Tag Archives: cottage food producers

Five Steps to Improve Your Sales Process

Early in my sales career, I had the privilege of being under the leadership of Tom Vanyo, a master salesman, motivator, mentor and friend, who said to me one day in the spring of 1984, “If you don't make a major change today, you will be doing the same thing next week, next month and next year.”

Tom had underscored on several occasions the importance of keeping track of my numbers. I typically responded, “What does it matter? I'm already one of your top producers.” I made all the excuses: “I'm too busy. It's more paperwork. I don't have time.”

Here was the bottom line: Did I really want to know? It was too easy to go home at the end of the day, pat myself on the back and say I had a busy day. But busy doing what?

There was something in Tom's tone that day in 1984 that really got my attention. It was a day I will never forget.

I went back into my office and started making some major changes to my sales process. I kept track of every dial, contact, appointment, sale and how many times each day I would ask for a referral. The numbers revealed how little I was actually doing each day. I thought I was really productive, but I wasn't. I got faked out by being busy. My paycheck revealed I was one of Tom's top producers, but my daily numbers told the whole truth.

Over the next year, I made several significant changes, and those changes showed in my results. I doubled my income that year and — what I found interesting — didn't work more hours. I was simply more productive.

You will never know what's working and what's not unless you keep track.

Are the fundamentals of sales the same today as they were in 1984 or even 100 years ago? My answer is yes! I love what Jim Rohn, the great business philosopher, said many years ago, “There are no new basics and fundamentals.” It's so true. The basics of sales have not changed in thousands of years of recorded history.

What has changed is how we connect, educate and engage with our prospects and customers. Years ago, we connected by foot or horseback. Then along came the railroad, then the telegraph and telephone, then the Internet, websites, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and so on.

Selling is a contact sport. In other words, you have to be in the presence of the prospect or customer, but certain principles always apply, whether the connection is by phone, voicemail, email, face-to-face or even through social media.

Do you have a sales process? If you do, and it is documented and honed, it will serve you as you grow.

Here are the five most important steps in a sales process:

Step 1: What is the purpose of this phone call, email, voicemail or meeting? This step establishes the “why.” Sticking to the purpose of a call, meeting or voicemail will keep you on track throughout your presentation.

Step 2: Who is the right person I need to talk with to get the right results? This step identifies the “who” — it will point you to the decision maker. It is important that you are speaking with the right people.

  • How much time do you waste talking with the wrong people?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • Where are they located?

Step 3: What is the game plan for this call or meeting? This step establishes the “how” — preparing for each call or meeting is how you project knowledge, confidence and a professional tone.

  • How often have you found yourself in the middle of a meeting or phone call not prepared?
  • What happens to your confidence?
  • What communication tools are you going to use to connect with your prospect or customer?
  • What days and times during the week are the best times to contact your prospect or customer?
  • What skills have you developed to work though their objections?

Remember this, if you are confident, others will be confident in you.

Step 4: What is the solution for this prospect or customer? This step defines the “what” — key questions will help you identify their problems, which will allow you to recommend the right products and services. So often a customer is not even aware of his problems or is not sure what he wants. It's important to help prospective customers become aware of the problems they may experience without your product or service. 

Step 5: Have I clearly communicated the next step? This step directs the “where” — communicating the next step helps guide the prospect or client to make decisions that serve her well.

  • Is the prospect or customer clear about the next steps that will help her solve her problems?
  • How are you going to ask for her business?

Following these five steps will help you develop a simple, repeatable sales methodology that will take the guesswork out of each call you make or meeting you conduct. You'll be prepared for anything you face, even the tough ones.

What does your list look like?

The California Homemade Food Act And Insuring Home-Based Businesses

When I think about businesses/people working out of their homes, the first picture that comes to mind are people working on their computers — in virtual offices, remote offices, and oftentimes offices outside of the United States.

That is why it came to me as a surprise when Yahoo recently proclaimed all their employees had to “come back to work.” One news line read “work at home and you will be fired.” Clearly this is a change, especially for a high tech company. Marissa Mayer, the president and CEO of Yahoo as of 2013, defends her stance and says it will “separate out the truly productive workers from stay at home slackers who abuse the system.” Needless to say, the news is buzzing about this, so time will tell if she sticks to her guns.

While Yahoo is “going back to the workplace,” more and more people are choosing to work from their home. The current economy has redefined how people cope with the unemployment dilemma, and many businesses encourage staff to work from home to better maximize their production and as a means to better deal with the demands of work and family.

Now home-based bakeries and cooks are getting a new incentive to work from home with the passage of a new law in California. Other states may have or may adopt similar laws. The California Homemade Food Act has created a new category of food producers called “cottage food producers” which will allow people to cook their food items in their kitchens at home. Up until this law was enacted, food producers had to use commercial kitchens. These food producers could include: caterers, suppliers to organic markets or farmers markets, and bakeries that supply local restaurants with breads or desserts.

Not all foods are approved to be cooked out of a home — only foods that are considered to be “safe” fall under this law. Approved items include: baked goods, cookies, coffee, nuts, vinegar, candy, and dried pasta.

“We talked with the different health departments and various scientists, and these products are 99.9% safe,” accords to Mike Gatto, California Assemblyman. The state will require cottage food producers to take a food handling class and pass an exam that is created by the California Department of Public Health.

While the categories of the types of food that can be produced under this law are limited, at this time, it does open opportunities for some homeowners to work from their homes. From the broker/agent standpoint, we have to look more closely at the exposures and determine if the Homeowners Policy will pay for losses these home-based businesses might sustain. Here are some questions we need to ask our insured:

  1. Are they cooking in a kitchen in their dwelling?
  2. Are they cooking in a kitchen they have put in a detached structure?
  3. Have they installed commercial cooking equipment in either their home or other structure?
  4. Are they required and, if so, have they installed approved fire detection and suppression devices for their cooking equipment?
  5. Are they operating the business in their personal names (as they appear on the homeowners policy) or have they formed a business and filed for a business name?
  6. Do they have any employees?
  7. How do they deliver the goods that they cook? In their personal vehicle?
  8. Have they purchased a vehicle in the name of their business to deliver their goods?
  9. Do they have customers come to their home for any reason?
  10. How are they storing their food supplies and finished product?
  11. Do they have a website for their business?
  12. Do they sell product via the website?

These are just a couple of questions in a long list of considerations. The answer to these questions will direct the broker/agent as to how the Homeowners policy should be endorsed, not to mention the concerns relating to the personal auto used for delivery purposes or perhaps a truck purchased in the company name.

While the new law creates new opportunities for the home-based business, it also adds a responsibility to all of us in the insurance field to identify risk and suggest creative solutions. The insurance community center conducted a two hour class on insuring businesses operating out of a home in January of 2013. That archived webinar is available to all Insurance Community University members and the new Business in the Home audio presentation is now available in the Insurance Community University Library.

Sign up for classes today. Either join the University for one low price for the entire agency for all classes and products … or enroll in individual classes. Click here and be ready to learn!