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Episode 154: Revenue Generating Activities as a Path to Profitability—with Catherine Brown

Deb Zahn: Hi, I want to welcome you to this week's episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. On this episode, we're going to talk about one of the most important things you need to do to get business in your pipeline and be able to do the work you love, and that is a careful, deliberate focus on doing revenue-generating activities. And I brought on someone who is a sales expert and an expert on these things. Her name is Catherine Brown of ExtraBold Sales. She's going to walk through what that means, how you do it, and how it helps you build your business. So let's get started.

Hi, I want to welcome to my show today, Catherine Brown. Catherine, welcome to the show.

Catherine Brown: Thank you so much. I'm excited to be here.

Deb Zahn: So let's start off, tell my listeners what you do.

Catherine Brown: Great. I am a sales trainer. A sales speaker and I'm currently trying on the mantle of sales evangelist.

Deb Zahn: I do love that.

Catherine Brown: I know that word has different connotations to people, but what I mean is that I do think sales is good news. I do think that it can be awesome. And I know we're going to get into this in the discussion, but, unfortunately, what my research has shown is that most people actually don't feel that way about selling. And so I really am on a mission to overturn the way people think about selling and help them feel empowered, to define sales differently and to flourish with their businesses.

Deb Zahn: I love that. And I actually do love that it's a mission because it is a good thing. And so, one thing we're going to talk about today is the goodness of it. But one of the things we wanted to hone in on, and particularly for consultants who maybe haven't gotten a client yet, or maybe their pipeline is not full or sporadic, is to think about revenue-generating activities, and how that helps them have that profitable, sustainable consulting business, where they get to do good things in the world because they're able to make that happen. And I saw a video of you talking about this, and I was just like, "Num, num, num, this is such good stuff." So let's start off like, what are revenue-generating activities? What the heck does that mean?

Catherine Brown: A little bit of context for that question, Deb, is that when people start consulting firms, and I've had a couple of my own, now, and a lot of really high percent of my clients have professional services firms of different kinds, everything from financial services to HR, to branding, to advertising, to sales, to all kinds of things. And what people do is when they first start out, they're very excited to actually deliver, and they are committed to delivering a great job to those first few clients. And an early struggle is, how do I keep generating possible future sales opportunities for myself and serve the people I have?

And so the process I tend to see is that people justify low sales activity because they don't like to do it because they feel scared. And the reason they feel scared is because they're nice people, they want to be seen as a good human, and so they don't want to seem too pushy. And so they under ask and they under act. And then you get in a crisis when your big anchor client goes away, or someone gets... I've had situations where because of the success my sales firm brought someone. My client was acquired, but through the acquisition, I didn't survive the acquisition. So those things happen, and we need to always be selling.

So I have the term revenue-generating activity, and what I mean, narrowly is, I mean, that's the time you spend initiating new relationships with people and following up on people who have expressed some kind of interest. But the whole purpose of the RGA, the revenue-generating activity, is to set a different time for the sales call. I differentiate this between the holding of the sales call because, again, it's the initiating and fear of rejection part that people underact on. And so I find they don't do enough RGAs. They're usually doing OK once they get the sales meeting, but it's the setting up of the sales meeting that causes the most angst. What do you see?

Deb Zahn: I see the same thing. I see panic and heart palpitation at the notion that they're going to have to get in front of a human being. And for a lot of new consultants, often that human being are people that they know from other circumstances, and now they're going into the sale. So they're busy, they find all kinds of other things to spend their time and attention on, but they aren't doing the RGAs because that scares the heck out of them.

Catherine Brown: And I tell a funny story in my book. Last year, I had a book that came out that's called How Good Humans Sell, and I tell the story about how, even though I am a 25+ year business-to-business salesperson, I was on the board of the youth orchestra in my local city at the time, and we were going to do this capital campaign. And I tell the story of how even seasoned salespeople can get emotionally hijacked. And I had this case where all the board members were supposed to leave a few messages to past donors of the orchestra.

Because these were not cold leads, these were past donors who had shown a history and a propensity to loving the orchestra. And we were all supposed to make a certain number of calls. And if we reached the people great. And if we had to just leave a voicemail, that was fine too. And it got time for me to make the calls that I was just overcome by nervousness. And that was an RGA because I was supposed to be set up if they wanted to have a call to talk about the fundraising campaign. And also, if they didn't, by the way, it was fine just to send in your money, which is what everybody did.

I think the thing about avoiding RGAs that want to normalize, is I want people to know that everyone feels emotionally hijacked sometimes. And so what we do, and I know we'll get into that later, but what we would do is we want to learn to coach ourself through a process where we ask, what is really true here? What's really happening? And just slow everything down so we can be in control of ourselves, so we can do what we really mean to do. Because what we want is to develop a full sales pipeline and have a flourishing business that serves the world. That's what we want.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, and you can't do that if you aren't willing to do sales and do the things that you need to do to get those sales. So give some examples of a typical day that's going to include an RGA or a series of RGAs, what does that look like?

Catherine Brown: Great question. I would think this would be a common podcast listener and don't hesitate to tell me if this is not the case, but if you are the practitioner, who is also the seller, so you're the owner/seller. Yep. That is a common client for me, that whole balance is, I going to spend most of my time doing delivery. I might also do my own social posts. I may or may not have a virtual assistant helping me with other stuff. And I, also, am the one taking the sales calls.

So really want people to have a modest, and I was going to say, but, but I don't mean but, a modest and commitment to setting up these sales discussions. So what that might look like, for example, is at the beginning of the week, I look at my week and I look at what I'm working on closing. Am I filling a bootcamp class? I run a networking group in Houston, so am I recruiting new members in certain categories for that? I look at those goals, and then I schedule on my calendar my time for, I just call it, follow-up. It could say RGA, but I hold it on my calendar, like a meeting I would with a client.

And Deb, I only do 30 minutes at a time. I mean, I do not want people to think this has to be hours and hours and hours because it's like an analogy of a marathon, it's like a race. It's actually the consistent long action over time that builds, eventually, in professional services businesses, what will happen is, eventually, it'll turn into referrals. You'll do less RGAs over time of cold initiating because of that great service you're providing.

But even when you have most of your business come from referral, you still have to set up those referral calls with people. You still might have people you want to go after. Your podcast is a great example. If I had certain podcasts I wanted to be on, I would dedicate that time to sending my sheet and asking to be on it. And I would make that part of my outbound activity in those 30 to 45 minute windows.

So I would advise that if someone's doing none, then I would say 15 minutes of planning, 3 30-minute blocks of time to set up the meeting. Now, let me clarify one more thing, and then I'll take a breath. This is not the holding of the sales call. This is not the discovery call. An RGA is a concentrated window, where, let's say, I reach you, I would say, "Ah, so excited to catch you. I didn't know I'd catch you. This is kind of a crazy time for me right now too. The purpose of this call is to see if we want to set a time to talk about this because you indicated on LinkedIn that you'd like to have a conversation about such and such. How's Thursday?" So you're going to have the sales meetings other times, but you need to be constantly feeding those, and it's the feeding of those, that's what I call an RGA.

Deb Zahn: So the reason I love that, and I know we can't help but go into mindset on this one, but the reason I love it, is it's less scary to set them up than it is to do them. So you're almost saying, "Take this step. Now, guess what? You're going to have it because you set it up."

Catherine Brown: That's right.

Deb Zahn: But you don't have to be immediately afraid of it because all you're doing is setting it up.

Catherine Brown: And I am still a fan of cold calling. I ran a cold calling business for 17 years. I think you can do a great job with that, and that works for some people. I'm not offended. I like cold calling. I don't have to do that anymore. And I don't think a lot of your listeners have to do that, why? Because a lot of people don't answer their phone. Now, I am a huge fan of leaving messages. I will die on the hill for that because people will read their messages.

I love voicemail and I'm mid-age and I like using voicemail, and I think it's amazing. And I understand that some younger people don't want to, but I think it's a missed opportunity. Because the thing about an RGA, in a sales sequence, I teach about sales sequences, the thing about it is that you are going to have to rotate your methods and spacing and your messages. And you want to employ all the possible tools available to you. So if you and I connect on LinkedIn and you say, "Yeah, here's my email, let's set up a time." Well, I send you an email and suggest a time we speak, but I don't hear from you. So then I may have to call, right?

Deb Zahn: Yeah.

Catherine Brown: And after I call, I'll leave a message. And then in the message, I might say, "You know what? I'll go ahead and send another email. If you'll look at the top of your box, the email subject line is such and such." All I'm doing is pointing, pointing, pointing to get a call set.

So that's why I don't think the actual holding of the call has to be as scary as someone might have thought because they've agreed to it.

Deb Zahn: That's right. You've already got your first yes.

Catherine Brown: They didn't have to agree. They could say, "I've changed my mind." But you have to try, you have to ask multiple times because people are busy, and they don't notice you. I loved in the podcast episode where you talked about how to be a good guest, you advise people to try at least four times. And I would say most people give up after one or two. And really successful sales professionals, whether they're account managers for companies or business owners who are the seller, they'll go four, five. And the real pros, they'll go nine, 10. Not days in a row, right? Over a season.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. Yeah.

Catherine Brown: And you got to have great things to offer too. It can't be the same message every time. So it might be, "This podcast just came out. This might be the interest to you. This is in your industry. Did you notice this article?" You will describe how you help in different ways with different value propositions. And you can rotate that. So you have to mix it up, but everybody has to ask more than they think they do because people are busy.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And I've seen, and I'm sure you've seen repeatedly, if folks don't respond the first time, often what I see folks do, and I've certainly been guilty of this, is we fill in that blank spot with our worst possible version of what's happening. And I'm reminded, I'll tell a little brief story, there was someone I was coaching who didn't get a response from somebody who she was well qualified to be working with. It made perfect sense for the outreach. I happened to know the person she was reaching out to, and she's like, "She's decided I'm not good...." Mean she just, every imaginable, bad version of why she hates me. And she's probably getting a restraining order, and I'm only slightly exaggerating.

And I said, "So do you know what happened to her?" I said, "She moved across country and their entire van full of their stuff got stolen." And so horrible, terrible story, I said, "But it had nothing to do with you, and give her a little bit of time because she's got to sort that out." But don't assume that it's about you, assume that people's lives are busy, stuff happens, and set up your sequence so that you can actually give them an opportunity to get some goodness from you.

Catherine Brown: Exactly. And that's why, although I would call myself a sales professional who happens to have learned to be a decent marketer, I am very passionate about marketing because it's the integration of what can I give? What can I give that will add value to this person in their profession, in this moment? It's usually professional, but, frankly, once you do that sales discovery call with someone, you get to know something about them, they might share something personal where your next follow-up, share something that is, that was referenced from that. It might be something about a hobby or they share something about a child.

I have a lot of clients who, when they're right around my age, they have kids who are thinking about college admissions. And I can't tell you how many people I've sent to my friend who is a college admissions consultant and shared her name, simply because they said, "oh, such a crazy time," or, "We're waiting to do this," or, "I'm riding them because they're trying to improve their test scores," or whatever. So I will throw in things like that, in the spirit of being a relationship builder for the long haul. Where I assume over time, if we do business together, we're going to be friends and I'm going to serve you professionally. So I think that category of what to share and extra value can even blend into the personal, in some cases, pretty early.

Deb Zahn: Hence, the name of your book, Good Human. Because, yeah, I've actually gotten gigs because I gave someone a cabbage that I grew, and someone who was obsessed with my kale, and I helped somebody with advice on how to plant their first garden. And I've even solved a litter box problem with a cat all for clients. That last one was worth its weight in gold.

Catherine Brown: It is so, and I have a gentleman that is a financial services reporting client. So he is like this purple unicorn of database stuff and is a CPA and can close books, but he is a programmer. And he is such a good giver on all these other ways that he has become a trusted advisor to his clients. And they call him for stuff that has nothing to do, they just assume he'll know someone for something, and that's part of his brand.

And I think it's so super clever because, I mean, it's sincere, it's not contrived and it is making him sticky. And is saying, "We'll go through seasons where we'll work together in seasons where we won't, but we'll always be in a relationship. And you can call me for anything, and I'll be of service to you.' And to me, it's the ultimate good human thing because you're thinking about a lifelong way of service through selling. And sometimes you're officially a client and sometimes you're not.

Deb Zahn: I adore that. The thing I see, and this is the question I wanted to dig into because I know you'll have some good stuff on this when I see new consultants in particular and they know that they have to reach out and set up sales calls or discovery calls, whatever they're comfortable calling it, but they'll maybe do one a week, or maybe even one every couple weeks. And even if they don't have any clients currently. So it's not even that they're busy serving the clients that they do have. But how often in terms of, what your days and your weeks and your months should look like, do you encourage people to do these RGAs?

Catherine Brown: OK. So you're asking these sort of stages of the funnel. Like, how much outreach leads to this many meetings? That sort of thing.

Deb Zahn: Well, actually, I love that. I want to get to that. But first thing is, how often should you be doing this? Is this a once a month, put it on your calendar? Or is it every day, put it on your calendar?

Catherine Brown: Yes, thank you. I'm going to make sure that was clear from earlier. I would do a minimum as... Well, if you're starting out and you know how much client work, you got time. You got time.

Deb Zahn: Yeah, you do.

Catherine Brown: So you really should probably do at least an hour a day, if you're not busy serving clients because you have time. And don't be worried, oh, what am I going to do, if all of these are going to come to pass? If you're just getting started, you have no idea how many frogs you're going to have to kiss before something's going to happen. So don't let that hold you back. It's a good problem to have, to say-

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Catherine Brown: ..."We can't start for six weeks." That's OK. That creates scarcity and interest, and don't worry about that. So I think the range could be everything from a half-hour, several times a week, dedicated every week to even couple hours a day if you have the time and you really need to work, and you don't have enough business. The challenge, Deb, that people have is that it's like, what do I do in that hour? How many accounts can I reach out to? And what would that look like? So let me spell that out.

You have to know who you want to pursue. So it could be that you literally have the names of the executives, or you might be thinking of it from what we would call in sales, a target account perspective, where you're thinking of the company. You're like, "I want to serve that company. And I know that any number of these titles of people could be a possible contact for me. So I'm going to call on all of them and see which ones have interest first," inside a company.

Or it could be, a lot of times, I have a name, I have a business owner name, or a VP sales name. And so that's something you have to think through is everyone who sells business to business is actually still selling to a person. But the more high ticket an item is, and the more complicated the thing is you sell, it's possible that there'll be multiple people involved in the decision to use you inside a company. And I call a company an account.

Deb Zahn: Gotcha. Oh, I like that. I like that a lot. So that's one of the things you have to think of before you start doing RGAs, what else... And actually, I want to tease people, we're going to do another podcast right after this. And that's where we're going to get into the funnel and what the stages are. So I'm going to tease people that you got to listen to the next podcast for that. So before you just sit down and start doing RGAs, what else should you be doing to make them as fruitful as possible?

Catherine Brown: Great question. So you want to have, at any given moment, I suggest people have, again, thinking of the solo practitioner, not a whole sales team, not the sales employee who will work for you someday, and whose full-time job is to sell, I'm talking about the solo practitioner. You want to have 10 to 30 names or companies that you want to work with at any given time. Because this is what people do that gets discouraging is you dedicate your half-hour, and you sit down, and then you write an email from scratch, and then you send it. And then you look up a phone number and you leave a message, and then you do one LinkedIn message. And literally, an hour has passed, and you've done three things.

That feels super discouraging when that happens, so that gets into prep. So that's a whole other thing, is the prep for the RGA. So it depends on based on what's happening with your referrals, your marketing, how long you've been in business, you may or may not already know that they'll be interested. It could be that some leads are colder, which means we are introducing ourselves to them, but they may or may not know us. We might be able to ask for a referral from someone. There are all different ways we could try to get that introduction.

But in the window, what I do, this is the sequence I follow. I typically email to ask to set up a meeting, and in the email I name what I'll do next. So that's a really important part of sell, is that you hold yourself accountable. So what I do is I use the passive voice, so I don't sound aggressive because I'm a good human. And I say, "If we don't connect by Friday, I'll call your office and see if that's a better way to reach you."

Deb Zahn: Yep. I like that.

Catherine Brown: I say that in a way because I'm giving the slightest nudge saying, "You need to let me know if this is not interesting to you; otherwise, I'm going to call you." There is an extremely high probability, like, I don't even know, 90 something percent that I'm not going to reach them. And I don't care because I'm going to leave a similar, but not exactly the same message, asking for exactly the same thing, but this time it's on the phone.

Well, while I would I do that? Because I don't even know that they got my email because they didn't respond.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Catherine Brown: This is why, Deb, this is a little tangent, but I have such mixed feelings about like email readers and things like that because I don't care if someone's opened it or not.

Deb Zahn: Interesting.

Catherine Brown: Because if they haven't said...because to me, it opens up the whole world of mind games. Because I just assume people are busy, I've been very thoughtful in who I'm targeting. I know there's a high probability I can help you or I wouldn't bother.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Catherine Brown: And I'm going to let you be a grown bleep adult, I mean, who decides for yourself if you want to talk to me. And I'm going to ask enough times that I have confidence that you've seen it. And it's not the right time, then because you are grown up, you can have your own boundaries and tell me it's a good time, and otherwise, I'm not going to make up a story.

Deb Zahn: You know what? So I do like to know if they open it, but I hold that with a gigantic jar of salt. Because I open things all the time and then squirrel. Suddenly something else has occurred or I get back on track, and I'm going to put that in a folder to look at later. And maybe I do, and maybe I don't.

Catherine Brown: See, I think you have very high skill on that. I would say most people make up a story, and they assume that the person read carefully, has determined they're not interested,` and just doesn't have the heart to tell me. And I just have to tell people all day long, like, "They're just not paying that much attention to you, even though..." I still have more answers to the question I can give you on what else to do to prep. I mean, you want to have a great value proposition, where the first thing is about how you help and the problem you solve. There's all these things we do so it is awesome when they do read it.

Deb Zahn: Oh yeah.

Catherine Brown: But even with all that work, it is somewhat an issue of probability of not quitting and being persistent. And so we want to work smart and diligently, and it's not just a numbers game. I don't like that expression. I think that's silly. That's not true. But it is somewhat a numbers game, and carefully thought-out way that we describe with the first sentence of anything we ever write, talking about opening up the story of what you suspect they might be struggling with, which is your area of expertise.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And orientation towards them. I actually got somebody to respond to me once because I put, PS, I will be this tenacious for you. They thought, that was hilarious, and we need that.

Catherine Brown: Exactly. Well, you know what's sweet? My friend, I was just talking about, I had dinner with the other night with this friend that is the college admissions consultant. And she was so proud of herself and she has been through a bunch of my training. And so she said, "I always hear Catherine's voice saying, "Don't make up a story. Don't make up a story. Don't make up…

Deb Zahn: A story.

Catherine Brown: ...a story." So she was doing her fourth outreach to a family that she had had a discovery call with, and who then kind of fell off the map. So they did a call, and then they wouldn't get back to her. So she's like, "That's weird. You need to tell me what your plan is. Because we're kind of getting on a timeline now about cycle and admission cycle, and stuff." So she said, "I'm going to try it one more time."

So she called, they answered, and they were super apologetic. And they said, "We actually did go with someone else, and we're embarrassed we haven't told you. We went with someone else and this is why." So it was super helpful information for her. It was not personal. It made sense in their situation. And then they said, they'd already told other people about her, that they appreciated how professional...

The guy was an entrepreneur, and he said, "I'm very impressed that you kept after us. And although we're not going to use you for our daughter this time, we have an eighth-grader and we would like to start earlier with him. And so our plan is to get in touch with you, and just have you work with him the whole way through." So she is going to get a client from that.

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And she could never have made up that story. That's not the stories we tell ourselves of, "Oh, I'm sure they have another kid that I can help."

Catherine Brown: No, and they tell all their people in their community. I mean, she breaks into different school communities and ethnic communities. And they tell all their friends and relatives. I mean, it's this amazing referral thing. But literally just the other night she told me that story. And she said, "I was really proud of myself because I was nervous to make that fourth attempt. And then I was nervous he answered, but it was great. It was great. I had information I didn't have before. And I'm so proud of myself for seeing that through."

Deb Zahn: I love that. So I got to dig in too because you brought up the stories we tell ourselves. And we tell ourselves many stories and I know we all do.

Catherine Brown: Yes.

Deb Zahn: So one of the things that stops people from doing RGAs at all or on a regular is all of the mindset stuff and the narratives that we create about why we should or shouldn't do something. So what are some of those? And how do you encourage people to get past those?

Catherine Brown: I always like, in big workshop settings, I still do this experiment, which I did in preparation for my book, which was asking people to name words that come to mind when they see the word sales or salesman. And as you would imagine, they're overwhelmingly negative: pushy, aggressive, doesn't listen, et cetera. And I'm just not sure that this problem is ultimately ever going to be resolved, in the sense that we'll always have bad actors in every industry.

Deb Zahn: Absolutely.

Catherine Brown: So because they're people who are selfish, I do think they're the minority of people that way. But we have this thing in our brain about how we anchor on the negative because we're wired to perceive threats. So we're like, "Oh my gosh, I don't want to be like that person." And then we make up a story about how this behavior will, for sure, be perceived this certain way.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Catherine Brown: And that's not true. You just don't know that. There's something called the spotlight effect, in psychology, everybody thinks everybody's looking at them, and nobody's looking at you. Nobody's looking at me, except for this very moment. But, I mean, most of the time we're all worried thinking we're under the camera. What's so liberating and crazy and should be building so much empathy in all of us is that so is your prospect. They're just people too, right?

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Catherine Brown: They're nervous people, have imposter syndrome, all the same stuff you have. They just have a different title and have a different job. And so, I think if I do X, I know it will be perceived a certain way. That's a story we make up. Common things we tell ourself that are part of that most hijacking are, I'd be bothering them. They'll think I'm too needy. They haven't gotten back to me because they shopped around think I'm too expensive.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Catherine Brown: Especially in services when we're figuring out pricing-

Deb Zahn: Oh, goodness.

Catherine Brown: ...and just getting started, it's really tricky to figure that. And so, you have all kinds of stories and space for that, where you think they don't perceive the value or I need to do more to be ready. Some people, Deb, there's actually a scale, it's put out by this company called Behavioral Science Research Press, BSRP, they measure different kinds of reluctance in selling. And there's actually something called an over preparer -

Deb Zahn: I know that.

Catherine Brown: As you can imagine, there's certain industries where people really do gravitate toward that. So those practitioners and I'll just name them, I mean, engineers, financial services, there's certain industries, accountants, there's certain people who you want to have be very, very detailed. But what happens that they have to be careful about is that they'll make up a story about what's ready enough to have the call? Or what's ready enough to do something? And so my coaching to them is always, "Think about writing that email or studying that website or whatever the research is you want to do before you get on the call. It needs to be pretty commensurate with the length of what you think is about to happen."

Deb Zahn: 30 years to one half-hour call, right.

Catherine Brown: And, I mean, even just to leave a voicemail, people will just be anguished over-

Deb Zahn: I know.

Catherine Brown: case, they ask me something because they actually answer. But the probability of people answering an unscheduled call is so low, it's much more likely, you're going to get to refer to this great template where you've written out your bullet points of what you want to be sure to say succinctly in your voicemail. And then you are going to have a chance to talk live and make a good impression when you actually have that discovery call set.

Deb Zahn: That's right.

Catherine Brown: So we're talking 10 minutes max, to get ready for a 3-second voicemail, not an hour. And those are things we do that are, I would call, research for initiating the people as a non-revenue generating activity. Which is where we fool ourself, same as scrolling and messing around social media.

I'm very active on LinkedIn. I'm on it every day. I use it to generate leads. I absolutely know when I've crossed a line, and I'm just messing around and avoiding other things I need to do versus treating it as part of a sequence, where I'm actually using InMail to reach people.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And not getting stuck in the analysis paralysis you were talking about before of, "No, no, I just am going to keep looking. I'm going to keep looking. I'm going to keep looking." Which is a trap and it's an avoidance trap, and let's all just admit that to ourselves.

Catherine Brown: Exactly.

Deb Zahn: And then undo the narrative, replace it with a narrative of uncertainty.

Catherine Brown: And I was just leading a group earlier today and I was coaching this gentleman, he's the financial planner. And I was saying, "You have everything about, not everything, so much about sales success us is about how we choose to frame something and see it. Especially, learning to have mastery over that framing, when you're first getting started." And so he was all the way worried about how will I set a goal about how many clients I can acquire when there's all these things that will happen. I don't know all the steps that will have to happen.

And I said, "I think that goal is later. I feel like where you are right now is your goal is to begin to initiate more regularly with people. And regardless of how many say yes at the end of a week, for a while, let's just track and celebrate that you actually managed yourself on your own calendar, and you initiate with a certain number of people. So when you sit across from your friend or partner at dinner, whatever, and you say, 'How was your week?' You can just really set up proud and say, 'My week was awesome because I did everything that was in my control this week that I set out to do. Which was to make an offer to people, who make sense for me to pursue. And I did it.'"

Deb Zahn: Yeah. RGAs, baby.

Catherine Brown: I feel great. When I get through my activities, and then I shut down my CRM, I shut down, and there's more to do tomorrow." I mean, there's always more to do, but I'm like, I made a steady go at it every day, and I can pat myself on the back because I'm cultivating a lifetime of opportunities. It's not all going to happen in one day.

Deb Zahn: That's right. I love that piece, too, dealing with the mindset traps that we get in, is also celebrate the things that you do. You don't just celebrate when you get a client, you also celebrate the steps you take towards getting a client because you've never had to do it before. And it can feel big and scary and guess what, you did it. Yay.

Catherine Brown: That's right. I know. And even every step of the sequence, what I like to do, I mentioned, is I'll just say it again for the listeners because they can just completely follow me on this, if this helps them. I have a well-crafted email that I send. I have different for different reasons, but it might be whether it was a referral or a follow-up from an event or whatever.

But I have an opening, I have an invitation to a call. I name what I'm going to do again with the date. I go set the task in my CRM, and I send it. Then several days later, I don't wait a week, by the way, it's a real novice mistake because we're rotating our methods and remember they don't see all of our stuff. So if you only try someone once a week, perceptually, they might only hear from you one or two times that month.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right.

Catherine Brown: It's not very persistent, right? So, if you-

Deb Zahn: Yeah. And now you seem neglectful.

Catherine Brown: Right. Right. It's like, that seems not important, but you're worried they're reading everything, but they're not, 100%, 100%. Really, so certain about that after all these decades. And so you rotate your mode. So then I'm going to call when I said I would, I'm going to leave a message. And then I either email again, or if I can tell all they're active on LinkedIn, I go to LinkedIn. And I probably already have asked to connect with them, but if not, I would ask them to connect. And then after we connect, I just send an email and say, "I'm trying to reach you." And it doesn't feel because it's highly personalized. These are just a few people at a time for me, for my business.

So I use the InMail feature, and some people, some of your clients might be able to do that on Facebook messenger or IG or a direct message on another platform. But I use LinkedIn a lot. And so think about that. Now, I've done, three or four things. And then I'm also looking ahead, and this is kind of a teaser to our next conversation, but it's like, what else can I offer to them? So I've invited them to have a conversation, but you know what? I have this webinar coming up with this partner. Or Deb and I just had a podcast come out, and there's somethings about this that might be interesting to them on that.

So I will share resources, still say, "Still wanted to have a conversation with you," but I might change the body of the message and keep spacing it out. And then eventually, if I don't get a response, eventually, being five, six times, I will set it aside for a month or so just to give myself a break. I don't make a big deal about it to them. I keep pursuing other things. And then when my CRM reminds me that I don't want to forget them because I will forget if I don't set a task.

Deb Zahn: Me too.

Catherine Brown: You just start again. You just start again. You have a slightly different message. Don't make up a story. You do not know why they didn't get back with you, and you just do it again.

Deb Zahn: That's right. And then the idea is, eventually, you get an answer. The answer might be, "Yes, let's talk." The answer might be, "I'm good to go." But you're persistent, and if you're persistent, you're more likely to hit a yes.

Catherine Brown: The other thing I want to mention to Deb is that I think for consultants, I think that one of the smartest ways to use your RGAs is actually to cultivate referral partners. So I want to mention that I think you can very easily... And that's a lot easier conversation for a lot of people, when they're first getting started in sales. So you still want to be thinking about like what's in it for them. Why would they agree to do this? How can you help them too? But you're initiating... The discovery call is, "Tell me more about you. I'll tell you about me. I'm thinking we might serve some of the same clients. How can I help you be successful?"

If you open the door for that kind of conversation, you're going to start a relationship of referrals and reciprocity, which is going to make your leads warmer. And so I really like to tell services firms that, it's OK to me, if a significant percent of your RGA time is directed toward people who could send you leads and not just the ultimate buyer client, that's completely legit. I got 90% of my sales training business by referral last year.

And I'm a professional cold caller. But I've just been doing it so long, and I have so many trusted marketing firms who will build campaigns for people and will say, "Well, now this client's got leads, but they're not closing. So now they need a sales consultant to help them, they need a sales trainer to help them." And they send people to me. So I've cultivated those relationships over decades, and I spend time nurturing those because those are sources of leads for me.

Deb Zahn: That's right. That's right. And I get a ton through that, so I will second that heartily. So where can folks find you? And remember, we're going to do another podcast right after that, which everybody has to wait a week for, if you're getting this fresh, but where can folks find you?

Catherine Brown: The best place to find me with the resources for consultants is at my sales training site. And my company name is ExtraBold sales, I've got two buttons. One says corporate clients and their bigger series I do for sales teams, and the other says solopreneurs. And you can see everything on either one, but they kind of direct you differently in terms of the path of what I anticipate people would like. I think a good starting place is to read How Good Humans Sell because, it's nine dollars on Amazon, and it gives a lot of secrets of what I shared here. And then for consultants and the smaller business practitioners, I've got group coaching and offers and things that are listed on ExtraBold Sales that give you ways to come visit, check out a class, check it out before you buy, things like that.

Deb Zahn: That's fabulous. And I did spend some time on your website. It's really clear and easy to navigate. The book is fantastic. I did read it. And if you are someone who wants to be a good human and you want to have a consulting business, go get that book. And I will have links to all of this on my show notes, so people can get right to it. But let me ask you the last question, which is the fun question I always love to ask is, how do you bring more balance to your life? Whatever that looks like for you.

Catherine Brown: Yes, Deb, all your listeners, depending on when they're dropping in, they might not know that you don't get heads up, you're going to be asked this last question. So this is really a challenge for me. I come from a long line of people, and I'm just going to say this for the benefit of all your consultant listeners, it is very challenging if you grow up thinking that you trade time for money. It's very challenging to sell on value, sell packages, and change the way you think about money. And I have just grew up in a family where I have a very strong work ethic, and it's like, you got to grit it out. There's sense of like good, honest, hard work needs to feel hard.

Deb Zahn: Oh, yeah.

Catherine Brown: And I don't think that in one part of my brain anymore, but in another part, I come from a long line of people who think that way. And so this is really challenging for me because I very easily fall back into working in the business and not thinking strategically, and not acting like an owner, and just being a doer, doer, doer. And that's OK if a person wants to do that, but I don't want that. I want to have a business that has systems and processes and can scale and can have a bigger impact because I want to be a sales evangelist. I don't want to be a solo consultant to one company at a time. That's not my mission.

So my current practice is that, since halfway through last year, I kind of reset my schedule, and I do a pretty good job of protecting my morning until about 9:30 my time. And I've been up for a long time. I'm an early bird, and I like being up. But I read and I exercise, and I'm a big fan of the miracle morning. I don't know if you've read Hal-

Deb Zahn: I have heard of it.

Catherine Brown: Yeah. I'm a real fan. They have this acronym of SAVERS, and I don't always do each of the things because it's a lot of things that take three hours. But I like having that as an anchor to think about my own self-care of my body, of my mind to be learning. So I turn around constantly sharing with my clients things I'm reading. I listen to podcasts when I go walk. So that has been really big for me, to say, "I don't want to work later in the day, and if I'm going to start later, I need to be very strategic and about what I do in my hours."

And that forces me to constantly take a hard look at what I'm saying yes to. And so I loved the Miracle Morning as a guide to get me thinking about that. I would recommend that to your listeners as well, to think about other aspects of self-care. And, yeah, that's my current, that's my current-

Deb Zahn: I love it. That's fabulous. I'm trying to become an early bird, so I'm going to use you as inspiration. I think that's wonderful. Well, Catherine, thank you so much for joining me on the show. As I said, we're going to have everything about you in the show notes. And then everybody stays tuned and listen to the next podcast because we're going to have so much fun diving into leads and getting prospects and all that good stuff.

Catherine Brown: Love it. Thank you so much. Thanks for the opportunity.

Deb Zahn: Thanks so much for listening to this episode of the Craft of Consulting Podcast. I want to ask you to do actually three things. If you enjoyed this episode or if you've enjoyed any of my other ones, hit subscribe. I got a lot of other great guests that are coming up and a lot of other great content and I don't want you to miss anything. But the other two things that I'm going to ask you to do is, one is, if you have any comments, so if you have any suggestions or any kind of feedback that will help make this podcast more helpful to more listeners, please include those.

And then the last thing is, again, if you've gotten something out of this, share it, share it with somebody you know who's a consultant or thinking about being a consultant, and make sure that they also have access to all this great content and all the other great content that's going to be coming up.

So as always, you can go and get more wonderful information and tools at Thanks so much. I will talk to you on the next episode. Bye-bye.

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