Archive for February, 2010

The Sales Folly Continues

Fulton’s Folly was the first effective steamboat. Many people jeered this new mode of transportation because they preferred the traditional way of water transportation that being sails and oars.

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The word folly comes from Old French and means Fool.  According to Webster’s New World Dictionary, this word means being foolish and any foolish action.  In sales there is one folly that continues.

In my weekly business column I examined this foolish action – the continued use of the word close or this belief “always be closing.” Why sales people engage in this folly is beyond me. Think about what this word means.  To close something means to shut it off or close it down. Do you truly wish to shut off your customers?

In Chicago Business, writer Barry Moltz discusses the 7 deadly sins (think follies) of selling. Even though I believe confusing selling and sales is a deadly mistake, I believe he is pretty much on track.

So what other follies or if you prefer sins do you believe sales people make as they routinely engage in their marketing and selling activities within the overall sales process? Please share your thoughts.

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A Challenge to Increase Sales

The quest to increase sales is a monthly effort. Now with the second month of 2010 are quickly coming to an end this begs to ask the question:  Are your hitting your sales targets or not?

Possibly now is the time to start thinking differently.  When you are asked “What do you do?” How do you respond?  Do you begin your “elevator pitch” with either one of these words?  “I” of  “We”  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Remember to respond with what you do, not how you do what you do.

What would happen if you were able to describe what you do by using an adjective ending with “ing” such as:

  • Accelerating?
  • Building?
  • Growing?
  • Helping?
  • Partnering?
  • Streamlining?
  • Working?

Then finish your marketing message in another 6 words.  Would such a marketing statement get the attention of your potential customer better than what you are currently saying? Sales Training Coaching Tip: Having an executive  marketing summary helps you in this endeavor.

One of my coaches, David Herdlinger,  once said “If you are telling you ain’t selling!” When we provide long, detail rich answers to that first simple question we are not building a relationship.  The human brain can only remember about 7 to 10 bits of information at a time.  Just think about attempting to remember someone’s name.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Ask yourself this question:  Is my response memorable?

Your marketing challenge to increase sales begins at the very first moment to grab someone’s attention and start to build a relationship.  Excess verbiage only confuses the person standing opposite you.

As you construct your 7 word response consider these three communication tips.

Accuracy – Your response needs to be accurate. This means you need to answer the question. Now some may answer the question with a question.  Depending upon your communication style, this may work for you.

Brevity – Being brief in 7 words or less helps the other person to remember what you said. Again your goal is for the other person to speak so you learn more about her or him.

Creativity – Saying what others have said such as “we grow health and wealth” (a common financial advisor response) or “I turn potential into performance” (an often heard statement by business coaches, executive coaches or business consultants) only reaffirms that you are just another gray suit in the Sea of Sameness. You stand out, to be that Red Jacket, demands an investment of your time to construct a truly creative and compelling message.

By applying these communication tips  to your marketing message, you can become the Red Jacket where people remember you and truly want to become better acquainted with you.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  The words you speak along with the behaviors you take are critical to your ability to increase sales.

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Always Be . . .

Not being a great movie follower unless  it is science fiction, I recently came across a movie clip on YouTube – Glengarry Glen  Ross.  This is a 1992 independent film about a man who is brought in to increase sales through his rather forceful sales training approach of Always Be Closing. Since the language in this film is very offensive, I have elected not to link to it. You can look it up for yourself.

What I found interesting is this notion of Always Be Closing.  In my book, Be the Red Jacket the Keys to Unlocking Sales Success. I specifically reference how much I believe this word “close” works against both the seller and the buyer because the close means to shut off. Why would anyone want to shut off their customers is one of the questions I ask in my book?

In further reflection, I have come to realize something else.   Many believe this word focuses on the potential customer or client (a.k.a. prospect), but this is truly a smokescreen.  Others believe this sales training technique directs attention to you the seller.  Both beliefs are in error. This word is all about the competition.

Yes, you read that right.  This is all  about your competitors!

When you use the word close, your efforts are not geared to the customer, but are directed straight to your known and unknown competitors.  You want to close them off  to isolate them from your customer so that you can make the sale.

If you have an individual in front of you who has met the five qualifying sales criteria and you are working her or him through your sales process, then why are you worried about your competitors?  Simply speaking sales professionals who have built relationships with their potential customers and have invested the time in understanding their needs along with market place trends do not need to focus their limited resources of time, energy, money and emotions on anyone else.  Sales Training Coaching Tip: Do not totally  ignore your competitors, but do not focus on the majority of your efforts on them be them consciously or subconsciously as in the case of always be closing.

People like remembering through such acronyms like A-B-C.  So instead of thinking “Closing,” consider these other behaviors instead:

  • Communicating – How are you communicating your value especially if you are engaged in education based marketing?
  • Casting – Where are you consistently seeking qualified potential customers?
  • (in) Character – What messages are your behaviors sending?
  • Checking – How often do you check for agreement to avoid obstacles?
  • Coaxing – How can you coax more information from your potential  client through your probing questions (think fact finding questions)?
  • Confirming – When and where do you confirm the information you received is accurate?
  • Congruent – How are your behaviors (actions) and words in congruency?

Marcel Proust once wrote: The true voyage in discovery is not seeking new landscapes, but seeing with new eyes. When you change how you look at things, the things you look at will change.  Consider changing how you look at securing the sale and you may find your ability to increase sales has dramatically improved.

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Social Media Increases the Marketing Mix

Tweets and Wall writing are now part of the marketing mix. These social media sites (Twitter and Facebook) have experienced almost exponential growth during the last year according to a report just released pm social networking stats by ComScore.

Depending upon your own target market, if your business is not including social media in your marketing action plan then you may be missing a significant opportunity to increase awareness, attraction attention and begin to build those critical relationships necessary to increase sales. One reason these social networks have taken off is because they are engaged in formal and informal education based marketing.

Learning research continues to reaffirm that people learn best from each other (informal learning). And with the doubling of information, finding those resources that can help the consumer begins to build levels of trust. Since people buy first from people they know and trust, social media appears so to speak to be a “no-brainer.”

If you decide to add social media to your marketing mix in your efforts to increase sales, these quick tips may help you:

1. Determine what sites have the greatest value to your. Facebook is more about business to retail (B2R) or business to consumer (B2C) while
is more about business to business (B2B). Twitter can be used in all three arenas.
2. Construct your education based marketing messages. For example, I write articles and then Tweet them with a link to the article. Additionally, I tweet this blog or will update my LinkedIn profile.
3. Schedule a calendar of when you will take action. From daily tweets to writing or updating your Facebook profile along with micro-blogging all take time. This is why a schedule is definitely required.
4. Consider hiring someone to help you. If you have a son or daughter who enjoys social media, you may enlist their help.
5. Monitor your results. For example, on Feb. 2, 2010 I started this blog. My Alexa was around 410,000. This morning the rate is now 388,282. Yesterday afternoon the rating was 392,739. By monitoring this real time traffic monitor, I can quickly see more traffic coming to my website. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Download the free Toolbar from Alexa and you can quickly learn the traffic of other sites including your competitors. Note: This is not the only tool to monitor and measure your results.

Today in business especially in marketing you must be ahead of the curve as I write in my book on sales success – Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits. To handle this challenge does require devoting time to understanding marketing, observing market trends and further expanding your own knowledge. By taking this actions, you can be that Red Jacket and secure your own competitive advantage.

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Misunderstood Marketing

Marketing is probably more misunderstood than its sibling, Selling.  Both are children of the Sales Process.

The purpose of marketing is to:

  1. Attract Attention
  2. Begin to build a relationship

Now the goal is also two-fold:

  1. Make a friend
  2. Secure a first time appointment

I realized how misunderstood marketing truly is when viewing some of the Super Bowl Commercials.  Some were good, some Okay and some left me totally clueless.  Now being somewhat older, I realize to attract my attention and begin to build a relationship may be different than a 20 year old or even 40 year old. The reason people watch the ads is this medium of TV (video) is because TV can effectively engage these 3 senses:

  1. Sight
  2. Hearing
  3. Feelings

One of the ads was from Career Builder.  This was targeted to 40 and 50 year olds I believe, but not sure. (I had to watch the ad several times to understand the message and this indicates it was not successful marketing.)  Yet, all the people dressed in underwear truly distracted me from their final message. What this showed me is there is a lot of poor marketing happening and this is an opportunity for any one who wishes to put a little effort into their marketing activities.

For example, small business owners to C Level executives to entrepreneurs to professional sales people can create their own successful marketing commercials and post them to YouTube. By remembering the purpose and the goals of marketing for zero cash outlay to a nominal amount around $300 to $500, videos can quickly demonstrate a return on investment.

I just received this YouTube video Any Dummy Can Do LinkedIn Using some creativity, leveraging an existing client, building a strategic alliance all worked together to produce an engaging 6 minutes of attracting attention and building a relationship. Sales Training Coaching Tip: If you are not into social media or believe social media is a bunch of “hooey” then you might believe this video has zero value.

The potential buyer (a.k.a. prospect or viewer) comes away with the following:

  1. Knowing the service (or product) being offered
  2. Affirmation by a current client of the quality of the service
  3. Understanding the level of expertise or quality specific to seller
  4. Sense of the personality of the seller (psychographics in reverse)
  5. An emotional reaction ranging from outstanding to “you have got to be kidding”

When the marketing message is memorable and is directly connected to the product or service (minus the strong arm sales pitch), then the potential customer will be more inclined to share her or his experience with others such as “Did you say that dummy on JD’s YouTube Video?”  “Pretty creative!” instead of a reaction like “What was that commercial about?  Underwear in the office or casual Fridays?”

One final observation specific to misunderstood  marketing is the approach. Many businesses are still engaged in the traditional product based marketing.  These are the folks that show up and then spew price, product or proposal.  (Sales Training Coaching Tip:  I call this the 3 Ps Virus.) Now smarter individuals adopt a different approach by educating their potential customers.  Education based marketing  reaps far greater rewards and in many cases is far less expensive.

Successful marketing is probably the greatest challenge for any business from micro to macro.  However when time is invested in creating a written sales action plan, a written marketing action plan along with a written executive marketing summary and then all actions are plotted out in a calendar to coincide with marketplace trends, then marketing no longer becomes the misunderstood child within the sales process.

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What It Takes to Be a Top Sales Performer

First, there are many talents and behaviors to be a top sales performer. To think that there is just one or two is folly.

For example, yesterday, I received an email from a company that does performance improvement, organizational development and sales training. This email shouted product based marketing and education based marketing wasn’t even on the plate less alone the buffet. I truly had a difficult time reading it and to be honest it was causing a negative emotional reaction.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  People buy on emotions and justify the purchase with logic.  The absolutely last thing you want to do is to create negative emotions specific to you as an individual or about your company.

I did not recognize the person’s name.  So I decided to role play and see where this was exchange was going as I saw an opportunity for a learning experience and probably enough content for another article.  I sent a returned, proactive and respectful email back for clarification.  The sender a woman responded:

  • I had downloaded a white paper
  • She had attempted to look up my company ADVANCED SYSTEMS, but could not find any information
  • Then went on with  blah, blah, blah about what they do and how they could help me

In my final response to hear, I thanked her for that clarification and indicated surprise she could not find anything about my company as she already had my corporate email account.  Now anyone in sales who is even the least bit tech savvy knows how to look up a company by the email address. Even if the person does not have a corporate email account, you can Google their name.  If she had taken this action, she would have discovered 124,000 hits on my name and golly gee whiz the first hit is my corporate website.  Of course, if she was really smart, she might have looked me up in LinkedIn and would have quickly found me.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  In today’s technology driven market place, the last thing you wish to be is foolish because you failed to do your homework.

I  can only imagine what type of sales training their potential clients are receiving and it is probably far more than I charge since this is a multiple national offices organization.

My observations from the 30,000 ft. viewpoint is this individual is truly not a top sales performer because she was not creative, she spewed one of the 3Ps virus (product, price and proposal) and most importantly  she did not even attempt to build a relationship.

For example instead of writing the following:

I wanted to introduce myself as your account representative for (company’s name) and would appreciate a few minutes of your time on the phone at your earliest convenience.

The following would be a far better introduction:

Good day Leanne.  Recently you downloaded a paper (insert name of paper). As the contact person for (insert company), I was wondering if you have a few moments to share your thoughts about this paper and your company specific to some of your current challenges?

When you examine the first actually received email versus the one I suggested, you will notice the first one presumes an existing relationship.  Big mistake especially when there was not one and I could not even remember this person or company.

To be a top sales performer is all about selling yourself. This unsolicited email dramatically failed in the arena of “How to Sell Yourself” and do it well.  Currently I am writing a series of articles on just this topic “Selling Yourself”  beyond this blog to be posted to a variety of article directories and blog sites including:  Evan Carmichael, EzineArticles, Sales Gravy and The Sales CornerSales Training Coaching Tip: People buy you as the salesperson first before they even considered your products, services or organization. You truly have only one opportunity to make that first connection memorable.

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Talk Radio Gets Education Based Marketing-Part 2

Yesterday’s posting discussed how talk radio gets education based marketing. Today, this posts explores “What does a compelling marketing message sound like?”

Would you like to be in the 30% who realize 8 hours of pay for 8 hours of work specific to your employees productivity or the 70% where you employees are draining your profit coffers? Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Cite your sources such as: These statistics are from a fairly recent  Gallup Poll

To be able to educate does demand your know your:

  • Products or Services
  • Industry
  • Industry of your target market
  • Target markets or markets
  • Current potential qualified customers (prospects)
  • General market place trends – Local, regional, state, national and international)

Sales Training Coaching Tip: Make sure you have a written marketing action plan along with a written executive marketing summary. This will help you work smarter not harder.
The other implicit demand is to focus not on your or your products or services, but your potential customers and his or her needs.

This shifting may result in you being uncomfortable especially if you have engaged in Product Based Marketing. Yet this traditional approach is beginning to die on the vine even for multi-billion dollar organizations.  For example, Pespi has announced it it stepping away from its past marketing activities during the Super Bowl game and now is pledging $20 million in a social media education based marketing campaign.

One reason for this change from product based marketing to education based marketing is because people are literally and figuratively overwhelmed with data, information and knowledge. Potential customers do not have time to scour the Internet, read the lastest journals or attend local economic seminars.  They are looking to others to help them and if you can provide viable, succinct information without misleading them using a compelling message then you have their attention.  In other words, you are now the Red Jacket in the sea of gray suits.

Maybe you are thinking “I don’t have time to educate!”? Let me ask you one question: Do you waste at a minimum of 12 minutes a day between 8am and 5pm? Given that research about productivity and time management suggests the majority of people waste at least 1 hour a day, then you probably have the time. This is not a case of time management, but rather self management. And that is the subject of the next post – your ability to stay on task, to out sell, to be the top sales performer.

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Talk Radio Gets Education Based Marketing

Talk radio especially conservative talk radio gets education based marketing probably better than any industry. Regardless of your beliefs or political leanings, you need to get out of your own way to truly understand and appreciate how this industry secures loyal customers (listeners) and consequently stuffs their piggy banks.

By providing education and then actually inviting their listeners to “check it (facts) out” these loyal fans keep coming back for more and more. Bottom line the more people who listen the greater advertising revenue generated and the goal to increase sales is realized.  Now if your target marketing fits the demographics this becomes a win-win for everyone. Sales  Training Coaching Tip: Without a written marketing action plan including an executive marketing summary, you will be working harder not smarter.

I realized the impact of education based marketing when channel surfing and hearing comments from the listeners (loyal customers some who patiently waited a couple of hours to speak with the host) like this:

  • You have educated me.”
  • “Your show is the only one I listen to because of all the facts you share.”
  • “Your provide the best details to complex issues.”

Again step away from your own beliefs and re-read these comments. People listen to talk radio because they want to be educated, they want to learn. This approach within the overall sales process has an added benefit – loyal customers who engage in repetitive behaviors.  Maybe this is why Rush Limbaugh can charge as what he calls “confiscatory rates.”

So if you wish to increase sales, construct a compelling message that educates. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Remember your facts can be checked out (thanks to the Internet) so be careful in exactly what you say. Come back tomorrow to read the rest of this post.

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Sales, Selling, Marketing, Oh My!

Are you where you want to be? In business and especially in sales, the answer is usually No. Most people want to increase sales, to move their businesses to that next level just like Dorothy did in the Wizard of Oz.  She wanted to get back to Kansas. To make that so for those in business usually requires more revenue and sales is the place to start.

So why are you not where you want to be? Are you facing some of these obstacles:

  • Time
  • Leads
  • Referrals
  • Selling Skills
  • Marketing skills

This blog will be dedicated to helping you to unlock those obstacles keeping from you being the successful sales professional. The ultimate goal is to remove the confusion and for you to gain clarity around this big picture of sales and how you can increase sales, build loyal customers and have some time for family and friends.

As a published author on sales, Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits, The Keys to Unlocking Sales Success, author of over 1,500 articles, weekly business columnist and contributors to numerous journals and newsletter, my goal is to share succinct and helpful information.

Sometimes messages will be repeated because only after hearing something numerous times will it sink in. For example, put your sales goals to writing. Many sales pros know this, but still fail to do this. Or how about follow-up on all sales leads? Again, knowing and doing are two different animals given what sales research tells us about how many leads are left hanging on the vine to whither away and die. (50%).

Act on your ambition to do more for your company. Become less involved while becoming more involved. The best way to accomplish all your goals is to get help in managing the process. “The process” is what keeps most great idea men and women from success. When you are too busy trying to keep up with all your management tasks, what happens? “You lose your edge against the competition”. Invest in your own expertise. Get a higher return on your idea investment when you are prepared to handle the management tasks of a your company more effectively.

Enlist the help of professional career training and process specialists Leanne Hoagland-Smith, author of BE THE RED JACKET IN A SEA OF GRAY SUITS and this blog, to assess, design, and take action on what is keeping you from growing your business.

Please leave your comments and share this site with others who you may feel will benefit. As always, Good Reading, Good Selling and Good Living.

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