Archive for May, 2015

Sales Training is Not Just for Big Business – Part 04

The absence of sales training is directly and firmly placed at the feet of leadership.  These are the same leaders who took the dedicated employee from customer service, gave him or her a business card and told to “go sell.” Then when his or her performance is not at the same level as in his or her past role, the small business owners complain about the results. Give me a break!

sales-training

Credit www.gratisography.com

For any organization, problems are either people or process or a combination of both.  When leaders fail to train and develop their people especially their sales team, then only they can be held for the lack of results.

The usual reason for not providing any sales training is money.

“I can’t afford to train these people.” 

How many times have I heard that?

My response continues to be:

“You cannot afford not to train your salespeople.”

Today’s business world is different due to technology and the availability of information.  Buyers are more educated. For the 97.7% of all U.S. businesses that have under 20 employees, today’s salespeople must understand both marketing and selling along with how to keep existing customers.

Yes, small businesses cannot afford expensive marketing firms with a chance of getting some business and lose those opportunities. When these sometimes very expensive sales leads come in, the sales team must have both the strategies in how to approach these new sales leads and the skills to move the sale forward.

Some leaders will place their sales team in adversarial roles intentionally or unintentionally creating even more misalignment. This is just plain stupid especially if everyone is salaried.

Fail-Safe Leadership Is A Basic Primer on Leadership for Small Business Owners

When there is no sales training, this also strongly indicates leadership has no strategic plan.  In this small businesses, Captain Wing It is alive from the small business owner to the salesperson.  The philosophy is “spray your actions all over the place and then pray something sticks.”  What happens is:

  • Resources are depleted
  • Cash flow is irregular
  • Over time sales decline

If you are a small business owner and have not invested in your people, shame on you.  The first action is to Assess where your team is including communication of corporate sales goals; sales skills; ideal customers; buying history of clients; just to name a few areas to be assessed.  Then from these metrics, greater clarity is achieved as to what goals needs to be established.  From those goals, action steps can be created for exceptional execution. (Note: The ACE Model™ works in alignment with any strategic plan or any strategic initiative.

As I noted earlier, you as a leader for a small business cannot afford not to train and develop your sales people because one of your forward thinking competitors already has taken that action and you are now behind the flow instead of in it or better yet ahead of it.

The fifth and final part of this series will provide some suggestions in how to develop good sales training for your small business.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn

 

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Sales Training is Not Just for Big Business – Part 03

sales-trainingIn any business from the micro to the macro, there are only two (2) types of problems – people and process. When there are any inconsistencies in people or process, these four Ps of Performance suffer:

  • Productivity
  • Progress
  • Profits
  • Purpose

Sales training, rather good sales training (results driven), is the mechanism to reduce and eventually eliminate these inconsistencies. Since businesses are dynamic with changes in people and process, sales training must be an ongoing solution.

The Inconsistency of Productivity

Each business has a sales process that is comprised of three general areas: marketing, selling and keeping. When the sales team is so busy on selling and forgets marketing, eventually the sales funnel dries up. Good sales training will identify the sales process or even provide one so that everyone understands how the ideal customers are identified, attracted, sold and then kept as loyal customers.

The Inconsistency of Progress

When the sales team is not on the same page, progress suffers. For example there may be one veteran salesman who does not believe in using social media for marketing (think prospecting and branding).  The other team members acquiescence to this established and respected salesperson.   Progress is at a standstill.

The Inconsistency of Profits

If productivity and progress are inconsistent, common sense tells us profits will suffer.  There will be highs and lows, probably more lows.  Cash flow will also take a hit as well. If the salespeople are paid on commission, poor morale might also take seed.

The Inconsistency of Purpose

The other three Ps lead to inconsistency of purpose. People start asking themselves this question:

Why am I in this business?

This is when stress for the mid-size to small business owners becomes even more evident because working the business is no longer fun.

Yes, the absence of good sales training is very harmful to sales productivity, progress, profits and purpose because its absence creates inconsistencies.  If you wish to stay in business, reduce your stress, have more fun and make more money, then invest in some good sales training.  You will be glad you did.

Part 4 of this series will discuss the impact on leadership.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Sales Training is Not Just for Big Business – Part 02

When people lack basic knowledge about selling, this creates a plethora of internal fears.  One of the objectives of good sales training is to uncover those fears and then close those knowledge gaps.

sales-training

Fear of Making a Mistake

How many times have new salespeople been given some business cards, some brochures and told “Go sell?” These truly engaged employees with loyalty to their employers want to do their best, but fear making a mistake.  Some learn by trial and error.  Others may read some books, listen to a few webinars to fill the knowledge gaps. What happens is a lot of inconsistency as to the sales process (marketing, selling and keeping.)

Mistakes are OOPS and OOP$ are expensive not only to the bottom line, but to internal feelings of self confidence, self esteem and self worth.  These feelings may increase and impact other talents such as self starting ability.

Fear of Competition

For example, in many mid-size to small businesses there is an inherent fear about the competition.  “I don’t want my competitors to know what I am doing.”  This thought is very much old school.  Social media especially LinkedIn provides more than enough information about you to your competitors and more importantly to your ideal customers.  If you sell in the B2B or even B2C industries and you are not on LinkedIn, for some of your ideal customers you may not be even worth a phone call.

Do not forget you are unique. People buy other people first and then buy their companies and their solutions.  No one does what you do in the way you do what you do.

Fear of Thinking (Innovation)

When people lack the belief they can do well, this also impacts their ability to think creatively.  What happens is they are stuck “selling” the same way and loose many opportunities.  Efficient and effective sales training “unstucks” salespeople and provides the opportunity to discover new opportunities.

For example, earlier this week I was working with a small sales team in a mid-size Midwestern city.  I asked if anyone had consistently called on every single business in the downtown area which probably was close to 50 businesses? The 17 year sales veteran ventured forth and replied “most of them have been called on.”  I then asked within the last 30 or 60 days?  The General Manager said “I doubt if all of them had been called on in the last 30-60 days.”

We are all familiar with the old adage “If it ain’t broke, why fix it?” In today’s world within the sales process, marketing must adapt to the new marketing channels of social media and even business to business networking events.

Many of these changes are new to mid-size and small businesses.  Ignoring these changes will eventually spell doom to these businesses.  As Peter Drucker said “The purpose of business is marketing and innovation.”  Everything else is operations.

Yes sales training is not just for big businesses.  Not having sales training tailored to your mid-size or small business is your first step to business failure.

Note: Part 3 will examine the impact of inconsistency respective to the lack of sales training.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Sales Training Is Not Just for Big Business – Part 1

sales-training

Credit www.gratisography.com

Once again I realized SMB businesses desperately need sales training.  Many salespeople in mid size to small businesses (under 50 employees) have never had any formal education about the sales process – marketing, selling and keeping customers.

I cannot count all the times I heard “I was given some business cards, some brochures, pushed out of the front door and told ‘go sell.’ ”

Believe it or not this continues to happen even in the 21st century!

The lack of education has several negative impacts.

Internal Fears

When people do not know what they are supposed to do or how to do what they are supposed to do, internal fears are created. These fears erode self confidence as well as “natural” and developed sales skills. Then a cascade affect happens where self esteem, self starting ability to even personal commitment are eroded. Fear becomes the driving force and truly immobilizes the salesperson.

Leadership Void

Those with any sales skills are looked to as leaders even though those very same skills are not necessarily good. The sales team may look to the wrong person to lead them because bad leadership is better than no leadership.

Inconsistency

With sales people lacking self confidence as well as the leadership void inconsistency happens. There may be duplication of efforts to some ideal customers never being formally contacted. Measurements are never put in place such as sales to close (earn) ratio. Additionally, the overall marketing message for the SMB becomes muddled. Finally the perceived sales leader may be engaged in bad sales behaviors that may ruin a truly good salesperson.

The Reality of Sales Training

Sales training for the most part has been designed and developed for Big Business not small business. Complex sales, extended negotiations, multiple decision makers usually are not faced by salespersons selling in the B2B businesses with under 50 employees. Also marketing is not included as part of the sales process.

Download this simple 7-Step-Sales-Process designed for Mid-Size to Small Businesses.

If you are a small business owner, then now and not later is the time to invest in your sales team.  Your salespeople with the right development can improve their sales results. Of course this presumes you have the right person in the right sales role; using the right talents; making the right decisions for the right results in the right time frame and within the right environment.

Note: Part 2 will explore the impact of internal fears.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Are You Suffering from Marketing Malaise?

Marketing can become quite routine, almost boring especially for small business owners.  Each day turns into another one where you may write a perfunctory blog; send out some social media updates; go to a business to business networking event to uncover some more sales leads;  make those necessary phone calls; or meet with a new ideal customer.

marketing-malaiseSoon you feel you are tired and marketing becomes difficult.  You have a general sense of discomfort and uneasiness.  Yet you cannot place your finger on the exact cause.

If you are suffering from marketing malaise, then it is time to get moving.  Change your routine if possible. Establish some new goals, preferably personal ones.

Probably most importantly take a walk or a run.  Your body especially your mind needs physical activity, new input.

By walking or running, you are bringing fresh oxygen into your system.  You are invigorating all those brain cells. This is the time for innovation, to think differently.

You are refreshing your entire system.

If you are a sales road warrior, buy some audio books. Listen and then record your thoughts using your smart phone (hands free of course).

Another tactic is to schedule some time to read the marketing efforts of others.  Attend a webinar.  Read a book. Think how you can infuse some of that energy into your own marketing actions.

Yes, marketing can become a routine just as any behavior.  Your goal is to keep it fresh, keep it moving forward to your desired end results. So what are you waiting for?  Get going!

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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Walking the Path of Liberty

The path of liberty comes with a price, a very expensive price, death. Here in the U.S., we are so blessed because men and women freely acknowledged that price and paid that price.  They fought and died in the service of this wonderful country.

path-of-libertyMany U.S. citizens have had family members, friends, neighbors and acquaintances die walking the path of liberty.Their deaths are the price we pay to be able to live free, to say what we want and to do what we want (for the most part).

I had a first cousin who I never met. Robert Hoagland died in WWII at the Battle of the Bulge. Sometimes I think of him and I wonder what life he could have had?

What accomplishments could he have achieved?  What would his children look like? How much better would our family be because of his presence?

Then when I see U.S. citizens disrespect the flag, disrespect the law, I realize many of these people are clueless about the path of liberty.  They have been conditioned through entitlement to expect liberty without any personal sacrifice.  They party, they live off the productivity for others and some even run for political office.

Liberty for these folks is like an endless candy or cookie jar.  All they have to do is reach their hands in to eat the sweets and never worry about how the sweets were made.  Readily volunteering their lives to walk the path of liberty and knowing full well the price they might have to pay has never entered their conscious thoughts.

Coming from a first generation Swedish family on my father’s side, two of the four sons volunteered for WWII. Both sons survived even though one (my father) was seriously wounded at the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Another son, Robert’s father, was too old to serve.  The fourth son was exempt as he worked for Howard Hughes Aircraft and was building planes. My mother’s family also had its share of military service men and women.

Yes walking the path of liberty is expensive.  Thankfully here in the U.S. we have honored those who died with this special day, Memorial Day.  And hopefully in months and years to come, we will continue to honor those brave men and women who freely gave their lives so we may live ours.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Do We Know Who We Are?

The older we become, the more we understand who we are.  This clarity comes through experience and a whole lot of self-reflection.

who-we-areNow there are a few people who have exceptional clarity of who they are at much earlier ages. My Swedish grandmother was one such person as is my husband. However, for the majority of individuals (myself included),  they lack crystal clarity when asked “Do you know who you are?”

When we lack this clarity, we have a tendency to undervalue or overvalue ourselves.  This may lead to some internal confusion and create additional stress, anxiety and even impact our own internal motivational drivers.

From this lack of clarity, we lose our authenticity of who we are.

Today probably more than ever before in history, authenticity is so needed and yet appears to be quite illusive. Technology has given rise to social media and from that we are exposed to many unauthentic people.

These unauthentic individuals promote the quick fix because of the perception they are experts regardless of industry or role. These folks are the ones who take advantage of others just to make a quick buck or to ensure their position.

Knowing who we are has always been important as the old expression goes to “thine own self be true.” Unfortunately today, knowing who we are takes time and internal courage to go against the many and be one of the few.

How we know who we are requires self-reflection.  Investing the time to think is an essential part of this knowledge seeking experience.  Additionally, there are some very good psychometric assessments that provide a foundation for building this clarity of self.  And for some, having some spirituality may support them in this endeavor.

When we can answer the question of “Do we know who we are?” during our moments of quiet contemplation, we just may find life to be even better and clearer than we had ever imagined.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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One Authentic Leader Speaks What Others May Think

One of my colleagues, Miles Austin, finally spoke through his blog what others may think in this recent posting entitled “Beware of the Rise of the Instant Expert.”  Miles is truly an authentic leader in that he not only writes with honesty, but with emotional intelligence.

Miles-AustinHow many times do we as small business owners and leaders fear some backlash when we share our observations? This fear is compounded with the many social media platforms that provide an opportunity for others to criticize us.

I have alluded to this rise of “so called”  experts numerous times with this blog. However Miles has expanded his observation with far greater detail and relevance.

What I truly appreciate about Miles as an authentic leader is he asked for others to share how they sort through the endless stream of advice from all the instant experts.

This posting is just one of many that engages and educates.  His goal as an authentic leader is not to sell to you or make a sales pitch. No, he wants to educate and through that education build credibility over time.

I encourage you to read Miles’ posting about instant experts as well as the responses by those who commented. Their responses may help you sort through all the instant experts.

Being an authentic leader is not easy.

Finding an authentic leader is just as difficult.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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Top Sales Performers Know What Cards to Hold

Imagine for a moment you have a deck of cards. Each card represents a sales lead.  Two of those sales leads are Jokers that you immediately discard. If you want to join the ranks of the top sales performers, you must know what sales leads of the remaining 52 cards to hold and those to fold or discard.

top-sales-performersFor small businesses owners, many hold onto all 52 cards and attempt to work all of these sales leads.  By taking this action they probably:

  • Lose sales because the are concentrated on the many and not the few
  • Increase stress because current sales quotas are not being attained
  • Reduce customer loyalty and retention

So how do top sales performers know what cards (sales leads) to hold and those to fold?

#1 – Know Your Ideal Customer

Top performing salespeople have a clearly articulated  ideal customer profile. They have invested the time to research the demographics and psychographics. They can clearly share this ideal customer profile in 100 words or less.

Example:  My ideal customer profile is:

  • Forward thinking leaders who are not satisfied with the status quo
  • Recognizes there are barriers to growth
  • Admits to not having clarity as how to handle these barriers
  • A small business owner with sales of $3 million to $50 million
  • A sales professional earning between $50,000 & $100,000 or over $100,000
  • A corporation where traditional training and development solutions have failed to yield sustainable results

By applying your ideal customer profile to your deck of sales leads will allow you to begin the process of discarding and even folding.

#2 – Separate Centers of Influence from Actual Ideal Customers

Within those 52 sales leads are probably several if not more centers of influence. These are people who may not be direct decision makers, but can influence the buying decision or make recommendations to those within their spheres of  influence.

#3 – Invest Time to Research

Once you have begun your separation process, invest additional time to research.  Probably within 15 minutes at the most you can find out the following:

  • Annual sales
  • Growth rate
  • Number of employees
  • Recent awards
  • Industry trends

This information is critical when you meet each of those sales leads.  Top sales performers always do their research so they understand what is happening within the potential ideal customer’s world.

#4 – Know Your Talents

Do you know what you do well?  How can you better leverage those talents to earn those sales leads?  Before you engage in actually reaching out to those sales leads, know what you do well.

Top sales performers do not share the same talents or sales skills.  Their advantage is they know how to leverage what they do well. This difference allows them to capture sales leads others may miss.

Check out this talent assessment that identifies 78 key talents.

#5 – Be Willing to Hold

Patience is another attribute of top sales performers.  They realize sometimes patience is necessary.  Building relationships takes time.  Many in sales, will fold their cards (sales leads) before playing out the hand.  They give up too quickly.

Sales is sometimes like playing with a deck of cards. You never know what card (sales lead) you will draw. Your goal is to have 100% clarity regarding where you are going respective to sustainable business growth.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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How Authenticity in Sales Training Is Lost

Are you a consultative salesperson?  Maybe you are a SPIN or Sandler spelling person?  Sales training today covers a plethora of sales styles or models.  Yet many of these forget this one essential element – authenticity in sales.

sales-training

Credit www.gratisography.com

I know this to be true when speaking to my clients and sales leads who tell me they can tell what type of sales training the salespeople have  experienced by the questions they ask. This revelation only reaffirmed what I learned from my own personal experiences.

People buy from people they know and trust.  Also people buy you as the salesperson first before they buy your company, your solution, your  price and your delivery.

How many times is the focus on the sales training model or process?  This focus is justified by the results of others who have embraced this or that particular program.

Possibly you may have heard statements like these:

  • Do these sales process steps in this sequential order
  • Do not deviate from the sales script

I too went through several different types of sales training programs.  What I learned that each program made me less authentic.  I had to adapt my natural style, my inherent authenticity. This adaptation made me less believable and created additional internal stress.

Buyers can pick up your internal stress.  They can sense something is not right.

There is a place for sales training and sales development.  Many of these learning engagements do provide hidden nuances that may make the difference from losing the sale to earning the sale.

The challenge is for the salesperson and the company to find a balance between the learning and performance objectives of the sales training and the salesperson’s authentic self.  Additionally, salespeople who enjoy selling and find such a role rewarding should not lose this passion.

Maybe having each person take several talent assessments before the actual sales training might improve overall results.These assessments would include:

  • DISC Index – An assessment focusing on behaviors and communication styles
  • Values Index – An assessment focusing on motivators for the salesperson
  • Attribute Index – An assessment focusing on the decision making styles as well as 78 core talents
  • Emotional Intelligence- An assessment focusing on the emotional intelligence of the salesperson

By having the results of these assessments in place, the sales training firm, the salesperson and the organization just may improve results and reaffirm the authenticity of their top sales performers.

P.S. As a reminder to engage in any sales training without first having talent assessments in place is foolhardy. Would you have confidence in a doctor who upon hearing you have a headache  immediately schedules brain surgery without any diagnostics?

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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