Weekly-ish Wisdom from Jennifer Kem

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Tension: Your Business BFF

Tension: Your Business BFF

I recently wrapped a 31-day sprint in Seth Godin’s altMBA program. I did it because I wanted to test my momentum muscles and I wanted to see if I could still “keep up” with the launching of new ideas.

I got so much more.

One of the concepts we tested was how we dealt with being willing to approach sales. Most of us don’t like the idea of selling. We avoid, whine, make excuses and then wonder, how come I’m not making it in this business game?

If you’re not selling, you’re not in business.

Seth Godin says:

“Change, positive change, involves tension. The tension of it might not work, the tension of what will I tell the others, the tension of being responsible.

This means that the agent of change (that’s us) must become comfortable with people in situations of stress. Part of our job is to create that stress, and another part is to help people get through it to yes.”

Hmmmm. Interesting.

I live my life selling people on ideas. On THEIR ideas. Not mine.

Interestingly, because my company is known for “certainty”, “mastery” and “results”, potential clients expect me to have all of the answers.

What I do, really, is have them realize, through a process and dialog that forces them to think about their idea in both sides of their brain, that it’s critical to move their idea to implementation. I simply help them see that their idea is WORTH implementing.

Because I do this every day, creating the necessary tension that occurs in this dialog is second nature to me. However, it’s still not easy for me. I still feel a little nervous because I know I will agitate them a little. Not in a bossy, force-fed, kind of way. More in an a-ha, breakthrough, kind of way. It’s an emotional experience, and I’m an ambivert so I feel deeply into my (potential) client’s decision. There have been actual tears shed in this dialog. I feel a deep responsibility to serve my client to an action, not to sell them.

I like how Seth Godin describes Selling as “the transference of knowledge” and that’s it’s not about “closing the sale” but about “opening a relationship”. That feels really good. I’m going to start describing that way in my dialog.

Let me tell you about Danielle, a real-life client who I had the opportunity to test this “tension theory” with.

Danielle is the Vice-President at an international media company. She approached me by referral, wanting to explore hiring my company to launch one of her new brands.

We started a service-based dialog one month ago. We scheduled a 20-minute chat, which turned into a 1.5 hour conversation that started with me asking “what are your goals for this project?” and ended with her saying, “I have to think about it before I make a decision.”

Throughout the call, I heard what she wanted to achieve and I noticed that she already had a solution in mind, including all of the tactical components needed to get there.

I asked her “So, why are you interested in hiring me to do the job for you, when you have the plan all mapped out?”

She said, “Well, I heard that your team are experts at this specific type of launch, so I wondered if you had other ideas?”

And so, I gave her my ideas on how to make her idea bloom bigger. I painted a picture with “visual words” (some call this “StorySelling”) and even alluded to what was next. I gave her a breakdown of who was needed to execute. Basically, I gave her all of the “answers” that she was looking for.

Then, I stopped talking.

She asked, “Are you still there?”

I said, “Yes, I am here.”

She said, “Wow, that’s a lot that has to get done.

I said, “I want to make sure you know everything. No matter what you decide, I want you to have the full monty so that you can choose the right consultancy to partner with you.”

She said, “How much will this cost me?”

Tension- Your Business BFF.001

I told her. It was a high-five figure estimate based on the size of the project. I paused. (I thought of what Seth Godin calls “necessary tension.” My job was not to bully, coerce or push Danielle into a decision. Even though the silence was killing me softly.)

She said, “I’ll have to think about it.

When we hung up the phone, I breathed. I felt… good. I felt like I served her with everything I had and didn’t leave her hanging or feeling painted in a corner. I so very much wanted to work with her though, because her idea was so awesome. I worried she wouldn’t want to work with me.

A week later, I texted her. I gave her a list of other companies who did what mine did and asked if I could serve her in any other way.

She texted back:

“No, let’s do this!”


The point of this story is that I’m nervous every time I go into a sales situation and that tension is… TENSE. But, whenever I go in or finish a conversation, I feel good because I know I haven’t played takeaway or played withhold with my clients (who eventually become friends.)

And, the more I get comfortable with the tension, the better my conversion is from a “maybe” to a “hell yes.” You can apply this to your marketing, your sales, your speaking — all of the ways in which you interact with clients or potential clients.

When you approach “sales” and call it “service”, real transformation can occur for both parties.

Fearless serving. Fearless silence. Fearless selling.

Stop making it icky. Make it your friend.

Tweet this:

Tension can be your business BFF. Try it.

P.S. If you’ve found our blog but haven’t downloaded The Brand Map yet, I’d like you to hustle on over there and handle it. We’ve got the goods for you and I don’t want you to miss out on what thousands of others have already gotten their hands on.

Add a comment 2 Comments


  1. Rev-Jaitara Ashlie

    Thank you Jennifer. Great article.
    I especially love, “don’t think of it as closing a sale, think of it as starting a relationship.” Beautiful <3

  2. Scott 2

    Love this Jennifer, reminds me of what good, captivating speakers do as well. I think nurturing & improving self confidence, (in ourselves & our work / service), helps with this too.

    Scott 2