Posts Tagged ‘marketing skills’

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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Realtors – Your Marketing Message Sucks – Part 03

Beyond the really bad direct mail pieces being sent by realtors, another reason the marketing message sucks is the lack of results that being sold homes. Marketing is about attracting attention and beginning to build relationships. Realtors who sell a lot of homes probably have much better marketing messages.

marketing-messageSo what do the numbers reveal?

According to GNIAR, Northwest Indiana has approximately 2,500 realtors.  In 2014, these realtors sold 9,061 single family homes. (Source: NWI Times)

Of course some of those 2,500 realtors deal with commercial property so these statistics are not 100% accurate. Yet these numbers provide some valid insight as to the results respective to the marketing message.

By doing the math, 2,500 realtors sold 9,061 homes or on average each realtor sold 3.6244 homes. For easier computation, we can round up to 4 homes on average sold by each realtor.

The average value of a home in 2013 for Northwest Indiana was $135,000.  Again,we can round up to $150,000.

Commissions on real estate still average 6%.  Of this 6%, 3% goes to the listing agent and 3% goes to the selling agent with the understanding the real estate broker for both the listing and selling agent receives  a certain percentage. In many instances this percentage is 50%. What this means is if a realtor only sells a house and he or she is not the real estate broker, the commission is 1.5%

Returning to the average price of a house sold, the commission on a $150,000 home is $2,250.  If the realtor sold 4 homes, his or her total income for the year would be $9,000.

Now the Pareto Principle kicks in and probably 20% (500) of those 2,500 realtors generate 80% (7,249) of the sold homes.  This changes the average annual income from $9,000  to $33,750. (7249 homes divided by 500 realtors equals 15 homes per realtor at an average resale price of $150,000 with 1.5% commission).

The 20% who are probably selling the 80% of homes know how to market much better than the other 80%. These true marketing and sales professionals understand relationship selling and the marketing skills that compliment relationship selling.

Peter Drucker said the “purpose of business is marketing and innovation.”  He went on to say everything else was operations.

Realtors who continue to remain clueless about effective marketing or who believe the quick fix of one direct mail piece will attract attention are foolhardy at best. Their marketing message will continue to suck.

Tomorrow’s posting will examine specific marketing skills that are lacking by many realtors.

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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 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn

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Why Do Salespeople Fear the M Word?

Mention the M word (marketing) to salespeople and immediately see negative body language to verbal denial to even actual fear. Last week when I questioned a vendor about his product being more about marketing than actually selling, he said “No, it provides the opportunity to gather sales leads.”

salespeopleDuh, gathering sales leads is marketing!

Unfortunately, way too many salespeople confuse marketing with selling even though they are probably engaged in marketing more than they realize.  The selling phase of the sales process does not really happen until you have a qualified sales lead in front of you. Those in sales should be running toward good marketing practices instead of running away from them.

The “M” word is necessary. Without a process to attract attention and begin to build relationships, the ability to increase sales would be dramatically reduced.

For a quick review, the “M” word within the sales process has two steps:

  1. Attract attention
  2. Build the relationship

The goal of this first phase within the sales process is two-fold:

  1. Make a friend
  2. Asked back for a one on one visit or have that person walk through your business (brick & mortar)

Within this first phase, there are certain behaviors and skills that are consistently demonstrated:

  1. Smile & handshake
  2. Message focused on results
  3. Active Listening
  4. Asking a few open ended questions
  5. Positive body language
  6. Ask to proceed
  7. Secure agreement

Until a solid relationship is established the salesperson will not be successful. Sales Coaching Tip:  Social media helps to build a relationship.

Beyond the confusion, there is another reason why some salespeople fear this dreaded “M” word.  That reason simply is their own beliefs.

Marketing has been viewed by many as advertising because advertising firms made money off this limited viewpoint. Then there is all the bad, pushy marketing from the infomercials to the email spam to the call centers dialing for dollars to those business to business networking events where it seems most are “showing up and throwing up.” (Jeb Blount)

These beliefs have equated marketing to something less important than the actual selling or earning the sale.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard “I am not a marketing. I’m in sales.”

Noted business expert Peter Drucker recognized the true importance of marketing and why it should be embraced and not feared when he said:

“The aim of marketing is to make selling effortless.”

With 97.7% of all US businesses having under 20 employees, marketing is even more crucial to the success of salespeople than ever before. Now is the time for all salespeople to hone their marketing skills and by taking that action there will be more qualified sales leads that will lead to increase sales.

Download this 7-Step-Sales-Process-ADVSYS. And no you do not have to signup to some marketing list.


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Time to Let Go of “I’m Not a Marketer” Because Yes You Are

For more years than I can count, professional salespeople had an attitude of “I’m not a marketer.”

marketerI am a salesperson.

Marketing is down the hall.

Well the world has changed and now is the time to extend your reach into that formerly “ugly” jungle of marketing.

With 97.3% of all businesses here in the US having under 20 employees,  employing a separate marketing department is financially unrealistic. Additionally, the impact of social media has allowed small businesses to market at a far more affordable investment.

Today’s salespeople including even practice professionals such as accountants, lawyers and physicians must embrace the skills of being not only a good salesperson, but an effective marketer.  So what are those necessary marketing skills?

That question was recently answered by the research of Econsultancy.  This firm after surveying senior level marketers determined the 15 key skills that were separated into 3 categories:

  • Broad
  • Vertical
  • Soft Skills

In reviewing these 15 skills it was interesting to note the importance on soft skills. For example being adaptable was ranked at 75% importance and being inquisitive rated 63%.  These two skills had the highest importance of all 15 skills. The next highest ranked skill was customer experience (broad skill) at 59%.

Marketing is all about attracting attention and beginning to build a relationship.  Today’s customers, clients or patients are much more educated than ever before.  What worked in the past will not work today or in the future especially if the focus is on paid advertising or glossy, mufti-color, tri-fold brochures.

Being adaptable and inquisitive are also two sales talents or skills.  If a salesperson does not understand the customer experience, he or she will probably not be successful.

Social media allows wide spread distribution through blogging, LinkedIn and even YouTube.  Marketing smart firms will build communities of influence through their sales teams allowing even more distribution of their messaging.

Now is the time to embrace being an authentic marketer and not discount it as secondary to being a great salesperson.

Until attraction has happened, common sense tells us no business growth will take place or as I have written so often before “You will remain pocket poor.”  So it is important, even critical for sales people and yes practice professionals to understand they must first attract positive attention and then begin to build those relationships.


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Is Your LinkedIn Email Marketing P***ing People Off?

So you came across someone in one of your LinkedIn discussion groups and think he or she may be a good sales lead. You craft a personal LinkedIn email message to that individual including first name and possibly even part of his or her headline.  Then in your marketing message you provide the opportunity for a free trial of your solution. After all, free is always good or so you must be thinking. Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Sending LinkedIn email marketing messages to first degree connections makes far more sense than second degree connections.

linkedin-email-marketingThe sales lead respectfully responds and declines your offer unless you can answer one question that is not price related. So instead of answering the question you send the party a link to a presentation on your website that will take at least several minutes to do its thing without any assurance the question will be answered.

Now instead of attracting positive attention and building a relationship, you have p***ed off that sales lead by wasting his or her time and revealing you are all about the sales pitch.

Sales presentations do not sell especially ones that are time consuming and not easily navigable.

Let me repeat, sales presentations do not sell especially when the sales lead has not asked for the presentation.

What is so fricking hard about answering one simple question especially when you should have the answer to that question within arm’s reach?

And worse yet, your second LinkedIn email message totally ignores the received email message because you are so intent on your sales pitch.

Even if you don’t have the answer, then respond with “I don’t know, but I will find out for you.”Remember you interrupted that sales lead’s day and now you have the responsibility to answer any and all questions posed.

LinkedIn email marketing has worked for many LinkedIn members provided the actions are undertaken in the right way. Unfortunately, many LinkedIn members have poor marketing skills and transfer those less than desirable skills to their efforts within LinkedIn.


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How Quickly Lack of Ethics Surfaces at Business Networking Events

Business networking events generate a lot of first time marketing opportunities. These events range from the simple chamber luncheons to the more formalized trade shows to even sales training workshops  seminars.

Yet these opportunities to meet and greet showcase the basic values of those involved. A recent post by Kevin Callahan addressed how some less than ethical salespersons to small business owners see business networking as a one way street. These folks could care less about you, but truly only want to either sell you or use your extensive contact list for more potential sales. Kevin does share his values by this question: How can I help you? Sales Training Coaching Tip: I, too, have found this a great question to learn about others.

Social media is another place where this appears to be happening.  From folks using LinkedIn discussions to either soft sell or hard sell their products or services to direct messages where again the goal is not to know about you, but is rather all about them. And what is even sadder, some of these folks are truly clueless about their behaviors.

The sales process combines both marketing skills and selling skills.  In today’s highly competitive global marketplace, it is critical to distinguish yourself from everyone else.  The demonstration of key positive core values is a must if you truly want to stand out in the crowd and as I often have said or written in be the Red Jacket in the sea of gray suits.

One final closing thought. People buy from people they know and trust. Ask yourself or better yet ask someone who will be honest with you this question:  Are my business networking behaviors demonstrating that I am a trustworthy individual with positive core business ethics and values?

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Sales Confusion Still Reigns in Marketing and Selling

During down times, confusion only hurts the ability to increase sales.  I realized this once again when reading an insightful post by Stephanie Patterson owner of at Stephanie listed 3 great sales skills to have during less than favorable buying environments. And I wholeheartedly agree with her suggestions.


However, these sales skills are really marketing skills. Marketing and selling skill are partners in the overall sales process. However, my sense is that when the term “sales skills” is used specifically for marketing activities, salespersons may unintentionally start selling. This is a sales killer meaning no dollars in your piggy bank.

Marketing is all about attracting attention and building a relationship. Absolutely no selling should take place until both of these objectives have been achieved.

Unfortunately the word “sales” is bandy about and used interchangeably with marketing and selling. As I mentioned in Be the Red Jacket and in many other articles, when you have confusion with the words you speak, think and write, your results will be equally confused. And to coin a frequently used phrase: How is that working for you?

Sales Training Coaching Tip: Marketing is not selling. Selling is not marketing. Both are part of the Sales Process.

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