1-on-1: Tory Johnson on Moving from Idea to Fruition

Tory Johnson knows a thing or two about looking for—and creating—meaningful work. In 1999, after the experience of being fired left her with a desire to have more control over her income, Johnson founded Women for Hire, a company that hosts career expos for women. As the Job Club correspondent for ABC News, she has also earned the nickname “the jobs lady.” In addition to hosting expos and training programs, Johnson is a popular speaker and trainer for events such as The Women’s Conference. Johnson’s new series of “Spark and Hustle” seminars help small-business owners move past ideas—the spark—to create profitable businesses.

SUCCESS: What inspired you to start Women for Hire?
Tory Johnson: I’d worked in network news, first at ABC News then NBC News. My job at NBC News was a dream job. I was in public relations, and I loved everything about it. So when I was coldly (and unexpectedly) fired from a job I thought I could have stayed in forever, it was an extraordinary surprise. The scar from that pink slip fueled my desire to secure my financial future by relying only on myself for generating a paycheck. I never wanted to be in a position to be cut to the core again. I never again wanted to rely on any one person or any one organization to have that much power over me.

What challenges did you face as a new business owner?
TJ: I was accustomed to getting yeses. When I’d worked for the networks, I was used to pitching celebrities, and everyone wanted to be involved—people always said yes. Hearing no was a challenge. That is a really important lesson for aspiring and current business owners. Not everybody will say yes. I had to have responses ready for the objections. We spend a lot of time thinking and talking about why someone should buy a product or service, and when they say no, we’re like a deer in headlights. It was valuable experience to understand how to overcome objections.

Do you have any tips to help people stay positive in the face of objections or rejection?
TJ: Conventional wisdom tells us to just ignore objections or rejections. But I think you want to acknowledge them. Realize that an objection or rejection is an opinion—don’t tell someone, “Oh, you’re wrong,” because they say no to something you’re offering. It’s an opinion; it’s not a right or wrong. Accept it, and then work to understand it.

The conversation shouldn’t end with no. When someone says no, tell them you appreciate the time they’ve given you and then ask: Why not? Understanding why they’re saying no will help you craft a valid response to their objection. It may be that they’re not the right person to talk to. That’s good information to have. You don’t want the person who can’t say yes to shut you down with a no. So knowing they’re not the right person gives you the chance to find out who the right contact is. Or, it may be that no means “not right now.” Make a note of when you need to come back to them. Or, maybe they’re saying no because they don’t understand what you’re offering or the full benefit of what you’re offering.

Embracing the rejection and digging a little deeper gives you a chance to understand. The goal is to turn a no into a maybe—and a maybe into a yes.

But understand, too, that sometimes no just means no. While it’s difficult to not take rejection personally, realize not everyone is going to be the ideal customer for you. Not everybody likes Starbucks’ coffee, but that’s OK—Starbucks still does pretty darn good. Not everyone has to like what you offer; you just have to find those who do want what you have to offer.

What advice do you have for those who are interested in either starting their own businesses or taking their business to the next level?
TJ: To me, it’s about spark and hustle. As an entrepreneur, you have the spark, the idea, the passion you have for your product or service. After you have the spark, you’ve got to hustle; your success is all about the hustle.

That means you have to know: Who is your target audience? What are you offering them? Can you clearly tell people what you’re marketing? Are you targeting the right people? And how do you sell? The sales piece is where people have the most trouble. The spark is strong, but the hustle is almost nonexistent. For some people, there’s a discomfort with selling. People want to just put it out there and hope people will buy it.

Don’t underestimate the importance of selling. Half of your time should be spent on creating what you want to sell, and the other half should be spent on how you’re going to sell it.

What would you tell someone who is new to sales and concerned about their inexperience?
TJ: It’s not only ice cream shops that can deliver a free taste on those cute little spoons to entice potential customers. All of us can offer a complimentary sample of our expertise to generate sales without engaging in a hard core sell. After all, everybody loves to buy, but nobody likes to be sold. So no matter what your field, figure out how to incorporate this low-resistance tactic into your strategy. Give your target market a sense of what you can offer in a manner that leaves them wanting more. Depending on your product or service, this may be a sample, a downloadable white paper or ebook, or access to a webinar or teleclass. Promote the availability of this offering on your website, in newsletters, via social networks, during speeches, while networking, in media coverage and through partnerships with complementary businesses. For example, on Dave Ramsey’s show, I offered his audience access to a complimentary audio recording. More than 2,000 people accepted; dozens bought my book and several have become clients. The more who try, the more will buy—no matter what the economic conditions.

For more from Tory Johnson, check out her web exclusive.

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