Archive for October, 2016

The Trick or Treat of Sales Advice

Yesterday I received my weekly email from a colleague, Anthony Iannarino, entitled How to Avoid Bad Sales Advice. This posting was quite accurate given there is so much sales advice out there and yet people still are unable to achieve sales results.



Sales advice is much like Halloween, 365 days a year.  It is either a trick or a treat.  For many it appears to be more of a trick than a treat.

The marketplace is changing, continually evolving because of technology.  Today’s buyers are more educated and less susceptible to trickery.  One would think salespeople would also be less susceptible, but that does not appear to be the case.

Pressure from sales managers to SMB owners to increase sales, meet quotas, expand marketing may be part of the reason for all this trickery. Additionally, there is the “quick fix” belief held by many because they waited until results were so bad they needed something quick to fix a long term, usually systemic problem.

All this bad sales advice presumes everyone is suffering from the same people or process problems.  If we examine the sales statistics, we learn that most people are not ready to buy when meeting a salesperson.  We also know people buy from people they know and trust.  This is called relationship building and is helped through nurture marketing via content marketing be it a weekly email or monthly ezine. 

In many instances, the reason for poor sales is not because of salespeople’s actions but rather from executive leadership which lacks clarity and thus creates misaligned and misdirected actions.  As Theodore Hesburgh said “You can’t blow an uncertain trumpet.”

People need leadership and uncertainty is a killer when it comes to the goal to increase sales. This is not the time to engage in trickery or treats that are still tricks. Be authentic, be present and remember people buy from people they know and trust.

Happy Halloween!

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Sustainable Sales Success – Tip #12 Be Reachable

To have sustainable sales success does require for you to be reachable.  If people cannot find your contact information, you may be losing sales.

sales-successThe challenge is three fold for SMB owners and sales professionals:

  • Phone numbers and addresses change
  • Content marketing via the long tail may have old contact information
  • Salespeople are crazy busy

Some sales professionals have migrated totally to social media and have ignored even updating their website with their basic contact information.  Even when I discontinued my landline, the first thing I did was to go to my website and update the pages to ensure the correct phone number was available.

To make the presumption that all sales leads will find you via social media is potentially a fatal increase sales strategy.

Being busy is no excuse for not returning phone calls, emails or even texts.  A couple of years ago I incorporated texting into being reachable even though I was not a fan of this communication channel. However, I had clients as well as sales leads texting me and I wanted to be reachable.

Today texting is the preferred communication channel.  Text messages have a far greater open rate than other communication channels such as email or even phone calls. in their research revealed 35-50% of the vendors who respond first get the sale. This site also suggested that those who respond within 5 minutes to web sales leads are nine (9) times more likely to convert.

Being reachable is necessity for sales success!

To increase sales no longer can salespeople have the attitude “when I have time I will return the call or message.” Technology has forced salespeople to be reachable at all times. Our marketplace is global and operates on a 24/7 time frame.

Remember, you cannot increase sales if people are not able to reach you. Those who respond first and with the right message have a far greater likelihood of securing the goals to:

  • Increase sales
  • Achieve sales success
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Salespeople Have a Higher Meaning

This past week I attended a “Power Breakfast” sponsored by Pipeliner CRM where the CEO Nikolaus Kimla made the following statement:


“Salespeople have a higher meaning.”

Kimla was discussing how those in sales have been viewed less than positively when being compared to other professions such as doctors, lawyers, etc.  He then added his rationale for this “higher meaning.”

“Salespeople produce wealth and peace.”

His two statements gave me pause.  I had never thought of sales in those connected terms.

Possibly the reason I had not thought in those connected terms is my economic and altruistic drivers are low compared to my other motivational drivers of knowledge, independence and leadership. Note:  The Values Index is a great tool to identify basic motivational drivers.

From a knowledge perspective, when we in sales provide solutions to wants or needs and those solutions meet those wants and needs, we are producing peace.  Depending upon the intensity of the results from those solutions, we not only produce wealth for ourselves, but for our customers.

Your Purpose Statement and Higher Meaning

Upon further reflection, remember I said I have a high knowledge motivational driver, I realized my purpose statement indirectly reflected Kimla’s higher meaning. As I look to be a “trailblazer,” I am willing to tackle the difficult tasks before my clients must experience them.  That is the peace part.

As to the wealth, I am always focused on a positive return on investment for my clients.  Here is the wealth piece.

Those in sales do receive considerable negative attention.  Yet professional salespeople are in high demand because nothing happens until something is sold.

Possibly forward thinking sales professionals such as Kimla may help all in sales to view themselves differently.  As the noted French author Marcel Proust said:

“The true voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes, but seeing with new eyes.”

Kimla provided an opportunity for those in sales to do just that

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Every Day Remember You Do What You Are

Action is what people see and what you see. In the movie Along Came a Spider, Dr. Alex Cross makes this statement “You do what you are.”  Your doing is what counts; it is what others see.

you-do-what-you-areIf you are not making those sales calls, then that suggests you are not committed to increasing sales to actually being afraid of rejection, failure.

Top sales performers and effective leaders recognize they must continue to do and that doing is what they are.

Yes you can change what you do and thereby change who you are.  You can learn to be:

  • Better communicator
  • More emotionally intelligent
  • Effective leader
  • Relationship builder
  • Innovator

Just because today you do what you are does not mean tomorrow you must be that same person.

To start this change begins with an assessment (Attribute Index) to know what you do well. From my experience over 98% of the people I have worked with do not know what they do well.  They soon realize the incredible number of opportunities that have missed to:

  • Improve their lives
  • Increase sales
  • Even reduce stress

From any valid and proven assessment be it the Attribute Index or another, you can begin to clarify what you do and then recognize who you are.  Now you can initiate the necessary course corrections to change what you do.

Schedule a call to learn more about this proven and incredibly accurate assessment.

What you do what you are is really about is alignment.  Aligning your behaviors to your own internal thoughts, perceptions, attitudes and beliefs.

If you wish to change your results, then that change must begin with your actions. To change your actions requires you to back pedal and understand what is driving those actions.

You can say to yourself all day long until the cows come home “I want to increase sales” or “I want to lose weight” or “I….(fill in the blank)”,  but unless you are doing the necessary actions, you will not achieve any of those wants.

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Closed Ended Questions Are Not to Be Ignored

In sales, the emphasis on asking open ended questions continues.  Salespeople are discouraged from asking closed ended questions as this type of questioning fails to provide additional fact finding information. But is that really true?

closed-ended-questionsLast week I spoke at a conference for consultants and executive coaches,  My presentation focused on several marketing skills taken from the book To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink.  All of these skills centered around sales prospecting from the one word equity to the question sales pitch to the Pixar Story.

One of my sales pitch questions is “Are you where you want to be?” Immediately I heard from several attendees “that is a close ended question.”  I agreed with them. They in turn said “you are supposed to ask open ended questions.”

For me, a close ended question establishes a simple benchmark from which to begin asking open ended questions.  It is an indirect assessment question.

As the sales conversation continues through ongoing meetings, this type of questioning also provides the opportunity for what some call “mini-closes.”  For example, I ask “Can we have agreement, this is what I just heard?” I then repeat what I just heard. Usually the sales lead will say yes and sometimes I may have misheard what was said or the sales lead realized he or she was unclear in his or her communication. This creates additional opportunity to establish your credibility and ensure you are not walking down the wrong fact finding path.

Without closed ended questions, the salesperson could be wasting time and losing opportunities. He or she may lose a sales because of the continued focus on open ended questions.

The focus on open ended questions reminds me of the person digging in a hole.  The first action to take is to stop digging.  My sense is sometimes salespeople through open ended questions dig themselves into very deep holes.

If you want some guidance in improving your sales conversations, then reach out to me, Leanne Hoagland-Smith, at 219.508.2859 TEXT or mobile (Chicago USA time) or click HERE to schedule a quick call.

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Are You Sales Prospecting in All the Wrong Places?

Do you remember the song “Looking for Love in All the Wrong Places?” Many SMB owners and sales professionals may have this as their theme song because they are sales prospecting in all the wrong places. These three gaps appear quite frequently.

sales-prospecting#1 – No Ideal Customer Profile Gap

Part of the reason for this misdirected activity is the lack of an ideal customer.  This profile is the result of some intensive research that developed from the strategic plan.  I have found “plan” as a verb is a four letter dirty word within the SMB marketplace.

The inability to have an ideal customer creates a Captain Wing It behavior.  Actions are sprayed all over the place with a prayer that something sticks. This is reminiscent of the line “looking for love in too many places.”

#2 – Bad or Outdated Business Model Gap

Another reason is a bad or outdated business model.  With the marketplace continually changing, so must business models adapt to these changes.

#3 – Dismal Marketing Messages Gap

Then there is the dismal marketing messages within their sales prospecting. These crazy busy people focus on the how of the solutions (products or services) being delivered and not the what (the results of those solutions).

Additionally, these messages are not emotionally compelling and usually lack a call to action.

This past week I delivered a 90 minute seminar to executive coaches and consultants on some key aspects within the book To Sell Is Human by Dan Pink.  One of the activities was the one word sales equity. All participants were asked to share what they do in one word. This is not an easy activity.

  • When you think of yourself in your current business role what one word comes to mind?
  • When you want sales leads to think of you in just word word?

I encouraged those in attendance to return to their purpose and values statements to see if there was any one word.

Sales prospecting is a process that begins within the strategic plan.  This process or the steps within the process may change as the market evolves. Technology has prompted many of those changes such as email, texting to content marketing.  If you want to increase sales, then revisit your sales prospecting and see where you may have any of these gaps.

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Why Can’t You Increase Sales?

Are you frustrated, really frustrated by the inability to consistently increase sales?  Have you tried a lot of different inexpensive to expensive solutions, but still have unacceptable results.  If you could quickly achieve more sales, what would that do for your business?

increase-salesThe lack of consistent sales is one of the top complaints that I hear from SMB owners.  Generating that constant flow of marketing traffic to telephone calls is an ongoing challenge.

To increase sales require that you may have to change your existing paradigms about selling and sales culture.  Within our decision making and problem solving skills, we have certain paradigms or models that we use each and every day.  For example, what is the logical sequence of these numbers:

8, 5, 4, 9, 7, 6, 3, 2, 0?

See hint below.

One paradigm that needs to be changed is sales training.  Many SMBs send their people to a one or two day seminars for $59 to $199 on sales to leadership to even time management.  Their belief is in the quick fix. Their people will learn incredible sales skills and begin to make the cash box explode! The quick fix paradigm is another one that should be deep sixed!

Unfortunately, the exact opposite happens.  The cash box is drained because a one time exposure to a learning event after 16 days results in 2% cognitive or memory retention. So save your profits and not send them to those sales training seminars unless there is a strategy to apply what was learned and to reward your salespeople.

Another paradigm to be changed revolves around leadership and management.  Some managers believe that to get more productivity from their sales staff requires daily to weekly meetings.  Unless these meetings are scheduled around the old KISS principle, keep it simple and short, the result is wasted time especially if your sales people are on commission.

The lack of sales is far more about the productivity of your sales team.  It is really about the sales culture you have created under your SMB leadership.

HINT:  The solution is not about math for that is the paradigm you are using. Remember, if you change how you look at things, the things you look at will change.

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Sustainable Sales Success – Tip #12 Disqualification

One would think disqualifying sales leads would be something most salespeople would do especially if they want sales success. However from my experience with SMB owners and sales professionals, this simple step of sales lead disqualification as well as sales leads qualification is one often overlooked.

sales-sucessMost of the reason for not qualifying sales leads returns to the lack of a strategic plan.  What happens is these hard working business professionals work even harder and set themselves up for even greater falls.

When there is crystal clarity around the ideal customer, then disqualifying sales leads is much easier.  When I wrote Be the Red Jacket, I shared these 4 qualifying or disqualifying criteria depending upon one’s perspective.

  1. Is the person the actual decision maker? Does he or she have the authority to write the check?
  2. Is there a want to need?  What problem must be solved that others may not have solved or better yet identified?
  3. Is there an allocated budget?  Many SMBs have money.  The real question returns to having dollars allocated to solve the solution.
  4. Is there urgency to take action?  Can you build a case for taking action right now instead of later?

Since I wrote that book, I realized there is a fifth criterion:

  • Is there commitment to take action? What I have learned is sometimes all of the previous criteria are present, but the person does not have the commitment, the resolve to take action.  Change is hard.

When a salesperson adopts an understanding about disqualifying sales leads, this allows him or her to work both smarter and harder simultaneously. He or she is honing their sales skills in asking the right questions. Additionally, this is a sales strategy that works to ensure sales success because now the salesperson is working with the right customer and not one that is high maintenance.

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Your Greatest SMB Asset Is…?

What is the greatest SMB asset?  Your solutions (products or services)? Your building or location? Your customer base?  Your bank balance? Yes, these are all great assets. However, your greatest SMB asset should be your people.

SMB assetToo often SMBs fail to protect this greatest asset.  For people are not view as capital, but as liabilities.  For example, when sales lag or business slows down, people followed by the marketing budget are the first to be cut.  People are view as too expensive given the current economic downturn.

Businesses exist to make money and more importantly to make a profit. To achieve this goal requires people because even with the advent of current technology, people are still required to stock the shelves for orders, process the orders, ship the orders, reconcile the receivables and handle all customer service inquiries.

From the smallest to the Fortune 100 companies, the investment in human capital through talent management should be next to marketing as the primary business building strategies. For example, if you have long term salespersons who regularly bring high sales and are low maintenance, do you affirm their contributions or are you resentful of their salaries?

As a business coach and sales coach, I have observed many in business leadership roles creating toxic sales cultures , directly and indirectly, in hopes that the high salary and high productive sales person will quit in order to replace him or her with a lower salary person.  Management will take action from changing accounts to showing special treatment to the new hire while ignoring the productive salespersons.

Remember, your people will make or break your company. When you view them as an asset instead of a liability, you may see your balance sheet in an entirely different perspective.

Give Leanne a call at 219.508.2859 if you are interested in protecting and growing this greatest SMB asset or schedule a brief call on her calendar by clicking HERE.

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Do You Truly Love Sales?

Everyone is in sales.  Mothers sell eating healthy to their children. Teachers sell learning to their students.  Business owners sell their vision to their customers both internal and external. Sales people sell their products and services to potential customers.

love-salesA recent survey indicated that the number one open position within the United States business arena is sales.  Companies are looking for salespeople who are competent and want to sell.  They really want leaders who truly love sales.

With my clients, finding an performance driven salesperson is a continual challenge.  Many who sell want an annual salary and fear the commission only position.  Yet, it is in this type of selling position that a truly great salesperson will excel.  As another client has said many times “When you are hungry, you will hunt.”

Is selling easy?  The answer to that question is simply “It all depends.”  Selling products or services demands specific skill sets including: communication, creativity, decision making, goal setting, marketing and problem solving just to name a few.

Learn more about a powerful assessment that will let you know about your own selling skills.

However, the most crucial skill in selling is being able to relate to people and discover what they are not saying. Some define this ability building rapport, but it is much more.  I believe this is all about having authentic emotional intelligence as reflected through empathy. To leverage this skill demands that your energies are continually pointed at the customer and not at you.

Empathy has been demonstrated to separate top sales performers from average ones. And, yes empathy can be developed provided you are willing to let go of your ego and become an authentic leader who readily gives of herself or himself.

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