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“One of the most simple and beautiful ways we can support our loved ones is through our full presence.” With Mitch Russo & Kristen J. Zavo

One of the most simple and beautiful ways we can support our loved ones is through our full presence. What this looks like is simply holding space for those close to us to share how they’re doing and feeling — without the need to fix, advise, or even share (or one-up them!) with our own […]

One of the most simple and beautiful ways we can support our loved ones is through our full presence. What this looks like is simply holding space for those close to us to share how they’re doing and feeling — without the need to fix, advise, or even share (or one-up them!) with our own stories. In addition, allowing that same space for ourselves to be real, raw, and messy is not just healing for us, but gives those around us permission to do the same.


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 Kristen J. Zavo.

Kristen Zavo is a Career & Small Business Coach, Speaker, and the Best-Selling Author of “Job Joy: Your Guide to Success, Meaning, and Happiness in Your Career.” After spending nearly two decades in traditional corporate jobs, she is on a mission to help high achievers find work and build careers they love. Kristen earned her MBA in Finance and B.S. in Marketing and Psychology from Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, CT and is also a Certified Life Coach.


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?

Aswith many entrepreneurs, it was my own experience and frustrations that brought me to my life’s work. After nearly two decades in traditional corporate roles, with multiple career changes, I finally figured out why I wasn’t happy, despite my outward success — and what to do about it.

After a big career change, many started asking me how I did it and if I could help them — and my coaching business was born. I decided to write a book, Job Joy, to serve as guide — and shortcut — for other unfulfilled high achievers, so they too could find career fulfillment. Since then, I’ve gone full-time in my business as a career coach and speaker. I couldn’t be happier — I get to do work I love while helping others do the same!

As my clients soon find out, this work is about way more than landing the job or launching their business. That’s because when we learn to design our career for ultimate fulfillment, impact, and happiness — we realize we can do the same in the rest of our lives. This has a ripple effect and makes for happier, more on-purpose, can’t-be-stopped game changers who will impact the world for the better — and inspire others to do the same.

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?

It wasn’t funny at the time, but I can look back now and smile at my 30th birthday middle-of-the-night breakdown. I remember waking up with this overwhelming feeling of sadness, disappointment, and if I’m honest — even despair. Despite my outward success (living in New York City, making fantastic money, and working for a boutique firm and with high profile clients), I was the most unhappy I had ever been. I wasn’t where I wanted to be in life and thought I was supposed to have it all figured out by then.

Fast forward many years, and this was one of the big events that inspired me to quit my fancy, high-paying job, move away from the city, and completely changing careers. It led to lots of world travel, meeting the love of my life, writing a book, and then launching my own coaching business where I now get to help other high achievers also find joy and fulfillment in their work.

My life looks completely different now because of the realizations that night. I now know that it’s never too late to find work you love (that’s the laughable part — that at age 30, I honestly thought it was too late). I now believe that everyone deserves to find work and build careers they love. They owe it to themselves, and to the rest of the world. Because living an on-purpose, lit-up life (a big part of which is career) is key to our long-term happiness and fulfillment. It’s how we share our unique gifts and how we have the most impact in this world.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Yes, I’m working on so many exciting projects! One of them is my upcoming launch of my group program, Find Your Job Joy, which is a 10-week course for those seeking more confidence, clarity — and a plan! — to build a career they love. I also hold complimentary weekly trainings and monthly masterclasses on all things career happiness. These are based on what’s going on in the world and what I’m hearing is most needed from my audience.

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 have been blessed with so many amazing colleagues, mentors, family and friends who have helped me get where I am today. If I have to choose one, though, that’s easy — my love and partner in life, John Scheyer.

The unwavering support, confidence in me and my work, and unconditional love from him is my secret to success. I’ll never forget how he supported me as I wrote Job Joy, celebrating each small win — whether it was finishing a chapter, submitting the first draft of my manuscript, or finding out that my book was picked up by a traditional publisher. He was there, cheering me on during the e-book release, and standing beside me with his special “Job Joy latte” at our book launch party at Joseph Beth Bookstore in Cincinnati, Ohio. I’ll always treasure his writing gift baskets which helped brighten my spirits and help me overcome writer’s block — and included my favorite teas, snacks, positive quotes, and even a special writing candle.

For the benefit of our readers, can you tell us a bit why you are an authority on the topic of sales?

Sales is a key component of building any business. It doesn’t matter how good your product or service is, if you can’t get it into the hands of the people it will help most. Because of that, I’ve learned — and continue to learn — to be more effective in this way. My sales style is the result of my corporate background, personal experience (on both sides of a sales call), mindset work, and multiple trainings on the topic.

In addition to that, I teach and mentor my clients to sell themselves. That’s because whether they’re landing new jobs, changing careers, or launching businesses, the ability to sell — to share their story and how it can help others — is key to their success.

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?

One of the most simple and beautiful ways we can support our loved ones is through our full presence. What this looks like is simply holding space for those close to us to share how they’re doing and feeling — without the need to fix, advise, or even share (or one-up them!) with our own stories. In addition, allowing that same space for ourselves to be real, raw, and messy is not just healing for us, but gives those around us permission to do the same.

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?

Great question — and it’s not just sales training that is missing. We’re also lacking formal education in day-to-day “adulting” like managing finances, running a household, effective communication, relationships, and handling our emotions and mindset.

I am not an expert in Education, but my guess would be that the reason for this is a combination of history and tradition (curriculums that were decided in different times), and the politics or red tape involved in updating and transforming education to meet our current needs.

The good news is that we’re in an age of limitless information. Between online videos, trainings, and courses (both free and paid), we’re filling the gaps and democratizing the learning of these important skills.

This discussion, entitled, “How To Be Great At Sales Without Seeming Salesey”, 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?

I do agree that effective and service-based sales (what I, and my clients aspire to) does not feel salesy, pushy, or slimy. There is a big difference between trying to make a sale and taking a stand for someone — calling them forward to make the transformation they say is so important to them. The former feels needy, selfish, and one-sided. The latter is authentic (only making an offer if you can help), collaborative, and in alignment with the best outcome for all involved — even if that means not making the sale at that time.

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?

No matter what “stage” I’m in, I like to think of sales as relationship building. It’s sad to say, but in today’s market, treating potential clients as real people is the secret sauce. That means taking the time to understand their problems, their dreams, their challenges and their bigger “why.” It also means only making an offer when I know I can help them reach their goals. This is very different than the robotic, unattached, and scripted approach that I see others using (and that I’ve been a victim of myself!).

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?

For me, the key has been to share high quality content that will help solve a problem for my ideal client. I don’t hold back. I share trainings, insights and actionable steps from the very beginning — so that even if one chooses not to work with me, they are better off for our connection. And if they do want the support, accountability, and momentum that comes from a coaching relationship, now they’ve gotten a feel for my style and can more confidently say yes to investing in themselves and their goals.

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’?

For many of us, we feel like we are our business, and so anything other than an enthusiastic “Yes!” can feel like a rejection. That’s what makes handling objections so difficult.

I do my best to enter any potential sales calls (or “Make a Difference” calls as my previous business mentor, Amy Yamada, used to call them) from an invested, yet unattached-to-the-outcome place. When it comes to objections, I lean in, listen, and see it as our first coaching opportunity instead of something to run from.

I make sure they feel heard and understood, and then if I can relate, will share a story about a time when I (or a client) had a similar concern — how we navigated it, and what the final result was. My goal is not to sell — it’s to support someone in reaching their goals. If that means working with me, great. If it means doing something else, that’s good too.

‘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.

  1. Make it about them (not you). One way to do this is to reframe the concept of “closing” — and instead see it as standing for someone’s vision and goals.
  2. Make offers with integrity — only make an offer if you are certain you can support them in reaching their goals.
  3. Focus on results, not features. In the world of coaching, for example — the number of calls, trainings, and access is less important than how they will grow and the lifelong skills they will have gained by the end of the program.
  4. Share client success stories to inspire and connect. Why were they successful? If some were not, why not?
  5. Stand for them. If you’ve had a good conversation(s), navigated objections, and are both still aligned, then don’t wait — invite them to work with you.

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 seek to understand the potential client’s level of urgency from the beginning. I don’t make offers to those who don’t have a healthy sense of urgency and high level of commitment, because in my experience, they won’t be as successful.

Understanding where they’re at in this way informs my next step with them, whether it’s calling them forward and holding them to their goals — or if a low-no investment relationship is more appropriate for them at that time.

In addition, I’m always nurturing my audience with weekly tips, monthly masterclasses and the opportunity to be in community with other career-focused high achievers. This adds value and builds trust so that if and when they are ready to get deeper and more personalize support, they are more confident in their decision. In a nutshell — it’s all about relationships, integrity, and a focus on the long-term value rather than a quick sale.

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?

My answer is: it depends. I’ve used all these forms of communication, based on the form of our initial introduction, both of our preferences, and my discernment.

In general, I hold initial calls via the phone or video call, and follow-up based on our agreement in that call. Sometimes that means scheduling another time to talk, or just catching up via email or text. I’ve also started incorporating quick video clips as a more personalized way to check in (both with potential and current clients).

To give an example, my communication with my newest client began as a referral via text, where a past client introduced us. We had a conversation on the phone, she followed me on social media and read my book, Job Joy, and then she reached out via text when she was ready to talk more seriously about working together. She signed up on that call and we scheduled our first 1:1 coaching session via video for later that week.

Overall, I don’t subscribe to any hard and fast rules when it comes to communication. It’s about honoring your own boundaries while also being flexible and considering what is best (most convenient, most likely-to-be-read/heard, and most personalized) for your future client.

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. 🙂

It’s the movement I’ve already started with the work I do with my clients every day. I want everyone to know that no matter their circumstances, it is never too late to find work and build businesses they love — to do work that is fulfilling and impactful, work where they’re seen, heard, valued and appreciated, work where they’re most on purpose and can share their gifts with the world. We all deserve this. And it’s our responsibility. No more hiding. Now, more than ever, the world needs us to step up!

How can our readers follow you online?

Connect with me on social media — I’m most active on FacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram.

Thank you for the interview. We wish you only continued success!

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