8 Annoying Sales Behaviors You Need to Stop Now

We’ve all received that annoying sales call or been approached with an irritating sales gimmick. Don’t be a pain-in-the-neck salesperson. Check out these eight selling tactics to avoid, along with five steps to ensuring you are seen as a valuable, effective seller.

Yes, sales people, the sales process can be annoying for some.

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    From the prospect’s perspective, the potential for your call to be annoying starts with being interrupted, the first impression of the seller, the level of preparation and knowledge, the urgency of the topic and so on. Annoying behaviors are unique to each person we interact with but, over time, an experienced prospect builds up an early warning system to help identify horrendous sales calls and annoying people.

    Let’s think for a moment about the prospective customer/decision maker you are trying to reach and earn the right to a conversation or meeting with. Based on internal business meetings, priorities, challenges and conflicts, their to-do list likely does not include this unexpected phone call from you. Adding to this constantly-growing list, how many times a day does a decision maker have to fend off internal interruptions, meetings, annoying bosses and colleagues, new challenges and the countless sales pitches from people and companies they have never heard of? How many of the sales calls are from people who are rude, not prepared to answer questions, do not ask relevant questions, do not listen, use tricks of the trade, trash talk competitors and other annoying tactics?

    This is the reality of life with sales people.

    Sales is a profession like many others; some people are good at it and others are not. As a sales person in most situations, your job is to help your company grow through the retention of loyal customers as well as engage directly with decision makers at new target companies or new calls or visits to your company. Your work requires you to identify customer needs, evaluate the opportunities and develop a solid and valuable solution for each customer. People and companies do not want to buy stuff they do not need and they do not want to waste time with those who don’t add value and are not aligned with their individual and business goals.

    Stop being annoying!

    Here are eight behaviors that customers find annoying and likely drive them away from your call or meeting you at an event:

    Annoying Behavior No. 1: Disrespect for the decision maker’s priorities. Beyond a successful interruption, you might demonstrate a lack of awareness and understanding of the decision maker’s role, responsibilities and priorities.

    Annoying Behavior No. 2: Wasting the decision maker’s time. The obligatory chit-chat and weather check can be an assumed rapport builder. Not knowing who the prospects are or what they do, not being organized and being tied to reading a script are indicators that you are just smiling and dialing.

    Annoying Behavior No. 3: Not knowing enough about their business. Asking a prospect what they do indicates you are a novice and a lack of preparation. You fall short of demonstrating how you fit as a proven resource.

    Annoying Behavior No. 4: Not having a clear WIIFM for the decision maker. It is frustrating if a seller can’t answer the question “What’s in it for me?” or if a seller does not do the work to understand the prospects’ current situation, where they want to be, the value of achieving these results and the urgency of a better solution. It is hard to present a clear path on how you are aligned with the prospects’ priorities if you are not focused on their buying needs, challenges, goals, budget and urgency.

    Annoying Behavior No. 5: Demonstrating poor communications, relationship and rapport building skills. You talk too much, interrupt and do not listen to key things already shared. There may be a high level of self-promotion, blowing your horn, bragging, unsolicited opinions and name dropping.

    Annoying Behavior No. 6: Using sales tricks and gimmicks. Many people go to sales trainings and read book on selling. Use of manipulative techniques and gimmicks are easy to spot.

    Annoying Behavior No. 7: Trashing your competition. Every decision made has a range of options. Trashing the current supplier sends a strong signal that the buyer’s previous decisions were not well thought out.

    Annoying Behavior No. 8: Complaining and whining. They get enough of that from their own team so why share your unwelcome dissatisfaction.

    So, what can you do to be less annoying?

    As humans we want other people to think highly of us and trust us. In business and in sales it is vital to our success that our ability to present our ideas and ourselves does not backfire. Selling is hard work that requires skills, knowledge and behaviors needed to engage and help prospects and customers achieve their desired results.

    Try these five steps to help you come across as less annoying:

    Be Less Annoying Step No. 1: Assess yourself. With the help of others, identify your skills gaps or behaviors that you need to address to help you get better and more consistent results.

    Be Less Annoying Step No. 2: Be relevant. Figure out what you need to do to be pertinent to your target

    customers and earn the right to a conversation, a meeting and a relationship.

    Be Less Annoying Step No. 3: Be prepared. Make sure you are poised to be clear and confident on your next steps when you ask “On a scale of 1 to 10, how satisfied are you with the results you are getting with you current solution?”

    Be Less Annoying Step No. 4: Be trustworthy. Know what it takes to build confidence and be a trusted resource to address your customers’ needs.

    Be Less Annoying Step No. 5: Think chemistry. Understand how your personality and behaviors might cause prospects and customers to be annoyed with you.

    Demonstrate that meeting with you can help customers and prospects solve their problems and achieve that higher level of satisfaction. Make each interaction valuable and aligned with the customers’ or the prospects’ priorities at the time needed.

    Make the time decision makers and buyers spend with you worthwhile. Help them see their time with you as an investment, and your effort will pay off.

    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.

    Next up: 8 Essential Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

    8 Essential Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs

    It’s no secret the entrepreneurial mindset operates a little bit differently than others. But what habits do the most successful entrepreneurs share? That’s a question that author and entrepreneur Gary Schoeniger has set out to answer.

    It’s no secret the entrepreneurial mindset operates a little bit differently than others. But what habits do the most successful entrepreneurs share? That’s a question that author and entrepreneur Gary Schoeniger has set out to answer.

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    During a recent COSE webinar titled “Essential Habits of Successful Entrepreneurs” he said he found that the most successful of these people seemed to share the same eight critical habits.

    And those habits are:

    1. The power to choose

    This might be the most important quality an entrepreneur can possess, Schoeniger said. He defines this as turning off the auto pilot and turning on the radar. “Choose the way you respond to your circumstances,” he said. “Be aware.”

    2. Recognize opportunities

    “Problems are opportunities,” he said. When a pain point is encountered, the entrepreneurial brain immediately starts trying to think about how it can be improved: “Why are we doing it this way? How can it be done better?”

    3. Ideas into action

    If you think for too long, you won’t take action, he said. Also, when you begin to implement your ideas, you’ll discover what was previously undiscovered and that can help your business.

    4. Pursuit of knowledge

    Again, the most successful entrepreneurs should be thinking about how they can improve their business. They test. They think. They learn.

    5. Creating wealth

    Entrepreneurs understand it is more important to BE wealthy than LOOK wealthy. “Most people choke themselves with debt to look wealthy,” Schoeniger said. If an entrepreneur gets a $500 tax refund, for example, they will use that money to advance their ideas and not spend it on material things.

    6. Building a brand

    Customers should know what to expect when they do business with you. Be reliable.

    7. Create a community

    Surround yourself with other successful entrepreneurs. “A rising tide lifts all boats,” he said. Also, this extends to social media. Schoeniger suggested building a powerful Twitter news feed by following people such as Elon Musk on the social network.

    8. The power of persistence

    Being a small business owner is all about resilience. It’s the notion of turning into an overnight success after 20 years of hard work. Entrepreneurs should not expect things to be easy.

    Want to hear more from Schoeniger about what it takes to become a successful entrepreneur? Register for the next installment of COSE’s Business Boot Camp Series on March 23 when he will lead a session titled “Entrepreneurial Mindset & How it Can Drive Your Business to Success.

    Next up: 8 Social Media Strategies to Remember this Holiday Season

    8 Social Media Strategies to Remember this Holiday Season

    Make sure your business is part of your customers’ conversation this holiday season by following these eight simple social media tips.

    Already, holiday messaging is starting to emerge across social media. As a small business, the holiday season might be your best quarter, so it's important to get those sales in before the off-season hits. Maybe you have a holiday strategy mapped out? Or maybe you’re winging it this year?

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    Either way, there are eight key strategies to remember when using social media to promote your business during the holiday season. Let’s take a look!

    1. Hit all the key points during the holiday season. There are peak points during the holiday season. Leverage social media to promote your business before and after Thanksgiving; on Black Friday (Nov. 24); Small Business Saturday (Nov. 25); Cyber Monday (Nov. 27); early December; Christmas Eve; and New Year's Eve. Plan out content that hits each timeframe.

    2. Specify the holiday for a more customized approach. Many businesses will keep the generic " Happy Holidays" message, but consider being more specific with your holiday messaging. This will allow you to target more specifically on Facebook and other social media channels.

    3. Go beyond discounts. You might feel a discount is the best way to increase sales during the holidays, but research shows there are other perks that can get customers to purchase more, such as free shipping or a free gift, or holding a holiday contest.

    4. Make it about the holidays even if your business isn't something that resonates during the holidays. Businesses such as window replacement companies or auto repair shops know their businesses aren't top of mind during the business holidays. To be part of the holiday conversation in the social space, put a holiday twist on your marketing. Think about boosting a promotion on Facebook that's good for an after-holiday tune-up or giving your most loyal customers a digital gift.

    5. Go all out. Update your profile picture, cover photos and other parts of your social media pages with holiday cheer. Think, "How can I turn my social media accounts into a digital Christmas celebration?" Use custom holiday photography and messaging. Get creative!

    6. Do something good for others. Consumers love businesses that go beyond their daily duty of providing services and goods. It reminds them there are people behind the business who truly care. Consider using social media to collect money for someone less fortunate during the holiday season or inviting your followers to join you in a volunteer opportunity.

    7. Hold a holiday event. Facebook's event feature is a great way to invite your followers to a holiday event. It can be as simple as an open house or a larger holiday party. 

    8. Spread holiday cheer through live video. Sometimes just a good old, "Happy Holidays from us to you" can make your customers feel extra special. Use Facebook and Instagram live to send a cheery holiday message to your fans. Think of it as a digital holiday card.

    Get creative this holiday season and make your small business a larger part of the holiday conversation in the social media space. Remember to always set up measurements on your social channels to ensure you're able to measure your efforts.

    Happy Holidays!

    Annie Pryatel is the owner of AMP Brand Studios. Learn more about how AMP is helping small businesses succeed by clicking here.

    Next up: 8 Ways to Improve Social Media for Your Small Business

    8 Ways to Improve Social Media for Your Small Business

    Operating a business social media account is a lot different than the way you manage your own personal account. Here’s how to craft an effective business-minded social strategy that will help your business succeed.

    If you build it, they will come.

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    If you post it on a social media channel, they will engage.

    False. Today's social media channels require strategy thinking and creative ideas.

    Many small businesses today are relying on their knowledge of managing a personal social media account to run their business social media accounts. Running social media for a business is very different than running it for yourself. There are a variety of tools and resources out there, but it takes time and effort to keep a constant pulse on your business' social media accounts.

    Your social media will only work its hardest for you if you combine strategy and creative to reach and engage your audience.

    What are some things you can do to improve your business' social media accounts? Here are eight tips you can try.

    1. Be authentic and transparent. Be you

    Authenticity is vital in the social media space. Customers expect a brand's content to be honest and human-like. Your competition is most likely on social media, so be prepared to think of creative ideas that are unique to your business, include your tone of voice and branding, and are hard to replicate.

    2. Entertainment vs. Advertisement vs. Information

    All three types of content should have a healthy balance in your content strategy and work together. Advertisements need to be executed correctly, so they aren't ignored on social media platforms. Content should be entertaining, but still get your message across. Information, such as tips and tricks, can help educate your audience. Think about whether it makes sense for your brand to create each type of content or to share it from a third-party publisher.

    3. Video is very important

    Facebook predicts that in just a few years, most of its content will be video. Investing in video now will save you time in the long run and put you ahead of the game. Video is the top type of content and should in incorporated into your marketing strategy. It helps your business to show, not tell.

    4. Go live

    Many social media channels have added live features to their platforms. Facebook Live and Instagram Live help customers tune in and see what's going on at your business at that exact moment. Customers want to know the news now, not later.

    5. Organic reach is disappearing. Paid posts need to be part of your strategy

    If you've ever taken a look at your organic posts' reach compared to the number of fans/followers you have, you may be disappointed. Only a small percentage of your fans will see your content due to new algorithms. A low monthly social media budget ($25 to $100) can target your posts to all your fans and new customers and significantly increase your reach.

    6. Create mini campaigns for promotions and events

    Special promotions and events need their own mini-campaigns. Think about who needs to see your events and promotions and create a strategy that grabs that audience's attention and gets your content in front of their eyes. Promotions and events are time sensitive, so plan accordingly and think beyond just a single post.

    7. Only be where you need to be

    You do not need to be on every social media channel. Depending on your industry, it might make sense to only be on one or two channels. Facebook is slowly replacing the traditional and is a must for almost all businesses, with Instagram being a close second. The other channels depend on your brand strategy, industry, and audience. The more focused you are, the more time you have to create content that spreads and works hard for your business.

    8. Use social media as a way to spread your message beyond your own channels

    Great content gets noticed, shared, and goes beyond your channels. Use your content to get featured on third party publishers or get news coverage. Create content that matters and stands out, but also meets your business goals.

    Remember, social media won't solve all your marketing problems, but it can help a lot if you begin to understand each platform and correctly use it. Don't be scared to push the limits and think outside the box. It's a crowded marketplace, and there is a lot of content floating around the internet. Your social media strategy is important in keeping your business' digital presence strong, effective, and important to your customers.

    AMP Brand Studios is owned by Annie Pryatel, a Cleveland native who started her business to help small businesses in her hometown have a meaningful presence through creative and strategic ideas. AMP focuses on amplifying businesses' messages and brand, through social media, influencer campaigns, blog writing, PR efforts, and other digital tactics. AMP believes communities are stronger when small businesses thrive and this drives its work and mission. Be small, but mighty.

    Next up: 9 Tools to get Started with Content Marketing

    9 Tools to get Started with Content Marketing

    Content marketing has emerged as one of the most effective ways for small businesses to establish credibility, increase brand awareness, generate leads and drive other important business outcomes. In fact, 70 percent of customers prefer to get information about a company from content rather than through traditional advertising. Clearly, content marketing is a smart investment. But, it can also seem like an overwhelming task to take on – especially if you’re short on time, resources or budget. 

    Content marketing has emerged as one of the most effective ways for small businesses to establish credibility, increase brand awareness, generate leads and drive other important business outcomes. In fact, 70 percent of customers prefer to get information about a company from content rather than through traditional advertising.

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    Clearly, content marketing is a smart investment. But, it can also seem like an overwhelming task to take on – especially if you’re short on time, resources or budget.

    Sound familiar? Have no fear. Regardless of what support you have access to, anyone can take on content marketing using these nine tools:

    1. Canva. Use Canva to create any and all content marketing assets you might need, from e-books and infographics to blog graphics and social posts. You can use their existing templates and design elements or upload your own, plus everything is instantly ready to email, download or share.
    2. Piktochart. Another option for creating infographics and visualizing data, Piktochart has over 400 built-in templates, icons and graphics to choose from.
    3. Wordswag. Creating a content series or just need branded/text-centric images? Wordswag is an easy-to-use iPhone app for making and sharing them.
    4. Death to the Stock Photo. If you need access to photos to include in your content marketing but don’t have time to shoot your own, Death to the Stock Photo is the answer. The service provides free high-quality photos to share anywhere. You can sign up to receive free monthly photo packs (each includes 10 pictures) or pay $15 to get premium access to their complete library.
    5. Dissolve. Use Dissolve to get access to hours of professional-quality stock video footage and clips from top filmmakers, editors and producers.
    6. Flipboard. Flipboard’s digital magazines have recently emerged as must-have tools for collecting and sharing stories. Whether you’re curating content or creating your own, get a little creative and the opportunities are endless.
    7. Storify. Another popular tool for aggregating content, Storify let’s you pull together photos, video, text and links from various sources (social media platforms and news outlets) into one comprehensive story.
    8. Slideshare. Use Slideshare to host e-books, white papers, presentations or other content marketing materials you create. It’s easy to embed Slideshare links onto your company website or blog, plus you can see exactly how many people have viewed or downloaded each file you upload.
    9. Buffer. If you’re going to invest in creating content, don’t forget about promoting the content you create. Use Buffer to schedule tweets, pins, Facebook posts or LinkedIn updates that share your content and increase your social footprint.

    Want to learn more about content marketing and how it can work for your business? Join Heather Whaling at the Small Business Convention for a workshop "Content Marketing: Become a Thought Leader and Share Your Expertise" on October 21 at 2:45 p.m.  

    Next up: A Big Voice for Small Business: Looking Back, Looking Forward

    A Big Voice for Small Business: Looking Back, Looking Forward

    One of the most important things we do is advocate for you with elected officials and regulators to ensure that the intersection of policy, regulation, and your business does not create undue barriers to your success.  The past year provided for some significant victories for small business owners locally and throughout Ohio and your voice as small business owners was driven by your peers as COSE members and leaders played an integral role in advocating for a number of small business community priorities outlined in the COSE 2015-2016 Public Policy Agenda. 

    One of the most important things we do is advocate for you with elected officials and regulators to ensure that the intersection of policy, regulation, and your business does not create undue barriers to your success.  The past year provided for some significant victories for small business owners locally and throughout Ohio and your voice as small business owners was driven by your peers as COSE members and leaders played an integral role in advocating for a number of small business community priorities outlined in the COSE 2015-2016 Public Policy Agenda.

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    Workers’ Compensation Prospective Billing

    Ohio’s workers’ comp system is one of only two state systems run by the state.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to get updated every once in a while.  As part of ongoing efforts to modernize Ohio’s Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) operations, COSE supported legislation that is now law that transitions Ohio to a prospective billing system for private employers.  That law became effective July 1, 2015 for private employers. The switch to the industry standard of prospective billing provides many benefits, including:

    • An overall base-rate reduction of 2 percent for private employers;
    • Allowing BWC to better forecast the level of premium required to be collected each policy year;
    • Opportunities for more flexible payment options (up to 12 monthly installments);
    • Better opportunities for BWC to provide quotes online or via the phone;
    • Increased ability for BWC to detect employer non-compliance and fraud.

    Workers’ Compensation Successor Liability

    Can you imagine moving into a new space for your business and finding out that you’ve inherited someone else’s bad workers’ comp risks?  COSE led and convened interested parties meetings on this subject, advocated for change, and the General Assembly passed language that offers up a long-term solution.  The legislation was signed by Gov. John Kasich on December 22, 2015 and it will help to ensure entrepreneurs will not be penalized in the form of increased workers’ compensation rates, outstanding balances, or uncovered claims costs for assuming space that was previously inhabited by a completely separate business with negative claims experience; read here for more information on this victory for small business owners.

    Income Tax Cut & Deduction, Commercial Activity Tax (CAT) Rate & Exemption

    Taxes are a sore subject for a lot of businesses.  And, small business taxes are different in a lot of ways than big business.  The Governor’s tax plan was controversial last year, but our approach was to stay focused on small business needs in that process.  We focused on maintaining and increasing small business owner business income tax exemptions and the way in which the personal income tax and commercial activity tax (CAT) uniquely affect small business owners.  The state budget bill reflected COSE Public Policy Agenda priorities and the final version of the tax package granted a 75% small business income exemption for the first $250,000 in small business income for 2015 and increases it to a 100% deduction beginning in 2016.  One COSE small business owner cited that when they filed their 2014 taxes they saved $6,250 on 2014 state taxes due to the first small business tax deduction which was at 50%.  Now, that exemption will double to a 100% exemption.  In addition, we staved off increases to the CAT tax and expansion of the sales tax to service companies.  And, we worked to maintain a reduction in the state income tax which affects most of our small business owners that are organized as pass through entities.

    Business Filing Fees

    Every little bit helps, so COSE supported legislation that passed to reduce certain business filing fees charged and collected by the Secretary of State.

    Entrepreneur-in-Residence Pilot Program

    Sometimes it’s clear that government just doesn’t “get it.”  COSE has been working closely with the state to create an entrepreneur-in-residence program.  The goal is to put real entrepreneurs inside government agencies to work in tandem with the LeanOhio program to help improve state government processes to better serve and protect small businesses.  This program was authorized and the first group of entrepreneurs-in-residence have been named.  The entrepreneurs receive six sigma training, the agencies get help to better serve you, and you get your peers working to make government a better resource for your business.  COSE continues to provide LeanOhio and all the entrepreneurs with feedback on the agencies that they may consider working with to alleviate burdens for COSE small business owners.

    Common Sense Initiative (CSI) Representation, Toolkit

    Ohio’s Common Sense Initiative (CSI) has been a successful effort to get rid of old regulations and intervene on rulemaking that hurts more small businesses than helps them.  The goal is to ensure a state regulatory framework that promotes economic development, is transparent and responsive to regulated businesses, makes compliance as easy as possible, and provides predictability for businesses.  Two COSE small business members continue to serve on the statewide CSI Small Business Advisory Council.  Recent work has been focused on making CSI easier to access and help small business owners better navigate the state regulatory process.  We will be more aggressively marketing these tools to our members and helping CSI  to upload similar resources to their website in the near future.  COSE and CSI staff work closely together and we look forward to continuing to use this initiative as a way to alleviate real regulatory burdens for small business owners in the future.

    November Ballot Measures

    Ohio’s ballot has become a vehicle for constitutional initiatives that can make major changes to our state.  We have to remain vigilant on those issues that could impact your business.  We focused on four big issues on the ballot in 2015 and had success on each of those issues with the outcomes supporting our positions.

    • Issue 1, the state legislative redistricting proposal, passed with more than 70 percent of the vote.
    • Issue 2, an anti-monopoly amendment proposed by the Ohio General Assembly to protect the constitution from economic monopolies passed with just over 50 percent of the vote.
    • Issue 3, the Responsible Ohio led effort to change Ohio’s constitution to legalize medical and recreational marijuana was soundly rejected with 64 percent of voters opposing it.
    • Issue 8, the Cuyahoga County Arts & Culture Renewal Levy, enjoyed significant support from county residents, passing with nearly 75 percent of the vote.

    Thank You

    Your support for our work comes in many ways.  Whether you actively attended a COSE Advocacy Committee meeting,  COSE Day at the Capitol in Columbus or our Washington briefing; or you made a phone call or wrote an e-mail to COSE staff or an elected official along the way we thank you for your engagement in advocacy.  The direct involvement of small business owners everywhere are what allow us to make progress on the policy issues that are vital to helping foster an environment that allows small business owners to achieve their idea of success.  Even if you were unable to get directly involved in the advocacy effort, your support as a member through your investment in membership and your participation as a member of COSE give us the strength to advocate for your success.  That support is important and appreciated!

    To read more on other areas of public policy progress made to-date and some of the issues that we expect to be working on in 2016 click here.