Archive for February, 2010

Outsourcing Your Sales and Sales Management Needs

February 22, 2010

I have been reading lately that temporary staffing is on the rise.

It makes perfect sense. As the economy recovers, more work needs to be done but companies are not yet confident enough to start hiring people so they bring in the people that they need to do the work they need to do. This reminds me of exactly why we do what we do.

It was the temporary staffing industry where I got the idea to start Randolph Sterling, Inc. I worked as a “selling sales manager” for an IT staffing company. We would provide temporary computer staffing support for companies. Some of my clients included AT&T, Pfizer, and Oprah’s company, Harpo Studios. What these companies realized was that they could bring in an expert to do what was needed, and then when the project was finished, they would either have that person continue on with another project or simply end their assignment. They saw that it was less expensive in the long run to pay that person to do the job they needed them to do. They didn’t have to pay for vacation time, benefits, or any of the other hidden expenses that are associated with a permanent employee.

It was this “selling sales manager” that was the original service of Randolph Sterling, Inc. We call it our Virtual Sales Manager service. We go in to our clients, who are usually companies that are growing relatively quickly and either don’t have a full time sales manager or have one that is overworked by managing too many salespeople, and help. We don’t get involved in politics, we just do the things that need to get done, whether it is going out in the field with the account executives, setting procedures, running sales meetings, hiring new staff or solving problems. We only get paid for the hours we work, no vacation time, no benefits, just a day’s pay for a day’s work.

The staffing industry was also the catalyst for another service we provide, one that has become our largest to date: our Outsourced Sales services. One thing I noticed very quickly when I sold in the staffing industry was that the busier I got, the less time there was to find new business, but in an industry where your product is a person and in an economy where companies are constantly being bought and sold, finding new business was imperative.

When I was just starting out, it was easy to reach out to 100 prospects a day to start to develop that relationship. I was just starting, so I didn’t have any current clients so I could spend my whole day building. As I started getting new clients, I was servicing them so there was less time to look for new business. The 100 prospects a day can easily drop down to 50. Talking to half the people meant half the opportunity.

Our outsourced sales service was developed to alleviate this exact problem. Let’s face it, the last thing a salesperson wants to do is make 100 calls in a day to find new opportunities so even if they do have the time, they will find other things to do. We decided it was easier if we do this for you. We reach out to approximately 100 people for every 10 hours we sell, developing relationships with the prospects that our clients want to talk to and sometimes finding out that some of these prospects really aren’t the people they want to do business with. In most of these instances, we are talking to people that the account executives were not going to, helping to bring in business that would have never walked in the door, while the salespeople focus on keeping current clients happy and building that business.

It is another service where you pay for our selling time, no vacation time, no benefits, nothing else. We also do this work off site so our people are focused on one thing and one thing only: developing relationships for you. No office politics, no getting pulled off the job to go help out with something else…a simple concept that sometimes gets lost in today’s workforce.

For more information about our Virtual Sales Manager services or Outsourced Sales, please go to www.randolphsterling.com.

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On The Road Again…From Chicago to Raleigh to DC to perhaps Detroit and Kuala Lumpur

February 17, 2010

It’s been a busy couple of weeks. After some time back at the Chicago office, was back on the road again. It kind of made me feel a little like Willie Nelson, who made the song “On the Road Again” famous, talking about his travels around the world, and also because I had been so busy that I hadn’t had time to get a haircut I felt like I was starting to look a little like him!

So to start this trip it was off to Washington, DC to check on some opportunities there, then this week and next week, back to Raleigh to run our three SAM Groups, meet with two of our newer clients, and meet with 10 additional prospects. Then it is back to Chicago to develop a sales strategy for a new client in Alsip, IL. We are also working on potential projects in Detroit and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia…does anyone know the temperature in Malaysia this time of year? It sounds like a good opportunity with a client, but if I’m going to be on a flight that long, there better be some nice weather at the other end of the trip!

I have been so happy with the growth of the company. When we first started out (April will be our 7th anniversary) I had hoped that we could change the way salespeople were perceived and we could make an impact in many company’s top and bottom lines. I got excited when we got our first client outside of the city of Chicago…and that company was about 5 minutes outside of Chicago in Evanston! To think that we are able to help clients from coast to coast and internationally sometimes just blows my mind!

So yes, I am on the road again. Sometimes I feel a little like George Clooney’s character in the movie “Up In The Air,” Ryan Bingham, who spends most of his life traveling the country. Luckily, I get to help companies grow and hopefully add more salespeople while his role was to come in and fire them. Still, as a guy who really is a homebody and likes the routine and balance of a “regular” schedule—work, dinner, the gym, friends/family, softball in the spring and fall, basketball in the winter—travel is sometimes difficult.  It is not, however, something I feel I will be doing forever. Yes, I did receive my American Airlines Platinum Card in the mail a couple of months ago and do appreciate the perks of getting on the plane first, the exit row, occasionally a first class upgrade, and of course, the shortest line going through security at O’Hare Airport (and whatever additional perks American Airlines would like to bestow upon my by mentioning them here).  But I would love to use those extra miles to go away on a vacation someplace warm, away from the foot of snow in Chicago. I guess I will have to learn more about Malaysia…or maybe just my own back yard!

When Growing Too Fast Becomes a Concern

February 10, 2010

I was sitting in a meeting one day when the topic of business growth came up. OK, so it always comes up in meetings I have with clients and colleagues because we all want to grow, don’t we?

This conversation was a little different and eventually changed the way we provide our Virtual Sales Manager Service by simply asking the question…what will you do if your growth dreams do come true?

This is an interesting question that usually is met with answers of additional benefits for employees and vacations and early retirement for business owners. But what happens when you look a little deeper? How will you maintain growth? Will you be able to provide the services that you could when you were smaller?

This scenario reminded me of a friend of mine who started a food delivery business back in the mid-90’s. They would take orders from clients and provide food from 5 different restaurants. That way if mom and dad wanted sushi and little Jr. wanted pizza, everyone was happy. The problem came when they did such a good job promoting the business and they had more dinner orders than they could possibly deliver. So much for a good sales and operations plan!

The owner of the company we posed this question to had a slightly different issue. Operationally, they had processes in place that made it easier for them to grow. The problem was on the sales side. When he looked at growth, he knew that his salespeople would eventually get too busy so he would have to hire someone else and cut the territory of the current salesperson so the new guy had opportunities. By the time we had this conversation, he had 8 salespeople selling 8 completely different ways. He was acting as the sales manager as well as the president. They were making great money, but were headed for a fall. Nobody was happy.

Most companies we work with are strong companies who are growing quickly, but prior to this conversation, most of the companies we worked with were just establishing a sales force beyond one or two people. What we saw with this company was that sometimes a company can grow too quickly by “throwing money” at a problem and really creating a larger problem by hiring a bunch of salespeople, but having no real sales structure. This holds true with companies with 2 sales people, as well as 200.

After this conversation, the client hired us to work as their sales manager, first by developing a solid sales structure which fit with the corporate philosophy, then by making sure that all of the “people on the bus” were right for the company philosophy. Some people, including the #2 salesperson, did not fit the mold and eventually were replaced. But, at the end of the day, the company had a strong, cohesive sales team all moving in the same direction. The following year, in a recession, they beat their best year by 25%.

February Fury Hits the Midwest: What a Strange Day It Has Been!

February 10, 2010

Usually I try to keep my blog posts and articles as much about business as I can, but for this, I will take a little deviation and tell you about the last couple days or so in dealing with the February Fury Snowstorm, which hit Chicago.

Tuesday is basketball night in the winter, so I hoped that we would not be cancelled. It has been a stressful (in a good way) last few weeks, and I really needed to take a break and blow off some steam. I left Mt. Prospect, Illinois at about 3:30 to get to a meeting in Evanston at 4:30, figuring that the normal 30 minute drive would probably take a while longer. I was amazed by how great the streets were! The plow and salt trucks must have been out early because the roads were nothing more than a bit wet, which made for a pretty easy drive since most normal people were home.

I left my meeting in Evanston at about 5:30 and had a few minutes before basketball to go and get some gas. I’ll admit it, I’m usually I pretty fast driver but today I had plenty of time, the snow had been falling steadily all day, and apparently the snow and salt trucks I praised before had gone home for dinner, so I was moving very slow. I made a very slow and easy left turn after stopping at a light and the rear of my car decided it wanted to continue to go, so I ended up doing about a 90 degree spin.

Undaunted, I got to the gas station and then to the basketball court where 9 other crazy people were ready to play two hours of basketball. We had three great games, although the team I was on happened to lose all of them. After 3 long games and about 2 hours of basketball, it was time to head home. I figured I would take the highway as it was most likely better driving than side streets back to Mt. Prospect.

I drive an Acura…not too bad in the snow, but you would think an 18 wheel truck with a full load would have even better traction. We are driving about 30 mph on Chicago’s Kennedy expressway when the truck about 10 car lengths in front of me decides to drop down to 20. I tap on my breaks but yet again, my back end wants to go faster (in its defense, my car is usually not going that slow so it may have been confused) and I start to spin out! Luckily there were no cars near me and I was safely in the middle lane so no harm was done other than to my driving ego. I made it home, happy that I could stay in until the next morning when I would have to shovel out my driveway to get to client meetings.

Now it gets really strange…I woke up ready to shovel my driveway only to see that someone—I have no idea who–plowed my driveway for me. I still had to shovel out my walkways and the snow that was up against my garage (we got around a foot of snow here in Chicagoland, most of which was now packed up against my garage door!) so I grabbed my snow shovel and started shoveling.

A few things you need to know about this next part. (1) It is 7:00 AM so I’m not completely awake yet. (2) I usually leave my snow shovels by the front and back doors so if it snows overnight, I don’t have to trudge in the snow to get the shovel out of the garage. (3) Last year, toward the end of the snow season, someone took my shovel from beside my front door, so this year I bought myself a new one.

As I was shoveling, I’m noticing something is different. Then it hit me. I realized that this was not my new shovel (which is red) but it is my old shovel (which is gray and black!) Now the new one is gone but the old one is back…what the hell? Apparently somebody plowed my driveway and then returned my old snow shovel (and yes, I am 99% certain that it is my old shovel) but then took the new one I bought this past fall.

While I am very grateful to whomever plowed my driveway, I am still completely confused about the whole shovel situation. Is the cost of getting your snow plowed that you get entered into this game of musical shovels? Where is my new shovel now? If I take the old shovel that is by my back door and move it to the front, can I trade it in for the new one?

The real question is…can someone just buy my house—I’ll even throw in whatever shovel I currently have–so I can move to the North Carolina office so I don’t have these issues anymore?

Closing the Deal on the Go: A Few Quick Tips for Winning at Phone Tag

February 9, 2010

Phone tag is worse than ever these days. We use voicemail to reduce human error, but in doing so we reduce human contact.

Making things more difficult, many companies now use an automated list of options that do not always include a live person to talk to who can provide such information as a person’s schedule or whereabouts.

To help, here a few quick tips to help you win at phone tag.

  • Make high priority calls early.
  • If you do no reach the person you are trying to contact, leave a message that requires a specific response.
  • Leave a concise reason for your call with your name, phone number, and the best time to reach you.
  • When the call is returned, try to take it, even if you are busy.
  • Keep track of calls owed and expected.

This post is based on material originally published in Closing the Deal.

For more information on Closing the Deal, check it out on Amazon.

(Burghgraef, Richard. Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies that Make Money. Encouragement Press. Illinois: Chicago. 2007)

Closing the Deal on the Go: Telemarketing for Appointments

February 8, 2010

Winning an appointment with a decision maker usually requires you to win over both the decision maker and their secretary.

When winning over the secretary it is best to treat the secretary with respect. Learn their name. Be honest with them. And, be willing to speak with them in the same manner as you would speak to their boss.  In doing so, provide them with a sound business reason for why you wish to speak with their boss. Offer a benefit their boss will experience from acquiring your product or service. Be specific, and again, straightforward and truthful. Also, if possible, include a reference.

Upon reaching the decision maker, the selling process begins again. You must repeat what you accomplished with the secretary, but take it further. You must introduce yourself, giving your name, title, company, and, if appropriate, the name of the person who referred you. Also, if your company is not well known, it may be necessary to explain what your company does.

When speaking with the decision maker, generate initial interest in your product or service by demonstrating a tangible benefit, while demonstrating knowledge of your prospect, their company, and its operations, goals, and needs.

Once you have provided a good reason for your call, ask for an appointment. If you encounter an excuse or resistance, politely acknowledge it, then offer a response and proceed. Before the conversation is over, reconfirm your mutual understanding, and, if you book a meeting, on the day before that meeting, call the decision maker’s secretary to make sure you’re on their boss’ calendar.

This post is based on material originally published in Closing the Deal.

For more information on Closing the Deal, check it out on Amazon.

(Richard, Burghgraef. Closing the Deal: Hot Sales Strategies that Make Money. Encouragement Press. Illinois: Chicago. 2007)