Rocking Sales As An Introvert Entrepreneur

Would you hire an introvert to sell your eighty million dollar airplanes? Aren’t introverts too shy and quiet to be in sales? Is it possible for introverts to succeed as entrepreneurs if they have to go out and sell their ideas?

I love these questions because they lead to myth-busting. As an introvert, entrepreneur and writer I get to create a character who shows that the exact traits that some see as a detriment to selling are what can make introverts rock stars in sales.

I’m currently writing book five in this seven book series which features Vivienne Ramsey, a quiet, hard-working, super-organized young woman who climbs to the top of the private jet sales industry by using her introvert traits. It wasn’t hard to image how it could happen. Her transition from a secretary to jet sales might surprise her and some others but I knew she could do it from the beginning. (It helps when you’re the writer ;-)).

The idea for the story came from my  own business experiences. I’ve failed at a few sales jobs. I was hired to work commission sales in a boutique dress shop and was run over by all the more outgoing sales staff. I tried opening a home-party based business where I had to call on all my friends and family and their friends and family and so on, and so on. A year after starting my manager was still trying to explain to me how easy it is to approach women in the grocery store to discuss their make-up and set them up for a party. I thought there was something wrong with me because I felt so uncomfortable doing it. It took me a long time to figure out that it wasn’t that I couldn’t sell, it was that those particular types of sales were not where I could shine.

Cold calling isn’t an introverts best skill but there are a lot of business that require no cold calling and rely on strong, long-term relationships to make sales. This is where introverts shine. This is how my character, Vivienne, is selling the hell out of those jets (at 1% commission on eighty million–you do the math). Vivienne is quiet, not because she has nothing to say, but because she loves to study people. She learns a lot about her clients by keeping her mouth shut and letting them do the talking. She has no problem keeping the spotlight on them because introverts naturally don’t like to be the center of attention. Once she knows what they need she follows through on every detail, often giving them more information than they even asked for. Finally jet sales in particular lets her shine because she is a female in a very male-dominated field. Introverts are used to being the odd man out and Vivienne knows how to work this to her advantage. She brings all the traits that her male, extroverted competition doesn’t have.

As the story progresses Vivienne is learning more about herself and about the skills she’s naturally great at and those she will always struggle with. In the scene I wrote yesterday she is attending her first business lunch as a female entrepreneur. The pre-lunch social hour is a struggle, but once she is in a smaller group, during the meal, she listens and learns that all the women at her table struggle with some aspect of their business. No entrepreneur can be good at all parts of running a business and these women remind her that its smarter to  hire someone to do the things you can’t.

Ironically (or maybe not because introverts are intuitive) I got a perfect infographic this week about introverts in sales from the lovely and charming Emily Parker. I’m sharing it with you because it’s a concise visual that explains exactly why Vivienne is a quiet honey who is makin the money.

Introverts in Sales
Source: CollegeMatchup.net

Introvert entrepreneurs, share your sales stories. Have you found a way to make your introversion work for you? Reply in comments below and help others see all the ways being the quiet one can be a benefit.

And keep an eye out for Vivienne. I’ll be publishing the first book in the series, “Fearless Flying” in a few months. I’m working on some covers and writing all the way to the end of her fantastic journey so I can release the rest of the series quickly.

 

 

 

 

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Can Women Learn Better Negotiating From Men?

It doesn’t matter if you’re Jennifer Lawrence or an Economics Professor at Harvard or a self-published author working from her kitchen table, we all do it. Women,that is–we all play it small too often. And we’ve been doing it so long that we don’t realize it. It’s ingrained in us. We settle for less, demand little, back down, undervalue ourselves. We don’t want to appear pushy or rude or, god-forbid, so pompous that we think our work is worth a lot of money. So we just don’t ask for more.

It’s an issue that has caught my attention several times lately. It started with Jennifer Lawrence and her essay in Lenny. I loved it that she owned her mistakes in negotiating her contract and earning much less than her male co-stars in the movie American Hustle. She didn’t blame anyone but did note that in hindsight her reasons were not wanting to appear greedy or troublesome, two pejorative adjectives often hurled at women who know their worth and ask for it.

Her point stuck in my head but didn’t really hit home until I was listening to a Freakonomics podcast about the gender pay gap. The guest expert was Claudia Goldin, a professor of economics at Harvard University who specializes in studying gender economics. Dr. Goldin presented some fantastic data that showed that most of the gap in pay is not due to outright discrimination, but to the choices that women make, usually in favor of family over career. But it was the closing segment of the podcast that really got my attention. In it Dr. Goldin told a story about doing some consulting work, which she doesn’t normally do, and assuming she would not be paid. The company needing her help offered to pay her $2,000, which she agreed to. Before finishing the project she was told that the other two consultants, both men, were paid two times what she was, because they asked. The lesson is about how we see our work, all work, and how much we value it.

Unless we value our work no one else will.

The men who did the consulting work with Dr. Goldin valued their time and skills more than she did. They didn’t think to offer either for free. No matter what work you are doing, value it–Harvard professor, actress, writer, stay-at-home mom. All our work is valuable.

It’s pretty hard to get paid for mothering or volunteer work, but you can still understand and acknowledge your value by respecting your time. Evaluate each request for your time and feel free to say no. Teach your children that mothering makes an important contribution to society. Note to yourself and your family all the ways that their quality of life is better for the mom things you do.

Women also tend to think they have to be an expert to ask for top pay for their work, men generally don’t. It’s hard to say when you are an expert. Just being in a field puts you ahead of those just entering and means you have something of value to offer. This week I will be teaching a class on how to self-publish, something that is a huge leap forward for me. I’ve actually been teaching for years at a university, but this is the first time I didn’t wait for someone else to tell me I had enough skills in a subject to teach it. Being only two years into self-publishing the lessons I learned as a beginner are still fresh. I vividly remember feeling lost and searching for answers. I can’t tell you how excited I am to offer all those answers to others just joining my field and developing a new revenue stream for myself.

There is an art to negotiating, one that can be learned. While it’s true that you might knock yourself out of the game by quoting too high, it doesn’t look like women are in danger of doing that anytime soon. This is one area where we need to learn a lesson from men. They are taught that they should play big and value their contributions. They know to ask for more, because that’s the only way you are going to get it.

Are you guilty of not asking for more? I am. This topic hit home because I saw myself in those stories. Like Jennifer Lawrence I want to be seen as nice and not make waves. Like Professor Goldin I’m too often willing to give my time and knowledge for free or take whatever money is offered. Comment below and share your stories of when you wish you had asked for more or when you did.

 

 

6 Things To Ask Yourself Before You Become The Chick in Charge

I’ve pointed out in the past that I pretty much had no idea what I was doing when I hit publish on my first book. I mean, I managed to get it up on Amazon but beyond that I was delusional, believing that books sell themselves, that all I had to do was bring my product to market and the rest would be riding the gravy train. (I’ll pause for a minute for all the authors out there to finish laughing.)

It didn’t take long to realize I had not only become a published writer but I had also unknowingly launched my own business; a business that exists in a market that I didn’t understand and requires skills that I did not have. If I had to do it over again I would because I’m actually really enjoying this process, but there’s definitely a few things I wish I would have thought through first.

Most of this occurred to me as I was reading Taylor Pearson’s article, “Why Product Market Fit is Overrated (and what to focus on instead).” In it he hit on several key points that I think a lot of women don’t factor in when they start a business, especially one with very low start up costs. It’s so easy to jump in the game that we often don’t exactly know what game we are jumping into.

Once my book was out there I started to look for blogs who might review it and I was shocked by the sheer number of self-published romance authors. Do you know your market? —the number of people in it and how those people were doing business? Most of us start with the idea stage, we’ve got a cool product, then skip the research and take the leap. In hindsight this is both good and bad. On one hand we don’t know what we are up against so we are more likely to take the leap, but not knowing can also make the first few years so much more frustrating. No matter what the business its always wiser to do the research first, not necessarily to squelch your dream but to give you a better idea of what will be involved in working in that field. Even for home franchise business (like selling makeup or kitchen goods at home parties), it’s good to know how many other vendors of the same line are in your area then look at their online presence.

I didn’t ask, is this business a good fit for my life? I’m a mom first, a job that I’m slowly being phased out of, but one I still hold at least part-time (sometimes full time). Running a business, especially in the first couple years can be time consuming. Everything is new to you. I’ve spent countless hours reading how-to books and articles and listening to podcasts so I can learn more about my business. So far I’ve made it fit, squeezing writing time in between driving my kids around and dealing with standard teenage issues, but there are times I’m cramming in a blog post or rushing to meet a deadline, burning the midnight oil to make it all work.

Another part of not knowing the business in advance was not asking what will I be doing on a daily basis? Being a self-published author is half writing but also half marketing, especially online. This is another area where ignorance may have worked in my favor because I’m not naturally drawn to social media. I’m much more of a lurker than a poster, preferring to see what everyone else is doing and keeping my own rather dull life out of the spotlight. That has changed. I still don’t take photos of my meals to post them but I’ve worked to steadily to remember to include others in my business life; what I’m working on or my latest passion (hello, Taylor Pearson and End of Jobs), generally sharing my journey (like this post!) It’s probably the hardest and most unexpected part of being an author for me.

Do I know my audience? It’s another important factor to consider when deciding if a business is right for you. Social media and marketing becomes so much easier if you know who you are trying to reach. You need to understand and relate to their problems if you are going to solve them with your product. As Taylor Pearson points out, one of his business ventures failed because despite the fact that it was a hot market he didn’t really understand the needs of the clients.

Equally important is, do I know at least ten people in the industry? The old saying, “it’s who you know” still holds true. It’s vital to be involved in your industry, even better if you do this before you hang your “open for business” sign. You are going to have millions of questions (not exaggerating here) and you will need several people to turn to for answers. Being connected also helps you to know industry changes, something that can change almost daily in self-publishing. It’s never too early (or too late) to get involved with industry groups.

The most concise and profound question from Taylor’s article is: “How do you want to spend the next four years of your life?” Because your answers to the questions above will show you what it will be like to spend the next couple years building a business. No matter how prepared you are there is a steep learning curve, and you will be deeply invested, emotionally and financially in making your business work. The more you know about it before you start the better.

One final note, while I now realize that I jumped blindly into my business and I’m paying the price, running to catch up, it’s never too late to ask these questions and in doing so improve your current outlook and knowledge. You will never get it all exactly right. Part of the fun (?) is learning and growing and challenging yourself.

So I’m asking any Chicks in Charge to share their story. How prepared were you to start your business? How has that affected your business? What do you wish you knew in advance? Share in the comments below so maybe we can help other women entrepreneurs learn from our mistakes–pay it forward.

 

The Black Lace Business Model

Tonight I’m running my business from the bed in our guest bedroom. This is where I’m writing this post, planning a class I’m going to teach and generally working on connecting with as many smart, sexy, supportive women as I can. I’m wearing my new Hello Kitty slippers and the leggings and tee shirt I put on for yoga this morning.

Despite my appearance and my lack of a real office, I know that the work I do is no less important or valid than that of suited men in nondescript glass towers. Because I represent the new business model, the entrepreneur, particularly female entrepreneurs who are rewriting the way business is done and what’s considered true commerce.

I’ve been working on refining the keywords for Karen Gordon, Author. These are terms and ideas I want tied to my work. When you type these words into Google I want my writing and teaching to appear, somewhere near the top of your results. I’m still in the process but I’ve got more direction now. Through this process I noticed that the main continuous thread in all my writing is strong females characters. Even future novels revolve around women who live their lives on their own terms.

I support women’s sexuality in my writing–in all forms. I want women to feel free to choose,without fear of social persecution, to be as sexual as they want to be or not be. I’m creating characters who are solid in their feminine power and energy whether they are sharing that with another or enjoying it just for their self.

My heroines are engaged and busy, making bank, making a home or both; they are not wasting time bringing other women down. Drama sells, but my brand is not cheap drama generated by small people. Believe me there’s enough real excitement in raising children or building a business to fill a thousand novels.

I love the idea that married or single, working inside or outside the home, all women can contribute to increasing our value in society. It’s not only the CEO’s and Vogue cover models, but women’s with much quieter goals too who are erasing old stereotypes. My writing, my business is about and for all of them.

I’m still in the process of fleshing out my exact keywords but along the way I started to think about images and the idea of black lace and my geek glasses came to mind. Alone they represent female sexuality and intellect but combined they create a potent mix. Once thought of as opposites, madonna or whore, smart or sexy, mind or body; I now see them as the perfect combination or balance of all that women can be.

I’m going to be updating some of my artwork to encompass these ideas and honing on the keywords that will hopefully bring more smart, sexy, supportive women into my tribe. It’s one of my major projects for 2016.

So what are your keywords? Whether you have a business or not, what words encompass who you are, how you want to engage with the world. Share yours with me and I’ll share mine as soon as I can pin them down. Black lace is looking good though.

 

 

The Best Times Are the Hard Ones

What if I told you, all of you who are just starting out as a self-published author or internet entrepreneur, that right now, when you are often frustrated, sometimes lost and occasionally pissed off, this is the best time in the life of your business?

“Karen, stop drinking,” would probably be your first response. And while I have been drinking more recently (holiday tradition) I’ve also been gob-smacked by the Universe with this message and compelled to share it.

It all started with Adele. In an interview she explained that her new hit, “Hello” is not about a couple or lost love, it’s her talking to the girl she was a few years ago before, as she says, “the world fell at our feet.” When you listen to the lyrics from this perspective you hear someone who isn’t unhappy to have found success (on a mass scale in her case) but someone who fondly remembers being young and free and hungry for the fame she now has.

Once the song got me thinking I started to see the same theme everywhere. The end of the year is a time for reviewing and reminiscing. It seemed like every TV show I watched or podcast I listened to was waxing nostalgic for the past–be it a year, a decade, or just the past in general. Over and over I heard people sharing stories about their trials and hurdles and how they overcame them. What I heard in all those stories was a deep sense of pride for the ah-ha moments when they found solutions and for persevering. I heard a lot of funny stories about working together and forming bonds over late night deadlines, sparsely-funded road trips to meet potential buyers and three-person staff meetings over a five-dollar pizza. It seemed like everyone who had “made it” missed some of the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants excitement of their early years.

It was definitely a message I needed to hear. I tend to focus on my next challenge, what I still need to do, how far I am from where I want to be. I forget to stop and look around me and note where I am now, how far I’ve come already and the really great people I’m meeting along the way. I’m currently struggling to create my 8-novella series. The two novels I’ve already published (link here) had been percolating in my mind for years before I got the stories down on paper. When I did start writing I was able to complete each one in a few months.

Vivienne’s story is newer, revealing itself as I write (and rewrite). I’m proud of what I have so far but it has been ten times harder to produce. There are definitely days that I wonder if I’ve bitten off too much. Book eight feels too far away for me to even picture. The trick I’ve discovered on those days is to project forward and pretend that all eight novellas are completed, published to great reviews and solid sales. If I look back on today and see my frustration as part of the process I feel better. I feel less like I’m spinning my wheels and making little progress.

In other words, the trick is to see now from the other side.

As we all gear up for 2016, working to grow our businesses and create our art, take a minute today to appreciate where you are now. Journal your hopes and dreams, challenges and fears. Appreciate how much all those drive you to keep going and do better, that way when you get there you can stop briefly and rest on your laurels then jump into a new challenge knowing you’re ready to enjoy the process of getting there all over again.

Now open a tab for YouTube, que up Adele’s “Hello” and sing to the struggling you as loud as you can.

Powerful Introvert Marketing: Collaboration

I don’t know about all other introverts, but I hate being the center of attention. My wedding was torture! I seriously wanted to stop the service and ask everyone to just talk to each other and stop looking at me. So you can imagine how difficult promoting myself is. The idea of contacting people I don’t know but would like to (double whammy unnerving) and then telling them about my writing (triple whammy) then asking them to read it and review or promote it in some way (we’re up to quad whammy now) is crazy hard for me. I’ve done it, but I’m sure I came off as the awkward, quivering fool that I felt like.

I’ve tried all sorts of ways to market my books with some success, but I know I could do better. Ironically, I’ve discovered a way to reach people, the movers and shakers I want to know, and do it in a way that I am completely comfortable with; I can do it with ease when I promote other people.

Twice recently opportunities have fallen into my lap where I wanted to tell the world about someone else’s work and how it influenced me in a positive way.

The first was a very cool lady who calls herself The Suburban Monk. She created the adorable smiling, thumbs-up Buddha statue shown above. I ordered two recently and she accidentally double sent my order (because she is a business owner who truly cares about her customers!) When she realized her mistake she told me to keep and share the extra two. My mind immediately went to doing a giveaway through my blog because I wanted to share my windfall and let others know about my little Syd (that’s his name) statue and how much it makes me smile. So, if you would like to win a perriwinkle or purple Syd, please follow this link to my Facebook page and enter to win him! Tell your friends and family to sign up too. I gotta tell you it’s hard not to smile every time you look at him. He comes in a bunch of cool colors so if you want gold or orange or another color check out her site.

The second opportunity came when an author I love and follow all over social media grabbed on to last week’s post on strong, silent women and added to it. I mentioned Lavinia Collins in my post so she read it (but that’s not why I mentioned her). As a history scholar she then wrote a post on her blog that added to mine. Here’s a link. If you are a history buff or feminist it is a must read. I can’t tell you how amazing it felt to connect with another author and work off each other. For introverts, collaboration feels fantastic. The chance to shine along with another person feels so much better than being alone in a spotlight. My mind is still awash with places I want to share our combined article. I’m stoked to promote it in a way I would never be if it was me alone.

Since we are talking about marketing here, lets look at the nitty gritty–will I sell any books because of these two events? Truth–I have no idea and that really isn’t my point. Then how can it be marketing, you say. It is marketing because it’s a chance for me to meet new people and connect with them. I truly believe that people buy from people they know and like. So maybe some of the people I meet through these others will decide to look up my books. I’m listed everywhere as Karen Gordon, Author and hopefully it’s easy to find my books. If not, they may remember me when they are looking for a book in the future or want to recommend one to a friend. It’s not direct marketing, it’s not aggressive, it’s probably the very slow way around, but it works for me. I’m having a fantastic time. I’m juiced up about promoting others and my excitement is genuine. People can feel when you are promoting out of obligation and need, just slogging through it, or doing it with true fun and passion.

What marketing technique is working best for you? Do any feel better to do? Share your experience in the comments.

Be sure to stop by my Facebook page to win your own smiling, happy Syd to put on your desk or nightstand. Mine is cheering me on right now as I pass along the love.

How Do You Know When You’ve Won?

Favorite book title, ever: “She Got Up Off the Couch: And Other Heroic Acts from Mooreland, Indiana” by Haven Kimmel. I fell in love with it because it celebrates, in a huge way, what might look like a simple, everyday act. And it reminds me that we, not society, get to decide when we’ve had a big win (and then celebrate, of course).

It’s been on my mind lately for two reasons. One is Vivienne, the main character in the series I’m working on. In the story she flies to the top of the private jet industry (punny, I know). But in creating the story I had to think about where the top would be for this character and how will the audience and the character know when she has reached the pinnacle. Does she have to own her own company to be at the top? What if she owned the smallest company in her industry? Would she still be “at the top”? Society seems to have some definite ideas about success until you try to define them. If she did become CEO but only lasted a year would she still be a success?

I don’t want to give the plot away, but I will say that writing this series has caused me to take a long, hard look at goals and success. Part of her definition of success will be based on where she began. In Vivienne’s case, in book one she is a secretary with a high-school diploma. She comes from a blue-collar area where a good, solid job in a large company is seen as a fantastic goal. These facts will not only shape her goals but how she feels when much bigger opportunities come her way. In the end, her start in life will also cause her to question whether she really has won the grand prize of life when she is livin’ large.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about my own goals and accomplishments. As the CEO (and lone employee) of Karen Gordon, Author, I like to set time aside a few times a year to look at my goals and what I’ve accomplished. In a recent post, Gretchen Rubin noted that September is the new January, in other words, this is a great time for setting goals. I agree. When my kids go back to school I start a new season and I’ve been floundering lately, in need of a little structure and direction. I decided to use Danielle LaPorte’s Desire Map book as my guide. If you don’t know her work, Danielle LaPorte is a savvy businesswoman who’s style vacillates from spiritual guru to potty-mouth BFF. I love her.

Most people would have very clear-cut ideas about what success would/should look like for an author–sell a certain (large) number of books, make the NY Times or USA Today best seller list, have a movie made from your book. And my first instinct is to automatically put any or all of these down as my goals. But are they my goals? Each would require that I focus my energy in a different direction, they aren’t the package deal that most people think they are. And I’m not sure any of them would really make me happy, make me feel like I’ve won the self-publishing game.

Through The Desire Map book I’ve been determining and focusing in on goals that will not only make me happy when I accomplish them, but that I enjoy the process of reaching them. Personal goals, things that might not look like crossing the finish line to others, but will make me immensely happy. As I noted in my post about working from home it pushes you to set goals so you can have structure to your days and so you will know when it’s time to celebrate your accomplishment, which on some days might be nothing more than getting up off the couch.

Do you work from home and set your own goals? How do you know where to set the bar or mark the finish line? Do you have a favorite book on the topic you can recommend? Comment below and let me know.