Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What I Learned About Sales from the Window Guy

Springtime in New England means it is time to plan and execute on some household projects and like every year as a homeowner I have my list.

On top of that list, I wanted to replace a few windows in our family room since it was time and we have been on an energy saving kick.   We finally scored a contractor that will be doing our job next week but it was pretty painful getting there.

The first vendor was introduced to me at a local home show.   It is a reputable company with high quality windows.  The sales person came to my house and was a nice guy and he knew exactly what I wanted,  vinyl sliders with double pane glass to keep the weather at bay.   He did not question me and went ahead and measured my window frames and gave me a rough estimate of cost.   As you should always do, I asked for a written estimate to be sent to my email and the guy said "No Problem, you will get that in a day or so".   A few days went by, then a week, so I called the company using the number the guy gave me and they said that I need to call the guy on his cell phone directly to get a status on my quote, so I did.  I left a message and asked for a response.    I did not receive a response or follow-up to my call and email, so I called the company again to check the status of my quote.  Again, they apologize and said that I need to contact the guy that came to my house for the quote.  At this time, I was like F*** this, I am going with another company.

Lesson #1 - In sales or in any customer focused business, especially a home improvement business, follow-up is essential.  In the world of social media and with so much competition, if you don't follow-up with prospects, you will get a bad rap and people will know about it very quickly.

So I looked through the list of vendors from the Home Show I attended and found another reputable company from Rhode Island that specialized in Custom Built Windows.   I called them to make an appointment to get a quote on vinyl sliders with double pane and they had a tech free on the following Saturday.  Great, we are moving now!   Leading up to that Saturday appointment, I must have gotten 6 calls from different people asking me to confirm my appointment.   I repeatedly mentioned that it is all set and did you talk to the other person that called me?

Lesson #2 - Communicate with your sales team and make sure you are all on the same page.  Nothing is worst than an impression from your customer that your team is scattered and unorganized.

We are still on the same Custom Built Windows vendor from Rhode Island.  So Saturday is here and the guy came right on time for our appointment.  He was well dressed, as if he sold insurance on the side and came to the door with his official PowerPoint presentation and questionnaire.   It was a warm day for April so he can see that he was sweating either due to the weather or nerves.   So I mentioned to him that I had about 20-30 minutes and if he can proceed with getting the window measurements and then provide me a written quote.  He did the measurements and then asked if he can go over the quote with me right there and then.   I was like, cool, we are getting somewhere.   He then proceeded to go through a 40 page presentation on the history of windows and the differences between shutters, wood windows, double pane vs triple pane and why his company is the best company in the business.  The presentation went on for 90 minutes until I cut him short and said, can I have my f**** quote?   He ended up going through all of these numbers as if he was writing up a mortgage, and finally came up with a quote that was astronomically high for vinyl sliders.  I was thinking gee are we paying for his time running through that 90 minute presentation?   I was agitated and asked him to leave since my wife and I were already late for an appointment.   He then feverishly mentioned that "one day sale" if I bought today, he will slash the cost by 40%.   I did not care and asked him to leave.  This was a disaster.

Lesson #3- Where do I start?  First, listen to your customer.  Second, customize your response to what your customer is asking for.  Third, be conscious of your customer's time.  This was probably the same presentation for customers that wanted shutters, sliders or a new roof.   Listen to your customer!

This was not the end of Vendor #2.  For next few weeks, they kept calling me and not leaving messages and until one day I picked up the phone and said to not call me anymore.  They said sure, then guess what, a couple of days later, another person called me from the same company.   I will end this with, see Lesson #2.

Finally, I vented my frustration on a local blog and well-known contractor gave me a call and asked if he can help.   At this point, I was like sure.  A third time is a charm, right?   This guy was very personable and asked what I needed and that he will take care of it.  Long story short, my windows are getting replaced next Monday.

Lesson #4:  Your customers are human, not dollar signs.  Be personable and get to know them and build their trust.   You do that and you will take your business to the next level.

Sales is a tough business.  I understand that being in business myself, but it is art.   The art of listening, being personable and having a great supporting team.  Spend the time achieving those skills and you will be a success!

Sunday, June 3, 2018

How Alumni Networking Changed My Lifetime Goals

My professional life started off like most college graduates.  I started my career after college with a great job at a local insurance company in IT. My career and social life revolved around my job. I really had no outside interests that would support any goals besides what I received from my boss at my annual performance appraisal. Outside of work, my evenings would consist of either going out with friends from work or watching TV, but there was not much to fulfill and inspire me to change my life.

Fast forward to 2007, I was getting the sense my longest tenure at a professional company, a large retailer, was coming to an end. There was low morale and a lot of negativity. I did not feel as negative as my colleagues, but I was getting consumed by my surroundings and I started to think that there needed to be something different out there.

Then one day, I received an email from my alma mater Northeastern University about a Boston Alumni Networking Event at the Alumni Center.   I was thinking, networking?  Is this an IT thing working with switches and routers?   Yes, I was that out of touch with the outside world.

The day of the networking event was one of my worst days at the large retailer corporate job.  There was a round of layoffs and the tension was high.   I stayed in my office with my door shut thinking about how I can get out of the place.   Even though I was a shy introvert, I thought to myself, I need to go to this networking event.

So that evening, I went to Northeastern University for the first time in a long time and arrived at the event.   I looked around and noticed all of the well-dressed happy personable professionals and thought I was on a different planet.   Why was everyone so friendly and wanting to help me?  This is not Corporate America.  I am scared, so I pretended to go to the rest room a few times.

My first networking event ended up being a great experience.  I met some fellow Huskies and was intrigued about the next event where they were going to have a speaker about starting your own business and being an entrepreneur.   I felt a new affiliation with my alma mater and was looking forward to the next event.

For the second event, I saw some of the same professionals I met at the first event and had some amazing conversations about careers and business.  When the speaker went up to give his presentation, I noticed that I felt happy and was lock step listening to what he had to say.   One thing that stood out was the option to start a business while still working a corporate job. 

Later that evening, I ended up meeting a fellow Husky, Sue, who introduced me to her health/wellness business and I mentioned how I would love doing the same.    What? Little old me running my own business?   I was sensing that my lifetime goals were starting to change on that warm April evening in 2008.  So I went for it and started my own business.

The networking bug started to catch on.   I started looking into events all over Boston and even Providence, my hometown.   I got myself some business cards with my new side-business company name, AIMC Websites, and started to meet professionals.   I did not have a Linkedin Account before I started networking, but after only one year I achieved the milestone of 500 connections.

With networking, I also noticed my former introverted self was becoming an extroverted connector.   I was no longer shy and would go up to people, introduce myself, and I would always ask what brought them to the event and asked them about their business and what they liked the most about networking.  Meanwhile, even with a new corporate job, my "side-business" started to grow and I was enjoying the extra income.

After a few years, and going to hundreds of events, I cracked 2500 connections on Linkedin.   I learned the art of going to an event, connecting to professionals, following up and helping each other out.   I was thinking, "why not start my own networking group"?

My side business AIMC Websites was now called AIMC Business Solutions and I was providing social media services and website solutions for my clients.   I was getting pretty good at the social media thing too alongside my networking skills so why not promote my own networking events?

On January 16, 2013, Mass Professional Networking was born at Uno's Bar in Framingham, MA.   I use social media to promote the event and over 100 professionals attended.  I was psyched!   I starting doing monthly events in the Metrowest area outside of Boston but then eventually gravitated to downtown Boston to run monthly events starting in 2014.   I was still going to other events, including the Northeastern Alumni Networking Events.  I was the connector and the entrepreneur, which I loved.   

Networking has changed my outlook on life. It got me out of my shell and has introduced me to positive entrepreneurial professionals that has led me to believe that I can do anything. I am working to achieve financial independence by 2023 by growing the revenue of my businesses to a point that I will no longer need to work in corporate America. If I did not attend that first Northeastern Alumni Networking Event back in 2007, I do not think I would be running my own networking group with over 2000 members and I doubt that I would be talking about early retirement from corporate America.

I recommend that you get more involved with your alma mater and if they have a networking or social event, attend it and see what happens. It could change your lifetime goals like it changed mine.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Spring is a New Beginning to Get Into Better Health - Some Tips

Just like New Years, the Spring Season is always looked at as a time for new beginnings.  The last of the cold snowy weather is in the rear view and the days, especially the evenings are nice and bright.

When it comes to your health, you should always be consistent every day to ensure you maintain a great balance of exercise, diet, mindset and of course take a great supplement.   You need to work all sectors of health in tandem to ensure great health.    The old saying, you can eat an amazing healthy diet but it doesn't mean much if you are a couch potato.   On the contrary, you can be a gym rat, but if you indulge in fried food, it would be exactly a pinnacle of great health.   Finally, your attitude toward life and how positive you are is the cherry on the sundae.   OK, maybe the cherry on a nutrition bar.

As mentioned, your health maintenance is broken down into your fitness activities, diet, mindset and supplements.  What I like to do is offer some tips for each that are very basic.

Fitness - 
I can just simply say join your local gym and hire a trainer to put you through hell at the gym.  Instead, I like offer some easy exercises you can do in place of going to the gym if you have a busy productive lifestyle.

  • If you work in the office, take the stairs whenever possible and get up and walk around. or at a minimum stretch, every 15-20 minutes, so you maintain great blood flow and digestion of any food you eat.    Sitting in your office for hours on end is worse than smoking a pack of cigarettes.
  • Always take a walk after eating, breakfast, lunch and dinner.   By walking, you will be able to easily digest your food and burn off any unhealthy calories.   Do not do any strenuous exercise right after eating.
  • If you don't go to a gym, pick up a pair of dumbbell weights and do about 10-15 minutes of exercise daily.   Here is a great video on a full body workout using a pair of dumbbells.
Diet -
I wanted to first mention that when you mention that you are on a diet, it does not mean you are working to lose weight.   You can always be on a bad diet full of fried foods and bad carbs.

  • Water is the single most important beverage in your diet.  Water helps you digest, provides energy and even helps you maintain a great weight.   Your body is 60% water, so simply if you are thirsty, drink water.
  • Breakfast is the most important meal of the day and lunch is the second most important.   I know this sounds backward, but think about it, when are you the most active during the day.  The worst thing to do is have a huge dinner then relax.   There are basic like avoiding sugar, especially white sugar, too much dairy and processed foods, but if you eat small portions and exercise regularly, it is OK to treat yourself once in a while.
  • Never ever skip a meal.  Any weight loss program that recommends to skip a meal, or drink this shake or even wear this wrap around your waist, is not a worthy weight loss program.  The key to maintaining a great lifestyle is eating small nutritious meals.

Positive Mindset - 
It is how you feel about yourself and your life that will determine how focused you are on your fitness and diet.    Always visualize yourself at your goal, looking and feeling great.   There will be tough days but always know there are great days to look forward too.

  • Avoid negative people.   I know you hear this a million times, but really, what does a complainer do for you?  Nothing.   Hang out with people better than you.
  • Find the root cause of your health issues.  Is it stress?  If so, find ways to relieve your stress.   if needed, contact a professional to help you especially if stress is effecting your weight and your well-being.
  • There will be traffic, there will be issues at your home, or you may lose your job.   Everyone has bad days, but the difference is, is how they handle adversity.  A positive mindset, great diet and exercise will help you get through those rough stretches.

Supplements -
Yes, supplements.   Face it, our food is not as healthy as it was 30 or 40 years ago,  We are always in a rush and the supermarkets are full of canned goods and processed cereal that is not very good for you.   Walk around the supermarket and look at labels.  I bet 70-80% of food you buy either has sugar,salt or pesticides on them.   Do you really think that apple in the fruit stand has no chemicals on it?  Think again.   This is why supplements are more important than ever.

  • Make sure your vitamins are liquid based and are biodegradable so you are able to absorb the nutrients within five minutes.   A pill will need to be digested and broken down in your stomach.  Your stomach breaks down food and anything else you eat, so why not take a supplement that goes to your small intestine and absorb the nutrients instantly?
  • Be leery of any sugar snack such as cereal, pop tarts or even soda that claim that have extra vitamins and minerals.   Think about it, sugar is evil so why eat or drink something that claims it is healthy for you and it has a lot of sugar in it?
  • Milk does not do a body good.   This may fall under diet, but I wanted to make something clear.  The calcium in milk is not the pure calcium that your body needs to maintain good bone health.  The supplement needs to also have magnesium in it to absorb the calcium.   Does milk have real magnesium in it?  I think not.
So hopefully our blog provided you some simple steps toward great health.  Spring is all about new beginnings so why not start today on your healthy journey!

Introducing the NAMI Walk Boston 2018

What I Learned About Sales from the Window Guy

Springtime in New England means it is time to plan and execute on some household projects and like every year as a homeowner I have my list....