Tag Archives: consulting

Sales Insider

May 20, 2017 by

There is a list of basic rules of truth that govern the survival of businesses everywhere. While there may be debate on which rules belong on the list, one rule that all businesses owners and managers agree on is: Nothing happens in business until somebody sells something.

Thus, the high-performance salesperson is one of the most sought-after professionals in business. However, perhaps the foundational rule listed above does not apply when consulting is the product for sale. Do consultants need to be professional salespeople or can they reside safely in their core competency and grow the business from there? This is what we will examine.

Let’s say ABC Consulting provides mechanical and electrical consulting services to architects and consumers. The owner, “Dave,” employs a couple of drafters and a couple of professional engineers. He admits there is little development and/or training in the area of business development for the people that carry the “sales” responsibility. They do get training on the area of expertise in which the company consults: Seminars, webinars, ASHRAE-sponsored trainings, P.E. exams, vendor-sponsored trainings, and lots of self-study on system application, building codes, load calculations, energy, LEED, building commissioning, and on and on would accurately summarize the annual training regimen for Dave and his team. And why not? A big reason customers hire ABC is because they are experts in their field.

Dave was reflecting on how his business remained somewhat flat the previous year despite a record number of proposals going out the door. Historically, the primary source of new business came from his referral network. The owner has a vision for growth, so, in addition to the referral business, he decided that responding to as many requests for proposals (RFPs) as possible would be the way to accomplish his vision. Reflecting back, it did the opposite. The business revenue did not go down, but all the hours his employees invested in preparing RFPs (that in the end did not turn into new business) increased overhead and cut into margins. He instead got lots of late nights away from families and overtime hours from his employees, which has slightly damaged morale. Now, Dave ponders, what will be his business development strategy going forward?

Consultants are experts in their fields, and the customers want their expertise because it brings tremendous value to the customers’ business. However, customers don’t want to pay for the consultants’ expertise. So, they simply ask to have it for free, and one form of this ask is the RFP. The problem is that once the customer owns the consultant’s expertise, the customer has the power. The information can be compared to competitors who will adopt all good ideas and do the work for less or, worse yet, the customer will take the ideas and do the work in-house. Therefore, it can be said that responding to RFPs is not selling.

I would agree that professional sales should not be the leading competency for the architect, consulting engineer, or other professional service provider. But this does not diminish the importance of having a system for selling. Here are some simple steps of a selling system that the consultant or architect can begin to implement in their business.


1. Agree Upfront

Before doing any free work for a customer, get a clear understanding from them that if you do the work they are requesting to their satisfaction, you get something in return. If they don’t give you a clear path to getting their business, the wise decision would be to decline. For RFPs, if you don’t have an upfront agreement, it is too risky to pour your work into them only to have it auctioned off.


2. Why Would This Customer Hire You?

Prepare a list of great questions that will fully examine the emotional motivations this customer would have to hire a consultant. Pain is a huge motivator in people, and if your questions uncover the pains the customer is experiencing, you will have a big advantage in winning their business. If a doctor examined me and determined that I have a sickness that could be fatal without surgery, I am not going to ask the doctor for a bid and then get two more and go with the low-cost bidder.


3. Deal With Money Upfront

Ask the customer if they have money early in your conversation. Otherwise, you may do a bunch of work for a customer that, in the end, is broke. They must prove to you they have the ability to pay and a willingness to give their money to you, or else you will respectfully end the conversation.


4. Who Makes the Decisions Around Here?

Ask the customer who is involved in the selection process how the process will be handled. If you are going to present a solution, it is important that those who see it have the capacity to buy it. It is incredibly deflating to learn, after working out the solution, that the person who received it can’t make the decision to buy it.

Karl Schaphorst is a 27-year veteran of sales who now specializes in training other sales professionals. He is the president of Sandler Training.

This column was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.

Sleek Home Spa

March 30, 2017 by
Photography by Tom Grady

Liz spends five days a week working with fellow designers, consulting on schemes, meeting with clients, and creating unique finish combinations. Proficiency in AutoCAD, Revit, Photoshop, and Illustrator enable her to generate creative solutions no matter the project size.

CAPTION (cabinets): A custom vanity (above) warms the bathroom with wood cabinets and pendant lighting. To create a modern spa shower (right), pebble floor and wall details contrast with the smooth walls and ceiling.

CAPTION (bathroom):
Photos show how the bathroom looked before the transformation.

Like all great home renovations, the project began with an idea. An Omaha couple contacted me at The Interior Design Firm; they wanted to mimic the relaxing modern aesthetic of a high-end spa in their home.

After attaining a list of design requirements for their master bathroom, I began conceptualizing how to realize my clients’ initial idea. The look that the couple desired would require a spacious layout, sleek finishes, and lustrous natural and artificial lighting. That’s when my work really began.

The project started in earnest as I analyzed the current space to figure out how much larger the bathroom needed to be to accommodate every element requested by the clients. The greatest challenge was that the original square footage of the space was not large enough to bring this desired bathroom into reality.

In the end, some features of the space stayed in the same location (such as the stool and vanity). To create the spacious layout the client wanted, the tub needed to move back a few feet to allow for proper circulation in the bathroom. The existing shower was wedged in a corner, and was one of the main reasons for the renovation.

With the help of a contractor, Sudbeck Homes, the exterior wall behind the existing tub was extended 10 feet to make way for the new walk-in shower. The new shower is an extraordinary 8.5 feet by 8.5 feet, outfitted with two fixed shower heads, one hand-held, body sprayers, and a rain-head.

The couple was cognizant of their long-term needs in the home, so a bench was added next to the handheld shower head. Keeping with the modern minimalist style, two recessed niches were created so the personal hygiene items could be tucked away (to avoid creating clutter).

Moving the wall made a world of difference for the space. The tub location moved back several feet and anchored the room. The organic free-standing tub is a focal point as you enter from the doorway. It is the perfect setting to find peace and relaxation. The additional square footage in the space makes the room feel quite grandiose.

After deciding where each element needed to go in the space, I diverted my focus to the finishes. To create this tranquil retreat, we started looking at color palettes that would be cohesive with the existing finishes in the home.

With French doors going into the bathroom, the finishes needed to vibe with the colors in the rest of their master bedroom. The home has light oak woodwork and warm tones. To achieve this harmony, I wanted to get rid of the existing curves and add modern, clean lines.

Gray was the color direction that the clients and I agreed on, but making it blend with the rest of the home meant that the gray tones had to be warm. Gray porcelain tile in the proper color family was applied to the floor, shower walls, shower ceiling, base, and the feature wall behind the tub.

The feature wall adds interest with the installed rectilinear porcelain tile. In keeping with the monochromatic color scheme, stone pebble tile was selected for the shower floor and the detail stripe in the shower.

When selecting the hard surfaces, the clients’ goal was minimal upkeep for the future. A Cambria quartz countertop was the perfect choice for their spa bath. This quartz was not only used for the counter, but also for the bench and niche shelves in the shower.

Making this space feel modern meant sticking to a few selections and color tones. To contrast the gray features, a solid wood vanity was added for warmth. All of the plumbing fixtures in the bathroom are smooth and contemporary, creating a waterfall effect when the water is turned on.

The lighting in the space greatly improved: cans were added in strategic locations, and pendants were placed above the sinks to supplement the can lighting. The simplicity of the pendants allows the chandelier to be the prime focus. The chandelier is a shining feature that captivates anyone walking into the bathroom.

Natural lighting was important in the bathroom, so windows were added in the shower on two walls. To keep with the minimal aesthetic, a frosted pattern glass was chosen for the windows so that window treatments were not necessary.

With the help of the contractor, this sophisticated bathroom was made possible. We turned this Omaha couple’s small idea into their ideal at-home spa.

Visit idfomaha.com/liz-lempka for more information.

This article was printed in the March/April 2017 edition of Omaha Home.

Zealous Melon

December 7, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

With just one look at Zealous Melon’s hip basement headquarters, the fruit theme becomes apparent. The walls and the furniture, like the business’ logo, are bright orange and green. “Our office could pass for a frozen yogurt place,” laughs Käj Jorgensen, one of Zealous Melon’s two founders. That’s exactly the type of fun yet relaxed atmosphere Jorgensen and co-founder Brandon Blakemore want for their technology training and consulting company.

Blakemore and Jorgensen, both Omaha natives, met while working for Apple. Blakemore was a senior at University of Nebraska-Omaha and worked as a trainer, technician, and business specialist. Jorgensen had just graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan and primarily taught consumers (specifically those unfamiliar with Apple technology) how to use computers, iPhones, 
and iPads.

After six years with Apple, they both decided they wanted to start their own business. “We saw needs that weren’t being met,” Blakemore says. “Apple is very good at selling their products, but they’re not good with helping people implement those products into the workplace or their daily lives.”

Blakemore and Jorgensen quit on the same day, even handing in their two weeks notices together. That was when Zealous Melon was born—or, at least, that was when the idea of what would become Zealous Melon was born.

Although they knew what they wanted to do, they struggled with a company name. “Eventually, [my sister] Lauren came up with it using a name generator,” says Blakemore. “The generator suggested ‘Jealous Melon.’ We liked ‘Melon’ because we wanted something with fruit—like Apple—but not ‘Jealous.’ So we switched ‘Jealous’ to ‘Zealous,’ which worked better because we’re passionate about what we do.”

So what exactly does Zealous Melon do? They help people invest in their technology. For example, if a company wants to train its staff in integrating iPads with Windows desktops, Zealous Melon is there. “We started with training,” Jorgensen says. “But as the year went on, we started doing technology consulting, database design, iTunes book publishing, and 
web development.”

With clients like Valley Boys Roofing, KANEKO, 3M, and Joslyn Art Museum, Zealous Melon seems to be climbing quickly from its initial launch in 2012. Its success comes not only from Blakemore and Jorgensen’s aptitude for technology, but their pairing as well.

Blakemore is the business-minded workaholic; Jorgensen, the creative spirit. They mesh well. In fact, they’re not just business partners; they’re roommates, too. “We’re very involved with each other,” Jorgensen says. “You could say we’re ‘office spouses.’ I guess our living arrangement makes us more spousal, too.”

Blakemore laughs, “We both have girlfriends though!”

When it comes to who does what, they both agree that it depends on who is the better fit for the task. “If it has numbers, Brandon does it,” Jorgensen says. “If it’s something written, I do it. But we always run everything by each other.”

That includes office music, which Blakemore says is something Jorgensen can’t work without. “If we’re coding, we’re listening to something loud and angry, like Skrillex. Otherwise, it’s classic rock or something,” he says.

Some days, they work tirelessly from sunup to sundown. Other days, they’ll work on the interior design of their office or make the drive to El Bee’s in Waterloo, one of their favorite lunch destinations. Whatever they’re doing, they do it together.

The pair has great ideas for Zealous Melon’s future. Application development intrigues them, as does helping people with home automation, which their office already uses. (They can control their music, mood lighting, projector, and thermostat from their iPhones, iPads, and 
Apple desktops.)

No matter what Blakemore and Jorgensen’s futures hold, one thing is certain—the fruits of their labor will continue to grow a 
successful business.