Archive for June, 2012

You Are The Box!

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Thinking outside the box has become the mantra for many. Yet, very few people invest the time to define the box and more importantly this failure leads them to ignore this one axiom, principle, call it what you will:

You are the box!

To define the box requires a significant investment of reflection time.  With lives being so crazy busy especially for small business owners to sales professionals, who has time to reflect? Possibly this is why executive coaching has been so helpful because the essence of this solution is about guided self reflection.

Ask yourself this question:  Do you waste 12 minutes a day?

I have yet to meet one person who has said “No” to this simple question.

So what is keeping you from investing time to reflect upon what happened today and how will that improve tomorrow?

The lack of time is just an excuse because for whatever the “real” reason you have made a conscious choice not to engage in reflection.

How can you think outside the box when you truly are aware of everything residing within the box?

If we cannot be true to ourselves, how can we be true to others?

What I know to be true is the 95% of all individuals do not truly know what they do well. However that same percentage knows what they do not do well.

Let me ask you two another questions:

  1. Why do winning teams win, because of their talents or strengths or because of their weaknesses?
  2. Do athletic coaches seek out those with weaknesses to fill their team rosters?

One of the better books that pinpoints some of the great self reflection questions is From Values to Action by Harry Kraemer.  Among the questions to be asked daily he includes:

  • What did I say I was going to do today and what did I actually do?
  • What went well and what did not go well?
  • What did I learn today that will impact tomorrow?

Self-reflection provides the opportunity to understand you and what is happening within you for you are the box.

The goal is not to think outside of the box, but rather through self reflection allow:

  • The top of the box to be removed
  • The bottom of the box to be removed
  • The sides of the box to disengage from each other and fall flat

When the box is truly open, it becomes flat and empty allowing you to become a much fuller, interesting, creative, proactive forward thinking leader.

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The Elephant Gun to Kill a Fly Sales Training Coaching

Have you recently attended many of the published sales training workshops, seminars or read some of the published books on sales training coaching?

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  • Did they appear to have the “elephant gun to kill a fly” perspective?
  • Did you feel like you bought an elephant gun when all you needed was a fly swatter?
  • Did you find the topics to be too generic and not specific enough to your current situation?

Maybe part of the reason why the elephant gun to kill a fly sales training coaching still continues is because most of it (probably over 80% in my opinion) has evolved from delivering services to Fortune 500 to 1000 businesses that can pay the arm and the leg for these learning engagements. Yet today’s marketplace is crowded with far more non-employed small business owners (sole proprietors, independent contractors) and far less larger firms having a workforce of 100 or more employees.

The US Census Bureau reported in 2008 a total  27,281,452 firms in the US with 21,351,320 having no employees or approximately 78%.  By adding firms with less than 100 employees, this increases to 26,646,290 or 98%.

In other words, the majority of sales training objectives are based upon just 2% of the business population. What this means for the small business owners to sales professionals is probably what they need to be successful in the local small business market place that is still highly competitive probably is not being discussed in many of these “arm and a leg” sales training coaching workshops or seminars.

A colleague, Don F. Perkins, shared a question that evolved from another member of a LinkedIN discussion group specific to this issue of self improvement through sales training coaching:

“Don I do a lot of reading and also in my own time I have found out that the most successful people are the ones that become experts in their field. What measures can a salesperson take to perfect their craft? Any ideas? “

Another colleague, S. Anthony Iannarino, addressed this question in his blog entitled “No Experience Required.” What Anthony did was to share 11 key attributes and 10 necessary sales skills. In reading these, many of them are not covered in the traditional sales training coaching curriculum based upon the 2% and delivered to the 98%.

Additionally to perfect any craft requires practice as described by Gordon’s Learning Ladder. Without an opportunity for practice and feedback, the ability to hone that recently developed or new sales skill will not happen. Trial and error is substantial part of how we learn. Even if role playing is part of the sales training coaching workshop or seminar, unless there is opportunity for real world practice meaning “let me go out, apply what I learn and come back in seven to 14 days,” the learning will not stick.

If I were to answer the question shared by Don, my first response would be to have a proven performance appraisal diagnostic taken from a strength based perspective. This provides a solid foundation to “believe in one’s self” as colleague Robert Terson writes.

From my experience, most people including those who earn a living by selling truly do not know their strengths because of early education conditioning places way too much energy on their weaknesses. From that collected data, then determine what sales skills or talents require ongoing reinforcement and what may benefit from further development.

By using a proven performance appraisal diagnostic is the first step to avoid using an elephant gun to kill a fly sales training coaching program.

P.S. If you are seeking some affordable sales training coaching, consider the Sales Summer School.

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The Expert Walk the Talk Shuffle

Experts abound in all aspects of life from our parents, to teachers, to managers, to vendors of solutions be them products or services. The criteria for being labeled an expert also varies depending upon the community to the industry.

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There are experts in leadership, marketing and sales who have solid PR behind them and the general public knows their names such as John Maxwell, Seth Godin and Jeff Gitomer. Yet there are thousands of experts positioned just under the radar screen and buying their expertise will not cost you an arm or a leg.

Sometimes with experts, a walk the talk shuffle begins. These experts whether well known nationally, regionally or locally no longer have time for engaging in behaviors that made them identifiable as experts within their communities of influence. Possibly their business focus changed and now they are onto new and better green pastures.

However, what gives pause for concern is the consistent demonstration of their positive core values (business ethics).

Do they honor their commitments?

Or, are those commitments now negotiable depending upon if they have time?

What I have observed is some experts who once engaged with a variety of individuals to build their expertise now no longer have time for those same people who helped them.  This is what I call the “Expert Walk the Talk Shuffle.”

Remembering those personal core values or business ethics and as they say “walk the talk” is critical to all business professionals especially those who are considered to be experts.

Business ethics are not subject to shuffling.

So if you as the local, regional or even national expert don’t have time to honor your commitments or your promises to do this or that, then all you must do is to apologize, remove your name from that commitment and continue working those greener pastures.

P.S. Just say No also applies to experts.

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Sawbucks Are Better than Free

In education based marketing, many small business owners to savvy entrepreneurs engage in free offerings from assessments to actual consulting time to marketing webinars to  sales training coaching workshops. Free is good to a point, but securing two to 20 sawbucks are much better.

For example, to get your message out, you offer a free marketing or sales training coaching webinar.  Constructing the  PowerPoint, handling all the registration set up, marketing the webinar event through social media takes you conservatively 10 hours as you already have some content.

The day of the 60 minute education based marketing webinar on sales training coaching you get 100 people to attend. After follow-up, you are able to put five into your sales pipeline or sales funnel. Most of those attended knew what you do and were seeking just some more free information. The five new sales leads were not from your existing lists, but referred in from either current contacts or through your social media marketing.

Compare this to having just five (5) people pay $47 each to attend. Sure it is 95 short of 100, however you know have $235 or 23.5 sawbucks in your bank account. Even if you had only two people register and pay that is still almost 10 sawbucks. Also do not forget your overall sales cycle.  Possibly you have reduced that from 6 months to 2 weeks and now can work to build even a stronger more loyal, repeat client or customer.

Yes there are some transaction handling fees to be paid usually less than 5% along with some other costs such as webinar hosting. The majority of these costs would have happened regardless if the sales training coaching workshop was free or paid.

Here are a few other questions to ask yourself:

  • When looking at your email marketing lists, how old are they?
  • How many times have you emailed them?
  • Have those from your email marketing lists bought from you?
  • Are those on your email marketing lists  finding you a great free resource and they do not have to buy from you?

People buy on value unique to them.

If they perceive you as a “free resource” that is your value and will always be your value.

However, if you begin to charge an affordable entry or price point, you may get less numbers, but you will also gain some much needed cash. Additionally, you are changing the value perception of how you see yourself.

Free is good. Yet upon further reflection, maybe it is time to appreciate that sawbucks are much better.

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I Earned the A or Sale; The Sales Manager Gave Me an F

Human nature is pretty consistent from our early childhood experiences where we earned the A, but the teacher gave us an F to our adult business experiences where we as sales people earned the A sale but the sales manager gave us an F when we did not increase sales.

There appears to be a tendency within sales people or individuals in general to take all the credit for when things go well such as increase sales, land a significant account and the opposite behavior to blame the sales manager, the culture or even the customer when things go south.

Why is that?

Possibly some of the rationale lies at the foot of how we see ourselves internally versus how we see ourselves externally.  Usually, human beings have a stronger inclination to have a more positive outlook as to how they make external decisions about the outside world such as “earning the A Sale” and a more negative appreciation for their own self worth when the sales manager gives them an F.

One of the better assessments to bring clarity to each person specific to this paradoxical behavior is the Attribute Index.  This performance appraisal assessment provides a benchmark to not only better understand the external and internal decision making styles, but also 78 key attributes or talents.

Maybe it is time for you to secure greater clarity around your own self

“To thine own self be true” is just as appropriate today as it was when Shakespeare penned those words hundred of years ago.

P.S. Thanks to Christina Hamlett for being the springboard for this quick blog posting.

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Why the Either Or Mentality?

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Must it be “either or” to be better?

Does this “either or” mentality restrict problem solving creativity, business innovation and reaffirm the status quo?

How many times have we been asked in our business leadership roles or have read something like what is better:

  • Men or women as sales people (or any other role)?
  • Management or leadership?
  • Traditional values or new thinking?

Internally we may be wrestling with both, but because someone wants one right answer, we succumb and make the selection. Yet there is still sometimes lingering doubt as to “if I as an individual made the right decision?”

How often do we ask?

Why can’t it be both?

Sure, we need to make decisions and from those decisions make choices where we select something over something else.  However, the frequent practice of positioning the either or better mentality may create missed opportunities.

Life is indeed situational and what may work today, may not work tomorrow or even 5 hours from right now.

Does everything have to be “either or” to be better?

Is this mentality purposeful?

Does it generate sustainable results?

Maybe it forces more compromise and consensus at the exclusion of collaboration?

For me, collaboration is about discovering what both sides value, finding agreement on common ground and moving forward. This form of business leadership and teamwork behavior is probably the antithesis of the “either or” better mentality.

The next time you read or hear someone asking either or because one is better than the other, reconsider your thoughts and stretch yourself to think just a little differently.

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Is It Time to Say What You Mean?

In today’s politically correct society, there is a reluctance or what some might say is a fear to say what you mean.

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Professionals use the latest business speak or some jargon in many cases to avoid respectfully speaking the truth.

There appears to be a ponderous of individuals who talk around subjects to out right avoiding answering direct questions.

Maybe the fear these individuals have is one of being personally accountable for what they have said or failed to say?

This inability to say what you mean as a business leader harms teams, increases wasted time and decreases productivity.

Those business leaders who say what they mean with respect demonstrate far higher emotional intelligence. These individuals are also good critical thinkers and more proactive in their reasoning and responses than reactive.

Is it time for you to say what you mean and become one of the few business leaders who demonstrate emotional intelligence and great leadership skills instead of one of the many who don’t?

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You, Sales Mojo and Relationship Buying

What’s your sales mojo? 

Is it your ability to ask those never been asked before open ended questions?

Is it your capacity to hold onto that sales lead like a dog with a bone, never letting go?

Is it your attention to detail or some other leadership sales skill?

Maybe it is all of the above?

What would happen if you considered relationship buying to be the real essence of your sales mojo?

Would others think of you as one of those top sales performers who could have Eskimos buying ice from you?

For the last 20 plus years, a lot of sales trainers, sales consultants and sales coaches have placed a lot of emphasis on the technical aspects of selling, the sales skills. Yet many successful people who make a living getting paid to sell solutions (products or services) know sales is truly about relationship buying.

Now some may not be familiar with the term relationship buying and may think, she means relationship selling.

Please let me explain the difference and this difference is what separate top performers from those who are not as successful.

Relationship selling is using the established relationship to sell the solutions being offered by you as the vendor. Others have more detailed definitions for this term using words such as:

  • Genuine
  • Rapport
  • Trust
  • Support

Relationship buying is the established mutually beneficial relationship has the potential client buying you as an authentic individual who truly cares about him or her and their immediate and future wants and needs.  In many cases, you truly do not need to sell that relationship anything, but rather suggest a viable solution based on their perception of value and your understanding and subsequent interpretation of that value perception. Relationship buying applies emotional intelligence with greater accuracy.

Relationship buying has always been at the top of what makes a top sales performer.

However, it is easier to focus on relationship selling because the focus turns onto the individual salesperson.  Tailoring sales training coaching to a group of individuals to sell better is much easier

Yet, does it not seem strange not to place emphasis on the desired end result that being someone buys instead of the action directing that desired result?

Maybe it is time to reflect and ask yourself “What really is your sales mojo?

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The Easy Way Out, Footprints and Social Media

Social media including email marketing has become the easy way out to market for many entrepreneurs to Fortune 250 firms. One driving reason for this change in marketing is social media is affordable (usually free) in reaching the potential customers.

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There are other reasons such as demographics to flexibility to using automation especially in the case of email marketing. However being able to reach millions through a few strokes of the keyboard continues to attract more and more small businesses to larger firms into the what is called social media or inbound marketing for you more technical folks.

Yet, many who use social media as its inbound marketing tactic is potentially taking the easy way out and leaving footprints that quickly vanish because these small business owners to crazy busy sales professionals are looking for the quick fix to increase sales. Now this approach is also called self promotion.

Blanket your social media outlets with your message be it:

  • Buy this book
  • Attend this seminar
  • Look at me

These types of marketing messages have no staying power.

They leave no long lasting footprints.

If marketing is about attracting attention, do you want positive attention or negative attention?

Is your attention about you or your customer?

If you goal is to build a relationship and all you do is pushing your solutions (products or services), will this create positive and sustainable results?

The other outcome of this easy way marketing mentality is the unintentional demonstration of your core business ethics and values.

For example, over at LinkedIN, there is an opportunity to engage in discussion groups. Within each discussion group, there are several tabs including discussion, promotion and job. Unfortunately, far too many so called professionals chose to place all promotions into the discussion area because it is the easy way out and likely to get more attention that placement in the congested tab of promotions.

Recently one person, placed his tagline, name and phone number as a discussion. He considers himself to be a forward thinking entrepreneur and business coach because he does not use business cards. (This I gathered from a legitimate discussion he started within one of the groups where I am a member.)

This individual and a plethora of others continued to use social media as the easy way out. Their marketing footprints vanish in the sand very quickly.

Technology is a tool and does not replace this one key sales buying rule:

People buy from people they know and trust. 

If you want market place staying power, then lose the easy way out belief and leave footprints that people remember.

Social media is truly first about social marketing and

not about selling more.

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Mindset of the Long Game, The Execution of the Short Game

Business leadership is very much like golf having both the long game and the short game.  Forward thinking leaders by that very designation have a vision of where they wish to be and the results along the way to ensure they will secure that vision.

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These individuals also play an excellent short game where ongoing execution is flawless or almost flawless.  Time has been invested to reflect on the obstacles in the path much like the leaf that has just fallen down on the green obstructing the path of the ball.

Years ago during a conference for other organizational consultants, small business coaches and trainers, the facilitator, Linda Martin (co-author of Fail-Safe Leadership) illustrated how the mindset of the long game and the execution of the short game all come together. She used the sport of golf as the vehicle for her demonstration.

Linda stood in front of the 100 plus seated attendees and shared this story as only an excellent story teller can.

Tiger Woods (this was before his downfall) is two strokes away from the 18th green and to capture the Master’s Title, he must make par.  Tiger hits the ball and it arcs high, hits the edge of the green, and bounces into a brown bag that the wind has blown onto the green. The bounce of the ball flips the bag’s opening and ball is now facing away from the cup.  Both bag and ball are less than 2 feet from the cup.  If he takes the ball out of the bag, he is penalized a stroke. If he hits the ball out of the bag, it will cost him an extra stroke.  How does he remove the bag without any penalty?

At this point in the story, Linda encouraged the attendees to discuss how to overcome this obstacle.  She asked everyone, many of whom were noted for their problem solving abilities not to share their answers.

Linda then continued with the story.

Both Tiger and his caddy put their heads together. Suddenly Tiger walked over to the bag. With the flick of a lighter, Tiger burnt the bag exposing the ball and allowing him to gently tap the ball into the cup to win the tournament. 

During this demonstration as Linda was finishing this story, she literally burnt the bag that was on a metal tray.

I will never forget this powerful example of not only having a mindset of the long game, but incredible execution of the short game. If memory serves me correctly I believe there were only a couple of individuals in the audience who had the correct answer and I was not one of them.

Great execution requires flexibility, reflection, knowing where you are going, practice and sometimes unconventional thinking.

Doing what every one else has done may not get you where you want your business to be.

Business leadership requires developing the a strategy, demonstrating the positive core values and being able to efficiently (doing things right) and effectively (doing the right thing) execute the business short term goals or objectives.

The question for you is how mindful are you of the long game and how will do you execute the short game?

 

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