Archive for October, 2013

Business and Personal Ethics Trick or Treat?

Today is Halloween and many will hear knocks on their doors with the all too familiar “Trick or Treat” being spoken by young children dressed in scary costumes. Sometimes those in small business may feel that this trick or treat is happening more than just one day a year respective to business and personal ethics.

business-and-personal-ethicsIf  people buy from people they know and trust especially small business owners, when their vendors disappoint them because of failed business and personal ethics it makes selling much more difficult for the next person. Possibly this helps to explain why 90% of all earned sales happen between the fourth and 12th contacts.

For example as someone who works within the two realms of talent management and organizational development, I communicate with my clients with extreme crystal clarity as to the potential outcomes or results.  If I believe there may be significant challenges outside of my control, I inform my small business clients of those challenges from resistance to change to inconsistency respective to employee behaviors.

For me, business and personal ethics are one and the same as I am a one person shop, a sole proprietor.

My word is my bound.

If I believe my solutions will not correct the problem and provide a positive return on investment, I will decline the sales opportunity and if possible make a recommendation to someone who is better suited. A lost sales is always better than an unhappy client from my perspective.

A recent small business sales lead referral informed me that his firm invested $100,000 in a business consulting firm that had a national 5-star reputation and now this 80 year old business is defunct. One of the mantras of this consulting firm was its solutions could “double results.” For most small businesses, that is not much of a reach. With some marketing actions, I can double website visitors to sales leads.

When I wrote Be the Red Jacket, the second chapter was entitled “Unlock Your Values.”  I believe that business and personal ethics must be clearly defined before any other aspects such as sales skills or vision and mission statements.

If you wish to gain sustainable results for such as increase sales to customer loyalty, make sure your sales leads to your customers believe your business and personal ethics are always a treat and never a trick.

Read the reviews for Be the Red Jacket at Amazon.

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Are You One of The Soulless Sales People?

Years ago it was said “those who do, do; those who don’t teach.”  With so many in sales positions not achieving their sales goals, walking or running around like zombies or ghouls, one has to wonder if some of these individuals have indeed become the soulless sales people.

soulless-sales-peopleWhen I looked up the word “soul” in my Webster’s 7th Edition New Collegiate Dictionary, I was surprised to read this one definition:

“b: a moving spirit : Leader”

This meaning may suggest soulless sales people lack a moving spirit and are not leaders.  We may hear them mouth the words of their sales solutions, but our intuition senses there is no authentic, passionate energy behind those words.

Soulless sales people are not bad persons.

They are in many cases in the wrong roles or positions.

Or possibly as past sales leaders they have failed to adapt to today’s changing marketplace?

This failure to change has drained their spirits and their sales leadership capabilities.

They have lost the fire in their bellies, complacency has stepped in and living in the past or the current status quo is much easier than forging new paths, new ways of marketing, selling and leading.

Technology may also be partially to blame for increasing the number of soulless sales people.  Some in sales now believe by stroking the keyboards they can increase sales, improve business growth and ultimately have a thriving small business.

Then maybe you are not one of the soulless sales people and good for you.

However when you begin to lose your moving spirit, the fire in your belly, your self leadership and sales leadership skills, then consider remembering this article so that you never, ever, turn into one of those soulless sales people.

Happy Halloween!

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 career 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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The Square Peg in the Round Hold Sales Training Dilemma

Can we have a forthright conversation that the business world has changed and specifically the most pressing sales training dilemma?  Gone are the days when the big guys drove the local to regional to national business. Today’s marketplace is filled with thousands of medium to small business (SMB) many (97.7%) of which have under 20 employees. (Source: US Census Bureau).  For them spending any dollar is critical.

sales-trainingEnter social media that provides opportunities for complete strangers to build relationships with potential vendors to strategic partners. These unknown sales leads “lurk” in the shadows reading what is posted and over time begin to feel like “I know that person” and “I trust that person.”  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  People buy on emotions (feel) first then justified their buying decision with logic.

Yet so much of the sales training coaching advice from books to webinars to workshops to actual training focus on what worked (best sales practices) in landing those big buck contracts with those big companies. These experiences may be good and also may be the obstacle to sales success with the SMB firms.

This change in the marketplace has created the square peg in the round hold sales dilemma.  Do I listen to the sales training experts and their best sales practices or do I not? Frankly, what I know to be true is today’s world is more about authentic relationships than anything else and these relationships begin with marketing.

Sure you can dial for dollars as the insurance companies advocate or knock on doors (cold calling) and secure some SMB sales success.  Yet my clients tell me they receive ten to hundreds of voice mails and emails weekly that they frankly ignore.

Today’s SMB sales professionals must master the entire sales process and not just the selling phase:

  1. Marketing – attracting attention
  2. Selling – earning the sale
  3. Keeping – maintaining the client relationship

Gone are the days when businesses had their own marketing department. No longer can businesses afford to keep a customer service department just focused only customer relationships.

And as this SMB marketplace continues to evolve, sales training (the selling phase) will take a back seat to marketing and keeping.  However in the meantime, the square peg round hole dilemma will continue for SMB owners and salespeople.


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Sales Leadership Talent of Project Scheduling

With the role of salesperson continuing to evolve, the sales leadership talent of project scheduling may become even more important especially for those salespeople who sell services such as executive business coaching, sales training, organizational development or change and talent management. So how does one define project scheduling and more importantly measure it?

project-schedulingInnermetrix defines project schedule as:

“The ability to understand the proper allocation of resources for the purpose of getting things done within a defined time frame.  This capacity will include the ability to minimize dependence on one critical function of production.  It will also include identifying alternatives in work tasks and maximizing the physical facilities available.”

As in any sales leadership talent, this skill is not isolated as it requires critical thinking skills such as schematic and conceptual thinking along with the skills that support effective time management. Those who demonstrate this capacity “can effectively allocate resources in an effective way so as to maximize their efficiency.  They can make the best use of time; not wasting or allowing resources to sit idle.” (Source: Innermetrix)

Salespeople who have trouble with this sales leadership talent may demonstrate some “difficulty in dealing with the complexity of satisfying multiple demands with a limited number of resources in a limited amount of time.” (Source Innermetrix)

Yes the role of the 21st century salesperson continues to change and expand into new areas of responsibility. When this fact is accepted, then those who wish to be top sales performers will expand their sales skills to include talents such as project scheduling.

The Attribute Index measures this sales leadership talent and takes less than 12 minutes to identify this talent and 77 other ones.

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Is Your SMB Car In the Right Sales Lane?

Most major highways have 3 lanes for traffic, the fast, medium and slow.  Just imagine your medium to small business (SMB) also having 3 sales lanes respective to your sales process, your sales leads and even your business growth.

salesPossibly why you may be having some small business growth challenges including the ability to increase sales is because you are driving your SMB car in the wrong lane?

With the end of the year fast approaching, many SMB salespeople are in the fast lane attempting to increase sales through a lot of meeting and greeting. However maybe they should reassess and determine if in their hurry they are zipping by their customers because they are shortchanging the sales process. Now is not the time to be playing “increase sales” catch up.

Also their SMB may not be in this third stage of business growth – transformational, but still in turn on (think start up) or transitional stage.

The medium speed lane can be associated with the second stage of business growth for SMB having less than 50 employees. Here the goal is to speed just a little faster than the posted speed limit and to keep up with traffic. When driving in this lane it is much easier to slow down and move into the slow lane for those new sales leads or over into the fast lane where your existing customers or referrals may be driving.

As to the slow lane, this is for younger businesses and especially those with under five employees. Here slow and steady wins the race. This is not the time to violate the 3 phase sales process:

  1. Marketing to attract attention
  2. Selling to earn the sale
  3. Keeping to maintain existing customer/client relationships

Sometimes when we in small business are in hurry up mode, this suggests we have not followed our action plan and made those course corrections earlier in the year. Sure many of us want to be in the fast lane, yet maybe now is a time for a reality check so that next year you will not be in fast lane speeding by your customers.

If you do not have a simple goal driven action plan, then Triage Business Planning may help you slow down so you can speed up.





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Memorable Marketing Makes Money

As I have written countless times, the purpose of marketing is to attract attention and begin to build relationships.  And the goal is to make a friend and to be asked back for that essential, down to business, first one on one meeting; have your potential customer walk through your brick and mortar store or give you a call. When marketing is memorable, meaning you have created an emotional connection with your target audience, you will make money.

memorable-marketingThe question is how do I make my marketing memorable for my small business?

First, the answer to that questions must be separated into these two marketing areas:

  1. Inbound marketing such as content marketing through social media and sales referrals
  2. Outbound marketing such as direct mail, advertising, business to business networking and branding reinforcement through business cards to promotional items.

Second, both inbound and outbound marketing efforts must be integrated and reinforce each other. Sales Training Coaching Tip: An education based marketing approach further unites these two marketing areas.

The final aspect is to have a clearly defined sales process with specific smart goals for marketing, selling and keeping.

Maybe this is why so many medium to small businesses (SMB) are looking to custom promotional items to strengthen their memorable marketing message through differentiation. There are many small businesses who provide such custom promotional items such as  Quality Logo Products. From office mugs to thumb drives to even pens, your small business name to logo is now in front of your potential ideal customer or target market 24/7. With a little creative marketing copy to further differentiate your small business and some out of the box thinking, custom promotional items provide you the opportunity to create top of mind awareness (TOMA). Sales Training Coaching Tip:  Marketing research suggests to have TOMA requires 33 touches annually.

Of course, memorable marketing takes money and as the old expression goes “it takes money to make money.” This is why having a written business action plan with a financial budget is so critical to small business marketing success. Through forecasting to monitoring, you can invest in custom promotional items that will reinforce your brand while differentiating you from your competitors.  Sales Training Coaching Tip:  When marketing is memorable, it is an investment not a cost.

As you are planning your 2014 marketing budget, possibly now is the time to identify those custom promotional items that may propel your small business ahead of the flow in 2014. When done well, memorable marketing makes money and that belief needs to be infused into your small business.



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One Quick Tip to Demonstrate Sales Leadership

So you want to be recognized by how you demonstrate sales leadership?

demonstrate-sales-leadershipYou want to stand out in the crowd, to Be the Red Jacket in that sea of gray suits?

Yet, sometimes you still feel you are one of the many instead of one of the few in how you demonstrate sales leadership.

What I have learned is people are busy, very busy even crazy busy.  They have trouble remembering the schedule for the rest of the week less alone what happened yesterday or last week. Doesn’t it make sense to take their time troubles and turn them around especially when you are equally as busy.

Most in sales leadership roles use some sort of customer relationship management (CRM) system or program where they type into the database what happened on each sales call. This information allows them to remember what transpired and what actions they may have promised to take.

Since the customer relationship information is already there, why not re-purpose those notes into an executive summary for the sales prospect, sales lead or qualified prospect? With free shareware programs such as Cute PDF Writer, files are easily converted into PDF format and then can be quickly emailed.

If you think this is a waste of time, it isn’t. This past week I received several comments about the executive summaries with one sales prospect stating “Wow, very thorough…. I see how you made that top 25 list, ha.”

By investing the additional 5 minutes to demonstrate sales leadership and that is all it takes to capture the key points of the meeting does differentiate you and that could be just enough to give you a competitive advantage.

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Strategic Thinking and Marketing Is a Brave New World

Years ago Aldous Huxley wrote a book entitled Brave New World. Given all the changes specific to strategic thinking and marketing, it appears there is another brave new world emerging. However this new business world will be populated by a select group of salespeople who effectively execute the sales process through the lens of both strategic thinking and marketing.

strategic-thinking-and-marketingMarketing has always been part of the sales process. Yet, many salespeople do not want to be viewed as marketers as their is some negative, almost “carny” feel associated with that word.

However, if you as a salesperson cannot attract attention, you will remain pocket poor. With 97.7% of all companies having less than 20 employees, the dedicated marketing departments no longer exist. Outsourcing to marketing firms is dependent upon the disposable capital.

The limitation of dollars is what prompting more and more strategic thinking. President Dwight Eisenhower said “Plans are useless; planning is everything.”

Planning is all about strategic thinking.  Some in sales are Okay with this capacity that is comprised of many individual talents such as:

Yes the business world is changing and a brave new world has come. Strategic thinking and marketing will become more and more the responsibility of salespeople especially those who want to be top sales performers.

The question is:

Are you ready?

If you are not working on becoming ready right now, you may end up behind the flow of those who are ready.

Want to know your other 75 talents that may propel you ahead of the flow? Then learn more about the Attribute Index.

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That’s Not Me or Is It?

How many times do we read something or observe something and almost instinctively say to ourselves “that’s not me.”

not-meDo we actually know how others perceive us?

Do we understand the emotions of others?

Have we taken the time to understand ourselves, our decision making styles and our talents?

This past week I demonstrated what some might perceive as uncharacteristic  behavior within a local small business to business networking  group.

I had made a conscious decision if one of our members started down a path of “I don’t understand” or “I don’t have time” I was going to be firm, respectful and simply tell that individual I did not want to hear of the excuses why action was not taken regarding this one repetitive issue being experienced.

After hearing the same statements from this particular person over the last 12 months and listening to offers made by others to assist this small business owner, it was time to take action. To not take action was disrespectful to the other members of this small business to business networking group as we only meet for 60 minutes and a six minute same old tune different day soliloquy  was wasting precious time. Also I had already spoken privately with this member and offered numerous resources both free and paid.

Now years before that I probably would have reacted unconsciously and made the same remarks because at that time I was in “that’s not me” behavior.

However the last 10 years I have been consciously working on the “that’s not me” reactive mental thought.

This self-reflection has resulted in me not being as quick to make a comment, not as quick to criticize or make some judgmental or even sarcastic remark.

Yes I have bitten my tongue both literally and figuratively during this process as changing an ingrained behavior is difficult.

The flip side of this self-reflection is now when I make what is perceived as a negative remark I do so without anger or sarcasm. Yet as a leader within the existing community and we all are leaders within a variety of communities, it is my responsibility to say something especially when other members of the community are having the same repetitive feelings and thoughts, but for whatever the reason reluctant to take action.

Possibly this is why emotional intelligence within business leadership is so crucial?

As to my experience, I know my stand of “I don’t want to hear” hurt the feelings of the person who was complaining. Possibly upon reflection this individual may come to understand why I consciously behaved so uncharacteristically and come to understand “that’s not me” reflection in the mirror or is it? What I do know is that after I spoke the other members of the group had a sign of relief on their faces because they were not going to hear that same old tune different day soliloquy.

P.S. The Attribute Index is a great assessment to discover one’s own decision making styles to identifying 78 key talents.



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Same Old Tunes Different Day Soliloquy

Are you singing the same old tunes different day soliloquy?  Regardless if the economy is good or the economy is bad or someplace in between there is a lot of singing that sounds more like whining going on within the small business marketplace.

same-old-tunesHow many times have you heard or even said to yourself:

I don’t have time?

I have to ….?

Sure, I should have or could have done that?

Are you now starting to hear some of these same old tunes playing in the record player called your mind?

Human beings because they are creatures of conditioning (much of it negative)  play many of these old tunes and they create the following result:

Self Imposed Limitations

The answer is simple to stop yourself before your same old tunes cause deafness in others and worse yet immobilize you so you are stuck in that same old groove, singing that same old tune and no one is listening to your small business.

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