Posts Tagged ‘active listening’

What’s Your Sales Cadence?

Have you ever given thought as to your own sales cadence?  Probably not, but you more than likely have it.



Cadence according to is the “flow or rhythm of events especially the pattern in which something is experienced.” The site provides the example of a slight decline or elevation in the pitch of one’s voice at the end of a declarative statement.

When we do not recognize our own cadence, this suggests we do not recognize the cadence of others.  In sales, not recognizing the flow or rhythm of events can lead to a no sale situation.

My sense is there is a strong correlation between sales cadence and emotional intelligence because of this key word – recognize.  When we recognize and then attempt to understand the emotions of others while at the same time recognizing and attempting to understand our own emotions, we then can manage both.  How well we manage both sets of emotions speaks to our level of emotional intelligence.

How often have we heard salespeople rattle off their unique selling proposition statements like a Gatling gun? One could almost hear the rat-a-tat-tat as the barrel spins around and around.

Have you even been in a sales conversation where the sales prospect is very slow and deliberate in his or her responses to your open ended sales questions? Possibly you thought the individual was “not getting what you were saying?” and so you repeat yourself or attempt a different sales question?

Maybe the answer is just as simple as his or her cadence was different than yours?

When to learn to actively listen, we can better understand the cadence of others.  Active listening is essential if your goal is to increase sales.

Possibly these words of Mark Twain may help you discover your sales cadence:

“If the good Lord wanted us to speak more than to listen, he would have given us two mouths instead of two ears.”

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CREATE Powerful Sales Conversations

Building upon selling or sales being the transference of feelings, the question then becomes how to ensure those feelings are transferred? In working on some sales training for a new client, I discovered this acronym to do just that – CREATE powerful sales conversations.

sales-conversationsFirst, create means to come into existence where nothing else existed before.  This is especially true for those in sales who may cold call or for inside salespeople who receive inbound sales leads.

People have one chance to make a good first impression and for salespeople this first impression will either open the sales door of opportunity or close the door for good. In realizing the importance of those first sales conversations, this acronym may just help to support crazy busy salespeople in their goal to begin to transfer those feelings between themselves and their buyers (think sales leads or ideal potential customers).

CREATE Powerful Sales Conversations

C – Communicate with clarity and intention.  Be deliberate and cohesive in your communication. Make sure to actively listen because good communication is far more about active listening than active talking.

R – Respect your buyer.  Respect goes beyond normal common manners. Here you showcase your business ethics such as by active listening, not interrupting and honoring any promises you made during your interactions with your sales lead. Also this is where you don’t presume you know more than the buyer.  Leave your ego at the door.

E – Empathy.  For those who understand emotional intelligence, empathy is an intrinsic human characteristic.  Can you identify and understand the other person’s feelings?  Remember, do not confuse empathy with sympathy.

A – Authentic.  Be who you are authentically.  People can spot phonies a mile off.  Anymore it appears buyers’ phony radar system is on HIGH ALERT.

T – Timing. Understanding the timing of your words, your non-verbal body language is also essential.  Great comedians had exceptional timing. They watched their audience.  Rushing through the sales process because of some sales script is foolhardy.

E – Energy.  Being confident, not overly, displaying positive energy all support those transference of feelings. Just think about how many times you purchased from a dull, low energy person?

Powerful sales conversations go beyond the words.  Possibly this acronym of CREATE may assist you in your selling endeavors. Let me know if it works for you.

CLICK HERE if you wish to schedule an appointment on Leanne’s calendar.

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Wow I Never Thought of Those Sales Questions

One of the results of this blog and my LinkedIn Pulse postings is the request to do podcasts from other sales experts to entrepreneurs.  These interactions usually are around specific sales questions that the listeners may find of interest.



Having over four decades of sales experience, asking asking questions that no one else has asked is something I do fairly consistently.

Since I truly believe in active listening, many of these questions come to me during these sales conversations.  I take particular notice of changes in body language, in syntax and in any emotional responses.  Through observation, I then find a question that is pertinent and yet uncommon.

For example, in fact finding with executive coaching sales leads, this sales question resonated with over 50%:

Imagine for a moment you are at an event this time next year. You meet someone who recognizes your name. What would you like that person to immediately say about you?

This question creates several moments to minutes of deeper thought. The answers in many instances reveal something not discussed or not clearly articulated.  In sales training, some may call these questions “indirect questions.” I think of them as subconscious desires the sales lead has never clarified consciously.

Sales Coaching Tip:  80% plus of all thoughts are subconscious

Within the SMB world, differentiation is essential.  How can you as I have written and asked “Be that Red Jacket in the Sea of Gray Suits?” To increase sales by asking different sales questions that reveal facts unknown to your competitors will reinforce this #1 sales buying rule:

People buy from people they know and trust.

CLICK HERE to schedule a quick phone call with Leanne.

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

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Sales Reality Check: Are You Talking Yourself Out of a Sale?

How many times do salespeople talk themselves out of a sale?  Hmm, let me count the ways.

out-of-a-saleBusiness consultants and executive coaches with their innate desire to help people offer a lot of free advice to demonstrate they have listened as well as to showcase their own expertise. This is based upon what I believe has become a shaky premise.

Other salespeople just talk too much and fail to actively listen. They are so busy making their sales pitches they ignore the voice of the customer as I noted in yesterday’s posting.

Then there are those salespeople who are so in love with their solutions, they believe everyone should be. This drinking from the Kool-Aid is another way to talk one’s self out of a sale.

Much of the sales training revolves around asking a lot of open ended sales questions. What happens in many instances is the salesperson ends up sounding like a rapid fire Gatling Gun.

Mark Twain among others is noted for saying “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 is an essential sales skill if the goal is to increase sales. Knowing when to shut up is another sales skill that is for the most part ignored in many sales training programs.

If you want to increase sales, maybe consider how you have been talking yourself out of a sale.

Want more sales CLICK HERE to schedule a call with me.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver for leaders who desire a Forward Thinking Sales Culture. She supports executive leadership in bridging the sales culture gap of people and processes that restricts SMB sales results. If you want to increase sales, then call Leanne at 219.508.2859 central time USA to solve your disengaged employees and ultimately your disengaged sales culture as well as improve your own sales results. Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Leadership Is About “Did You Really Hear What I Said?”

There are many aspects of effective leadership.  One critical aspect is the ability to actively listen. When leaders hear what is really being said instead of what they think is being said, there is far greater communication success. We see this in sales where successful sales leaders hear what others may have missed.

leadershipUnfortunately, because people like to talk more than to listen, much of what is said is lost. When I wrote the book, Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits, the Keys to Unlocking Sales Success, I devoted one chapter to selling.  Within that chapter I discussed what it means to have active listening skills to ensure CLEAR communication has been achieved.

C – Clarity

You must listen for clarity to separate the tangibles from the intangibles and the knowns from the unkowns.

L – Legitimize

You must listen to legitimize the real issues.  Many times perceived problems are really symptoms in disguise.

E – Emotion

You must listen for emotions. Here is where the verbal words and non-verbal gestures along with the syntax (speed, pitch, volume and emphasis) are very important.

A – Agreement

You must listen for agreement to find common ground from which you can build ongoing trust.

R – Retention

You must listen for retention because the information you are receiving is critical to your sales success. In many cases the facts that you are receiving have been heard by others, but they simply failed to listen.

“Did you really hear what I said?” through active listening is an essential leadership skill. When we as leaders recognize the importance of active listening, then we can truly move ourselves, our teams and our SMBs forward to that next level.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership 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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Leaders Simply Take the Time to Listen

One observable leadership trait is forward thinking leaders take the time to listen. Listening is both an art and a skill that can be developed over time. Yet some in leadership roles fail to recognize how powerful this simple skill truly is.

leadersMaybe because I am what is called a low key salesperson listening for me is quite easy.  As I shared in my book, Be the Red Jacket in a sea of Gray Suits clear active listening has these 5 elements:

  • Clarity
  • Legitimize
  • Emotions
  • Agreement
  • Retention

Clarity is the process of separation.  By listening to separate the wants from the needs, the intangibles from the tangible, the knowns from the unknowns provides leaders with a key competitive advantage.

Legitimize is all about listening for the real problems. Many go for the obvious problems that are really symptoms in disguise and the real problem is never identified or worse yet corrected.

Emotions are internal to human beings.  We are emotional creatures.  This is where the non-verbal, the para-verbal (syntax, speed, etc) and the actual verbal words become extremely important.

Agreement is when the listener identifies and evaluates those areas where both the sender and the receiver agree.  Additionally the word agreement implies a subconscious contract.  Agreement provides a springboard for further development of the relationship especially in its earlier stages.

Retention is hearing what was actually said. This suggests the leaders have placed their agendas to the side. In many instances what has been said may have been ignored by others because they were too busy thinking of their next response or already thought they “knew the score.”

Yes listening, clear active listening takes an investment of time. Possibly more than one meeting may be required. Using the excuse “I don’t have time” or “I’m too busy” are just that excuses.

To truly hear what is being said is indeed crucial especially in today’s technology driven marketplace where some believe words on a computer screen reveal the entire meaning of the conversation. So if you wish to improve your leadership skills as well as your business results, then stop and take the time to listen.

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Are We Sending the Wrong Leadership Message?

The leadership message is continually being redefined for what appears to be this primary reason:

leadership-messageTo sell more books, CDs and speaking engagements

If I sound cynical, I am because the same problems continue to exist in spite of all the books, leadership experts and programs.

Fact #1

Young people are leaving college without the necessary employment skills think leadership skills or rather self leadership skills.

Fact #2

Organizations still suffer from a plethora of symptoms that some less than ethical firms and experts are willing to solve and resolve because they never have the courage, the skills or the truthfulness (business ethics) to address the real problem.

Fact #3

Self help books to achieve personal and professional excellence continue to be published and bought without any sustainable results.

Earlier this week I was asked to speak at a local middle school about careers.  As I thought about this topic, I realized speaking about my career would be a disservice to these young people. Current and future workforce research suggests young people will have 15-20 jobs over the course of their career.

Instead I realized it would make far better sense to discuss instead a leadership message focusing on the transferable skills that would allow them to be successful in their overall career endeavors. Those skills begin with what I call self-leadership that being the ability to lead one’s self first and foremost.

This self leadership message is comprised of many talents including:

  • Reflection – Ability to proactively think about  the future, recognize the present and remember the past
  • Consistent goal setting and goal achievement – Ability to set, monitor, and consistently achieve WAY SMART goals for short term to long range planning
  • Emotional intelligence – Ability to recognize emotions of others; of one’s self’ and manage both through diplomatic behaviors
  • Application of critical thinking skills – Ability to see potential problems; analyze problems and situations;  think conceptually allowing for quality
  • Self-starting ability – Ability of personal drive leading to personal accountability
  • Active listening – Ability to evaluate what is said
  • Self-direction  – Ability to want to be better than someone currently is and requires self-awareness and self-confidence
  • Initiative –   Ability to direct one’s own energies toward a goal completion without any external catalyst
  • Personal relationships – Ability to relate to others and through those relationships to build a grateful  “network of communities”
  • Self-directed learner – Ability to direct self improvement to those areas needed in the current role or a future role without external motivation

So if you had to share your leadership message with young people or even your staff, what would you say?

Fail-Safe Leadership even though it addresses organizational leadership begins to open up the discussion about self-leadership.

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How Too Much of a Good Thing May Break Your Sales

The sales world is changing. There is no doubt.  However, selling is still the same.  People (buyers) have wants or needs supported by a budget (hopefully) along with the ability to make a decision. Then there are the other people (sellers) who have solutions (products or services) to address those wants or needs within that budget.



Today’s Buyers Have Changed

What has changed is today’s buyers are more educated. This education is largely because of the Internet and the vasts amounts of information available through online channels from publications to social media  to blogs.

Additionally, some salespeople are also better educated from solutions they offer to general business acumen as well as to the current customer’s business world.  Of course, there are still some who have failed to adequately educate (prepare) themselves and they are not as successful.

Too Much Eduction May Be Too Much of a Good Thing

All this education (experience and research) may be too much of a good thing. Buyers may think they know everything and this works in some cases against less than insightful salespeople.  Top performing salespeople recognize knowledgeable buyers and are prepared first too listen and then to offer their insight. Additionally, they are willing to challenge the wants and needs of the buyers if it makes better sense and the solution is far more sustainable.

Then there are the sellers who think they know everything and fail to hear what the buyers are actually saying. In their brains, they believe they have heard everything and this mindset keeps them from hearing the additional minute details that are potential barriers to their ability to increase sales.

Being Knowledgeable Is Smart; Being Too Knowledgeable Is Not Smart

Being knowledgeable is both essential and smart; however being too knowledgeable is not smart.  The “too” is usually connected to one’s ego and one’s own experience. What may happen is your sales tree of knowledge may have you sounding and acting like the all to be avoided “pushy” salesperson.



How to Overcome Too Much Knowledge

What I have learned is to compartmentalize my knowledge.  I quietly listen and take notes to what the buyer is telling me. Throughout this active listening process I am attempting to:

  • Clarify what is being said
  • Legitimize what has been said
  • Listen for Emotions
  • Seek Agreement on what has been said before proceeding
  • Retain what I have heard (notes help me and then I process those notes into an Executive Summary)

When a seller has a CLEAR understanding of what has been communicated, then it is time to bring his or her knowledge forward. During this communication process I have learned that active listening is far more valuable than asking open ended questions or closed ended ones. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  When engaged in telephone conferences only, having the sales leads ask me  “Are you still here?” has been an indicator I am actively listening as well as the sales leads are not used to someone being quiet.



Lesson Learned

In sales as in life, there are truly no hard, fast rules. The lines become blurred and in many cases faded like the worn pavement lines.  What is present are guidelines, suggestions and opportunities to recognize each situation though similar in nature is still unique because people and their wants and needs are unique even if the solution is more generic than customized.

The question remains for only you to answer:

How can you maximize your knowledge through active listening while minimizing your spoken word?

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