Cash Flow Exclusive / September 2015

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1 Ralf Bieler Co-Founder, President, CEO Cash Flow Exclusive, LLC My 2 Cents on The Best Zero-Cost Strategy to Improve Your Business To achieve better business results you don t necessarily need to have deep pockets and invest a small fortune in the latest technology, more sales people, or expansive advertising. There are other things you can do yourself today to take your business from blah to blazing. A cross most industries with highly fragmented and often saturated markets, products and services often struggle more and more to differentiate themselves on objective quality criteria. Which credit card is best? Which insurance has the best coverage? Which pain medication is the most effective? Which car is the safest? Which fast food has the healthiest products? Which detergent provides the whitest white? Who knows, and who can actually tell, when they all claim to be number one? In the cash flow business, these objective quality criteria are those rational product or program features that are usually discussed, negotiated, and easily defined in the offers, term sheets, proposals, and contract documents. THE COST OF FACTORING IS MORE THAN JUST A SIMPLE FACTORING FEE OR DISCOUNT RATE Yet, if you think about it, the result or end benefit to the client is always the same. Regardless of program or provider, they all

2 accelerate cash flow by providing access to future income more quickly. Let s examine some of those objective although often debated and highly contentious quality criteria more closely. Take factoring for example, and look at the cost of factoring. THE TOTAL COSTS OF FACTORING TO A CLIENT ARE GENERALLY RELATIVELY SIMILAR ACROSS THE BOARD Of course, the cost of factoring is more than just a simple factoring fee or discount rate. However, at any given level of monthly or annual factoring volume, the total costs of factoring to a client are generally relatively similar across the board. However, they are often just packaged or marketed differently. And what often looks like a real gem at the start may turn out to be nothing but a big chunk of fool s gold in the end. An initial low factoring discount rate might come with a minimum $-volume that needs to be factored each month, quarter, or year (and paid for, whether realized or not) Floating days, i.e., days between when payments (e.g. checks) are received by the factor and when they are actually recognized (i.e., credited to his bank account) might be added, which, in turn can increase the factoring fee A termed contract might carry hefty penalties when trying to get out of it prematurely despite a perfectly valid reason Various administrative fees and charges for this and that might be added that drive the total cost of factoring much higher than what the initial low discount rate would have had you believe Part of the expected high advance may actually be used (and withheld) to cover the anticipated factoring fee and/or special reserves that may be required. THE ATTRACTIVE LOW DISCOUNT AND HIGH ADVANCE RATE MAY TURN OUT TO BE NOTHING BUT A POTEMKIN VILLAGE Plenty of other revenue generating devices can easily be added to pad any factoring contract. However, the point is that when all is said and done (i.e., proposal accepted and contract executed), the attractive low discount and high advance rate may turn out to be nothing but a Potemkin village actually costing the client a lot more than what he/she was led to believe initially.

3 Of course, there is always something that someone else will sell at a lower price. However, it is equally true that buying purely on price is often a costly mistake, since the lowest costs or in this case, the lowest discount rate are hardly ever the best value. And frankly, sometimes they are not even good value. CUTTING COSTS OFTEN GOES HAND IN HAND WITH SACRIFICING EITHER PRODUCT QUALITY OR SERVICE (OR BOTH) In the end, the cost of factoring alone or worse, the discount rate alone is really not a good differentiator between Factors. Think about it! Extremely low prices (and rates) also require extremely low cost, and when companies start cutting costs below a reasonable level just to offer the lowest prices (rates), they ll often find themselves facing a serious dilemma at some point. Cutting costs (for an expected short-term competitive edge by touting low rate ) often goes hand in hand with sacrificing either product quality or service (or both) at the same time. So, if a low rate is not the most relevant and strongest differentiator, how do prospects and clients decide and select one factor over another? If they can get money from different factors at very similar conditions when it comes to total cost of factoring, why do they still feel more comfortable working with one and not another? What are educated prospects and clients really looking for in a financing partner? Integrity A high level of expertise and experience in their business sector A high quality product embedded in a nored-tape process A trusting, personal relationship (as opposed to being just an account number) Service excellence Of course, there are different variables that may play a more or less important role depending on who s answering the question. Some people will certainly argue that there should be more variables on this list, and that s a fair point. However, ultimately, the ones above are simply the most important criteria in any people-driven business. If you can provide them, you already have a very strong marketing platform at your disposal. If you stick with them, you will build a stellar image and reputation, earn respect and trust, and turn on a constant flow of

4 referrals. And your customer retention rate will be high, too. WHEN IT COMES TO SERVICE, THERE SEEM TO BE QUITE SOME DIFFERENT IDEAS OF WHAT EXCELLENCE REALLY MEANS Of course, expertise and experience come with time, but we all know what constitutes integrity. We can all tell a good quality product from a lemon, a no-red-tape process from a stifling bureaucracy, and we all have our own personal ways of creating strong relationships. However, when it comes to service, there seem to be quite some different ideas of what excellence really means. Or perhaps it s just not considered important enough and worth the extra effort? But in case you want to enhance your business and commit to service excellence but don t know where to start or how to go about it, here are my top 10 suggestions in no particular order. You can start implementing these relatively simple ideas today without adding any dollars to your marketing budget or beefing up your expense account: 1) Manage expectations. Say what you do, and do what you say (on or ahead of time and in full). 2) Take responsibility and be accountable for everything you promise and deliver. Forget finger pointing, lame excuses, and long-winded explanations if something goes wrong. Just own it, take charge, fix it, and move forward. 3) If you err, try to err on the side of conservatism. With anything you promise or do, it s always better to underpromise and over-deliver than vice versa. 4) Rise above the norm. Aim for customer delight, not just satisfaction. Satisfaction is so 20th century and what everybody else aims for. Since satisfaction has become the new norm (or at least the new mantra), it s not sufficient anymore to stand out and gain a competitive edge. You don t win a race by ending up in a tie. You ve got to be at least one step ahead of your competition to win the prize. 5) Avoid nasty surprises. No business likes surprises (positive ones may be acceptable in some cases). Business people look for reliability. They like to be able to predict things.

5 If you or your actions and their results are unpredictable, you re quickly considered a loose cannon. 6) Be proactive. Don t wait until something has happened and react. Instead, make it happen or prevent it from happening if that is the desired result. Initiative and action are typically more highly regarded than reaction and prevention is always better than cure. 7) Go out of your way for your clients and prospects, whenever you can achieve something important to them. Just confirm before that it really is important, i.e., don t just assume that something is or is not important to your prospect or client just because it might or might not be important to you. When you actually do achieve something of real importance to your prospect or client, this is when you score the big points. 8) Become a respected partner to your clients and prospects. Listen to them and provide your honest opinion. But never do the latter without having done the former. Still, many people believe the client is always right and they would never dare to voice a different opinion or disagree or tell them the truth if the truth might be uncomfortable. Unfortunately, these folks are not only missing the point but perhaps another great opportunity to score the big points. LEARN TO SAY NO, WHEN NO IS THE RIGHT ANSWER It s a simple fact: Even prospects and clients are completely wrong sometimes. However, if nobody tells them, they will make costly mistakes just as you, I, and everyone else would, too. In the end, it never pays off to be the proverbial yes-man (or woman). If you can help prevent your prospect or client from making a mistake, it is always better to call things as you see them. And learn to say no, when no is the right answer. You ll become a much more respected partner, and you will add a lot more value to the service you provide. 9) This is of utmost importance: Always walk in your prospect s and client s boots for a while. See, analyze, and evaluate everything from their perspective, not yours. Ask yourself What would I want, if I were in his/her position? Be empathetic!

6 10) Finally, always put your prospect s and client s goals and objectives ahead of yours. If you focus on achieving their objectives, you will find that you will achieve yours as well. It doesn t work the other way around. Remember, Sales follow service. It doesn t work the other way around. Not only do your clients deserve great service right from the start, but you will also have one of the most relevant and important differentiators in business. So make it as easy and desirable as possible for your prospects and clients to work with you. If you adopt any or all of these suggestions, you will soon enjoy more marketing success, a higher prospect-client conversion, and better business results than ever before. Yet, it comes at no additional cost to you. Just a little shift in attitude and behavior makes all the difference, takes you straight to your client s heart, and your business to a higher level. And since it won t cost you a dime, why not try it for a while, and see how it goes? You have nothing to lose but an opportunity To your success, Ralf Bieler Co-Founder, President, Chief Executive Officer Cash Flow Exclusive, LLC

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