Posts Tagged ‘sustainable business growth’

Quick Fixes in Sales Often Ignore This Reality

In sales many seek the quick fixes that range from sales training, incentives, hiring new sales managers, new salespeople or some motivational speaker.  Yet in a few days to a few weeks, the sudden burst of sales productivity gradually returns to its pre-quick fix levels.

quick-fixesThe reality is 99.9% of all quick fixes ignore this reality. The reality is clarity or rather lack of clarity.

In the story Alice in Wonderland, Alice approaches the Cheshire Cat sitting in a tree.  At the foot of the tree are various paths. Alice asks the Cat “What path should I take?”  The Cat responds with “Where are you going?” Alice states “I don’t know” and the Cat then replies “Well any path will take you there.”

Clarity is essential in sales, in business and in life.  If you don’t know where you are going with crystal clear clarity, you will end up taking the wrong path.

Many SMB owners and C Suite executives in their efforts to increase sales confuse symptoms with problems.  They believe lack luster sales are the problem when in reality the poor sales are usually a symptom of one or more problems.  All of these problems return to a lack of clarity. Without clarity there is incredible miss direction and misguided decisions.

For the last almost 20 years I have been working with SMB owners and sales professionals.  Given that most have never invested the time to determine where they are going; how they are going to behave and what they are going to do in the immediate future to get to where they are going, I am not surprised by the inability to increase sales or sustainable business growth.

The lack of clarity is the reason for executive coaching.  These professional coaches look to support their clients in gaining crystal clear clarity.

Years ago I wrote an eBook entitled Triage Business Planning with this message on the front cover:

Know Exactly What to Do and When to Do It.

Track the Right Things to Produce the Right Results Avoid Misdirected Actions and Misguided Decisions.

If you have any hesitancy when reading the previous words, then you probably lack crystal clear clarity and may be subject to the temptation of quick fixes.

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Can You Afford Not to Delegate?

Delegation is a way of thinking and doing.  For many in business leadership roles, the ability to delegate is not a talent widely embraced. The reasons for this lack of delegation are many including:



  • No time
  • No money
  • No knowledge about available resources
  • No confidence in employees – fear in hiring wrong people
  • No confidence in themselves – fear of making a mistake

A recent report released by Salesforce Research of 300 small business owners revealed most small business owners rely on outdated and manual processes such as email and spreadsheets to store customer information.  This reliance on outdated processes is further wasting their limited time.

When reading this research, it appears the talent to delegate is a significant limiting factor to embracing newer processes especially when those processes are technology driven.  Most of these business leaders are the decision makers and appear to have time constraints as their number one limiting factor.

Truly forward thinking business owners bite the bullet so to speak and invest the time to find those resources to propel their enterprise forward.  These individuals accept there is an immediate, short term hit to cash flow and profitability yet in the long term they recognize not to take action will leave them even further behind the flow.

What I know from SMB owners to sales professionals to even frontline customer service people, all waste at least 12 minutes a day.  This wasted time translates to one hour per week.  If a business owner would schedule 15 uninterrupted minutes each day with intentional actions to research and then delegate some of his or her activities to others, he or she would have more time and probably even more dollars.

Additionally by embracing a proven goal setting process along with a functional tool (goal worksheet), business leaders can track their delegation and stay even more organized in less time.  What must take place is to step over the fear and the other limiting factors because the failure to embrace delegation will only further constrict sustainable business growth.

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Don’t Bother With Strategic Planning If…

strategic-planningStrategic planning is essential for any business from the one person solo entrepreneur to the Fortune 50 firms. Yet if you are thinking about engaging in this process, don’t bother if you are seeking:

  • The quick fix
  • A team building activity
  • A feel good; look at me
  • A Weekend off site bonding experience
  • What executive leadership is expected to do

To engage in this planning process executive leadership must realize, it:

  • Is time consuming
  • Demands intentional action
  • Reveals uncomfortable realities
  • Requires alignment throughout the organization
  • Mandates commitment to follow through, monitoring and holding people accountable

General and President Dwight Eisenhower is quoted as saying:

“Plans are worthless, planning is everything.”

The purpose of this executive leadership responsibility is to ensure the sustainable business growth for the organization. Planning is a verb, an action and one to be taken seriously.

Where many in executive leadership roles fail especially is to establish benchmarks before engaging in strategic planning.  These benchmarks help to prioritize what actions to be taken as the team works through this planning process.

Yes strategic planning is a process and not one to be shortchanged or rushed through.  Depending upon the overall size of the organization. , the time commitment is usually a minimum of 20-30 hours of contact time with an outside resource and another 20-30 hours executive leadership work time.  When this sustainable business growth activity is taken to heart, weekly or at least monthly meetings are essential to monitor the progress by:

  • Assessing current progress
  • Clarifying next goals or strategic initiatives
  • Executing actions steps

Download this helpful strategic-planning-schematic

triage-business-planningIf you are in a executive leadership role or even a sales one, consider the already shared words of President Eisenhower and schedule time now and in the next year going forward to engage in this decisive, intentional, authentic continuous improvement process.

Click HERE to schedule a time to speak with Leanne Hoagland-Smith to learn more about her Triage Business Planning especially designed for SMB owners (firms with under 20 employees) and independent sales processionals (real estate agents, CPAs, attorneys, coaches, consultants) who need a solid, basic, goal driven plan.  Total time investment is usually less than 20 hours.

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The Sales Challenge of Living by Socrates’ Three Filters

Socrates as many know was a Greek philosopher. He created the Socratic Dialog which many in sales find very effective during exploring sales meetings and fact finding sessions. Socrates also developed the Three Filters which is just as important. However living by these three filters does present an ongoing sales challenge.

sales-challengeIf you are not familiar with the Three Filters, they are all about how you communicate with others as well as reinforce your own business ethics and emotional intelligence.

Is What you Say Kind?

We know words can hurt people feelings and create an atmosphere ranging from hostility to resentment. In sales especially when we are out and about, remembering to be kind in our remarks is essential. Kindness reflects emotional intelligence.

Is What You Say Truthful?

When speaking with others or even making comments, is what you say truthful.  This filter returns to the human nature of gossiping or even not validating what has been said.  Additionally by applying emotional intelligence we can be truthful without being judgmental.  Some people view telling the truth as being judgmental as “You should not say that.”

Is What you Say Necessary?

Probably for many, myself included, this third filter is the most challenging.  How many times do we speak too much during a sales conversation instead of actively listening?

We all enjoy getting our two cents in whether it is a professional or personal conversation. Here is where our ego sometimes takes over.

Socrates Three Filters is one sales challenge we confront every day.  Living consistently by these three filters is not easy.

Yesterday I had remembered Socrates wise words when being confronted by a very rude commuter passenger. Instead of engaging in non-productive conversation, I removed myself to another seat. This particular individual was 100% clueless about professional etiquette. She believed a particular train seat had her name on it along with her two companions.

In this world of people meeting people because people buy from people, one never knows who is watching.  By understanding the depth of this particular sales challenge can only strengthen one’s professional and personal business ethics, emotional intelligence and ultimately sustainable business growth.

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Add Amplification to Your Sales Strategies

Sales strategies abound in today’s B2B and B2C markets.  In many instances, the larger firms are ahead of the flow when it comes to including a new sales strategy into their sales playbook.  Smaller firms especially those with under 50 employees lack the exposure to many of these up and coming ways to increase sales.

sales-strategiesAmplification is one such sales strategy that is often overlooked by SMB owners and sales professionals.  This was quite evident during a discussion yesterday at the SouthShore Business Networking group.

I shared how by belonging to a community of like minded sales professionals I was able to amplify this recent LinkedIn Pulse article – Great Coaches Are Equal to Top Sales Performers.  I published this article on Friday, September 30, 2016.  On Monday I shared it within one community. By Wednesday am, the results from LinkedIn were impressive:


Ninety percent of those who shared it had over 500 connections or 20×500 equals 10,000. Add this to my 2,500 connections and the amplification was four fold.

Many of these same individuals also shared it on Twitter.  A quick glance of the first 12 people who shared this article revealed amplification of over 10 fold to my current Twitter followers of 11,663.

Amplification through just one community increased my marketing reach from approximately 14,000 to over 150,000.  The best part of this sales strategy was it cost me absolutely nothing.

Discovering sales strategies that are cost effective and deliver measurable results is in many instances one of trial and error.  Amplification works. Probably the major obstacle is building a community of like minded individuals who recognize amplification is not a one way street.

As with other sales strategies amplification must be aligned to existing marketing strategies within the sales process such as content marketing.  To engage in this sales strategy without having a well thought of strategic plan is not forward thinking and will not be as effective as it could be.

Read Fail-Safe Leadership to better understand how misalignment impacts sustainable business growth.

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Be Proactive When Seeking Sales Referrals – Part 3

No one knows what you do better than you do.  So it makes perfect sense to educate your colleagues, your clients as well as those in your business to business networking groups to ensure you receive those coveted sales referrals.

sales-referralsWhat this means is for you to write down the following:

  • Things to Listen For
  • Things to Look For

Things to Listen For

If you have completed your strategic planning process, you probably already have identified what to listen for during an initial meeting with a prospect or even during a fact finding session.  These statements are in many instances the door to potential problems or barriers for sustainable business growth.

In my experience I have compiled these statements that provide insight as to what is happening within a particular mid-size to small business or sales professional:

  • No one is doing what they are supposed to do
  • We (I) always have too much to do
  • We seem to have the same problems (status quo)
  • We can’t get out of our own way
  • All I do is work; I have no life
  • My employees are unhappy, scared or just don’t do the work
  • I want better (more….), but I don’t know how
  • Our productivity, sales, profits are declining
  • I want to increase sales or profits
  • I dislike all this chaos
  • We have a high turnover of employees

Things to Look For:

In some instances there is not much difference between things to look for and things to listen for respective to sales referrals.  Looking may involve reading a newspaper or current trade publication to just general observations about a particular mid-size or small business.

Here is what I have determined makes sense regarding things to look for:

  • Trigger event such as new compliance, upturn, downturn, new leadership
  • Want to grow their businesses; increase sales
  • Merger or acquisition
  • Dissatisfied with current situation
  • Succession planning; retiring want to sell business
  • Individuals consumed by work
  • High personnel turnover
  • Changes in leadership/management
  • No energy in the workplace; bad attitudes
  • Disorganization, chaos

The additional benefit of writing these things to listen for down is I have gained greater clarity.

Sales referrals especially quality ones are indeed golden.  If you agree, then it makes sense to make it easy for others to provide you with those quality sales referrals.

FREE Download this How-To-Refer-Me-Tool to support you in gaining more sales referrals

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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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An Often Ignored Sales Metric That Reveals a Dangerous Business Trend

In CRM Buyer, writer Christopher J. Bucholtz shared his recent survey of the most important sales metric to monitor. His one question survey revealed numerous sales metrics that included:


  • Sales leads volume (how many sales leads are in the pipeline)
  • Quote to close ratio
  • Conversion rate
  • Average transaction value
  • Product mixed sold compared to strategic sales plan goals

What I immediately noticed was one missing sales metric and the first one I attempt to determine when working with mid size to small businesses.  This metric reveals a potentially dangerous business trend – declining growth by the absence of customer loyalty.

Recently I analyzed the sales by account for a regional small business printing firm that works not only local, but with state and national accounts. What I was seeking with this sales metric:

  • Inactive accounts (no activity for the last 12 months)

Years ago when I managed a sales team, making sure all of our accounts were active was essential.  We had already invested the time in calling on them; establishing their accounts; delivering their orders and following up to ensure all went well.  Relationships requiring both time and money had been nurtured to secure the account. Why ignore all that had work was plainly being sales stupid. I had four areas that I looked to when reviewing inactive accounts through the customer loyalty lens:

  • If the account had been lost to another vendor, I wanted to know when and why.
  • If the buyer or decision maker had changed, I wanted to know when and why.
  • If the company had taken another strategic direction, I wanted to know when and why.
  • If the sale was exceptional meaning a one time hit such as an emergency or annual purchase, I wanted to know when and why.

Each sales metric mentioned in the article at CRM Buyer is important to know and monitor. However the inactive accounts metric is probably the most important specific to ensuring customer loyalty and sustainable business growth.  Additionally this metric reveals an enormous opportunity to secure those low hanging sales opportunities.

If you wish to increase sales, work smarter by working harder, then determine what accounts in your mid size to small business are currently inactive.  Then do your due diligence and follow-up.  Possibly create some compelling marketing message so you avoid the trite sales conversation of “Just checking in.” You just may be surprised by the results.

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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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Atlas and Bearing the Burdens of Leadership

From our early education, many may remember the story of Atlas holding the world. Today, my sense is many leaders are in a similar role. No they are not holding the world, but they are bearing the burdens of leadership with what they believe is with little help or relief.

burdens-of-leadershipLeadership continues to be the number one issue facing all organizations from the small businesses to the Fortune 100. Finding good leaders to replace the existing “Atlas” leaders is difficult.

Of course leadership including succession leadership of finding good leaders, is not the only burden. In another research report by Harvard Business Review shared the top 3 burdens by leaders:

  • Talent Management
  • Operating in a Global Marketplace
  • Regulation and Legislation

Yes today’s leaders carry many burdens and these burdens of leadership are not recognized by employees to the general public.

Some of these burdens are beyond the control of leaders such as regulation and legislation as well as global economic operations.  However some of these burdens of leadership are totally under the control of leaders especially:

  • Talent Management
  • Succession Planning
  • Organizational Effectiveness

To deal with these  burdens or if you wish barriers begins with the strategic plan.  Again from my experience, probably better than 75% (I think it is closer to 90%) of all small business with under 100 employees do not have a strategic plan. They are firmly entrenched in the roles of Captain Wing It where they spray their actions all over the place and then pray something will stick.

Some of the burdens of leadership are self-enabled. What this means is those in leadership roles have enabled their business partners to employees to:

  • Take advantage of them as leaders
  • Set their own working conditions
  • Restrict sustainable business growth

If you enjoy being Atlas and bearing the burdens of leadership without any assistance and if that is working for you, then continue holding up those business burdens all by yourself.  However, if you prefer to relinquish that role of self-enabled leader, then make a decision to change your leadership behaviors.  This may result in hiring an executive coach, finding a mentor, talking to colleagues or all of these actions.

At the end of the day, you must ask yourself “Am I tired of holding up my small business world?”

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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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Marketing Should Always Be in the Front Seat

Many small businesses always place marketing in the back seat if not the trunk. They become so absorbed with earning sales (closing deals) to delivering their promises that marketing becomes quite unimportant.  This is a big mistake, a really big, mistake!




May I add a gigantic mistake?

Small businesses that achieve sustainable business growth understand that the front seat is reserved for marketing.  Unless other people from their ideal customer to their target markets know about them, their companies and their solutions, they will have far greater difficulty earning the sale. These clueless business people will remain pocket poor.

Part of the reason the first phase of the sales process is relegated to the back seat is because there is no strategic plan.  The word plan as a verb is a four letter dirty word to many small business owners. To quote President Eisenhower “Plans (noun) are worthless; planning (verb) is everything.”

Many small businesses fail out of the gate because they have not invested the time to:

  • Understand the basic business planning schematic
  • Recognize the basic foundation and business philosophy for their small business
  • Clarity and commit their vision and values to writing
  • Conduct both external assessment and internal appraisal
  • Craft a mission statement
  • Identify critical goal categories or critical success factors

All of these actions must be taken first before any marketing plan can be efficiently and effectively developed.

Then the sales plan follows the marketing plan instead of what usually happens is sales takes the front seat. And stays in the front seat until there is no dollars coming in and by then it is usually too late.

Of course there are plenty of advertising to public relation (PR) to even creative design firms that say they can write a marketing plan.  If you are sure they can, before you sign that usually expensive contract, ask to see their strategic plan.  If the items as noted above are not clearly visible, these folks have jumped the gun. Their recommendations are more about their own pocket book than yours.

The ability to write a strategic plan begins with the right tools and the right experience.  Those who can assist you such as business coaches to business consultants in this endeavor truly do not have skin in the game respective to where you put your “attraction” dollars.  Their goal is for you to achieve sustainable business growth because your results is what drives new business for them.

Just remember, to continual to attract attention and build relationships must be 24/7.  When your small business becomes extra busy, then it is even more critical to continue with attracting attention.  Unfortunately,this is when those who are behind the flow stop marketing. Usually what happens is a lot of catch up and wasted dollars. Technology helps to automate some of these marketing messages through social media.

So if your sales are in the front seat, now is the time to kick sales to the back seat and put your marketing up front and close to you as the driver, leader, for your small business.  If you disagree, then why as research suggests 20 to 60% of the buying decision has already been made before you even make a sales call?  That decision has been based upon the marketing efforts of your competitors and hopefully even yourself.

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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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Is Your Small Business Online Presence Your Achilles’ Heel?

Yesterday I received a LinkedIn invite from a second degree connection who said she was a social media and online business consultant. Since her LinkedIn profile summary only shared her experience as a nurse, I clicked on her website link. To my surprise,  I received a message that her blog’s URL had expired 8 days ago. Needless to say I declined her LinkedIn invitation.

small-business-online-presenceToday, any small business (defined by under 20 employees) must have a viable online presence.  The reason is 60% of the buying decision is made online (Source:  Hubspot). If your small business online presence does not reflect what you do or how your solutions (products or services) can help the buyer, then you are potentially losing many new business opportunities.

With so many small businesses with an online presence, your small business truly must Be the Red Jacket in a Sea of gray suits.  You must stand out and be found.

Of course that means you have invested considerable time in your strategic action plan and have WAY SMART goals both for marketing and sales. These goals are based upon your market research.

Unfortunately the challenge for many small businesses is they hire marketing and advertising firms or social media consultants who take their money and provide little to nothing results. Their ignorance has made many others rich.

Then there is the underlying belief in the “quick and easy” way to online small business success. A sustainable small business online presence takes time and happens over a course of several years.  This may be part of the reason some small businesses gravitate to those hyped ads about increase followers, signups overnight.

Yes you can buy a small business online presence through ads offered by Google, Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. For some companies they have worked. Yet for many of my small business coaching clients, they have been a profit drain.

Recommendations for a Sustainable Small Business Online Presence

Step #1 – LinkedIn

small-business-online-presenceLinkedIn is the first step for those engaged in B2B sales. Make sure you have:

  • A compelling headline
  • An emotionally engaging summary that tells the rest of the story
  • Skills that support your solutions and experience
  • Recommendations from clients
  • Slideshare files
  • All contact information is current including websites
  • Submit well written and informative articles (content marketing) to LinkedIn pulse

Then engage in groups and post updates at least two to three times per week. Employ an education based marketing approach where you educate your potential clients and do not “pitch” to them.

Step #2 – A Blog 


Your blog is your small business online presence and “de facto” salesperson. Here you can reach thousands of potential clients as well as centers of influence. Again, return to your education based marketing plan and seek to educate and share your experiences. This blog happened because of one of my personal experiences. Remember, people buy from people they know and trust. Let your readers get to know you and begin to trust you.

Step #3 – Build Multiple Communities to Share Your Small Business Online Presence

When you build communities within the social media worlds, you have expanded your influence and reach. These communities have like minded individuals with differences of opinion. What is shared is high business ethics and a commitment to supporting each other.

small-business-online-presenceFor example, one of my communities include over 30 sales consultants, sales coaches and business consultants. One of my tweets can potentially reach over 250,000 Twitter followers. Using an automation tool such as Twitterfeed allows me to post their tweets automatically saving me lots of time.

Now Is the Time to Take Action

Marketing research continues to confirm that having a viable small business online presence is essential to sustainable business growth. With the increase in smart devices, more and more potential customers are viewing your website, blog, online presence through such mobile devices. Do not wait another month or a year to make your small business known through social media and other Internet sites. The longer you wait will only have you further behind the flow of missed sales opportunities.



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