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One and Done? I Don’t Think So!

Several years ago I was working with a Business Development Consultant (BDC) in a major metro in the Southwest. We had trained him to go after the agency market and he was getting good initial results.

After a few months he came to me and said that he was out of leads! Out of leads? He had a list of about 2,500 agencies in his market. There was no possible way that he could have worked all those leads in just a few short months.

“Well, I did”, he asserted, with a thrust out chin (I assume, since we were on the phone. But it sure sounded that way!)

Now, let me digress just a bit. This is a perfect example of why you need a high degree of transparency when you are working with your salespeople—ideally utilizing a shared CRM like Luxor. What had happened in this case was some combination of miscommunication, stubbornness (and not the good kind) and an inability on my part to clearly see what the salesperson was doing in his territory.

You see, back in those days I based a lot of my evaluation of the people I worked with on the number of referrals and the dollars of closed collected jobs they brought in. Now those are still crucial KPIs but I have learned the hard way that you have to look deeper.

Back to the story. What had happened with this salesperson is that he had run through his entire database making a single phone call to each agency. If he was able to get a meeting, he pursued it. If not, he moved on. That was it. One single phone call. On the vast majority of them he never spoke to the decision maker. Just one and done and now he needs more leads!

Given that, for this vertical in his market there are no more leads (!) we have to be more efficient at getting to decision makers and having our initial conversation to see if the prospect has any of the pains we can address.

There are two pieces of marketing research that influence our prospecting process.

The first is that it takes seven contacts for a prospect to realize that you are making a concerted effort to reach them. However, the average salesperson only makes two attempts to reach a prospect! So, while you are getting frustrated and indignant at your rude prospect for not returning your calls he or she isn’t thinking about you at all!

The second piece of research is that prospects have better recall concerning you and your message if that message is delivered to them via multiple different media. In other words, a mix of phone calls, emails, faxes, letters, bulky mails, face-to-face calls, etc. is far better than seven phone calls or seven emails if you want to get the decision maker to actually talk to you.

So, the best way to get in touch with your prospects is to create a sequence of different prospecting activities arranged in a meaningful sequence that makes sense. We recommend 8 activities conducted in a compressed time period, typically two to three weeks.

This time frame is important to convey a sense of momentum and urgency to your prospects. This also allows you to sift through your database without wasting enormous amounts of time on prospects that have no intention of talking to you.

These activities should relate to each other when possible.

For example, let’s say you start your prospecting sequence with a face-to-face visit but are blocked by the gatekeeper (obtaining your prospect’s business card). You then leave a specially designed marketing piece behind that is clever, funny and advances your value proposition and the problems you solve without giving away your “secret sauce”.

The following day you make a phone call to follow up on the leave behind piece. If you get blocked, you leave a scripted voice mail that also touches on the problems you solve for folks like your prospect.

Your next step is to attempt to connect with the prospect on LinkedIn with a scripted message.

Following this, you send an email to follow up on your communications thus far and so on.

The idea is that you are sending your marketing message in a variety of different ways and at least seven or eight times in a compressed period of time in order to stimulate the initial conversation.

In our next post we’ll discuss “Yes, Stop Stalking Me and Crickets”.

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Without This Cold Calling Will Be a Real Struggle!

In my last two posts we established that cold calling is far from dead and that the most critical element to successful cold calling is having a well thought out marketing strategy behind your sales and cold calling efforts.

Now, we have to take that strategy and create a powerful cold calling script.

I can almost hear the wailing and gnashing of teeth at the concept of scripting your cold call openers. Here’s the thing; sales professionals create and use scripts—period. Of course, they ultimately make the scripts their own but being extremely specific about what you want to communicate and how you want to communicate it is simply sales best practice.

After all, you want a specific outcome to your cold calling, don’t you?

Most salespeople will say that they want a meeting or they want to obtain new business when I ask that question but I think it’s important to start a step earlier. I think that the number one goal of all prospecting activity is to find pain!

Sales is about getting people to make changes (ideally to your company!). And given that people generally resist change unless there is a powerful motivation that incents them to change you’d better find such a motivation as early in the process as possible. So whether you call it pain, problems, challenges, dissatisfaction or “owies” all of these things are motives to get your prospect to change.

The process of creating your marketing strategy will have identified the pains that your prospects most likely are suffering from. So now you have to build your script around those pains.

Let’s also face the reality that when you are cold calling your prospects are often busy, rushed, not expecting your call and therefore may be short or irritated when they take your call or walk out to see you at their office. This means that you have to get to the point immediately. Don’t waste time with the fake salesman voice asking how they’re doing today. That immediately marks you as an oxygen thief to be gotten rid of as quickly as possible!

I also suggest that you do not identify the company you work for or wear company logoed apparel when prospecting. Why? Because once your prospect identifies you as a restoration contractor salesperson they will immediately place you in the category of all such salespeople that have called on them previously.

If you have a good marketing strategy and value proposition this is the last thing you want to happen because you can be sure that 99% of your competition doesn’t! If they think they know what you are all about they will turn off their brain and stop listening except to wonder why you aren’t carrying a box of donuts.

You also want to establish credibility as quickly as you can. Ideally, you have a couple of well-known members of the prospect’s industry that you work with that you can name drop. (If you don’t have them yet, just omit this part of the script until you do.)

Then, you want to get to the pains as quickly as you can.

Here’s an example that works just as well on the phone or in person:

“Hi, my name is Tim Miller and I’m a business development consultant that works with agents like Bob Bigshot at State Farm by Bigshot and Tony Tiger at the Tiger Agency helping them to increase policyholder retention, generate more word-of-mouth referrals and create a new competitive edge to help them sell against Internet competition like Geico, Esurance and Progressive. Are you facing any of those issues?”

Remember, the goal is to find pain so that is how I want to direct the conversation, if possible. Ideally, the prospect will answer my question about whether or not they are facing any of those issues and I can start asking my “drill down” questions which are designed to lead me to an “At the Desk” meeting.

Now, prospects don’t always cooperate and you have to be able to think on your feet. The prospect may not answer your question and instead ask you who you are with. When you get this response you have to answer them but get back on track as quickly as possible:

“I’m with Fabulous Restoration. Are you familiar with our company?”

Chances are that they aren’t (unless you’ve been doing a lot of advertising or previous marketing). A great way to respond when they say that they aren’t familiar with you is:

“Well, I’m sure you’re familiar with (the guys in the yellow trucks) and (the guys in the green trucks) and (a well-known independent). We’re exactly like those guys only completely different!”

Unless your prospect is completely humorless they will usually bite. “Okay, how are you completely different?”

Your response here has to get you back to their pains.

“Well, we have decided to grow our business by helping the agents that we work with protect and grow their business. In speaking with many agents we find that they are often looking to increase policyholder retention, generate more word-of-mouth referrals for new business and are constantly looking for new ways to compete against Internet insurance providers. Are any of those issues for you?”

In my next post we’ll discuss what it takes to get the conversation in the first place.

All the best!

Tim

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The Most Important Secret to Successful Cold Calling

In my last blog post I discussed that cold calling is very much alive despite the many vendors of inside sales and lead generation services that pronounce it dead loudly and often. In that post I promised to break down the critical elements of successful cold calling in my subsequent posts and today we are going to discuss what I consider to be the most important one.

This critical element is having a well thought out marketing strategy behind your sales and cold calling efforts. Unless you provide a commodity service and can compete successfully on price day in and day out, marketing strategy is crucial. Even if you can successfully sell commodities based on price today, I would suggest that working out a marketing strategy for the future is simply sound business planning.

Let’s start by defining marketing strategy. For the most part, your marketing strategy answers the questions (spoken or unspoken) in your prospect’s mind that go something like this, “What makes you and your company different and better than my current vendor and the other (20, 30, 100) companies just like yours that also call on me? Why should I change whatever it is I am currently doing? In fact, why should I even listen to a word that you are saying?”

So, if we face reality, these are the questions that we must acknowledge are likely on our prospect’s mind as soon as we make contact with them on a cold call. The prospect is going to make a decision in a few split seconds whether or not to spend any more time with you at all so your strategy must be strong, the salesperson must understand how it addresses pains the prospect is likely to have and it must be formulated into a powerful script that has been role played and delivered to near perfection.

If you do not have this component in place then your poor salespeople sound just like the dozens of competitors that call on the prospect, get shut down quickly, tossed out on their ear (or hung up on) and become quickly demoralized. Their call reluctance grows to epic proportions!

Needless to say, this is a recipe for failure.

Now, explaining how to create a powerful marketing strategy is something best covered in a Webinar rather than a blog post. Stay tuned for an invitation to our next Webinar that will be devoted to this topic!

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Why You Should Be Using a Subcontractor Agreement

Many restoration contractors rely on subcontractors (Subs) to complete much of the work on their jobs. Without a doubt, they play a vital role in the disaster restoration industry. Because many restorers have long-standing relationships with their Subs, they fail to use Subcontractor Agreements because they feel comfortable with these small businesses. This means that they could be exposing themselves to a great deal of risk and liability.

Simply put, a Subcontractor Agreement is a risk control strategy which shifts risk from one party to another. With such an agreement, the restoration contractor is protecting themselves from risk derived from the work of their Subs.

Why risk transfer is important

Taking on your Sub’s liability can cost you tens of thousands of dollars. Without a Subcontractor Agreement, if your Sub does poor work on a job that results in loss, you could be held legally and financially liable for their work; thus, the much wiser decision would be to go with a formal written agreement. A Subcontractor Agreement has many benefits:

  • It can help control the type and the impact of the liabilities a restorer could face.
  • It can generate additional profit by lowering overall costs.
  • It can save money on insurance workers’ comp audits. Certificates of Insurance aren’t always enough.

Since a Subcontractor Agreement is designed to protect contractors from the intentional or negligent acts of their Subs, most attorneys recommend that the agreement should have language that resembles the following:

  • “Subcontractor, agrees to defend and indemnify the contractor (and others if applicable) against any claims, lawsuits, and damages arising out of the subcontractor’s negligence or intentional acts.”

Furthermore, language about the Sub’s agreement to defend and indemnify the contractor for any misrepresentations (made knowingly or unknowingly) regarding the Sub’s licensing, corporate status, or other relevant issues should be included.

A restorer can really help themselves and avoid liability with a well-written Subcontractor Agreement. Even though you may have a long-standing relationship with a Sub, the situation could get very sticky should something go wrong, so it would be a good idea to let your Subs know that these agreements will be required if they want to work on your job sites.  It’s a good idea to have someone like an attorney or your insurance agent look over or provide you with a solid Subcontractor Agreement.

Ground rules for subs

I have observed that my successful clients that are using Subs to produce the majority of their work have created and communicated the ground rules required to work with their businesses. You should negotiate a written agreement with each Sub on a yearly basis.  

The Subcontractor Agreement needs to list the requirements necessary to work with your company. These should spell out any areas in which disagreements could occur, which could include, but are not limited to:

  • Is a job site visit required before a price is given?
  • Who will pay for job clean-up and trash removal?
  • How will Subs’ invoices be submitted and when?
  • What payment terms are agreed on?
  • Can the Sub do side work for the customer?
  • How will change orders be handled?
  • Who will purchase the materials for the job?
  • What warranty will the Sub provide?
  • What are the license and insurance requirements?
  • What agreement has been made on the job schedule?

Your Subcontractor Agreement should include at a minimum:

  • A firm and fixed price quote for each job. No Cost Plus or T&M quotes for work to be done.
  • Proof of all required licenses and insurance.
  • Proof of financial competency when a requirement of the job.
  • Showing up at the job site on the agreed-upon date and time.
  • Following the same work and safety rules that you expect of your own employees.
  • Keeping the job site clean and orderly.
  • No use of loud radios, drugs, smoking, or alcoholic drinks on the job site.
  • No agreement to do side work for the customer without prior approval from your company.

What to do now?

Look at your Subcontractor Agreements that you currently use and make sure they are effective in your day-to-day operations. If you do not have or do not use these agreements, I recommend that you immediately contract your attorney to create one. Be proactive and eliminate potential problems with your Subs.

My mission is to serve small business owners that suffer from sleepless nights, making little to no money, and having people problems. I help them increase year-over-year performance and profits, build high-performing teams, and get some time back for themselves.

At BDA, we believe that every restoration business owner has the right to expect that their business can deliver for them what they want out of life (freedom) and to create wealth.

Make it a prosperous month!  See you on the next blog.

John Capponi, CR

Operations and Management Consultant

Business Development Associates, Inc.

john@gobda.com

Cell: 407-745-7698

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How to Become Someone Your Clients Know, Like and Trust

Part of our services to our clients is going to their market and doing ride-alongs with business development reps to help them get a running start as they implement the proprietary programs we teach them.

Sometimes these are industry newbies; sometimes newbies to outside sales and sometimes they are BDRs that have had long experience in their market and with their company who are now implementing a new and/or improved value proposition.

The ultimate goal for a BDR is to become someone that clients know, like and trust.

Why?

Because people do business with people they know, like and trust. In fact, this is a maxim in the sales business coined maybe by Dale Carnegie or Zig Ziglar or maybe even Henry Ford.

But regardless who said it, this is the ultimate goal: to have a personal relationship with your clients who trust you as an expert, as a friend that won’t let them down, as a resource that has expertise and the ability to help them solve fundamental business challenges and problems that they face or may face.

I had the pleasure of riding with a well-established BDR over the last two days. She has invested 10 years in the building of her book of business. She has been to countless association meetings, served on committees, on boards, has a near photographic memory of her client’s properties, past losses and their personal lives.

And as I observed her working her magic in the field this week I had an insight about becoming trusted that I wanted to share.

Some years back I read a book about having successful romantic relationships and the author had a neat little trick where he broke down the word intimacy into, “Into me you see”. In other words, intimacy comes from authenticity, from letting other people see who you really are as a person.

So many salespeople get caught up in the idea of some “Joe Salesman” persona that just comes across as phony and inauthentic. People can smell this out a mile away and it tends to generate the opposite of trust!

Now, I’m not saying that BDRs should just walk into every account and bare their souls about every trial and tribulation that they are facing. There is such a thing as over-sharing!

But at the same time, the people that you are doing business with are people just like you. They face marital problems, illnesses, deaths, difficult children, job struggles and career challenges just like every other person.

Being authentic is recognizing that they are people just like you and that as highly social creatures we seek connection. In fact, the salesperson I rode with this week told me words to the effect that, “Even though I’m there to try and get restoration work, I feel that the underlying work is to connect with people on a human level and that there is some divine purpose underlying all this that I don’t understand and don’t need to.”

Another great mentor of mine, Nick Paolella told me many years ago, “Timmy, don’t sell to your friends. Make friends out of the people that you sell to.”

So it is worth considering how you can reveal yourself to your clients in ways that let them see you as a real person. How do you let them “see into you” and connect with you on a different level than simply as a vendor providing services they need from time to time?

This doesn’t mean you don’t have to develop expertise, make sure you and your company deliver on your promises and deliver real value added to differentiate you and your company from the competition.

But to get to the highest level of trusted advisor and resource, you have to be real.

All the best!

Tim

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Is Cold Calling Dead? Not Hardly!

Even though I spend the majority of my time on sales development I’ve been primarily a marketing guy my entire career. And that’s not really surprising because marketing and sales are really two sides of the same coin.

Another broad way to think about it is that marketing decides what and sometimes how something will be sold and sales then goes out and sells it.

In my experience, marketing is a fad driven industry. If you’ve clicked on any marketing related email or website during the last few years then your inbox is probably crammed full of offers to provide you with information on the latest and greatest marketing innovation. Some of the most recent are inside sales, inbound marketing and lead generation services.

Now, I am a total fan of inbound marketing and lead generation and inside sales programs.

The problem I have is that they are marketed as a replacement to cold calling—as if cold calling was dead (they often say just that in the email!)

As if cold calling no longer works.

As if millions of years of the ways that humans communicate and create relationships has suddenly been erased with the advent of the latest and greatest software and data mining technology.

Let me state with clarity that cold calling is dead if you don’t know how to do it!

If you don’t know how to do it then it is a huge time and money waster, an absolutely demoralizing activity to put your salespeople through and the results may have you searching for the magic bullet only to find websites that confirm what you are already thinking:

  • It’s not that my salespeople are ineffective.
  • It’s not that I don’t have a clear differentiation strategy from my competition.
  • It’s not that I don’t have solid, proven scripts and processes.
  • It’s not that my salespeople don’t role play or are not coached as they go through the process.
  • It’s not that my products or services are commoditized and I haven’t taken the time to reframe them as solutions to different, more important problems.
  • It’s not that I’m calling the wrong people.
  • It’s not that I don’t have a prospecting sequence to follow and instead do the same thing over and over and expect different results.

Nah! It’s that cold calling is dead. I knew it! And see, this website hawking the latest and greatest technology said so—it must be true!

Cold calling, which includes cold calling by phone as well as face-to-face (F2F) is still (and likely always will) be an important part of the skills that true salespeople bring to their profession.

When done correctly it is a very powerful and fast way to build a territory, to get things moving, to get traction, to start setting the meetings that are necessary to move prospects through the pipeline from suspect to client or customer.

Watch this space as we break down critical elements of successful cold calling over my next several blog posts!

All the best!

Tim

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A New Way for Restorers to Prosper

Every once in a while something new comes along that can be a game changer. I don’t mean a massive industry shift but a way to do things better, more profitably or that can open up new sales opportunities that didn’t exist before.

And given how tough the restoration industry is, we could all use an extra edge, couldn’t we?

I’m using this post to tell you about something that I have discovered that might be a good fit for you in your restoration business. There are a lot of applications for this product but for restorers it has some really amazing benefits:

  • You can pre-treat and/or post-treat Category 3 water losses for an extra layer of protection for you and the building occupants,
  • You can be 100% confident that your “no smoke odor guarantee” will be something you won’t get call backs on,
  • You’ll be able to dramatically increase profits on mold remediation projects because you can eliminate most productivity sucking PPE,
  • You’ll also dramatically reduce HEPA vacuuming as part of your mold remediation process,
  • Imagine never failing a mold clearance test again,
  • You can treat the nastiest trauma scene to destroy micro-organisms, the death stench and even Blow Flies and Bottle Flies before you start work (and post-treat to make sure you have taken care of all the nasty stuff),

Now, before I give you a link to check this stuff out, let me give you a little background on why I am staking my reputation on sharing this with you.

First of all, this is my buddy Craig Jasper’s company. I’ve known Craig for 30 years and I’ve been amazed that he has lived his life by a simple credo, “If you help enough people get what they want, you’ll get what you want.”

I have done business with Craig and I know him to be a man of his word who does what he promises, even if it hurts—when most people would just disappear.

But even with my confidence in Craig, I really wanted to make sure that what he was onto was the real thing. That’s why I interviewed the people that make this stuff, spoke to mold remediation companies that had used this product for 14 years and NEVER FAILED A SINGLE CLEARANCE TEST and really made sure that I understood how this stuff worked and that it did work.

I am convinced that this product can do the things that I listed above and therefore can make a real and positive impact on your restoration business right now. Check out the details at https://nc191.isrefer.com/go/remediation/tm/

And, I am also convinced that restorers need to start diversifying their sources of revenue as our market matures. This product opens to doors to a host of new opportunities that are easy to market, simple to service and that are new and highly profitable. Craig’s program will give you everything you need to get started and he has a team of experts to hold your hand as long as you need them to.

Again, I strongly urge you to check out the website at the above link. Fill out your first name and email address on the web page and read the information they send you.

And if you decide to give it a try when Craig says there is a money-back guarantee you can take that to the bank!

All the best!

Tim

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Is Your Company on Financial Life Support?

Every business is going to struggle financially at some point in its life. In fact, you will likely experience it several times on your journey to building a successful restoration company. However, there is a difference between financial struggle and feeling stuck. There is a difference between having a simple plan you are following to improve your profitability and cash flow… and feeling overwhelmed and without a strategy.

The problem today is many restorers are feeling more like passengers than drivers in their businesses. They are careening along on the highway of business out of alignment and have sleepless nights and anxiety during the day wondering where they will end up financially. A common concern is “How will I make payroll this week?”

What if you had a sensible plan, a roadmap, you could follow that would guide you on your path to building a strong, wealth generating business? You would have the clarity of knowing what your next steps are. You would have the confidence that comes from having a simple system to follow. Your focus would shift to profitably scaling your business and working on your business rather than always cashing the money.

There is light at the end of the tunnel and this blog is about helping you get unstuck. I will share with you a Three Phase Plan for breathing life back into the financial side of your business. You’ll learn a simple system you can implement in baby steps. A system that will help you move faster toward financial health, wealth, and freedom.

Phase 1: Meet Your Financial Reality Head-on

This phase is about assessing, then improving, the financial health of your business. Confronting the reality of your financial situation is vital to your profitable growth.

  • Step 1: build your cash balance to 1 month of expenses as quickly as possible.
    If you have less than one month of operating expenses in the bank, you are probably experiencing unnecessary stress, angering your vendors, irritating your employees, ignoring the financial reality of your business, and generally making your life harder than it needs to be. Maintaining a very small bank balance in business turns otherwise simple decisions and processes into complicated and time consuming hassles.
  • Step 2: put aside enough cash to pay your income taxes.
    Taxes should be set aside during the year, not at the end of the year. The government yields way too big a stick to make a mistake when it comes to paying your income taxes. This is one of those “unforced errors” that plagues small businesses more so than larger ones. Income tax payments should never be a surprise.
  • Step 3: diagnose your profitability and cash flow weaknesses – then fix them.
    Financial struggle in business has its roots in profitability challenges and the way in which you monitor and manage your cash flow.
  • Step 4: create a reliable financial forecast for the next 6 to 18 months.
    One of the most powerful tools in for a restoration business is a reliable financial forecast. It provides the view through the financial windshield of your business. It helps you define where your business is going financially. It shines a light on the dangers and opportunities that lie ahead of you on your journey to creating a bigger and brighter financial future.

Phase 2: Create a Financial Safety Net

A financial safety net is created by having some cash in the bank and less debt. It provides you with two benefits:

  1. It protects you when financial surprises hit.
    • A sudden loss of a key account (insurance carrier) because they decided to change to a TPA or a national account.
    • A mortgage company decides to hold your money.
  2. It allows you to take measured risks to grow your company.
    • You can hire a marketer that could land you additional business.
    • Purchase additional equipment or vehicles to increase your production capacity.

There are three steps in Phase 2 that will help you build a financial safety net in your business:

  • Step 1: pay your bank line of credit down to zero even if temporary.
    A revolving line of credit is meant to revolve. You may borrow on the line to meet seasonal demands or address other short-term cash needs. Then the bank line should be paid back down to zero.
  • Step 2: reduce your personal guarantees.
    When you first started your business, it may have been difficult to avoid personal guarantees.  As you grow and become more successful you have more leverage and more reason to intentionally reduce your personal guarantees.
  • Step 3: build your cash balance to three months of operating expenses.
    Building your bank account to three months of operating expenses creates a cash cushion against surprises. Most importantly, the fact that you have a healthy cash balance will help you sleep well at night.

Phase 3: Grow and Enjoy Financial Success

Profitably growing your restoration business is much harder than most people realize. There is a small number of people that have the unique talents and drive to build and manage a company through the many ups and downs inherent in business.

The following three steps in this process help you set the stage for a future that is even bigger and brighter than you have seen in the past:

  • Step 1: use existing cash flow for capital expenditures and growth capital.
    Capital expenditures generally take two forms:

    • maintenance capital expenditures – these are expenditures, or investments, that maintain your existing fixed asset base.
    • growth related capital expenditures – these are meant to add new income producing assets and are designed to add to your ability to serve more customers and drive revenues.
  • Step 2: pay down your remaining debt on an accelerated schedule.
    Debt can be a valuable tool in helping you build your business. Debt can become bondage and success comes when you practice constraint and pay your debt down on an accelerated schedule. Use a portion of your existing cash flow and allocate it to a more aggressive payment plan.
  • Step 3: reward yourself with cash.
    The ultimate prize for a restoration business owner is receiving healthy distributions of the company’s excess cash. It’s your reward for building a successful company. It’s cash you can invest in other assets or ventures as part of building a sizeable net worth for you and your family.

Your Next Step

Struggling financially in your business is a sign that something has gone wrong. It’s your business sending a flare into the air to get your attention? You can ignore the signals and keep on trucking. It is not a good idea to be an Ostridge and bury your head in the sand and believe that if you wait along enough the slow cash flow will fix itself.

When you have a step-by-step plan to follow you’ll find that identifying the problem and fixing it becomes so much easier. No more worrying and wondering what’s causing the problem. No more sleepless nights wondering whether the problem is about to get even worse.

Act today and contact our office to schedule a FREE Profit Strategy Session to discuss your unique cash flow issues.

My mission is to serve business owners and corporate executives that suffer from sleepless nights, making little to no money, and having people problems. I help them increase year-over-year performance and profits, build high-performing teams, and get some time back for themselves.

Make it a prosperous month!  See you on the next blog.

John Capponi, CR

Operations and Management Consultant

Business Development Associates, Inc.

john@gobda.com

Cell: 407-745-7698

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Creating a Culture of Sales Accountability

When it comes to salespeople and accountability there are a number of factors that must be balanced (and sometimes it’s a delicate balance!)

First, it is a huge mistake to just let salespeople “do their thing” without “inspecting what you expect”. This assumes that you have a specific, proven process for salespeople to be successful within your organization that you train them to.  Not inspecting that they are doing what they have been trained to do almost guarantees that they aren’t doing it!

This is not necessarily because they don’t care or don’t want to but because learning new sales processes (and sometimes a new industry) isn’t easy and takes a lot of repetition and review over time.

And, you want to not just measure sales activity totals because these can be misleading by themselves because unless those activities are in service of your sales process you may find a lot of wasted effort.

In other words, if your sales process calls for a F2F visit, then a follow-up call, then an email, then a letter, then another phone call and so on, you need to know whether or not that sequence is being executed. Otherwise, you could have prospects that have been dropped in on once a month ago and no follow up ever done. This could be hidden by a straight activities only report. For this reason you want to look at a sales sequence report as well as a sales activity totals report.

And, sometimes your salesperson is at the bar, the racetrack, sleeping in their car, almost anything but doing what you paid them to do.

So, I recommend that every salesperson understands that there will be accountability when it comes to conducting the fundamental sales activities they are required to execute such as phone calls, emails, letters, networking events, etc. and that all these activities may be verified by GPS.

I don’t recommend that you spend your days scrutinizing GPS reports and asking them why they took 40 minutes for lunch either! You should however, verify their activity using GPS in the very beginning to make sure you haven’t hired a bleep-head who is stealing from you by not working. It is also very useful when performance flags and something just seems “off” to identify a problem in the early stages.

One of my favorite GPS stories is about a client who had concerns that a salesperson was going “south”. The GPS said he was in a bar (during work hours) not far from where my client happened to be. You can imagine the look on the rep’s face and the stream of excuses that started pouring out when the company owner sat down next to the rep at the bar.

Second, and this is tricky, salespeople earn leeway by generating results. One of my clients has a great salesperson who consistently brings in $2 million in referrals every year. She likes nice clothes and if you checked her GPS report you might find her at a particular boutique for an hour during the business day every so often. Who cares? She has earned the right to more leeway.

For your salespeople to be really effective, you must create an atmosphere that encourages them to excel and holds them accountable for their selling behavior and rewards outstanding performance. Be certain they have a clear understanding of what is expected and how you will measure their progress. Salespeople must understand their responsibility to do whatever it takes to be successful.

There are four basic steps to accountability that you can use when managing your salespeople:

See It: Acknowledge the Problem

Own It: Take Responsibility for It

Solve It: Determine What I Can Do

Do It: Take Action

All the best!

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The Cure for Prospecting Constipation!

My Mom likes to tell the embarrassing story that when I was old enough to eat solid food in my high chair I would start each meal by grabbing a fistful of food and holding it tightly in my left hand. I would then eat my food using my right hand and only when it was all gone would I then open my left hand and eat that too.

Now, this might explain the extra 50 pounds I’m carrying J but it also serves as a very effective metaphor for a condition that afflicts many salespeople and that is the idea that holding prospects tightly in one hand, i.e. having prospects “in the pipeline” is the same as making progress.

Now, to be clear, prospects need to move through your pipeline. The equivalent of holding on to them tightly in one hand looks like any of the following:

  1. Contacting them once and waiting for weeks or months for them to return your call or to make a second call,
  2. Putting them through a sequence of activities but allowing the time between activities to go so long that the prospect has no sense of a rhythm of contacts and never hears any compelling reasons to speak with you, or,
  3. Making a series of contacts (ideally 8 within a 2 ½ week period) and getting “crickets” and leaving them as active prospects that you will “continue to work on”.

To continue with food and digestion metaphors when you are working a territory you can think of your pipeline much like your intestines. (I know, I’m sorry!) If you don’t remember from High School that food moves through your gut by peristaltic action, Google it when you’re bored someday.

The comparison is that each time you conduct a prospecting activity on the same prospect it’s like a squeeze as food goes through the gut, moving it further along until a conclusion. Some food provides much needed nutrition to your body as it goes through the gut, some passes through inertly like fiber and some is just waste to be disposed of at the end of the process.

Simply having a bunch of prospects stuck in your pipeline is like being constipated! You prevent a healthy flow through the body. And, you expend more and more effort trying to wring some value out of low percentage prospects, sometimes because they don’t see the value in your offer (crickets) or because you haven’t done a good job of getting them to hear you message in the first place.

The cure for prospect constipation is as follows:

  1. You need a prospecting sequence of activities that you will take each prospect through until they speak to you and give you a meeting, speak to you and tell you to quit stalking them or never speak to you within a defined number of prospecting activities (see item 2 below).
  1. You need to execute your prospecting sequence with the understanding that there is momentum to all sales activities but especially prospecting. Set a number of days between each activity and stick to it! Create a series of activities that utilize different contact methods (phone, email, Social Media, letter, bulky item, etc.) and try to conduct about 8 touches in your sequence within a 2-3 week period—no longer.
  1. When you come to the end of your prospecting sequence you really only have two choices. “Throw them back” into your overall database (stop working them!) or choose extended prospecting. Extended prospecting should only be for really high value targets or whales that realistically need more prospecting time and are ultimately worth the effort. You should have no more than 5-10 prospects in extended prospecting lest you fall into the constipation trap again.
  1. As you move prospects through and out of your pipeline grab a new group and put them through the process.

While some salespeople find this discouraging (I guess this is why they want to hold onto the familiar but unproductive prospects they are already working) I think about it a different way.

Let’s assume that for every group of 20 prospects there are 2 meetings to be had. Let’s further assume that you work a group of 20 and get a couple of meetings but are hanging onto the rest for the reasons outlined above. Here’s the problem: You’ve already gleaned the two meetings that were to be had!

It is much better to grab a new bunch of prospects where the opportunity is still ripe for the picking.

To find out more about a unique way of prospecting and selling developed exclusively for the restoration industry, contact us for a free consultation.

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