Archive for March, 2010

Focus on Vision and Values for Business and Sales Success

Fox and Friends interviewed the CEO of Ford, Alan Mulally, who was in New York for the auto show.  Ford’s sales are up 43% since February of 2009.  Gretchen Carlson asked Mulally to explain Ford’s business and sales success.  His response was Ford will be the “best in class” and “best in the world.”  He then went on to explain the mission of Ford is to focus on the Ford brand and hence the reason for the sale of non-Ford brands such as Volvo.

Just imagine for a moment if the management in your business had such a laser focus. Would you increase sales?  Would you be able to reduce costs?  Would you see yourself thriving 3 to 5 years down the road?

I just completed several critical book reviews at EzineArticles and one of them was about a little known book called Corporate Canaries.  One of the best chapters was “You Can’t Outgrow Losses.”  Ford management realized several years ago if they continued down the same path disaster was the only result.  GM and Chrysler are examples of that disaster.

Focus begins with returning to your strategic , reviewing your vision statement, doing your research and then setting specific goals to realize your vision while behaving within your core values. Mulally has demonstrated such focus can increase sales and show that history does repeat itself. Ford is now again the top American producer of vehicles as it was almost 100 years ago. P.S. In full disclosure, Yes, I do drive a Ford and my next car will be a Ford. :)

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Great Customer Service Happens When You Learn From Holmes

Customer service is alive for some businesses, but appears to be far more dead for others. I realize this every time I watch one of my favorite shows – Holmes on Homes – on HGTV.

Mike Holmes  is a housing renovation expert who goes into homes that have been the victim of very  poor customer service. He can quickly spot the code violations, shabby workmanship and high price no value. After watching this show, people can only wonder what is behind the walls of their own homes?

Mike has trademarked the phrase “Make It Right(TM)” because this is what he does.  He not only corrects the problems from the current poor customer service disaster, but will fix the problems from the original construction if he can. In one episode, Mike noticed a poorly installed kitchen sink even though the work was in another area of the house. He had his plumber “Make It Right (TM).”

What is so interesting are these five common threads:

  1. Businesses are doing the least amount for the most amount of dollars (cheap products, short cuts in construction, etc.)
  2. When challenged, these businesses deny any responsibility and insist they did provide outstanding customer service
  3. A lack of knowledge by both the provider and the buyer
  4. Government inspectors who fail to do their jobs when permits are issued
  5. No integrity by the providers of the construction home services

The reason I am highlighting Holmes on Homes is because he represents the best in customer service.

What would happen if you treated your customers as Holmes treated his?

And conversely, would your customers ever have the need for a Mike Holmes because you failed to deliver what you promised?

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The Need to Increase Sales Is Not Everything

Sunday morning, Palm Sunday, I just finished my daily tracking marketing metrics and reviewing this forthcoming week’s schedule. Then I did a quick check of my personal goals before getting ready for church.

Over ten years ago I began setting personal goals along with my business goals including the most important one, increase sales, to writing. These written goals were subdivided into 6 areas based upon a Life Wheel. The areas included:

  • Ethics & Beliefs (Spirituality)
  • Mental
  • Physical
  • Career/Financial
  • Family
  • Social

The Life Wheel is a great self assessment tool. You can quickly determine your satisfaction or level of happiness within each area and see where you are out of balance. By the way, did you know that Buddha is one of the earliest individuals to adovcate balance using a Life Wheel?

Then about two years ago, I modified my Life Wheel to include 8 areas and  the concept of counter balance based upon my own experiences.  For example when I am  physically stressed out,  it is harder to keep a mental focus. The Life Wheel now looked like this:

  • Purpose counter balanced with Ethics & Beliefs (Spirituality)
  • Mental counter balanced with Physical
  • Financial counter balanced with Career
  • Family countered balanced with Social

Each  year I reassess myself specific to my Life Wheel.  Set new goals, infuse them into my one page Personal Growth Action Plan.

One observation I made was in my  desire to increase sales, I was losing touch with dear friends. Time is unforgiving in the sense once it is gone, it can never be recovered.

I then set some very specific goals to keep in touch with old friends.  One particular dear friend stood up at my wedding. She is now retired and lives about 65 miles away. So I make sure to call her monthly and visit with her once a quarter.  After church today, I am driving down and we are going out for lunch.

Also, I have connected with another friend who I have known for over 30 years.  We now go out for breakfast or lunch once a month. Additionally, there is a dear family friend who I called “Aunt” my entire life. I make a commitment to see her at least two times each year.

Being an entrepreneur, small business owner, C-Level executive or independent sales contractors places a lot of demands on the resource of time. However, ignoring dear and personal relationships in the quest to build the business is a costly mistake.

Spring is considered a time of rebirth and consequently that is possible the push for all that spring cleaning. It is the time for letting in the fresh air and letting out the stale old winter air.  Spring is a great time to look at your own Life Wheel and begin to set written goals to balance out your personal life. By taking this action, will reduce any regrets specific to when time runs out and you think “I wished I had seen her or him more” or “Why didn’t I make the time to visit Aunt Emma?”

Remember, Life is truly about the choices you make and the actions you then take. Yes the goal to increase sales is important, but it is not everything.

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Why Government Just Does Not Get It – Meaning Business Development

Yesterday, I received an email notice from a government sponsored organization (meaning my tax dollars are paying for their existence) whose goal is to help small business owners, entrepreneurs, etc. increase sales. The announcement was for a author from out of the Northwest Indiana region to speak on social media. Point of Honesty: After being a resident of NW Indiana for over 50 years, I am somewhat jaded because this area of the state has always been viewed as a step child by Indianapolis. They love taking our tax dollars, but provide little in return.

One of my biggest gripes is that government and in many cases institutions of higher learning are clueless about how to develop sustainable business. Governments from the local to the federal increase taxes, create profit draining compliances and foster an environment that works against those who take the risks and truly are the economic engines of this great country. And they will be the first to ask for more money to fund this need or attend this locally beneficial event. Give me a break!

When I received this announcement, I immediately thought how many times has this person from out of the area freely given of his time to help this local small business development agency? Answer – Probably None! How many articles has he written to be included in the monthly newsletter from this agency. Answer – Probably None! How many times has he spoken without any compensation in this area of NW Indiana per the recommendation of this agency? Answer – Probably None! The reason I write probably none is that I am only 99% sure and not 100%.

The director of this organization did call and leave me a phone mail. He said he was at the direction of his boss. Fine, I can appreciate that. However in my return voice mail (don’t you love phone tag?), I asked had he suggested bringing any one from Northwest Indiana to Indianapolis or did any other regional office suggest a local speaker. Why is government always one way?

Government is all one-sided because it is all about what is in it for them. They are truly clueless about customer service and creating mutually beneficial relationships. The latest efforts on health reform demonstrate that given that small businesses will be paying for the fast majority of this wealth distribution because personal responsibility and accountability has gone right out the window. When 75% of the American public did not approve of the proposed legislation what they read of it, tell me it is not one-way. And what does student college loans have to do with health care?

Excuse this Friday rant. However when government organizations that are supposed to support their local small business owners and entrepreneurs fail to take that action, why should any regional business look to these small individuals to provide products and services? This behavior only further entrenches the 50 mile rule. Live 50 miles outside of the area and you are an expert. Great for Indianapolis, but terrible for Northwest Indiana.

Give me a break! Government related organizations (those who are supported with taxpayer dollars) need to take a fresh look in the mirror and truly be honest with themselves. Of course, this will happen when pigs fly.

I may be doing a weekly rant. So come back next Friday and what irritates me.

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What Is Your Cold Calling Sales Strategy?

Cold calling is part of most companies’ overall sales strategy to increase sales. Sales Training Coaching Tip: This is really a marketing skill set.

In a post by Geoffrey James he provides 7 great sales tips on Flawless Cold Calling.

Yesterday I received a cold calling prospecting phone cal (marketing activity) and once again listened to a poorly crafted marketing message. This person should have listened to Will Smith’s approach in the Pursuit of Happyness.

Credit: wpromote.com

Why cold calling fails is because of:

  • No planning specific to target market who you are calling
  • No planning specific to what you are going to say
  • No planning specific to practicing what you are going to say
  • No planning specific to scheduling when you are going to call
  • No planning specific to the follow-up process

One great point in James’ column is about your verbal speech.

  • You must not sound like a sales person.
  • You must not sound like a robot.
  • You must not sound unenergetic.
  • You must not sound ill prepared.
  • You must not sound like a failure.

You must sound like the person you are talking to. This is called modeling.  Additionally, it may also help to be dressed professionally. What I know to be true is when I am dressed in jeans I have an internal casual attitude that is being broadcasted externally.  Hence I wear dress slacks even when I am working from home because you never know who may be on the other end of the phone.

Cold calling can be a successful sales strategy to increase sales when there is proper sales training and development. Read James’ column, listen to Will Smith and then put an integrated and cohesive action plan together before you end up dialing for disappointment instead of dialing for dollars.

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Leadership & Sales Going from Great to Awful

A great post by John Tamny in Forbes.com looks at Blockbuster and how even once great companies sometimes can become bankrupt. His article discussed the economics of why this once highly traded stock is now almost worthless, but I believe the real message here is all about leadership and sales in business.

To stay ahead of the market flow as I write in Be the Red Jacket in the Sea of Gray Suits, The Keys to Unlocking Sales Success demands leadership or better yet self leadership skills (think people skills) that work with existing flawless sales skills. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Flawless means practice, practice, practice for exceptional execution.

Tamny specifically discussed the focus by Blockbuster on day to day business operations and forgetting to invest the time to see what may be around the bend in the river.  Newspapers were guilty of this when they failed to see the impact of the Internet and now mobile devices. Their sales people were focused on traditional advertising – selling columns and space – while ignoring the needs of their clients. Michael Gerber talked in length about working IN the business versus ON the business in the E-Myth. These are all examples of leadership failing and consequently affecting the goal to increase sales especially for the long term. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Many can increase sales in the short term, but long term sales success is the vein of gold.

Finally, Tamny’s most insightful comment was:

“But failure, awful as it is, is also a sign that capitalism is working. Sure enough, capitalism is as much about failure as it is success. “

In sales, failure is always present from missed opportunities to poor qualification of potential customers to unexpected obstacles such as a last minute change in the decision maker.  Be being aware (a necessary self-leadership skill), the goal to increase sales can be realized while not forgetting that the market place will and can change. This talent of awareness works very well in capitalism and may help you or your business avoid going from Great to Awful.

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The Common Factor Between Sales Training & Public Education

After spending billions of dollars in public education, a recent report shows that mathematics scores are on the rise in urban, big city schools. Excuse my “duh” moment, but given the investment why are we applauding this? My question is why haven’t they been delivering results for the last 40 years?

Public education and sales training have this one common factor – poor return on investment (ROI). Most sales training depending upon the sales research delivers anywhere between zero to 10% positive return on investment. The failure factors are many, but are probably linked more to how public education than many realize.

After all, if public education knew how to construct engaged learning environments, then we would not continue to realize such dismal test scores. Given that human beings are creatures of conditioning, corporate education, learning, training and development is based upon the K-16 experiences. And given those results, why should we be surprised that so much sales training delivers a negative return on investment?

In a recent article, Top 10 Not So Common Reasons Why Sales Training Fails to Deliver Sustainable Change, I provided some out of the box reasons why sales training and development fails to stick. My most favorite one is the brain only absorbs what the butt will endure.

Effective sales training and development is possible. However, some key beliefs need to be changed including:

  • Looking for the quick fix
  • Entitlement mentality
  • Teaching means someone knows how to apply knowledge
  • Knowledge is power
  • Life long learning

When these beliefs are changed because beliefs drive actions (behaviors) generating results, then sales training or any educational process should begin to deliver positive return on investment.

Why do you think sales training fails? Please leave your comments.

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Social Marketing – New Rules Yet Old Ones

Writing in Advertising Age, Taddy Hall lists the 10 Essential Rules for Brands in Social Media. What a great and concise post.

I encourage readers of this blog to read it and then share their thoughts.

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Beware of Buyer’s Remorse

Buyer’s remorse as defined by Wikopedia is:

“an emotional condition whereby a person feels remorse or regret after a purchase. It is frequently associated with the purchase of higher value items which could be considered unnecessary although it may also stem from a sense of not wishing to be “wrong”.”

I was reminded of this syndrome when reading Cheryl Claussen’s posting this morning. Cheryl identified a great connection between sales behaviors and the recent behaviors by the U.S. Congress specific to the passage of the health care bill.

Locally to internationally, there is a lot of buyer’s remorse. And sometimes this happens without purchasing a high ticket item, but is more about regretting a wrong choice as in voting. Given the recent poll numbers of members of Congress as well as the President, there is a lot of regret happening in America’s heartland. Possibly this helps to explain why the Tea Party continues to expand and not contract. More individuals with buyer’s remorse are entering this no longer fringe group.

What is also interesting to observe is Seller’s denial. This sales behavior is manifested by the seller justifying their actions to “I got the sale” as Cheryl described in her posting. These folks whether elected officials to actual sales professionals look to any and all reasons to reconcile why they behaved in one way even though it may have been contrary to past behaviors or stated comments. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Seller’s denial exemplifies unethical behaviors and any means justify my ends. In other words, buyer it is not about you, but all about me. High pressure, pushy salesperson anyone?
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For example, have you ever heard a sales person make any of these statements

  • I did not say that, what I meant was…?
  • You don’t understand”?
  • Don’t worry, you’ll be taken care of?

These are potentially examples of the salesperson internal decision making style reconciling reality from a denial perspective.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  If you hear these statements, ask immediately for clarification and put it in writing.

When ethical sales people are aware of buyer’s remorse, they can focus their sales behaviors of doing what is both efficient and effective. In some cases, buyer’s remorse may happen. However when ethical sales professionals live their values, make a clear case for taking action, have an established relationship and actively listen to their potential customer, cases of buyer’s remorse should be far and few between.

Are you currently experiencing any buyer’s remorse?  Please share your thoughts if you wish.

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20/80 Rule Rules Sales Growth

The 20/80 rule (Pareto’s Principle) abounds in life and in sales. A posting by Tom Stein provides 5 steps to build a powerful and effective sales team where the goal to increase sales is realized.

Credit: LifeHack.org

Today it is critical to have the right people in the right seats in the right bus. When you understand their decision making styles to their talents (strengths)  you can not only achieve great performance appraisals, but have a cohesive team where all members are rowing with the same energy. In other words, you have removed the slackers from your team.

Additionally, by using the same metrics and tools to ensure sales goals are achieved is also necessary. One way is to adopt a proven goal setting worksheet or tool.

When organizations invest the time to truly develop their sales teams including providing effective sales training, then they can move away from the 20/80 principle and achieve a more realistic 50/50 or even better yet 100/100 sales effort.

Does your organization suffer from the 20/80 rule? How do you feel about it? Please feel free to leave your thoughts below.

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