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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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.

 

Is 2016 The Year to Realize Delayed Dreams?

My oldest son is sixteen and he’s in the middle of the frustrating process where the whole world starts to ask him what he wants to do for the rest of his life. He has to start thinking about a career, so he can plan on a college, so he can plan his high school classes, etc. Like most kids his age he doesn’t want to think past the next comic con.

Through him I’m remembering that time in my life when I considered so many options then had to discard some as unreasonable, too expensive, out of reach. Each career path I considered spoke to some part of me; my creative side, my logical/planner side, my feminist side, etc. I eventually aimed in the direction of advertising and PR then wound up in special events and teaching. (Because face it, very few end up where they thought they would at sixteen.) But some of those dreams never died. The part of me they represent never got a moment to shine or at least step up to the plate and try. It’s those delayed dreams that I’m tapping into now as an entrepreneur.

Now, this point in time in history, is a unique time that is perfect for so many people to be able to keep their day job (or not) and try something new, something they’ve always wanted to do.

Writing novels is that for me, and I get to combine it with owning my own business, another path I’ve always been interested in. I met a woman today who had always thought being an editor would be great. She’s a librarian (a great job for a lover of words) but we talked about how she could easily do side work editing books for self-published writers. It was such a fun conversation. I loved seeing the wheels start spinning and the lights go on that long-forgotten dream. It was fantastic being the person who is already on the path getting to point it out to her.

So, what are your lost dreams? Did you write them off because in the past you had to open a brick and mortar store and start-up costs would be too high? Did someone tell you that you didn’t have the skills to compete in a particular market? Did you hear scary stories about how little creative people make and that you might end up living in a cardboard box if you take that career path? Well, the world has changed. You, my friend, and I are lucky enough to live in a time when anyone can open an online “store” and reach customers world-wide. You may not be an expert but you are still ahead of someone and they could seriously benefit from your knowledge. And creative work is still hard, but it’s easier to go around the gatekeepers and find your audience than ever before.

Next month I’m going to teach a series of classes on how to self-publish. Am I an industry leader? Hell, no. But I’ve been there and learned a lot of good lessons along the way. I’m green enough to remember what it’s like to be starting out with no clue what to do. Industry leaders are great but they can be so deep in an industry that their advice is too complicated for a beginner. It’s just another way that I’m following those dreams, going back to the what-if’s and exploring all the possibilities I saw when I was sixteen.

Why I’m no longer satisfied working for someone else and what I did about it.

For the past nine years I’ve been an Instructor for a major university. It’s been a fantastic ride. I’ve worked part-time, often from home, doing something I love. But times, they are a changing. Like so many industries higher education is having to reorganize, revise and restructure to try to keep pace with post-internet society. The result has been chaos. Seems the Titanic can’t turn on a dime and I may have been thrown overboard in the process. As the need for Instructors has dwindled I’ve had fewer and fewer contracts. I’ve been sitting by the phone like some spurned prom date, waiting for it to ring, until I finally got sick of it. Luckily I’ve developed a strong entrepreneurial bent in midlife so I’ve taken matters into my own hands.

End of JobsIn his book “The End of Jobs” (my latest read, review coming soon) Taylor Pearson examines this exact scenario. My job is ending. But the book isn’t a doomsday dissertation, it’s theme isn’t “be afraid, very afraid.” The theme is “wake up, pay attention, there are opportunities out there. Go get em.” I felt this way before I heard Taylor speak on Joanna Penn’s podcast “The Creative Penn” but he gave me the numbers to back up my theory and the cheer leading I needed to get started.

So what am I doing about my lack of teaching contracts? I’m teaching. This April I am joining together with another local self-published author to teach anyone interested how to self publish and how to market your self published books so you can actually sell a few. It’s a process I learned the hard way and I’d like to save others some of my frustration.

I can’t tell you how good it feels to be proactive. I’m juiced. I can’t relate to any of the Monday-sucks memes because I I love any day I make progress toward making this happen. I can’t wait to teach again. I feel like I’m flipping the bird to my absent prom date and going off to create my own dance. And it’s a hundred times more fun! I get to make it mine. I no longer have to worry that the energy and passion I’m investing might be for naught, overlooked on some annual evaluation.

Ok, so the downside, because there is one. I will not make as much in my first year as I did when I was getting one contract after another. But I will make more than if I continued to wait for another contract or if I spun my wheels hoping another University isn’t in the same boat (I’ve looked, they are.) I might not make as much in year two, possibly year three, but eventually I will. And in the mean time I will be a much happier person. I’ll no longer beat my head against the wall in frustration over inane rules and endless red-tape and paperwork. Being in control, having agency, is one of the greatest thrills in life. Another is making a difference in the lives of others. I’m killing both those birds with this stone.

And creating my own classes is only the beginning of creating my brand, my own multiple-income business. This is another theme favored by Joanna Penn, Taylor Pearson and scores of other forward-thinking people because the other huge drawback to working for someone else is the reality of no income when they say good bye. Without a back up source of income it can be devastating, life altering. For many this is the catalyst that propels them into the world of international e-commerce. It was my line in the sand. When I first published I  was still getting contracts and working them. I may still get more, but in the mean time I’m going to keep moving toward self-sufficiency, agency to make my own destiny.

Let me finish by not only encouraging others to read Taylor’s book and figure out their own path in a “jobless” world, but also give you a few resources I’ve found that make this trip so much easier and more fun. It turns out that many of these new e-entrepreneurs also want to help others have the success they do. For the price of a search you can find ideas and support galore. Here are a few of my favorites:

Marie Forleo – Her Marie TV channel on YouTube has over 200,000 subscribers because she delivers sound business advice in an upbeat, sometimes silly, manner.

Danielle LaPorte – Not only is she a business woman with multiple income streams to emulate, on her website she shares her philosophy, successes and failures in a very real way. She’s a fantastic example of succeeding by being yourself.

Sarah Morgan (XO Sarah) – When I add fantastic business advice pins to my Chick in Charge Pintrest board they often come from XO Sarah. Follow her on Pintrest and you will find answers to all your e-commerce questions presented in an organized, easy-to-use fashion. She’s my number one source for badass blogging advice.

Joanna Penn – As I mentioned her podcast, The Creative Penn is where I find not only great advice from a fellow author but guests, like Taylor Pearson, who help me keep growing and learning and motivated.

So who’s with me? Let’s do this midlife (or earlier) end-of-jobs thing together. I’d love to hear about your journey into being an entrepreneur or your hopes and dreams to do so. Comment below with your story or your favorite resources.

**Anyone in the Memphis area who is interest in my self-publishing class can follow this link to my FB page. I’ll be posting sign up information there soon.

 

 

The End of Being Chicken Sh*t or Why I Self-Published

To celebrate my 50th birthday I jumped out of an airplane, got a tattoo and self-published my first novel. Of the three, publishing was by far the scariest but they were all part of my midlife journey, my campaign to live my life differently, more deliberately, for the second fifty years (give or take a few).

The night before my skydive a friend asked me why I was doing it. I told her that I couldn’t live as a chicken shi*t any longer. There were so many things that I feared, irrationally, at that time. I was scared to death of heights, but I knew that statistically skydiving was pretty safe. I was scared to do much of anything permanent, because I was scared of making a mistake and scared of regret. My tattoo is permanent and a constant reminder that I can trust my gut and the choices I make for myself.

And I was scared to death of anyone knowing me, who I really was, what was in my heart. Writing “Burnouts, Geeks & Jesus Freaks: a love story” was me leaning into that fear and pushing past it. It was me giving it the finger and saying that maybe I did have something to offer.

At first I was defensive of my writing and the topic, young love. But reviews told me that a lot of people really enjoyed reading the book because it mirrored their own high school experience and they loved reliving it. I began to apologize and back peddle less and own it. I showed up at writers groups and proclaimed that I write romance.

Other fantastic changes also happened when I hit publish. I was forced out of my very small world. I had to interact with other authors and ask tons of questions because I was so incredibly lost. I met amazing friends, people who are stoked about life and writing and helping others reach their dreams. My world expanded and filled up with great people. And I reconnected with others from my past. They read my book and contacted me to say they liked it and played the guessing game of who from our high school inspired certain scenes or characters.

A few days after publishing I created some flyers and carried them around with me (because I was still too chicken to ask to hang them). I had lunch at a local coffee shop and my friend/editorial goddess, Chrissy, pushed me to ask to hang one on the bulletin board. I can still remember how I described my book, with a long list of everything it wasn’t and a promise that the owner didn’t need to read it if she didn’t want to. Leanne, the owner of Pinks coffee shop is one of those really sharp, funny people who read people well. She welcomed my flyer (it’s still there now!) and read my book and recommended it to others. I have lunch there frequently because the food it really good and the coffee and hanging around Leanne reminds me how far I’ve come. I tell her all my writing plans now and I’m open to having a book signing party when I publish the Vivienne series in a few months, something that sounded absolutely painful two years ago.

This past Wednesday, February 4th, was my two year writing anniversary. I realize that in some ways two years isn’t a lot. I hope its the start of a very long career. But I’m commemorating it to celebrate just how far I’ve come. My bravery level is through the roof compared to back then. I do things daily that I would have been absolutely traumatic to the old me. Right now I am planning to teach a class on self-publishing locally starting in April. Going through all the steps to make this happen I still feel fear–fear of failure, fear of rejection. But I’m not the chicken shi*t I was in my 40’s because even if I am afraid, I do it anyway. I tell the negative voices in my head to shut the F up and I do it. And it feels amazing, life-affirming, crazy powerful. I’m pushing forward, past my fears because I want others to get a chance to feel the same thing.

I’m going to end with a quote from one of those amazing, stoked, life-affirming people I’ve discovered along the way. Danielle LaPorte creates Truthbombs, daily smart thoughts. This was one from the other day, yet another that nailed exactly what I was feeling. If you like it you can subscribe to them here.

blog second image feb 7

Ways That You Can Value Your Work – Chick in Charge Part 2

In my post last week I looked at ways that women, especially those who work from home, often diminish the value of their work. Whether a stay-at-home mom (SAHM) a home-business entrepreneur or a combination of both, millions of us do jobs that are undervalued by both ourselves and society.

While I looked at some of the reasons why in last Sunday’s post, I want to point out specific changes I have made in my life that remind me of the importance of my work. Most are not huge or expensive, but they remind me that my time, skills and goals are important to me and others.

Schedule

As I pointed out in my post “3 Things You May Not Have Considered About Working From Home“, your schedule becomes fluid and flexible without an office to report to. It’s both a blessing and a curse and some of the best advice I ever got about making it work for you was from a book about treating SAHM work like a real job. I wish I could remember the title, but I read it so many years ago that I can’t give this fabulous author credit. Her suggestion was that I look at my mom job as a split shift. Shift one was morning to after lunch and shift two was from late afternoon until bedtime. The break in the middle was nap time which is when so many mom’s would frantically clean and, in effect, never take a break; sometimes not even a lunch break. If you re-imagine your day to be work in two shifts, the break in the middle becomes more obvious and necessary. Long after my kids stopped napping they still had an hour or two of quiet time in their rooms every afternoon. This was important time for me to recharge my self and mentally prepare for my second shift. Using this time wisely made a huge difference in my energy and enthusiasm for the work that needed to be done every night.

Her technique still serves me well. My days don’t break up quite so nicely, but I’ve learned to work with the rhythm of my days to get my work done and give myself necessary breaks. If you work from home and you’re a night owl, it is possible to keep working until one or two a.m. but the key then is to either sleep in or take a nap after your family’s morning routine. It is amazing how productive you can be when you allow yourself to follow your natural rhythm and schedule in breaks.

Another important and easy technique is putting your work on your family’s schedule. The power of this didn’t become obvious to me until I had an at-home job with a regular paycheck. As a university instructor I have frequent deadlines and online meetings I must attend. These obviously went on the family master schedule because they involved others and therefore were important. I’ve never missed one. Somehow I’ve always managed to arrange all the practices, field trips, dentist appointments, etc. around my paid work. So why couldn’t and wouldn’t I do the same for my unpaid work (or marginally paid, like writing). It’s just as important to me. If I want it to be my main source of income someday I need to allocate time and energy to it. So I’ve added writing and marketing time to my schedule. Once it’s on there it is much less likely to disappear under a lot of other tasks that might feel urgent at the time but don’t fit into my big picture.

Surroundings

Creating a work space that supports you is another way to value the work that you do. Too often when we work at home our “office” is carved out of left-over space, cluttered, or non existent. To do your optimum work you have needs. They will vary from person to person and if you are doing more than one job from home you may need different designated spaces for each type of work. Homemaking magazines love to feature clever and crafty kitchen spaces for mom to manage the family schedule, grocery lists, school information, etc. The convenience of the location might work great for some, but that room is too busy and chaotic for me. Not to mention that all office supplies within view in the kitchen are considered fair game. For me I need a space to spread out, where I won’t have to move things every time I need to cook, and where the pens and scissors I like will not constantly disappear.

When looking at the work space(s) that support you consider things like; amount of sunlight, proximity to fresh air, heat or air conditioning; view of the TV (whether necessary or a distraction); ability to close yourself away from interruptions or noise; and space for supplies (that won’t be pilfered). This is your office so decorate and organize it in a way that makes you want to use it. Paint is cheap, decorative folders are cheap but both can do a lot to make your space uniquely yours.

After a recent absolutely heavenly massage I decided to add the scent of essential oils to my home office. For less than twenty dollars I bought a diffuser and an oil blend designed to encourage brain activity. I don’t know if I’m having more brain activity but I’m loving the scent and the quiet little motor is fantastic white noise. The most important thing about the diffuser isn’t the cost or if it’s markedly increased my productivity, it’s the fact that I took the time and effort to get it. I made my work space a priority.

And I’m really just getting started. A she-shed is calling my name. (If you’re not sure what one is, search Pintrest.) What better way to give your work the space it deserves than a building dedicated solely to it.

I hope I’ve inspired you to take your work and your work spaces more seriously. If you get some ideas from this post I’d love to hear from you. Comment below and let me know how you make your work and your work space reflect their value. When you value your work, others will too.

Yes, Jennifer Lawrence, YES!

OK, I’m a little over excited this morning but it’s not often that someone, especially someone famous with a HUGE audience, so succinctly expresses a point that is near and dear to me.

In case you haven’t heard Jennifer Lawrence published a letter on Lena Dunham’s new site, Lenny, in which she looks at the pay gap for women in Hollywood from her perspective. This could easily be a “poor me, I’m mega rich and getting ripped off” piece, but it isn’t. It’s the opposite and that’s why I love it.

First Jennifer Lawrence does point out that her problem may not be relatable because of the amount of money she makes. True, it’s on a different level, but at it’s core it is the same problem women are having who are on a more moderate pay scale. Second, she does not blame Sony pictures for her being paid less than her male costars. Instead she takes a hard look at herself and her own poor negotiating then questions if that is due to her gender. She makes some great points about wanting to be seen as nice and not bratty and giving up when negotiations got hard, not wanting to seem greedy or troublesome. YES! That’s where she nails it.

I didn’t get mad at Sony. I got mad at myself. I failed as a negotiator because I gave up early. – Jennifer Lawrence

How many of us, women, have done the same thing, over and over, day in and day out? We take less, ask for less, accept less because we don’t want to be seen as anything but nice. I have. I still do. It’s a hard habit to break but one that can be changed. The first step is naming the problem and noting our part in it.

The best thing about this article is that while she points out a problem that exists, she is also offering a solution that all women can work on to enact change. Why would Sony or anyone pay us more if we don’t ask for more, or demand it? We have to value ourselves, our work, more. This is exactly what the my post, “Make Yourself The CiC (Chick in Charge) of Your Life–Part 1” was all about. Believing in the value of our work is the problem and the solution, especially when our work is done at home, sometimes for no pay. If we don’t value our work we cannot expect others to.

Please take a minute to read the article in Lenny then ask yourself if this is you. Can you relate? Have you squelched your power and diminished your value in the name of being “nice”? I welcome your comments, ideas, opinions below. Let’s start a conversation about our value.