Are You Truly Courageous?

Today life appears to be less hard with all the modern conveniences thanks in part much to technology. We no longer have to be as courageous as those who crossed the wilderness to settle in new lands or do we?\

courageous

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For some courage is facing and overcoming barrier after barrier.  Churchill said “Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”

In To Kill a Mockingbird, the character of Atticus Finch said “I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”

Possibly Finch’s definition along with Churchill’s provide us with better examples of what is means to be courageous.

For entrepreneurs who get up each day to find new customers, to manager their business operations to balance their personal and professionals lives, they are being courageous.  Then there are those small business owners who reach out for help to improve their results. Asking for help takes courage.

If you are not where you want to be, then maybe it is time to rethink what you are doing. Now is the time to be more truly more courageous; to find the courage within you, to see it through without losing enthusiasm, no matter what.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. 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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Atlas and Bearing the Burdens of Leadership

From our early education, many may remember the story of Atlas holding the world. Today, my sense is many leaders are in a similar role. No they are not holding the world, but they are bearing the burdens of leadership with what they believe is with little help or relief.

burdens-of-leadershipLeadership continues to be the number one issue facing all organizations from the small businesses to the Fortune 100. Finding good leaders to replace the existing “Atlas” leaders is difficult.

Of course leadership including succession leadership of finding good leaders, is not the only burden. In another research report by Harvard Business Review shared the top 3 burdens by leaders:

  • Talent Management
  • Operating in a Global Marketplace
  • Regulation and Legislation

Yes today’s leaders carry many burdens and these burdens of leadership are not recognized by employees to the general public.

Some of these burdens are beyond the control of leaders such as regulation and legislation as well as global economic operations.  However some of these burdens of leadership are totally under the control of leaders especially:

  • Talent Management
  • Succession Planning
  • Organizational Effectiveness

To deal with these  burdens or if you wish barriers begins with the strategic plan.  Again from my experience, probably better than 75% (I think it is closer to 90%) of all small business with under 100 employees do not have a strategic plan. They are firmly entrenched in the roles of Captain Wing It where they spray their actions all over the place and then pray something will stick.

Some of the burdens of leadership are self-enabled. What this means is those in leadership roles have enabled their business partners to employees to:

  • Take advantage of them as leaders
  • Set their own working conditions
  • Restrict sustainable business growth

If you enjoy being Atlas and bearing the burdens of leadership without any assistance and if that is working for you, then continue holding up those business burdens all by yourself.  However, if you prefer to relinquish that role of self-enabled leader, then make a decision to change your leadership behaviors.  This may result in hiring an executive coach, finding a mentor, talking to colleagues or all of these actions.

At the end of the day, you must ask yourself “Am I tired of holding up my small business world?”

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. 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 Marketing Mantra of Just Because

I don’t know about you, but my email In Box is littered with newsletters to self promotion messages.  99.9% of these people I do not know nor have I subscribed to their lists. They appear to live with the marketing mantra of “just because.”

marketing-mantra

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These rationalization justifies:

  • Publicity representatives sending me information on their clients just because they read one of my posts
  • Adding me to their email or newsletter lists just because they bought or found my email somewhere
  • Sending me self promotion messages just because they thought they could

Truly I am so tired of this type of marketing mantra, I could scream. When will these small business owners and publicity firms understand the two fold purpose of marketing:

  1. Attract attention
  2. Begin to build a relationship

When people email me including second and third degree connections from LinkedIn without permission, they immediately establish distrust.  I would not buy a smelly old dog turd from these folks less alone give them the opportunity for being a guest author on my blog or consider their current offerings.,

Speaking of LinkedIn, the “just because” mantra respective to invitations is also very present. For example, here are some of the reasons I have learned for connecting:

  • Your name is recommended through LinkedIn
  • You are a second degree connection to someone who is one of their first degree connections
  • Your business card was secured at a B2B networking event
  • The person sending the invite is expanding his or her network, you do not know them from Adam or Eve

The “just because” marketing mantra is an outgrowth of not having a strategic plan from which a solid marketing plan is crafted. So what happens is small business owners to PR consultants take on the role of Captain Wing It by spraying their actions all over the place and praying something will stick.

So the next time you decide to send out a blanket email, check to make sure the names on your list have agreed to a double opt in policy. Then make sure those individuals are truly interested in your solutions or have some expressed want or need. Additional research should also reveal may be your intended victims, I mean recipients, do not already have knowledge greater than what you are sharing. This is not the time to insult prospective clients or customers just for the sake of “just because” marketing mantra.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. 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 to Open More Sales Through This Discovery Process

Many sales coaches to sales experts talk about how to “close more sales.”  I understand the premise yet in sales I think the goal is to open more sales.  When you ask the right questions, you may sell more (up sell) with greater ease than pigeon holding yourself into just one solution.

open-more-salesSeveral years ago I developed the ACE Approach in working with executive coaching clients.  The more I used this simple executive leadership approach the quicker the results came for my clients.  Recently I realized this same approach can be used with sales during the discovery process.

A – Assess

In sales, one must find out what is really happening. Some experts call this fact finding others talk about discovering the pain points.  What you, as the salesperson, are really doing is assessing the situation. These questions truly do open more sales.  Here you are acquiring pertinent information that may differentiate you from your competition who failed to ask “assess” questions.

For example, one of my favorite assess questions is “What do you want to achieve in the next six months?” Another one is “Are you where you want to be?” Both of these questions are non-threatening because I am not asking “Why” questions and usually have the sales lead talking without fear.

C – Clarify

After you ask some assess questions, now you must separate the wheat from the chaff. Here your goal is to clarify what you just heard.  An ideal customer may tell you “I want to grow my business by 25%.”  or “I need to increase sales by 5% per quarter.” These clarify questions will open more sales because you are determining the real problems to be solved and not the symptoms your competition  mistakenly may be addressing.

Even though you now have a metric, there is still may exist some ambiguity. This lack of clarity may have you traveling down the “no sale” path if you are not careful.

During the “clarify question” time, you may ask something like this “If I understood you correctly, you wanted to increase sales by 5%.  Is this increase for all solutions or for a particular offering?”  Upon the answer, you may return to an assess question regarding profitability or about the sales’ teams productivity.

E – Execute

These questions are all about connecting emotions to potential, successful execution. Now you can ask those “what if” type questions where you emotionalize the desired end results.

One such question might be “If you were to achieve the 25% increase in business growth, what would that mean for you personally and professionally?”  Here you are allowing the sales lead to visualize with strong positive emotions.  Then you can follow up with “If you were not able to achieve the 25% increase in business growth, what would that mean for you personally and professionally?” Research suggests fear can be a significant emotional motivator. Execution type questions can open more sales and have the added benefit of emotionally connecting to the qualified prospect.

Now some questions can be an Assess, a Clarify or an Execution question.  One such question might be “What is getting in your way to your desired results?”

Yes, the goal for any small business owner or salesperson is to open more sales by discovering what is really happening within the ideal customer’s world. The ACE approach is simple; provides a foundation for consistency and strengthens emotional intelligence. Now go out, try it and let me know of your results.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. 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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Marketing Should Always Be in the Front Seat

Many small businesses always place marketing in the back seat if not the trunk. They become so absorbed with earning sales (closing deals) to delivering their promises that marketing becomes quite unimportant.  This is a big mistake, a really big, mistake!

marketing

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May I add a gigantic mistake?

Small businesses that achieve sustainable business growth understand that the front seat is reserved for marketing.  Unless other people from their ideal customer to their target markets know about them, their companies and their solutions, they will have far greater difficulty earning the sale. These clueless business people will remain pocket poor.

Part of the reason the first phase of the sales process is relegated to the back seat is because there is no strategic plan.  The word plan as a verb is a four letter dirty word to many small business owners. To quote President Eisenhower “Plans (noun) are worthless; planning (verb) is everything.”

Many small businesses fail out of the gate because they have not invested the time to:

  • Understand the basic business planning schematic
  • Recognize the basic foundation and business philosophy for their small business
  • Clarity and commit their vision and values to writing
  • Conduct both external assessment and internal appraisal
  • Craft a mission statement
  • Identify critical goal categories or critical success factors

All of these actions must be taken first before any marketing plan can be efficiently and effectively developed.

Then the sales plan follows the marketing plan instead of what usually happens is sales takes the front seat. And stays in the front seat until there is no dollars coming in and by then it is usually too late.

Of course there are plenty of advertising to public relation (PR) to even creative design firms that say they can write a marketing plan.  If you are sure they can, before you sign that usually expensive contract, ask to see their strategic plan.  If the items as noted above are not clearly visible, these folks have jumped the gun. Their recommendations are more about their own pocket book than yours.

The ability to write a strategic plan begins with the right tools and the right experience.  Those who can assist you such as business coaches to business consultants in this endeavor truly do not have skin in the game respective to where you put your “attraction” dollars.  Their goal is for you to achieve sustainable business growth because your results is what drives new business for them.

Just remember, to continual to attract attention and build relationships must be 24/7.  When your small business becomes extra busy, then it is even more critical to continue with attracting attention.  Unfortunately,this is when those who are behind the flow stop marketing. Usually what happens is a lot of catch up and wasted dollars. Technology helps to automate some of these marketing messages through social media.

So if your sales are in the front seat, now is the time to kick sales to the back seat and put your marketing up front and close to you as the driver, leader, for your small business.  If you disagree, then why as research suggests 20 to 60% of the buying decision has already been made before you even make a sales call?  That decision has been based upon the marketing efforts of your competitors and hopefully even yourself.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. 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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What Should I Do?

How many times do we ask ourselves this question:what-should-I-do

 

What should I do?

If we cannot answer it ourselves because of fear, ignorance to personal accountability, we may ask others.

Maybe it is time to ask the question behind the question:

What is keeping me from doing what I should do?

In many instances, the answer is just one word – clarity.

Clarity is such a simple word and yet illusive for so many.

This past week I traveled to northern Arizona to inspect some real estate for retirement.  I provided the realtor with crystal clarity as to what my husband wanted. As we inspected different properties, my clarity was my husband’s criteria.  Pretty simple.

We had also provided the realtor with a list of what we wanted, deal breakers and what would be preferred. We actually did discover one property that surprised both of us. She is doing some more research to learn if it truly met the “Ken criteria.”

When working with executive coaching clients, my goal is two-fold

  • To discover the specific desired results with crystal clarity for both my client and myself
  • To achieve those desired results with the same crystal clarity

During this executive coaching process, I hear quite often this question”What should I do?”  My response is one of these:

  • What is keeping you from doing what you should do?
  • You already know what you should do, dig a little deeper for the answer to your question

What should I do is a question that will be with us until the die we die. How quickly we answer that question is in direct proportion to our clarity regarding ourselves, our values, our experiences and our own goals.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. 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 Collision of Workplace Culture and Business Ethics

Small business owners work very hard to maximize their profit dollars.  Yet all of their efforts sometimes seem to be to no avail when workplace culture collides with business ethics.

work-place-culture

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Part of the reason for this collision lies within this one word – assumption. Leaders of small businesses assume everyone knows how to behave.  Of course this may also explain why so many business owners are frustrated with the lack of work ethics.

Business ethics and work ethics share this word of ethics for a particular reason. Ethics is about character.  Your character is observed in your behaviors.  A culture is the collective behaviors of all individuals be it a small business (workplace) to a local community government.

When business ethics are not clearly articulated and shared this provides an opportunity for a “wishy washy” or “do as I say and not as I do” to “anything goes” workplace culture. The end results if a culture of corruption as well as chaos.

For example, if everyone thinks it is okay to leave a mess in the kitchen; to eat the candy of others; to work with dirty hands; or to speak ill of someone else, their actions demonstrate these behaviors are accepted within the workplace culture. Until someone consistently stops these poor business ethics, there will still be poor employee engagement, productivity and worse yet profitability.

Each day business people are exposed to this culture of corruption from people lying about having only one smart device to identify theft in the workplace to abuse of power from lobbyists to government employees.  And yet many of these same small business owners fail to realize their are unintentionally contributing to this culture of corruption because they have not invested the time to put to writing their business ethics.

Even with those who have value statements of business ethics many fail to enforce these accepted behaviors.  We still hear about workplace gossip to allowing under productive employees to remain while forcing more productive employees to do even more work.

And worse yet in spite of having more laws, rules and regulations than ever before about how to behave on the job, there seems to be more collisions of workplace culture and business ethics.  Unfortunately, government cannot legislate morality as evidenced by prohibition.  What leaders in business can do is lead by example through their behaviors.

P.S. If you want to read more about this, then check out From Values to Action, a great book on how to lead and unite business actions with ethics.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. 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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Can You Lead You?

Much of the discussion, articles, videos, and books about leadership is about leading others. Possibly there is an existing assumption that leaders can lead themselves.  However from my last 15 plus years of working with even some of the best forward thinking leaders, many have problems leading themselves.  Maybe if they had greater clarity around this question of “Can you lead you?” then they would gain even greater results leading others.

can-you-lead-you

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When leaders have a lack of clarity about themselves, this may lead to an undervaluation of what they know to be true.

For example in the DISC assessment, there are two scores. The first is the natural score respective to how people behave naturally, when they feel they are not being observed or even judged.  Then there is the second score of adaptive. What happens is many individuals engage in some adaptive behavior that reduces their authenticity and creates an undervaluation about their natural behaviors.

The Values Index is another tool to bring clarity to the question of “Can you lead you?”  If you do not have clarity as to what motivates you, then you may be barking up the wrong tree.

Within the Attribute Index, the dimensional balance page and several key talents give further insight as to the question “Can you lead you?”  After assessing nearly 500 individuals using this talent assessment, I have discovered over 98% do not know what they do well, but nearly97% know what they do not do well.  What this means is people have a tendency to overvalue what they do not do well and undervalue what they do well.

To improve your business leadership to sales leadership skills does begin by answering this questions with 100% clarity:

Can you lead you?

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. 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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Top Salespeople Are Driven Above All Else

This is an accepted fact:

top-salespeopleTop salespeople are desired, coveted and stolen by firms that are seeking strategic growth.

A colleague of mine, Mike Kunkle, in one of this postings at LinkedIn Pulse shared “driven” as the number one trait for  top salespeople.  This trait of driven makes sense, but my question is driven to what?

The answer is simple:

Driven to Achieve

Top sales performers focus on achieving, on meeting their own sales goals. They work to get things done according to their own expectations as well as others.

So how do small business owners to sales managers to even those who want to be top salespeople discover and develop this desire of being driven to achieve?

Some may respond look to their track record?  This may be true of proven salespeople. What about those new hires that are in your people pipeline?  Or consider those hidden gems that due to workplace culture and poor to really bad sales managers never had the opportunity to achieve despite their innate desires?

One way is to assess using the Attribute Index and through a separate recap report you can quickly learn if you or your salespeople are driven to achieve.  This capacity is buried within the information retrieved through this particular psychometric assessment.  I discovered this hidden fact when analyzing the results of close to 50 top sales performers who all made at least $100,000 in annual compensation.

Yes there are other psychometric assessments such as the Values Index which looks at what motivates people.  Those with an economic motivator in the top 50% of the six or seven motivators (depending upon the publisher of the assessment) tend to do better than those where the economic driver is in the lower half of the motivators.

Hiring potential top salespeople is in many cases like a crap shoot. Maybe now is the time to put the odds more in your favor by assessing your final candidates before you offer them that position and later discover another costly sales dud.

Learn more about the Attribute Index and take advantage of a special opportunity.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. 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 Honest as to Why You Want Sales Training?

In the US, sales training is big, buck business.  Annually $3.4 to $4.6 billion (according to the Rain Group among others)  is directed toward improving the performance of salespeople. Yet as Rain Group and others have also shared, up to 90% of all sales training fails. I continue to sit back in amazement because the real reason behind “I want sales training” is ignored. Sure sales training fails because:

want-sales-training

  • Scheduling that fails to work with long term cognitive retention
  • Learning objectives that have not been updated in 5 to 25 years
  • Misalignment between job descriptions, actual expectations and marketplace reality
  • Boring lecture (death by PowerPoint) versus interactive learning sessions
  • Too many learning objections without any real world application
  • Misdirected focus on learning instead of development
  • No buy in from sales teams or sales managers
  • Disconnect between the sales team, sales manager and small business leadership

I am sure there are plenty of more reasons.

No, the real reason why sales training fails is because of the want for this:

The Quick Fix

Send people to a one day workshop or half day one and “Wa La” everything will be better! If not, then the problem returns to “Those darn salespeople just didn’t listen after all that money I just spent. I tried to help them and this is the thanks I get!”

What small business owners fail to realize is the quick fix mentality never works especially in business.

When sales are faltering or stagnating, this is usually because of  failed leadership at the top.  These leaders because they have not invested the time to put to writing a comprehensive, goal driven strategic plan are in the role of Captain Wing-It.  The want for sales training becomes another one of their sprayed actions supported by one or more prayers.

Failed-Safe Leadership Counter Acts the Quick Fix Mentality

Additionally since there is no strategic plan, there are no acceptable values (business ethics) being consistently demonstrated. Then the quick fix mentality takes over from failed sales training to do whatever it take to get the order. Sales people continue to flounder or just leave for a better work environment.

For sales training to stick, to provide a sustainable return on investment (ROI), then these two actions must take place:

  1. Small business owners must be honest about the why driving the “I want sales training.”
  2. Sales trainers to sales training firms must be willing to turn down business when they know the “want sales training” is in reality the “desire for the quick fix.”

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. 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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