Posts Tagged ‘sales research’

Looking for Shorter Working Hour? Then Forget Sales as a Career

Being in sales as a career requires not only a variety of skill sets, but the willingness to work long hours. Recent research released by Workforce360 for RandstatUSA discovered Millennials and the forthcoming Generation Z generations were unprepared for the long hours in their current jobs.

With 97.7% of the U.S. businesses have fewer than 20 employees, working long hours has become the norm.  Not only is there the standard 8 hour day, but other before and after work commitments.  If the business has a social media marketing plan, there may be some additional time required in writing postings.

Sales as a career is, in my opinion. of the the best professional careers.  You have the opportunity to meet incredible people, provide solutions to what is limiting business growth and on top of it all get paid to do this.

Of course, if you are expecting the money to roll in by working shorter hours, then you are living a dream that may turn into a financial nightmare.

There are some industries where sales professionals believe they can make a quick buck with a short investment of time.  From my experience, I have not found that to be true.

People buy from people they know and trust.  Sales research suggests it takes four to 12 contacts before a sale is earned.  Yes, selling does require a lot of time:

  • Phone time
  • Email time
  • Meeting time
  • Writing time
  • Learning time

Sales as a career will demand you to work long hours. Even though sales is simple, that being the transference of feelings, earning the sale or closing the deal may take longer than you realize. Sometimes you will be disappointed because what you thought was going to happen didn’t happen.  Losing sales after investing a lot of time and working hard happens to even the best sales professionals.

To grow professionally, to move up the career ladder, will demand long hours, not short hours.  Maybe these words by Charles Evans Hughes may inspire you:

“I believe in work, hard work, long hours of work. Men do not break down from overwork, but from worry and dissipation.”


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Just Make Sure Your Email Headline Is Marketing to the Right Sales Leads

Today I received this email headline “You’re breaking my heart.”  First thought was “Great, now I am on a porn or foreign dating service distribution site” and my second thought was “Why didn’t my spam program catch this?”

So curiosity had me open the email given it did not have a virus. The email was from a digital firm marketing their social media analytics product. Wow, I never would have thought.

For me the headline after reading the rest of the message turned me off. My analysis follows each sentence.

Hi, Leanne Analysis: At least this person used my first name, but I didn’t know him or her.

I’ve had trouble getting in touch with you, but wanted to reach out one more time to try to connect. Analysis: Hmm we are both on LinkedIn and since you had my email address you could have reached out to me there or even call me as a quick search will give you my phone number.  The reason for your trouble is your email marketing, pardon the expression, sucks.  I wonder how much you paid for this marketing garbage?

If you are not ready to talk about how (insert product) can make you’re life easier, that’s no problem. Analysis:  No stated facts as to how this product claims to do what it does. Inserting some return on investment might have me somewhat interested.

You can always just watch a quick demo (url link) at your own convenience. Analysis: Why would I waste my time watching a video when I don’t have any motivation to watch it.  This email marketing message has not created any urgency on my part to take action.

Are you free later today to connect? Analysis: Most business people schedules are jammed pack.  Marketing and sales research also suggests Thursday is the best day to call sales leads.Since you have not created any urgency, again why would I want to connect with you.

And if there is someone better I should reach out to, please put us in touch. Analysis:  This shows you have not done your ideal customers and sales leads research.  Very bad.

Each day I could share a really bad email headline or email marketing message.  My advice is to just be careful and do not give your sales leads reasons to increase their sales objections before you even verbally connect with them.


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Learn to Focus On What You Can Control in Sales Communication

Funny thing about human behavior is we humans have a tendency to focus on what we cannot control.  This is quite evident in sales communication.

For example, in today’s 24/7 “I want an instantaneous response to my email, my text or my phone call world,”many SMB owners and salespeople fail to communicate what they can control such as:

  • Hours of operation
  • Response time
  • Contact name
  • Location


Just imagine what would happen in the automated email message to an inbound email sales lead might include the following:

Thank you for your inquiry.  We will respond within 24 hours during normal business hours Monday-Friday, 8am to 5pm, Saturday, 9-12 Noon, Central Time, USA. Our offices are closed on Sunday and will respond the next business day.

A similar message could be placed in the voice mail as well as when salespeople return calls to sales leads. Also this message could be placed on each page of the website where sales leads can send an web response request. Over sales communication in today’s world is a good thing.

Sales research suggests sales leads via email get cold very quickly, in 15 minutes.  Additional research from Inside shows:

  • 35-50% of sales go to the vendor that responds first
  • Follow up on a web sales lead within five (5) minutes increases conversion rate by nine (9) times

Human beings have short (8 seconds) as revealed through research by Microsoft. Currently a goldfish has a longer (9 seconds) attention span than a sales lead. By focusing on what you can control through all sales communication benefits you to overcome the limiting attention span of your sales lead.

Of course there is no guarantee your sales lead will read or hear your message.  However, by focusing on what you can control you have directed your actions in the most efficient and effective manner possible.  Additionally, if the sales lead does become defensive when responses are not returned promptly, this provides an opportunity for the salesperson to build the relationship through knowledge and trust by stating:

“I can appreciate you being concerned that your inquiry did not receive a quick response. As we have recently included hours of operation in all outbound messages, I want to make sure this new response system is working correctly. By chance did you save the automated message?” 

In many instances your sales communication is the first contact your sales lead has with your SMB.  Just make sure that message is clear and focuses on what you can control.  You have no control of what your sales lead thinks, reads or says. voice

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Be Selective Before You Send that Prospecting LinkedIn Email

How do you tell a potentially clueless or desperate LinkedIn member?  One potential identifier is a prospecting email sent by a professional colleague from over a 1,000 miles away to attend his workshop for executives just like you.  Gee, you think he would have known better. Of course with the extensive sales research regarding prospecting on LinkedIn, maybe he thought he could take a short-cut?

prospectingEmbracing the send all approach is a sales prospecting loser.  Yes going through your LinkedIn contacts one at a time is more time consuming.

Additionally what your LinkedIn email message says reveals a lot about your overall sales process (marketing, selling and keeping).  For example in a more recent LinkedIn email here is the first line:

“It may have been a while since we have connected but that does not mean I have not been thinking of you in some way!”

Really if this was true, why not pick up the phone and give me a call?  Even if I believed this first statement, the rest of the email shows me this is a 100% sales pitch. The email continues:

I have spent the better part of the last year focused on some of the biggest challenges that middle market businesses face on a regular basis and thought the result of that effort might interest you or I would appreciate your introducing this e-mail to someone that would benefit.

Given I am not this person’s target market, he thought his sales pitch would be of interest or I would willingly share it with my contacts.  I do believe in developing communities to expand one’s marketing efforts.

Using LinkedIn email in this manner is probably not the best tactic.  Additionally, we belong in a LinkedIn group which would have been a much better vehicle to share this event.

LinkedIn is a great marketing tool to prospect. As in the use of any tool, it must be used continually honed and used wisely.

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Two Sales Paths Emerged in the Woods and I Took the One Less Traveled By

In sales, there are many sales paths. However for most salespeople there are always two paths:


  • Quick Fix
  • Process

The quick fix path is walked by many and is probably the more traveled one.  There are ruts in the path where many others have walked.  Where there are no ruts, the path is almost smooth and free of vegetation.  Finally the road appears to become wider and wider possibly because more people are walking it.

Walking this sales path appears to be quick and easy.

Now the sales process path appears to be less traveled.  Maybe because it looks different to each salesperson.

The road is uneven and relatively narrow. There are no ruts and the path itself is not smooth.  Green vegetation is plentiful along the path. Occasionally there are branches to logs covering the path which require removal before proceeding.

Walking the process path is not quick nor easy.

When we examine sales research, we can better understand why so many walk the quick fix path and continue to ignore the sales process path.  For example when it comes to follow-up, the majority of salespeople stop after 2 attempts.  Yet to earn the sale or close the deal requires 4 or more contacts.

Then there are all those one day sales training events. Unfortunately, unless the new learning is quickly applied, opportunities for feedback and reinforcement, this “solution” delivers a poor quick fix and is not sustainable.

With technology, social selling has taken a front row seat and for some is the quick fix path.  Share a few Twitter to LinkedIn postings, send out LinkedIn invitations to complete strangers and receive solid sales leads appears to be the mentality.  Again, the sales research suggests social selling takes time and even more time than many wish to admit.

Yes being a successful salesperson is not easy nor is it quick given less than 2% of sales are earned during that first contact. However by recognizing these two sales paths and refusing to take the quick fix path, you as a salesperson will potentially have greater sustainable sales success.

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Always Be Careful of Your Sales Message – Part 2

Isn’t it amazing with all the resources at the disposal of B2B and B2C salespeople, so many still fail to do any to adequate research on incoming sales leads or sales referrals? This research allows them to tailor their sales message.  Doing the research is another sales behavior shared by top sales performers.

sales-messageBy investing the time to do the research about the sales lead, his or her company, the salesperson can discover any miss steps in her or his sales message. Possibly for some SMB owners and salespeople, research is not as critical. However if the commission is sizeable, several thousands of dollars, it would make sense to invest time to undertake the research.

For example, in real estate, most realtors can find the name of the owner of the property from the county records.  Then they can do a quick LinkedIn search because one would be surprised as to how many people are on LinkedIn.  The next step would be to do a Google search.  By better understanding the prospective seller’s work history, may help in further tailoring the message.

As we are selling our home, the sales messages have been overall quite disastrous (turn off).  Many realtors continue with the old sales presentations and advertise themselves as top salespeople.  Actually they are top listing people because 90% of all homes are sold by a realtor not associated with the listing firm.  They have failed to recognize the educated buyer.

Another example would be receiving sales referrals.  Instead of immediately calling and making that dreaded sales pitch, there should be adequate time in researching the:

  • Sales referral (This is also true for sales leads.)
  • His or her company
  • His or her industry
  • Trigger events such as economic downturns

Yes this does take time.  For me the time average is at least a couple of hours for a 30 minute first time meeting.  I review the notes several times just to have a grasp of what is happening within the sales lead’s business or industry.

With many executive decision makers saying sales meetings are a waste of time, the more you learn about the sales lead the quicker you can make those “value connections.” Sales exist because people have problems they want to solve.  If you want connect with what the sales lead values and have a limited grasp (not a know it all one) about what is going on in his or her world, you just may earn yourself the sale.

Ignoring the research just may have your sales message sounding common or even potentially insulting. The end result is you will remain pocket poor.

P.S. Believe it or not, your sales lead or sales referral probably has already checked you out.

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Sales Leads – The Downfall of the Thrill of the Chase

For many in sales, the thrill of the chase is everything. These “hunters” love to find and chase down sales leads.



Within the SMB world, this thrill of the chase can present a psychological problem for the salesperson and a a business growth problem for the SMB owner, executive or sales manager. The problem for the salesperson is the activity associated with hunting for new sales leads.

Sales research suggests the super majority of earned sales (estimated as high as 80%) happened after multiple contacts, usually more than three. This same research also suggests the majority of salespeople (estimated as high as 80%) stop after three contacts.  The thrill of the chase becomes almost an aphrodisiac that requires constant drinking.

If you disagree with this sales research, then monitor your own sales numbers or those of your sales team.  From my experience in working with and speaking to SMBs, these percentages are fairly accurate.

For the SMB owners, executives or sales managers, the constant churning of sales leads is expensive.  However, possibly their belief is why waste time on “nurturing” new opportunities? Time is money. Possibly they are demanding more “closed sales” activity?

Additionally the overall sales culture may suffer from this thrill of the chase. Inside sales may have to deal with the fall out from the salespeople not following up.  The inside sales team can become stuck in the middle. I know this to be true because of my own corporate sales experience with outside salespeople.

Possibly this is why inbound marketing is so essential to this thrill of the chase. Through this marketing approach, sales leads come to the hunters and potentially the time frame to earn or close the deal is much shorter.  Now previous problems from the time to make multiple contacts for the salesperson to a smaller churn of sales leads by the SMB have been dramatically reduced.

The thrill of the chase is energizing.  Salespeople myself included love to earn the sale and increase sales.  We must remember the chase may be longer than anticipated and not to give up especially if those sales leads are qualified ideal customers.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is Trusted Authority for Forward Thinking sales culture. She works to close the knowing doing gaps that restrict sustainable business growth.

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Value Creation – The Truth Leaks Out

There is a lot of spin in sales about value creation.  In fact, books, webcasts, seminars to sales training events continue to push that salespeople can create value.  Some recent marketing research by Spong is now revealing what I have said for years:


Value is created by the buyer not the seller.

Buyers put a greater value on their own personal experience or their close friends and family than on what experts believe or the actual brands themselves. This preference is not a small percentage, but rather at 74%.  Pretty significant, wouldn’t you say?

If buyers rely on their own experiences, then how can any salesperson create value?

To understand buying behaviors require those in sales to understand the existing values (the beliefs) residing within those buying experiences.

What top sales performers do, almost instinctively, is they connect to the value drivers (some of which may have been un-articulated) of their ideal customers.  This may help to explain why there is a perception of value creation by salespeople.

This research also suggests as buyers age, their beliefs about brand attributes also increases. Another interesting fact is quality still appears to be a top buying driver.

Years ago my father shared in sales there are three primary factors:

  • Cost
  • Delivery
  • Quality

Usually, most buyers are not willing to give up quality or delivery, but are willing to give up cost.  Hence, money is not the deciding factor to increase sales many believe it to be.

The good news for local small business salespeople is 30% of the buyers appear to appreciate local brands over national brands.

Where there is a sales advantage is within those buyers who have expressed neutrality among brand preference.  This is where the salesperson can through active listening and effective questioning can learn what those value drivers are for the potential customer.

By believing in value creation by salespeople may lead those hungry salespeople down the wrong path especially for small businesses where their sales team is also their marketing team.  Possibly the best lesson from this marketing and consequently sales research is to just listen to what is being said instead of presuming you as the salesperson already know what your sales prospect needs or wants.

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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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Time for the Residential Real Estate Industry to Leave the Stone Age – Part 01

The marketplace continues to evolve. Newspapers have gone digital.  Many retail commodities are now purchased online.  On demand buying such as Uber has taken hold. Even the banking industry has embraced technology to retain customers. Yet the “residential real estate industry is still in the stone age” as one of my colleagues Paul Kennedy who previously owned Riley Real Estate in Northwest Indiana along with his late wife Jackie noted.


Marketing a Square Wheel

Remember those Sunday or weekday BC or Flintstone comics about the square wheel?  Marketing for the real estate industry is very much like a square wheel. Yes a round wheel works better and has been around for a while, but many realtors are staying with the status quo of the square wheel.

How long must we be exposed to self portrait after self-portrait of the real estate agents?

Isn’t one direct mailing with a picture enough?

What does the continued publication of the picture suggests?

For me, it means the real estate agents are more focused on themselves and less about me as the seller of a home or a buyer of a new home. How many times must I see the same, smiling face that  after numerous exposures appears to be more phony than real?

Then there is the one or two direct mailing with no follow-up phone call.  Sales research suggests at least 4 contacts are required to make a sale. And technology makes finding phone numbers far easier.  Of course the do not call list may present a problem. However, an effective salesperson can overcome that obstacle.

Sales research has always been part of marketing specific to ideal customer, market place, etc.  In the real estate industry, the main research is around the listing price of comparable homes in the area. No other or very little research is conducted on the buyer or seller.

The Internet allows much more research specific to the seller or the buyer of the home.  Very few realtors go beyond the comparables and actually research buyers or the actual sellers of the property. Pre-qualification of a buyer is not sales research nor is it a benefit as some really bad real estate marketing attempted to tell me.  This falls into ideal customer profile demographics as to what is the budget?

Finally most savvy salespeople know that “telling ain’t selling.”  This is also true with marketing. Marketing ain’t selling and yet the real estate industry appears to be stuck in this rut of telling, telling and more telling with an emphasis on “look at me” through all the self-portraits.

Part Two will examine compensation as another reflection of how the real estate industry is stuck in the Stone Age.

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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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Realtors – Your Marketing Message Sucks – Part 02

So you open up a piece of mail in a business envelop hand addressed without a return address and low and behold you see this marketing message:

How about 3%?


You also see this is from a realtor that you do not know and who obviously does not know you.  What you also see is this is a copy of a copy and realtor thinks he is a doctor by the poor penmanship.

His marketing message reveals  he does not think enough about you to even include your name in the direct mail piece.  Doesn’t he know about technology and mail merge?

Then you read the rest of the direct mail piece and cringe inside.

“If you list with me and I represent the buyer who buys your home, you pay only 3% commission.”

Now he may be telling me instead of the 6% standard fee for listing and selling, I pay only 3%.  Yet he is also telling me he represents the buyer not the seller.

The letter goes on and states:

“No extra frees. No Transaction Fees. No Document Storage Fees.”

I guess he presumes I do not know about these fees.

The problem with this direct mail piece is the realtor fails to understand many of today’s buyers are far more educated than in the past.  Depending upon the sales research, anywhere from 20% to 60% of the buying decision is made before any emails or phone calls are made. This is why business to business networking groups work well because people learn to know and trust other people.

This realtor is engaged in traditional, product based selling instead of education based selling.  He also failed to realize the first sales objection is him as a salesperson.  To me he is a complete stranger.

Another item cited in his letter is “am among the top producers in NW Indiana.”  For me to buy that statement from a trust perspective, it probably would have been better to cite some outside source. The third buying rule is people buy on value unique to them. This realtor has not established any value from my perspective.

Finally, his closing remarks said “I’m aggressive, honest and straight forward.”  Really, given he mailed a copy of a copy direct mail piece, my personal sense was he was lazy.

My analysis of this direct mail piece sounds harsh and it is meant to be harsh.  If you are a realtor and want to Be the Red jacket, stand out away from all those other realtors, then stop with any marketing message that sucks.

Tomorrow’s blog will reveal by numbers how the marketing message for many realtors is not securing the desired results – increase sales.

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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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