Sales-Effectiveness Expert Craig Lowder: Top 12 Reasons Why Sales Don’t Grow at Small and Mid-Size Companies

“Selling is a science that must be artfully executed” is the message Craig Lowder is spreading to companies with stalled growth.

Smooth Selling Forever - hi res“Like any other science, there are scientific sales principles to follow,” says Lowder, author of the new book: “Smooth Selling Forever: Charting Your Company’s Course for Predictable and Sustainable Sales Growth” (Indie Books International, 2016).

Lowder is a sales-effectiveness expert with a 30-year track record of helping owners of small and mid-size companies achieve their sales goals. As president of MainSpring Sales Group, Lowder has worked with over 50 companies and increased first-year annual sales from 22 to 142 percent.

“Over the past three decades I have studied dozens and dozens of small to mid-size companies where the selling was not smooth,” says Lowder. “Patterns began to emerge as to why sales were not growing as expected.”

Based on Lowder’s research, the following list of reasons is provided in reverse rank order, from number 12 to number one:

12. No annual performance reviews. An annual performance review forces a manager to sit down and evaluate performance.

11. Over reliance on sales team to generate leads. Having sales reps fend for themselves when it comes to finding leads is an ineffective approach.

10. Limited, ineffective sales skills training; sales mentoring is non-existent.  A sales leader should travel with each sales rep regularly–at least monthly–to determine their competency.

9. Compensation plan doesn’t incent desired behavior. What gets rewarded gets done. The comp plan should provide the right activity- and results-based incentives.

8. No customer relationship management (CRM) system. A first step is to determine the proper application of CRM for the team.

7. Sales message doesn’t differentiate from the competition. The company’s sales message must distinguish the company from the competition by communicating unique value.

6. Sales team is not staffed properly. The sales team must be led by a sales manager who is focused on building highly effective sales reps versus securing individual sales to achieve significant and sustainable results.

5. No short-term and/or long-term sales pipeline and forecasting tool. A sales pipeline and forecasting tool provides a bottom-up view for use by the company to forecast future sales, align costs with expected revenues, and accurately predict cash flow.

4. No weekly scheduled sales meetings for the group and one-to-one. These meetings should be a learning experience designed to share success stories, what’s working and what’s not working, as well as to identify and resolve issues that are getting in the way of making sales.

3. Sales metrics are not clearly defined. Attention must be paid to how a company is keeping score of sales activities and results.

2. No defined sales processes. Each step of a company’s sales processes must be clearly stated and documented. This creates a common language and understanding of sales success. It is vitally important to define checkpoints for each step in the sales process.

1. No detailed sales plan that is understood by the entire sales team. The number one reason holding companies back from smooth selling is the lack of a sales plan understood by all.

“Overall, the smooth selling systems described in the book help reduce stress for business leaders,” says Lowder, who also has worked for three Fortune 100 companies: Monsanto, Lucent, and CenturyLink. “When owners have a sales team they can count on, they can focus their attention on other areas of the business. When sales leaders have a sales team they can count on, they can produce more predictable and sustainable sales results.”

Leadership Coach Sheila Webb Pierson: 6 Ways to Live Your Legacy

From the classroom to the boardroom to the civic hall, Sheila Webb Pierson’s message is clear and simple: live toward your legacy.

Coveralls & Tell-Alls cover - hi res“A legacy encompasses the passions of our lives,” says Pierson, author of a humorous new book:  “Coveralls & Tell-Alls: Everything You Need to Know About Leadership I Learned on the Farm” (Indie Books International, 2016).

“Too many people leave legacy to chance,” says Pierson.  “Don’t be that person.”

As a professional speaker, Pierson uses her Southern charm to entertain while mastering the art of storytelling to reach audiences and individuals. Pierson grew up in northwest Arkansas and holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture Business and a Master of Science degree in Agriculture Economics from “the great hog nation, aka the University of Arkansas.”

In addition to working as a coach for executives, Pierson and her family are currently the fourth generation of family farmers to operate an Angus cow calf farm.

Here are six ways Pierson advises leaders on how to live their legacy:

  1. Be Proud of Where You Come From. This is where your story begins.  It begins with the past.  Think of your stompin’ grounds and what great experiences you had.  Or the not so great. Start your story with those priceless moments.
  2. Admit Your Mistakes. We have likely made people so mad at us they wanted to jerk a knot in our tail.  One of the hardest things to ever do, yet the easiest way to connect with others, is admitting your mistakes.  Mistakes give us wisdom and a certain amount of prestige.  Connecting with others through the stories of mistakes is not only effective, but also therapeutic.
  3. Communicate. People can get just plain tore up about misunderstandings.  Who owns that misunderstanding?  You do.  Find ways to convey what you need to and check their understanding before disaster strikes.
  4. Laugh at Yourself. Oh my lawd.  Laughing burns calories, laughing makes you happy and goodness does learning to laugh at yourself improve your life.  Not only will you live longer, but your connector skills will be heightened as you develop the stories that make you famous or infamous.
  5. Serve Others. Serving others never goes out of style and is always good manners.  We know that servant leadership is important, yet we still seem to struggle with the behaviors to support that thought.  Why?  Step back and re-evaluate the actions that support your words.  What are the little things you have done and what were your motivations?
  6. Live with Purpose and Passion. At the end of the day, what is your legacy?  What will people celebrate when they think of you?  Legacies don’t happen on their own.

Pierson has a passion for helping coworkers and friends succeed. She has a fifteen-year accomplished track record of coaching for success, as well as inspiring others to lead teams through chaos into achieving remarkable results.

Business Management Expert Paul Ratoff: 5 Ways to Find a Meaningful Company Purpose

To ensure an organization’s long-term success, pursuing purposeful behavior is the best practice business leaders can follow for thriving in today’s stakeholder-driven world.

Thriving in a Stakeholder World“Purposeful behavior means taking actions that are consistent with a purpose that is meaningful and important to all the organization’s stakeholders,” says Paul Ratoff, author of the new book Thriving in a Stakeholder World: Purpose as the New Competitive Advantage (Indie Books International, 2016).  Ratoff defines stakeholders in a much broader context; meaning all individuals or groups of individuals who impact or are impacted by the organization.

Ratoff has been a successful business consultant in Southern California for the past 35 years, assisting a wide range of middle-market companies plan and manage their growth and success. He is a Certified Management Consultant, Strategic Management Professional and president of Strategy Development Group.

His book demonstrates to business leaders how applying purposeful behavior as a management style can be an effective way to optimize stakeholder value and provide a competitive advantage in their markets.

At the foundation of this approach is having business leaders discover their organization’s true Purpose or Mission. To do that Ratoff recommends five practices:

1. Ask Why? Challenge yourself by continually asking the simple question, “Why is this meaningful and important to me?” until you are inspired. Start with the reason you wanted to go into business in the first place and then ask the “why” question. Keep asking that question until you come to an answer which you find inspiring or moving in some way. Look for a problem your business solved for people.

2. Ask What Really Inspires You. You can also look for actions you would like to take on in your life that inspire you. Something you are doing or might want to do outside of business, if only you had the time or money. Maybe there is a hobby you would love to take on, or a charity you are supporting, or a cause that is important to you. Then, consider how your business might serve as a vehicle to pursue that interest.

3. Think Beyond Business Model. Do not limit yourself to the things your organization does to make money. Purpose and business model are very different. Think of your products and services as byproducts of your organization’s purpose. For example, a company could be committed to creating leaders in the world but it trains and develops its leaders inside of a vertical retail-store/e-commerce business model.

4. Expand on Your Product’s Value. By the same token, the product or service could also be the source of your passion. If that is true, you can use the “why” question to better understand the passion behind it. The value you bring to your customers can be defined as having three levels: There is the physical level of the product or service that is often defined by its specifications and characteristics. There is also the emotional level that is defined by how it affects one personally— for example, how it feels or tastes or comforts. Then there is the conceptual level, which has more to do with how it will impact the world—for example, reduce crime, improve overall health, reduce hunger, etc.

5. Look at Personal Goals. By personal goals, Ratoff is referring to goals that affect you directly: like buying a house, becoming a famous person, etc. Personal goals are very different than purpose. If you consider the time horizon, personal goals are generally achieved in a much shorter time period, say from one to five years. They only need to be inspiring to one person: you. Purpose, on the other hand, would need to have a much longer time horizon, which could extend beyond many generations.

“Purpose needs to be inspiring to many more people, specifically, the organization’s key stakeholders,” says Ratoff. “It is not uncommon for leaders to mistake personal goals as their organization’s purpose. For example, being the largest company in the industry may be a personal goal but it would not likely be an organization’s purpose. It might be a shorter-term goal if it supported the organization’s purpose and business strategy.”


Distinguished CEOs to Share New Innovation Methods at Forum for C-Suite and Key Executives

IRVINE, Calif. (Nov. 19, 2015) — The Executive Next Practices Institute (ENP), an innovation think tank for C-level business executives to review new leadership and business strategies, will present its special year-end forum “CEO Authors on Innovation and Next Practices Awards” for C-Suite and key executive leaders on December 4 at the Taco Bell World HQ (1 Glen Bell Way) in Irvine.

Esteemed business leaders from various industry sectors will collaborate in the unique forum led by top CEO authors to discuss a variety of topics including: how to build a culture of innovation within your company, and faster ways to adapt to market changes. In addition to hearing key thought leaders share new innovation methods, Next Practice Awards will be presented to individuals, teams and companies, who are disrupting and transforming their industries.

Keynote speakers will include David Giannetto, senior vice president of services at Astea International, the leader in service management and mobile workforce technology, and author of “Big Social Mobile: How Digital Initiatives Can Reshape the Enterprise and Drive Business Results;” Leon Shapiro, CEO of Vistage and director at The Advisory Board Company and eTouches Inc.; David Nordfors, CEO and co-founder of i4j (Innovation for Jobs Ecosystem) and author of the upcoming book “Disrupting Unemployment: Innovating Meaningful Jobs For All in a Thriving People-Centered Economy;” and Danna Korn, co-founder and CEO of Sonic Boom Wellness.

The event will be held on Friday, December 4, 2015 at the Taco Bell Headquarters in Irvine. The session will begin at 8:30 a.m. and conclude at 10:30 a.m. To register, visit For more information, contact the ENP Institute at or call 888.857.9722.

About the Executive Next Practices Institute: The Executive Next Practices Institute (ENP) is an established mastermind organization comprised of Fortune 5000 C-level and top functional leaders (CEO, CFO, CMO, HR, CIO, Board Directors) who meet to discuss innovative business and leadership strategies. Roundtable sessions are held with a strict non-solicitation policy to encourage leaders to interact, engage and think collaboratively, and to ensure maximum relationship-building. The group follows a “next practices” development method, which discards the status quo in favor of a more effective and relevant approach to today’s business problems and tomorrow’s solutions. For more information on the ENP, contact Executive Next Practices Institute President, Scott Hamilton, or call 888.857.9722.

Agile Leadership Experts Nick Horney and Tom O’Shea: Turbulent Speed of Change Demands Focused, Fast & Flexible Organizational Leadership

OCEANSIDE, CA, July 27 / PRNewswire / Today’s leaders are now strapped into a world in which the need for transformation in the leadership of organizations is an absolute necessity to match the level of change happening in competitive, consumer, customer, and workforce environments.

Focused, Fast & Flexible cover - hi res“The daunting, ever-increasing speed of change is rapidly altering the relatively simple environment of the late 20th century into a world of exponentially increasing turbulence,” says Nick Horney, coauthor of the book Focused, Fast & Flexible: Creating Agility Advantage in a VUCA World (Indie Books International, 2015). “Being successful in this environment requires a transformation in how an organization operates, in how it thinks about itself, and in how it is led.”

In the 1990s, social scientists working with the U.S. Army War College recognized the ongoing chaos happening around the world and the implications for their mission of preparing our military leaders to understand and lead in this context. They coined the acronym VUCA as a shorthand way of referring to this environment: Volatile, Uncertain, Complex, and Ambiguous.

“After the tragedy of September 11, the college informally changed its name to VUCA University, signaling its realization that these were going to be long-term descriptors for the future realities that military leaders would face for some time to come,” says Tom O’Shea, the books coauthor. “Since that time, VUCA has become increasingly well-known and adopted as the descriptor for the challenging internal and external environments that all organizations face today and will face with even greater intensity in the future.”

Each of the VUCA factors contributes significantly to the turbo turbulence in the operating context for leaders. Corporate leaders face the VUCA world every day.

“Confident, agile organizations and leaders need to be skillful guides able to convert the external negative energy into positive internal energy cascading down through the organization creating confidence and success by becoming more focused, fast and flexible,” says Horney.

The frenzy of innovation is the hallmark of the 21st century, a century driven by the continuing digital revolution, rapidly expanding interconnectivity and intensifying global competition with radically evolving consumer expectations and dynamics. The book contends an era of turbo turbulence is upon us, with increasingly vexing turmoil coming at us at increasing speed.

O’Shea says “There are two fundamental questions that leave survival hanging in the balance: How will organizations deal with such an environment? What will be the impact dynamic on your enterprise and how will you respond as a leader?” The clear answer, contends the book, is that you and your organization must become agile—focused, fast, and flexible—where people, processes, and technology continuously adapt to changing conditions.

“This capability will enable you to continually anticipate, monitor, and adjust to trends and the new dynamics, so you and your enterprise not only survive but thrive,” says Horney. “There is a rapidly growing understanding by CEOs and senior leaders around the globe regarding the need for organizational agility, and many leaders have already attempted to promote it in their organizations in some form or fashion.”

Authors Horney and O’Shea offer a widely acclaimed best-practices approach built around their trademarked The Agile Model developed in the course of more than 15 years of study working with dozens of organizations and thousands of leaders. This research-based “next practice” model frames the essential drivers of organizational agility, identifies the processes that enable each driver, and clarifies the domains and potential outcomes of a serious effort to become agile.

Horney founded Agility Consulting and Training in 2001 and has combined his background as a psychologist, consultant and former Navy Officer in Special Operations to be recognized for innovations in the fields of leadership development and change management.

O’Shea, co-owner of Agility Consulting and Training, has over two decades experience at industry- leading companies in fast paced, multi-channel branded consumer products.


Home-Selling Expert Lettiann Southerland: Ten Tips for Selling a Home that Cooks

OVERLAND PARK, KS, May 13 / PRNewswire / Some small steps like having the closets half empty and changing to higher wattage bulbs can have a big impact when selling a home.

Homes That Cook cover - hi res“I have taken two very happy areas of my life and combined them in a book of real estate buying and selling tips along with delicious family recipes, with the hope that they will enrich people’s lives and their quest for a home that cooks,” says Lettiann Southerland, author of the new book “Homes that Cook: Best Kept Secrets for Buying, Selling and Creating a Home” (Indie Books International, 2015).

Southerland runs a real estate team called Lettiann & Associates and is a full-time real estate agent at Weichert Realtors Graham-Welch with an emphasis on service, sales and marketing, and negotiating.

As a self-proclaimed foodie, she also included more than 100 pages of recipes and cooking tips in her book along with advice on buying and selling a home.

Here are just ten of her tips from her book on selling a home:

  1. Don’t attend your open house. Think back to when you were shopping for a house—would you have felt comfortable to speak your mind with the owner hovering? Give serious buyers room to have an honest conversation with each other and their agent without feeling the need to edit themselves.
  1. Don’t pretend to be a buyer at your open house. This will likely backfire and you will drive away real potential buyers with this crazy behavior. If you feel like you need feedback, ask your agent to tell you the useful comments from the open house.
  1. Provide attractions not distractions. You want to showcase your home and appeal to buyers, but go too far and you could detract. There is nothing wrong with providing cool drinks on a hot day to make buyers more comfortable—it could motivate them to stay longer and see more of the house.
  1. Consider seasonal preferences. While preparing your property and taking steps to market it to potential buyers, consider what seasonal aspects will be appealing while you are selling it. A roaring fire in winter or beautiful spring blooms may help you get a better offer.
  1. Provide full access to the property. You want to be sure buyers can view your whole property when they visit. Unless there is a safety issue, you should not make any rooms, closets, or areas off limits. It is called an open house, after all.
  1. Hold your open house during common times. If at all possible, schedule your open house at the same time as others in the area. Potential buyers often spend a few hours on Sundays and want to maximize their time and see multiple properties while they are out. Though it may be more convenient for you to do it another time, you may limit the number of people that can attend.
  1. Don’t neglect the neighbors. Your neighbors are good assets—they may know people who want to live in the neighborhood and can tell their friends about your property. Invite them to your open houses and offer flyers they can pass along.
  1. Price it right. How do you know what to set for the price? Have it evaluated by an appraiser for its value, then lower that number by 15 to 20 percent. This may sound counterintuitive, but this will likely cause a bidding war between potential buyers that may drive the price up even higher than it’s worth.
  1. Make sure your closets are half-empty. You know that buyers like to look in every door, so you must always keep closets and cabinets clean and organized. But a great tip is to take half of your things out of the closets and make what is left extremely neat.
  1. Maximize the light in your home. A bright and cheery house is more sellable. Do whatever you can to increase the light, including removing drapes, cleaning windows, and changing to higher wattage light bulbs.

LettiannProfilePic2015 one half


Southerland is a member of the Kansas City Regional Association of Realtors, the National Association of Realtors, the Missouri Real Estate Commission, and the Kansas Real Estate Commission.

Executive Agility Coach Karla Robertson: Four Musts for Tough Workplace Conversations

An agile and adaptable way of seeing the world is a must for executives in business today, including how to have difficult conversations, according to the author of a new book on leadership.

The Agile-Minded Executive - hi res“As an executive, you must lubricate your brain with mental challenges that will grow your mindset and make it more agile,” says “The Executive’s Neurocoach,” Karla Robertson, author of the new book “The Agile-Minded Executive: Drive Better Results by Shifting How You Think” (Indie Books International, 2015).

“The Agile-Minded Executive” shows that becoming a better thinker lies in the mindful internal shifts we make to synthesize what our emotions and logic—our whole brain—provide us.

“The complex challenges agile-thinking executives face in this volatile world require them to adapt their minds to the shifting landscape, develop a more nimble approach to assessing the situation, and rapidly craft solutions,” says Robertson. “This book points executives in the right direction to do so. Building a more nimble mind will enable you to more fluidly access valuable input from what the various regions of your brain have in store for you.”

Robertson integrates her coaching approach with the insights from neuroscience as well as the inquiry and observation of coaching methodology. She works with C-level executives, other senior leaders, and their teams in organizations across diverse industries and geographies facilitating retreats, providing one-on-one coaching and team development coaching.

One mental challenge for leaders that can benefit from agile thinking is how to have difficult conversations with those who report to them.

“Sometimes, leaders think they put the right team together and yet some individuals just didn’t end up in the right seat,” says Robertson. “Or they were the right fit for the road they were on but since they had to take some detours and had to make some changes while en route, what they need from them now diverges from their original scope of duties. It isn’t doing them, the employee or the initiative any good to prolong the agony.”

Have the conversation as soon as possible, advises Robertson. Here are her four Cs of having a successful conversation that she discusses in her book:

  1. Be Candid: Don’t be vague or ambiguous. You must define the undesired behavior or work output and the impact it’s having.
  2. Be Clear: Give specifics about your expectations going forward and consequences for not meeting those expectations. Be clear about the What and the Why. Engage them in figuring out the How.
  3. Be Compassionate: Remember to use “the velvet hammer.” You must make a point without leaving a bruise or being disrespectful or demeaning. That will just trigger threat responses in the person that are over the top. Not productive. Doesn’t show good character on your part either. Affirm what they do well and challenge them to build on that. Let them know you believe they can turn it around and that it’s up to them to make that happen.
  4. Be Collaborative: Engage the person to create ways they will shift their behavior and hold themselves accountable. Don’t do all the heavy lifting of the thinking here. They need to take the wheel of their own destiny and accountability to turn their performance around. Ask how you can support them in their efforts without taking over responsibility for them. You own your actions. They own theirs.

As a keynote speaker, Robertson delivers relevant and thought-provoking talks that challenge how people think and encourage them to develop mental agility and nimbleness in themselves and their teams. She believes this is the foundation that must be developed now to effectively prepare our minds to deal with the increasing velocity and uncertainty of change and enable us to adapt and flow to create the best outcomes.

After 20 plus years in the corporate arena, Robertson started her own company, Shifting Gears Business Coaching & Consulting, in 1999. She hosted her own Internet-based talk show, “The Exceleration Zone,” in 2004 and has been quoted in The New York Times, MSNBC Online, and other Internet and national print publications. Prior to that, Robertson was a sales executive and the leading sales producer for companies in the mortgage banking and healthcare industries.


About Karla Robertson

To book Karla Robertson as a speaker, please contact her at or call her at 732-492-8114


Technology Management Expert Anthony L. Butler: Three Rules for Reducing IT Costs

How to spend the right amount on information technology (IT) while ensuring productivity and minimizing downtime is a mystery for many business leaders today. But IT support costs can be kept in check by following three rules, according to the author of a new book on technology management.

Cracking the IT Code - hi res (1)“Managers often treat the symptoms rather than treating the core issue, which is a need to invest in infrastructure standardization,” says Anthony L. Butler, author of “Cracking the IT Code: Technology Management for Non-Technology Managers” (Indie Books International, 2015). “By spending more on infrastructure, companies can reduce overall costs including downtime and support costs.”

Butler has founded three businesses and is the former CEO of one of the largest IT companies in the United States. He writes and speaks extensively on leadership and technology management.

According to Butler, standardization saves money by saving service time. By removing complexity from the IT environment, it becomes enormously easier to support as a system.

Here are three rules from Butler’s book to help companies reduce IT costs:

Cost Savings Rule 1: Standardize and Manage Lifecycles

By replacing hardware on a schedule you will reduce your overall long term support costs while reducing the risk of extended downtime and loss of productivity. Below is a very general guideline to use to help plan the life cycle.

Hardware Lifetime Rules of Thumb:

  • Desktops: three to four years
  • Laptops: two to three years
  • Servers: three to four years
  • Switches, routers, wireless devices: four to five years

Butler’s book advises companies to focus on are the averages. The outliers are what cause owners to make the mistake of thinking they should wait until failure of everything rather than making deliberate updates. Remember, the older the equipment the more difficult it is to support because of changes in software and security.


Cost Savings Rule 2: Manage Your Backups

Over the course of time, the average business generates an enormous amount of information that they need to store, manage, and backup. As the amount of data grows the cost of storage and maintenance of the backups grow with it. In recent years many companies moved from tape backup to online backup providers.

One drawback of cloud backup is the pricing model. Depending on the service, you generally will pay for the amount of storage, the delta change over a given period of time, and recovery time or how long it will take to recover information when needed.

“Careful management of the data you backup can save an enormous amount of money,” says Butler. “With the loosening of IT rules at many companies and the entire Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) revolution, companies are often surprised to find out they are paying to store gigs or even hundreds of gigs of employee’s music and video files that were uploaded on company equipment. Careful management of the actual types of media that are stored and backed up can save businesses thousands of dollars a year.”

The next area of savings in backup management is archiving. The longer a company is in business, the less likely they are to access older files. Many of the more advanced backup services have the ability to move data into an inactive archive and the storage cost is often deeply discounted as “static” data.


Cost Savings Rule 3: Who Does the Work Matters

One of the best ways to save money in IT is to change who does the work. Unfortunately, for most companies with fewer than 200 people, a single person cannot usually handle the volume or complexity of the work.

“There is just too much to know and too few hours in the day to handle all of the issues well,” says Butler. “For companies from 15 to 200 seats, more likely than not, the managed IT provider will be more cost effective.”


About Anthony L. Butler

To book Anthony L. Butler as a speaker, please contact him at