An Often Ignored Open Ended Sales Question

Open ended questions are excellent ways to find out the wants and needs of the sales lead or prospect. Yet if people buy first on emotion then justify that buying decision with logic justified, where is the emotional open ended sales question?

open-ended-sales-questionBeing  “just the facts, ma’am, just the facts” Joe Friday salesperson may be leaving incredible opportunities on the table. Additionally you as the salesperson could be viewed as impersonal and uncaring.

During a recent executive coaching session with a sales manager in the healthcare industry, she was sharing some of her open ended fact finding questions.  The questions were extremely well crafted.

As I listened to her give me a preview of her sales questioning approach, I stopped her after one particular question and asked “So what do you ask next after your sales lead has shared some significant and potentially harmful fact finding information?” My client then shared her next question.  The question was another open ended sales question.  She had been trained to focus on these type of fact finding questions.

My response was “Good question, but not the one I wanted to hear.”

We then went through a discussion about what could have been a better open ended sales question.

Finally, I had to return to the 3 Sales Buying Rules those being:

  1. People buy from people they know and trust.
  2. People buy first on emotion; justified by logic.
  3. People buy on value unique to them.

We had agreement the sales lead knew and had established a level of trust with my client as this was not the first meeting.  As to the second sales buying rule, the executive coaching client realized she was not emotionalizing the fact finding step within the selling phase of the sales process.  I asked her what would happen if she asked the following open ended sales question at the appropriate time because timing in sales as in life is everything:

How does that make you feel?

Suddenly there was silence on the other end for several minutes. My client said very quietly to me “I have been missing out on incredible opportunities.  This question would have the sales leads  potentially sharing far more. It is a flood gate question!”

Care should be taken when using an emotional open ended sales question.  Too many can turn off a sales lead because the questions can be viewed as too personal especially any questions that start with the word “Why.”

Also after asking “How does that make you feel?” and receiving a response, sometimes the next best question is the “And….?” or the “So….?” You, as the salesperson, say the word “And” in a trailing voice and the sales lead usually continues with more critical information. The question is still a very much open ended sales question, but far less threatening and leading.

So if you are not receiving the facts you need to present your solution, then review your fact finding questions and determine if  judiciously by adding a little emotion into your sales conversations would yield even better results.

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Sales Leadership Talent of Surrendering Control

We have all heard of control freaks and probably experienced them as sales managers, fellow sales team members, vendors or even customers or clients. These types of individuals lack this sales leadership talent of surrendering control.

sales-leadershipWorking with individuals who want to maintain control at all times except when they must be responsible for their results challenges the best sales professionals.

The Innermetrix Attribute Index defines this sales leadership talent of surrendering control as the:

Ability of a person to surrender control of a given situation, or outcome, over to another person or group of people.  The ability to be comfortable in a situation where a significant portion of the responsibility for achieving a goal lies in the hands of others. 

Did you notice how surrendering control is directly connected to “outcome” (think result) or “a goal?” This makes logical sense because why would anyone want to control something if there was not something to control?

Top sales performers or any other individuals who have a good score in this talent “will be comfortable with trusting other team members with the success of a mutual objective.” (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Then again those salespersons who have a low score surrendering control “will have difficulty turning responsibility over.  When the results of a task will impact them…they want the control.”

Surrendering control especially during negotiations within the sales process either with internal customers or external customers can be very difficult.  With so many internal customers wanting to either assert their roles or departments while also claiming some of the success for winning a major deal is unfortunately a daily battle for some salespeople.

Of the 78 sales leadership talents, surrendering control is probably one that is not viewed with the same importance as handling rejection or self starting ability, yet this talent probably causes more stress to the sales organization than any other one.

If you wish to know your own ability for surrendering control. the Innermetrix Attribute Index is a quick talent assessment that will provide more information that you think is possible in under 12 minutes.

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Marketing Goal Worksheet Works with Your Marketing Action Plans Part 2

Now that you understand what a marketing goal worksheet looks like and how it works. The next questions is:

marketing-goal-worksheetWhat do your marketing action plans look like? 

Of course before you have constructed these action plans you have invested the time to do your marketing research along with a competitive analysis of your business, haven’t you?  This is not the time to short change that critical thinking process.

Years ago, small businesses essentially had only one marketing action plan. This traditional plan looked to outbound activities including:

  • Networking and/or trade shows
  • Direct mail
  • Paid advertising including: print, radio, TV or special events such as sponsors for charity events
  • Promotional items including business cards, brochures, give-a-ways

A few more forward thinking small business owners and sales professionals may have also included:

  • Internet (web site)
  • Professional development specific to improving marketing knowledge

Today a second marketing action plan is required that also works with the marketing goal worksheet. This action plan looks to inbound marketing actions, usually arising from social media.

  • Blog
  • Facebook, Pinterest, Google Plus
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
  • You Tube
  • Micro Blogs

With either of these  simple one page marketing action plans, the marketing goal worksheet works to ensure the successful execution of the marketing goals.  And as noted in part 1, the marketing goal worksheet is no different than any other goal worksheet.

If you are having some challenges with the successful execution of your marketing plans and goals, then remember the very wise words of President Eisenhower:  Plan are useless; planning is everything.

Your marketing action plans and consequently marketing goals will change and should change because the marketing changes. However the thinking that started the entire planning process and ongoing thinking will never change.

If you do not have a social media marketing action plan, the one page social media action plan may help you get started.

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Marketing Goal Worksheet Works with Your Marketing Action Plans Part 1

A few forward thinking small business owners actually have a marketing action plan embedded within their overall strategic plan. Yet even for these results driven individuals consistent execution alludes them.

marketing-goal-worksheetFor it is one thing to have a marketing goal, yet it is still another in how to ensure that goal is achieved.

The solution is a marketing goal worksheet that works with all the hard thinking and planning that has already taken place.

A marketing goal worksheet is just like any other goal worksheet.

This may surprise many who think there is a difference.

Unfortunately that is the first of two challenges given very few small business owners, sales professionals even individuals use a goal worksheet to flush out their goals within their strategic plans.

Then the second challenge is the lack of a goal setting and goal achievement process that works with the goal worksheet. The execution of a goal is very similar to the directions found within many toys, model kits to even technology tools.

Without the directions, think process, the likelihood of successfully assembling whatever is laying in front of you has been greatly diminished.

The following simple chart may help you determine where there are gaps in your marketing goal worksheet.

Step

Goal Setting Process

Marketing Goal Worksheet

1. Think about what you wish to achieved
2. Establish WAY SMART goal Write WAY SMART goal
3. Determine target date (this may need to be revised) Write target date
4. Emotionalize the goal by contemplating the positive emotions of joy, gains, rewards for achieving the goal Write down these positive emotions
5. Emotionalize the goal by contemplating the negative emotions of regret, pains, consequences for not achieving the goal Write down these negative emotions
Step #5 is extremely critical because people are emotional creatures. Ignoring the emotions is tantamount to ignoring oneself!
6. Give thought to critical success factors necessary for this goal to be achieved Write down those critical success factors
7. Review resources required for the goal to be achieved Write down those resources
8. Reflect upon your talents and skills that you will leverage to accomplish this goal Write down those talents you wish to leverage
9. Think about what talents you wish to develop or improve as you work to achieve this goal Write down those talents you wish to improve or develop
10. Identify ALL known obstacles and any unknown or possible obstacles Write down each obstacle separately
11. Identify all possible solutions Select the best solution and write it down.
12. Think about the workflow within each solution Write down each step of the solution. Be careful not to miss any steps.
13. Establish a target date for each step Write down the target date
14. Determine if any steps must be delegated to another and identify those individuals Write down the names of those delegated individuals
15. Work through each of the action steps Check them off when completed
16. When all actions steps for each solution are checked off, your goal should be completed. If not, you may have missed an action step for a solution or even ignored a real or potential obstacle.

As to your marketing action plan, there probably are actually two marketing action plans.  One is for your traditional marketing goals or what is now considered outbound marketing actions. The other is for your non-traditional marketing goals or inbound marketing actions (social media). Both outbound and inbound marketing are required in today’s highly mobile and technology driven business world.

Part 2 will look at your marketing action pln

If you do not have a one page goal worksheet along with the instructions in how to work through the goal worksheet, then you may just find the Results Tool™ to be very beneficial.

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What’s Your Purpose?

purposePurpose, we hear that word and in so many instances never think of our own reason for being.

Why are we here right now?

What makes us unique as individuals?

Our purpose changes because our lives change.

The purpose of a baby is to:

  • Eat
  • Sleep
  • And dirty diapers

As the child grows, her or his purpose changes with age.

Young people have the purpose to explore their individuality while later on its to find a career.

Then objective changes again with having a family to sending children off on their own success path.

Finally, for many in their later years, their reason to exist revolves around their grandchildren to great grandchildren.

What I have discovered is until individuals have invested the time to answer “Why am I here?” answering other equally important questions becomes even more difficult.  Questions such as:

  • Where am I going? – Vision statement
  • How will I get there? – Mission statement (current)
  • What behaviors will I demonstrate 24/7? – Values statement

To understand who we are requires knowing our:

  • Decision making styles
  • Levels of temperament
  • Attributes or talents

By having clarity, we then can begin to craft our purpose hiding behind all the experiences of our lifetime.

Our purpose has always been there.

It is like a fine thread weaving its self through the tapestries of our lives.

The challenge is the lack of clarity has obscured why we are where are right here and now.

We get so caught up in the day to day activities of life we fail to reflect, to invest the time to think about ourselves and what we truly bring to the table of life.

We unfortunately sometimes embrace what others have told us and not what is necessarily true.

When we can identify those unique gifts, we just may be surprised that many of those gifts really are our core values such as:

  • Authenticity
  • Gratitude
  • Humor
  • Respect
  • Thoughtfulness

Crafting our own purpose statement is not an easy or quick activity. I reflected many hours as to a common link or theme that was present in the past years of my life. Taking up this challenge and completing it was probably one of the most fulfilling experiences I had ever experienced.

“My purpose on this earth is to be a trailblazer (a.k.a. heurist). One who unites the gifts of  caring, creativity, curiosity, determination, faith, intelligence, intuition, patience, reflection, risk taker and thoughtfulness.”

April 28, 2002

 

 

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Good Help Continues to Be Hard to Find

The economy is still sluggish and many people have quit looking for jobs. We hear these sad statistics every day.

good-helpYet, are we ignoring the reality that good help is just hard to find?

This past week I was reminded that part of the problem for the slow economic recovery is our workforce is suffering from unqualified applicants from recent college graduates to experienced workers.

On Monday a small business owner shared with me his firm had hired a new manager to run one division. The applicant had 10 plus years of industry experience and graduated with a post secondary degree from a prestigious university. However, the newly hired manager could not effectively communicate.  This same individual lacked the critical thinking skills among his interpersonal skills to render moderately long written communications into much shorter ones for easier dissemination to others within the division.

Then on Tuesday, another small business colleague shared one of his clients was seeking good help for these two positions:

  1. Accountant
  2. Administrative assistant

Beyond the usual work experience, the client had three requirements.

  1. Honesty
  2. Come to work everyday
  3. Be drug free

Of the over 100 applications received, 60 were sent for drug testing and only five (5) passed.  An administrative assistant was hired and then failed to show up for the first day of work. This firm is still seeking a drug free accountant.

Several years ago one of my small business coaching clients experienced the similar challenge in finding good help. Her position was for a quality assurance person and paid  a beginning $35,000 entry salary.

As her manufacturing small business was in the food industry, she was compelled to have random drug trusting.  For her this hiring and retention process took over 18 months before she found an employee who could maintain a drug free status.

Between many in the labor force lacking the necessary interpersonal skills and others not passing drug tests may help to explain why so many jobs are left unfilled. Until these issues are resolved, good help will continue to be hard to find.

If you wish to discover if your potential new hires have the talents to fulfill your current open position, then consider the Innermetrix Attribute Index talent assessment.

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The First Few Words in Cold Calling Do Matter

Many small businesses use cold calling to increase sales. From call centers to individual salespeople, dialing for dollars continues to be a marketing strategy.

As in any personal exchange, the first few spoken words will either open the conversation’s door or shut the door in your face.

Yesterday, I received a cold call that stated with the following:

“Do you guys use credit cards?”

Since I was very busy, I did not have time to play along with this ridiculous sales script. I responded with “This is how you open a conversation? You have got to be kidding?” And I hung up.

cold-callingThe person called back rather irritated and asked if this was ADVANCED SYSTEMS?  I said “Hmm, you knew the company’s name, yet said ‘Do you guys?’ Please remove this number from your data base.” Then I again hung up.

When the spoken words are not emotionally compelling, ignore basic telephone etiquette and tick off the sales lead, then it is time to revise the cold calling sales script.

Calling back annoyed is also not a good practice. After all, you as the salesperson interrupted the other person’s routine.

Possibly, our informal culture has contributed to such opening words. I would rather prefer thinking this firm either had no sales training or very bad sales training.

Over the years I have received very few emotionally compelling cold calls. Most are the typical “May I speak to the owner?” or “May I speak to the person who handles….?” I cannot remember the last cold call that I received where I was motivated to stay on the telephone.

Cold calling, as in most marketing activities, does work when done correctly. Many industries rely on this marketing strategy when new sales leads are needed to increase sales.

Just remember, the first few spoken words do matter especially in cold calling. Opening the conversation with “Do you guys…?” or worse yet “Hey, dude…” (yes I actually received a cold call that started with “Hey dude”) is probably not the best sales communication tactic.

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Business Ethics or Corporate Ethics Do Matter in Marketing

Marketing is about attracting attention and building relationships.  Your marketing message is a reflection of your business ethics or corporate ethics whether you wish to believe it or not.

business-ethics-or-corporate-ethicsThis reflection can be seen through a variety of daily business activities.

For example, do you answer your phone in a timely fashion?  Does your voice mail message provide a time frame in which you will return the call?  Do you honor that time commitment?

How about what you post through your blog or other social media content sites? Do you practice what you preach?  Or are you just writing what you believe your ideal customer may want to read?

If you are using quotes, do you give credit where credit is due?  Do you take the time to ensure your citation is accurate?

Do you honor your marketing commitments? Many small business owners will make a commitment to submit a posting, share information on their lists and then fail to honor that commitment.

Do you engage in reciprocity marketing?  When someone posts your blog link, retweet your Tweet, like your LinkedIn update, do you return the favor?

How about your 30 second commercial or value proposition statement?  Is is true?  Can you do what you say you do?

Then there are those online reviews. Do you check to make sure your customers are happy?  Have you taken positive action when a negative shows up?

Do you ask for permission to share letters of recommendation before you include them in your marketing?

All of these examples demonstrate business ethics or corporate ethics within daily or weekly marketing actions.

Today’s buyers are far more educated that in years gone by. They have the ability to search the Internet and get a feel or inclination whether an individual is at least somewhat ethical.

Yes business ethics or corporate ethics do matter in marketing. And their importance is critical because people buy from people they know and trust.

P.S. The Innermetrix Attribute Index is a great talent assessment to determine 78 key talents including job ethics and attitude toward honesty.

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Sales Leadership Talent of Project and Goal Focus

Staying the course regardless of circumstance is a necessary sales leadership talent. Being able to maintain one’s direction in spite of obstacles is critical to small business sales success and business growth.

sales-leadershipThe Innermetrix Attribute Index identifies this capacity as project and goal focus. To achieve such clarity is dependent of self direction and an appreciation for structure and order.

Those in leadership roles who consistently and positively demonstrate this talent as noted above have “a good ability to stay on track  (stay the course) while involved in a project, even if there are unforeseen obstacles that occur during the process.  They will tend to ignore the problems, but will stay on the path even if some event causes the course to be slightly altered.  This person will also have the ability to keep a single task from diverting them from overall project goals.” (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Obviously this sales leadership talent works with other talents including:

When individuals do not consistently demonstrate this talent, they “may tend to be easily swayed from the prescribed course of action.  Their project and goal focus can change quickly and without much effort.  They may require direct supervision in order to stay focused on a particular task or project.” (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

In today’s ever changing market place where new obstacles to sales success sometime appear instantaneously without any warning, having this sales leadership talent of project and goal focus is essential and sometimes not discovered until it is too late.  This inability appears to be reinforced by sales research which suggests 90% of all sales are earned after the fourth to 12th contacts and yet 90% of all sales people stop after the third contact.

To learn your own score respective to this talent along with 77 other attributes, the Innermetrix Attribute Index can provide you far more information in under 15 minutes than you can imagine.

 

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Marketing Mindset Is a Must Have

Salespeople are many times told to have a sales mindset, yet with super majority (97.7%) of all US businesses having under 20 employees, having a marketing mindset is probably even more critical.

marketing-mindsetPeople buy from people they know and trust.  If people do not know about you or your small business, they will probably never know about your solutions.

Marketing that being attracting attention and building relationships is more important than ever before especially for small businesses to even those mid size firms. And developing a marketing mindset is not easy because so much focus is on selling or closing the sale.

This weekend I spoke with a small business realtor who talked to me about international real estate given she has many US friends who are of German and Irish heritage. These individuals are seeking one month international stays and do not want to belong to any time share programs.  I suggested for her to use LinkedIn, other social media platforms or her family contacts and find reputable realtors overseas. These folks could become strategic partners who she could engage in cross referral sales leads and shared commissions.

Her response to me was “I never thought of that” and she thanked me.

A marketing mindset does not happen overnight.  There must be some strategic thinking about:

  • Current ideal customer profile
  • Industry specific market trends
  • Economic trends
  • Technology trends
  • Internal capacity of your organization

Additionally, past marketing efforts may not get your small business to where you want it to go. The world is changing. People are reading your posts; seeking third party content; engaging in organic searches; and talking to other people. Marketing is no longer buy an ad; attend a business to business networking event; or email everyone on your list.

Those small businesses owners and sales professionals who have embraced a marketing mindset will outperform others in their respective industries especially as more and more millennials becomes decision makers. Unfortunately, there is still a lot of bad advice being offered by experts about Internet and marketing specific to retail (B2C)  and services (B2C) and (B2B).

Years ago I read, “selling is marketing and marketing is not selling.” Today, this is still very true.

When you are selling yourself, you are marketing to people because you want them to know and trust you. However when you are marketing, it is all about attracting attention and building those critical relationships. This is not the time to sell your solution because your ideal customer still has not bought you.

Yes, a marketing mindset just may be your competitive advantage to Be the Red Jacket especially if your current market is very crowded with a lot of gray suits.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith
cited by Get Base CRM as one of the top 50 Sales Pros to follow on Twitter.

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