If you are looking to hire a salesperson (estimator) for your home improvement business, may I suggest that you strongly consider this prerequisite: Make sure the prospective estimator has some experience with social media and is not afraid to do a little bit of social media work when he/she comes to work for you. Read More
Small Biz Talk
Dear LinkedIn Connection,
I received your request to connect with me here on LinkedIn. I normally review each request before approving the connection. My first few years on LinkedIn, I thought it was best practice to connect with as many people as possible. It seemed as though the aggressive LinkedIn users were doing the same thing. Why not follow “best practices”, eh? Perhaps that was an okay technique early on. It at least made my profile look more impressive! Read More
Where I live in Maryland, most homeowners have asphalt driveways, not concrete. I have one as well! It starts out as a single driveway (for 1 car) and ends up at the garage accommodating two cars. For a while now, I have been thinking that I’d like to expand my driveway to fit more cars and make it easier to get in and out. But I had no idea what it would cost to do this sort of project. Is this a $3,000 project or a $10,000 project? Because this is not my line of work, I decided to go online to see what the World Wide Web had to say about it. I asked Google: “What does it cost to repave a typical driveway?” Read More
Exploring the Ideas of Accountability, Reward, and Response
We as human beings respond to things.
I know. That sounds like an incredibly simplistic statement, but when you slow down and think about it, it’s also incredibly powerful. As business owners and managers, you have an opportunity to draw specific responses from your team by the way you lead, manage, delegate, and encourage. As marketers (and we are all marketers in a way!), we strive to elicit a certain response from those who read our materials, find our websites, or explore our reputations.
The trick is to find just the right key to unlock the response you’re looking for. Read More
The number one problem I have been hearing about from clients this year is not a lack of leads. No, leads have been strong across the U.S. The problem has been a lack of good people. I have actually been asked if I can provide recruiting services, not marketing! If you do need help finding good help, I would recommend contacting my friends at Summit Services. They provide headhunting services for estimators, office staff and, I believe, help with hiring field employees too. Read More
Marketing, Advertising & Branding
Three words, or terminologies, are kicked around often in the mind of many small business owners when it comes to growing one’s business: marketing, advertising & branding. Many times branding and advertising are combined into the one word, “marketing.” So when one thinks of branding, he is thinking “marketing.” Or another might say, “I need to do some advertising”, he typically is thinking, “I need to market my business”. These important terminologies are actually quite different from each other and yet play a significant role in working together. Read More
How many times have you rushed out of town or taken a day off only to forget to set an away message on your email account? I’ve done this plenty of times in the past. I used to have to wait to get in front of a desktop computer, login and set the away message. If you are using Google Apps for Business (Gmail) there is a more simple way to set an away message remotely, right from your phone. Read More
A few months ago, I wrote a blog called “Would You Like Fries With That.” I was inspired to write on the subject of encouraging your employees to ask for more work because they are more influential than most of us think. They can easily build rapport on a project better than the salesman and close more additional work. Read More
#1 Base CRM
As of April 2013 Base CRM, by Future Simple, still leads the way for the best mobile CRM for small business. They now have “native apps” for the iPhone, Android, Windows Phone, iPad & Android Tablets. They also have developed some key plugins, apps and extensions for those still using Microsoft Outlook, Gmail & Mac.
The reason I give Base first place is how quickly they were able to develop a clean and useful application for many of their users. In just a few short years, the majority of businesses owners and salespeople have ditched their Blackberry and now use either and iPhone or an Android phone. These were the first two apps that Base CRM developed. They were thinking ahead! There are always little bugs to squash in every app I’ve tried, but Future Simple has done a good job of releasing Apps where the main CRM features just work: contacts, deals & task. I am one of their testers, so I give them constant feedback of things I want to change, update and/or bugs to fix. But all in all, it is truly an awesome experience.
Those who want to experience their first CRM or don’t want to spend a lot can try Base CRM for free. The mobile features don’t cost anything. It is only when you get above 50 sales (deals) or need more “cool” features that you pay for the app. Companies who run a simple sales cycle and rely on Google or Outlook for their main tools, might get by with their basic paid version of $15 a month. I would recommend their main paid version for those who have a more complex sale and want to carefully track each stage of the cycle. This would cost $45 a user per month. This is still not bad for how much time you save, and it makes sure you don’t drop the ball with your sales process.
#2 & 3 Salesforce and Zoho
Zoho CRM is basically a copycat of Salesforce. The features are pretty similar. Salesforce was one of the first cloud-based CRMs on the market and is still considered the leader. Salesforce had one big problem that has hurt their foothold into the small business world. This is only my opinion form observing them over the years, by the way. First, I think their prices were too high early on for most small businesses to justify, and second, they had way too many features and apps. Almost all the companies I spoke to about what CRM was best for them had already explored Salesforce. They all said basically the same thing: “It is too expensive. It is complicated and it has more features than I need.”
Salesforce has since lowered their fees and has begun to cater more to the small business market. They seem to have a lot of funding, so I will assume they will maintain a strong presence.
I have tried their iPhone App several times the past couple of years and consider it functional and good. Though it is not my favorite nor as easy to use as Base CRM. I have a number of clients who use Salesforce and seem to like it. It does require a bit of training, and their tech support is fee-based. I will end with this, even though their tech support is fee based, they are good. They will help you do what you want with your CRM as Salesforce is VERY customizable.
Zoho CRM’s iPad and iPhone Apps are actually pretty slick and easy to use. I like the design (UI) and user experience. My number one problem of why I don’t recommend Zoho CRM all that much is their pricing structure is such a pain. Everything is an Add-on. i.e. You want more storage, add more per month. You want to use our mobile app, add more per month. You want to _______, add more per month. This is the standard complaint I’ve heard from folks who have tried Zoho. Sorry Zoho, love your product but the small business owners out there need a simple product with 1 price option (hint hint).
#4 Pipeline Deals for iPhone Only
This is sad that I have to put Pipeline Deals in 4th place. Why? Because they have one of the most stable, reliable and simple CRM products I’ve ever used (desktop / cloud). I rarely ever find a bug using their product. Many of my customers actually use CRM as well. This was because they were early adapters to integrating their product with Google Apps for Business. They also has a mobile version that you could (still can) access from your mobile browser. The mobile version does work ok for quick access, but overall it is very clunky.
The good news is that Pipeline Deals is finishing up their first native iPhone App. This will be released within the next couple of weeks of writing this post. I’ve been testing this App for a couple of months, and it is very good. Their goal is to make an App that replicates what you can do with their online version. Version 1 is not quite there, but the basic functions that one needs in the field work quite well. I think Pipeline Deal customers who have an iPhone will be thrilled with the first release. Also their price point is really the best on the market. You can’t go wrong. They recently increased their prices, but I think that was a good move. One price: $25 per user/per month: plain and simple.
My hats off to Pipeline Deals. They are slower in development, but I think it shows a lot of wisdom. My guess is they operate on very little debt and borrowed funds. They make sure they release quality updates and products. Their tech support is the best I’ve seen as well! They post their phone number on their home page!
So there you have it. I only named the top four mobile CRMs I’ve tested and like. There are probably another dozen that I did not list. Some of those are fine products as well. For those who like testing and trying out CRMs for fun, give Nutshell CRM a try.
Let me know what you decide on and why.
It’s Not a Sin to Ask For More Work
Retail and fast food chains survive by getting customers to add more food to their current request. You know what I’m talking about. You go grab a burger and the cashier asks, “Would you like fries with that?” You were thinking just a burger and they helped you add fries or a soft drink to your meal. How many times have you said yes to their question? Hint…most of those chains are doing well today!
Contractors can learn something from these chains. The easiest way to grow one’s business is by asking for more work from your existing customers, especially while you are currently working on a project. One of the hardest things for business owners (and I’ve seen this first-hand while working with my dad) is getting employees to sell additional work. It is like pulling a tooth that won’t budge. I think there are two ways to make it happen.
You Get What You Inspect, Not What You Expect
First, my dad always said, “You get what you inspect, not what you expect.” You need to continually remind, manage and follow up with your employees. You can’t just tell them to ask for more work. You have to tell them, and then follow up until it gets done. I talked to one contractor who said when he follows up with his employees on how they are doing with seeking additional work, he can add 10% to this annual revenue goal. That is with minimal effort on his part. When he gets busy and doesn’t follow up, that number drops below 5%. So follow-up is step one.
Don’t Just Tell Them To — Train, Encourage, Set Goals
Second is to train and encourage your employees: make it easy and even fun. You can have contest if you’d like or just give your employees tangible goals. I spoke with my dad about this recently. We figured if everyone could look for $450 a week (each crew leader) it would add 10% to the annual revenue goal. $450 of extra work is nothing in the painting business. It might be the front fascia, an entry door, a small bedroom etc.
The technician in the field could have a very high closing rate in selling additional work because of the trust he or she has earned with the homeowner. He has built the rapport, and it is only natural to take a little initiative and ask for more work. Here is how it might sound. The project manager/crew leader is wrapping up a job and mentions to the owner, “My crew is just about done with your project. Is there anything else we can do for you while we are here?” That one question could open up a world of extra work. Homeowners might respond with a simple, “Can’t think of anything right now.” But others may say, “Hmm, I’m not sure. What do you think? Are there some areas you think need attention?” Or “Not that I can think of. Why? Did you have some suggestions?” The ideal client will want your crews to make sure their home or property looks great. He or she will be relying on your company’s expertise. So encourage your employees to always ask if there is something more you can do. This is a way of serving your customers. Many homeowners will be glad you asked!
Got any other ideas on how to ask for more work? Love to hear about it here, by email or on my facebook page.