As business owners, we are constantly looking for learning resources on how to make our business a better place to work, run more efficiently, and be more profitable for all the stakeholders. Reading the latest NYTimes best selling business thought leaders’ books, Youtube videos, How- To conferences, and industry events. It’s hard to know where to spend your time and money.
Although Cindy and I have done all of the above, albeit sporadically, depending on where we were in the growth of our company and our personal lives, one source for learning that we have found to be extremely valuable is our own industry event.
Every year, CAM-X, The Canadian Association of Message Exchanges ( a name that we evolved to years ago, when we didn’t want to be called either an answering service or a call centre, which many are now proudly reverting back to ) holds a conference somewhere across our country, or occasionally in a southern locale. Keynotes, and industry owners speak on relevant topics throughout the three day event. What I think is truly unique about our industry, is that we learn as much or more from one another as we do from the Keynotes.
Ours is an unusual industry association. Formed back in the 70’s when the telephone companies wouldn’t allow you to connect to their network, members of the association could only provide answering services to businesses within a very short radius because the long distance rates outside of their immediate area were cost prohibitive. Because no members were competing, everyone at their annual convention would share best practices openly and enthusiastically with one another. Once interconnection with the public switched network, or the local telephone company was mandated, this all changed. We could sell anywhere within North America with minimal additional cost as long distance rates plummeted. We all became competitors.
The odd thing is though, that the sharing of best practices, financial spreadsheets, marketing ideas and sales strategies did not change. New entrants into our industry are amazed about how competitors share so much. We know it’s rare, and even as we sell into one anothers’ back yard, we continue to help one another out. A rising tide raises all boats, I’ve heard some say, and just this week I heard one member say, “When we all get better, we raise the bar, and the level and value of the services we provide to our customers. This can only be good for our industry. “
When answering machines were introduced, our founders thought it was game over for the answering service industry. Who was going to need a live voice now, when an answering machine would be so much cheaper, they thought. Again when voice mail arrived in the market, and again when cellular phones became the norm. All were threats we thought, but our industry has evolved throughout these tech changes and we have only gotten stronger. Now “ answering services” are offering front line customer service, lead capture, customer service dispatch, virtual reception, work alone monitoring, and the list goes on and on. I truly believe if we had all been working in isolation during these technological disruptions, our industry would be extinct now. The biggest lesson I learned this week is that sharing makes everyone better. Even when that sharing is with a company with whom you may be up against in a bid, or a tender, just next week.
So, as a tribute to our industry members who openly and enthusiastically share what works for them, and want to see you succeed, here are the
Top 10 things I learned this week with my industry peers: ( in no particular order )
1. Make your business a great place to work. Give your team a purpose other than just doing their job. Make them feel like they belong to something special.
2. Share with your competitors. It raises the bar for your whole industry, and it feels good.
3. Listen to your customers, often and with intention. They will tell you where you need to focus and what problems they need you to solve.
4. Have a purpose. Yes, business to many is about making money, but when it really feels great, is when you are in a position to give back; to your employees and to your community.
5. Understand where you or your business are in the entrepreneurial or business life cycle. Knowing this helps you predict what’s next, and how you should prepare.
6. If you’re considering exiting the business through acquisitions or a family exit strategy, it’s important to start preparing years ahead of when you want out. Get your books in order and determine what you are best at (what makes you unique.) Building your team to flourish without you, and focusing on the value you bring to your customers is also essential.
7. On the elusive and hard to understand SEO ( Search engine optimization) : get social – the more platforms you’re on, the better indexed you are and therefore the easier for your prospects to find you online.
8. When hiring a new sales rep with little experience, or someone who has to build their own sales funnel, give them the title Sales Development Associate, and compensate on activities. Number of calls to prospects, number of proposals sent out, number of demo’s completed. It will take a while for them to close deals on which they would earn commission, so focus on getting them to create their own leads and funnel, through targeted activities.
9. Have a vision of where you want to go. Write it down and make sure every single person on your team knows and understands it.
10. What is your mindset? If you are always looking through the mindset of the past you can’t see the future.
Bonus # 11.
If you respond within 30 seconds to a lead from your website you have a 95% chance of closing that lead. Our industry can help you with that 😉
Sydney Ryan and Cindy Roma are Co-Ceo’s of Telelink Response Centre, a 24/7 answering service, call centre, and emergency response monitoring centre located in Newfoundland Canada; proudly serving the local and national business community, governments and organizations, as well as the energy sector throughout North America.
For more information on Telelink, please visit us @ www.Telelink.ca