In this episode I have the pleasure of introducing you to someone whose work has inspired and directly impacted me and my business; first as I consumed pretty much every free resource she has ever created (I’m still eagerly awaiting her podcast episodes every Wednesday, and you should too!) and then as I joined her group programme Rebellious Success – and now to be able to call her a friend, and soon-to-be client at the time of recording this… It’s awesome. She’s awesome. Everyone; I’d like you to meet Erika!
Erika Tebbens is a Sales Strategist for ambitious misfits who want success, but aren’t willing to compromise who they are to get there. (See why I was drawn to her?) She works with service-providers, consultants, and coaches to create custom growth plans that avoid complex systems, sleazy sales tactics, or battling burnout. With 17+ years experience running successful businesses, from solo operations to multimillion dollar retail teams, Erika knows that there’s no one “perfect” way to operate – only one that’s perfectly aligned with your strengths, values, and vision. She also hosts the weekly Sell it, Sister! Podcast where she dishes out BS-free business advice.
I don’t want to keep you waiting any longer, so let’s get on with the episode!
TL;DR – here’s how to connect with Erika if you want to learn more from her:
Disclaimer: The following transcript has been auto-generated and then cleaned up by my wonderful VA – and while the general flow of the conversation is there, it’s probably not 100% accurate.
P: Erika, it’s so great to finally be able to welcome you on to the Brand It Podcast.
This is an episode that I’ve really been looking forward to recording because I just know that we’re gonna have a blast today as we talk about ethical selling. So welcome.
E: Yeah, thank you so much for having me. I always love talking to you.
P: It’s just really nice to be able to catch up like this and geek out over stuff that we’re both passionate about and yes, I mean, I think you’re probably a bit more passionate about the selling aspect of things because selling, it’s a word that often makes people feel a bit icky, you know. I know I used to wish for a hole in the ground whenever I sell something and I kind of think that’s because we’ve been exposed to so many unethical sales practices over the years, that we automatically start to associate selling with something sleazy.Which is obviously not a good place to be when you’re trying to build a business because you need to sell your products and services if you want to make money, right?
E: Yes. Yes.
P: And so when I came across your podcast a while back and then I started following you on instagram. And yeah, just the way that you spoke about selling in a non sleazy way made me think that, yeah, you know what, I can sell my services without selling my soul. You know, I can sell my stuff in a way that aligns with my brand values. And so I think that’s what I’d love for the listeners to take away from today, is that, yeah, you can sell without compromising your brand’s truths and you can actually make how you sell an integral part of living your brand.
P: So how about we start looking at what ethical selling is, you know, what makes something ethical versus something sleazy. What’s your take on that?
E: Yeah. So, first, I would say it’s making sure that you’re clear on who is the best fit for what you do. So, for instance, it’s really making sure that the person who will be potentially giving you money is going to be best served by the thing that they are investing in, right? And by best served, I mean that it’s really going to give them the best odds of achieving or receiving whatever it is they’re after.
So obviously this is a little different, like if you are an artist and you sell your art on coffee mugs, that’s a little bit easier to convey. You know, if the person likes coffee mugs, if they like your art, that’s much simpler; it’s like you’re saying yes to getting that coffee mug and that’s kind of it. That’s like the end of the transaction. But since I predominantly work with service based entrepreneurs, it can be a little bit more nuanced, right?
Because you’re not just shipping them a coffee mug in the mail, you’re actually trying to help them achieve some, you know, usually like a transformation and results, something like that. So in that case it’s really good to know, okay, what are sort of those qualifiers that would make somebody the best fit for any particular offer that you have.
P: I guess when you’re selling services as well, you’re selling you in a way I know for me has felt so, so challenging. I could sell a product, I think that’s easy, it’s not personal. As soon as you start putting yourself into the mix, it’s like you have to put a value on yourself, which is just like, to me, it feels suffocating to start with.
E: Yeah, it’s really hard. I have a background in selling products and I could sell products all day long and not really think about it. You know even within product selling there are ways to ensure that people are getting the right things for their needs. There are ways that you can sell really well to them, especially if you are having a conversation with them and you can really help them find the thing that they’re looking for, or the thing that will suit their needs.
But yeah, when I switched over four years ago to selling myself and to selling something that is very intangible, it was really weird because I was like ‘how do you put a value on it and how do you know what to charge and how do you convey that?’ And so, I had to kind of learn that-I had to go back to the drawing board on all of that.
P: For me, I think I’d also been conditioned by seeing all of these celebrity entrepreneurs and they were placing a really high value on themselves and if I bought something from them and then I just felt a disappointment because I didn’t feel like I’d gotten the value out of it. As a service provider, I’m really scared that I’m gonna come across in the same way, you know. I don’t want to overvalue myself and then have people think, ‘oh, well that’s not worth the money.’
So that’s a fear for me as well. And I think that’s almost where some of the sleazy sales tactics come in as well, you know, all the stuff that’s really… Well, it doesn’t resonate with me. I know it doesn’t resonate with you either, but I think it’s harmful in a way because this whole crew of people are selling their stuff for more than it’s worth and I think it’s just… yeah.
E: Yeah, and I feel like it’s not uncommon like for the people who I work with and even for me. I very much feel that way of wanting people to come out the other side of working with me and really feeling like, ’Wow, that was a great investment, I got everything I needed and then some.’ But yeah, it’s hard when there’s the culture of like, especially with webinars and stuff. The funny thing is I don’t even know how often it happens anymore because I don’t watch any of those peoples’ webinars. So I don’t actually know like, with the pitch, if they’re still doing this, but I know it used to be very much like, there would be the `”total value” and I’m putting that in air quotes would be like 12 grand of stuff and they’re like ‘Oh but you know you can get it for 1997’ Right, so about two grand. and that seems like ‘oh well that’s just it’s a no brainer right?’
Like what if it’s really worth 12 grand like of course I would spend two grand on it. But I feel like people are a little bit more savvy now, at least the people who’ve been in the online space already for a bit to realize that, yeah you can just kind of put whatever value number you want on something literally, unless you’ve kind of sold that thing separately or you really really know what is the value of it. Anyone can just say ‘this thing is a value of blah blah blah’ and then really stack all of those things in there and be like ‘yeah this is why you should get it’ and make it really look enticing. I’m all for adding bonuses and I really love adding extras that are things that I’ve already created that I feel will make an offer more useful to the person who is buying it. But at the same time I don’t really feel the need to falsely inflate the value of something just so that I can justify a certain price point.
P: Ugh, the stacking. Classic bro-marketing stunt there. I just want to jump in with a little side note because I know that a lot of my listeners are over in Norway and I just want to make you aware that if you live in Norway, stacking like that is actually illegal. You’re breaking Norwegian law If you are marketing something stacking on laser bonuses that you haven’t actually sold for a specific value before you have to be able to prove that you sold it. And I think that’s really great that we are actually prohibited from doing so.
I just wanted to point it out because not a lot of people know. So a lot of people will start their business over here in Norway and they will see all of these international online business owners stacking their products, adding that so-called “value” quote unquote, and it might be something that they have never sold before. So what is the realistic value? You know, you can look up to those people all you want, but doing it over here is actually illegal. So that was just a side note and it might be interesting for my international listeners to know as well that there are countries out there that are actually taking measures to stop people from tricking you into buying something.
E: Yeah, it’s so interesting. I’ve learned so much from you just from working with you around the different laws and everything and yeah, it’s so fascinating.
P: Yeah and I think it’s just, it makes it easier to say no to doing that. So it kind of makes it easier to sell in a non sleazy way because well you aren’t actually allowed to. So there you have it, here’s an excuse if you need an excuse to ditch that sleazy sales tactic then yeah, just look to Norway.
E: Exactly, like I’m just following Norwegian law.
P: So stacking, that’s obviously one of the sleazier sales tactics.
So for anyone listening who is kind of like, ‘well what does sleazy actually mean?“ What other examples can we pull out? And I know there are loads, what are some of your, I want to say favorites but what are your pet peeves in the online selling world?
E: Yeah, it’s like a greatest hits of the worst hits. I would say assumptions of wanting to purchase. So usually how I see this happen is on social media platforms- like I never go into my Linkedin anymore because it was happening so frequently over there- but you know, somebody starts following you or you connect with somebody and there’s the immediate assumption that you are going to want, whatever it is they have.
So I will get these DM’s that are like ‘Oh hey, it’s great to be connected Erica” and sometimes it’s like free stuff but it will be like, ‘Oh we’re having a training this week on, like, how to grow your business to six figures’ or whatever fill in the blank random thing. And I’m kind of like, “Okay, A: you have no idea what my revenue is. You’re making this assumption that I need that thing, that I’m not already at six figures. Second of all, how do you not know that I’m not already working with somebody, or learning from somebody or have a coach or mentor? You know what? It’s just very.. it’s presumptuous. Like, ‘Oh of course you’re gonna want this thing. I know we just met and I know you don’t know me at all or know anything about me, but why don’t you come and learn from me?’
And it’s just kind of strange. I feel like the thing is that there’s a lot of gimmicks that people use online that when you step back and think about how humans interact in the real world, we just don’t do stuff like that. People who do stuff like that- if you’ve ever been to a networking event there’s the people who are really aggressive about giving you their business card- and I feel like this often happens. I don’t know if this is like elsewhere in the world but at least in the U.S. Realtors- and like no shade against realtors, my dad is one- but they are so aggressive, it’s like ‘Oh you know here’s my card or whatever’ and it’s again that presumption that you would just be like ‘Oh cool I just met you and yeah I’m gonna now hire you to help me buy a home or help me sell my home’ and it’s like you don’t know- for all you know my partner could be a realtor, you know!
It’s just that thirstiness for the business and the difference is if you were face to face with somebody you would be like ‘Okay, like whatever, I’m going to go get some more wine and cheese’ and like ‘Bye I’m going to go mingle over there.’ I feel like in the online space we just are a lot of times like ‘Oh well there must be some different way that I’m supposed to behave in order to make sales.’ No, all the same rules still apply.
P: Yeah you still have to be human basically. Yeah, and I feel like by making assumptions about people, you’re kind of dumbing down your audience as well, you’re kind of making it sound like they’re not capable of making their own decisions and that’s something that I really, really cannot stand when I’m faced with something. I’m wondering ‘Why should I buy this, or should I not buy this?’ If I’m made to feel stupid, I’m sorry, I’m not gonna buy it.
E: Right, Right. Yeah,I think that’s a really good point, making people feel ashamed or stupid if they don’t already know how to do whatever it is that you’re selling and then making them feel like they would be absurd to not invest in your thing, in your program, in your course, in your whatever- because it’s almost like they’re saying like ‘this is a no brainer and if you don’t do it then you’re never going to be able to solve that problem.’ And then like, ‘Yeah, the consequences are on you buddy,’ like kind of a thing.
But maybe for some people they wouldn’t be able to, and maybe for some people it would take them a lot longer than going through your program. But also that’s sort of a weird approach to take. I would rather make people feel good about what’s possible on the other side, or make them feel capable or whatever, rather than making them feel terrible in an attempt to get them to invest in me.
P: Yeah, it’s just disrespectful, I think and and so we’re talking now about the unethical side of selling and there is, of course the antidote to this, which is the ethical way of selling, which I’m kind of guessing if people are tuning into this episode, the other kind of people who really want to be a bit more humane in the way they’re selling and respectful of their audience. So what does ethical selling look like to you?
E: Yeah. So I would say, kind of going back to the thing of making sure that the person is right for your offer is one thing I do. I do this for myself and I always suggest that my clients do is every now and then,maybe every six months, it’s good to look back over who your clients have been, especially if you have multiple offers. You could write a list for each offer and then write some things about them. Like, who were they, what do they do, what were they hoping to get out of it? You know, just any characteristics that you can think of about them and then really think about the working relationship and what made it amazing. What made it not amazing if it was not amazing, and maybe something in the middle where it wasn’t bad, but it didn’t maybe feel like a slam dunk right? So then re-evaluating and re-clarifying who actually gets the best results and what those characteristics are of the people. What do they have in common?
So I’ll use a real example. In my Rebellious Success program that you were in with me, I realized after running two cohorts that- so I have a lot of experience with coaching product based entrepreneurs and I have experience coaching entrepreneurs who sell digital products like courses and things like that, but sort of like strictly, that’s what they sell. They don’t sell like really any like 1 to 1 offers. I realized in the first cohort I had someone who sold products, and in the second cohort I had someone who only saw digital offers. Now it wasn’t like they couldn’t be helped or that it was horrible that they were there. Neither is the case, I loved being able to work with both of them.
But as I was prepping for round three and refining some things on the sales page and the messaging, I realized the people who get the best results for that container for the modules and the methodology and everything of what I cover in that container- It’s not that those people can’t get any help from it, there’s definitely lessons they can glean and things they can learn and all of that- but it just seemed like, you know what, it’s not quite right, I don’t feel like it’s truly like I can serve those people the best in that specific container.
And so I went back and I revised it and on that sales page it actually has under the who this is for and who this is not for. It actually says in there, online client facing service based business owners, because I just know that feels most in integrity with what that offer is. Now if somebody who sells a course wanted a whole like a separate strategic sales plan, then I can work with them in a different capacity. But it just, it felt like ‘Yeah this is what feels good,’ and so rather than having like once, you do that exercise then you kind of have these filters as a way to clarify people. It’s not as a way to be punitive, or mean, or exclusionary, because if ever I have somebody come along for any of my offers who isn’t the right fit, I always suggest something else. Even if the something else isn’t me. I might be like, ‘Oh I think what you need, you need to go to Petchey and have her do a brand strategy, or have her just redo your whole brand, something like that. But I think that that is really essential. I know some people have like ‘Who, this is for; who, this is not for’ and it’s very like, snarky, and I don’t mean like that.
I mean literally ways that people can check boxes for themselves and be like, ‘Okay, yes, I am in the right place. I should apply, or I should book a call, or I should purchase.’ The flip side of this is, I’ve seen a lot of times, especially people who buy courses on creating courses, where depending on how that course or program is sold, the person buying it doesn’t realize that in order to have the best results, they need other things in place. They need other marketing systems, they need an audience, they need these other things, and so far too often I’ve had conversations with people who spent all this money and all this time trying to create a course. Then they launch, they may only get two or three sales, and then they feel super sad because they’re like ‘What’s wrong with me? Do I suck? Am I a failure?’ Then when I really dive into it, I realized they have no audience. This is their first kind of endeavor into business, and there was nobody there to launch it to. So, actually the conversion rates were very on par for the industry like if they only had you know…
P: Me, me! I can resonate with this because that’s where I kind of was when I tried to launch my group program last time and it does make you feel bad, doesn’t it?
So it’s like this whole sort of misleading thing leading up to it, that made me feel bad, whereas after going through your program and we’ve spoken through all of these things obviously within the group setting and everything, it was easier for me to accept that it was a flop, basically. I’ll be transparent, it was a flop, huge big flop, but it was easier for me to kind of accept that because I knew that it wasn’t kind of my fault, it was just like not enough eyeballs on my offer. Which is yeah, so that was kind of a little side note there.
E: Yeah, yeah, I’m glad you mentioned it because it’s really, really common and and sometimes, I mean to that point, sometimes we have a thing and we’re like ‘This is so great and people are going to love it!’ and then the timing is off, or the messaging is, you know, there can be so many things… like business is just like a series of experiments really.
I’ve told this story before, but I think this was like last year. I was going to do this four week small intensive group program called “The Offer Incubator,” helping people craft their next offer and a launch plan for it. And I was like, ‘Yes, I mean this is just hell yes, like what a cool thing’ and whatever. I already have an intensive where I help people with that. But I was like, ‘Oh I could just, help a bunch more people all at once at a lower price point’ and unanimously people were like, ‘That sounds great, but it’s the wrong time’ or ‘Oh yeah, it sounds really cool. I just don’t think I need it right now.’
I mean I was just fully convinced it was going to be a slam dunk and then it wasn’t. And you know what, maybe I could try it again in a few months, like well over a year later, and maybe there would just be different eyes on me now and people would be like, ‘Oh my God. Yeah, like I fully need that!’ But yeah, it’s really hard when, when you see the testimonials of people launching and it’s like ‘I had a $20,000 launch, had a $30,000 launch’ and you think, ‘Okay, I should just be able to do that too.’
And it’s like, well yeah, but if you literally have nobody that’s already following you for the thing that you do in any capacity there’s just not going to be enough people most likely to launch to.
P: I’m just trying to distill what we’ve just been talking about down to the essence of it basically. And for me what I’m getting from what you’re saying is the important thing is you need to know what you can help, you need to know yourself first so that you know what you stand for and you know what you can offer and like how can you best serve people?
What’s your zone of genius? In order to then be able to find the people who can then self select because of that. You probably don’t have to use all the sleazy, pushy, pushing your product or service down someone’s throat tactics.
E: Yeah. And I think it’s really good to also just get clear on why you’re doing the thing that you’re doing, why you’re selling that offer and what your goals are overall. It’s fine to want to serve a lot of people, like if your impact goals are to serve as many people as possible, that’s fine. But I think sometimes, especially with the big course launches, they are constantly trying to have a bigger launch than the last one, you know, from a monetary standpoint. I think that, while I don’t think that there’s necessarily anything inherently wrong with that, I think sometimes what happens is that you get so focused on achieving a money number, or a number of enrollees or whatever that you can lose sight of really why you’re doing it, who you’re doing it for, and making sure to get the right people in those numbers.
It’s like a quality over quantity kind of thing, in my opinion. I would rather have -you know in a group program I have a cap on the amount of people- this time around it’s 15. Well I would rather have- even if I got 15 applications- if three of them weren’t right and I sent them to a different resource. I would rather have 12 who it’s going to be the best value for them than 15 just so that I could say that I sold out my program even though three or maybe not going to be best served with their investment.
P: I love this. And I think it’s just a reflection of who you are because I’ve come to know you now over the past year or so. When you are talking now and talking about these ways of doing things, I can see that it ties back to your truths as a business owner and that to me is just- it warms my heart- because this is what I work with my clients on: like figuring out who you are and what you stand for and what do you want to do or achieve in this world. And then using that as a base for how you actually sell your products. It’s just, yes, music to my ears.
E: Yeah. And I feel like, I’m glad you mentioned the truths because that’s like one of my big things that I teach, and I feel like it’s really important to understand what those are and why, because it’s a filter for everything else that we do. I feel like it helps make decision making a lot easier because you can be like, ‘Well, what aligns?’ like if you’re trying to decide on something like, ‘Okay, which option would align better with my truth? Oh okay.’ Then you’re like, ‘I know here we go. This is what I’m going to do, or this is what I’m not going to do.’ And it can feel scary if your truth kind of goes against what is really common in the online business space or what’s really common for your industry. But I still think it’s better, it’s a better move overall. You’ll be more satisfied with whatever success you have if it’s aligned with your truth.
P: Yeah, it’s about integrity and everything that you do, I find, and I think if you have that solid base and you always go back to that for reassurance when you’re making those decisions or when you’re thinking about how you’re going to sell your product, how you’re going to sell your offer. To know that I can sleep well at night. I don’t need to feel bad about selling my service to someone who maybe couldn’t afford it, or maybe he just wasn’t a good fit, or who wouldn’t be able to get a good result from it.
So it’s that transparency and integrity I think, that I value so highly about the way that you teach selling.
E: Thank you, thank you. I feel like there’s like one more in here that always comes up when I’m teaching sales workshops and stuff, which is how to handle objections or how to, like if somebody didn’t buy right then, what do you do? This just happened this week actually, where my hairstylist had wanted to work with me, and she’s pregnant right now, and she was like, ‘You know, I think it would make more sense if I revisited this after. Then I’ll have more capacity to actually grow my business.’ Because, right now she doesn’t necessarily want to grow it like Gangbusters, because she’s going to need to be taking some time off, which I was like, ‘yeah, that makes perfect sense.’
So she was like, ‘Yeah, I would love to revisit it with you after I have the baby, and I have more head space and everything’ understanding that I might not have that same offer, or things might be different then. But I was like, ‘yeah, that makes perfect sense.’ Pregnancy brain is a real thing. It’s super hard to focus and concentrate and all of that. And so I was like, ‘Cool sounds great.’ I’m going to be seeing her every several weeks anyways, it’s not like she’s going to be a total stranger to me. If at some point it works out, awesome. If it doesn’t, that’s totally fine too.
I think that we’ve also, there’s like a lot of rhetoric in selling that’s ‘you have to close them on the call’ and ‘you gotta help them overcome their objections’ like that basically you have failed if you let somebody get away, you know. I just sort of feel like why? Sometimes people have legitimate reasons why now is not the time to work with you, and you can either leave it on a good note and keep the relationship going and then maybe they’ll come back and work with you, or they’ll refer other people to work with you. Or maybe they won’t, and that’s totally fine too.
But if you make them feel weird about it and bad about it, then you’re really increasing your odds that they won’t come back to you, they won’t refer people to you. And even if you get them to say yes, it might not be the best way to start out that professional relationship with a weird power imbalance situation. So I just don’t do it. My thing is that I’ve had people who I’ve known for years and then all of a sudden it was the right time to work with me and I just kept those channels open. Or, I would offer something new and I would reach back out and say, ‘Hey, I know that one thing maybe wasn’t right, I have this new thing, I wanted to let you know about it.’ Sometimes they’re like, ‘Yeah, it’s still not a great time. Other times they’re like, ‘Oh my gosh, actually it is,’ and then they work with me and I feel like to me it just makes so much sense. I feel like we’ve been conditioned to think that that’s wrong, that we are somehow doing something wrong, if we are “letting people go.”
P: That’s a huge mindset shift for a lot of people, myself included I think, not feeling like a failure. If you ”let someone go” or if someone doesn’t come to work with you, it’s not a direct reflection on you. It could be any number of reasons, you know, it could be maybe their husband or wife or spouse lost their job, so they literally haven’t got the money to spend. And maybe in your case, there’s a baby on the way for your potential client and yeah, those of us who have been inside the baby bubble, we know that that’s not a good time to be working on your business because your focus is elsewhere. It’s just honoring people’s ability to make their own decisions and not beating yourself up over it because it’s not necessarily about you, you know?
E: Yeah, yeah, exactly. And I love what you said, honoring people’s decisions because I can think even my very good friend, Jessica Rodriguez, for years, would tell me about her group program and it was just like, never quite right. I love her. She’s brilliant. And I was like, ‘Yeah, just not the right time.’ Like one time I was moving, another time I don’t know, I forget. But then I recently hired her for an intensive to help her help me brainstorm my launch because she does work very similar to me and it was nice to get somebody else’s brain that works like mine on my business and to help me strategize. So you know, she’s made money off of me, it wasn’t in the container that she was suggesting to me before, but if she had acted weird about me not enrolling in her group program before, I certainly wouldn’t have hired her later on for an intensive. She’s a great person, so she was super chill about it, it was like a non issue. I feel like that’s a perfect example, people will come around to work with you.It’s always okay to follow up or to fill them in on new things that might be a better fit, but yeah, let adults make their own purchasing decisions.
P: Yes. Yeah, it’s taken me a while honestly, I think to some extent it still is a real challenge for me to get comfortable with selling and I’m just gonna bring in a story from my student days actually to illustrate a point. When I was a student, I had various part time jobs, you know, to make ends meet and all that, and one of those jobs, I was in a temp agency and they placed me in all these different roles and so one of these roles was as a sales rep for a double glazing company. This was in the UK. So there I was, I just wanted to make a little bit of extra money on the side.
So the basic wages, they were crappy and they were just like, it was all bonus based and I didn’t last long. That’s a spoiler alert. I did not last long, But I was placed in a team where the team supervisor was, I kid you not, he was 16 years old. Yeah 16 years old, straight out of like secondary school and he was dressing himself in these fancy suits and trying to be this big shot!
E: Oh my gosh!
P: And yeah, you can kind of tell where this is going. So what we were selling was double glazing and conservatories to people. So we would be calling people, cold calling people. It was a nightmare. And the way this dude approached sales I think has kind of vaccinated me against unethical sales tactics for life. It’s just, it was ridiculous. He would ridicule people, like live, on the phone. He would belittle people, he would make them, he would push them into saying yes, you can come and give me a quote because like they wanted to book an appointment so that one of the actual engineers or reps would go out to this potential clients location and then like trying to push a proposal for a conservatory or double glazing down their throat and it was, it was absolutely ridiculous.
And he would mock people who would, who would call, often it was like an old person and you could tell that they had no idea what was going on. He would, while he was on the call, he would put them on loudspeaker and mock them to the rest of the team like, ‘Hey, like all of you listen, listen to this idiot’ kind of thing and he would try to con them. I sat there and I wanted to be sick in my mouth several times.
And so I lasted exactly three weeks in that job and before I left, I called in the big guy like the CEO of the entire company and I said, ‘Look, you’ve got a problem with this team leader of yours who thinks he’s such a big guy at 16, He is just completely out of order. You need to get rid of him basically.’ And I was like, I left without selling one single window, but I left with my integrity and that to me is something that I’ve brought with me as I build my own business now. I do not want to be that 16 year old douchebag in a fancy suit.
E: Yeah. Oh gosh, that’s what, like, perfectly horrible. I mean, you know, it’s a perfect story to illustrate it. But oh my gosh, what a horrible, horrible thing.
P: I mean, he made the sales, he did, but he did it in a way that I, if I did it that way, I would not be able to live with myself afterwards, conning elderly people out of their life, savings for a conservatory. That was a crappy piece of plastic, PVC, whatever. No, just don’t.
E: No, that’s horrible. That’s horrible. Yeah, that’s oh gosh, no, no! Nobody, nobody wants to be-none of the people that you and I know want to be that person!
P: Well, I hope not, and if not, then they know the way out. So, that was kind of a pivotal moment, even though I didn’t know it at that point, that’s kind of defined how I want to shape my own business and conduct my business. And I’m curious to know, have you always been an advocate for ethical selling, or did you have your own kind of pivotal moment where you decided that ‘You know what, this is no good, I’m gonna carve out my own path.’
E: Yeah, so my first job ever at 15, I worked at a tuxedo sales and rental store, which is still kind of hilarious to think about. I mean, I did a good job, but I was like, wow, at 15,16 years old, I was responsible for, you know, a groom to be, would come in and get there, I would help them pick out their whole groom’s party attire. That was a lot of responsibility, but somehow, somehow I did it. I don’t know if I would trust my own 16 year old to help me with such important decisions for an important day. We got paid hourly and commission, but I never felt like I had to be high pressure, like my managers were really great. I felt like they trained us really well and I feel like it allowed me to get really good at assessing what people’s needs are. Because I’m going to have a different conversation with a kid that’s going to prom then an adult who’s getting married. There’s going to be this different level to their needs and also their budgets and things like that. So I think it allowed me in this very objective way to get really good at having those conversations kind of over and over and over.
Then I’ve done other like, just so much like retail and sales and all of that. However, there were definitely times in my life where, like when I was pregnant with my son, for a very short amount of time, I joined an MLM that was around health products, right? And so that was like my first experience with that world and they had their ways of doing things and selling, and I remember at the time, kind of like your story, being like ‘This isn’t right.’
Like, I know that people are making money doing this, but something about this doesn’t feel right. I had said-I forget if I asked for it just came up- but basically it was you know, if people ask ‘how does it work?’ or ‘what’s in it?’ or just questioning the products in a way that I feel it’s normal that people would want to know like what is in something that they would be investing in their body. They were, like, ‘Well don’t worry about it, just talk about the results. Just direct them back to the results because that’s really all they care about, they don’t really care about the ingredients or how it works and you’ll just confuse them and you don’t know anyway. So just lead them back to the results.’ and I was like ‘That feels really weird.’
Like, I am not the type of person who would do that. I’m not the type of person- kind of like how you’re like-’I didn’t sell any windows.’ I would never just be like, ‘Well look at these before and afters’ or like ‘Don’t you want to lose weight?’ or all of these problematic things. It’s just not how I am as a person. So I was like, I don’t know, I don’t think that I can do that.
And so I never did, and I remember thinking like, ‘Is this why I’m not selling more, should I just do what they said?’ But at the end of the day, I was like, ‘I can’t, I just can’t be like that.’ It’s just truly not who I am as a person. So yeah, I definitely feel like over the years there have been different moments in different settings where things could have gone differently, or I was encouraged to do things differently and I just had to be like, ‘I’m going to do it the way that feels right for me, even if it means that maybe I’m not making as much money or maybe I and not making as much money as quickly.’ I’m not getting to a certain sales figure as fast as I potentially could.
P: Ah, refreshing take on it that’s for sure. So, I know I’ll say before we round off, I just wanted to ask you if you have any tricks up your sleeve that you can share with us for someone who is wanting to maybe trust their gut a little bit more and listen to that inner integrity when they’re selling their stuff. Do you have any tricks up your sleeve that could make it a little less daunting maybe?
E: Yeah. So I would say that it’s totally good and okay to get curious and ask questions of people who you think would be a good fit for something. So if you have an offer that you know is good, but maybe you’re like kind of struggling to articulate it or see the value and you know, just there’s like different aspects where you’re like, ‘I just feel like I something is off here in how I’m marketing it and how I’m selling it.’ Or you’re pondering a new offer and you want to think about, what would make it really like a hell yes for somebody, it’s totally okay if you know of people who are in that ideal client population for that offer.
Or you know, to ask your friends who are in business, who might know those people to be like, ‘Hey, can you connect us? I’m doing some voice of the customer research’ to actually see, to get it in their own words. And there’s all different ways. You know, you can compensate people, you could give people, free strategy, free advice. Send them a gift card for a coffee, for their time, whatever. There’s all different ways that you can do that.
But to really just figure out ‘What are people saying that they’re struggling with in regards to what you do?’ So obviously, not just in general, but in regards to what you do? What is the thing that they are wishing were different? Or wishing were better? Or that your business could help them solve what is, you know because that problem isn’t solved like what is happening then right? That you know as the expert they could avoid right?
There’s all these different ways that you could kind of get to the heart of the matter. But I think a lot of times we get nervous because it’s like ‘Well if I have to ask then it means I don’t know.’ It means I’m not the expert, it’s going to be embarrassing.’ But you know, for them to think that I’m not this total genius about everything I do. But the reality is that we always, as entrepreneurs, have two jobs, right?
We have the thing that people pay us to do that our primary job and our secondary job is as a marketer, as a salesperson. And that is really, especially the people I work with, that’s what really trips them up. So the more that you can be a good listener, and even if you’re like ‘I don’t have time to do voice the customer interviews or anything right now.’ Actually think about what your actual clients are saying to you?
What are they saying to you in their application, in their intake form, in their coaching questions in there, you know, whatever. And really glean from that some sort of juicy tidbits that you can use to inform yourself of your value and of your expertise and of who gets the best results from you. Because then I find personally when I feel like it’s 100% a no brainer why a particular person would invest in something of mine, it becomes easier to sell it. So that’s really like why to do this? Why to do this good listening, this good asking of questions that’s getting curious because when I feel like, ‘oh I know that for these particular people, this offer is so incredibly valuable.’ I don’t feel weird about talking about it because it’s proven. And I know who it’s best for I’ve done all of that rather than just sort of like throwing spaghetti at the wall and trying to almost market to the masses or market in this really vague way that I feel like it’s just not as effective really.
So it can lead to a lack of confidence because you’re like, ‘Well, I don’t know, I just really want people to buy it,’ but you can’t really tie it back to like, ‘Oh no, for this for this particular person’ , Like yeah, it might be an investment, it might even be a large investment, might be like 15 grand or 20 grand or something like that. However, for the right person, it is absolutely going to address the issue that they’re having right now.
P: Cool, so if people only remember one sentence out of this whole entire episode, what is that golden nugget that they should take with them?
E: I would say that when you are selling something that you believe in 100% and you’re selling it to a person who you know, is most poised to get value from it, and you are showing up to them in a very respectful human to human way, then selling will not only be successful for you, but it will also feel really good for you and it will feel really good to the person on the other side of the conversation.
P: Thank you, that was so, so valuable.
So before we round off we could probably talk for another couple of hours, but let’s not. If anyone listening today wants to connect with you and learn more from you, possibly work with you, where can they find you? Where can they connect with you and how can they work with you?
E: Yeah, so Erika Tebbens dot com is my website, the social media place that I hang out most is Instagram. So I’m over there at Erika Tebbens consulting and then all of my ways to work with me are on my website. I’m updating some things right now, I’m tweaking a few things, but the program that you were in, it’s called “Rebellious Success.” Our next cohort starts in November, so very soon, and that can always be found at rebellious hyphen success dot com.
If you happen to be listening to this and the time has passed for the current cohort, you’ll see a wait list page, just put your info there. I really love meeting new people, so you can always reach out whether or not you have questions about working with me, about selling, you just want to be my digital friend. You can always send me an email, you can always send me a DM because I’m more than happy to connect with new people. Especially if you know Petchey, I know that we’ll get along just fine.
P: There you have it people and connect with Erica over on her various channels and I promise you’re not going to regret it at all.
Thank you so much Erica for this conversation. I really, really enjoyed it.
E: Thank you for having me.
And before you go, I have a favour to ask you. I have a group programme inside of my head and I just cannot let this idea go because I am so passionate about helping as many business owners as possible to unlock that secret power that lies in working through their brand strategy and carving out that clear path for where their brand is to go. I’m not entirely sure yet when I will be running this programme. I know that I will at some point. But just for now I would love to invite you to go and join the interest list over at petchy.co/academy
And by doing that, you are absolutely under no obligation to join the programme when I do launch. But you’re going to really boost my confidence, and I will be eternally grateful because maybe you are the person who gives me enough confidence to actually go through and create this thing. I don’t know. It’s going to be epic. So if you could do that for me, please and thank you… I’ll love you forever! Mwah!
Until next time,
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