Archive for January, 2011

9 Months, No Baby, No Plan, A Business Coach What Gives?

Courtesy of www.lutherancore.org

Today I had a conversation with a very typical entrepreneur who has an idea, but lacks the ability to execute. His goal is to have $1,000,000 in sales by the end of the current year.  He has been working with a business coach for the last 9 months with the following outcomes (I hesitate to use the word results):

  • A written business plan that his business coach has in his or her possession and he does not have
  • No written strategic plan
  • No separate  written integrated marketing plan including an executive marketing summary, social media goals, etc.
  • No written sales plans with monthly and quarterly sales goals
  • No written distribution sales and management plan
  • No written price structure
  • Inconsistent activities generating inconsistent outcomes
  • Feeling of being crazy busy, pulled all over the place
  • A couple of paying clients

This is one of my major problems with many of the business coaches, executive coaches, sales coaches or business consultants in the market place. They fail to follow these simple words:

Begin with the end in mind – Steven Covey

Potentially thousands of dollars not to mention hundreds of hours have been spent and still no baby (think results). By now the strategic plan along with its subset plans of marketing, sales, customer loyalty, growth and innovation, leadership and management and financials should be in its sixth to ninth revisit.

My advice to him was to immediately reconnect with his business coach and exercise some control and accountability.  Within 7 days there should be a formalized written marketing plan including an executive marketing summary. Additionally there should be written sales and revenue goals per month. Finally, he should have a very clear understanding of what his distribution model is including price and types of individuals he wants as distribution managers.

To go this long without this basic information is, in my opinion, malfeasance on behalf of the business coach.  Some people are questioning the need for executive coaching,  business coaching or business consulting.  With outcomes as this entrepreneur has demonstrated, no wonder these questions are surfacing and rightly so. And some people wonder why I dislike “life coaching” so much which is a subject for another day.

After all these years, I do not believe in knocking the competition because that goes against my positive core business values. However, after 9 months there should be at least a baby not to mention a written strategic plan and an entrepreneur who understands why he or she is so crazy busy.

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Education Based Marketing and Self Promotion a Fine Red Line

Join many of the groups over at LinkedIn, read many of the Tweets or participate in some other social media sites such as Facebook and you will probably notice a lot of self promotion.  Many of these individuals will tell you they are not doing self promotion, but rather are engaging in education based marketing.

Source: www.cafepress.com

So what is education based marketing? The definitions abound. Possibly first we may wish to consider a definition for marketing. This is what I believe marketing is:

Marketing is both a strategy (thought) and a tactic (action) to create constant awareness and promotion of your products and services with the desired result of having potential ideal customers (also known as prospects):

  • Consider your products and services
  • Become your clients or customers* (Source: Be the Red Jacket)

By placing the words education based before marketing suggests your goal is to educate rather than push the sale or product as in traditional marketing. By looking to the journalists critical questions of Who, What, Where, When, Why and How may help you gain greater clarity.

Who are you educating?

  • Ideal qualified customers?
  • Potential target markets?
  • Centers of Influence
  • Strategic Partners?
  • Everyone?

What are you educating?

  • You?
  • Your Company?
  • Your Solutions (products and services)?
  • Your Price
  • Your Delivery?
  • Your Results?

Where are you educating?

  • Every contact?
  • Traditional marketing vehicles such as newspaper, radio or television?
  • Social media?
  • Article marketing (including both Internet directories and printed journals or newspapers)?
  • Speaking?
  • Workshops or seminars?
  • Printed brochures, business cards?

When are you educating?

  • Daily?
  • Weekly?
  • Monthly?
  • Continually?
  • When sales go south?

Why are you educating?

  • To build credibility about you, your company or your solutions?
  • To differentiate you, your company or your solutions?
  • To gain a competitive advantage?
  • To share your prices?

How are you educating?

  • Conversational person to person?
  • Didactic (one way with no feedback loop)?
  • Using others to deliver your message such as a spokesperson?
  • By giving away something of value such as your time to even a product?

For me education based marketing is all about not breaking any of the three sales buying rules as well as helping to put a lid on future sales objections. This approach is about reaffirming the goals of marketing that being to attract attention and make a friend so you are asked back for that critical appointment.

With that said, education based marketing at its very essence if about self promotion.  However this must be subtle and not blatant. Understanding when it is appropriate for you to mention your sales blog, your free seminar, e-book or other solutions is critical.  J.D. Gershbein of Owlish Communications suggested that prior to self promotion requires “conversational equity.” What a great term! In other words, you need to demonstrate you are worthy through your conversations before promoting what you do.

To help you better determine that fine line between education based marketing and self promotion suggests a written values statement (business ethics) along with the specific behaviors for each of those key values may be necessary.  If you are true to those non-negotiable behaviors 24/7, it may be less likely you will be viewed as in self promotion mode versus education based marketing model.

Finally with reference to LinkedIn or other social media sites, understanding the definition of these two words may help as well:

  1. Discussion from the word discuss which in its Latin origins means to shake apart and now means to consider and argue the pros and cons
  2. Promotion from the word promote which in its Latin origins mean to move forward and now means to further the growth.

For me, if someone does not know that a workshop, webinar, custom tee shirts, free ebook, etc. is self promotion, they violate the first sales buying rule.

People buy from people they know and trust.

Their behaviors demonstrate a lack of intelligence and disrespect. Would you want to know someone who knowingly breaks the rules and does not know the difference between discussion and self-promotion?

Yes, there is a fine line between education based marketing and self-promotion. Where you stand depends upon your own business ethics (ethos Greek for character).

 

 

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How Tight Shorts Impede Communications

Years ago, this was my standard reply when people asked me my opinion:

Ask me no questions and I will tell you no lies.

Courtesy of www.eabu.eu

The older I become the more I realize how much truth is within this statement.  In this age of social media and the ability to exchange information, there are many individuals (senders of communication) who truly have, as my husband calls them, “tight shorts.”  These folks are quick to defend what they say and sometimes appear to be  quick to be insulted.  Their tight shorts do indeed impede communications and may harm future communications because a lack of trust has been injected into the communication process.

For example, someone will share new information.  He or she will ask a specific question, make some suppositions and then finalize his or her argument.  When someone responds to the specific question with a different perspective (not in agreement with the communicated information), it is like red lights start flashing and the robot from Lost in Space is yelling “danger, danger.”

Responses to any question are usually much better received when apply Socrates’ three filters:

  1. Is it kind?
  2. Is it truthful?
  3. Is it necessary?

In other words, disrespectful language is not employed so you do not begin your response, “Hey you dummy” nor do you use profanity.  The response is kind and may be laced with a little humor. The truth is, as you the responder believe it to be, based upon your own experience.  Finally it is necessary because the sender of the communication asked the question.

Informal learning (that being learning from others) has been documented as the best way to learn. Yet this is a two-way communication street. If you truly wish to share ideas, information and ask questions, then it may make sense to make sure you are open to the feedback or you may be hearing this response more often than not:

Ask me no questions; and I will tell you no lies.

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How the Words You Speak Can Increase Sales

Most sales people understand the importance of words and how specific words can turn off a potential customer. Yet, the full magnitude of the words we speak appears not to be understood given these facts:

  • Psychologist Albert Mehrabian suggested that 93% of all communication is non-verbal (this percentage has been challenged by others since then)
  • Research at 3M corporation suggested we process visuals (pictures, graphics) 60,000 times faster than text (written word)
  • Human brain processes pictures (visual images) simultaneously while language takes additional time because it is processed linear
  • Visual stimuli has a greater impact

These facts suggest that you as the salesperson have an incredible opportunity to create the visual image you want your potential customer to see in her or his mind’s eye if you truly wish to increase sales. This is why it is important to understand the emotional marketing value of the words you use because emotions are embedded in all of those visuals or pictures.

Additionally using words to enhance the other senses of smell, taste and feel will make those pictures even more real.  Think about how you can use words to create:

  • The smell associated with buying a new car?
  • The feel of walking into that brand new home?
  • The taste of a sizzling piece of tender beef?

By being selective in the words you speak (use fewer words with greater impact) helps you work through all that other sensory information that is blocking your verbal communication (spoken words).   This strategy may require you to be very selective so that you avoid words that may generate images such as should, need, ought to, etc. and thus keep you from your goal to increase sales.

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Arrogance Not Ignorance in Leadership – Friday’s Editorial

In a posting by Margaret Heffernan over at BNet she shared what she thought was the #1  leadership problem. I left my comment while agreeing ignorance in leadership is a challenge I believe it is a symptom of the real problem that being arrogance. Ms. Heffernan made reference to “willful blindness” which for me is arrogance.

Source: www.masqueunit.org

Now there may be some regular readers of this blog who may think I am calling the kettle black because they view me as arrogant  and how dare I write these words!  The hypocrisy of such behavior! And that is their choice to have their beliefs. No matter what I write they will disagree with it.

For those who know truly know me, I have often said “I do not know,” but let me find out. If I do not know the answer and cannot find the answer,  I am more willing to refer any individual to someone who has that specific desired knowledge as long as he or she has demonstrated positive core values or business ethics.

Arrogance in leadership from my perspective is very much like the childhood story of The Emperor’s New Clothes by Hans Christian Anderson. The Emperor was so blinded by his own arrogance, he allowed tailors to “sew” a “invisible clothes.” Everyone in the kingdom was so afraid of the arrogant leader even though they knew he was naked as he was parading down the street they did not share their knowledge.  Only the voice of a small child who was immune from that fear could be heard challenging the “naked Emperor.”

Arrogant leaders do not ask for clarity or help. They lead by fear and presumption because they believe themselves to be the all knowing all seeing “Oz.” Watch the conclusion of the “Wizard of Oz” to see such arrogance in action.  In many cases they will have others around them who are also arrogant so it is truly the blind leading the blind as the old expression goes.

With information increasing at the speed of light, multi-generational workforce, an economy being pushed by incredible crushing debt, contraction of businesses to more and more one person shops, this is not the time for ignorance in leadership.  Effective leaders will reach out to those who can truly help them and not other arrogant leaders who point fingers, make false accusations and offer unsustainable solutions because they believe they can.

P.S. Source Bing Images:  http://www.masqueunit.org

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How Social Media Is About Spraying, Praying and Hoping

Paul McCord wrote an extensive article on the 2.0 World for Sellers. His blog posting is one of the most well constructed articles that illustrate what I call spraying, praying and hoping with reference to social media and marketing in general.

  • Spraying your activities
  • Praying some of those activities actually stick
  • Hoping you will secure some undefined results

Source: www.corporateinsight.com

Social media is marketing and marketing is the Achilles’ Heel for the majority of small businesses whether they have no employees or 500 employees. Paul’s article highlighted all this spraying, praying and hoping by these two facts:

MECLABS surveyed 2,300 marketers and discovered that by the end of 2010 only 6% were generating enough business leads to track ROI.  Only 25% of marketers even have clear objectives and practices for engaging social media. Source: Sergio Balegno, Director of Research for MECLABS

A discussion with Sue Grossbauer of The Grossbauer Group located in Northwest Indiana revealed that her experience confirmed many small businesses lack marketing plans less alone integrated marketing plans that infuse social media into the overall marketing goals.  With no marketing plan, these crazy busy small business owners are fully engaged in the roles of Captain Wing It flying by the seat of their pants. (Thanks to Bill Napolitano for his creation of Captain Wing It and Fly High Airlines story.)

Paul also shared he is not against effective marketing be it Internet or social media. What bothered him as well as myself is the lack of sustainable results (increase sales) and the implication by many that social media is the new “manna from heaven.”  There appears to be a “build it and they will come” overriding common sense mentality being promoted by self serving individuals.

Maybe it is time to come back to the why, how, where and what of marketing.  First, marketing is the first phase within the overall sales process.  The reason for this is no one will make any buying decision until he or she knows about you, your company or your solutions (products or services).

The why or goal of marketing is two fold:

  1. Attract positive attention
  2. Build the relationship

The result is to make a friend and to be asked back for that coveted face to face meeting where you can learn the wants first and needs second of this potential customer and discover if your knowledge and solutions can be of assistance.  In marketing, there is no selling.

Let me repeat that statement:

In marketing there is no selling.

Years ago, one of my coaches, David Herdlinger made this simple statement:

If you are telling, you ain’t selling.

Your marketing message should pull you closer to your pre-determined target market and specifically your ideal customer. This is the how of marketing and when done correctly will lead to the goal to increase sales. Remember this old sales adage:

“No one wants to be sold.”

As to the where of marketing, this refers to your research specific to your target market, your ideal customer, market trends and your competitors and where you are going to direct your marketing message to reach your intended target audience. Both internal and external assessments are needed to ensure alignment and consistency of marketing actions to selling actions to overall organizational actions.

Finally, the what of marketing is all about the results. This sales blog is not as old as Paul’s  since it debuted in February of 2010; however the what of this blog has increased traffic to my website by over 100% and this traffic continues to grow at an average monthly rate of 10%.

If you true wish to Be the Red Jacket in a sea of gray suits, then stop, revisit your current marketing actions from business to business networking to social media.

  • Invest the time to construct a goal driven integrated marketing plan (all marketing should be integrated and aligned to the overall strategic plan, this is truly not a new concept)
  • Measure the results
  • Make the necessary course corrections

Remember if you cannot measure it you cannot manage it, be it people ( talent management), sales or marketing.

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How Emotions Are Unintentionally Fused into the Communication Process

Many Star Trek fans (myself included) enjoyed seeing Leonard Nimoy as Spock the Vulcan who was always so logical even with having a human (earth) mother.  He took communication for face value and did not infuse emotions into that process because that would be “illogical.”

http://www.katrinabos.ca

Human beings are indeed creatures of emotion and no where is that more evident than within the communication process. How many times have we heard this statement or something similar  “I do not like your tone” from someone?

What further complicates effective communication between the sender and the receiver is that not only are we hearing emotions in the words we use, we subscribed specific behaviors to what we have heard. Just as our minds hear words, but see in pictures, those pictures are connected to specific behaviors that can be positive or negative.

To stay unemotional or logical is difficult and does take a great deal of training specific to being proactive instead of reactive.  One beginning step is to know yourself.  Far too many people truly do not know what they do well especially when it comes to their internal talents such as:

  • Self esteem
  • Role awareness
  • Self direction

Sales Training Coaching Tip:  There are many tools to help gain greater clarity. The one that I have found to be most effective to understand personal performance is the Attribute Index as published by Innermetrix.

Another solution especially for group communication dynamics is the use of the DISC profile. This assessment allows individuals to understand the communication styles of those they work with or interact with. Again discussion can focus on the specific behaviors that they unintentionally associate with different styles of communication.

Neuro-linguistic programming or NLP is another communication strategy.  When individuals speak words such as hear, sound, resonates, etc. these words suggest this person is an auditory communicator and processor. To positively maximize the communication process with this person would be to use similar words or to model those words back such as “I heard what you said.”

Another great tool is transactional analysis or TA. This old and proven tool helps to better understand how our behaviors are viewed by others. Again, remember it is our behaviors that others see based upon their own experiences when we communicate.

Within talent management, sales management, sales, executive leadership, customer service, or even self improvement, the ability to effectively communicate is critical to professional and personal success.  By becoming aware of how you communicate and then learning to gain greater clarity specific to how others communicate will help you from unintentionally infusing emotions (usually negative due to negative conditioning) into the communication process.

P.S. Sales Coaching Tip:  A previous posting of how presumptions challenge successful communications may also be of interest.

Graphic courtesy of Bing Images – http://www.katrinabos.ca

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Free Internet Marketing Is A Delusion When You Fail to Measure Results

The explosion of social media and other web based marketing actions suggest that many Internet marketing actions are free meaning no out of pocket expenditures.  This belief is a delusion and can quickly drain the profits without realizing the goal to increase sales.

A posting by Gabriel Shaoolian at the NY Times analyzed a website, Executive Limousine,  that employed a combination of paid Internet marketing through Google Adwords as well as social media.  Her analysis is very much connected to the AIDA marketing model:

  • Attract Attention
  • Incite Interest
  • Develop Desire
  • Activate Action

The key point to remember is unless your marketing message is compelling regardless if it is free then it is costing you because of this one investment – time.  From the 140 character postings on Twitter to the more extensive comments on FacebookLinkedIn, or a blog such as this one, time is being drained away from other revenue producing activities.

Six years ago in April of 2005, I changed my marketing from the traditional sales or product based approach to one that was education based.  Since that time I have written over 2,000 articles that have been posted to three websites:

  1. EzineArticles
  2. Evan Carmichael
  3. Sales Gravy

Within 6 months, I was asked by NBiz Magazine to be a regular contributing author to their quarterly business journal circulated within the Houston and Dallas markets.  Then I reached out to the Post Tribune to offer a weekly business column. From all of these efforts, I was able to secure a book contract with Sales Gravy Press and published Be the Red Jacket in June of 2009.  Also,  I have written for other business journals including the most recent of InSource.  2010. Then in February of 2010,  I entered the word of blogging with this blog.

All of these marketing actions did not require any investment from me other than my “free time.” However what was important to note is I tracked my time and my results.  Currently these efforts yield at least 3 new sales leads per day (yes and some are tire kickers), provide ongoing revenue from intellectual capital (passive income) and convert into 1 to 2 new business coaching or sales coaching clients per month.

In speaking with many small business owners and colleagues, the delusion that Internet marketing is free especially with reference to social media continues because very few are measuring there results.  For example in late summer and early fall of 2010, I started cross posting this blog to Facebook.  Also at that time, I made the decision to make a minimum of 3 postings a day to this social media site.

  1. A quote
  2. A link to this blog
  3. A link to another article not written by me that might add value to those who are my friends

What these actions have yielded is a significant increase in traffic to my website and this increase continues. Currently, January 2011 unique visitors are 20% ahead of December’s and 75% increase over January of 2010.  Now instead of getting one call every couple of weeks, I am getting several calls a week.

Time invested for me varies from 2 hours to 3 hours per day.  The majority of this time is from 5:00 am to 7:30am each day with 30 minutes thrown in here or there.  The goal is to use non-productive time meaning before 7:30am and after 4:30pm for Internet based marketing actions.

Marketing is a constant process that requires to be in alignment with your overall sales process in which you must take action and then measure the results.  After being engaged in education based marketing for the past 6 years with a strong emphasis on the Internet as a primary message delivery vehicle, I can personally attest there is no free in marketing.

Graphics Courtesy of Bing Images

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Presumptions Challenge Successful Communication

How many times do we have presumptions within our communication processes? If someone does not call back, he or she is not being responsive to me, his or her customer? Then as time passes, we may make more presumptions about why I have not heard from him or her.

For example, this past week I had a technology problem respective to my website.  Logic told me it was on the end of the hosting site and nothing to do with my computer or Internet access.  I sent an email and waited 24 hours.

The webmaster responded and we exchanged emails.  Again 24 hours passed and the problem continued. So I sent another email and made a phone call. In both cases I was professional and did not display or communicate any negative emotions given that this problem was now reaching 72 hours. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Having a written value statement helps to demonstrate consistent business ethics.

Finally, the webmaster answered my last email and shared he had been at the hospital with an elderly grandparent.  He apologized and said he would attend to the problem. Within 12 hours, the problem was corrected.

Thanks heavens I refrained from making any presumptions and going off on him through negative verbal and written communications.  Sometimes we forget as we communicate with others, it is not all about us and our needs or wants, but the wants and needs of the other person with whom we are in communications.

Communication is a two way process with both a sender and receiver. What is unique is that these roles continually change between who is sending and who is receiving.

Presumptions happen all the time.  With the current football mania between the Packers and the Bears, many presume that everyone cares about professional sports.  This can be a dangerous presumption.  For me, as much as I believe sports can be beneficial to individual health, investing several hours of my time watching two teams vie for some win is not a constructive use of my time. I would rather be reading, writing or engaged in some other activity.

When we infuse our presumptions within the communication process, this causes potential misunderstandings that can have serious consequences.  Correcting these misunderstandings may take additional time and may leave long term unintended consequences. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Presumptions may break trust which is the first Ma href=”http://processspecialist.com/increasesales/sales/buying-rules-increase-sales”>sales buying rule.

Presumptions are very much like clouds that impede the message from reaching the intended receiver. To ensure clear communications begins with these active listening skills.

  • Clarity to separate the “”knowns from the unknowns
  • Legitimize the real issue
  • Emotions behind or in front of what is being communicated
  • Agreement to find common ground
  • Retention to remember what is actually said

By removing the presumptions we have as individuals is a challenge. However the effort is well worth it if we wish to truly engage in successful communication.

Graphics courtesy of Bing Images

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Common Sense Sustainable Solutions to Increase Sales

Sustainable or sustainability is one word that is not often heard with the frequency of other words or phrases within the sales or selling roles such as how to increase sales, sales skills, selling yourself or getting customers.  One of the problems with this word is the inconsistency in its definition as noted in a posting by Tammy Kohl at Resource Associates Corporation. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Inconsistency dooms any initiative or performance.

Additionally common sense is another almost forgotten word because of the focus on open ended questions, closed ended questions, overcoming stalls and objections, building relationships, etc. There appears to be a presumption that if the salesperson exercises all the right cognitive thoughts and subsequent behaviors then there is no need for common sense.

What I am observing is by ignoring common sense and not focusing on sustainable solutions, the goal to increase sales is not achieved.  What is achieved is the continual draining of profits in attempting to find another sales solution to stop that drain. This solution to correct a repetitive problem (non-sustainable) appears to mainly benefit those offering sales consulting to sales training coaching programs.  Possibly this is why those offering services such as consulting and training shy away from this word?  Just a thought.

One of the best definitions for using common sense is offered by through their Attribute Index performance appraisal tool. This instrument is one of the few that is based on a deductive and objective process which strengths its reliability and validity.

“determined by their focus on practical thinking, their ability to see the word clearly, and their general intelligence as reflected in their scores in empathy practical thinking and organizational ability.”

Common sense is a talent that marries all three decision making styles of thinking (head), feeling (heart) and doing (hand).

The lacking of a shared definition for sustainable should not be surprising given this is also present with other much used words such as leadership, goals, management, customer service, etc. However until a shared and common sense definition is agreed to by all involved, there is a very good chance that the current solution will not solve the problem and a repetitive action (think another solution) will require implementation.

Another way to ensure common sense sustainable solutions to increase sales is to align the solution to the 5 Star Model by Jay Galbraith for organizational development. In some cases, the inability to increase sales is directly connected to other elements within the organization such as strategy, structure, processes, rewards and people.  Solutions not aligned to these elements are what I call “silo” solutions and create even more headaches generating even additional non sustainable behaviors.

Common sense sustainable solutions to increase are possible provided you:

  1. Are not seeking the quick fix that is neither common sense of sustainable
  2. Are committed to looking at your organization from the top down and not just at the sales department
  3. Are willing to seek  and actively listen to outside advice if what you have done in the past is not working

Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Outside advice includes CPA, banker, other colleagues, customers, employees, your executive team, industry experts and may extend to professional services offered by organizational consultants to sales training and development companies.

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