A major part of keeping profitable and growing your business is maintaining a focus on business development. Even when you've got the right mix of work, clients and employees you should be looking for new sales leads. Establish a process that ensures your existing customers don't get neglected while you manage new business opportunities in a cost- and time-effective manner.
1. Generate sales leads. Identify the types of companies you want to work with and a realistic number of companies you want to target over a given period of time. For example: An accountant with experience in the marketing industry might decide to target five opportunities per month focussed on marketing consultancies.
Finding potential clients and identifying new opportunities can be done through networking events, tenders listed in newspapers and industry magazines and headlines in newspapers about new projects and industry seminars. Keep an eye on your industry and stay aware of new developments.
Track the companies you approach in a database (you could use Microsoft Office Excel or Access). Tracking should cover the obvious things company contact details as well as details of what was discussed, potential work, actions and more.
2. Qualify the leads. Once you have companies identified, review it to ensure they are realistic opportunities. Some areas to think about include:
- Do you have the right contacts to get started?
- Do you have the right services to offer them?
- How can their website help you understand them better?
- Do you have any conflicts of interest in pursuing this company?
- Does this client have growth potential or would it be a quick job?
- Who makes the decisions? How can you reach them?
4. Show them what you're made of. Start to reach your qualified opportunities by showcasing your company's products. Send them a brochure or a copy of any newsletters you produce and invite them to join; show off examples of your work; highlight relevant media articles. However, if you're using e-mail, avoid being overly intrusive or they may regard it as spam.
Develop standard template letters in Word to send to potential clients to accompany your credentials/brochures. Link to your database (Excel, Access or Outlook) when merging the letters and envelopes to ensure you don't have to re-enter details.
There is no specified time for this courting, so be patient. It could be six months before anything comes to fruition.
5. Set a meeting time. So you're in the door. Now you need to sell yourself. Tailor the meeting to suit the way you operate as a business. It could be a formal PowerPoint presentation or a discussion over coffee. You may have no choice for the style of the meeting but make sure you are comfortable and well prepared. During the meeting be sure to demonstrate the knowledge you have developed in the previous stages.
6. Follow up. You've presented your capabilities and ideas. Don't stop there. Follow up is essential. This is a major part of the process and should be taken as seriously as the other steps. You'll probably be able to build on ideas from the meeting, or you might find an interesting/relevant article or statistics you could send to re-open discussion. Even if you don't have anything to send, thank them for the opportunity.
The 1st Step Toward Consumer Driven Health Plans - Why supplemental benefits make the transition easier
Part of the reason that I initially got my insurance license, was that as a business consultant focused on change management, nearly every business owner, CFO and HR director that I spoke to asked me what I could do about the rising cost of their healthcare benefits. Up until recently, with regard to their major medical plan costs rising at double-digit rates every year, there was little I could recommend aside from biting the bullet and accepting that it would be a painful process of micro re-examination of plan costs nearly every year. Many decision makers are being forced to shift costs to their employees or do away with certain benefits altogether. Fortunately, now there is finally a sensible way to reduce costs (and taxes, by the way), give employees more choice, more security and believe it or not, keep them from storming the castle with rakes and torches when you ask them to contribute more out of their own pockets. These plans are aptly called Consumer Driven Health Plans (or CDHPs) because the policyholder makes as many choices about their health benefit plans as their employer.Two key components of CDHPs have been receiving a lot of press. The first is the Health Savings Account (HSA), which must be used in conjunction with the second, a High Deductible Health Plan (HDHP). Without going into great detail about the restrictions, the whole idea is that by enrolling in a major medical health insurance plan with a significantly higher deductible ($1000 or more), the company (and/or the employee) can dramatically reduce the premium cost. In addition, by replacing Flexible Spending Accounts (FSAs require the participants to use the tax free money contributed during the plan year or lose it) with HSAs (that allow the participants to accumulate money in their account tax free BUT the money rolls over from year to year) eventually, the deductible is covered with tax-free dollars.The only downside to this plan is that FSAs make the elected amount available on day one of the plan, whereas HSAs allow only the amount that has been funded to date to be made available. In other words, for most folks, the first year of such a plan puts them at risk for substantial out of pocket expense related to the deductible. The way to avoid this risk is to implement a third key component of the plan, Supplemental Benefits. Most often via a new or existing Cafeteria (Section 125) plan. For several reasons, supplemental benefits should be the first step in any HDHP/HSA plan. First is that they introduce employees to employee funded, 100% voluntary plans so employees come to feel comfortable with contributing to their own financial security. Second is that supplemental plans cover deductibles and co-pays, so employees realize that by participating, they reduce their own out of pocket expense should the unthinkable happen. Thirdly, they learn the value of pre-tax dollars. And last, more choice lends itself to better education in just what those choices are. In other words, employees take more interest in learning how their overall plan fits together and what the best choices are for their family. When Supplemental plans are introduced first, employees feel empowered by the fact that the company is giving them options to better protect their family without changing anything else. Then when the HDHP/HSA changeover is eventually made, far fewer employees will feel like they're getting the short end of the stick.So what makes up a good Supplemental plan? While many of the plans are similar in benefits and structure, the providers vary widely in how they work and what they actually provide in terms of customer service. Your employees trust you to select high quality benefit providers that give them financial stability and control when they need it most. As more and more players enter the game, every insurance provider will be touting their respective accolades. Just be aware that many small, unproven operations hide beneath the veil of a well-known brand. In some cases, insurance conglomerates are simply an affiliation of unrelated subsidiaries that were acquired for a specific strategic purpose; in this case, to enter the voluntary benefits market. Like the Wizard of Oz, you may find that a parent company's financial and marketing statistics give a misleading view of the size and capabilities of the business unit that actually does the product design, underwriting, and servicing. Nobody likes surprises. Especially, related to financial security. And the last thing anyone wants to hear from an employee who has claims issues and thought they signed up for a policy with BIG Insurance Company (whose slick marketing reps touted gazillions in financial backing and years of experience), is that they've now found out that the policy they were counting on to protect their family was really underwritten by the National United Smoke and Mirrors Insurance Company of Hoboken, NJ., which did strictly Property and Casualty insurance until last year. So pay attention to the man behind the curtain.If you ask the right questions of potential providers, you'll be doing your company and your employees a big favor by picking the best provider for their needs.Here are some suggestions:Who is really underwriting the policy and how long have they been doing it?Experience has its strength, and in the guaranteed renewable (supplemental) market, size does matter. What is the company's history and track record? You want a company that has the depth to handle any adverse selection, and a track record of satisfied clients across industries.What is the financial standing of the company?Regardless of whether you use A.M Best, Moody's, Fitch, Standard and Poors or some other rating system, make sure you choose one of the highest rated companies. There are several. A is better than B, + is better than -, and so on. How is the company recognized?Accolades and industry market share are some indicators, but what you're really looking for is long-term satisfaction by clients. Long-term relationships with companies like your own are good indicators. More importantly, what is the actual operating unit that provides the underwriting classified as? A life insurance company? A property and casualty company, or a liability company?And what are its individual ratings? Are voluntary benefits the insurance provider's top priority?Are supplemental/voluntary plans the company's only focus or are they a sidelight meant to be a means to open a door to other relationships? What percent does the insurance being offered represent of the parent company's overall premium base? Who you choose can have a lot to do with whether you want to put all your eggs in one basketor not.Is representation national?Do they have a physical presence in all 50 states or just an 800# that goes to a central office? Do they have dedicated agents in your geographic locale or is it a loosely tied, affiliation of middlemen spotted across the map? For companies with one or two local branches, this is not an issue. However, even for companies with many locations in a single state, how consistent your message is conveyed and how well your employees are serviced depends on how well the company's representatives are trained across the geography. What is the depth and quality of backup?How often do the rates go up? And what are the circumstances that cause rate hikes?Some companies guarantee rates for policyholders for a period of time (usually two or three years). Do some due diligence as to how often and how high those rates increase over time. Require a written history. Past practices are a good predictor of future trends. The industry leader has never raised its rates for existing policyholders, but is still one of the top selling insurance stocks. It doesn't make sense to get a great low rate, if in only a few years it becomes a high rate.How complicated is the underwriting?How far back does the underwriting go for critical illness plans? Are any disclosure documents required outside of the application? How many questions are asked during a typical enrollment and what do they require for information on pre-existing conditions? What you're looking for is as little underwriting as possible. Guaranteed Issue is uncommon unless the group is very large, and in many cases not available at all from even the best companies. Understand what the parameters are for knock-out questions. Make sure they seem reasonable.How strict is the company's definition of disability?In some insurance policies' definition of disability, the insured must be entirely unable to perform each and every duty of his/her job, as well as other specific requirements. Other companies are more liberal in their definition of total disability before benefits are paid, often requiring that the insured only be unable to perform material and substantial duties before they are deemed disabled. This is one of those areas that vary widely so understand what defines disabled by seeing documented examples. Less stringent is better. What is the company's loss ratio?Loss ratio is defined by incurred claims over the life of the average policy divided by earned premium. Meaning what is the average payout versus what the policyholder pays in? Higher is better.How quickly does the company pay claims?Unfortunately the landscape varies widely in this key factor. Faster is better. Less hassle is better. Do your homework on this one. Some companies have been nailed in recent years for having internal policies relating to nonpayment of legitimate claims. It's been uncovered as common practice in other companies to deny legitimate claims pending certain documents that seem to become less and less relevant, stringing you along for months hoping that you'll give up. Look very closely at procedures and ask for statistics on both common and uncommon claims.Do benefits require coordination with other coverage before payment is issued?Some companies offer plans that sound great, but if coverages overlap, all the benefits are not paid. Other providers pay over and above any other insurance the policy holder has, regardless of type or amount or to whom the benefit is payable.How are benefits paid?Are they paid directly to the policyholder? To the doctor or hospital? Or some combination of both? Since more choice is better than less choice, the preferable payment is directly to the policyholder who then determines where the money goes.Does the company encourage preventive care as part of its policies?Many companies encourage preventative care as part of their base policies and incent policyholders to seek common precautionary screenings in an effort to reduce claims. It makes good sense all around since early-detected conditions usually result in more effective treatment and less time off work. Look for companies that make such benefits a real part of the plan, not riders or options. Are the policies offered portable?Portability means that the policy is owned by the policyholder and not the company. So if the policyholder leaves the company for any reason, the policyholder retains coverage at the same levels. True portability means at the same rate as well. Some companies confuse convertibility with portability, making policies truly portable only under certain circumstances. Convertibility means that the policy converts from one form to another, usually a change in benefits offered or rates.
Co -founders Rod Stinson and Chris Koehl have brought the 1 Step System opportunity to people all over the world. "Massive Participation" would be the best way to describe what has been starting to happen within the last couple of weeks, as so many want to jump on the band wagon while the company is still very young. This is of course when the biggest profits are made.What makes this business opportunity so attractive is that it is so easy. It is appropriately called the 1Step System. It stands to reason, the more an individual puts in to their business, the more he or she will get out of it, however, your early efforts in the beginning stages can easily provide at least some income while you lay back and observe. (But does a person really want to lay back with all this easy money to be made?)Everyone knows, there is no such thing as a free lunch, however, we haven't seen another business opportunity where start-up costs can so easily be recouped in such a short time and profit starts rolling in. From those who have no experience, to the most seasoned marketer, its a great opportunity to see a steady cash flow in a relatively short time. Is this a genuine income opportunity home based Internet business or a work at home based business opportunity? Whatever you choose to call it, it is a brilliant concept designed for building wealth for anyone who is savvy enough to see just how easy this is in comparison to other turnkey business ventures.Our experience has revealed that to many unsuspecting home business entrepreneurs have fallen victim to deceptive and greedy get rich quick scams that guarantee your success. This business sets itself far apart from those, and what is so refreshing about the "1 Step System" is there is no selling, no phone calls, no explaining, no answering questions and no closing. Most of the work is done for you. It's a fact, co-founders "Rod Stinson" and "Chris Koehl" have taken the 'Net by storm. It's nice knowing that with this business, anyone, regardless of their experience or background, has the same chance for financial independence.As a wise man once said: "Fear and Skepticism are your only roadblocks on the path to success"For more information visit:http://www.1stepsystem-premier.comand, for your FREE EBOOK detailing the fastest and easiest way to the top of the search engines, visit:http://www.ride-to-the-top.com
Book clubs have been quite a rage over the last few years. Fueled in part by Oprah and others, the concept of reading a book then gathering with others who have read the same book has become cool again.The reasons people have found them valuable include:-a great way to have meaningful conversation.-a way to support your own reading habit (I need to have the book read before the meeting!).-a way to form a community to have a great reason to gather with other people to bond.-A way to learn something in a fun way.It is for all of those same reasons and more that I suggest and encourage business book clubs. Maybe you would like to start one within your organization or maybe you would prefer to build one among colleagues from outside of work. Either way this article will outline the keys to help you build a successful single event or long-term club. 1.Market the idea. Once you are excited about this concept, use your influence and knowledge of your target group to market the concept to them. Even if your goal is to build a long-term club. Dont market it that way that requires too big of a commitment for many people. You are trying to encourage people to try something new that will requires their time both to read and participate. Rather than inviting them to make a long-term commitment, encourage them to read one book, then once they see the fun and the value, you will have them hooked.2.Gain commitment. Once you have sold people on the idea make sure you gain a commitment to participate. People are really committing to two things: reading the book, and coming to the meeting. After all, if no one comes to the meeting, (or comes without having read much of the book) you wont have much of a conversation! 3.Start small. Identify the number of people you will feel good about having involved. Experience shows that if you have 4-5 highly committed people you will have a successful experience. More is fine too, but you dont have to have everyone in the organization or every person at a certain level participating for it to be successful.4.Start easy. Not everyone is an avid reader. So pick a book that will be an easy sell in terms of topic and length. Picking the new 450-page book you are interested in might not be the best place to start. Remember that the value of the "book club" experience is more than just the book you read, but the conversations and ideas they stimulate. 5.Make it fun. This is a part of your marketing effort. Have food. Decorate the room, reminder invitations, etc. in a theme suggested by the book. Make the event itself something that will both encourage people to attend and create a buzz so other people want to attend the next one.6.Have a facilitator. Someone needs to be responsible for facilitating the conversation. Beyond the normal facilitator roles of keeping others participating that person needs to have a few questions prepared that are designed to stimulate conversation.7.Facilitate lightly. The facilitator should facilitate but not lead. Remember that you are after input, participation and having people involved in the conversation. Dont let it become a lecture.8.Keep the group involved. Beyond the groups involvement in the conversation itself, get everyones input into future meeting times, setups, facilitators, and perhaps most of all, books. When people feel involved, they will be more invested in the success of the next event, and beyond.I have helped organizations think through how to start these groups and have facilitated these discussions. While we have talked about the benefits that can be gained by individuals who participate in these groups, the organizational benefits can be huge as well. For the investment in a book for each person, organizations can create powerful conversation, deep professional development and better relationships.
Commercial real estate investment refers to the class of real estate that is primarily meant for investing money for profits later on. Examples of such properties include:Restaurants (including franchises)RetailOffice buildingsSelf-storage (Mini-storage) / industrialStrip mallsHotels (also called "hospitality")Multi-family / apartment buildingsWhy invest in commercial property?Unlike residential real estate, "Commercial real estate investment" is evaluated, bought, and sold based purely on numbers - on a set of factors that describe what kind of return on investment you can expect with the property. Most Commercial real estate investment is expected to make a return for you on an on-going (monthly) basis. With the retail boom and increasing return on investment in the commercial real estate market, the value of commercial real estate have grown by leaps and bounds, particularly, in the commercial areas, where the local retail shops and shopping complexes have been replaced by huge and swanky malls. What to expect?Remember though! Commercial real estate investment is a long term opportunity, do not expect to increase you net worth over night. No one is going to profit all the time. Real estate investors have to suffer through times of little to no cash flow - it is part of the game. This may cause panic but if you can stick with it for the long term, cash flow will increase. Investing especially in real estate is not for the weak of mind or body. It can be frustrating, and stressful. But for successful investors the rewards are priceless.