Archive for March, 2014

Just When You Thought You Had Your Marketing Bases Covered

So you have your marketing calendar in place, you are blogging regularly, sharing the social media posts of others and doing your follow up with all those new sales leads.  You are feeling pretty good because it has taken you months to get your daily, weekly and monthly marketing all in place. Then all of a sudden your baseball field is upset and you realize you now have another base added to your playing field.

marketingYou scratch your head and consider throwing up your hands because the last thing you need to your already time stretched to the limits day is another social media action. And worse yet this new social media opportunity is geared to your business to business (B2B) target market and ideal customer profile.

So what should a time strapped, stressed out and energy depleted small business owner or sales professional do?

Stop and breath is the first step.

Second step, take the time to reflect upon your current marketing actions as written within your strategic action plan and determine where you can make the necessary shifts and course corrections to accommodate this new inbound opportunity. Right now clarity as to what you are doing and the results you are receiving is paramount. This is not the time to be reactive.

Third, consider this new opportunity to be one of focus. Select one or two specific topics such as thought leadership, exceptional customer service or optimizing supply chain management. Determine the best 5 keywords and then align all of your actions so you can quickly become the recognized expert in this new opportunity.

Fourth, maybe now is the time to outsource (think delegate) some of your marketing activities especially if you have already leveraged automation tools such as Hootsuite. For nominal investment, you can hire others to execute some of your other social media marketing.

Fifth and probably the most important step is to recognize that change in today’s technology driven marketplace will only increase.  As new inbound marketing opportunities open along with the traditional outbound ones, having an open mind to all of this change is essential.

Yes, you can deal with any new small business marketing opportunity as long as you remain in the role of Captain Focus It and not Captain Wing It.

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The Quick and Easy Is a Loss of Faith in the Future

quick-and-easyI want it now, not yesterday!

I want it to work, immediately!

I want it cheap!

How often do we hear of the desire for the quick and easy along with the cheap?

Today I was watching a movie entitled “The Executive Suite” where William Holden spoke these very insightful words that are as true today as they were back in the 1950s.

“The quick and easy is a loss of faith in the future.”

When we expect anything, business solutions, personal relationships, learning, or even weight loss whatever it is to be quick and easy, we have already admitted defeat.  We have lost faith in our own self leadership ability to moved forward today that future desire, goal or important achievement.

Worse yet, we have also lost faith in those around us.

We now believe they cannot do what is expected of them.

Others, our families, our friends, our employees and our communities will not rise to the occasion because we have not risen as leaders.

Imagine if those who had gone before wanted the quick and easy plus cheap, would we have had the monuments to human achievements from the city of Rome to the Sistine Chapel to all the scientific accomplishments that continue to alleviate human suffering?

Yes moving forward will always take enormous effort and faith in the future.

So the next time you think about wanting or needing the quick and easy plus cheap, think again.

Ask yourself is this really a loss of faith in your own abilities and the abilities of those around you.

And,

Are you really closing the door to the future because of your selfish desires for I want it right now; I want it quick; and I want it easy and of course, I want it cheap!

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Big Data Is a Big Advantage for Small Business

Earlier this year for my weekly online business column for the Chicago Sun Times/Post Tribune, I discussed what I perceived to be the up and coming small business trends. One of those trends was big data and this trend is only growing and further expanding.

big-data-small-businessThe amount of data that is being distributed every minute of every day is mind boggling as this Infographic indicates. And for any small business, big data provides a competitive advantage provided the time is invested in analyzing this data relevant to each firm.

One shared competitive disadvantage is all this content makes for a very crowded marketplace. This crowded marketplace suggests niche marketing is even more critical to your inbound marketing activities.

On the plus side, other marketing research by Crowdtap suggests user generated content (UGC) is preferred by millennials over TV.  Also, when it comes to millennials making a buying decision, 53% make that decision based upon UGC while only 44″% use traditional media in their buying decision process.

If we believe Google along with the SBA (US) and other sources 50% of all small businesses here in the US do not have a website, then these firms are at competitive disadvantage. Also from my small business coaching experiences, 75% of these firms have websites that are non-functional, boring and still are under the online brochure marketing philosophy. Worse yet many of the marketing firms that state they specialize in UGC have under performing websites as well.

What any small business can do is to analyze this big data and then synthesize it respective to its current solutions, ideal customer and business growth. Possibly now is the time to update that strategic plan collecting dust on some shelf or buried under a pile of papers in some desk drawer.

Obviously big data should not be the only tool employed when analyzing a small business competitive advantage nor be the one factor when making executive decisions.  However, to ignore big data is equally foolhardy.

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Thought Leadership Unites Self Leadership with Leadership

Leadership comes in more flavors than Baskin Robbins ice-cream.Yet what is often not discussed is how to unite self leadership that being the ability to lead oneself and leadership that being the ability to lead and sometimes follow others.

thought-leadershipPossibly, thought leadership is the connecting bridge or even the missing link between the internal role of leadership and the external one.

Many individuals have the ability to lead themselves.  However they have no desire to lead others.

Then there are those leaders who lead others and their own internal leadership skills leave a lot to be desired.

Since individuals are unique, thought leadership may not look the same. Yet after reviewing and analyzing results from one talent assessment, Innermetrix Attribute Index, there appears to be certain leadership talents that have more influence than others.

  • Concrete organization
  • Leading others
  • Practical thinking
  • Respect for property
  • Status and recognition

For those individuals in leadership roles where they have learned to channel their own self leadership to their more formal leadership approach they appear to be more successful than those who have yet to make this connection.  These individuals have united their own talents to move themselves forward personally and then move others.

Thought leadership looks differently for everyone. This is why there are no exact attributes or competencies to identify one thought leader versus another. These individuals are all about thinking and doing with the underlying thought to move the organization forward.

If we accept the premise that human beings today are creatures of thought, then thought leadership may indeed be the missing link to unite self leadership with organizational leadership.

 

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Patience Is an Undervalued Sales Skill

Why do so many people rush the sales process?  Maybe this is one reason why sales quotas are not necessarily a good thing? Having those numbers hanging over your head is much like the Sword of Damocles and may prompt you into demonstrating a poor sales skill.

sales-skillIf the sales research is true that 90% of all sales are made between the 4th and 12th contacts, then why rush in? Patience as a sales skill is required not only in working through the sales process, but in each interaction from the verbal conversations to the written communications.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Your anxiousness comes in loud and clear both consciously and subconsciously.

For example, my sales style is very laid back and I focus on building the relationship. During this process of patience (aka education based marketing) I learn as much as possible through open ended questions and active listening.  I nurture only qualified sales leads and have learned to quickly discard those sales leads that do not fit my ideal customer profile.  Of course one never knows when a potential customer can turn into a qualified ideal potential customer. Having a monthly drip marketing campaign such as a newsletter or even a blog keeps top of mind awareness for those truly not qualified customers as well as existing customers.

One of my most consistent and  successful marketing strategies is to send relevant articles and in many cases this book “Failed Safe Leadership.”  By investing the time up front, these marketing strategies make the selling phase of the sales process almost effortless.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Marketing is all about attracting attention and building the relationship. Avoid jumping into the selling phase before you have 100% knowledge that you have completed this first phase successfully.

Of course when you have the internal expectation the sale will be earned between four and 10 contacts, then the sales lead hears your sales skill of patience and may actually thank you for it. Yes patience is a quiet sales skill and one that some salespeople undervalue.

If you truly want to sustainable small business growth including increase sales, then scheduled a no risk 20 minute Business Growth Accelerator Session with Leanne Hoagland-Smith at 219.759.5601219.759.5601 CST where you will receive:

#1 – Quick assessment of your current sales process

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

 

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Stupid, Damn Sales Scripts @#$%&?!!!

When will organizations learn that sales scripts are stupid when they fail to engage customers and worse yet tick off customers?

sales-scriptsYesterday I went to visit my mobile phone carrier because I received an email notice of a FREE upgrade to a new iPhone 5C. Of course, the store did not have it nor was I told any other stores.  So, I decided to order the phone and wait the 2 weeks.

I realized early on into the conversation with the salesperson she was “sales script” trained.  However, I also noticed she lacked active listening skills because her sales training was driving her behaviors.

When  we were discussing shipping the phone to my home address, she asked me “Do you want the device insured?” Coming from a 20 plus year inside sales career, I always stayed with the current conversation until I confirmed agreement and then was very specific in moving to a new topic.  So I asked “Why should I insure the phone? Doesn’t Verizon pay for insurance shipping?

Her response was “Do you want the device insured?” 

She did not answer my question.

Damn sales scripts @#$%&?!!!

Strike #One

After several additional moments of conversation, I finally was able to confirm the insurance was for after receiving the phone and not for shipping. Then she provided me with the total that was $30 more than I had originally expected. The extra $30 was for the upgrade. When I questioned the additional $30, she told me “Everyone charges for the upgrade. After all, you are getting a $200 phone for $30.”

For me free is not free plus $30. The email message did say upgrade, but also said free. What the marketing message should have said is “Upgrade your phone for $30 and receive this $200 5c iPhone at no additional charge.”

Also, personally I do not give a rat’s behind what everyone else charges. That is not my problem. And I really, really hate surprises when I am making any purchase regardless of price.

Damn sales scripts @#$%&?!!!

Strike # Two

This young salesperson was quite taken back with my reluctance to buy this free phone for $30 as evidenced by her repeated statement of “You are getting a $200 phone for $30.” And when I said “Please cancel the purchase,” she said “Okay” and did not have any further response.  She was letting a qualified sales lead out the door because she did not know how to deal with some basic sales objections by an unhappy customer.

Strike #3

Now I am researching other carriers because my business is being taken for granted and my ten plus years as a loyal customer does not count for a hill of beans. No I would not recommend my carrier.

When salespeople stick to sales scripts and fail to truly engage the customer especially those multiple year loyal customers, this reflects poor sales training, poor sales management and overall poor leadership.  As I was leaving the store I truly felt like:

Can anyone hear me now?

 

 

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Sales Leadership Talent of Theoretical Problem Solving

Theoretical problem solving as a sales leadership talent differs from the three other problem solving related talents discussed earlier this month:

sales-leadership-talent

The difference is simply one of environment.  Theoretical problem solving is all about the “what ifs” within the environment of the  mind allowing the person to imagine what could be while the other three talents deal with the existing “what” of  the actual real environment.

Theoretical problem solving is defined by the Innermetrix Attribute Index as “capacity involves a person’s ability to apply their problem solving ability in a mental scenario.  Creating, operating and identifying problems in a hypothetical situation, then to manufacture the appropriate response to resolve the problem.”

Individuals with this sales leadership talent can:

  • Identify future problems
  • Formulate appropriate steps needed to correct them
  • Take action on these decisions (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

For those in sales leadership roles that do not demonstrate this capacity may:

  • Have difficulty in visualizing future scenarios
  • Be unwilling to take action after collecting the data
  • Require require validation their decision is the right one
  • Take more time along with more information before making a decision (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Theoretical problem solving is a strong talent for those dealing with complex sales or longer sales lead time. This talent also unites other talents or personal sales skills such as:

What we know is that each individual is unique.  How they use their talents will be different.  Those who are continually successful recognize thought leadership and use that capacity to catapult themselves ahead of the flow.

Is this a necessary talent for you in your sales or leadership role? Then this quick and affordable talent assessment may answer that question for you.

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Are You Overlooking the Obvious in Your SMB Marketing?

Sometimes in the quest to increase sales through new SMB marketing actions, obvious opportunities are often overlooked. This appears to be true if a recent report by Direct Marketing News is correct.

Marketing-SEO-BI-F-00What this report tells me is the basics of having a SEO friendly site with relevant and dynamic content is still lacking by many small businesses.  Also there appears to be alignment gaps between the website, email campaigns and even face to face business to business networking.

Google and the SBA (USA) have suggested that 50% of all small businesses in the US do not have websites.  Also those small businesses with websites for the most part have ineffective ones.  These SMB are still under the impression build the website and they (sales leads) will come. Small Business Coaching Tip:  Alexa.com is a great trending tool to measure Internet traffic over time and overall Internet marketing penetration.

Even though this report was for retailers, much of the information is appropriate for those engaged in business to business (B2B).

Human nature appears to be very much evident with SMB marketing.

Look for this new solution (think quick fix) and my small business will instantaneously increase sales leads.

Unfortunately that is not how it works.

Effective SMB marketing begins within the strategic goal driven action plan. Key research and analysis have already been undertaken including:

  • Market (current)
  • Market trends (past, current and future)
  • Competitive – internal
  • Competitive – external
  • Ideal customer profile
  • Responsiveness to innovation

Without investing the time to complete the strategic action plan, the small business owners to the executives may continue to overlook the obvious.

Yes the quest to increase sales through SMB marketing is necessary to stay in business. However misdirected and misaligned actions will only decrease the opportunities to increase sales and increase the likelihood of an early demise (business failure).

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 219.759.5601219.759.5601 CST where you will receive:

#1 – Quick assessment of your current sales process

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

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The Desire for Perfection Reveals So Much More

Being married to an engineer who was responsible for ensuring the building designs held the weight of the materials, people and even snow loads I appreciated his desire for perfection. And even with his most accurate calculations, mistakes were made by others.  These mistakes, these imperfections were outside of his control.

desire-for-perfectionLife is always throwing us mistakes, imperfections and how we choose to deal with those events is a testimony to our own resiliency.

Most accept perfection is not attainable for a variety of reasons.

Yet there are still individuals who strive for their own desire for perfection and in many cases for the wrong reasons.

Take social media and those individuals who must always correct your comments with a long diatribes showcasing all of their perfect knowledge.  What in actually they did was to reveal there extremely strong, overbearing ego and it’s all about me nature.

Give me a fricking break!

Then there are those small business folks who want their marketing or websites perfect.  Of course, the marketing is never published and the websites never go live.

Yet they complain about not having enough business or the inability to increase sales.

For me, the desire for perfection is an emotion that I never look to experience because I believe in the words of Mark Twain who said:

“Continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection.”

 

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The I Don’t Have Time Road to Mediocrity

Can we agree on these two facts?I don't have time

  1. Being busy has always been part of human progression
  2. Time has always been the same constant of  60 minutes per hour; 24 hours per day

So then how did mankind get to where mankind is if everyone was always so busy?

The answer is those individuals did not use the excuse of “I don’t have time.”

What those forward thinking individuals did was to better utilize their talents, skills and experiences to do what they needed to do.

The invested the time for reflection, for thinking of a better way to do something, to get to where they wanted to be.

If you are unhappy with the status quo, the current road you are traveling, you have 100% control over changing the direction of that road.

You will carve out the time you need because you do not want to continue with the current mediocrity.

If you know you can do better, why aren’t you doing it?

And if you think your fellow co-workers, colleagues, friends and families have any sympathy for you think again.

They are probably turned off by your complaining about “I don’t have time” and wishing you would do what you need to do.

 

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