Sales and the Quick Fix

Why is it that everyone thinks that there is a quick fix to sales? The answer is quite simple, in our world of quick fixes for everything (diets, online shopping, etc.) we expect that a quick fix can also be applied to sales.

Well here is the bad news. Despite what many sales training companies will tell you, the quick fix is not in! Yes, you can subscribe to “Fad of the Month” if you choose, but do it at your own peril. Anyone who tells you your sales problem can be solved quickly is selling you an elixir.

Sales today has become more difficult, because I don’t need to talk to you if I choose not to. I don’t need to answer those cold calls you are practicing, I don’t need to respond to your annoying emails and my gatekeeper will never let you through to me at the office.

There is no quick fix and quite frankly doing things the old ways mentioned above will only exacerbate the problem.

If you truly want to generate better sales results, I suggest that you try to join the 21st century and engage in a social selling process. Today with the access to information on the internet, companies are 57% through the buying process before they ever make the opportunity public and 75% of buyers are researching potential vendors on the internet.

That means that if you really want to generate sales you do need to review and change how you do business. In order to do that, you need to find a source that can support your sales team with Social Selling training to supplement the type of selling they are already practicing. It is not a quick fix. It takes time to transition to a new selling strategy and optimal selling methodology. This is not a two-day sales seminar. This is weeks of training that will lead to measurable results.

There is not quick fix and the old way of selling is done. You have great people and they want to be successful. Give them the tools to be successful in the 21st century and your sales problem will be erased.

Your Business and Social Presence

I attend a number of conference each year and the biggest complaint I hear from business leaders is the work ethic of millennials. I also participate in peer to peer coaching and once gain the discussion generally relates to millennials as to how they aren’t loyal and are unreliable.

Did you ever stop to think that you are the problem? Yes, they do have a different work ethic, but they do have a work ethic. Sure, you have turnover, but is that because they are not challenged? Do you have a job description for them that tells them what, how and why to do their job? Is it because they are in the same roles that you established years ago and have not adjusted to move into the 21st century?

If you look all around you, the world is changing. Business is different today. Amazon, eBay, Facebook and Twitter have changed how we buy and communicate. Today buying decisions are 57% complete before you ever hear of them. 75% of vendors have also been sourced before the opportunity hits the street. Have you set up a process to sell on line? Have you developed communication channels so that your customers can communicate with you through the various new channels? Do you have someone who is managing it for you?

Your biggest sales opportunity is through social media! Now let’s go back to our millennials. Who better to help you navigate the social processes that you do not understand and have avoided because of that fact? Who better to do the research required to find new vendors, offer up recommendations on buying decisions and help you create a corporate social image that will support your business in the ever changing 21st century?

Sit down with those millennials and engage them. Ask them questions so you can learn. Ask them what you need to do to build your sales through a social presence. Ask them what needs to be done to your web site to remove all of the fluff and create a “call to action.”

These employees are your future. They are the ones who can help you grow your business, before you go out of business. Quit thinking you know all about social media etc. You have a gold mine if you only quit complaining about them and work with them to deliver the value they can bring you. They grew up with this stuff.

If you want to reduce turnover, challenge the skills they bring that you do not understand. Get them involved in an aspect of the business that will ensure your growth. They will get it done and because they are challenged with activities that motivate them, you will have a supportive and happy employee base.

Social Selling…… 5 Things I’ve Learned

I am a newbie to Social Selling. Other than LinkedIn I ignored the other social sites such as Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, etc. I saw no value in them and perceived them only as a way to spend time non-productively. I read articles on Social Selling and thought, yes some of the ideas make sense, but I have always been able to develop a customer base through the old-fashioned way of picking up the phone.

I was recently engaged by a client to develop their customer base. They manufactured a product that needed to be sold through non-traditional channels of business. Although it has been years since I have actually had to develop a virgin customer base, I thought no problem, I will use the tactics and processes I have employed for years to develop their business. I would use the three things that had made me successful in the past:

  • Cold calling
  • Email
  • Personal visits

Here’s what happened:

Cold calls: It was easy to make 100 or more in a day! Why; because no one was answering their phones. Yes, the receptionist answered and put me through, but I got voicemail. So, I diligently left messages and asked for a return call. I averaged 3 out of a hundred return calls. OK so I did get three out of 100, but then most of them were not interested in the opportunity. Ultimately if I got 1 person a week to listen and explore the opportunity I was doing well. Of course, I continually called the others back, and they continually ignored my message. Because I was calling them back, I was not getting to as many new prospects. The results got poorer and poorer.

Emails: Well at least with cold calling there was a personality leaving the voicemail. There were just no relies on email. I know, you will tell me that my subject line was poor or that my message was poor. Let’s assume that is the truth for a minute, even the worst pitch gets some response. You can cut and paste the message all you want, if it is not personal, the rate of return will be even lower.

Personal Visits: I have always relied on the fact that I am an engaging person and much of my sales success over the years has been due to the relationships I have developed with my customers, many of whom are still personal friends to this day. Well it was a whole new world. While I did get a few people to see me on a cold visit, the results were less than spectacular. First, I had to get by the gate keeper. They are damned good at what they do today and can be quite protective. Once again, the cost of the travel and time allocated to this, did not provide a return.

OK so now what do I do? I have a client who wants to grow their business and they have engaged this supposedly experienced person to launch their product into the North American marketplace. So, I began to search the internet for articles on how to become better at cold calling. Most of them just regurgitated what I already knew and was attempting. Really there is nothing new about what I was trying to do, but in 2017 there just had to be a better way.

That was when I met Tim Hughes and Adam Gray from Digital Leadership Associates ( They were plugged into Social Selling and were very accomplished at it. I spent a day with them and was a sponge. That day changed how I will look at selling forever.

While I am not an expert at Social Selling, but am a willing student, I can tell you this. By doing a few simple things that they taught me in a few short hours, I was able to acquire more inbound requests for business that day, than I did in months of cold calling, emails and personal visits. I was stunned and a convert. A few weeks later I continue to use their tactics to grow my client base and develop business.

I am not going to go into a long dissertation about what I have learned, but here are a few nuggets:

  1. Develop your LinkedIn profile. Oh, I know you are on LinkedIn and it extolls the product and service you are manufacturing or selling. Really! So the first thing you do when you meet someone is tell them what a great product or service you are offering. Well good luck. You didn’t do that in the old days and you can’t do it today. In the past you got to know the person, created a relationship, and then you got the opportunity to sell. You have to do the same on LinkedIn. Be personable, tell people who are you, what you like, etc. If people can relate to YOU, they are more likely to buy from you.
  2. When you decide to connect with someone make sure that they can help you build your business. Connections for the sake of connections is useless. In this case fewer is more. Make sure that you can help them accomplish their goals, before you ask them to help accomplish your goals.
  3. When you do connect, DON’T send an immediate email back selling them your product or service. They don’t know you yet. When that happens to me, I immediately block the person. They don’t want to know me, they want to sell me.
  4. Be on multiple platforms. Just like there are many routes to take to the office, there are multiple social platforms out there and you do not know which one the prospective customer will take.
  5. Be an expert! Write articles about your area of expertise. Don’t sell, just be an expert at what it is that you do, your industry, your discipline, your product category, etc. People want to do business with experts. Purchase decisions are already 57% of the way down the line before you discover them today. If you are out there and are considered an expert at something, you are more likely to have been noticed in that decisions making process.

There is much more. I will leave you with this. Social Selling is not new. We have always been social in our selling. It is just that Social Selling today is done on a different platform than in the past. You still have to create a relationship. It is how you strategically approach that process that will determine whether you enhance your close rate or not. If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you always got!

The Best Advice I Ever Got

“Richard, everything is not black and white!”

Those are the words from a great mentor of mine, Jim Wallace. At the time and over the years, they have served me well. He was the President at S. J. Johnson Canada and I was the Director of Sales. Our discussion was about a sales program we were initiating, and I was as usual defining the situation as it either is, or isn’t.

Jim sat back, looked at me and stated those words.

He was right, everything in life is not black and white. THERE IS GRAY. Gray is described in the dictionary as: of a color intermediate between black and white.

OK Richard, so what is your point.

I see, hear and read so many opposing points of view about selling today. Everyone has a new panacea to ensure that they are the ones to help you grow your sales dramatically. Some are adamant that is it about cold calling, others emailing, others social selling, others about Pay Per Click, etc. They do not see gray, they see black and white.

Well guess what people, it is a little bit of each of these things, but ultimately as it has always been, it starts with relationships. It starts with being social!

When was the last time you walked into a networking event and shouted; “Hi everyone, I have this great new product to sell?” I am sure never. Why, because everyone would run for the hills. You need to establish trust first. No one buys from someone or a company they do not trust. Therefore, we first build a relationship. That is how we have always sold.

Today our environment is fast paced and people do not take the time to answer cold calls, they reject emails that shout; I have this great new product to sell. Why because there is no relationship. If you can establish a relationship, then the phone call and email will be accepted, because you have built a relationship.

So how do we do that? Social Selling!

Today buying decisions are 57% down the road before we even discover them. Companies are doing their homework researching vendors and people. Our job is to make them aware of who we are, and then establish a relationship that gets us out of the starting gate. Developing a social presence is the start of that process. Without it, you are left in the starting gate.

It is not about a great web site. Use LinkedIn and Twitter to establish yourself as an expert. Try some of these tactics:

  • Write articles, posts and tweets that demonstrate your expertise and knowledge in an area. Don’t sell, be informative.
  • Link your web site and those articles to each other.
  • Find contacts on LinkedIn that would benefit from your product or service and connect with them. Don’t sell them. Find something you have in common by reading their profile and comment on it through messaging.
  • Once you have a connection, if they are looking for someone they will reach out to you.

There is much more that you can do that I am not going to cover here, but let’s go back to the beginning of the article. There is cold calling involved here, but through social. There is emailing involved, but through social. There is relationship building here, but through social.

So you see, there really is gray. It is not all black and white and if you examine the process closely, everyone is right, it is just how you do it. We still need sales people to close the sale face to face once all of this hard work is completed, no one will lose their job, in fact they will be even more successful.

Yes, the world has changed, but the best sales people and companies adjust to ensure they remain relevant to their vendors and customers. It is 2017 and Social Selling is a way to do it.

Sticking To It

I’m reading a recent Management Journal and I come across a new article by Ken Blanchard that reads “Too often companies spend too much time finding and peddling the hot new management concept. How many leadership programs do you need to make a positive difference in your organization? Only one if you stick to it.”

Putting aside that all leadership programs (ill defined concept that it is) are not all equal and that very few are applicable in many organizations, Blanchard is right. The phenomenon he mentions is very prevalent. Repeatedly, organizations get on a management philosophy / leadership style / innovative concept bandwagon, and devote enormous time, money and energy to learn and implement some new way of doing things.

But that initiative rarely lasts. After one or two months the enthusiasm from the leader’s motivational speeches has ended and everyone goes back to square one to wait for the next wagon. And of course, each failed implementation of a promised panacea reduces the credibility of management and the belief that things will ever change.

Blanchard suggests that many of these failed programs would likely have been beneficial, if only the organization stuck to it. That might be so, but unless they were ever implemented, we’ll never know whether the programs were indeed effective or not.

And this brings us to the key issue in this ubiquitous organizational performance problem. “Sticking to it” is easy to say; as if it’s just the result of the managers not trying hard enough, or lacking the will to persevere. But this attitudinal or personal characteristic of not completing new initiatives misses the real problem. The real problem is almost always because the organization, not just the manager, has neither the inherent means nor the skills to implement change. Irrespective of whatever initiative was on the bandwagon, the organization was unable to instill the new way of doing things into its operation.

Today Social Selling is an opportunity for companies to more effectively engage their customers and avoid the challenges of unreturned cold calls, deleted emails and unrequested office visits. A good Social Selling strategy and process will provide the opportunity to get to customers you didn’t even know existed with proper targeting and relationship building.

That being said, whether Social Selling or any other initiative if the top does not support it and constantly inspect the process, the strategy is for naught.

Social Selling is a great opportunity. In order for it to be effective, everyone in the company must embrace it and the only way that happens is if the top embraces and uses it. Also, don’t think that your current team is capable of making this happen. If they were, you would already be realizing the tremendous return on your investment as opposed to small incremental growth each year. Social Selling is transformational and a game changer. To truly become a leader in this area, find a reputable firm to support your people in the implementation.

Why Does North America Follow When It Comes to Social Selling

As in most subjects, we in North America are very myopic and see ourselves as being on the leading edge of various technologies. While it may be true that we are on the leading edge of many things, our ability to lead by adopting new things lacks in many cases.

Socials selling is a great example of this. While many social sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook etc. were founded in North America and are wonderful social opportunities for business, we can learn a great deal from how Europe and the rest of the world have adopted these sites for business gain.

In sales, we understand that cold calling, knocking on the door of a physical office and emailing is becoming an extremely difficult task in order to reach your potential customer. Call if we must, but I don’t answer my phone and just dump the voice mail. Email is becoming annoying and it is easy for me to block the emailing spammers today. Just try and get past my gatekeeper at the reception desk in my office.

Today we have built walls of protection around us that President Donald Trump would love on his southern border.

So how can we navigate in the new world to get access to our desired customer?

The answer is Social Selling. I mentioned earlier that Europe and the rest of the world adopt technology quicker than we do when it comes to business. While we continue to jam our sales people with time consuming CRM (the products that are supposed to improve productivity) the rest of the world is productively using an easy and effective business tool to beat us to our customers.

Social Selling is not a fad, it is an effective and productive way to use our time and drive sales. Today decision making is already 57% complete before we even find out that the opportunity exists. Why, because companies are doing their research on line before they contact us. Today 75% of buyers now use social media to research vendors.

If we want to be great at Social Selling here are a couple of quick tips:

  1. Develop a personal profile that tells people who we are, not what we sell.
  2. Write articles and posts to help people understand that we are the expert and knowledgeable in our area, so that they see us as an advisor, not just a sales person.
  3. Grow our social network by identifying potential customers and connect with them to establish a relationship. Find commonalities between us and them and start there. Think of this as our networking event. We don’t start by selling, we create a relationship first.

There is much more that can be done to support our selling efforts, but if we chose not to adopt the new way of doing business, the rest of the world will continue to pass us by.

What Makes a Successful Day

I was recently asked; “what does a successful day look like to you?”

First of all, I thought; what a nice question to ask me. Wouldn’t we all like to be asked that question? Then I had to think. That is always a good thing as well.

The easy answer is that I were productive, I got the sale, my boss thanked me for the work I did, my kids hugged me when I got home, I cleaned out my in basket etc.

The real answer is that I want to be able to touch someone through my actions, words, etc. that made their day a little brighter, put a smile on their face and a helped them forget for at least a moment, the challenges they were facing that day.

OK I know you are thinking; Motherhood and Apple Pie. If you are, I ask you to challenge yourself. If you knew that at the end of a day, you made someone’s life a little brighter, wouldn’t that also brighten your day?

Shouldn’t that be our goal everyday? It doesn’t matter whether it is a business associate, a member of the family or a friend. What if you were able to make every single person you come in contact with each day a better one?

It was a great question to ask me and as I thought about it, I realized that when I put my head on the pillow at night, a smile comes to my face, if I can think of one smile I put on another face that day!

Whatever Happened to … Leave It to Beaver

One of my fondest memories while growing up was watching the comedy series Leave It to Beaver during the 1960’s. Yes, that was a long time ago and yes, I have aged myself in this article.

The show was about family and growing up and all of the challenges that two young boys encountered in their formative years. The show followed a typical formula for the times; nice family, great values and a moral to the story that led us all to believe that life was bliss.

Today, we look at life through very different eyes, and while I am not going to editorialize about life today, the story does have dramatic parallels to how we sell in business today, and how we used to sell yesterday.

Selling back in the day was all about picking up the phone, getting an appointment with ease and making your pitch. Today the chances of picking up the phone and getting the appointment with ease is about as likely as winning a few bucks in a lottery.

Why then do so many sales people live in the past; the “good old days”, when it was easy for Beaver Cleaver and his family to roll through life. Despite the fact that it is almost impossible today to reach someone like in the good old days, we cling to the past like the security blanket some children use to get through the day.

Well like Leave It to Beaver and the good old days, those times are gone forever. Today is you are not using social selling to reach your potential client base, you are living a dream. No one is going to pick up the phone when you call, no one is going to reply to the junk email you send and no one is going to make the call to you because you are a good person.

Today you need to have a social presence. You need a good profile on LinkedIn. I don’t mean a selling profile, but one that tells me who you are. One that engages me and draws me into a relationship with you. I want to know how you can help me, not what you can sell me. If you can help me, it is likely I will give you permission to sell me.

Show me through your social presence that you are an expert at the product or service I am seeking. If I can trust you, I am likely to trust that the product or service you will eventually pitch me is trustworthy as well.
Most sales today are 57% down the decision-making road before we ever find out about them. You better give someone a good reason to contact you as they seek out their solution.

Drop the phone, quit sending out those annoying emails and build a social presence that makes it easy for me to see you as the person I need to do business with and get started today. Leave It to Beaver runs on Déjà Vu, don’t you run in syndication, no one lives there anymore.

If You Always Do What You Always Did… You’ll Always Get What You Always Got

The title of this article says it all. I have worked with so many business people that seem to think that business stays the same and so the old formula will always work. OK you may be able to find a company or two where that is the case, but for the greater majority of companies it is a death sentence. Just take a look at Sears Canada right now. There are many more stories like Sears Canada.

The best leaders are the ones who embrace change and understand that the world is changing and business is and must change with it. Gone are the days when a single phone call went right through to the President of a company. Gone are the days when you could build a relationship with a key executive or buyer because you were at their place of business monthly or more. Gone are the days when the sheer size and marketing impact of your company demanded that businesses needed your product.

Today businesses and consumers have so many choices at their fingertips. Yes, I am talking about the computer keyboard. A few well-placed taps and an entire world of what you desire is at your fingertips. The work to get business today is now being done in the background. Modern CEO’s have discovered that the Millennials working with them understand how to use the internet to their corporate benefit. They are asking them to do research and bring back recommendations for the best companies to source to grow their business. By the time you get wind of an opportunity, the decision is already 57% made.

OK so if that is the case, how can you move up the food chain and get your piece of the pie?

Well first of all you need to embrace social selling. Is your web site up to date or has it been the same since the first day it went live? Does it have a call to action on every page? Does it tell a story? Is it brief enough to engage people who come to it? Pages and pages of irrelevant information is a non-starter today.

Do you have corporate pages on all the relevant social sites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.? If not, you are at a distinct disadvantage because today’s entrepreneurs are all over these spaces and are building sensational businesses for themselves. Have you heard of Mike the Founder of the Dollar Shave Club? I am sure you have. For a dollar a month they ship high quality razors right to your door. Talk about a success story, so much so that Gillette the largest shave company in the world has launched their own shave club. Talk about David and Goliath.

Are all of your key executives using social? Likely not but they should be. Does your sales team use social selling? Again, probably not.

I could go on, but I think you get the picture. If you always do what you always did……….. you’ll always get what you always got. It is late 2017, are you waiting to be the next Sears Canada, or will you get on board and embrace social not only to build your business, but to survive?


Want to improve teamwork in your business? Here’s an effective way to do it.

Poor teamwork can be disastrous. When everyone goes his or her own way and self-preservation becomes the major motive, the team eventually disintegrates. It’s imperative that the leader – you, the boss – keep all those individuals playing as a team.

If you have had difficulty with teamwork, especially with the group you directly manage, you might be relieved to hear that achieving good teamwork isn’t very complicated or difficult, provided you do the following two things.

[1] Behavioralize “Teamwork”.

Unless you clarify exactly what you expect each member of the team to do to show teamwork, this vague concept will mean whatever each individual wants it to mean. Does it mean helping a peer out of trouble with a project? Does it mean sharing information and secrets for success with a colleague? Or does it mean pub-crawling with the “guys” each weekend and participating in other social activities? Make sure all team members know the expected behavior required for “teamwork.”

Actually sit down with the “team” and discuss and document specific examples of teamwork activity that the team members expect of each other. Never presume that everyone is on the same wavelength so you need to ensure that a common understanding of teamwork exists.

[2] Enforce Accountability.

There is no use talking about teamwork unless people actually do it! This is where teamwork usually falls apart. Institute regular meetings between yourself and each individual team member to review specific examples of what that person has done to demonstrate teamwork. Hold all team-players personally responsible for doing the things discussed in the previous meeting to define teamwork. The best way for you to know whether the team clearly understands teamwork, and whether each one is performing as a team-player is to get each person to report specific examples of teamwork to you on a regular basis.

And there’s no need to agonize about people who won’t act as team-players if teamwork, as you’ve defined it, is a “condition of work.”