Posts Tagged ‘Raleigh’

Chasing the Sun

March 24, 2010

I have learned to get used to my travel schedule, which usually entails leaving on a Thursday morning before the sun rises and leaving late in the day the following Tuesday or Wednesday to return back to the Chicago office. There is something about chasing the sunset home after a week on the road that just gives you a different perspective on things. It lets me be a poet, a little.

No, you will not see me writing poetry anytime soon. I have never gotten the true appreciation of poetry since an English literature class I took in college where I felt I did less interpreting the inner meaning of the poem and more trying to translate iambic pentameter into prose so I knew what the heck this guy was trying to say. I did, however, find an appreciation of the poet himself who took a completely different approach to telling a story. It is that view that I get to enjoy when I am spending an hour and a half watching the sunset from Raleigh, DC, New Jersey, or Atlanta over to Chicago.

Much of my day is spent running. I’m meeting with clients, usually 2 or 3 a day, where I am helping a plumbing company develop sales process one hour then driving to an accounting firm next to help them determine their own unique selling proposition. On the drive there, I am usually talking to our inside sales manager about the projects we are working on, with our SAM Group membership coordinator about our latest meeting, or listening to a book on CD to see if I can pick up some additional insight for a client. I love every minute of it, but sometimes it is nice to just look out the window and watch the sunset, letting my mind wander to endless possibilities.

Truth be known, after all of the reading and talking, it is usually the time I’m on the plane, taking the different perspective of the poet, that the new ideas come. Over the last few years, my role with the company has changed from being the guy who brought in all of the projects and did all of the work, to the person who “steers the ship” as we have grown from a small “one man band” to the company with procedures, infrastructure, and many people, even through the most difficult economic time in recent memory. With that change over the years, my ideas have become as valuable as my ability to delegate, and that time away from the phone, email, and clients has become the most valuable time of my week.

I still don’t know what Shakespeare was saying half of the time, though!

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Special Event:Lucky’s Pot of Leads

March 7, 2010

Lucky’s Pot of Leads

Order tickets via Eventbrite: http://luckyleads-efbevent.eventbrite.com

In conjunction with Business Club America and Randolph Sterling, Inc., Hummingbird Creative Group invites you to the second of a series of 9 roundtable events in 2010 to celebrate Hummingbird’s 15th Anniversary.

Friday, March 12, 2010 from 11:30am – 1:00pm at 1705 Prime, join industry expert panelists:
Wendy Coulter, President, Hummingbird Creative Group, Inc.
Rich Burghgraef, President – Randolph Sterling, Inc.
Sherry Mitchell, Director Brand Strategies, Hummingbird Creative Group, Inc.

The trio will address the differences between sales and marketing, as well as how they must support one another for either to be successful. Discover how to better qualify sales prospects through understanding why your current customers buy from you and using that information to build marketing messages that can help you sell! You will learn about:

~ the need for structured communication between your sales and marketing teams
~ the importance of knowing your competitive advantages
~ new online resources and opportunities to find and foster leads and fill your sales funnel
~ how selling is best done by asking questions, not selling what you have
~ budgeting for both sales and marketing, not one or the other, to reach your growth goals
~ qualifying leads to find more of the business you want through your sales and marketing efforts
~ using unique sales enablement tools to build brand awareness

1705 Prime
1705 E. Millbrook Rd.
Raleigh, NC 27609
919-850-2340

Cost is $25 per person and includes lunch

Order tickets via Eventbrite by Monday, March 8th: http://luckyleads-efbevent.eventbrite.com
or call 919-854-9100 ext. 304

“The Performance is Only as Good as the Audience”…And We Have a Great Audience!

March 3, 2010

Remember back in the days of elementary school, on those special days when you would have an assembly? We would pile into the gym—or as our principal used to call it, the “all purpose room” to either see one of the other grades perform a play or an outside group come in to perform for the whole school? Mr. Campbell, the principal at Westmoreland School in Fair Lawn, New Jersey where I grew up used to start out each assembly by reminding us kids to be respectful of the performers…”the performance is only as good as the audience” he would always tell us.

Those words have never rung more true than at the SAM Peer Advisory Group meeting that we held in our office in Cary, NC the other day.

We had a great meeting, and, as with all SAM Groups where each member is an equal participant and can give and/or receive advice, the participants determine the value of the meeting. Since the value of the meeting is that the discussions are confidential, allow me to take a minute to tell you about some of the participants:

Draughon Cranford of Xpress Image: Draughon is very well connected throughout Raleigh. So, when an issue comes up, he not only has his opinion about it, which he offers in a very professional manner, but he also knows someone else through all of the networking he has done in all the right places, that he can usually offer a recommendation of someone he can bring in to help with the issue.

Will Webb of Dupree & Webb: Will is one of the first people I met when I joined Business Clubs of America. In a world where people sometimes blur ethical lines (especially in the insurance industry where he lives) Will’s ethics are beyond reproach. Will is the kind of guy who would walk away from a profitable piece of business if it meant he wouldn’t feel good at the end of the day when he came home to his wife and 2 year old daughter to tell them about it.

Rob Pulley of Talent Management Solutions: Rob is the second person I met when I joined BCA. Rob is the kind of guy who doesn’t just speak to hear his own voice. Trust me, he has a lot to say, but nothing he says is not the result of careful thought to the issue at hand. Rob is also a guy who is very well connected and will make a recommendation for what he truly feels is best for his colleague, looking for nothing to gain other than respect of his peers. He definitely has it.

Danny Worthy of North Carolina Central University: Some of you basketball fans might be thinking…wait a second…North Carolina? Worthy? Is he related to former Tar Heel and Los Angeles Laker great James Worthy? Actually, yes, Danny and James Worthy are brothers. Danny, after a successful career at Verizon, decided to come back to his alma mater, NCCU, with the sole goal of helping them achieve growth as their athletic teams move into division I. Danny works to partner businesses with the university through various sponsorship opportunities. Danny is one of the most polite and respectful people I have met. He adds great insight and experience into every topic and isn’t afraid to ask for assistance as well as give his opinion.

And, I can’t forget to mention our very own Angela King: Angela has been very helpful in getting the SAM Groups up and running in Raleigh as well as assisting me in facilitating the meetings. As a facilitator, it is our job to keep the meetings on topic, but to also know when to go off of the agenda if a topic is being bounced around where everyone is contributing and getting a lot out of the discussion. Angela’s vast experience, both professionally and as a working mom who runs a household of four kids ranging in age from 18 to four, allows her to not only give insight that many of us have not had experience with, but it allows her to keep us all in line.

These core members of our Raleigh SAM groups are class acts, every last one of them. I would have no reservation in recommending any of them and I certainly appreciate the assistance they give me every time I am privileged to meet with them.

We still have a few seats available in this particular SAM group and we are starting new groups every day in both Chicago and in Raleigh; and we are working on “virtual SAM groups” to be able to serve sales and marketing professionals around the world. If you would like more information, please do not hesitate to contact Angela directly at aking@randolphsterling.com.

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!

Anticipation: Bringing SAM Peer Groups to the Triangle

January 26, 2010

Anticipation…remember the old Heinz ketchup commercials where they showed the ketchup slowly flowing out of the bottle and talked about the value of anticipation? That’s exactly how I feel as we start our new SAM Peer Advisory Groups.

The concept of our SAM groups is great. We provide an advisory board for salespeople and sales managers. Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it?

It was an idea brought to me by a mentor of mine who works with business owners and salespeople. He noticed that much of their internal pain revolved around bringing in new business and sales in general. We further noticed that many of the salespeople craved an additional outlet beyond their sales manager to bounce around ideas. This was for several reasons, but mainly because they didn’t want their sales manager to know they were struggling or had questions. In a SAM group, they can talk with other people out on the same front lines they are, dealing with the same issues as they sell their own products and services.

So what’s the problem? This is where my Heinz ketchup analogy comes in. SAM groups are great. Starting SAM groups are not.

Why? Well, there’s a couple of issues. One is that for a sales manager, VP, or President to commit to taking his sales rep out of the field for a four hour meeting once a month, he wants to see a return on his investment of both time and money. Another is that when we start a SAM group we may find two competing companies or two reps from the same company that want to join. This means starting another group for the second rep or the competing company.

The value of the SAM group is in its people. The agenda admittedly doesn’t look all that impressive, which is by design. In looking at the agenda the first thought that comes up is “this is going to take 4 hours?”

Agenda:

8:00    Welcome and Opening Announcements

8:15    Significant Sales and Marketing Events

8:45    2nd Half Annual Goals and Tracking of Quarterly Goals

9:45    Host Presentation

10:30  Sales and Marketing Issues–“Today’s Issues,” other issues

11:30  Guest Presentation on Topic of Interest for Entire Group

12:00  Adjourn Meeting

You see, the content of the meeting is determined by the needs of the people in the group, not by the group facilitator. When you start a group with 2 or 3 people, it does not look that impressive to management when the members get back to the office (although in reality, they probably got a lot out of the meeting because we were able to dig deeper into the issue they brought up).

We figured that the best way to build up even stronger SAM Groups was to partner with another association where what we do can benefit their members. The easy choice was to work with Penn Shore and Business Clubs of America (BCA). So I met with Penn, and after months of negotiations, starting this month…this week actually…we are offering SAM Group membership as an added benefit to the membership of BCA.

Anticipation…it’s making me wait, as the old Heinz slogan goes.

So here we are, on the precipice of our first BCA/SAM meeting and I wonder what I wonder every time we start a group: How many people will show up? Will they be good fits for the group? Do they understand the concept (the hardest part for us salespeople is trying to truly understand the problem before going right to trying to solve it?)

…it’s almost here, so I’ll let you know how it goes!

What’s Best About North Carolina

September 30, 2009

In a recent post I shared some of the reason why I felt The Triangle would be the perfect home for Randolph Sterling’s newest branch, and thought I’d give you the opportunity to tell me what you like best about NC!

Where Have You Gone, Customer Service? Our Nation Turns Its Lonely Eyes to You.

September 30, 2009

Paraphrasing a famous Simon and Garfunkel tune aside, I really would like to know where good customer service has gone?

We spend so much time trying to find new and innovative ways to find new customers, from coupons to rewards programs to tweeting on Twitter (which still makes me feel like a fell into a cartoon and somehow am going to have a puddy tat chasing me!) to updating websites to yes, even blogs like this one here, but it seems that we are losing the basic fundamentals that show us it is easier to keep a loyal customer than to find a new one. I had a few occurrences of this a recent week’s trip to our Raleigh, NC office.

I am a frequent flier on American Airlines. Not because they have the best customer service in the world (they are OK; personally what I think is wrong with the airline industry is a story among itself) but because they fly to most of the places I do so I can at least rack up enough frequent flier miles to be able to insure my bag makes it on the same plane I do and I have a shot at an exit row seat. On this particular occasion, my travel agent waited too long to book my trip, so they put me on a United flight instead because they could no longer get me the agreed upon price on American. That was strike one.

Strike two came when I started to deal with the wonderful customer service at United. First, it was the cattle call they call boarding the plane. I was in group 3 so I am somewhat patiently waiting as they start to board the flight. They call for first class passengers first followed by group 1. Half of the people at the gate get up and start storming the doorway to get in. Person after person walking past me with big 4’s and 5’s stamped on their tickets, however the gate agent is just checking in one after the other. What happened to following the rules? Wouldn’t a gate agent following the rules have made this a more efficient boarding process?

Next, I actually get on the flight. Because of the tardiness in which my travel agent booked the flight, I have the very enviable middle seat. No really, if you want a really good workout, sit in the middle seat between two people who think it is their right to own the arm rests. It is especially fun when you use this time to write blog articles, I can assure you. I did notice, however, that while we are all packed like sardines back here, there are several seats open in the exit rows and forward. I’m thinking—great, if they are open, I will just move up there and give these rejects from the old Stallone movie “Over The Top” all the room they need. A gentleman sitting behind me who was in the same situation thought the same thing, so he asked the flight attendant if it was OK to move. Her response? “No sir, you may not move there. Those are economy plus seats and are reserved for our customers who are willing to pay more for comfort.”

Are you kidding me? First of all, way to insult us by implying that we are too cheap to fork over an additional $35 to not have the guy in front of us sitting in our lap, but why wouldn’t you want to move someone into that seat? The door was closed so he wouldn’t have been taking anyone else’s seat and maybe he would have enjoyed the additional legroom and would have asked for economy plus in the future. What would it have hurt?

Sadly, however, that was not the most ridiculous part of my trip. That came as I attempted to rent a car. I am a corporate customer and a Blue Chip member with Thrifty Car Rental, however the last three times I have tried to rent from Thrifty they did not have any cars. A rental car company that has no cars? At the airport no less? That is like going to a beach, walking into a seafood restaurant and them telling you that they don’t have any seafood left. Each time this happened I tried to talk to someone in customer service and each time I was simply told there was nothing they could do to help me. Too bad buddy, you are out of luck, we just don’t have cars. I guess you had better walk.

My Raleigh office is not too far from the airport, nor is the Chicago office too far from O’Hare, but not exactly walking distance. Maybe I should take up running. If I get really good, I can run from Chicago to Raleigh and won’t have to deal with the airlines or the car rental guys again.

Please feel free to share your own travel  nightmares below or take our poll on the worst parts of traveling.

Randolph Sterling Inc. Expands to North Carolina!

September 27, 2009

In my previous post I mentioned Randolph Sterling’s expansion to North Carolina . Now, some people might ask “Why NC?” Well, there are several reasons. First, I’m an east coast guy. I was born and raised in New Jersey. Next, as I mentioned in my previous post, we found we were receiving an increasing number of business inquiries from the east coast, and it made sense to open a branch there.

And, in no particular order, I like to be outdoors, I feel better when I am out in the fresh air, I am the poster boy for the winter blues, and I just don’t enjoy leaving for and returning from work in the dark, thus missing an entire day of sunlight. After years of walking from Union Station to Clark and Washington in 5 degree weather on winter days with the wind blowing off the lake and up the street, I felt I was ready for some warm weather.  

If you’ve never visited the Raleigh/Durham area, I urge you to do so and then you will understand why we picked it as the location for the newest Randolph Sterling, Inc. office. It is a growing area filled with a great mix of those born and raised there along with those who relocated, generally from a warmer climate. They both do a wonderful job of balancing each other out, which makes for a great place to live, work, and for me, one day raise a family.

You also have some of the greatest minds coming out of this area, known as The Triangle . It is bordered by the University of North Carolina, NC State University, and Duke University, forming a triangle of great businesses and great people.

So what about my adopted home of Chicago, which has served us so well over the years? We have certainly not forgotten you. While I continue to make my weekly trek from Chicago to Raleigh and back, Randolph Sterling World Headquarters still remains in Mt. Prospect and Lisa Pickens supervises the inside sales teams in Raleigh and the Chicagoland area from the inside sales center in the northwest suburbs. We are close to hiring another Chicagoland area sales rep and another sales management consultant. Things are definitely hopping.

We thank all of you who have helped and continue to make our growth possible, both in Chicago, Raleigh and in all of the places where we have clients but don’t necessarily have a local office. We have been lucky enough to be able to grow in a difficult economic time and look forward to even greater horizons while never forgetting where we came from. The core of our business is, was, and always will be to help growth companies continue to grow the right way and to develop the best salespeople possible.

Randolph Sterling Inc: Sometimes Growth Can Be a Great Thing!

September 26, 2009

Since starting Randolph Sterling, Inc. back in 2002, it has always been my goal to grow the business beyond our home base in the Chicagoland area. Back then, with no experience running a business–unless you count the lemonade stand I had when I was 7 (not the best business plan since I lived on a relatively quiet street) or the landscaping business I started one summer when I was 18—I had no idea how we were going to do it. Franchising sounded like a good way to grow.  It worked for Ray Kroc with his little hamburger venture, so why not for a sales management and inside sales company?

The problem was I didn’t know how to start a franchise. At that point, I wasn’t even sure I knew what we brought to the table for clients, so how could I duplicate it like a Big Mac and McDonald’s fries? I decided it wasn’t the time for franchising, however, keeping it in the back of my head has certainly helped me to continue to help the company grow.

When I started Randolph Sterling, we were a sales management firm. This is only part of what we do today. I had enjoyed my work as a sales manager prior to that, but realized there was an opportunity for me to help several companies, not just one. I figured that for companies who did not have a sales manager on staff, where the sales team was being supervised by the president, I could come in and offer additional sales insight. It would also give me an opportunity to broaden my scope of knowledge and be a better resource to my clients. This has changed over the years since we work mainly with companies who are growing quickly and don’t have the structure in place to handle the growth. But, the same ideas remain from those early days.

The part I hadn’t realized was that as only one person, your time is limited. When you figure in your hourly rate, then multiply it by 40 hours in a week, then by the 50 weeks a year you would work, the numbers looked good even if you did take two weeks vacation. Just one problem: there is no way you can provide this service for 40 hours a week, or at least not while billing clients, collecting payments, running the business in general, looking for more clients…you get the picture.

As I have mentioned in previous posts, we also are constantly looking for ways to expand the services we can provide to our clients. It would have been very difficult to do that while building a franchise. It would have blocked the creativity we implement within the business that allows us to continually adjust what we bring to the table to help our clients. I doubt we would be providing some of the other services we provide today if we had been building a franchise from the beginning.   

We decided it was best to grow the same way you make good barbecue…low and slow. We wanted to be smart and meticulous in our growth so that the company always maintained the same ideals it was founded on: providing our clients with the best that the sales profession has to offer in everything that we do. Plus, we realized that we could serve clients coast to coast from our Chicago office.

However, as time went by and we continued to grow, we were receiving an increasing number of inquiries from Charlotte, Atlanta, Raleigh, Washington DC, Philly, and New York. I found myself constantly on planes visiting these clients and prospects and it was getting quite costly. Finding an office in one of these locations would certainly help reduce those expenses. And, when it was time to pick a location, NC was where I wanted us to be.