Is proactive prospecting a lost art? Whether it is or not, how do you stay in touch with that side of your business?
After all, without leads, your business won’t have the customers or workforce to fulfill contracts and will eventually die out. So how do you and your sales team regard this piece of the business puzzle?
My friend and special podcast guest Miles Kaplanides is back for the second part of our conversation. In this episode of the Contractor’s Daughter podcast, we dive into staying focused on proactively prospecting for your business growth. You’ll learn some of Miles’ insights on selling, association participation for prospecting and business development, and so much more!
1:41 – Why Miles is worried about proactive prospecting becoming a dying art
4:45 – Why lead opportunities are all around you
8:34 – Good daily/weekly prospecting habits to have
10:27 – How association is the key to Miles’s successful business development
13:22 – How association can help with workforce prospection and retention
17:17 – Why prospecting can be fun (and how intentionality helps keep it that way)
Mentioned In Is Proactive Prospecting Dead For Dealers and Contractors? with Miles Kaplanides
Quotes From This Episode
“Where do leads come from? They’re all around us if people would actually look.” – Miles Kaplanides
“Get to know people– understand what they do and who you can call when you have a question or need something.” – Miles Kaplanides
“Think about prospecting as fun. There are days you’ll definitely feel better about it than others, but I always tell myself these conversations always end up positive.” – Jeani Ringkob
More Episodes of The Contractor’s Daughter Podcast You’ll Find Helpful
Jeani Ringkob: Welcome to The Contractor's Daughter, your go-to podcast for eliminating random acts of strategy and marketing in your highway construction business. Hello, friends. I'm your host, Jeani Ringkob. I'm a third-generation asphalt contractor and an absolute brand strategy and marketing geek.
Welcome to The Contractor's Daughter. I'm your host, Jeani Ringkob. Today, we're having another conversation with a good friend of mine, Miles Kaplanides. He has got tons of experience in the sales arena in our industry. There are tons of incredible salespeople in our industry. It's one of the things I love about it. I feel like I was fortunate at a young age to have mentors that guided me, were really just in the car with me, at the table with me, at the desk with me actually having these conversations. I was learning straight from them and it was incredible.
It's sometimes hard today to replicate that situation. I love that he was really willing to open up. I talked too about what it's like to be the business owner who's executing and doing stuff and making sure that I stay in touch with that proactive prospecting piece of my business. How do you think about that for your business and for your sales team? How are they staying focused on proactively prospecting and growing the business? Miles is going to share some great insights into that. Let's dive right in.
I grew up sales, I do my own sales, and I do the deliverables. Now it's like there's a lot going on in my world. One of the things I've gotten back to is that I need to be a student of selling. Because when you're leaving all the different pieces, you lose sight of that sometimes.
That's one of the reasons I know you send me great information all the time, people you follow, and I know that you're passionate about proactive selling and prospecting. I know being from the marketing side, which we're always trying to generate leads and inbound, but I think even then, you still have to turn that background. Even if you see leads, sometimes they don't know what they want.
They're unaware they have the problem. They're unaware your solution exists. They're busy, all of those kinds of things. I want to talk to somebody who is super passionate about proactive prospecting. Is it a lost art? How do we do it and do it right?
Miles Kaplanides: Well, I will tell you, I don't know if it’s a lost art or not. I'm worried it's a lost art. What I see today, and it's maybe just because of the market we've been in, this selling is not just answering the phone when people need something to get on a call but the phone has been ringing so dang much lately for the last few years, which we never would have guessed that through COVID that we've got all these new sales reps and they're doing great, but they've never been through a recession.
They've never been through “How do I show value when this guy really doesn't want to buy something today, but he needs to? How do I explain this to him?” I hear this a lot. “Oh, well, that guy doesn't want to convert the rental because he doesn't want the commitment or he doesn't want the payment” but they never go for, actually go talk to him, or even show him how it could benefit them to actually convert a rental to a sale.
Or why would you want to do a lease rather than a rental purchase? Or why would you do an installment loan over a lease? Those conversations, I've noticed they're not existing as much as they once did. I'm speaking from my experience from what I see every day.
I put out something a few months ago about a fair market value lease and I got replied, “What's that?” To me, that's where I get worried about the proactive selling being a dying art because I started in the mortgage industry back in, I don't even want to say how long ago, but if you didn't know how to prospect, if you didn't know how to get leads, and if you didn't know how to get referrals, you're dead, and you didn't make any money.
That's where this whole thing started. To me, every day is a day where you spend time looking for those leads. Now, where do those leads come from? They're all around us if people would actually look. In my world, there are a lot of gifts, I call them gifts to the guys, there are gifts with stuff that our manufacturer gives us. There are gifts where a finance company has given us. There are gifts in our service department that they give us. But if you don't look for them and understand what they are, you're not going to capitalize on those gifts.
What I mean by gifts is opportunities to go talk to some people about something. I was actually at a conference earlier this year for my manufacturer's finance company. It showed a way that they had three loaders on a lease, they were over hours on them and I walked through a situation where I took those in on trade, gave them three new ones, spun over the preventative maintenance contract, the interest rate went up from 0% to 3% at the time, but it's still saved them $130,000 over the amortization of the lease.
Okay, that's where I could sell. That shows the [inaudible] customer on, “Hey, you're about to be over the sink. If they're over on a lease, it's going to cost them lots and lots of money for every hour you use it. This is a way for them to save the money.” That's the solution to a problem that the customer has. They don't even realize they have the problem yet. We go find a way to help their business be more profitable. To me, the whole crux is you see something, you can go talk to them about their future.
If you know a customer has a machine that he's had for three and a half years, wow, well, what are the reasons why would you want to talk to them? One, it’s got a lot of hours probably [inaudible] get a new one because [inaudible] is going away. Two, probably is depreciated out on his balance sheet and taxes he has had. I mean everybody today still plays a tax game. But talk about their tax benefit of buying the next piece of equipment, do you understand what Section 179 is? Do you understand what bonus depreciation is?
Those are terms that take maybe, maybe you need to go talk to them a little bit, which is honestly about a 30-minute conversation. If you understand those two things, it can help a lot at least in construction now. With marketing and stuff, it's probably a little different. But there are so many things that will get you an opportunity to generate something if you just take the time to look.
Jeani Ringkob: Right. I think if you think about the marriage of sales and marketing, those are private conversations if you're asking your team to prospect that they can have over and over and over again on any one of those that you mentioned.
Creating a guide, bullet point thing that gives them that excuse like half the conversation, “Hey, I have a resource and I can talk you through the resource.” It shouldn't always just send a resource but it gives you a reason to say, “I have something in writing. It's visual, we're covering different modalities.” It gives me the excuse to have a conversation with you. I think it gives that salesperson a little bit of comfort to maybe have something in hand but also have an obvious value add that you're giving right away.
Miles Kaplanides: Absolutely. I mean, obviously, you gotta practice a little bit and before you go talk to the customer, you better honestly practice a little bit before you see that customer because if you're not ready, you're going to come across it but you don't know [inaudible].
Jeani Ringkob: Right. If you were talking to any salesperson, what do you think are some good debut or weekly prospecting habits that salespeople should have?
Miles Kaplanides: I'm going to keep this probably in my industry. Number one, look at your service department. Look and see what's in your shop and see what's broken. That is one of the easiest things you can always do because there's a lot of money getting into that piece of equipment right there. One, they have multiple [inaudible] so that's where I would start.
Number two, obviously, your rentals are probably one of the biggest things they're renting stuff for it for a while and what I find is a lot of sales reps read stuff but then they'll always try and do a soft conversion [inaudible] just the customer say, “I’m not ready to convert,” and it's accepted. Well, you got to dig into it a little bit. You got to understand how does it affect their cash flow? What can you do to [inaudible] them? How can it affect your taxes? Get into more than just a transaction. It's more than just the transaction of “Hey, I’m converting this loader because you've got 10 months [inaudible].”
Jeani Ringkob: Right. That first objection is never the real objection. It's always something else.
Miles Kaplanides: Yeah, I mean, it's no, which means probably not now, or I don't have time right now to talk about it. The other part is that you're going to talk to them without a solution. If you're going to provide a solution to the customer on “Hey, I can convert this for you,” or “I can do this for you, and here's what it will do for you for the next X amount of time. I can save you $100,000. I can do this, that or the other. This is how it will benefit you,” don't just accept the no on face value.
There are a lot of other items out there when it comes to reporting with who's bought what, who's done what. One of my biggest things I look at and people ask how have I grown my business, what it is, and how have I become so successful in business development, it's the association. Get to know people. Get to understand what they do and who can you call when you have a question or you need something.
There are many associations I work with and I'm willing to be a part of because of the fact that that's how you do what you do. That's how you grow a business. That's how you get people to know who you are, and be able to trust you to do the job that you're supposed to be doing.
Jeani Ringkob: I think being a part of those and being active in those gives you credibility. They see you in a place where they're already comfortable, they have peers they're comfortable with. It's a good place. I know for a lot of us, I'm on committees and associations, I speak at events, I provide workshops for associations, actually some associations that are clients, doing projects on behalf of their members, so all kinds of stuff, and they're just great partnerships and they turn into really great friends that know your business that tell you, they can almost direct you like, “This is who you need to meet.” Sort of being around and being seen at those, you just can't stress it enough.
Miles Kaplanides: Exactly. I think one of my biggest successes just honestly as community involvement as well, is being involved with community events, with charities, and giving back to the community. I remember we were in a golf tournament, and I had a friend of mine who's an investment banker. He's like, “You guys are sponsoring everything.”
But if you looked at what was happening, those sponsorships where we could see the return on the investment of sponsorships with people coming to us, people calling me or my sales reps, or whatever, because we're engaging in their children's school, the FFA, the 4-H Program, or the construction design program at the local college. All those things make a difference.
I remember I had the college’s football team [inaudible] want a sponsorship and I said, “No, I'm not going to do that.” But then I went and sponsored their construction program, their equine program, and their FFA program. Those programs are more of what I wanted to focus on to benefit. I wanted them to benefit from our sponsorship, but also I knew that there would be a return on that sponsorship in the future from the people that saw that sponsorship.
Jeani Ringkob: Right. I think being strategic about those things too. Some of those things you mentioned, those are the same circles where you may have contractor ownership where people in these industries are going to see equipment, [inaudible], construction, all of it but also we just talked about before we really got into the episode, we were talking about workforce, as so many of us are, those are really great places to be showing up. I feel like you get a double whammy there because you're also looking at young people, getting in front of them, and sparking some ideas about potential careers.
Miles Kaplanides: One of the most exciting things I've gotten to do was one of my son's local high school, they have a geometry class called Geometry Construction where they build a house [inaudible], and I went to go and I wanted to sponsor that and it didn't work out but that got me hooked up with Habitat for Humanity.
That's amazing because that got me hooked up with Boys & Girls Clubs, which got me hooked up with something else. It just blossomed into this beautiful network of people that I knew and that got it where everybody started realizing that we were really involved in [inaudible], but the most exciting thing about is it got me hooked in with talking to kids who have had troubled backgrounds by showing them how there is a career for them, even though they've had a tough beginning of their life.
That's probably one of my favorite things to do is talk to kids about “You know what, there are a lot of opportunities out there for you and you don't have to go to a four-year school. You don't have to have a perfect life. But you can make a great life for yourself if you just understand that there are these doors open before you.”
Jeani Ringkob: Right, right, and how do you get there? How do you find them? I think a lot of those kids are really eager, I was really fortunate, it was over a year ago, I mean, now I work with a lot of our clients in the workforce side of their businesses and really internalizing that solution for them but this started with a giant project with Texas and we surveyed and interviewed all the member employees.
Interviews were the best part. These kids, they just glowed when they talked about like they had no idea, I mean, these kids were like they started with a shovel and now they're in a lab. “I didn't go to school. I never thought I could do this and I have a family and I have this great career.” They were so excited about that, and doing the research, especially the survey part, one of the things that we saw, especially that younger generations want is they want you to paint a picture for them.
They're not afraid to start somewhere but they want to know how they're going to get somewhere else. I think that's a big piece for recruitment, but it's a huge piece for retention as well. I know we're talking about venue prospecting can be prospecting for team members, employees, as well.
Miles Kaplanides: That's the whole thing is that just social media and getting people on social media, it's funny, I had somebody I connected with. I saw somebody on LinkedIn looking for a job. I mentioned, “Hey, look at our webpage. We've got job openings,” next thing I know, she's hired.
Jeani Ringkob: Oh, my gosh.
Miles Kaplanides: Yeah, and so it's real.
Jeani Ringkob: It's so real.
Miles Kaplanides: You never know who you're going to meet and how it's going to benefit them or you. I mean, to me, that's just the drive every day of growing my business to grow my network is you never know when you're going to need that person, they need you, or something of that effect.
Jeani Ringkob: Yeah, I love it. I love wrapping it right there because think about prospecting, it can be fun. Think about it as it can be fun. There are days that you’ll definitely feel better about it than others, but I always tell myself that these conversations always end up positive.
Even if that one end goal isn't met yet, it's probably progress, you've met somebody knew. You might really be surprised by how many people need you to call them that day or need you to send that email, that DM, or whatever it is. They didn't even know they needed to hear from you. Thank goodness that you were having that mindset, building that network, and reaching out.
Miles Kaplanides: It’s funny, a coworker of mine that works for another dealer called me last night and we're talking for a while and he's like, “Well, you're doing a good job in advices because everybody knows who you are.” He said, “You wouldn't believe how many people say, ‘Oh, yeah, I know Miles and we’re talking to him.’”
It was such a great compliment because I'm two years in on this job and like, “Am I getting where I want to go?” and it's like, “Okay, you just made my day.” Every day, I want to make one new content, I want to meet one person. You know CONEXPO, right?
Jeani Ringkob: Yes.
Miles Kaplanides: People will be asking me, “Why didn't you go?” I'm like, “Because that's not where my ROI is.” For me to go waste time in Vegas, which I hate Vegas, I want to go see all the stuff but it's like, I'm really a homebody anyway, I'm not a partygoer. I don't want to go to Vegas, the blinky lights, and all that stuff. I want to be home with my wife and kids, but I can make better context by doing what we're doing, [inaudible] going to CONEXPO. To me, CONEXPO is just a place for people to go, yeah, [inaudible] machines was an excuse for people to go get stupid [inaudible] the next morning.
You've been there. In 23 years, I've never been there and I don't want to go. I don't have any desire to go. But I've seen it. I've heard stories about and I hear stories of what and I'm thinking, “What the hell are you thinking? You got to do all that stuff.”
Jeani Ringkob: Well, I think being older and wiser now, now when I go and I think we just did this Conference Success Series, now we're doing workshops on it, but I think we all reach that point in our careers or if you're a business owner that you're like, “I know there's value there but I'm starting to question it. I'm starting to wonder how do I measure it,” I think these things can be valuable but you have to be really intentional about making them valuable.
That's hard. That takes work to really be intentional. Start at the top of your company and say, “We're going here, but we're not going here,” and you can't say yes to all of them. You can't say yes to everybody on your team, to all of them. You have to figure out what are the objectives. Are the right people going to be there?
I did a stint in the agricultural commodities trading industry. My husband is in agriculture. We had an ag-commodities business. They do conferences completely different. Their big international fertilizer conference, they go and they rent suites, and all day long, every 30 minutes, it's like rotating meetings. You're either going to somebody else's suite or they're coming to yours.
Our admin staff would spend months preparing binders for our sales team of who they were meeting, what the objective was for each meeting, a brief background on everybody that was going to be in that meeting, room for notes. I can't tell you, if you were to talk about serious opportunity generation, but they also didn't have tradeshow floors, all of that stuff going on.
It was seriously in business development, [inaudible] it and I remember it blew my mind when I first experienced it. But I tried to take a little bit of that and I'm speaking at a lot of events, which is super great for me, but when I'm not speaking, I try to borrow a little bit of that and be really strategic and actually plan meetings that I know what I want to come out of those meetings beforehand because that's the only way that it makes the rest of the time really worth it for me.
Miles Kaplanides: I've always believed that if you don't have a reason to have the meeting, don’t have a meeting. If you have that goal like you just said, don't do it.
Jeani Ringkob: Right. Even if you think that it's adding to your network, going back to the prospecting, that's fine. Somebody said to me the other day, when they set a meeting, they want to at least be confident enough that they're going to develop a client or a key introduction partner. I thought that was such a great way and a good mindset to go into a conversation with somebody.
Miles Kaplanides: That's very well put. I mean that should be the objective [inaudible] someone you're doing business well with Jeani. That's cool.
Jeani Ringkob: Awesome.
Thank you so much. I hope you enjoyed that conversation. I know I did. I've been really intentional this last year about really staying accountable and building processes and systems around proactively prospecting in our businesses. In my business in particular, we've actually added some key people to help support that. But I always want to stay in touch with that myself as the one that really is out there at the events, building the relationships, and I love that piece.
Really having somebody that's constantly reminding me, giving me tips, and reminding me how exciting it can be and how good it can feel to proactively prospect in our businesses. I hope you enjoyed this conversation as well. If you are thinking about how do I integrate sales and marketing with each other to make them each more effective in my business, that's a great conversation and I'd love to have it with you.
Be sure that you get on my calendar. I always love seeing a name of somebody on my calendar that I've met online, I've met at an event, we know from past industry relationships, or somebody brand new. If you have questions about that, I think it's really important that we blur that line between sales and marketing. I'd love to talk to you about your business, what you're doing there, how you're going to capture more market share, and how your marketing can support your sales and your sales can in turn also really make your marketing more effective.
Get on my calendar, you can always grab that link in the show notes, but also visit our website. We've got tons of resources and a quick link for you to get on my calendar. That's at storybuilt.marketing. Can't wait to have you on that calendar.
Thank you so much for joining us for this episode of The Contractor's Daughter. If you liked what you heard, be sure to subscribe and review. But most of all, share this with all of your friends, partners, and customers in the highway construction business. Thank you for building the infrastructure that we all rely on.
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