Sonoma County:: News and Notes

 

In an update to our Rent Control, it seems that a curveball has been thrown into that plan. A petition was sent around that asked for a public vote on the issue. This is interesting because it will cause the City Council to take one of two paths. First, they could pull back and withdraw the law. Second, they could put it up for a public vote. I am led to understand that it is too close to the November ballot to be on that ballot. The next opportunity would be November 2018, unless a special election is held. Those elections cost about $350,000. Not sure how this will proceed. I don’t expect a withdrawal nor do I expect to wait until 2018. I will keep everybody informed as new information emerges.

The first debate was Monday and it reminded me that we will have an election in November. Now, I don’t pay a lot of attention to the Presidential races. California (where I vote) is going to vote for Hillary, so there is little point to my vote or opinion in any way shape or form.

However, we will have a number of initiatives. I am not a fan of Propositions for a single reason: Time. We hire professionals to sit in Washington and Sacramento, and I think they should do their job. By putting these things to the public, they are rejecting their responsibility to manage the issues. They can blame us for the consequences of the Measure that is passed. I think they are just passing the buck so that we find it harder to be accountable for voting for or against different measures.

When we talk about resources, we know that they are always limited. However, the way the proposition system works it makes it seem that they are unlimited. If you read my Friday blogs, you will know that I was against Net Neutrality because I thought it was the wrong issue and we were going to spend our political capital on something that was actually a non-issue for now. I think the propositions are like that.

Let me give you an example, last year Sacramento was up in arms for a lack of money to rebuild the water supply and control systems. I read about politicians from the Governor on down concerned that we were not investing in our water. However, we did spend a whole LOT of money on the Bullet Train from San Francisco to Los Angeles. We are going to spend over $65B to build a train that will run from San Francisco to Los Angeles in 3 hours when we already have planes that do so from all the local airports in about 1/2 that time. If you were concerned about cost, then take 1/2 that money and give out free plane tickets to those that can’t afford them and put the other 1/2 to water conservation projects.

So, before you vote on a proposition. Read it. The whole thing. Every word. If you are not willing to do that, then you are being led around how to vote by advertising dollars and not what you want. In that case, vote against the propositions. Don’t vote for something that you don’t understand. You are investing your tax dollars and they should be as precious to you as the dollars you get to keep.
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

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Have a Sales Process!

I was recently visiting with a friend of mine. She was telling me that she was working on a couple of clients who were the kind of clients she was hoping to land. Problem is that they were taking longer to make a decision than she thought they should. There was that desire not to pressure for a close but on the other hand the desire to get the business.

What I recommended to her was that she ask her clients how they were going to make their decision. Many times clients haven’t really thought it through and go with a gut reaction. By asking them how they are going to make the decision, it will cause them to actually think it through. There are a couple of advantages to this for you. First, you might be able to influence how the decision is made giving you a bit of competitive advantage. Second, there is the possibility of being seen as a trusted adviser. This will also help the decision lean towards you. This is all about helping your customer select one vendor or another. When I was in Telecom, we did formal RFPs that asked for proposals. We would get as many as a dozen replies. We would sift through the responses to get to narrow the field to 3 vendors. We would then set up presentations for each of the vendors. After all the presentations, we made a group decision. This gave us a timeline and a process that we could give to vendors and they would know what was happening. We would update them each step along the way.

So, if you don’t have a Sales Process and your prospect doesn’t have a selection process then education is a great way to start. What you do is help them define the decision criteria that are important to them in selecting a vendor. You can use external market surveys (like Gartner Magic Quadrants) or similar tools as guidelines. This means you should be very well prepared to answer a question that the prospect may have and you get to demonstrate your knowledge of them along the way.

By the way, this will help you develop your own Sales Process and improve your product offerings. Think about it. If you are thinking about how your prospects make decisions on how to buy your products, doesn’t it make sense to adjust your products and services to fit the decisions? I often talk about Outside-In thinking and this is exactly what I mean. Put yourself in the role of your prospects and customers and think about what they value. You may find it is different than what you value in the transaction. Outside-In thinking is the best way I know of to build an effective Marketing and Sales process. Know what the value you bring to your customers and tell them that is what you do!
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

 

 

Sonoma County: News and Notes

This November we will be voting on a proposition to legalize Marijuana. I think we all expect that proposition to pass by a wide margin. The question is what does it mean to Sonoma County and the Wine Industry.

I posted a couple of years ago about the Graton Casino. Here we had a facility which by now has had about $1B spent on it. And because people fought it they never thought about what would happen when it was built. Now we have this facility in the county that brings significant numbers of tourists in. This facility has no synergy with the rest of the economy of the county. Maybe we can do better with the Cannabis folks?

How could that work? Well, one would have to assume that one could sell Marijuana as part of the Wine experience. You can imagine that there would be pairings that could be done as part of a higher end experience. This could include food as well. We need to see what kind of connection can be made. Now if I was one of the existing well know large Tasting Rooms I might not do that. But I know that many smaller Wineries struggle to turn a good profit. This pairing could represent a target market for such a Winery.

Do I know this will work? No, I don’t. But I hope to stimulate some thinking by both the Tasting Rooms and the Tour Companies. We can’t have indoor private clubs that allow smoking. But I am not sure that extends to Marijuana because the law was written predating any legalization of Marijuana. I would think it would be possible to have outdoor facilities as well. I am sure we will find ways to work it out. But the point of this is that it has to have high class. Anything that is going to pair with the Wine Business has to be upscale to the point that Wine drinkers will want to go there. So, we are not thinking West County here. Think Healdsburg or Sonoma. Right now what I see are places that are in terrible neighborhoods that will not attract the Wine tourism dollars.

So for everyone who is investing in warehouse space to make grow houses, we need to think about how we can use Marijuana to enhance our Wine Tourism. I don’t want to see heads buried in the sand when it happens. If there is a Wine Entrepreneur, perhaps they can figure out another way or two to make this work. But rest assured we will have a change to deal with, so we might as well make it work for us.

Have a great week!
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

 

 

It’s that Time of Year

That’s right it is time to start thinking about Annual Plans! This will be an exciting and fun-filled experience for all! So, why do so many Businesses operate without one? It always boggles my mind.

I see two problems. First, people really don’t like numbers and avoid their finances as much as possible. This seems silly to me as it is simply a report card on your business. And taking a deeper look a the numbers can provide some valuable insight into how to improve the business. There are plenty of spots in Operating Expense, Cash Flow, and Cost of Goods Sold that can provide solid intelligence. So, many just don’t want to know and the rest are not educated enough.

The other problem is with the development of Key Performance Indicators or KPIs. Here the issue is the plan to move the business forward. So many owners don’t actually think about things in any analytical way, such as why customers buy or are time being spent productively. Given the problems with hiring, one would think that ensuring that everyone was working on the right things and that these things compliment the business strategy that it would be easy to get do. I had a conversation with a customer last week who is very analytical about his own numbers. I asked the following question: What analytics do you give your current customers about your existing relationship? This is very much a subscription business and being able to know, publish, and market statistics about your performance is a great way to differentiate yourself.

On top of that, one can then evaluate the effectiveness and the cost of the firm executing against those numbers. Since businesses need to get more productive every year, these are great things to look at. Those same numbers can be shared in aggregate with prospects to help close new business as well. Then, we can set goals for improving them and plans to make them better. We can measure the effectiveness of those plans and see the impact on the bottom line.

All in all, you can see how this creates a cascade of goodness. You work on important things. These things are important to you and your customers. You measure your effectiveness and your customers can see your results. Your business becomes better and you will be able to see it directly. Doesn’t that sound like the kind of plan you want for your business?

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

 

 

Net Neutrality Friday

Pretty soon the FCC will be getting some new commissioners after the election.  The big change in the past term was the imposition of Title II on Residential Broadband Access.  Anybody notice a difference?  I don’t think so, and I have considered this a big waste of time standing in the way of Universal Broadband Access.  Nothing wrong with Title II.  Just not the biggest issue.

On a more positive note, the FCC has a mixed record on mergers -, especially in cable.  Some have gone through, other’s haven’t. I think Comcast is a bit of a problem as it is the outlier owning significant amounts of content.  Allowing Comcast to get bigger worries me.  The company is by far the largest ISP in the US and has extensive media properties.  I would like to see its growth come from something other than M&A.

On the topic of cable, Adtran bought some EPON assets this week from Commscope.  That is news because Adtran is primarily a telco vendor.  They might be trying to expand into cable and this would give them an edge in.  Cable has been a relatively closed vendor community and has not really accepted telco vendors in the past.  But given the limited growth in telco access, this could be a good hedge for Adtran if it works.  The other thing to ponder is the NG-PON RFP at Verizon.  Calix and Adtran are the front runners and this could be a sign that Adtran is not counting on this deal at all.  Could it mean good news for Calix or is this independent of that decision?  Only time will tell.

I want to go back to the commentary of physical access rules.  This is super important for the 5G builds, especially if we are expecting small cells to be able to boost wireless transmission speeds.  There are 2 problems to solve.  First, where do the antennas get placed?  There are going to be a LOT of them if we are going to significantly change the speed that most of us see.  Secondly, how do wireless companies get bandwidth out to these antennas?  That depends on a lot on where you are going to put them but imagine that you might have one on every corner of a major city.  Then make it denser like say one per street light. And then you have to figure out how to get bandwidth to each of them.  This build is where I see NG-PON technology fitting at least to solve the bandwidth issue.  Now we still have construction challenges, but that is “only money”.

FYI, the EC is facing similar challenges with seeing how all this construction is going to get done by private firms.  The question I want you all to think about is as follows.  A long time ago, roads were sometimes made by private companies and they billed for usage.  Governments realized that the roads stimulated economic growth so started building them.  Are networks not our roads in the future?  Are we sure that we still want network access to be a private concern?

Have a nice weekend!

 

Jim Sackman

Focal Point Business Coaching

Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

 

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

 

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business

 

 

Overcoming Fear in Sales with Preparation

Two weeks ago I posted about how many Business Owners did not want to be associated with Sales. I hope I convinced you that today there is an ethical way of Selling. One of the other objections to selling is that people fear rejection. For many Small Business Owners, they take a lost sale as a rejection of them as a person. This means that they are less likely to want to sell going forward. This is not a great way to succeed, so we need to change that. Remember that customers don’t buy for a myriad of reasons. A competitor might have a better solution for that prospect (or be a personal friend of the prospect). The prospect may not be ready to buy or be unable to buy. You have to remember the sale is not about you, it is about the prospect. Some will and some won’t.

But to help alleviate the fear, even more, there are some proactive steps that a people can take to improve their chances at closing deals. By taking these steps, they will be in greater control of the sales process. This reduces stress and fear as a by-product of the work.

The first preparation is to create a list of objections. Now we need to put price objection to the side for the moment. Everybody gets price objections and we have ways of working on that. If you are down to negotiating price, then all we are talking about is whether the deal is good business for you or not. You want to create a list of 3 to 5 objections, that you hear on a regular basis. Then create 1 or more responses to each of these objections. You want the responses to be natural for you and be complete for the prospect. Remember, objections are a good thing. A silent prospect is unlikely to buy. If they are talking about your product, you have a chance to overcome them and close the business.

The second preparation is to research the prospect and his or her company. The starting point is the company website. There is information about what they care about on the site. On top of that, you can find even more information on the blog, presentations, and social media pages of the company. Now these latter items are sometimes created by 3rd parties, so have lesser value than the website. But don’t stop there. Look into the social media presence of the prospect. You will find out things about what the person is like and what they like. All of this information should allow you to tailor your presentation to the prospect. That customization will show effort and will be rewarded with trust.

The goal here is to help you take control of your sales processes. When you do that, you will relieve your stress and your fear. In turn, you are more likely to close sales. And that is the name of the game.

Have a great day!
Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!

 

 

Sonoma County: News and Notes

This week Santa Rosa enacted its first rent control. This covers a relatively small part of the total number of rental units – about 11,000 out of 78,000. But it does highlight the problem that I have been posting about this year. Sonoma County housing costs are out of control compared to incomes.

The problem with this rent control is that it affects so few and so it won’t actually relieve the problem. On the other hand, it is like a line in the sand was crossed and the folks against rent control are already recruiting to get it repealed. That can not happen before it goes in place on September 29th, but there it is. Battle lines are drawn. Nobody will be happy and yet the actual problem will remain. Pricing will remain too high.

The problem is that the only thing that will reduce prices or at least make increases smaller is to add more housing. Given our current occupancy rates above 96%, this means that adding a few homes here or there is not going to work. We need to add literally 1,000s of units. To get to 90% occupancy, this is over 5,000 units. In Santa Rosa. More if we want to reduce the burden on all of Sonoma County.

What are the impediments? First, regulation. Construction costs and timeframes are greatly increased by the cost of the regulation. This is particularly true in Santa Rosa but is true throughout Sonoma County. On top of that, there are height issues as well (which I will add in below). This means that builders want to maximize the value of construction. And that means, higher end units are preferable.

The second impediment is land. We have significant Green Belt initiatives and work that keep the construction boundaries smaller. We all love how beautiful the county is but do realize that taking land away from construction means an increase in home prices. The most obvious answer would be to build up in Santa Rosa. However, this is not something that is going to fly anytime soon. If we can’t build up and we have to build to a certain size and within specific zones, then we have real limits to what we can do in adding more housing.

The third impediment is transportation. We are a cul de sac. I like to call us the end of civilization in Northern California. (I am not sure the following is true but its close)…I think there are as many people in Santa Rosa as there are along 101 from Santa Rosa to Oregon. On top of that, we have a complete lack of Mass Transit that connects us to the larger employment markets in the East Bay, South Bay, and San Francisco. This is not something the SMART Train will fix. This means that a company in San Jose will have difficulty managing a significant office in Petaluma. That is the reason our tech economy does not grow. When the companies get purchased, most of them move away over time. Unfortunately, the businesses that do stay are those that generally offer lower wages.

And now we have reached full circle. We need more housing to support our local economy. We struggle with where and how to build this housing. We are not honest with ourselves about our situation and our decisions around it. I don’t have the one answer that will fix it all. I am not sure that anybody does. But we need all of us to get to (what I think) is our common goal. We want a county that we can love to live in.

Have a great day!

Jim Sackman
Focal Point Business Coaching
Business Coaching, Executive Training, Sales Training, Marketing

Change Your Business – Change Your Life!

Visit the FocalPoint Norcal Forum – We have many tools for helping your Business!