Archive for September, 2016

Content Marketing Is the NEW Be There or Be Square

Over 10 years ago, content marketing was not on many business people, sales professionals or SMBs radar screens. I remember reaching out to the local SCORE group. When I talked about content marketing specific to the effectiveness of article marketing or having a blog, the advisor looked at me like a deer trapped in the headlights.  He was definitely no help because in his business experience there wasn’t anything called blogs or article directories.

content-marketingFunny, 10 years later SCORE in Washington, D.C. just published some interesting statistics on this now very prevalent marketing channel:

  • 32% of B2B marketers and 37% of B2c  marketers have a content strategy
  • B2B marketers allocate 28% of total marketing budget to content marketing
  • B2C marketers allocate 32% of total marketing budget to content marketing

Social media is the primary delivery channel for content marketing.

For me, content marketing has become the primary source for my sales leads. This past week I just published by 500th consecutive column for the Post Tribune/Chicago Tribune. I write one solid and informative LinkedIn article per month and write this blog 5 to 6 times per week.

With so many SMBs being single office/home office (SOHO) or non employed as per the U.S. Census Bureau, marketing through writing content is an affordable marketing strategy.  This strategy works very well when the overall focus is education based marketing and not product based.

Of course, as in any endeavor, practice does make for continual improvement.  There should be research respective to headlines, key words, length of postings, graphics as well as general overall readability and structure.  The use of automation tools such as Hootsuite must be understood because with the plethora of content being produced having someone read your content is much more unlikely than likely.

Content marketing demands building at least one if not several communities for amplification of your message.  The more people who share your content the greater likelihood your marketing efforts will generate actual sales leads (results).

Yes today to increase sales leads content marketing must be present.  To ignore this viable marketing strategy will doom your SMB believe it or not.

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Are You Suffering from the Sales Entitlement Virus?

Have you heard about the sales entitlement virus?  Probably not even though this sales virus has always been present.

sales-entitlementWhere this virus started is within customer loyalty.  From the executive leadership team to the sales team, loyal customers were expected to continue to buy from the organization.  I saw this over 30 years ago when I worked in the corporate sales world.

Here are the two basic rationalizations for the existence of the sales entitlement virus.

Rationalization #1 – The Business Is Ours

Why maintain relationships with lunches, dinners or supporting golf outings?   We do not need to continually drain our cash flow paying for these non essential expenses.

Rationalization #2 – The Business Is Owed to Us

Our solutions (products or services) are great otherwise these loyal customer would not buy from us.

Symptoms of this virus can be viewed when executive leadership and the sales team enter new sales meetings with a sales pitch.  These individuals probably have failed to connect with everyone at the table.  Their sales behaviors are viewed as one of ego and not one of support.

This arrogance of “the business is ours” or “the business is owed us” then can further harm the customer loyalty in personal interactions.  No longer is there an active marketing or sales strategy to build relationships. Salespeople become complacent.

There is no vaccination for this sales entitlement virus. Instead executive leadership and the sales team must continually work to build relationships not only with key decision makers, but with others within their customers’ organizations.

However there is a way to ascertain if the virus is active within your organization. By investing in an organizational and therefore a sales culture assessment that is aligned to a proven business criteria such as Baldrige can help to identify the presence of this sales virus.

Maintaining customer loyalty is essential to keeping any SMB profitable. By recognizing the presence of this sales virus and then actively working to reduce its impact through relationship building will ensure sustainable business growth for your SMB.

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In Sales Thinking You Are Different Does Not Mean You Are Different

Sales differentiation is not an easy task.  With the Internet and all the experts in marketing (branding), having a unique message requires considerable work as well as having the ability to change as the market changes.



Yesterday I received a handwritten postcard from a realtor.  I was impressed by this direct mail marketing effort.

In today’s busy world, sending a handwritten piece of correspondence is sales differentiation.  I have received dozens of direct mail postcards during the last several months, but this was the first hand written one. However, the message was not different even though I believe the realtor thought she was being different.

This realtor wrote “Let me prove to you that I’m the realtor who will take care of you and get your house SOLD not just listed.”

First, this realtor failed to do her homework.  Had she invested a few moments of time in doing some quick sales lead online research she would have learned of my background in sales.

Second, before I responded I did my research and learned she was not even on LinkedIn. Most of the realtors who had contacted me in the past were either not on LinkedIn or not active.

Sales Coaching Tip:  Most sales professionals in B2B along with many in B2C are on LinkedIn.

Third, the business model for this particular realtor is the same as the super majority of other realtors.  Listing the house is the priority not selling the house.

Given this realtor said she found the house on Zillow and if she read the information, she would have noticed the following statement “We will cooperate with realtors.”  This statement means we are willing to pay a sales commission if a realtor brings a qualified buyer who makes an offer.

Fourth, possibly the most serious sales marketing (messaging) mistake is not recognizing that today’s home sellers are more educated than in the past.  The sales data in the real estate market suggest anywhere from 80-90% of all homes sold are sold by another real estate firm not the listing firm.  With much of the marketing being free, receiving 50% of the standard 5-6-% commission does not make sense to the educated seller.

Thinking you are different in sales is not the same as being different. To truly Be the Red Jacket in a sea of gray suits requires any salesperson to be ahead of the market flow not in it or worse yet behind it.

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Deliver Empathetic Energy Not a Passionate Sales Pitch

Sometimes in sales, people confuse energy with passion.  What ends up happening is the passion sounds like a sales pitch.

sales-pitchWhen salespeople infuse emotional intelligence into their sales conversation, they now are delivering empathetic energy.  Empathy is a measurable talent and can be further developed through emotional intelligence as well as neuro-linguistic programming (NLP).

Low energy does not sell.  Misplaced high energy also does not sell.

What does sell is energy that focuses on the sales lead (prospect) with a underlying caring desire.  President Teddy Roosevelt said it best:

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

This does not mean the salesperson must be “touchy feely.” What it does mean is to recognize that people buy from people they know and trust.  By demonstrating your knowledge and you are trustworthy, reinforces this first sales buying rule.

Of course you must believe in your solution.  However your belief, your passion must not overwhelm your ideal customer.  This is when your energy is still very visible, but is not viewed as the all too common sales pitch.

Empathetic energy can be quiet and still high.  A smile, a nod, a well placed remark all contribute to this type of sales behavior.  The goal is always to build the relationship while also demonstrating your understanding of the current situation.

Being prepared is another aspect of empathetic energy.  Anticipating what the sales lead may ask and having that document or documents ready again reflects your knowledge and credibility.

Choosing words that reinforce empathy and are not judgmental also reflects this type of energy.  Words such as think, should and especially need all contain a perception of judgment.  The last sales behavior any salesperson should strive for is verbally judging the sales lead.

In your next sales communication experience, listen to yourself.  Possibly to increase sales, you may wish to decrease the sales pitch passion and increase your empathetic energy?

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is Trusted Authority for Forward Thinking sales culture. She works to close the knowing doing gaps of people and process that restrict sustainable business growth. Call her at 219.508.2859 Chicago USA time.

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Write with Care in Your Sales Presentations

Sales presentations can earn the sale or sink it.  These written documents can build trust or erode trust.

sales-presentationFor example, I received the following in a written documentation explaining the real estate brokerage listing fees:  “to pay for advertising,…computer equipment and time…, sales meetings …, print media…”

Since I also provide executive coaching and sales coaching services if I ever delineated in my deliverables I was charging for computer equipment and computer time I would never secure the sale.  There are some costs that are fixed and understood by the buyer.  As another example, I would never include “office rent” as part of my deliverable cost.

In thinking of my past corporate sales management life, I would have love to have charged for sales meetings.  However, that was part of the cost to do business.

My sense is this particular realtor was attempting to be upfront and even transparent. In this world where so many people are attempting to be transparent, this behavior can be counter productive especially in sales.

By listing deliverables that are part of the cost in doing business appears to be more of a rationalization why the fee is what the fee is.  This type of listing in the presented documentation ignores value articulation.

Possibly most people would not be taken back by what is probably somewhat standard language. However with buyers becoming more educated, I believe such wording in sales presentations will be viewed negatively.

The marketplace is changing for many industries including real estate.  Until real estate firms recognize this change and work with it instead of fighting it, they will not have the opportunity for significant sustainable business growth. Right now realtors, media publications, financial advisors and many other service industries are in the red ocean instead of the blue ocean.

Sales presentations are an opportunity to differentiate you, your SMB and your solution.  The last thing you want is to reveal you are like everyone else and worse yet, potentially insult the sales lead.

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Sustainable Sales Success Tip #10 – Be The Best You Can Be

This past week at a regular B2B networking group, South Shore Business Networking, the question was asked about sales success specific to what makes you different?  Everyone shared his or her personal and professional experiences when answering this question.

sales-successOne member, Marti Masterson of Masterson Alliance (independent insurance agency) shared this simple thought:

Be the best you can be!

Marti begins each day by telling herself to be the best she can be.

Wow, what a simple sales success tip that is probably overlooked more often than not.

We as human beings are negatively conditioned. Unfortunately we gravitate to the negative energy instead of making our own positive energy.

By sending a energizing, positive message to her brain every morning, she is now far more proactive than reactive in her sales behaviors. Marti realizes every action must be the very best from answering the phone to meeting with clients and colleagues.

Imagine what might happen to your day if you began with a similar positive belief statement or affirmation of:

Be the best you can be!

Would you attempt to change your behaviors to model this positive self-talk?  My sense is you would.

Would you also gain greater self confidence, self esteem and a feeling of self-worth. Again my sense is you would.

Being in sales, sometimes it is easy to be derailed, to go into a corner and have a private pity party.  Positive self talk of be the best you can be works to counter that human inclination.

Take a lesson learned from Marti Masterson and embrace each sales day with this positive bolt of personal energy.  You just may find some sales success much sooner rather tan later.

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Sales Prospecting in the 21st century – Part 4

The last reaction salespeople want from their sales prospecting efforts is to ignore the requests of a sales lead. This week I received this unsolicited email:

sales prospecting


Hi Leanne,

I was just reviewing your site and generated SEO analysis report. (Kindly refer attachment)

Your site received a score of 46 out of 100, based on key factors like

  • SEO – Search engine optimization
  • Mobile friendliness
  • Usability
  • Social Media and local presence

I would like to highlight a few thoughts about where you may be losing customers.

How is your schedule Wednesday morning between 10-11 am, for a quick phone call?

As I only buy from people I know and trust, I responded with this email:

I buy from people I know and trust. I do not know you. Please remove this email address from your database.

Within 3 hours after I requested removing my email from this company’s database, the salesperson ignored my request and sent me this reply:

Hi Leanne,

I truly believe we should chat for 10 minutes to see and explore the report together and make this actually work for your website.

I’ve tried to contact you through email. Having not received any reply from you, i thought you did not notice my previous email or the report. In any case, I’ve attached the report for you that i generated for your website about a quick call Thursday morning between 10-11 am?

I returned the following email message:

Since I don’t know you, I would not buy from you. Please remove this email from your database.
P.S. You may wish to secure some different inside sales training as a follow-up email after I requested removal is really very, very annoying.
Sales prospecting is the first phase of the sales process. The goal is to make a friend, not annoy someone!
Additionally, I did a quick and found the website had no traffic rank in the US and was at 24.6 million globally.  Yes is not necessarily the most reliable tool, but it does give a sense of the potential of traffic this site is generating.  According to Alexa, my site is receiving far more traffic.

Also maybe I am old school, but using a lower case i for the pronoun I was also a turnoff.

This company is clueless about sales prospecting through email marketing.  The reason I shared this experience is to discourage other clueless salespeople from annoying potential sales leads. And the next part will dive into another blatant mistake I observed.

Here are two previous blog posts you may wish to read:
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An Unconventional Solution to Reduce Sales Stress

Sales stress happens to many salespeople. Gotta make those monthly or quarterly sales goals is a continual conscious and usually unconscious thought.  Yet it is amazing how many salespeople ignore this somewhat unconventional solution.


Embrace a written goal setting and goal achievement  WAY SMART process both personally and professionally.

Possibly the reason this solution is not implemented is there is an existing presumption that people including salespeople know how to set and achieve goals.  Reality is they don’t.

What happens is people look at daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly sales goals. Then they start frantically dialing for dollars; attending as many B2B networking events or engaging in some other energy draining sales prospecting activity.

If they only had invested the time to clarify their own goals and then put them down in writing, the inevitable sales stress would have been dramatically reduced.

Research by 3M suggested individuals who write things down have a 42% greater likelihood of finishing that task.

What would a 42% reduction of your current stress do for you?

Consistent goal setting and goal achievement is a process.  It is not something individual learn through osmosis or some quick fix sales training seminar.  The process must be supported with a goal worksheet that reinforces the overall goal setting and goal achievement process.

Let us not forget for the most part stress is a reactionary behavior.  Yes there are some things in life that create immediate and uncontrollable reactions such as ill health. However much of life we can control provided we are willing to make the effort.

In working with executive coaching and sales coaching clients, I have them work through a goal setting and goal achievement process.  This is one of the first coaching discussions we have.

Yes it is a time consuming process to begin with. However over time what happens is the process becomes embedded as a critical thinking skill. Clients then becomes mentally engaged in how to achieve the goal.  They are now more in control of their desired end results.

Sales stress is not fun and not all sales stress can be 100% eliminated. What you can do as a SMB owner or sales professional is to reduce as much of that stress both personally and professionally just by writing your goals down and then working through a proven process.

Learn more about  proven goal setting process reinforced by a great goal setting worksheet.

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With Sales Pitches the Season Never Ends

The baseball season is coming to an end.  Too bad the same can’t be said about sales pitches.

sales-pitchesHow many clueless salespeople continue in their prospecting by offering bad sales pitches without understanding this number one buying rule?

People buy from people they know and trust.

This buying rule is especially true for B2B services.  Sending out sales pitches via emails, cold calling or text messages without having established any credibility is frankly a waste of time.

Of course there will always be exceptions, your prospecting marketing message came at exactly the right moment in time when all the buying stars were aligned.  However, these buying opportunities will always be far and few between.

Even during the marketing phase of the sales process, eager beaver salespeople begin their windup and start throwing sales pitches.  It seems they can’t help themselves or their sales training told them to do it.

Now if this is considered a one meeting close sale as Robert Terson discussed in Selling Fearlessly, then those throws across the strike zone should be carefully timed and placed.

Sales Coaching Tip: Bob’s book is an excellent read and should be added to your sales library.

For the most part, sales pitches that happen too soon may reveal desperation on part of the salesperson.  These early pitches may also be an indicator respective to lack of understanding how the sales process or the time frame to actually earn the sale. This time frame begins with the first known contact and concludes when the sale is closed or earned.

Sales Coaching Tip:  Keeping track of all contacts as through a CRM program helps to determine this time frame.

Of course with many executive decision makers already up to 50-60% through the buying decision before outreaching to any vendors, salespeople have less immediate knowledge of when the actual first contact with the prospect or sales lead was made.

With the baseball season nearly over, maybe it is time to take a hint and stop with all of your sales pitches within the marketing phase of the sales process.  Finally, to earn the sale remember even a baseball game has nine innings.

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Sales Prospecting in the 21st century – Part 3

If people buy from people they know and trust, then it seems reasonable all sales prospecting should build upon that fundamental buying rule.  Yet, salespeople in their hurry and up sales pitch behaviors send duplicate messages that fail to acknowledge any previous conversations.

sales-prospectingIn yesterday’s mail I received a direct mail piece from a realtor with whom I had an extended conversation. His latest direct mail marketing message which was a duplication of the first direct mail piece totally ignored that sales conversation. Now I am wondering if somewhere down the road I will receive a triplicate marketing message.

His marketing and selling behaviors are why customer relationship management programs exist.  Had he inputted our conversation into his CRM he would have realized that we had already communicated.

Now my initial somewhat favorable reaction to him has turned south because his sales prospecting behavior shows me he is disorganized and possibly even desperate for sales.  The good news is his mistake became another blog on sales and ultimately leadership.

How can I even consider buying into the solutions he had to offer when his sales behaviors are sloppy? He could have sent me the duplicate and add a handwritten P.S. to show he acknowledged our previous conversation.

Whether it is real estate agents to financial services providers to marketing firms, sales prospecting is a skill set that many in sales or SMBs that requires drastic improvement. For example, how many LinkedIn invitations (electronic direct mail) have been customized instead of the basic template?  I really love it when a marketing person sends me the template invitation.  This behavior does not build within me any knowledge or trust for that individual.

Sales prospecting is comprised of strategies and tactics.  Your behaviors are the tactics or execution of those strategies. When salespeople send duplicate marketing messages and fail to acknowledge past sales conversations with sales leads, this reveals both poor strategies and even worse execution of tactics.

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