In The Trenches

by Steven Pavent

   This may not be one of the most entertaining articles, but it sure may be one of the most helpful. The personality traits that it takes to get started and be successful as an independent agent or small sales office may not be the same traits that it takes to grow! This recently stood out when I took a complimentary personality survey. It's one of those pre-employment surveys that claim they can help you hire better sales- people by giving you an idea what their TRUE personality is! Hopefully this would help us screen perspective agents who claim they're doing twice as much business as they actually are. What was really neat about this personality profile is that it not only told you what your natural personality traits are, but what your learned traits are.
   As one would expect my natural personality rated very high with the traits a high performance salesperson would have. What was surprising was to see how my learned personality traits made me, more detail oriented, a better project planner, a better implementer and organizer. Many of these things are contrary to the traits of highly successful salespeople. Then it hit me! These are the things that allowed me to take my business from 20 to 30 deals per month to well over 100 and growing.
   Today I'm going to share with you the low cost, high impact things that we've been doing to stay successful;

  • It all starts with a good computer. Cost $500.
  • Next is a good contact manager. We use ACT 6.0, but I'd imagine Goldmine or Telemajic would do just fine. This allows you to have all of your customers' primary information at your fingertips. You can follow the sales/recruiting process and remember exactly what you said to each person. Investment: $150.
  • Get a good fax-managing program for your computer. We use WinFax 10.0. We have an easily accessible copy of every single fax we've ever sent or received including dates and times of transmitions. This gets rid of a lot of paper as you actually only need to print a few of the faxes you ever get. Investment: $100.
  • You'll need a scanner and document management software. We are in a paper intensive business and by scanning and archiving most of the paper we eliminate much of the paper. Imagine not having piles of paper around and being able to put your hands on a copy of any customer's application within minutes. We use Visoneer sheet fed scanners because they are extremely fast. We use Scansoft Paperport 8.0 for document management. Investment for the Scanner $300 and the Software $90.
  • You'll also need a good office program. We use Microsoft Office. This gives you all the business management essentials. "Word" for processing, Excel for those infamous spreadsheets, Outlook for email and PowerPoint for sales presentations. Investment: $400.
  • Get yourself a PDA (Palm Pilot) and make sure it can synchronize with your contact manager. This would mean that as you update your PDA or your computer the devices would pass the changes along to one another. Having this allows you to take with you a mini copy of your office and all the most important information. Investment: $100.

   Link all of this up with a good high speed internet connection (either DSL or Cable) and you've got yourself a powerful business management system that would cost tens of thousands to reproduce if you were having someone build it for you. You can get all of this for the profit of 2 to 4 leases or equipment sales! You'll notice the prices are listed as "investment". Because an investment in you and your business is what this is all about.
   Now I know the salesperson in you is saying "what a waste of time". Having to install, learn and update all this software. That may be true at the beginning, but as you make it all work and become familiar with it you'll begin to see huge dividends. Many of us can go out and sell 10 to 20 deals per month without being too organized. However, as your business starts to grow and as you take on more vendors (gift, check, internet), so that you can compete more effectively, not having quick access to information will bury you! So, think about your personality traits. Think about what you are and what you need to learn to increase your business.
   In conclusion, nothing works unless you do. Meaning all this stuff is great, but it will still be time and money wasted if you don't use it and keep it up to date. Try to create systems for the work flow of your new electronic office. Done right it will help you do the work of 2 or 3 people. Also, as with anything on your computer make sure you have good security, a solid backup and up-to-date virus protection software. And don't get so caught up in this that you forget to open the most important door of all: your car door!
   Finally, you can achieve this the old fashion way with index cards and lots of folders and file cabinets. Don't forget the assistant that you'll need to hire to help you keep track of it all. But, for some it may be more efficient than learning all this computer stuff! For the rest of us it's a low overhead way to stay ahead of the competition!