Archive for the ‘business growth’ Category

Time to Move Beyond Increase Sales to a Highly Engaged Sales Culture

So much emphasis is placed on the goal to increase sales.  Then what happens is other aspects of the business are ignored such as excellent customer service to just every day good business ethics (positive core values). What leadership must do is create and sustain a highly engaged sales culture.

Why a Highly Engaged Sales Culture?

A survey from Clutch (a B2B research company) targeted 1,000 US consumers and asked them to respond to one of these three questions regarding United Airlines recent negative PR incident:

  • More likely to purchase a United Airlines ticket
  • Less likely to purchase a United Airlines ticket
  • Unaffected, it doesn’t matter to me either way

The result was 53% of the respondents will not buy from United Airlines. Yes, customers can be dramatically affected by negative PR especially in today’s world of instantaneous video where anyone can record a company’s business practices (think culture) at a drop of a hat.

Where Does a Highly Engaged Sales Culture Start?

As in any forward progress for any organization from the smallest to the largest, it starts with executive leadership. President Harry S. Truman is known for “the buck stops here.” This is where executive leadership must start.

Yes the goal to increase sales is necessary as is profitable business growth. However when the culture of the organization fails to understand everyone is in sales from the CEO to the employee driving the truck to the employee processing invoices, then disasters like the one United Airlines experienced will continue to happen.

Zig Ziglar defined sales as the transference of feelings. Today’s sales culture should be transferring positive feelings to both internal customers (other employees) and external customers (paying customers).

Who Is Responsible for a Highly Engaged Sales Culture?

After executive leadership sets forth the strategic plan and communicates the vision, current mission and positive core values of the organization, then each individual employee is responsible to ensure the culture becomes one of “everyone is in sales.”  Executive leadership must enforce the positive core value.

Yet each employee must consistently act in a manner that reflects those core values. What this means is no gossiping as well as no disrespecting other internal customers or external customers.  The terrible incident at United Airlines reflected a disengaged sales culture as well as a poor executive leadership.

The next question is can your SMB afford 53% of your potential customers not buying from you.

How many lost customers will it take before you begin to embrace an engaged sales culture?

Reach out by clicking here to schedule a time to speak Leanne about your culture and how to develop an engaged sales culture or give her a call at 219.508.2859 MST.

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Misalignment Continues to Be the True Foil Impeding Organizational Success

By now many in the US and all over the world have heard about or viewed the video of the United Airlines passenger being forcibly taken off from the airplane.  Here is a real time example of how misalignment continues to be the true foil impeding organizational success.

As someone who avoids airline travel like the plague because of the hassle, it has been a long time since I actually read the policies stated when purchasing an airline ticket. Yet it is my current understanding, the policies do state that all seats are subject to certain conditions and passengers must follow the requests of airline employees.  Airlines reserve the right to remove passengers if for example the airplane is overbooked.

Where the misalignment reared its ugly head is in the communication specific to the lottery. The lottery was not for ALL passengers as it excluded first class and rewards passengers.(Source: Radio news)

When one reads United’s commitment to its customers (via website), United Airlines the following:

“Our goal is to make every flight a positive experience for our customers.”

This statement which I am presuming is to showcase United Airlines’ commitment to organizational success does not separate customers by first class, business, rewards or coach.  All customers are supposedly treated equal. Yet we now know this is not the case.

Additionally, the CEO “doubled down” on the incident and blamed the passenger.  Yes, the passenger was at fault for not following the policies of the purchased airline ticket.

However. United is not blameless and is in violation of its own commitment to customers. This misalignment will hurt its ongoing organizational success as its recent stock drop of 3.7% resulting in a loss of $830 million.

Misalignment is continues to be one of the true foils (usually undiagnosed) that impedes organizational success regardless of the organization’s size.  For both small to large organizations, often what happens is executive leadership takes a retreating position.  In this case, the CEO blamed the customer instead of addressing the real foil – misalignment.

To learn more about misalignment and its impact on organizational success, I recommended this book Fail-Safe Leadership. It is an easy read and provides questions at the end to prompt further discussion and reflection.

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Maybe Sales Quotas Are Only Part of the 2017 Business Growth Equation?

For the last several weeks to maybe months, sales managers and salespeople are looking to 2017 business growth. Within this annual or quarterly activity is the setting of sales quotas or goals.  However if we believe sales research that  44% of salespeople have an 80% probability they won’t close the sale (Hubspot), then maybe there is something else missing?



With so much dependent upon successfully achieving 2017 business growth (fill in the year or quarter), then doesn’t it make sense to deep dive as to what limited 2016 sales quotas?

Strategic Plan?

Without a well researched and yes time consuming strategic plan, SMB owners, sales managers and salespeople are engaged in the role of Captain Wing It.  You heard about Captain Wing It haven’t you.  He or she goes around spraying all his or her actions all over the place and then prays something will stick.

Goal Setting Process?

Given how many people fail to achieve their own personal resolutions or goals, this suggests there is not formal goal setting process in place.  Think about all those courses you took on Goal Setting 101,

Recruiting, Hiring and Retaining Processes?

Larger firms have improved their recruiting, hiring and retaining processes. In a recent LinkedIn Pulse article, David Brock looks at the dramatic loss of dollars because of these poor retaining processes.

Talent Development?

Much has been written about talent development from the employment of psychometric assessments to executive coaching, leadership coaching or sales coaching.  And yes, return on investment can be measured when specific goals are set provided there is sales culture where organizational alignment exists.

Learn more about the impact of organizational alignment in this book, Fail-Sale Leadership.

Far too often individuals regardless of their roles confuse symptoms with problems.  They also look to obstacles or barriers instead of seeking what is limiting forward progress as in this instance business growth.  Note: A limitation may not be as obvious as an obstacle or barrier.

Reach out to Leanne Hoagland-Smith at 219.508.2859 Chicago USA time or schedule a time on her calendar (CLICK HERE) to have a quick conversation to further explore what is limiting your business growth.


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Sales Today Is Truly a Balancing Act

This morning I received some sales research about customer trends in the financial industry. This particular industry along with many retail businesses has been greatly affected by technology and the changing demographics of customers.



Even though there is an app for that, personal service and interaction with an associate is why 31% of the customers prefer bank branches.  (Source Nielsen 2015 Financial Channel Track) One out of three people still want that human touch.

Balancing the want of 1/3 of the customers with the wants of the other 2/3 is not easy. However, with a greater emphasis in this instance on developing (not train) the tellers or other banking associates, there is an opportunity to change customers’ behaviors. Additionally with the growing threat of security, the 14% who favor face to face interactions may also increase.

The lesson to be learned from this research even if you are not selling financial services is a great percentage of customers still want face to face interactions. People buy from people, not from app or email.  Yes the email may get their attention, but if you do not have the ability to clearly articulate the value when face to face, you will lose the sales opportunity.

Sometimes salespeople forget the goal of marketing is to secure that first, face to face meeting or a scheduled phone call if there is a geographic issue. This is why emails, direct mail, phone calls, face to face meetings as well as social media all become a balancing act to get the attention of the sales leads.

We continue to read about the demise of salespeople and they will not longer be needed.  I truly doubt that and I am always suspicious as to the authors of that prediction. Technology is good up to a point. However, to have sustainable sales growth requires people who build relationships with other people.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is Trusted Authority for Forward Thinking sales culture. She works to close the knowing doing gaps that restrict sustainable business growth. Call her at 219.508.2859 Chicago USA time.

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The Daily and Very Real Sales Quandary of Success or Failure

As a SMB owner or sales professional, do you ever feel this daily and very real sales quandary of being pulled in multiple directions?  Your commitments are many including:


  • Marketing
  • Selling
  • Operations
  • Clients
  • Sales Leads
  • Family
  • Professional Development
  • Personal Development
  • Free Time

Maybe you shake your head in disbelief while wondering how can you accomplish all these commitments?

For me, with writing commitments (marketing and selling) including this blog recently identified again as a top sales blog, LinkedIn Pulse articles, Worldwide Coaching Magazine, NBiz Magazine and my weekly column for the Post Tribune/Chicago Tribune (see Opinions) not too mention my other commitments including face to face prospecting, delivering solutions and continual professional development, I too face this daily sales quandary.

We as SMB professionals have only 24 hours in each day. How we organized those minutes and hours contribute to our success or failure.

If we don’t have clarity of our purpose, values, vision and mission statements written down and in front of us every day, then it is much easier to be facing this sales quandary on a daily basis.

If we lack clarity of our leadership to sales talents, our decision making styles, our temperaments, our communication behaviors, our motivators, standing at this crossroad becomes easier and easier.

If we don’t invest daily time for reflection, again we will be torn in multiple directions.

If we don’t mastermind with others to share our repetitive barriers to sustainable growth, we will continue to be at this crossroad of success and failure.

We are the masters of our destiny.

Whether we think or can or we think we cannot, either way we are right.

Thank you Henry Ford.

Being a SMB owner, entrepreneur or sales professional is not easy.  Multiple demands are made every day. These demands change because of commitments and unexpected opportunities. Possibly the previous 5 statements will bring some clarity to you and support you in facing and then overcoming this sales quandary.

Want to talk?
Click HERE to schedule the time that works best for you.

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Facing The Reality of Letting Go of Business Growth

One of my colleagues, Jim Keenan, wrote a rather descriptive blog about letting go of what others think. (Please note this posting incorporates the “F” bomb.)  His manner of communicating is not mine and that is Okay. However his message about letting go extends into letting go of business growth as well.

Sphere-Of-Control-01Today during a small business masterminding and networking group I was reminded of his recent post.

How much wasted energy is devoted to what we cannot control especially when it comes to business growth?

Why do we continue to fight what we cannot control instead of letting it go?

If keeping something we cannot control is so important, then where is the plan to bring what we cannot control under our influence or better yet our control?

In working with clients, I have witnessed so much effort on focusing on what is beyond one’s control.  I can only imagine if just one-tenth of that wasted energy was redirected what the potential results could be.

Life is indeed what you make of it.  Business growth is the result of what you make of your professional life.

Peter Drucker advocated letting go of business growth through this term abandonment.  What this business strategy did was to challenge everything the business was currently doing.  In other words, executive leadership had to let go of what they believed to be true.

If you wish to achieve sustainable business growth, then maybe it is time for you also just to let go.

Want to schedule a time to talk with Leanne?


Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver for leaders who desire a Forward Thinking Sales Culture. She supports executive leadership in bridging the sales culture gap of people and processes that restricts SMB sales results. If you want to increase sales, then call Leanne at central time USA to solve your disengaged employees and ultimately your disengaged sales culture as well as improve your own sales results. Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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A Tale of Two Clueless Companies – Part 2

Clueless companies come in all sizes.  At one time Ford was clueless when a new CEO dropped the established brand and legacy of the Ford Taurus and renamed it the F-500.  Here is a little history about this vehicle.

clueless-companiesThe Ford Taurus entered the American marketplace in mid 1980s and in 1986 sold over 200,000 vehicles.  This car earned Motor Trend’s Car of the Year in 1986 as well.Sales declined in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

When new executive leadership came in, the new CEO renamed the Taurus as the F-500.  This renaming ignored the customer loyalty and the legacy of this vehicle.  Then in 2007 with another new CEO at the helm of Ford, he immediately brought back the name of Taurus and this trademark vehicle for Ford started gaining sales.

I have shared this story for five reasons:

  1. There is a demonstrated history about new executive leadership coming in and wanting to make changes to put their mark on the company
  2. Ignoring the established brand and legacy within any business is foolhardy
  3. Force feeding loyal customers to accept a new solution just because executive leadership may have had past success in its established business may lead to disaster
  4. Failure to assess the real reason for declining business creates false solutions
  5. Many mergers and acquisitions (M&A) fail because executive leadership usually with large egos does not understand the brand, the legacy,  the culture and the inherent trust

Locally, we have a company that purchased a well known brand with an established legacy.  The new leadership has made significant changes including removing the primary reason why people came to this business as well as significantly increasing prices. Worse yet the primary reason why people came to this business was disliked by the new owner.

Additionally, the new executive leadership has decided to bring into this community an entirely new way to solve their wants and needs.  This particular company has had success with two other businesses (in the same industry) and has decided to expand their business through this M&A into this established brand.

Over the years I cannot count the times I have seen new executive leadership with egos so filled with success they believe than can do anything and customer loyalty will follow.  Once in a while an authentic leader will come into the scene and allow some time (at least six months) before he or she makes any changes.

For example, I personally witnessed this with my local church.  We sought a new pastor.  He came and had some different ideas. Being a 150 year old church built by Scandinavian farmers here in Northwest Indiana, there was a legacy.  Instead of making changes to this legacy within the first six months, he put in place his own personal long range plan where changes were made over several years without damaging or directly challenging the legacy. For anyone who knows about the Scandinavians especially those with Swedish ancestry, they are resolutely stubborn.

He still has more changes to make, but he understands people feel uncomfortable with a lot of change especially when that change appears to be direct assault on their beliefs, their expectations and their feelings.  Also he understood that over time, he could educate the congregation; build trust and people would feel more comfortable about the changes.  The end result is the church is now more financially stable than when he came 10 years ago and the congregational membership is growing through word of mouth.

In speaking with several other successful small business owners regarding clueless companies, we all shook our heads regarding the M&A of this established brand.  We all agreed the name can be changed, the building can be painted, the business model changed, but for the next 20 years all who drive buy this particular building will recall its past business name and how sad it no longer serves the best turkey in the area.

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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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A Tale of Two Clueless Companies – Part 1

Charles Dicken’s fans may remember the beginning lines of his book, A Tale of Two Cities. Dickens wrote “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”


I was reminded of these words when observing two local clueless companies in how they were dealing with their customers.  And the sight was not pretty.  In fact it was quite ugly.  From my perspective with all the information regarding voice of the customer, customer loyalty, cost of acquiring new customers, I am quite incredulous.

The first of the two clueless companies was in the industry of media (journalism).  With the Internet changing how people receive information, many newspapers and other media publications have been struggling to maintain readers. (Part 2 will be posted tomorrow.)

In this particular instance, I was reading an ongoing Facebook posting that had well over 1,500 comments.  The posting started as a complaint about not getting the local newspaper delivered.  Through the ongoing discussion, I learned the following:

  • Rate of pay had been reduced by 50% for the carriers
  • Carriers had to sign a contract
  • The contract could be changed without notification by the paper
  • The carriers had to give 30 days notice or pay fees for cancelling their contract
  • Routes had been changed without rhyme or reason
  • Carriers were delivering more than one paper
  • The paper’s customer service was either not responsive or made false delivery promises

What I also learned is many of the customers were really, really upset.  These were loyal customers for years who now were experiencing bad customer service.  Additionally, the paper appeared not be be phased by these unhappy campers.

Again, the words of Dickens came back to me because for many the Internet has made access to the news the best of time, but for printed publications it now is the worse of times. There is now more wisdom about business growth, customer loyalty, social media, etc. than ever before, yet this publication appeared to engage in a lot of foolishness.

Today is the epoch of belief where businesses should know not to be clueless companies yet we as customers experience incredulity.  There is light in having this knowledge and yet darkness exists because these clueless companies fail to embrace the light.  They continue to live in their status quo world.

Loyal customers do live with hope even with clueless companies.  The social media postings revealed many customers had hoped the service would improve and actually stuck around waiting for that hope to materialize.  Many did become discouraged and did quit sharing their disgust, disappointment and outrage on social media.

The lessons learned are many:

  1. Your workplace culture can make or break your business
  2. Loyal customers can be loyal to a fault
  3. Companies still remain clueless about customer loyalty and workplace culture
  4. Social media can be the Achilles Heel for many businesses
  5. Irony a publication that advocates minimum wage pays it contracted employees (independent contractors) far less than minimum wage

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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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Business Growth Is More Than the Number of Pickles

How many pickles does a Whopper have?  According to a presentation I heard this week, the answer is exactly four.   However Burger King did not significant experience business growth because each Whopper had exactly four pickles.

business-growthBurger King grew because of its brand “have it you way.” This brand was a promise to its customers they could have the Whopper and any other hamburger, the way the customers wanted it.

So often when mid-size to small businesses look for business growth, they tend to focus on the minutiae and fail to realize why their customers buy from them. Customers buy because of your brand.  In many instances, that brand is probably not the brand envisioned by the small business owners.

Brand is simple yet illusive.  As Gus Olympidis CEO and Founder of Family Express recently shared, “brand is not your logo, … not something tangible.” 

“No, your brand is your promise.”

Olympidis should know as his Midwest convenience stores focus on finding people to demonstrate its brand every time a customer enters a store. On each door is this signage “Our Family Serving Yours.” For every person who applies for a position at Family Express, only one is hired.

For those mid-size to small businesses seeking business growth, consider rethinking what your brand really is.  As Burger King and Family Express realized, your brand is what you deliver to your customers.  This is why strategic plans begin with a base strategy to help solidify brand through a competitive advantage of:

  • Commodity Driven Focus
  • Technology Driven Focus
  • Quality Driven Focus
  • Service Driven Focus
  • Customer Driven Focus

Today your challenge the status quo and change it is to rethink what your brand really is.  Look beyond your probably expensive logo or positioning statement.  Think about what promises you make to your customers or clients.  Then think what promises you keep to your customers or clients.

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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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Bad Business Strategy Is Not Your Barrier to Increase Sales

Yesterday I read a posting about how bad business strategy keeps salespeople and mid-size to small business owners from being able to increase sales. Possibly years ago this was more true. Today, this is one of those falsehoods sold by people who sell their consulting services specific to business strategy without acknowledging this reality:

bad-business-strategyThe real barrier to increase sales and business growth is execution. 

Effective execution can overcome bad business strategy.

Today the most common compliant I hear from those in business is about not “things aren’t getting done.”  Those “things” in many instances do not require any business strategy, but rather a workforce where people know how to get things done.

Take a Quick and Very Affordable Pulse Check On Your Business Results

Bad execution not bad business strategy is truly the primary obstacle to business growth including increase sales.

To improve execution  simply starts with a shared tool that delineates who does what by when.  Believe it or not this shared tool is a goal setting worksheet.

Once a decision is made as to what must get done (the goal), then the importance of achieving that goal (execution) must and I stress must be emotionalized.  People are creatures of emotion.  To ignore emotion in this process of getting things done is a big mistake.

The Results Tool™ Is a Unique Goal Setting Worksheet.

Other elements within this goal sheet should include past assessment results. Many employees have undertaken well known psychometric assessments such DISC, Values, 360 to other not so well known and even more effective including the Attribute Index (AI). The results of these assessments should not be buried in some drawer. They can be powerful tools to improve business growth as well as to increase sales.

Good business strategy in many instances comes after effective execution.  We see this from many entrepreneurs who started with a dream and no strategy.  They just got thing done.

Later leveraging their business growth, these individuals started to be more strategic in their business activities, but getting things done was always the driver to their success.

If you are having challenges specific to business growth or increase sales, then consider stepping back and asking yourself where the real barrier is.  You just may find out that barrier is execution.  Even the best business strategy without effective execution will become another bad business strategy.

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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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People buy results or rather people buy the feelings the results deliver.

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