Archive for June, 2013

Is Your Elevator Pitch Creating the Blah, Blah, Blah Reaction?

elevator-pitchWith small businesses especially those with no employees increasing in numbers each day, so is this common marketing action – the elevator pitch. Yet, having listened to hundreds and probably now thousands of these 30 second to 60 second marketing messages, most leave me with a blah, blah, blah reaction.

The common elevator pitch starts out as follows:

“Hi, my name is…. with (insert company) and we (or I) help…blah, blah, blah.”

What these anxious small business owners to entrepreneurs fail to realize is the following:

  • The purpose of marketing is to attract positive attention and begin to build a relationship
  • Many people have already heard this elevator pitch format especially when the word “help” is spoken
  • The market place is very crowded with all the other gray suits saying basically the same thing
  • Different events or different ideal customers may require a different elevator pitch
  • This is the prime opportunity to differentiate yourself from all those other gray suits
  • People are more interested in WIIFM than you
  • People buy on emotion

Imagine for a moment if your elevator pitch was emotionally compelling and provided some insight as to WIIFM? Do you believe you would be attracting more attention?

Possibly one way to avoid the blah, blah, blah reaction is to start with your results. After you introduce yourself, you may say something like:

My name is…  with (company’s name) and our customers share (or have discovered) – (now insert results).

Your elevator pitch may be the first and only time to attract positive attention. Invest your time to make that first connection emotionally memorable so your potential ideal customer will remember you and not  “oh another one of those, blah, blah, blah)

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is recognized as one of the Top 25 Sales Influencers in 2013 by Open View Sales Labs and can be reached at 219.759.5601 CST.



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Why I Love the Attribute Index

Six years ago in July of 2007, I finally broke down and included a performance appraisal assessment, the Attribute Index, within my practice. For many years, I had employed an organizational assessment, D.I.AL.O.G. that was aligned to Baldrige, but I just could not find the right assessment for individuals.

Attribute-IndexWhat kept me from bringing such a tool into my practice?

Possibly,  it was my background, training and experience as an instructional designer and knowing how good assessments are constructed or aren’t constructed (usually the later). Or maybe it was my penchant for mathematics when it came to reliability and validity scores.  Then it could also have been my own experience in how I could manipulate the results of the numerous performance appraisal assessments I had taken over the years.

Yet I continued to keep my eyes out for such a performance appraisal tool.

  • One that would be short to take, 10 to 12 minutes.
  • One that would be relatively easy to understand.
  • One that would yield robust results.
  • And finally one that I could build upon and unite with other more popular known assessments such as DISC, Values, and even 360s.

Then as the fates would have it, I attended an informational meeting and listened to a presentation about this performance appraisal assessment called the Attribute Index. When I had the opportunity to take it and did not immediately have to ask myself “what role am I in” when taking it, I began to change my attitude and belief about individual assessments. I became a certified consultant for this tool and then later brought other performance appraisal tools into my practice such as DISC Index, Values Index, Emotional Intelligence just to name a few.

The Attribute Index for my clients has been incredibly powerful because of its statistical co-efficients (.92 where others such as DISC or 360s are a .85) and the wealth of information it reveals in just 10-12 minutes.This essence of this tool is it provides clarity from an objective and deductive mathematical perspective compared to the other tools that are constructed subjectively and  inductively.

Having issued hundreds of the Attribute Index assessments during the last six years, I can share these statistics with you:

  • Less than 1% of the recipients know their top talent (there are 78 key talents)
  • 98.4% do not know their top 3 talents
  • 97.9% know one of their lower 3 talents
  • 99.1% rate the overall accuracy of the assessment at least an 8 on a scale of 1-10 with one being low and 10 being high
  • Only two recipients believed the Attribute Index to be “hogwash” [ I cleaned this comment up. 🙂 ]

What is even better is that I can coach from this tool from one to four months.  However what I do is to bring in a new assessment each of the next 3 months if the client is still engaged. This provides a balanced perspective as human beings are not just one dimensional.

Within the debriefing process (60-90 minutes), the Attribute Index creates powerful emotional responses. I have witnessed everything from tears, smiles to sighs of relief. And I consistently hear something like this in almost all engagements:

“I cannot believe that those 2 pages of lists provided such depth and breath of  information about me.”

When my clients begin to have clarity about what they truly do well and recognize in most cases they had been undervaluing their own talents, this provides the needed support as they move forward.  This recognition is probably the single most important reason why I love the Attribute Index because until we know, truly know where we are, we cannot begin to forge a path to where we want to be.

If you would like to read more about this performance appraisal tool, you can find read more on this page on my website.

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Misguided Marketing Messages and Actions Continue Part 1

There appears no end of countless examples of misguided marketing messages. All I must do is open my email In Box and “bam, slam, thank you Maam” I am buried in poor to really bad prospecting efforts. And in some instances after I politely send a return email, I am ignored and receive another, usually worse, prospecting message.


So what makes for these misguided marketing messages to be classified under that broad stroke of the keyboard? Here is one example (I have removed the person’s name and company). From time to time I will share other misguided marketing messages as my goal is for you not to make these mistakes.


I didn’t want to call before dropping you a note. I know how busy you are. If one of the challenges you’re facing today is sales tax collections across the multiple states and locations in which you’re selling products or services, you’re not alone. More and more executives tell us that sales tax calculation, remittance and compliance is increasingly difficult, time-consuming and risky. In fact, many tell us they’re just not sure they’re doing it correctly.

The problem is that more than 15,000 taxing jurisdictions across the nation are in a constant state of flux. In one month alone last year, taxing authorities in 26 states made 257 changes to their sales tax rates and rules. All this has grown to make a tough job even harder.

That’s why I hoped we might speak. My company, XXXX, helps companies like yours easily and inexpensively manage these challenges through our cloud-based sales tax automation service. Companies of all sizes in every industry see immediate benefits using our solution, such as:

  • Automation — Our tax decision engine automatically calculates rates based on 100,000+ taxability rules and instantly applies them to your transactions. No more looking up rates or updating tax tables.
  • Maintenance – No tracking rates, rule changes and tax holidays. XXXX manages the updates, hosts them in the cloud and serves them to your solution in real time, wherever and whenever required.
  • Filing – XXXX  electronically completes and files all your state and local returns.
  • Scalability – Our solution scales to whatever your needs with no costly additional infrastructure, hardware or resources on your end.

Leanne, I hope I’ve earned just a brief phone call to show you how XXXX can help you quickly, easily and inexpensively become sales-tax compliant across-the-board — and more importantly, free up your staff and reduce your audit risk. Please just reply to this email with “Yes,” or call us at (phone number) We look forward to speaking with you and showing you how we drive sales success for hundreds of companies just like yours.



This message sent to: (my email address) You are receiving this because you have used, or are using information from (company’s url)  If you do not wish to receive further information please unsubscribe here.

First, I always look at the sender’s name without reading any of the email.  Then I look to see if this is somehow a list as evidenced by the last two sentences. Next I will scan the first paragraph to see if the sender knows anything about my business or is this just a general issue.  These three quick actions usually place the email in the delete folder.

If you wish to listen to more about misguided marketing,  this conversation between Jonathan Farrington and myself, Leanne Hoagland-Smith, may be of interest to you.

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Read the Local Daily Newspaper To Increase Sales

In meeting with a long term colleague, she mentioned how it is like pulling hen’s teeth to get her sales team to read the local daily newspaper. By keeping abreast locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, salespeople can use this knowledge to their advantage.

increase-salesRecently here in Northwest Indiana we had some severe storms as reported by the local daily newspaper for each community.  Our local utility company had crews out 24/7 to restore power.  Managers from customer service to the inventory warehouse were probably up to their elbows in alligators as the old expression goes.  Calls pitching buy this or that only annoyed these already stressed out decision makers. However calls that said “what can I do to help you?” had the potential to be more well received.

For many local daily newspapers even those with an online editions, they receive numerous press releases about this achievement or that promotion by local business professionals or companies.  Here is another opportunity to connect; to offer sincere congratulations and eventually to increase sales.

In speaking with another colleague, she was surprised as to the lack of political awareness by one of her colleagues. Some say talking politics is not good for small businesses. And that may be true. What I do know is being uniformed about local politics can be potentially devastating to small businesses and may be a serious obstacle to your small business goal to increase sales. Much of this information can be gathered from reading the local daily newspaper.

If you find some difficulty in achieving your goal to increase sales, then invest 5-10 minutes a day to read the local newspaper. Given that so many others fail to take this action, may be all the competitive advantage you need to outshine your competitors.



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Are Your Sales Behaviors Upside Down?

Remember the last business to business networking event you attended. Did you see the salesperson or even small business owner coming up to others, quickly introducing herself, handing out some business cards (probably shoving them would be a more apt description) and then hurrying off to the next victim, oops I mean stranger?


Or how about that most recent voice mail you listened to where the stranger droned on and on about his firm’s expertise and capacity?

Then let us not forget those email messages where the salesperson doesn’t even have the forethought to use your first name.

These are all prime examples of upside down sales behaviors.

With the super majority of small businesses here in the US, having 10 employees or less, these firms do not have a marketing department. In fact, many of their salespeople believe marketing is evil and they are heavens forbid called a marketer. So should we be surprised these individuals start selling before they have established even a fundamental relationship?

Upside down sales behaviors exist because the:

  • Overall sales process is non-existent for these small businesses
  • Focus on meeting sales quotas is way too strong
  • Ignorance as to the purpose of having a sales process

People buy from people they know and trust. The one question each salesperson should ask himself or herself is:

Do my sales behaviors from that very first touch or contact begin to show I want to truly know that person?

Leanne Hoagland-Smith is a heurist who disrupts the status quo by discovering new ways to guide and support rapidly growing small businesses; those who wish to grow beyond their current employees and executives in chaos.  She is recognized as one of the Top 25 Sales Influencers in 2013 by Open View Sales Labs and can be reached at 219.759.5601 CST.


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Social Media Is a Marketing Tool Not Just for B2C – But Also for B2B By Debbie Laskey, MBA

In today’s era of instant communications, social media has been both a positive and a negative element of most companies’ marketing outreach. Companies can respond to complaints in real time thanks to Twitter and Facebook, and in the process, customers who are angry and dissatisfied can become happy customers. However, there are still many companies who have yet to embrace social media as a marketing tool, and their customers are even angrier and dissatisfied – first as a result of the initial problem, and second, because no one on behalf of the company reads their comments and responds in real time.

social media

But what happens when a business has a problem? What does the business do? Well, it turns out that it acts just like individual customers in the business-to-consumer arena. The business uses social media channels, Twitter and/or Facebook, to voice its concerns and then waits just like everyone else for a response and a resolution of its problem.

Recently, an app on my iPhone stopped working. So I sent a message to the founder of the app, and she told me to expect a resolution shortly. Day after day, I checked the app – only to discover that it still didn’t work.

So, I had an idea. I checked the founder’s Twitter feed and noticed something noteworthy. The founder of the app had been tweeting to her vendor, a company that had developed 100,000 apps. In the vendor’s CEO’s Twitter stream, he explained that there had been a power outage and that everything would be working properly soon. He even Tweeted my app’s founder and provided his email address so that they could communicate in more detail.

It was very interesting to see this dialogue transpire in real time. I was able to voice my concerns to one individual, who then voiced her concerns to someone else. My app is now working.

What is the impact of instant communication in our era of social media marketing? The answer is simple: the businesses that respond quickly and resolve situations will be the ones that survive for the long-term. The ones that don’t will be history. So, how soon do you respond to your customers on Twitter and Facebook – whether they are individual customers or business customers?

About the Author

Debbie Laskey has 15 years of marketing experience and an MBA Degree. She developed her marketing expertise while working in the high-tech industry, the Consumer Marketing Department at Disneyland Paris in France, the non-profit arena, and the insurance industry. Currently, Debbie is a brand marketing, social media, employee engagement, and customer experience consultant to small businesses, start-ups, and non-profits in California. Since 2002, Debbie has served as a judge for the Web Marketing Association’s annual web award competition. Follow Debbie on Twitter ( and Facebook (, and visit her blog at

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Sales Leadership The Talent of Leading Others

What is interesting is how some really good to top sales performers fail to appreciate this talent sales leadership talent of leading others. Yesterday when debriefing a new executive coaching client, she indicated that leading others was a non-talent respective to her role as a salesperson. (She had completed a fieldwork exercise where she had ranked her top 3 talents, top 3 non-talents and top 3 weaknesses from an alphabetized list of 78 key attributes.)

sales-leadershipSo is leading others a non-talent for salespeople? I truly do not believe so.

Dan Pink in his book, To Sell Is Human, talks about sales as being movement.  In selling, do we not need to move and then to lead others to a final destination?

What does it mean to lead others? Innermetrix defines this performance talent as “The ability to organize and motivate people to get things accomplished where everyone feels a sense of order and direction.  Effective leadership depends on a fine mixture of capacities that must match the environment in which the manager (or salesperson) is asked to perform, but regardless of that mixture, every leader must be able to gain the trust of others and be able to solve problems among and for the group.”

When the sales coaching client read this definition, she realized that “Yes I do lead others” and it is a necessary sales leadership talent. She then went on to discuss how her solution requires multiple decision makers and input from other groups within the organization.

Then as she read  how her own high score translated respective to this sales leadership talent she received even greater clarity. Since she had high capacity, she agreed she was able to “effectively combine such capacities as empathetic ability, problem solving ability, self-esteem, role confidence and motivating others, into a cohesive approach to guiding others towards a mutual goal.” (Source: Innermetrix)

Finally in discussing some of her challenges with her sales manager, I shared what a low score of the leading others represents that being  lacking empathy and problem solving abilities. My client said that was part of her sales manager’s behavior and part of her challenge to increase sales.

By understanding our sales leadership talents, our non-talents and those attributes that are not as strong as others, we can gain much greater clarity. If you wish to know your talents, then consider learning more about this incredibly powerful sales leadership assessment, The Attribute Index, to provide you incredible clarity.


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In Solution Selling Even a Caveman Can Calculate a Return on Investment”

A posting over at LinkedIn Group asked if the members were witnessing a lack of return on investment (ROI) in solution selling.  This individual was quite taken back by all the dollars being spent without a direct connection to a return on investment.


As a trained instructional designer, I can attest to much of the sales training and even some sales coaching fails to deliver a positive return on investment for a variety of reasons. This failure has also been transferred to many who are engaged in solution selling.  Some of those reasons for that failure are within the control of the salesperson and many are not.

Yet I believe truly top sales performers in solution selling will always present the case for a return on investment provided they did their research and their solutions are not smoking mirrors.

What is really disheartening from my perspective is that a return on investment is fairly easily calculated especially for the majority of small businesses with under 100 employees. Here are some quick ways to ensure any purchased solution delivers a positive return on investment:

  • Promotional mugs or other such products used as a seasonal thank you for business – How many end of the year orders did you receive after delivering the gift? Did the customer buy again in the following year?
  • Use of specialized, custom order cartoon to attract attention. Did the customer take your call? Did you eventually get an order? Stu Heincke demonstrated how his marketing approach delivered a positive ROI in this past blog.
  • Wasted time – 12 minutes of wasted time per day equals 1 hour per week equals 52 hours per year. Using $30,000 as an average salary without benefits, any people or process based solution that saves at least 52 hours generates a return on investment.
  • Employee turnover – Firing one employee and hiring another costs small businesses on average $25,000. By reducing turnover by just 1 person per year saves $25,000.
  • Employee productivity – Research suggests on average one employee in four is actively engaged giving 8 hours of work for 8 hours of pay if not more. Two employees in four are disengaged giving less than 8 hours of work for 8 hours of pay. One employee in four is actively disengaged giving less than 6 hours of work for 8 hours of pay. By moving just one employee out of four into being actively engaged saves 2 hours per day; 10 hours per week; 520 hours per year.

To calculate return on investment  in solution selling begins with the results your solution delivers. The next step is to align and then monetize those results to the current financial costs being experienced by your customer.  By taking this approach, one can appreciate that even a caveman can calculate ROI for solution selling.

Speaking of ROI, have you consider the ROI for your CRM solution.  Did you know with the recent updates to the LinkedIn Contact feature, you now have a free solution that can deliver exceptional ROI. On Thursday, June 27, 2013 from 10-11am CDT, in this webinar LinkedIn Contacts Your Competitive Advantage, you will begin to learn how to leverage this powerful CRM tool. Note: This is a small registration fee ($9.97) as seating is limited.

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Demons, Self Imposed Limitations and Personal Growth

Today in church I listened to the story about a man who was infected with a legion of demons.  Now depending upon the time in Roman history a legion ranged from 3,000 men to 6,200 men.  Needless to say, this poor afflicted man had more than his fare share.


Later driving home, I began to think about the relationship between our thoughts and demons. Research states we have between 12,000 and 70,000 thoughts per day. If many of those are subconscious (estimated at 80-90%)  and have a negative influence, then we also have thousands of demons that are barriers to our personal growth.

For simplicity sake, demons are bad. They restrict us from personal growth that being realizing the good within ourselves, our potential.

Another way to think of those bad thought demons is with this phrase of self imposed limitations. We tell ourselves we cannot do this or that. We think negative thoughts. We allow those bad thoughts or demons to drive our behaviors and thus limit our personal growth.

Personal growth demands we reduce and eventually eliminate those self imposed limitations or those bad demon thoughts. How we do this is not with the swords or chariots used by the Roman Legions, but with our intentional thoughts that drive our conscious behaviors generating our predetermined results.

For all of our personal growth success, starts and ends in the same place, between our ears.


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Effective or Ineffective EMail Marketing? You Decide


Credit to

Several times a day I receive emails from complete strangers wanting me to consider their solutions. The first problem they have with their email marketing is they are complete strangers. There is no relationship. Sales Training Coaching Tip: People buy from people they know and trust.

For example, I recently received this email:

Hi Leanne (this was one of the few employing email marketing to actually use my first name and spell it correctly – Win 2 points)

I know you’re busy so I will be brief. Are you currently contemplating putting your business, website, or creations in a Mobile App? My company, develops custom iPhone, iPad and Android Mobile Applications for companies across the country. (Problem from my perspective is starting essentially the email with the word “I.” This tells me the email is all about him or her. And if I am busy why would I want to communicate with a complete stranger who I do not know and hence cannot trust? – Lose 3 Points)

It’s no secret that there are a lot of advantages in building a mobile application. If you’re an entrepreneur, manage a website, or own a small-business, you can now enter the mobile app space even if you don’t have a big budget, or if you don’t have coding or programming skills. In fact, that’s why I hoped to catch you today. firm’s name, with our XXXX, has become the partner of choice for companies around the country looking to build a leading mobile site or mobile application. (How does he know this to be true for me?  He or she is presuming I share the same value as his or her other clients. Lose another two points)

We pride ourselves on our ability to take our client’s vision and turn it into a mobile reality. Our team also feels strongly about setting expectations and delivering quality, on time, and on budget. We follow a customer-centric approach: we understand your business needs and devise an app that fulfills your expectations. (Blah, blah, blah. Yes I know I am being critical. This is not emotionally compelling. He or she is telling me the same old story. Lose 2 points)

Leanne, if you’d like to see how quickly and cost-effectively we can make your app a reality, let’s talk. Just let me know a day and time this week, or next when you’re free and I’ll get it on the calendar. Again, thanks for your time. I look forward to talking about your mobile app project. (By this point in time, I am not interested as this email is all about him or her and truly there is no desire to support me beyond selling me something.)

So I provided my feedback (a negative 5 points) and how I felt about this email marketing outreach. What do you think? How could he or she improved this email marketing message? Please share your thoughts below.

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