Digital Strategy Insights Marie Poulin

The Art of the Sales Process

(Or, how I ended up doubling my budget for my new hire.)


I can’t emphasize enough the power of first impressions with regards to “sales calls.” I almost cringe when I say “sales call,” because it feels a bit devoid of humanity, doesn’t it?

In Digital Strategy School, I teach my students to paint the vision of their prospective client’s future via your collaboration together. You can’t simply offer a list of technical features; you have to help your prospective clients envision what results are possible.

Not only that, but it’s so important to listen deeply, ask the right questions, and read between the lines. What does your client really need and desire? What’s keeping them up at night?

Well, for once *I* was on the receiving end of an incredible sales experience.

I had become the bottleneck in my business

My ideal week was beginning to look more like a pipe dream, and I needed to regain control of my schedule.

I knew needed to hire some help, but who to hire?

I’d been a lone wolf for so long, I wasn’t sure what kind of help I needed. And who could I possibly find that could work with my erratic schedule?

So in late September I started putting out feelers for people to help me with my workload, without any clear idea of what I needed. Did I need design help, administrative assistance, or something else entirely?

I wasn’t sure yet, but I quickly decided to hire a virtual assistant (VA) to help me with some of the more mundane day-to-day tasks that were not revenue generating, and could be done without my involvement. (This was immediately a great decision).

Then a colleague of mine connected me with a woman who she thought might be able to help me. I thought to myself, well I’ve already hired a VA, so I think I’m good, but it can’t hurt to find out what this person could offer.

I had an entirely arbitrary budget in mind based on average VA pricing that I’d researched, and what I thought I might need. I assumed this new contact was a VA or administrative assistant of sorts.

Let’s call her J.

By her first email alone, I realized that she was much more than just an administrative assistant!

See our first email below.


What I loved about her email:

  • It’s warm and fuzzy, but still professional.
  • Sentences with lowercase letters feel somewhat casual (which is very much in line with my client approach).
  • She makes sh*t happen. Who doesn’t want someone who makes sh*t happen?
  • She knew what I was looking for; she was decisive and confident
  • She was honest about where her skills lie
  • Her preference for package pricing signals to me a certain level of experience

After a few more emails back and forth getting to know each other, we scheduled a meeting. We had a great first call, and her questions helped me see how much value she had the potential to deliver. I instantly felt at ease with her, and felt like she understood both my short and long-term goals.

In our meeting she:

  • Asked great questions that got my questioning what I thought I knew about my business
  • Gave me some immediately actionable ideas for freeing up my time
  • Talked through her process + perspectives with confidence
  • Asked me if I had any questions

She followed up after our meeting with a longer email breaking down her proposed solution for working together, and what the outcome of that work could enable for me.

As a result, I found myself paying almost 3x more than I was anticipating for her services… and yet I was more than happy to pay.

Well, not at first, admittedly.
My first gut reaction was: “Yikes, I can’t afford that! I should get her to cut the budget in half, and see what we can do…” This, of course, was total scarcity crap.

I checked my first instinct and questioned myself.

Could I actually afford the amount she quoted?
I’ve cut corners in my business before, and this was not the time to do so again.
I want to work with someone who takes my business seriously, and whom I can trust implicitly.

I also wanted someone strategic; an expert who was willing to work alongside me to make my business run smarter.

Somehow asking someone to discount their services because I wasn’t ready to commit didn’t seem like the best way to level up.

Once I got over the initial sticker shock, and I read through her proposed solution again, I started getting excited. Really excited. I gave it a F*** Yeah!

Less than two weeks in, and I’m already seeing major results.
J is not just a project manager. She’s a unicorn.
She’s part project manager, executive assistant, business manager, researcher, as well as keeper of my time, energy, and sanity. She’s is my daily and weekly accountability buddy. She’s the one that makes sure I’m scheduling in self-care (because sometimes I forget that’s a thing I’m supposed to do).

She’s able to work with the way that I work; I was so skeptical that this was possible, and it was holding me back. It’s time to level things up.

Often budgets aren’t fixed, and are based on limited information.

When are clients willing to pay 2-3x more than they budgeted?

  • When you can effectively communicate the results of your collaboration.
  • When you can help them envision what is possible as a result of your work together.
  • When you can demonstrate how you can make the pain go away.
  • When “making the pain go away” is more crucial than the resulting expense
  • When you can outline the specific tangible results of your work.

When you can really tap into your client’s pain, and effectively describe the results of a successful collaboration, you move the conversation away from dollars and cents and into value.

And perceived value, of course, is subjective.


How about you?

Have you ever had a sales experience that had you saying “take my money!”?




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