April, My Favorite Month of the Year
April 7, 2011

April is my favorite month of the year. Spring is finally in the air (and hopefully the snow is finished for Chicago), baseball season has started, we’ve had our first softball practice of the spring, and there are two very important birthdays coming up: mine and Randolph Sterling, Inc.’s.

My long time friends will tell you that I generally begin celebrating my birthday sometime around April 1 (even though it is not until the 25th) so as much as I act like a 5 year old when it comes to my own birthday, I think I am even more excited about the company’s birthday.

On April 22, 2003, I officially incorporated Randolph Sterling, Inc. Back then, it was just me and an idea that I could help some local Chicagoland companies by acting as a part time sales manager, although I had always had the idea that I could grow the company into something more than that, which is one of the reasons why the company is named Randolph Sterling, Inc. and not Rich Burghgraef Incorporated (although as a baseball fan, I guess I could have called us RBI).

Our goal has always been to help our clients grow. Over the years, we have added additional people, additional offices, and additional services to be able to help more companies in more ways. We still provide sales management services which include the work I originally did when the company first started out, but we now do so much more including:

Thank you to our clients, friends, and supporters for eight great years, we look forward to many many more helping you grow because right from the beginning one thing has remained constant—YOUR SUCCESS IS OUR BUSINESS!

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The Luck of the Irish or the Luck of Having Lisa Pickens
March 9, 2011

With St. Patrick’s Day just around the corner I tend to hear a lot this time of year about “The Luck Of The Irish!” I never thought that it was the 1/4 of me that is Irish that made me particularly lucky, and not specifically during March. I had thought it was hard and smart work.

Trust me, I have had my share of good luck as well as bad. One of the strokes of good luck for Randolph Sterling was hiring our inside sales manager, Lisa Pickens almost 6 years ago. Lisa is an incredibly valuable member of the team who not only does a fantastic job with the clients she works with directly, but has also helped us to find some other very talented members of our team, as well as manage them so they continue to grow.

The running joke in the office is that no matter what opportunity comes up, Lisa has experience in that industry. Between having a varied work experience before joining Randolph Sterling (ask her one day about her days as a professional billiards player) and having the opportunity to work on so many projects for us over the past 6 years, she brings so much to the table both for the team at Randolph Sterling and for our clients.

Lisa has been so successful in working with clients that many times she is requested specifically to work on their project. Unfortunately, she can only work so many hours in a day so we can’t always accommodate that request. The bright side of that is that Lisa is also an accomplished manager and has done a fantastic job in showing the rest of the staff the “Randolph Sterling Way.” We found this to be just as effective and a lot less expensive than investing in human cloning!

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!

Case Study: A Lackadaisical Sales Force Reenergized
February 23, 2010

Not long ago we were hired by a component manufacturer. This company specializes in developing solutions for complex components with challenging material requirements including heat treatable stainless steel, titanium, and nickel alloys. They specialize in the areas of medical instruments, aerospace, defense, electrical motors, business equipment, hydraulics, and pneumatics.

Prior to calling us in, they realized that their sales were stagnant and needed help. They wanted us to look at their overall sales process and determine what could be done to increase sales.

We reviewed the overall sales process at this company, interviewed upper management and the sales staff, and consulted the operations staff to find:

  • 80% of sales were from one client
  • Nobody in the organization knew how they attained this client
  • No one had brought in a new project recently
  • Reps were not aggressively marketing our client because they all were either reps for several other companies with shorter sales cycles or they were close to retirement
  • There were limited marketing materials for reps

After discovering these problems, we took the following actions:

Inside Sales Organization

  • Called former and potentially new customers
  • Locally developed relationships
  • Expanded coverage developing relationships in areas at each individual office

Sales Management

  • Took responsibility for managing the manufacturer’s reps by running a monthly sales meeting, which had previously not been done, and maintaining regular contact with the reps
  • Set up best practices where reps shared their knowledge and experiences
  • Reintroduced the company, their strengths, and benefits of selling their products
  • Worked with upper management to develop a “sample board” for reps to bring to clients to show some of the custom designed work they produce.

These were the results:

  • New sales opportunities increased almost 15%
  • With new opportunities and a feeling that they were supported, reps moved our client up on the list of what they talked about to customers
  • Strong increase in activity for everyone at the company
  • Uncovered operational issues not previously known, such as a slow response to quote requests