Archive for October, 2012

The Halloween Tricks or Treats Facing You and Your Small Business

Today is Halloween and many youngsters will be dressed up in scary costumes, ringing doorbells, knocking on doors and echoing all that too familiar phrase “Trick or Treat!”  Now imagine for a moment, your small business or you as a professional salesperson is one of those young children knocking on doors, looking for a reward and truly not being expected to engage in some trick.

trick-or-treat-small-business

Credit www.sxc.hu

Wait, maybe you are already knocking on doors, ringing phones instead of door bells (cold calling) and even though you are not dressed in a scary costume, seeking some treats (increase sales) for those efforts? And the person opening up that door or answering that phone is quite scared by your cold calling and fails to even ask for your a trick (overcoming those ever present sales objections) less along gives you some treats.

Young children especially the really young (babies) have an advantage over you.  People think they are adorable in their costumes even though they are for all intents and purposes cold calling. Puppies also share that advantage as well.

Hmm, maybe you should hire a young child or puppy to cold call for you? If not hire them, include them in some of your marketing messaging if possible. Heck if E-Tade can do it, what is keeping you from doing it? I digress.

How many of your potential small business customers think you are adorable? Probably very few have that emotional, “Ahhh…,” reaction when seeing you or hearing of your small business solutions (sales pitch).

How many of your potential small business customers believe you through your cold calling and general prospecting efforts want to trick them out of their hard earned profits? Probably, many of them because profits and consequently dollars are tight. They have been tricked by some of the best who promised them a whole lot of stuff (results) and failed to deliver on those promises.

If you have been working on building a mutually beneficial relationship by always following what I have identified as “Just Be Valuable,” when you come knocking on Halloween or any other day, then your potential small business customers will not slam the door in your face or let voice mail answer your telephone call. Who knows you actually may receive those treats (increase sales) today without having to do any additional tricks (overcoming sales objections)?

P.S. Another way not to scare or be scared by your potential customers is to understand their buying behaviors. Join other sales professionals and small business owners on Thursday November 1, 2012 from 12-12:30pm Chicago, CST on this FREE webinar “Telling Ain’t Selling.” Only 4 seats remain. To learn more about these weekly webinars focusing on small business and sales.

 

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Saying No to Free Consulting

For many engaged in providing professional services to small business owners, entrepreneurs, sales people and executives, there is an element of “free consulting” usually present at the initial first or second meeting.  For some small business coaches to organizational development consultants this “free consulting” is usually embedded within their education based, integrated marketing plan.

no-free-consulting

With the plethora of business to business networking opportunities, potential customers usually have more than one opportunity to connect with these providers of professional services.  Over time, relationships are built and when a need is present, outreach is made.  This is the perfect scenario, but alas does not happen as often as it should.

Instead what happens is those who give are repeatedly asked to give more.  In many cases this more in giving is just a short phone call to ask a question or in some other cases extended email asking to barter. All this giving drains billable time and more importantly implies it is “Okay to have this free consulting.” After all no one forced the coach or consultant to pick up the phone, to answer the question or questions.

Eventually the small business coach or organizational consultant is placed in an uncomfortable position.  Their time is valuable and yet these potential customers who bill for their time or their products believe it is Okay to continue to “run to the information well” without paying for the water. When potential customers continue to expect “free consulting,” this may also suggest some not so solid business ethics or to them business is a one way street and is all about them.

This past week, I had several instances where I had to say No.

  • No, I cannot barter
  • No, I cannot talk further about your issue
  • No, I do not have time because I am busy with clients

Saying No is not easy for me because my nature is to give, to educate to support others. However, I too want to receive recognition in dollars for my knowledge, experience and overall expertise as well as pay my bills.  Thank yous are nice and always appreciated, but they do not pay the bills.

By continuing to further develop my emotional intelligence, I have been able to say no to free consulting with greater ease and far less guilt.  Of course, I do not want to be viewed as a money hungry executive coach or consultant. There are plenty of those folks in today’s marketplace.

What I do want to be viewed as is someone who provides common sense strategies, processes, proven tools and connectivity allowing small businesses to unlock sustainable results in their people, processes and strategies.

When consultants and coaches say no, what they are doing is two-fold:

  1. No longer enabling the potential customer to seek “free consulting”
  2. Connecting to the value preceptors within the potential customer

Free is nice, but it blocks further value perception within the mind’s eye of the potential customer.  The “NO” now has that potential customer potentially thinking differently.

Yes it is imperative that if you are a small business coach, executive coach, sales coach or organizational development consultant to learn how to say no to free consulting with your positive core business ethics reinforced with your emotional intelligence. By taking this action, you will not only grow personally, but your bank account will also benefit.

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Is Your SOS for Your Small Business Because You Are Suffering from SOS?

In speaking with a new client, he made this observation about small business owners suffering from SOS that being “stubborn or stupid.”  His comment reminded me of another consultant who shared that she had interviewed 100 small businesses and 100% of them had no strategic plan.

SOS-small-business

Credit www.sxc.hu

Since I established my executive coaching and organizational development consultant firm over 15 years ago, I can offer these observations with 100% full confidence about small businesses with 99 employees or less and entrepreneurs:

  • 90% do not engaged in strategic thinking or business planning
  • 96% of small business owners will not make an investment in their own firms, but expect customers to invest in theirs by the purchase of products or services
  • 97% that have a strategic plan do not review it on a regular basis (weekly or monthly)
  • 98% of small business owners do not consistently set and achieve their own personal goals less alone their business goals
  • 99% have a mission statement that is not goal driven with key metrics in place
  • 100% of small business owners know they need planning, but make excuses about not taking action

These statements appear to validate my client’s observation that small business owners including entrepreneurs are stubborn, stupid or worse yet both.

Most probably 99.9% of all adults know the consequences of going to the grocery store without a written grocery list.  They agree this small piece of paper has significant value because of the lost resources of time, energy, money and emotions. However, most do not invest the same time for planning their lives and consequently that written grocery list literally and figuratively has more value than the rest of their futures.

With the year quickly coming to an end, now is the time to attend a workshop on strategic planning or hire a small business coach or engage an organizational development consultant to put your business goals to writing and chart a course of action towards the finish line for 2013.  The secret within the written grocery list is not the plan, but rather the planning, all the thinking you engaged to ensure your trip to the store was successful.

President Dwight Eisenhower said it best:

“Plans are worthless; planning is everything.”

 

 

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The ABC Approach to Increase Sales

Have you ever considered to increase sales is as simple as being:
ABC approach to increase sales

  • Authentic?
  • Believable?
  • Consistent?

Yesterday I had two experiences that confirmed the ABC approach to increase sales.  The first one was quite early in the morning where I earned two new clients because over the course of 5 years my marketing and sales behaviors had been authentic, believable and consistent.  Due to changes in their small businesses and personal lives, they decided it was time to make an investment in me. Pretty cool!

The second experience was over lunch and a relatively new client shared with me that she recommends me to everyone because over the course of that same 5 year time span, I had been always authentic, believable and consistent in my behaviors. She also shared that one of my perceived competitors in Northwest Indiana does not come close in any way to my executive coaching,  facilitation, knowledge of training and development, organizational development consulting and my business ethics.  I must admit her comment brought an internal and external smile and just a tad bit of self satisfaction. Yeck, I am just as human as the next person.

Authentic is simply are you say who you are.  Probably this is more about always demonstrating your positive core values or business ethics more than anything else to realize the goal to increase sales.

Believable is what you say true.  This capacity is about your knowledge base and the ability to apply that knowledge base.

Consistent is all about your demonstrated behaviors in all interactions. Possibility the phrase “talk the talk, walk the walk” best represents this capacity.

If you want to increase sales, then ask yourself and be honest in your responses. Am I:

  • Authentic in all interactions?
  • Believable in all interactions?
  • Consistent in all interactions?

Remember the first sales buying rule is people buy from people the know and trust. This ABC approach to increase sales is all about you being a “people” first.

Sales Cartoon

sales-cross-selling

Credit www.funnysalescartoons.com

Sales Quotation

“SOS in business from my experience more often that not is Stubborn or Stupid.”

James Sandrick

P.S. If you have not already registered for this FREE Webinar, If you are telling, you ain’t selling, on Thursday, November 1, 2012 from 12-12:30pn CST, there are only seven (7) tickets left.

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The Social Media Marketing Asking Conveyor Belt

With the small business to business world becoming more connected through social media sites such as LinkedIn, there is a lot of social media marketing asking going on for:

social media conveyor belt

Credit: www.sxc.hu

  • Referrals
  • Recommendations
  • Liking other pages on other social media sites
  • Followers on Twitter
  • Promoting or attending or that event

Unfortunately, much of this asking may begin to sow the seeds of distrust because it suggests a social media marketing conveyor belt of automatic actions with the thought only of producing quantity not quality.

People buy from people they know and trust.

This knowing of the person is critical when it comes to social media marketing especially when people may have never personally connected. Social media is truly not a conveyor belt where you can automatically secure hundreds to thousands of connections in spite of all those promises of “Get 200 or 1,000 followers in 30 minutes.”

If I do not “know” you, how can I trust you?

What I have observed is there is still a lot of over eager to just plan ignorant small business owners and social media marketing professionals who fail to understand that marketing including social media is not quid pro quo. Just because I am connected to you as a first degree connection, share a group or connected to you via another person does not mean I will honor your request even it takes only a minute.

Yesterday I received a LinkedIn message with the subject line “Quick favor (Only one minute, I promise)” from a second degree connection where we share a group, not sure what group as right now my second degree connections number in the thousands.

The person continued on with the following:

It is great to be in the same LinkedIn group as you. I would love to connect with you.I am inspired by your success. I would love your help. I promise to return the favor.  Can you please go to:

  1. Facebook page and “like” it
  2. Facebook page and “like” it
  3. Facebook page and “like” it
  4. Facebook page and “like” it
  5. Join a group on LinkedIn
  6. Follow this person on Twitter
  7. Follow another person on Twitter
  8. Follow another person on Twitter

This individual did share all links and at the bottom of the email confessed as to being the manager of all of these pages and promised to like and follow back.

As I read the email, I realized if I took all this actions through copying and pasting and just quickly glancing at each page, my time invest was closer to 5 minutes and not just one minute. Already she had broken her promise and my distrust had increased.

I did respond to her email and remarked that I since I did not know her, I could not take these actions.

Now some folks would have probably trashed the email. However maybe this over anxious marketing professional (I am probably using that term loosely) will get the hint that her social media marketing actions are probably not the best ones to attract attention (positive) and build relationships.

P.S. If you have not signed up for the FREE webinar, Telling Ain’t Selling, being offered on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 from 12-12:30pm, there are only 8 seats left.  This webinar will provide some history on the DISC tool and how that knowledge can help you better understand the buying behaviors of your prospects so in turn you can match your sales style.

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Emotional Intelligence Bridges Intergenerational Conflict

Intergenerational conflict is a term probably many small business owners as well as those in sales management have never considered within their organizations.  Employees sometimes don’t get along and that is part of the workplace and has been for decades. Yet, today with four unique generations in the workforce and a fifth one just looming on the horizon, intergenerational conflict will become more and more evident.

intergenerational conflict

Yesterday I attended a Lunch and Learn sponsored by Express Pros of Northwest Indiana entitled the Faces of Change in the workplace. This learning experience centered around a video produced by Express Pros.

One key point within this learning event was a recent survey conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) where 72% of those who responded indicated intergenerational conflict was an issue within their organization.

Since human beings still are not telepathic, most conflict be it in the workplace, the family or just in society happens because of communication.   Someone communicates either verbally or non-verbally her or his dislike of a situation to a person. The by product of this expressed dislike is conflict.

Conflict can be very damaging to any organizational in that it impedes performance and may even lead to a negative work environment.  This type of workplace is very costly as it usually has higher than average employee turnover to even law suits.

Emotional intelligence bridges conflict and especially intergenerational conflict. Individuals who recognize, understand and the manage the emotions of others while also recognizing, understanding and managing their own emotions have a greater opportunity to avoid conflict in most situations.

Emotional intelligence is viewed as a positive leadership skill.  When this intelligence works with the different communication styles (DISC) as suggested by the work of William Marston, then intergenerational conflict is dramatically reduced. Small Business Coaching Tip: Daniel Goleman’s book Working with Emotional Intelligence is a must read for small business owners, those in sales management and any professional in today’s workplace.

With the workplace changing and good help being hard to find and keep, possibly now is the time to look at developing the emotional intelligence of your employees and even yourself. This may be one of the best investments you ever made.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is a certified DISC, Emotional Intelligence, Attribute Index consultant and can support you in your efforts to assess and then develop your employees to be better. She can be reached at 219.759.5601 Chicago, CST.

P.S. The DISC tool is also great to better understand the buying behaviors of your prospects and then from that information match those buying behaviors to your selling style.  Join others on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 from 12-12:30pm Chicago CST for a FREE webinar “If you are telling, you ain’t selling.” Learn more about this webinar series of “60 Minutes of Good Content into 30 Minutes of Great Content ™”

 

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Is Your Sales Training Tethered to the Stone Age?

Recently I spoke with a potential client who shared with me in had invested $80,000 in sales training over the course of three (3) years.  After my heart recovered from the big thump of not earning that sale, I asked him how it was working for him.  His short answer was “It’s not.”

stone-age-sales-training

As we had been quickly developing a solid relationship, I took the chance to ask him “So what do you think the problem was or is?”  His response was three fold:

  1. “Me for not being more engaged”
  2. It was “not aligned with the behaviors of our people” (mostly software engineers)
  3. It did not increase sales

Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Refrain from using the “why” word by restating “why” questions into “what” questions until you are 100% absolutely convinced you have a very solid relationship.  Why questions are viewed as being very personal and may set off a subconscious, negative response.

Further discussion revealed this expensive sales training focused on technical sales skills and failed to address the people side of selling or people skills. Additionally, the sales training did not look at the marketing aspect of attracting attention and building relationships.

In some sales training, there is focus on what is called the “elevator pitch” as part of the sale skills. Actually this is a marketing skill and one  Seth Godin addressed in a recent blog  “no one ever bought anything on an elevator” or what I have labeled the “stone age” elevator pitch where people speak or more appropriately “club” listeners about benefits or the how of what they do and fail to address the what, the actual results.

The “elevator pitch” to be effective is a compelling marketing message to attract attention and connect with the potential customer emotionally. Depending upon the target audience and situation, each salesperson may have to have more than one “elevator pitch.”

How much time is invested in the majority of sales training programs to understand how to construct an emotionally compelling, short, concise marketing message for those one on one interactions?  From my experience, little to no time is invested in this first critical step within the sales process.

Where most sales training fails is it ignores not only the three sales buying rules, but this critical underlying need:

How can you as the salesperson just be valuable to the potential customer?

For example with this potential customer, beyond sending him a handwritten note the next day thanking him for his time, I emailed to him a potential free PR opportunity.   He thanked me via email and then asked me to review his submission which took all of 30 seconds to read.

Additionally I sent him one of my very inexpensive marketing templates to replace the glossy, high priced handouts that are usually dumped in the trash can. When we met for lunch, he mentioned several times how “valuable” I had already been to his firm and to him.

By just being valuable, I now have the opportunity to present to him a statement of work and looking forward to having him and his firm as a new client. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Except for formal government type bid proposals, consider replacing proposal with statement of work as this creates an entirely different mindset. Many other sales training firms discuss proposals, you become the Red Jacket by sharing statements of work and do not forget to lose the staple.

Maybe now is the time to cut the chains that have tethered your sales team to the Stone Age and embrace a more relevant sales training approach that looks to develop your people?

P.S. Speaking of sales training, this FREE webinar on Thursday Nov. 1, 2012 from 12-12:30pm Chicago, CST,  examines how through silence and the use of one tool, DISC, your sales team can better understand the buying behaviors of their potential customers or prospects. Bookmark this page for future webinars.

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Today’s Marketing for Small Business Goes Beyond Awards

Once again another local communications firm here in Northwest Indiana whose expertise is marketing for small business touted its awards. Yet its website has little to no traffic. (Alexa shows no page rank and Google show no page rank.) What is even worse, is this firm states on its website about “integrated marketing” approach through various channels including “social media.”  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  The shoemaker excuse of no time for his own shoes does not cut it in today’s small business market place especially when it comes to website traffic.

During the last five years, I have had numerous clients who paid thousands of dollars to marketing experts for websites that would deliver high traffic due to being search engine friendly or search engine optimized (SEO). In conducting my 5 point quick search engine assessment, I find glaring holes as to why the website is not gaining any traffic. Yet this website including this business and sales blog usually receives far more traffic.

What truly bothers me as an executive coach for SMB as well as sustainability and organizational consultant is increasing website traffic is not my main level of expertise.  This begs the common sense question:

“Why does this website secure more traffic than the sites of the so called experts?”

There appears to be a belief within those selling marketing for small business that awards equal expertise.  Marketing awards are usually about graphics and sometimes even conducted research, but rarely about actual business results to the clients. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Impressions are just that impressions and do not necessarily translate into results.

With the marketplace today truly global, a small business website is the access to local, regional, nationally and internationally new sales leads, increase sales and and eventually loyal customers. If that website is not delivering qualified traffic, then as in the well known quote from Apollo 13 Houston we have a problem” is quite evident.

My advice is before you scrap your website and have another redesign of your website because some marketing expert advices you that is what action you must take is to install the Alexa tool bar or visit Alexa.com.  Find the Alexa ranking of that marketing website’s URL that promises you traffic for your limited marketing dollars.  Then ask these marketing experts to show you their traffic numbers and how that traffic has increased over time.  Also ask for three (3) references from its clients you can call to confirm the results this marketing firm has delivered.

Awards are nice, but in today’s world it is all about results and that means unique visitors, sales leads and conversions that will increase sales.

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Integrity and Trust in the Bag of Business Ethics

Pick up almost any newspaper and there will be probably at least one blurb if not a full blown article on business ethics, integrity or trust.  Some politician who was viewed as having the highest personal integrity is indited for this or that and his or her value of trust no longer exists by his or her constituents to some business owner or professional facing several criminal charges.

Credit www.sxc.hu

An article recently discussed the confusion between the words trust and integrity.  The author, Jennifer V. Miller,  makes some very valid points. We as individuals have a lot of confusion about the words we think, speak and write because each of us have different experiences associated with those words.

In her article, the one word that caught my eye was “expectations” specific to being trustworthy. Expectations are the alignment of another’s thoughts to our behaviors. If we behave according to others’ expectations, we demonstrate greater trust from their perspective.  Possibly this is the foundation for “walk the walk” and “talk the talk.”

How many times in business are we confronted by people whose behaviors fall short of our expectations? I have observed this happening quite a bit within the realm of social media and referrals.  There appears to be the one way street happening where engagement is only one way.

When it comes to integrity, this is a business ethic that is 100% internal.

Are your behaviors in alignment with your own personal values statement, your own code of conduct?

Do you do what you say you are going to do?

Integrity demonstrates your authenticity specific to your business ethics as well as personal ethics.  In other words “to thine own self be true.”

There are many others values within the bag of business ethics. Some have been discussed in past blogs.

The question that you may wish to consider asking yourself is two-fold:

  • Do my observable behaviors meet the expectations of others?
  • Am I being true to my own internal values?

P.S. If you want to learn more about your natural versus adaptive behaviors when it comes the the language of sales, you may find this FREE webinar on using the DISC tool to not only gather information about the buying behaviors of your potential customers as well as how to match your sales style to those buying behaviors.

 

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Discrimination Required in Business to Business Networking

One lesson learned by successful small business owners to sales professionals is discrimination when it comes to finding new sales leads through business to business networking events whether it is joining or attending:

business to business networking

  • Chambers of Commerce
  • Professional  to Trade Associations
  • Industry Conferences
  • Local informal or formal business to business networking groups
  • Business luncheons, ribbon cuttings, open houses, tradeshows, etc.

Many new small business owners, entrepreneurs and sales people attend every event they can just to get their small business names out to their target market and start securing all those valuable sales leads. Unfortunately, because they failed to do their research, this time is not invested as well as it could be because their target market is not necessarily in attendance.

By becoming more strategic in deciding what business to business networking event to attend actually maximizes the return on investment.  Years ago I wrote an article about the return on investment (ROI) and client acquisition costs regarding  B2B networking and sales leads.  At that time, the cost was in excess of $30,000 and depending upon the value per client many small businesses were losing thousands of dollars in wasted marketing efforts.

Every year here in Northwest Indiana, there is a regional luncheon where attendance averages between 100 and 150 of mostly decision makers, centers of influence all within the small business community. This is an ideal business to business networking event for those small business owners and sales people who want to interact with the decision makers such as other small business owners and C Suite executives.  The price for this luncheon is an affordable $20 and requires no annual membership fee.

Having attended this luncheon for over 5 years, I have been introduced to new small business owners, but more importantly have had the opportunity to share this luncheon with my clients and potential clients who have also found the luncheon to be very profitable.  My clients have appreciated my recommendations and now understand why they too must be more discriminating when it comes to business to business networking.

Playing the role of Captain Wing It where one sprays his or her actions all over the place and then prays something will stick only drains the limited resources of time, energy, money and emotions.  If you want more sales leads, to increase sales or to build new relationships, then invest the time to research and then attend those networking events where you will get the most bang for your buck.

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Coaching Tip
People come first; sales numbers come second or third
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