Archive for August, 2010

The New Potential Sales Deal Breaker

Gary S. Hart in a recent post on his blog Sales DuJour discussed the lever that remove price from negotiations. In this posting, he shared an old story that my father told  me many years ago and one I had actually forgotten.

In price negotiations, sometimes it helps to understand that you can increase value by adding or removing some aspect and this may even include cash discounts or payment options. All of this actions do not affect the proposed price to be paid by the potential customer. (Sales Coaching Training Tip:  Read the Blue Ocean Strategy to understand the impact of adding, subtracting, increasing or decreasing.

However, given some information found in the Harvard Business Journal’s July 2010 issue, there appears something on the horizon that will compete with price and may even exceed price as an objection. That pending obstacle is time. (Read more in this past increase sales blog posting.

What this article suggests is customers (think qualified prospects) want two things within their buying experience:

  1. The basics done well
  2. The experience to be effortless

Time is behind these two desires because people do not have time for return trips to the vendor and they do not have additional time to waste in making their purchases. Today’s world is crazy busy and how well you address this factor will help you in your sales or selling  negotiations.

Time has always been present. Buyers want solutions and want those solutions to be time driven because they must focus on other priorities. There will always be those who want to negotiate price, but for many who are time constrained, how will your solutions work with those time constraints just may earn you the sale. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Learn how time now affects the sales process in Jill Konrath’s book – Snap Selling.

The investment (your price to your qualified prospect) will be important. Yet do not forget that time may be as John Miller suggests in his book, QBQ, the question (objection) behind the question (objection). By being aware of this potential obstacle allows you to be ahead of the flow to increase sales as well as to be the Red jacket in the sea of gray suits (all those other sales people).

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Is Reading Business Books Bad for Your Self Improvement?

Dave Logan, author of Tribal Leadership wrote about the 3 reasons why business books are bad.  I must say he makes some valid points, but his points are not strong enough to stop be from buying books be them hard, soft or even ebooks such as through the Kindle.  Being an avid book reader myself, I have always believed if I receive one gem, one nugget of wisdom (learning from someone else’s mistakes) then a book does have value.

What was interesting to note was Logan’s favorite business books were not typical and included Atlas Shrugged one of my all time favorites.  I have found some science fiction books have also presented me with different perspectives such as H.G. Wells, The Time Machine or even War of the Worlds.

Of course, buying a book is no longer a blind event. By investing some time, you have the ability to review what others thought of the book and then use that information to help you in your decision making process. Book reviews are available at Amazon along with some article directory sites such as Ezine Articles.  And you can always go to brick and mortar stores such as Barnes and Noble or Borders to even become more personal and comfortable with your buying decision.

Finally, you can always travel cyberspace and visit  many of the authors’ blog sites and read if you like what they say. Remember what you need to fill your knowledge gaps is probably different from someone else.

Just as there as some very bad fiction books, there are equally bad non-fiction or business books.  And sometimes, you may discover one of your favorites at a discounted book store.  That is where I found Corporate Canaries one of my treasured business books.

Having a different perspective from a variety of business authors is always a good thing. And as Benjamin Franklin said “An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.”

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KISS for an Executable & Results Driven Strategic Action Plan

Execution of the typical strategic business plan fails for a variety of reasons.  The two main reasons, from my experience, are:

  1. Lack or poor of understanding what strategy is
  2. Lack of simplicity when it comes to actually taking action

After reading an informative article on the Ten Tips to a Winning Business Plan, I realized once again these two factors are usually ignored in writing any business plan.

Strategy is defined differently by many people. However, in researching the origins of this word several years ago I learned it was from  the Greek word “stratçgos” and came from two different words.

What this word meant was for a General to defeat his enemies. In today’s context, it means for an organization to out think their competition allowing them to go just beyond surviving to truly thriving.

A well written strategic action plan requires an investment of time to conduct the necessary research specific to:

  • Target audience specific to demographics and most importantly psychographics
  • Market trends from local to national to international
  • Thorough organizational analysis meaning how well can the firm handle the sales process from the beginning stages of marketing to the final stage of delivery and support of the products or services
  • Employee capabilities
  • Management capabilities
  • Future growth and innovation
  • Financial resources both current and future

Failure number two of simplicity is evidence by the sheer volume of pages found in many strategic business plans.  Yes research does require compilation and synthesis and this may be included as back up documentation within the Appendix, however it does not need to be part of the published document.

What is needed is just a one page business action plan from which to keep track of current primary goals.  This one page plan can be supported by auxiliary or supplemental one page goal driven plans.

Also there needs to be a goal achievement process reinforced with a goal setting worksheet or tool to keep everyone communicating, pardon the pun, on the same page. For without this small, but necessary tool, execution will probably fail.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Very few people ever learn how to consistently set and achieve their goals. This is proven by all the failed New Year Resolutions.

Having a written plan is always a good thing, but having one that is easily understood, that secures buy in from others through its simplicity and is goal driven is much better.  By taking this action, you can indeed be the Red Jacket in a sea of Gray Suits.

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Why People in Business May Have Problems With Results – Friday Editorial

Working with individuals and organizations to improve the results is always interesting. One ongoing challenge is very large gap between knowing the results and then doing, taking the necessary actions to secure them.  Of course, some people have asked me this common sense question,  “How is this possible?”  Why do people not understand results?

I realized part of the source of this problem again as I heard a new economic statistic to demonstrate the results specific to the efforts to stimulate the US economy and grow business productivity.  This new, never before used figure, is called lives touched through the stimulus dollars.

Beyond being just plain ridiculous (using the talent intelligence of common sense) what perked my ears was the word “feelings.” This new metric would give people  good feelings about the stimulus and potentially may make people feel better about a proven ineffective government program. There have been very few government programs that have demonstrated a positive return on investment as government is inefficient and ineffective.

Remember E.T. and how his finger touched people and made things better? I am not sure how a cost of $194,000 per job can make anyone feel better and only adds to the confusion about results.

When the government is not honest about results and continually changes the metrics to measure results, how can the average employee who wants to do a good job not be confused?

Last Friday’s editorial discussed lies and business ethics. As long as those in management be them government officials or for profit management executives continue to ignore reality, these individuals will be living in the land of “Da Nile”  (denial) and the real lives touched will experience far more negative feelings and consequently negative results than positive ones.

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Why Specific Pre-Determined Results Matter in Sales Training

According to various sources including the American Society for Training & Development (ASTD), the majority of training and development including sales training does not stick.  In other words there is no positive impact to the bottom line as defined through Kirkpatrick’s Four Level Model of learning and training evaluation process.

Yesterday I came across a website from someone who sent me a social media cold calling message  (sales letter) which lead to an earlier posting on cold calling using social media. One of the results from her training solution as noted in her website was the impact of 5% to 25% increases in sales within the first 60 days.

For some organizations this might be a good thing, but is it enough? Given that sales research suggests 50% of all sales leads are not followed up and 80% of all sales are earned between the fourth and twelfth contacts, then in 60 days should there not be more results?  The answer is probably yes.

The reason why such results are not secured is because the discussion never became real specific and focused as to the pre-determined desired results.   This is a direct result of poor goal setting and writing skills on behalf of the sales training company and probably poor fact finding sales skills as well.

Many are familiar with the SMART criteria.  The S stands for Specific. Most people from my experience truly do not write specific enough goals. Hence any result is acceptable. However when specific is truly understood, this becomes the magnifying glass and truly differentiates a general statement from a truly specific one.

For example, a goal is written to increase sales by a certain percentage. The client and the sales training company agree to this goal. Yet what would happen if the goal was even more specific?

Increase sales by a total of X% with X% coming from new customers; x% coming from existing customers and X% coming from inactive customers beginning in the next 30 days and continuing for 6 months with a review of the results at the end of the designated time frame.

  • Would this rewritten goal statement be far more effective in realizing the desired end result to increase sales?
  • Would such a specific objective be easier to track and to determine where the gaps are in the current overall business strategic plan?
  • Does it provide a tactic to review and evaluate the achievements with a designated time frame?

Effective (meaning doing the right thing) sales training and sales coaching firms truly understand how important specificity is in relationship to the the desired results. So the next time you are solicited by a sales training firm and they advertise their great results ask where those results were achieved?  If they cannot provide a specific and detailed response, then you may wish to consider seeking another firm or individual who can answer with specificity and make sure it is beyond 5% to 25% increases in sales improvement.

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Stop Count to 10 Before You Respond

Today I received a direct message from someone who was providing me a heads up about some comments made on a weekly business column I write for the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana. After responding with a quick thank for the heads up, I went and read the comments.

One of the comments was from an individual whom I have yet to meet and I discovered is connected with the other two through a couple of social media sites. An advantage of social media you can actually see the connections of others.

Two of the other three comments were from people who I have never met locally, but for whatever the reason have a professional dislike of me. What is interesting to note is that neither of these individuals had ever interacted with me within a workshop or as a client, but feel almost compelled to place a lot of attention of my business and now writing efforts.

Now for the purpose of this posting. I have a belief that these comments were a coordinated attack. My belief is without proof; however my intuitive sense is very strong and is based upon the past several months of ongoing remarks within social media made by two of these individuals.

Now I could have taken this belief and immediately responded, but my childhood lesson of count to 10, my positive core values and my triple filter are always present.

By asking myself is it kind?, is it necessary” and it is truthful?, I can quickly determine if and how I should respond.  Given that no matter what I would write, these folks appear to have “tight shorts” in other words are looking for an argument to keep the fueling their own personal fires, then it fails the necessary test because it is not necessary to engage in an argument with complete strangers who are truly unwilling to listen due to their personal agendas.

This story is an example of how our beliefs drive out actions creating our results.  The challenge is to take control of our actions through the awareness of those beliefs. And then we are better likely to secure the desired results.

Of course, when the desired results are clearly articulated, then it is much easier to redirect the beliefs and change the behaviors.  Since my goal is to increase sales, then by  examining those pre-determined  results I must ask myself can these individuals affect that goal?  In my analysis, no because of their small centers of influence.

The important lesson here is to think and be proactive with regards to your beliefs and your actions. By reacting to others can have long term detrimental affects not to mention conflict with your personal core values statement and business ethics.

In life, we literally can place our reactions into 3 circles of control. The first is what you can control and that is the smallest circle. Next comes the circle of what you can influence. That is a little larger. What you cannot control is the third and the largest circle. And this is where from my experiences in working with others as well as myself most people invest most of their limited resources of time, energy, money and emotions.

Awareness of our beliefs allows us to make better decisions and thus direct our behaviors. The end result is we can further unleash our potential and better secure our desired results while staying true to our core values and business ethics.

So maybe this is why the old adage of “Stop, Count to 10” before you respond is still fairly applicable especially in today’s very connected world.

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How Social Media Cold Calling Messages May Chill Your Friends

Another cold calling marketing message (sales letter) crossed cyberspace from a social media site.  This one at least used my name which one would think is obvious. However this cold calling message still left me with a these 3 chills.

Cold Calling Chill #1 – Failure to do research about your target market and qualifying your prospect or potential customer.  From the content of this marketing message, I can honestly say the author failed to do research about me and what I do.  She was soliciting me as a potential customer to her sales training. If she had invested a few moments, just Google my name, she would have learned her business and my business ADVANCED SYSTEMS generally provide similar services. Her website which I quickly checked out suggests her sales training practice is not geared toward other sales training or sales training coaching businesses.  Sales Coaching Tip:  Return to your strategic action plan and specifically to your marketing action plan.  Work from that written plan or make any course corrections if necessary.

Cold Calling Chill #2 – Only asking closed ended questions with a presumption that Yes means I am interested. Since she failed to do her homework, even though I answered yes to her questions, I still was not interested in connecting with her.  The use of only closed ended questions is probably not the best cold calling sales letter strategy.  These type of questions fail to excite the emotional receptors.  In many cases after asking close ended questions, the internal response by the prospect is Okay, So what?  Unless you have a compelling take action and becoming a fan or following someone on Twitter or Facebook is not compelling nor very powerful,  all your marketing message will do is to chill (turn off) the prospect.

Cold Calling Chill #3 – Providing no value in her marketing message.  Asking close ended questions as well as open ended ones are a great way to attract attention. However, they must have value to the intended recipient or your target market. When there is no value, the potentially qualified prospect or customer will not take action.

If you are using social media to connect with prospects or potential customers, then remember the AIDA model for effective marketing. This simple model has been around for a long time and is an easy way to avoid some of these cold calling chills.

  • A – Attract attention and that should be positive attention because you want people to engage with you through some emotion
  • I – Incite interest through connecting with those emotional receptors those being the senses of seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, tasting and feeling
  • D – Develop desire by building upon those previous emotional connections because people make buying decisions first on emotion and then justified with logic
  • A – Call to ACTION is required and that call must be both powerful and compelling

Social media is both a marketing platform and a message delivery vehicle. Sometimes this dual role confuses people and thus their attracting attention messages through cold calling invites (think sales letters) may chill their intended prospects.  By not making these three cold calling chill mistakes and applying the AIDA model, you can be the Red jacket, have success not to mention save yourself a lot of time because social media is truly not free.

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How Do I Build Better Rapport with My Prospects?

This “Thinker” question of how do I build better rapport with my prospects  is asked by many sales professionals and well answered by far fewer sales trainers or sales  training coaching experts.

An article written by Jeb Blount is one of the best that I have read concerning this question.  Take a few minutes to read his article on how to build better rapport and then leave your thoughts there as well as here.

As always thanks for stopping by.

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How the 3Rs Maybe Bad for Marketing and Branding

With the expansion of the green movement, the 3 Rs of Reuse, Recycle and Reduce have become well known in the business world.  Yet, a recent marketing website that I happened upon suggested the 3Rs are happening within marketing and specifically branding. This site, 101 cliches, has identified the top 101 common graphics and accompanying text (including cliches) for those branding messages.

Cliches and analogies are the backbone of any branding efforts. Marketing firms charge big bucks to help struggling small business owners and entrepreneurs demonstrate their uniqueness through their creative efforts.  Businesses are then able to stand out or be the Red Jacket as I often call it.

However after revisiting this site, 101 Cliches, the author suggests that the 3Rs are far more prevalent than many realized in many of the so called branding and marketing campaigns. And that is not good for small businesses because they are becoming the gray suits and not the Red Jacket.

For example, the reuse of cliches and accompanying graphics are easily seen.  When these specific creative ideas catch on, then they become recycled, the second R.  Finally, through the reuse and recycling, the marketing firm or creative agency can reduce their costs and enhance their bottom line.The end result is the customer or client loses both a unique, creative,  branding message and the dollars invested.

Creativity is, I believe, a talent intelligence and can be developed by anyone. Unfortunately, some people due to negative conditioning believe that they can never be creative and thus resign themselves to the creative energy or not so creative energy of others. Additionally, small business owners believe in these marketing experts and resign themselves to listening to this sometimes very expensive advice because after all these folks know what they are doing.

When I wrote my book (be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits, The Keys to Unlocking Sales Success), the title (an analogy) is what drove the graphic. I then sent a rough and primitive sketch including colors to my marketing firm, Figment Creative Group and said “Make it pretty.” The individual responsible was able to in two efforts match his creative experience to my vision.

Creativity starts with words that convey your vision for your business or even yourself.  If you are having trouble, then possibly you may need to invest some additional time writing out (brainstorming) your vision using descriptive words. Sales Coaching Tip:  This is why having a vision statement within your strategic action plan is so critical.

Years ago when I started my business, I did have a challenge in designing the corporate logo for ADVANCED SYSTEMS.  Finally with the help of a graphic designer from Resource Associates Corporation, I was able to secure a unique logo.

The logo uses the letters of my company and the graphic in the middle represents a person in motion because what I do is to help people or organizations through change. Again,  I had a vision and the graphic person truly listened to the words within that vision.

If you are considering a marketing or branding campaign, just make sure you are receiving truly innovative results and not the tired and possibly false 3Rs of Reuse, Recycle and Reduce from creative efforts.

P.S. If a marketing firm engages in the 3Rs, what does that say about their values or business ethics?

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Increase Sales Through Unconscious Competence of Business Ethics

The goal to increase sales is always present.  A recent article over at Salesopedia by Jim Meisenheimer Unconscious Selling Competence discussed the works of A. Maslow and his Learning Quadrant. My research suggested this was constructed by Thomas Gordon and was called Gordon’s Learning Ladder.

Regardless of the author (but I now need to engage in some additional research), the premise is that people walk through 4 stages of learning:

  1. Unconscious incompetence – I do not know what I do not know
  2. Conscious incompetence – I now know what I do not know
  3. Conscious competence – I now know what I know
  4. Unconscious competence – I now know what I know without thinking

To increase sales, the goal is to be unconsciously competent.  For this to happen goes beyond your own professional develo9pment and is truly about your business ethics.

People buy from people they know and trust. This suggests you must be authentic in all of your actions regardless if the other person is a possible customer.

When you have a clear articulated personal core values statement and you have invested the time to describe the behaviors associated with those values, then these behaviors should over time become part of your subconscious personality. When you met people, you do not think about being sincere, trustworthy, helpful, etc.  These values immediately are displayed.

Most people have met those sales professionals who will do anything, say anything to “close the deal.”  Also, we have probably encountered those salespersons who say all the right things, yet down deep inside of us we “sense” something is amiss.  Both of these types of selling professionals are probably operating under the fourth quadrant of being Unconsciously Competent however what is missing is positive business ethics.

Of course since both ethical and not so ethical people can be unconsciously competent when it comes to selling and achieving the goal to increase sales, this requires more diligence on the part of the buyer. And does suggest listening to that inner intuitive sense which some suggest is a talent intelligence for additional guidance.

Business ethics are not something one wears one day and discards the next. These behaviors are part of who you are each day.  Consistent demonstration of these unconscious competence behaviors will increase sales, improve your own credibility within the marketplace, allow you to be the Red Jacket and if you have a conscious provide you sleep filled nights.

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