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Al's column: Overcoming objections to new software

June 11/18, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 26

By Jason Goldberg

 

One of the most challenging parts of investing in new lead management software is getting your sales team to adopt it. It is never easy to convince people who are set in their ways to completely change the way they operate on a daily basis. To most salespeople, integrating new software into their sales process is only going to slow them down and give them less time to sell, which could eventually lead to less money in their pockets.

However, I believe this assumption is incorrect. In fact, the right lead management system can put more money in your salespeople’s pockets. Following are some ways you can handle your sales team’s objections to your new lead management software investment.

It will save you time. Most sales teams waste hours each day managing their leads on paper or in an Excel spreadsheet. A good lead management system enables them to store all of the information related to a lead (contact details, tasks, appointments, products of interest, samples, diagrams, quotes, notes, etc.) in one organized place that can be accessed by other salespeople and managers. Sales managers do not have to interrupt their salespeople to ask them what they are working on. Rather, they can log into the system and check their salespeople’s workloads themselves. And while it might take a few days to master new software in the beginning, the time saved in the long run far outweighs the time required to invest up front. In addition, that time saved can be spent talking to customers and closing more sales.

It will improve the level of service you offer your customers. How many times does a salesperson answer a call from a customer and spend minutes digging through papers on his/her desk to find the details of that customer’s project? Those minutes are valuable to both the customer and the salesperson. The sooner an RSA can answer a customer’s questions, the higher level of service he/she can provide, resulting in a happier and more satisfied customer. The less time the salesperson is spending searching for answers, the more time he/she has to invest in nurturing other leads and closing sales. With a lead management system, it only takes a matter of seconds to find the specifics of a customer’s flooring job, so both the salesperson and customer will appreciate the increased speed and efficiency.

It will increase the effectiveness of your marketing. Most lead management software can capture data about the marketing sources that are driving leads to your business. This data is very valuable to the marketing team and can help marketers determine which advertising mediums are the most impactful. For instance, if a lot of leads are coming to your business from Facebook, your marketing team might decide to allocate more funds to Facebook, which should result in more leads for your sales team to pursue. More leads represent more opportunities for your salespeople to—you guessed it—make more money.

In summary, if you are planning to invest in a new lead management system, it is important to demonstrate to your sales team how, if used properly, it can dramatically increase their efficiency, improve the level of customer service they provide and convert more leads into sales. These three things combined will increase your salespeople’s close rates and eventually lead to bigger paychecks. No salesperson would object to a bigger paycheck, right?

Jason Goldberg is CEO of Retail Lead Management, a CRM software system designed specifically for the flooring industry. The company has sold more than 1,000 user licenses to flooring retailers in North America.

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Al's column: Lessons learned from baseball

May 28/June 4, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 25

By Torrey Jaeckle

 

I love watching baseball. Unfortunately, I rarely watch it the “right” way. What do I mean by that? Well, let me start by describing how I usually watch a game.

First, I record the game. Then I sit down, after the kids are in bed—usually around nine or 10 o’clock—and begin watching. To save time, I fast forward between pitches. Once you get the hang of it, you can do this almost flawlessly (until you come across the odd pitcher who has non-standard cadence to his timing). But in general, I do see the entire game—all three hours—in about a 50-minute span.

So if I’m seeing all the action, one might reasonably ask what I’m really missing due to my viewing habit. Nothing—and yet everything. Let me explain: The other night I faced a rare occasion in that, after a late evening trip to the grocery store, I came home to a quiet house—everyone was asleep early. As much as I love my family dearly, I cannot describe the giddiness such a situation arises inside of me. A whole night ahead of me, to do whatever I want, uninterrupted. So I chose to watch the game.

With no time constraints, I took advantage and decided to watch the ballgame in its entirety, including the announcers’ discussion and banter between pitches. It’s incredible how the fabric of the game changes when you actually sit down and pay attention. My usual viewing behavior typically gives me nothing more than a sped-up box score. You see what happens, but you don’t truly experience the game on a deeper level. You find out, for example, why your first baseman is playing third that night. You hear of the opposing pitcher’s past struggles and what your team needs to do to capitalize on it. In short, you actually see the game for what it is—an array of strategy, decisions, athleticism and execution, rather than as a series of pitches to get through. Your enjoyment comes from the experience of watching, rather than from the end result. And you learn a lot in the process.

So what does all this have to do with the flooring business? Well, the day after that game, I was thinking about the past 10 months at work. I’ve been very busy—overwhelmed, actually—due to a variety of factors. And this has caused me to effectively “fast forward” through my days. Just as the fast-view method of watching a baseball game makes you treat it like a series of pitches to get through, I’ve been viewing my work days as a series of tasks to accomplish. I don’t have much time to devote to the period between those tasks, so I effectively eliminate them.

The downside is I’ve lost that “big-picture feel” for what is going on in my business and in my industry. A strict focus on activities and tasks robs one of the critical experiences of learning and growing. Sure, tasks have to get done, but when your sole focus is on the “pitches” of your daily routine, you miss the valuable commentary. And it’s only in the commentary where you get the details that really give you the story that allows you to view your business at a higher level.

I vowed to make some changes that day, and I’m in the process of implementing them. I know I need to stop viewing my day as a checklist of things to cross off and more as an opportunity to build knowledge, develop strategy and grow relationships. And you simply can’t do that when you insist on fast forwarding between the pitches.

Torrey Jaeckle is vice president of Jaeckle Distributors, a Madison, Wis.-based wholesaler specializing in flooring and countertop surfacing products. In his current capacity, Jaeckle oversees pricing and e-commerce initiatives, and he also manages the data portions and business reporting aspects of the company’s ERP system.

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Al's column: Urgency helps boost close rates

April 30/May 7, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 23

By Lisbeth Calandrino

The other day I was helping a friend clean out her closet. She would pull out an article of clothing and declare it was on its way to the Goodwill. A couple of times I commented on the clothing’s great quality. It seemed that when I did this, the piece went back into the closet. I noticed if I liked it before she took it out of the closet, it never made it to the Goodwill bag.

I started going through the Goodwill bag and trying things on. Immediately, she decided to keep those things. My interest in the items seemed to give them more value. She suddenly wanted the pieces when she couldn’t have them.

Retail works the same way. My friend sells expensive cars. The dealer doesn’t stock many vehicles and salespeople are always complaining. At first this bothered my friend who felt it worked against him until a customer said, “There’s probably a great demand for these cars.” Most customers believe cars fly out of the door and that if you want it, you better buy it now. This is an example of scarcity appeal, which is often used in marketing to induce purchases.

An experiment that used wristwatch ads as stimuli exposed participants to one of two product descriptions: “Exclusive limited edition, hurry, limited stock” or “New edition with many items in stock.” They then had to indicate how much they would be willing to pay for the product. The average consumer agreed to pay an additional 50% if the watch was advertised as scarce.

Recent research also proposes we are often inadequate when it comes to our ability to make good decisions when we believe we have less time. Many people say they work better under pressure. However, when we have less time than we need, we frequently make bad decisions. Consider the Tenerife air disaster of 1977, in which a veteran pilot commenced takeoff without clearance and crashed into another airplane on the runway, killing 583 people.

In reviewing the tragedy, analysts pointed to a variety of time pressures. A few months earlier, a new duty-time regulation restricted the number of hours pilots could fly each month. Anyone who logged too many hours could be subject to harsh penalties.

So what does all this mean to your business? When you help customers set deadlines for their purchases, you are actually helping them buy. Setting deadlines for your employees is also beneficial. Give them artificial deadlines before the “drop-dead ones” so their proposals can be reviewed. You will find it results in fewer mistakes.

It’s also important to set up your showroom so customers believe the store is busy and feel it’s wise to buy right away. If your salespeople tell customers the merchandise is limited, they will have to prove it. This doesn’t mean you should turn your showroom into a circus, but at one point your customer must feel some internal pressure to make a decision.

RSAs should be asking, “What’s the occasion for the new flooring?” This helps create a deadline for purchase. You could also have someone call the showroom and ask you to put some merchandise on hold or even put a sold ticket on certain items. My realtor friend says when you tell the client there are other offers coming in, the customer starts getting serious.

This is what human behavior is about. Remember, without a goal everything is just a dream. If you want to turn your customer’s dreams into reality, you will have to set a deadline.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Al's column: Tax breaks—What you need to know

April 16/23, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 22

By Bart Basi

 

If you’ve managed to secure an extension to file your 2017 taxes, there are some things you need to know. If you thought the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) signed into law Dec. 22, 2017, was the final determination on tax matters for the future, you were wrong. Earlier this year, Congress approved the Bipartisan Budget Act, which contains a number of tax provisions and extensions of more than 30 expired tax breaks. While the majority of tax relief in the legislation applies only to the 2017 tax year, the retroactive changes will have a large impact on the current filing season.

Additionally, a number of new provisions within the Bipartisan Budget Act modified provisions passed under the TCJA. The modifications include new mandated tax forms for seniors filing taxes as well as excise taxes on investment income regarding private colleges and tuition. The IRS has recognized the extensions and modifications will have a direct impact this filing season.

With more than 30 extensions to previously expired tax breaks, it’s important that business owners as well as individual filers work with a knowledgeable professional to minimize tax liabilities. The TCJA is essentially 500-plus pages of dense tax and accounting material; the Bipartisan Budget Act is another 650-plus pages of legalese. Understanding the material can be confusing. However, it’s vital to take advantage of what is offered by the IRS to maximize your dollars by minimizing your tax liabilities.

New game, new rules
December 2017 marked the beginning of a new tax era. The TCJA, as the Trump Administration has so often stated, is the first major tax reform since the 1980s. Many businesses are aware of major corporate tax changes, but the TCJA may also change the way individuals file their taxes, not only this year but through 2025.

One major aspect of the new tax law is an allowance for pass-through entities to claim a 20% “below-the-line” deduction for the owner’s qualified business income. However, the 20% deduction is subject to limitations that are currently being interpreted as to their application. The TCJA has labeled a “specified service trade or business involving the performance of services in the fields of health, law, consulting, athletics, financial services and brokerage services” as services that don’t qualify for the 20% deduction.

Here are some other examples of how the new TCJA may affect you:

Home mortgage interest. This is a frequently used deduction that allows filers to deduct the amount of interest paid on their mortgage. After the TCJA changes, the deduction is now limited to claiming the home mortgage interest only for interest paid or accrued on the acquisition debt during those years.

Alimony/separate maintenance. Previously, anyone who paid alimony or separate maintenance payments were allowed to claim them on their federal taxes and were allowed a deduction.  This deduction has been repealed.

Moving expenses. Everyone moves at some point in their life, typically many times. For the years 2018-2025, the above-the-line tax deduction for this item has been repealed. However, special rules apply for those in the United States Military.

These are just a few of the changes under the new tax code. Contact the Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning at 618.997.3436, or via email at melissa@taxplanning.com, for clarification or to schedule a consultation.

Bart Basi is an attorney, a certified public accountant and the president of the Center for Financial, Legal & Tax Planning. He is an in-demand speaker and writer on financial issues impacting various businesses and industries.

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Al’s column: Turning browsers into buyers

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Lisbeth Calandrino

In this modern age of digital marketing, it’s critical retailers move beyond the traditional means of targeting consumers. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting dealers completely abandon tried-and-true methods of marketing to new and existing customers. Rather, they should seize all available opportunities—along with the host of online marketing tools available—to turn browsers into buyers.

According to Salesforce Marketing Cloud, a provider of digital marketing automation and analytics software and services, 70% of people say they always open emails from their favorite companies. MarketingSherpa, a firm specializing in tracking what works in all aspects of marketing, reported 61% of shoppers say they like to receive promotional emails weekly; meanwhile, 29% said they want to receive them more frequently.

If you are unsure how to employ online marketing tools in your business, the following are a few tips to get the ball rolling.

Develop a plan of attack. Most businesses only focus on their advertising efforts when they have something special to promote. However, an email marketing campaign should be about more than just promotions. It should give your customers useful information they can use throughout the year. It’s also a good idea to build email campaigns around holidays, special occasions and important events.

Know your customer. This might sound rudimentary, but do you really know “who’s who” in your database? Your customers may include property managers, builders, architects and homeowners. Should they all receive the same email message? Certainly not. According to the Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, companies using email list segmentation saw 39% higher open rates and 28% lower unsubscribe rates. Put another way, if you met 50 people at a networking group you wouldn’t say the same things to each person, would you?

Devise compelling subject lines. You don’t have to be a wordsmith to excel in this area; just think creatively. For instance, if you want your customer to know something, tell her what it is in the subject line and then give her the full story in the email body. Oftentimes the content has nothing to do with the subject line. A great subject line can spark interest, but if the content isn’t relevant, the customer will stop opening your emails.

All customers are not created equal. When you create your campaign, you need to segment your customers. The customer who has bought from you is different from the one who hasn’t yet made a purchase. Don’t treat them the same. Target each group and send them relevant messages.

Let’s say you meet 40 new people at a networking event and put them in with the rest of the people in your database. Since you don’t know these customers, you don’t want to treat them as if you do. Rather, know that this is a special group that you want to get to know so they will see your information as useful and want to keep hearing from you. Once you gain their trust and they recognize your brand, you can begin to send them offers.

The trick is not to get overwhelmed or overthink things. Think about emails, alerts and messages you receive from some of the places you shop, and try to emulate the ones that inspire you or compel you to act. And if you’re not comfortable in tackling this yourself, by all means assign someone on your staff—maybe a millennial? —who’s more familiar with the technology and various media.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Al's column: Turning browsers into buyers

April 2/9, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 21

By Lisbeth Calandrino

 

In this modern age of digital marketing, it’s critical retailers move beyond the traditional means of targeting consumers. Don’t get me wrong; I’m not suggesting dealers completely abandon tried-and-true methods of marketing to new and existing customers. Rather, they should seize all available opportunities—along with the host of online marketing tools available—to turn browsers into buyers.

According to Salesforce Marketing Cloud, a provider of digital marketing automation and analytics software and services, 70% of people say they always open emails from their favorite companies. MarketingSherpa, a firm specializing in tracking what works in all aspects of marketing, reported 61% of shoppers say they like to receive promotional emails weekly; meanwhile, 29% said they want to receive them more frequently.

If you are unsure how to employ online marketing tools in your business, the following are a few tips to get the ball rolling.

Develop a plan of attack. Most businesses only focus on their advertising efforts when they have something special to promote. However, an email marketing campaign should be about more than just promotions. It should give your customers useful information they can use throughout the year. It’s also a good idea to build email campaigns around holidays, special occasions and important events.

Know your customer. This might sound rudimentary, but do you really know “who’s who” in your database? Your customers may include property managers, builders, architects and homeowners. Should they all receive the same email message? Certainly not. According to the Lyris Annual Email Optimizer Report, companies using email list segmentation saw 39% higher open rates and 28% lower unsubscribe rates. Put another way, if you met 50 people at a networking group you wouldn’t say the same things to each person, would you?

Devise compelling subject lines. You don’t have to be a wordsmith to excel in this area; just think creatively. For instance, if you want your customer to know something, tell her what it is in the subject line and then give her the full story in the email body. Oftentimes the content has nothing to do with the subject line. A great subject line can spark interest, but if the content isn’t relevant, the customer will stop opening your emails.

All customers are not created equal. When you create your campaign, you need to segment your customers. The customer who has bought from you is different from the one who hasn’t yet made a purchase. Don’t treat them the same. Target each group and send them relevant messages.

Let’s say you meet 40 new people at a networking event and put them in with the rest of the people in your database. Since you don’t know these customers, you don’t want to treat them as if you do. Rather, know that this is a special group that you want to get to know so they will see your information as useful and want to keep hearing from you. Once you gain their trust and they recognize your brand, you can begin to send them offers.

The trick is not to get overwhelmed or overthink things. Think about emails, alerts and messages you receive from some of the places you shop, and try to emulate the ones that inspire you or compel you to act. And if you’re not comfortable in tackling this yourself, by all means assign someone on your staff—maybe a millennial? —who’s more familiar with the technology and various media.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at lcalandrino@nycap.rr.com.

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Al's column: The upside to polished concrete

March 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 20

By John McGrath

From a design perspective, the look of polished concrete floors and open ceilings is a highly desirable, contemporary aesthetic for commercial spaces. As a major trend sweeping across retail, industrial and other markets, architects and designers are finding polished concrete has significant environmental, safety, sustainability and maintenance benefits as well.

From helping to earn U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED credits to providing performance benefits, polished concrete is fast becoming an attractive alternative to carpet, VCT and vinyl flooring. While new flooring options like LVT have seen explosive sales growth, this seemingly simple alternative to traditional floor covering products has slowly but surely cemented its place in the industry due to a specific combination of attributes.

As a result, numerous large retailers such as Wal-Mart, Albertsons and Safeway have moved to polished concrete as the standard flooring material for both their new and existing stores. The same rings true for smaller boutique stores, office buildings, institutional facilities and more. From an aesthetic standpoint, polished concrete offers a modern and sophisticated look. A number of stains, colors and topping materials can be added to the floor, along with inset logos and etching. The result is an installation with a varied, natural look that is highly light reflective, slip resistant and visually impactful.

The thermal properties of concrete also help reduce heating and cooling loads for buildings. This translates to significant energy savings when spread across hundreds of thousands of square feet in warehouse stores and large commercial spaces. It’s a plus for large chains and companies like Amazon that operate massive fulfillment centers.

Since concrete is already used as a subfloor in most new buildings, polishing it cuts back on material usage and waste. This adds to LEED credits as there are no additional flooring manufacturing enlarging our carbon footprint. Similarly, since polished concrete is reflective, it helps architects and designers earn electric credits. And because there is limited maintenance and no replacement materials, polished concrete flooring also lessens water use and construction waste.

Altogether, polished concrete flooring can contribute to nearly 40 different LEED point categories. These include points for materials and reuse, indoor environmental air quality along with energy and atmosphere.

Beyond achieving LEED points, the other reason facility managers, interior architects and designers are gravitating toward polished concrete is maintenance and cost-savings. “Whether you are installing VCT, carpet, hardwood or laminate, it’s going to be expensive to maintain over time and replacement is inevitable,” said INSTALL instructor Dave Gross, Northeast Floorlayers, Local 251. “Polished concrete requires virtually no maintenance and when the surface begins to dull it only requires a quick buffing to restore it.”

When installed correctly, according to Tod Sandy, coordinator of the Detroit Carpentry Apprentice School, polished concrete is easy to maintain, cost-effective and environmentally friendly. “As a result, more end users are requesting it.”

With an increased focus on training and new advances in product and installation technology, polished concrete flooring will continue to grow and evolve in the coming years.

John McGrath is the director of INSTALL, a group dedicated to industry-leading training for professional installers and flooring contractors.

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Al's column: Discounting can actually hurt sales

March 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 19

By Jerry Levinson

 

During a recent weekly meeting with my staff, we were discussing ways in which we could improve our closing rate. Normally, there is a sale, special, discount or promotion that we offer our customers. Furthermore, it is common for customers to ask for an additional discount.

We role play at our meetings and go through the process of measuring, product selection, establishing what a customer’s experience will be and quoting her project.

We have one salesperson who offers an additional discount to her clients when asked. She feels the need to offer an additional discount whenever the customer requests a lower price. She perhaps also believes this extra discount will help her beat the competition’s price and thus earn her more business. (Oddly enough, her closing rate is among the lowest.)

Her case is not unusual—I know many salespeople who do this as well. However, when you lower your prices, you also lower your chances to close the sale. By decreasing your prices, you have just validated your client’s belief that there is no difference between you and the competition down the street. You have just told your customer the overall experience will be exactly the same as what your competitors provide, so she might as well go with the company who has the best price.

Instead of falling into this trap, I recommend setting your client’s expectations up front. Explain to her that you are not going to be the low-price leader, but you want to earn her business by showing her that she’ll get better service from you. For instance, we give our clients the “top 10 reasons” why they should do business with us, which separates us from the competition.

If you offer your customer reasons why you are different from other companies, she will most likely hire you to install her carpet rather than the competitors who offer less. Basically, you want her to consider the disadvantages of not using your company.

Preparation is key
So you’ve explained to your customer that your company provides great customer service, and you’ve expressed how much you care about your client. However, that may not be enough. Maybe one of your competitors is $1,500 cheaper and also claims to offer exceptional customer service. To make your company stand out from the others, prepare your salespeople with a list of seven to 10 reasons why clients should choose your company to do business with. In other words, make your process go from ordinary to extraordinary.

For instance, our installers remove the customers’ old carpet, sweep the floors and then treat the floors to address any pet accidents, mold, mildew. etc. Next, we install a new pad and carpet on a fresh, clean surface. This is a unique service we provide in our market.

Another way to sway a potential client to use your company—without relying on lowering your price—is to provide a copy of your liability insurance with each estimate. It’s something we all have but only produce documentation when asked. If you give it to your client up front, she’s going to also ask your competitors for that same document and they will be unprepared. They’ll have to scramble to provide that information.

If you want to earn a customer’s respect and business, you have to first respect your own talent, experience and process for providing excellent service. You should command higher prices and attract customers who are more than willing to pay you for what you are worth.

 

Jerry Levinson owns and operates Carpets of Arizona along with Profit Now for Flooring Dealers, which teaches specialty flooring retailers how they can grow their business.

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Al's column: Advantages of lead-gen systems

February 19/26, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 18

By Jason Goldberg

 

(Second  of two parts)

In part I of this article (FCNews, Feb. 5/12), I provided an overview of what constitutes a good lead management system. In this second installment, I will delve into specifics and talk about the advantages such programs offer retailers.

Accountability. Managers can now hold their salespeople accountable for tracking their assigned leads. They can calculate their RSAs’ close rates.  Furthermore, they can see if a lead has been neglected and for how long. And they can see how or why a lead was mishandled and potentially save a lead that is about to be lost. More importantly, they can use all this information to train their salespeople and correct negative behaviors.

Accessibility. A cloud-based lead management system lets dealers access a lead’s information from a desktop computer, tablet or smartphone. Being able to get valuable information about a lead while on the road or in the lead’s home can help RSAs close jobs more quickly and confidently.

Data to inform business decisions. Good lead management systems allow owners and their marketing teams to see which stores get the most traffic, which advertising mediums drive the most leads and which methods of contact (phone, email, website forms, etc.) are the most popular among customers. Users may choose to adjust their marketing budget, change the marketing mix, update their phone system or website, or even change staffing levels at different store locations, based on the information in the system. In short, retailers no longer have to make guesses about their business. Rather, they can now make informed decisions.

So, how can a retailer determine which lead management system is right for their business? When you’re shopping for lead management systems, dealers should consider the following attributes:

Ease of use. When dealers decide to purchase a new lead management system, they’re most likely going to be the one to train all their managers and salespeople on how to use it. To that end, they need a system that’s simple and straightforward, so they can get themselves and their staff trained quickly. More importantly, owners should want a lead management system that they’ll actually want to use. Remember: Instituting a new lead management system is useless unless everyone adopts it.

Effectiveness. Dealers should take the time to research all options to determine whether they truly work. For instance, ask the lead management system sales rep for the names of customers who have had success with the system, then call those customers and find out why they recommend that tool over others in the market. Learn the strengths and weaknesses of each system, then decide which would be best for the business. Remember: All lead management tools are not created equal.

Cost. Dealers should think about their budget and how much they can actually afford. Retailers should consider how many users are going to need access to it and if the business should be billed monthly or annually for a license. Additional fees to consider are costs for the initial system set-up as well as fees associated with integrating the lead management system with a particular company’s website.

Bottom line: A lead management system is valuable to any flooring retailer, big or small. Whether you’re spending $5,000 or $500,000 on advertising and other lead-generation activities each year, those dollars are going to waste if you do not have a system in place to ensure your leads are being taken care of once they’ve contacted your business.

 

Jason Goldberg is CEO of Retail Lead Management, a CRM software system designed specifically for the flooring industry. The company has sold more than 1,000 user licenses to flooring retailers in North America.

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Al's column: How to better manage lead generation

February 5/12, 2018: Volume 33, Issue 17

By Jason Goldberg 

(First of two parts)

It stands to reason that more leads will result in more sales for your company, right? Not so fast. Leads only convert into dollars when they are properly managed by your salespeople, managers and marketing team.

Many flooring retailers make the mistake of thinking lead generation is the key to success, so they invest thousands of dollars driving potential customers to their stores. But before you start spending money on generating more leads, shouldn’t you make sure you’re getting the most out of the ones you currently have?

Take a moment to ask yourself a few questions:

  • Do you know how many leads your salespeople are handling and what stage they’re at in your sales pipeline?
  • Do you know the advertising sources that drove those leads to your business?
  • Do you know the history of each of these leads including job quotes, site diagrams and “before” photos?
  • Do you know the close rates of your locations, divisions and salespeople?
  • Do you know which of your stores is getting the most traffic?

If you don’t know the answer to these questions, you’re not alone. The good news is the right lead management system can answer these questions for you.

Lead management 101
A good lead management system is a software program that helps you keep track of your company’s sales prospects as they move through your sales funnel. The fields that are used to capture lead information and the sales pipeline can be customized to suit your company’s specific needs. When a customer contacts your business for service, the new lead is created manually in the system by the salesperson or manager.

Website leads can be automatically generated by the system if integrated with your website’s forms. The lead’s name, contact information, products of interest, store location, advertising that drove them to your company and any other information you deem valuable can be captured and stored in the system.

Next, leads are then assigned to a salesperson or manager who will be responsible for converting the prospect into a customer. Each interaction a salesperson or manager has with a lead is recorded in the system via a note or an update to the lead’s stage in your sales pipeline. Follow-up tasks can also be created to remind users to contact the lead until the sale has been closed. Once a lead is closed (sold or lost), the final sale amount, the products she purchased, or the reason why the sale was lost along with any other relevant information can be recorded.

The biggest advantage of a good lead management system is the operational efficiency it offers. If you’re managing leads with an excel spreadsheet or with pen and paper, you’re wasting tons of valuable hours that could be saved by transitioning to a lead management system. In short, the faster you get in touch with a potential lead and discuss her flooring needs, the more likely you are to close the deal.

Good lead management systems also provide increased visibility. Managers have a 360-degree view of all leads in the system; they can see the current stage of the lead within the sales pipeline and associated tasks, notes and documents. If the system is used correctly, you’ll never have to call another salesperson again to ask about the status of any given lead.

In the next installment, I will discuss other advantages of good lead management systems such as accountability, accessibility and data retrieval.