It seems like the start of a new year in January brought the beginning of a substantial upswing in new business opportunities. Low mortgage rates and increased consumer confidence may have helped consumers start thinking about moving forward on their new construction or renovation projects. In our area, we’ve seen substantial decreases in real estate inventory. This has also helped jump-start the construction economy, and we have seen an increase in construction starts.
Our business experienced a not-very-strong finish to 2012, but as soon as the new year arrived, the flood gates opened up. We had a significant increase in business almost at once. We experienced more referrals, more Web site generated leads and more qualified leads from our key accounts.
You, too, may have seen this sudden increase in business. How you and your salespeople react to this upswing is critical. Managing sudden increases in sales leads, completing the new business accurately and in a timely manner and keeping your key accounts happy are all essential to success.
QUALIFY & QUANTIFY YOUR LEADS
In leaner times we might have been more inclined to take on everything we could. But in times of sudden increased business, you get to be a little more selective in lead management. My business partner and I have discussed how to effectively manage new leads and here are a few of our thoughts.
Qualifying leads with a few simple questions will allow you to quantify the value of a proposed project and then prioritize your leads. Ask them these four simple questions and move forward accordingly. You might already be asking these questions, but they are more important than ever now that you’re busy:
1. What is your project’s scope? This will give you an idea of project size. Is it a new construction project or a remodel? Is it a large kitchen remodel project where you have the ability to provide a nice project with nice profit margin opportunities, or is it just a small bathroom remodel where only one vanity cabinet is needed?
I’m a firm believer in not walking away from a small project (you never know where that might lead you in the future), but in times when you are busy, you clearly must prioritize the larger, more lucrative, jobs.
2. What is your budget? This gives you a working idea of what profit opportunities you’re working with and, along with the project’s scope, will allow you to quantify profit and prioritize the lead. Is it a $75,000 kitchen remodel or a $3,000 bathroom project? Prioritizing the projects with greater earning potential is important as leads increase.
3. What is your timing? Understanding the client’s potential time frame for starting the project gives you an idea of how hot the lead may be. If it’s a renovation project and they’re looking to get started right way, you might want to prioritize this lead and work it in right away. If it’s a new construction project and the client is planning on starting a month or so out, move that out in your calendar a week or so and prioritize other leads first.
4. Are you bidding the project out and, if so, who else are you talking with? If you’re one of many they are talking with about their project, you know they will be waiting on other bids to come in. I’m a firm believer in responding to these clients right away (if the lead is viable and the profit opportunities are good). It’s a good possibility that one or more of the competitive bids will be slow to arrive, and by getting your bid in early, you show you are responsive and ready to work.
MANAGE YOUR WORK LOAD
As we get busier, we have a tendency to make more mistakes. It’s imperative to understand your work load threshold and effectively manage your time. As with lead management, you have to prioritize your work load. The key to success for managing your work load is scheduling.
Schedule meetings and give yourself an extra day or two between them to do the work and handle unexpected issues that might arise. Schedule your next meeting with that client at the end of your current meeting, again giving yourself a few extra days to complete the work. Scheduling the next appointment during your current meeting gives your clients the confidence you will complete the work and be responsive to them. It also sets up schedule expectations and gives you a deadline. This prevents a potential project from falling by the wayside as you react to other tasks and projects.
Planning uninterrupted time to accurately do the work is important and needs to be in your schedule. By listening to your customers’ needs in your meetings, you’ll reduce the amount of redesigns and revisions needed as well as cut down on the time you need to spend working on that client’s project. If you only have to draw the project once, you have time for the next client’s work. The same goes with ordering: Getting it right the first time will save time in the long run.
KEEP KEY ACCOUNTS HAPPY
Your key accounts are just that – keys to your success. You must prioritize your key accounts’ business at the forefront of your work load. Have open dialogue with your key accounts and ask them to outline what their expectations are for each client lead they give you and have them prioritize what leads and jobs are most important. Keeping your key accounts and their clients happy as they get busier will increase the level of trust they have in you and ensure the relationship is solidified.
As the economy continues its upward swing, it will be very important to effectively manage your work load to ensure your continued success. Making sure you pick the right projects to prioritize is important for your continued success. Just as important is executing those projects with accuracy and on schedule.
Remember, keeping your clients happy in good times ensures that, in the leaner times, they will have continued confidence in you to complete the job correctly and in a timely manner.
Bryan Reiss, CMKBD, is an award-winning designer who is president of the Mount Pleasant, SC-based Distinctive Design. Reiss, a 15-year veteran of the kitchen and bath industry, is an active member of the Carolina Chapter of the NKBA who specializes in sales innovations and business stabilization.