Business Dev: Small actions = big consequences

While out at dinner one evening this week I happened to be following a large SUV with an advertisement for a local insurance agent painted on it. I’d seen the SUV around town and had thought about calling to get a quote since my insurance was coming up for renewal…looks like their marketing strategy might be paying off.

As luck would have it, this SUV was going to the same restaurant that we were and pulled in ahead of us. The parking lot was very full so and it took us a while to find a parking place in the far corner of the lot. As we came around the corner of the restaurant we saw the Insurance agents SUV parked in a handicapped parking spot.

At first, I didn’t think anything of it and assumed that the person was handicapped and had the requisite plates and/or placard. As I got closer to the SUV, I realized that they didn’t have either and that the neither of the two people getting out appeared handicapped in any way. I recognized the driver of the vehicle as the insurance agent painted onto the side of the SUV and decided to test him a bit.

I introduced myself to him…he was a pleasant man and we made small talk while we waited to be seated. I pointed out his SUV and we talked about the ‘cool’ painted ad on the vehicle. I then mentioned to him in a surprised voice that he forgot to put his handicapped placard.

His response was a laugh as he said that he wasn’t handicapped and didn’t know anyone who was. He laughed again while describing their search for a parking spot close to the front door, and since they couldn’t find one, they took the handicapped spot that nobody ever uses.

I smiled and said that we had parked in the far corner of the parking lot and felt like we had walked a mile. I then asked if he thought about what would happen if someone did need to use the spot and he just laughed it off and said ‘they can park somewhere else’.

I decided that he had failed my little test and told him so. I told him that prior to seeing his disrespect for the handicapped that I wouldn’t be calling to get a quote for my insurance and that he should be ashamed of himself.

His response to that was : “That’s ok…I wouldn’t want your business anyway. I can’t get by just fine without 1 or 2 car insurance policies.” I smiled at him and mentioned that I had been thinking about calling for quotes on 2 car policies, 1 home policy, 1 business policy, life insurance, and some investments that I had been wanting to move to a new agent.

Needless to say, I never called him after that.

Moral of the story:

Consider how the smallest action (like parking your car while eating out) can effect your image. The small things to you may be a big thing to someone else. And for goodness sake…if you have your picture painted on your vehicle, try not to act like a fool while driving…you will probably turn off some of your clients.

[tags] Selling, Business Development [/tags]

Simplenomics: Carl Hubbell teachs a salesman to sell

I’d like to point out Mike Sigers’ post titled “Can a Salesman Learn to Pitch?” on his Simplenomics blog.

In this post, Mike recounts a story of a salesman who learned how to sell by studying baseball great Carl Hubbell, the inventor of the screwball. The main reason for my wanting to point this post out is to show how someone can strengthen their sales abilities but studying clients/prospects before trying to sell to them. Of course, every good salesperson should do that but many don’t.

The other reason, and a slightly selfish reason, is that I love to see Carl Hubbell’s name. You see…I’m from the same small town (Meeker OK) that Carl grew up in and have always known about ‘King Carl’ and his great career as a pitcher. His appearance in the 1934 All Star game is still legendary…he struck out five of the best hitters of the era in succession: Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx, Al Simmons and Joe Cronin.

If you ever visit Meeker and drive through the town on Highway 62 (the east/west road), you’ll see City Hall and the “Carl Hubbell Museum“. Nothing fancy here…just a one story metal building that houses the police, volunteer fire, city hall and a small area with all of Carl Hubbell’s memorabilia that he and his family donated. Note: If you drive through town on Highway 18 (the north/south road), you’ll miss most everything…except for the blinking stoplight and the corner gas station. Yes…the town is that small…the last census showed 996 people in town.

Long live King Carl and the Screwball.

[tags] Carl Hubbell, Screwball, King Carl, Meeker, Oklahoma [/tags]

Are RFP’s evil?

According to a few blogs I ran across today, RFP’s are evil. Read these posts here

The three articles above are written by some folks in the Marketing industry but their points about RFP’s and/or proposal’s being worthless are very good and can be applied across many industries. One of the best lines from the articles comes from the RFP’s are Evil post when the author (Spike Jones) writes:

companies still issue them and agencies still scramble to answer them. And in scrambling to answer them, they give away the only thing that they get paid for – their time and ideas. Is that really good business? If you don’t get the account, then you’re out all that time and money. If you win it, then you spend the first two years trying to recoup the money you lost.

I’ve been spending a significant portion of my time lately responding to RFP’s for my employer (a very large IT Outsourcing company)…at times, there have been upwards of 20 to 25 people on a conference call to talk about the response…and these conference calls last for hours and are very frequent (sometimes 2 or 3 times a day). In addition, a ‘solution development meeting’ was held in an office close to the potential client and close to 30 people flew in for this meeting to ‘develop a solution’.

I wonder about the time that is spent on responding to this RFP and whether this time would be better spent doing something else. Large IT Outsourcing deals seem to always be handled using RFP’s, but I wonder whether these RFP’s would be necessary if these large IT organizations would take the time to develop relationships with potential clients?

Most of the organizations’ that I’ve been a part of have responded to RFP’s and have won some business from them, but I think the success rates for winning a proposal is probably around 20-25%….not a good ratio when you look at the amount of work involved compared to the amount of business won.

The most profitable clients (and the best clients) that I have ever worked with are those that I (and the organization) had a personal relationship with. Now…some people might say that it is tough to have a relationship with every potential client out there….but is it? If a person truly believes that then perhaps the marketing & business development teams aren’t really doing their jobs…or perhaps the organization is trying to do something that they aren’t capable of doing.

I hate RFP’s but I understand that within some organizations, they are a cost of doing business….but I hope to one day be in a situation where I can create that trusting relationship with my clients and potential clients so that I never have to submit another response to an RFP.

Lewis Green, the author of the “Dirty Little Secrets about Proposals” article has this to say about proposals and RFPS:

My proposal writing begins as soon as I decide to go after a certain client’s work. Here are the steps I take once that client is identified:

1. Background Research on the business, especially financials, press releases and media articles.
2. Through that research, identify an area where the business needs help that I can offer.
3. Look for a way to meet the decision maker (networking, referral, lead, or, if necessary, a direct mail campaign followed-up by telemarketing.
4. Get a meeting if that decision maker is interested in my services, and listen, listen, listen.

I love it…especially number 4 -> Listen Listen Listen. If organizations were listening to their clients and potential clients, perhaps they wouldn’t have to respond to so many RFP’s.

[tags] business development, RFP, proposals, relationship based selling [/tags]

Finding the Ideal Client

Everyone wants to work with the ideal client, but how many consultants and entrepreneurs out there can afford the luxury of holding out for this mythical ideal client? Read on.

Anne-Marie Nichols at The Write Spot has an interesting post titled “Identifying your ideal client” that I found interesting. In the article, Anne-Marie discusses how important it is for a consultant or organization to take the time to really determine who their ideal client really is. In the post, Anne-Marie quotes an article by Michael Port on Nightingale.com that states:

Your clients are an expression and an extension of you. Many entrepreneurs and salespeople will work with anyone who has a heartbeat and a credit card. However, this method leaves you with too many challenging clients. Learn to live by the red velvet rope policy of ideal clients. By eliminating the painful negative energy and time spent worrying about challenging client relationships, you will dramatically increase your productivity, happiness, and client referral rate.

This makes sense but I wonder if it is possible for an entrepreneur or consultant just starting their new venture to court their ‘perfect’ client and turn down business from others?

I want to think that the answer to both of these questions is “yes”, however, there may be times in a new venture where a person and/or organization has to take business from a client whether that client fits into the ‘ideal client’ bucket (as long as the work is profitable)

[tags] Ideal Client, Consulting, Business Development [/tags]

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