Saturday, November 9, 2013

Scaling a Salesforce to Grow Your Business Fast

I thought I'd devote this month's post to one of the most important things you can do in a business...and that is grow an efficient and effective sales force.  I think this applies to virtually any business, and especially to commercial real estate brokerages.  In any case, the manner in which you choose to grow your team has a direct impact on revenue of your company.

The Prerequisites to Scaling a Sales Team.

Prior to ramping up your team, the most important thing is to determine that sales people and top-line (ideally profitable) revenue growth are proportional.  What does this mean?  Simply put, the more sales people you add, the more your company grows.  Just like testing new products, you will want to test this on a small scale first.  You will want to answer the following question prior to aggressive growth:

How long does it take and what is the cost to get a sales person to break even?

To answer the question, you need to know the average value of a customer, the cost of the sales person, and how many sales they will need to make per month/year to break even.  The best way to answer these questions is to add a few people on a small scale and measure.  Then you will have exact numbers you can plug into your model.  Every business is different so your model will depend on the specific business you are in.  For example, at ProspectNow, we know we can get a sales person to ramp up to full speed in about 45-60 days.  This helps us plan exactly what our investment is.  Of course this assumes you are hiring the right person.  Recruiting and hiring is a completely separate and necessary part of the equation, but for the sake of this blog, let's assume you are able to bring in the right people.

Once you know what the numbers are for your business, you can start to add people efficiently.  You want to get to the "just add water" point where your system scales with more people and actually gains efficiency the more you add.

Training, Ramp up, and Motivation

With regard to minimizing ramp up time, I'd recommend building a best practices sales training guide that provides the following:

  1. Calling Scripts
  2. Objection Handling
  3. Competitive Matrix
  4. Best Practices
You will build out this data with the first few reps that you hire, then you will use that information to provide to all new hires.  The goal is to get the sales person comfortable enough to get on the phone ASAP because that is where the real learning begins.  I am a big believer in the "learn by doing" approach.  So the sales training guide is really just a tool to help develop enough confidence to get going.

It's really important to build a culture of cooperation in a sales environment.  If you do this well, then your ramp up time for new hires is even faster because sales people help each other.  When someone does well, his or her peers should be happy for that person.  I love it when I hear our sales people sharing or borrowing each others 'best practices'.  Each time we hire, our ramp up time has gone down because of this.  

Sales should be fun, and competition is part of that...but too much competitive pressure can also have a negative affect.  Clearly the first step is to hire people that want to do well.  After that, I think that transparency in numbers is a great way for people to be competitive with the back drop of cooperation to ensure it's not so competitive that it ceases to be fun.  What do I mean by transparency in numbers?  Specifically, every metric that relates to sales production should be tracked including calls, talk time, meetings, proposals, sales etc.  This is absolutely critical because you can develop a correlation to sales success and address issues early.  Make sure all sales people can see how they are doing, and learn from those that are doing well.  This speaks to the "transparency" part. 

If you are a ProspectNow customer, you will see you can track these metrics in the "Activity" section of the website.  If you have not used that, give it a try and set some goals for yourself and you'll see overtime you can start to build a profile of success.

Process and Efficiency at Scale

Sales people should have the infrastructure and tools they need to succeed.  The last thing you want them doing is any 'non revenue generating' activity.  Ironically, this is why I started ProspectNow...because I spent way too much time dealing with property and owner data research.  Regardless, you should think of your internal operations as a business, and your sales people are the customer.  This mind set causes you to serve them in a way that helps them make money and in turn makes you money.

You will know you have a solid process and infrastructure when each hire gets easier and easier.  Good luck in growing your businesses!

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

What Business Lessons Can You Learn from Driving a Ferrari at 120 mph?

Last week I had the tremendous experience of driving a Ferrari 430 Scuderia on a closed track with a professional driver coaching me.  This blog is my excuse to post the video below.  I also was amazed at the techniques and skills that one would have to acquire to really get around the track quickly and how these same disciplines apply to business.  I thought I'd share some of my thoughts with regard to the parallels below.

First, Here is the Video...

Thanks to Kenny and the guys at for a great time!

Get Out of Your Comfort Zone (without dying)

I have to admit that when I was still standing on the throttle down the straight away and I saw break lights in front of was a bit unnerving.  The coach was telling me "keep going, keep going" yet I was staring at red break lights from another Ferrari right in front of me.   I followed his instructions and continued to accelerate, which clearly put me outside of my comfort zone.  After a few laps I gained confidence in the car's breaking ability and started to get more aggressive.

 I have never come across a successful entrepreneur that did not step outside their comfort zone.  I also have discovered though, that you don't have to be so far outside your comfort zone that you are putting your business at the risk of failure.  This concept of risk tolerance is a delicate balance.  You want to take risks where the success is significant upside, and the failure is not your complete demise.   I have seen people take risks when starting companies that are excessive (such as taking on debt too early).  Get out of your comfort zone, but don't take on so much risk that you will crash your car into the wall :)

Pick a Line -Stay Focused

The line I picked into the corner was critical to my exit speed though the corner.  You can see in the video that the driving coach is telling me to turn in, clip the apex of the corner, and then exit at full throttle out of the corner.  I realized if you don't pick the right line, you can't exit the corner at maximum speed.  Picking the right line is critical.  In business, the parallel is "focus".  There are some many directions you can go, especially in the technology space because technology is so malleable.  Often times there is a temptation to pivot too early before you have really tested and applied your vision.  Just like in driving the car, you start to get a "feel", I also believe there is a lot to be said for the "feel" of trusting your gut in business.

When I started ProspectNow, I just knew there was a market for it.  In fact, I had no doubt because I had experienced the problem first hand.  While we did many pivots with regard to execution and trial and error...the core vision of helping brokers/lenders close more deals has not changed.  Don't get distracted, pick a line, and stay focused.

Slow Down to Go Fast

This is the old race car adage that you have to "slow down to go faster".  I really noticed this on the track.  If I tired to get to cute or to creative with the car (such as too many down shifts or entering the corner too fast), it slowed me down.  I really think this can be applied in business.  Sometimes we feel we always have to be doing something regardless of how productive it is.  It feels good to be "doing" but often times this leads to doing the wrong things that slow us down.  Everyone has a "to do" list, but it's just as important to have a "don't do" list.

Hope you enjoyed the video and happy prospecting!

Friday, April 26, 2013

New Feature Worth Checking Out

As many of you know, the relentless pursuit of prospecting perfection never ceases here at ProspectNow.  I wanted to take this opportunity to share with you a new feature that can make a big difference in your business.  Many of our customers are listing agents and they focus using ProspectNow to contact building owners who may be interested in selling.  But what about buyer's agents?  How can they use ProspectNow effectively?

One of the most qualified types of buyers, is the 1031 exchange buyer.  In order to defer taxes, the seller has to identify the replacement property in 45 days and close in 180 days.  Clearly with the increase in capital gains tax, investors are looking for any tax advantage they can get.  This creates a compelling event for the seller to find a replacement property within the timeline.  So if exchange buyers are highly qualified and great leads for buyers do we find them?

ProspectNow has added the ability for you to get the phone numbers and contact info of the seller of the property now in addition to the current owner.  The key is to find sellers that have just sold in the last 45 days so that they are still in their "identification period".  Here is a screenshot and the steps:

  1. Advanced Search - Recording date from 45 days back to today.
  2. Search
  3. Click on the orange button "Contact Seller" to get the phone number

That's it!  Happy Prospecting!

Monday, February 4, 2013

3 Activities Sales People Should Never Have to Do

If you run any type of sales organization, then you know that the larger that organization gets, the more small inefficiencies become major problems as you scale.
In short, activity that is not directly revenue producing needs to be automated or reassigned so sales people can focus on the task at hand.  If you think about your own organization, I am sure you can identify tasks your sales people are doing that slows them down and prevents them form achieving their goals.

Sales operations is like a company within a company.  The customer is the sales person and the vendor is the sales manager.  The objective of the sales manager is to empower the sales person to focus on deal production.

Because of the very independent nature of commercial real estate brokerage, sometimes agents do not get the training and the support that will help them close more business.  This helps the agent and the broker since there success is connected.  If you are running a CRE brokerage, this is a great opportunity to review your processes and think about what you can do to make your agents more effective.

The following are 3 common inefficiencies that sales people should never have to do:
  1. Manual researching leads
  2. Manually dialing, leaving voice mails, and sending emails
  3. Manual data entry 

Clearly ProspectNow is focused on solving item number 1 above, but there are also other tools to help you with automating the other processes.  There are great dialing tools for automating the calling process such as Mojo, Phoneburner or Insidesales.  With regard to data entry, this can be a killer as your organization grows.  Even the smallest manual operation can cost you huge dollars as you scale.  If there are certain items which must be done manually, I'd recommend setting up a support team for your sales team that handles these operations so they can stay laser focused.

Every business is different, but when you become aware of sales inefficiencies you will see you huge opportunities to improve the performance of your team and yourself.

Good luck and happy selling!

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Make Fewer Cold Calls & Close More Deals?

What?  How can I make fewer cold calls and close more deals?  When we first started building ProspectNow, I found I was always hammering the point that the more calls you make, the more deals you will do.  There is no question that sales activity and production are related.  This will never change, but technology is making it possible for us to target in a much more effective way.

As we have progressed in the development of ProspectNow, our focus has been to help our customers make fewer calls, and send less mail...but make the RIGHT calls.

What are some ways to target building owners that are more likely to sell, buy, or refinance?  Here are a a few of my favorite targeting methods:

1.  Owners that own more than one property.

These are great opportunities to find owners that own lots of assets and but may fly under the radar by  owning smaller assets.  If you can call one owner that owns 5 properties it's the same as calling 5 owners that own one property.

2.  Owners that manage properties out of state.

Sometimes owners that are not in a position to easily manage or maintain their properties are more likely to sell.  These are great calls to make, especially on apartment buildings.

3.  Loans coming due in the next 12 months.

Clearly building owners that have a ballon payment coming due are going to have motivation to either sell, refinance  or pay the loan off with cash.  This is another way to increase your probabilities.

There is never a magic answer in business, but you can definitely improve your chances by focusing the scarce resource of time and effort in the right places. 

Monday, November 12, 2012

Staying Tax-Savvy Through the Holidays

While the holiday season may just be gearing up, many small business owners are already thinking about 2013, particularly where taxes are involved. Not only are income tax rates set to increase, but a few key tax breaks are scheduled to expire as well.

With this in mind, a Thomson Reuters tax analyst provides a handful of tips for small businesses that may save them money in 2012 and set them up for a successful 2013. We hope you enjoy the holidays, and derive as much savings for your small business as you can!

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tech is a Huge Bright Spot Among CRE

It's no secret that tech is one hot sector today. It's so hot, in fact, that it's bolstering office markets throughout the U.S. This is not only seen in the major tech hubs like Silicon Valley, Seattle and New York, but even in lower profile tech markets like Atlanta.

This is according to Jones Lang LaSalle's latest reports, which outline the top U.S. tech markets. Aside from Atlanta and obvious regions like Los Angeles and New York, JLL also released reports on Austin, Baltimore, Denver, Las Vegas, Orange County and Philadelphia, among others.

Check them out for yourselves. You'll definitely see that some opportunities abound in these major tech gateways!