Posts Tagged ‘active listening’

The Problem with Value Creation in 3 Letters

Every decade or so, another new term floats to the top of the business world.  In sales, value creation has been front and center.  Sales experts to sales training firms now educate salespeople on how they can create value.

The undisclosed problem with value creation resides in this 3 letter word – EGO.

When salespeople believe they create value, they are putting themselves and their egos before the buyer.  All of a sudden they know better than the buyer based upon their own experiences with other buyers.  In some cases this may be true.

Sales Coaching Tip: Even the most uneducated buyer can smell EGO a mile away.

When we look at the true meaning of the word create, it means to bring something into existence that did not exist before.  Value is unique to each buyer. Therefore value already resides within the buyer and cannot be created.

Possibly people confuse value creation with value connection and value rediscovery.

Value Connection

Through active listening, the salesperson learns what the buyer values.  Then the salesperson can craft his or her solution to ensure it connects to those value drivers.

Value Rediscovery

When salespeople rediscover an un-articulated value (this used to be called latent needs in sales), they can bring this to the attention of the buyer.  Possibly in the past other salespeople had failed to discover this value and it resided quietly in the buyer’s subconscious until it was rediscovered.

Ego is a sales killer.  No one likes to be sold as the old expression goes.

When salespeople believe in value creation, their egos prevent them from active listening to asking different questions.  Ego becomes a fallback behavior and potentially turns off more buyers than turns them on.

People buy from people they know and trustEgo prevents that exchange of knowledge and trust from happening.

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What Are Your Top Sales Lessons Learned?

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday. As for many people birthdays are a time of reflection.  We think about families, our friends, our experiences and ourselves as we travel back through the years.  What I realized is how many decades I have been involved in sales and all the sales lessons learned over the course of those years.

Probably of all the sales lessons learned, my father’s two sales buying rules come first to mind.  He gave me my first sales job of selling penny candy at his Sundry store.  I then graduates to selling coffee, milk shares, malts and hot dogs. Dad shared these two sales lessons.

#1People buy from people they know and trust.  A lot of people will say know, like and trust.  For Dad, the “like” criterion was “Would I take him or her home for dinner?”

#2People buy first on emotion followed by logic of reason.  Emotions are why we have such a variety of solutions in the marketplace.  No longer can you have any color as long as it is black. (Henry Ford)

I added this third sales buying rule – People buy on value unique to them. Yes I know a lot of sales training and development programs along with sales coaches to sales experts talk and write about salespeople creating value. That is not true.  If I want a red car (emotion) and all you have is a black car, you cannot create any value for me.  What a good salesperson can do is to connect to my other value drivers and he or she may be able to sell me the black car.

Possibly my fourth sales lesson learned is about being 100% authentic.  Authenticity cannot be faked.  People can smell a phony. Anymore their internal senses are tuned to smell unauthentic people.  Here is where active listening and emotional intelligence play a tremendous role

Lesson number five is not everyone will buy from you and that is okay. Knowing your ideal customer increases your ability to sell and proportionally decreases your stress.  Working with people who don’t fit your ideal customer may increase your revenue, but it is truly worth all the grief and aggravation?

President Dwight Eisenhower said “Plans are worthless; planning is everything.” His words along with the words of Marcel Proust “The true voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes, but seeing with new eyes.” complete sales lessons six and seven.

When we fail to plan (think) we engage in what a colleague called Captain Wing It behaviors. Then when we fail to change how we see things, we run the risk of engaging in Einsteins’ quote about insanity to being content with the status quo.

There are many more sales lessons learned and to be learned.  Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below.

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Going Beyond Sales Obstacles to Increase Sales

Most of us who have attended any sales training or read any sales book have experienced this term: Sales Obstacles.  However I believe now is the time to rethink this term and replace it with this one: Sales Limitations.

The reason for this possibly heretical change is one of truth.  Limitations are far more restrictive than obstacles if the goal is to increase sales.  Obstacles are viewed in many instances as something far more tangible than a limitation. They are top of mind.

Limitations are often ignored, shrugged off or put to the side as minor inconveniences. The SMB owner, sales manager or salesperson look to those big sales obstacles, those roadblocks that are keeping them from sustainable business growth.

Marcel Proust wrote “The true voyage of discovery is not seeking new landscapes, but seeing with new eyes.” Maybe it is time to see the sales training and development landscape with new eyes?

Success in sales is far more about subtly than an all out attack.  Through active listening, the salesperson can hear what other salespeople have missed.  What was missed from my experience were the limitations not the obstacles.

Sales limitations in many instances are the small things, the inconsequential things.  However when all those limitations are uncovered, they probably are much larger than the known sales obstacles.

Additionally, sales limitations reflect the overall sales culture.  For example when someone in accounting fails to send the correct invoice, this is not viewed as a sales obstacle.  However it is a sales limitation when the salesperson seeks a second or third sales from the same customer.

Others have made this statement which is really an update of Proust’s words: “When you change how you look at things, the things you look at will change.” I truly believe now is the time to change how we look at sales obstacles.

P.S. Sales prospects have been conditioned to the word “obstacle” or even “what is keeping you from…?”  You then sound like all those other salespeople. However by using the word limiting or limitations you are prodding your sales prospects to think differently and better yet to think differently about you.

Reach out to schedule a short conversation with me if you want to change your sales results.

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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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