Posts Tagged ‘small business’

Sales Training is Not Just for Big Business – Part 04

The absence of sales training is directly and firmly placed at the feet of leadership.  These are the same leaders who took the dedicated employee from customer service, gave him or her a business card and told to “go sell.” Then when his or her performance is not at the same level as in his or her past role, the small business owners complain about the results. Give me a break!

sales-training

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For any organization, problems are either people or process or a combination of both.  When leaders fail to train and develop their people especially their sales team, then only they can be held for the lack of results.

The usual reason for not providing any sales training is money.

“I can’t afford to train these people.” 

How many times have I heard that?

My response continues to be:

“You cannot afford not to train your salespeople.”

Today’s business world is different due to technology and the availability of information.  Buyers are more educated. For the 97.7% of all U.S. businesses that have under 20 employees, today’s salespeople must understand both marketing and selling along with how to keep existing customers.

Yes, small businesses cannot afford expensive marketing firms with a chance of getting some business and lose those opportunities. When these sometimes very expensive sales leads come in, the sales team must have both the strategies in how to approach these new sales leads and the skills to move the sale forward.

Some leaders will place their sales team in adversarial roles intentionally or unintentionally creating even more misalignment. This is just plain stupid especially if everyone is salaried.

Fail-Safe Leadership Is A Basic Primer on Leadership for Small Business Owners

When there is no sales training, this also strongly indicates leadership has no strategic plan.  In this small businesses, Captain Wing It is alive from the small business owner to the salesperson.  The philosophy is “spray your actions all over the place and then pray something sticks.”  What happens is:

  • Resources are depleted
  • Cash flow is irregular
  • Over time sales decline

If you are a small business owner and have not invested in your people, shame on you.  The first action is to Assess where your team is including communication of corporate sales goals; sales skills; ideal customers; buying history of clients; just to name a few areas to be assessed.  Then from these metrics, greater clarity is achieved as to what goals needs to be established.  From those goals, action steps can be created for exceptional execution. (Note: The ACE Model™ works in alignment with any strategic plan or any strategic initiative.

As I noted earlier, you as a leader for a small business cannot afford not to train and develop your sales people because one of your forward thinking competitors already has taken that action and you are now behind the flow instead of in it or better yet ahead of it.

The fifth and final part of this series will provide some suggestions in how to develop good sales training for your 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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Lumping Small Business into Big Business Research

Mid-size to small business have few statistical resources to make strategic marketing or selling decisions. The majority of  business research is with the larger firms of 100 employees or more that comprise less than 1% of US businesses.

business-research

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Firms with under 100 employees account for over 99% of all US businesses and yet critical data from current business research for them is rarely published or easy to find. And for those firms with under 20 employees, finding relevant business research data is nearly impossible even though they account for 97.7% of all US businesses. (Source for these statistics is US Census.)

Take for example this research from Sirius that surveyed 1,000 business to business executives responsible for purchasing nearly $500,000,000.  If we do the math, the average purchase was $500,000.  As a small business owner when did you make a single purchase of $500,000 outside of maybe a building or a merger and acquisition?

This survey appears to counter the ongoing argument that because of social media buyers have already engaged in their buying decisions before they call you.  Estimates of this pre-buying decision making range from as low as 20% to as high as 67%.

What  I know to be true is for small businesses under 20 employees, much of the buying decision making process for business to business solutions has already been started.  This is why sales referrals are the life blood for many small businesses.

My last two executive coaching clients in the business to business world both had already done their buying research via social media along with the Internet. They had been reading my various  postings especially on LinkedIn Pulse for over six months. They knew what they wanted and had already decided to hire an executive coach. These sales leads closed on the first contact. The only question was what executive coach and I was fortunate to be #1 on the list.

Small business because of the lack of relevant business research must be diligent in tracking their own “big data.”  Over time they can leverage this data to increase sales, customer loyalty and even reduce operating costs.

My advice is when you read any business research, see if you can determine the demographics of the businesses being surveyed especially the revenue size and number of employees.  In some instances, the big business data may be relevant to your small business.  However in many more instances, the data may be false leading you down a rabbit hole of no return.

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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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Increase Sales with Your First Impression

American humorist Will Rogers said “You will never get a second chance to make a first impression.” Rogers’ truism is one that I regularly think when meeting people along with why many in small business fail to increase sales.

increase-sales

Dress Professional

How your present yourself is essential.  In today’s more casual business world, having clean clothes as well as matching attire should be just plain common sense. However, there are still far too many small business professionals who are clueless about what it means to dress professional.

Several weeks ago I had the opportunity to meet a real estate person, Elise Harron, in Kingman, Az. Even though much of her real estate small business was selling rural property, she had an embroidered logo wear polo shirt, clean jeans and polished nails.  Also, her vehicle made a great first impression, a bright yellow Jeep Wrangler.

Listen

First impressions go beyond your professional dress. Those who actively listen versus those always talking have a competitive advantage to increase sales.

Follow-Up

How many times have we met someone at a business to business networking event who promised to take some action and then failed?  A first impression extends beyond that initial contact and is not fully solidified until any promises are honored. Additionally just sending a handwritten card acknowledging a recent meeting may be the stimulus to increase sales.

Smile

Believe it or not, having an authentic smile makes a great first impression.  People buy first on emotions and a warm, enthusiastic smile generates a positive emotional response in the other person.  This is true even when talking on the phone. People can sense a smile.

Behave Professional

Your overall behaviors reflect the first impression you are sending to others.  These behaviors extend into etiquette and general conversations.  Here is where it may sense to leave your ego at the door especially if you wish to increase sales.

Yes, you may never get a second chance to make a great first impression. In today’s competitive small business marketplace, that first impression just may be that first step to 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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Are You Shooting Yourself Before You Open Your Marketing Mouth?

Today I read an infographic about Why-Customers-Choose-You?  What was interesting is the collected data presumes there already exists some positive attraction through the initial marketing interactions.

marketing

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Unfortunately, this is not the case. Past and ongoing research suggests that people make judgments about you before you even open your mouth to share your value proposition statement.  Within the first 10-20 seconds, others have considered your education, your economic, social levels and if you are trust worthy.

The purpose of marketing is to attract attention and begin to build a relationship.  This is especially true in business to business networking events. So I am still at a loss as to why some small business people just don’t get this especially if they are business coaches or executive coaches.

Last Friday I attended a business to business  networking event sponsored by Growth Pod  in the western suburbs of Chicago. As I watched some of the attendees I noticed several dressed less than professionally.  One was dressed as a cleaning lady and I am being kind.  Baggy pants, bandana, along with hair disheveled.  I recognized her and knew her small business to be one of business coaching.

Other women dressed extremely casual in jeans and cowboy boots minus the cowboy hats and flannel shirts.  Now they were not owners of horse stables, ranches or farms. For the most part, men were professionally dressed given their roles and industries.

Yes women do have a tougher time finding the right clothes.  Men can wear polo shirts with an imprinted logo, khaki pants and even deck shoes.  Women unless they are in construction usually cannot wear such attire. Much of their believability and therefore credibility comes from how they look.

You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression. Why blow it and look like something the cat drugged in?  People buy from people they know and trust.  The marketing question you should be asking yourself is:

How does my professional attire project trust and a desire for someone to reach out to talk to me?

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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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Marching to the Add Value Beat for Small Businesses

Isn’t your  life crazy enough without having to worry about the “add value” beating of the drums by small business coaches to strategic business growth consultants? Seems like everyone has some idea of how you can add value to win more business.

add-value

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You may be scratching your head thinking with  many of your customers having different reasons to buy from you, how can you add value to one market segment without taking value away from another?

Possibly the first step is for your to define value. Once you have clarity about what value is then you may be able to determine better actions to take.

Value has many definitions.  Yet all these definitions share one trait, perception.  How does your client perceive the value of your solutions (products or services) respective to the price he or she is paying.

Value resides within the perceptions or expectations of your clients based upon their experiences. More educated buyers may have a different perception about value than not so educated buyers. Sales Coaching Tip:  Value is unique to each buyer.

For your small business to add value does require for your to know:

  • What is important to your potential buyers?
  • Why your existing customers are buying from you?
  • Why your customers or clients  may or may not be sharing your name with others?
  • What barriers exist within the buying experience?
  • What is the difference between your solution and your competitor’ solution?
  • How can you enhance those perceptions without increased costs?

When you understand how your existing customers and potential Ideal Customer perceive value respective to your small business, then you can begin to make changes in the following areas of operations:

  • Customer service
  • Marketing
  • Sales Process
  • Administration such as invoicing
  • Relationship building
  • Pricing of your solutions

Many of these changes will probably have zero cost. And if your firm understands “lean thinking” you may actually be able to increase profits because you have streamlined the various processes within your small business. Even if there is a cost,  you can realize increase sales, gain new customers and add new profits.

For me to add value, I continue to ask myself “How can I ‘just be valuable’ to those I met?” By having this belief as an actionable attitude allows me to keep an open mind, to be authentic in all interactions and to learn what is important to those around me.

My small business advice to you is march to your own “add value beat” and remain authentic to your customers.  What worked for someone else may not work for you.

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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 Power of a United Small Business Community

Being just one small business owner in a sea of many is difficult.  Yet, you can have incredible power when you unite with others including your competitors. Let me explain.

small-businessYesterday, a colleague of mine, Anthony Iannarino, discovered one of his blog posts had been plagiarized by a firm located in the UK.  He had written the author of the posting an email to take down this plagiarized work. Then he made an outreach to a united small business community of sales trainers to sales coaches asking each of them to leave a comment as the plagiarizer posted this content on LinkedIn Pulse.  Within 15 minutes, the LinkedIn Pulse posting was deleted.

The plagiarizer has yet to apologize.  And my sense is he won’t.

Strongly, united small business communities can have incredible power.  The members of these communities do not have to agree with each other. Actually, diversity of thought is encouraged because if everyone said the same thing the content would be rather boring.

Many of these communities are formed through social media. Members share the postings of others.

Yesterday I posted this article “Change This One Word to Be a Better Leader.”  Within our united small business community of close to 40 members, a quick search revealed that 22 members had re-posted this article  in less than 24 hours on Twitter.

If you want to gain some great insight, follow any or all of these individuals on Twitter.

Now I have currently 10,800 Twitter Followers.  This powerful small business community expanded my influence for this particular posting to over 40 fold.  Then add in the RT and favorites from others, one can see the incredible power created by this union of like minded sales trainers, sales consultants and sales coaches.

These united small business communities work for because no one is forced to share the content of others and everyone demonstrates high positive core values.  Members understand united we stand.  Additionally a collaborative culture emerges from sales leads referrals to requests for help from pricing engagements to sharing of the resources.

Currently the group is working on holding a Twitter chat.

Being noticed as a small business owner is an ongoing challenge.  Through the creation of groups with like minded individuals, you can be noticed.

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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 Rarity of Permission Based Marketing

Maybe it is just me, yet it appears that permission based marketing is becoming as rare as the Dodo bird. Years to even months ago I would receive one unsolicited newsletter or broadcast email a week.  Now, I am receiving them daily and the worst offenders appear to come from one social media site – LinkedIn.

permission-based-marketingJust this morning I received a newsletter from a first degree LinkedIn connection who added my email to his list without my permission.  Then I received two sales pitches from second degree LinkedIn connections who indicated we were connected on LinkedIn. Last week  my LinkedIn email box had over 10 different “sales pitch” emails.

My problem with those who fail to understand permission based marketing is two-fold:

  • Respect
  • Time

When we ask for permission to include people on our various lists, we are demonstrating positive business ethics through respect.  Adding people to your list because you have their email is just plain rude and disrespectful.  As Jane Addams observed:

“Action indeed is the sole medium of expression for ethics.”

Then there is the issue of time.  Time is a constant of 24 hours.  Every second taken away from busy small business owners, executives to sales professionals keeps them from doing what they need to do.

Presumptions cannot be made about many of these emails because the subject line appears to be relevant such as “We’re connected on LinkedIn.”   Possibly a few moments after reading the email, the reader recognizes another “sales pitch.” However he or she may have some confusion as to who the sender is.  Then some additional time is wasted checking out whether this is a first degree connection or another second or third degree connection using email marketing without permission.

To elevate your small business above the noise from those other gray suits does require effective marketing.  Your email marketing must be in alignment with your business ethics and social media marketing etiquette. Sure there are few hard fast rules about email marketing unless you are concerned about the SPAM code and violations.

Permission based marketing reflects these wise words of Wayne Dyer:

“Live one day at a time emphasizing ethics rather than rules.”

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Check out Be The Red Jacket the Keys to Unlocking Sales Success.

This quick read begins by discussing the importance of business ethics.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses with under 50 employees where the 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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I Hate to Sell, But… Part 2

Selling is part of small business growth. For some of those small business owners and sales professionals, they internally recognize they must sell, but still have this repeating thought of “I hate to sell.”

I-hate-to-sellPossibly this thought of “I hate to sell” is the united with this one of “cold calling is dead?”  Salespeople just starting out who may not have the network necessary to spread the word about their solutions must call people they do not know.

Years ago cold calling involved driving from business to business; getting out of the car; walking up and physically knocking on the door after door. Today, phones along with the plethora of smart devices have removed the necessity of traveling by car and knocking on doors. Now telephones become the door knocking and voice mails become the door ringers.

Part of the reason for the intense dislike for cold calling is from our childhood experiences.  We were told not to talk to strangers and do not go where we were not invited or ask.  Cold calling challenges both of those negative conditioning experiences.

I once heard this statement made about strangers “they are friends I do not know.”  By changing how we look at things, the things we look at may change.

Right now possibly your small business landscape shouts “I hate to sell.” By seeing that new landscape with the different eyes such as “I love to cold call because I am meeting friends I did not know I had” may help to reverse that internal attitude.

You and only you have 100% control of what you allow to stay inside your brain.  Now is the time to remove that “I hate to sell” record and replace it with a new record that will support you in your small business growth.

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I Hate to Sell, But… Part 1

Have you ever heard a small business person make this statement of “I hate to sell?”  Then he or she adds the reason why he or she must sell.

I-hate-to-sellYesterday during a business to business networking meeting, the facilitator brought to the discussion the topic of the “pain of business to business networking.”  Since the title of the article employed the word “pain,” I suggested if B2B networking is a pain there is something driving that pain. Possibly that something is one of this belief “I hate to sell.”

The discussion was quite lively and others brought up specific examples of small business professionals who appear to be in pain when networking. These examples included:

  • The Fast Business Card Passer who passes out business cards like a Casino Dealer
  • The Embarrassed Exchanger who feels very uncomfortable and reluctantly hands out his or her business card
  • The Clueless Character who cannot tell you succinctly what he or she does and in many instances fails to bring his or her business card

As in many professional discussion about sales, there was confusion was to what the word “sales” meant. For some the meaning is earning the sale while for others it means being engaged in the selling phase of the sales process.  My sense is the confusion around the word sales is part of the reason for “I hate to sell” belief.

Sales is a process that involves these 3 phases:

  1. Marketing – to attract attention and begin to build a relationship
  2. Selling – to have a meeting with a qualified sales lead and earn a sale
  3. Keeping – to keep and return to the customer for ongoing referrals

Download this 3 Phase Sales Process for Free

From my experience, many small business owners are not really that bad at earning the sale.  Their barrier for business growth is usually a combination of:

  • Desperation
  • Poor marketing

Desperation

Years ago there was a commercial about not letting others see you sweat. In today’s crowded marketplace, there are many small. business owners and sales professionals who are internally desperate to make a sale.  This desperation oozes out from their skin pores and if you don’t see the sweat, you may feel the desperation just by listening to them. No wonder these folks share the belief of “I hate to sell.”

Poor Marketing

Marketing is about attracting the right attention that being your ideal customers. The challenge is finding the right ideal customers. This returns to the strategic plan of which easily from my experience 75% of small business owners do not have. Not having this strategic plan only reinforces the belief “I hate to sell.”

Sales is in my humble the opinion one of the best professions in the world.

Where else can you:

  • Meet friends you did not know?
  • Learn about what is happening in your own backyard?
  • Realize after listening to others, your life is pretty darn good?

Then if you are talking or connecting with the right person, you may have the opportunity to share your experience, your solution and actually make some money in that process. How cool is that?

If you ever find yourself thinking “I hate to sell,” then the first step is to determine why you have that belief and begin to change your thoughts about marketing to selling.

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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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The Idea Fart Small Business Syndrome

Entrepreneurs and small business owners continue to expand local economies.  Many of these industrious individuals literally had a momentary flash of inspiration and believed this idea could make them very wealthy.

small-business

From this “idea fart,” they find a few clients.  Then what happens is they start thinking about marketing.  What does not happen is putting together a well researched, documented strategic plan.  This planning process is viewed as unnecessary, as a waste of time.  In some instances, I believe the word plan has become a four letter dirty word for small business professionals.

During the past month I have spoken with several small business owners who reached out to me because they needed some help marketing their entrepreneurial ideas.  All had a few paying clients and they realized they needed some way to attract more attention, to gain more sales leads.

Unfortunately, all had not engaged in any strategic thinking and consequently had no strategic written plan.

Years ago I asked small business owners to even sales professionals if they had committed to writing a strategic plan. Now I ask the following seven questions?

  1. Do you have an ideal customer profile (possibly two or three depending upon their solutions)?
  2. Do you know why your customers buy from you?
  3. Do you know your target market place?
  4. Do you know where to find your ideal customers?
  5. Do you know the industry trends in your target market?
  6. Do you know your competitive advantage versus the competitive advantage of your competitors?
  7. Do you know your sales conversation time frame (from initial contact to earning the sale)?

More often than not I receive at least four negative responses if not seven.

Plans are worthless; planning is everything. President D. Eisenhower

The answers to these questions are found within a well documented strategic plan. Marketing plans evolve from the strategic plan.  By investing the time to discover the answers to these questions and many more, is time well invested and keeps the small business owners and entrepreneurs from engaging in the role of Captain Wing-It who sprays his or her actions all over the place and then prays something will stick.

If your small business is seeking more sales leads, before you start reaching out for marketing help, reach out and work with someone (not necessarily a marketing firm) to put together a well documented, well researched strategic plan.  In the long run, you will not only save yourself time, but more importantly thousands of dollars.

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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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