Sunday, July 12, 2009

In Desperate Need of Sales

It's a sign of the times.

Last week in my weekly SMB Email I wrote a "Kick You in The Butt" article about making sales.

Well, I got an email from a consultant whose business has been hit hard by the economy and who will soon have to decide whether things are moving up enough to stay in this business. It got me to thinking.

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Here are a few commando moves you can implement before the month is out:

Raise Your Rates

After all these years, I'm still shocked to find technicians charging less than $100/hour for their services. I'll be absolutely honest with you: If you're not worth $100 an hour, please get out of this business. If you are worth it, then charge it.

In most metropolitan areas, you should be getting at least $120 to $150 per hour.

I know it seems counter intuitive to raise your rates during a recession, but you need to do it.

The fastest way to make more money is to raise your rates. Call it inflation, economic times, or whatever. Just do it.

NOT raising your rates is literally a matter of addressing your internal fears. If you're worth it, and it's the going rate, then charge it.

For a little perspective on reality, go check out the labor rates at Best Buy Geek Squad. Then call Staples and see what they charge after they're done with the $39 special for spraying a can of air on your motherboard. These guys are pricey. And if they're your competition, then get it line with their pricing.

Cut Your Costs

If you haven't signed up with Zenith Infotech for pay-as-you-go remote monitoring and tech support, do it today. I don't even remember the prices any more because they lowered them, but it's less than $4 per desktop per month to give your clients everything they need.

That saves gas and drive time.

At this point, 90% of your business should consist of sitting in from of your monitor and fixing things remotely.

Every single time you get in your car, you're losing money. Every time. Every day. Every job.

You lose valuable daylight time that could be billed. You pay for gas. And I know because I've been there: You eat lunch out all the time because you're on the road.

Another way to stop spending so much is to stop buying things. Radical, I know. But I'll give you a perfect example. Last Fall we adopted a simple rule in our office regarding office supplies (paper, toner, etc.): Don't buy it before you need it. That rule literally cut our office expense budget in HALF. I don't know if we were stockpiling for a nuclear war or what, but whatever we were doing was costing too much money.

Look at your budget. Cut everything. Cut the little stuff and cut the big stuff.

Don't have a budget? That might explain a few things too. :-)

Prioritize Every Service Request

That means prioritize every phone call, every email, every shoulder tap.

Begin asking the very simple question: "How urgent is this?" You'll probably be surprised that your client do not expect emergency service for everything. Once you begin asking them to tell you how urgent it is, you'll find that most of the requests you get are not urgent at all.

You've always treated every request at absolutely top priority, but clients really don't expect that.

Here's your new mantra: Scheduled Work Is Profitable Work.

I might make a poster for that.

If you don't have an honest to goodness process for handling the work flow, then you're simply responding to whatever tasks someone throws in your lap. That's not the way to make money.

Take a look at Erick Simpson's book The Best I.T. Service Delivery Book Ever.

And if you want a cheaper read that will change a lot things about your life and your business, read First Things First by Stephen R. Covey, A. Roger Merrill, and Rebecca R. Merrill.

If you can schedule work 2-3 days out, you will discover pockets of time that are not taken up fighting fires.

Obviously, You Need To Make Sales

Here's an easy one: Make ten phone calls a day asking for an appointment. If you're really as hard up as it sounds, make 20 phone calls a day.

Call your clients and outright ask for referrals. Follow up immediately.

Call strangers who "look like" your favorite clients. That might be insurance brokers, attorneys, or whatever. Get a list and start calling.

You've heard of the sales funnel. If you make 20 calls a day, that's 400 calls a month. Some one's going to meet with you. Let's be honest, when you start out you'll be bad. But you'll get better. When you start out, 400 calls should get you at least five appointments. When you get better, it will get you ten.

Make appointments a HIGH priority. Meet with strangers, polish your approach, and don't forget to ask for the sale. If you meet with ten interested people, you should be able to sign one of them.

So far this hasn't cost you any money.

If you already have a list you've been mailing, call down that list. They've at least heard of you.

Direct mail and advertising only goes so far. You have to follow up and ask for the business.

Sales vs. Delivery

I often hear people say they're too busy working to make sales.

Total honesty time: You don't want to make sales because you don't like sales, so there will never be a good time. SCHEDULE the time in your day and make it happen.

Remember that discussion of priorities a few paragraphs back? Don't think about service priorities different from sales priorities.

Everything in your business has a High, Medium, or Low priority. Everything. And they're not in separate queues.

High priority sales are more important that medium priority tech support.

For example: Do you troubleshoot a $24 CD ROM for a client who calls you once a year, or make 20 phone calls and one sales appointment? If you want the sale, you have to go work the sales funnel.

And part of prioritizing is to drop your smallest clients. I don't know what is small for you. For us it's less than $500/month.

I know for some people no client is too small. But you need to think about that. If someone spends more money on oil changes for their car in a year than they spend on tech support, they're not really a client. They're barely a customer. They have zero loyalty to you and you don't owe them anything.

If you can't get a client to spend at least as much on you as they spend to have someone mow their lawn, then we're back to whether or not you should be in this business at all.

Good luck!


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  1. "Prioritize Every Service Request" rings so true and not something I've ever done. I've even got Erik's book half-read on the shelf, time to pick it up again!


  2. GREAT post - i think every business owner needs to hear this OFTEN - myself included!


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