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Posts Tagged ‘Sales & Markering’

I am happy to report that this month, our little company Construction Market Consultants, Inc. is ten years old. That’s all I wanted to say about that; I just realized this a few weeks ago and thought I would share it in my next post…and now, on to your regularly scheduled blog.

I have written many times, finding ways to weave an analogy about golf and business mainly because I believe such mentions help create a pretty decent word picture. When asked what we do, a quick answer is that we are very much like a golf coach for your business. We come in, take a look at your ‘game’ and help you enhance what is working and correct and improve what is not.

So here we go again with one more golf to business/business to golf illustration.

One can learn a lot of useful information for both their golf game and their business from blogs, articles, newsletters, etc. I remember one of the most profound tips I ever received for my golf game came while waiting to get a haircut. It was a simple, one-page item about the difference between missing a putt on the ‘amateur’ side versus the pro side. Some may know what this means but if you are one that doesn’t and are curious, let me know.

I do believe there comes a time when one should consider seeking some customized answers. One size may fit all for hotel robes but not so much when it comes to building new business. I do love reading articles which such headlines as ‘Five Techniques To Increase Sales ’That Start With The Letter ‘M’. (I am actually writing one as we speak.) However, not everyone is selling the same product or service and they are not selling to the same group of prospects. Sometimes, a little customization is in order.

There are definitely some universal truths that will help anyone’s game but every now and then, consider calling your ‘local pro’ and ask for a lesson.
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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

http://www.cmconl.com

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I am guessing it has now been close to a year when this blog was nominated and won Mark Buckshon’s ‘Best Construction Blog of 2010’ contest. I only mention this because the contest is back on and I would like to promote it as best I can as well as mention publicly that I am sitting it out this year.

Mark Buckshon is the reason why I started a blog in the first place. How Mark and I met makes for a pretty cool networking story and from that, he gave me my first ‘big break’ by allowing me to write an article for one of his regional newspapers.

Last year’s blog contest came to my attention because I subscribe to Mark’s blog and his newsletter. It was through one of the two that I became aware of the contest and while one could nominate their own blog, I saw that Chris Hill (Construction Law Musings) was in the hunt so I figured why join a ‘fight’ I cannot win. (Translation: Chris’ blog is, in my opinion, one of the very best out there.)

Later, in an update about the contest, I saw that I was not only nominated, but leading the voting. That changed the landscape of my intentions and after reading the rules, I saw that I better give this competition some attention.

The purpose of this entry is not so much to tell one how to win a blog contest but to emphasize the importance of contact management. In my ‘previous life’, there was a period of my career where I was responsible for training all the researchers at Construction Market Data, an international construction information group. That involved mastering their large database of projects, companies and contacts. That is where I developed my passion for CRMs, data mining and was able to weave my healthy dose of OCD into a pretty decent career.

Last year’s blog contest was like ‘American Idol’ except, no judges…just people ‘calling in’ to vote. This year, Mark has added other criterion which I believe is a great idea. After the contest, I wrote in my post ‘Madonna Voted Best Singer’ that I did not think for a minute my blog was the best. However, because part of what I do is train people and consult with companies on the importance of maintaining their data, leveraging it, networking and marketing and if the contest could be won by simply asking people to vote, then I knew I had no choice but to win.

Harvey MacKay, the author of such great books as, ‘How To Swim With The Sharks Without Getting Eaten Alive’ and ‘Dig Your Well Before You’re Thirsty suggests you should have as a goal to create a list of people that you can call on at midnight and they will be happy to loan you $10,000. While that is a goal I am still working on, I do have a very, very robust list of people I can contact who would easily consider clicking on a link to vote for me in a contest, referring me to someone or help me with any number of requests.

If the three most important words in real estate are location, location, location, I believe it could be argued the three most important words in building new business could be contacts, contacts, contacts. Some may think I carry this to the extreme but I currently have over 7,000 contacts, 80% of them are in the construction or design industry and I can tell you, for the most part, where I met that person, how we are connected, some small tidbit of history and more.

Also, the important part of maintaining your contacts is not to ‘touch base’ with them just when you need a favor.

After the contest was over, Mark called to talk and asked me how I gathered so many votes. At first, I did not want to tell him because the methods I used are actually part of the system I have developed and get paid to teach others. However, I did share with him the basics and even went so far as to share with him the text of the email I sent showing how I was able to gather so many votes. Mark published this in his follow up report.

Still, to this day, there are those who believed I ‘gamed the system’ or state that they believe I played fairly, ‘as far as they can tell.’ Those alone are the reasons I am sitting out the contest this year but I do encourage everyone to participate. There are a lot of great blogs out there with lots of great information and you can never tell when you will find that one little nugget or pearl of wisdom that could lead to bigger and better things.

Good luck bloggers!

To go to the contest, click here

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

www.cmconl.com

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Back in the day, when I loved going to shows and had far fewer responsibilities than today, there was nothing like seeing ‘The Boss’ in concert. For those who have witnessed his show, you know you leave feeling as if you have climbed a very large hill, wind in your face.

For those who only know Mr. Springsteen’s music through the airwaves or via their favorite music playing machine, you really should consider seeing him live. More than likely, you will leave thinking that if the Olympics ever included rock and roll as an event, it is easily conceivable that Bruce Springsteen and the ‘E Street’ Band would win gold, silver and bronze.

That said, I remember one of the times he played in Atlanta, after a few songs, he stopped to greet the crowd, “How’s it going Chattanooga!?” Some good natured ‘Boos’ followed and he was quickly told he was in Atlanta. I remember thinking, how silly is that!? How could someone not know what city they are in? I mean, I am sure the tour is hectic but his days of lifting equipment; loading and unloading are/were way, way behind him.

Fast forward a few years and I one day find that I am assigned a rather large, ‘rock and roll’ task. Because of a very large initiative, and the debut of a new company within our stable, I was tapped to create, write and deliver a one hour presentation on how to introduce this new product to architectural firms.

My agenda was simple…do this presentation at all 12 of our major branch offices in five days.

As memory serves me, the schedule was:

Monday – San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco

Tuesday – Denver, Kansas City, Dallas

Wednesday – Chicago, Boston

Thursday – Washington DC, Atlanta

Friday – Tampa, Orlando

Just revisiting this schedule in my mind makes me tired. But, in those days, the potency of the ‘piss and vinegar’ running through my veins was definitely of a higher proof than today. In spite of all the eagerness and enthusiasm that I packed with me on this ‘whirlwind tour’, I did indeed find myself, in the back of a cab, wondering what city I was in. As soon as I reached for my itinerary, I remembered that Springsteen concert and thought to myself, “Wow, I don’t know what city I am in!”

Since those days, I have yet to find myself in the same situation. However, from time to time, in spite of my best OCD efforts to keep a well maintained scheduled and prioritized task list, I have had to take pause and focus on which way is up. For me, the end of the year is a great time to not only take a personal inventory of accomplishments and goals but for my business as well.

As we see 2010 draw upon a close and the wheels of commerce coast to a stop for another year, I hope you have fared well during this time of economic uncertainty and, from a business perspective, realized that if it did not kill you, it made you stronger.

Finally, while I publically apologize to Mr. Springsteen for my thoughts on his confusing Chattanooga with Atlanta, I also offer my most sincere wishes that you are able to build new business in 2011 to unprecedented heights.

Merry Christmas and here’s to a safe, happy and prosperous new year.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

www.cmconl.com

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Hey gang…we are giving the guest posting another shot as we received a lot of very good feedback from our first posting from Chris Hill, construction attorney. Next up is Kevin Kaiser who is here to share with us about the importance of a strong bonding program. Hopefully, you will read Kevin’s post and ‘bond’ with what he has to share. (Sorry, I could not help myself…Bobby)

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Being in charge of your company’s bonding program is an important task. And often the people in the company consider the surety program to be a simple tool that should be dealt with only when absolutely necessary.

Unfortunately for you, this is not the case. If you want to succeed easily, then it’s important to be proactive when it comes to your surety program. Things change all the time, so staying current really helps when it comes time to secure the bond for your next project. Plus, we can always improve things, right? A good thing today could be great tomorrow as long as you take the time to care and grow it. This is exactly what should be done in your bonding program and here are a few ways to go about it to make sure you get the surety bond you need for your company to succeed.

Can You Call Me?

Having solid communications with your bonding company can really improve the service you receive and speed up the process for both parties.

Talk to your agent. Tell them what you need, what you expect, and make sure they follow through. If the surety makes a decision about something that you don’t quite understand, ask them. Setting up meetings with your agent on a regular basis can really help make sure your bonding program is on the right track and progress is always being made.

Also, making sure that you answer when your agent contacts you will help them provide better service to you.

How Much Are You Worth?

A big indicator a surety looks at is your net worth. In other words, do you own more stuff than you owe? Sureties look at this because it shows whether your company is going to be able to turn a profit in the long haul. It also shows if you can lose a wing without the plane crashing, so to speak.

For example, when considering two companies, the surety will most likely bond the one with the most net worth, so it’s something that should be definitely be on the mind of everyone in the company.

Another thing worth building up is your working capital. It’s often seen much the same as net worth (it’s the difference between current assets and liabilities), though it covers a much shorter period, usually the previous 12 months. Find your company improving these two things and bonding companies will be much more likely to write bonds for your company.

Last Tips

We all want our company to grow. It’s perfectly logical. Unfortunately though, there are many companies that grow too fast and flop. That’s why it’s important not to grow too much in the eyes of your surety. A good tip is to not try to do anything more than twice the size of what your previous job was.

Being honest really helps. If you decide that you’re going to wait to tell the surety that the project is not going as expected, you can sure to be find difficulties down the road when trying to get a bond. Just keep open the lines of communication with your surety and let them know anything that might be related to your bond program immediately so it can be dealt with efficiently.

Follow these tips and your bonding program will no doubt improve, allowing your company to take on larger contracts and in turn, grow your business.

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Kevin Kaiser is a principal at SuretyBonds.com, the nationwide leader in surety bonds. You can connect with him on Twitter, @suretybond or Facebook.com/suretybond.

Feel free to contact Kevin directly: kevin{at}suretybonds.com.

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The time between Christmas and New Year’s has always been a period of reflection for me. As we all chalk up one more trip around the sun, it is important to me to look back on the past 12 months, sift through the good and the bad and find those useful lessons I can take with me to make the upcoming year even better.

To say that 2009 has been a challenging year would be an understatement for many. In spite of the economy, financially, we have had a very good year and considered ourselves very blessed. That said, I have witnessed others who would probably not characterize their year the same; which leads me to the following joke…bear with me.

A doctor decided to take off early, head to the golf course and try to find a group in need of a ‘fourth’ and sneak in 18 holes before supper. He was lucky as he was quickly paired with a lawyer, engineer and insurance salesman.

After some small talk and a few holes, the doctor asked the attorney if, because of his line of work, he too gets asked a lot of questions seeking advice for free, explaining that he is often queried by friends and acquaintances about small ailments, here and there.

The attorney assured the doctor that this happens to him all the time and he finally found a way to respond. “I simply answer their question and when I get back to the office, I send them a bill. That usually stops those seeking free advice.”

The doctor, thought, “Wow…that is so clever, I will have to remember that.”

The group finished their game, exchanged business cards and after having an enjoyable round all agreed they would have to play together again…

…that was until the doctor got to his office on Monday and found a bill from the attorney.

The idea for this offering came from someone who emailed me and wanted to chat. I replied that I am always open to ‘talking shop’, tossing around ideas, learning more about their business and encouraged the person to give me a buzz when they had the time.

More than a week passed and I finally received a voice mail from the person to which I called back at my first opportunity. In our discussion, the person began with, “I finally got the nerve to call…” It was during our chat that I realized that maybe this person has heard the above joke before and was afraid they would soon be on the receiving end of an invoice from me.

Hardly!

So who is this guy behind the curtain of this blog? I am just one who has been very blessed in my career and has been able to take my years of experience, combine it with a ‘healthy dose of OCD’ and found a way to do what I believe is my calling. I truly love what I do and I am truly passionate about entrepreneurs, business, the free-enterprise system and capitalism. I thrive on seeing someone take the necessary risks to start their own business and flourish. I am a big believer that this is still the ‘American Dream’.

I have always said that one’s goal in sales should be to have an unlisted phone number. That’s right, an unlisted number. You build up your client base so large, that you cannot possibly take on any new customers and you just sit back, answer the phone and take orders.

Until then, I will continue to put my contact information at the end of each blog posting for a reason. I sincerely enjoy hearing from readers and unlike the lawyer above, you will not receive an invoice from me for just talking shop. I am happy to say that I will be calling a reader today and we will discuss a few ways they may be able to ‘shave a few strokes’ off their game.

So as long as you continue to see my email address at the end of this blog, drop me a line if you like. I promise you won’t receive an invoice and who knows, we may just find at the end of the exchange, a way we can both build new business…if not today, maybe next year.

If you are one of those who will file away 2009 as a challenging year, it is my sincere hope that the upcoming year will be better in all aspects.

Happy New Year everyone…thanks!

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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I know a guy that is never wrong. Ever! I kid you not, if he hits a curb pulling into the grocery store, it is the @#$% engineer’s fault for not knowing how to design a parking lot.

Now, before any clients or prospects get the wrong idea (sorry, I could not resist) allow me to explain what I mean when I say I love it when I am wrong…I am not talking about ‘not in accordance with what is morally right’ but rather ‘in error’.

The reason I enjoy being wrong is that, through the years, as I have often been wrong, I learn and grow from each experience where what I thought to be true, turned out not to be so.

Therefore, in order to share my “growth” experiences, here is a list of things where I was quite wrong.

Sushi – I use to think that the only reason anyone would eat sushi is so they could say, “I eat sushi.” That there was no possible way it could, in fact, be something somebody would want to eat.

I was wrong.

Napoleon Dynamite – The friend who told me about this movie, in my mind and at the time, way over-sold it. There was no way it could be as brilliant and funny as he described and, to be honest, the first time I watched it I was only ‘half wrong’. However, after the second, third, fourth and fifth times…I revel in its humor and brilliance. (Vote for Pedro!)

I was wrong.

Bob Chinn’s Crab House – I have many favorite eating establishments in Chicago but one in particular was a Polish restaurant on Milwaukee Avenue called ‘Irene’s’. Years ago, before children, I happened to be in Chicago on business at the same time Lane, my wife, was and we both wanted to go to our favorite place. At that time, her’s was a place called Bob Chinn’s Crab House. I was convinced here was no way I would enjoy my meal there as much as I would Irene’s. Naturally, I lost that argument and am glad I did.

I was wrong.

Nirvana and Green Day – I will lump both of these together because, no pun intended, they are the same song, different verses. The popularity of each band preceded anything I had heard from either regarding their music. I convinced myself that there was no way there could be an ounce of real talent amongst them before hearing one single song.

I was wrong.

Time Management Course – I enjoy telling people that I have found a way to make a fairly decent living out of my ‘healthy amount of OCD’. Back in the day, before Palm Pilots were the rage, we were all encouraged to sign up for a time management course with a local company and the ‘trophy’ from attending was being able to walk around with this HUGE leather, three ring binder.

If you can remember Dr. Suess’ classic, ‘The Star Belly Sneetches’ it was very much a local case of ‘those with stars and those without.’ I prided myself on being organized ‘without’.

Push came to shove and I did end up taking the course, getting my large binder and loving the processes I learned then and still use today.

I was wrong.

Brazilian Jiu Jitsu – I had a passing fancy in high school and college with Tae Kwon Do and Aikido. Then, about ten years ago, I started reading about this family from Brazil, the Gracies, who had developed their own form of jiu jitsu and my first thought was, there is no way this new martial art can be all that. In order to keep this blog offering from going on and on and on…I will just say that my passion for Brazilian Jiu Jitsu has yet to find its match as far as items on my list of activities that are not work related.

I was wrong.

I could offer many more concrete examples of where I thought I knew the truth only to be shown otherwise. I am happy to report that the amount of time between such incidents has grown because I have learned to be more open-minded to new thoughts and ideas. I know this past year, I have learned a great deal that has helped build my business in ways I would not have thought possible…thanks in part to those gentle reminders of when I was wrong before.

I believe 2010 will be a better year business-wise than 2009…but I could be wrong.

If your sales are down or you have hit a sustained revenue plateau or even losing market share, what are you doing differently? What do you plan to do differently? Have you pulled out your business plan and reviewed it? Do you have a business plan or are you one of those who plan on one day having a business plan?

In today’s economy, as we try to build new business, is there any better time than today to look at new ways of doing things, listening to new ideas, trying new techniques, moving towards the 2.0 version of your company and/or yourself?

I don’t believe there is a better time than now to possibly prove ourselves wrong. I also don’t believe I am wrong about this one.

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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I recently met with the head of an architectural firm who is trying to ‘re-invent’ himself due to the need of the particular specialty of design in which he has built his practice has pretty much disappeared. As we discussed various options, I could not help but to be reminded of one of the very first architectural clients I ever had.

This contract was to help develop a business and marketing plan for a very accomplished architect who was one of three partners of a well-known regional firm. For some reason, he decided to go out on his own with a new firm and start from scratch. I have a saying I have often repeated and will again now, ‘In all my years of being in the A/E/C industry, I have yet to meet an architect, engineer, contractor or sub, who started their own business because they wanted to be in sales.” This client may have been the epitome of that.

After we completed all the research and legwork for the business plan and after getting to know him, his goals and vision for his new venture, we began working on his marketing plan. I soon realized he needed some coaching on sales and marketing as that was going to be one of his main functions.

Following along the old line of, “The best way to appear sincere is to be sincere.”…I am a big believer that no one should be able to sell a company better than the owner. No, I am not saying owning a company suddenly turns one into Jeffrey Gitomer or Zig Ziglar but there is a lot to be said for being the one who has their ‘name on the door’ and their reputation at stake when marketing the goods and/or services of a company they own.

As we finished the marketing plan the last part of my contract was to help him with his presentation of why an interested party should hire his company. Since he was out of state, we decided we would meet at a restaurant on his next trip through Atlanta and role play the following scenario. I would be a businessman looking to develop my own office building and he would be the third architectural firm I was considering. Pretty simple.

After we met, ordered dinner, chatted and caught up, it was ‘show time’! I reached into my briefcase, pulled out his marketing package and went into character. “Joe, I appreciate you meeting with me and have to admit, I am very impressed with your brochure and portfolio. As you know, I am looking to develop a 20,000 square foot building and am trying to select an architectural firm that will be able to help me with this goal. Tell me why I should consider your firm.”

(Long pause…)

After what seemed like minutes, he finally looked at me and said, “I can’t do it.”

Not only could he not make a presentation on the how’s and why’s someone should consider his firm, he could not even make a ‘pretend’ presentation.
Granted, not everyone is cut out for sales, which, as a business development sales and marketing consultant is good news for me. However, I believe everyone in every company is in sales in some shape or form. So, after my client confessed his ‘stage fright’ we discussed techniques that would work for him and he left happy and not as concerned about his next presentation.

The reason I share this with you today is lately I have been inundated with calls and emails from people who, because of the economy, find themselves looking for new opportunities. I can sincerely tell you that I have a real heart for people in this situation as I have been there before. We all thought we would retire and die with CMD (Construction Market Data), my former employer, and when I got the message that I had a meeting with Human Resources in five minutes and just a few hours later, I was walking to the parking lot with a cardboard box of personal items and 13 years of memories, I too had to ‘re-invent’ myself.

My father is full of sayings and one that sticks out to me is ‘Can’t never could.’ The meaning of that is the shortest lesson in believing in yourself. There are many examples of people who came to greatness through a path they never dreamed. In today’s tough economy, these people are not necessarily looking for greatness, just a way to earn a living.

I will close with yet another saying I picked up along the way which I have found value in more than once. “Man can live for about 30 days without food, for about seven days without water, for about eight minutes without oxygen but not for one second without hope.”

I know it is easy to toss out a ‘hang in there’ to someone who seriously needs that one connection, that one lead, that one contact that will lead them to their next opportunity but if you are one of those people or know someone who is, whatever you do, don’t say, ‘I can’t do it.’ At least not where I can hear you. I know things are genuinely tough out there for many, many people but as long as one has hope, there will be less ‘I can’t do it’ mindsets.

Pardon me if I sounded a bit maudlin with this post but I truly love what I do, I truly enjoy seeing people build new business and truly enjoy helping others as best I can. If you are, or a friend, relative or neighbor is close to saying, ‘I can’t do it’…don’t stop…shoot me an email and I will send you my ‘New Opportunity Starter Kit’ which is really nothing more than a list of ideas, links and a short outline of ideas I have developed through the years. Because we do recruiting for the A/E/C industry, we get all kinds of calls from our friends or neighbors when someone is looking and though they are usually not a good candidate for our clients, the blueprint for finding something new is quite transferrable.

Many of the great achievements of the world were accomplished by tired and discouraged people who kept on working and had more hope than they had ‘I can’t do it.’

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Bobby Darnell is the founder and Principal of Construction Market Consultants, Inc. An Atlanta based management consulting group specializing in business development, sales, marketing and profitability as well as executive placement for the Architectural, Engineering and Construction industry.

http://www.cmconl.com/

Bobby can be reached at bobbydarnell [at] cmconl.com

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