Posts Tagged ‘strategic plan’

Where to Begin to Increase Sales

Finding the beginning to increase sales is viewed as easy, but not really.  Many SMB owners, sales managers and even salespeople skip the most essential and critical first step.


By assessing where the SMB is through a thorough and well researched strategic plan should have already taken place.  Yet from my experience, the vast, super majority of SMBs do not have a strategic plan.  No, many have opted for the quick fix and hired some marketing firm to write their mission statement that is usually beyond poor and does nothing to create an engaged sales culture.  Actually what happens is just the opposite – a disengaged sales culture.

Read this article about Misguided Mission Statements

Think about a recent visit to your physician when you complained about a stomach pain or a headache.  Did your doctor immediately schedule you for surgery without taking any “vitals”?  No, what he or she did was to assess you through a series of diagnostic tests. What would have happened if the doctor scheduled you for immediate surgery?  Would you quickly running for the door seeking a second opinion?

So why in the world would you initiate any plan or action to increase sales without first assessing what is happening not only to your firm as it relates to the:

  • Outside world?
  • Internal world (think sales culture)?
  • Talents of individual salespeople?

Learn more about assessing your sales culture through – D.I.AL.O.G – a PROVEN organizational and cultural assessment.

Assessing is actual the first step to gain clarity as to why your SMB has not been successful in its goal to increase sales.  To embark upon any activity is really all about gaining clarity to ensure each action is both efficient and effective.

How often do people both in the business world and their own personal lives fail to track the right things to produce the right results to avoid misdirected actions and misguided decisions?

Possibly the rush to take action before engaging in any assessment is because people are conditioned to reactive behavior instead of proactive behavior.  They rush around like the White Hare from Alice in Wonderland.  Always late for a very important date.

If you truly want to increase sales, then start with this first step – assess. 

P.S.  Remember forward thinking doctors or leaders usually don’t self-diagnosis. It may make sense to seek an outside pair of eyes.

Reach out and grab a time to speak with me, Leanne Hoagland-Smith, to discuss how to improve your business results including sales.

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Aim Small Miss Small Sales Mindset

With all the focus on social selling, there appears to be a different sales mindset emerging and not a necessarily good one.  I was reminded of this when reading a LinkedIn article by Jeb Blount entitled “Social Selling Is Not a Panacea.”



One of the problems with this concept of social selling is it creates a lack of clarity and focus.  The salesperson is aiming at a much bigger target, the various social media sites, and thus misses big.

As Jeb shared in his $10 bet  with a new hire, he was far more successful just by dialing and actually converted two of the sales calls. In comparison the new hire converted no one.

When a salesperson has an aim small miss small sales mindset, he or she has enhanced his or her clarity to the point of it being crystal clear.  Missing the target is no longer supported with a hope and a pray. “I hope I make a sale.”

BAR – Beliefs Drive Actions Generating Results

To have such a sales attitude because attitudes are indeed habits of thought (Zig Ziglar) requires a strategic plan from which the market to the ideal customer have been clearly identified. These beliefs drive the actions (behaviors) generating the results (increase sales).

ACE – Assess – Clarify – Execute

Such a sales mindset begins with assessing not only the business, the industry, but the salesperson as well. From that collected data, there is the opportunity to clarify the necessary objectives and strategies. Next step is executing those strategies.

Feel -Know – Do

To complete this aim small miss small mindset, the salesperson must connect to the buyer.  What does he or she want the buyer to feel?  Obviously to create this environment, the seller must know what the buyer is feeling. Here the focus is on the buyer and not on the seller.

Then what does he or she want the buyer to know? Possibly because the buyer has conducted some research, the buyer may already know something about the seller.  Yet here is the real opportunity to explore the wants and needs of the buyer.

Finally what does the seller want the buyer to do?  In simple sales talk, this is a call to action.  This action could be a simple of having a coffee visit to scheduling a more formal meeting.  Adding the person with permission to an email list such as a newsletter is another call to action.

I believe in what Zig Ziglar said years ago “Sales is the transference of feelings.”  When that transfer is successful and when the seller has demonstrated his or her ability to connect to the value drivers of the buyer, then there is far greater likelihood to increase sales.  Of course if you are looking for the quick fix or what Jeb calls “panacea,” you may be sorely disappointed.

Want to talk with Leanne Hoagland-Smith about how to improve your sales mindset?  CLICK HERE to schedule a conversation.

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The Forgotten Word in Social Media

Social media has taken front and center stage in the B2B marketplace.  Yet as another report, the 2016 State of Social Business,  has revealed this one word – engagement – appears to be necessary in the digital marketing evolution. Yet from my experience in working with B2B salespeople and SMB owners this word is dramatically missing.

social-mediaHow many times do you receive an invite from LinkedIn and just accept it?  Do you make an effort to go beyond the initial acceptance to physically speak with that new LinkedIn connection?

Or what about those who like, share or comment on your LinkedIn Pulse posting to your blog content?  Again, what efforts do you make to engage in further conversations with these individuals?

Then there is the constant stream on Twitter where people maybe retweeting your posts.  Do you ever thank them or acknowledge their efforts?

How to engage people should be part of this social media integration.  People buy from people they know and trust.  People can’t know you until you authentically engage with them.  As the old expression goes, reach out and touch someone.

In the sales world, the quick fix has always been present.  Technology has opened up this world of social media and coined a new term social selling.  Old habits are hard to break and social selling for many translates into social sales pitches.

From this report, the shift is to integrator which requires considerable strategic thinking.  To be efficient and effective from a strategic perspective requires a strategic plan.  Unfortunately, many SMB owners have never invested in creating a comprehensive strategic plan.  Instead they believe a marketing plan is all they need.  BIG MISTAKE!

Additionally, building deeper relationships through engagement is the held as the second of five top external objectives by 53% of those who responded. Internally, closing the people and process gaps in this social business evolution is critical with the development of new skills leading these internal objectives.

Engagement is the bridge between marketing and selling regardless of the platform.  Within social business, the digital marketing trend will return back to the buyer and his or her experience.

Remember: No one wants to be sold be it face to face; tweets, LinkedIn Pulse Postings or updates, podcasts or blogs.

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Sustainable Sales Success – Tip #12 Disqualification

One would think disqualifying sales leads would be something most salespeople would do especially if they want sales success. However from my experience with SMB owners and sales professionals, this simple step of sales lead disqualification as well as sales leads qualification is one often overlooked.

sales-sucessMost of the reason for not qualifying sales leads returns to the lack of a strategic plan.  What happens is these hard working business professionals work even harder and set themselves up for even greater falls.

When there is crystal clarity around the ideal customer, then disqualifying sales leads is much easier.  When I wrote Be the Red Jacket, I shared these 4 qualifying or disqualifying criteria depending upon one’s perspective.

  1. Is the person the actual decision maker? Does he or she have the authority to write the check?
  2. Is there a want to need?  What problem must be solved that others may not have solved or better yet identified?
  3. Is there an allocated budget?  Many SMBs have money.  The real question returns to having dollars allocated to solve the solution.
  4. Is there urgency to take action?  Can you build a case for taking action right now instead of later?

Since I wrote that book, I realized there is a fifth criterion:

  • Is there commitment to take action? What I have learned is sometimes all of the previous criteria are present, but the person does not have the commitment, the resolve to take action.  Change is hard.

When a salesperson adopts an understanding about disqualifying sales leads, this allows him or her to work both smarter and harder simultaneously. He or she is honing their sales skills in asking the right questions. Additionally, this is a sales strategy that works to ensure sales success because now the salesperson is working with the right customer and not one that is high maintenance.

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Sustainable Sales Success – Tip 1

Who doesn’t want sustainable sales success?  Of course many want it to be easy and that may be an mental obstacle.

sales-successIdeal Customer

Today’s first tip is define your ideal customer.  When we do not know who are best customers are and especially why they bought from us, we as salespeople are at a competitive disadvantage. There is also a very good possibility we are wasting some of our precious resources including time, energy, money and emotions.

Years ago in giving a keynote presentation to a group of professional executive coaches, business advisors, talent management and lean manufacturing consultants, I mentioned the word psychographics respective to my ideal customer profile.  From the puzzled looks in the audience, I realized many had never researched this critical aspect within their marketing efforts.

From my experience, understanding the psychographics is far more essential to sustainable sales success than demographics.  One of my key psychographics is forward thinking. My most successful executive coaching clients and engagements are all  with forward thinkers.  When I connect this psychographic to the demographic of “rapid business growth,” I am much more focused on who I must meet. Additionally I have far less stress working with this clients and much quicker results.

Here is a downloadable Ideal-Customer-Profile-Template sheet for your reference.  Complete it and then review your strategic plan to ensure total alignment.

Enjoy your weekend.


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Sure We Are All Rowing in EXACTLY the Same Growth Direction

With 100% confidence, no doubt whatsoever, can you answer this question:

growth-directionAre all your people rowing in EXACTLY the same growth direction?

From my nearly 40 years of experience, 99% of the SMB owners, executives, sales managers and even single office/home office entrepreneurs cannot answer with a simple Yes. The key word here is EXACTLY.

What exactly means is everyone has 100% clarity as to where they are rowing and everyone is rowing in the same direction toward the same desired end result. For this to happen demands that executive leadership communicate with crystal clarity the desired end result. However from numerous surveys including this one from Harris, we may learn why the answer is no.

57% said their bosses don’t give clear directions

Then add in the majority of SMBs do not have a written strategic, goal driven plan and do not review that strategic plan monthly, no wonder people are not rowing in the same growth direction. This may also help to explain why only one third of employees are actively engaged (Gallup Poll).

If you want your SMB to move toward a sustainable growth direction, then make sure you communicate and communicate often where that growth direction is.  Remove potential obstacles keeping your people from rowing toward that growth direction. Be consistent and forward thinking in your executive leadership. Embrace strategic thinking. Nurture a sales culture.

Want to learn more about building an engaged sales culture? CLICK HERE to schedule a time to talk.

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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 219.508.2859 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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Marketing The First Hurdle in the Sales Process

Once again I heard “I need more sales” and “My salespeople aren’t working hard enough.” My immediate response was “Please tell me about your sales process beginning with your marketing plan including strategies and tactical execution.”

sales-processThen I heard again “We don’t need marketing. Our marketing is fine, our sales and salespeople are the problem.” This SMB owner was one of the many misinformed that I have encountered over the years.

Marketing has been sold as some advertising, some logo, something that is secondary to the actual selling of the solutions. Nothing could be further from the truth.

For people to buy your solutions (think increase sales), then they must know and begin to trust you.  Your attracting attention activities from social media, to Internet, to advertising, to even those first conversations with sales leads all are marketing.  This is the first step or hurdle in any sales process.

People buy from people they know and trust.

(Yes I did repeat that statement intentionally.)

They can’t buy from you if they don’t know you.  Would you buy from an absolute stranger?  Think cold calling back in the days when salespeople physically knocked on doors selling their wares. How many doors did those salespeople need to knock on to sell a brush, a pair of shoes, etc.?

Possibly it is necessary to gain clarity around the term sales process.  Many have been conditioned to believe that the sales process is all about selling.  That might be true if your SMB had separate marketing and sales departments.  For the  super majority (97.3%) of all U.S. businesses with under 20 employees, salespeople and even the SMB owners wear multiple hats including marketing, selling and keeping (follow-up).

The sales process is really a 3-phase circular process with Marketing being the first hurdle to clear.  Then selling comes next. Finally, the last phase is keeping. To focus only on the second phase, selling, as the entire sales process dooms many SMBs.

Finally do not be confused by the term “social selling” as it really is a combination of “social marketing and social selling.”  Again, this lack of clarity around this new sales term is creating a lot of frustration to serious miss steps by SMB owners and sales professionals.

My advice is if your goal is to increase sales, then return to your strategic plan and review your marketing plan along with all the other rich data within that strategic plan.

P.S. A marketing plan created by a marketing company is only one piece of the puzzle.  Using that plan alone will probably create more unintended problems that you realize including everything from misalignment to disengaged employees.

Want more sales CLICK HERE to schedule a call with me.

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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 219.508.2859 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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The Hidden Sales Obstacle of “How Much?”

Have you ever had a sales conversation that began with “How much is….(fill in the blank)?  Many seasoned sales professionals recognize this sales obstacle.  Usually this questions suggests a tire kicker or someone who buys on price only while expecting the best quality, the best delivery, the best value for his or her money.

sales-obstacleBeyond the obvious sales obstacle, there is a hidden one within this question.  This hidden barrier surfaced yesterday during a master mind question posed within the South Shore Business Networking Group. One of the members suggested lowering the price was situational especially if the business was having a cash flow problem or worse yet lagging sales.

My response was “Shame of the small business owner for not knowing his or her sales data.”  Desperation is in many instances because the SMB owner or sales professional failed to invest the time to plan, to review the market and to make those necessary course adjustments.  Unfortunately reducing the price becomes the quick fix solution.

Having worked with many SMB owners, I can say at least 90% have no written strategic plan; have no or limited knowledge of their sales cycle; invest no time for reflection including data analysis. When time is invested to work the plan, to review the sales cycle and to analyze the data then this is forward leadership in action.

I will always remember speaking to a group of 150 SMB and professionals two months after 9/11.  My question was two-fold:

  1. How many of your businesses have been negatively affected by 9/11?  Almost everyone raised his or her hands.
  2. How many of you have revisited your strategic plans and made the necessary course corrections? Only five people raised their hands, and three were my clients.

When SMB owners and sales professionals start down the “How much does it cost?” sales conversation path they are failing to recognize, they are part of the reason this question continues to be asked. Maybe by investing a some time in working ON their businesses instead of always IN them will begin to reduce this sales obstacle.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leadership 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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Why Are You Working Against Your Ideal Customer?

One of my colleagues, Mark Hunter, wrote a great blog about “You Can’t Turn a Wal-Mart Shopper into a Nordstrom Customer.” What Hunter is really talking about is knowing your ideal customer.  Not having that knowledge has salespeople along with SMBs working a whole heck of a lot harder and with far less money in the bank.



The problem for all this wasted sales and marketing activity returns to the lack of planning.  During the last 18 years, I can attest well over 90% of SMBs and sales professionals have not engaged in strategic planning nor have written action plans for marketing and for sales.  The only plan is some dollar figure they want to achieve or a certain level of cash flow.

For some SMBs their ideal customers remain the same while for others they change, they evolve. Right now my ideal customer is an executive, SMB owner or sales professional who is forward thinking and experiencing rapid growth.

This ideal customer profile emerged from my strategic plan where I invested time and continue to invest time.  By investing the time to construct my ideal customer profile I gain greater clarity where to prospect and when to recognize a poor fit.

Download this FREE Ideal-Customer-Profile-Template

The other aspect within Hunter’s blog posting goes to value creation.  Sales people cannot create value if the customer is a Wal-Mart shopper and they are selling upper end products.  The reverse is also true.  Those who buy branded items like a “Polo” shirt probably will not buy a generic shirt.

Value is unique to each buyer. 

I realize this statement could be construed as hearsay and is contrary to many of the sales experts and marketing experts, but then I never considered myself to be an expect.

What I know to be true and what Hunter also knows to be true is salespeople including SMB owners must have clarity as to who are their buyers.  Without this knowledge, there are a lot of Captain Wing Its out there spraying their actions all over the place then praying something will stick as well as far too many sales people using an elephant gun to kill a fly (increase sales).

P.S. Check out Triage Business Action Planning (my answer to strategic planning for SMBs or sales professionals) and receive one hour of executive coaching via the telephone at no charge to you.

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Leanne Hoagland-Smith is THE People and Process Problem Solver. She supports forward thinking leaders in bridging the gaps between the two problems restricting strategic business growth – people and processes. Leanne can be reached at 219.508.2859 central time USA.  Follow her on Twitter or check out her profile on LinkedIn.

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Aim Small, Miss Small to Fill the Sales Pipeline

In the movie. The Patriot, actor Mel Gibson reminds his sons to “aim small, miss small.”  How many times do small to mid-size business owners (SMB) to even sales professionals “aim big, miss big?”

sales-pipelineAt one business to business networking event I attended, the young lady sitting next to me when asked who was her best sales referral responded  “anyone with a pulse.”  This is a great example of “aim big and miss big.”

Aim small, miss small when looking to fill the sales pipeline always returns to the strategic plan and specifically the marketing research.  From this proactive behavior, the SMB to sales professional gain crystal clear clarity as to who is his or her ideal customer. Sales Coaching Tip:  A strategic plan is the best investment of time and dollars for any business person.

How many times do we hear “not everyone is my client?”  That is is true?  Yet how many engaged in SMB whether as entrepreneurs or sales professionals can identify with crystal clear clarity who is their ideal customer with a complete profile including demographics or psychographics?

For example, my ideal client must be forward thinking. Being forward thinking is a psychographic.  Of course this quality considerably reduces the number of potential qualified sales leads because many individuals are satisfied with the present, the status quo.. Yet it increases my sales to earn (sales to close) ratio dramatically. Sales Coaching Tip:  Knowing the psychographics, the why behind the buying decision, is just as important if not more so than the demographics.

After just recognizing this characteristic, I now have a 100% sales to earn ratio. This characteristic is present in my executive coaching clients, small business coaching clients, sales coaching clients and workplace culture (organizational development) consulting clients.

Aim small, miss small takes considerable talent and clarity.  This is where it is imperative that the sales professional know what qualifying questions to ask as well as how to respond in any situation to the question of what do you do?” Here is the first and potentially only opportunity to either aim small, miss small or aim big, miss big when filling the sales pipeline.

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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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