Posts Tagged ‘strategic thinking’

Are Your Sales Results Suffering Because of this Confusion?

“I have plenty of lists, daily, weekly and monthly” said an acquaintance.  My next question was “How are your sales results?”  The not so surprising response was “they could be better.”

This acquaintance and many of my sales coaching clients share this confusion about list making and goal setting.

List making is very much like a simple mini action plan.  Each item on the list is an action based upon an objective to be achieved.  In some instances, having lists works on the smaller actions and usually fails on the bigger ones.

A goal is a predetermined objective to be undertaken with the desired end to be a positive result.  Sometimes especially if the goal is to increase sales, the goal must be thoroughly “thought out” or what I call “flushed out.”  This thinking or flushing requires some additional time.  Critical thinking skills such as integrative ability must be applied along with:

Lists work with goals, but lists alone will not achieve the desired sales results.

Consistent goal achievers are excellent critical thinkers.  They identify what they want to achieve and then look to the what is limiting them from achieving their goal.  These limitations may be also considered as challenges or obstacles.

The confusion between list making and goal setting may also explain why there are misguided decisions that create misdirection.  If the item on the list is more complex or must work with another action that has not been clearly articulated, then the ability to achieve the goal especially if the goal is to increase sales is severely limited.

Another tell tale sign of this confusion is the answer to this question:

Have you invested the time to create a strategic thinking plan with specific written daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual goals?

Again, the answer over 95% of the time is NO! What this answer tells any sales coach or business coach is there is considerable misalignment happening which helps to explain miss guided decisions creating miss directed actions.

Yes, lists are great, but written goals aligned to an overall strategic thinking plan will consistently increase sales and far better sales results than lists alone.

Schedule some time to talk with Leanne by CLICKING HERE to improve your sales results.  Yes it could be as simple as just embracing a proven goal setting and goal achievement process.

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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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I’m New to Sales, Now What?

The phone rang again and I heard this familiar statement “I’m new to sales.”  This is usually followed by “Now what do I do?” or “How can you help me?”


Credit: Hubspot

For recent college graduates, entering the B2B sales arena within the SMB marketplace can be overwhelming.

  • How do I find sales leads?
  • No one calls me back!
  • What do I do after I connect with someone?

Being new to sales in the SMB marketplace is far more about marketing, attracting attention, than selling.  Getting and keeping a full and active sales funnel is difficult especially when the SMB does not have the financial resources to segmented departments of a much larger business.

Then what happens is fear steps in and immobilizes the new salesperson. Thoughts of “I don’t have any sales skills” take over quashing the natural and strong talents. A negative cascade of  weaknesses now fill the daily thoughts of the person new to sales. Self esteem is capsized and the salesperson begins to drown in his or her own mind.

Possibly the first barrier to be addressed is just this simple question:  Do you like to sell?  From my experience, most young salespeople say yes.  These excited professionals may lack some of the technical sales skills, but their passion for meeting new people, for sharing their solutions, for wanting to help others is very evident.

Another barrier to overcome is the self doubt.  Lacking experience as noted earlier creates a flow of negative experiences. These experiences marry to the subconscious thoughts of the salesperson and are unknowingly broadcasted to potential sales leads.

Finally, with many SMB owners never engaging in strategic thinking and lacking a written strategic plan, the marketing potentially lacks a cohesive message.  Value articulation, one of the most noted barriers to successful sales, is never clearly communicated.

When those new to sales, take a measured and managed approach to developing their own sales presence, they can overcome these barriers. By taking this action, they can enjoy selling with even more enthusiasm.

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

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Strategic Thinking What’s That?

Have you heard the phrase strategic thinking?  Could you give a simple definition that is understood by your executive leadership team to your employees?



Strategy comes from the Greeks and means for a general to deceive his enemies. The implication here is the desired result of deceit, of ultimately winning.  As the leader has engaged in a planning process by employing critical thinking skills, that desired result is also predetermined.

Strategic thinking is all about the planning to achieve the predetermined results. Strategic leadership is the behaviors to ensure those results are achieved.

For the SMB owner or salesperson strategic thinking is essential.  This type of thinking requires the leader to think differently and sometimes to do that requires an outsider be it a mentor, colleague or even an executive coach to ask questions not usually considered.

To be a strategic thinker requires time for reflection to ask those unasked questions.  Planning is a time driven activity.  Once in a while, there is not a lot of time to plan and yet there is probably more time than most people allocate for planning.

I don’t have time to think strategically is a big, bold excuse.

It’s a bald face lie.

The SMB world today is both complicated and easy. People buy from people they know and trust. However, there are far more people to buy from and there is a lack of trust in the market place.

Invest the time to become a strategic thinker and a strategic leader versus the many Captain Wing Its out there.  By making that investment, you will increase sales, see profits rise and see your stress levels decrease.

Want more sales CLICK HERE to reserve your time

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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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Make the First Step in Strategic Planning the Right Step

Usually around this time of year, some mid-size to small businesses are beginning to engage in some sort of strategic planning process.  Now some small business coaches to consultants will suggest the first step in this process is data analysis and that is the wrong first step.

strategic-planningData analysis cannot happen until the data is collected.  This means gathering up numerous financial records. To collect those records may also require answering some basic questions.

Unfortunately, those same mid-szie to small businesses probably do not have all those questions answered nor have those documents readily available because they have not invested the time in the past to answer, collect or review them.

Before I engage with any small business coaching client, I provide them a General-Documents-4-Strategic-Planning checklist required for us to engage in either Triage Business Planning (designed to stop the bleeding with less than a 20 hour time commitment) and Strategic Thinking (a more intensive process with a time commitment of 40 hours plus).

This checklist usually takes a couple of days to several weeks for my clients to complete.  Not all documents will be required initially, but eventually all documents will be reviewed during the strategic planning process.

By providing this checklist saves both the client and myself incredible time.  Many strategic planning processes presume the forward thinking leaders have these documents and can answer the basic questions quickly.  From my experience, this is not the case and why I created this checklist.

Data analysis does happen within any solid strategic planning process, but it is not the second step.  The second step will be discussed in the next posting.

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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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Become The 13th Warrior in Sales

One of my favorite recent movies in the last 20 years is The 13th Warrior. This is a well crafted story based on a book by Michael Crichton. There are many good lines in this adventure packed movie. And what is fascinating how many of those lines apply to anyone who is in sales.

13-Warrior-CoverGrow Stronger

As Banderas is leaving the ship, he is thrown a heavy Viking sword.  He tells his Viking companion “I cannot lift this.”  The Viking simply replies “Grow stronger.”

With all the change happening the market place, salespeople must grow stronger every day. Strength comes in 3 shapes, mental, emotional and physical.

  • How are you increasing your knowledge of the marketplace?
  • Is professional development through sales training, reading sales or business books part of your sales action plan?
  • What are you doing in keeping yourself emotionally strong and resilient in face of adversity?
  • Are you physically healthy to engage in daily combat with the forces within your industry, your market, etc.?
  • Do you unite all three aspects of yourself to grow stronger?

Shut Your Teeth

My mother always told me never to tell anyone “to shut up” as that was rude.  In this movie, Antonio Banderas is told to “shut your teeth.” This quick statement reminded me of Mark Twain who wrote “If the good Lord wanted us to talk more than to listen, he would have given us two mouths instead of two ears.”

How often in sales does we lose opportunities because we are so busy talking or just thinking about what we are going to say next?  Maybe it is time for many of us to truly shut our teeth?

Deception Is Everything

In another scene, one of the Vikings deceives an enemy who believes he is much stronger than his opponent. This action surprises Banderas who learns “deception is everything.” 

If we understand the origins of strategy (for a General to deceive his enemies), then in sales we must engage in strategic actions to deceive our enemies (think competitors). Of course deception does not apply to customers, clients or colleagues as we must be authentic in all actions.

I Am Not a Warrior

As Banderas faces his first fight against the “eaters of the dead,” he tells himself I am not a warrior.”  What we tell ourselves can in many instances become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

We have no control of what comes into our minds. However we have 100% control of what we allow to stay and what we create. In sales, telling ourselves we are not salespeople or worse yet “I truly hate to sell” serves no purpose except to drain our checkbooks.

Henry Ford said it best “Whether you think you can or you think you cannot, either way you are right.”

Where Do Bears Live?

In fighting the “eaters of the dead,” Banderas asks this simple question Where do bears live?”  How often do we fail to ask ourselves where do our customers live?

Possibly we do what others tell us to do, join Chambers, attend business to business networking events or engage in the various social media sites? These actions in many instances are disjointed because we have failed to engage in strategic planning and strategic thinking.  What happens next is the Captain Wing mentality where there is a lot of spraying of actions all over the place and an equal amount of praying those actions will stick.

Yes sales is a wonderful profession provide you are willing to work hard and truly enjoy what you do. You can become the 13th warrior provided you make the effort.

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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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Before Your Small Business Jumps into Content Marketing, Read This

The content marketing bandwagon continues to gain more B2B small business owners and single office/home office (SOHO) entrepreneurs.  Unfortunately two old behaviors raise their ugly head. These two reluctant behaviors are:


  • No strategic thinking
  • No monitoring of current efforts beyond cash flow and increase sales

Without a strategic plan, small business owners and their fellow SOHO companions are engaged in the role of Captain Wing It. They spray their marketing, their selling, their whatever activities all over the place and then pray something will stick.

Some recent research from the Content Marketing Institute revealed some startling facts that all small business owners to even Fortune 1000 firms should heed:

  • 86% of the responding firms used content marketing in their B2B efforts
  • 48% have a content marketing strategy, but don’t document said strategy
  • 35% only have a documented strategy

As to top content marketing tactics, these are the preferred distribution channels according to Content Marketing Institute:

  • Social media – 92%
  • E newsletters – 83%
  • Articles on company’s website – 81%]
  • Blogs – 80%
  • In-person events – 77%
  • Case studies – 77%
  • Videos – 76%

Specific to social media distribution channels, LinkedIn has become the top social media platform and for 63% of those surveyed the most effective.

The trend to create more content is continuing with 70% of the B2B firms writing more than the previous year. Budgets for the next 12 months specific to content marketing are expected to increase for 55% of those surveyed.

Before you invest your small business resources on this now very popular marketing tactic, make sure of the following:

  • Engage in strategic thinking with the end result of  a written and detailed goal driven strategic plan
  • Identify your ideal customer
  • Research your ideal customer as to wants, needs, market trends, etc.
  • Based on your ideal customer research, determine the keywords that will drive traffic to your content
  • Identify what marketing channel best suits the demographics and psychographics of your ideal customer
  • Establish key performance metrics to monitor the success of your marketing efforts
  • Write quality, informative and engaging content which is becoming somewhat unique

Finally please remember content marketing is not the cheap and quick fix to increasing sales leads.  Do not become part of the flow that continues to spray bad content with the pray that something will stick. Be deliberate, intentional and forward thinking before you start plucking away at your keyboard.


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The Confusion Path Between Sales Objections & Qualifying Customers

Some recent social media discussions revealed there exists significant confusion about sales objections.  This is best explained because in the past the marketing depattment handed off the fully qualified sales leads to lukewarm ones to the sales department.

sales-objectionsNow with 97.7% of all businesses here in the US having under 20 employees and far more constrained budgets, marketing departments are no longer separate entities.  Usually the small business owners to even those in sales management must integrate marketing activities with selling activities and thus begins the sales objections confusion path.

Before any salesperson can sell their solution (products or services), they must have a clearly articulated ideal customer along with having these four (4) to five (5) qualifying criteria met:

  1. Decision maker – the person who can actually sign the check or approve signing the check
  2. Allocated budget – just because the company has dollars does not mean those dollars will be directed your way
  3. Wants or needs for your solution
  4. Urgency to take action – sometimes salespeople can build a case for urgency
  5. Commitment to take action – salespeople can also build through proper research a greater emotional desire to make a decision in their favor

The ideal customer profile is the result of having invested the time to engage in strategic thinking and planning. Unfortunately for many small businesses they embrace the role of Captain Wing It where they spray their marketing and selling actions all over the place and then pray something will stick. I recently heard this during a public workshop where some SEO experts with significant national accounts recommended developing the marketing plan first and then determining the ideal customer.  Bad advice, very bad advice.

For example, if your sales lead or prospect cannot make a buying decision this is not a sales objection, but rather one of poor qualification. This happens a lot for realtors and even car sales people. Potential customers walk in and because they have poor credit scores, limited work history, excessive debt, etc. they cannot buy anything less along something as expensive as a house or car.

A true sales objection only happens after the sales lead has been 100% qualified and you as the salesperson do not violate the 3 Sales Buying Rules.  Now if the marketing has been executed flawlessly or almost flawlessly, the prospect will pull you, the salesperson, to him or her so you do not have to engage in “push selling” where you are pushing (think pitching) your solution.

Many sales are made without sales objections.  Again, some in sales believe if you are not achieving sales objections you are not selling.  This is a false belief and is in many cases because of ME or massive ego.

By ensuring through your marketing action plan your sales leads are qualified and better yet fully qualified will reduce the number of sales objections as well as your stress in making your marketing and sales goals.


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Marketing Madness Virus of Presumptions

Do you ever receive those emails that make you shake your head and wonder about the marketing madness behind the message? Why in the world (you think to yourself) would you ever finish reading these messages less alone reach out for more information or worse yet buy the “stuff?”

marketing-madnessWhat I have come to realize is behind all this marketing madness from emails to social media postings to even paid advertising is this one word – presumptions. For clarification, a presumption is based on some probability while an assumption is supposed to be without any proof.

Probably, bought or sign up lists are one of the main resources for those engaged in this spreading this marketing madness virus.  These individuals presume because you downloaded a paper or some other information you are their target market or worse yet “ideal customer.”

Beyond the lists many of those infected with this marketing madness also suffer from a severe case of “ego me.”  Of course “you want what I am selling because I am me and for that reason alone you should at least listen to me.”  If you politely respond and request to be removed since they did not include an “opt out” option, you may receive an irate message about “how dare you” challenge their business ethics or credibility. After all,  they are the experts!

What is beyond understanding is many of those behind these messages are alleged experts who are being paid to infect, oops, I mean teach others about presumption marketing. The concept of permission based marketing would be an antidote to their virus.  This is why these individuals never have “opt out” as a recourse and if they do, the “opt out link” is another scam.

For those with high business ethics and a written strategic thinking plan that covers business growth through separate marketing to sales to customer loyalty actions plans, these small business leaders market to their for real target audience and provide the opportunity for that target audience to disengage if they have made a mistake with their presumptions. They do not engage in unrealistic presumptions meaning anybody on the Internet or anybody in the room is their target audience (sales leads).

Yes there is a lot of marketing madness out there through the various messaging channels. Most of it provides lessons learned on how not to attract attention and build relationships.

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What Do You Do With Feedback?

Yesterday, I had a conversation with a colleague who has changed careers and is now teaching at a university. He gave an assignment to the class to find two sales trainers and compare/contrast their processes and credibility. They were to compare the processes to the course textbook and my colleague’s book. As he did not provide any names,, I am presuming the student located me through Internet searching.

feedbackMuch to my surprise, he shared some of the observations from one of his students who compared me with another sales training individual.

What follows is the essence of that feedback gained from searching through this blog  and not my main website.

  • My style of selling and sales training is first about people – good
  • My ideal target market (small business) was identified – good
  • My focus on values comes through loud and clear – excellent
  • My key differentiators, strategic thinking, proven processes and tools and connectivity were  also identified – very good
  • My content was detailed – good
  • My focus on human capital was identified – good
  • My focus on the other visitor was identified instead of being focused on “selling” my solutions – good
  • Overall credibility was present – good
  • My services of speaking, webinars and seminars were not as apparent – not so good
  • My ideal customer (business to business sales people) for executive coaching was not identified – not so good

So often in life we receive feedback and then fail to take action. I will be updating this blog to provide additional clarity as to what this student discovered and what was not discovered.

Possibly, it may make sense for you to ask a colleague to take this assignment as a favor for you. Who knows what type of feedback you may receive?


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