The Inc.com article 7 Female Founders on Closing the Deal is a brief but kickass set of mantras to keep in mind for what in my opinion is not just closing the deal as an entrepreneur, but in many different ways of selling yourself, your product, and your services. So with these excerpts, I’ve added some of my own thoughts underneath each area.
1) Tell yourself you have the right to be there. ~ Barbara Corcoran
I can’t emphasize how pivotal this was for me. When I was frustrated early on as a consultant, someone reminded me “Aimee, they’re paying for YOU. Don’t hold back.” Every time I feel like that suppressed corporate slavebot, I remind myself of these words and it helps me press on, make sure my voice is heard, and do what I do best.
Oh and if you don’t know Barbara, you should. She’s the awesomest Shark of the bunch, and has quite a story for women (and men) to take inspiration from.
2) Don’t let them intimidate you. ~ Barbara Lynch
This piggybacks with Corcoran’s advice extremely well. There are a lot of personalities out there who will try to take advantage of service providers, thinking that we’re only in it for the money and will be at their disposal. Early on, I had a (now former) client refuse to pay what was owed, and when I stood up for myself, he had the nerve to actually threaten to blacklist me if I fought him. Boy am I glad this happened. Why? Because it gave me strength that I never knew I had. And there would be no threatening me, no sirree. (see rule #6)
3) Know when to bluff. ~ Bobbi Brown
And this means knowing yourself and what you’re capable of. For me, the concept of bluffing is not about deceiving but knowing how much to disclose at any given moment about your business strategy, as well as how you value your products and services. You can be truthful while also not disclosing every detail of how you do business. For me, as a recruiter, I’ll tell my clients the basics of how I find great people, but I won’t give them every detail. The fact is, my value is a combination of a lot of factors, and there’s no reason to give away the secret sauce.
4) Know that sometimes ‘no’ just means ‘not now.’ ~ Arianna Huffington
Heck yeah! That’s why developing relationships is SO important. It can get super easy to get comfortable if you have a few great clients, but from day to day you never know how their needs will change, and suddenly you’ll be looking for work. So with that, I’ve always tried to make sure I’m meeting at least two new client prospects a month, so that even if they’re not in need of my services now, the connection is there and when they are ready, I will be too.
As a side note, wearing my career coach hat, I see a lot of women self-selecting themselves out of positions and never applying for the jobs they want, never reaching out to the companies they want to work for, all because they assume the No and don’t see the bigger picture. I can’t count how many times I’ve met interesting candidates who I’ve declined for the current recruitment then hired later on. Why? Because I know what’s coming down the road, and have made introductions that have turned into jobs down the road one, two, six months later. Love it!
5) Vet them as much as they are vetting you. ~ Alexa von Tobel
This is truly important. Just like when you’re interviewing for a job and I say “you make sure and interview them back!”, you’ve got to get a clear idea of what you’re getting yourself into. Understand the time and effort it’s going to take to provide what the client is looking for (not to mention ensuring they’re really looking for what they SAY they’re looking for) and make sure you know what others say about them. Get to know the key players you’ll be working with – NOT just the person signing off on the contract. Just like meeting your team and not just the manager you’ll be working for, as a consultant you need to know what kind of environment it is. Insist on those meetings before you decide if you want to start the partnership – because it’s just that, a partnership. And then, as in life, trust your gut.
6) Hire a lawyer. ~ Sandy Lerner
‘Nuff said. Do it. Get your contracts reviewed and take all those “ifs/ands/buts” into the meeting to make sure you CYA. It’ll be worth it. My lawyer has helped me ensure I get paid, ensure my contracts are legally defensible and aligned with best practices, and are extremely worth it (so don’t look at the hourly rate as ultimately, a good lawyer will save you money).
7) Make sure they get what you’re doing. ~ Sara Blakely
Hallelujah! I can’t say this enough. When you tell them what you do, and what’s unique about what you offer, TELL THEM AGAIN. Make sure they not only nod their head, but that they GET it and like it. Now Ms Blakely if you don’t know is the creator of Spanx, and until she found a buyer who could relate to women, she was nowhere. But as soon as she found that customer who said embraced her vision (“I have daughters,” he said – yessss!), she was golden. As for me, I’m a recruiter who doesn’t fit into a common business model for my field. I don’t throw resumes over the wall. I manage processes, and I make hiring teams stronger and more effective, efficient, and service-oriented. Candidate experience is everything to me, and clients who don’t “get” that, probably won’t get with me. The best compliment I ever received was this: “Aimee has changed the way we do hiring.” That’s what I’m talking about – legacy stuff, baby. If I’ve left my imprint, even if I’ve only filled one job for one small company, and they are more aware of what it takes to get the right people in.
One final note…I love checking back with the folks I’ve hired and their hiring managers and seeing how they’re doing. As I'd hit the 13 month mark of my business, my first 4 hires celebrated their one-year anniversaries and their managers were thrilled. That made me feel fantastic – making it all worthwhile. That made the lessons learned, the deals closed, and the road less traveled, that much sweeter!