Archive for June, 2014

The Confusion Path Between Sales Objections & Qualifying Customers

Some recent social media discussions revealed there exists significant confusion about sales objections.  This is best explained because in the past the marketing depattment handed off the fully qualified sales leads to lukewarm ones to the sales department.

sales-objectionsNow with 97.7% of all businesses here in the US having under 20 employees and far more constrained budgets, marketing departments are no longer separate entities.  Usually the small business owners to even those in sales management must integrate marketing activities with selling activities and thus begins the sales objections confusion path.

Before any salesperson can sell their solution (products or services), they must have a clearly articulated ideal customer along with having these four (4) to five (5) qualifying criteria met:

  1. Decision maker – the person who can actually sign the check or approve signing the check
  2. Allocated budget – just because the company has dollars does not mean those dollars will be directed your way
  3. Wants or needs for your solution
  4. Urgency to take action – sometimes salespeople can build a case for urgency
  5. Commitment to take action – salespeople can also build through proper research a greater emotional desire to make a decision in their favor

The ideal customer profile is the result of having invested the time to engage in strategic thinking and planning. Unfortunately for many small businesses they embrace the role of Captain Wing It where they spray their marketing and selling actions all over the place and then pray something will stick. I recently heard this during a public workshop where some SEO experts with significant national accounts recommended developing the marketing plan first and then determining the ideal customer.  Bad advice, very bad advice.

For example, if your sales lead or prospect cannot make a buying decision this is not a sales objection, but rather one of poor qualification. This happens a lot for realtors and even car sales people. Potential customers walk in and because they have poor credit scores, limited work history, excessive debt, etc. they cannot buy anything less along something as expensive as a house or car.

A true sales objection only happens after the sales lead has been 100% qualified and you as the salesperson do not violate the 3 Sales Buying Rules.  Now if the marketing has been executed flawlessly or almost flawlessly, the prospect will pull you, the salesperson, to him or her so you do not have to engage in “push selling” where you are pushing (think pitching) your solution.

Many sales are made without sales objections.  Again, some in sales believe if you are not achieving sales objections you are not selling.  This is a false belief and is in many cases because of ME or massive ego.

By ensuring through your marketing action plan your sales leads are qualified and better yet fully qualified will reduce the number of sales objections as well as your stress in making your marketing and sales goals.

 

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The Showers in Our Lives

Even though spring is officially over, we are still having April showers.  Sometimes they come without any notice and other times we have time to prepare.

showersWe grab a umbrella, a rain coat or even boots and dash through the rain drops and the quickly forming puddles as we venture forth knowing eventually the sun will once again reappear from behind the clouds. Of course sometimes we lack the umbrella and must contend with getting wet.

Funny, aren’t many of  life challenges the same much like the gentle rain droplets to pelting sheets of water where you can barely see out the windows?

How we handle those showers is quite similar to how we cope with the life’s daily challenges.  Depending upon the length and severity of those challenges, we use our coping skills much like grabbing an umbrella to boots.

Over time we improve how we deal with those downpours of life. Sometimes all we need is to rely on our own experiences while other times we may need help because the rain is so much we can be easily washed away.

Yes as these old song lyrics said “Baby the rain must fall,” this is true. How we handle the falling rain is a testament to our own coping skills and the ability as my father said to “Be like a duck and let the water roll off your back.”

 

 

 

 

 

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What Does 100% Self Improvement Really Mean?

Funny, how often do we hear of giving 110% or more when it comes to self improvement? Of course, some will argue this is called pushing the envelope, going beyond your existing potential or giving your all plus a little more.

self-improvementPossibly this belief comes from the testing of inert objects where tensile strength or other factors are pushed to their breaking points.  For example, a specific metal has reached its breaking point and is now 20% beyond that threshold. The problem is human beings are not inert objects.

Yet we know 100% is the limit, the problem is with our own internal perspective about our attitude toward self improvement.

For example, the mile run time has changed and some might contend the changes reflect going beyond the 100% of human endurance, of self improvement. The times have improved since 1913 when John Paul Jones recorded a 4:14.4 run to 1999 when Hicham El Guerrouj’s time was 3:43.13.

What this really means is due to attitudes changing regarding food, healthcare, training, human beings are inching closer to 100%. Of course with some bionics in the future, this may change and by changing the physical nature of human beings, the scores are not comparable.

One of my colleagues, Laura Novakowski, shared an activity with me.  She wrote the letters of ATTITUDE vertically and asked the participants to place a numeric value next to each letter respective to the letter’s position in the alphabet.  The end result looked like the above graphic.

Are you surprised the total of the numeric value for the word attitude equals 100?

We can only give 100% respective to our attitude.  What happens is we think we are giving 100%, but more than likely only giving 50 to 80%.

By setting self improvement goals both personally and professionally, we can improve our results and get closer to that 100%. And possibly instead of attempting to go beyond 100%, maybe we should just rethink where we are and be more realistic with our own self-expectations.

 

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Friend, Foe or I Don’t Know Small Business Dilemma

Business to business networking events help small business owners and sales professionals to meet face to face potential ideal customers (sales leads), centers of influence, strategic partners, suspects and general business acquaintances.  The challenge is determining if these individuals are:

small-business

  • Friends – sales leads, strategic partners, or centers of influence
  • Foes – competitors or potential customers that may be more of a negative than a positive
  • I don’t know

Within my executive coaching practice, I rarely find foes. Possibly because I have been around for 17 years as an entrepreneur and have not feared the competition for the last 12 plus years. Actually in several instances, the competition became executive coaching clients.

If I receive a small business card from someone I would rather not do business with, I toss it into the recycle box after I make a note of it in my database.  Why keep a card from someone who does not fit your ideal customer profile, who creates some tension within your gut brain or who demonstrates poor ethical behavior?

Where small business owners and sales professionals have incredible opportunity is with those in the “I don’t know” category.  This is when you outreach to them and schedule a visit over coffee just to get to know them.  Of course this is not the time to make your sales pitch, only novices engage in that type of behavior.

Unfortunately, most of those collected business cards ends up in a pile on a desk or in a desk drawer and are never sorted or acted upon. How sad.  How many lost sales opportunities?  Sales research suggests 50% of all sales leads are not followed-up.

Hmm….

I always wonder why go to all those small business to business networking events and not take action afterward?  Maybe these individuals prefer socializing first and business second.  For me, socializing is part of business at these events otherwise I would not be there.

Occasionally I have attended some business to business networking events just to support a professional colleague or even a client because I believe business is not 100% about me.

Yes it is important to recognize friends, foes or those I don’t know and then take action.  You may just be surprised by the new opportunities you will discover.

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Leadership Words, Expert Yes, Results No, Really?

A recent post by a well known sales expert about the leadership words to avoid and embrace caught my eye.  As I read the post, one of the words to avoid was “results” and another word to embrace was “expert.”

Then a reader of this blog, Russ Thoman asked me a very good question via Twitter.

“Why do so many leadership experts under perform or flat-out fail in the real world of #sales #leadership?”

His question plus the posting prompted this posting.

First, I do not have the national to international recognition of the sales expert who made the posting.  Nor do I have all his money from all his books and consulting solutions.

Yet what I do have is some common sense and a strong belief in results as well as being a fan of Peter Drucker.

Drucker once wrote “Leadership is all about results.”

My observation is when noted sales and leadership experts believe the word results is a bad word while promoting the word expert as a good word, there appears to be a ME problem.  ME = Massive Ego

Another reason is organizations hire sales or leadership experts because they are in many instances seeking the quick fix, the easy way out to solve a problem. There is an assumption pay big bucks quickly deliver big bucks. Usually the problem is the leadership of the organization and that rarely is addressed

Who wants to tell a potential client, you are the problem?  Yet most folks in any organization know leadership problems start at the top and cascade down.

Recently I was re-exposed to a older movie entitled The Executive Suite. If you have 10 minutes, watch the video to learn why so many sales and leadership experts fail.

Other “Why” reasons why for the failure of noted sales and leadership experts could be:

  • Not process driven
  • Misalignment between strategy, structure, processes, rewards and systems (Galbraith 5 Star Model)
  • Poor talent management from recruiting, onboarding and retention
  • Elephant gun to kill a fly solution
  • Failure to conduct a formal assessment such as DIALOG for organizations or Attribute Index for individuals

As a final note, several years ago I adopted this title after my name, CRO for Chief Results Officer.  If I believe I cannot deliver sustainable results, I will and have turned down engagements because I know what it takes to secure results.

For me, being a leader is 100% about achieving results through the consistent demonstration of positive core values.  Results will always be in my lexicon and I have no fear of using the word results as a leader.

P.S. If you are seeking some more common sense knowledge about leadership, consider this book, Fail-Safe Leadership.

 

 

 

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Just Learned I Have Not Been Selling for Last 30 Years

Imagine my surprise when I read a comment posted on a social media site by a sales expert who stated:

“If you don’t get objections, you are not selling.”

selling

This comment was within a thread where a sales coach shared his story about his coaching client (salesperson) receiving objections specific to dollars.  I had shared earlier in the thread an observation that  the noted sales objection was not a true objection, but rather poor qualifying on the part of the salesperson.

Beyond confusing poor qualifying with actual sales objections, I suddenly realized how many salespeople possibly believe that not having a sales objection means they really aren’t selling. I thought of always be closing (ABC) in Glengarry Glen Ross.

For these misguided folks, there appears to be a shared belief that sales objections are synonymous with proving your worth as a salesperson.  Really?

One of my mentors is Peter Drucker whose wisdom is profound.  In explaining marketing and selling, he said

“The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself.”

Another Drucker quote stated:

“The aim of marketing is to make selling superfluous.”

When your marketing is done well by meeting the customer’s wants and needs, what happens is your potential customer or qualified sales prospect will pull you to him or her.  You will not have to push and pushing in many cases raises both sales stalls and objections. Always be closing (ABC) is pushing sales behavior.

From an emotional intelligence perspective, objectives are emotionally negative.  Why in any buying and selling process do you want to stir up unnecessary negative emotions? That behavior appears to be quite illogical.

I must admit I did take this comment about “If you don’t get objections, you are not selling” with considerable amusement given I have been in sales and selling for 30 plus years with the last 16 years as a small business owner.  In reviewing my last 10 executive coaching clients, the only clarifying question I had was “Can I make two payments inside of one?”  Not one of the clients raised any real sales objections during our fact finding conversations.

During the last two years, 90% of my executive coaching sales have been earned by the second phone call or meeting.  This sales to earn rate (sales to close ratio) exceeds all national sales averages than I have read.

If you believe that sales objections validate your sales skills, then have at it.  Personally, for me, the less sales objections the better I have marketed my solutions and I am okay with that.

 

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Sales Leadership Temperament of Judge Part 16

The word judge conjures many images from the man in a black robe sitting in a court to those ranking performers in the various reality shows to the old Testament of the Biblical judges. In sales leadership role, there is also the capacity to have a temperament of being a judge.

sales-leadershipThe temperament of Judge is one where there exists:

In the real world, those with this sales leadership temperament related “primarily in terms of established system and order, (e.g., rules, the law).” The goal is order and consequently their energies are “focused on making things fit into the established system or order.” (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Examining the negative Practical Thinking or Tasks Dimension suggests “a conscious distance that is taken from social convention.”  In other words, those with this sales leadership temperament do not go with the majority of opinion or latest social trend.  (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

By having a neutral Empathy or People Dimension “indicates balanced objectivity toward other persons. You are not too trusting or too cold.” This temperament bias coupled with the positive Systems Judgment allows these individuals to apply the rules with “objective fairness and without regard to social status.” (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

For those in sales management roles, having this specific temperament would be very positive.  How many times do sales managers demonstrate their bias for one salesperson over another? This bias only further disrupts a high performing sales team.

Knowing our the biases reflected through our temperament allows us to improve our decision making and consequently our behaviors.  If we want to improve our results from increase sales to retention of workforce to relationships with both internal and external customers, then learning our external biases as in this case Judge as well as our internal ones is necessary.

 P.S. The Attribute Index is a great talent assessment and provides 78 key attributes (talents), external and internal decision making styles as well as biases.

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Is Your Marketing Message Coded?

This weekend I stopped by a national stationary store to purchase 2 color inkjet printer cartridges for my HP printer.  What I wanted was the standard not the extended ink  cartridges because I do not print a lot of color pages.  Unfortunately, when I asked the associate upon checking out if this store carried the standard not the extended cartridges I receive this marketing message:

marketing-message“We stock the extended because those cartridges are the most popular.”

Hmm, the code behind this marketing message of “most popular” is translated as “To optimize our profitability we are forcing you to spend more money. “

This coded message continued “So if you want the standard cartridges,those are included in the four pack. “ 

This translation is “You can spend almost four times more for this item if you really want the standard cartridges or purchase the extended cartridges at almost double the cost.  After all we must make money.”

What does this say about how this firm values their customers’ needs and wants?

Other national office supply stores carry the standard cartridges. Now I know to stop by these two other stores when I am out and about. This one particular store is fast becoming number three on my list of business supply stores.

Personally being a full blooded American capitalist,  I have no problem with firms making money. My issue is false advertising where “we value the customer” is part of their marketing message.

No you don’t!

Coded marketing messages have always been present from the real estate advertisements to even job employment postings.

These messages are 100% about the business or organization at the expense of the buyer or customer.  What these less than authentic firms want you to believe is they are 100% about you.  And that is 100% bull feathers.

As a word of caution, make sure your marketing messages do not contain some code real or perceived by your potential ideal customers. Today’s buyers are far more educated than ever before and it does not take long for them to decode the real intent behind your marketing and worse yet your corporate core values.

 

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It’s Just a Dime

Right now, before you read another word, reach into your pocket or wallet and grab a dime.

It's-just-aBelieve it or not, what you are holding in your hand is probably the most inspirational and motivational tool you will ever discover. Hopefully you will never, ever think again “It’s just a dime.”

Years ago I created an activity called “It’s Just a Dime” with the career and college bound high school students (Career & College Success Boot Camp) to demonstrate how we are self-imposed limitations restrict our incredible, innate potential

After all a dime is just 10 cents and 10 cents isn’t that much especially in today’s economy.

For these high school students, I asked them this question:

Is 10 cents a lot?”

“No” was always, the standard response along with “It’s just a Dime.”

I then continued with “Can I have agreement that since a dollar is 100 cents, each dime is 10% of a dollar.”

“Sure” was the response “Everyone knows that.”

My next question was even simpler:

“By your own admission, a dime or 10% is not a lot, what would 10% more effort gain you?”

The students would look at each other quizzically at first attempting to determine where this activity was going. Now it was time for the flip chart where I would write down letter grades.

“If a B is 85% and you by your agreement said 10% is not a lot, what grade could you earn with just 10% more effort?”

Suddenly the light bulbs went on and the students began to realize how much greater the results could be by working just a little harder as most admitted they did not work very hard to earn the grades they had.

Adults also suffer from the same malaise of “It’s Just a Dime” because they too have self imposed limitations.

Imagine for a moment you:

  • Drank 10% more water each day?
  • Ate 10% less food each day?
  • Walked 10% further each day?
  • Spent 10% each day?
  • Read 10% more each day?
  • Talked 10% less each day?
  • Listened 10% more each day?
  • Wasted 10% less minutes each day?
  • Watched 10% less TV?

Are you beginning to see the bigger picture?  Where would you be:

  • Health wise?
  • Financially?
  • Mentally?
  • Socially?

The next time you think you cannot get to where you want to be, rub that dime in your pocket, hold onto it and remember 10% isn’t all that much.

P.S. The Career & College Success Boot Camp dual purpose is provide self leadership skills lacking in the K-16 experience thereby reducing college debt for both parents and students while increasing changes of being hired.

 

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SMART Goals Are Old School

In life everything is subject to change. Many of those changes are called improvements, innovations.

smart-goalsFrom my research, Zig Ziglar was the first to speak about SMART goals.  The SMART acronym for goal setting became the standard and continued for many years.  However, given it had been around for 50 years, I kept asking my self why consistent goal setting  through SMART goals continued to allude so many people who knew and in many instances had implemented this criteria.

What I realized was many people failed to do the following:

  • Write the goals down
  • Align the goals to their purpose, passion and plans
  • Own  the goals, Yours

For the last 10 years or so I have used the WAY SMART goal setting criteria.  This past May I attended a conference and the speaker replaced the A in SMART that being attainable with actionable. The more I pondered this change, I realized it was a valuable  improvement and one I needed to include in my criteria.

Time for a new change was at hand.

The end result was a little shuffling of the words in WAY SMART:

  • Written – Goals must be committed to writing even if it through word processing
  • Actionable – There must be implied action in the goal setting process as demonstrated through a proven goal setting worksheet
  • Yours – You must still own the goal
  • Specific – The more specific the goal, the greater likelihood of success
  • Measurable – What gets measured gets managed
  • Aligned – By aligning the goal to one’s purpose, one’s passion and one’s plan or plans further strengthens the ability to complete the desired result
  • Realistic – Setting goals that are a realistic stretch, not too easy and yet difficult enough that additional effort is made is also necessary
  • Time – Target dates allow the goals to be not forgotten and an opportunity for revision, course correction if not achieved within the designated time frame

Those who continue to advocate for SMART goals are potentially using old technology or are old school as some might say.  By adapting to an updated goal setting criteria , may allow you to be more consistent in achieving your personal and professional desires as you travel the road of self-improvement.

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