategy, I don’t have one because I have a sales strategy that leverages various digital tools to create an ecosystem to build relationships.
I also want to be clear, this is for you if you are an expert, running a service-based business, you’re selling services or a program at a premium price, probably about $3,000, $5,000 plus, and you’re not looking to do insane volume. I build businesses that make great money, that are highly profitable, that don’t rely on a tremendous amount of volume like a course business or a membership type business would require. That’s not who I’m talking to. Unless you have a membership or a course and you want to start adding services, then we can work together.
Here are our four favorite sales tools for 2022?
Sales Tool Number 1 – The Podcast
The podcast is over four years old and we have about 200 episodes recorded. When I started this podcast in 2017, it was designed to do two things. I’m going to take you to the wayback machine, because you’re seeing this podcast well into its running, this is like a long term thing here at this point.
When I started this podcast in 2017, it was designed to do two things: reduce our reliance on social media. I’m not a huge fan. I like certain aspects of it. I don’t want to rely on it all the time. I don’t run ads. If you listen to this podcast, you know that; and to create an opportunity for me to develop critical business skills. In corporate, I was responsible for leadership development. It was all about creating experiences for leaders to develop skills that they can then apply to their roles so that they can get promotions and increases in pay. Nobody is really thinking about this as a business owner around developing competencies and skills. Everyone’s buying tactics. Everyone wants things to work immediately and they want the value to be sales. I realize I’m teaching you sales tools. But sometimes there is intangible value to what we’re doing, and that’s really what I want to say here, that starting this podcast was about me developing skills and competencies around communication, around my messaging, around visibility that would lead to more income over time. Not maybe immediately, but over time.
I want to talk about this because I get a lot of people who come my way with the same issue that I had and I just genuinely don’t think we’re talking about it enough. At the time, I was struggling mentally and emotionally with being more visible, owning my credibility and cultivating the confidence to pitch myself. What you see today in me is not how I started. It seemed easier for me at that time to start a podcast than to go and even write an email to pitch myself to somebody else. I just felt so not confident or good about my own value that I add. There was a lot that had to be undone for me in terms of my mindset and my emotions. It had very little to do with a strategy and it had everything to do with my own feelings of safety. Much of my challenges were around my experience being bullied as a 13-year-old, experiences that I had with judgy or caddy friends, my lack of confidence, working repeatedly in toxic and hostile work environments, and what the message I got from corporate was, and genuinely feeling like everyone was better than me.
For me, there were no visibility hacks. It was just a lot of self-discovery, patience, frustration, crying, wanting to quit, trying things, and just reflecting upon them. This is the value of learning. There are no hacks, you have to learn how to run and grow your business the hard way. I know that people are like, “No, I just want it to happen quickly. I need money now. I need clients now.” Listen, it’s both-and. You can still have clients and be working through these things. I did. I had tried Facebook Lives and I did do them but they took so much energy to psych myself up for and then I would feel overwhelmingly crushed when they wouldn’t get as much engagement as somebody else’s. So I tried podcasting. It was easier for me to get on here and talk. I didn’t have to make myself up. By the way at this point, I was dealing with a lot of chronic illness, I still am dealing with chronic illness, and it was just easier. I’m sitting here right now. I’m still getting over, I think, COVID, not really sure. I look like a hot mess. I wouldn’t necessarily feel great to do a Facebook Live right now but I can get on and do this podcast.
I tried podcasting because it was much easier on my energy. I genuinely enjoy listening to podcasts and so did most of my clients. To this day when I ask my best clients how they like to consume content, podcasting is near the top of the list. We are always doing this research. We always want to be connecting with you in the way that you like to consume content. We do ask and we do hope that you share with us the truth because it helps us create better content for you. Over time, I learned how to align my podcast content with our sales process and now almost every person that gets on a call with me, it’s just like, “How do I pay you? I just want to make sure that I’m in the right spot. I want to make sure that I’m a fit.” What you’re really saying to me is you need some reassurance that you will be a good fit for the program that we have. Sometimes people just want to be like, “Oh, you’re really you.” It’s made our sales process so much easier to have this podcast when we started to align the content with a process.
Sales Tool Number 2 – Email Marketing
That’s our second sales tool. After years of telling myself that nobody buys from email, and that my email list is too small, I dove headfirst into developing my skills in conversion copywriting specifically for email. You might be wondering what inspired that change. Oddly, it had been on my mind for a while because I love the idea of having pen pals. A lot of times, I’m asking questions and asking you to hit reply in the email and if you ever see me do that, please hit reply. It really tickles me. I absolutely love hearing from everyone. It makes me feel like a kid again. I think we should all be running businesses where we have aspects of, not every aspect of our business is going to feel like that but we should have some aspects of our business that truly bring us unbridled joy. That brings me unbridled joy.
In February of 2019, I had a particularly rough time with seasonal depression and wanted a quiet intimate space to share more of my thoughts. I wanted to feel more personal because I know how many business owners struggle with the weight of ownership and loneliness, especially if they’re working remotely. I wanted my emails to feel like they had someone standing next to them, someone who was in their corner who understood and was there with a kind word, with a hard truth, with some tips to get them going. Then a new set of stories started to creep up for me around people not wanting to hear from me and they wouldn’t want to be in my inbox, nobody was going to sign up, and needing a system to stay consistent and feeling stuck having so much to say and filtering how I was going to say it to make it more sexy and marketing like. Listen, I have ADHD, it’s very noisy up in the head. For those of you who have anything like that, that have a neurodivergent brain and might have a rambunctious thought process, you could probably understand. I got consumed by all the thoughts and I didn’t do it.
We all take time, we all get there when we get there. Flash forward a year later when COVID hit, and I was so taken out energetically, especially by social media, I asked myself what would make selling feel fun and easy. This is such a good question. Don’t forget to ask it of yourself. An email popped up is the answer. I’ve long held a belief that my words make me money and writing is an activity that I crave. I write every day. The world doesn’t always see my writings but sometimes they do. Writing is an activity that I crave and so I started studying email copywriting, and the growth has just been incredible. This is three years in the making now. I want to be clear about my timelines. When I say three years in the making that I’ve been working on it, I’ve been working on it every day. I’ve been doing the work. Finally, in 2021, we increased our contacts by 165% organically and grew our list 92% organically, and more and more sales come in through our email and the relationship that we build with people over in our email.
If you haven’t signed up for our email, I want to encourage you to do so. I only send out the best, highest quality, most intentional emails. I am never spammy. Despite what some email providers like to think, because I say a lot of dirty words—and when I say dirty words, I say the word sales and selling and money, that is really a no-no, trying to get through people’s promo filters so even if you are in my email and you’re not getting my emails, just make sure you white list me. But jump on there because there’s a lot of good content and I really do intentionally want to build that relationship with you. Email. All in on email.
Sales Tool Number 3 – Bonjoro
Bonjoro is a video app that lets you send either personal videos or group videos to your customers and network. We love using Bonjoro as a way to make our relationship building more high-touch while still having some workflow and systems behind it. Over the last year, we have played with various ways to use this tool, and we’ll go deeper with it this year, mainly because most people won’t use it. That’s it. Most people won’t use it. They’re not going to put in the time, they’re not going to put in the effort, they’re not going to want to put their face on video. Listen, I tried Bonjoro two years ago and I didn’t love it because it was still energetically draining. But as you do this work and as you step forward little bits, week after week, month after month, year after year, this stuff does get easier. Do not stop. That’s the game. You have to keep trying to put one foot in front of the other. Just keep swimming.
We’re going to continue to use this and we’re going to continue to teach this as a strategy inside The Bold Profit Academy because it’s a differentiator. It’s going to differentiate you in your market. We did an entire episode on Bonjoro with Casey Hill who is the Chief Growth Officer over at Bonjoro, and you can listen to that episode to hear more about how we use that app. I just want to also say that the way we are using these sales tools also inspire referrals organically. Just to go back for a second because I didn’t mention it, it’s an easy referral point for people to send a friend, a colleague, or a client, an episode of this podcast and say, “Hey, listen, I think that you would really be well served by checking out this podcast episode.” Then that person gets to start listening to us and maybe they become a long time listener of this podcast. Hey, if that’s how you found us, awesome, so excited. If you’ve been someone who has shared, we appreciate you. It’s an easy sharepoint.
Same thing with email. Forward an email, it’s an easy sharepoint. If you write something really good, if you have something really bold and different to say, people will share it. Like I said, be so good that you never have to pay Mark Zuckerberg a dime. I’ve said that in a couple of podcast episodes ago. Same with Bonjoro, and we talk about this in the episode that we did with Casey Hill, about how sending these Bonjoros become referable people like, “Hey, you got to see this business. They sent me a personal video when I signed up for their email list, when I bought their product, when I bought their service,” whatever. It creates a lot of goodwill.
Sales Tool Number 4 – Instagram
We are over on Instagram. I really enjoy Instagram. Hands down. Instagram is one of the best sales tools available. Now a whole bunch of you are probably like, “Tara, what? You’re always ragging on Reels.” I am. But it’s less about Reels and more about how most people spend a lot of time learning something that doesn’t generate immediate revenue. There are easier ways, there’s more low hanging fruit to generate immediate revenue than going and farting around learning Reels. When the money is coming in, when your income is stable, when your revenue is predictable, go learn Reels. Go add that on. Go let that be a little bit of an accelerant or a creative outlet for you or fun.
You might even see some Reels from me this year because that’s where I’m at. If I need money right now, if my revenue wasn’t as consistent, if I was looking to really drive growth, I probably wouldn’t be looking at Reels. That’s really what we teach in The Bold Profit Academy, especially right now because we have a revenue acceleration cycle going on, and that is all about finding that low lying fruit that you can be going after to convert into sales easily instead of spending a lot of time on things that may or may not work. That’s my objection, and I just want to continue to clarify that because people are like, “You hate Reels.” No, I don’t. But I want you focused on your highest priority tasks.
As a sales tool, Instagram has great features: DMs, Stories, Lives, Reels, IGTV—I think they still have IGTV—the Grid, and don’t forget your Highlights. You don’t have to even use all of these features. As a matter of fact, you should not use all of these features. You just need to understand how specific features will fit into your sales process. I’ve said this before, a lot of what we are doing over on Instagram is research and really wanting to understand where small business owners are at right now, relevancy in the moment, what’s top of mind for you, how can we start conversations, what are you thinking about, how can we use that to inform our content, how can we use that to inform our programs that we’re putting out, how can we have a little dialogue back and forth to really start building that relationship. That’s how we use that. We’ve had a lot of luck using Grid posts to gain visibility. When you say something really bold and disruptive in a way—I want to clarify disruptive because people go out and say things that are just like incendiary, disruptive isn’t about being incendiary. Being disruptive is about understanding how you’re different than your competition and being willing to speak to the points that differentiate you.
Also, being able to speak so directly to your target market. Really, the benefit of narrowing and niching down who you talk to is you can be more relevant to them and you can really speak more directly to them, and then they’re going to share that more quickly and more regularly. We can then look at the data on our Instagram Grid posts and see what went viral for us. Viral in the sense of like millions of people seeing it? No. That’s not what we’ve had happen over there and nor do I necessarily want that to happen. But what really got traction, what really stood out more than anything else—and I really learned this lesson blogging and the importance of speaking directly to who you want to talk to because part of our blog was about, at the time, our lifestyle where my husband was a competitive triathlete—anytime I would write a generic post, it wouldn’t do well. But if I took that post and then was like for triathletes, so “How to set goals as a triathlete?” That would get shared a ton. “How to set goals” didn’t get shared. They didn’t know who to share it with. But if you spoke to triathletes and you spoke their language and you spoke specifically to them, they shared that like wildfire.
I had one viral blog post. I should really find it again. It was 37 Telltale Signs You are Married to a Triathlete. It was very sarcastic humor about what my life was like at the time. That sh*t went bananas. Why? Because I was speaking very directly to the lifestyle and the things that they probably weren’t even admitting or acknowledging or talking about. It was funny. It was to that community. I was like, “Oh, I get it now. I get the whole concept of being specific in who you’re talking to.” When you can do that on your Grid, that gets shared. The other thing that we did, just pro little tip here, not that I’m an Instagram expert, I’m not, but pro tip, we took pictures of me off the Grid. Because what we were finding was that the graphics, without me directly on them, were getting shared more regularly. There were a lot of reasons why I stepped away from putting a lot of pictures of myself on the Grid, and that was one of them, and that was one of the happy accidents that came out of that experience. That is how we use Instagram in the sense that we get shares, we get in front of more people. We use Stories because that’s where we’re really driving those real time conversations, and DMs.
Now there are a lot of influencers and web celebs who are like, “Don’t DM me.” I’m here saying, “I want to have a genuine honest conversation. Hop into my DMs.” I’m differentiating myself. That’s a little bit behind these tools and why we use them and how we use them. The other thing that I want to say is the order in which I have put these tools here was not an accident. Four years ago, we started with our podcast strategy. We went all in on the podcast strategy four years, and nothing else got a ton of attention. Then two years ago, we went all in on email and nothing else got a heck ton of attention. If we had the time for social, we had the time for social. If we didn’t have the time for social, we didn’t have the time for social. We made sure the podcast episodes got out, I made sure my face went up on Stories a few times a week. When we had time for Grid posts, they went up. You can go to my Grid. I haven’t posted on there in probably a month, I didn’t have time. That wasn’t my priority. My priority was enrolling people at the end of the year, it’s my busy season. My priority was serving my clients that existed and enrolling the people who want to pay me now.
Last year, Bonjoro, all in on Bonjoro; learning it, implementing it, building relationships with the team over at Bonjoro. This year, Instagram. You’re going to see our Instagram change a little bit. You’re going to see more effort and time being put into, and money. Money went into the podcast development. Money went into the email development. Money went into Bonjoro. Money is now going to go into Instagram. But there was an order in which we did it. We didn’t do it all at once. We didn’t try to be everywhere at all times, being the best at every place. I disagree with Gary Vee—I’m sure he doesn’t care—but this is how we’ve managed to keep growth stable, forward moving every year, adding profitability, adding growth. We’re intentional, we slow down, we have a plan, and it all builds on top of each other. I hope this episode helped you think differently about what’s your best social media strategy and allows you to zoom out a bit and think more about your sales process and how you can master different components of that sales process and the tools that will be viable for it.