Leadership for the Self-Employed

Being a sole proprietor, one may not think about leadership given there is no one to lead. Yet is that really true?

When we gaze back through the annals of time, many who are still viewed as great leaders, began as self-employed ones. Did you know that:

leadership

  • George Washington was an independent surveyor?
  • Abraham Lincoln was a farm boy turned self-taught lawyer?
  • Thomas Alva Edison in his early years sold candy on trains?

With over 70% of all U.S. businesses being “non-employed” meaning having no employees (self employed), there are millions of leaders who daily pursue their passions and their professions.  Leadership probably always started out with individuals then expanded into organizations where it became more recognized.

Possibly as an entrepreneur, self employed individual for almost the last 20 years, I believe in the concept of self-leadership that being able to lead oneself first before leading others. For if you cannot lead yourself first, then there exists a solid presumption you cannot lead others well.

Self-leadership and leadership share many of the same talents:

Even if a small business owner is among that 70% without employees, he or she still has the opportunity to lead others such as customers to vendors.  Through leading others, these individuals share the same talents as those who lead much larger organizations. These talents include:

Leadership today has extended beyond the headlines of the usual recognized community to national leaders. Today every small business owner or entrepreneur has the capacity and even more so the responsibility to be a leader. Leadership can no longer be relegated to those with employees or elected officials. No leadership has come full circle back to each self-employed small business owner.

Unsure about your own leadership talents? Then this quick assessment may provide the clarity you need.

 

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The Big Lie About Social Selling

Social selling is a lie, a rather big one at that. Yes I said it, it is a lie. Unfortunately a lot of small businesses are buying into this lie and spending their hard earn profits.

social-sellingThere are numerous definitions for social selling. One of the more concise ones is offered by Hubspot:

“Salespeople use social media to interact directly with their prospects. Salespeople will provide value by answering prospect questions and offering thoughtful content until the prospect is ready to buy.”

The words in bold and in red (my editing) reveal that social selling is really social marketing.  Being ready to buy does not mean the prospect will buy.  What it means you have an opportunity to meet with him or her. You still must engage in some type of selling conversation because not all necessary information has been revealed.

Marketing is about attracting attention (interacting directly or indirectly).  Until the qualified sales leads call for an appointment; send an email; or walk through the door, no selling is actually taking place.

Marketing involves channels to distribute the message.  Traditional sales or product based marketing used:

  • Broadcast media (television, radio and cable)
  • Newspapers
  • Publications
  • Direct mail
  • Business to business networking

With the Internet, the emphasis is now on educating sales prospects (education based marketing) through the sharing of articles, blogs and even comments in discussion groups. Social media sites provide new marketing channels and thus new opportunities to educate and better qualify the ideal customer.

social-selling

The Shadows Behind the Big Lie

There are two shadows behind this big lie of social selling. The first is the presumption that in a very short time qualified sales leads will be knocking down your door.  Effective marketing through the traditional channels or the non-traditional ones recognizes the slow and steady wins the race approach.

The second is salespeople do not want to think of themselves as marketers.   Heavens forbid! You can almost imagine salespeople using their fingers in the sign of the cross to scare off any marketers.  Marketing is for some other internal department or some outside agency.

With 97.7% of all US businesses having less than 20 employees, these small businesses do not have the resources to have their own marketing departments. Their salespeople must attract their own qualified sales leads.

People buy from people they know and trust. The various social media channels allow people, your prospects, to get to know you and to begin to trust you.

When we recognize that social selling is social marketing (social meaning using the various social media channels), then we just may have far better clarity and not make the mistake that marketing is selling.  Far too many small businesses continue to make sales pitches on social media, ticking off more qualified sales leads or prospects than turning them on.

Peter Drucker is considered by many as an extremely smart business person.  He made three very insightful observations about business (paraphrasing):

  • There are only two purposes in business:  Marketing and Innovation
  • All other aspects in business outside of marketing and innovation are costs
  • When marketing is done well, selling is effortless

Consider heeding the words of Drucker and do not get caught up in this social selling lie and continued hype.

Download this Simple Sales Process (for free) to better understand

why social selling is a lie.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses under 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Are You Being Confused by All the Sales Experts?

Boy if today I was just starting out in sales, I would be greatly confused. Between the workshops, seminars, formal sales training sessions,  books, the videos, the blogs and the social media postings from all the sales experts, I truly would not know where to turn.

sales-expertsHaving a background in small business, under 100 employees, I learned from my father, my boss and a few books such as the  Secrets of Closing the Sale by Zig Ziglar, later Spin Selling. Additionally, I read numerous product technical books.

Sales experts 40 years ago were for the most part non-existent.  This self sales training and self leadership  knowledge became the foundation for my sales experience.

Granted I was not involved in many complex sales with multiple decision makers. My daily sales routine comprised mostly of:

  • Bills of material to be sourced and priced
  • Rush items
  • Tracking shipments
  • Clarifying technical information to my customers
  • Occasionally locating an outside salesperson missing in action

As time progressed, I was promoted to Inside Sales Manager and I was responsible for negotiating multiple year contracts. Additionally as Purchasing Manager I negotiated the product pricing for those multiple year contracts. Here the sale was more complex, but probably did not rise to the level of selling Boeing 747s.

What I learned is sales as Zig Ziglar said is “the transference of feelings.”  People buy from other people they know and trust. Like is not necessarily part of that equation.  I remember men buying from me initially because they knew me and trusted me, but truly did not like speaking with a woman.

People buy on emotion first; justified by logic. Emotions extend to daily behaviors.  This is why the customer’s voice on the end of the phone sounds gruff because he or she is being put into an emotional corner by others.

Sales is also about self-leadership.  Top sales performers have always demonstrated key people skills or soft skills such as:

By being able to lead themselves first they were then able to lead others including customers.

When you listen to many of the sales experts, you hear or read about specific sales skills to complex sales.  Yet, I have found only 5 questions will probably answer 75 to 80% of what I need to discover during the fact finding meeting with my qualified sales leads. These simple questions are never taught by sales experts because maybe the simplicity is just too obvious.

Additionally many sales experts presume you:

  • Have crystal clarity specific to your ideal customer
  • Love sales

One or both of these may be false presumptions.

If you are seeking greater clarity and less confusion, consider these questions:

  • Do you know your ideal customers?
  • Are you going to where your ideal customers go?
  • Do you know what differentiates you from everyone else?
  • Are you truly interested in knowing about other people?
  • Do you love sales (selling and marketing)?

By answering these questions, then maybe when seeking advice from sales experts you can determine where you have gaps to your sales success.

If you want to know my 5 questions,

then give me a call at 219.508.2859 CT

and we can schedule a quick 20 minute conversation.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses with fewer than 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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How the Ah $h*ts Surface from the Strategic Planning Process

We all have those “Ah $h*t” moments in business.  Suddenly we recognize the missed opportunities and the financial impact from those events.  No where is this recognition more visible and audible than in the strategic planning process.

strategic-planningCurrently I am facilitating a strategic planning session for three small business owners with sales ranging from $500,000 to $5 million. As we work together and these forward thinking leaders work independently, they have begun to recognize a plethora of missed opportunities.

During our most recent session we where completed reviewing the organizational external and internal appraisals, I lost count of the “Ah $h*ts.”  Many mid size to small businesses view the word plan as a four letter dirty word and maybe that is why I heard all those expletive gasps.

When small business owners began to separate the wheat from the chafe as what happens in a solid strategic planning process, they begin to see the market and more importantly their small business from an entirely different perspective.  What may have been important to them now may no longer be as important.

Identifying what is happening within the market from the organization’s perspective respective to itself and to its competitors is critical. The first section in external appraisal process has has four key elements:

  • Market segments and opportunities
  • Product/service competitive analysis
  • Organizational competitive analysis
  • Trend analysis

This is where the majority of “$h*ts” happened. One small business owner recognized the financial impact of one of his solutions and realized the market for this was larger while the competition was much smaller (Blue Ocean strategy). Another realized he had to change one of his primary solutions because of technology, government trends and changing demographics. This market trend would directly impact his cash flow and this solution would potentially dry up in the next three to seven years.

Upon completion of the external appraisal, the focus is then turned internally to:

  • Structure and function
  • Resources
  • Strengths, limitations, opportunities and threats
  • SLOT analysis

Here is the “Ah $h*ts” are fewer and yet in some cases even more significant.  In this area the small business owners must address capacity for business growth as well as succession planning.

Completing both the external and internal appraisals lays the foundation for the marketing and sales plans.  This is why I bristle when marketing firms engage in what they call a strategic planning process because they fail to do the proper external and internal appraisals.  Their focus is only on marketing. Thorough and complete assessments of what is happening and potentially may be happening must take place first to ensure the marketing is being directed to the right target markets and ideal customers.

Something almost magical happens when thoughts are put down on paper.  New insights are gained.  Old insights may be revised. And in that strategic planning process a lot of “Ah $h*ts” surface that may just keep any small business ahead of the flow.

Download the first steps in a proven Strategic-Planning-Process and learn where you may have some “Ah $h*t” moments.

P.S. If you are wondering why the $ sign in “$h*t, it is because the super majority of those “Ah $h*t” moments cost  small businesses significant dollars from lost profits to lost sales.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses under 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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Leaders Know How to Say No

Saying yes is far easier than saying no. Leaders especially those considered to be effective and forward thinking know how to say no. Of course, the first person they say no to is usually themselves.

leadersSaying no is the simple act of self-discipline. The ability to restrain natural tendencies such as eating that second cookie to staying in bed instead of getting up and going for a daily early morning walk.

When self discipline is ingrained within each individual, this attitude becomes the foundation for saying no when placed in leadership positions. Of course, there are some leaders who take it to the extreme, but then they are not usually considered truly effective or forward thinking.

In some instances, forward thinking leaders may say no, but will then ask is there another or better way to handle this situation or idea? No becomes an impetus or springboard for creativity to innovation. This alternative brings emotional intelligence into conversation. Emotional intelligence is recognized as a strong leadership talent.

There are other talents that support how to say no including:

True leaders understand when to say No is equally if not more important than when to say Yes. They accept the fact leadership is not a popularity contest. Being an effective leader is about achieving results through clearly articulated positive core values (business ethics and personal ethics).

leaders-business-ethicsThese forward thinking leaders also appreciate the fact that saying No strengthens the core values of the organization (business ethics) and that the “anything goes behaviors” to get the order or win the voter are not acceptable and definitely not rewarded.

Yes leaders, really great leaders, know how to say no and stand their ground.  They will not waiver when they know right from wrong. And in some instances, they may leave their positions because they will not sacrifice their positive core values just to hear yes.

Saying no as stated earlier is not easy especially in a “yes” society. When forward thinking leaders say No and mean No, the organization benefits from such leadership.  Possibly if more leaders would say No, then organizations would realize sustainable business growth and success.

The Attribute Index is an exceptional assessment instrument to clarify the leadership talents in your organization or even for yourself.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses under 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

 

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The Unasked Question to Convert More Sales

With the goal to convert more sales, open ended questions to closed ended questions have become the arrows in the professional salesperson’s quiver. There are many good open ended questions as well as some not so good ones.  By the way, did you know more and more decision makers can tell by the questions being asked the type of sales training the salesperson has encountered?

convert-more-salesFor me, the best question to convert more sales than any other question is one I learned from Tammy Kohl before she became president of Resource Associates Corporation.  The simplicity of this open ended question is incredible.

Where do we go from here?

This question is the last question that I ask after our fact finding, sales meeting.  In many instances, this question happens on the first sales call because through my marketing efforts, the sales lead has indeed made 40 to 60% of the buying decision.

Of course, before you can ask this question, you must earn the right to ask this question.  What that means is you have:

  • Demonstrated your knowledge of the business
  • Shared your knowledge about industry trends
  • Developed a relationship (this may take more than one meeting)
  • Answered all objections forthrightly without hesitation
  • Decided you wanted this business or professional as a client

In working with my executive coaching clients who want to convert more sales, I have found this question to be often unasked.

conver-more-salesThe other disconnect I have found when looking to convert more sales is silence.  Salespeople in their eagerness to earn the sale still have not learned when to shut up and let the silence do the selling.

  • Silence is powerful.
  • Silence allow the sales lead to have the time to process what has been shared.
  • Silence demonstrates your own self confidence because silence is awkward for many people.
  • Silence works to your advantage as a top performing salesperson.

For me after I ask my final question of “Where do we go from here?,” I remain silent. This silence may extend up to 5 minutes and sometimes even 10 minutes.  The longer the silence, the greater likelihood of another opportunity to convert more sales.

The next time you have finished the steps in the selling phase of your sales process, then employ this question. Remain silent and learn that silence is not only golden, but green.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses under 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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Why Sales Training Must Embrace Self-Leadership Development

Today I encourage you to review your most recent sales training and identify where self-leadership development was present? Possibly you may be somewhat confused by the term self-leadership.

sales-training

What I know to be true is if anyone cannot lead him or herself first, they cannot lead anyone else.  Self leadership development includes some of the following learning objectives:

  • Interpersonal communication  – How are you speaking to others?
  • Intrapersonal communication  – How are you speaking to yourself?
  • Emotional Intelligence – How are you managing your emotions?
  • Decision making – How are you at making decisions?
  • Personal Goal Achievement – How consistently do you set and achieve your personal goals?
  • Attitudes – What are your attitudes about yourself?

Being excellent in selling is all about leveraging your own self-leadership skills with specific sales skills.  Additionally with so many small businesses having under 20 employees, salespeople must be even more self-directed, self-developed than ever before.

Sales training needs to evolve beyond what worked for the Fortune 500 firms and now must work for the smaller businesses.  One of my new social media contacts (a small business owner)  shared he had invested several hundreds of thousands of dollars in hiring  and training new salespeople. The results were dismal. Part of the problem was the sales training did not look to the internal capacities of self-leadership and only focused on the traditional learning objectives.

Goal Driven Action Plan

One of the most valuable lessons I have learned is having a goal driven action plan. This action plan goes beyond just have SMART goals, but includes personal analysis of the current job along with a Dream Journal and Time Management. Additionally the goals are segmented into 6 key areas with only one being career/financial.

When individuals be them salespeople to executives work their action plan, amazing results are possible. The reason is simple – we are more than our jobs.  Those other areas of our lives can help or hurt us in our professional carriers.

If you are considering any sales training, it may make sense to review the learning objectives and determine if your salespeople will have their own goal driven action plan.  Remember, your sales people must lead themselves first before they can lead others including your potential customers to your front door.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses executives with under 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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The Road Not Taken; How to Make Incredible Differences for Your Business and Yourself

“Two roads diverged in the yellow woods” begins the poem, The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost. The poem ends with:

road-not-taken

“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.”

Conventional thought suggest this was the least traveled road and I agree. Where I diverge from conventional thought or the status quo is I believe the road not taken is so because this is the path of purpose.

So many people in business and in life do not know their purpose for being in business or even why they are living at this moment in time. This lack of knowing one’s purpose diminishes the vision they have for their businesses and more importantly their values, the guiding behaviors to execute their vision statement and current mission statement. Additionally, not knowing one’s purpose in business is also an indicator of not knowing one’s own purpose.

When we have crystal clarity about our purpose, we then know when the light switch is on. In the book, The On Purpose Person, the author (Kevin McCarthy) describes being on purpose like a light switch.  When the light switch is on, our purpose is on; when the light switch is off, so is our purpose.

Purpose is the essence of your business and yourself.

Purpose goes beyond your solutions, your products or services.

Purpose reaches down deep into the “why” behind starting your business and “why” you are here right now.

Further Explanation

How many times have you attended a business to business networking event (B2B) and observed one of these two scenarios?

road-not-taken

#1 – The White Rabbit

This is the small business owner or sales professional who is running from person to person like the White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.

#2 – The Flower Girl

Here is the business professional who throws business cards like rose petals.  Sometimes she or he will ask you to take several to share with others.

Neither of these individuals know his or her purpose.  Their behaviors are a reflection of not knowing and are sometimes mistaken for being unprofessional to even stupid.

If you want to improve your business or even yourself, then read the book The On-Purpose Person and then invest the time to write your own purpose statement so you are more inclined to travel the road not taken.

P.S. Yes I have a written Purpose Statement hanging in my office.  And  I am more than happy to share it with you.

My purpose on this earth is to be a TRAILBLAZER ~

One who unites the gifts of creativity, curiosity, determination, faith, intelligence, intuition, patience, reflection, risk taking, and thoughtfulness.

 

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How Social Media Influences Market Reach

For any business from the smallest to the largest, market reach is essential. Potential buyers must know about you, your company and your solutions. This is why marketing is the first phase of the 3 Phase Sales Process.

market-reachTo achieve this essential component for business growth and business success is 100% connected to marketing one’s message. Social media probably better than any other marketing channel achieves market reach with in many cases very little capital outlay.

Real World Example #1

This past week I participated in a Google Hangout with Richard Young and Martha Neumeister of Pipeliner CRM.  The focus for this online social media webinar was the topic of writing as being a critical sales skills. This opportunity was a direct result of being connected through Twitter and engaging with both Richard and Martha. Since Pipeliner CRM is a European based firm, I expanded my influence into markets that I was not directly reaching.

market-reach

 

Real World Example #2

LinkedIn has provided me numerous opportunities. Possibly one of the better ones was connecting with Ton de Graaf who included me as one of the founding contributing authors for Worldwide Coaching Magazine. This magazine was recognized by Sherpa as one of the top three publications read by executive coaches.  Ton and I shared several groups and through our interchanges this opportunity presented itself.

Real World Example #3

Through social media activities, Carol Roth included me in an email where she requested my succinct thoughts on a business topic. During the past several years, I continue to contribute to her Tough Love for Business Blog.

Real World Example #4

Social media has allowed me to become a part of several communities. The strongest community is one of other professional sales trainers and business consultants. We share each other’s blogs as well as LinkedIn Pulse articles along with other online publications. This sharing of good to great content allows all of us to expand our influence and therefore market reach.

Real World Example #5

LinkedIn Pulse platform is an incredible marketing channel especially for those in B2B.  Here you can expand your market reach and sales leads.  In the past six months, each article submitted to LinkedIn Pulse has earned me at least two new sales leads and one new executive coaching client. I write articles for business specific to leadership and sustainability.

Real World Example #6

Through the various social media channels, this blog continues to be identified as one of the top blogs for sales and small business. With a goal to write directly for small businesses those with under 100 employees, I am one of the few business authors and executive coaches who address the issues faced by small businesses that have less resources than the big firms.  I continue that emphasis in my online business column for the Chicago Tribune/Post Tribune. This column also has been around since 2007.

Be-The-Red-Jacket

Real World Example #7

Probably my oldest example of how social media has expanded my influence began back in 2005 when I started submitting articles to EzineArticles.com. At this time I knew very little about marketing and saw the value in content marketing as an attraction and credibility opportunity. In 2007, I was approached by NBiz Magzine to submit an article for their publication.  Now nine years later, I continue to write for this Houston/Dallas based business journal.  Additionally through articles published at EzineArticles.com, I connected with two other business leaders, Evan Carmichael and Jeb Blount.  Jeb was the publisher of my first book Be the Red Jacket and Evan graciously wrote the introduction.

Slow and Steady Wins the Market Reach Race

If you think social media does not influence market reach, then ask yourself why is IBM placing so much time into social media? Many other large firms also recognize how social media influences market reach.

For small businesses, social media is a necessary marketing channel to expand market reach; to gain new sales leads and to increase sales. To ignore this viable marketing channel is just plain foolish.

The only barrier to social media success is to expect instantaneous results.  If you noticed I began social media in 2005 and by adopting a slow and steady wins the race attitude, I continue to reap the benefits from social media.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses under 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

 

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The Culture Chasm Facing Mergers and Acquisitions Part 1

Culture will make or break an organization.  No where is that more prevalent than in mergers and acquisitions (M&A)

mergers-and-acquisitionsCompanies acquire other companies because they want business growth in existing marketing or new markets. Unfortunately, the majority (50% if not more depending upon the research source) of M&A fail because of culture. Companies fail to look beyond the balance sheet.  This failure results in ignoring the integration process of merging one firm with another.

That integration process begins and ends with culture.

What Is Culture?

Culture is the shared beliefs demonstrated through the behaviors of all individuals within the organization. In many instances departments may have their own separate culture which may or may not be in alignment with the overall culture.  This chasm between the departments and the overall organization only deepens when faced with mergers and acquisitions.

That’s Not How It’s Done Here!

How many times have we heard the expression “That’s not how its done here?” This statement is more about culture than proper procedures or practices. The company being merged has its own culture and the acquiring firm has its own culture. Within mergers and acquisitions, this statement becomes amplified 10 fold.

Leadership Is the Keystone

Just as there is a keystone in arch or bridge building, executive leadership is the keystone in mergers and acquisitions. Unfortunately, leadership is so immersed in their own culture including their business growth strategies, they fail to properly integrate the culture of the company they just acquired.

For example, how does executive leadership work with a union shop in the newly acquired firm when their existing business is non-union?

How does executive leadership intertwine a personal customer service culture within the recently purchased firm with its own less than personal but equally effective customer service culture?  Possibly the recently merged firm directly answers the phone while the acquiring firm uses prerecorded automated responses.

Yes the culture chasm is a significant barrier in all mergers and acquisitions. Unless this chasm is bridged, business growth will suffer as well profits.

Note: Later postings will examine in greater detail this chasm.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between today’s results and tomorrow’s goals in the key areas of strategic growth, people development and process improvement. She speaks and writes specifically to high performance sales people who require a tailored executive coaching solution and to small businesses under 50 employees whose challenges are more unique and resources more limited. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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