Blog Archives

The value of time

How much is your time worth?

If I asked 1000 people that question, I’d probably get 990 different answers.  And, if I asked the same 1000 people that question a week, month or year later, I’d get 990 different answers.  In business, the question can be answered by taking your salary and dividing it by the hours you work to arrive at a value of your time.  Interestingly, your perception of time changes with your workload.  If you’re twittling your thumbs, you probably would not have as much sense of urgency as when you’re swamped.

save time, marketing ideas, business forms

Dwindling spiral of time.

As a vendor of promotional products, corporate apparel, signs and print marketing, I often run into buyers who invariably buy the cheapest products they can find.  Those customers, unfortunately, do not understand the value of time.  Case in point: I recently built a custom website for a customer to order all of their embroidered shirts from.  In addition to building their personalized e-store, we gather the individual orders by employee, embroider the items with the correct logo (they have 2 color variations, based on the color of the item), bag the item and label it with the employee name, split the orders into 16 locations and ship them out.

Sure, they may be able to do all of this work themselves, but is it worth it?  To save a hundred dollars by shopping around apparel companies, embroiderers, freight companies and ecommerce brokers, they would wind up spending thousands of dollars in labor, invoices, checks and other expenses.

The moral: when planning a major job, consider all of the time that will be involved in implementing each solution.  Quite often, the penny you save in product may cost you more money and headaches than you realize.

Then, call me. 🙂

I’ll save you the most precious resource you have.

-Jim

Accurate Forms & Supplies

817-498-4840

The secret to handling lagging sales

In talking to hundreds of sales managers, CFOs, CEOs and business owners over the years, I’ve encountered a somewhat disturbing trend.  This trend is a behavior pattern that I’ve encountered when discussing my products and services.  This pattern, while common, can be deadly.

The pattern I’m referring to centers around statistics and how these decision makers react to them.  When statistics begin to go down, the first thing many of these decision makers do is cut back on expenses.  The idea seems logical at first; if your sales and profit are down, you need to cut expenses to balance out the P&L statement.  However, I believe it is a mistake, and sometimes a huge one.  I’ve even seen many salesmen do this (and I have too in the past).

The first thing a company MUST do when facing a slight dip in sales or profit is PROMOTE.  Economy is important, but you have to promote as a first action.  If you fail to promote, your slump will either get worse or be prolonged.  If you think about it, promotion makes the most sense.  To promote means to make your business, product or service known and well thought of.  If sales and profit are down, and you rein in your expenses and fail to promote, you rob yourself of the opportunity of garnering more sales and closing the deals that are close to completion.  New customers who may only now be ready to buy or entertain presentations will not be able to find you easily.  Old customers may not know what specials or other products you have.  All of this means that the action that can directly add sales and profit on an immediate basis – PROMOTION – will not occur, and your business will continue to slump.

The same thought process works for individuals also.  If your personal statistics are down slightly, you need to PROMOTE.  Salesmen who experience lulls or dips in their sales need to promote and get their name and products out there.  Work hard to get appointments, make more calls, send more emails, disseminate sales materials, etc.  Other employees can get their statistics up by promoting and PRODUCING.  Sometimes, if your job doesn’t directly relate to sales, the action step is to produce.  For example, if the Accounts Receivable clerk has a responsibility to process invoices, send out invoices and receive payments from customers, each of these responsibilities can be measured in statistics.  Then, if the number of invoices sent, checks in, etc., start dropping, she can Promote by calling people directly for payments, asking sales departments if there are any pending sales to invoice, etc.  She can then Produce by getting those invoices out and checks in.

Promotion doesn’t always have to cost a lot of money.

It can be as simple as emailing your customers and prospects to let them know you’re there, or better, that you have a product or service that can really help them.  Email blasts are good for broad contact, but you should also send personal, individual emails or messages that focus on a specific product or service for that customer.  Make sure you tie in how that product will help that particular business or individual.  Other forms of promotion are phone calls, cold calls (when done correctly), website ads, how-to You Tube videos, etc.

My company is positioned to help businesses in two ways: promotion and economy.  We consult with customers and help them design one or more marketing pieces, such as flyers, postcards or promotional items.  Our relationships with manufacturers helps us save money while promoting.

Our connections also help customers save time and money on their office supplies, toner and printer supplies, business forms and A/P checks.  It is a good strategy to use cost savings on these items to pay for promotional actions.

If enough companies and business owners stopped complaining about the economy and just PROMOTED, we would go a long way toward turning our entire economy around, not to mention putting extra money in our pockets.

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Maximize your Marketing with Persistent Advertising

There are two ways to keep your name in front of customers:

1) A steady flow of calls, messages, ad pieces, emails, etc.;

2) Useful items that customers will keep and reuse often.

Both strategies have their uses, and can be an important part of marketing.  I view marketing as having two essential functions: first, to assist sales by generating interest in the product or service; and second, to make your product or service well known and well thought of.  Ideally, the second helps establish the first. Brand recognition, humor, information and product comparison all contribute to these two functions.

The downfall of continuing to barrage customers and prospects with a litany of calls, emails, flyers and other messages is that it is expensive in terms of both time and money.  Additionally, people can become annoyed if you overdo it.  Every person has a different tolerance level.  Moreover, if you are in a field where there is a lot of competition, your customers and prospects are probably being inundated with messages and requests for meetings by your competitors as well.

The alternative is by using number 2) above.  Certain items can provide a lasting impression, by virtue of the fact that they are useful.  For example, custom printed pens work well because everyone uses them.  They also travel alot (people steal, “borrow” and otherwise misplace them).  This can be great if your product can be used by everyone.  Not so good if your company has a niche customer base; the pens may leave the customer’s office without ever being seen by the decision maker.

A great item that provides lasting advertising is a calendar.  Calendars are used year-round by virtually everyone.  People make notes on them, mark birthdays, plan holidays and vacations, etc., all using a calendar.  Instead of looking at a flyer or email and throwing it away (if they even look at them), people tend to keep calendars.  Every time your customer or prospect uses their calendar, they see your name and/or message.

                        

You can tailor the calendar style and artwork to your design.  For example, we know some of our customers are car enthusiasts, others like to travel, and still others enjoy inspirational scenery.  So, we ordered several styles to accommodate them.

Another great tool are sports schedules.  If you’ve got quite a few customers or prospects who are fans of the local team(s), get a large poster made of the team’s schedule.  We use both an 11×17 poster with the Cowboys schedule and a column for writing in the scores and W/L next to each game.  We also print up a basketball and a baseball wallet card, which has our logo with the local teams’ schedules on the front and back, with our contact info on the bottom.  Every time they look to see who their team is playing, they’ll see our contact information and remember to call me.

Lastly, promotional products are a great tool to keep your name in front of customers.  I find that if you are in a specific industry, it’s better to tailor your promotional product to that industry.  For example, for the Health Care industry, stress relievers (squeezable foam balls that people squeeze to relieve stress) in the shape of a part of the body work well.  For example, if you’re selling to dentists:

Look around the offices of customers and prospects.  Find out what items are being used regularly.  We did a clipboard for a medical insurance company with their name and a shortcut list for a commonly used software program.  The customer loved it, and the insurance company got a lot of leverage out of it.

We’ve done well with magnetic business cards    and jar openers as well 

The possibilities are endless in this area, so I won’t go into all of the variations here.

The key to these items is that they are used, and as such, they stick around.  When you do make another cold call, or email or request a meeting, you can reference the item and build rapport.  Gate Keepers will recognize your company, thereby increasing the likelihood of getting you to the decision maker.  And, you might just impress the decision maker in the process.

For specific suggestions, or for quotes on the above, visit our website at www.accuratesupplies.com, or call me at (817) 498-4840.

Good hunting!

grAmrr & Cumyunikashun

I have to admit, I never liked to study Grammar when I was in school.  Usually, when the teacher would say something like, “today we are going to study parenthetical clauses” my eyelids would get heavy and my mouth would start to involuntarily drool.

However, as I surf my way through the information superhighway, I’m surprised to learn how advanced I am in comparison to the average blogger, RSSer, tweeter and commentators out there.  For example, here was a comment to one of my recent blog posts:

“Just wish to say your article is as astonishing. The clarity on your put up is simply spectacular and that i could think you’re knowledgeable in this subject. Fine together with your permission allow me to seize your RSS feed to keep updated with coming near near post. Thanks a million and please keep up the enjoyable work.”

Ouch!  Or:

“Unquestionably believe that that you stated. Your favourite justification seemed to be on the internet the simplest thing to consider of. I say to you, I definitely get annoyed while other folks consider concerns that they plainly do not recognise about. You managed to hit the nail upon the top and defined out the whole thing with no need side-effects , other people could take a signal. Will probably be again to get more. Thanks”

The judge gives a life sentence for mercilessly hacking up the English language with a plastic spork (an eating utensil that combines a spoon and a fork into one device).

To be fair, these posters are probably not native English speakers.  As such, I give them the benefit of the doubt.  God knows my syntax is horrible whenever I try to spew out my limited vocabulary of Spanish, German or Turkish.

What’s perhaps even more annoying are the mistakes and just plain laziness of the average texter, tweeter and other internet and phone denizens out there.  Especially those who post in a professional capacity.  There is a concept called proofreading that I highly recommend, especially if you’re looking for me to take you seriously or otherwise view your argument in a positive light.

The bottom line is, people judge you based on how you present yourself.  In person, this includes your appearance, body language, etc.  Once they have a first impression of you based on your appearance, your communication skills (or lack thereof) will solidify their overall opinion of you.  If you sound like you can’t be bothered to pronounce your words correctly, observe at least basic grammar and speak in a clear, confident tone; people will have a negative opinion of you.

With online media, your appearance is often left out of the equation.  At best, people will have access to your profile picture.  That said, if you are writing in a professional forum or on a professional topic, make sure your profile picture isn’t the one with you and your 2 best friends in the middle of a 15-tequila-shot binge (or the morning after).  Also, when you are referring people to your online profile, website, Facebook or other sites, make sure those sites are free of negative imagery.  Create separate pages or profiles if you have to.

Keep in mind also that because your online posts, tweets, comments and blogs are devoid of body language, voice tone and other communication nuances, you must be that much clearer in your intention.  For example, not everyone reading this post may recognize my attempt at humor in response to the quoted blog comments above.  Sarcasm is notoriously tricky to communicate via only the written word.  Unless you are very sure that your audience will understand your style, humor, etc., keep those elements to a minimum.

And finally, proofread, proofread, proofread!!!  If you’re language skills aren’t that of an English major, don’t try to be fancy.  Say what you mean as clearly and concisely as possible.  Make sure there are no speeling or grammatical errors (yes, I intentionally misspelled ‘spelling’ to prove my point).  That’s what a spellcheck was created for.  And if you’re writing an emotional response to something, take a few minutes to calm down and reread your comments before you hit send.

Good luck and good writing! (I hope I didn’t overdo it on the parenthetical clauses)

Time is Money

In our never-ending quest to save money or get a great deal, we often forget all that goes into a purchase. How reputable is the seller? What happens if I need to return the item? What if I’m not happy with my product or service? How convenient and responsive is the seller’s customer service?

For example, let’s say you want to buy some business cards. You call a professional printer (such as my company) to get a quote. After consulting with you as to budget, design, and features, the printer quotes you, say $50 per 1000.

Next, you browse the internet and come across an online company that has stock designs that you simply input your personal information over. The same 1000 cards costs only $20! Wow, great deal! Seeing such a great price, you jump on the internet site and order your cards.

After waiting a week, you receive your cards and realize that the name is misspelled. You go back to the website and realize that you typed in the name wrong, and got exactly what you ordered. The company you bought the cards from has an automated phone tree that takes 5 minutes to get through. Then, you get a voicemail (or worse, get stuck in a phone queue for 30 minutes). By the time someone answers your call after 30 minutes on hold (or after a day in the case of voicemail or email), you’re understandably frustrated. Hearing your angry tone (no doubt the 30th angry voice they’ve heard that day), the customer service rep curtly explains that the online proof is considered your authorization, and you can’t get a refund or credit, but will have to reorder.  Now, you’re either stuck with crossing your name off and writing it in, leaving it misspelled (both of which looks unprofessional) or reordering the cards.

At this point, if you decide to reorder, you’ve invested $40 plus all that time trying to get your issue resolved.

Had you gone with the first printer, you could have gotten a professional design uniquely suited to your business, an extra set of eyes to look over your information for errors, and an extra chance at officially proofing the information.  If the cards came back wrong, you could call the printer and talk to a real person, possibly gotten a credit or reprint or had the situation otherwise handled smoothly.

While my example is centered around business cards, it applies to everything.  Manufacturers are constantly cutting back on customer service, tightening their return policies and reducing customization; all in an effort to cut costs and offer everything dirt cheap.  Unfortunately, if there is a problem of any kind, you’re facing a truly daunting task in trying to resolve the issue if you’ve chosen a dirt cheap vendor.

All this is not to say that you can’t get a great deal from a reputable company.  All other things being relatively equal, I love cheap price as much as the next guy.  But if I have to choose between a manufacturer that I know has lousy customer service and a company with great customer service that is a few percent higher, I choose the more expensive option.

Why?  Because time is money.  How much time would I spend on the phone trying to navigate to a decision maker, explain the problem (as he or she probably knows nothing about my order), haggle back and forth and finally get approval for a resolution to a problem that is due to the vendor’s error (let alone if I made a mistake)?  That’s time that I should be spending on the phone getting more business or handling more important things in life.

Keep that in mind next time you’re out shopping.  And show some love to those of us who work just as hard to deliver great service in addition to good prices.

Knowledge is Power… and Money

The old saying that knowledge is power is true, but it also applies to sales.

Ten years ago, when I first entered into sales, a good account would have maybe two or three competitors vying for their business.  In this environment, the trick was to get the customer or prospect to like you, have a good product and present good ideas.  Typically, you could make a decent profit and subsequently, a decent commission check, just by being there.

Now, with the Internet, buyers have unprecedented access to options.  If I’m selling a commodity item, I no longer have to compete with 1 or 2 competitors, but potentially thousands.  A buyer can go online, type their product into a search engine, and find a dozen offers at dirt cheap prices.  While people still buy from people they like, a customer won’t like you much when they find out they can get the exact same item online for 40% cheaper.

The secret is knowledge.  What do you know that can help that customer?  What options should they consider?  How can your expertise help them make more money or save them money in the long run?  Your knowledge is the key to taking the sale from a commodity, dollars-and-cents negotiation (which you will eventually lose, every time) to a relationship-building, money-making sale.

In my business of custom print, people can certainly go online and order their marketing pieces, business cards, etc. from bargain basement online printers.  They probably can get it cheaper, too.  But do they know all of the options available?  Do they know which options work well for their application?  Which options really make an impact, and which options merely add to the cost?

I’m the expert.  I know printing.  By providing them with advice, options and using my experience and expertise, I save them time and money.  More importantly, the end result will be a professional product that will deliver the most bang for their buck.
As a sales or marketing professional, don’t be an order taker.  Don’t be a vanilla, low-price dealer.  There is always someone else out there who will do it cheaper.  With the Internet, buyers have virtually unlimited access vendors to purchase their product.  But if you are the expert, and you help them navigate the options to the best solution for THEM, they’ll respect you and continue to do business with you.  Be a professional.

As a buyer, don’t fall into the trap of cheaper-is-always-better.  Are you really getting the best value for your purchase?  Does service count?  Will that online vendor with a phone tree 9 button-pressing options deep, who is located halfway across the country be there if something goes wrong (especially if you’ve wringed every last penny out of the cost)?  Support your professional salesmen.  The good ones will always be there for you.

The power of gratitude

In sales as well as life, it’s important to focus on-and be grateful for- the positive things. Thank your customers for their business, no matter how small it may be. Thank your prospects for the opportunity to show them what you can do. Thank your employer for the opportunity to work for them. Thank your employees for all their hard work.

As I’ve been making a number of sales calls lately, I’ve changed my attitude about how I view the work and the people I talk to. I thank them for the time, thank them for their honesty if they are not interested, thank them for their smile, thank them for the help or information they give, and always wish them a great day.

It may sound trite, but I really believe that it has made a huge difference. I’m getting more leads, more requests for quotes, more return calls and soon, more business.

I want to take this opportunity to thank my boss for his patience, guidance and assistance. I want to thank my team for their hard work. I want to thank all of my customers, both current and future.  Thanks to Pete for the opportunity you’ve given me.
I want to thank my wife for constantly trying to change me for the better. Thanks to my wonderful boys for smiling and playing with me, and keeping me young at heart. Thank you to LRH for giving me a spiritual compass that guides me. And of course, thank you to all who read this, and may your days and lives be filled with success, wonder and joy.

And, if you’ve liked this, pass it along to those you are thankful to. Better yet, write your own notes of thanks.

Zero in on Your message

I’m in a position that many salesmen would die for.  My company has a TON of products.  Our line sheet has 64 items, spanning 12 categories.  In total, we sell over 20,000 products from about 20 regular manufacturers.  This is a stark contrast to the last two sales jobs I had, where I sold commercial energy contracts and international phone cards.  Basically, in those jobs I had 1 option.  If the prospect didn’t want or need it, I was out of luck.

The difficulty in having such a large variety of products is, how do I communicate everything we do to a brand new customer?  If I just start spewing out a laundry list of products or categories, I usually get to about number 4 or 5 before their eyes begin to glaze over.  This is actually quite funny to watch, unless you actually plan on selling them something.

As my owner reminded me yesterday, people are busy.  They don’t have time to listen to a salesman drone on and on about everything they do or sell.  As a salesman, you need to have a plan of attack.  Know what your opening statement will be.  Know what type of business it is, and what products you have that will likely interest the customer.  If you have a lot of products like I do, focus on one or two that that specific customer will need or use and talk about that initially.

For example, for law firms, my owner recommended leading in with HP brand toner.  This is because law firms typically use a lot of toner and we are very competitive with HP brand.  I ask questions to gauge interest; such as “are you using HP printers? Do you know about HP’s current incentives?”  If there is interest, I continue on that product line.

If there is not an interest, or the person isn’t using that product at all, I either ask if there is a product or service that they have trouble getting or a vendor they don’t like dealing with.  If I can find a “pain” point, I might be able to get in that way.

If I haven’t struck an interest by then, I graciously bow out and leave my information.  On the next call, I plan to take in a different 1-2 items to show.  I continue in this fashion until the person either is interested in something or has filed a restraining order on me.  All kidding aside, common wisdom seems to suggest that it takes 3-5 calls on a prospect to get a sale.  If I try to sell all 20,000 products to a prospect at once, they get overwhelmed.

By spreading my message and products out over several calls, I come across as the idea guy.  I’m someone who is thinking of them and their business.  People respect that.  The people that don’t respect it are often the people who are all about price and nothing else (a losing game for a salesman).

Be knowledgable, stay focused, follow up and truly help the customer.  You’ll build your book of business faster than you think.

Customize your Computer Desktop

If your desktop looks boring, stale, or just plain generic, spice it up!

Read on for a quick tip on how to personalize your wallpaper with a desktop slideshow made form your pictures.

Many people know how to use photos as their desktop, but here I’ll show you how to turn a group of photos into a rotating slideshow that changes periodically.  For this tip, I will assume you have Windows 7.  If you’re using XP or a Mac, you’re going to have to search the web for detailed instructions.

1) Have all of the photos you intend to use in one folder.  In my computer, I created a folder in my pictures library.  To do this, go to your pictures library folder ( My Documents -> Pictures library), right-click and select New Folder.  Name the folder Desktop Slideshow or something you’ll remember.

2) Copy the pictures you want in the slideshow into the folder.  Go to the place in your computer where the desired pictures are and select them.  You can select multiple pictures at a time by holding down the Ctrl button and clicking on all of the photos you want to copy.  If you want to copy them (make a copy, but leave the pics in the original folder), hit Ctrl-C.  If you want to move them (delete from their original location and move them to the new folder), hit Ctrl-X.  Next double-click the new folder.  Move your cursor into the empty folder and hit Paste (either Ctrl-V or Right-click then select Paste).

3) To change your desktop, hover over a blank spot on your Desktop and right-click. Select Personalize.  In the bottom of the pane, click Desktop Background.  Toward the top, you will see Picture Location.  Click Browse to the right of it.  Click Libraries -> Pictures -> Desktop Slideshow (or whatever you named the folder). Click OK.

4) By default, all of the pictures in the folder will be selected.  If you want certain pictures not to be included, click the check mark in the top left corner of the picture to remove in from the slideshow (it will not delete the picture from the folder).  Under picture position, choose how you want the picture to display on the screen.  Play around with the options to see which you like best (different options work better for different sizes of pictures).

5) Under “Change picture every:” there’s a drop-down menu that allows you to select how often the pictures rotate.  I recommend selecting 10 seconds and leave the window open.  In the background, you will see the slideshow flip through the pictures.  Then, go back and select a more appropriate interval.  If this is a work computer, select 10 minutes or more.  You don’t want to get too distracted!  Here’s an example of my desktop, which rotates every 10 minutes.  The handsome young man is my youngest son, Finley.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

You can add more photos to the slideshow by copying more pics into the folder you created.  They will automatically be added to the slideshow.

Enjoy!