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Q2-2011 5

Publisher’s Letter

Building Your Pipeline for a Steady Flow of Sales

SPECIAL FEATURE What’s in Your Pipeline?

Voted 1 of The 50 Most Influential People in Sales Training in 2010 by the Sales Lead Management Association, author and trainer Tibor Shanto is back with 2 new articles and a FREE e-Book “What’s in Your Pipeline?”

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Time To Swap Rituals Implementation vs. Execution

Features

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Why Show Leads are Mishandled – Barry Siskind

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ROI or ROO – Barry Siskind

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All I Know About Social Media Changes Tomorrow – Eric Gilboord

Avoid these 8 pitfalls and watch your trade show results flourish

Smart marketers consider their objectives when planning every show

Your 13-rule guideline for successful social media marketing

Bonus Feature A Double Look at Focus

Without focus, a sales person can drift about like a ship without a rudder – being blown in every direction instead of staying on course. Get control of your day with advice from these 2 experts.

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What are You Doing to Keep Your Focus? – Bill Sayers Dealing With Distractions and Interruptions – Laura Stack Q2 2011

Sales KnowHow

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Scott’s Directories Corporate Masthead

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4 Sales KnowHow

Q2 2011

Copyright 2011 Scott’s Directories Scott’s Directories is a division of BIG Directories LP. Business Information Group (BIG) is a subsidary of Glacier Media Inc.


Publisher’s Letter

Building Your Pipeline for a Steady Flow of Sales

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y daily commute includes a stretch of roadway that is currently undergoing some important construction – not on the road surface itself but off to the side. Specifically, the crew is installing a new section of natural gas pipeline. As indicated by the large-diameter segments currently lined up alongside the road awaiting their eventual connection, this new pipeline is a main trunk and will apparently service a huge number of homes and businesses along its path - and is probably also expected to accommodate the ever-growing needs of the foreseeable future. It can boggle one’s mind to contemplate the quantity and scale of these delivery networks running below the ground – out of sight and quite often out of our collective consciousness until service is somehow interrupted. Whether it’s natural gas, fresh water, cable and fibre optic, phone lines, and to some degree the electrical supply (as in newer neighbourhoods where the electrical lines are buried), we often take these various unseen “pipelines” for granted. In fact, we tend to only think about them when they aren’t working as they should. It’s when they aren’t performing to spec that we suddenly take notice and realize how much we rely on them for our high standard of living. In a similar way, a professional sales rep requires a certain level of expected performance to maintain a required level of income, and therefore must recognize the importance of setting up a reliable, dedicated “sales pipeline” that will constantly deliver the right fuel for making an adequate volume of sales – the fuel being a fresh supply of qualified prospects. This concept of a pipeline is exactly what our Sales KnowHow contributor Tibor Shanto builds on in his writings and professes to his audiences in live training sessions throughout North America. The “pipeline” is a logical metaphor for describing the control and steady supply of leads to be converted into prospects, and the benefit in having a well-functioning pipeline is clear. A constant steady flow can remove the panic that ensues when most sales reps put on a big push at the end of their sales cycle in an attempt to

make their quota – whether at the end of the month or the end of a fiscal quarter or the end of the year. Instead, a well-designed and maintained sales pipeline keeps things running smoothly all year long for optimum results to both the sales rep and their clientele. Amongst other benefits, it preserves price and profit while helping the client feel the sale has taken place on their own timeline, at their preferred pace. Along with the two articles from Tibor we’ve included this month, make sure you click through for Tibor’s free e-Book “What’s in Your Pipeline?” to gain more insight on the topic of maintaining a constant supply of qualified leads for your sales process. http://sellbetter.ca/freebook Also, in this issue of Sales KnowHow: • Trade show expert Barry Siskind emphasizes the importance of properly handling your trade show leads – and he provides 8 key points you need to consider. Getting trade show leads into your sales pipeline without delay is one way to increase your chance of success. • Our marketing expert Eric Gilboord is ready with 13 Guidelines for Success to keep in mind when marketing through social media – an important frontier in this modern era. • When it comes to focus, Bill Sayers and Laura Stack each provide timely information on making more of every day – focusing on the important tasks and leaving the distractions behind. As always, I hope this issue of Sales KnowHow leaves you motivated with actionable tips you can use right away. On behalf of everyone at Scott’s Directories, here’s wishing you a safe and happy summer!

Paul Stuckey, Group Publisher pstuckey@scottsdirectories.com For More Articles by Paul Stuckey Click Here

Q2 2011

Sales KnowHow

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Time To Swap

Rituals rit·u·al: noun – prescribed, established, or ceremonial acts or features collectively, as in religious services.

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here is a ritual that can be observed in many sales departments that unfolds at the end of each month, and even more so at the end of each quarter; much like “triple witching” on Wall St. when multiple contracts expire on the same Friday. In sales it is the end of month or quarter corral, the “driving of the deals” to close the quarter strong. You hear managers across the land encouraging their teams to close what they can before the end of the quarter. Now I know there is sandbagging taking place, but with roughly only 50% of reps making their quota last year, do they really need to be told to close it now? Maybe – and maybe that is why managers seem to tolerate discounts during these times. In fact some organizations create programs specifically to discount, especially during the year– end “witching hour”.

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Q2 2011

I think we can all understand why it happens – companies public or otherwise, want to close the quarter strong and therefore drive those deals that much harder as the end of the month or quarter approaches. The question is whether it is a necessary ritual, or a financially sound ritual. Right off the top I will tell you that it is not financially sound for two reasons. First, you never recover the discount offered to win the deal, and it increases the cost of your sale, and reduces profits in the process. There is no two ways about it – it will increase the payback period on the deal, and establish an environment where the client will always expect a discount; and why not, is that not what you are training them to do? Second, it creates a distraction of resources leading to inefficient use of those resources, human or otherwise, and inefficiency is not financially sound. Let me answer the other question, whether it is neces-


Sales

By Tibor Shanto

sary or not, and the answers is clearly “it is not necessary”. new potential buyer every day (4 weeks in a month, 5 days Further, I will argue that the same factors and actions that a week). Next fact, if I do not engage with someone today, led sales organization to adopt and accept this ritual can the chance of me closing something 8 weeks from today has help you swap it out for another ritual. A ritual that is pro- been tangibly diminished, in the neighbourhood of 20%. ductive and profitable all at the same time. On the other hand, if nothing changes, and I do engage with I write about this now as we look to finish Q2 2011, the a potential buyer today, the likelihood of me closing somesecond “triple witch” of the year of the “recovery”. You some organizations create programs specifically to discount, can hear sales types all over especially during the year-end “witching hour” chanting the same incantation all over the land: “I can’t this week man, I am closing”, or some variation de- thing in 8 weeks remains probable. Now some of you are pending on the sect they belong to. Not to be provocative, thinking that since I only close 1 of 5, it may not be a close but I always have to ask, “cool, what do you do the rest of 8 weeks forward. But the reality is that if I engage someone the quarter?” every day, I will by those same odds close one of those five Don’t get me wrong, I get the idea and the reason for the 8 weeks out, and if I did that every day, I will close one each status quo. But what if you swapped out the end of quar- week, and by extension 4 every month. ter “deal drive” for another ritual, say the “Work Your Sales Now here is the rub. It really doesn’t matter if 8 weeks out Every Day” ritual. This is not to say that you do the same is the first day of the quarter, the 42nd day of the quarter, thing every day, but that you do each day those things that or the last. As long as I manage the inputs, execute my sales move the sale forward in a logical, predictable and measur- based on the averages (calculated based on my results to able way. date), I will hit quota regardless of which day of the quarter To do this you need to at least have a handle on two or month it is. things: First, your conversion rate – meaning the number For me, I would much rather assume the ritual of engagof people you need to engage (by appointment or phone) ing with sufficient numbers of potential buyers on a consisto deliver the number of deals you need in a given month tent basis throughout the month or quarter, than to panic or quarter to achieve quota. Second, the length of time to close the quarter in the last week. First, if all I do the last it takes you from initial encounter to close…that is, the week of the quarter is close, I am going to be behind, having length of an active sales cycle (not client acquisition cycle dug my own hole by not prospecting that week. The other, http://www.sellbetter.ca/content/view/183/110/). is most commonly the only way to get a buyer to buy before their time is to offer a discount of one sort or another, which For example, let’s assume the following facts: as stated above is not good long–term business. It also leads to less frayed nerves, not having to go into “Average Sales Cycle”: 8 weeks a sprint at the end of the quarter, only to be knocked out Average conversion rate from and needing a rest at the start of the next. Just look at the initial engagement to close: 1 of every 5 lull you witness in many instances after the end of quarter Monthly Quota: 4 sales drive. Join me now in adopting and embracing a proactive First fact is that if nothing changes, I will need to engage ritual that puts you in control of your success, rather than with 20 potential buyers every month (4 X 5). Spread over a reactive ritual based on catching up rather than moving the course of a month, it means I need to engage with one forward.

Q2 2011

Sales KnowHow

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Sales

Implementation v S

ales is a game of words and meanings; the words we use, how we communicate them, and their interpretations by the receiver directly impact the meaning others take away from our message. It all counts in sales, and therefore has to be actively managed and the results have to be dealt with. This is why language is an important aspect of sales – further, a key attribute of a solid sales culture is a “common language.” The key in sales is that the communications have to align with actions. It is no surprise that people often hide behind words, or get very different results than they set out to achieve, based on what and how they communicate, then act. Case in point is how some in sales interpret the words: Implementation and Execution.  Many companies implement things, be it software, processes, training, a strategy, policy and more, only to find that they do not realize what they set out to do, or don’t achieve results they were led to believe could be achieved by implementing one of the above. The specific reason is that they fail to take steps and action that will make the implementation a success; in other words, they fail to Execute.  One national company “implemented” a new policy for 2011; each rep had to carry out four hours of outbound prospecting each and every week. It became a KPI, an element on the reps’ scorecards. They got marketing to participate not only in terms of prepping leads lists, but also in developing campaigns to fuel the calls, and a host of other things. Based on stats and other inputs they were looking to generate a minimum of five new appointments a week, which would (could, should) lead to the level of pipeline and sales they were looking to achieve. Unfortunately, it did not take long – for not only the reps but also the managers - to begin to find exceptions. Two of the most popular songs on the hit parade were: “I have a big deal I am working on, the proposal is due Tuesday, but I will start Wednesday”. Which manager can resist that ageold favourite? The other, “I have an appointment I have to get to, it is an important one”. I am just relieved that no one has had the leads list eaten by their dog, although I am sure that will come after they read this article.

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Q2 2011

After 10 weeks of the program being “implemented”, there had not been one week of full compliance; they have definitely seen improvement in activity and more appointments, but remain somewhat short of where they were looking to be by the end of Q1, given the headcount. The company, like many who “implement” and fail to “execute”, made a couple of key mistakes. First, they failed to get buy in from the reps. Second, they failed to translate the implementation into an action plan, for both the managers and the reps. Not surprisingly, these two are related and fixing one will go some way to fixing the other. First, the people putting together the plan, be they the VP of Sales or Sales Ops, need to understand that just because it was conceived and makes sense, does not lead to it happening. When it come to activities, habit based activities, it requires much more than a sound plan…it requires a detailed action plan, and selling and support points for each step of the action plan. This leads to a disciplined approach, which will take time and effort. Many sales leaders forget that we are not dealing with numbers, but with people’s perceptions and habits. Let’s face it, if they saw things as the VP does, there would be no need for the whole exercise. When trying to change people’s habits, sales habits, it is no different from a smoker going “cold turkey” – that’s why they call it quitting the habit. Few can do it that way, most need help. Simply telling a rep that they will make more money as a result of the “newly implemented” policy, is like telling a two pack a day smoker that they will be healthier once they quit. Good luck with that. You need to find a specific motivation, an action plan, support, and yes, consequences for non-compliance beyond reduced income. Where many fall short on motivation is putting too much emphasis on money, “if you get more prospects, you’ll get more sales and make oodles more cash.” The reality is, if they are an “80% of goal type” rep, which in many instances is deemed to be good, they are usually happy with the money they are making. If not they would have taken steps on their own to increase it. The fact that they have not is a clear statement that money is not a driver for them. You need to tie the effort required to change to


vs. Execution something that is important to them. This will vary from rep to rep, but is usually tied to something personal - ego or other non-monetary goals. For example, one rep I know has made a commitment that he will not miss any of his son’s hockey games, no matter what, and he works diligently to manage his calendar to meet that goal. One way to motivate him is to show him how the newly implemented policy will increase his ability to be at all the games. His execution of the plan is not the resulting appointments; it is the son’s games. I remember that I was resolved never to go to a sales meeting and not be presented an award. As long as I was a rep I always worked to ensure I would be getting an award, be it for most deals, size of deal, top revenue, whatever, I was going to get one, and did. My director knew this and used it when I needed to get something done. These are great “levers” for a manager to work with, it may take a bit to figure out what these may be, but if you are a real sales manager, interacting with and regularly coaching your team, it does not take long to understand and figure out where the button is for each of your team. That is the first step, engaging your team the same way as you would expect them to engage with their clients. You can then tie this to a specific action plan; this action plan can be part of your ongoing (weekly) coaching with each team member. Rather than saying “right we’re gonna do some prospecting now, 4 hours a week, 5 new prospects, no brainer, you’ll make more money; off you go then”. Break it down, knowing the desired results, knowing the person involved, likes dislikes, cur-

By Tibor Shanto

rent habits, etc., create an ongoing plan. The plan needs to have a series of objectives, clear and measurable actions, with deadlines; each step moving them towards the desired new habits. Introduce the first element, get buy in, which means more than the person nodding and smiling. One way is to jointly or mutually create the objective; even something as simple as getting the rep to figure out how much time it will take him to generate five new appointments a week. More than getting agreement on the objective, the rep feels ownership when you leave it to the rep to come up with the action item. This allows you to set an agreed upon time frame, and that it’s measurable related to the objective. Again, it drives ownership by the rep, which is why it’s much more likely to succeed than an edict from on high. As they succeed with this step, you introduce another. Each step must be realistic – not easy, but doable. Each moving towards the long term desired objective, each allowing the rep to own their progress, and drive mutual accountability. This means the manager also has the obligation to coach on a consistent basis. If they do not, then the whole thing falls apart, and you experience what many organizations do, which is implementing something that does not get executed. One last related point: Given the smoking analogy, the goal should be to avoid the whole need for changing the habit by adopting the right habits to begin with. If you don’t take up smoking you will not have to quit. If you get sales people doing the right things to begin with, you will not have to conduct as many “change exercises”. You can avoid the friction and use the energy for the important things from the start, which of course still comes down to execution.

What’s in Your Pipeline?

Free e-book

Tibor Shanto – Principal – Renbor Sales Solutions Inc., is a recognized speaker, author of the award winning book Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers, and sought after trainer. Tibor is a Director of and a contributor to Sales Bloggers Union, and his work has appeared in numerous sales publications and leading websites. Tibor can be reached at info@SellBetter.ca or 416 822–7781. You can read his blog The Pipeline with new material three times a week, and follow Tibor on Twitter @Renbor. For More Articles by Tiboor Shanto Click Here

Q2 2011

Sales KnowHow

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10 Sales KnowHow

Q2 2011


Exhibiting

Why Show Leads are Mishandled

By Barry Siskind

The number of leads that are obtained at a trade show that are mishandled is astounding. Whether you are exhibiting to increase business or have a communication need such as brand reinforcement, the contacts you make at trade shows are of value and that value decreases each day they go unanswered. Perhaps understanding the reasons why this happens will give you a heads-up and ensure that the proper preparation is done ahead of time.

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Logistics versus Strategy. All too often the focus of the exhibit program is on logistics: taking care of the electrician, the shipper, travel arrangements and so on and spending time thinking about your reason for exhibiting and how to convert your objectives into real business opportunities often falls by the wayside.

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Poor lead collection. A fist-filled with business cards are not leads. They are a waste of everyone’s time. Good quality leads require the collection of the pertinent facts about the contact and an acknowledgement from the contact that they would welcome a follow-up.

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Lack of planning. Being away at a show for an extended period means that your work at the office is piling up. As good as your intentions are, often the work on your desk gets priority over the show contacts that are fresh and approachable. Conflicting roles. If the sales and marketing departments have a different focus and have not discussed their goals, the show leads may end up with the wrong group where follow-up is put on the back burner.

Time management. Show visitors leave excited about having found new business solutions. If you leave your first contact for weeks after the show, that initial excitement will have cooled off and the chances of doing real business is lessened. Using the wrong resources. Sales people are not necessarily the right people to do follow-up. Consider using dedicated marketers to turn the contacts from warm to hot before they are turned over to the sales force to close. Too many shows. When you go to a restaurant you should eat until you are full then push away from the table to give yourself a chance to digest. The same holds true of exhibit marketing. An overly aggressive show schedule can bloat your resources without the proper time to ingest and digest the new business opportunities Good intentions. The world is filled with good intentions but it takes more than that to build a business. Follow-up requires planning, resources and systems in place to ensure that the job gets done in a timely manner.

Do any of these ring true for you? If you want to know what the real return is on your exhibit investment, start with a sound follow-up strategy, which includes the right resources, the right people and the right systems. Dedicate one person to oversee the whole process and ensure that everything is done as it should be. It doesn’t take much to win at the exhibit marketing game. A little thought and the avoidance of some of the common pitfalls can mean the difference between lackluster results and those that are spectacular. Q2 2011

Sales KnowHow 11


Exhibiting

ROI or ROO T

here has been an increased interest in  whether  face-to-face marketing at shows produces a return. Maybe it was due to the recession or simply because exhibit managers looking at the escalating exhibition budgets began asking the right questions. Most often marketers look for a return on investment (ROI). Corporations rely heavily of the ROI calculation as a means of convincing the decision makers that the investment was worth the cost. ROI is a calculation of the profitability of the investment. The problem with using ROI exclusively in an event and exhibit scenario is that often actual sales are not realized immediately. Also, exhibit objectives are often “soft” and outside the scope of a reasonable ROI calculation. This does not mean that a ROI calculation is not achievable but it is often based on assumptions such as the success ratio of leads to sales, the matching of sales and buying cycles and so on. The other disadvantage of ROI is how it’s used. The most common result of a ROI calculation is that it becomes the basis for reducing costs or increasing profits. If you could measure exhibit results the way you would of the purchase of a new machine, then this would be well and good. But they are not. Exhibiting is part of the marketing process and doesn’t always lend itself easily to comparing dollars received against dollars spent. Marketing looks at other issues such as branding, generating leads, customer engagement and so on and whether these tasks have been completed successfully determines the success of the marketing exercise. There are other measurements besides ROI: Return on Equity (ROE), Return on Assets (ROA), Return on Time (ROT), Return on Relationships (ROR), and Return on Objectives (ROO). Each calculation has its pros and cons but the measurement most often embraced by exhibit marketers is Return on Objective. The first step in ROO measurement is to clearly articulate the exhibit objective. For example if the objective is to reinforce the brand you first need to ask, what is are brand message? You should

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Q2 2011


By Barry Siskind

upcoming webinars Strategies of engagement Thursday Sept 22, 2011 - 1:00pm - 2:00 pm ET

be able to articulate your brand message in two or three clear and concise key messages. Next you need to answer the question, “Which attendees will be most likely to find value in my messages?”  In most situations you don’t want to talk to each visitor at the trade show.  What you need to do is to create a profile. While you may think you know the end buyer or user or your product, you might not know the people who can influence that buyer? With this information you are in a good position to create a measureable objective. You might say “I want to meet 47 people at the trade show who fit closely into my profile and am able to introduce them to my three key messages.” Now there is one more step. In order to know if you are achieving your objective you need to build into your measurement strategy a testing mechanism. Testing indicates whether the key messages you are conveying in fact were understood and are of value. Testing can be as simple as looking for spikes in web-traffic to exit surveys. It all depends on the sophistication you are looking for and the resources you have at your disposal.The beauty of exhibit marketing is in the quality of traffic shows attract. Measuring ROO then, puts you in a superb position to measure the quality of contacts rather than the quantity. And, at the end of the day what’s more important?

Barry Siskind is author of Powerful Exhibit Marketing which is available at www.amazon.com or www.siskindtraining.com. He is also President of International Training and Management Company who offers a number of services to exhibitors including the creation and implementation of a mystery-shopping program. Contact Barry at barry@siskindtraining.com for more information. For More Articles by Barry Siskind Click Here

Utilizing in-booth entertain to attract the right attention Wednesday Oct 26, 2011 - 1:00 PM - 2:00 pm ET Trends in Booth Design Wednesday Nov 16, 2011 - 1:00pm - 2:00 pm ET Measuring the Value of your trade show program Thursday Dec 15, 2011 - 1:00pm - 2:00 pm ET In addition the webinars below are also available to download now so that exhibitors can listen at anytime and not wait for the scheduled webinar. Turn Your Tradeshow Booth into an Experiential Environment Get ROI From Your Trade Show Giveaway Turn Tradeshow Leads Into Sales Develop Powerful Booth Staff Turn Tradeshow Leads Into Sales Select the Right Trade Show The fees are the same for each. To Register CLICK HERE $99 per connection - Save 20% at checkout with this discount code: 47fbcda4

Q2 2011

Sales KnowHow 13


Sales

What are You Doing to Keep Your Focus? We get bombarded by more information in one day; than my grandmother received in her entire lifetime!! Tweets, voice-mail, e-mail, phone calls, billboards, websites… So what are you doing to keep your focus each and every day? Distractions

By Bill Sayers

14 Sales KnowHow

The Harvard Review did a study a few years ago that proved that if you allow interruptions like e-mail or texts it will take you up to 24 minutes to get back to what you were working on. It is very difficult for any of us in business to lock ourselves in a quiet room with no interruptions for long periods of time. So how do you keep your focus? How do you know what is most important to you each day? There are a small percentage of the business community who “just know” what they have to do and they do it and make it look effortless. I admire these individuals. I also know that they have a temperament that does not allow them to get off track on the things that are most important to them, as they make those issues part of their DNA. Then there is the majority of the population that clanks around their days with no plan and no clear direction and is managed by all the interruptions they get on a typical day. At the end of their week they can’t figure out why nothing has been completed on time and that they feel like nothing has been done. The successful sales people and sales leaders I meet have one thing in common. They have an attitude and a belief that focuses them on the goals they have set. They know at any given time if what they are doing gets them closer to their goal and if it is not; adjust accordingly. Q2 2011


They know what they need to do and will do whatever they need to accomplish the tasks at hand.

Where does that belief come from?

These people have a knowing of the things that are important to them. For top sales reps and sales leaders it is all about being in service to their customers or their sales teams. They know it is up to them to provide value. They know it is up to them to listen and then understand what it is that customers and sales teams need to be successful. They then go away and within the context of their companies and what they can do – make it happen. In doing so they gain the respect and trust of the people they deal with. They also have a written plan that documents what is most important to them and why they want to be successful. They then are able to communicate that message and allow others to be part of their plans and success. They also know how to deal with those that are not wanting to be part of that success – and treat them with respect and kindness when they deal with them – yet they do not allow them to get off track. They all have an attitude that gives them the confidence and determination and drive to get the things done that are important to them. They have a candle flame that burns within them that rarely flickers and when it does they adjust the flame accordingly so that it never goes out. They all know there will be good days and bad days and every other kind of day in between – and so they are not distracted by this, because things balance out at the end of each month or quarter.

Focus

The dictionary defines focus as: a central point, as of attraction, attention, or activity. So what is your focus? What is it that you know is most important to you and what are you willing to do to make it happen. I want you to take some time in the

next week and write down these three questions. I want you to think about them. I want you to reflect on them. And then I want you to answer them. Why are you in the sales game and what makes you happy about your sales career? What are the three things that are most important to you in your quest for being a successful sales rep or sales leader? What is it that you need to do this year to be successful; and are you willing to make that happen? Take the time to do this exercise. When you have answered the questions – reflect on your answers and be real honest with yourself. Do your answers match up to your reality? If not – What are you prepared to do to change that reality?

Sayers Says………

What are you focused on? What is your attitude about your sales game? Are you in service with your customers or sales teams? Is your candle flame almost out or is it strong and bright? Have you answered the three questions? What is your reality? What are you doing to “Keep your Focus?”… Bill Sayers is an inspirational speaker and a visionary business leader. He has spent the past 29 years in the "Sales" arena. He started his career as an inside sales rep and worked his way up the corporate ladder to the level of VP of Sales at an IBM company. During that time he worked for Revelstoke Lumber, King Products, Linotype, Ryder Transportation, GE Capital IT Solutions and IBM. Bill is able to communicate powerful concepts in a manner, which enables practical application in the business world and drives profitable results for his clients. His goal is to help sales people ignite their passion for the game of sales. Passion - Process - Performance www.thesayersgroup.com For More Articles by Bill Sayers Click Here

Q2 2011

Sales KnowHow 15


Productivity

Dealing With Distractions and Interruptions: Strategies for Staying Focused on Important Tasks

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ore than ever, modern workers are bedeviled by distractions and interruptions that pull us away from the key activities of our jobs. If it’s not your noisy officemates, it’s the siren song of the Internet, or an over-fascination with email. Therefore, it’s imperative that you learn to trim your activities down to the few things that are truly important, so you can actually get your job done and become both the envy of your peers and the apple of your boss’s eye. Proper focus requires discipline and mastery to achieve, like any other skill. In this article, I’ll help you get started in your quest to wield your focus like a blade, stripping away the things that keep you from getting your work done on time and under budget. Let’s start with one of the worse culprits: your subconscious.

Eliminating Self-Sabotage

If you’re like most people, many of the distractions you face when trying to focus are self-imposed. Some are activities that you consciously engage in, like chatting over the water cooler or getting up too often for a cup of coffee, without realizing that they’re slowing you down and blunting your focus. Some, however, are percolating along under the surface, all but invisible—but damaging nonetheless. In several recent newsletter articles and blogs, I’ve discussed two of these problems at length: perfectionism and procrastination. Perfectionism is based on the admirable desire to do the very best job possible; but when taken to extremes, it can distract you from getting the job done. Trying to work out every little detail and plan for every possible contingency

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ahead of time can result in time-wasting paralysis. Instead, once you’ve made a decision to do something, get started and work through the details as they arise. Procrastination is simply dragging your feet because you don’t want to do something. In the final analysis, your reasons for doing so don’t matter; if you procrastinate for any reason, the result is lost productivity. The solution is to force yourself to work: visualize what you need to do, break it down into smaller tasks that are easier to handle, and then buckle down and get it done. Easier said than done, perhaps, but it’s just as necessary to push through procrastination as it is to jettison perfectionism. One self-sabotage topic I haven’t previously discussed is negative self-talk. Each of us goes through life constantly thinking about and internally commenting on the situations we encounter. This “self-talk” helps us manage our reactions and decide what to do next. Unfortunately, self-talk can be self-defeating. If you convince yourself that something’s too difficult or that there’s no point in trying, you throw roadblocks in the path of productivity. Negative self-talk is a prime component of procrastination, and can also contribute to perfectionism—for example, if you keep telling yourself you’ve got to do something just right or else. You’ve got to get a handle on negative self-talk before it leads you into the slough of depression and ruins your productivity. The best thing to do is to dispute it all the way down the line. First, do a reality check: are your facts straight? What evidence do you have for your negativity? Are you jumping to conclusions? Next, put it all in perspective. Challenge your self-talk: • Is the situation really as bad as it seems?


By Laura Stack • If so, what’s the worst thing that could happen? • How about the best thing? • What’s most likely to occur? • How would I perceive this situation if I were in a positive mood? It’s difficult to eliminate self-sabotage in any of its forms, since many of us tend to be our own worst critics. But in order to be productive, you have to be realistic and ruthless about facing down your subconscious.

The Mistake of Multitasking

Ever heard the saying, “Energy flows where attention goes”? That may sound a bit glib, but it’s spot on. As I’ve outlined in this month’s tip, for biological reasons, most of us can absorb and integrate only so much input at once; we literally have a limited amount of attention that we can pay out. This is why multitasking doesn’t work very well, despite all our attempts to prove otherwise. You can’t really develop a productive focus when you’re trying to do more than one important thing at once. Yes, you can probably walk and chew gum at the same time, because those tasks are so simple that they tend to fade into the background. This isn’t the case for high-level tasks requiring constant processing of new information. Consider cell phones and cars. Although most of us do it, we know it’s foolish to talk on the phone and try to drive at the same time. Both tasks require such a high investment of cognitive resources that they detract from each other, causing us to do one or the other poorly—or more likely, both. The high number of phone-related car accidents is proof enough of this. So imagine how ineffective it is to simultaneously try to work on a report, chat, listen to Dire Straits, check the CNN website, and steal a second here and there to check your email. There’s never an opportunity to drop into the kind of productive trance that gets the job done efficiently. Multitasking isn’t quite as subtle a form of self-sabotage as negative self-talk or procrastination, but you’re still hurting yourself when you practice it. Learn to concentrate on one thing at a time, because attention is meant to be undivided. You can’t afford to distract yourself, especially when you already have to deal with distractions from others...which brings us to our next topic.

Limiting External Distractions and Interruptions

A recent study concluded that 28% of the average officeworker’s day is spent dealing with unnecessary interruptions, and then subsequently recapturing focus. That’s outrageous!

Clearly, you need to root out every source of interruption you can, and take steps to block other distractions as well. Basically, this involves cutting yourself off from the outside world. Other people aren’t necessarily aware of your need for quiet, uninterrupted workflow, and many just don’t care. If you’ve ever worked in an open-plan office, then you’ve probably been forced to listen to co-workers nattering about inconsequential matters outside your cubicle. Others will call or pop in unannounced. People get caught up in their own concerns and forget to be considerate, hurting your productivity in the process. It’s easy to insulate yourself if you’re in upper management and have an office staff to filter out the inconsequential. But some of us don’t even have the luxury of having an office door to close. Even so, you can arrange your workspace so you’re not constantly derailed by interruptions and distractions. If you do have a door, get up and close it; that will not only soundproof things a bit, it’ll keep many people from bothering you. For the clueless, hang a “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door. If you can’t completely shut yourself off, you still have options. First, you can try moving away from the worst disturbances. This may involve relocating permanently to a distant office or cube, or simply taking your laptop to the break room or to a bench outdoors, where you can work for a while in peace. Otherwise, find a way to signal when you need to be left alone, and communicate it to your co-workers. For example, you might wear a red cap when you’re too deep into something to be bothered, or hang up a little sign on a string across your cubicle entrance that says “Please Do Not Disturb.” I once knew someone who strung plastic flagging tape (the kind surveyors and hunters use) across the door of her cube when she was hard up against a deadline, to head off socializing and casual questions. Whether you move or stay in place, you’ll need to attenuate noise distractions. The simplest way is to put on earphones and listen to some soothing music or ambient sounds. I recommend something that you’re thoroughly familiar with and won’t get too involved in, so you don’t have to think about it. Finally, if your office uses shared scheduling software like Microsoft Outlook, you can also create a virtual “blackout” period by blocking out distraction-free periods on your schedule. That way, anyone who looks will know that you’re unavailable, and they won’t try to schedule your time for meetings and other interruptions.



Continued on page 19

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Sales KnowHow 17


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The Modern Scourge of Electronics

In a recent blog, I outlined how the “electronic leash” of email, handhelds, cell phones, and the like can disrupt your workflow, shatter your productivity, and even temporarily lower your IQ. In order to avoid this self-inflicted ADHD, you’ve got to do right by yourself and come to your senses. These are tools, and you need to treat them as such – not as demanding little bosses constantly crying out for your attention. Why should you let them be in charge of you? Who’s really the tool here? The solution to electronic overwhelm is simple: when you’re trying to concentrate, turn off and tune out. Kill the incoming message alerts on your email, chat clients, and social media. Let those phone calls roll over to voice mail. Sure, most of us need to stay in touch in order to get our jobs done, but who says you have to answer every message as soon as it comes in? There’s very little that you have to attend to instantly. Rather than allow yourself to be distracted and interrupted – which is exactly what you’re doing when you stay constantly connected – set aside blocks of time when you can receive and answer your messages all at once, be they email or telephone. You can do it twice a day for half an hour at a time, once in the morning and once in the evening. That way, you can focus on getting your professional interactions taken care of all at once, without letting them defocus you throughout the day.

A Note About Socializing

The upshot of all this strenuous effort to head off distraction may be that you get labeled as unfriendly or distant. Well, so be it. If you’re consistently productive, you can’t listen to the critics. Admittedly, social interaction is necessary to ensure the smooth functioning of any organization, but there’s a time and a place for it. You have lunchtime, breaks, and the “twilight time” before and after work to rub elbows and be friendly with your co-workers. You can get to know them better when you’re involved in team-building exercises, or take the time to do so offline, away from work. You can still be nice and get more than your share of work done. The workday is for working; the rest of your life is for socializing and taking care of yourself and your family. The more you keep that in mind – the more you can keep your professional and social lives from bleeding over into each other – the better off you’ll be.

The Metacognitive Edge

Metacognition, literally “thinking about thinking,” is an excellent defense against distraction. How does it work? Simple enough: you implement strategies in which you use your knowledge about the way you think to shape your behavior. No one knows you as well as you do; if you’ll just be hon-

est about that knowledge and use it to your advantage, you can become more self-regulated and les s distracted by the unimportant. Learning to focus properly requires more self-reliance, and thus more metacognitive effort, than most workplace tasks; that’s a given, so just accept it and move on. No matter how sloppy a thinker you believe you are, you can force yourself to focus – if you’re willing to apply self-discipline, stop sabotaging your own efforts, organize your workplace and worklife, and put your tools in their place. You constantly have to be on the ball, thinking about what it takes to narrow your focus to the few things that really count, and putting what you discover into play. Yes, it’s painful; and yes, it may be quite a while before you completely master your focus. But it’s worth the effort when you can, at will, invoke what author Winifred Gallagher calls the cobra feeling: “an almost muscular albeit mental bearing-down on a subject or object, which you rise above, hood flaring to block distractions, and hold steady in your unblinking focus.” All it takes is a serious commitment to removing distractions and interruptions from your cognitive path. Easy to say, hard to do – but remarkably rewarding in the end. Make it a productive day! (TM) © Copyright 2011 Laura Stack. All rights reserved. © 2011 Laura Stack. Laura Stack is a personal productivity expert, author, and professional speaker whose mission is to build highperformance productivity cultures in organizations by creating Maximum Results in Minimum Time®. She is the president of The Productivity Pro®, Inc., a time management training firm specializing in productivity improvement in high-stress organizations and the 20112012 President of the National Speakers Association. Since 1992, Laura has presented keynotes and seminars on improving output, lowering stress, and saving time in today’s workplaces. She is the bestselling author of four books: SUPERCOMPETENT; The Exhaustion Cure; Find More Time; and Leave the Office Earlier. Laura has been a spokesperson for Microsoft, 3M, Xerox, and Office Depot. She is the creator of The Productivity Pro® planner by DayTimer and has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, and the New York Times. Her clients include Starbucks, Cisco Systems, Wal-Mart, and Bank of America. To have Laura speak at your next event, call 303-471-7401 or visit www.TheProductivityPro.com to sign up for her free monthly productivity Available newsletter NOW For More Articles by Laura Stack Click Here

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Sales KnowHow 19


Marketing

All I Know R About Social Media Changes Tomorrow

emember when you were younger and something new came out. For my generation it was colour television and yes I was very young. For my children the new thing was Nintendo, Play Station, Xbox etc. Today it is flat screen televisions and 3D. Doesn’t matter, the point is the same. There will always be a question of when do you get in. Do you buy the first of something or wait until it has improved. No matter how long you wait the improvements never seem to stop or even slow down. With social media it is the same but much faster and far more overwhelming. We have a steady flow of new contenders, mostly also-rans, with the giants of social media – LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter constantly changing, improving, leading and responding to the market place. A moving target as they say. So what do you do? Wait or jump in and start moving with the target. I’ve been watching, working, playing, experimenting and testing social media for a couple of years now. In fact I recently received an email from LinkedIn announcing they had reached 100 million members. Interestingly I found out from the email that I was member #516,242 a mere 16, 212 away from the first 1/2 of 1% of LinkedIn early adopters. Working with LinkedIn has produced some very positive outcomes as reward for my efforts. I have personally used LinkedIn to reach some very senior level people within companies I was targeting. For some reason it can be easier to get a response from someone via LinkedIn vs calling, emailing or other conventional methods. I guess part of the reason is that they can check you out pretty quickly and determine if they want to enter into a dialogue with you. The amount of information available about you is extensive, right there and easily accessible. Twitter is a quick way to disseminate information. I find it is less about quality and more about quantity. For some businesses that is great for others not so much. If you can build a database of followers and have a message that does not require more than a simple announcement it can be an incredibly efficient method for reaching your audience. Facebook is rapidly moving past social and consumer use well into business to business and business to consumer. There is so much information available about Facebook online and the speed of change is lightning fast that it does not make sense for me to say much more. See the guidelines below for my views. The social media and social networking guidelines are changing daily, actually minute by minute. In fact by the time you read this section of the book the rules will have changed again to some degree at least. So for now all I can suggest you do is jump in and start participating.

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13

Guidelines For Successful Social Media Marketing

By Eric Gilboord www.EricGilboord.com

1. Listening Is Good.  As I said earlier in the book it’s about attentive listening, letting the marketplace inform you. That does not mean blindly doing as the market place says. They don’t always know what they really want and usually are not great at expressing it. So use caution when reacting to marketplace input. To achieve a level of success and to drive your business with social media requires far more listening and a lot less talking. Read what your target audience is writing in their social media postings and online content. Join in on discussions to learn what’s really of interest to them. Add solid focused thoughts to their lives and avoid contributing to the mass of information that is currently confusing and cluttering their existence. 2. Just Spouting Off Your Opinion Can Be Bad.  Offering up your opinion because you think you finally found an audience can be detrimental to your reputation. Regardless of where, online or offline, talking for the sake of talking never works in your favour. Have something to say and make sure it is pertinent to the audience at hand. Starting a real dialogue of substance, offering valuable insights or generating thought are legitimate goals. 3. Focus Is Key.  It’s usually advisable to be a specialist and excel in one thing than to try to be all things to everyone. A social media marketing strategy with a specific focus aimed at a particular audience will make it easier for you to build your brand. It’s not just the impact on your audience you need to be concerned with. Think about your own well being. Scouring the massive amount of information available today for what is important to you is a big enough job. Looking for too many different topics is almost impossible and can drive you crazy. You can weaken everything by trying to do too much.

4. Quality Rules.  Take quality over quantity every time. Find 100 or even a dozen online connections each having their own quality audience. Let them read your content, share it with their social media network and talk about it with their own audiences. Incite others to influence their audience to consider your thoughts and begin to follow you. This kind of activity is far more valuable than thousands of readers who drop in and drop out after one or two experiences with your material. Quality thinking applies to attracting Prospects in your target audience as well. And most importantly you may get a call or an email from a Prospect who only knows about you from something you wrote or a comment you made that appeared in one of the sources they value. Consider what might happen if just 10 great Prospects have you on their radar. They follow you and read your material getting Continued on page 23 

Eric Gilboord is a specialist in making marketing easy for business owner/ operators and any staff with sales or marketing responsibility. He demystifies marketing so they can use it to generate sales today and grow their businesses faster. He demystifies marketing so they can use it to generate sales today and grow their businesses faster. Eric believes in blending traditional marketing with new media/social media. ROI is a must.

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Sales KnowHow 21


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more and more comfortable with you, all the while building a relationship. If only 5 of them became real customers could it change your year? Could this double your sales?   5. Patience Really Is A Virtue.  Success is not typically an overnight experience with social media marketing. You might get a rash of visitors to your website or the occasional phone call or email but actual business will take some time. With so many other entrepreneurs offering what is essentially the same as you it will take time to develop relationships with many Prospects and to nurture them along until some actual business comes out of the effort. 6. The Game Of Accumulation.  Put out great useful content and continuously look for others to help you with exposure. Remember the old commercial ‘I told 2 friends and they told 2 friends’, well it really works. Not only does it work pushing content and name recognition for you outward but the opposite is true. The more exposure you have on other sites, the more likely search engines like Google and bloggers, media sites and any other online or offline entity looking for content will find you. 7. Consistency.  Showing up consistently on the more popular social media vehicles like Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn will help to increase your pickup rate. If I read your name once in a while I might forget that you are a supplier of quality content or thinking and therefore worthy of my time to see what you are writing or commenting on. This could be in the form of an article or a discussion or even a question you are posing or answering. Out of site is out of mind. Consistency keeps you staying top of mind with your audience. 8. Media Outlets.  I am a regular contributor to many online and offline media outlets mostly because they know they can count on my material to be top quality and well received by their audience who just happens to be my audience. When I write to any of the LinkedIn groups I belong to or put a comment up on my Twitter or Facebook accounts I am confident it will be referred forward many times over. Typically media outlets pick up my writing and often call to ask permission to use it. Often when that happens I develop an ongoing relationship and they request my material directly.

9. Monitor Results.  The best monitor of your success is to use Google, Bing, Yahoo or any other vehicle to search yourself and see where you come up. The more work you do the more often you will come up. 10. Adding Value Comes Long Before Self Promotion.  Social media is about exchange of ideas, adding value and giving vs the continuous shameless self promotion some entrepreneurs have reduced it to. The one big complaint you hear about all the time is the misuse of social media. So if you want to be lumped into the category of taker and not giver then keep abusing the system. It’s your loss and trust me no one will be reading about your thoughts. No one wants to spend a minute of their valuable time with the braggart when they can read something of value or be contributing to someone else’s well being with their own thoughts. 11. Say Thank You.  When someone comments of your discussion or retweets your Twitter message do the best you can to say thank you. Let them know you appreciate their effort on your behalf. Most of us like to be recognized and if it can be in larger arena so much the better. 12. Be Available.  Often when you present a thought within a social media context there will be some readers who wish to enter into a dialogue to challenge, add to or simply to say good job. Part of the implied social contract involves a reader being able to connect with you. So no hit and run writers please. Much of the good stuff that comes from spirited discussion occurs as you go back and forth and the best points can be found in a string of dialogue. Working your discussions and participating in your groups over the long haul is the best way to sustain visits to your site or blog and to heighten your reputation within the given communities you have chosen to join. Familiarity will breed more response to your activities. 13. Giving Will Lead To Receiving.  Spend time talking about the content of others. It’s not always just about you. Add to another writer’s dialogue; pass their ideas on to your audience. The more you give the more you will receive. Cliché or not it is true.

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Sales KnowHow 23


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Scott's Sales KnowHow Q2 2011