Time And Attendance Overhaul
Stromberg, LLC plans to grow sales revenue 83% this year by increasing brand awareness, implementing a strategic sales/engineering process, and revamping its operations.
Often, companies need a catalyst to jump-start revenue growth. At time and attendance software developer Stromberg, LLC (Lake Mary, FL), Seth Bernstein is that catalyst.
As the second largest time and attendance software developer in the country, Stromberg's annual sales revenue had remained stagnant since 1999. The company's owner, Bob Mathews, felt a change was needed and offered Bernstein partner status and the president/CEO position. Bernstein, a former number one salesperson in the country for payroll company ADP (Roseland, NJ), accepted Mathews' offer in December 2002 and quickly began revamping everything from the company's organizational structure to its sales process. Three months later, Stromberg had doubled its predicted sales revenue for the first quarter and is now on pace to reach at least $11 million this year.
Build Brand Awareness With Proactive PR
According to Bernstein, Stromberg's biggest problem has been brand awareness. "Customers just don't know our name as well as they know Kronos [Stromberg's top time and attendance competitor]," he explains. "For example, we are close to winning a million-dollar account from a customer that had never heard of us yet is only 30 miles from our office."
In the past, Stromberg's marketing efforts were reactive and limited. The company occasionally exhibited at trade shows and advertised in trade journals. When Bernstein arrived, he added another marketing position, redesigned the company Web site, and launched a public relations (PR) campaign that included print and broadcast media. He was even interviewed by analysts on CNBC. Furthermore, Stromberg is now more proactive in its trade show selection and plans to attend 13 shows (e.g. Hospitality Industry Technology Exposition and Conference, American Payroll Association conference, Government Finance Officers Association conference) this year.
Implement A New Sales Strategy
While PR is important for building brand awareness, it is useless without a sales team that can close deals. Stromberg's existing sales staff was experienced but never had any formal training in what Bernstein calls "strategic selling." Basically, strategic selling is a way of gathering the most information from a client to help close a deal. Sounds obvious, right? Yet, Bernstein insists many salespeople have no sales strategy and try to close deals too early and without enough information. Therefore, he now requires all of his sales force to complete his own form of sales training, which he compiled from his past 10 years of sales experience. During training, he teaches how to build rapport with clients and stresses the importance of setting an agenda for each sales call. "By describing everything you want to accomplish in the sales call, you don't surprise them during the middle of the day with what you are asking of them," he explains. He also teaches how to ask probing questions about a client's existing and ideal time and attendance solutions. Only after all of this information is gathered does he advocate presenting Stromberg's solution. "Previously, our sales calls consisted primarily of explaining who Stromberg was and what our products could do," says Bernstein. "On average, the sales team would close about 2 out of 10 deals that way. In my experience, when you put a strategic selling process into place, you normally close at least 8 out of 10 deals."
Create A Sales/Engineering Structure
A key step in Bernstein's strategic selling plan was to transform one member of the company's operations staff (e.g. implementation, support, product development) into a sales engineer. Previously, only a salesperson would have contact with a customer when conducting sales demonstrations and analyses. "As you know, salespeople are rarely the technical experts on a system," states Bernstein. "That's why Kronos brings operational experts to sales calls."
Stromberg's sales engineer now accompanies a salesperson on all initial sales calls. (Bernstein also attends at least one sales call per customer to show how important a customer's business is to Stromberg's executive team.) A new form was designed for the sales engineer to fill out during the probing questions of a sales call. That form is later given to Stromberg's operations staff so it can understand exactly why the customer wants the product and what the customer wants to avoid. The operations staff meets with the sales staff every two weeks to review the status of pending accounts. In addition to the sales engineer, Bernstein hired a "sales guru" with 25 years of experience in the industry.
Company-Wide Time And Attendance Progress
Beyond revamping Stromberg's PR and sales departments, Bernstein also made other operational changes to the company. For instance, he added a head of operations and designed a new management structure for the company that reduces the amount of employees each department manager supervises. "This structure allows us to identify process problems more quickly," he explains. He also added merit increases and, for the first time at the company, implemented a quarterly bonus program for all employees based on sales.
The software support department was also updated to include two tiers of customer support instead of one. Now, if a caller's issue cannot be resolved within the first few minutes, the call is handed off to a second-tier, more experienced support technician.
As the catalyst at Stromberg, Bernstein ignited $2.5 million in sales during the first quarter of 2003 and helped the company increase its net income by 470% (compared to first quarter 2002) during that time. "I've implemented a lot of changes since December, and believe me, I often hear the complaints from our staff," admits Bernstein. "But, it's very difficult to get a company moving forward - I know, I've done it a few times. So far, though, I am very happy with our progress, and we seem to be continuing at an unstoppable pace."