Episode 184

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Let’s admit it. Agency owners are reluctant salespeople. However, biz dev should be a significant part of how we spend our days.

When I hear agency owners say that they don’t have to prospect because they get so much business via word of mouth, I always ask, “Are those the clients you would choose to work with or are you simply working with them by default?” When we’re honest with ourselves, the truth can sting a little.

I get it – no one likes to be told no. That doesn’t make selling any easier. But how do we change our mindset? Hearing no (or deafening silence) feels like a failure, so we avoid it at all costs. But what are the costs of fearing the “no” and settling for whatever comes our way?

In episode #184, I talk with Andrea Waltz, co-author of the best-selling book, Go for No. We have to re-think the word no. A “no” is one step closer to a “yes”.

Andrea and I talk about the no, not just in sales, but also in the creative process. Sometimes we phone it in because big, bold ideas have been rejected in the past. So we play it safe, even though we know that’s not in our clients’ best interests.

Andrea Waltz is a keynote speaker, author, and sought-after sales strategist. At the age of 8, she called George Lucas to see if she could work with him on future movies. She was the youngest general manager in eyeglass retailer Lenscrafters’ history. At the age of 24, she launched her own training company.

Hubspot named Andrea one of the “25 Sales Experts You Should Follow on Twitter” while Salesforce.com named her one of the “25 Sales Influencers to Follow on Twitter.” She was also named among the “Top 100 Sales Influencers” and “Top 65 Women Business Influencers” by Tenfold and one of the “47 Top Sales Speakers and Influencers to Follow on Twitter” by SummitSYNC.

What You Will Learn in this Episode:

  • How to retrain your brain to accept more “no’s”
  • Why setting “no” targets is as important as setting sales targets
  • How going for “no” translates beyond sales
  • The power of actually wanting to fail
  • Getting ready to fail bigger and fail faster to get to “yes”
  • Why celebrating failure is so important
  • How to encourage the effort and not just the result
“Once you can embrace and give yourself permission to fail, then it's not a big deal when you get those no’s.” - @GoForNo Share on X “Treat yourself like a kid learning to ride a bike. You don’t scold a kid for falling. You encourage them. We have to give ourselves that same encouragement our sales process.” - @GoForNo Share on X “You have to take the creativity that you apply to client work and apply that to your sales process.” - @GoForNo Share on X “Pushing out of your comfort zone and taking risks is how we constantly battle fear.” - @GoForNo Share on X

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Speaker 1:

Are you tired of feeling like the lonely light housekeeper as you run your agency. Welcome to the Agency Management Institute Community. Where you’ll learn how to grow and scale your business, attract and retain the best talent, make more money and keep more of what you make. The Build a Better Agency Podcast is now in our third year of sharing insights and how small to midsize agencies survive and thrive in today’s market. Bringing his 25 plus years of experience as both an agency owner and agency consultant, please welcome your host, Drew McLellan.

Drew McLellan:

Hey everybody. Welcome back to another episode of Build a Better Agency. Today’s topic is the word, no. Now this is not a word that we are excited to hear. This is not a word that we covet, but it’s an important part of business. And one of the things that I think gets in the way of agency owners embracing their role of salesperson is that at the end of the day, we don’t want to hear no. And we are so used to being so good at what we do at the core skills that brought us into the agency life, and brought us up through the agency and somehow brought us to ownership. Or if you’re one of those rare agency owners that didn’t come up through the agency, then that entrepreneurial success that got you to start or buy or build an agency. All of those things come from being super successful. And so I think it is counterintuitive that we would be excited about hearing the word, no.

That we would seek out opportunities to be told no more often. But that’s exactly what my guest today is going to tell you that we should be doing. So a couple of quick reminders before I tell you a little bit more about our guests. So remember that we are now giving away one seat to one of the AMI workshops, or if you prefer a access to one of our online courses once a month. We’re doing that by looking at everybody who leaves us a rating or review on the podcast and we are putting their names in a hat, and then we are drawing from those names. So wherever you may download your podcast, iTunes, Stitcher, Google, wherever that may be, or one of the other bazillion places you can get podcasts these days. If you will go and leave us a rating and review, and then it is in your best interest to shoot me a quick email and give me your username. Because sometimes your usernames don’t actually give us a clue as to who you are as an actual human being.

So I’m collecting those emails as well as. So if you tell me where you left the review and the username tied to that review, then that way we can track you down if your name is the one that is pulled. Anyway, happy to do that. Grateful for commentary and the reviews. That’s how we get seen. So and I know many of you will ignore me. So I’m going to take that as your own personal no. But I’m going to keep asking, because that’s the whole theme of this conversation today. So, Andrea waltz is my guest today. And she and her husband, Richard wrote a book called, Go for No!: Yes Is the Destination, No Is How You Get There.

And Andrea and Richard have this great philosophy of celebrating the noes. And lifting up the noes as a wonderful indicator of the yeses that are around the corner, and how we reprogram our brain to be excited about being rejected, which sounds very odd. But I promise I’m going to dig into that, and we’re going to pick her brain for all that it’s worth. So without any further ado, let me welcome Andrea to the podcast. Thanks so much for joining us, Andrea. I’m glad to have you with us.

Andrea waltz:

Hey, Drew. It is fabulous to be with you.

Drew McLellan:

So give us a little bit of background. I mentioned it in the introduction, but give us a little bit of background about how the book came to be and why you were called to write this particular book.

Andrea waltz:

Yeah. So we wrote, Go for No, specifically to solve the problem of helping people overcome fear of failure and rejection and hearing the word, no. And I often say that, we couldn’t have written such a book if we didn’t ourselves have that problem to overcome. And it actually came about when my husband and business partner and co-author was working in the men’s wear business. This goes back now almost 30, 35 years. And he had a district manager come in who watched him sell and have this fantastic sale to this man who wanted to buy an entire wardrobe of clothing. This is in the clothing business. And he had this great sale. As soon as it got to about $1,100, Richard, my husband ended the sale and was waiting actually to get congratulated and his district manager, Harold actually asked him a different question and said, “Out of curiosity, Richard, what did that customer say no to?”

And Richard said, “What do you mean? He bought all of these things. I have this great sale.” And he said, “Yeah I know, but what did he say no to?” And then Richard had to respond, “He didn’t say no to anything.” And then Harold asked him this really important question, which was, “Then how did you know he was done?” And that’s this epiphany that we share in the book, in the form of a fable. And really what it comes down to is that Richard was selling from his own wallet, his own mental spending limits. And that particular story and the training that we did with Go for No, is what led us to write the book. Because so many people resonated with just hearing that story and hearing us talk about this idea of go for no. We decided we wanted to put it in a book form. And that really was what launched this whole brand that we’ve created. And there’s so many nuances, and I know we’ll get into them. But there’s so many nuances that just go into our fears of failure, rejection and hearing the word, no.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And I know it goes beyond sales, but it’s interesting as you’re telling this story of Richard’s experience. It immediately makes me think of two everyday occurrences inside agencies. So on the agencies sell in a plethora of ways. But one of the biggest ways agencies should be selling is they’re execs or account managers who are the day-to-day point of contact for their clients are really the conduit to sales to an existing client. And so often I’ll hear AE say to either their production manager or their boss, “Oh, we can’t, we can’t tell the client’s going to cost that much.” There’s no way the client will sign off on that. And so then before ever showing the proposal to the client, they discount the pricing because they’ve decided that it’s not what’s really they should sell it for isn’t going to fly.

Andrea waltz:

Oh yeah. Absolutely. That is a huge component of Go for No, is this idea of not making assumptions of what people are going to decide to do and what they’re going to spend. Right? And we all typically what we do is, we give ourselves the no first without letting the client give us the no. And that is really the fundamental philosophy of go for no is, intentionally here no more often and you will get more yeses. And that does take a lot of courage. It does take a lot of confidence to get there to stand in your value and to know what you’re bringing to the party. And did not say no to yourself. To say, “Hey, we’re going to let the client tell us no. And then we’ll figure out, “All right, well, what of all of these suite of services do you not want?”” Rather than just, “Well, let’s just adjust the price down.”

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. And the other side of that is agency owners are typically the salesperson for their agencies. So they’re the ones out prospecting for new clients. And as you and I were chatting before I hit the record button, most of them are not born salespeople. They grew up in the agency system somehow, or they’re entrepreneurs who decided for whatever reason that owning an agency was the right thing for them to do. But most of them don’t have sales training. And so they’re very reticent salespeople. They really, really, really can come up with anything to do other than go sell. And I think a lot of it is that, they’ve been so successful in so many things they’ve done in their career, and sales by its very nature is a numbers game. And so you have to, to your point, get a lot of noes to get a yes.

Andrea waltz:

Yeah. I love that you just said that. It is a numbers game to a huge extent. And most people don’t like selling. I mean, that’s just the reality. Even professional salespeople, there’s a lot of aspects about selling that they don’t like. And because it’s a numbers game statistically just like baseball, you’re going to strike out far more than you’re going to get a hit. And that’s hard for anybody. And it’s especially hard I think for creatives. It’s hard for entrepreneurs. It’s hard for people who are artists because they take that rejection very personally. And so what happens is, in order to protect yourself from that rejection, we end up doing everything that we can in our power to avoid it. And then what we’re left with is just a business that’s floating along, maybe it’s just average or mediocre. And we want to figure out how to get business without doing that hard stuff, which is creating more of those go for no moments.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So many agency owners, when I say to them, “Tell me about your business development efforts?” What they say, “Oh, it’s awesome. We don’t have to sell. We get everything by word of mouth and referral.” And my next question to them is always, “And are those the clients you would have gone after, if you had to go after clients? Are they really the right fit for your business? Or are you letting the referrals drive and shape the business that you happen to be running?” And a lot of times I get either, “I’m annoyed with you, Drew, for asking that question.” Or that throws them because you’re exactly right.

They’re avoiding going out, and so they take whatever’s left and whatever walks in the door. How do we begin to get more comfortable? Because I don’t think anybody is probably ever excited for getting noes. Although I know in the book you talk about that you and your husband now are pumped when you get noes, because there’s a yes at the other end somewhere. How does somebody start to get more comfortable with the idea of the no? How do we wrestle with that fear or that, as you say, taking it so personally? How do we move away from that?

Andrea waltz:

Yeah. There’s a lot of nuances to it. And one of the pieces is to work on the aspect of not taking it personally. That’s one piece. The other piece I think is, really to reprogram how you think about failure because noes are seen as failures, and in business we don’t want to think that we’re failing. But we like to say that with Go for No, you fail your way to success. And in order to do that, you have to make failure a good thing, not a bad thing. And you have to look at it in a whole new light. And for most of us, we’ve all been taught and trained to really see failure as a choice. In other words, and we have this model in our book, where the model is where you are in the middle, failures on one side, successes on the other side. And you are doing everything within your power to avoid failure and get to success, get to those yeses.

And what we say in the book is, the new model is really where you are on one side, the failure rejection, hearing those noeses in the middle, and the success you’re seeking is on the other side. Once you can embrace that, and I think that’s a big part of it and give yourself permission to fail. Then it’s not this big deal when you get those noes, but it takes work like anything. Because this is going against biology because our reptilian brains are wired to protect us from getting rejected. Because a rejection really, if you thinking about thousands of years ago, traveling in herds, well, if you are going to get kicked out of your tribe so to speak, that was not a good thing. You were probably not going to survive.

These days, we don’t have those issues, but our brain still thinks that one no means we’ll be sleeping under the freeway over past tomorrow. And that’s just not realistic, but our brains think that. They’re just trying to protect us. So it’s this constant battle of, “Thank you very much brain for protecting us against death. This, no, this rejection is not going to kill us.” And actually it’s the opposite. The more that we get out there, the more proposals that we send to the clients, to our ideal clients, the clients that we really want, the more success we’re going to have. Yes, there’s going to be some big failures, but the more success that’s out there for us.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. You Know what? I was even thinking about as you were talking, it’s not just in sales, I think about the creatives inside an agency. And sometimes agencies will be accused of phoning it in. They’re not really bringing big, bold ideas anymore. They’re bringing what the client expects. And the response from the creatives is often, “Well, every time we bring them a big idea, they don’t pick it. So why waste the time? I’m just going to give them what I think they want.” And I think your point exactly that is, sooner or later, you will get it a yes. I’m one of those bigger bolder ideas, but not if you don’t propose them, not if you don’t share those with the client. So it really weaves through the entire aspect of all aspects of the business.

Andrea waltz:

It really does. It really does. Because especially with creativity, creativity and innovation go hand in hand. And in order to innovate, you have to be failing. And you really have to be sharing actually some ideas for your client that your client will turn down. And sometimes that your client will get behind and then those ideas will fail. But that is just part of that innovation and that creative process that we have to embrace.

Drew McLellan:

So how do we change our mindset around failure? How do we push aside the reptilian brain and begin to understand and get comfortable, probably not excited about, but comfortable at least taking these risks and knowing that we’re going to fail?

Andrea waltz:

Yeah. Jack Canfield said a really interesting thing. He said, “Self-confidence is successfully surviving a risk. And the more you do that, the more your self-confidence gets built.” So it’s a cliché and I hate to say this, but cliches are cliches because they’re true and they work. And the cliche we always hear is, “How do you get rid of fear?” Well, the only way that you can do that is through action. And so one of the things that we teach is, first, create a no awareness. How many noes are you getting in your agency? Are you getting any? Are you so protective that you’re never hearing the client say no to you for an idea or a proposal? And if you are not, we suggest that you set what we call no goals. So set a goal for the number of noes that you are going to hear in a given day, week or month.

And that is proof of your activity. So if you’re not hearing noes, then it means that you need to be going after the clients that you want, the bigger scary clients, sharing those innovative proposals and start collecting and setting a goal for those noes. That is how you get into action. And then the more action that you’re in, the more confidence grows because you see that you survived that risk. And then you see that actually here and there, not every time. Remember this is as good as baseball is, we can hope for maybe three out of 10 but maybe even one out of 10. But the yeses are out there and you see, “Wow, that works.” And so gives you enough of that spark, enough of that confidence to keep trying.

Drew McLellan:

Well, I think baseball should be everybody’s religion anyway. So I like that we’re using that as our metric. But what was interesting as you were talking, I was thinking, we measure wins, but we don’t measure losses. We don’t measure noes. And I’m also inferring in some of the things you’re saying that you’re not talking about the no where a prospect says, “No, and if you ever contact me again, I’m going to call the police.” I’m just talking about either it’s a no, not now, or maybe they don’t respond at all. So it’s not the final no of the doors slammed in our face, but it really is all the noes between finally getting their attention and having the opportunity to actually talk to them. Because for a lot of agencies, they don’t even get to the proposal stage. It’s that they can’t get a prospect’s attention. And I guess being ignored as a no, isn’t it?

Andrea waltz:

Absolutely. And you’re so right. That is huge. Getting a no to a proposal is actually pretty special because it means that you went through the gauntlet of all of the things that you did to finally get there, and to be in the running to get that business. So in between there, sometimes there are 10 and 20 and even more noes than that. Outright noes like, “No, we went with someone else,” or just being ignored. And that just requires, you have to take creativity that you apply in campaigns and in the things that you’re creating and apply that to the sales process. So it’s, what interesting fun things can we do to engage this target market, this particular client to maybe get around this no? And really always think of it as it is. No, doesn’t mean never, no means not yet.

And eventually even if they’re working with someone else, they’re not going to maybe work with them forever. And so if you are positively persistent and pushing out a little nuggets of value here and there, and you are being creative, eventually those noes can turn into yeses. But sometimes it does take a tremendous amount of time that, that sales cycle can take years. I remember one client I had, and I knew they were just the ideal client for us and I really wanted to work with them. And it took nine years, nine years of just ignoring me. Many times I got no response, I got a couple noes and I just thought, “I’m going to be in business still. So I’m not going to give up on these people.” And then eventually I got a yes. There’s other people I’ve had on my list for still 15 years. Still haven’t worked with them, but I stay engaged because I know that at some point they might be ready.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. It’s interesting when I teach business development to agency owners. One of the things I talk about is you have no idea when that prospect is going to be ready. And so it could be a day or a decade, that’s your sales cycle. And you have to be present and top of mind on whatever magic day that is. So it’s like dollar cost averaging. We have to just keep plugging away making the investment, whether we get the yes today or not.

Andrea waltz:

Absolutely. And that persistence can be tough for people because I think what happens is, and this is just one of those things where it’s that bright, shiny object. So we think, “Well, it’s not going to be this company,” or, “It’s not going to be this client. So let’s just take all the time that we’ve invested, throw it away, toss to the side, and then go after someone new.” And really that invested time is, you’ve made an investment. So that’s not the one to just toss aside. If they are an ideal client, then by all means you have to stick with it.

Drew McLellan:

Right. You could be the one point of contact away, right? You could be the one email, the one bump into them at a trade show, the one whatever it is. The one helpful video on LinkedIn that gets them to go, “Oh, you know what? I’ve been meaning to call those guys.”

Andrea waltz:

Absolutely. And that happens all the time. I mean, I just see it all.

Drew McLellan:

Yeah. So I know one of the things that you talk about that aligns well with what we talk about at AMI is this idea of, selling is really about serving. And when you think of it that way, it feels a whole lot less scary.

Andrea waltz:

Absolutely. I love to say, to sell is to serve. And the funny thing about how this relates to rejection though is, when I learned to go for no, and that story I told in the beginning about the the suit salesman. Richard selling the suits and getting the, no. I used to think that I was like the superstar sales person that I was so great and customers love me because, I always came at things from a surface perspective and I was a good salesperson. But I realized that I didn’t like to hear