We're All in Sales, So Get Better at it!

Sales is one of the foundational skills for any profession, for any leader in any organization who wants sustained growth. Here's how to master the art, even if it doesn't come naturally to you.

If you are starting a business or own a business, you need to be able to sell. If you are pitching new ideas to your organization, you need to be able to sell. If you are raising funds for a nonprofit, you need to be able to sell. If you are a parent and raising a family, you need to be able sell.

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    Selling skills are not the exclusive domain of the people in the sales department. At some point in any career we will find ourselves needing to sell something: an idea, a vision, a solution, etc.

    As Henry Ford’s quote states, “Nothing happens until someone sells something.”  The basis of selling is the process of helping a prospect or customer (individual or group) make decisions to achieve a desired outcome. Fundamental skills in selling are used to help the customer navigate their buying journey resulting in a decision based on trust, data/proof and emotion.

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    Based on your business, the role of sales is to manage the gap between a target customer’s needs and the solution a company offers with its products and services. By closing the gap, the company is able to achieve its revenue targets and forecasts. The sales function in any company helps the organization achieve profit and growth objectives. Sales must assume a key team leadership role by engaging other departments in the profitable support of target customers and the successful growth of the organization.

    As you develop as a sales professional, here are five tips to helping others feel confident about their decision to work with and buy from you and your company.

    Sales tip no. 1: Be a professional. How do you want others to see you as a sales professional? Are you able to sell at all levels? Can you be counted on or can’t you be trusted? Are you serious or casual? Are you organized or sloppy? On a foundational level, to be a successful and professional sales person you must learn how to lead and manage yourself while developing the skills to get other people to follow you as you manage complex relationships with customers. Your customers will expect you to have expert business knowledge, skills and strategy, while your company will expect you to anticipate and lead change between your business and your customers. In your company, you are the team leader/team builder; you must have the right mindset, behaviors, initiative and discipline to be successful.

    Sales tip no. 2: Manage your assigned sales pipeline. A sales person must learn how to design and manage their own sales pipeline to achieve their personal and assigned goals. A sales pipeline must have a consistent volume and reliable speed (rate) of opportunities moving through from lead to new sale to achieve monthly forecasts.  As a sales professional, your selling process needs to be aligned with the customer’s buying process. Your project management skills help you track the stages in your pipeline as opportunities flow through the conversion stages: prospect, lead, meetings, quotes, close, etc.

    Sales tip no. 3: Manage successful transitions. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!” Warning: not all objections to change will be uncovered during your sales process. You must be prepared to lead change and manage the transition and the new relationships between your customers and your company. Some objections and resistance will come after the sale is made and they will arise in a variety of ways. As a sales professional you have to take the lead and manage the transition with new accounts or major new products.

    Sales tip no. 4: Drive results and sustain profitable growth. Stay focused and keep individuals and teams aligned with the key internal drivers, metrics and KPIs in your business: Financial, customer, marketing, product/services, people and processes of the business. A focus on key drivers that grow cash flow and profits are needed to sustain and scale a company. Be sure to align everyone’s daily decisions and actions to the big picture—serving your customers and increasing the value of the business.

    Sales tip no. 5: Engage and innovate. Use a combination of business review meetings or surveys with your customers as well as internal meetings within your company to discuss how you can keep your customers satisfied and loyal. Leverage the data you collect and load into your CRM systems, as well as data from the market, to discover the best ways to recognize and reward loyalty. Make it easier for customers to keep buying from you by offering more products and services that are aligned with customer needs and economics.

    We have all heard it, people ultimately do business with companies and people who can be trusted to deliver what they promised and are easy to do business with. If you make doing business harder or you hate working with people, you may want to look for other work.

    According to Warren Bennis, “The basis of leadership is the capacity of the leader to change the mindset, the framework of the other person.”

    Selling is about change. Leading is about change. Both deal with being able to successfully build relationships with other humans who are looking for new ideas or a solution to something that may be broken.

    What then do you need to know about sales as a function or a skill in your business or organization? Who do you have to become to be more successful as a leader in sales? What do you need to do to become more successful for yourself, your family and your company?

    There are no shortcuts, but there are plenty of clues and successful and proven strategies to be more successful in sales.

    Wayne Bergman is a business and executive coach and founder of Consistent Business Growth. Questions or comments about this piece? Email him directly at wayne@cbgrowth-gfm.com.

    Grasshopper
    Next up: We Can't Hire You If You Can't Pass A Drug Test - Vote No on Issue 3

    We Can't Hire You If You Can't Pass A Drug Test - Vote No on Issue 3

    Michael Canty is the owner of a successful manufacturing company in Northeast Ohio called Alloy Bellows & Precision Welding and he, like so many other business owners, are voicing their opposition to legalizing marijuana in Ohio on Election Day.  On October 20th, Mr. Canty hosted representatives from the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), Greater Cleveland Partnership, Urban League of Greater Cleveland, and Secretary of State Jon Husted to discuss why voting NO on Issue 3 is in the best interest of all Ohioans – especially for small businesses.

    Michael Canty is the owner of a successful manufacturing company in Northeast Ohio called Alloy Bellows & Precision Welding and he, like so many other business owners, are voicing their opposition to legalizing marijuana in Ohio on Election Day. On October 20th, Mr. Canty hosted representatives from the Council of Smaller Enterprises (COSE), Greater Cleveland Partnership, Urban League of Greater Cleveland, and Secretary of State Jon Husted to discuss why voting NO on Issue 3 is in the best interest of all Ohioans – especially for small businesses.

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    Small business employers and entrepreneurs could face big challenges if voters decide to legalize marijuana on Tuesday.  There are workplace safety concerns, human resources policies would need to be updated, employment and productivity issues will be amplified, employees will fail more drug tests, and an increase in litigation costs can serve as a financial anchor for a company. 

    “Currently, we interview lots and lots of people,” said Mr. Canty.  “We tell them right up front that if they can’t pass a drug test please don’t bother finishing the application process.  We can’t hire you if you can’t pass a drug test.  Still…ten to fifteen percent of even those can’t pass a drug test.”

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    Beyond workforce issues and whether you are open to a conversation about legalizing marijuana in Ohio or not, amending the Ohio Constitution before we have a better understanding of the implications and to provide economic gain for a targeted group of individuals is risky.  The people behind Issue 3 are made up of a handful of investors that stand to line their own pockets should the measure pass because commercial marijuana would only be grown at 10 sites belonging to these individuals. 

    The goal for Issue 3 investors?  Corner a market dominated by a small number of sellers and reap the financial rewards that come with it.  The result for the rest of us?  An oligopoly on marijuana in Ohio that would make us the first state in the Union to simultaneously legalize pot for medicinal and recreational use. 

    And, don’t forget the additional strains it would place on small business employers like Mr. Canty. 

    After Mr. Canty spoke with local reporters on the issue, he led the group on a tour of Alloy Bellows’ state-of-the-art facility, a space that features the latest technologies in manufacturing.  By controlling all of their processes internally Alloy Bellows is able to offer their customers the best efficiencies, output, and flexibility possible.  The complex operation requires continuity and consistency. 

    Legalizing marijuana in the way Issue 3 is offering is an unpredictable proposition.  This issue is too important to the future success of employers in our state and it is far from responsible. 

    To see WKYC Channel 3 coverage of the event at Alloy Bellows & Precision Welding click here.

    To learn more about this crucial ballot measure see here.

    COSE urges you to please remember to vote NO on Issue 3.



    Grasshopper
    Next up: Weigh-in on newly proposed overtime rules, investment capital

    Weigh-in on newly proposed overtime rules, investment capital

    Two of the top ten most significant challenges to the future growth and survival of a small business are a lack of available capital and costs associated with employee salaries. That’s according to answers received in the National Small Business Association’s (NSBA) 2014 Year-End Economic Report – a poll of small business owners that represented every industry in every state in the nation. Do you experience similar challenges? We need your help.

    Two of the top ten most significant challenges to the future growth and survival of a small business are a lack of available capital and costs associated with employee salaries. That’s according to answers received in the National Small Business Association’s (NSBA) 2014 Year-End Economic Report – a poll of small business owners that represented every industry in every state in the nation. 

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    Do you experience similar challenges? We need your help.

    Investment Capital

    COSE’s federal advocacy partner, NSBA, is seeking your input through a brief survey regarding investment capital for your business. NSBA will be filing a brief in support of certain new Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) rules which would ease the process for selling shares of your business. The impact of these changes may help you to reduce or eliminate broker’s fees, lower investor premiums, and give founders greater control over the term sheet. See here for additional background on this issue.

    Proposed Overtime Rules

    The administration has proposed new overtime rules which would increase the salary threshold below which all employees must be paid overtime, from the current $23,660 to $50,400 – a 113% increase. In addition, the proposal seeks comment on the so-called “duties test”, opening the door to changes to be adopted in a final rule. For more information on the proposed overtime rules see here.

    NSBA is working to mobilize small businesses on this issue in two key ways:

    • Your Input – NSBA needs to hear from you by August 21st about how this rule would impact your small business. The information you provide will help inform NSBA’s public comments as well as develop a more detailed outline to help you submit your own comments. Please click here today to tell us what this rule means for your business.
    • High-Level Issue Briefing – On August 13th at 11:00 a.m. EST, NSBA will host a teleconference featuring labor expert and attorney Michael Eastman, who currently serves as Vice President for Public Policy at the Equal Employment Advisory Council. On the call we will discuss how these proposed regulations are likely to impact your firm. Click here to register.

    If these issues are important to you and your small business, please consider taking just a few minutes out of your day to share your experiences. The feedback received will strictly be kept confidential and e-mail us at advocacy@cose.org should you have any questions.


    Grasshopper
    Next up: What Does Value Add Mean?

    What Does Value Add Mean?

    What does Value Add mean? Well the first thing is that it implies a baseline value. To be successful, a product or service must be of value on its own. It has to be able to stand all by it’s self. In today’s competitive marketplace there may be several companies offering the same product or service with the same baseline value. 

    What does Value Add mean? Well the first thing is that it implies a baseline value. To be successful a product or service must be of value on its own. It has to be able to stand all by it’s self. In today’s competitive marketplace there may be several companies offering the same product or service with the same baseline value.

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    This is the reason they adopt value-added benefits. Value add is additional value that your product or service has above the baseline. It’s a way of differentiating your company from the pack. If you can add value, then even if your price is a little higher, the prospect will want to buy from you. You bring more to the table.

    All consumers look at purchases from a ‘cost/benefit’ analysis. Does the benefit equal or outweigh the cost? Some of that is subjective. Different consumers have different definitions of benefit. Because of this, it is important to make sure that the value you are adding is considered to be beneficial by your prospects.

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    How do you figure this out? Follow these steps:

    1. Understand your target market
    2. Identify the actual baseline value of your product or service. This is the value your clients see – not necessarily the value YOU believe exists.
      1. Document the value you perceive
      2. Ask your clients what value they see
      3. Conduct market research to assess the general public’s view of the baseline value
    3. Consider complementary products or services that you could add to a product you offer as a bonus.
    4. Consider non-complementary products or services that you could add

      Examples of complementary products or services are:

      • Free cleaning
      • Free Helpdesk Support
      • Free Shipping
      • Free Inspection
      • Free Newsletter

      Notice the word ‘Free.’ You are throwing something in to add value to the baseline product or service.  These are items that complement the product or service you are providing.

      Examples of non-complementary products or services are:

      • A Resource Toolbox – filled with information on organizations you know well that offer a variety of products and services
      • Gift Card – to a restaurant or store; not for redemption at your company
      • Quarterly Seminar Series – seminars on a variety of subjects that don’t piggyback your business

      As you can see, these are valuable but do not complement a company’s product or service. So they add value of a different sort. Non-complementary adds are a bit tougher to sell. It really comes down to what the prospect deems as valuable.

      Providing value added benefits can really set you apart. So do your homework. Get to know your target market – what they want and need. Get creative with adds – you really can do anything you want, as long as the prospect finds it valuable. Set up your value adds and get to marketing your product or service with the adds included. It can be a great, inexpensive way to set your company apart.

      Copyright© 2015 Seize This Day Coaching

    Grasshopper
    Next up: View from the Top: What I Want Next

    View from the Top: What I Want Next

    Northeast Ohio has been enjoying a wave of positive local, national, and, yes, even international media attention of late. Between the spotlight on Cleveland’s hosting of the Republican National Convention, the Cavaliers’ NBA Championship win, the opening of the beautifully renovated Cleveland Public Square, and Ohio’s crucial role in the upcoming presidential election, there has been no shortage of media stories about our people, our community, and our economy.

    Northeast Ohio has been enjoying a wave of positive local, national, and, yes, even international media attention of late. Between the spotlight on Cleveland’s hosting of the Republican National Convention, the Cavaliers’ NBA Championship win, the opening of the beautifully renovated Cleveland Public Square, and Ohio’s crucial role in the upcoming presidential election, there has been no shortage of media stories about our people, our community, and our economy.

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    Beyond the flashy headlines, though, Northeast Ohio is experiencing a genuine revitalization—a strengthening regional economy, growing job and housing segments, and the lowest unemployment levels in a decade. Yes, things are looking up. According to rethinkCleveland.org, $8 billion in new development has been invested in the city from 2011-2015, and there are numerous large-scale development plans in the works.

    As small businesses play a leading role in economic development, we asked several COSE members to weigh in with their thoughts on where to focus the region’s resources next. This might come as no surprise, but they had strong opinions.

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    RELATED: View a list of our members’ most anticipated Northeast Ohio projects that are in the pipeline

    Mike Baach

    Philpott Solutions Group

    What I Want Is: A Culture Shift

    “The recent development in the city is incredible,” says Mike Baach, president and CEO of Philpott Solutions Group in Brunswick that employs approximately 50 people. “The influx of investment, the creation of business activity and commerce—it benefits us all. Any resources spent on economic development activity can create a turnover of those dollars many times over.”

    That doesn’t mean that there isn’t more that can be done in Northeast Ohio. Specifically, Baach is looking for a jobs and culture shift. He wants a greater investment in what is required to get a great paying job.

    “Economic development, coupled with an able-bodied workforce, is essential for continued growth,” says Baach. “We need a culture shift that goes against social norms and encourages and respects the decision to go into trades and manufacturing versus the college path,” he says.  “These are high-paying, skilled jobs, and there is not only demand but funds and programs in place to train people.  We just need to encourage people to enter those programs.”

     

    Sharon Toerek

    Toerek Law

    What I Want Is: A Seat At the Table

    “Focusing economic development dollars on downtown Cleveland was the right starting point,” says Sharon Toerek, principal at Toerek Law in Cleveland. “You have to start in the center city—making it attractive for residents, businesses and visitors—and then ideally you can begin to capitalize on that momentum.”

    What’s important going forward is that small business owners get a seat at the table as future projects are discussed, she says.

    “I’d like to ensure that small businesses are seen as a priority and completely integrated into the economic fabric of the region,” says Toerek.  “Small business must continue to have a seat at the table along with government and corporate leaders when establishing economic development priorities. COSE and the Greater Cleveland Partnership are doing a great job of giving small business a voice, and now small, middle-market, and enterprise-level corporations need to work together to keep things moving in the right direction.”

    Oh, and one more thing made her list. Toerek’s wants big business to make a significant investment in small business. “I’d like to see enterprise-size companies get in the game by participating in small business entrepreneurship – whether by investing directly in small businesses or creating and funding programs that help establish and encourage entrepreneurs,” she says.  “Big companies should be taking calculated risks in communities that are important to them through mentoring and investments in small businesses.”

     

    Deborah Rutledge

    Rutledge Group

    What I Want Is: Community Development

    Deborah Rutledge, COO at Rutledge Group in Cleveland, is pleased with the development of the CLE brand.

    “All the new hotels and entertainment centers will serve us well economically in the long run,” she says.  “Building up the brand of CLE helps attract more residents, businesses and travel to the city, which can have a huge impact on the economy.”

    And now that Cleveland has made an investment in its entertainment neighborhoods downtown, it’s time to start looking farther out, she says.

    “Although the recent progress in the city is great, the surrounding neighborhoods and inner-ring suburbs are not yet seeing the positive effects,” Rutledge says. “I hope future economic development planning includes improvements that spread out into the communities.”

     

    Tim Reynolds

    Tribute, Inc.

    What I Want Is: More Forward Momentu,

    Tim Reynolds, president of Tribute, Inc., in Hudson, wants to keep the momentum the region gained during the past several months moving forward.

    Reynolds believes that one thing Cleveland’s hosting of the RNC proved was the region can handle big conventions and large-scale events.

    “The region can benefit from increased convention business,” he says.  “As we look forward, travel, tourism and convention business will be a real contributor to the economy.”

    And, striking a similar note as Rutledge, this will also necessitate investment in neighborhoods that surround Cleveland.

    “It’s important to invest in neighborhoods that make a significant difference in not only the physical landscape and overall economic condition, but that create conditions where a quality workforce is available for area businesses,” says Reynolds.

     

    Next Steps

    A lot of development has taken place in Cleveland of late with a lot more to come. We asked our sources to give us their take on what they’re most looking forward to. View a rundown of their responses.

     

    Grasshopper
    Next up: What to Know About Small Business Succession Planning

    What to Know About Small Business Succession Planning

    Thinking about stepping away from your business? Here's what you need to know.


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