Find out how to attract, convert and keep more of those ideal corporate clients with today’s Inspired Selling Podcast featuring 7-figure business coaching specialist, Jessica Fearnley.
Hi there, this is Dylis Guyan. Welcome to the Inspired Selling Podcast, the place where business owners, consultants, coaches, trainers and business experts discover how to attract, convert and keep more of those ideal clients in the corporate space. I have a fantastic guest for us today, Jessica Fearnley.
The reason I’ve asked Jessica to come on to the podcast today is because she has first-hand experience of attracting, converting and keeping more of those ideal corporate clients. So let me just tell you a little bit about Jessica. She’s a business coach who helps women build seven-figure consulting firms and she specialises in the transition from 6 to 7 figures in turnover and is an advocate for earning more by working less. Well, don’t we all want that?
Jessica has a Bachelor’s and Master’s Degree from Nottingham University and a career background in Project Management, Business Planning and Business Development in both the public and the private sector. This is brilliant. Actually, I was really impressed by this Jessica; she was recently named as one of the LinkedIn top voices on entrepreneurship and small business and is passionate about closing the gender pay gap for women in consulting.
As I mentioned, the reason I’ve asked Jessica on is really for her to share with you her experience of actually selling in the corporate market and getting down deep and dirty and looking at the details of how she got in, what her entry strategy was, how did she find and make contact with those decision-makers, what she was offering and getting those big corporate decision-makers of which there are often committees and corporate decisions going on. We’re going to get into all of those areas so I’m really excited to talk to you Jessica.
Dylis: First of all I know one of the things that you achieved when you were working in this corporate sector was you achieved 4 years growth in one year. Give us a little bit of background about the business, what you are selling and how you, just high-level because we will get into the nitty gritty, how you achieved that 4-year growth in one year.
Jessica: I came into the business when it had been going for about 12 months. At that time there was the Company Director and he had an assistant; what the business did was Occupational Psychology so we were based in the HR sector. We did work with supermarkets, banks, airlines mostly based in the retail industry. It was really all about helping them get the best people whether that was on graduate schemes and identifying who might be ready for a Board position one day and who they wanted to promote internally; those kinds of things. So it was based around a lot of psychological, psychometric testing and it was assessment and development centres if that means anything. If you’ve ever done a graduate scheme you know exactly what that is.
Jessica: It was all based, and this is a really key thing, it was all based around accreditation essentially, because everyone who worked as a consultant for the business was an occupational psychologist, which is you had to have a Masters in Msc in Occupational Psychology and then there was a charter-ship that followed that as well so it was a very accreditation based business to start with.
Actually, I was the person who was not an Occupational Psychologist. My background was business like you’ve outlined, and I came on board initially in quite an informal position to help the Company Director do invoicing because he had been doing everything himself; he was like, I just can’t spend any more of my weekends doing my invoices. It’s funny because I hear a lot of Company Directors and people with their own businesses who they are doing all of the stuff behind the scenes and I think very wisely he started to realise that that was not a good use of his time.
It all really developed from there. From there my role over the first 12 to 18 months that I worked there we realised actually that there were things the business needed and that I was actually very well placed to provide them. My role expanded into we called it Business Manager. It was quite hard for us to come up with a term for it because we weren’t entirely sure, you know in a start-up firm you can be very flexible with these things and we very much built roles for everyone on the team around the person that they were and the experience that they had and their skillset. I was running the business in that phase where we had rapid growth.
Dylis: So from being an invoice clerk really?
Dylis: You made a really good point there Jessica in terms of business owners who really need to start working on their business and not in the business and doing those menial tasks that actually someone could do for them for not a lot of pounds an hour but having that courage to say actually, I’m going to hire someone to do that. I have to hold my hands up in my early days, I had my blimp books and I used to rule out my lines and do my VAT myself. It took me a whole day and sometimes longer to do all that. It took me ages to actually even open my mind to hiring.
Jessica: It’s the mental load as well because we talked about that in terms of women, you know in the home, you know running the family, running the household, maybe running a business as well or doing it and a paid employed job. Actually, for all business owners, there’s only so much you can keep inside your head before you start to just feel a little bit like you’re coming apart at the seams and I think it’s really wise to start to say look if I’m going to be the Director of this company, there are things that I will not spend my time doing so I think that is always a precursor to big growth in the business.
Dylis: Yes absolutely agree with you there. So why did you decide to work with such large companies and I just want to put a caveat on this for anyone that’s listening; the principles of what Jessica is going to talk about are the same whether you’re working for mid-sized SME’s, large SME, small corporate. it doesn’t have to be those big International large corporate companies because I was in that space too, that was where I went when I very first started my business.
So I was working with Barclays Barclaycard, Aviva as then, which, sorry Norwich Union as was then and HSBC and so on but I don’t want people to think oh, this isn’t related to me, I can’t relate to this at all. The principles are exactly the same, would you agree?
Jessica: Yeah, absolutely. There are some major advantages to going for big companies to start with anyway but first of all and particularly for our company was that they had the budget to do things on a scale that we were able to provide them. There are two things that happen there, firstly, a tiny business isn’t going to put on an Assessment Centre or Development Centre because they’re not recruiting at that level. It just doesn’t make sense. So they don’t have the pain point first of all, you need someone who, they get so many applications for jobs, they need a system, they need a way of finding who the best people are.
So because the companies that we work for they were Market leaders, so they want the best people and it’s in their interest to put money aside. I think whenever you’ve got a scenario with a corporate firm, you need to really be sure that you’re not trying to persuade people to spend money that they haven’t already allocated. If you can pitch to a corporate firm and they already have a budget allocated for that item, it’s really a case of should it be you or should it be someone else but educating them and trying to get them to create a new space in their budget that they’ve never done before that is much, much harder.
I think you get that very often if you target companies that just aren’t really ready for the level of service that you want to provide, if that makes sense. Because you’re having to say that you’ve never done this before but here’s why you should, that is a very hard conversation to have with a Board member.
Dylis: Yes indeed. One of the ways around that that I always found work for me, and actually I still do, is I use Google Alerts actually www.google.com/alert and anybody that I have on my prospect list, and it’s not as common and as often these days because I get a lot of repeat me for our business. However, I still do music but if I’ve got someone on my Prospect list, I put them into Google Alerts and I can choose whether I have daily, weekly or monthly alerts. I will get an alert on anything that’s going on in the business, anything that’s mentioned across the internet, which is absolutely fantastic. You can leverage that information to get into businesses.
So if you know that there’s a new Sales Director for me for example, or a great example, I’ve mentioned this many times before where one company they had issued the financial report and so I had a look in this financial report and of course, it’s a gold mine and that executive summary was talking about what a great year they’d had but they’ve been negatively affected to the tune of 5% on currency fluctuation. So I used that in the initial email to them, I literally cut and paste it.
I knew Mark was a decision-maker and I said dear Mark, I noticed from your recent financial report that your Chairman whatever his name was, can’t even remember now, said and then I just paste it in. I work with companies like yourselves helping them to increase sales revenue which in turn can mitigate any losses in currency fluctuation and gave an example of what I had achieved. If this is of interest, please call me on or email me at or alternatively, I’ll call you on Thursday morning at 8:45. So that helps in terms of leveraging and opening doorways for you.
Jessica: Absolutely it shows that you understand their company and their objectives because really in Corporate, what’s important is understanding the pressures that actually the Board members are under or the department heads under, what they’re trying to achieve because if you can align yourself with a goal that they already have that they’re under pressure to deliver that is a completely different conversation to like hey, here’s something you never thought about I think you should do it. They’re not going to care about that. But if you can really show that you understand and I think building the relationship is a really important element of that and I think we can almost forget we can be like, how can I get in front of the right people?
We forget that it’s about getting to know them, actually starting the conversation. People are so much more likely to listen if there’s already a relationship there in place and in our business that was absolutely foundational to I’d say 80 or 90% of the contracts that we got in the period that I worked there.
Dylis: So how did you do that then Jessica? Because I know people will say yeah, yeah relationship building. I’d like to just go deeper on that.
Jessica: So like the reality of what that actually means.
Jessica: Absolutely. So this is why it’s important that our business was accreditation based because the transition from the Company Director doing what he did professionally for another organisation to actually doing it himself under his own brand was that he’d spent his career kind of getting to know everyone who, you know was in the wider HR department where he was. Actually, his first contract was with the company that he used to work for. He stepped out under his own brand as a part-time thing and he’d really put thought into it; he knew for a long time I think that he wanted to take the step and so it was really a case of preparing ground.
He was very naturally a gregarious character. He was good at speaking to people and I think that’s a really hidden talent that often I think women do have that skill, but they don’t actually realise how powerful that is. So I think it’s preparing the ground a little bit before you start, you know. It’s very easy to just be like right and going to do a business. Let’s do my business cards, now I need to get to know some people. Actually it’s a lot easier if you can start to think along those lines. If you think you might want to do business start thinking who is strategic for me to know. Who is there in my existing company or if I have to go outside of that, who can I be getting to know in the wider industry.
Dylis: Yeah, And also of course going to these industry events where you can meet people, but I absolutely agree with you because when I left I was in Barclays Financial Services and I started thinking right, who do I know in Barclays? Well of course I knew loads of people because we were aligned with Barclays Bank and worked very closely and within the first year, actually I had a contract with Barclays Bank and I worked across the country with them, you know. So for the listeners or the viewers, think about strategically who you know.
Dylis: Who you’ve had relationships with, it’s so much easier isn’t it to be able to do that?
Jessica: Yeah, and I think the thing is with our business as well, like you’ve already said, we did 4 years growth in one year. So going into our second year and this is really when I sort of came aboard in the business, there was a 4-year growth plan and things just happened a lot faster than we thought they would; things that we assumed, they were like, you ready to do this contract because we’re ready to sign you. The majority of our contracts were, you know, they were £100,000, £250,000, you know, if you can get all contracts that size, that’s the million, you’re done.
I think often we kind of see it as like I can only charge £1000, £5,000, £10,000, but it’s really being ready to say look, we know this is how much you need to spend on this, we can meet that need. Actually, one of the pivotal things that happened to us when we achieve such fast growth in the company was that we were in this kind of state of shock for a while because it was like oh my gosh, what we’re going to do now? We don’t really know what the goal is anymore.
And the thing that we realised is that we had not been intentional about broadening our market reach at all. We realised that the point where we started to say, right, let’s build this company up and sell it, we realised that 90% of our work was with the same client and it was with subsidiaries of the same company so we had you know, technically with different teams of people but if something had happened to that one company, we were in very high-risk situations because all our eggs are in that basket. But the thing that we actually were able to do very successfully and almost under the radar is that every time someone from the core team that everyone had built the relationships originally, when they went to work with a competitor when they moved on in their career, that was straight away an open door in a new company for us.
And so it wasn’t like let’s go knock on the huge front door of this enormous corporation, it was like now we know someone who works at this supermarket instead. Now I know someone who works here and it was kind of step by step but I think you can do it almost under the radar. It doesn’t always have to be like, I’m going to knock on the CEO’s front door but then you do have to be careful. So we had a little buzzword or like tagline that we invented at the time for kind of what we were trying to do which we called target of sharks because we had gotten very good at targeting the fish and you know that’s like I’ve got a friend who works at this bank that we were quite interested in getting in but she’s like the administrator to the secretary to the this, this the Director of so and so and it’s like she’s a really nice person, the issue a decision-maker.
You can leverage relationships with fish to get you in front of the right people but it is a lot more effective if you can actually build a relationship in the first place with the shark, the person who is going to say yes or no and I think that’s the really important thing to remember as well because so often we aim very low with our relationships so we almost overstate to ourselves the value of a contact. It’s never a bad thing to have a contact if you’ve got people who can applicate to you and kind of put your stuff under the nose of the person you need to see; that’s always really helpful. For us, the thing that was a real kind of game-changer was starting to say we need Board level contacts, we need to not be afraid to speak to c-suite about this.
Dylis: Yes, absolutely. I really want to end emphasise this for people because this is a big mind-set shift, is charge what you’re worth and when you think about that, you hit the nail so much on the head here Jessica because they go oh I can only charge £1,000, £5000, £10,000, whatever, that is not the case when you’re talking to bigger business who’ve got budget. They’ve got these pain points and if you think about the outcome and the financial outcome that they get from hiring you, it can be huge so £100,000 is a drop in the ocean. So it’s getting your mind around that because those who are just charging this £1,000, £2,000, £5,000, £10,000, nothing wrong by the way going in and growing it.
Jessica: Absolutely and it depends on your industry.
Dylis: But to opening your mind and being confident in your worth it’s huge. And the second thing is, not being worried and nervous about contacting the sharks. They’re just like us, they go to bed every night and they get up in the morning, have their coffee and they do whatever. They have got their KPI’s, they have got their objectives and of course, the higher up, the stronger the objective and so don’t be frightened of speaking to these people but speak to them on a level.
I have just been working with a girl recently and she sent me a copy when we’ve gone through the whole process of how to send an email and the tone and all the rest of it, she sent me this email that was really begging and she got no response. Of course she wouldn’t get a response. So remember if you’re talking to the sharks you need to be on a level with them.
Jessica: I think you need to remember that you’re a shark too.
Dylis: Oh God, I love that, I absolutely love that. Yes. That encapsulates the whole kind of premise of all of this, you are a shark too.
Jessica: Yeah because I think sometimes we feel our own vulnerability and we can feel very small and think, who am I to get in touch with you know, someone at an international bank, a global brand, who am I to sort of knock on their door? But actually, you’ve got to remember that they also have their own vulnerabilities and they also have the things that they really to do and that they are under pressure to deliver from their seniors. Actually all of our consultants, they had all made the sort of cross over from being an intern facing occupational psychologist.
The real strength of that is that everyone on the team understood the pressures of what it was like, the priorities, the HR Director or the head of HR was actually trying to deliver. They understood what that looked like and the conversations that would be had behind the scenes and how it worked. So they could really build that into their relationship building. Often because they’d all been internal facing, there were people that they knew and there was a broader network so they were very involved with the CIPD and conferences that happens.
So I think it’s be aware of that broader network and always be thinking, oh, if I would like to get to know someone, who do I know in my network already who already knows that person? Because an introduction from someone who is already trusted by that person is a very powerful thing. I think sometimes we do take that thing like it’s just me on my own and I have to write a letter, I have to do something like that whereas if you’re already doing it you probably already know people who can help you. That’s a very powerful way to endorse yourself and not be the cold contact phone call or email, that’s very easily overlooked.
Dylis: Indeed. So when you were looking at working with these larger companies and you were doing your relationship building and you were getting in and so on and then all of a sudden you have this kind of deluge of business, how do you deal with that because that’s another area where people can get in fact, sometimes that can be a downfall of businesses because they just can’t cope. How did you cope with that?
Jessica: A lot of stressful meetings. I think I might have said this to you before Dylis; we had this turning point at the point where we were like right, let’s get serious now, we’re not just messing around, let’s just really put ourselves into the proactive going and finding the right companies. Instead of letting the work fall into our laps let’s be more intentional. So we mapped out the matrix of the organisations we were working with already, the profile of where they sell, in the industry and that kind of thing.
We realised we were very dependent like I said on one client. We realised that we were very retail focused and that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing but you know, as we now know, retail has taking quite a hit over the last 10 years so it’s risky to have all your eggs in one basket in that way. What we did by that point, over the time that I was in that role, we built the company from being 3 people to being 14 people. When I went on maternity leave I was replaced by 3 people and I was like, thank you I told you I needed assistance. That kind of shows the way the work we were doing was expanding and all of that kind of development and growth that we found in all those different areas. The more consultants we had on board, the bigger the pool we had of people we all knew.
We made a database of 1,000 companies, well 1,000 contacts within companies and some of that was doing research and kind of phoning up people and saying could I just ask who is the head of HR and who is the head of recruitment and those kinds of things. We understood the strategic roles and the people that we would want to talk to at that right level. Basically, we’d never done any marketing before, this was before any of us really knew about email marketing; we had no clue what we were doing at all.
I remember being in a meeting and this kind of thing would quite often happen; we would have team days and I love them because I would stand up and be like, here’s the goals we want to have, here’s the strategic objectives, here’s some of the weaknesses we’ve identified in the organisation that we currently are and here’s what I want to do to fix it, I would really like to train a team, get my prints to principals out and you know you really kind of bring them on board. One of the things we realise is we need to take the step, we need to start being more proactive.
So we said the item was marketing and my boss just said. Marketing. None of us really know what that is so Jess can you go and find out and then do some. We weren’t coming to it like we’ve done this so many times; none of us had worked in start-up before and everyone was very proficient in what they did and that was one of our major USP’s just that we did it so well, we can make it completely stress free for the organisation who took us on board and that was all part of it.
We had this email that we wanted to send to 1,000 people and actually what happened was and if you do email marketing you will understand this. We sent it out and we actually had 17% response rate, so not open rate. 17% of the 1,000 people that we got in touch with got back and said yes I think I’m interested can you come in and talk to me. Part of the reason is that we didn’t just go to cold contacts that went to people we already knew, that went to people we could say did you know that I’m now working for this company, did you know that this is what I did? We didn’t send it all from you know the info@ email address, we sent it from individual members of the team who made sense to be the point of contact for that company.
Then it is completely overwhelming when that happens because then you suddenly get hit with this utter like okay, now I need to take on loads of associates because we suddenly have all this work coming in and I think it’s a really important thing to be able to evaluate actually is this work that we want. Do we have capacity to deliver? If we don’t immediately have that capacity, is this something that we can do something about in the near future because I think you can so massively overestimate your capacity at any time. That’s another really risky thing to do in a business because you can end up so over-committed and then if you take on people before the contract is signed; it’s a pretty difficult balancing act because you need the people in place to get the contract signed but then if anything goes wrong and you’ve taking on all of these people and suddenly there’s no contract to give them you have to lay them all off again.
It can just be completely shambolic so I think being really focused on actually, what’s the goal? What you trying to get to? How many clients do you actually really want and who are the gold standard people who you would move heaven and earth to work with? They should be the top priority in that because and I think this is true for all Consultants, you can always find people that you could work for but they’re not always the jobs that you most want to do and they are the best fit for you know, what you like to do deliver.
There are times when you have to take on those people anyway, so if you know if you have no other work, or if you’re very new and you’re building up your profile, but I think it’s always good to keep that strategic eye and say look where are we going? What’s the key goal here? And what are the contracts that are going to be the biggest asset to us? Because once you start to build that portfolio we were talking about doing a sort of showcasing evenings where we partner with the brands that we were working with because they actually wanted to be like look at us we’re pioneering the most technological advances in the field.
By the way, we’ve got the best grad scheme and we’re better than everyone else but because there was that sense of you know, even though they were competing firms, there was that sense of community with people in similar roles. Because of the accreditation, it meant that actually there was an industry interest in best practice. So it becomes about kind of getting a good portfolio then you know, the rising tide lifts all boats with that kind of thing because it’s good for the brand, it is good for you the consultant. That’s how the leading consulting firms do it. Whatever it might be in your particular industry is about putting out something which actually starts to be a showcase rather than just doing the work and taking the money.
Dylis: Yeah, absolutely brilliant. The thing that I would like to touch on and not necessarily expand on, I just want to reinforce, I was nearly jumping in my chair and wanted to get up and screech. When you said we were proactive; you have to be proactive. If you want to build your business then you’ve got to ask and you can only ask by being proactive and you know, and you hit the nail on the head again, like ideal client, who did you want to work with? And then you built a database and it’s this is not rocket science but please if you are tuning in to this interview, this is critically important to your growth. Yes, you can start and you can get some word of mouth but the trouble is you never know when you’re going to get the next piece of work with word-of-mouth.
If you’re really serious about your business, you have to start and be proactive and it is as simple as that looking at right, who do we want to work with? Who are going to be the best fit for us not just in size but in values and you know, there’s a raft of things that you can consider in terms of creating that ideal client profile and then proactively going out and seeking out the sharks. And that leads nicely into my next my next question actually Jessica.
So how did you deal with where you didn’t just have one decision-maker but you had a board of decision makers, let’s just simplify it and say a group of decision makers? How did you deal with that from your very first contact? So let’s say you’d spoken to your fish, the fish introduced you or it was an email and it said yes Jess we’re interested and then you thought actually, are there more people that need to be involved in this? Just talk us through that how you dealt with that scenario.
Jessica: Well, actually what we found is that it often came the other way around. So there might be a bit of a rumble or they’re looking to get a new supplier for their assessments and the centers or actually, you know, sometimes it was a slightly different thing. So one of the another one of the things that we did not wrong, but then we realised we wanted to focus on is that we were incredibly broad in the early days when we were just you know we said we did all kinds of things, outplacement, redundancy support, you know. If it was HR-related we said that we could offer it and actually we weren’t lying we could but it’s just it’s not always a good idea to do business that way as we all know. What we would often hear is kind of a rumble that someone was looking for a new supplier and often because of the way that our network was, it was the client who would approach us and say I just want to let you know we’re going to be putting a tender out on this, would you like to be involved?
That became a really important shift because straight away the power is different because you’re being invited to take part instead of saying excuse me can I have a seat at the table, please? And because it was very relationship-based, often and there would be an informal meeting beforehand to talk about, you know in theory what would you like us to provide and all those kinds of things? I don’t think in the time I was there I don’t think was ever the case that we would go somewhere completely cold not knowing anyone and never having had a serious conversation with them before it got to the panel stage.
Dylis: Right. So this really emphasises again looking at this in a way low hanging fruit in terms of where there is already a relationship or someone who can help you forge that relationship.
Jessica: Yes and becoming known as someone who is able to help, you know becoming known as someone in the field who is the one to watch. I think that was very much something that played in our favour because people were interested to find out what we could do. We would often go up against big organisations who did what we did, who had been established for 20 years where we were there being like, we’ve been going for 2 years or 3 years. We weren’t the industry leaders at that time but at the same time we had enough of a spark and we had enough of that kind of interest there that people were interested in finding out what we have to say.
Dylis: So people don’t have to be worried about the fact that they haven’t had 20 years’ experience in the business. You just have to have had some experience whether it be when you were employed, you know in the corporate world maybe because I was the same as you. Cut me in two and I’ve got sales and marketing running through me and Leadership actually running through me like a stick of rock but in the early days I didn’t but I took my successes from what I had done in my corporate role.
Jessica: Yes absolutely.
Dylis: You can still build on that when you’re going into these businesses.
Jessica: And I think personal development doesn’t stop when you become a consultant. So a really, really helpful thing is that one of our senior Consultants she won Occupational Psychologist of the year and straight away it was like ding because that was super helpful. I think she was 7 months pregnant at the time that they went to the award ceremony. She was pitched against someone who was massively influential in the industry and I remember her saying I nearly went into labour when they read out my name. It really was very powerful because again, it’s another asset that we had got people’s attention. They’d heard her name so straight away if she comes into the panel room people are like oh, they put her, amazing. Its doing these little things that sometimes can be overlooked but like I’ve said.
Dylis: what do you do?
Jessica: I think you think about what it is that makes you good at what you do because actually excellence was at the centre of what we did. All our people like I said, well highly accredited they were really good at what they did; we were really trying to pioneer the thought leadership and really not just be like, oh, yeah, we do this it’s really we just do everyone else does there’s no advantage. The thing you can do and it’s just you is that actually the sky is the limit, you can go as high as you want to. So I think invest in your own development if you don’t feel like actually your credentials stack up then like why is that? What can you do to improve that?
I think often women can feel like they’ve got to be accredited in everything in order to go through the door whereas a lot of the men that I know who are very successful salesmen, they just have that confidence. It’s a bit of both, it’s knowing that actually there aren’t like 1,000 people out there who are exactly the same as you. Often we’re a lot more individual than we realise and we don’t always see our skillset so I think taking quite a sort of analytical approach and being like well, why don’t I do a SWOT analysis about myself? What do I actually bring to the table? Because that is your rock to be standing on, the strengths that you have, the opportunities in front of you those are the things to really zero in on.
I know actually one of my clients did her own SWOT analysis recently and we looked at it together and I said, I’m sorry, but the things that you’ve put is like threats, you don’t need to worry about those. And the weaknesses, no, those aren’t even things that you need to even think about. So I think often we’re so much stronger than we think we are and we just need to stop feeling like we’re this tiny little ant and it’s a giant Corporation and there’s no space for us. All these people like you said, they all go to bed at night and get up in the morning. We’re all on that level so kind of step into the person you actually are I think that can be a really helpful thing to do.
Dylis: Yes and this is a big mindset thing as well. I haven’t got accreditations as such but I have won so many awards; when I was in the Corporate space I won awards. Now, even if you haven’t won awards it may be that you’ve achieved something in a project, it may be that you’ve had a big impact within the Company that you’re working for and it really is looking at I would say this SWOT of SWOT, looking at your, actually no it’s not it’s the sole. It’s looking at the strengths, it’s looking at the opportunities but really digging deep on those strengths and thinking what have I achieved? Why have I made this decision to go self-employed? To start my own business? And not just to place more but to play a bigger game and to get this switch this mindset of going into this huge Company.
Whether it’s an SMA or whether it’s a small corporate or whether it’s a large corporate. Particularly with large corporates, you’re going into a department. You’re not going into like this huge thing, you’re going into a department like you went into the HR sector of a business. I’ve worked with lots of huge companies, but I would go into the sales side so I would work with the sales teams or the sales leaders. I wasn’t in the whole, you know, I worked for Thornton’s Chocolate. For years I worked off and on and he has none of that thing; you get in with one thing and you identify something else and then you identify something else you’re always looking to do your reviews and your ROI, your return on investment to see how people are moving.
It gives you that opportunity often to say right, actually, we need to address this but this mindset shift of not being scared to say actually I have to give people the opportunity of benefiting from my expertise even if you’re not accredited, even if you don’t have awards, even if there isn’t that level of kind of credibility you can show, there will be other things there absolutely will be in terms of.
Jessica: Yeah, and I think really dig into testimonials and case studies. Every time you do something well get a testimonial, every time you have something that you can show it that you’ve actually made a difference to the bottom line get a case study out of that and make sure that it really tells the story of what it was like before the contribution you had and what the impact was. That’s the really important thing to be doing all the time because sometimes it’s using it as a stepping stone to get the next big thing.
Some people are ready to go out there and because of their industry experience and their career background, it makes sense for them to just be like, right, what’s the equivalent to what I used to do? I will target that person but I think it can be about taking the next step and just being like actually, is this the best fit for me? So often we play a really hard game targeting people right at the bottom and the small companies who don’t have the budget and often it took the more you kind of open up your mindset to that the more you realise it can be extremely simple to get to 7 figures in a business, that actually is not a hard thing to do.
One of the things that we’re doing, as we were kind of building our profiles, was looking at Business Awards for us as a company as a whole. I just remember there was one it was like “fastest growing startup” and I was like, well, maybe we could do that because we’re so fast and we’ve grown so much. I was looking at the profile of people who had won it before and they had done 20 million in their first year. I was like, yeah, we are so small and you know, there’s always going to be people who are doing things in a bigger scale; that doesn’t have to matter and it doesn’t mean to say that you can’t do what you do and be incredibly successful and make a lot of money doing it, you know, it’s all relative in that way.
Dylis: But you have to be proactive. This won’t just fall in your lap, you have to be proactive and that’s come through very, very strongly. I know that we’re just about out of time Jessica and I think we’re going to have to come back but I just like to ask you what were your biggest challenges and how did you overcome them?
Jessica: I think for us as a company it was quite a hard process almost admitting that we had significant vulnerabilities and that like I said as we realised that actually our client profile spread was bad and we were taking immense risks. It was when we started to do the due diligence as part of the business sale, we were just starting to see all the things that we’ve been incredibly lucky or incredibly fortunate that it hadn’t turned around and bitten us on the backside. I think not being afraid of that vulnerability but just being like okay let’s mitigate it. This is where the Project Manager in me is like let’s do it. Because it’s about risks and issues on a whole other level and starting to not be afraid of that but just be like, yeah, there are things about the way that we’ve got here that have not been the way that we want to take it forward. So how are we going to grow and develop?
I think as well it’s really all about leadership once you have a team on board. I know that the Company Director found that there were massive things that he had to overcome himself in order to then lead us. It’s tempting I think to just build a team and be like, come on team, do what we need to do but actually you have to lead from the front and I think those were some of the big lessons that we had to learn. How could we speak in a way that people understood? How could we motivate people so that we weren’t just barking orders or being like come on guys just do more you know? We had to educate the team sometimes and some of our Consultants would just be like, oh, by the way, I’ve got no work next week and it’s like you should have told us that three months ago and getting them to sort of increase their planning horizon.
All of us, we all had to up our game a bit, but actually that can be very painful but I think just being prepared for the fact that it will happen and it doesn’t mean to say that you can’t get your goal, it just means that actually there are things that we’ll need to grow and that stretching growing pain that can be a massive thing and that can make people just stop in their tracks and be like, I don’t want to do this anymore. At times it can be agonising but actually is all good and so if you can embrace that and have a sense of humour about it, you know, oh no, we don’t know what we’re doing.
Dylis: It’s really funny.
Jessica: It’s actually not that you don’t know, it’s just that actually that you’re overwhelmed and it’s all different. Because I think one of the big things is when you go beyond what you think you’ve always been able to achieve, you know, what we found in that year where we just did 4 years growth was kind of like we’re off the map now because we didn’t know if we were going to be able to do the 4-year plan and now we’ve got all this money coming in and like everything’s on a big scale.
I know that was a very hard time for the Company Director because it’s this kind of like slight brain implosion of what are we doing now and you know, it does change your life if you can start to do stuff and it puts you in a bracket that you maybe never thought you belonged in. I think for me that was a massive thing; it has been something I’ve seen through my own business as well. But again, it’s the mindset investment and just be ready to kind of face that head-on. It’s not a sign that you’re doing it wrong or that you’re not cut out for it. This is what everyone goes through it’s just that that’s often the thing that you don’t share.
Dylis: Yes, and you’re not going to win them all you’re absolutely not but you’ve got to at least be in it to win it. I hate that phrase actually but anyway, you do.
Jessica: Yeah, but you do; you have to show up and you have to take part and sometimes it might not go your way. We had contracts that we went for that we didn’t get but actually there’s always something else that’s going to be the next step instead and sometimes at the time it feels like a massive crushing loss and then you just think well actually we wouldn’t have been able to go for that contract if we’d have got the one we thought we wanted and the one that we did get was even bigger and better. So I think having that growth mindset and that positivity is like opportunities here, we just need to reach out and take them.
Dylis: Yeah. I do this practically every day and certainly when I’ve been doing work or if I’m going for a business meeting whatever I would come out and see what went well, what didn’t go so well, what can I do differently next time? You’re building and growing all of the time but don’t be scared. You’ve put your foot into this bigger pond where the sharks are swimming and you may not get it right first time but just keep doing it and that always reviewing and thinking right, what am I going to do differently and better the next time and then it will happen.
As you said before Jessica, they work and often the pain of working with smaller companies who haven’t got the budget, who are difficult often to work with, often late payers and there’s not the opportunity for that additional work. It is so much harder, it’s like working in treacle and I am on an absolute mission. I know your mission is to help women build 7-figure Consulting firms; mine is to really open people’s minds to leveraging the selling power and sell to these bigger businesses who will value you, who will pay you your worth and where it would be an absolute joy to work with these people. And so that’s my passion and mission and I know that you have a similar passion and mission.
Dylis: Jessica this has just been fantastic. We will definitely have to have another interview and we can talk about your pricing and some of the other elements that are involved there. Maybe we can talk about beauty parades, you know where you’re invited in but you’re invited in with another 3 or 4.
Jessica: It’s already a done deal with someone else. The thing we haven’t touched on which you just mentioned there as well is the fact that your existing clients are your warmest audience. Actually, if it’s a big corporate firm then there probably will be people within the firm they can put you in touch with and you can also help. That’s a whole other podcast, isn’t it?
Dylis: Indeed. Jessica thanks again. It’s been absolutely marvellous, and I look forward to our next one.
Jessica: Thank you Dylis. Thanks for having me.
Dylis: You’re welcome. Bye for now.
Wasn’t that absolutely fantastic and great to hear from the horse’s mouth how it was in terms of going from being really an invoice clerk, of course, she’s highly qualified but you know took this role as an invoice clerk and then moved on to work in this as a partnership with this guy and to achieve 4 years’ worth of growth in that one year and to hit 7-figures.
So just want to touch on a couple of things here and re-emphasize some of the things that she talked about. So the biggest one for me, of course, was being proactive and really identifying who that ideal client is, who do you want to work with? So look at this low-hanging fruit, who do you know? Who do you know who might know someone in the type of company that you want to work with? So do your profiling of the type of company that you want to work with but please don’t be scared. Start and open your mind and allow yourself to think bigger.
Think about these bigger companies that you can work with and start looking for the sharks. You can use the fish, of course, to find the sharks, but if you can get directly into there to talk to some of these decision-makers who can say yes, who hold the purse strings, then your business will grow beyond your expectations because the money that you can make in corporate is massive in comparison to working with smaller businesses who don’t have the budget, who can sometimes be difficult to work with, who want more and more throughout the project but they don’t really want to pay anymore and can sometimes be late payers. So open your mind and just step into this because there must have been something before you started your business that made you think I can do this as a business, but there’s no need to struggle; you can work with some of these bigger companies who’ve got that budget.
Align yourself with the type of company that you want to work for and the type of company that you know would need your product or service. Once you’ve identify that ideal client and you’ve worked on this inner thing in terms of overcoming that fear and having the confidence in yourself, create that database and that would be huge for you in terms of never being stuck because you will always have people that you can contact. If you’re thinking, you know, I’m not sure that I’ve got accreditations or Awards or anything, it doesn’t matter. Just look at what you were great at; what did you do well with before you started your business? What did you achieve? Did you work on the project? Was there something where you had an impact on the company that you were working for?
It really is about valuing yourself, seeing yourself for what you are, the great value that you can bring to companies and not being scared to charge what you are worth because you need to look at the outcome, look at what results they will get from working with you. You might say well, I’m an executive coach, I’m not sure but you can look at things like you can measure things like how quick your coachee has made decisions. The impact of those decisions, you know, there is so much that you can look at in terms of your value and worth that you can bring to individuals of large corporates and to teams within corporates.
So on that note, I hope this has inspired you to think about taking that leap and moving from a pool into the ocean and you know getting these contracts that are not just £1,000, £2,000, £3,000, £5,000 but that could be £20,000, £50,000 and work and end up being £100,000 and more.
So have a fabulous day and I look forward to seeing you next time. Bye for now.
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