Readers send me more e-mail about sales consultants than any other topic. I have written a few articles on this issue, but this is a good time to update the classic approaches. And—good news—help is on the way. More about that later. Now, let’s visit our old reportorial friends: Who, When and How.
WHO SHOULD ADD A CONSULTANT?
Any business owner should add a consultant if you absolutely need the income from your business. As sole provider, you are vulnerable to acts of God, to accidents, illness and unforeseen circumstance. I wish I could tell you how many families have been devastated by loss of income from a consultant who could no longer work for a long period of time—or forever. It is too important not to take action immediately if your family really needs your income.
Others who should think of adding a consultant are those who can see retirement or a balanced lifestyle on the horizon. If you want more personal time a part-time consultant can make a world of difference. You actually can travel a month at a time if you have a part-timer to cover immediate needs. Your better customers will wait for you to return.
If you want a million-dollar business you have no choice but to add consultants. The only issue is how many appointments you have and how you will train the consultant.
Of course, the assumptions in this article are that you will hire and train a new person rather than an experienced consultant. Why? Because good experienced consultants are not looking for work. Applicants may tell you they are experienced, but when you ask to see customer orders for $100,000 in shop-at-home sales, they cannot do it.
WHEN SHOULD YOU ADD A CONSULTANT?
When to add a consultant comes down to business and pleasure. Business reasons begin about $300,000 in sales. When you are over $25,000 in sales most months, and some are in the $40,000 to $50,000 range, then you are ready. At that point your income should be more than $80,000 a year and your family is depending on you to continue it. (If your net profit is not in that range, you have a different problem. E-mail me for that solution: firstname.lastname@example.org)
Pleasure is a different timing issue. When your sales are over $10,000 monthly and maximizing profit is not essential, you may want the pleasure of someone to work with. It is fun to share challenges and victories with a colleague. Nothing wrong with that if you are operating a lifestyle business for supplementary, non-critical income.
HOW TO ADD CONSULTANTS?
First, there are no easy answers. There are two classic options: employee or independent contractor. Employees are traditionally paid a guarantee, you pay for their training and you give them appointments. This system sucks. Don’t do it unless you have a $1 million business and have hired and managed people successfully and repeatedly. You can lose more than $20,000 in 90 days (for proof, e-mail me).
The other option is independent contactor, often called an associate plan. Under this system you pay commission only. The person brings you their appointments and they pay at least half the cost of their training. This is great for the business owner, but it is hard to find someone to accept these terms and really perform. Appointments! It is all about appointments. If they can find them it will work. If not, they will drift away.
TRIED AND TRUE—TWO WAYS WORK EVERY TIME
• First, luck. Luck happens when a person comes to you and is qualified (a JCPenney decorator whose husband was transferred and is looking for a position. Grab her quick.) You also can get lucky when an aspiring, smiling person approaches you and wants an apprenticeship. If you manage him or her right, this can be a winner.
Luck is actually a much bigger source of consultants than we like to believe. But, as I said in my book, “Bootstrap Entrepreneur,” you cannot depend on it or manage it. The most important thing about luck is to still be in business when the luck comes around.
• Second, promote your office administrator. If you have that unusual person who is accurate with records and has a winning personality, get them thinking about sales. Don’t listen to whether they want to sell. Ignore their objections and get them involved. Take them to homes where people rave about your work. Show them the pleasure customers experience when you sell a nice job. Take her on an installation to see how it works. Then take her on a sales call or two. Over a period of six to 12 months she will likely warm up to it. Then get her some training and gradually move her into sales. It is the only reliable, low-risk way to add a consultant
CONSULTANTS ARE ESSENTIAL
Whatever track you take—employee, independent consultant, waiting for good luck, transitioning your paperwork person or moving into franchising—you will have a lot more help with online training emerging as a power tool. If you are serious about eliminating vulnerability and becoming stronger in your market, now is the time to begin recruiting sales consultants. Be the leader. Don’t be a follower trying to catch up to your competition.
Have a fabulous fall season!
This article is based on Steven C. Bursten’s actual experience with sales and financial information working with hundreds of window coverings businesses. Whether you are a sole manager who aspires to higher sales, or you manage 50 window fashion decorators in a multi-million dollar business, this series will help you manage sales better and increase your profitability. Bursten is the retired founder of Decorating Den Interiors and author of a how-to book on new business start up, “Bootstrap Entrepreneur,” and is a leading expert in window coverings marketing, sales systems and sales management through his company, custEmers.com. Questions and comments welcome: email@example.com or call (888) 333-8981.
NEWS & INFORMATION
NEW DEVELOPMENTS COMING
Two developments are coming down the pike that will dramatically affect adding sales consultants: Internet training for window coverings skills, and a new franchise program for experienced managers. In the interest of full disclosure, I am a part owner in both ventures and will be providing some of the online instruction.
DISTANCE LEARNING WORLDWIDE
WCUonline (www.thewcu.com) is an affiliation with Window Coverings University beginning this month. Neil Gordon (The Designer’s Coach) is president and has developed many of the early programs. There are currently more than two dozen lesson segments online from how to measure to product knowledge and building referrals. Online courses will be coordinated with Window Coverings University classes for maximum productivity.
AREA AND UNIT FRANCHISING
This summer Exciting Windows! introduced a new program that puts experienced managers into the franchise business (see Industry News, page 16). By referring qualified candidates, then assisting with start up and ongoing management, the area franchise manager retains part of the initial payment and part of the continuing royalty. For managers who really want to build an organization, or a business owner planning for retirement, the plan offers options not available before in our industry.