Because of my own background in sales and marketing, when asked by Christina Hamlett to interview author Leanne Hoagland-Smith, I was intrigued. Once I delved into who Leanne is and what she’s accomplished thus far, I came away extremely impressed. With over 30 years in sales and a Masters in Science from Purdue University, Leanne knows what she’s talking about when coaching clients and writing this book. In addition to penning Be The Red Jacket in a Sea of Gray Suits, she’s the author of over 4000 articles, a weekly business columnist for the Post-Tribune of Northwest Indiana, and a contributor of various business journals.
Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure
Q On the surface, your subject matter seems to be sales, but what would you say is the point you really want to get across to people who hire you or purchase your book?
A To stand out in the crowd be it in sales, in being hired, or in one’s personal life, requires adherence to solid, personal core values that are non-negotiable. Additionally, your beliefs drive your actions generating your results. If you want better results, look to your beliefs, invest time to assess through reflection, speaking with mentor, or taking physical assessments. From those assessment interactions, you will gain immense clarity as to what you need to do. Then you can have exceptional execution because you have taken the right action steps in the right time frame.
Q People often struggle with how to be unique, and forget that they are intrinsically unique by nature. What advice would you give to those seeking to bring their “red jackets” out of the closet?
A Return to your core values, know what those values are, and live by those values. Those who consistently demonstrate unwavering positive core values are noticed because so many people short cut their values because “everyone else does it.” I would also add; demonstrate emotional intelligence, because Zig Ziglar said it best “sales is the transference of feelings.” What he implied but did not say was that everyone is in sales. We are always transferring feelings. When we transfer those feelings with emotional intelligence, we are the Red Jackets.
Q What is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned about yourself since you started coaching others and writing this book, and why?
A Sales is truly a simple process. My sense is sometimes we make sales too complex because of all the nuances to the latest and greatest sales fad, and fail to understand Ziglar’s words and emphasis on feelings. Within all that complexity, we lose sight of what we do well, our own authenticity, because we are trying to emulate someone else.
Q Who would you say is/was your greatest mentor, and why?
A My greatest mentor is my Swedish grandmother. She showed me how having a purpose and a plan really make a difference. I did not realize how her story was so essential to my own business. As I grew older and realized how much she accomplished with her clarity of purpose, I recognized what I needed to do.
Probably my second greatest mentor is my father, who was a lifelong salesman. He shared with me practical insight that is just as true today as it was 50 plus years ago.
Q Women are particularly vulnerable to the fear of appearing too pushy when dealing with clients, bosses and co-workers. In some cases this extends to just about every aspect of their lives. What advice would you give these women?
A First, we can only control our own behaviours. My sense is there is too much emphasis on what others think, and so a self-fulfilling prophecy happens. ‘I cannot say this because someone will think I am pushy.’ The reality is, a man can say exactly the same thing and be viewed as assertive.
When women learn to leverage their innate emotional intelligence and refrain from keeping their emotions out of any sales conversation, success does happen. There is a direct connection between active listening and emotional intelligence. These are two skills that women can leverage to increase their sales results as well as life outcomes.
Q Writing a book often seems easy for those who’ve never tried it. What were some of your greatest take-aways from that experience, and why?
A Writing a book is a commitment to time. Schedule a daily goal to write 750-1000 words. Non-fiction books are at a minimum 30,000 words, or a book that can be read on a two hour plane flight. Within a month you can have the bulk of your book written. Then start the editing process. One piece of advice; do not try to edit and write each chapter. Write the entire book and then edit it once or even twice. Let your flow, flow. Editing restricts that natural flow.
Q I love the title, and the image it conjures, of the Red Jacket. How did you come up with it, and what does it mean to you?
A The idea came during a discussion with a colleague while we were talking about how small businesses need to differentiate themselves. He mentioned standing out in the back of the room where people are rushing up to you to learn more about you. At this time, I mentioned “kind of like wearing a red jacket with a lot gray suits milling around.”
What the Red Jacket signifies to me is differentiation, not only in one’s solution, but in one’s presence. Today we hear the word disruptor. A Red Jacket disrupts the landscape because everyone else is in black, gray, or blue suits. Wearing a Red Jacket also gives an internal confidence and strength.
Q Can you give us an example of a funny or difficult situation you encountered when conducting a seminar, webinar, or book signing?
A When I first transitioned from training and development into executive and sales coaching, I was approached at a business to business networking event by a “certified coach” who asked who “certified me”. My response was “my clients.” She then again said, “No, I mean what organization certified you?” I responded “My clients, through the results they quickly achieve, certify me.” She then replied, “Well, results are not everything, and you are a fraud.”
Given she was also a practicing psychologist along with being a certified life coach, I was amused by her comment. She obviously lacked emotional intelligence not to mention some basic sales communication skills.
My answer to her statement of my being a fraud was “You are entitled to your opinion. Obviously my clients do not believe so, because they hired me for results.” What is interesting to note over the last 18 years; I have been only asked if I am certified by other certified coaches, and never once by a client.
Q Many companies utilize “rewards” of everything from experiential adventures to items with strong perceived value for their employees and clients to encourage engagement. What rewards would you say work the best, and why?
A People buy from people they know and trust. They first buy on emotions, justified by logic. Salespeople are people as well. Letting people know they are doing a great job by offering support sometimes will go far further than extrinsic rewards.
Handwritten notes encourage engagement. People appreciate you took the time to physically find the card, write the card, and mail the card.
Again, we sometimes get lost in all the hype and just fail to connect with people. Yes, people want some sort of incentive, but first they want to be remembered. President Teddy Roosevelt said “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.”
Q What would you say is a company’s greatest ROI (return on investment), and why?
A That is such a simple question to answer: Your people are your greatest return on investment. If you have hired the right people with the right talents making the right decisions for the right results in the right time frame and within the right environment, you will receive the greatest return on your investment.
Q How important would you say social media is to business, and what is the biggest mistake you’d say businesses make with this new contact/engagement method?
A Social media is important for any business that wants to grow. As mobile takes greater and greater presence in the B2B and B2C worlds, not having a social media presence will have your business behind the flow, and possibly even dying on the river’s bank.
From my experience there are four big mistakes. The first one is not engaging in social media, believing it is not for you or your business.
Not understanding that social media is a marketing channel and can deliver exceptional ROI with a minimum effort is the second big mistake. Here is where automation tools such as HootSuite come into play.
Expecting social media to deliver instant results ranks as the third biggest mistake. As in any marketing effort, slow and steady wins the race. Social media is not the quick fix to bad sales results.
Finally, social media does require engagement and sharing. The old one way marketing channels have been replaced with a dynamic two way channel. If all you do is spew your sales pitches and never share the social media marketing efforts of others, you will fail, and fail miserably.
Q What’s next for you Leanne?
A First is relocating the office from outside of Chicago to Northwest Arizona by the fall of 2015 provided as they say, “God willing and the creek don’t rise.” Second is to continue to offer an even stronger voice for small business owners with fewer than 20 employees who are in aggressive growth mode and require support to help them overcome people and process problems. Third is continuing the Red Jacket series. However, due to the forthcoming move and current client activity, this goal is in temporary hiatus. Fourth is to further market the Career and College Success Boot Camp for high school seniors and juniors. Our country needs good, ethical, and results driven leaders. Also, our economy needs leaders without excessive college debt. This Boot Camp provides a leadership foundation that most high school and even college experiences do not offer.
Facebook – http://www.facebook.com/ADVANCEDSYSTEMS
2014 – Small Business Journalist of the Year – http://www.edayleaders.com/home
2014 – Best International Sales Blog – http://bestsalesbloggerawards.com/p/26/hall-of-fame.html
2013 – Top 25 Sales Influencers – http://labs.openviewpartners.com/top-sales-influencers-for-2013/
2012 – Most Influential Dame in Social Media for Indiana
Editorial Note: Although we’ve yet to meet in person, I had the privilege of including Leanne as a savvy contributor to my two most recent business books. She’s a true pro to work with and it was a pleasure for us to put her in the You Read It Here First spotlight. – Christina Hamlett