“The vast majority of business owners would happily spend 99% of their time creating and recreating and tweaking and iterating on the product side of things, because we know how to do that, we feel of service when we do that. But in order to help people, or to do the work that you love, you have to also talk about it.”
For many small business owners, ‘selling’ feels deeply uncomfortable. So too often they don’t do it, and the result is the business struggles along or even fails because not enough people know how great their product is. Sound familiar?
Sara Dalrymple sees you. Not only that, she has empowering and energising news for you: your sales skills are already better than you think, and you don’t have to spend hours of you day selling. In this week’s episode, she tells me why our assumptions about selling are outdated, and what effective, zero-ick, 21st-century small-business selling looks like.
(And also how she came to write a book by accident.)
Sara on Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/saleswithsara/
Sara’s website: https://saradalrymple.co.uk/
Future24 LinkedIn livestream: https://www.linkedin.com/events/future2024-forinsights-forintel7139984406877741058
The 10-day Business Book Proposal Challenge: http://proposalchallenge.com/
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Substack: https://extraordinarybusinessbooks.substack.com/
The Extraordinary Business Book Club on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1447064765612358/
Write with me! https://alisonjones.com/writing/
Alison Jones: This is good. I’m here today with Sara Dalrymple who is a sales trainer and a mentor for online business owners and the go-to sales expert for creative small businesses. She’s helped hundreds of business owners bring in consistent sales through confident, sleaze-free self promotion and she’s the author of More Sales Please: Promote your small business online, make consistent sales, grow without the grind. And as we speak, it’s just hit bestseller in, well, at least two categories. So yay!
Sara Dalrymple: Yay, indeed! Celebrating hard.
Alison Jones: It’s brilliant. And it was, she did make me laugh because she says something like, oh, wouldn’t it be embarrassing to do a book on sales and not sell any. So I think you’ve nailed it, Sara. It’s fine.
Sara Dalrymple: Tiny little irrational bit of dread, but I’m pleased that we can move through that now, straight away.
Alison Jones: So, firstly, congratulations. We’re actually speaking on publication day of the Kindle edition, so that’s really, really brilliant. But I want to talk to you straight away about small businesses and sales and why it’s so awful and hard and we’ve got such hang ups about it. Tell us why you wrote the book.
Sara Dalrymple: Well, exactly. Why is it so hard? Why do we all hate it so much? I mean, there’s a lot to say here, isn’t there? I think really, rationally, the part of my brain, like, where we can start here is by saying, we don’t learn this stuff at school, right? We don’t learn how to do this when it comes to normal, kind of traditional education.
So only if you’ve been lucky enough to work in sales and marketing or you are naturally very effervescent at promoting what you do, in which case you get a leg up, but the vast majority of people who have their own businesses did not come from a sales and marketing background. That’s point one.
I’ve got many more points. Should I keep going?
Alison Jones: Keep going. If we’re getting to like, you know, 50, 60 minutes, I’ll probably stop you, but Yes, it’s all good.
Sara Dalrymple: No, don’t worry. Okay. Second point is that I think there’s a lot of stereotypes and a lot of stuff that comes up for people when they hear the word selling or sales. I have never met a single person who hasn’t had a negative sales experience of some sort at some somewhere along the line, whether that’s been in real life or online we all know what it feels like to be ‘sold to’ in inverted commas, and nobody loves that feeling.
Alison Jones: And nobody wants to be that person.
Sara Dalrymple: Nobody wants to look like that person, be that person, make their clients feel like they’re being sold to. We have this kind of a gap, I suppose, in what we know about how to do it in the first place. And then we look to our own role modeling around what we’ve seen in terms of selling, and then that immediately brings up a kind of deep intake of breath and a running a mile in the opposite direction.
So there’s a couple of things, stereotypes, lack of kind of an alternative way of doing it. And then just for a sort of bonus point, I’m going to throw in there that selling in the way that we do that we need to be doing it as small business owners today in 2024 is a, is a completely new concept in terms of, like, it really didn’t exist 10, 15 years ago.
We’re not often meeting people in real life in the way that we were before we’re online. So what was before something that you might’ve needed, you know, very occasionally, or if you were face to face with someone. I’m just trying to think back to all the different moments that we might’ve had to sell ourselves outside of business.
It might’ve been for a job interview for, I don’t know, to get a place at university. Probably that’s about it. When you’re writing your CV maybe, or if you’ve ever been on Dragon’s Den and there’s a big giant pitch moment. But apart from that, not so much. Whereas now it’s an everyday skill and an everyday kind of thing to be getting comfortable with and when you can do that, that’s when the sales explode.
Alison Jones: And that’s what I really like about your book and what I loved about your proposal, because of course this is a Proposal Challenge winner. It’s, you’ve got both the recognition of how hard this is, the mindset stuff, the myths we tell ourselves, the stories we tell ourselves, and addressing all of that.
But you don’t leave us there. You leave us with really, really practical, tactical, everyday, short things to do. This is actually how you get over yourself and start selling. So talk me through a little bit about how you drew those two together.
Sara Dalrymple: Yes, I think it is a combination, as you say, of overcoming or releasing these stereotypes, if you like, and understanding that those kind of used car, used car salesperson type, you know, or Del Boy ish type stereotypes that we all hold. They were not created in the small business community, right?
They were created for TV shows or for movies or for East Enders or for what else you know, kind of Wall Street type feelings, big corporate stereotypes of what it means to sell, don’t really have any place in the sort of small business community. So, you know, when we’re thinking about mindset and what it means to sell today, you know, it’s really important that we understand that we are not trying to replicate things that happened in, you know, 1980s boardrooms or on trading floors in our lovely, heart-led, integrity-fuelled you know, purpose-driven businesses.
So it’s releasing all that from a mindset perspective and understanding that actually, what’s disempowering a lot of people about how they feel about selling is feeling like they should be doing it like that or they’re somehow doing it wrong, when actually the much more empowering thing to do is to find a way to talk about what you do that is absolutely in integrity with your own personality, values and purpose. And then, once you have that kind of readiness, or you’ve given yourself that permission, it’s then about, well actually, okay, great, my mindset is good, I’m ready to do it, but what the heck do I actually do? Let’s have some practical, you know, tidbits and tips and, you know, steps that anybody can do to get started.
We all have a voice, we all know how to talk, but it’s using that voice in a way that is productive for a potential buyer so that they have the information that they need to make a decision without you having to ever cajole because nobody wants to do that.
Alison Jones: And that point about it being kind of always on, you’re always selling because somebody’s always finding you online. But you can’t spend your whole life selling. You have to be obviously delivering and so on. And that balance between putting the, a small amount of time every day into the, the sales side of your business, alongside delivering a really, really great product, because actually if you’re not doing that, you’ve got nothing to sell.
Sara Dalrymple: Right, if you’re not doing that you’ve got nothing to sell and if you’re not talking about it then you’ve got nothing to do. So either way, it’s a constant kind of figure of eight. sort of dance, if you like. And I very much do see it like that 50 50. And I think, you know, the vast majority of business owners would happily spend 90, 95, 99 percent of their time creating and, you know, recreating and tweaking and iterating on the kind of product side of things, because there is much more of a comfort level there around we know how to do that, or we feel kind of of service when we do that.
Alison Jones: That’s why you started your business, right? You wanted to do this. Yes.
Sara Dalrymple: You wanted to help people. But in order to help people, or to do the work that you love, you have to also talk about it. And that’s what I’m talking about here.
Alison Jones: Yes, and it’s not just you talking about it, because one of the things I love about the book is that you bring in quite a wide range actually of different perspectives and experiences and advice from different people. So, I mean, obviously that gives you a kind of wider applicability because it’s not just your kind of business that you’re talking about, but just tell me what the thinking was behind that and how you went about making it happen.
Sara Dalrymple: Including other people’s views?
Alison Jones: Yes.
Sara Dalrymple: Yes, it was really important to me that this wasn’t just a kind of here’s everything I know about how to sell and how to do it the way I like to do it. I think it’s really, you know, one of the things that really matters to me is that we are sharing or shining as much of a spotlight as possible on, you know, the small business owner community as it is across the spectrum, across lots of different genres.
And ultimately, as I say, this is a reasonably new way of working, earning money. This isn’t something that we learned how to do in the 80s or 90s particularly. So we need to find our role modeling in real time. We need to find the people who are doing it right now and understand if my approach in exact purest form, isn’t perfect for you, then here’s a load of other people.
Here’s a load of other people who have found their comfort level around promoting themselves, talking about what they do, sharing, you know, from a really comfortable, natural place, most days in a really boundaried way that isn’t gobbling up all their time so that they’ve got no time to then do the work that they love.
So I wanted to make sure I brought in as many different business owners from, you know, across the community who can, who have found their reason for selling and who can share their, you know, top tips or things that have worked so that we can help as many people as possible to also find their comfort level.
Alison Jones: Which is brilliant from the reader’s perspective. Tell me what it was like from your perspective as the author, just bringing people in and working alongside them.
Sara Dalrymple: It was probably one of my favourite parts of the whole book because I, that’s when it really started to feel like a team, teamy, I like a teamy vibe, me. I like, I don’t love doing everything all by myself so I really enjoy having that community element of things. So I really enjoy pulling together people’s, you know, tips and actually hearing what it really was that made the difference for all these other people, some of which I knew, not everybody did I know though, so it actually brought a whole new dimension to writing a book and anybody that’s already written books or maybe who is writing a book may already know how in your head you can really get when you’re writing a book, so very here for, you know, getting out of my head again and getting into the world and actually, you know, pulling together information from outside my head.
Alison Jones: I’m, I’m going to guess it’s a wild stab in the dark that you are an extrovert type personality.
Sara Dalrymple: Exactly.
Alison Jones: And me too. And, and actually that it’s a great tip for extroverts, isn’t it? Because there’s nothing like sitting down alone in a room for the energy to sort of just leech out of you.
Sara Dalrymple: Exactly that, and I honestly think that is one of my top tips for any, you know, in the book writing process because yes, it is you writing the book, but actually if you are somebody who gets energy from being around other people or, you know, whether that is literally to go and plonk yourself in a cafe with headphones, that was another thing that really helped me in the end.
Because, like you say, and it was winter when I started, it was this time last year that I started writing the book in earnest and it was, Yes, me in my office going, da da da da, until I realised, right, no, actually, make it, you know, how you need it to be. Get that energy where you, you know, where you get your energy, just as you would with anything else.
Alison Jones: And as you wrote, cause this is your first book. I guess what, what surprised you about the process?
Sara Dalrymple: I, okay, a lot. So, full disclosure, it all came about because of the book proposal challenge. I entered the challenge in, you know, very excited, but not necessarily you know, I hadn’t got a fully formed book idea in my mind, far from it. Clients had
Alison Jones: said…
Your ducks weren’t fully in a row at this point.
Sara Dalrymple: Absolutely not. No, no, no. No way. Completely the opposite.
A few of my clients had said, you should do this challenge. We need this book. And I know some people that have also written books through you. And I thought, Yes, I’m up for it. I’m up for doing this challenge. 10 days. Here we go. And I absolutely loved the challenge. But after that, you know, after that, there was no plan.
I didn’t have like a, it was very, it was a hugely steep learning curve. And what surprised me was, actually how much support I needed. Considering this is, you know, my expert topic and something that I feel really comfortable, you know, talking about and also writing about, but you know, a book is a whole different thing.
So I was surprised at how, Yes, although I am somebody who likes to have support, I really did need it here especially. I’m also surprised at how clarifying I found the process. I really feel much, you know, much, even more solid in, you know, what I’m here to, you know, the lens through which I talk and what I’m here to teach as a result of going through this process.
So, In that sense, I’ll always, always be grateful to it. Cause it’s been one of the most clarifying things I’ve ever done.
Alison Jones: I’m just, I’m loving now thinking about your reaction when you won. It must have been a kind of hooray! Oh crumbs, I’m gonna have to actually write the book now.
Sara Dalrymple: I’ve really noticed through listening to other episodes of this podcast, that some people already know there is a book in them and they are writing this book. Come what may, I was not one of those. I was not one of those people. That’s, that’s full disclosure. And now it’s lovely to be at this end of the process and looking back on it.
But Yes, absolute surprise, and delight. But also surprise.
Alison Jones: So that’s what surprised you. What, what frustrated you? What did you absolutely hate about the process?
Sara Dalrymple: Right, okay. I think Yes, I mean, it definitely brought up some perfectionism that I thought I’d left long ago. Slightly frustrating as a 42-year-old woman who thought she’d conquered her perfectionism demons to realise that I definitely haven’t. What frustrated me was, I think actually getting the structure how I wanted it, I found something to be something that took me a lot longer than I had any clue.
I don’t know what the right amount of, there probably is no right amount of time. For me, it took me a really long time to figure out what, how do you write a chapter, what goes into a chapter? What exactly am I trying to do here? Apart from, you know, just tell people what I know about, which is obviously not going to cut it.
Yes, that took a really long time. I was really spinning my wheels on that for a long time.
Alison Jones: And actually bringing people’s, bringing other people’s points of view in, while it is brilliant in all the ways that we talked about, it makes it that even more complex, doesn’t it? Because you then, you’ve got to sort of weave that in as another thread that’s going through your book and work out how you make the link and how you build on that and carry it forward.
Sara Dalrymple: Yes, yes, yes, and to a certain extent, I think weaving those, or the moment when I realized how I was going to make the contributors tips and stories actually work in the book was the moment that I thought, okay, great, I’ve actually got the structure now, to be honest. So, like, I had something of a structure, but it was when I put the two together, I was like, actually, I can really see this now, I can see how this is going to work.
Phew, it’s all going to be okay.
Alison Jones: And I think, I suspect you probably already covered it, or at least touched on it, but I always ask my guests, for somebody listening who’s on the other side of their book, they haven’t just written and become a bestseller, they’re still like, Oh, I think there’s a book in me, what’s your best tip?
Sara Dalrymple: Get all the support, definitely, especially with the structuring. So of course I’m going to say do the proposal challenge if you haven’t done it already because hands down that was, I’ve used that document at every stage. I’ve got it in my folder now, I’ve, it’s, the thinking that I did in that first 10 days was… I needed it all throughout the process, I still need it now, even as I’m now marketing the book, I still need it now, so. Definitely that, but then off the back of that, get, get into the boot camp, get into any book coaching experiences that you can find. Do not try and do it on your own.
Alison Jones: Get the support, be with the people who are doing this.
Sara Dalrymple: Be around people who know how to write books, who know how to write good books. You know, if you’re like me, and you, I’m sure you are, you want to write a book of quality that you’re really proud of, do not try and do it on your own.
Alison Jones: It’s so true, isn’t it? Because writing a book, it’s… it means a huge number of different things, and anybody can sort of sit in a room and bat out a book in a weekend. But would anybody else want to read it? That’s the big question.
Sara Dalrymple: And would you be proud of it? I think that was the thing that really got me. I really wanted to be able to hold it in my hands and read through it and think, I’m really happy with this. And that’s where all that perfectionism was coming up. And I just, I just know about myself, you know, as we’ve discussed, I like to be around other people.
So what on earth would have, you know, it wouldn’t have made sense to be doing it by myself.
Alison Jones: Yes, good, brilliant tips. And I always also ask guests to recommend us a book. So what book do you think anybody listening to this podcast should read if they haven’t already? You’re not allowed to say more sales please, although obviously, you know, I’ll do that for you.
Sara Dalrymple: Yes, I mean, I can’t, I can never just pick one of anything, but for, I mean, I’m a proper mezze type person, but let’s see, I love
Alison Jones: Mezze book selection, I love it.
Sara Dalrymple: Write for Life, Julia Cameron, I’m really enjoying at the moment, just because, I mean, I love all of Julia’s books, but this is a great one for just, you know, the creative mind and the practice of writing.
Alison Jones: If you’re watching this on video, by the way, you’re actually getting a little kind of view of the books, which is brilliant.
Sara Dalrymple: This is Linda Scott, The Double X Economy. I don’t know if you know this one, but this might be, this isn’t just for women, but this is for me huge for anyone who’s struggling with confidence or confidence issues because it really brings a narrative and vocab and language to the, to why that might be, especially if you are if you are, Yes, if you are a woman or if you are somebody who just hasn’t ever nurtured a sort of strong sense of confidence, there’s so much information in there.
So I love it for stats and for information and just for thinking, oh, okay, I get it now and I’m not going to let it hold me back.
Alison Jones: And you know, I do, I know of the book, but I haven’t read it. So that’s a really good recommendation. Thank you.
Sara Dalrymple: And I know there’s so many other books that get mentioned on here all the time, but if it wasn’t for Lucy Werner and Hype Yourself, I definitely wouldn’t be here either. So she’s got to get a mention always.
Alison Jones: Absolutely. Yes. A cult classic of a small business marketing book, that one, isn’t it? Yes. Brilliant.
Sara Dalrymple: She demystifies the process for, you know, helping so many people come through as a result. So Yes, thank you Lucy.
Alison Jones: Yes. Thank you, Lucy. Brilliant. And if people want to find out more about you, Sara, where should they go?
Sara Dalrymple: So the main place I hang out is on Instagram, at saleswithSara is my handle, and that’s Sara without an H, so saleswithSara, but also my website is a thriving metropolis of freebies and resources at the moment for the book. So that’s Saradalrymple. co. uk forward slash more sales please.
Alison Jones: Yes, there’s quite a few resources on there. If you want to have a taste of the book, that’s a good place to go.
Sara Dalrymple: Yes, especially for the 30 days of prompts up just to get you started. So if you’re, if you do nothing else, if you download that freebie, you’ll have a whole month, month’s worth of sales content that you won’t have to worry about. Am I, is this right? Is this what people need? Cause it’s all on there and you can just pick and choose across the month.
Alison Jones: I mean, it’s a no brainer. Run, don’t walk. Brilliant. And I will put those links up on the show notes at extraordinarybusinessbooks. com along with the transcript of this conversation. Sara is somebody who speaks even faster than I do. So you might want to go and read that transcript and get it all from there.
Amazing to talk to you. Congratulations again on your bestsellerness and thank you for your time.
Sara Dalrymple: Thank you so much for everything, Alison. It’s been amazing. And it’s a great day to celebrate with you.
Alison Jones: Hooray!