When we sell a product or service, what we are really selling is an experience, feeling, or the desired outcome. Selling is a skill built on listening, emotional intelligence, and being of service to your clients and connections.
Sheen Brady is the Founder and Tea Sommelier of Tease, a well-loved line of natural and botanical wellness teas that benefit the planet and those who drink them while funding entrepreneurship and mentorship programs for ambitious women. Sheena and Tease recently went through a rebrand – something that made her rethink who she sells to, why she sells, and how she goes about doing it. Patti Pokarchak is an award-winning marketing and sales coach, who believes you can learn to sell and that being an extrovert isn’t a requirement to be able to do it well. Instead, we learn that selling is about practice, confidence and human-to-human relationships.
Sheena Brady is the Founder and Tea Sommelier of Tease, a well loved line of natural and botanical wellness teas that benefit the planet and those who drink them while funding entrepreneurship and mentorship programs for ambitious women.
Patti Pokarchak is an award winning marketing and sales coach and Adjunct Professor at Toronto Metropolitan University (formerly Ryerson University)
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Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 00:00
Welcome to the startup women podcast. On the show today, we are thrilled to have our featured founder Sheena Brady. Sheena is the founder and Tea Sommelier of Tease, a well-loved line of natural and botanical wellness teas that benefit the planet and those who drink them while funding entrepreneurship and mentorship programs for ambitious women. We’re also joined by our topic expert, Patty poker check. Patty is an award-winning marketing and sales executive and coach with decades of experience at companies like IBM, as well as startups across Canada and Europe. Patty ran a successful software company before owning her own thriving garden center and hobby farm. Since 2019, Patty has been an adjunct professor at Ryerson University, teaching entrepreneurial sales to entrepreneurial majors, as well as professional sales to MBA students and small business management to non-business students. Together, we are going to be diving into sales and how to sell to discover strategies to help you scale the services that you offer, and the products you have built and unlock the processes of selling. Welcome to the show, Patti and Sheena!
Sheena Brady (Tease) 01:14
Thanks for having us, Kayla. Thank you.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 01:16
I love the round of applause patty. So let’s kick off with some context. Sheena, I’m going to throw it over to you first, walk us through your entrepreneurial journey. Why did you want to create teas? Why the wellness and beverage industry? What excited you as an entrepreneur in those spaces?
Sheena Brady (Tease) 01:35
Yeah, so many great questions. So I was actually in hospitality leadership for over a decade. Like that’s what I went to school for. It was my dream to open a restaurant one day. And I felt very privileged that I got to go to school for the thing that I was then doing a career in yet I was kind of miserable at the same time. And I thought well, this is a little bit strange. But I didn’t have enough self-awareness to like really unpack that I was like really young in my 20s and what have you, but I was working nights, weekends, holidays, you know, in a very demanding career in hospitality. And that journey led me to work at a beautiful hotel in Toronto, the Shangri La Hotel, they have a beautiful tea program. And I was asked to enhance the tea program and create one of the biggest in the entire city. This like big PR was the tea program that extended beyond just tea service, but like cultural tea ceremony, so if you had a family visit, you know, from China or Japan or Morocco or England, you know, it was my responsibility to train the service team on how to deliver a tea ceremony that was you know, culturally significant to what their experience was back home to make them feel right back home at the Shangri La Hotel. And then I also had to have a library of over 75 different unique blends sourced from around the world. So no big deal. Plot twist, I didn’t even drink tea at the time. Okay. And so being like super ambitious, I was just like, Yeah, no worries, like I can do this. And I at the time was surviving on a lot of coffee to get through those long demanding shifts and hospitality that I was, you know, talking about, right, like six, seven cups of coffee a day and like, obviously too much of anything. It’s not good for you to know, but especially that much caffeine and so, you know, I had sleep issues, I had anxiety, I had stomach issues. I had headaches I had, you know, all these challenges that I knew, stemmed from my, you know, coffee obsession and eating it to get through these shifts, but it seemed like my only source of fuel so when I was asked to create this tea program, I decided to become a certified tea sommelier. Believe it or not, that’s a real thing. And so I joined the teen herbal Association of Canada and took an eight-month journey to become a tea sommelier. And I did it to just prove the point that I would be capable of learning about the world of tea and developing this world-class tea program. What I didn’t expect is to fall completely in love with tea along the way. And how I fell in love with the world of tea botanicals, is quite simple. Next thing I knew there were different teas and blends to support how I was feeling. If I had anxiety, there was a blend for that. If I needed sleep support, there was a blend for that if I needed a little bit more focus to get through the day minus the crash and jitters that you know coffee can give you there is a blend for that. And that’s kind of when that light bulb moment kind of hit. There was this idea that no matter how I was feeling, I could turn to tea as a source of support to invest in myself and my goals and my everyday well-being. And so that was weaved in our ethos set teas very early on when I started he’s a very scrappy side hustle while working at the Shangri La Hotel. And it was not a business. It was like a creative escape. It was just something that just gave me so much joy, something I love doing a new type of problem-solving and so was a very modest side hustle at the time, you know, flash forward where we are today, you know, teases Gosh, I don’t know eight and a half years old ish, eight and a half years old. And you know, we now have customers in over 30 countries. We’ve recently relaunched our brand so, we’re more retail-centric than ever. So we’re at 150 locations across Canada and the US in different retail stores. We’ve had some, you know, great success with like different, you know, opportunities through, you know, sales channels and selling, which I know we’re gonna get into, momentarily. But the most important thing that has been important for us throughout all of this is again, like extending that idea that, you know, Tease is here to support you, we want you to look at teas as an outlet to invest in your everyday wellness and self-care rituals. And when you’re investing in teas, you’re also investing in women founders at the same time. And, you know, as you share that we invest with every order into our sister organization’s founders fund that invests in women entrepreneurs. So it kind of creates this cohesive ecosystem for us that our community at Teays loves. And this idea that they can invest in themselves while investing in other women with every order.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 05:51
Sheena, I know your story and every time I hear it, I get even more inspired, and I learned something new. So thanks so much for sharing that Sheena. Patti, let’s go over to you, you coach entrepreneurs to sell better and also teach entrepreneurial sales at Ryerson in downtown Toronto. When it comes to selling paint as a picture of you know, what women entrepreneurs are struggling with most? What are you talking about often? And what kind of coaching? Do you find women entrepreneurs in your network are benefiting these days?
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 06:18
Oh, that’s a huge topic. But there is a generation generational gap in that they’re women of a certain age, they 40 plus still think sales is sleazy. And their biggest concern is I don’t want to be sales. And I’m living proof that sales are a learned profession. If you are not a born salesperson or that loudmouth extrovert who has to learn how to shut up. And the students I teach are in their 20s and 30s, they just don’t know how to sell, they’ve been sold to their whole lives. And so they just need to know that it’s a process. There’s a discipline to it. And there’s a skill set. And it’s not trickery, you know, when somebody hired me spontaneously, as a sales coach, eight years ago, I had to deconstruct what made me sell millions around the world in two languages. And it was like, I’m curious, and I’m caring, it is hardly rocket science things, right. Sales are being of service to others, you’re there to help. So women need, they need to have more confidence, and they need to know how to sell. So learning how to sell is the biggest barrier. Because you know, business starts when a sale is made. And you can get by on your contacts and connections to a better 50 grand level, and then you’ll struggle. And if they don’t want to learn to sell, they’ll struggle. I tell them to go get a job because they’re plateaued. Because you have to know how to sell, in business to business. You know, retail sales, and I’ve done both, you know, I’ve been a retailer with a garden center in the middle of nowhere. So I know what it’s like, that’s a marketing play. You know, when you’re selling a million-dollar system to like Bell Canada, you don’t do that over an Instagram post, that’s business-to-business outbound selling, so it is a skill set. And you need so many skills these days, because the customer is so more well informed, and it’s changed from 20 years ago. So you got to keep learning, I still learn, I still learn, you know, it just never stopped because people are so different.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 08:18
And, I think that’s encouraging that many, you know, women entrepreneurs, or just entrepreneurs in general that I talked to often are so overwhelmed at the idea of sales that you know, I’m not comfortable in this space, they don’t have experience in this space. And I think that’s encouraging to hear from you, Patti, and I’m sure we’ll get into this, you know, with your examples, you can learn and refine, and you know, finesse these different approaches. But hopefully, in today’s episodes, we can give some really practical tools to help entrepreneurs get there. Our case study for today. So, Sheena, we want to go through in detail, Tease’s growth over the last couple of years, and get a better understanding of what does your sales journey concretely look like? Because I think, you know, we talk about sales as this sort of amorphous idea, you have to sell your products and services. But what does that look like from the experience of a business owner?
Sheena Brady (Tease) 09:02
Yeah, great question. And I just want to like to requote something Patti said, because it’s so true, like sales is a service, right? Like you’re doing a service for people. And if you can just keep that simple fact, in your mind that sales is a service and how can you weave that into all of the different people that you’re interacting with within the spirit of obviously selling your brand, your products, your services, whatever the case might be, that will help you. And that’s been defining for Tease because when we talk about sales, we’re talking about, you know, we have five different sales channels. First of all, like we were on Amazon, we have our Shopify store. And then we have like strategic partnerships. And we also have wholesale and so you know, the selling in those different channels in itself is very unique. And if we’re going to talk about practical tips that I can share, like very broadly, I think my top tip is number one, give yourself a seat at every table. And what I mean by that is the only way you’re going to get yourself a seat at the table of whoever you’re trying to sell to is to feel welcome at their table and to know about their business and how your business can support them. So really doing a lot of that, like due diligence research ahead of time about their business, their needs, their gaps, and how you might be able to fit into that. And, you know, this has worked for us time and time again. And it’s never like you said, you will never sell anything in an Instagram post, but it takes time. And you have to keep showing up and proving that you want to see that table. So one great example like, like a very tangible specific example. As we have a sales channel that I call strategic partnerships, and that’s working with like subscription boxes as an example. And larger subscription box brands are not just this concept of like, oh, you get this door, you get this sorry, this box at your door now and then, during a scheduled cadence, they have like these add on marketplaces now. And they’re becoming these cool lifestyle marketplaces, with aligned brands. And so, you know, with a particular one, we did our research, we know that this brand represents like seasonal curations of products, and they fall into this idea of like, spring, summer, winter, fall. And so with Tease, you know, we think like, okay, how can we curate a very tailored pitch deck that’s appropriate with the seasons? What type of tea blends or, you know, aligned products can we offer that are great for like winter versus summer, can we do cold brew iced tea pitchers in the summer, but then in the winter, offer, like hot brewing options. And so we’re just giving ourselves like, a seat at the table by making sure that we’re providing, you know, a value that’s reflective of like, what their brand wants. And so, you know, that subscription box versus like other, you know, clients that we work with very, very different needs for their business. And so it’s just very important that you’re doing that research ahead of time, and you’re continually not only emailing them, but like, following up because you will get ghosted again and again, and again, everyone’s very busy, everyone has a lot of noise in their inbox. Don’t take it personally. If you don’t hear anything, just follow up.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 12:05
Sing it! I love that piece of advice. And which table did you start with, like, at the very beginning of Tease, which table did you invest your energy with? And then you grew from there.
Sheena Brady (Tease) 12:15
Yeah, so good question. We started in restaurants because that was my background. That was like my forte, you know, I had worked in hospitality for years, I knew that I had success curating this exceptional T program at the Shangri La Hotel, and I thought, well, I can do this for other for others, you know, hotels, restaurants, that sort of thing. And so I leaned into my expertise to be able to do that. We don’t serve Restaurants today, though. So we’ve completely pivoted as well to like, who we work with, you know, since our early days, but that’s where I started, I leaned into what I had experience in. And so that was, that was like a really helpful start in the right direction for us.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 12:54
Amazing. And, you know, when we were chatting, Sheena, you were mentioning that you know, one of your main challenges relating to sales was navigating this recent refresh and this rebrand to the biodegradable line of tea and packaging. And Patti, I’ll come to you next on this because I think this is a challenge so many entrepreneurs are faced with right now. Walk us through what that journey was like, Sheena, how did you navigate those different challenges, looking at your supply chain, and then obviously doing that during a global pandemic, when supply chain issues were also you know, already challenging to navigate? Walk us through that journey and give us some tips about how you navigated it?
Sheena Brady (Tease) 13:28
Definitely. So traditionally, Tease was known as a loose-leaf tea company. And you know, we always believe that what you see is what you get, you know, with loose-leaf tea, and it was really important to me to provide that experience to our customers. But as the pandemic kind of continued to progress and teas is now you know, at this point six, seven years old, you know, when the pandemic kind of the first hit, I realized I stopped being my customer in a way which was a huge red flag. And so what I mean by that is, right before the pandemic, we had a client, a private label client they were like, You know what, we love your loose blends and the quality and the integrity of them, but we need them in tea bags, we need them in tea bags because they are much easier like inventory. For inventory tracking purposes, like how single servings are way easier to track than like loose-leaf, you might use a tablespoon, I might use a teaspoon and that’s just an inventory nightmare. And then the mess of loose leaf tea as well right like it’s very difficult sometimes to contain and get in your infuser perfectly without you know, leaves spreading everywhere. And so this private label client was willing to invest in tea bags with my blends. And so I was able to research and have teabags manufactured for them in Toronto, which is great just kind of keeping things made in Canada and with biodegradable compostable tea bag format, not inexpensive at all to produce you know, you’re going from like, you know, a cost for a client like that of like 25 cents a serving to like doubling it or more with when you’re putting it in a teabag format, but they were willing to pay. So okay, cool. Flash forward into, you know, the pandemic. And I stopped being my customer in the sense that I loved those tea bags. So much like, I was making sure that we were manufacturing extra beyond what we were selling them so I could consume it because it was easier, more accessible. And if it was a consistent taste with every preparation, right, because the measurement is so bang on with like every tea bag, it’s the same amount two and a half grams in every tea bag. And that’s difficult to replicate when you’re using a teaspoon for loose-leaf tea. So, anyhow, I stopped being my customer. And during the pandemic, you know, I think people were craving more wellness options without compromising accessibility, convenience, quality and sustainability. And so that shift in like, consumer preferences along with me stopped being my customer. We’d made the bold move to like stop with loose-leaf tea and like reinvest in a line of fully biodegradable compostable tea bags, including the outer packaging because we knew that if we’re going to do this, we’re going to do it right. It took a lot of time, it was really expensive. It was wild to navigate in a pandemic, when you’re dealing with ridiculous, you know, inflation and rising costs and supply chain delays. And, you know, there’s so much that went wrong before things went right. But we were so intentional with how we did it. And we ended up launching the world’s first fully biodegradable and refillable tea collection, which we’re incredibly proud of, at Tease. And we found you know that this spoke to our ever-evolving community of tea drinkers as well.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 16:36
And I want to get into the nuts and bolts of then how that changed how you sell the product, practically or the verbiage. And you know, how that narrative and the story of the business has evolved as well. Patti, what’s the most important thing that you recommend to entrepreneurs when you’re going through a rebrand or a shift? In what do they sell? How do you convey those transitions of organizations that are naturally going to happen? But still, instilling that confidence?
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 17:01
Yeah, first of all, I mean, I’ve lived through one disastrous rebrand at a computer company that went bankrupt because it was just as Sheena said, very expensive to do confused messaging. And so the first thing is, is keep your current clients informed, I’m a huge fan of asking questions, do your market research, send out hey, this, we’re thinking of this, how’s that going to impact you know, hopefully, you’ve lost maybe 20% of your clientele, who always want loose tea, but you’ve gained a huge another market share. So it’s just staying it just giving them the reasons why you’re doing this, keeping them informed. And generally, I mean, when you became your own best customer, it’s like, it’s proof that there’s a demand there for it. So I you know, for many, many reasons, and it’s opened up, you know, a new retail sales change. So it’s a channel for you. So it’s, it’s increased your peace, your share of the pie. So basically, just stay in touch with your clients, always just keep them up to date and say, you know, maybe you figure out that, you know, just this one blend is what everybody wants loose, and then you can just maybe keep it that way and have a special order and make them feel special, you know, that you’ll keep some, some of the old ways are still available, maybe at the same price. So you’re charging the premium price for a premium service.
Sheena Brady (Tease) 18:20
Yeah. And to add to that, it’s, you know, we lost some customers, right, because they were such advocates of like loose leaf tea, and they had been so loyal to our brand for several years. And they couldn’t quit, you know themselves justify the more expensive format of loose leaf of tea bags because it’s more expensive to manufacture obviously. And so we did lose a few customers. And that was sad for us. And it was important for us to make sure that we had, you know, that cost-benefit analysis that you kind of mentioned Patty, like making sure that we’re doing that research ahead of time and knowing that okay, are we going to be okay with losing some customers knowing that, you know, we’re evolving just like a lot of our customers in our community are and knowing that hopefully will gain a lot more customers and loyalty long term by making these bold, frankly, risky changes. In the middle of the pandemic, when technically nothing was broken, you know, nothing was broken and what we were doing selling loose leaf tea, right. So it’s pretty wild that we, we, that we made that jump and to your point of you know, the people who are sad about our loose leaf we’re already kind of thinking about okay, how do we do this with limited edition, loose leaf blends that like only these three will be available during certain times of the year and kind of as like a little bit of a compromise and nod to the previous you know, customers that had been following us for so long and purchasing from us.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 19:35
It’s an ebb and flow of the different conversations and the inputs and the outputs like it’s, it’s an evolution and I think many entrepreneurs struggle with that fluidity of the sales cycle and these processes. Because, you know, it’s not going to be completely linear. You’re not going to, you know, but one step in front of the other for the entire lifecycle of your business. So I think that’s a great illustration Sheena, and great, great feedback Patti, from your perspective of what you’re seeing across so many different women entrepreneurs, let’s go into sales 101. Any entrepreneur that has not even started their business, yet, they’re feeling very overwhelmed by the prospect of selling. You know, what is selling kind of a section of this conversation? Sheena, bring us back to your first customer. What was the sales process like to maybe find that customer and then actually land that first sale? How did it feel? What was your approach? You know, and maybe a little bit of a showcase of how that evolved in the infancy of your business?
Sheena Brady (Tease) 20:30
Yeah, great question. So I think a lot of founders, get their first sale from like, friends or family, right. And so I kind of count that as like the baby for sale. Like, it’s like the baby like not the real first sale, but when it’s still a real one, but they’re my real first sale. That was from a stranger. I’ll never forget this. It’s and I know her name. I’ll just say her first name, a wonderful name. Her name is Cindy. And she lives in Alberta. And I remember when that like Shopify ping came on, like my phone, like you got a sale. And I’m like, oh, like who is it? Like, which? Yeah, it’s like, oh, it’s like, which at first I was like, Wait, which friend or family member is like, so sick of me posting? You know, they’re like, Okay, I’ll finally support her and like, buy some tea, right? Because like, again, all my first customers were like people that I knew. But she was the first stranger and so I found her on Facebook. This sounds so bad. On Facebook, I craved her because I needed to know who is this woman who doesn’t even know me? Who believed in what she saw so much. And like, how did she like, feel compelled enough to purchase from me? I need to know. And so I messaged her, and I told her I’m like, Hey, like, you’re my first sale. And this made me like, really excited. And happy to see you know, if you wouldn’t mind sharing with me, like, how did you find out about me. And it turns out, she found out about me on a CTV interview that I did, which again, PR we can probably go into is like another subtopic here is like a critical part of sales in a lot of ways, in a lot of ways, like having ownership of like your PR and your PR strategy. And so, you know, me being like a certified tea sommelier, I would, you know, knock on CTV store and I’d say like, Hey, you know, I’m a certified tea sommelier. I’d love to show your viewers like, you know, perfect blends to help with sleep, etc, all that kind of stuff. And, yeah, so they brought me on for my first segment. And then Cindy found me through that segment. And that’s how she ended up being my first customer. So I learned a couple of things. Number one, this PR thing, ‘s pretty cool. Like I can, I can make money, not just put my brand out there, but convert to sales. And number two, she is like, not only my first customer, but she’s still a very loyal customer to this day. And we actually became pen pals briefly over Christmas time, sending each other cards and she actually had her own brief venture and entrepreneurship doing custom jewelry making and she sent me one as a gift. And just kind of shared that she loved, you know, my founder journey and became inspired to start something of her own. So just a pretty cool ecosystem, I guess.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 22:54
That’s pretty much the best first customer story. And for listeners, you can’t see us right now, but I’m beaming with a huge smile on my face listening to that story. Incredible Sheena, Patti, how do you recommend entrepreneurs even considered to start building this sales strategy? You know, looking at pr what Sheena just mentioned? How do you even conceptualize where you should start when looking to think of how you’re going to attract that first customer?
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 23:20
Well, first of all, you kind of have to segment entrepreneurs into two categories, one selling to consumers. And that’s more of a marketing play, where you’re doing the social media posts, and people come to you so it’s like my garden center. You know, I had a bricks and mortar greenhouse, whatever farm, but people came to me so I had to entice them through marketing, now business to business where Sheena, you know, when you’re selling to wholesalers or retail chains, that’s more the business to business that I was involved in for most of my life. And first of all entrepreneurs. My biggest soapbox is that sales is not treated as a respected profession. The fact that we actually graduate business students today without an appreciation for sales is a crime in my opinion, okay. Like marketing will have nothing to do with sales, because they hold their nose and they just think, Oh, it’s just consumer marketing. What they forget is 50 to 60% of marketing grads, of which I’m one, I had an MBA in marketing with zero sales. And so my first roleplay at IBM, like, I sat there, like a lump on the logs, I had no skills, and I was really angry. And that was decades ago. So first of all it’s a learned skill set. I’m living proof. You can take a shy little geek, and shy little geeks, because we don’t like to talk. We like to ask questions and listen. So one thing is selling is listening. It’s not talking and that’s why I bring out my elephant with the big years, Horton here because you got to listen twice or three times as much as you speak. So the elephants got a small mouth. And so you just to ask questions and ask questions and be curious, again, curious and carry, which is the services as part of sales? In learning, learning that there is a process. I’ve had clients that didn’t know they had to ask for the order, ask for the order, ask a question, shut up, Be quiet, be comfortable, learn to be comfortable with silence, you know, is important. It’s, it’s, it’s, I mean when I think I teach 12 weeks of sales to entrepreneurs, students, so in a one hour podcast, I can’t give you all my secrets, but my brand promise and take you from sales, fear to sales fun, and I benchmark it every time. And I’ve been told in 45 minutes, I can give you more sales techniques and tools, then you get many other one day events, just because I’ve got so many years of experience, and I’m just holding it down.
Sheena Brady (Tease) 25:52
I have if I can add to that I have a bit of a semi-controversial tactic that you can, that you can use early on as a founder when you are, you know, again, trying to, you know, sell your products and for a lot of people it can feel uncomfortable, you know, putting yourself out there, right? Like, it’s really difficult, to put yourself out there over and over. And then you spin up these narratives of like, why haven’t I heard back yet? Why aren’t they? You know, replying to me? Or like, do they hate my product? Are they done? Do they not like me? So I had these very real concerns, probably like about a year or two into my business when I wanted to, like really amplify our sales strategy across our different sales channels. And so what I did, and again, I don’t know, Patti, maybe you’ll disagree with this. But again, being a solo founder, you’re doing everything right, you’re not only selling, but you are also PR you are marketing, and you are financing. So you’re not only the person like selling the thing, but then you’re also the person who’s like, Okay, now you gotta pay me for the thing, right? And so, I started feeling like, Man, I must be like, this annoying person that after I sell something that I’m following up for payment, and all this kind of stuff. So this is what I did. This is a controversial thing. I created an alias one day, okay, I created an alias. And I thought of two women that I freaking love and respect. And it’s Taylor Swift and Lizzo. And I respect them both for very different reasons. But one of the main things that they have in common is they’re exceptional businesswomen, very confident businesswomen, in addition to being mastered their crafts and being artists, right, so I created an alias named Taylor Jefferson. So Taylor has been named after Taylor Swift and Jefferson is Liz’s real last name. And I created that alias. And now it was Taylor that was reaching out to different companies, but it was me. And I kind of looked at, at Taylor as kind of like my alter ego, like if she wasn’t feeling confident enough to approach something or follow up in a certain way, like how would Taylor say it, and it kind of, you know, took a little bit of pressure off of me even though it’s me, obviously, still sending the emails but it kind of gave me like a little bit you know, of a barrier to some of those sensitivities. I guess, in a good way having like Taylor approach a lot of those conversations, at least an email those cold emails, write those cold emails that you have to send like 100 out blindly. Before you maybe get like a couple of people interested in replying and having a conversation.
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 28:20
Like I agree with that, you know, having you know, having multiple emails where this is accounting at, you know, Tease Tea right, or, or, you know, customer service. So it’s still you, I totally agree that you have to be doing everything. But many entrepreneurs think they’re bothering people, when unless they get the Hey, don’t call me don’t you know, that you’re giving, you know, and there’s no more cold calling, we have so much information that once you know who who you serve the job title, the industry and the benefit, it’s not a cold call, you’re there to help them. Whether they want your help or not, is their decision. But if you don’t show that you’re persistent, persistence can take 10 to 20 touches. So I usually do the double, a voicemail and email a voicemail and email, a voicemail, stalk them on social media, engage with them on social media, after 20 times you might think about but that will range over 12 to 24 months. So most entrepreneurs think Oh, two times and you’re out. No, that’s such a it’s just the consistency of Yeah, I’m interested but not now. I’m interested, not now and we’re not polite or not, we’re too busy to even say sorry, call me in three months, we just ignore it and delete it because it’ll come again, obviously, if you truly believe in your product and service, and you’re you know, you can help them. So it’s part of it’s the persistence is really really key. Whatever it takes to get more confidence and never you know, no means next opportunity. And I really, in my decades of selling rarely haven’t been rejected. I usually just say I don’t want to waste your time or mine you know is you know not now Oh, never or is it maybe later, you know, tell me, you know, if it’s no, don’t want to waste your time or mine, you know, just be honest and people are on us, you know, they feel Yeah, well, it’s not quite a fit so fine, that’s good. But I got more cycles to go after somebody that’s more suitable to, you know,
Sheena Brady (Tease) 30:19
I so agree with that. And I don’t subscribe to the concept of like cold calling like it’s not cold calling anymore. As you said, we have so much information at our fingertips that it’s warm calling, you can do one LinkedIn search and know exactly who the contact is that you need to reach out to and how long they’ve been with the company. Like we have so much more information than ever being in the digital age of having access to the internet and access to you know, social media and all that good stuff. So even just that mindset shift like this isn’t cold calling or cold emailing like I already have a lot of information. I’m not even I don’t even need to ask for this information because I have so much of it to begin with.
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 30:53
Yeah, it’s like you said Tease is now the was the world’s first bio?
Sheena Brady (Tease) 30:58
Yeah, fully biodegradable and compostable tea collection.
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 31:01
Yes, that’s the phrase. Yeah. And so that’s, you know, because now, what I teach is the challenger sale, which is leading with insights. So you’ve got something to you know, did you know, such and such, you know, let your customers are looking for this kind of product, and we offer it, we’re the world’s first like, that’s a real good brag to have, right? But you’re saying, Hey, I’ve got something for you. And did you know, like, have some insight into the industry? So tell them something they don’t know, something that I mean, when I was in the barcode business, we barcoded everything, I mean, anything like from the Prime Minister’s desk, to the manure spreader at the experimental farm, like we just barcoded everything for you to keep track of it, you know, and there was a reason for it because people were losing 10s of millions of dollars worth of assets. So we help them find them or keep them so.
Sheena Brady (Tease) 31:55
And another really important thing that you mentioned, too, is like you can’t give up after two reach outs, right, like you can’t, and I and if there’s anything that I’ve learned, you know, from some of our biggest opportunities at Tease like we’ve been on Dragon’s Den, and we’ve been on The Ellen Show, so two awesome, like PR opportunities for us Dragon’s Den like we got rejected, like two years in a row before we actually got an audition with the producers. And we just kept on the producers after we were auditioning, to make sure that we actually got in front of the dragons. And then with the Ellen Show, it was I think, like 18 months of like, pitching, again, products over and over again, based on what I know, their niches or demographic and curating the right products and experiences for their customers over and over and over again. And sometimes we would hear nothing. And sometimes you would hear, okay, send a sample and then really like, oh, yeah, they’re actually interested. And then you send a sample and then nothing. And so, you know, again, like that persistence is so important. And like Patti said, like, unless you’re just saying, no, like, your brand is just not a good fit right now. Or at this time, like, you just gotta keep going.
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 32:57
Again, I wouldn’t make a distinction has been on TV and the front page of the Ottawa Business Journal, PR for B2B doesn’t create the same amount of business as PR for consumer products. Like there’s just you can do a lot of TV and interviews and podcasts and, and not bring in a lot as much money and as much recognition. Just the dollar values are so different. And who’s watching? You know, I was once on the 1130 news on CTV and you never know who’s watching until you’re on the TV. And he goes, I find you I saw you. I know, but you’re already my customer, you know.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 33:40
I think this is such an important area that entrepreneurs feel so uncomfortable with of this idea of pestering versus you know, just being proactive and constantly coming back to these conversations.
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 33:52
To not pester, is always to leave something of value. Never say, how are you? If you’re, I don’t know, you never say I’m checking in, never say I’m following up, never make them feel guilty. Say something, hey, we just did this. And that will apply to your company, interested? Keep it short. Keep it simple. Don’t try to sell the whole warehouse when you just want one tea bag in their store, right? You just got to start with baby steps. But always leave value. So always have something new to share with them, then you’re not pestering, you’re giving value, you know, it’s so important.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 34:25
That comes back so beautifully. You’re leading with insight. you are very thoughtfully doing that follow up then yeah, it’s gonna feel also like you’re not pestering with these sorts of generic comments back and forth. So that’s this area that comes up so often in business in general, even outside of specific entrepreneurship. So I think that’s some really great advice from both of you there. I would love to go into some other pieces of actionable advice. We’ve talked a lot about finding customers and understanding who your customer even is and she knows you’ve illustrated both yourself as your potential customer and how you’ve engaged with that first sale. sales cycle as well. So we all know that defining your customer is a really important step before you sell who is going to be leveraging this product and making sure you have that product-market fit. How do you decide who you want your customer to be? So Patti, when we’re talking about DTC or B2B, or all of these different structures you know who your customer could be? How do you decide who is best? And do you cast the net wide? Do you identify a specific one and test that there? Patty? How do you even conceptualize where you should be selling to first?
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 35:33
Well, when you start out, I say you should be like an octopus or a spider with eight, eight aims out there. Because as she said, she started out in hospitality because that’s what she knew. And when I started out, I thought I would make a million selling this PDA, if you can imagine was 30 years ago was before cell phones really took off. And I was I couldn’t have been more wrong, I could sell a $5,000 barcode system or 50,000, then a $500. Personal Assistant. So it’s like, you figure out and you go, where’s the money coming from, you know, is the 8020 rule. And I always say is you need to clients, from strangers, I tell my students always talking, unlike your parents, talk to strangers, okay? Because it’s only until you sell to a stranger that you know, that you have a business. That’s, that’s a key part. So try to see what the similarities are. So having two clients, you can reference selling Oh, who do you know, ask for referrals, you know, and just expand that category. And, you know, you can only focus on one thing at a time, but it doesn’t mean that you can have two or three like she has got five sales channels. That is important for diversification. So if one happens not to do as well, let’s pick more attention to the strategic partners, for example, and grow that market. So it’s like really being clear on who you serve the biggest benefit, the easiest, the ones that you want to deal with to the ones you have the most fun with. I, I have a category that I go, Oh there too boring. They’re way too boring I can’t deal with them. So as long as you get to choose and like who do you what do you enjoy working with and that you get the biggest energy from and the biggest they get the biggest payback is key.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 37:16
Sheena, did you find that? Did you gravitate towards some customers more than others?
Sheena Brady (Tease) 37:20
I agree with everything. Patti said, I think it’s so important in the early stages like she said to like, be an octopus fill out a whole bunch of different areas like what feels good, what feels, you know, natural at first? And then what can you get a little bit uncomfortable? And like, explore new markets. And, you know, see if you can figure that out, like for us like Amazon was this weird sales beast? Because we were like, well, we don’t want to really like cheapen the brand by being on Amazon. But what if we, and also it’s very expensive to be on Amazon, they take a lot from us, right? So we thought, okay, well, what if we just have high margin skews, and only four skews and the ones with the highest margins. And then that’s like the gateway of people discovering teas, and that we have all these other products as well. But they have to come to our website to try all these other products, right. So kind of like looking at some sales channels that you might not make a lot of money in is more of like a long-term customer acquisition strategy to like the areas where you are making more margins. I will say we found ourselves in a awkward time. Right? Right. For the pandemic, I think the pandemic amplified it which is what made me do the rebrand to include way too many sales channels we had way too many. It was too many to like keep track of and I didn’t have the issue of like having boring sales channels as Paiit’s example. But I had one that drove me crazy because they felt very entitled. And I’ll just like candidly say like what that was, and they ended up in the hospitality industry, funny enough because that’s where it came from. And so I’ll never forget this I had this like an independent coffee shop that was like on my on our case, all the time being like when you’re going to give us like branded sleeves, like for the like or to-go cups, you know that you put the tea and we want branded sleeves, and we don’t want to pay for them because it’s your brand that’s on them or like, you know, when are you going to provide like, displays or whatever like they just kept asking for these things. And I said you know, what, can you have a phone call with me? Can we like talk this out? Like I’m trying to understand, like, you have our menu like you know what you can order from us, but like you keep asking for all these other things that like we don’t even manufacture. So I’m just like, I want to understand why. So we get on a call and she’s like, look like there are so many tea and coffee brands to choose from, as you know, and it tends to be like the bigger the brand, like the more those brands, are willing to put their logo on anything and like give you it for free Coca Cola, for example. Right? They will pay for your refrigerator. If you have a coffee shop, they will pay for the fridge as long as their signage is on it. And as soon as you started breaking it down, like Oh, that makes so much sense. And I left that call thinking, I never want to be that service provider for you. You know, I didn’t tell her that on the call. But I knew that I was going to have to break up with like the In the hotel industry, because these types of little requests just kept coming up as like, I’m not here to, to create, you know, all these like branded assets and like all these customizations that just don’t make sense. And so you got to be a little bit careful as much as it’s important to like explore all these sales channels, sometimes you might have to break up with a sales channel because it just doesn’t make sense. It doesn’t align. And so that’s just something to keep in mind. Because you can’t be everything to everyone. You just can’t.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 40:25
Sing it! I love that Sheena. So we have not figured out some some initial questions to ask when you’re probing who you’re going to sell, to, when you’re navigating why people should buy from you? How do you craft that unique value proposition? You know, Sheena, in the tea space or in this industry that you are in is very saturated? And you know, all these different competitors? How do you differentiate yourself, to your customers? And has that been a journey in exploring what resonates the most with your different customers?
Sheena Brady (Tease) 40:59
Definitely. And actually, that’s a part of your question. I forgot to answer the last time but like, in terms of who is my customer, I mentioned, you know, the sales challenge that I ended up eventually having a breakup with, but it was also a really good exercise for us to realize, like, Okay, who was our customer, who’s our demographic, like, we know that we’re here to serve like women who lead and live busy lives, you know, busy moms, or, you know, busy, like, you know, busy like women in the workplace, and that just has a lot on the go. And they just need a little bit of more support in everyday life and everyday partnership in everyday work, like whatever that looks like, and we want to help be that support system. Okay. So, you know, we knew that we felt rooted in that. We know that our customers tend historically to range between, like 27 Plus, like 27, to like, like 60 plus range, and it skews heavily on the 40 plus side, which is interesting, because, in our early years, we marketed heavily to like, younger women, I don’t know if that’s about their thing. It’s just I was a younger woman, I’m like, oh, yeah, like, this is how we’re going to market to him, right. But it turns out that like our messaging really resonated with 40 Plus even more than you know, under that age bracket and so getting very intentional, okay, well, where where are these women? Right and so we talked about strategic partnerships and different sales channels and like that so we went on The Ellen Show, like, we just know that there are some like there are some you know, age demographics are generations that still enjoy cable TV, they still have cable TV, right I still do candidly but we knew like that viewership that like the Ellen Show has as an example is literally our demographic is probably women 40 Plus ish, that are like taking care of their kids as they’re coming home from school or maybe they’re retired or like something in between and so yeah, really drilling down on like who our customers are and then going after partnerships and opportunities within that the subscription boxes same thing like we know we know that there’s a subscription box for everything, whether you’re a pet lover, you know, there’s a pet box for that. So for us it was like okay, where are the subscription boxes that cater to just like women that want the latest and the greatest in like the health and wellness space? And we went after those opportunities so I just really like knowing who your customer is and going appropriately in that direction.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 43:11
Patti, is this approach in when you’re exploring you know who this customer should be and and you know, the the communication tools that you use to advocate on behalf of your business? Is it a little bit of spaghetti on the wall if you have any study strategies and how to craft that at the beginning when you’re not sure who is ultimately going to buy your product?
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 43:29
Well, to start a business you have to have some kind of competitive edge so right from the beginning and it shouldn’t be price because nobody competes with Walmart you compete on service on, you know, IBM, like never had the best computers, but they had the best-trained salespeople in which is how I started my sales career. So sometimes you know, if you don’t have a sales and marketing background, tight, maybe find a sales and marketing consultant, and the important part is sales first, marketing second, because a lot of marketers don’t have the sales experience, unfortunately. And you know, there because of social media, they’ve had to be more responsive to sales going this is where we sell to instead of market dictating from the ivory tower of you know who their target market is when they have no idea because they’ve never sold and selling is in marketing is it’s like an inexact science. Like it’s there. If I had a magic wand to say, oh, t’s got to go here and you’ll sell 10 billion tomorrow. Sure. I mean, she would you know, pay a billion for my services but there’s there’s no such there’s no formula in business you know in or in sales and marketing there is you got to trial and error and then do more of what is good for you. What is bringing you the profit margin where the people aren’t dickering. One of the best lessons I learned from IBM was, you know, the best sale is the one you walk away from Oh, you know if they’re horrible people before they buy, they’re gonna be even worse after they buy, they’re gonna be the entitled ones, as you talk about, so don’t go there, you know, and you do that once and then you go no, no, no, no, no, unless they get the nasty customer surcharge, you know, you double your price and you go, okay? Sometimes you do it for the money, right?
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 45:20
This is an important space, when it transitions really beautifully into our next question looking at like a repeatable sales process that if you’re investing all of this time and energy in this very small community or small target market that ultimately sucks you alive and isn’t profitable, that’s not going to scale your business. So making some of those tough calls, in the short term supports that long-term vision of growth or, you know, scale in a way that as a founder, you’re trying to prioritize. So, Sheena, I want to drill into this sort of repeatable sales cycle or structure that you’ve leveraged with the sort of Asterix as well, the you’re building a social purpose venture Founders Fund while building teams, or I guess building them simultaneously, which actively supports the the the women entrepreneurs? How do you look at these two models working together to achieve both organizational goals? And then having that repeatable across your sales cycle? Walk us through how you’ve built this type of business?
Sheena Brady (Tease) 46:16
Yeah, that’s a really good question. So you know, and we’ve actually failed in the past to with them, strategies that made us lose money, right, like thinking that, you know, this sales strategy is going to be like a winning formula. And then it’s not and I keep bringing up subscription boxes, because fresh in my mind right now, but I can share that, you know, in, in the past, we would, you know, the thing about subscription boxes is they’ll really beat down your margins, but they’ll promise you like exposure and like entry into new markets and all this stuff, and we’ve totally have fallen for that before. And so, you know, even though your margins take a hit when you’re working with some of these strategic partnerships that are offering, you know, exposure and, you know, a bigger audience, and they will hit your margins. And so in the past, we lost, we lost money, you know, we thought like, Oh, don’t worry, like, we’re gonna get a whole bunch of customers after we send all this product to them. And no, like they not nearly enough that where it was, like recoverable or it made sense. So getting a lot more intentional about like, Okay, well, how can we work with certain partners or certain sales channels to make sure that we have like that repeatable model to make them like, actually want to come back to our website. And so in the example of the subscription box, you know, they loved our products, they were like, We want more like they kept featuring us in their marketplace, as every quarter. And then, you know, we would say okay, but you’re gonna have to like really like increase like how much you’re paying here, at least a little bit more, because it doesn’t make sense as a business for us to have these massive losses, not massive losses, but some losses. And then in addition to that, we would add, you know, storytelling the packaging that will get sent to them to the customer. So when the customers received it, and they heard of T for the first time they understand why Tease was unique compared to other tea companies, and they understand our investment in women, what that meant they understand we’re certified Benefit Corporation, and what that means for our social and environmental impact. And so getting an opportunity to make sure that we’re sharing the story of the brand, and not just the product was a big one. And then even with like the rebrand of our product, one of the things that we did is make sure that we had a QR code inside every lid. So when you open your T, you see the QR code right there. And it says, you know, reef, it says scan to refill and reduce waste, right. And so you can scan that QR code, and you’re brought to our refill collection. And so you can you know, get your refills from your from right from our website. And so it’s so much like less risky when we’re working with some bigger partners and distributors, where we will still make sure we don’t lose money. We never like Gone are the days where we’re like, oh, yeah, we hope for exposure in return like no, those days are long gone for us. But we will sacrifice some of our margins, more than we would in our normal wholesale pricing. Because we know that like Okay, our packaging has like the storytelling, it has a QR code, we know that once this person consumes their first tube of tea, if they really enjoy it, they’re like, hopefully they’re gonna want to refill it. And we make it seamless, mindless, it’s just scan the QR code and come to our website. And when you come to that landing page, you not only come to like our refill collection, but you come to storytelling even further like below the products, there’s more information about, you know, our brand and our ethos and our social impact. And so that’s been good for us for creating that like repeatable process and just kind of making sure that we kind of weave in some storytelling and clear call to action and benefits for our customers to come back.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 49:42
Love it and you’re building that trust and that connection and that community like literally one cup of tea at a time which is so interesting and seeing, you know the growth and evolution of Tease. Patti, how do you recommend entrepreneurs can you know navigate how they build that trust when they’re really in their infancy when they might only have one very niche product or, you know, they’re still kind of testing what works and what doesn’t work. How do you build that relationship with a customer built on trust flow?
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 50:09
You have to sell and have to have two reference accounts. That’s all you need is get the breakthrough. And as Sheena says, usually lose money on your first installation, your first sale, and life lessons are always expensive. But you need those two reference accounts, right just to say, Hey, don’t listen to me, you know, I’m the founder, I’m the salesperson, but listen to what my clients say, and have the story of know the benefits of dealing with you. So you need to know your competition, you need to know where you fit in, the ecosystem of this is your place, you’re a premium product you’re not trying to compete with, you know, I don’t know, Red Rose or whatever, you know, like the supermarket brands, right? That you’re a premium product. And this is your story. And it’s much bigger than just a tea bag, right? Because the founders, the B corpse, like it’s a huge B Corp fan, I think that’s the way every corpse should be every corporation. And it’s just you want to be that trusted advisor, you got to know your industry inside out, you got to know your customer’s industry and where you fit in. And that you were saying before, how do you make it repeatable is when I was selling barcode systems to the federal government, and you know, my competitor was a summer student with, you know, paper in a clipboard, and I was selling the state of the art system. And it’s like, why would I do that? Well, I’m gonna, you know, once you had a couple of clients, they saw how easy it was, and it was updating their fiscal responsibility was done is Domino’s, like, it was the one-call close. And I would just turn it over, like, a lot,
Sheena Brady (Tease) 51:38
I love that. And you, you reminded me of something so important, like, I think sometimes people don’t realize like they’re not, you’re not selling your product, you’re selling the experience that it comes with, right. And maybe that experience is just making someone’s life a little bit easier or adding a little bit, you know, in my case, with tea adding a little level of support in their day. And you know, I was looking at my phone just now because, you know, we have a marketing manager on our team who put together this like beautiful onpoint copy for this, like new Facebook ad, but it says, This is not t like that’s what the ad says, This is not t. And then it continues, it says this is not tea, this is your motivation to get through your endless to-do list. This is your sanity check as you go through five episodes of Paw Patrol with your child, this is your energy after a sleepless night. And so just like those, you know, like and that’s, that’s a blend called mother’s helper, it’s for moms, right? And so it’s just like coming up with those, like creative statements that are so authentically aligned with like the experience that you’re trying to give your products like, this is not a cup of tea, like this is your, you know, your secret elixir for sanity, you know, as a mom to kind of like, get through your day kind of thing, right? So I think that’s so important for anyone who’s listening like just remembers, you’re not just selling a product, arguably, you’re not even selling a product, you’re really selling the experience, like how can you zero in on what that experience is.
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 52:56
It is the benefits people buy results and outcomes? Right? So they want that feeling of serenity, they want that first if you’re making me thirsty than I want a cup of tea, you know, it just you’re selling that that feeling right? There are so many emotions, you gotta hit people in their hearts, less in their heads, you know, I always say you know, for sales and marketing is used more of this and less of this, you know, instead of throwing money at a problem just doing more ads is be more creative. I love I love that ad I’d be I’m not even a mom, but I’d go yeah, I want some of that. Right? And what some of that and that’s what, that’s what people have said to me is that whenever you’re selling, I want some of that I want to be part of your, your tribe, you know,
Sheena Brady (Tease) 53:40
We’re not Red Rose, right? Like you, you can go and get great tea at the drugstore and pay like $5 right for like 20 tea bags, like that exists, but with red rose, like you’re buying tea, right? And so you know, with Tease, our MSRP is $22. And so for a lot of customers like that, that’s interesting to them. They’re like, wait a minute, like, how is this tea company justifying? You know, a $22 price point if it’s just tea, right? And that’s the whole point. Like we’re not tea, we’re certainly not just tea. And so making sure that like your messaging, your storytelling, everything like really ties into why you’re not just tea.
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 54:21
It just reminds me, to have fun with it, right. People are attracted to enthusiasm. So if you’re passionate about what you do, even you know quietly confident like, Hey, I know I can help you. You want my help. Simple as that, you know.
Sheena Brady (Tease) 54:34
We have been talking about how important is to know your customers, but sometimes within your customers you also have sub-customers right? So you have segments within your demographic. And like one example I can give to this you know very, very clearly and recently is Tease did a flash sale on Good Morning America last month, which was awesome for us through this like flash sale on like national TV in the United States. And it was great. We had a lot of sales, but the women who saw us on Good Morning America, who were you know, really excited to try to get a deal right like in there, in their point of view is going to be a little bit of a different demographic than you know, the everyday customers that are like paying full price for our blends on our website, right. And they both value teas and like what that experience brings them. But we’ve learned through these types of you know, these types of like one-off sales that happen is that they they’re only willing to like come in at a certain price point. And that’s a dangerous game to play. That’s a very dangerous game to play, what opportunities do you get yourself involved in without cheapening your brand and without your customers expecting a sale, right? Because we almost never have like sales on our website, right? It’s almost always full price unless there’s like a certain time of year. So we’ve gotten really careful about creating sub-segments. So with Good Morning America with like those customers that we have, if we have a very random deal, like a one off, like, you know, once every quarter type of thing, we’ll make sure like that, that those customers are included in that segment. Right? And we’ll make sure that they get those emails that go out about the certain deal on the certain product or, or what case might be because in our experience, when we include them in just like our everyday email newsletters, they don’t convert like it’s not as compelling for them. And so just kind of like knowing that sometimes you might have we just call them our deal shoppers like ours, our deal segment, right? Like they still love teas, but the price point just doesn’t work for them. And so they won’t always purchase from us year-round. But we know that we can if we can compel them and incentivize them when we do have an occasional deal and market to them appropriately. We do that versus like, just not communicating with them at all. Good point.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 56:49
Yeah, you are answering my next question Sheena. Understanding all of these different sales, and what has brought you the best return on your investment, or the biggest boom in sales for a particular moment? And if you ever feel, you know, in these moments in time, did you just get lucky with something, you know, an external variable that you had no control over actually impacted this beautiful moment? And how do you correlate? You know, what, what helped your business at that moment? Where did you find the sweet spot of where you’re at now? Or do you think it’s just an evolution that you’re constantly re engaging it?
Sheena Brady (Tease) 57:23
Yeah, I honestly think it’s an evolution, we’ve definitely had, have had, like, you know, many one-off really exciting things that have happened that have been, you know, monumental for the business and really move the needle, like the Good Morning America, you know, like we did the sales that we did in one day, we’re more than we would do in like, several months on our website, you know, and so they’re opportunities like that, that is just incredible. But I’d say like, the biggest thing that has allowed us to have like consistent sales, consistent revenue, consistent growth, across like, all channels, is really zeroing in on that, like, we’re here to support you, at the end of the day, really narrowing in on that messaging, like our products are here to support your everyday wellness rituals and staying like authentic to that messaging versus trying to be a little bit of everything, because like, even earlier on, like, again, I’m a tea sommelier, right. Like, I romanticize, like, where the tea is grown and like what soil it was grown in, and like, what the weather was before those tea leaves are harvested like, this is stuff that like lights my soul on fire, and like I learned the hard way that like the rest of the world doesn’t care, like what soil their tea is grown in. And so in my early days, like I would have all this beautiful storytelling about geography and cultural, you know, cultural, you know, systems or like cultural appreciation, like in different regions in the world. No one, unfortunately, at least my demographic that I was going for, that didn’t land with them, that didn’t resonate with them the way it did with me. And so, we knew, as we had like, okay, you know, women just love this idea of having a little extra support in their life, that moment of pause for themselves. Like, if they make a cup of tea, it’s more than just a beverage, it’s them saying, like, I am worthy of sitting here right now. And just like taking a minute for myself, right? Taking a minute for myself, and hopefully, this blend, like whatever one I’ve chosen will help give me a little energy or a little focus or help me wind down before I go to bed at night. So just staying true to that messaging consistently, especially in recent years has been really monumental for us for sure.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 59:27
I love that tea as support, totally reframe that
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 59:30
I was gonna say further to what Sheena was saying to as I always say, confused people and bored people don’t buy from you. So if you if somebody says so what do you do and you go into a five minute monologue, you’ve lost them. So it’s about that 30 seconds, and then counter with a question, you know, engage them right from the start, but you know, engage them in a way ask them a question. So do you drink tea? Or what kind of tea do you drink? You know, like it’s more open ended? Because you know, if if somebody says why don’t drink tea, then they are not your client but all who do you know that drinks teas, you know, got a relative parents, you know a friend. Everybody knows somebody that drinks is a tea connoisseur, so yeah,
Sheena Brady (Tease) 1:00:10
and that that’s a good point too, right? Because we don’t like we sell to people or not only tea drinkers but people who want to gift to tea drinkers, right? And we’ve we’ve created our whole website and our brand and our packaging experience to support a very giftable product because like, you know, not to like hate on red rose like doing wrong, I love a good red rose, like, once in a while. But like if someone was gonna give me like red rose in my stocking at Christmas versus making that face versus like, I have like, half of a package here because like I use I use it for my pencil holder, but like, oh, yeah, this beautiful. Like, it’s like coming out of your stocking. It’s like, oh, wow, like this, you’ve gifted me and experience all of a sudden, right? Which is very unique. And so yeah, just making sure that that’s cohesive. Yeah, excellent.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 1:00:59
So I want to wrap up this incredible fruit, or what’s, uh, what’s another equivalent of fruitful for tea? Flavorful! With a final notes around confidence, this is something that you know, we did to a lot of the comments from both of you. And then you know, I personally struggle with fundraising, or sponsorship, and all these different things, selling with confidence and having that not be performative and having to, you know, hype yourself up every time but just finding this this, maybe not ease but at least this comfort with selling and moving yourself forward. Patti, you told if you weren’t born a salesperson, you know you just because someone’s an entrepreneur does not necessarily mean that they have this innate ability to sell for an entrepreneur that also might be very introverted, and might be drained by those types of experiences as well. What would you tell them? What advice do you have for entrepreneurs that are watching? This,
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 1:01:54
I just said this to my class yesterday, is I wish I had a magic wand where I could just take my decades of experience and throw it at you. There is no shortcut to learning. It’s practice, practice. And like I say, I’m living proof that you can, when you start focusing on helping others, sort of losing the self-consciousness you have. If you truly believe in your product, and you’re confident you can help them, then just figure out if they need it. So ask the right questions. So to close, I always say, you know, I don’t do tricks. So when somebody says, How do I What trick do you use? It’s like, No, there’s no tricks as good questions upfront, as even better questions as you go on. Dig a little deeper, it’s learning. It’s just keep going until it becomes you know, don’t know scripts, right? scripts don’t work. Because you know my part, but you don’t know your so if you give me an answer that’s on my script, nope. Because it doesn’t work. Right. So you got it. You just talk from the heart, talk from the heart, have a few opening questions and see where it goes. And my biggest thing is, if you don’t want to learn how to sell is go do some improv training. Because it teaches you to be in the moment. Listen, really actively say yes. And and then think quickly.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 1:03:08
Sheena, how have you become comfortable in this selling posture? Are you comfortable in the selling posture?
Sheena Brady (Tease) 1:03:12
Yeah, if I had a career do over I would be in sales. Like I, I love it for all the reasons that Patti shared, like I, you know, I can be a very compelling person. And, again, it starts when I understand you when it starts when I understand what you need, and like how I can fit into that and how I can be of service. And so yeah, the only thing I want to add to what Patti shared if anyone’s looking for practical experience to start selling, and what really helped for me to get rid of, in my confidence, especially early on, is trade shows and markets. And there’s like a trade show in a market like for everything, right, especially trade shows, like almost any industry, there’s probably a trade show for that. And now that we’re entering, like the post COVID, hopefully, post COVID world, we can start going back to these like, you know, in real life experiences of trade shows and if you have a product based business markets as well, like little, you know, like maker markets, if you’re in early stage founder creating products, what have you, those have been fundamental to boosting my confidence towards selling because there’s no there’s no more practice that you’re that you’re you’re gonna get than standing at a tradeshow booth and having to introduce yourself and talk about your brand over and over and over and over again. And you’re talking like 678 hours a day. And if it’s a two day three day trade show, you’re doing it all over again for like the next two days. And so, you know, we’ve probably done over like, I don’t know, 15 20 trade shows, over the years at teas and markets and things like that. And that’s where I think I got a lot of of my confidence because there’s no shortcut to confidence. It comes with experience and so if you can find ways to get a crash course in that experience, like do it and so for me, like trade shows were great and also like talking to people in real life, you know, that’s when they’re gonna say like, you know, this is what’s going on in my life or like, this is like, my budget for Whatever right if you’re not in like the tea business, or if you’re in the service business, you can learn a lot about like your demographic, you can learn a lot about who your demographic even is, as you’re growing your brand, just by having like those conversations with real everyday people and how you may or may not be able to fit into their life as a service,
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 1:05:18
Such good recommendations there, Sheena! With wrapping up, you know, the future of selling a little bit like a huge question I’m gonna throw to you, you know, are things going to change dramatically, we’ve seen you know, all these different new opportunities to sell these different platforms, is there anything that you want to share with our listeners to get ahead of the curve?
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 1:05:38
Well again, you know, in direct to consumer markets, where it’s more marketing, and you’re gonna get from it, you know, artificial intelligence, you got the chatbots already, right, that will, you know, be good or annoying, or really quite, quite, quite useful. So you’re gonna get more automation, and just getting people through the basic questions, and b2b selling, it’s still one person to another, right, you still need you want to so people are coming, you know, in B2B, they’re coming in they’re, they’re 50% or more through their buying journey. So you can never ask anything that you can Google. So you’ve got to really know your market, your industry, your client, and when they and then the first person to give them to teach them something new gets the sale. So that’s where you have to be top of the game, you have to be that trusted adviser. And so you just got to know more than you’ve ever known before. It used to be that you had to have some business sense. And you know, then you would educate them about whatever it is you’re selling. But now they know they know everything. And so they’re coming they, if they call you, you’re on the shortlist of three, so it’s yours to lose. What else it’s, it’s never going to be boring. It’s always it’s the people that people thing, and people are never the same. So it’s never gonna be boring.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 1:06:55
You can’t automate that human-centred experience. Like that’s not automatable or you can’t automate so many of those really human touch points.
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 1:07:02
Yeah, I was gonna say the future of sales is more the emotional intelligence rather than, you know, you know, having an MBA, yeah, helps. But it’s the it’s developing your self awareness, getting the confidence that you’ve done this before you can do it for them. And if they say, No, it’s the next opportunity. And it’s your loss is my inside voice. Okay. But, you know, it’s just, it’s still gonna be dealing with human dynamics and thoughts not changing.
Sheena Brady (Tease) 1:07:29
Yeah, you’re always going to be dealing with humans, to Patty’s point. And I love what you said, like, you should know the answers to anything that can be Googled, is that what you said? I think like, That’s so great.
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 1:07:39
Oh, never asked anything you can Google, you know, if you say, so where do you go to school? Well, it’s on my LinkedIn profile. You know, it’s like, don’t bug me.
Sheena Brady (Tease) 1:07:48
Yeah, showing up that due diligence. And we, you know, I have a growth manager on my team who is responsible for having like a tease in retail stores that’s her role is she’s a sales and growth manager. But she had so she’s so used to, you know, a la carte, like retail, like selling and obviously, like researching which store she’s going into, and her mindset is like independent retailers and serving them and like, what they need and, and all that stuff. But she was recently presented with this opportunity to pitch to an airline and was like, kind of a big, kind of like a big deal for corporate gifting for their employees. And so I said, Yeah, make your deck, like make your pitch deck, I want to see it, like, let me review it. And, like all tag teams, that meeting with you, but create all the assets, and we’ll go through it together. And so, you know, she kind of went through with this mindset of just like curating these different options based on their price point and everything, which was fine. But I said, you know more about this company than what’s in this deck, like, you know, that it’s corporate gifting for people who are on airplanes at work on airplanes that probably have jetlag, that probably, you know, like, are experiencing these common challenges of just having to work on an airplane, like, can you curate products like, based on that? And then she came back and she said, Oh, yes, like, like a, here’s like, the Red Eye trio collection, or here is like the, I can’t remember exactly what they all were, but she came up with very specific, almost prescriptions, like tea blend prescriptions, you know, based on you know, the average day in the life of like, someone who’s on an airplane, whether it’s a pilot or like a flight attendant, etc. And so just like really knowing your customer and it’s not enough to just like sell what you have. It’s again, like curating a very unique experience based on on who they are. And you know, long story short, she nailed the pitch. She loved it and they loved it. , we got a sale!
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 1:09:33
Yeah, the high touch like making it really personal to that person is you’re never gonna go wrong with that, you know, because you sell to one person at a time.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 1:09:42
Final final takeaways. We’ve covered a lot of ground in today’s conversation. Patti, one final takeaway for our audience,
Patti Pokorchak (Sales Coach) 1:09:48
just keep learning is sales is a huge sales market is a huge topic. And there’s no substitute for not knowing and it’s not rocket science, but just get started
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 1:09:57
Sheena Brady (Tease) 1:09:57
Yeah, and I think many people have said this before, but no often means just not right now.
Kayla Isabelle (Startup Canada) 1:10:01
Well, thank you so much to you both. I feel super inspired. I desperately need a cup of tea after today’s chat. And this is such a helpful perspective and just, you know, sales are human. And don’t forget that as an entrepreneur you’re selling human to human, it might be B2B, or B2C or all of these different groups. But ultimately, there are people behind all these businesses, and that storytelling piece aligns to something bigger than just the product or service that you’re offering that can help you scale you know, all of these different sales tactics that we’ve covered today. Thank you so much to you both. Thanks for our listeners for joining in on the startup women podcast.