How I Started A Company That Help Businesses Turn All Their Employees Into Salespeople
I’m Dr. Cindy McGovern, and my company is called Orange Leaf Consulting. We’re based in San Francisco, but we have clients all over the U.S. and other countries.
Orange Leaf Consulting is a sales consulting company that helps businesses grow by making one simple change: We teach them how to turn every single employee—from the front-desk receptionist to the CEO—into a salesperson. Most clients and colleagues call me Dr. Cindy and nicknamed me the First Lady of Sales.
I have worked as a sales consultant, a sales coach, and a sales representative; I teach about sales in my online school Orange Leaf Academy, and I’ve written two books with sales themes: Selling You: How to Create, Live and Sell a Powerful Personal Brand and Every Job Is a Sales Job: How to Use the Art of Selling to Win at Work (a Wall Street Journal bestseller). In addition, I speak about how sales is a life skill, not just a business skill, to audiences all over the world.
In addition to hiring us for consulting, coaching and in-person workshops, many of my clients subscribe to Orange Leaf Academy, which is an online learning development platform that gives people access to sales training anytime, anywhere.
I decided to start a company that would help businesses put their employees—all of them—to work as ambassadors for their firms, as unofficial salespeople.
What's your backstory and how did you come up with the idea?
When working as a sales consultant at another company, I realized that many clients, once they hire a consultant, keep those consultants around in an arrangement that turns them into outsourced employees. In my view, consultants have a job; when that’s done, it’s time to go.
So I started a consulting firm that gets in, fixes what we can, and then gets out of the way. If we do our job right, we leave the businesses that hire us with leaders in a solid position to continue to grow their companies long after we’ve returned to San Francisco.
The same thing happens with training companies: The business invites them to do some initial training, and they stay. They overstay. Many consulting firms ask their clients to subscribe to a year or two of sales training. That’s fine for some clients, but it’s not what most want or need.
Their leaders need to learn how to train their teams. My team assesses the need, fills it, and then gives the business, its leaders, and its employees room to flex their new sales muscles. We’re on call if needed, but we’re not needed indefinitely.
With access to the video courses from Orange Leaf Academy, our clients can cue up a refresher any time they want. Some courses are brief, and some are in-depth, so users can choose to spend a lot of time or a little, depending on their needs. Plus, some of my best tips are on my clients’ bookshelves in my two sales-related books.
My backstory has a little twist; I started my career as a communications professor. I have a Ph.D. in communication, and after a few years in the classroom, I decided I wanted a more corporate career.
I still wanted to teach, so consulting was a perfect fit. Then a funny thing happened: My boss decided to move me onto the sales staff. I said, “no way.” I didn’t want to have anything to do with sales. I thought salespeople were cheesy, manipulative, and downright icky. But my manager challenged me to try it, and I fell in love with sales.
Eventually, I had a sort of epiphany. I realized that I wasn’t learning how to sell for my job; I have been selling my whole life. We all have. We sell every time we ask someone for a favor, job, or raise.
Everyone is a salesperson; most people don’t realize it (and don’t want it) and don’t call it “sales.” So I decided to start a company that would help businesses put their employees—all of them—to work as ambassadors for their firms, as unofficial salespeople who can make or break a deal every time they interact with a client, a potential customer, or the public.
It wasn’t long before clients, audience members who heard me speak, and others encouraged me to write a book with the process I created for non-salespeople so they can learn how to sell without the “ick.” So I wrote two books (so far), and I started an academy so people can learn by watching, listening, and reading.
Take us through the process of designing and prototyping your first product.
My first product was my service as a business consultant, which I offered—and still do—through Orange Leaf Consulting.
I bootstrapped the company myself, launching it in 2009 just as the Great Recession was ending. That was an economically messy time for everyone, but I knew businesses, especially small ones, would need help crawling out of the bottom of the market.
So I dedicated myself to reaching out to literally everyone I knew and offering them my services.
A friend designed my website, an attorney helped with contracts, and the rest was all me. Eventually, I added two more team members, an office manager/bookkeeper, and a graphic designer. Today, my team has nine members.
Describe the process of launching the business.
My business has four components: consulting, speaking, books, and Orange Leaf Academy. For each launch, I did the legwork myself. I reached out to friends, colleagues, old classmates, acquaintances—anybody and everybody I knew—to make them aware that I was in business.
I did it in 2009 and again in 2019 when my first book was published. My efforts paid off: Every Job Is a Sales Job was on the Wall Street Journal bestseller list. For Orange Leaf Academy, I focused my efforts on my existing clients to begin and then reached out to prospective clients.
I impact people’s lives and businesses, and then they tell other people their stories, which helps spread the word about my services, classes, and books.
My strategy was the same each time, and it follows the process I teach and write about for ethical, consultative sales: I try to learn what others want and need, and then I determine if I have something to fill those needs. If I do, I make the sale. If I don’t, I say so. It’s honest and authentic and has never failed me as a marketing strategy.
My mission is to help businesses make money by getting everyone on the staff to focus on the company’s success. That’s a model my clients can sustain long after my work with them.
My approach is different from other consultants and coaches. I needed to get that word out, so I enlisted the help of all of my friends, my former colleagues, and my entire network.
I have a mantra: “Nobody does this life alone.” I’m no exception. Orange Leaf Consulting, Orange Leaf academy, Every Job Is a Sales Job, Sell Yourself—there’s no way any of it would have gotten off the ground without the help of all the supportive people in my life.
The biggest lesson I learned from the launch of Orange Leaf Consulting is to trust my instincts. As a business coach, I know the value of having someone to bounce ideas off of, so I have always done that.
They taught me back then that I knew more than I thought I did. So I trust myself, my gut, my spidey senses. I follow my path. I get lots of help, but at the end of the day, I’m in charge of myself, my vision, and my success.
I share that with my business-owner clients. I want them to realize, too, that they need to follow their instincts.
Today, I still follow my own advice. I’m very hands-on with my business, from the content of my classes and how we market and sell our services, my books, my finances, and even to which clients we choose to work with.
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
We market the books and speaking gigs differently than our Academy and consulting services. Books and the Academy are B2B and B2C, where the consulting company is B2B. Each one definitely helps the others and results in more speaking engagements, Academy students, and consulting gigs.
I believe that if I help people help themselves, that will help me. That philosophy has never failed me. I impact people’s lives and businesses, and then they tell other people their stories, which helps spread the word about my services, classes, and books.
We don’t do much advertising, except for the book launches. When we launched Orange Leaf Academy earlier this year, we did a few rounds of Facebook ads, but most of my clients find me through referrals from existing clients. And to be honest, business is good.
We mainly use Facebook ads to promote the book. The average spend is less than $250/month for this.
SEO is something we are continually striving to improve. We write our blogs to be SEO friendly and drive traffic
My advice for others launching businesses is the same advice I give to clients and readers who are learning how to sell: Treat others fairly. Be honest. Establish trust. Build relationships. Don’t pressure anyone into doing or buying anything they don’t want or need.
Figure out what they need and then see if what you have is a fit. If it’s not, don’t force it. People appreciate that. They tell others about it. And down the line, they often return when they need what you’re selling.
How are you doing today, and what does the future look like?
Orange Leaf Consulting has become international. I’ve been invited to speak all over the world and have been working with clients in many other countries.
Orange Leaf Academy is constantly expanding and adding new courses and focuses on new industries, often because clients and potential clients request it.
We will be launching two new courses based on my books in 2023. And you might see more sales-themed books from me in the future.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
Two things come to mind:
1. You must recession-proof your business.
Find a way to continue to constantly add value, regardless of what the market or economy does, and you'll never run out of work. If what you’ve been doing suddenly isn’t bringing in clients, then do something different.
2. Plan for the future.
I tell my clients that managers take care of today and true leaders always look to tomorrow. Even if we find ourselves in another recession, we’ll figure out a way to help businesses today, and we’ll plan for how we will help them when the economy shifts.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
We use Salesforce as our CRM and BombBomb for our newsletters and video marketing. We are on all social media platforms, and we post constantly. We also use Shopify and Wix for book sales.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
It's a classic but still, one of my favorite books of all time it is the Dale Carnegie book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. It’s a must-read for success in business and in life.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting out?
Three all-important tips:
1. Be grateful.
No business is successful without clients and customers. Value them. Tell them you do. Show them you do. Like I said earlier, nobody does this life alone. And no business becomes or stays successful without the support and loyalty of clients. Treasure them. Treat them like gold.
2. Personal Branding
Create a personal brand for yourself and encourage your managers and employees to do the same. Your reputation and the words and behavior of your employees have a tremendous impact on your company’s brand. Get everybody on the same page. Hire people who are in sync with your vision and values and can become brand ambassadors for your business because they believe in it as much as you do.
3. Every job is a sales job.
You might be a craftsman, a writer, an expert, or an inventor, but once you make that your business, you are also a salesperson. Make sales as important to your business as whatever it is you’re selling.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
We are always looking for sales coaches and marketing specialists.
Where can we go to learn more?
My online presence can be found here:
- Personal Website
- Academy Website
- First Lady of Sales Website
- Personal Facebook
- Personal Blog
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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