Archive for September, 2012

Self Reflection Redirects Habitual Thinking into Innovation

Sunday is a day of rest for many. For me is it a time for personal self-reflection that redirects some of my habitual thinking into new and different channels of thoughts. This self reflection has renewed me mentally, physically and spiritually and has helped foster innovation for myself and within my executive coaching and organizational development practice.

Our habits are a double edge sword.  They expedite our physical actions to conserve energy for those flight or flight moments and they restrict our ability to think differently.

Habitual thinking is truly the enemy to change and subsequently innovation.

How many times have we heard “We have always done it that way?” or “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it?”

Norman Vincent Peale said “Change your thoughts, change your world.” So today, what thoughts of self reflection will you change to alter the course of your habitual thinking and redirect it towards more innovation?

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Sales Management Works with There Is More Than One Right Answer

Sales teams are comprised on unique individuals each bringing his or her own beliefs, experiences and perspectives to the team.  This diversity for those in sales management including the small business owners showcases the necessity for embracing there is more than one right answer whether it is for marketing (attracting attention) to actually earning the sale.

Credit www.sxc.hu

Since people buy from people (#1 sales buying rule), what one potential buyer values and is seeking as a solution (right answer for him or her) will be different than another potential customer or even the same customer with different decision makers.

The reality of more than one right answer truly works with the individual talents or strengths of each sales team member. Yet from my experience, only a very slim percentage less than 6.4% truly know their top three strengths while an overwhelming percentage 90.7% know their top three weaknesses. Given that human beings and yes sales people are human contrary to some thoughts are negatively conditioned from early childhood and that negative conditioning is reinforced within the K-12 experience, we should not be surprised by these results. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  The Attribute Index is a great and proven performance appraisal to identify top talents within a sales team or any employee in any organization. This assessment tool works with individuals as well.

Those who are in sales management and in executive leadership positions such as small business owners who understand there is more than one right answer and align that diversity of thought to the other aspects of the organization such as strategy, structure, process, rewards and people will achieve their sales goals and have a more cohesive and higher functioning team as a result.  As my Swedish grandmother shared with me many years ago “There is more than one way to skin a cat.”

P.S. Check out the FREE webinar on Selling Ain’t Telling or these other webinars for the month of December 2012.

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Your Word Is Your Bond Still Rings True

Being somewhat older, I was taught your word is your bond.”  Give your word to do something and by the saints above the only reason not to do it is because you are dead or near death. Show business called this “the show must go on.”

How many times have we witnessed your word is your bond?  One of my most favorite movies is The Searchers with John Wayne who gave his word to find his niece taken by the Indians.

Today in business there are some who still fail to understand this simple premise within business ethics.  They give their word, they promise to do this or that and then fail to do it. All I can say and think is Un ***** believable  with the expletive removed.

On Monday of this week, I received a somewhat panic email from a colleague and client who received noticed that his nationally known key note speaker had just sent an email canceling two speaking engagements. This would not have been terrible except the speaking engagements were the next two days at two different locations about 130 miles apart. This key note speaker had already spoken the previous week at two different locations for this not for profit health care related association. He was wondering if I could fill in on short notice and speak to the topic of generating sales leads through online marketing. Given our five year plus relationship, I agreed to pitch hit and both key note presentations went very well.

However I could not believe and still do not believe how a nationally known key note speaker could be so 100% unprofessional, so uncaring, so lacking in business ethics and back out from a commitment where she gave her word.

  • Does this person not realize this unprofessional cancellation will be shared with others?
  • Is she so egotistical that she believes her reputation will remain untarnished?
  • Has she so little emotional intelligence she did not realize the stress she placed upon others?

My parents and even more importantly my grandparents told me more times than I could count “your word is your bond.” Once you lose that bond, you have no credibility.  People will not trust you. There is nothing quicker than to break your word to break a relationship. This is true in business and in life.

In business and especially today with the economy barely churning along, finding loyal customers and keeping them is a challenge as the piece of the pie becomes smaller and smaller. Losing customers is extremely expensive and then having bad references compound that loss.

To lose customers because of poor business ethics is unbelievable.  How difficult is your word is your bond?”

All I can say thank you to this nationally known key note speaker because I now have gained a new positive relationship with the CEO of this not for profit healthcare related organization with over several hundred members.

P.S. The reason I was not originally contacted was my client who is involved in membership professional and business development was seeking some variety and this key note speaker had credentials (she was a RN) specific to his industry of healthcare.

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Sales Leads Are Not the Problem

Once again I realized sales leads are not the problem for the majority of small business owners and professional sales people.  The reason I know this to be true is because all I do is ask this question when speaking or delivering workshops on marketing, sales lead generation and selling:

With a show of hands, how many of you have followed up with 100% of all sales leads?

During the ten years of asking this question to what is now several thousand small business owners and sales professionals, I can count on two hands the number of those who raised their hands.

The inability to increase sales is not because of these perceived problems of:

  • Not enough sales leads
  • Poor marketing
  • Poor sales skills
  • No traffic to the website

The real problem is usually three-fold:

  1. Process
  2. Executive leadership
  3. Business coaches, sales trainers and consultants who sell solutions that address the symptoms and not the real problems

Addressing a process problem is time consuming and involves alignment between strategy, structure, rewards and people. With so many small business owners to sales professionals seeking the quick fix to increase sales, they do not want to address the real problem. Additionally many sales trainers and to some extent small business coaches lack the ability, experience and knowledge to confront this problem less alone work to solve it.

Then executive leadership is another critical and often ignored problem because those selling sales training solutions fear losing the sale by speaking truthfully.

Who has the courage to tell the small business owner the problem is you?

If the salesperson is not performing and the executive leadership does nothing then improving the sales skills will not guarantee increase sales. Sales training or small business coaching is not the magic pill for poor executive leadership.

If your small business or you as a sales professional are seeking to increase sales by securing more sales leads, then please make sure that not having enough sales leads is truly the real problem. All you have to do is ask yourself this question:

“Have I followed up on all sales leads?”

 

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It Don’t Matter, Yes It Does

Yesterday I visited a national stationary and copying center to duplicate some handouts for a forthcoming workshop presentation on sales lead generation to some small business owners in the home healthcare industry.  The young lady in the service center was professionally attired with the black slacks, the imprinted golf type shirt and a pleasant smile.  I asked her a question about the copier machine and she responded with “It don’t matter.”

My head inside was exploding with “Yes it does matter because it don’t matter is improper English.” So I took a deep breath, smiled and asked my question again because her answer beyond being bad grammar, it was also incomplete.

As I continued to make copies, my head was spinning with questions.

Did she not learn anything in her 10 plus years of education? (I am presuming she was at least a high school graduate.)

Where did she go to school?  As a side note, this person was not a recent immigrant.

Is she so unaware of her bad grammar? Yes she probably is unfortunately.

Proper communication is essential in the business to business (B2B) as well as business to retail world.  Maybe younger people, younger being those under 40, find such simple grammatical mistakes no big deal, but at least for the next 10 to 20 years these mistakes are a big deal.

Speaking properly, yes it does matter.

There are no excuses.

For me, when I hear bad grammar, the other person’s credibility has been vastly diminished.  Yes, we all or most of us make grammar mistakes. However, the simple grammar rule of a singular subject as in this case “it” goes with a singular verb “does”  has been ingrained in most reading and writing learning objectives since third grade. From a conditioning perspective, this basic grammar behavior should be ingrained in all U.S. citizens who have experienced at least 12 years of public education.

Yes it does matter about grammar because communication is still an essential skill that employers are seeking and not receiving. In July of this year, the Indiana Business Council released a survey with this very damaging statistic:

  • 22% of employers rate the job readiness of the current workforce as excellent or very good

In other words, one out of five employees in the current workforce can perform their required functions at a satisfactory level or four out of five cannot perform their jobs.  Almost 80% of the current workforce is not at a satisfactory level specific to job readiness.

Let me repeat that damning statistic:

  • Almost 80% of the current workforce is not at a satisfactory level specific to job readiness

What was even more concerning was of the eight most critical workplace skills for on-the-job or career success, five (as noted in red font) are all directly connected to the K-12 learning experience. Employers shared their perception of college graduates (first percentage) and the current employed workforce (second percentage) specific to these eight workplace job readiness skills.

  1. Critical thinking/problem solving at 25 percent and 25 percent
  2. Oral communication at 25 percent and 25 percent
  3.  Professionalism/work ethic at 18 percent and 38 percent
  4. Serving all clients/customers at 18 percent and 47 percent
  5. Reading comprehension at 31 percent and 30 percent
  6. English Language at 41 percent and 48 percent
  7. Teamwork/collaboration at 29 percent and 39 percent
  8. Written communication at 18 percent and 20 percent

When reviewing these perceptions by Indiana employers, remember these are college graduates who have had 16 years of education of which a large percentage, the first 12 years was devoted to communication at a significant cost to the taxpayers. To not be able to match a single subject to a single verb is beyond ridiculous.  Yes I am being judgmental and with public education costs continuing to rise someone needs to address this issue and it appears it will be the business community.

Maybe the next time I hear “It don’t matter,” and my head screams “Yes it does” I will take the time to gently correct the other person because others failed to do their jobs.

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One Difference to Increase Sales is Selling Fearlessly

Each salesperson is unique and each selling interaction is also unique. There is no one magic pill for small business owners to increase sales. However, as Robert Terson in his soon to be released book “Selling Fearlessly” (pre-order at Amazon) does share some of his experiences that allowed him to be a top sales performer during his professional sales career.  His experiences just may help you increase sales and possibly even Be the Red Jacket.

Robert, his lovely wife and I recently had brunch together. During our meal, he made the comment that so many sales experts are focused on sales skills with firms having a dedicated sales force and a separate marketing department. Today those firms represent less than 5% of all businesses.  The super majority of small businesses owners have a small sales team with the small business owner in many cases the sales manager. Yet so few books talk about selling within the small business environment of business to business or business to retail.

His story of selling fearlessly begins with his first attempt to increase sales and the story is well worth the price of the book.  Robert then goes on to share one of my core beliefs that everyone is in sales and that just some folks get paid in dollars to sell.

Selling Fearlessly is a series of personal stories. Being an educator and having some knowledge about how people learn, Robert’s approach of informal learning that is learning through others demonstrates the best way too learn. We remember those stories from our older family members because they have such emotion and instill such a compelling memory into our brains.

Beyond the personal stories, Robert reawakens some long forgotten quotes from some old and probably even unknown journals and books.  This quote is one of my favorites when asking the all too familiar question: Are salespeople born or made?

“While it is doubtless true that salesmen, like poets, are born, not made, it is also true that successful salesmen are those who, in most cases, have undergone a severe training in the school of hard knocks.”

Farm Journal (October, 1913)

I could continue with a blow by blow review of each chapter. However, there is something magical when you hold that book into your hands even it is a Kindle.  So invest a few dollars and read a book that is really for the majority of salespeople in today’s small business market place. Who knows beyond your ability to increase sales by becoming a top sales performer, you may even develop Robert’s attitude of selling fearlessly.

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A Day of Rest Just May Increase Sales

Sunday is a day of rest for many. However for some a day of rest  is not the answer to increase sales or is it?

Credit www.sxc.hu

When we rest, we have the opportunity to quiet all the turmoil in our beings and renew our spirit.  This quietness has the potential to bring new found clarity to our lives both personally and professionally. Clarity is the essential if the goal be it to increase sales or to improve overall health is to be achieved.

Yet with all the emphasis on go, go go, taking a day of rest appears to be contrary. The reality is human beings are not robots, mechanical enterprises and rest for the body, the spirit and the mind are needed.

Having a good religious background and being fairly consistent in attending church on Sunday, I have discovered that resting has incredible benefits. Today after church I will be having lunch with a colleague and his wife who are driving back from a holiday. They love a local restaurant that also happens to be one of my favorites. I am using this day of rest to reconnect because the business will be here on Monday.

When a day of rest becomes part of you, you actually have the ability to work even harder the following week.

The other day I was listening to some program and the comment was made that on “the seventh day the Lord rested.” Even though I do not believe in a strict interpretation of the Bible because I believe God’s time is not human time, I realized that rest is necessary for everyone including supreme beings.

Throughout history, there are individuals who have benefited from resting by taking short naps during their hectic:

  • Albert Einstein
  • Thomas Edison
  • Bob Hope
  • Winston Churchill
  • Stonewall Jackson

If you want to increase sales, maybe the answer is to schedule a day of rest and enjoy life. Who knows you may find a renewed spirit along with the much needed clarity?

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How to Increase Sales – Intelligence Gathering Using Silence

They say a closed mouth gathers no feet and possibly if your are seeking a new competitive how to increase sales strategy possibly this one of sales intelligence gathering using silence may just be the trick.

Many of those in sales be they small business owners, those in sales management to top sales performers understand that “telling ain’t selling” and yet there is still way too much talking going on.

Sure many folks know about active listening, but what about active looking?  I am not talking about all that preliminary sales strategy research already undertaken about the person, business or industry.

No, what I an suggesting is how do you use your eyes to silently gather critical intelligence about that person you will be meeting shortly? This critical sales strategy and sales intelligence gathering will allow you much deeper insight into your potential customer’s buying mindset and probably allow you to build that so valuable relationship much quicker.For example within that process of building the relationship a.k.a. marketing, have you thought about?

  • What a messy desk of a potential client means?
  • Identifying the potential customer’s car if the meeting is at his or her office?
  • Discretely observing what is inside the potential customer’s car?
  • If you have received some written communication, did you look beyond the words to see some potential behaviors?

In the ongoing effort of how to increase sales does suggest that securing an additional competitive advantage may be quite helpful.  What better competitive advantage than understanding of buying behaviors of your potential customer? And yes there are already proven tools n the market place that can assist you with acquiring that sales intelligence.

For those in sales management having top sales performers is probably now easier than ever before provided you use the right sales intelligence tools to gather the right knowledge and remember how to increase sales begins by understanding “telling ain’t selling.”

P.S. If you wish to learn more about “telling ain’t selling” and how silence can be an sales strategy along with one well known sales intelligence tool, then considering  joining 49 other attendees on 11/2/2012 at 12 Noon CST for a FREE 30 minute webinar. Register at Eventbrite.

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The Myths Behind the Myths of Sales Training

One way to grab the attention of small business owners to sales professionals is to use the any of the following words:

  • Top
  • A number such as 1, 2, 5, etc.
  • Myths
  • Tips
  • Sales training coaching

Yesterday I invested 60 minutes to hear from a couple of experts about the 5 Myths of Sales Training.  Actually I did not learn any new knowledge, but only confirmed what I believed to be true based upon my own 30 plus years in sales and small business.

What is interesting are the myths behind all these others myths of sales training. In yesterday’s blog I indirectly referred to this myth:

  • The foundational learning objectives such as negotiations, presentations, other technical sales skills, for the majority of sales training can be applied to today’s business environment

As noted yesterday, with the majority, 98.1%, of all small businesses having 19 employees or less, the majority of current sales training coaching programs are rooted in learning objectives and situations from the minority of businesses, .066%, with 500 employees or more.  Today’s small businesses require far more assistance with integrating best practice marketing skills into their sales process than just focusing on technical sales skills.

The other even more profound myth that is hardly ever discussed is:

  • Flawless technical sales skills trump all other sales skill and will close more sales

Very few sales training coaching webinars, seminars, workshops or even coaching programs discuss this one skill that will overcome the lack of technical sales skills and that is emotional intelligence.  Those sales people who actively engage emotional intelligence within their overall sales process that includes both  marketing and selling skills will continue to be successful.

The reason I say this and believe this to be true is due to an experience I had yesterday with a younger, eager beaver salesperson who believes himself to be an expert.  He reached out to me via a social media site email program and said he would be sending a letter for me to forward to specific contacts for introductions. I responded and said because I have never talked to him I could not take that action. He wrote back “Okay, let’s talk.”  A couple of dates were mentioned.  His second to the last email was “Great, you call me…”

Even though this person is an alleged sales training coaching expert, he totally failed to recognize my emotions.  Since he had made the initial outreach as the seller and already had planted the seed of distrust, he wanted me the buyer to take action even though he accepted the fact I did not know him.  I told him if he wanted to talk, he could call me.  His final email was “Okay, I thought it was two people talking.”  Yes it is two people talking, but you initiated the conversation and you want something from me. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Many people profess to be experts and yet their behaviors give  serious pause for concern.

With so much of today’s selling being business to business (B2B) and with firms employing under 20 people, the consistent demonstration of emotional intelligence is critical to organizational success especially the goal to increase sales.

So if you are seeking to increase sales, avoid the myths behind the myths of sales training whatever those myths are and make sure the sales training integrates both marketing and selling as well as has a significant time devoted to emotional intelligence.  Otherwise, your dollars will be spent and not invested.

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Are We Making Selling and Sales Too Complex?

With all the sales experts, gurus, consultants to small business coaches, there appears to be an ever growing trend of making selling and sales far more complex than it needs to be.  Yes, there are complex sales that involve multiple decision makers and have an extended to what seems like an exhausted sales cycle time. These are the few not the many.

When we examine the small business statistics, the majority of US businesses in 2007 were now non-employers (no employees):

  • Total US Businesses at 27,757,676
  • Non-employed with 0 employees at 21,708,021 or  78.7%
  • Firms with 1-4 employees at 3,705,275 or 13.3%
  • Firms with 5-9 employees at 1,060,250 or 3.8%
  • Firms with 10-19 employees at 644,842 or 2.3%
  • Firms with 20-99 employees at 532,391 or 1.9%
  • Firms with 100-499 employees at 88,586 or .32%
  • Firms with 500 employees at 18,311 or .066%

The reality is the majority of businesses in this country are those with under 20 employees accounting for 98.1% of all small businesses. Hence, the two questions to be asked are:

  1. Is there a misalignment between sales training coaching, sales management, selling and marketing?
  2. Is this misalignment creating way too much complexity?

Now if the goal is to sell the latest, greatest sales training, coaching, sales books, maybe there is a reason for all this complexity.

However if the goal is to increase sales for the majority of small businesses in the US, is it time to rethink where the real gaps are and address those gaps instead of buying into the next generation sales systems to customer relationship management (CRM) system draining the profit coffers for those small businesses? Sales Training Coaching Tip:  From my experience, ineffective executive leadership, poor marketing to no strategic thinking contributes far more to the inability to increase sales than poor sales skills.

Are we forgetting the most important element within selling and sales?  People?

People buy from people.

Zig Ziglar said it the best when defining sales.

“Sales is the transference of feelings.”

Selling and sales are about people connecting with other people, transferring feelings (think establishing relationships, building trust.)  Maybe it is time to bring back that human connection and return to the simplicity of selling and sales?

P.S. On November 2, 2012 from 12 to 12:30pm CST, I will be offering a FREE 30 minute webinar, If You Are Telling, You Ain’t Selling, on one tool that has been around for years  (nope I did not create it) and how to use this tool to increase sales. Seating is limited to 50. Register over at Eventbrite.

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