Posts Tagged ‘fact finding’

You May Wish to Add this to Your Sales Fact Finding Process

Most sales training programs look to the sales fact finding process.  This process usually involves asking open ended questions as well as doing some research before actually meeting with the sales lead or prospect.

Today through the Internet, there is a wealth of information available to assist salespeople in this fact finding research. Yet one area that is often overlook is the “social history” of the prospect’s organization.

For current sellers looking to sell deeper into the organization, the social history is how did the seller’s firm originally connect with the buyer’s organization.  A new seller would look to not only how did other firms connect with the prospect, but who else does he or she know at the existing firm.

LinkedIn can assist with some of this fact finding data.  With its recent sale to Microsoft what was available for free such as advanced search now is only available through the paid subscription service. However, with some due diligence this information can be gathered by connecting with other people at the prospect’s organization.

My sense is through your fact finding quest you will probably discover the two or three people who had the first established relationship.  This relationship then transcended through other people in the organization.  In some instances, the relationship can be several decades old if not older.

The social history of any business is essential because it provides clarity as to what was valued by the original buyer and seller. This clarity can support further sales efforts including prospecting to keeping loyal customers loyal.

Possibly any SMB may wish to begin to construct their own social history through their CRM.  This could be a simple sheet showing the various people involved in the sales buying decision directly or indirectly.

Yes sales fact finding is important.  By adding social history to your fact finding process may just give you the competitive edge you need to earn that next sale.

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If Sales Were Perfect, It Wouldn’t Be

Yogi Berra said “If the world was perfect, it wouldn’t be.” For some this may be confusing, but for those in sales his observation may make perfect sense.

salesHow many times do we as salespeople think have the perfect sales script?

How many times do we as salespeople think we have the prefect fact finding or discovery question?

How many times do we as salespeople think we have perfected our sales process?

Then something happens that shatters our perfection.

Perfection is not possible because our professional and personal worlds are made of human beings who by their very nature are not perfect. They are unique individuals with their own unique wants and needs.

Humans continually strive for perfection and maybe that is part of the problem.

Sales by its very nature is imperfect.  It is like an untethered buoy in the ocean subject to this current or that gust of wind.

When we as salespeople believe we have perfected anything, suddenly our ego goes from good to exceptionally strong.  Even though we think we may have quieted our strong ego, we are still projecting that ego state unconsciously.

Perfection also suggests no additional improvements are necessary.  For me that is unacceptable because the more I know, the more I realize I don’t know.  This is why I believe top sales performers are always learning, always experimenting with new ideas, new tools and always looking for a better way to market their solutions.

Recently I have changed my signature line to “trusted authority for forward thinking sales culture and results.”  This change reinforces within me the need to continue to learn, to share and to seek forward thinking ideal clients who want a united and integrated high performance sales culture along with sustainable results.

Yes if sales were perfect, it wouldn’t be makes sense to me, does it to you?

If you are seeking to increase sales, let’s talk, Call me at 219.508.2859 Chicago time.

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Selling Real Estate – The Door Opener Sales Syndrome

Not many industries or organizations devote their time and dollars to determining what problems exist.  The National Association of Realtors did just that. Their Danger Report released over a year ago revealed the number one problem with those selling real estate is their overall incompetence.

selling-real-estateHaving recently engaged in selling our home, I can attest the majority of real estate agents (over 50%) are door openers not real salespeople.  In fact if they had to sell for a living, IMHO, they would probably starve.

During this process, I have spoken to many other homeowners who have bought and sold their homes in the last two to 10 years.  Well over 90% of these individuals said the realtors just opened doors and truly did not sell the home.

Having been in sales for nearly 40 plus years I was truly amazed by the casual fact finding attitude of the real estate people I interviewed.  Only one of the 10 realtors I interviewed did a top to bottom inspection of the home. She opened doors, looked in closets, turned on faucets and gave the house her own 30 minute inspection.  Then she invested another 30 minutes to ask questions about the home specific to some of the customization we had done.

Due diligence is required for all salespeople.  Knowing what you are selling is essential.  Having sold industrial pipe, valves and fittings, my product knowledge base was extensive.  I researched manufacturers and their products when looking to add a new product line. This was before the Internet, required numerous trips to the library and phone calls requesting for product information.

Selling real estate requires personally inspecting as many homes as possible.  Of course with a large percentage of realtors being part time, I can already hear this excuse “I have a full time job. I don’t have time.”

This excuse relies on the Internet sites and a general lazy sales attitude.  Maybe this is why so many listing agents want to list at a lower price for a quick sale and show their dazzling sales numbers. With today’s buyers somewhat more educated and the availability of online listing sites such as Zillow,, etc., it is much easier to take the path of least resistance.

Recently I met a newly licensed real estate agent.  He is looking to supplement his income.  What impressed me is he had a geographic area already picked out along with demographics of his ideal customer.  Additionally, he has begun to inspect properties within this area even though he is employed full time.  He actually said “I want to be more than a door opener.” 

If you are engaged in selling real estate and wish to increase sales, then I encourage you to read the Danger Report.  Then determine if you are a real salesperson or just a door opener disguised as a salesperson.

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The Continued Problem with Most Sales Training

Today I received another email about the 7 sales skills that can be taught through sales training.  This headline only reinforced the continued problem with this area.


We train dogs; we develop people!

As I reviewed these 7 sales skills each of them is not an issue of acquiring knowledge as in training, but rather the unaddressed issue of performance, the application of knowledge.  Years ago my coach, David Herdlinger, created the KASH Box (the 4 quadrants). I then further developed it by naming it the KASH Box for Sustainable Change (the 4 quadrants plus the 4 boxes on top, the sustainable change drawer and the incorporation of the knowing doing gap).

Salespeople face ongoing training whether it is paid for by their companies or if it is self-directed. Look at all the books on sales from sales leadership to fact finding to prospecting to sales referrals. The list is endless.  My question is why so many books. seminars, even experts given most of them state the same facts?

People seek the quick fix and the most inexpensive one as well.  Buy a sales book or attend a sales seminar and you will become far more successful. You will increase sales!

Of course, how many attendees actually begin to apply what they have learned and continued that application?

Earlier this year, I attended an educational seminar for business consultants geared toward sales and marketing offered by Ari Galper.  Much of what Galper said created disequilibrium within my mental schema (made me uncomfortable because it was contrary to what I thought to be true and what I was doing). Upon further reflection, I had made some significant changes to my marketing including my content marketing as in this blog.

Now several months later, I continue to apply several of his key concepts because they made sense to me. After buying his book, Unlock the Game, via Kindle, I realized why his concepts made sense.  Note: I did write a review on Amazon and recommend buying the Kindle version not the hard copy.

These changes are now starting to bear fruit or results. Had I not begun to apply what I learned, I would not be enjoying these new results.

If you are considering any sales training, make sure the engagement incorporates a developmental foundation which usually means there is a proven application process behind the learning to ensure application is the desired end result.  To learn more about how this can be done, schedule a time to talk me me by CLICKING HERE.

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In Sales, Need Knows No Season

The months of November and December here in the U.S. as well as many other countries are considered the holiday season. Of course for some retailers that holiday season starts in August (UGH!).

salesFor mid-size to small businesses especially in the B2B marketplace, sales during this time of year diminish because budgets have been expended, people are off on vacations to factories are shut down for annual maintenance.  Yet, the need to overcome the barriers preventing increase sales is still very much present.

This is a time not to stop prospecting, but to actually increase marketing efforts to fill the sales pipeline for the next quarter. The need or needs of your ideal customer are still very much present.

Of course such efforts are based upon the past successes as well as failures of the past year.  Making a list may help to gain clarity in moving forward with current prospecting tactics:

  • What are the 1 to 3 primary needs experienced by existing clients?
  • What are the 1 to 3 primary needs within the marketplace of your potential ideal clients  (qualified prospects)?
  • What are 1 to 3 unstated primary needs you have discovered during your fact finding?
  • What are existing or even possible trigger events that may bring all needs to the forefront of your potential ideal clients?
  • How much time does it take to earn the sale after meeting with a qualified prospect?
  • When and how often do you follow up with sales leads?
  • What are the demographics and more importantly the psychographics of your current clients?
  • Why have your current clients done business with you?
  • Who are your favorite clients and why?

These questions can be easily placed into an excel spread sheet and within a few hours if not less time, you should be able to connect some of the dots and begin to better understand how to increase sales for your mid-size to small business.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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How to Melt Those Freeze Moments in Sales

Remember back in grade school and your teacher called on you?  Suddenly all the eyes of the other students were staring at you waiting for you to answer incorrectly.  Possibly your throat constricted, your voice became raspy or you felt perspiration running down your neck.  You experienced the first of many freeze moments.  In sales, those freeze moments still happen. The goal is to melt them as quickly as possible.



#1 – Freeze Moment in Sales

You are asked a question in which you do not immediately know the answer.  Happens all the time especially when the sales lead may be more knowledgeable or even less knowledgeable.  This is when honesty becomes the best policy.  A simple “I don’t know, but I will find out and get back to you in 24 hours” is the melting response.  Then you can ask “How would you like that response, a telephone call or an email?”

Sales Coaching Tip: Just make sure you know the question or questions you will be answering.

#2 – Freeze Moment in Sales

For many sales professionals especially small business owners and entrepreneurs, the question of “What do you do?” creates probably the second most common freeze moment. This moment is melted by practicing the answer to it becomes second nature.  The real challenge is responding to the asking person because in different situations the answer maybe slightly different.

Sales Coaching Tip:  Your response should be results focused not industry or role focus.

#3 – Freeze Moment in Sales

“So what’s the price?” or “What is this going to cost me?” freezes many salespeople.  What this question reveals is several facts.

  1. You maybe speaking with the wrong person, not the decision maker or influencer
  2. You may not have engaged in enough sales fact finding
  3. You may be believe price is what sells your solution

Again, the best way to melt this freeze moment is with an direct response of “It depends” or “I don’t’ know at this time.”  You may continue with “At this time I do not have enough information.  Can we schedule a second meeting since our initial meeting time is finished?”

Sales Coaching Tip:  Do not feel compelled to share the price or worse yet lower the price.

Freeze moments happen to even the best people in sales. Being prepared, being authentic and being willing to be vulnerable helps to melt those awkward moments.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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What’s The First Rule of Sales For You?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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The Unasked Question to Convert More Sales

With the goal to convert more sales, open ended questions to closed ended questions have become the arrows in the professional salesperson’s quiver. There are many good open ended questions as well as some not so good ones.  By the way, did you know more and more decision makers can tell by the questions being asked the type of sales training the salesperson has encountered?

convert-more-salesFor me, the best question to convert more sales than any other question is one I learned from Tammy Kohl before she became president of Resource Associates Corporation.  The simplicity of this open ended question is incredible.

Where do we go from here?

This question is the last question that I ask after our fact finding, sales meeting.  In many instances, this question happens on the first sales call because through my marketing efforts, the sales lead has indeed made 40 to 60% of the buying decision.

Of course, before you can ask this question, you must earn the right to ask this question.  What that means is you have:

  • Demonstrated your knowledge of the business
  • Shared your knowledge about industry trends
  • Developed a relationship (this may take more than one meeting)
  • Answered all objections forthrightly without hesitation
  • Decided you wanted this business or professional as a client

In working with my executive coaching clients who want to convert more sales, I have found this question to be often unasked.

conver-more-salesThe other disconnect I have found when looking to convert more sales is silence.  Salespeople in their eagerness to earn the sale still have not learned when to shut up and let the silence do the selling.

  • Silence is powerful.
  • Silence allow the sales lead to have the time to process what has been shared.
  • Silence demonstrates your own self confidence because silence is awkward for many people.
  • Silence works to your advantage as a top performing salesperson.

For me after I ask my final question of “Where do we go from here?,” I remain silent. This silence may extend up to 5 minutes and sometimes even 10 minutes.  The longer the silence, the greater likelihood of another opportunity to convert more sales.

The next time you have finished the steps in the selling phase of your sales process, then employ this question. Remain silent and learn that silence is not only golden, but green.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses under 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. 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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In Sales Are You Doing the RIGHT Math?

Doing the math is essential in sales. What I have learned is sometimes salespeople fail to do the “right math.”

salesWhat is the right math you may be thinking?

Actually the right math involves these 3 factors and 3 separate computations:

  1. Return on investment (ROI) for the customer or client (financial impact of the solution compared to the dollars invested)
  2. Impact on customer’s and vendor’s short term profitability
  3. Impact on customer’s and vendor’s long term profitability

Return on Investment (ROI)

From my experience, ROI is not difficult to compute. In many instances, the issue is the desire by the salesperson to make that computation. Sometimes, the inability to do this ROI math is the direct result of not having enough fact finding information or crystal clarity regarding the desired results to be achieved.

Impact on Short Term Profitability

Beyond the ROI, there is impact of any solution on short term profitability. Some salespeople will do the “profit math” for their customers as well as themselves, but will forget about the vendor, their own firm that signs their paychecks.  Additionally,there are businesses both super large and small that tell salespeople to do anything to get the order even if it means losing profits.

Impact on Long Term Profitability

In 2003, McKinsey released some valuable information regarding pricing and discounting.  Their research revealed that a 1% increase in price increased profitability by 8% while a 1% increase in sales volume increased profitability by only 3%. Salespeople must be cognizant of the impact of pricing on profits for their own firms. Additionally, a 5% decrease in price required an additional18% sales volume just to maintain current profit levels.

Sometimes salespeople only look at the surface impact on profitability because they again failed to do their fact finding research. By investing the time to take a broader viewpoint may yield additional math impact. What may happen is the smart salesperson may actually up sell beyond the original proposal.

Additionally, pricing impact for the customer extends beyond the hard math numbers. For example, what “good will” has been created through the solution? Customer loyalty based upon current buying history is another factor to consider. What is the long term profit value of a client?

Yes doing the “right math” is essential in today’s business world. And does require a greater commitment on the part of each sales team member. Now is not the time for the quick and easy if you are in sales.


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Can You Do the Profit Math?

Being able to speak in terms that activate the “pain pulses” for your sales leads or prospects is essential.  A recent posting over at Sales Gravy by Jill Konrath provided a very good list of phrases or terms that will attract attention and start that pain activation process.

profitUnfortunately, many in sales can speak the correct key phrases and yet lose incredible opportunities because they do not do the profit math.

Possibly you may be asking what is that?

Profit math is showing how much more profits your prospect will have because he or she bought and implemented your solution.

Sounds pretty simple, but it really isn’t.

Doing the math especially for a complex sale is time consuming and requires a lot of fact finding research about the company probably even before you step through the door or even make that first phone call.

When you complete your research you will end up with the following figures for your prospect’s company:

  • Total Revenue $$$
  • Less COGS (Cost of goods sold)
  • Gross Profit $$$
  • Less Direct Expenses (Administrative, general, marketing and selling that are associated with delivering the goods or services)
  • Operating Profit

Your goal is to do the math for the current, status quo situation and then forecast the increased profits if your solution is implemented (think bought).  Yes some of these figures may be estimated. However by showing your prospects you understand their business will counterbalance those figures that are in error.

The more specific you can be through your investigative research, the greater the likelihood that you will earn the sale.

In the current marketplace, profits are continually being squeezed from both ends. Top sales performers understand that the bottom line is what really matters to their customers as well as prospects.

Now some folks may do the math for just return on investment (ROI). That calculation may be necessary as well, but unless it is tied to profitability it may do a nose dive to the floor during the sales presentation.

Profit math is more about sustainability of profits than return on investment.

When you can do the math, you will find your ability to increase sales dramatically improved.

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