Author Archive

What’s Your Swag? Strengthening Your Social Media Network
April 27, 2010

After months of listening to and trying to figure out what a social media is, how it can be used, what’s a twitter, who’s face is in a book and what am I linking in, I thought it might be time to try and catch up with the rest of the world.   I knew going in it was going to be tough to get me up to speed in 2010, but a man has to start sometime.  I mean, I’m on Facebook and LinkedIn, but I really don’t know what to do with them, and more importantly, how to use them to my advantage.

I was invited to a seminar about LinkedIn and knew this would be my first step.  But, I decided to jump in feet first.  It was amazing some of what I learned.  Could there be 940 million people engaged in social networking?  We don’t just advertise with famous or attractive people telling us to buy something because they like it.  Now, marketing includes converting someone through conversation.  Want to know about a product, go on line.  You can find out whatever you want in a matter of minutes.  Millions of people spend how many millions of hours just writing about everything and anything.  Who would have thought that people have that much time on their hands?  I was asked what I thought my “swag factor” was.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  I found out that the swag is important as it refers to how strong your network is.

Looking for a job?  Social networking is a great way to go.  Need a plumber?  Go on line and find any number of plumbers with multiple recommendations.  Want to find out about your next door neighbor?  There’s a good chance you can read about them on one the social media web sites.  Unbelievable to me what can be done.

This seminar was about LinkedIn and how to use it.  LinkedIn is a professional networking site that helps make key business connections.  An excellent presentation was given by Sima Dahl at Parlay Communications.  She went over how it should be set up and the work that needs to be done to maintain your account.  Me?  I filled out my home page and figured I have done my work.  Now, all I have to do is sit back and wait for all the important people to contact me.  I have to now admit that I might have been a little off on that assumption.

There is far more involved than what I thought.  Do you know you should change your status every week or so?  Seems doing that means all of your contacts will know and maybe take a look.  You need to make deposits on a regular basis.  Deposits?  You should spend time each week responding to requests, recommendations, and changes in the status of others.  And, they want my picture posted.  Ok, if I can use my high school or college picture, it’s a definite go.  But now, I don’t know.  However, statistics show that we like to see what the person looks like that we may be dealing with.  Makes us a little more comfortable.  The picture is still on my list of things to do, but moving up quickly.

This is a marathon though, not a sprint.  It takes time to build a network.  It takes time to maintain it as well.  However, if done correctly it seems that social networking is a way to market yourself and help others in your network as well.  We want to buy from people, not companies.  We are going to feel more comfortable about whatever we are looking for if others tell us it is a good service, product or idea.

Like many companies, Randolph Sterling is getting into social media more and more to spread the word about what we do and how we can help companies be more successful.  Whether we like it or not, this is most certainly the future.  So, if you’re not on board or, like me, just getting started, don’t wait too long to get connected.

So, if you got nothing else out of this little journey on the dark side, remember what your swag is and you want it to be strong.

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You Don’t Have to be a Basketball Superpower to be Successful
March 24, 2010

Well, it’s that time of year again.  March Madness, to many sports fans, is the best season of them all.  Numerous games over a three week period, every game means something, loser leaves town, the highest high and the lowest low, and players shedding tears, some for joy, most for sorrow.  If you like sports, it’s hard not to get a lot of enjoyment out of the tournament.

Everyone has their favorite team, but I always enjoy watching a mid size school, where kids go to get an education, beating one of the powerhouses.  If your favorite team is Kentucky, Kansas (too bad), or Duke (which is mine), you know that they are going to have a pretty good year and be in the tournament.  But imagine what it is like to be a Cornell or a Northern Iowa fan.  The excitement because not only are they are there, but they are winning games.  My daughter was in Iowa over the weekend and she said the whole state is going crazy.  All you heard about was Northern Iowa.

Now, you may be asking yourself where am I going with this?  How does this relate to business?  Go with me on this…..

These other schools are proving that you don’t have to be a basketball superpower to be successful.  These smaller schools may not have the biggest recruiting budget or the best facilities in the world or are able to attract a player that only plans on being in school for one year before moving on to the NBA.  Yet, the Cornell’s of the world can be successful.  Maybe you have to think a little more and do things in a smaller scale, but do it right and you can come out on top.

Not every company can be AT&T, Shell Oil, or Microsoft.  These are the powerhouses.  Most companies are like Cornell and Northern Iowa.  They may not have the largest budgets or the newest manufacturing facility or office building, but they can certainly compete with the big boys, even beating them from time to time.  It may not be easy, but it is done every day.  Take a good product/service, team it with a modest budget, good management from the top and a top effort by the employees and you have yourself a winner.

I have found that to be successful you have to think that way.  Just because you are a smaller company doesn’t mean that you don’t do things the right way.  Your marketing, product, approach all have to be first class.  The difference might be that you don’t do as much as the AT&T’s of the world.  Cut back on quantity, not quality.  That goes from the product, to the packaging, to how we interact with our customers.

How do you interact with your current and potential customers?  I don’t mean your top 10 customers, but all of the others.   Do you interact with them as much as you should?  The Pfizer Pharmaceuticals of the world have two sales forces that call on the same doctor, just to get that much more selling time with the physicians.  I don’t know too many companies that can do that.

If your sales force is you, if it is small, if it is too busy to meet new clients, if you don’t really know what your sales people are doing, you may need a little assistance in getting in front of your customers and potential clients as often as you should.  Many companies are now outsourcing in a number of departments.  You can outsource your HR department.  I know of companies that don’t even touch the product they sell.  The manufacturing, packaging and shipping are all outsourced.  That goes for your sales efforts as well.  At Randolph Sterling, we can be the added sales force, interacting with your potential customers that you don’t have the time to see.  We can relieve you of the stress of doing lead generation.  We will report to you exactly what we do each week so you would know exactly what is going on.

If you have sales people with little guidance, we offer our sales management services as well.

You may not be Kentucky, or Duke or Kansas.  Few of us are.  However, if your goal is to become a Cornell or St. Mary’s, we can certainly assist your company in reaching that level.

The Light Is Getting Brighter…What Will You Do?
March 9, 2010

While talking with a large number of manufacturing companies the last few weeks, I have noticed a positive change in attitude. Most companies were optimistic about their business as we started the new year.  The feeling seemed to be that things were getting better and 2010 would certainly show productivity to be on an increase.

These last few weeks however, it seems that they are going to be busier than even they expected. I hear more companies tell me they are currently at their manufacturing capacity. The next step will have to be adding another shift. Before they do anything with Randolph Sterling, they have to gear up for more production.

Companies are investing in their future as new websites and marketing campaigns are in the works. The number of companies who have new websites in the process of being built is growing. Likewise, marketing campaigns are flourishing. And that includes all forms of marketing: email campaigns, social media, and yes, even through the mail. It seems that we are so tired of getting all of these emails, that we delete them without even opening them up. However, with so little mail through the post office, some marketing people are suggesting a return to the mailings.  The rationale being that we get so little mail that there is a better chance of our customers looking at a mailing from us. So, we might be back to depending on the U.S. Post Office again. Not necessarily a good thing.

Former customers who decided to buy their goods from China are starting to return. The cost of goods seems to be about the same, so the big difference is, of course, labor. However, it seems, at least in some areas, that most of those savings are offset by the freight charges from China. Whatever the reason, it seems that some companies are returning to products manufactured here in the good ole USA.

Now, I don’t have any statistics to back up what I’ve said. You might have to go to the Commerce Department or one of a hundred different agencies to get the statistics on all of this. There is a saying about liars and statistics.  And one that says you can make statistics say whatever you want.

All I know is what I see and hear.  For the last five months, temporary staffing agencies are placing more workers as companies are slowly increasing their work force. Budgets have been approved for marketing, which normally is one of the first expenditures taken out of a budget when times are bad.  No longer is reputation or word of mouth enough to acquire new business.  Companies are actively searching for new customers instead of just maintaining what they have.  They are looking at outsourced sales and marketing organizations of all types to assist them with these sales efforts.

Some companies are more interested in a manufacture’s rep firm, where their outside sales people will carry the banner for their company. Others will rely on a solid marketing program, waiting and hoping for the new customers to call.  Others are looking at someone like us, Randolph Sterling, with our inside sales organization, where we can make an impact.  All have their value and place in the sales effort.  Always remember though, you can’t make a sale if you’re not in front of the right people.  That is what we do, and we do it well.

When to Grow ?
February 24, 2010

Since the first of the year, I have been talking to a lot of companies. Their success is across the board.  Some are closing after years of providing a product or service.  Others are busier than they have ever been and are at their manufacturing capacity.  However, the majority of companies I have talked to are somewhere in between.

If a company either stayed even or showed a little increase in revenue over 2008, it is considered a good year. Multiple CEOs have said that they made it through 2009, and that now the goal is to see what they can do this year.

Everyone asks and wonders when the economy will make a solid turn for the better. Government statistics don’t tell the complete story. While there may be good news for one industry, there might be bad news in another sector. Companies are operating with as small of an organization as possible. Employees have multiple responsibilities. Lean Manufacturing has taken on a new meaning.

Most companies know that when the time comes, they are going to have to invest in their future with people and machinery. When the economy makes that turn, they have to be ready to manufacture, produce or provide that product or service their customers will be ordering. The problem seems to be when to pull that trigger and start the investment. The fear is that if it is done too soon, and there is not an actual upturn in the economy, then they might leave themselves in a financial situation that many companies are currently facing.

I have had companies that want to work with us, understand the value we would bring to their organization, yet can’t do it. Some companies just don’t have the money for our service.  Others, may not have it in their budget. Budgets are that tight and cash flow is low. These companies are hesitant to approve an expenditure, even if the end result would be an increase in sales activity. Their fear is “what if it doesn’t work? Where will I be then?” I have had companies tell me that when they get one or two sales on their own, they might have the revenue to use Randolph Sterling.  Money is that tight.

There are, at least, a couple of ways companies can go about growing and preparing for when that upswing happens. In his last blog, Rich talked about the rise in temporary employees the last four months. This is certainly one way for certain companies to grow, yet still have the flexibility to step back, if necessary.

Another option is to find and develop new customers. Relying on current customers, word of mouth and sales reps that don’t have the time to find these new opportunities may not be enough as we move forward. The use of a professional sales organization whose goal is to assist clients in increasing their revenue could be a major step in taking advantage of a rising economy.  Of course, Randolph Sterling is the company that comes to mind.  We tailor our program to fill the need of each individual company and are certainly prepared to assist any company looking for new opportunities.

The question isn’t just when the economy will turn, but whether you will be ready to take full advantage of the new opportunities and challenges that will come with it.

Calling All Entrepreneurs and Business Owners
February 9, 2010

I recently attended an event for small business owners and people who are looking to start their own business.  It was sponsored by The Executives Profit and American Chartered Bank.   The goal of the event was to take businesses and individuals from where they are to where they want to be.

The Executives Profit consults with small and startup companies.  American Chartered Bank is in business to loan money.  That is why they are there. They have monthly seminars that are about 90 minutes long and are also inexpensive.  For only $20 you can listen to experts discuss different topics important to business owners, and do some networking before and after the presentations.

The seminar I attended was titled “Funding your business for growth.”  The panel included a representative from The Executives Profit, American Chartered Bank, and  two other financial companies. While the bank wants a strong history and collateral, the other financial institutions are willing to take more of a risk on the person, product, or service, taking into account such factors as integrity, honesty, and a solid business plan.

The discussions included different types of debt, what you might need to qualify for a loan, and when you might want to take out a loan.  It was an interactive meeting with strong opinions dealing with real situations.

The bottom line was that money is available.  The question was how much do you want to pay for it?

These seminars are held monthly, but there is limited seating.  To find out about them you can go to the calendar on The Executives Profit’s website.

If you are the entrepreneurial type, currently a business owner, or thinking about starting your own company, I would strongly recommend attending these seminars.  You might be surprised what you can learn.

Why Work in Sales?
January 27, 2010

Have you ever wondered why you are doing what you do? Did you grow up knowing what you wanted to be as an adult? I mean, of course, after the cowboy, fireman, and hairdresser stages. While some of us might have planned our career when we were young, does anyone dream of being in human resources or an office supervisor or salesperson? I don’t think so.

Like many, I went to college not knowing what I wanted to do. After graduation, I basically took the first job that was offered to me. My father strongly suggested I do that. It was in sales calling on grocery stores. You remember those? They were places where you could buy your weekly groceries without spending two hours walking up and down long, endless aisles.

I have been in sales ever since. And, why not? It’s an honorable profession and one I enjoy. An old boss once told me that nothing could be better than what we do. Making a decent dollar for ourselves and selling a quality product that will benefit others. That was his motto.

Just like all professions, this is not for everyone. I always chuckle when I hear a comment that because someone talks a lot, they would be good in sales. Take it from someone who loves to talk, nothing could be further from the truth. You must be able to communicate. That means listening and responding to someone’s needs. That’s what a good salesperson does.

One interesting part of sales is the people you meet and the businesses you see. You need to enjoy people to be successful in sales. Through the years, I’ve celebrated weddings and births with clients, sat with doctors after they have lost a patient, heard vacation stories, tales of woe and as well as the good times. Customers are going to have good and bad days, just like everyone else. In some instances, our customers become friends. As you work on a project you may find your personalities click and you have the same interests. You never know walking in the door what is going to happen.

And, I have always found what businesses do to be fascinating, whether I’m taking a tour of a manufacturing plant to see how products are made or seeing a collection of homemade weapons at a police station. I have been in television studios watching local news as it airs live. For those in the Midwest, I have seen how Empire Carpet works and met the man who is in the commercials. Some of these tours would take five minutes, and others, maybe an hour. People get excited and want to show you what they do and how they do it.

No two days are the same. You never know what is going to happen, who is going to call. Some of those calls you want to receive, others you wish would go away. There is rejection in this business. No doubt about that. That is part of sales. It hurts when you have put the time and effort into a project, you know the product is fairly priced and the client would certainly benefit. And, they still say no. You have to learn to roll with those days.

The other side is the elation when all of this effort comes to fruition. When you get the contract signed or agree with a handshake, it’s a wonderful feeling of accomplishment. It confirms why you are a professional salesperson.

That initial feeling is similar to draining a nice putt of golf: a moment of pure joy.  That’s when I know how Tiger feels.  I don’t think I will have to go to Mississippi anytime soon though.

IT’S A NEW YEAR!!!
December 30, 2009

Christmas is finally over. The shopping can stop. The relatives have gone home. We can go back to having a normal diet, not one filled with large meals where we eat and eat. But, before we start that post holiday diet and exercise program, we have one more 24 hour period of indulgence. Yes, it is New Years.

It may be just me, but people don’t seem to be as excited about welcoming in the new year as we used to be. Through the years we used to get dressed up and hit the town, staying out until early morning. If not that, then you went to your favorite local tavern to be with friends. One year I went to a tennis party on New Years. We played tennis until midnight and then celebrated. In other years we went to house parties, where we got to make fools of ourselves in front of our friends and neighbors. Maybe it is still being done, and I am just too old to be part of it. It’s past me by and I haven’t even realized it. My friends are my age and some of them have trouble staying up until 10:00 P.M. let alone midnight. I could be wrong on this. Am I?

To some, New Years just means a day or two off from work. Not to me of course, because I love my job and would do it for free (but don’t repeat that to Rich). New Years is a good excuse to watch football all day without too many complaints. I mean, it’s New Years day for crying out loud. Tradition….

Yet, for a lot of people, it signifies a new start. If we had a bad year, we put it behind us.  If it was a good year, we hope for a better one. It is a time for optimism, positive attitudes and good intentions.

The same is true with business. If 2009 was a good year, the thought is let’s keep it going.  If it wasn’t a stellar year, the mindset might be more that the year is finally over. We made it through and we are still in business. We know 2010 will be a lot better.

The new year brings new goals, new expectations and new budgets. Companies have their kickoffs for the “latest and greatest” marketing campaign. New products are introduced. Old products are reintroduced with a little twist to them. Everyone is optimistic about the coming year. And, we should be.  This is the time to be excited about whatever we do. See your customers or clients with enthusiasm and positive attitudes.  That is what we can control as an individual. I hope you are ready for the challenges that 2010 will bring. They will be there. That, we know for sure. Randolph Sterling is here to assist you with your efforts to be successful.

We hope everyone has had a great holiday season and that 2010 is a wonderful year for all of us, both business and personally.

Happy New Year !!!!

FabTech 2009
November 24, 2009

Recently, I attended FabTech, a large trade show at McCormick Place in Chicago.  It got me thinking about how important these shows are and the value to a company when they attend.

If the economy is in a slump, it certainly isn’t evident at these shows.  A single booth is expensive and there were a large number of displays that used the space of ten or twenty booths.  The displays can be elaborate, from a small semi trailer, with the center cut out, to companies having couches and chairs for people to sit and rest.  And, the manpower that a company sends to these shows can be impressive.  While most booths had two to six workers manning a booth at one time, I counted over twenty red shirted exhibitors for an electric company.  You can imagine the size of that display.  And, they weren’t the only ones.

What else intrigued me was how companies got attendees to stop to see what products and services they supplied.  There were people out in the aisles grabbing anyone walking by to talk to.  Some companies did the exact opposite and sat down, watched everyone go by, and if someone actually stopped, then they would slowly rise and talk to them.

However, my favorites were the companies that had a gimmick to get people to stop.  This included a large bowls of candy or other treats, to a NASCAR racing car sitting at one display.

My favorite though was a double booth where in one was a camera where anyone could have their picture taken with two young girls dressed like construction workers in shorts or skirts.  The other part of the booth had six young, mostly blond, girls with their poster hung up behind them.  Now, that booth was always busy with attendees.  Everyone stopped there.

What is the quality of leads generated from these booths?  Just because I wanted a piece of candy, does that mean I want to buy the product?  I like racing, so does stopping to look at the car make me a good potential customer?  I can tell you that not one person I talked to had any idea what the company did that had all of the pretty girls.

Were those good leads?  The next step is what are those companies going to do with those leads, good and bad?  Most of us would assume that if a company is spending all of that time and money on a trade show, they would automatically follow up with any potential new customers.  Not even close.  Some statistics show that less than one third of those potential leads will ever be followed up on.  From my years of experience in sales in various industries, I am surprised that the percentage is that high.

One aspect of our business at Randolph Sterling is to do the follow up work for companies after these trade shows.  We separate the actual potential customers from the ones who stopped by to just to look at a pretty face or have a bite to eat.  We build relations with future customers and set appointments for our client’s sales force to sell their products/services to companies who are looking to do something now.

Art Crowley

Art’s Initial Thoughts on the FabTech & AWS Welding Show
November 20, 2009

Went to trade show in Chicago the other day.  The Fab Tech & AWS Welding Show was held at McCormick Place.

Among the many exhibitors, there were some outlandish display booths, including a small semi trailer truck with the center cut out for their display.

Everyday there were various presentations, including ones about the industry, safety and marketing.

I listened to Rob Johnson give a marketing presentation that was really interesting.  Rob is a Vice President at The Job Shop Company and has been doing this for about 25 years.  His talk had to do with websites and how to use them to attract clients.   Phrases such as photo galleries, flash animation and streaming video are now set in my mind for whenever I talk to IT marketing people.

I’m looking to learn.

I’m planning to post more about this soon.

Art Crowley

30 Days and Going Strong
November 12, 2009

My name is Art Crowley and I have been with Randolph Sterling, Inc for just over 30 days.  I am a Sales Executive with Randolph Sterling and will be responsible for adding new clients.   What a whirlwind these first weeks have been.  I feel like I have learned so much yet, at times, it feels like I know so little.

Just like anyone else, starting work with a new company presents its own opportunities.  There are company policies to learn, a different customer base, new products and services as well as adjusting to your new supervisor.

I am on my way to becoming more comfortable each day.  Rich has helped make the transition to Randolph Sterling as seamless as possible.  Being the first Sales Executive added to the team, it has been a learning experience for both of us, yet we are moving forward and making progress.

One thing I do know is that each day promises to be challenging in one way or another.  Whether it is cold calling, talking with companies that we can partner with, networking or meeting with clients, something interesting always seems to be going on.  I have not had a position where networking was as important as it is now.  You talk to everyone, never knowing who will know a company that can use our services to improve their bottom line.  I’ve attended networking events looking to connect with companies that we can partner with and with potential clients.  I will be going to my first speed networking event soon.  I think this is like speed dating, where you have a minute or so to make a good first impression.  For the record, I haven’t done speed dating.  Not that there is anything wrong with it.  My business cards are with me wherever I go.

Our product line offers its own opportunities when meeting with clients.  This is not the sales situation where you go in knowing exactly what product or service you will be selling or talking about.  You have to be able to think on your feet and be ready to move back and forth between services.

What I work on every day is product information, what we can do, and for whom.   Learning what we have done and what specific projects we are capable of doing for our clients now is a work in progress.  We can assist our clients in so many ways.  I am confident that with a little time, experience and some mistakes, I will have all the information I need at my fingertips wherever I am.

Thirty days and counting,  I am excited to be here and look forward to the future.  I will be writing on a fairly regular basis both here and on Randolph Sterling 2.0, the company blog, so you will get to know more about me as we go.