Prepare: Think through every question, objection, or reason why your customer would not purchase your product or service so you can be ready to combat those objections in advance. You’ve got to put yourself in their shoes–into the lives of your customers–and understand the problems they’re facing and the symptoms of those problems. As an expert, it might be difficult for you to go back to a stage where you experienced the same aches and pains your customers are having right now. But it’s essential to connect with what your customer is experiencing so you can be that solution.
As a part of my series about how to be great at closing sales without seeming pushy, obnoxious, or salesy, I had the pleasure of interviewing Candice Coppola.
Candice Coppola is an author, business coach, entrepreneur, and the host of The Power in Purpose Podcast. She believes that if you want to have your dream business — you have to become the owner your dream business needs. As a successful entrepreneur who grew a business from the spare bedroom of her home into a multi-country, multi-six figure company — it’s safe to say she’s navigated the bumpy road of entrepreneurship.
Thank you for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us the “backstory” about what brought you to this career path?
I got my first whiff of entrepreneurship while I was snuggled up on the couch, recovering from having my appendix removed. I was an unlikely entrepreneur. At 26, I had an unfinished college degree in Art History and a horrible corporate job to match. But just like every budding business owner, I also had big dreams for my life and the determination to make those dreams a reality.
Flipping through the TV (as one does when they’ve called out sick from work!), I came across a show on TLC called “Whose Wedding Is It Anyway?” I was instantly hooked, and that was the day I found my purpose in life. I started my wedding planning and design business in 2007, which led me on an incredible journey.
Fast forward to 12 years later, and I had planned and designed hundreds of luxury weddings all over the world. I grew this little business from the spare room of my home into a multi-country, multi-six-figure company. I had written two books, launched a speaking career–all while my team and I had the unique opportunity of helping families celebrate moments that mattered in their lives with some incredible parties.
In 2019, I decided that things needed to change. As much as I loved the work, there was something new calling me. I found a passion for helping entrepreneurs have the same level of success I was fortunate enough to have. I decided to sell my business and launch my successful business coaching career.
Purpose changed my life — I know first hand how powerful it is. I’m on a mission to help women discover their gifts, build businesses around their talents, and live each day on purpose.
Can you share with our readers the most interesting or amusing story that occurred to you in your career so far? Can you share the lesson or take away you took out of that story?
I have so many wonderful stories to share during the course of my career, but one of my favorite moments was flying to Milan as a guest of designers to attend their runway shows. Don’t ask me how I made those connections (or snagged the invite), but it was a surreal experience to watch fashion coming down the runway in Italy. A sweet moment I’ll cherish and tell my grandchildren about.
Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?
I’m preparing for the new season of my podcast, The Power in Purpose. I’m looking forward to switching up the show’s format, interviewing and connecting with new guests, and helping my listeners figure out a way forward post-pandemic.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I’ve had so many mentors during my career, and I’m grateful for all of them. I would have to say my husband, who has always supported me in my crazy ideas. It’s essential to have a partner in your life who believes in you and your dreams.
For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?
I’ve been a business owner and entrepreneur for over 13 years. I discovered early on that while I wore many hats in my business, the most important one was sales. Over the years, I’ve made sales my number one role in my business–because without it, my business wouldn’t exist! I want you to take on the same approach and know that you can sell without feeling salsey or sleazy. For most of us entrepreneurs, sales is a learned skill sharpened over time.
Let’s shift a bit to what is happening today in the broader world. Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty and loneliness. From your experience, what are a few ideas that we can use to effectively offer support to our families and loved ones who are feeling anxious? Can you explain?
I keep going back to Stephen Covey’s circles of control, influence, and concern. When the pandemic hit and circumstances heightened the news cycle, I, too, felt like I was spiraling out of control. Every corner of my life felt overwhelming, and I couldn’t wrap my arms around how to quiet my thoughts and anxieties. I rediscovered Stephen Covey’s circles of control, influence, and concern. It showed me how I spent my time focused on areas that I had no power over or little persuasion. Once I could shift my thoughts back to the things I could control, the tension began to release.
If you’re having a hard day today and need some perspective, read more about this technique. I think it’ll be just what you need to shift your focus on the things you have control over.
Ok. Thanks for all that. Let’s now jump to the main core of our interview. As you know, nearly any business a person will enter, will involve some form of sales. At the same time, most people have never received any formal education about how to be effective at selling. Why do you think our education system teaches nearly every other arcane subject, but sales, one of the most useful and versatile topics, is totally ignored?
This is such a great question–and shines a spotlight on all that is missing from our education system. I can’t remember one discussion I had before college where sales was a topic. Why don’t we learn this, along with so many other things, like how to fix a leaky faucet or balance a checkbook?
I don’t know that I have an answer, but I will say that you do better once you know better. We can’t rely on our education system to teach us everything about life, but we can and should take matters into our own hands and discover the what, how, and why behind the things that will benefit us.
This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesy”, is making an assumption that seeming salesy or pushy is something to be avoided. Do you agree with this assumption? Whether yes, or no, can you articulate why you feel the way you do?
Almost every entrepreneur I coach and mentor are scared of selling–and it’s not surprising. Our culture has led us to believe that sales are bad.
We believe that when you sell someone something, you are taking something away from that person. But sales is about giving a person something they value and solving a problem they have.
A transaction must take place for a transformation to occur. When you know this fundamental principle about sales, you start to realize that it’s your obligation as an entrepreneur to find customers who need the solution you provide and help them to buy that solution. You no longer see sales as being pushy or salesy, but rather your duty as a business. Businesses exist to solve their customers’ problems and offer something of value–and you can’t do that unless you land the sale!
The seven stages of a sales cycle are usually broken down to versions of Prospecting, Preparation, Approach, Presentation, Handling objections, Closing, and Follow-up. Which stage do you feel that you are best at? What is your unique approach, your “secret sauce”, to that particular skill? Can you explain or give a story?
I think I’m good at all stages of the sales process, but I have the most fun during the presentation. I know that my ideal customer buys with their eye, so how I present my products and services matter.
I spend a lot of time getting the presentation just right to help my customer buy with their eye. I can get lost in branding and design–it’s therapeutic for me to develop a marketing campaign or design a sales page.
I’ve always been of the mindset that you should lean into what you’re good at when it comes to sales, and the presentation of my offers is where I shine.
Presentation is one of the most critical stages of the sales process because we all buy with our eye. Think about the last time you scanned the aisles for a bottle of wine to bring to a dinner party–you probably picked a new variety based on the label. Whether it’s an impulsive purchase or one that’s more thoughtful, our eye is what buys first. When we love something, we’ll quickly rationalize why we need it and move past any objections that we might have.
Lead generation, or prospecting, is one of the basic steps of the sales cycle. Obviously every industry will be different, but can you share some of the fundamental strategies you use to generate good, qualified leads?
My sales cycle begins with my sales funnel. Since I help businesses scale and grow through coaching and courses, I provide prospects with something of high value the moment they come into my orbit. I want to teach them something that will change their business trajectory or give them a shortcut to get to the next level faster. I’m a big believer in giving your secret sauce away for free–it’s been my approach since the beginning, and it works.
My sales funnel starts with high-quality lead generation in the form of opt-ins. For free, my ICA’s can download a guide that helps them write their business plan or watch my on-demand masterclass and learn how to attract their best customers. These two opt-ins are also focused exclusively on my niche, to attract the right leads and repel the wrong ones.
Through this top portion of my funnel, I can live out my value of serving others in a meaningful way while also introducing them to a fraction of the results they could have while working with me.
I use automated email marketing to warm up this lead from cold to hot through a series of emails that accelerate the know/like/trust factor. This week’s long email series introduces them to me and my work and creates connection points by telling my story and understanding their journey. It’s single-handily the most effective way I’ve expanded my business, landed sales, and lived out my purpose to help women build a profitable business.
In my experience, I think the final stages of Handling Objections, Closing, and Follow-up, are the most difficult parts for many people. Why do you think ‘Handling Objections’ is so hard for people? What would you recommend for one to do, to be better at ‘Handling Objections’?
Most people are not prepared for push-back from someone else, so when objections come up during the sales process, it can knock us off our game, especially after spending so much time educating the customer and leading them thoughtfully through the sales process!
But objections always come up, whether the customer asks you a question in the form of an objection or whether they’re in their head pondering all the reasons why they can’t move forward with your product/service.
Your customer just wants to make sure that you’ve answered the most crucial question, “Is this right for me?”
There are a few ways to combat objections and prepare for them that have helped me:
- Prepare: Think through every question, objection, or reason why your customer would not purchase your product or service so you can be ready to combat those objections in advance. You’ve got to put yourself in their shoes–into the lives of your customers–and understand the problems they’re facing and the symptoms of those problems. As an expert, it might be difficult for you to go back to a stage where you experienced the same aches and pains your customers are having right now. But it’s essential to connect with what your customer is experiencing so you can be that solution.
- Invite: I invite my ideal clients to ask questions and get tough during the sales process–it makes it easier for me to sell to them, and I’m able to make sure there’s no buyer’s remorse. I want my clients to make informed decisions about their investments–and I also want them to stick around and pay their bills. I encourage you to invite more pushback and conversation during the sales process, which will let you show up to affirm their purchase and get them excited about their investment.
- Track: As part of your sales process, you should track objections that come up with past clients. I have a document full of questions and objections I’ve encountered so I can be prepared for the next sales call. I also use it to flesh out FAQ’s and sales emails for future campaigns. Always find ways to store as much data and information as you can. You’ll notice patterns emerging and blind spots that you’ve missed in your sales funnel. It’ll help you sharpen your blade and land more sales next time.
‘Closing’ is of course the proverbial Holy Grail. Can you suggest 5 things one can do to successfully close a sale without being perceived as pushy? If you can, please share a story or example, ideally from your experience, for each.
- Remember, You’re Helping People Buy: If you don’t believe in your product/service, why should your customer? You launched your business because you saw a problem that needed to be solved, and your customers deserve to have their problem solved by you–the expert! As you close the sale, you’re in the final stages of helping this customer buy the solution they need to the problem they have. Not helping them to buy would go against why you started your company in the first place.
- Invite Objections: As I mentioned before, I invite objections and conversation in my sales process. I want to hear from the customer, and I want them to be honest. I’m here to help people–and I want to make sure that I can help this customer solve their problem. If you feel your customers hesitating during your closing, invite them to share what’s on their mind so you can answer their lingering questions. Most of the time, they just want a final confirmation to the question, “Is this right for me?”
- Stick To The Transformation: Vision statements tell a story of what life is like for your customers after you solve their problems, and that is what your customer is ultimately buying. Seth Godin says, “People don’t buy paint, the buy painted walls.” As you close the sale, remember to sell your customer the painted wall, aka what life is like for them AFTER you solve their problems. Don’t focus so much on the features or the long list of incredible things they receive; instead, focus on the results they’ll get and the transformation that will take place.
- Act Like The Deal is Done: This is one of my favorite techniques–because it really works. Speaking to someone as if they’ve decided to say yes can be really powerful in closing the sale. All you have to do is tweak how you talk to the customer. Try flipping your statements from “when/if”:
When we work together >> Our first step in working together is….
Talk with your customer like the deal is sealed, and watch how quickly they say to send over an agreement.
5. Drop A Deadline: Deadlines encourage people to make decisions, and sometimes your customer needs to know that your offer has an expiration date. A deadline can eliminate analysis paralysis for your customer and get them to decide whether that decision is to work with you or move in a different direction and let you get back to serving your paying customers. Don’t hesitate to end your final sales call with a deadline date, and make sure you stick to it.
Finally, what are your thoughts about ‘Follow up’? Many businesses get leads who might be interested but things never seem to close. What are some good tips for a business leader to successfully follow up and bring things to a conclusion, without appearing overly pushy or overeager?
I always follow up. You never know the circumstances around why the sale went cold. Often, it just wasn’t the right time, but every now and then, there is another reason where following up works in your favor. Remember, you’re helping people to buy, so a follow up is part of that process. I follow up a few times, and if I don’t hear back, I sent out the “magic email.”
The magic email is the perfect way to end a sale and have the final word–but it can also revive a dead lead and give it new life. Its a technique used by Kai Davis, and it goes like this:
Since I have not heard from you on this, I have to assume your priorities have changed.
Should you need our help in the future, please don’t hesitate to reach out.
That’s it! That’s the magic email. You’d be so surprised at how many people respond with an explanation, even if they went in a different direction.
As you know there are so many modes of communication today. For example, In-person, phone calls, video calls, emails, and text messages. In your opinion, which of these communication methods should be avoided when attempting to close a sale or follow up? Which are the best ones? Can you explain or give a story?
I think you need to show up where your customers are, so I can’t say definitively which of these methods you should avoid. Purchasing from you should be easy for the customer, so if your customer prefers communicating by text–do it. If they like a phone call, pick up the phone. If they prefer an email, go that route. You want to make purchasing from you the easiest thing they ever did, and to do that, you need to show up wherever they are.
Ok, we are nearly done. Here is our final “meaty” question. You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
I’d love to meet Sarah Blakely! She’s a female founder I’ve long admired and someone I’d have a ton of fun with!
How can our readers follow you online?
I’m always hanging out on the ‘gram @candice.coppola
Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!