Have you noticed more dumpsters parked in the driveways of family homes lately? With summer officially here, the season of home renovations is in full stride. This is true for my home a well. We had two doors and a window changed, and custom pull out drawers installed in my kitchen (if you could see the happy birthday face I have right as I am typing this, you would think the birthday cake is on its way out!). After years of perusing pantries on Pintrest, drooling with envy at those organized shelves, the day of bringing order to my dry food storage had arrived (scream like a Beiber fan!). Let me tell you on the installation day of my drawers, I danced on one foot, oh yes I did. I almost hugged the installer…ALMOST! I told him I wanted to but his face said “please don’t strange woman that is screaming”. The intent was there and that’s what’s important.

As a client I am probably a little outside of the norm. Research is my natural state of being. I find it enjoyable, I love to learn and it comes easily for me. Additionally it is a skill I make use of on an almost daily basis for both my business and my clients. I cannot imagine making any important decision without having a little background on the subject at hand. This includes some prepared questions for the professional I am meeting with. Over the years I have discovered this isn’t how many people approach these situations. Sales people always seem to make a point of mentioning that most customers come unprepared. So some are happy to see me, others not so much (Millennials are changing this and companies are scrambling to adjust *I heart millennials*). My goal is to stump my sales person in at least one question, haha, ok so maybe I need new goals. When spending thousands you bet your bottom dollar I am doing my research. Anyone that falls outside of that line of thinking seems just cray cray to me.

Meatball can barely contain his excitement for the new drawers, its written all over his face!

A month long parade of sales people selling windows, drawers and doors kept my social calendar booked; exposing me to several examples of sales techniques in the process. As an entrepreneur I use these moments as opportunities to learn how others do things. I dissect each experience and see how I can apply the insights and wisdom to my business (general dinner conversation and since my partner is an entrepreneur as well. We are impassioned with such topics…that and dogs, as you probably have figured out by now). How people work, how they present themselves, they’re sales pitch and how they try and close, all things I purposely set out to gain insight from. From my this experience what left the greatest impression on my entrepreneurial psyche was the quoting process.

Some showed up with polished and professionally designed quote packages, branded and standardized. Others came with simple quote forms in triplicate with carbon copies. While others just had a notebook with lined paper and pencil (which we as the clients would not get a copy, they simply asked me if I would take a photo with my phone). I actually was taken back by the way these sales calls are still performed. In the digital age, I never received even one single digital quote (Not even from a major North American big box store catering to homeowners)

From the sales man that was speaking to my partner and referred to me as his gal. Another offered us some company branded cloth shopping bag and said all the ladies loved them for there grocery shopping.The final example I choose to share is the one that on his followup call asked if I had made my partner a big spaghetti dinner that night, in a stereotypical Italian accent (my partner is first generation Italian). The experience was eye opening in every respect.

How a Sales person I had chosen to work with lost a sale

So I chose one sales woman for my drawers. I liked her personality, she was helpful and within my allotted budget. Her quoting process was done entirely by hand, to the point of drawing out my drawers. She was very proficient at it too, with her mechanical pencil, eraser and ruler. I can barely draw stick figures and lets not even mention by total lack of depth perception (when I have to draw its flat, rather ancient Egyptian like). I was dully impressed and she was quick at it too!

A couple of weeks later I called to not only to go ahead with the project but also to add 2 more exact same size drawers to my original quote. The information on her quote form was clear and I could see how much this change would increase the original price. My call was to confirm the price, provide a credit card for the down payment and schedule a timeline. Instead I was informed that we had to schedule another visit, as she needed to “provide me a new paper with revised figures”. I asked if she could just email it instead of having to make another visit out. She made it very clear that head office only allowed paper quotes and that it had to be in person. I let her know I would call her back when I could schedule the time and hung up.

When off the phone I actually sat in silence for a little while trying to figure what happened. How such a large company’s sales process complicated a sale of almost $2000 for a willing customer, credit card in hand! And actually sent me away without closing. All previous sales training I have received was to strike while the iron is hot and seal the deal. I truly was left shaking my head in disbelief that in 2015 this was happening. Later that afternoon when speaking with my neighbor about what happened, they recommended another company who made a version of the product that took up less room and was about 35% less expensive. Well then that was a game changer. Subsequently I scheduled a time with this other company and ended up going with them. Two weeks later I received a phone call from the sales woman saying she has spoken with her boss and there was no longer a need to schedule the visit and I could just call them to set it up…

*puts dissection equipment on* let the lessons begin!

How could a good administrative consultant helped close that sale?

  •  Streamline processes so it makes it easiest as possible for the client, reducing closing time, striking while the iron is hot and the client is excited about the product. The longer you wait the less likely the sale is to close
  • Generate a follow-up email with a digital copy of the quote and directions for next steps (including a call to action)
  • Help with integrating possible online payment options or email money transfers (which would actually cost them less then what current credit card charges cost)
  • Help train staff that are hesitant to change in adopting new technology
  • Now since this is a customized sales visit and you might not be able to get away from paper. You could create a customized form so your sales people are not having to draw during there visit with clients. Make sure  your current branding is incorporated. Finally, integrate it to the current CRM tool to create a digital version with ease allowing for quick changes and modifications.
  • Suggestions on possible apps which can create ideal mobile solutions for the home visit salesman such as Canvas or FormConnect

And these are just a few recommendations based on my client experience.

I respect the old school way of doing thing. I think there is a lot to learn from individuals that have done this day in and day out for years. Especially when many industries are shifting away from the traditional salesmen model. It is a dying art that in certain cases cannot be done away with. For any business to play the game in the long run, it’s important to understand your ever evolving customer base and rising to meet the changing way of doing business. Millennials are changing the game in so many ways. Who says you can’t have the best of both worlds?

I would love to hear how you make it easy for your clients to close the sale? Do you have any hybrid paper/digital solutions?

So of course you have read my previous blogs (it’s a given that you hang on my every written word). Referring back to my previous blog on delegation (Part of the “Entrepreneurial Parables” series) this is a tool that goes hand in hand with delegating; as mind mapping is a fantastic way to create an outline of the tasks you wish to get others to help you with. Allowing you to create an easy to read road map of what you are wanting out of their help. And the beauty of it all is you don’t even need a computer for it to work, as you can see by my pictures of my blog post outlines, those are all done by hand (the fluency of motion that writing creates is almost therapeutic for me and aides in my creative process). Mind mapping can be used in your business in so many different ways:

  • Business plan
  • Marketing plan
  • Proposals
  • Blog posts
  • Public Speaking/ presentation slides/ writing outlines
  • New website ideas/layout
  • Work flow charts
  • On boarding process
  • Procedural manuals

If you think you have never tried mind mapping, you probably have and just were not aware of it. And if you use it, that’s great, use it more. If formal writing is not needed then this is an ideal format for saving time, sticking to the point and being able to brain dump in the most user friendly manner.

What are some of the things that you mind map with? And if you don’t mind map, then I would love to know how you deal with your idea lightening and how you prepare for when it strikes again? How do you make the best use of your entrepreneurial creativity?

Meatball the ever willing model, ecstatic about sitting in a drawer and having his picture taken.