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Friday, February 15, 2008

Small or big (2)

Can 'thinking big' pay off? Searching for images to go with this theme, I found this interesting site/blog marketing magic tricks that motivational speakers can use to make their point -- here, a "dollar enlarging" trick.

Reading the relevant chapter in Ford Harding's Rainmaking: Attract New Clients No Matter What Your Field
as I prepared the review (due today) for The SMPS Marketer, I understand more clearly why Harding generally advocates AEC professionals and consultants to watch 'job size' and often decline to work on/bid the smaller projects. Simply put, the effort to win and manage these little jobs can be the same as the big ones, and the effort put into winning the smaller projects can detract from larger initiatives. Clearly, it makes sense for professional practitioners to set limits and controls on what they do.

Perhaps my perspectives are shaped from the industry I serve -- and my brief career as a real estate representative in the mid 1980s before I started my publishing business. Our office had a cross section of competence; from a failure who spent weeks only to lose the sale of a $30,000 mobile home, to top producers moving millions of dollars in real estate each year. I learned some basics, including how to watch out -- and avoid -- 'dreamers' in my office. These were sales reps that saw themselves as commercial specialists; and were working to put together 'huge' land/commercial deals. Initially I looked in awe at these purported super-stars; then I realized they were all talk and little action; living for a dream of success they would never achieve. Meanwhile, the representatives doing solid, middle-sized or simple residential deals earned sizable commissions and referrals for future business. My manager told me: "Watch out for the big stuff -- it tends to fail more often than succeed, and if you want to succeed in this business, don't live in the clouds."

Realistically, the selling cycle for larger projects is much longer, more complex, and subject to disappointment than small jobs. If you put all your eggs into one basket -- that big job you are hoping to win -- and it fails, you are going to have serious problems. And in a recessionary environment, where you need to find and scrounge up business, restricting yourself to big projects may be an invitation for disaster.

On the other hand, if you think small, you may end up small. Not having some thresholds and guidelines on how much effort you put into any individual initiative is inviting you to tread water, or sink under the weight of your mismanaged time/overhead. Certainly, in our business, our salespeople are told to focus on setting up features -- and use as much 'automation' as possible to sell individual one-time ads. (An in-person sales call cannot be justified for a transaction worth $350.00).

I think it is rational for you to know your optimal numbers, guidelines, and stick to your rules within these guidelines. Obviously, if you can raise the threshold and earn larger jobs without significantly stressing your time/risk, do it. For example, if you determine that your closing rate and effort to s ell an average job twice the value of your current norm is less than 50 per cent lower, then you should move to the higher-value threshold. As Harding suggests, you can refer the smaller projects to others -- who in turn will hopefully return the favour by returning referrals for larger projects they are incapable of handling.

So, in conclusion, it doesn't hurt to think bigger -- in fact it may be one of the smartest things you do. Just don't be like the disillusioned people I worked with in that real estate office; living in their clouds in their minds, but in the cellar in actual income.

(As I wrote this blog entry, Harding called me. I had sent him the draft review of the SMPS Marketer article for a last-minute check -- having previously informed him I would do that. In the previous communication, Harding responded he might not have time to review my review; and he confirmed that in the brief phone conversation today. Here we see the combination of time management and courtesy essential for success, on both our parts. )

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