Archive for September, 2015

If Your Sales Competition Is Not Against You, Then Maybe They Are With You?

The fear of sales competition is very real for mid-size to small businesses.  So many salespeople live with negative feelings to behaviors about their competitors.  From my experience, this fear is keeping them from understanding how these competitors maybe with them instead of against them.

sales-competitionOver the years I have developed incredibly strong relationships with other executive coaches, business coaches, sales coaches, organizational and leadership consultants. These relationships begin because we as small business owners share the same positive core values (business ethics).

In many instances, I have initiated the first contact to better understand what this allegedly ‘new competitor” does.  What I have learned is the individual’s expertise is different than mine and usually so is that person’s core business.  The other positive aspect of this first contact with the sales competition is some of them have hired me as a business coach to help them with their strategic plan and marketing.

Recently I reconnected with another business coach and I learned his business coaching practice did not have a proven and affordable assessment to understand the failure of strategic initiatives for mid-size to small businesses with under 100 employees.  I shared the sample of the one I use. Now we are currently discussing how his business coaching practice and mine could work together through a strategic partnership.

Call 219.508.2859 if you would like a sample of this assessment.

Until you have that first conversation, you are making assumptions about the sales competition. These assumptions can be just as wrong as the could be right.

The fear of sales competition goes directly to having a scarcity mentality instead of an abundance one. When we immediately fear something because we make invalidated presumptions, then we are short changing ourselves and future opportunities to increase sales.

As President Roosevelt said “the greatest fear is fear itself.” Fear be it of the sales competition to cold calling to even asking for the sale is 100% within our control.  When we no longer fear the sales competition and begin to see opportunities instead of barriers, we may just realize those perceived competitors can become incredible resources to increase sales.

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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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Stop Listening to Sales Experts About Marketing

Some well known sales experts either discount marketing or actually ignore marketing. They look to the “real” sales process and provide their expertise about how to increase sales leads or convert sales leads.

sales-expertsPeter Drucker said “Business has two functions: marketing and innovation.”

Unless you can attract attention (sales leads), you will never, ever be able to dazzle anyone with your “closing skills.” 

Marketing opens the increase sales door not your sales skills.

The sales process has three basic and continuous stages:

  1. Marketing – Attract attention
  2. Selling – Earn the sale
  3. Keeping – Maintain customer loyalty

Don’t have a Sales Process? Download this 7-Step-Sales-Process-ADVSYS for FREE.

When the focus is only on selling, then incredible opportunities are lost.

Possibly the words of Zig Ziglar may help because Ziglar defined sales not as a transaction or the exchange of money, but rather “the transference of feelings.”

When we unite Ziglar’s definition of sales with another Peter Drucker observation  that The aim of marketing is to know and understand the customer so well the product or service fits him and sells itself,” we can recognize how marketing is actually more important than selling or sales skills.

The other problem with the advice of some sales experts is they are speaking to less than 1% of U.S. businesses (those with over 500 employees).  These larger firms have separate marketing and sales departments. Also what works for the big firms may not work for the small firms.

In the U.S., the reality is 97.7% of all businesses have under 20 employees.  These small businesses do not have the resources to have separate marketing and sales departments to increase sales.  The salespeople are the marketing people.

When sales experts share their wealth of knowledge, they are potentially making other presumptions beyond separate marketing and sales departments including:

  • Alignment between marketing and sales
  • The existence of a strategic plan
  • Ideal customer profile from marketing research has been clearly defined

Yes some sales experts do recognize that marketing is part of the overall sales process.  Those are the sales experts I would follow if your small business has under 50 employees and you wish to increase sales.

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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 Do You Define a Real Salesperson?

Isn’t interesting there are so many books on selling to sales consultants more than willing to define what it means to be a real salesperson?  Possibly all these different definitions can explain the numerous selling styles such as:

real-salesperson

  • Consultative selling
  • Question based selling
  • Relationship selling
  • Socratic selling
  • SPIN selling

The reason I bring this question forward is because so many are quick to say being this way is what makes for a real salesperson or a real executive coach, a real consultant, a real … (fill in the blank). Real becomes a way to dismiss anyone who does not share the exact same characteristics, education,  experiences or training.

What I know to be true is to be a real salesperson is unique to each individual.  There may be some common data points from talents, decision making style, motivators to behaviors. Yet, the ability to be successful in sales returns back to how Zig Ziglar defined sales.  Ziglar said “sales is the transference of feelings.”

Anyone can transfer feelings. Some are able to do it better than others.  Of course outside of empathy, this ability to sell is different for each individual again because humans are unique.

When we as salespeople attempt to adopt this type of selling versus that type of selling we have the potential of losing what makes us unique. We fail to leverage our own unique strengths (talents). Worse yet we become unauthentic because being this way or that way is not natural to us.

Authenticity builds trust. 

Being unauthentic builds distrust.

Currently I am working with a client who has a salesperson with “natural instincts” that have not been corrupted by adopting this selling style over that one.  She has had no “sales training” and yet instinctively she knows what to do.

Her strength is recognizing that sales is the transference of feelings and she has good empathy. She is focused on getting results and is driven to achieve.

As we work together, she is learning about more about sales especially understanding how to forecast sales and leverage business to business networking events.  The last thing I want to do is to force her to be this type of salesperson or that type.

Is she a real salesperson?  Absolutely. Would she be hired by a large firm for sales? Probably not because she would not fit how they define an real salesperson.

As in any other aspect of life, when we attempt to define what is real we lose sight of the potential that exists within others. Now if we what to learn how to define top sales performers (those who earn or have the potential to earn $100,000 or more) , that is another question and can be learned by taking this talent assessment to learn if you have the one shared data point.

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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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Time to Update SMART Goals to Being Smarter Goals

Many have heard about SMART goals.  From my research, the first person to talk about SMART goals was Zig Ziglar.  My simple question is if SMART goals have been around for at least 50 years, then why are so many goals still not achieved?

smart goals

Credit www.gratisography.com

Possibly the reason for the failure is today, the SMART goal setting criteria is not smart enough and probably was never enough.  There were three other criteria embedded into the SMART goals that most people never realized.

W – Written

Goals must be written down.  Yes some people are able to achieve goals without writing them down. However most of us do not have that ability.  Case in point is the every day grocery list. What happens when you fail to take your written list with you?

Writing provides clarity of thought and therefore of action.  We are better able to visualize what we desire to achieve.

A – Actionable

When written goals have action verbs, this propels the subconscious mind to take action.  I start my goals with the word “To” and then the action verb such as “increase sales,” earn 3 new executive coaching clients,” or “secure 5 new sales appointments.”

Y – Yours

Probably the most valid reason why SMART goals are not smart enough is because the goal in many instances is not owned by the individual.  Someone else set the goal such as a parent, teacher or sales manager.

The goal must be Yours.  If you do not truly own the goal, then you will only demonstrate a half-hearted response to achieve the goal. By being Yours, there is now an emotional investment into the goal through ownership.  Remember, people change their behaviors because of emotions, not because of logic or reason.

To truly realize the potential within the goal setting and goal achievement process, begins with WAY SMART goals.  When goals are written, actionable and yours, this unites the two different aspects of our brains – logic and emotion.  Consider being smarter by adding WAY to your SMART goal setting criteria and let me know the results.

P.S. If you need a goal setting worksheet that brings into the goal setting process your talents, then consider the Results Tool™.

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LinkedIn and Effective B2B Marketing Strategies

LinkedIn closely follows Twitter when it comes to effective B2B marketing strategies according to a survey conducted by Regalix Research. For myself I know LinkedIn as a social media channel has been more effective in securing new business coaching clients as well as corporate clients seeking support for improved execution due to workplace culture barriers.

B2B marketing strategies

Source: Regalix Research

What continues to amaze me is the number of B2B professionals who fail to engage in effective B2B marketing strategies. Instead they continue to employ everything from direct sales pitches to more indirect, sneaky outreaches.

In the last several weeks, I have received very few examples of effective LinkedIn outreaches.  For example, one contact just asked me to endorse me for five skills.  I know this person and he is a business coach and executive coach.  I have endorsed him in the past for particular skills that I have personally observed.  However I believe sending an email apologizing for not being active on LinkedIn and asking for LinkedIn endorsements is potentially not the best B2B marketing strategy.

As I track my LinkedIn endorsements, I can say 95% come from people who personally know me or who have been exposed to one or more of my skills through my corporate training sessions to my writings.  Additionally, I do attempt to send everyone a LinkedIn message thanking them for the endorsement.  If I do not remember meeting them, I do ask where we interacted.

LinkedIn Coaching Tip:  If you are receiving endorsements from people you don’t know, then it is time to purge your LinkedIn first degree contacts.

Whenever I accept a LinkedIn invitation, I immediately send the following personalized LinkedIn email asking for that individual to share what prompted him or her to reach out to me.

“Good morning and thanks for the outreach. Currently I am conducting my own personal LinkedIn research and was wondering if you would not mind sharing what prompted the invite such as a shared connection, a shared group, a comment or something else?

Additionally, possibly we could connect over a virtual cup of coffee to get to know each other as well as better understanding our respective businesses? Just let me know if that makes sense to you?”

This approach is a tactic to determine if the person really wants a viable connection,  just building up his or her contacts or trolling with sales pitches.

One of the more recent responses was a backdoor sales pitch.  This individual wrote:

“We do business with consultants like yourself who don’t always have time to do the things they should be doing. If you have some gaps in your strategy or effectiveness.”

If marketing is about attracting attention and building relationships, making a sales pitch by assuming I am like all those other consultants is not effective.  Additionally, the vagueness of the response was also suspect. Possibly this was supposed to create some curiosity, but for me it did just the opposite.

The best LinkedIn effective B2B marketing strategies are those where you are truly authentic.  LinkedIn exemplifies the words of President Theodore Roosevelt who said “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”

Social media is about engagement that means two-way interaction. Requesting endorsements to worse yet LinkedIn recommendations are one way engagements.  Possibly the better B2B marketing strategy is to make a phone call and personally connect with the individual.  Sure, this takes more time, but then to make a sale takes more than 3 contacts according to most sales research.

P.S. Most people (99.9%) admit to wasting 12 minutes a day, so you do have time to make that phone call.

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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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Action Plans to Increase Sales Growth Begin Where?

When creating actions plans to increase sales growth, the first question to be asked is where to begin.  Some will start writing down goals, others may start with action steps while others may focus on their sales funnel.

action-plans-to-increase-salesThe question I have is why do action plans to increase sales fail?

We know from continued sales research that many salespeople do not meet company sales goals or even their own. Those in sales become extremely busy as the end of each quarter approaches in their rush to increase sales.

Maybe the problem is not the creation of actions plans. but rather the failure is somewhere in the execution?

My sense is the reason there is failure to increase sales is because there is no consistent goal setting process and goal achievement process behind the action plans to increase sales growth.

Goal setting, consistent goal setting, is a process along with a finely honed skill.  This skill unites the many critical thinking skills within problem solving as well as reflection.

Consistent goal achievement happens because of this one element,  emotion. When the goal setting is emotionalized, there is a stronger desire to achieve the goal.  This is why SMART goals are ineffective because they fail to bring in the emotions into the goal achievement process.

When SMART goals are WAY SMART, this dramatically increases the odds for success because of this one letter “Y.”  The “Y” represents “YOURS.”  Until SMART goals are truly owned by the salesperson, they have no internal, emotional value.

If people buy first on emotion; justified by logic, then people achieve goals first on emotion; justified by logic.  Salespeople must buy into the goal.  Emotions are the”buy in.”

After many years in sales, I recognize the importance of writing (the W in WAY) things down and alignment (the A in WAY) with my other actions.  Failure to write things down and misalignment contribute to failed execution.

Finally, the workplace culture can also contribute to the inability to increase sales.  When salespeople find resistance within the other internal departments such as customer service to shipping to accounting, making those sales goals is very difficult if not impossible.

Probably the two best places to begin those actions plans to increase sales are:

  • Employ a consistent goal setting and goal achievement process reinforced with a proven goal setting worksheet
  • Assess your workplace culture to make sure there are no execution gaps

By taking these two actions before the creation of any action plans to increase sales, may just save you a lot of time, money and wasted emotions.

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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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What’s The First Rule of Sales For You?

Pigeon holding, type casting, finding the easy way to do something is human nature.  Salespeople are humans too and maybe that helps to explain why the first rule of sales is different for each individual.

first-rule-of-salesFor me, I like the rule physicians live by, “First, do no harm.”  So many times, we as salespeople rush in thinking we know the answer that we lose what we came to win.

At other times I retreat to President Theodore Roosevelt’s statement of “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Since I firmly believe in relationship selling, people must know you do care and you are not just another salesperson with another sales pitch.

Then Mark Twain’s words about “If the good Lord wanted us to talk more than to listen, he would have given us two mouths instead of two ears.” Active listening allows, at least, me to discover what others have missed.

During fact finding sales conversations, I remember the words of Marcel Proust who said “The true voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes, but seeing with new eyes.” His words remind me to keep a very open mind and not to look for the something new, but rather look for what others may have missed. This is probably why I changed my proposition or value statement to “The People and Process Problem Solver.”

After being in sales for over four decades, I truly believe the first rule of sales is different for each of us and is situational. To live by one rule may be self-defeating as to live by no rules.

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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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Let’s Have a Sales Dialogue instead of a Sales Conversation

Would you want a sales dialogue or a sales conversation?  Do you think both are the same?

sales-conversationsWell, they are not and there is quite a difference between the two.

The word dialogue comes from the Greek and truly is about building a relationship through a very focused exchange of words.  A conversation can lead to a relationship, but its general purpose is not to build a relationship.

The Socratic Dialogue is one great example.  Plato and Aristotle also used this format to share their ideas.

Probably the main difference between a Sales Dialogue and a Sales Conversation is the primary focus.  In a Sales Dialogue the focus is on emotions while a Sales Conversation the focus is on intellect.

For those familiar with the Golden Circle, the innermost circle is the primitive brain, the amygdala and surrounding limbic systems.  Here is the center for emotions.  In sales people buy first on emotions justified by logic.

The outermost circle is the neo-cortex.  This part of the brain developed last.

When we as salespeople recognize that solid relationships begin with emotions, then the words of President Teddy Roosevelt ring true, “no one cares how much you know (neo-cortex) until they know how much you care (amygdala).”

Within the sales process of marketing, selling and keeping, the first phase marketing is all about getting the attention of the sales leads or prospects.  Again, here is where emotions are first and foremost.

As the relationship builds, the salesperson can move toward the selling phase and begin to bring logic into the sales conversation.  However he or she can never forget to the relationship must be maintained.

Those in sales who have higher emotional intelligence almost naturally have more sales dialogues than sales conversations.  They seem to instinctively know what to say and when to say it.  In many instances, they employ silence through active listening instead of words.

What I know to be true, when I have a sales dialogue instead of a sales conversation my ability to earn the sale increases. Of course, I have only pre-qualified the person and he or she meets my ideal customer profile.

What I have also learned to be true, even if the person is not my ideal customer, by having a sales dialogue instead of a sales conversation, the other person remembers me in a more positive light. The end result in many instances has been a referral to an introduction to another center of influence.

After being in sales for more years than I care to admit, sales dialogues have proven to be far more effective than sales conversations.

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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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Where to Begin Developing Workplace Talent

Americans by an over whelming majority believe to stay competitive workplace talent must be developed. Many are also in agreement this action must take place at institutions of higher education.  Yet, is there where the emphasis should be?

workplace-talentWhen we look at what employers are seeking, even college graduates fail to meet what is needed in the workplace such as:

  • Communication skills
  • Decision making skills
  • Leadership skills
  • Problem solving skills
  • Team collaboration skills
  • Technology skills

Many of these skills are not necessarily learned in the classroom and probably should have already been learned through the past 12 years of education.  Unfortunately, these skills are not being learned unless someone is involved in athletics (team collaboration skills) or debate (communication skills).

Workplace talent should have been developed by the time young people leave high school.  They have 12 years to learn and hone the necessary workplace talent skills.

When we look at those who graduated before the early 1970s and those who graduated after, there appears to be a noticeable difference for many.  Beyond the curriculum being “watered down,” there exists a different mentality about work ethics and even self worth.

As a sales manager I saw this difference.  There were those few employees who gave more by working harder and far more employees who expected a paycheck for less work.  The old adage of giving 8 for 8 was true back then in the 1970 and 1980s.

Being an elected school board trustee in the late 1980’s and early 1990s, one observation that was pretty consistent was I could not tell some of the teachers from the students. Gone were the days of being professionally dressed.  Now the goal appeared to be like a student instead of a professional leader.

Possibly if we want to develop workplace talent, then maybe the starting place is with developing teachers.  What this means is teachers must leave any preconceived ideas about politics, social justice, etc. and start without bias to truly opening up the capacity to learn and to grow.

Our country needs competitive workforce talent.  And probably the first place is to deep six the idea “everyone wins a trophy” because in the workplace there are no trophies.

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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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Challenging Windmills Should We or Should We Not as Leaders?

People are strange creatures.  We are told to mind our own business and yet if embrace this attitude are we losing opportunities to challenge the status quo?  Yes sometimes challenging windmills (the status quo) is foolish and yet at other times maybe worth the involvement.

challenging-windmillsYesterday I challenged a woman who left her shopping cart in a disable parking space and she was only two parking spaces from the cart corral.  She was physically able as she brought the cart to her car.

So in returning my cart, I grabbed hers and made a comment (somewhat sarcastically yet with a smile) about how she obviously could not return the cart and apparently had no respect for disabled people. I then told her I would take her cart and return it to where it belonged.

This woman (I will not use the term lady) who was anywhere from 15 to 20 years younger than myself immediately jumped out of the car and hurried toward me screaming “no one talks to me like that and I can leave my cart any damn place I want.”  So I said “What are you going to do hit me?” She then continued on a tirade of profanities and insults with one including I was uneducated.  My reply was “Obviously better educated than you given your vocabulary and grammar.”

Then she returned to her car, pulled her car behind my car and continued with her diatribe. I smiled at her and told her to have a great day.  Did you ever notice that when you are nice to unhappy people they become even more unhappy?

I am reminded of Edmund Burke’s quote about “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” Possibly challenging windmills be it leaving carts in parking spaces to other daily bad behaviors is our responsibility as leaders. 

Growing up whether it was in our local neighborhood or when I visited the family farm in Northern Wisconsin, I was always reminded about my bad behavior because people were not afraid to tell my parents or grandparents if I misbehaved.  Even in our local neighborhood, my daughter knew the neighbors would tell if she was misbehaving.

Have we become so fearful of being judgmental that we fail to take on challenging windmills we see around us?  Of course, we must still be respectful.  I did not yell at the lazy woman nor indicated any violence other than a rather sharp verbal comment.

My sense is as leaders we have an obligation to challenge the status quo, to respectfully call people out when they misbehave.  Of course our interactions may only change one person’s behavior out of 100 and maybe that one person may later change another’s.

Challenging windmills can be risky and we must balance the pros with the cons for our own safety. Yet to take no action reflects our own leadership skills and suggests we are content with the status quo.

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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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