Archive for June, 2011

Are You a Common Product Seller or THE Professional Solution Provider?

Yesterday, I reconnected with Charles (Chuck) Krugal who works in the Labor Law and Human Capital Compliance industry (Human Resources) here in the Chicago area as well as nationally.  We had a great discussion about those businesses that sell products versus those that provide solutions.

One phrase that frequently popped up was “professional solution provider” as a differentiating characteristic. For those businesses that demonstrated professionalism, that integrated their products or services (solutions) within a process and that provided sustainable results outshone all the others.

How many times do we attend a business to business networking event and interact with far more common product sellers than professional solution providers?  Check your email box or voice mail and you have messages from people wanting to sell you. In many cases, they do not even know your name, your business or what you do, but they can make you tons of money. Yep, sure you can. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  I have dubbed this spreading the 3Ps virus where you are exposed to price, product or proposal in the first 5 minutes and some do it in the first 10 seconds.)

Would any professional worth their weight want her or his name associated with this type of marketing?

So, what does it take to be a professional solution provider?  First in echoing the words of Teddy Roosevelt:

No one cares how much you know (think sell) until they know how much you care.

Relationships are the keys to increase sales, to improve customer loyalty and to create a culture of high performance. Maybe this is why the phrase “relationship selling” has become so popular?

Second, developing interpersonal skills especially emotional intelligence and communication are critical because human beings are not mind readers. Those sales people proficient in relationship selling have high EQs and incredible communication skills.

Third, leave your ego at the door as I write in Be the Red Jacket.  Yes you must have a good ego to weather all those Nos you receive, but the focus needs to be on your prospect (potential ideal customer), your client or maybe that potential or existing strategic partner.

Fourth, be willing to turn down a sale or walk away from a deal. Remember, your solution must be sustainable and deliver a positive return on investment. Common product sellers are only worried about their bank accounts and not truly concerned about their customers.

Fifth, admit to when you do not know something.  Again, this goes back to leaving your ego at the door.  When you are engaged in relationship selling, you may not have the answer.  Admit it and let the other person know you will do your best to find the answer.  In some cases, answers are not found.

If you are seeking new strategies in how to increase sales, then reflect upon your own sales style and determine if you are the common product seller who spreads the 3Ps virus or the professional solution provider who understands and engages in relationship selling?

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How Do You Rate Your PITA Customers with a Minus or a Plus?

One of my first executive coaching clients, a second generation business owner of a manufacturing plant, nicknamed me “Coach Pita.” If you are wondering what PITA stands for, let me share part of that with you “Pain in the…” I guess I could use the word arse as the fourth word because it starts with the same letter of “A.”

All organizations from small to larger have PITA customers be them external or internal.  This designation could also be applied to external partners such as vendors or strategic alliances.

Many of us are familiar with those high maintenance paying customers who have to be handled with kid gloves and each interaction is like turning on the water spigot and seeing the profits go right down the sink.  These customers are kept for a variety of reasons such as:

  • To expensive to fire them
  • They have been us for years
  • We need the business

Yet how many of us look to find those PITA customers with the plus sign?  These individuals continually push the organization as well as management and leadership to move to that next level.

To appreciate PITA+ customers requires management and leadership to think differently. This may also require further documentation of all processes along with consistent execution of any policies. One area that dooms PITA+customers is performance appraisal for internal customers.

The quickest way to lose a high performing PITA+ employee is to fail to acknowledge his or her contributions through consistent performance appraisals and to allow PITA- employees set the standard for poor workflow productivity, poor on the job behaviors and ultimately poor results.  The same fears of “we can’t fire him or her” will only drain the productivity efforts of your high performing plus employees.

Conversely when you handle those PITA+ external customers the same way you handle the PITA minus ones can also keep you from your goal to increase sales. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Workflow productivity is a two way street.

To avoid an excess of PITA- paying customers requires having an ideal customer profile and walking away from those “deals” that will end up costing you far more in the end. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Focus.com is having a great discussion on when to walk away from a deal.

Consider reviewing your paying customers and your employees.  Establish some consistent criteria from which to rate them as a plus, minus or neutral. Align some of those criteria to actual cost factors such as employee time for handling PITA- customers. Then take the time to rate them. Determine what customers both external and internal that need to be acknowledge for their efforts of loyalty to those that may require termination.

By taking this action, you probably will not only increase sales, but improve overall productivity and therefore profitability. Remember sometimes to think out of the box requires us to think inside the box.

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Tight Shorts and Sinking Sales

C Suite Executives across the fruited plan continually ask their Sales Managers about their efforts regarding:

  • How to increase sales?
  • Why are we losing customers?
  • What are you doing to secure repeat business?

Yet in many cases, the answers to these questions do not start at mid level in the organization or even at the front lines, but rather right in the C Suite suite itself.

The ability to increase sales is just as much a leadership issue as it is technical sales skills set.  When sales are sinking, in many cases, the truth lies within the small business owner, the sales management team, the CEO or other C Suite executives. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Ever hear of the story the Emperor’s New Clothes?

Credit www.sxc.hu

Of course to suggest these is the real problem and the inability to increase sales is a symptom in many cases generates what my husband coined years ago as “having tight shorts” or an even older expression “having your knickers in a knot.” This suggestion usually creates considerable negative push back because human beings do not like someone else to confront them about their short comings. Yet, these same individuals in these positions of power want those underneath them to change their behaviors.  Hmm sounds like a bit of a gap.

When people believe that others are responsible and will not look at their own behaviors, this is a recipe for disaster. During the last couple of months I have been talking with several other sales training coaching consultants including Dan Waldschmidt and Gary S. Hart. The discussion as to why sales people continually struggle to increase sales returns to a developmental issue instead of a technical one.

The question on the table is not one of “Do they know it?” Of course, 90% of the time, they (the salespersons) know:

  • They must follow-up on on sales leads
  • They must do their research
  • They must know their ideal customer

Instead, the question should be one of:

Do they want to do it?

To answer this question requires examining the beliefs that are embedded in their attitudes.  For to raise the BAR begins with the:

Beliefs that drive the Actions (Behaviors) creating the Results.

Yet very few sales training coaching programs look to identifying less alone changing beliefs because that is too hard and may be too sensitive to handle. Instead many of the sales training coaching programs reflect the Sergeant Friday from the Dragnet Series “Just the facts.” Also, any discussion about integrating leadership issues within the organization or the individual is very rarely addressed.

Beliefs are facts.

Yet they are continually ignore. Just imagine if people had the opportunity to reflect upon their capacities or attributes in such a way to identify their beliefs.

  • Would this help them make better decisions?
  • Would sales people be able to leverage these attributes or talents to increase sales?
  • Would having “just the facts” about their own levels of optimism and pessimism help them interact with their peers and customers?

And imagine what would happen if this realization started at the top and cascaded down throughout the organization?

One of my favorite quotes is from Po9o where he states “I met the enemy and he is us.” In fact I included this quote in my book Be the Red Jacket because it is so true regardless of our role or roles in life, what we what to achieve, who we want to be.

If you are in sales management or at the C Suite or even a sales professional and keep scratching your head about how to increase sales, then the answer is look within.

  • Leave the tight shorts for that other companies or organizations
  • Recognize people buy from people and people buy first on emotion
  • Identify those beliefs you have that propel you forward as well as may hold your back

Remember by changing how you look at things,

the things you look at will change.

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Arrogance The First Step To Not How to Increase Sales

What is the first step to failing in business especially after you have had tremendous success?

Would you believe the old adage and proverb of  “Pride Goeth Before the Fall?”

Jim Collins in his book, How the Mighty Fall and Why Some Companies Never Give In identified “Hubris Born of Success” is indeed the first step.

Hubris is arrogance or pride.  This is where the ego triumphs all other behaviors.  Thoughts ranging from “I’m too successful to fail” to “My way or the highway” or “I know what’s best for my customers” all suggest arrogant pride.

To increase sales does require a good ego because there is a lot of rejection and “Nos” along the path of how to increase sales. Yet this good ego must be tempered with authenticity,  humility as well as a plethora of other traits or qualities.

Arrogant individuals usually lack emotional intelligence because they fail to recognize not only the emotions of others, but their own as well.  Additionally, emotions can drive motivation. Negative emotions may create negative motivation.  In other words, the salesperson becomes his or her worst enemy.

As you look to increase sales or improve the overall productivity of your people be them your sales team or support staff, possibly gauging their own emotional intelligence is a good place to start.

P.S. My new weekly business column is on line and  I also left my book review of Collin’s book at Amazon.

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How to Increase Sales Tips and Snippets – Part 4

The past two weeks, I had the opportunity to attend paid marketing and sales training (sometimes free is not always best) offered by Forward Progress and facilitated by Dean DeLisle.  Now this information must be applied for value to receive.

Many confuse learning with performance.

Learning is the acquisition of knowledge while performance is the application of knowledge.

Today’s how to increase sales tip is simple:

Apply what you learn instead of just accumulating

a lot of knowledge.

Just imagine what would happen if you as that crazy busy salesperson applied one key concept each week toward your marketing or selling actions?  What would happen to your ability to increase sales?

Sales Quotation for Forward Thinking Leaders

Whether you prevail or fail, endure or die, depends on more on what you do to yourself than on what the world does to you.”

Jim Collins

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Marketing Is Not Selling – Friday’s Editorial

Credit www.sxc.hu Ischerer

When will small business owners get that marketing is not selling?  Just because you have a list on LikedIn, hundreds or thousands of followers on Twitter, a group of friends on Facebook or even a business page on Facebook does not mean you should continually send them updates about attend this seminar for this special price or buy this item because you want to increase sales.

What happened to common sense?

Do you like to be bombarded with buy this or buy that?

Do you watch the commercials on TV or switch to another station?

The purpose of marketing is simple and essentially two-fold:

  • Attract Attention

  • Build a Relationship

Did you see the verb “sell?”  Of course not!

Yesterday I received from Facebook, a survey regarding a class I did not take because the individual just broadcast her survey to everyone regardless if they had taken her class or not.  Then less than an hour later, I received another update about taking some special online courses. Obviously, this individual wants to increase sales, (who doesn’t?”) but she is ticking off more people that she realizes and they are sharing their ticked off thoughts with others.

How stupid!

And speaking of stupidity, over at LinkedIn, I cannot count the number of times people have place their selling activities such as attend this seminar (even if it is free) in the Discussion Group. One would think that these professional individuals would know the difference between a discussion and self promotion? Obviously, there is no fix for stupid!

On this blog, I probably make a direct request to buy something once every six to 10 posts. These requests are usually in the form of a P.S. and are needs driven such as “Do you have a simple action plan?” or “Would you like to consistently set and achieve more goals?”  And sometimes I do link key words to pages on my website where there are electronic items for sale or to Amazon for my book Be the Red Jacket.  In the past, I have used social media to advertise an event, but I believe this has been done judiciously and respecting of my target audience.

People buy from people they know and trust (sales buying rule #1).  Repeating, the purpose of marketing is about getting people to know and trust you while at the same time beginning to place lids on the sales objections buckets of You and Your Company.

Yes we all want to increase sales, myself included.  However, the purpose of marketing in the first phase of the sales process is where you attract attention and begin to build the relationship. This is why marketing is not selling. When you confuse the two, you may end up with  eggs or better yet fruit on your face.

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Create Captivating, Compelling and Consistent Marketing Messages to Increase Sales

Having engaged in education based marketing through article marketing for the last six years, I truly “get it” when it comes to creating messages that attract more inbound visitors (think prospects or better yet potential ideal customers).  What I have learned is these 3 characteristics or elements are required to achieve more Internet traffic (inbound traffic) and therefore to increase sales if you are engaged in Internet marketing including social media.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Unless you live on the Planet Pluto, you are engaged in Internet marketing whether you admit to it or not.

#1 – Captivating

The purpose of marketing is to attract attention. Your marketing message especially the headline and first few sentences must captivate your audience. Also, having a strong ending sentence also helps.  This is why knowing your ideal customer profile as well as what keywords are being used by your prospects is critical to gaining more Internet traffic.

#2 – Compelling

Ford Motors has said “Quality is Job 1.” The content you place on your blog, in your articles and even your press releases must be compelling and this usually means of exceptional quality. Writing about what everyone else writes about just to put an article up or a blog posting hurts you far more than helps you. Compelling marketing messages establish your uniqueness and further niche you with your potential target market. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Sometimes you may need to push the envelope when writing.

#3 – Consistent

How often you post is important, but consistency is even more critical.  Writing one article per week or one blog posting every week is far better than writing two postings one week, none the next, one the next, three the next, none the next. You get the picture. The research appears to back this up. Hubspot recently released this information:

“we found that businesses that blogged at least 20 times per month generated 5 times more traffic than those who blogged less than 4 times per month. In addition, those who blogged at least 20 times per month saw nearly 4 times more leads than those who didn’t blog at all. Enough said.”

To increase sales is the result of an integrated marketing plan that unites an education based marketing approach with Internet marketing and traditional marketing.  Your attraction message regardless of the vehicle, must be captivating, compelling and consistent. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  To do otherwise is to waste your limited resources of time, energy, money and emotions.

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How to Increase Sales Tip – Remember Your Business Cards

During a discussion with the South Shore Business Networking Group, I asked this question:

What is one thing you can do during the summer months to increase sales and improve your business results?

One member immediately shared her recent experience while attending a social event at the Indiana State Dunes park.  She had her phone, driver’s license, keys and cash. Everything else was left in her purse at home. Given this was a social event with old high school buddies, she did not think to bring her business cards.  However, many of her old high school friends asked what she was doing and she then realized her business cards were in her purse sitting on the kitchen counter.

How many times have you attended a business networking event and meet someone who has no business cards?  Then there are those folks who cross off old phone numbers or email addresses on their business cards and scribble usually not legibly the new information.

Being without a business card is like eating soup with your fingers.

How to increase sales is difficult, but not having business cards (please note this word is plural) on you whether it is a business networking event or even a social event is like broadcasting you are not:

  • Professional
  • Concerned about meeting other individuals
  • Focused on growing your business

Remember this how to increase sales tip by:

  • Placing them in your car
  • Putting them into your jacket pockets
  • Having them in your purse or wallet
  • Keeping them on your desk (to stuff into envelopes)
  • Placing them into your briefcase, portfolio, etc.

Business cards are your first impression besides your overall physical appearance, your smile and your handshake.

Make that first impression memorable not forgettable!

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Wrong People in Wrong Seats for Wrong Results = No Increase in Sales

People make businesses buzz.  Now that buzz could be fast, whirlwind where everything is moving quickly and consistently like the second hand on a clock. Or that buzz could be more like the minute hand a little slower, but still moving. And finally, that buzz could be painfully slow in comparison much like the hour hand.

The results of a new survey by Mercer entitled “What’s working” is very analogous to the three hands of a clock.  This survey reveals that half of the employees just don’t care about their jobs or looking to leave (disengaged). The affect on productivity is incalculable and the drain on profitability continues along with other spiraling costs such as fuel, compliance, health insurance, etc. This survey is in alignment with the Gallup Engagement Survey, the Conference Board and others.

In the book, Good to Great, Jim Collins writes about having the right people in the right seats. Now with human capital becoming even more expensive, these first two Rs will not be enough for companies that truly want to be great in today’s global economy.

When the wrong people (employees – #1) are in the wrong seats (job positions – #2) the wrong results (#7) are the outcomes. What happens is the wrong talents (#3) are being applied because the wrong decisions ()#4) are being made in the wrong time frame (#5).  This usually happens in the wrong environment (#6).

The impact of these 7 wrongs can be heard from this question: How to increase sales?  For sales is more often not a symptom of much greater and serious problems that the real problem itself.

How can any business increase sales when the sales team is unhappy whether justified or not?

How can any business increase sales when the support team from the person who answers the telephone to the person who loads the truck are looking for another job?

How can any business increase sales when one in two employees is going backward and not forward?

What is interesting is this data is in conflict with other data that the American management is the best in the world. According to this survey, 71% of the employees believe the organization is not well managed. Yet, research conducted by Harvard Business School, McKinsey and others of 10,000 firms in 20 countries suggest that Americans rule when it comes to best management practices.

However if the employee is the wrong person for the wrong seat then he or she might believe the problem is the company’s management practices and not the individual. What I can testify is that 95% of people do not know their talents and this lack of knowledge has a negative impact on their abilities or capacities to secure the right results.

How can a person be totally engaged when they are misapplying their talents?

Maybe this is why performance appraisal tools such as the Attribute Index can truly help reverse this situation. Additionally, job descriptions probably need to be rewritten to reflect the actual tasks being performed along with the necessary Skills, Knowledge, Attitudes and Talents.  Finally, sales training coaching or other type of professional development probably needs to be restructured from a perspective of applied knowledge and the use of emotional intelligence if the goal of how to increase sales is to be realized.  For people buy from people and work with other people.

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Build Your Personal Professional Development with These Great Books

For the last four years in my weekly online business column I have recommended 12 books (one for each month). Today’s column reflects personal professional development reading for the next 12 months. I was asked about my past recommendations. So here they are, year by year.

2008

  1. Think and Grow Rich
  2. The Ultimate Question
  3. Book Yourself Solid
  4. Fail-Safe Leadership
  5. What Your Customer Wants You to Know
  6. The QBQ
  7. The One Minute Manager Meets the Monkey
  8. Mobolizing Minds
  9. Blue Ocean Strategy
  10. The Four Agreements
  11. Power vs. Force
  12. Inspiration Your Ultimate Calling

2009

  1. Questions That Sell
  2. Never Eat Alone
  3. Be the Red jacket in the Sea of Gray Suits (yes a little self promotion and if you read the reviews at Amazon it is a good book)
  4. Power Principles
  5. Time Master
  6. Successful Selling with NLP
  7. The Power of Who9
  8. Buy-ology
  9. Get Out of Your Own Way
  10. The On-Purpose Person
  11. The On-Purpose Business
  12. The Elements of Persuasion

2010

  1. Snap Selling
  2. Selling to Big Companies
  3. Corporate Canaries
  4. Why Choose This Book?
  5. You Don’t Need a Title to Be a Leaders
  6. Buy House from Dead People
  7. TNT – The Power Within You
  8. The Wizard of Ads
  9. Good to Great
  10. Leadership and Self Deception
  11. Lynchpin
  12. Outliers

There are truly so many great books.  If you can retrieve one bit of information and apply it to your life or to your business, then gaining that knowledge by investing those hours in learning is one investment that you will reap the rewards for years to come.

“Once you learn to read, you will be forever free.”

Frederick Douglass

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