Discover Your SLOT for Self-Improvement

Many have heard of the SWOT analysis for organizational development or improvement. This is a quadrant where one looks for the:


  • Strengths
  • Weaknesses
  • Opportunities
  • Threats

Imagine using this approach for your own self-improvement?

How about taking one step further and really push yourself by changing just one word?

When we swap limitations for weaknesses, we have an entirely new perspective. A limitation can undermine self-improvement because of our own perspective. We do not recognize a limitation in the same manner as a weakness and may unintentionally ignore it. By changing this one word allows us to dig deeper into our own beliefs, experiences and skills.

Intentional self-improvement is not easy.  The SLOT analysis provides much greater clarity as to where you are right now and what is getting in your way to where you want to be.  What I have observed is the lack of clarity probably undermines more forward progress than any other barrier.

If you are looking to establish a personal growth action plan,then before you take that action conduct a SLOT analysis on yourself.  The results just may surprise you.

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Nothing Is Sometimes the Better Path for Small Businesses

Taking action, doing something is usually touted as the better path for growing small businesses. However some research from Contact Monkey suggests when it comes to email subject lines nothing wins the open email rate.

small-businessesThis data runs against the prevailing attitude being sold to small business owners about having an emotionally compelling subject line by many marketing experts.  Even I, though not a marketing expert, always believed some  emotionally charge words were more effective than no words. Guess I was wrong.

This research about nothing being better than something came from analyzing over 30 million emails sent through Outlook and Gmail. The #1 subject line with a 92% email open rate was blank leaving only the already prepopulated “RE.”

Can you believe that?

All those email headlines small businesses paid  high price marketing firms while draining both their cash flow and  profits had far worse email open rates. I wonder how many of those marketing firms will share this research?

What was also interesting to note is the fifth most email open rate headline at 87% was “Checking In.” Many sales  experts will contend that “checking in” is a lame conversational starter for small businesses.  What this email suggests that busy professionals (your potential small business sales leads) like to keep their email communication short and sweet.  When sales leads read “checking in” they already have a sense of the purpose of the email and potentially are better able to categorize it within their own daily email reading demands and other ongoing initiatives.

Now I am unsure how this data compares with information gleamed from auto responder companies like AWeber or Constant Contact. What I do believe is this information is worth reviewing for all small businesses and probably may stir the pot as to prevailing best practice for small business emails.

What you can do as a sales professional or small business owner is to run your own test.  Send out 50 emails with a mix of using the top 3 email subject lines and your own most popular ones.  Monitor the results and maybe you too will discover that when it comes to email open rates, nothing is better than something. Then take all that money you saved and treat your employees and yourself.

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The Surprisingly New, Yet Very Old Leadership Skill

Possibly as you read this title, you may be thinking of one of the current fads moving through leadership training and coaching such as agile leadership? If so, you may be disappointed because this leadership skill is one that is very old and yet never really discussed in any detail. Maybe there is a presumption that leaders already have this skill?

leadership-skillThink for a moment of past leaders and all of their leadership skills.  What one skill has stood the test of time?

From my perspective, that one skill has been the ability to write. If we look to history, we see Moses writing the 10 Commandments to George Washington’s Farewell Address to Congress to contemporary leaders.  The ability to communicate through the written word is essential to all of these leaders and the millions of  other unsung leaders.

Technology has further embolden this very old leadership skill.  This newer communication channel of technology started with email and now has spread through social media and content marketing.

More and more communication is being channeled through electronic mediums. Forward thinking leaders must learn how to communicate succinctly as in 140 characters in Twitter to emails to sharing organizational initiatives through the company’s newsletter or blog. Given that the super majority (97.75) of businesses here in the US have under 20 employees, the ability to hire out copy writers is dramatically reduced. Business leaders will need to be able to communicate even more frequently through the written word than ever before.

Effective writing that is emotionally compelling  and engaging is not new.  We only have to go back to the US Declaration of Independence and United States Constitution. The gentlemen who wrote these words agonized over the right word to convey the right, emotional message.  Each word was scrutinized to ensure the reader would have absolute clarity.

The other reason this old skill is a new skill has to do with the ability to have clarity of thought.  During a radio broadcast, Sales Coaching Over Coffee,  hosted by Lynn Hidy of Up Your TeleSales, the panel of Dan Waldschmidt, Fred McMurray and myself invested over 30 minutes of the 60 minutes radio show discussing the lack of critical thinking. There appeared to be agreement that solid, reflective, critical thinking was absent because there was too much energy being devoted to the current minute as well as a general reluctance to think.  “Thinking is hard work” as Henry Ford observed years ago.

What I know to be true is those who have honed this leadership skill of writing are for the most part far better thinkers. The more one writes, the better one thinks. The better one thinks the more one writes.  Something magical happens when the pen or even the keyboard is touched.  A connection is made between the fingers and the brain.  Thoughts flow like water provided the brain is continually being pumped.

If you are considering investing in a leadership development program be it through training or executive coaching, you may wish to confirm there will be some writing happening during this learning engagement. Failure to develop writing as a critical leadership skill may become the next Achilles Heel in your small business.



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The Often Overlooked Sales Skill

Just read another article about the top 3 sales skills.  And this one like many of the hundreds of other articles not too mention dozens of books I have read all overlook and even ignore this critical sales skill or capacity.  Possibly,there is an assumption everyone knows this and hence we do not have to mention it or  maybe we just can’t see the forest for the trees?

sales-skillMy sense is like all assumptions, you know making an ass out of you and me, this can be very dangerous.

What I know to be true is the crystal clear clarification of one’s goals; the writing of one’s personal goals; the commitment to take action on one’s goals and the flawless of execution of one’s goals is what separates top sales performers from everyone else. These are indeed the individuals ahead of the flow.  Now there will always be exceptions and if you are one of the top sales performers who does not write your goals down, then congratulations.

Yet I know when I take a written grocery list to the store, I am far more successful. This is also true for people who dutifully plan that coveted 2 week vacation or that impeding wedding.  Planning, the act of thinking, creates far greater success than being Captain Wing It who sprays his or her actions all over the place and then prays something will stick. Sales Coaching Tip:  Using a proven goal setting worksheet along with WAY SMART goals supports you in your forward progress.

So why would sales be any different?

  • Do not salespeople have a sales goal either set by their sales managers or even themselves?

  • Do not salespeople plan their calls?

  • Do not salespeople do their research to overcome sales objections?

Consistent goal planning, setting and achievement is a critical sales skill and not one that should be overlooked. However, because goal setting is not glamorous or even sexy, it is ignored by the many sales coaches, sales experts  and sales trainers.

If you want to increase sales, to experience consistent and possibly even dramatic growth, then consider adopting and sharing a proven goal setting and goal achievement process supported by a proven goal setting worksheet (tool).  You just may be surprised how this one often overlooked sales skill can really improve your bottom line.

Believe it or not!



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Sales Leadership Temperament of Impressionable Part 24

Are you seeking a salesperson who will be influenced by your organization or who may stick around for a while?  Salespeople with this sales leadership temperament of impressionable may fit that bill.

Years ago, people left college and went to work for one company. They became “company men or company women.” Possibly by being impressionable, the organization was better able to enfold them into the corporate culture.  Firms like IBM, GE and the auto industry come to mind.

Individuals with this internal temperament have these biases:

sales-leadershipJust as a quick refresher, the internal temperament is the level of optimism (positive bias) or pessimism (negative bias) people view themselves or their lives.  Even though having an internal neutral bias is preferred, this is not as common as having either a positive or negative bias.

From a sales leadership perspective, individuals with an impressionable temperament may become easily “involved in activities on an experimental or impulsive basis.” This tendency to become quickly involved is because this individual is unable to crystallize his or her own direction or objective. Being unable to have clarity may create some self doubt and uncertainty on the best way to achieve her or his objectives. For example, new hires such as college graduates just entering the job market may have this specific temperament. (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

The lack of clarity may result in placing more emphasis, “more importance in how others think of you and your accomplishments since your own guides are unclear.”  This emphasis allows the individual to be influenced or “impressed” by those around him or her. (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Just as the words impressionable suggests, individuals with this sales leadership temperament “have  not yet formed clear, definite rules for self-organization.” Additionally given all the uncertainty and lack of clarity, those who are impressionable may have questions in how they want to proceed in life at this moment in time.  All of these factors make such individuals more prone to being influenced by their surroundings.  (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Understanding the internal biases associated with the various decision making styles along with key talents as identified by the Innermetrix Attribute Index does provide greater insight into hiring the right candidate in sales or any other position. To not employ such proven and statistically sound tools when miss hires are so expensive truly does not make sense.

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Muddled Content Marketing Misses the Mark

The 21st Century has changed how people market their businesses. To attract attention today requires this new channel of content marketing.  Yet as in the previous century when paid advertising was King, many of those messages miss the mark and worse yet continue to miss the mark.

content-marketingToday’s customers or clients want not only relevant content, but engagement as well. This can be very time consuming for the single office/home office small business or the small business owner with under 20 employees.

Unfortunately, according to Demand Metric’s Lead Generation Benchmark Report for 2014 released in July of 2014 suggested the most frequent problem (cited by 58% of the participants) with content marketing is “content doesn’t create enough opportunities for interaction and engagement.”  Those firms that use interactive content such as apps, assessments or quizzes have the capacity to generate conversions around 70% compared to passive content at 36%.

Then there is the mark of relevance.

Is your audiences’ value drivers connecting to your message?

Are you writing the same stuff as everyone else especially within B2C or B2B?

The simple question to ask yourself is:

“Why would anyone read my content marketing day after day?

One of the metrics to see if your efforts are worthwhile is to track your number of visits and pages per visit. Back in March of 2010, one month after this blog debut, this site received 1.91 visits per visitor with 2.89 visits per page on 43,700 pages .  Over time, and yes time is a factor, these statistics increased to 6.36 visits per visitor with closer to 4.0 visits per page on 154,078 pages. Additionally during that same time frame, conversions increased as well.

Probably the best way to avoid the muddle of content marketing is to establish an education based marketing  philosophy where you will educate your potential audience.  Education creates attraction because others will want to read what you have written and you can go ahead of the flow by becoming a thought leader in your area of expertise. This approach does require you not to make a sales pitch in your content, but to give, to share your knowledge and perspective with others. If they want a  sales pitch, they can turn on TV, the radio, read the newspaper or get one of those darn pop-ads on the Internet.

Understanding how the channels to attract attention and begin to build relationships has changed can support business growth for your small business. Ignoring how the channels have changed may have you capsized, out of the sales flow and on the bank, high and dry without any new businesses.

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My Balanced Plate

Each day we start fresh with the opportunity to do something, do nothing or do less than something if it is the weekend or our day off. Subconsciously we are pulled in many directions with the “do this” or “don’t do that.” All of this pulling impacts the balanced plate we have mentally constructed in our heads.

balanced-plateJust like the jugglers of the past, we juggle to do items, people, and thoughts what seems like 24/7.  We attempt to keep our plates in balance. Unfortunately even in our sleep we are interrupted with dreams that  may awaken us because we forgot to do something.

Our balanced plate is really more like a piece of pie with special pieces or sections pre-labeled. When we become off balance, we may focus more on one section (intentionally or unintentionally) than another.  (Note: The first person I have discovered who talked about having a balanced plate  or life wheel was  Buddha.)

For example, yesterday I was not feeling well. My headache (physical health) prevented me from reading (mental), answering emails (career) and even took time away from chatting with my husband (family). My plate was indeed off balance.

This past week during a workshop on sales skills, I shared how almost 15 years ago I wrote a goal about going to church.  At that time I was traveling much more than today and weekends were my down time.  Getting up early on Sunday was not something I wanted to do,. Yet, I knew from my past experiences church was important to me. So I wrote a WAY SMART goal, emotionalized it and then applied the necessary critical thinking skills to uncover what was keeping me from going to church.  By taking this action, I have regularly attended church for the last 15 years and miss very few Sundays.  (Using a proven goal setting worksheet helps to keep my life in balance.

Yes we are our own worst enemies or as Pogo said “I meant the enemy and he was me.” By being more intentional about our thoughts and our behaviors along with the actions we do or do not take, we can have a more balanced plate. This does not mean that life  will be smooth. What it does mean we are better equipped to handle many of those off balanced moments.

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Are You Favoring the Path of Least Resistance?

Water it is said favors the path of least resistance.  Maybe this also true for us as human beings?

Path-of-Least-Resistance-BI-F-01Isn’t it much easier to go with the flow than to stop; actually think and take a different path?

Even though human beings are as I believe and from what I have read almost “hot wired” to embrace change, old habits due to internal, mental conditioning (usually negative) kick in and sometimes we end up on the path of least resistance without ever realizing it.

Of course to change our path does require to determine where we are.

One great tool is the Life Wheel, first advocated by Buddha over 2,500 years ago.

Another tool that promotes proactive change instead of reactive change or the path of least resistance is reflection.

A third tool would be to have a written personal growth action plan supported by WAY SMART Goals.

In the book, The E-Myth, Gerber writes about working ON the business instead of IN the business.

Isn’t this also true about our own lives?

We invest so much time working IN our lives we fail to work ON them.

We place far more value on planning a vacation, a trip to the grocery store than we do planning for the rest of our lives.

Change can be good and does have it down side. Yet without change, without taking a proactive stance, we probably all would be still living in caves or at best still riding horses to get around.

As you look to this weekend, next week and the rest of your life, ask yourself these two simple questions:

Am I like water favoring the path of least resistance?

If so, what am I fearing to change?

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The Greatest Excuse for Small Businesses

How many times do we hear from small businesses “I don’t have the money?”  Some believe this is the greatest excuse, but they are wrong.

small businessesThe greatest excuse, the most damaging one to small business growth is this one:

“I don’t have time.”

Small businesses can always get more money, but they can never get more time.  Once time is gone, it is gone forever.

What is quite ironic is many business coaches or change management consultants who profess to help small business owners and other professionals including salespeople consistently use this excuse.  I continue to shake my head about this disconnect.

Most people admit to wasting 12 minutes a day. This adds up to one hour per week or 52 hours per year.  Time management studies suggest the wasted time that being unproductive time is closer to one hour per work day.

In 2011, America Online and conducted a survey that revealed the average worker wasted 2.09hour per 8 hour workday. This wasted time does not include lunch or break.

The impact to the American economy is a  literally mind numbing $759 billion per year.  (Paying for salaries where work was expected, not performed.) Add this wasted time to the continued research on workforce engagement and those billions probably double.

The additional irony is that time management is an oxymoron as no one can manage a constant.  What really must take place is better self management.

For small businesses, this may mean using automatic online software such as Hootsuite or delegating some of those daily to do tasks. At the end of the day, when someone states “I don’t have time” what they are really saying is they cannot manage themselves, their professional roles or their small businesses.

I leave you with this thought leadership question.

Do you really want someone who cannot manage himself or herself helping you manage your business challenges?


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The Leadership Giving Receiving Ratio

In leadership there exists a ratio of how much one gives in comparison to how much one receives. Yet there are many leaders who benefit from the receiving and fail to give. In some cases, this ratio turns into a whole number of receiving with no giving.

leadershipThis past week I physically met a LinkedIn and Facebook connection.  He was an aspiring entrepreneur who also had a full time job.  After our pleasant meeting in which I shared some general observations and referred him to a couple of my connections, he asked me what could he do for me?

I knew when I met him he was not a ideal customer however I believe one never knows who someone else knows.  My response was “Just leave the tip” (I bought breakfast) and when you hear of someone who might benefit from my services, please consider sharing my name. He was genuinely appreciative of my time and that was enough for me.

Another example of this giving receiving ratio is LinkedIn recommendations (written) not the endorsements.  For myself,  I intentionally decided long ago to have at least a 2 for 1 ratio respective to LinkedIn recommendations. Currently I have given 81 LinkedIn recommendations and received 36.  This ratio is being maintained.

Another example of the leadership giving receiving ratio is the sharing of the blogs, LinkedIn articles and special online writings. Since I belong to several forward thinking leadership groups where material is cross-promoted, I am indeed fascinated by the absence of this ratio by some of the group members.

Of course, the lack of reciprocity is justified because they do not feel the content up to their quality standards; they disagree with the content; the posting is too long for their readers; or  they don’t have time. This justification may make sense to them. Yet, this appears to me to be an ego self-serving leadership smoke screen that is not fooling the other contributors to the group. Occasionally a member is “nicely called out” and the called out member uses of the aforementioned smoke screen excuses.

For me, I regularly disagree with many of the positions of my professional colleagues from “cold calling is dead” to “value creation” to “social selling.” Overall, the content is fairly well written and my sense is there would be one or more people within my community who would find this information of interest. I know this to be true because people make positive comments on these articles that I have not written.

The real thought leadership question is two-fold:

1. If we all agreed on everything, where would there be growth and change?

2. What are you or rather your ego really fearing?

What the leadership giving receiving ratio reveals is one’s positive core values, one’s business ethics and sometimes one’s excessive ego. When we think of ourselves before thinking of others, this creates a disconnect, disharmony with our own positive core values. For some, they can live with that disharmony, for others including myself, they cannot.

Years ago my Swedish grandmother lead by example of how it is better to give than to receive. I remember her lessons because she held my hand as we walked across the dirt road to give a cake, a loaf of bread to a far wealthier neighbor. She lived her values, her faith and I look to her as a guide for my own daily actions.

Today I do my best to give without the expectation of receiving and I attempt not to hide behind the self serving smoke screens of justification. Yes, sometimes I do fail because my own ego gets in the way. This is why I have combined my values statement with my personal motto – Just Be Values -  to keep me from falling into the abyss of ego self-justification.

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Sales Gravy Interviews Leanne Hoagland-Smith

Leanne Hoagland-Smith
cited by Get Base CRM as one of the top 50 Sales Pros to follow on Twitter.

Sherpa in its 2014 Executive Coaching Survey cited Worldwide Coaching Magazine as one of the Top 3 publications for executive coaches. Leanne Hoagland-Smith has been a contributing author since its inception in Jan. 2013.

Leanne Hoagland-Smith included among the Top 25 Sales Influencers by Open View Sales Lab.

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