Kevin Price, Host of the Price of Business on Business Talk 1110 AM KTEK (on Bloomberg’s home in Houston) recently interviewed Ben Hartman. Here’s that interview.
About the interviewee
My name is Ben Hartman, and I am the founder and CEO of Clockwork Coordination, a consulting firm specializing in systematizing growing businesses. I have studied business strategy and management at Grand Valley State University and from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Sloan School of Business. I’ve been an entrepreneur for the past eight years, however my first few businesses failed, which proved to be an incredible teaching experience. Specializing in systems and processes management, I focus on helping business owners systematize their businesses so that they would be able to walk away, but their business will still keep making money. I don’t believe owners should be chained to their businesses; I want to be able to help owners walk away and feel confident doing so.
Tell me about your firm (number of employees, location, type of companies you work with, etc.).
The number of people in the firm includes me, two employees and a virtual assistant. We’re located in Grand Rapids, Michigan, but most of the work we do is done in a virtual setting. Our focus is on not being location-reliant, since this is a field that can be done anywhere. We work with small and mid-sized companies that are seeking to move up to the next level of their development, but are unsure of exactly how to do so. Typically the owner is ready to move on, but doesn’t want to give up the business. They just want to have more time on their hands and spend more time with their loved ones.
What type and size of companies do you have as clients?
We typically work with companies on the smaller end, which gross $500,000 – $1 million in revenue, but we’ve also worked with a few companies of revenues between $1 million to $5 million. We’ve worked in the industrial, technology and service industries with owners who are victims of being “too successful” and cannot manage their company’s growth any more. They need to structure their growth; otherwise their company is going to implode. This is where we come in, helping the owners create a vision for their company that their employees will get behind and create the systems to keep it a growing success.
What comes to mind when you see this topic?
When I see the topic of why relationships matter in the sales process I think of just how crucial it is to build solid relationships with a company. Your goal of selling should be secondary. You need to be tactful enough to determine if your company is even the right match for this prospect – and that requires building a relationship with them. You have to be able to help them with your products and your expertise because they will tell you what you want once they trust you (and you listen). When we’re interviewing business owners, we’re digging deep into their business which is a very personal subject to any business owner. We must be respectful enough to tell them exactly how we can and how we plan to help. This builds a reputation of respect, which gets trust and referrals for your business.
What are the best practices when it comes to this issue?
Building a relationship in the sales process involves asking a lot of good open-ended questions where the customer must give more than one word answers. You must become a detective to spot the root of the problems your customer is facing, not the symptoms. We’re also up front with our customers, telling them that they’re going to have to tell us exactly what is wrong with their business. Ask lots of follow up questions and ask for specific details. The fact that you’re actually listening to your customer will help build rapport, and they will start to trust you. Help guide your customers to the solutions they want for their business and that is when you finally come in. You either help them with your products/services or refer them to someone who can help them if you can’t – that is when the customer will really know they can trust you.