Taking control Featured

10:04am EDT July 22, 2002
Keith Agler, president of Northwest Multimedia Inc., decided about four years ago that he needed to take action to help his 5-year-old business, which was surviving but not growing.

"We wanted to have more than a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants operation," Agler says. "Our sales activity consisted of stumbling onto customers that needed our help."

Mike Levi, owner of Discovery Resource Group now doing business as The Business Doctors, helped Agler develop a plan to increase sales at his Northwest Columbus presentation services company. The key: better customer targeting.

"You can't control who's going to spend money with you," Levi says. "You learn to identify the marketplace and make a profile of people you can do business with."

Agler and his three employees spent a year doing research through the Greater Columbus Chamber of Commerce, libraries and other sources and gained 100 customers of the 800 added to their prospect list.

He and his staff also gained consistency in their sales efforts because Levi prodded them-Agler likens him to a drill instructor-for nearly two years.

Still, it worked. Northwest Multimedia realized a 67 percent increase in annual sales in 1994, the first year of Levi's services, which cost $125 an hour. Agler says profits also went up, enabling him to purchase a new computer network and other equipment to bring in more business.

"We all became salesmen," Agler says of the change. "I think where a lot of small businesses fail is they don't realize that everyone on the team is a salesman."