Archive for May, 2012

Are You Willing to Pay The Dues to Increase Sales?

The concept of pay the dues for many younger sales people or even small business owners is viewed negatively. However established entrepreneurs, small business owners, experienced sales professionals and even C Suite level executives sometimes balk at this business behavior. After all they believe they have paid their dues.

Credit www.sxc.hu

In today’s crazy busy world, this concept or better yet capacity to be willing to pay the dues actually never ends.  During a conversation with Dan Waldschmidt, he remarked about the number of phone calls he receives and people wanting help, but they either:

  • Do not want to pay for it
  • Do not want to do what needs to be done

In other words, they do not want to pay the dues.

This capacity of pay the dues is truly ongoing.  For example, established small businesses now must pay the dues when it comes to learning social media or inbound marketing even though they may be well experienced in gathering sales leads from traditional or outbound marketing.  Successful executives who have been downsized once again must pay the dues within the employment arena and hiring process.

Very little in this life be it business, personal or professional is given without having experienced “pay the dues.” 

There is probably a direct correlation between those willing to pay the dues and their capacity for failure as well as other sales leadership talents of:

So the question remains:

Are you willing to pay the dues to increase sales?

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Pay The Dues Required to Increase Sales

With the influx of many younger entrepreneurs who like their older and established counterparts are seeking ways to increase sales, one of the obstacles standing in the way of this business goal is:

Pay the Dues

I was reminded of this during a conversation with another sage entrepreneur and small business owner, Miles Austin. We were discussing some of the blogs being published by younger small business owners and how their content is fresh and worth reading to gain another perspective. Yet, we both still wanted to see some experience behind these enterprising individuals.

For the most part, successful people have all paid the dues.  Very few people in today’s world have achieved business success including the ongoing goal to increase sales without a lot of hard work.

Looking at well known names such as Oprah Winfrey, Jack Welch, Jon M. Hunstman, just to name a few, all paid their dues to arrive at their current positions of success and recognition.

The pay the dues challenge does require a significant investment of time. For younger entrepreneurs who have bills to paid finding the time becomes a formidable obstacle.  Since business in today’s global market place is truly 70% marketing and 30% selling to delivering the solutions, working the business part time while holding down a full time job potentially fails to deliver the desired results.

Having been hired to deliver some training to younger corporate managers within the construction industry who had been falsely lead to believe by their academic professors that they would be Vice Presidents or C-Suite executives in two to three years, I experienced their very real disbelief about this pay the dues criterion.  Several shared the all too familiar statement “It’s not fair.”  Then I also heard “We know more about technology, current products and construction methodologies than our managers.” In all honesty, they probably had more current technical knowledge than their supervisors. Yet, they all lacked this one necessary management and sales leadership skill set:

People Skills

Much is talked about the impact of people skills and yet very little development and sales leadership training is devoted to the enhancement of these necessary business, life and sales skills. Somewhere along the way, my sense is those in academia and business believe people skills are learned through what I call “Osmosis Learning.”  Stand close to someone with excellent people skills not to mention sales leadership and “Wa La” they have magically been transferred to you.

One only has to look to the LinkedIn Profiles of many college students and especially recent college grads. The emphasis is all on technical expertise (think resumes) and incorporating the people aspect within this necessary employment tool is usually very much absent.

With the research from various organizations suggesting that leadership and people skills including emotional intelligence are more important than job specific skills, no wonder some younger and aspiring entrepreneurs may believe the “pay the dues” mentality is unfair as they have been told success is about knowledge.  The more knowledge you accumulate, the more valuable you will be.

Knowledge must be coupled with experience or what is essentially the application of knowledge. This is why failure is part of the business success and life success formulas. For without making mistakes, we do not truly learn what works in each different situation.

To increase sales requires a plethora of knowledge and incredible people skills because people buy from people. President Theodore Roosevelt said it best:

No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.

When others in sales leadership and  business roles start to see where and when you paid the dues, then you will have additional opportunities to increase sales.

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Sales Leadership – The Talent of Seeing Potential Problems

In sales leadership those who have the talent of seeing potential problems before have the capacity to be ahead of the flow not to mention sales quotas. To overcome the greatest competitor all sales people share, the status quo, requires the ability to see those potential problems and translate that impact into the customer’s value perception.

Credit - www.sxc.hu

One of the better definitions of this sales talent is authored by Innermetrix and part of its Attribute Index Assessment.

“The ability to structure current situations in an ongoing scenario and be able to identify developments that could cause problems in the future.  This capacity involves the ability to break down a process into its component parts, identify the critical parts, and project the likelihood that problems will arise.”

When reading this definition, this does sound like what effective sales people do. Here they can break down the existing process (think problem) and identify critical parts that are keeping the problem from not being solved.

Individuals who have this capacity “have  the ability to integrate ‘now’ events into futuristic structures and determine what potential problems might arise.  This requires a very flexible perspective (think mindset)”

Conversely, many of us have met those persons with a fixed mindset, limited flexibility when viewing situations or problems. Does the statement “It’s my way or the highway sound familiar?” or “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” These types of mindsets are not open to new or unique methods of operation.

How many somewhat older in age sales people are resistant to social media as part of the marketing actions?  Then there are those sales personnel who resist using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system. Any of these types of behaviors suggest this talent of seeing potential problems is probably not a strong one.

Another negative when sales people lack this talent of sales skill of seeing potential problems is a reactive behavior instead of a proactive one.  Some of these individuals may be a “now” oriented individual who chooses to solve problems as they arise (reactive) instead of investing the time to consider the what ifs (proactive).

Sales leadership is the culmination of many talents or sales skills including:

In the weeks and months to come, other sales leadership talents will be highlighted such as:

  • Persuading others
  • Attention to detail
  • Long range planning
  • Self confidence
  • Concrete organization
  • Project and goal focus
  • Persistence
  • Consistency and reliability
  • Quality orientation
  • Handling rejection
  • Project scheduling
  • Realistic goal setting for others
  • Relating to others
  • Self Management

When sales people as well as those in sales management truly understand their sales leadership talents and then leverage those talents in their day to day interactions, they will not only build greater relationships but will achieve their ongoing goal to increase sales.

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Memorial Day Is the Price We Pay To Be Entrepreneurs

Today, here in America, we celebrate Memorial Day.  This day is set aside to honor the dead service men and women who died serving and protecting this incredible country.

As entrepreneurs, small business owners to even those in sales, honoring those men and women is the price we pay beyond the day to day grind, the taxes, the obstacles we encounter as we continue to strive to grow our businesses to increase sales to enjoy life in those precious free moments.

How we honor those brave souls is an individual choice.  The important action is to take some action be it a prayer at a church gathering, a visit to a cemetery, the hanging of a the US Flag.

Here is a short movie – The Dash – to appreciate this special day.  After viewing this 3 minute DVD, then consider the words to a familiar tune many of us have heard. (Note: There are no official words to this tune, but these appear to be the most popular.)

Taps

Day is done,
gone the sun,
From the hills,
from the lake,
From the skies.
All is well,
safely rest,
God is nigh.

Go to sleep,
peaceful sleep,
May the soldier
or sailor,
God keep.
On the land
or the deep,
Safe in sleep.

Love, good night,
Must thou go,
When the day,
And the night
Need thee so?
All is well.
Speedeth all
To their rest.

Fades the light;
And afar
Goeth day,
And the stars
Shineth bright,
Fare thee well;
Day has gone,
Night is on.

Thanks and praise,
For our days,
‘Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
‘Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh.

 

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Work Life Balance A Matter of Choice

Just as in others aspects of our daily professional and personal lives when it comes to work life balance the decision and consequent actions are a matter of choice.  We can choose to stay where we are feeling like puppets being pulled by puppeteers or we can become the masters or mistresses of our own destinies.

Being a solo entrepreneur, working 50 to 70 hours a week has been quite common for myself and many of my clients and colleagues. Of course when you love what you do, the passion can quickly overcome other aspects of your life.

Recently I read the book, What it Takes to Be Number One, by Vince Lombardi, Jr. as published by Simple Truths. This is a very quick read and well worth the investment given you receive the original audio from Lombardi’s speech.

What I learned is Lombardi not only believed in nine key principles, but one of those guiding principles was Faith. Lombardi, Jr. said the greatest gift his father game to him was a living example of faith.  Attending church, in his case daily mass, was a matter of choice that provided him the time for reflection about the paradoxes and contradictions he faced in his daily experiences.

We all experience a matter of choice each day ranging from attending church to eating healthy to investing time with family and friends. Yes business is important and the continued realization of the goal to increase sales is very important when it comes to paying the mortgage, taxes, utilities, food, fuel, clothing, etc. However,  finding that work life balance is equally important.

When we ignore those other aspects of our lives under the justification “I don’t have time,” we are potentially placing ourselves in places where we encourage further stress, problems and even illnesses. Consider investing some time for reflection and create a personal action plan where you regain control of your life through your own choices and appreciate that work life balance is critical to your overall well being.

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Singing the Sales Business Blues

With the cold nights of winter now gone, the warmer weather brings new business opportunities but does not change for some small business owners or sales professionals from singing the “Sales Business Blues” .  These melodious lyrics usually have the same or similar verses.  The only difference is the order of those verses.

Credit www.sxc.hu

Each of the verses within the “Sales Business Blues” revolves around usually repetitive issues because the small business owners or sales professionals continue to ignore finding sustainable solutions and appear to somewhat enjoy living in these fluctuating states of misery and despair.

Blame the salesperson is the most common verse. Usually it appears  first in the “Sales Business Blues” lyrics.  The reason for not achieving the goal to increase sales is because the sales people just are not selling; they are lazy; they are making excuses.  Yes these reasons may be valid. However, there may also be other factors involved for not securing the goal to increase sales.

Another popular verse focuses on customers. How many times have we heard sales professionals to small business owners talk about stupid customers or even worse yet demanding customers?

Then verses start changing positions.  Next in line might be  the marketing department for not doing its job of attracting attention or spending too much money.

Of course, there are verses signaling the performance of internal customers (employees) including:

  • Customer service
  • Operations
  • Shipping
  • Management
  • Executive leadership (ownership)

Sometimes there is a verse about shareholders or even government specific to compliance issues and other costly mandates. And usually there are some lyrics about the economy be it local, regional, national or global.

Yes, singing the “Sales Business Blues” appears to be a popular not only summer time tune but year round one by these anxious small business owners to sales professionals. Maybe it is time to banish the “Sales Business Blues” by changing the tune and the lyrics.  As the old expression goes:

“When you change how you look at things,

the things you look at will change.”

 

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I Don’t Care About

Credit www.sxc.hu

As a customer, I don’t care about:

  • You did not eat for 17 hours
  • You are only one person
  • You are tired
  • Your social life
  • Your problems either professional or personal

What I care about is:

  • Having you take care of my needs or wants
  • Fixing my problem
  • Doing what I am paying you to do
  • Getting in and out of your establishment in a hurry
  • Receiving quality work (customer service) along with a smile for my patronage

Every week millions of customers think “I don’t care about” as they interact with vendors.  The more customers have this recurring thought specific to the same vendor, the greater likelihood they will leave and  take their pocketbooks with them.

The “I don’t care about” thought is one many in customer service fail to recognize.  Having personally sat through numerous customer service training workshops, I truly do not believe this specific issue has ever been discussed.

If one does not acknowledge a customer service problem,

how can one correct the problem?

Sometimes in life, it is the obvious that is most often ignored. Ignorance when it comes to customer service, sales, organizational development to leadership is not bliss as the old saying goes.

Ignorance is costly in small business.

Maybe part of the problem is many customers may have the “I don’t care about” thought, but never share it. What they do is simply take their business by their pocketbooks elsewhere.  After all these patrons probably do not want to make a scene and sound rude or  uncaring to others who may be nearby.

Possibly some disgruntled or unhappy campers (customers) may share their frustrations over the phone where there are only two people who can hear the exchange. Depending upon the circumstances, these exchanges even though they may be recorded are probably determined to be the result of something else.

So the next time you start with the excuses why something did not get done, consider staying quiet and remember that your customer is probably thinking:

I don’t care about….

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White Noise of Social Media

Crazy busy sales people experience a lot of white noise every day. Their ability to tune out all what does not get them closer to their goal to increase sales is beyond critical in today’s social media and mobile technology market place.

Beyond the Tweets, the Facebook posting, the LinkedIn discussions groups not to mention You Tube, Google+, Klout, Pinterest along with all the millions of blogs and online articles, the white noise of social media can be quite deafening.  Staying focused on the current sales goals, the company’s vision while balancing personal commitments makes selling in the 21st century even more of a challenge because of all the distractions from the white noise.

Those who grew up with technology, especially mobile technology, live with white noise as part of their day to day existence. A recent research report by Time, Inc. suggested these digital natives are quite literally tied to their mobile devices and more importantly they think differently. Digital immigrants those who did not grow up with technology are being challenged by their bosses, by customers, by prospects who want and even demand immediate responses to any and all inquiries especially with the increase in mobile technology through smart phones.

Now instead of “you did not receive my phone call message” sales people are hearing “You didn’t read my posting?” to “Why didn’t you respond to my text message?”  Sometimes it appears everyone is seeking immediate gratification through social media and mobile technology.

What is a poor to good salesperson supposed to do?

Two productivity strategies to reduce the white noise because I sincerely doubt it can be 100% eliminated are to have:

  1. Written core foundational statements of purpose, vision, values and current mission located within your strategic business plan
  2. Written sales goals and marketing goals along with personal goals

Keep these statements and goals on you or near you at all times.

Focus on the the present and the future and how you are going to get there.

Ignore the white noise of social media especially if it is not moving you closer to those desired results.

And finally you can disconnect from the mobile technology world and just enjoy the white noise of nature, of a clock striking the hour in the background or a radio playing your favorite song. Again, as in most of everything else in life, the choice is yours once you are aware.

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Sales Leadership – The Talent of Saying No

Saying No is probably not found in any recognized sales leadership assessment or profile. After all, no is not a word any good salesperson wants to hear or is it?

The talent of saying No allows good sales people to focus on what they do well.  Of course, saying No without offense suggests or better yet implies a high degree of emotional intelligence. Other sales leadership talents embedded within the ability to say No might include:

This talent also suggests the good salesperson knows not only his or her own strengths, but if the potential client is a good fit. Not all prospects are the best customers. Separating the “wheat from the chaff” saves limited resources of time, money, energy and emotions especially in today’s profit constrained business world where every resource must be maximized to its fullest.

Another implication within this talent of saying No is the good salesperson’s ability to be committed to doing what they do well, to staying on course, on purpose.  As someone who writes a lot and has been recognized by some as a fairly decent writer, I am continually being asked to submit articles (article marketing) to this site or that one.  These submissions are free on my part and yet many of the sites are making dollars off my postings due to pay per click ads.  Writing these requested articles takes time away from executing my own current mission including marketing and sales goals.  Now unless the request comes from an established relationship or personal colleague, I respectfully turn down all requests.

Saying No is not easy be it to accepting a new client or attending a business to business networking event. However a good salesperson recognizes that focus on the goal to increase sales or improve prospecting for sales must be a priority.  So the question is:

How comfortable are you with saying No?

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The Prevalence of Assumptions in Sales Training Coaching

Years ago when earning my first degree in education and then later my Masters of Science in Instructional Design (thank you Purdue University) I was exposed to Edgar Dale’s Learning Model and today when reading another blog about assumptions realized the prevalence of assumptions in sales training coaching as well.

In the posting over at Training Industry, the author, Robert Bogue, suggested the following “Everything You Think Know About Learning Retention Rates Is Wrong.”  He then explained himself in the first paragraph specific to these percentages of what we retain all based upon Dale’s Leaning Model:

  • 5% of what we see
  • 10% of what we read
  • 20% with a visual
  • 30% with a demonstration

Dale’s Learning Model never specifically identified percentages, just the hierarchy involved. Bogue then went on to say how “instructional designers” have their own biases and may further contribute to this misinformation.

Sales Training Coaching Tip: A quick search of the graphics for the Cone of Learning reveals many have included these percentages even though they never really existed.

With so many in the sales training coaching industry creating their own customized sales training and sales coaching materials, they are in fact acting as “de facto” instructional designers.  Within these actions, they are making some assumptions based upon their own learning and experiences.  When the past experiences are also based on assumptions, this is the potential for disaster. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  An experienced results focused instructional designer is a good investment.

Some other assumptions can be traced back to the Agrarian education system where teachers believed if they taught it, the students learned it. If not, it was not the teacher’s fault, but the student’s fault.

How many tines have we heard a teacher, a parent or even a sales manager say something to the effect “I can’t believe you did that; I taught you better than that.” The assumptions is teaching immediately translates into retained learning. And the second assumption is that your performance should be at an exceptional level.

Another assumption is about learning and how learning equals performance for all learners. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Learning is simply the acquisition of knowledge. 

Performance is the application of knowledge. 

Hence the reason for the old adage “practice makes perfect.” 

Again returning to our farming roots, much of the knowledge learned in the one room classrooms was immediately applied specific to farming activities. Therefore this immediate application reinforced the assumption that learning translated into performance.

Many of these assumptions are the result of ingrained learning paradigms before educational and psychological research not to mention current brain research was available. For example without understanding and accepting the works of Piaget from the 1940’s to the 1906’s until the late 1900’s, many teaching colleges continued to embrace the old learning paradigms.

Another assumption is dump all your knowledge in a one or two day sales training coaching workshop.  They, the participants, will pick it up.  Drinking from the fire hydrant so to speak may be for some thrilling while for others mentally, physically and emotionally draining.

Maybe one of the worse assumptions begins when the sales trainers or sales coaches are contacted to deliver some sales training coaching because we have a “sales problem” and consequently the sales skills require improvement.  From my experience and listening to my colleagues, lackluster sales usually are a reflection of poor executive leadership to misalignment within the organizational structure. Yes, there may exist specific sales skills that may require improvement. However, those sales skills do not function in isolation. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Isolation is another assumption.

Possibly as the old adage goes about “check your hat at the door” maybe we should now include:

“Check your assumptions at the sales training coaching door.”

 

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