Archive for April, 2012

Business Surprise and You

Some may advocate that the last thing you want is a business surprise. However, such an event may provide an opportunity to rethink what you have been doing or even embrace some new business language.  This was my recent business surprise when I read the book Do You Mean Business? Technical/Non-Technical Collaboration, Business Development and You bu Babette N. Ten Haken.

As someone who is asked to review business books on a regular basis, I look for those few twists on older ideas not to mention entirely different ways at looking at the same small business or sales landscape.  This book did provide those and offered even a few more business surprises.

Possibly my first business surprise started with the general overview of this book. I was prepared to receive another sales book, but much to my surprise Babette looked at sales as only a small part of what it means do you mean business. Her book was more like a text book, far easier to read than most, that had been intertwined into a process for understanding small business development. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Remember the majority of organizations in the US, are small businesses with under 100 employees.

She identified several new concepts, at least new to me.  The first one was her discussion about communication and the need for one page thinking.  Here she challenged our own status quo and how we have been conditioned to communicate more and thus need to streamline much of that communication.

Another key business and sales insight was this statement:

“Communication is the hallmark of humanity”

When we understand that listening is part of the communication process, we are demonstrating that we indeed are caring human beings.  Far too many small business and sales people appear to be in presentation mode 24/7 and fail to engage in active listening. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Active listening is directly connected to emotional intelligence.

In the discussion of value, a hot topic in today’s business world, Babette believes business development is part of everyone’s job description and contributes to the overall value of the company to the solution.

Another business surprise was this statement:

“Your professional currency is the worth of your value proposition.”

This statement was further explained by:

“Your professional currency as a salesperson is your self discipline towards continuous improvement of your profession.”

These two statements along provide incredible food for thought and lead to continue reflection about one’s true capabilities or talents.

The book also looked at business plans and strategic plans and their importance. Even though we disagree about the definition of each of these terms, she does provide great information missing in many who speak to business planning.

Finally, one overriding business surprise was Babette’s belief we are all engineers.  As someone who believes everyone was in sales, this concept was very easy for me to embrace because she returned to the root of the word engineer.

If you want a 30,000 viewpoint on business development along with some down to earth what do I need to do tactics, then I recommend this book even if you are not an engineer by training.

P.S. Babette was a past guest columnist when she discussed the talking head syndrome.

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How to Increase Sales Tips & Snippets – Work Life Balance

If your goal as a small business business person to sales professional is how to increase sales, then consider this phrase work life balance.  By understanding the concept of work life balance and then writing down WAY Smart goals to achieve that desired state, will result in your achieving not only your goal to increase sales, but a far better life.

Being crazy busy, we as small business owners to sales people have a tendency to develop a myopic view of our world and probably the universe. Engaging in what we need to do to increase sales from the marketing to the actually selling and back to the marketing can be all consuming. This consumption of busyness may keep us from seeing the bigger picture and in the process only add to our already high stress levels.

There is an old proverb that states:

Take time to smell the roses.

This is probably one of the more simple ways to determine in you have work life balance.

If you are too busy to stop an appreciate a flower, to share smile with a stranger, to sit down and reflect upon the day’s events, then this may be a good indication that you lack balance in your life.

Reflection is a necessary part of balance because this action helps you to determine where you need to right the unbalance in your life especially if you are not operating on all 8 or 12 cylinders.

There is a lot of pooh-huh about work life balance.

Yet if you are not physically well, how can you be on your best mental game when negotiating that critical sale or deal?

If you have family issues pulling you down, how can you be social and truly engaged with others as you work to build a relationship with that important decision maker?

When money is a major concern, how can you focus on your career or your professional path?

Finally, if your purpose is unknown or cloudy, how can you be truth to your ethics, your beliefs or your spirituality?

Maybe as we become older, we can realize and understand the greater value in having work life balance in one’s existence.

Is work life balance easy? No because it does require making decisions that sometimes may be difficult.

However, if we remain true to ourselves, provided we have clarity about ourselves and a commitment to our core ethics and beliefs, staying in balance is a somewhat simpler.

How to increase sales does require work life  balance.  When this state happens and you can keep it fairly consistent, you will increase sales and better yet be a far happier small business owner or sales professional.

P.S. Having a one page goal driven personal  action plan may also be of benefit.

Sales Cartoon

Credit funnysalescartoons.com

 

Sales Quote

“Success is a pathway with bumps traveled by persistence individuals who have clarity as to what they want.”

Leanne Hoagland-Smith

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The Sales 2.0 Scam

Sales 2.0 is a scam!

There I said it and quite glad I did!

And  I will probably be drowned by a sea of mental thoughts who believe just the opposite. Some may actually leave this posting right now thinking this writer does not know what she is speaking about. While others may leave short to rather extensive comments that I will approve provided they are written with respect.  It is okay to agree to disagree.

In today’s business world, there is a tendency to attach numbers to indicate the next level of something such as Internet 1.0 to Internet 2.0 or Version 223.322 of web browser whatever.

Using numbers to indicate that an update has taken place is a good thing.  However respective to Sales 2.0, there is an implication that the sales process has changed, that selling is now different than ever before. And nothing could be further from the truth.

In actuality, sales is still remains the “transference of feelings” (Zig Ziglar). What a great and simple definition, thanks Zig.

How you as a salesperson engage the feelings of people (your potential customers, centers of influence or strategic partners) may change such as through social media, email marketing or electronic billboards. Yet, the essence of that engagement is still the same regardless of the marketing channel being employed. Actuality, I probably have less of a problem with Marketing 2.0 than Sales 2.0 if push came to shove.

What technology has done is to change the landscape (think bazaar), but not the sales process. You, especially the small business owners,  still must attract attention and build the relationship be it from your marketing message to how you interact with your prospects or potential customers.

From there, if appropriate, you can enter the selling phase of the sales process. Upon completion, marketing takes over to keep in touch with that customer so that ongoing customer loyalty can be further nurtured and developed.

Marketing + Selling + Marketing = Sales Process

The market place bazaar has expanded from a couple of streets in a small town  to millions of miles that circle the thousands of cities. This small business expansion contrary to social media experts, sales trainers, sales coaches and organizational consultants has not changed the basics of selling or rather the sales process.

A person has a want or a need and is willing to exchange his or her assets (usually money but may extend to bartering) for someone to solve that want or need.

Pretty simple  and why Sales 2.0 is a scam because the implication is that social technology has altered the sales process.

When was social never part of the sales process?

Maybe by placing a number after sales, it can provide some differentiation and in the process sell some more sales training coaching, social marketing updates or sales books. Boy does that sound somewhat jaded.

What I know to be true is the sales process is the same today as it was 10,000 plus years ago. Sure the tools have changed to attract attention and maybe the process to build the relationship is more complex because more people are involved, but the basics are still there and will always be there until human beings can magically convert atomic particles into what they currently want or need.

Human beings are social creatures and sales is probably the epitome of a social relationship outside of a personal relationship.

So before you jump on the Sales 2.0 bandwagon and have your hard earned small business profits scammed by some social media consultant or worse yet some Sales 2.0 consultant, you may wish to secure greater clarity around your own sales process.

Finally, a Sales 2.0 solution will not improve a dysfunctional organization and most sales problems are truly symptoms of much deeper organizational challenges.

P.S. After being in sales industry for over 40 plus years, I understand  human beings still have a tendency to make something natural unnatural in their quest to line their own pocketbooks.

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Sales Leadership Is for the Lion Hearted

Is your sales leadership team one of being “Lion Hearted Full” or “Lion Hearted Empty?”

Credit www.sxc.hu

What I mean is do you and your sales people demonstrate both of these two words:

  • Lion?
  • Heart?

Many salespersons in business today are quite lion like in their behaviors. Their sales leadership style is to focus on the prey or sales leads and then stalk them using contemporary tools including social media, customer relationship management (CRM) and effective sales skills.

However what appears to be lost in this hunting and earning the sale feast is heart or what Dan Waldschmidt once said is “we don’t have a sales problem, we have a caring problem.”

Where is the heart in this sales process becomes a primary question?

Heart represents our emotions, our ability to relate to others, our emotional intelligence. And yet so little focus is on this concept of heart unless there is some quid pro quo involved.

For example, building relationships is fine as long as I “close the deal” seems to be far more prevalent than just relating to people first and thinking about them as potential sales leads second or even third. Maybe this is why so many sales professionals abandon sales leads after the third contact even though sales research suggests 90% of all sales are earned between the fourth and twelfth contacts.

Building relationships by staying in touch, making those follow up phone calls or contacts does take the courage and determination of a lion hunting for his or even her survival. Abandoning the hunt by looking for another likely target is probably easier and does focus more on technical or sales skills than caring ones or those associated with emotional intelligence.

Additionally sales leadership benefits from  having a lion behavior where there is balance between what is called an economic driver versus an altruistic driver.  Being 100% full of heart suggests a salesperson who loves to meet and greet potential sales leads, but never follows through with the rest of the sales process culminating in the goal to increase sales.

Sales leadership in this ever changing “Serengeti Plain” (the business marketplace) is for the “Lion Hearted.” Having a good balance between the lion inside of you along with your heart will provide you the internal fortitude to keep moving forward toward your goal to increase sales.

 

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Where Have All the Good Workers Gone?

Credit www.sxc.hu

Yesterday in speaking with a client and listening to his workforce challenges, the old folk song of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone”  suddenly popped into my brain and I discovered myself replacing men with “good workers.” The quest to find good workers, but retain them will be one of the most significant business productivity challenges organizations will face in the next 10 years.

During our discussion, my client asked me this question:

“If you knew tomorrow you had to be somewhere at 9am because it was one of the most important days of your life, if not the most important one, what would you do to make sure you were there?”

Beyond having everything ready the night before, I would set at least two alarm clocks (one electric and one non-electric in case of losing electricity during the night) and I probably would set the alarm on my charged phone as a backup. I know that I would not rely on my own internal alarm clock even though it is fairly accurate.

His response was “exactly.” Yet today, some of his employees do not understand the necessity for being to work on time , for honoring commitments, for going beyond the basics of the job description. Of course, his business productivity challenge reflects what the Gallop Poll continues to reveal specific to good workers:

  • One employee out of 4 is actively engaged giving 8 hours of work for 8 hours of pay or the old 8 for 8
  • Two employees out of 4 are engaged giving 6 hours of work for 8 hours of pay
  • One employee is actively disengaged in giving less than 6 hours of work for 8 hours of pay

In the book Drive by Daniel Pink, he discussed self direction and how this innate capacity is at the heart of what he identified as Motivation 3.0 and Type I behavior.

In years gone by, people (think good workers) directed their behaviors to those activities that would gain them the greatest reward based upon their goals.  Immigrants would learn English on their own without government programs. Farmers learned how to repair farm equipment even if they started with wagons and then went to tractors. These individuals were motivated to improve their own results for internal or intrinsic reasons.

Unfortunately where before in the past generations this type of behavior (self directed) was far more prevalent, today it is in short supply. Businesses are losing billions of dollars every year. With the retirement of so many baby boomers, more and more small business owners to C Suite executives are going to be scrambling to find good workers or engaged workers with self directed attitudes of learning and self directed behaviors of doing.

Small businesses will be almost forced to enact intensive pre-employment screening programs to ensure they have found the right people for the right seats using the right talents to make the right decisions for the right results in the right time frame and within the right environment. These 7 Rs will guide more and more hiring decisions. Hiring good workers will become one of the most critical investments any small business will make. Performance appraisals will no longer be a hap hazard behavior marred by inconsistencies, but will eventually move to a quarterly basis to ensure and reinforce employee engagement and productivity.

Human capital will become more  and more expensive for as the supply of good workers declines the price for the remaining productive employees will increase.

Good workers can be found. Some average workers can be developed into highly engaged workers. Maybe now is the time to consider putting an action plan in place to ensure you will not be singing this same tune of “where have all the good workers gone?” in one, two or five years from now.

P.S. Did you know the song “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” was inspired by Cossacks folk song called “Tovchu, tovchu mak?” Here are the lyrics as written by Bob Seeger.

Where have all the flowers gone? Long time passing

Where have all the flowers gone? Long time ago

Where have all the flowers gone? Girls have picked them every one

When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young girls gone? Long time passing

Where have all the young girls gone? Long time ago

Where have all the young girls gone? Taken husbands every one

When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

Where have all the young men gone? Long time passing

Where have all the young men gone? Long time ago

Where have all the young men gone? Gone for soldiers every one

When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

Where have all the soldiers gone? Long time passing

Where have all the soldiers gone? Long time ago

Where have all the soldiers gone? Gone to graveyards every one

When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn?

Where have all the graveyards gone? Long time passing

Where have all the graveyards gone? Long time ago

Where have all the graveyards gone? Covered with flowers every one

When will we ever learn? When will we ever learn?

©1961 (Renewed) Fall River Music Inc

 

 

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Sales Leadership – The Talent of Self Discipline

A recent posting by a colleague, S. Anthony Iannarino, discussed the talent of self discipline respective to sales leadership. His article touched on some of the specific qualities required for those who leverage this talent of self discipline.

From a 30,000 foot perspective, I would like to broaden this discussion to liken this talent to a sense of duty to oneself. When individuals exercise this strength of self discipline, they are consistent and true in all interactions with themselves.  Being true to one’s ideals (think ethics and beliefs) is almost a compulsive type behavior or what one of my clients referred to being “in congruency” between his beliefs and actions. In simpler words, there are no excuses for not taking this or that action.

According to the Innermetrix performance appraisal, this talent can be measured. Individuals with a good score will have:

“inner strength, which enables them to whether even difficult situations.  Since this strength is internal, as opposed to coming from an external force such as society or a supervisor, it will provide a sense of strength which the person will be able to use to bolster their belief in a chosen direction or course of action.”

Conversely, those with a low or poor score “does not tend to focus an internal belief structure, and the lack of such an innate guide can result in a tendency to lack commitment to a chosen path or course of action.  In difficult situations such a person may begin to question their own actions, or be easily swayed off course.” (Source Innermetrix)

Another reason for understanding this talent is because in sales you must know yourself first and define yourself.  It is very easy to become defined by others and this can go to embracing this latest sales training coaching program that will increase sales or do some other magical stuff. When individuals, especially those in sales, fail to stay true to what they know to be true disaster awaits. Disaster happens because a focus is on others, on excuses and not owning one’s own behaviors and ultimately one’s results.

Probably more than even in the 20th century due to all the distractions from the economy to social media to technology, self discipline is critical to the ability to increase sales and overall sales success. If you are unsure of this talent within your own sales leadership or the sales leadership of your team, consider having this talent assessed as a benchmark for future growth and development.

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Symptom Fatigue and Small Business Leadership

Symptom fatigue more often than not infects the mindset of small business leadership.  These crazy busy small business owners to management and sales executives because of what they believe seek solutions to the symptoms or shadows of the real problems.

Credit www.sxc.hu

The inability to increase sales is one example of symptom fatigue.  Sales have been flat for a couple of years and so a solution is sought to turn the sales around. Possibly a small business coach or sales coach is hired.  And in the short term sales possibly increase, but in the long term the inability to increase sales returns.

What does not happen is to identify the real problem causing this symptom.  From my experience, lackluster sales represents a misalignment between strategy, structure, processes, rewards and people. This symptom, poor productivity within the sales department, is truly a small business leadership problem.

The small business owner to the C Suite executive must be actively engaged in any solution to increase sales.  This usually means to returning to the strategic plan and determining where the gaps exist.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  No goal driven strategic plan always is the first indicator of a small business leadership problem.

Another prevalent example of symptom fatigue is employees not being productive. The belief is the employees are:

  • Lazy
  • Skill deficit
  • Not committed to the organization

When in all actuality, they may be:

  • Working under job descriptions that expired several to 10 years ago
  • Managing because of technical expertise (why they were promoted) not people expertise
  • Unsure as to where the business is going because they are receiving mixed messages from the leadership

Millions of dollars every year are spent on symptom fatigue.

Why?

Small business owners to sales management teams want the quick fix.  Blaming the sales people or other employees  is far easier than looking in the mirror by small business leadership.

Addressing the core, the real problem or problems and not just the symptom or symptoms does require an investment of time. And time is something those in small business leadership roles do not have or believe they do not have. So symptom fatigue takes over resulting in repetitive, unsustainable and I might add very expensive solutions.

One of my coaches once said:

“If you do not have the time to do it right,

when will you have the time to do it over?

Time is indeed a precious resource as once it is gone it can never be recovered.

Yet for those in small business leadership who truly want sustainable results must address this issue of symptom fatigue and stop seeking the quick fix or be fearful of looking into the mirror.  As I have said several times these past few months and many other times over the last 10 years:

“You do not have a sales problem,

you have a leadership problem.”

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What Is Missing in Social Equity

Simply speaking, social equity is a term to define the impact of social media actions (think return on investment) for an organization.  This impact is directly connected to the relevance of the postings through various metrics. However, there is something else than is being missed by some small business owners to C Suite executives and that is engagement as well as value as perceived by your ideal customer.

Credit www.sxc.hu

Engagement goes beyond the sweat equity of writing, posting, tweeting, liking or plusing. It links the human factor, the people factor to all social marketing efforts. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  The application of emotional intelligence is critical within all social media engagements.

People buy on value unique to them and this begins within your social media channels. If their value is to find relevant information, that is great. Sometimes their value is just simple thoughts that take only a moment to read because their time is limited. Maybe that is why Twitter is so popular because the thoughts are condensed to under 140 characters or why quotes and photographs are equally popular.

All of this returns to the purpose of marketing that being to attract attention and begin to build relationships. When individuals fail to be engaged in the various social media channels, their social equity is decreasing even if their content is good regardless of the social media channel.

For example, if you are on LinkedIn look through any discussion group. There are individuals who post numerous times and no one will comment.  These individuals continue to post believing they are doing the right thing. However if no one engages them in discussions, then they are losing social equity not to mention probably a lot of trust. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Do not confuse sharing content with spamming people with your blogs or your thoughts.

Using social media as part of your integrated marketing plan is truly a “no-brainer.” With potential sales leads searching through LinkedIn to YouTube, not having a specific social media marketing plan will fail to provide your business with that “extra oomph”  (think sales leads, strategic partners or centers of influence) to give you that additional competitive advantage.  However if you believe and therein lies the key, that social media is your podium, your soapbox and is a one way marketing channel then you are indeed clueless and will soon be even more pocket poor.

Just as in any other type of equity, social equity does take time to grow, to evolve.  The results of this investment do not happen overnight.  Sweat equity is involved because you are truly engaged in relationship marketing. The goal here is to make friends and to have those friends either call you, send you an email or walk into your store if you have a store.

Small businesses will continue to hear more about social equity and probably in the future it will become as important as other business equities. Just remember social media is a two way street and engaging people (your potential target audience) is critical to building social equity otherwise your social real estate be it LinkedIn, Twitter, Google+, Facebook or YouTube will become expensive vacant buildings.

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How to Increase Sales Myth Work Smarter Not Harder

There are a lot of how to increase sales myths with “work smarter not harder” as probably one of the most common.  Attend many of the sales training coaching seminars to workshops or even some some of the sales management software tools (customer relationship management CRM) and eventually you will hear all about you, as the individual contributor, need to “work smarter not harder” if you want to increase sales.

Credit www.sxc.hu

What a bunch of hooey!

No one gets anyplace in life without working hard!

To suggest that it is all about brains, strategies, positive thoughts or attraction is just a scam to sell more butts in the seats for sales training workshops or seminars, more sales books, software programs or more executive or small business coaching engagements. Sales Training Coaching Tip: Work smarter not harder translates into the quick fix mentality.

Action is needed.

Yes that action does require some thought. This thought is a strategic plan that unites predetermined business goals including marketing goals, selling goals, management and leadership goals, customer goals, innovation goals and financial goals.

However research continues to tell the business community that most strategic plans fails because of this one word:

Execution

Translation for failed execution  is not working hard enough to achieve those predetermined smart goals.

Successful execution is all about hard work. 

  • Doing what needs to be done within the right time frame
  • Excuses of  “it can wait until tomorrow” just don’t cut it

Successful people in life work hard.

They pay their dues through their hard work including long hours with little pay. Many entrepreneurs thrive on facing those mountains of hard work each day and then look forward to that next day of even more hard work.Yet many others due to education from kindergarten to college and culture believe having to work hard should not be part of the success in business, success in sales or success in life equation.

How many times have we heard “everyone deserve a trophy?” Translation everyone did not work hard to earn the trophy but we need to make them feel good, to feel smarter.  What a disservice to those young people and to our business world!

Other sales research supports how many have bought into this how to increase sales myth of work smarter not harder.

For example, up to 50% of all sales leads are not acted upon. Is this an issue of work smarter or an issue of not working hard?

Twenty percent of the sales force is responsible for 80% of the sales results. Again, sounds like 20% are working hard and 80% are not working hard enough.

Brains must be accompanied by brawn.

This brawn may not require lifting hundreds of pounds, but does require making those phone calls, taking care of all aspects of the business operations including the sales process.

If you as a salesperson to C Suite executive have bought into this “how to increase sales myth” of work smarter not harder, maybe it is time to recognize this sales myth exactly for what it is an obstacle to your business and sales success.

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Poor Business Processes Reinforce Pocket Poor

Business processes ranges from the sales process to the marketing process to even payment process for small business owners to Fortune 100 organizations. When these business processes are not clearly delineated, written down, they drain profits away from the bottom line and create pocket poor results.

Credit www.sxc.hu

The origins of the word process come from the Latin word “procedere.” This word is comprised of “pro” meaning forward and “cedere” meaning to go.  Translating this into today’s world means:

How are your operations going forward?

There are many ways to improve business processes through formal solutions such as Six Sigma or ISO or even Baldrige.  All of these actions begin with this one simple fact:

Reduce variations

A variation is anything that does not produce the desired results.  By reducing variations (think inconsistencies), quality improves and therefore results improve. The additional benefits are a reduction in resources thus also contributing to improved bottom line.

Years ago I attended a class on Six Sigma and saved the following information to put the impact of variations or inconsistencies that result in mistakes into a proper perspective .

4 Sigma (four tenths of a variation or error rate)

  • 20,000 lost articles of mail every hour
  • 5,000 incorrect surgical procedures each month for a major hospital
  • 2 long or short airport landings every day

Variations or deviations from the desired path are expensive.

Since the majority of small businesses in the United States have under 20 employees, many of these folks have been so busy working IN the business they have failed to work ON the business.  Documenting the many business processes including performance appraisal, invoicing, collecting, marketing, sales, etc. is rarely addressed. Then mistakes or variations happen with a promise “I will get to that when I have time.”

Recently I have been following my own advice and committing my business  processes to writing. This is especially important when when begins to look at how to improve profitability outside of just securing the goal to increase sales.

What I have learned is my support time (unbilled time) to my clients adds another 50% additional time.  This support time includes providing a written executive summary of each executive coaching or small business coaching session, writing the invoice, updating the payment, sending emails, taking emergencies calls, etc.  This was a direct results of revising my coaching process including documenting all time. In the past I was not as consistent as I should have been.

Some of this activities are considered “part of doing business.” However, unless one knows the total time being taken by all of these activities beyond the key service solution as in my case executive coaching, organizational development consulting or small business coaching, one may be not be charging enough or one may need to rethink some of these activities. Additionally, if small business owners are thinking about selling their businesses, this type of documentation supports providing a “turn key” business where the new small business owners are able to quickly take the helm and start securing the results.

If you truly want to increase sales, improve profitability, then begin to start committing each of your business processes to writing and then follow those written procedures or guidelines. As you undertake this effort, if you find ways to improve the delivery of your solutions and your overall operations make those course corrections.

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