Archive for January, 2014

The 3 Minus 1 Small Business Reality

Years ago I heard my father shared this small business reality.

small-business“With it comes to price, delivery and quality, most people can only secure two of the three.”

He went on that most people will not sacrifice:

  • Quality because they do not want to repurchase the solution
  • Delivery because they want the solution now

Buyers are willing to sacrifice price to ensure they have both quality and delivery.

How many in small business sales have the belief that pricing is the ultimate sales objection?

Dad also applied what I call this 3 minus 1 Rule to the belief “people buy from people they know, like and trust.”

When it comes to small business, Dad said customers or clients will not buy from:

  • People they do not know
  • People they do not trust

Again, buyers do not have to like the salesperson providing the solutions. Here again they are willing to give up “liking” someone.

Now Dad defined the word like “as someone I would take home for dinner.”

From my own experiences, I have come to believe in both of these “3 Minus 1” Rules for small business.

Last year I earned an executive coaching client who reached out to me because she knew me and trusted me.  I discovered during our executive coaching sessions initially she did not really like me.  However, she believed that I could support her in her effort to gain clarity and move forward. After time, she now likes me and we have become friends.

Knowing and trusting your salesperson is far more important than liking the individual as quality and delivery are more important than price.

Yes in many instances, your small business clients can achieve all three, however by removing one allows you more opportunity and provides greater clarity.

 

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“If I Only Had a Heart” for Small Business

How many times have we heard “let’s just keep this business” or “technology will vastly improve our business growth?”

small-business

Credit: Getty Collection

These comments and many more similar ones are heard every day as small business owners to sales professionals work harder to increase sales and to improve operations.

The sad part is these very well intentioned folks are missing the big picture because they have ignored that in today’s small business world it is all about relationships, about having “heart.”

President Theodore Roosevelt was quoted as saying:

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

Maybe this helps to explain why 90% of all sales are earned after the 4th contact.

Relationships of the heart are authentic.

My belief is quite often sales leads sense the salesperson is only looking to “close another sale” and then move onto the next victim.  The lack of genuineness can be quickly ascertained especially during the first couple of meetings as well as the follow-up actions.

So often small business owners enter meetings  or even business to business networking events with the expectations to walk out with a sale or at least a request for proposal. By taking this action, they have ignored an incredible opportunity to get to know their potential clients.

People buy from people they know and trust.

They do not buy from robots or the tin men who do not have hearts, who lack the emotional capacity to care.

Yesterday I had my first phone call with a sales referral. We invested 60 minutes visiting and just learning about each other. The last thing on my mind was “how can I sell to him.” I truly wanted to get to know him both professionally and personally.

Also as equally important, I wanted him to know me and begin to trust me.  My follow-up actions after our initial conversation began to reaffirm that budding trust.

Will he become a client? Sure I would like to think so. However, real relationships take time to build, to nurture. This individual is smart enough to know when someone is being insincere or just looking for a sale.

Relationships of the heart take time. 

As the old saying goes “Rome was not build in a day” and neither are business relationships or any relationship for that matter.

If you wish to increase sales and improve your small business growth, then mentally plan on at least four contacts (phone or in person) with your sales leads.  During your initial meeting, forget about making a sale and remember to make a friend, to demonstrate you care. Yes, this may extend your sales cycle, but it will also increase your sales conversion.

P.S. Would you like to increase your business results by 20% in 60 days?

Would you like to discover the problems within your sales process?

Then scheduled a no risk 20 minute Small Business Growth Accelerator Session with Leanne Hoagland-Smith at 219.759.5601 CST to discover how you can challenge and change your status quo.

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EDGY Leaders Make Time for Gratitude

Dan Waldschmidt in his book “EDGY Conversations” discusses this leadership behavior of gratitude.  We witness so many in leadership positions who fail to make time for gratitude, for thanking those who have acknowledged them and more importantly for passing on that gratitude to others.

to-say-thanksThis past week, I had the unexpected honor to be included in the 50 Tops Sales Pros to be Followed on Twitter by Get Base. After reading the names of the others identified in this list, I realized I was in some very good company, in fact exceptional company. Thank you again, Get Base CRM.

Believing your beliefs (personal and business ethics) should be in alignment with your actions or behaviors, I invested about 15-20 minutes to acknowledge many of those listed because I knew them personally through social media interactions, phone conversations or actual face to face meetings.

When we as EDGY leaders make time for this attitude of gratitude, we are being consistent with our beliefs (business ethics) and actions.

Consistency is a key element in leadership.

So often we are noticed by what we don’t do more than what we do.

One of those acknowledged set me a direct Twitter message about my action as being “incredibly classy.”  His comment made me realize that being classy is part of being consistent.

Yes we all have limited time. However to use “I’m too busy” or “I don’t have time” to acknowledge the efforts of others is as another colleague shared the adult equivalent ofthe dog ate my homework.”

We can tell quite a bit about a person who consistently demonstrates this EDGY leadership attitude of gratitude or does not.

If you consider yourself a leader, then set aside 10 minutes each day to demonstrate your personal gratitude. Send out a social media message thanking someone or better yet, hand write a note to a client, colleague, friend or even family member. Let others truly know you appreciate them and their actions.

An attitude of gratitude  is contagious.

So start a virus and your world, our world will be a much better place.

 

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The Four Horsemen of Leadership

Leadership is according to many experts the single most important factor in any organization. As evidenced by all the failed businesses to those organizations with ongoing issues, we do have a leadership crisis in this country.

leadershipPossibly part of the reason for this crisis, is we may be ignoring bad business leadership because to make any observation is judgmental. From my own observations, many of those who work for failed business leadership have learned to work around these ineffective individuals.

Bad leadership can be identified as one of these Four Horsemen riding their magnificent steeds through the hallways of business including government.

#1 – Status Quo

This leader wants the world not to change.  He or she is content with living with the philosophy of “if the wheel is not broke, why fix it?” Additionally, change threatens this leader’s own internal self confidence and self esteem.

#2 – King of the Hill

Here ego comes first and foremost.  These leaders are “it’s my way or the highway.” Emotional intelligence, what is that?  Some of these leaders go out of their ways to make their direct reports look stupid or intentionally set them up to fail. These leaders surround themselves with “yes” men or women.

#3 – Do as I Say, Not as I Do

Many of us have experienced leaders with this attitude of “Do as I Say, Not as I Do.” My first experience was in 7th grade where the science teacher was telling us not to smoke and yet he had a package of cigarettes in his shirt pocket for all to see. With these leaders, there exists significant inconsistent behavior demonstration of positive core values and stated business ethics.

#4 – Pseudo Intellectual

Possibly this leader is the most difficult to identify.  He or she says all the right words. Yet, forward progress never really happens. Under careful observation, one can begin to see the words are just shadows for this person’s own self validation. This type of leader also has a wide gap between the words and positive core values (business ethics).

Yes in spite of all the leadership training programs, leadership workshops to books on business leadership, bad leadership is still rampant. People leave managers (leaders) not companies is a truism.  Given in 2014, over 80% of those currently employed are seeking new jobs (Manpower), the leadership crisis is an uncomfortable realty.

The first question to be asked is:

If one or more of the Four Horsemen are currently riding your hallways, what is it costing your business or organization?

The next question to be asked:

Are you willing to make the necessary change to close the barn doors on failed leadership and open the doors on Fail-Safe Leadership?

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Millennials Are Creating a Brave, New Sales World

For several decades the Baby Boomers directed the sales world. Times are changing because of the increase in millennials those who are 18-34 years of age. By 2030, this demographic group will exceed Baby Boomers by over 20 million.

sales-worldThe Boston Consulting Group released some very interesting psychographics on what drives the sales buying decision within this ever growing population that currently accounts for  $1.3 trillion in sales annually for both products and services.

Millennials appear to be far more connected to their own personal values especially those between the ages of 18-24. Additionally, these new sales leads look to be regarded as sources for knowledge within their own communities, peer groups specific to brand opinion at 51% (18-34) compared to Baby Boomers at 35%.

Another notable difference within the sales world is millennials are far more action oriented both in buying and sharing their preferences online or through social media. The sharing of brand preferences is the most significant psychographic deferential.

  • 57% of those 18-24 will share their brand preferences via social media
  • 31% of those 50-69 will share their brand preferences via social media

The impact on the current sales world as well as future sales world will be a dramatic shift in thinking about the overall sales process.  For example current silos between marketing and sales force will need to be broken down so that sales engagement is far more multidirectional. The buyers will be more in charge rather than the executives and marketing departments.

With this information, the good news is for the 97.7% of businesses here in the US with under 20 employees. Since most of these small businesses do not have existing silos or processes to control buyer behavior, their transition to this new sales world will be far easier. For those organizations with more bureaucracy and less partnerships,they will find this change in their sales world much more difficult to grasp less alone adapt.

Yes it is a brave new sales world.

The question is:

When will you and your small business face this new sales world?

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SWOT or SLOT in Your Strategic Plan to Increase Sales?

Within the strategic planning process to increase sales, many organizations create their own SWOT analysis either individually or with outside help.  This is a simple assessment to determine the following:

increase-sales

  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Years ago when attending a conference hosted by Resource Associates Corporation I was exposed to the SLOT analysis that being:

  • Strengths
  • Limitations
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

As I listened to the presentation, I realized the word limitations or better yet the concept was a far better for two reasons.

First, many of us are so conditioned to our weaknesses we begin in automatic pilot when we start listing them. We are already constrained by our internal beliefs. The word weaknesses limits our critical thinking capacity.

Second, the word limitations is both broader (30,000 foot viewpoint) and narrower depending upon the discussion. By using this word, we are more engaged with our critical thinking skills and are truly challenging the current status quo.

As one always looking to challenge even my own status quo, over time I realized the Limitations could be replaced with Leadership because leadership is such an integral part of any organization and one of the major reasons for success or failure especially when it comes to increase sales.

From my now 16 plus years of executive coaching and organizational development through talent management, I can say with 100% certainty, over 90% of all organizational challenges can be directly connected to leadership. This makes perfect sense because organizations are comprised of people. People buy from people.

By replacing limitations with leadership, the focus of this analysis is far more in alignment with a business model where people are placed first over revenues, business growth, market share, etc.

If your small business to much larger organization desires to increase sales then return to your strategic plan and do your own SLOT analysis.  Start with the word limitation during the first go around. Then return and replace limitation with leadership.  Again, it may be beneficial to bring in an outside perspective so that you truly discover where your competitive advantage really is and how you can capitalize on that advantage to increase sales.

  • Would you like to increase your business results by 20% in 60 days?
  • Would you like to discover the problems within your sales process?

Then scheduled a no risk 20 minute Business Growth Accelerator Session with Leanne Hoagland-Smith at 219.759.5601 CST to discover how you can challenge and change your status quo.

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Sales Leadership Temperament of Skeptical Part 7

Being skeptical is probably a good behavior especially in sales.  For example, not everyone is what he or she portrays.  How many times have good sales people been led to believe they are sitting with the actual decision maker?

sales-leadershipIndividuals with this sales leadership temperament have the following biases respective to their external decision making styles as noted within the Innermetrix Attribute Index:

  • Negative empathy
  • Neutral practical thinking
  • Negative systems judgment

Sales people who demonstrate this temperament may have a “cautious resistance to involvement with the immediate external environment.” In other words, they do not jump in, but maintain some distance both emotionally and intellectually. (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

With the neutral practical thinking these individuals have a sort of harmony “with the social world around them.”  There exists within their sales leadership temperaments no over or under valuing the “importance of the objective and can clearly focus on what needs to be done to achieve success.”  (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

By having the negative bias respective to empathy (people) and systems judgement (critical thinking) may suggest the preferred work environment is more “loosely structured” and where change is more present. Additionally, individuals with this sales leadershp temperament of skeptical may not appreciate people as “uniquely important,” but prefer instead of working with others on a more “professional basis.” (Source Innermetrix Attribute Index)

When reviewing this sales leadership temperament, it may be good for those working in new verticals where the established quo is continually changing. This temperament may also benefit those in sales management who appreciate the difference between management and direct reports.  Being a buddy to one sales team member at the expense of others is not good leadership or management.

To discover your sales leadership temperament, consider the Attribute Index talent assessment as published by Innermetrix.

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Sales Leadership Talent of Realistic Expectations

Expectations is a tricky word and then add realistic to the mix, the end result could be considerable confusion about this sales leadership talent.

sales-leadershipPossibly more than any other sales leadership talent, this one reflects the absence of strategic planning to monitoring of overall business and sales results.  This absence can be directly attributed to those in leadership and management roles.

I truly wish I would be paid for the number of times in working with executive coaching clients who are top performers I have heard about those in sales management roles from the CEOs to sales managers who expect and worse yet demand unrealistic expectations from their sales teams.

For example, several executive coaching clients have had bosses who expect them to deliver sales in a shorter sales cycle time than the established sales cycle. Then there are those sales managers who hold one salesperson to different realistic expectations than another. My sense is the absence or inconsistent demonstration of this sales leadership talent is partially responsible for many sales professionals not meeting annual sales quotas.

Just as recently as yesterday in speaking with another executive coaching client, he shared a story within his particular industry of how one large organization was expecting higher profits and yet the established policies created a barrier that prevented this goal from happening. As he was speaking, I was again reminded of the 5 Star Model for organizational development.

Innermetrix through the Attribute Index Talent Assessment defines this sales leadership talent of realistic expectations as “The ability to have expectations of others that can realistically be met.  These standards can be either in quality of production, or quality of performance.” Of course this definition presumes the standards (systems/processes) have been clearly articulated to all.

Those professionals with a “good score in this capacity will be able to accurately evaluate the capacities of a person and set standards and expectations at a realistic level.  They can accept various performance levels and be open and accepting of a person who is not achieving at his/her maximum level.” (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

For those where this talent is not as strong suggests  “a person who is not capable of accurately judging the capacities of another person.  He or she will expect a person to be able to perform at a level established by themselves, and not at the level of a person’s actual abilities.  People with unrealistic expectations have standards that they expect others to fulfill, even if they do not have the right or authority to set these standards.” (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

When those in sales leadership roles have and impose unrealistic expectations on others, this creates an internal domino effect within their direct reports. From my executive coaching experience, I have observed these individuals who have been the recipients of unrealistic expectations  begin to have self doubt, lose self confidence, may now be confused about role awareness and self direction. Their overall self esteem may be negatively impacted as well.

Realistic expectations as a sales leadership talent is truly about how well those in management roles behave respective to their sales teams as well as other professionals within their organizations.  To improve the results from this talent suggests a return to the drawing board to ensure there is a strategic plan, an integrated marketing plan, a sales process, consistent application of all processes and systems including job descriptions.  If your firm is not meeting sales goals or there are other issues that need to be addressed, maybe now is time to reassess those expectations and potentially stop setting your sales team up to fail.

The Innermetrix Attribute Index is one of the most accurate talent assessments published. Please feel free to call Leanne Hoagland-Smith at 219.759.5601 CST if you wish to have you and your sales team benefit from this incredibly powerful talent management tool.

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3 Tips to Avoid the Collision of Marketing and Sales Expectations

Business when you render it all down is all about  marketing and sales expectations held by the customers.

marketing-and-salesThose in marketing and sales have intentionally or unintentionally established those expectations.

Marketing and salespeople want those funny jingles to having certain graphics and colors remembered as part of that top of mind awareness. Even though they intentionally are seeking to create conditioned responses, they are not always prepared for when those marketing and sales expectations deliver unintended results.

Think about the simple act of home paper delivery?

What happens when the paper is not delivered at the expected normal time as promised by marketing and reaffirmed by sales?

Possibly, the customers allow a few minutes to go by, but inside they are quite upset that their morning coffee routine will be missing the morning newspaper. They remember marketing promised them delivery no later than 6:30am and sales confirmed this promise. As time proceeds without the newspaper, the internal unmet expectations only increase in emotional intensity. So the phones soon are ringing off the wall with angry customers screaming for their newspapers.

Tip #1 is “Proactively Communicate When You Know You Will Not Meet Marketing and Sales Expectations.”

Failure to proactively communicate when you know your solutions will not meet expectations only makes your day more miserable.  If you know, for example, weather conditions may cause a delay in getting those newspapers out, then inform your subscribers through your website or even your prerecorded voice mail message.

There are numerous examples such as Comcast that promises service calls within a certain time frame.  All of these actions are really to avoid the collision of marketing and sales expectations.

Tip #2 is “Provide Something (perceived to have value by the customer) to Lessen those Disappointed Marketing and Sales Expectations.”

Here in Northwest Indiana and the Chicagoland area, we have been experiencing some very wintery conditions from below zero temperatures to whiteout driving conditions. One of the local newspapers provided free of charge an on-line edition for a delivery that was missed.

By embracing this tip, the customers still may be disappointed, but you softened their disappointment with a peace offering so to speak.

Before I share the third tip with you, I want to share two stories to illustrate the importance of this third tip.

Bright and early this morning ( I received an urgent email from a client-CEO) wanting me to issue two  assessments (DISC and Attribute Index) for a new hire.  The client actually apologized for rushing me. I responded within minutes of the email and the first assessment was issued within 60 minutes of my receiving the urgent email from the client.

The HR VP (who was cc’d on the email) responded “thanks, Leanne you are super quick.”

What I have learned is many people do not respond less alone respond quickly. Part of my values (core ethics and beliefs) is to be timely in all interactions.

Another colleague, Rick Gosser of Gosser Corp. Sales, regularly shares stores about how just by answering the phone and quickly responding to emails, he receives new orders. Many of those new clients react to his quickness as well as with genuine surprise that he actually answered the phone. These customers have been conditioned to expect voice mail and emails that go unanswered.

If marketing is about attracting attention and building a relationship and sales is about having your solution embraced (paid for by the customer), then not answering the phone or your emails only widens the disconnect between those marketing and sales expectations.

Tip #3 is Respond Quickly to All Communication Generated by Your Marketing and Sales Activities.

Yes sometimes emails go down or phone calls are routed to voice mail even though the phone never rang. Then you may be in a meeting or working with a client and cannot answer the phone.   When these events happen, refer to Tip #1.

With the majority of businesses (97.7%) here in the US having under 20 employees, there will be more collisions of marketing and sales expectations. For those in small business leadership roles, now is the time to identify those potential collisions and put in place processes to ensure those events when they do happen are quickly rectified.

P.S. If you truly want to sustainable business growth including increase sales, then scheduled a no risk 20 minute Business Growth Accelerator Session with Leanne Hoagland-Smith at 219.759.5601 CST where you will receive:

#1 – Quick assessment of your current sales process

#2 – One business growth strategy to increase results by 20% in 60 days

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Do You Hear the Traditional Marketing Bandwagons for SMBs?

With all the buzz around social media and digital media, for many SMBs the traditional marketing bandwagons are still rolling and delivering great ROI results according to a survey by BIA/Kelsey. Newspapers and direct mail still ranked #1 at 32.2% and #2 at 31.6% when it came to the overall percentage of use by SMBs.

traditional-marketingWhat is also interesting in this traditional market usage survey was the ROI for newspapers was still rated low with only 26% of those surveyed reporting a high ROI. Yet TV received a high ranking of 50% for delivering at least a 10-19 return on investment (excellent) or a 20 plus return on investment (extraordinary).

There was another even more revealing fact hidden within this study:

More and more SMBs are measuring the results of their traditional marketing efforts and redirecting their marketing dollars for the greatest impact.  Return on investment is now becoming a priority. Possibly this change in marketing behavior is due to the ability to measure the impact of digital media as well as social media.

After working with many SMBs respective to their overall strategic plan, this change in attitude about ROI marketing is indeed refreshing.

All marketing actions should be consistently measured to determine ROI.

For years, some in the traditional media promoted impressions such as newspapers, billboards and broadcast medias. SMBs bought into that rationalization and now for whatever the reasons have begun recognize effective marketing must deliver results that are positive.

After all, the purpose of marketing is to attract attention and begin to build relationships.  If SMBs do not measure how much actual attraction they have  garnered and connect those results to their overall sales, then the only sound they will not hear is the ringing of the cash register.

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