Archive for August, 2014

Courageous By What Criteria?

The word courageous has appeared quite a bit lately from the Christians on the mountain top in the Middle East to the journalist, James Foley,  who was beheaded. This past week in a conversation with a client he shared that another person called him “courageous” for a somewhat public action he took. His comment to me was “Being beheaded is courageous…what I did what I believed I needed to do.”

courageousLast Sunday during our adult Bible study/forum, we talked about if each of us had the moral courage to face death like the early Christian Martyrs.  Most of us would like to believe we have such internal courage, but probably would not know until that moment in time.

Beyond being martyred, what is the criteria for courage?

In my conversation with my colleague, I mentioned that possibly what the other person meant was “Hey dude, you are probably going to lose money and that takes guts.”

So often I observe people not being courageous because they do fear the loss of money or influence.  Instead these individuals would rather continue to quietly affirm the emperor is naked rather than speak out. The loss of the almighty dollar now appears to be a criteria for courage. Is that not sad?

How often do business people stay silent when it comes to politics because they fear alienating their customers?  Translation is the loss of money. Maybe if more business people had the moral courage to stand up during the last 20 plus years we would not be facing the serious problems we are in the United States.

When I was a public school teacher, I was approached by some of the other teachers who had an issue with my forward thinking instructional approach that actually improved grades and student engagement.  When their illogical arguments failed as most illogical arguments due, they told me “Well, we won’t be your friends.”  My reply was “I thought we were all here to educate children first, not make friends.”  When I shared this conversation with my teacher/mentor, I remember her using the word “courage.”

My old Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary defined courage as coming from the Latin word, cor, meaning more at heart. Other synonyms for courage include: mettle, spirit, resolution and tenacity along with this final comment “unwillingness to admit defeat.” The word courageous is characterized by someone having courage.

Maybe the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz needed more heart instead of a medal?

As to the question that started this posting, well that can only be answered by each of us in our own way.

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Your Personal Commitment to Change Is?

Change or more importantly sustainable change requires a personal commitment.  This is just as true for self improvement as it is for sales people seeking that next buyer.  If the buyer is not committed to change, the likelihood of that sale being earned has been greatly diminished.

personal-commitmentConventional wisdom has suggested  people change more to avoid the pain than to secure the gain. In the book Change or Die, the author’s research disputed that conventional wisdom because facts, force or fear did not change people’s behavior.  Open heart surgery patients go back to their bad behaviors (unhealthy behaviors) that contributed to the heart disease. Absent employees continue to be absent even with threats of closing the manufacturing plan which did eventually close.

Until people are truly committed to change, they will stay with the current status quo even if the current status quo sucks. There is an internal resolve to no longer accept the status quo no matter how hard the going gets.

Personal commitment is not easy and in many instances demands tough choices and hard decisions.  I am always reminded about how the “chicken is involved” and the “pig is committed” when I think of how committed am I to one of my decisions.

Mahatma Gandhi said:

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

To be that change requires an extreme commitment on your part. The question is “How committed are you?”


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Do You Really Want to Be the King of the Mountain?

In my childhood days, there was a game called “King of the Mountain.”  For those not familiar with this game, the goal was to stay on top of a small mound of dirt or hill of snow.  The child who was successful in “dethroning” the child on top of the hill became the new “King of the Mountain.” This game sometimes became very intense with a lot of shoving, pushing and pulling going on without any thinking about long term impact. Children did become injured and therein lies the problem.

king-of-the-mountainToday, this game is still being played by many in small businesses to even the larger ones. They (those in leadership roles) will do whatever it takes to stay on top, to be “King” or “Queen”  of the Mountain. Other small businesses as well as individuals may be harmed by the “whatever it takes”  unethical behaviors or question business ethics.

Of course there are some leaders who see these questionable or unethical behaviors and may stay silent because these small business folks do not want to lose any sales or  potentially insult someone. Internal justification now sets in and then the “wink and the nod” behavior takes over.

How many times do we observe questionable business ethics directed to others and then think the following:

“Well, I never experienced that behavior?”

Possibly we think ourselves immune from those unethical behaviors ever being directed to us.  Just remember time does level the playing field and eventually most individuals will be caught up in these “King of the Mountain” behaviors.

Good leaders realize that sometimes they must step out of the game and call the fouls. Of course, they do risk some push back by their fellow colleagues and even customers or clients. However at the end of the day, these leaders realize it is how you play the game that counts especially when no one is looking.

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Corporate Culture Is the Result of Leadership

Earlier this week I saw a social media post about some so called business expert leaving the airport to teach some Fortune 500 firm “corporate culture.”  My first reaction is not printable here. However, my second reaction was “you can’t teach corporate culture because that is the result of good, bad or mediocre leadership.”  The third thought was “more wasted training dollars looking for the quick fix.”

corporate-cultureThere are a plethora of definitions regarding corporate culture. For me, I believe it is the sum total of all the behaviors demonstrated toward other members of any organization. Behaviors are the outward reflection of inner beliefs.  Since most beliefs (thoughts) are 80-90% unconscious or hidden like an iceberg, this means most behaviors are 80-90% unconscious. The predominate unconscious behavior is why corporate culture cannot be taught.

Pretty simple isn’t it?

And yes this is not rocket science.

What can be taught or better yet developed is effective leadership. For it is answerable leadership at all levels that allows good to bad behaviors to flourish.

Leadership development starts with a process where initial beliefs are identified and put on public display. There is a shared discussion about what behaviors are acceptable and what behaviors are unacceptable.  Then leadership is 100% responsible for ensuring acceptable behaviors are acknowledge and unacceptable behaviors are also acknowledged.

What happens for many small business to even larger ones, there is never any discussion about acceptable behaviors.  If the leaders in charge would invest the time to go through a strategic planning process, they could construct a positive core values statement of positive core beliefs and then share that positive core values statement.

In book Fail-Safe Leadership, the authors provided a quick temperature checklist or leadership audit which was a reflection of corporate culture.  Some of the warning signs of a leadership problem was “excessive meetings” to “cover your behind mentality.”

If you want to improve your corporate culture, begin with these 5 tips:

  1. Create or revisit your positive core values
  2. Communicate your positive core values
  3. Hold everyone including top leadership accountable for unacceptable behaviors
  4. Implement a leadership development process for everyone in your organization starting at the top
  5. Don’t seek the quick fix by a 1, 2 or even 3 day training on corporate culture.


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In Sales Are You Doing the RIGHT Math?

Doing the math is essential in sales. What I have learned is sometimes salespeople fail to do the “right math.”

salesWhat is the right math you may be thinking?

Actually the right math involves these 3 factors and 3 separate computations:

  1. Return on investment (ROI) for the customer or client (financial impact of the solution compared to the dollars invested)
  2. Impact on customer’s and vendor’s short term profitability
  3. Impact on customer’s and vendor’s long term profitability

Return on Investment (ROI)

From my experience, ROI is not difficult to compute. In many instances, the issue is the desire by the salesperson to make that computation. Sometimes, the inability to do this ROI math is the direct result of not having enough fact finding information or crystal clarity regarding the desired results to be achieved.

Impact on Short Term Profitability

Beyond the ROI, there is impact of any solution on short term profitability. Some salespeople will do the “profit math” for their customers as well as themselves, but will forget about the vendor, their own firm that signs their paychecks.  Additionally,there are businesses both super large and small that tell salespeople to do anything to get the order even if it means losing profits.

Impact on Long Term Profitability

In 2003, McKinsey released some valuable information regarding pricing and discounting.  Their research revealed that a 1% increase in price increased profitability by 8% while a 1% increase in sales volume increased profitability by only 3%. Salespeople must be cognizant of the impact of pricing on profits for their own firms. Additionally, a 5% decrease in price required an additional18% sales volume just to maintain current profit levels.

Sometimes salespeople only look at the surface impact on profitability because they again failed to do their fact finding research. By investing the time to take a broader viewpoint may yield additional math impact. What may happen is the smart salesperson may actually up sell beyond the original proposal.

Additionally, pricing impact for the customer extends beyond the hard math numbers. For example, what “good will” has been created through the solution? Customer loyalty based upon current buying history is another factor to consider. What is the long term profit value of a client?

Yes doing the “right math” is essential in today’s business world. And does require a greater commitment on the part of each sales team member. Now is not the time for the quick and easy if you are in sales.


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Sales Leadership Temperament of Compulsive Part 25

If you want to hire a top sales performer, then probably from my experience this internal temperament of “compulsive” is your best bet.  All of the six figure salespeople I have coached, without exception, have this same internal temperament.  These individuals all share these biases:


What these biases tell us is these individuals are “driven to achieve.” In sales or in any other role, if you are not “driven to achieve” then you will be left behind. (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

The negative self-esteem or people bias reflects an undervaluation of the individual’s “own unique self-worth.”   This negative feeling bias (people) when combined with the positive practical thinking (doing) and positive self direction (thinking) allows those in sales leadership roles to redirect their efforts to “achieving and getting things done correctly” and in accordance with their own expectations as well as the expectations of others. (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

Salespeople with this compulsive internal bias are good doers and thinkers.  Additionally the negative self-esteem bias does not restrict these individuals from being very “comfortable in social situations.”  They will still display self confidence even though they may undervalue their own unique self-worth. (Source: Innermetrix Attribute Index)

In today’s very busy sales environment, those in sales leadership roles must be also very well organized. This internal temperament of “compulsive”  suggests these individuals are for the most part well organized.

By having clarity around our decision making styles and the biases (our temperaments) associated with those decision making styles along with the 78 key attributes, is probably the best first step to take when looking to improve the results of your sales team or your own.  Not knowing this information is very much like shooting an arrow blind folded. The question to be answered is:

How many opportunities are you missing?

If you want to know if you have this sales leadership bias of compulsive, then take this quick 10-12 minute talent assessment. You will definitely be surprised by the amount of information and more importantly by the accuracy.

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Does Your Content Marketing Smell?

The sense of smell is incredibly powerful.  Have you considered this sense respective to your current content marketing efforts? By the way, did you know the sense of smell is the only sense that goes directly to the brain without passing through the thalamus? ((Thanks to Brain Rules for that tidbit.)

content-marketingSure, literally no one can smell your attracting efforts via the various social media channels. Yet, with all the self-promotion, repetitive, poor to actually painfully boring content marketing there appears to be an odor something akin to Limburger Cheese or dead fish wafting through cyberspace.

With a little effort, this smelly marketing can be reversed.  The first action is to understand marketing is not selling. Your goal here is to attract attention and begin to build a relationship.

The second action requires some pre-planning and research. Consider subscribing to some content aggregators such as Google Alerts or Smart Briefs. These resources provide a plethora of  fresh content to infuse into your writing efforts.

Third, write what you know about. Educate your intended ideal customer or target audience in an emotionally engaging and fun style.  Sometimes it may make sense to take a contrary position and give a different perspective. For example in this  LinkedIn article, The Madness of Fads in Sales and Leadership,   I noted how the current fad of the Ice Bucket challenge may cause some long term harm.

Fourth, remember to include a picture as people reads words, but think in pictures. Your picture should reinforce the overall message of your writing. Additionally from my limited understanding of SEO, the robots love pictures.

Fifth, keep your message short so it may quick read or scanned.  Articles over 500 words on a regular basis may be too much for your readers.  We live in an on the go society and your target audience prefers quick, short and informative information. Look at many of the popular books. They can usually be read during a two hour plane trip.

Sixth, build a community of quality content marketing contributors. Share each others’ efforts. You do not have to agree with their positions because not everyone will agree with yours and that is okay. Through this sharing you are building even more credibility and revealing your knowledge and understanding extends way beyond your own nose.

Seventh, do not sell.  Yes I know I said that before, but it bears repeating.  Feel free to include a call to action at the end of your marketing message or better yet ask your audience “How do they feel?” or to “share their experiences” about a certain topic.

By the way, how do you feel when you are continually being pitched?  Why would your readers or subscribers be any different? If your content marketing is exceptional, addresses one or more of their current challenges, they will reach out to you.

P.S. Remember, no one likes day old fish. Your efforts need to be fresh and your own.

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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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