Archive for the ‘Business Growth’ Category

Welcome 2011, A Year to Work Smarter and Grow the Right Way!
January 3, 2011

Since most of my November and December articles talk about how you shouldn’t stop your sales efforts during the “holiday months” because you will be behind your competition come the start of January, I am sure that all of you are expecting me to be writing something along the same lines. Well we are very busy and I am proud to say that all of your clients heeded our advice this year and are reaping the benefits as phones are ringing off the hook this week (do people still have phones that “hook?”) however that is not what this article is about.

I first want to thank everyone who helped Randolph Sterling, Inc. help more clients than ever before in our history in 2010. From clients to staff to referral sources to friends and supporters, you made our success your business so as President and CEO of Randolph Sterling, Inc., I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.

So what does 2011 look like for you? OK, so it is only days into January so I figured I would take my crack at being an Economics expert (I’m sure my Economics 201 professor from Pace University is glad he retired and happier that I am not using his name here). The economy works in cycles, we all know that. We have been on a downward cycle for awhile, but things have been getting better as we are seeing more companies in more industries looking at opportunities.

I know, you are thinking: “Wow, Rich, great insight. The last time I got insight like that, I at least had dessert from the eggroll I had just eaten!”

We work with several different companies that sell to different industries, from accounting to manufacturing, from healthcare to plumbing and marketing. What I see is an economy filled with smarter decision makers who understand who they are, what they do, and who they serve. More and more people working smarter, not harder. I attest this due to a lot of people who really shouldn’t be in business not being able to survive.

With all apologies to the many good people who have lost jobs or are having trouble finding jobs in this economy, the majority of the people I saw who went out of business (and as a result, many of my clients are now working with their past clients) were people who didn’t realize what value is. They either tried to sell on price or not provide the quality that others in their industry had been doing all along.

We have been spending the last several months asking clients and prospects “What makes you great?” Not good, not OK, not cheaper, but great. It’s OK to say it out loud. Heck, if you don’t think you are great, why would a prospect think so? What do you bring to the table that nobody else can? Who wants it? We have been asking ourselves and our clients to dig deeper so we can help them form the right relationships with the right people for the right growth. My prediction for 2011? Companies will continue to work smarter and grow the right way. There is no easy fix to the economy, just good, old fashioned, SMART work.

Happy 2011 everyone!

 

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Here We Are
December 1, 2010

Here we are…at the beginning of the 12th month of the calendar. Boy has 2010 flown by. It seems like just yesterday when I was writing about the start of a new decade (which is actually this year, but I’m not going to start that conversation again). So much has happened in our world and in the world over the past 11 months. It seems as though the economy has taken a turn for the better, thanks in large part to many of my friends who own small to mid-sized businesses. To paraphrase George Bailey from my favorite movie, It’s a Wonderful Life, it is the small to mid sized business who does most of the living and working and purchasing and dying in this world. We didn’t need a bailout, we just needed our entrepreneurial spirit to help us continue to grow in tougher times.

Of course, I did mention that it is the beginning of the 12th month on our calendar, not the end of it. We at Randolph Sterling are very busy with new projects starting every day, and we are seeing clients busier and busier throughout the month of December. Working smarter has definitely prevailed.

Speaking of working smarter, every Monday, we have an internal sales meeting with our inside sales team. We discuss the projects we are all working on and discuss how we can help each other to provide the best possible experience for our clients. We ask our clients to tell us what makes them different from their competition and how can we use that to help find more of the people they should be working with. We also look at the responses we receive in the rather lengthy conversations we have with prospects to see what they are telling us about what they are looking for and how our clients can help them. We are all about developing relationships for our clients, but it needs to be relationships of value to them.

Working smarter does include an amount of fun, as our resident social media expert, Daniel Nuccio, found time to develop two contests this December, one asking you about your favorite holiday song and another trivia contest from the previously mentioned It’s a Wonderful Life. Between developing budgets for next year and making those last few sales of the year, be sure to check them out!

 

The Importance of Specific Social Media Goals
August 3, 2010

Back around the holidays I was at a party where I met a social media skeptic, who put me in one of those situations where I was given minimal information about a business and thirty seconds to explain how implementing the social media could vastly improve every aspect about it.

The business was a small medical office where this woman worked with maybe one or two other doctors. That was all I had to go on.

My response at the time was to rattle off a number of clichés about controlling the conversation about her business, increasing its visibility, letting people get to know her better, presenting herself as an expert in her field, etc.

She was unimpressed and our contact at the party pretty much ended there.

In retrospect, I can understand why she was unimpressed. I rattled off a list of clichés she had probably heard before, that ultimately had little relevance to her business (although, in my defense, I will say she should have given me more to go on, such as what she specifically hoped to accomplish).

Generally speaking, if you are a family physician running a small medical office with one other person, how much does controlling the conversation about your business really matter? And, although the number of people using the internet to do research on their doctors is probably more than one might initially think, I believe the question of how much Twitter, Facebook, and amateur blogs come into play (as opposed to specialized sites for grading doctors) is open to debate.

Now (and here is why having well thought out goals is important) if you wish to become a resident medical guru on sites like Twitter and Facebook, then, by all means, join them and get to work. If you’ve just written a book or are hoping to become the next Dr. Oz, then building a fan base through the social media is an excellent idea if you want to take the time (perhaps two or three hours per day) to research the big medical news stories, blog about them, and promote your blog through Facebook and Twitter. But, if you’re just simply hoping to increase your number of patients, how much do you really believe your writings or tweets are going to compel people to come to you the next time they get sick? Some would say quite a bit, but in the medical field that does seem like a tough idea to sell, even before you get to the professional and ethical concerns involved. A better decision in this situation, the situation of the doctor I met, might be to set up a Twitter account and a Facebook fan page as a way to stay in contact with your current patients, and maybe, if you feel enough is going on at your office to justify it, start sending out a monthly e-newsletter using a program such as Constant Contact.

 

Happy Birthday to Randolph Sterling!
April 22, 2010

Seven years ago today, April 22, 2003, the papers were approved and Randolph Sterling, Inc. was born. In some ways it seems like yesterday while in others, it seems like a million years ago!

I started the company because I thought we could do something different, something better than I saw out on the market. Sure there were tons of sales training companies out there, but that wasn’t what we strove to be. Our goal was to provide real time assistance to the people who were sitting right on the front lines of a company’s success. We started out as a “sales consulting company” and went through the typical growing pains that any small company went through. We defined ourselves by what we thought the market wanted (in comparison with the skills I, who at the time was the only employee, brought to the table) found our first clients and first “big” client to prove that we did know what we were doing, just a little bit! Next came our first big disappointment when I walked into our biggest client at the time to pick up payment of a few invoices and I was greeted with “Yeah…we’re not going to pay you!” As I later learned, if you talk to any entrepreneur, 99% of them will tell you a similar story—although it still burns me that I could have stayed home watching daytime TV for six months and had been in a better financial situation than I was by working with this client!

It is a lesson we all live and learn…the true strength of a man is measured not in his level of success, but how he handles things when they go wrong.

I learned from that experience and along the way, we found new and different ways to help our clients. The original “sales consulting” has grown into our outsourced sales management department, where we will help growing companies with their overall sales process. Our ideal clients are ones that are growing and need to keep up with their growth. We help them by not only working with them to provide a plan, but also in implementing that plan.

We then started our outsourced sales department when we noticed that many of our clients had the same problem…their salespeople were victims of their own success. That is they got to a point where the bulk of their day was spent working with current clients and growing current business, causing the task of developing new relationships to take a back seat. There was a tremendous need for professional inside salespeople to work with them to develop those new relationships for them with the right prospects.

Finally, we developed our SAM Peer Advisory Groups. So many times a CEO will have his advisory board where he will discuss operational issues and the overall vision of the company, but very seldom do the salespeople—the people directly responsible for the growth of the company—have this same opportunity to learn from their peers.

Seven years from the start and we are still looking for new ways to continue to help our target market grow. But let’s face it, the life of an entrepreneur isn’t always 100% fun. To endure the 12-14 hour days, wondering if I could be making more money working these same hours as a Wal-Mart greeter or at least thinking that I would have half as much to do if I “just sold for someone else.”

OK, truth be known, when I think these things, it is usually my ex-wife’s voice I hear saying them…I wonder why 🙂

Anyway, you have to have a little fun along the way. One of my goals each year is to make sure that I do certain things that I would not have had a chance to do if I was not CEO of Randolph Sterling, Inc. Some of them have included:

  • Getting paid to go on a cruise
  • Playing golf with former major league baseball player Tony Womack
  • Co-hosting a small business radio talk show on an Atlanta radio station (that was simulcast over the Internet all around the world)
  • Writing a book—“Closing the Deal,” available on Amazon and at other fine retailers!
  • Meeting Miss North Carolina
  • Getting paid to ride the Spiderman ride at Universal Studios
  • In one day, being a resident sales expert for a plumbing company, used equipment manufacturer, accounting firm, marketing firm, and event planner…and that was just a normal Wednesday
  • Having the opportunity to work with some of the greatest minds and best people I have ever had a chance to meet

Thank you to all of the people who have made the past seven years possible, from our fantastic staff to our business partners to our referral partners to our clients. You have made every day great and I can’t thank you enough for all helping to make the dream I had as a high school kid a reality.

…now let’s see what the next 7 years brings us!

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.