Over the weekend, I received a request to answer this question: What is the one piece of advice for sales success you would give SMBs?
I am sure if this question is asked of other sales experts, small business coaches and consultants, there would be great diversity in their answers. However, the truth is there is not just one piece of advice. Sales success as any other type of success is the integration of numerous behaviors (think sales leadership talents) that are consistently assessed, clarified and executed.
So many of us look to the quick fix to increase sales such as the one piece of advice. There is no quick fix be it in sales, weight loss or financial success.
Here is my answer to this question:
- “Plans are worthless; planning is everything” by President & General Dwight Eisenhower
- “The aim of marketing is to make selling unnecessary” by Peter Drucker
- “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care” by President Teddy Roosevelt
As Mulder said in the The X-Files “the answer is out there.” And he is correct. What is also correct, is the answer will differ somewhat for each individual based upon his or her sales leadership talents and experience.
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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is the Trusted Authority for Forward Thinking SMB owners, executive and sales professionals experiencing repetitive people and process problems. She supports executive leadership in bridging the sales culture gap of people and processes that restricts SMB sales results.
Funny thing about selling, simplicity works especially when you make your SMB sales conversations memorable. Your SMB sales leads do not want to hear all your “stuff”, hear you pitching your solutions (products or services). No want they really want to hear is “Do you care?” This caring is reflected through active listening; showing authentic interest in the individual and demonstrating some knowledge about her or his SMB or their industry.
This past week I had a luncheon meeting with a potential sales lead or center of influence as I was not sure. This was a SMB owner and his wife who I had met at a more formal business to business networking event. The husband had asked to get together.
Due to a last minute conflict, the husband was unable to make it and so it was his wife and myself. Now some would be disappointed at such a turn of events believing the man was the decision maker. I saw opportunity because I had not had much time to get to know the wife at this prior event.
The sales conversation started about how she became involved in her husband’s business. Through her business acumen, she was becoming the primary salesperson for this SMB. We talked about LinkedIn, social media and even their company marketing brochure. All during this sales conversation I was making minor suggestions and sharing insightful information.
Toward the end of the luncheon meeting, she asked me about my fees and what the executive coaching solution I offered involved. I gave her a fee for one on one, on site executive coaching engagement, but suggested if both she and her husband were involved this would add some additional dollars to that investment. She was going to talk to her husband. I am looking forward to our second meeting.
What is interesting is by demonstrating what I do, quietly, even subtly and with extreme emotional intelligence coupled with leveraging the Theory of Self Determination, she mentioned several times how much she had learned and she was so glad we had the opportunity to meet over lunch. The sales conversation was indeed memorable for both of us.
This is not the first time I have heard this. So many SMBs including consultants and executive coaches are so busy showing how educated they are; how much they have mastered their subjects, they forget the wise words of Teddy Roosevelt “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” By caring first and educating second, your sales conversations can be memorable and differentiate your SMB business from all the others.
P.S. The results of memorable SMB sales conversations for me is 95% of all my in person sales meetings, I have earned the sale by the second meeting. As my target is SMB owners who are forward thinking with under 20 employees and in rapid growth, I do not normally have to meet with multiple decision makers.
Want to learn more about how to have memorable sales conversations?
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Being the trusted advisor in sales is the goal for many professional salespeople. The reasoning is simple because having trust overcomes probably the first sales problem encountered by salespeople:
“I don’t trust you. because I buy from people I know and trust.”
After attending a well executed presentation by Ari Galper of Unlock the Sales Game, he answered a question posed by me that created one of those “Ah Ha” moments. Galper used this phrase “trusted authority” instead of “trusted advisor.” I asked him what was the difference. His answer was simple:
“The trusted authority comes before the sale while the trusted advisor comes after the sale.”
Talk about having what I call FHEM – Flat Head Experience Moment (helps to explain the flat, somewhat high foreheads for many of Scandinavian heritage). His answer started my sales process brain reeling.
We all know to overcome each sales problem requires our sales leads to existing repeat customers must trust us. For without trust, the ability to increase sales will simply not happen.
Many of us work through our sales process to earn the trust of our sales leads. Yet to have that trust totally established does come after the sale because of the word “advisor.” Your clients really trust your advice only after they have experienced your solutions. Hmm, pretty common sense stuff when looking at this from a different perspective.
“The true voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes, but seeing with new eyes.” Marcel Proust
This then leads to this question:
How do I become that trusted authority if I want to get in front of the sale to avoid this first sales problem instead of behind the sale? Galper’s executive coaching practice works to answer that question from the marketing phase within the sales process. However in reading his book, I realized I had been unknowingly working towards being the trusted authority for forward thinking sales culture and results.
If you want to increase sales, consider rethinking your own sales process and how to elevate your yourself to become that trusted authority.
P.S. Trusted advisors are now in the sales flow. Trusted authorities are ahead of the sales flow.Share on Facebook
Believe it or not much of the sales motivation strategies have just the opposite effect. To truly motivate anyone must begin from within each individual.
Back in the 1970s, two psychologists by the names of Deci and Ryan discover through their research that ALL human beings have three intrinsic, innate motivational drivers. When these internal motivational drivers are not fully engaged, results suffer. These drivers are especially relevant to salespeople be they independent contractors or members of a much larger sales team.
Self Determination Theory – Mastery
As the term implies, how well do you know what you know. Are your salespeople or yourself given opportunities to improve your role, your industry and your specific sales skills? As noted before, there is an attitudinal component within mastery. The question is not do know it (whatever it is), but do I want to do it? If I want to do it, I will master (know) it. Sales Coaching Tip: Set your own WAY SMART goals regarding something you want to master.
Self Determination Theory – Autonomy
People want the ability to make a choice. Unfortunately with many people having sales managers or SMB owners, choice is not always present. The lack of choice presents a barrier for this intrinsic motivational driver. This explains why sales goals must be owned by each individual (WIIFM). Autonomy is the most difficult internal motivational driver to keep engaged. Sales Coaching Tip: Consider adopting WAY SMART goals.
Self Determination Theory – Purpose/Relatedness
Your salespeople are people. People buy from people. Understanding one’s purpose as it relates to other people is also necessary for sales motivation. When people cannot connect what they are doing specific to other people, intrinsic motivation suffers. Sales Coaching Tip: Write a purpose statement.
Today’s reality is caring and educated people buy from educated and caring sellers. With the immediate access to information, buyers have already mastered 20% to 40% or more of the buying decision. These buyers are educated first and are caring second.
In their roles as buyers, they are looking first for salespeople who care about them and their companies first. Then they want educated sellers who have mastery in their roles. Sales Coaching Tip: Look to build relationships first before making a sales pitch.
Sales motivation is essential for any salesperson. Just make sure your sales managers or even yourself as SMB owner are fostering these three internal motivational drivers instead of building barriers that impede them.
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Educated and caring buyers buy from caring and educated sellers. To earn a sale requires you as the seller to build trust and to demonstrate your knowledge. Much of this happens within each sales conversation.
I believe words do matter especially for those who are speaking them. Now some may say a conversation is a dialogue.
For those familiar with philosophy, there was a Greek philosopher by the name of Socrates. He is known for his Socratic Dialogues. These interactions between Socrates and his students went beyond a simple conversation.
Socrates was engaged in building a relationship through his questions. Actually Socrates was probably one of the first top sales performers in history. He sold so well his competition put him to death.
Top sales performers whether they know it or not have a genuine sales dialogue with each customer, each sales lead or individual they meet. Their goal is to begin to build that relationship without a thought about “closing.” This behavior reflect what President Teddy Roosevelt said:
“No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
This past weekend I met a couple at a business networking event and learned they owned a small IT consulting company. We spoke about history and other subjects, never venturing into what I did. My goal was to engage in a dialogue with them. I wanted to establish the beginnings of trust. Towards the end of the evening, the husband asked me what I did. I responded and he said he would like to get together for a one on one meeting. We have since scheduled that meeting.
The reason I shared this short experience is there is a difference between a sales conversation and sales dialogue. I later learned this individual knows plenty of business coaches and SMB consultants. However a shared contact told me “he was impressed with your authenticity, your general knowledge and you seem to really care about having an authentic conversation, not a superficial one.”
If you want to increase sales, consider elevating your interactions. Demonstrate you care. Begin to build the an authentic relationship not just the so often casual ones we see in business. The end result will be a far more sustainable SMB or sales career.
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Possibly because my sales pitch radar is always on I find LinkedIn becoming the most favored place for those subtle sales pitches. Do those who make these outreaches ever truly read the LinkedIn profiles of those they are pitching to?
Today I received another one (name left out):
Over the past 30+ years I have been blessed to own and operate multiple successful businesses. Over the past 10 years, I built a thriving consulting business helping small business owners get maximum results.
Growing your business can be challenging to say the least. I will periodically share some of the best ideas I come across that will directly benefit you in you personal life and business.
Please let me know how else I might be able to serve you and your business.
Really, did you, LinkedIn Connection, read I have been in SMB consulting and executive coaching for nearly 20 years? Did you do a Google search on my name to see if I have a market presence? I just did and found I have 14,000 hits compared to your 2,030. Now I realize Internet market presence is only one factor, but it is an important one.
Being in business for nearly 20 years, did you ever consider I have individuals who can support me in both my personal and professional lives? Why I would even respond to a sales pitch from for the most part a stranger?
Yes we have exchanged a couple of LinkedIn emails. However we have never spoken on the phone. If people buy from people they know and trust, wouldn’t it make sense to schedule a phone call instead of making this subtle sales pitch.
Please if you are a SMB owner or sales professional, do not use LinkedIn to make a subtle sales pitch. Instead use this incredibly powerful social media site to build strong and mutually beneficial relationships. Be authentic. Invest time to know more about the person beyond his or her LinkedIn email. And for heaven’s sake, at least really read the damn profile!
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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver for leaders who desire a Forward Thinking Sales Culture. She supports executive leadership in bridging the sales culture gap of people and processes that restricts SMB sales results. If you want to increase sales, then call Leanne at 219.508.2859 central time USA to solve your unproductive workforce and ultimately your disengaged sales culture as well as improve your overall sales results. Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.Share on Facebook
Today I received another email about the 7 sales skills that can be taught through sales training. This headline only reinforced the continued problem with this area.
We train dogs; we develop people!
As I reviewed these 7 sales skills each of them is not an issue of acquiring knowledge as in training, but rather the unaddressed issue of performance, the application of knowledge. Years ago my coach, David Herdlinger, created the KASH Box (the 4 quadrants). I then further developed it by naming it the KASH Box for Sustainable Change (the 4 quadrants plus the 4 boxes on top, the sustainable change drawer and the incorporation of the knowing doing gap).
Salespeople face ongoing training whether it is paid for by their companies or if it is self-directed. Look at all the books on sales from sales leadership to fact finding to prospecting to sales referrals. The list is endless. My question is why so many books. seminars, even experts given most of them state the same facts?
People seek the quick fix and the most inexpensive one as well. Buy a sales book or attend a sales seminar and you will become far more successful. You will increase sales!
Of course, how many attendees actually begin to apply what they have learned and continued that application?
Earlier this year, I attended an educational seminar for business consultants geared toward sales and marketing offered by Ari Galper. Much of what Galper said created disequilibrium within my mental schema (made me uncomfortable because it was contrary to what I thought to be true and what I was doing). Upon further reflection, I had made some significant changes to my marketing including my content marketing as in this blog.
Now several months later, I continue to apply several of his key concepts because they made sense to me. After buying his book, Unlock the Game, via Kindle, I realized why his concepts made sense. Note: I did write a review on Amazon and recommend buying the Kindle version not the hard copy.
These changes are now starting to bear fruit or results. Had I not begun to apply what I learned, I would not be enjoying these new results.
If you are considering any sales training, make sure the engagement incorporates a developmental foundation which usually means there is a proven application process behind the learning to ensure application is the desired end result. To learn more about how this can be done, schedule a time to talk me me by CLICKING HERE.Share on Facebook
Have you ever wonder why sales success happens to some and not to others? Possibly the answer may lie within the ability to find the devil in the details. That devil in the details usually returns to differentiation.
My suggestion was to begin with the performance appraisal and identify the key behaviors he was expecting to observe and document. As his employee had already taken the Attribute Index, I shared that I had created 4 observable behaviors for each of the 78 talents and have included those within the performance appraisals I have constructed for other clients.
Further discussion revolved around what makes a top sales performer as well as sales success. I revealed I have given the Attribute Index to over 500 people including 50 top sales performers. The top sales performers (those making at least $100,000) all shared one piece of data within this assessment tool. What was interesting is this one piece of data had nothing to do with a specific sales skill.
The client asked if his salesperson had this shared data point and I said no. Additionally there was a consistent correlation between having two of the six motivating talents within the top one-third of all talents. Those who made six figures had at least two of these talents in the top one-third while those who made between $50,000 and $99,999 had only one of these six motivating talents. His salesperson had only one of these motivating talents in that top one third of the 72 listed talents. Note: This correlation was present in approximately 75% of the individuals assessed.
Looking for the devil in the details is time consuming. Analyzing initially over 500 of these assessments involved many hours. Yet being able to differentiate myself from the many other consultants and executive coaches who provide the same assessment has contributed to my sales success. This differentiation is the direct result of finding the devil in the details via this one shared data point held by 100% of all top sales performers who have taken this assessment.
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Have you ever thought that selling is difficult? Did you wonder why during a sales conversation your sales lead appeared to be off in La La Land? Well, there is research to confirm you just might be right.
Goldfish have an attention span of 9 seconds.
Imagine that, a goldfish has a greater attention span of a human being!
What this means for those engaged in selling, is the first 8 seconds you speak with your buyer or ideal customer must be so emotionally compelling he or she wants to stay focused on “the rest of the story” as Paul Harvey said.
How does this translate within your sales process and sales conversation?
First, if people buy from people they know and trust, then those first 8 words must begin to demonstrate you are knowledgeable and begin to build trust or at least not work against building trust.
For example, many astute buyers can tell by the first questions you ask what type of sales training you had. This buyer awareness may work against you being perceived as knowledgeable and trustworthy. So if you are asking “What is keeping you up at night?” I would encourage you to stop with that question and similar common and lame questions.
Second, people buy first on emotion justified by logic. Salespeople must look to the needs and not ignore the wants as wants are more emotional than needs. Here is where some may suggest an emotional “hook” to keep the buyer interested.
Third, value is unique to each individual. Now some in the selling marketplace suggest and believe value is created by the seller. This is not true as proven by past researchers of Spranger and Allport along with further motivational research by Deci and Ryan.
You have 8 seconds to capture someone’s attention and then hold that attention. Sales leads are easily distracted because after all they are people. Possibly now is the time to focus first on those 8 seconds instead of diving into “the rest of the story.”
Want more than 8 seconds?
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Each week I receive numerous unasked, sales pitches via email from a complete strangers many of whom are marketers. Last week I received an email asking me if I was happy with AWeber because their firm has found many dissatisfied customers due to lack of list segmentation. Actually I don’t know what list segmentation is nor do I care. I replied respectfully, no I was happy and not interested.
Then a few days later I received another email sales pitch asking about a specific issue within AWeber. I said I was happy and not interested.
Yesterday I receive a third email sales pitch after I had already told this marketing firm I was happy and not in interested two prior times. This marketing salesperson is attempting to create value because of this or that special feature and she is ignoring the big picture –
I am not fricking interested!!!!!!!!!
The old quote “Let me count the ways” reverberated in my brain. I am now counting all the ways not to trust you. Your continue onslaught of sales pitches has really turned me off. Actually I was thinking of another word, but I do attempt to keep this blog professional.
How come marketers who should understand marketing is about attracting attention and building relationships are so clueless about those two objectives? Trust is built from positive not negative attention. Building relationships is essential to building trust. Within many sales processes, this is called “building rapport.” Personally I dislike that phrase, but that is a subject for another day.
What would have happened if this salesperson had reached out to me via another social media platform such as LinkedIn or Twitter? I am not sure if the end result would have been any different, but at least I would not be writing this blog nor having this firm’s name of my “Never Contact List.
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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver for leaders who desire a Forward Thinking Sales Culture. She supports executive leadership in bridging the sales culture gap of people and processes that restricts SMB sales results.
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