The space between

Andy J. Birol isn’t a SBN Magazine columnist just because he’s lucky. He knows about growing businesses, retaining customers, and he knows selling. After all, he sold us on writing a monthly column — and we’re tough customers.

Birol has logged some impressive success stories over his 24 years in business and five years as a consultant from companies as small as Diamond Tool and Die in Euclid to as large as IBM. He’s coached and advised manufacturers, attorneys, marketing companies, software developers and computer network installers. He likes to describe what he does for clients in cinematic terms.

“I’m like Robert Duvall in ‘The Godfather,'” he says. “Marlon Brando, who was like the business owner, didn’t do anything without consulting the consiglieri, the Duvall character. That’s me.”

Birol’s main expertise is his PACER process, which stands for Process for Acquiring Customers and Enhancing Retention. He was so fond of the phrase that he owns the copyright and called his firm PACER Associates until last November when he changed it to Birol Growth Consulting.

“My business grew beyond the PACER process,” he says. “My corporate identity needed to reflect that.”

Birol’s firm name change is the same kind of back-to-basics shift that he sees as so necessary for many companies struggling during the recession. Technology, he says, has gotten in the way of that transition.

“Too many companies who prefer to stay detached from their marketplaces found technology to be an excellent crutch to help them do that,” Birol says. “It’s allowed them to put distance between them and the customer.”

Raze the walls

Companies are too dependent on Web sites and marketing materials to help sales reps educate the potential customer, Birol says. Repeat customers are built through face-to-face meetings where you and your representatives try to understand the prospects’ needs.

“I am continually stunned by the level of mediocrity in how most companies choose to run their sales and marketing and customer service,” he says. “Companies have gotten fairly good at managing their costs, what they have neglected is to effectively manage their efforts to grow.”

Be special

Birol servicemarked the phrase, “Best and Highest Use,” which you have no doubt seen in his column. It’s another way of saying “do what you’re good at and what you like doing.” Likewise, focus on your target market, make it smaller, and grab more of it.

“If you could sell all the left-handed chiropractors in Geauga County, you’d probably be better of than trying to target every professional services provider in the Northeast Ohio,” Birol says. “If anybody can use your service then you can’t be special to anybody.”

Pay attention

Make that follow-up phone call. Tell your sales reps to send Thank You notes, and it wouldn’t hurt for you to write a couple. If your customer thinks you’re not paying attention and their business isn’t valued, watch out.

“It’s back to basics,” Birol says. “Eliminate the sloppiness.”

Birol Growth Consulting