In the press package commemorating its 75th anniversary, Bruner-Cox LLP includes an amusing timeline that juxtaposes the accounting firm's milestones against other historical events.
For example, Charles Lotz joined the firm as a partner in 1931 -- the same year Al Capone was sentenced to 11 years in prison for income tax evasion. A disclaimer clarifies that Capone was not a client of the firm.
Noting that Steve Pittman became a partner in 1987, the narrative reads, "Based on his portfolio, Steve feels slightly responsible for the Black Monday Stock Market Crash."
Another notation declares that managing partner John Finnucan joined the firm in 1978 -- the same year "the first official Elvis sighting was recorded."
Says Finnucan, "Our goal is to make Bruner-Cox a fun place to work."
You frequently mention that you should avoid telling prospects about the features and benefits of your product or service and focus instead on asking the right questions. Can you tell me what types of questions to ask early in the selling process?
I am frequently asked by clients to spell out the questions they should be comfortable asking on a sales call. This is a dangerous task, because it presupposes that every prospect is the same and every sales call is going to go perfectly.
Good salespeople have a system for selling that encompasses a specific strategy and set of tactics designed to further that strategy. However, the manner in which that system is implemented is more of an art than a science.
Most entry-level salespeople are taught a set of scripted or canned closes. While they are easy to learn, they are often ineffective. Effective selling strategies and tactics are more difficult to learn, but they are far more powerful than canned scripts and closes.
Remember also that how you ask is often more important than what you ask. Questions by themselves can be abrasive. Make sure you sprinkle your questions with plenty of nurturing statements and have an empathetic tone in your voice.
With these precautions in mind, here are 24 fundamental questions which you need to be comfortable asking during the early stages of the sales process to begin to master the art of selling. The questions are part of what I call "Lewis' Essential 44" -- the 44 fundamental questions you need to consider asking.
The initial phone call
1) Does my name or company sound familiar? (To be used when making a sales call to get the prospect to disengage from what he or she was doing before you called.)
2) I know you weren't waiting for my call and you're very busy, but if you will give me 30 seconds, I can tell you why I am calling and you can decide whether we should continue this conversation. Will you give me 30 seconds? (To gain permission from the prospect on a cold call before delivering your 30-second commercial.)
3) I am a (fill in the blank) specializing in (fill in the blank). Typically I work with successful (fill in the blank) just like you, who are basically very happy with (blank), but they are frustrated or concerned that (blank, blank or blank). I don't suppose you share any of those concerns?
This is your 30-second commercial, designed to describe what you do in terms of the problems you solve to determine if you can do anything for the prospect.
4) And you've never had a problem with (fill in the blank)?
5) Nobody is perfect, not even us. If there was one area in which you would like to improve on your current situation, what would it be?
6) Would it make sense for you to invite me in to talk with you about these issues in greater detail to see if I can help you in these areas? (To get the appointment.)
7) How much time have you set aside for our meeting?
8) What would you like to accomplish during our time together?
9) Would it be okay if I asked you some questions first?
10) If, in the course of our meeting, you don't see a fit between what you need and what I offer, would you be willing to tell me "no?"
Uncover pain and create a sense of urgency
11) Why am I here? What caused you to invite me in?
12) Tell me more about that ...
13) Can you be a bit more specific? Can you give me an example?
14) How often does this happen?
15) How long has it been a problem?
16) What have you tried to do about this?
17) Did that work?
18) What impact is this having on your company?
19) How does this affect you personally?
20) How does this make you feel?
21) What were you hoping I could do?
22) Is there anything else you would like to tell me about these problems?
23) How important are these issues?Are you really committed to fixing these problems?
Next month, Larry Lewis will address the remainder of the 46 questions. Larry Lewis is president of Total Development Inc., a Pittsburgh-based consulting firm specializing in sales development and training. Send your comments and questions via fax at (724) 933-9224 or see his Web site at totaldevelopment.com. Reach him by phone at (724) 933-9110.
In reality, some may be checking out what perks you offer before they even walk through your door and using that information to decide where to shop.
If you already participate in the Golden Buckeye Card program, the Ohio Department of Aging now has your company and your discount listed on its Web site, www.state.oh.us/age/Buckeye.htm.
If youre not participating but want to, the site tells you how.
It might be worth your while. Consider the following, courtesy of the Web site:
- Americas older adult population will more than double between now and the year 2050.
- By that year, as many as one in five Americans will be older than 60.
Looks like seniority really does rule.
McDonald Investments Inc.
President and CEO
Thermagon Inc. (former winner)
Calfee, Halter & Griswold LLC
Cleveland chapter president
Young Presidents Organization
Primus Venture Partners
The name just about says it all. This site displays all of the URLs posted within the last 24 hours, organized by topic and category. And you can subscribe to an e-mail newsletter to receive information in your areas of interest. Subscribers receive a free weekly newsletter notifying them of new Web sites being launched . The search engine accepts URLs and filters new Web site submissions by date and/or category.
The Service Corps of Retired Executives has beefed up its site, offering a revised version of its online counseling, success stories and a content-rich resource center that doles out information on business planning, human resources, legal matters and more. Online counseling puts you in touch with seasoned business pros who answer questions via e-mail. Business professionals, authors and entrepreneurs offer their wisdom and comment on the latest trends in the guest feature section.
Entrepreneurs offer advice on topics from business valuation to marketing to growing your company. The site provides a free e-mail newsletter, a Top Advisors in which experts give valuable how-to information, and discussion groups that connect entrepreneurs, academics and service providers.
Arranged like many of the popular search engines, CNET.com offers hardware and software reviews, Web site building information, the latest pricing information on equipment, Internet tools and more. TechNews offers the latest scoops in the technology industry. Investors can get stock quotes, product recommendations and how-tos.
Spence Publishing Group, led by husband and wife team Bill and Stephanie Spence, has rolled out its second annual Pittsburgh NOW, a magazine guide book showcasing the region's "treasures and hotspots." The publication, they say, is designed to attract commerce, families, students and visitors to the region. Distribution includes hotels, the airport, relocation services, bookstores, corporations, universities, grocery stores and other retailers. Spence Publishing Group also publishes the monthly Pennsylvania Health & Fitness Magazine.
BroadStreet Communications has been launched with a $62 million equity investment by Frontenac Co., Boston Ventures and Catalyst Ventures. The company will deliver an integrated suite of business communication services.
James Lange, an attorney and CPA, has launched www.outestateplanning.com, a Web site providing retirement and estate planning information addressing the specific needs of the gay and lesbian community.
Solid State Measurements Inc. is planning to begin shipping the first of its new line of equipment for testing production semiconductor wafers.
Desbrow & Associates has been selected to develop a multimedia marketing campaign for the Allegheny Trail Alliance.
CFA Real Estate Network, a national full-service title company, has launched its e-commerce Web site at www.cfacts.com.
Management Science Associates Inc. has signed an agreement with DIRECTV Inc. to integrate MSA's Gabriel software into DIRECTV's programming. Management Science Associates has also formed a nonprofit company with CONSAD Research Corp. to bid on U.S. Health and Human Services contracts to manage the national organ transplant system and support the analysis of its data.
The Indiana County Chamber of Commerce has established a Web site at www.indianacountyjobs.org that provides information about job and career opportunities in Indiana County.
IMS Systems, a German manufacturer of isotope, X-ray and optical measuring systems, has opened its first U.S. office in Wexford.
Leveltek International LLC and Leveltec Processing LLC of Benwood, W.Va., have named Levy Industrial as their advertising agency.
Beverly Morrow Associates has changed its name to BMA Communications.
Kerotest Manufacturing Corp. has acquired the Marsh Needle Valve product line from Marsh Bellofram Corp.
Pennzoil-Quaker State Co. has sold its undercoatings business to Pittsburgh-based Oil Service Inc.
Discovery Entrepreneur Resources Inc. has been chosen by Internet start-ups Earthpermit.com, ebooth.com and Cyber Surfin.com to provide marketing support for their online technologies.
Respironics Inc. has signed a three-year agreement with AmeriNet to provide certain of its ventilation products and accessories for a cardiovascular services program.
Advanticom Inc. has leased the first floor of the Stores Building at the City Center of Duquesne. Advanticom installs and maintains voice, data and video systems, and local and wide-area network systems.
Yearick-Millea has been named marketing communications agency for Pittsburgh Companies North, a Butler-based food service company.
General American Corp. has received a multiyear consulting and technology contract to assist in building a new real estate services business for SunTrust Banks Inc. of Atlanta.
P.W.Campbell has been awarded the design/build contract by Jessop Employees Federal Credit Union in Washington, Pa., to construct a 2,500-square-foot main office building.
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services posted a record $708.5 million in collective volume for June. The reported figures are based on listed, closed and written volume from 58 office locations.
MudAdvertising.com has a new client, Abruzzi's Italian Restaurant, located on the South Side.
Howard Hanna Real Estate Services has broken ground for a four-story, 43,000-square-foot office building in Franklin Park Corporate Center.
MD&A Financial Management Co. has been approved as a registered investment adviser with the state.
Your Financial Connection is a new talk and call-in program broadcast on WORD-FM 101.5 from 9 to 10 a.m. on Saturdays. Mike McCormick, president, Atlas Brokerage Co., is the host.
Dick Corp. has received a contract from the Clay Center for the Arts & Sciences of West Virginia for construction of a $56 million cultural and educational center in downtown Charleston, W.Va.
MSA Process Automation Solutions and Services Inc. and the Orsi Group of St. Louis have formed a strategic partnership to develop and provide integrated plant systems to the metals industry.
3 Rivers Connect has received a $50,000 grant from the Richard King Mellon Foundation to enhance greenpittsburgh.net, an interactive guide to Southwestern Pennsylvania's environmental assets and natural amenities.
Point Park College and the Bidwell Training Center have established The Point Partnership, a program that will enable Bidwell graduates to complete bachelor's degrees at Point Park College.
Atlas Software Technologies Inc. has agreed to invest at least $2 million in training, jobs and capital in South Africa over the next three years. During this period, at least 100 South Africans will be trained in advanced technologies through intensive six- to 18-month programs administered by Atlas Software Technologies.
The sale of WorldClass Processing Inc. to Samuel Manu-tech has been completed, following the approval of a U.S. bankruptcy court.
The Greater Pittsburgh Convention & Visitors Bureau has launched the Culture Caravan, a shuttle service that operates between downtown and the North Side and downtown and the East End. The shuttles operate between 11 a.m. and 5 p.m. Cost is $1 per person.
Custom WoodWorks Inc. has located in the former Dlubak facility in South Buffalo Township. The company is leasing 38,000 square feet of space with the option to purchase, and is upgrading the facilities in an $815,000 renovation.
I just finished reading your article, "A flexible solution." You spoke the sentiments of my heart. I completely agree with the philosophy that, "If the job gets done, it's not important where the job is getting done, but that it's accomplished in a quality and timely matter." As a computer analyst and mother, I need a flexible work schedule. I have successfully telecommuted in the past. I am currently looking for an employer with the same philosophy as SBN.
Vera L. Parker
Republic Technologies International Inc. announced plans to close its 12-inch rolling mill in Canton in late September. Work performed at the Canton facility will be transferred to Republic's rolling operations in Lorain and Lackawanna, N.Y. Republic is headquartered in Fairlawn.
Dr. Monica M. Miklo has opened a private chiropractic practice on Fulton Drive in Canton.
The Belden Village office of FirstMerit Bank has undergone a $650,000 expansion and renovation project, which was completed late last month.
The Hoover Co. of North Canton has named four managers: Frank J. Bressi, manager of the dependable manufacturing office; Mark. R. Hollis, manager of industrial engineering; W. Jim Kellum, manager of mechanical design; and Gary A. Sacco, manager of production purchasing.
Gov. Bob Taft announced that Norman McNeal of Massillon will represent Ohio on the Martin Luther King Jr. National Holiday Advisory Committee. McNeal, a retired maintenance supervisor at Ashland Oil Refinery, chairs the Greater Canton/Stark Co. Martin Luther King Jr. Holiday Commission.
Stark State College of Technology has appointed John J. Kurtz as vice president of information technology and administrative services.
Christine Guest has joined CFS of Northeastern Ohio as a staffing consultant. CFS is a staffing company affiliated with Bruner-Cox.
Todd M. Kolarik, Eric J. Williams, David H. Krause and Randall M. Traub have joined Canton law firm Krugliak, Wilkins, Griffiths & Dougherty Co. as associates.
Alexander Hays IV has been named senior vice president and central region manager for Sky Trust, a nationally chartered trust bank with offices on Munson Street in Canton.
Bruner-Cox has hired Kara M. Presto as an associate in the general services department.
Mike Tyson has joined Castle Mortgage Corp.'s North Canton office.
Belden & Blake Corp. of North Canton has appointed the following: William F. Murray, vice president and general manager of Ohio District Exploration and Production Operations; David M. Becker, vice president and general manager of Michigan District Exploration and Production Operations; Carl J. Carlson, vice president and general manager of Pennsylvania/New York District Exploration and Production Operations; and John C. Corp, vice president and general manager of Arrow Oilfield Service Co., a division of Belden & Blake.
Dr. Ahmed El Ghamry Sabe, medical director of the Cardiovascular Center at Mercy Medical Center, will serve as the 2000 American Heart Walk chairman.
Innis Maggiore Group Inc. of Canton has promoted Jennifer Barnby to art director for the agency's creative department.
Dr. Peter D. Ferguson has been re-elected to president of the National Voard of Chiropractic Examiners, headquartered in Greeley, Colo. Dr. Ferguson has been in private practice in Canton since 1972.
By David Bittner
Something that immediately caught my attention about Chocolate Works is the owners' willingness, and even desire, to place equity with directors and partners.
Partnering with Gerald Stevens seems like a smart move. Chocolate Works will gain wide distribution while aligning with a complementary product having a parallel brand image.
Borrowing from the real estate adage, most folks in the venture community agree the three most important factors affecting the success of a new venture are: 1) management, 2) management, 3) management. A strength of Chocolate Works is that Barry and his team have been there, done that. As their venture unfolds, they'll know which opportunities to pursue and where the pitfalls lie.
Chocolate Works appears to have researched its market thoroughly and has a well-thought-out marketing strategy. The varied arsenal of distribution weapons is powerful so long as the company can steer clear of channel conflict.
One clear weakness is that the company has no proprietary products or technologies, resulting in low barriers to competitive entry and downward pressure on margins.
In addition, new ventures in vogue with investors today are business-to-business plays. Chocolate Works, on the other hand, is a business-to-consumer play. Consumers are less attractive customers because of the expense of locating and keeping them and the limited purchasing power they have.
Another fashionable business concept is dot-com. However, Chocolate Works is not com. Though the company does intend to use the Web as a promotional tool, sales of impulse, sensory-driven food products aren't likely to benefit as much from the e-commerce wave as planned, nonfood products like books or collectibles.
Be that as it may, Chocolate Works may be able to take advantage of its low-tech nature by appealing to investors who have experience in traditional businesses and are wary of the volatility and the reality of all things "e."
All companies ought to espouse a certain method of producing a return for their founders and investors. If not, they risk never achieving their financial objectives. They should pursue an exit strategy for which there is industry precedent for attractive returns. I suspect the return to the owners of Chocolate Works might most readily and productively occur as a result of a sale to a strategic buyer like Godiva or a channel partner like Gerald Stevens.
The company might do well to consider adopting a more specific intent for its use of capital. More thorough financial planning up front leads to more effective deployment of resources later.
I suspect there are a number of companies in this market that offer similar products. If not now, there will be more competition when and if Chocolate Works is successful. The owners should differentiate their product from competitors' as much as possible while they're in the formative stages so the distinction is clear when the stakes are higher.
Many investors shy away from family-run businesses due to the domestic pressures that compound the professional challenges. Barry and his team may have to convince investors that he can turn this into an advantage.
Rapid growth of more than 300 percent between 2000 and 2001 is quite steep. There's the obvious issue of generating enough volume to accomplish that goal, but there's also danger that the management and fulfillment infrastructure may not be able to keep pace.
By Beatrice E. Wolper
Chocolate Works' plan incorporates both a solid history and the chance for exciting growth.
When going to the market, it may be beneficial for Chocolate Works to emphasize that several members of the family work at the company; therefore, it is a "family-owned business" -- which translates into strong values, ethics and loyalty. Family-owned businesses have done well in the marketplace.
In order to reach the desired growth outlined in the summary, the company may wish to focus on how to strengthen the family business relationships by having a family business plan. This should assist the company in expanding on the national level, since the plan should incorporate the concepts derived from scenario planning, which is often necessary for such growth.
What will the company be like in three years, five years, 10 years and 25 years? Will people still be eating chocolate? (I will!) Will the family be involved? Cousins? Grandchildren? Will people only be buying through the Internet? The scenarios would analyze the company's strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats for each alternative.
It appears that to grow to the national level expressed in the summary, a clearer definition of who the customer is needs to be established. The list of corporate customers is extremely impressive. After stating all the great name customers of the company, it is surprising to read that the target customer is a female purchasing from a retail store.
It appears that the main customers for the corporate sales department should be similar to those listed, and the target customer for the retail sales department would be such a female. There needs to be two distinct marketing strategies -- selling different concepts to different entities.
Development of why the chocolates are unique may facilitate the desired national growth. What makes the company's products unique? Why are these chocolates and private label gourmet boxes different than those of competitors?
Teaming with a national partner is a positive move toward aggressive growth. The company's financials should be detailed enough to account for many outcomes: worst and best case. Since Gerald Stevens is new to the market, the financials need to reflect what happens if it takes longer than planned for the Gerald Stevens expansion. All in all, a tremendous opportunity, but one that needs to consider various timetables.
In conclusion, the company sounds very solid, with excellent growth opportunities. And, who wouldn't like chocolate?
Carving out a niche in your business is a good way to make it stand out from the crowd.Daniel Lawson, an attorney with Meyer Darragh Buckler Bebenek & Eck, seems to have cut to the heart of that principle. He chairs the outdoors pursuits practice group at the firm and has authored a brochure on laws regarding knives for the American Knife & Tool Institute, a national nonprofit organization representing citizens, artisans, distributors and manufacturers of knives.
The brochure, "A Guide to Understanding the Laws of America Regarding Knives," is available on the Internet at www.akti.org/guide.html. According to Meyer Darragh, the brochure helps readers sort through the increasingly complex legal implications of owning and using knives.
"Take a folded pocketknife in your handbag or pocket to a PTA meeting at a local school, and you many find yourself in violation of some well-meaning or badly written law aimed at high school thugs with ice picks," says Lawson. How to reach: Meyer Darragh, (412) 261-6600