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Someone put a listing of the 10 Commandments of Selling on my desk.  I thought it provided some great talking points.  I present it here for your review with my comments.

  1. Thou shall not take the competition’s name in vain.  What is there to gain from talking about the competition?  You are immediately suspect when you speak badly about them.  Resist the urge to say “we blow XYZ Company away”, instead sell features and benefits.  Don’t be afraid to compare and contrast your product/service with the competition.  Use techniques of comparative advantage to spotlight your strengths without slamming the competition.
  2. Thou shall not work with too few customers and prospects to obtain thy goals or desired income.  We’ve said it before and I guess we’re about to say it again…whenever you depend on a specific deal to obtain, it probably won’t.  Another way of stating the case, never measure your sales efforts, you invariably will do too little.
  3. Thou shall not procrastinate.  Woe unto thee who procrastinates.  The funny thing about opportunity is how fleeting it is.  While you’re thinking about what needs to happen, circumstances are occurring that will likely negate your future actions.  Moral of the story, early action is often the most effective.
  4. Thou shall always prospect- even during good times.  Particularly now, when the general economy has been so good, for so long, some of us may have forgotten the importance of prospecting early, often and most importantly- regularly.  Now, more than ever is the time you should be religiously reading your “Facts” reports and identifying future prospects and opportunities.
  5. Thou shall not ignore the importance of building trust and respect and of being liked by the clients.  Our mantra is “people buy because they believe you believe in your product/service”.  Bring your prospects to the point of their believing in you and the sale is 80% done.  It may not be so much about liking you as it is a high confidence level in you and your company.  Remember the old adage- reputations made over a lifetime are lost in an instant.  Value your hard-won good reputation over almost everything else.
  6. Thou shall not think only of today.  Remember that Noah built the ark before it was raining.  Planning, planning, and planning.  No one should expect, once they get it right, that it will stay that way.  Change is an overriding constant we face; devote regular monthly or quarterly time to thinking about tomorrow.  Know with the certainty of absolute faith that you will have to modify, adapt and change to meet a different challenge tomorrow.
  7. Thou shall not talk too much on sales calls.  God gave thee two ears and one mouth as a reminder to listen twice as much as thou speak.  Remember the female lead in the movie Jerry McGuire?  I can’t remember the actresses name but there was a line where Jerry is trying to make up with her, twenty minutes into his supplication speech she says “you had me at hello”.  And so it is with a lot of selling.  Know when to shut-up!
  8. Thou shall not depend on luck to be successful.  Selling is hard work.  For a lot of reasons you don’t want to rely on luck being a lady.  Often the luckiest people in the business turn out to be the hardest working.  Draw your own conclusions.
  9. Thou shall not accept excuses and stalling techniques by clients who are procrastinating about making appropriate decisions.  Do not stop asking the difficult questions when moving the business forward.  Time is everything in sales.  The amount of time you have, your timing and your prospects timing all must be made to come together to meet your needs, the company’s needs and your prospects needs.  Always remember that time is finite; don’t wait for a favorable alignment of the stars that may never come!
  10. Thou shall not blame others for thine own lack of results.  We are the owners of our own success/ failure.  Don’t blame others.  We revel in our successes; can we claim any less ownership in our failures?

Good Selling!

Allan Feifer is the President of DEC International. Allan started DEC more than 35 years ago and has background in the process and construction industries as well as many years as a recognized authority on construction trends and analysis. Allan lives in Florida with his wife and two cats. You can reach him at allanf@dec-international.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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How many of my readers out there have lost business on price alone? Everything you read says “Sell Value.” Unfortunately, I have to wonder if our customers are reading those very same books. It would seem to be self-evident that when the lowest quoted price is the only factor considered; frequently, that price does not equal the final total cost. Yet, over and over we see companies, large and small put their subs and suppliers through the price ringer, frequently with the knowledge that there’s not enough money in the final price to provide the product/service in a professional manner, on time and to back it up afterwards.

Whack-A-Mole was an arcade game with the single requirement of beating to death a plastic representation of a mole over the head with a mallet to get him to go back in his hole. The same game today is played by the most levels of the construction industry today in its quest to get the lowest possible initial number on the Purchase Order, or even worse, to beat another supplier or sub over the head with that last price someone leveraged out of the first poor sucker. In the context of buying and selling your products and services, Whack-A-Mole can be described as the destructive action by one company, bent on destroying another. This only works in really bad markets like the one we live and work in at present. A wonderful example of Whack-A-Mole on steroids is the way government is “driving down the cost of Medicare.” Of the several ways they could do it; raise premiums, throw more money into the pot, restrict care or pay less to providers, the government chose to play Whack-A-Mole with the providers and now pays them only 80% of what private insurers do and is on the way down to paying only 60%. The provider’s choice is simple; play and lose money or opt out of the largest pool of customers that exist. How long will that work before so many providers opting out that the system simply collapses? Now, this blog is not about whacking the government, but it goes to show that the game of Whack-A-Mole depends on at least one weaker player in the game to work, and right now providers are politically weakest with seniors and the government holding most of the cards.

Let’s now get back to the two of us. It goes without saying that none of us want to be that weak player with a mallet hanging over our heads and the expectation of being that next mole to be whacked. In many years of one-on-one and group conversations, I continue to be amazed at the sheer number of sales professionals who feel powerless when it comes to negotiation. All of us have heard that animals can smell fear; the same goes for humans as well. There are two different kinds of situations we will likely face in a typical sales presentation:

  • Individuals we talk to that have the power to make their own decisions
  • Corporate types that take their instruction from on high

The way you approach each one is different because you need to talk to someone you can solve a problem for, not some well-intentioned but powerless serf who is just carrying out party orders and does not want to become that next mole about to be whacked. Rule number 27 applies here.

Only the brave few will go to bat for a stranger.

Most will do what is expected of them rather than to break new ground; even when they know you are correct. No matter how good you are at your job, there are limits to your power and influence. When you’ve reached that limit with someone that’s it. However, that limit is reached much earlier when the person you are talking to is either powerless themselves or is unwilling to step outside their comfort zone. Further, your ability to influence events drops precipitously, the farther away from the decision making process you are. The takeaway I want you to take to heart is that you must always endeavor to sell the actual decision maker, no matter how many toes you feel you are stepping on. If you can enlist an underling in supporting you, so much the better. But remember, it’s always easier to be pushed downward in an organization, instead of being pushed up. For both political reasons and human nature in general, underlings will tend to block your upward movement. When you receive an unfavorable result at a lower level, it is frequently difficult, if not impossible, to move up the food chain. If nothing else, you are moving up the chain in a damaged condition and behind the 8 ball situation. Bosses don’t like to overrule their reports any more than staff likes you to go over their head. Start at the top and relieve yourself of a lot of pain. The reception you receive from someone who is worried about things you can help him/her with vs. the person who is just trying to do a good job and hold onto it can be dramatically different. It is up to you to size up the situation and zero in on the individual feeling the pain. Bottom line: If you can’t solve a problem, what is it that you are offering that is going to be compelling to your prospect. Find a way to be compelling to the person who is most likely to be able to understand and accept your message. Otherwise...

Whack. Whack. Whack.

Good Selling!

Allan Feifer is the President of DEC International. Allan started DEC more than 35 years ago and has background in the process and construction industries as well as many years as a recognized authority on construction trends and analysis. Allan lives in Florida with his wife and two cats. You can reach him at allanf@dec-international.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Even in downturns, people do much the same thing, just maybe a little less expensively. And, like death and taxes, summer vacations are a certainty.  If they’re not on vacation, summer is a time when many people slip out of the office early to attend to...ugh, more important matters.  What’s a salesperson to do?  This week we will discuss techniques you can use to maintain if not a blistering summer sales pace, at least a productive one.

Recognition that people are going to be harder to reach is a first step.  Change your expectations and plan accordingly.  An advance dose of pessimism can go a long way toward helping you control the situation.  When you talk to a client or a prospect, assume there will be distractions.  Ask for firm follow-up times and verify there are no conflicts on that date.  If the responses you need are important to you, make sure Friday is not one of those dates.  Many, many people develop pressing engagements on Friday’s during the summer.  Be more aggressive about finding out who is involved in the decision making process.  Who does your prospect have to link up with?  Often problems come not with your own contact, but with the people he must talk to.  It’s certainly not inappropriate to remind your prospect that in the midst of the summer season, it might be a little more difficult to reach his people and therefore it might make sense for him to make contact as early as possible.

Your customers and prospects might also be shifting hours this summer.  We know of many people who start work earlier in the summer and commensurately quit earlier in the day.  People you may have reached at end of day might now be reachable only first thing in the morning.  If you make calls to customers at the office traditionally at 9:00, you might consider delaying leaving home at the regular time in favor of making calls at 7:30 to 8:30 at home.  Hey!  Whatever works, right?

There’s a flip side to this as well.  Customers and prospects may be trying to reach you unsuccessfully too!  Yes, salespeople catch the same bug as their clients and have the same proclivities.  We don’t want to be a killjoy, but what have you done to assure yourself the competition does not get the sale when you can’t be found?  Don’t be guilty of the same problem you might be facing on the other side! 

Yes, you can have your cake and eat it too… up to a point.  You can take a vacation, leave early, or otherwise malinger from time to time this summer, if you plan for it.  Many salespeople are essentially middlemen, who see themselves as working for their employer first and their customers second.  Keeping this in mind, a good summertime salesperson will pay special attention to his company’s situation first.  Perhaps your company has estimators or credit managers or certain somebodies, who must approve, price, accept or sign-off on a transaction.  Will they be available to button up that deal you’ve been working on?  Keeping track of your own players becomes another duty to keep in mind. 

Now, let’s turn to what I call the summertime advantage.  Don’t we always like to see a ray of hope in an otherwise negative situation?  Yes, keeping sales flowing in the summer can be more work, but guess what?  What are your competitor’s sales people doing this summer?  Chances are they are on vacation or gone fishing!  Exploit the slower response that is coming from the competition and have your company stand out.  If the other fellow does not have his first team in and you do, your chances of success are increased just that much more.  Mistakes in customer service increase during the summer and right before Christmas.  For whatever reason, the effectiveness of people might not be quite what it normally is.  In my experience, you need every edge you can get.  Tightening up on your sales cycle will enhance your professionalism in the eyes of your prospect.  Show them a lot of action and request a matching response on the prospect’s part.  If the prospect is talking to your competitors (as he probably is) the response is not likely to be as sharp or as quick as is normal.  Again, this makes you stand out.  This is another way you can show prospects and clients you want their business.  You might even be so bold as to ask the prospect how hard the competition is working.  This has the salutatory effect of reminding the client he’s important.  Everyone needs to feel important, don’t they?

The “Endless Summer” does indeed come to an end each year.  Some of the worst workaholics I know are salespeople.  Given that each of us only gets so many summers to enjoy, don't be a summer scrooge and forget family, friends and least of all yourself.  Enjoy this season to the fullest with just a little extra planning.

Good Selling!

 

Allan Feifer is the President of DEC International. Allan started DEC more than 35 years ago and has background in the process and construction industries as well as many years as a recognized authority on construction trends and analysis. Allan lives in Florida with his wife and two cats. You can reach him at allanf@dec-international.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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My role at DEC is changing and it’s making me much more contemplative than I have been in the past. That’s a good thing. The funny thing about getting older; your IQ is certainly not going up, but my decisions making tends to be more conservative. Some of the actions I took in years gone by would not go the same way if I were making them over again today. Some of you already know that I’ve been a pilot since 1972. That’s a long time and makes me feel a lot older than I thought I was! There’s an old expression that all pilots know and most actually adhere to:

“There are old pilots, and, there are bold pilots, but there are no old bold pilots”

How many business decisions would you revisit if you could? Business decisions boil down into one of two categories:

  • Analytical
  • Emotional

All of us would like to think that we almost always make analytical decisions when it comes to business, but what starts out as considered thought often winds up being an emotional decision. Some call it from the “gut” and others just let the spirit move them at times. However, all of us possess the competing internal interests of desire, needs and a sense of what is correct or incorrect based on analysis of a given situation. How we balance these interests determines much of what we will accomplish in business and often in life.

Too many of us indulge in wishful thinking, where we assume the best and minimize the downsides of our decisions. Often, we get away with it, but other times we don’t. Recognizing the signs is often problematic for the same reasons we indulge in wishful thinking in the first place. Airmen are continually exposed to and sometimes actually learn how to recognize emotionally based wishful thinking. There are six different personality traits that define someone who is predisposed to an irrational urge to pull tigers tails. They are:

  • Anti-authority—ignoring what other people, both in authority and/or otherwise knowledgeable individuals say or knows about a particular course of action.
  • Impulsivity—Making snap decisions without clearly thinking through the potential consequences
  • Invulnerability—I call this the fat and happy attitude. Thinking that you, among all people, will not be touched by failure. That, you are a Master of the Universe.
  • Macho Man—this is the scariest of them all. The person who takes risks in defiance of his own knowledge and experience. Taking chances to show how good you are.
  • Resignation—giving up or thinking that you don’t have any other choice.
  • Mission-itis—an over the top focus on getting to whatever destination/position that blanks out everything else in your mind in spite of conflicting messages or knowledge to the contrary

Say it can’t happen to you? Dozens of pilots go to their death every year engaging in one or more of the above forms of suicidal thought. Every accident and every bad decision is part of a chain of events/decisions, which, if not for one thought, one action, things might have turned out differently. If you agree, let’s see what we can do about it.

There are two schools of thought on what you can do to eliminate or reduce wishful thinking. The first says concentrate on the pitfalls of every decision and you’ll make less bad ones. The problem with that is there are always pitfalls and sometimes it is difficult, if not impossible to quantify the risk to a degree that leads to certainty. The other school of thought centers on the inevitability of risk, especially in entrepreneurial situations, where doing nothing is simply not possible. As a pilot, I always have the option of not flying a mission at a particular moment. But, as a businessman, you are often in for a penny, in for a pound and hiding out is not an option, unless you are ready to retire! Here’s my approach:

Break your decision making down into critical and non-critical issues. Identify the critical decision issues as soon as it is feasible and write them down in a place that is segregated from all your other day-to-day notes. Give them importance. These important decisions are a kind of critical path that you ignore at your peril. Once you get in the habit of writing them down you have accomplished the easy part. The harder part is how to know that you have made the best decision possible. Try and avoid being emotional about these critical path decisions. Invite trusted individuals to help you with their advice as you critically analyze those issues that can ruin your day, if not your life.

Decision making is an inherently flawed process unless you control all elements of the issue; which we rarely do. In the absence of “perfect knowledge” we as individuals often come to decisions based more on our emotional makeup than the facts as presented. And, that’s fine; all of us have a different propensity for risk and varying degrees of experience applicable to any single problem. Minimize the chances for disaster by always being on guard to a flawed or even worse, absent process for accessing risk in our critical decisions.

Good Selling!

Allan Feifer is the President of DEC International. Allan started DEC more than 35 years ago and has background in the process and construction industries as well as many years as a recognized authority on construction trends and analysis. Allan lives in Florida with his wife and two cats. You can reach him at allanf@dec-international.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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Last blog, I promised some comparative numbers for you to see which way the market is moving and to help position yourself for growth. We’ll do so today. But first, I’ve got to say that I’m a huge believer in positive thinking. The problem is that we’ve been around a bit too long to completely forget what the market used to look like back in 2007, just before the train wreck that all but changed the way the sun rises and sets each day. Take a look at this graph, be depressed and then get over it.

Year Single-Family Permits Single-Family Dollars Commercial Permits Commercial Dollars Total Permits Total Dollars
2011 2,206 $300,135,204 1,438 $486,787,476 3,644 $786,922,680
2010 2,373 $301,876,086 1,235 $348,077,789 3,608 $649,953,875
2009 1,802 $191,687,513 1,663 $703,586,970 3,465 $895,274,483
2008 4,538 $599,270,246 4,496 $1,614,806,476 9,034 $2,214,076,722
2007 11,548 $1,587,412,657 4,287 $1,766,389,792 15,835 $3,353,802,449

There is an enormous amount of information that can be gleaned from the information above. Even more if you are a DEC subscriber, because you have the tools to drill down into specific market segments that enable you to point yourself in the best direction. Please excuse my shameless commercial plug for our company!

First let’s talk about Single-Family. Average new home pricing was $137k in 2007, $106k in 2009 and back up to $136k so far this year. Keep in mind that there has been a general shift to purchasing existing stocks of previously owned homes and that nearly half of those are being bought in either foreclosure or by short sale. DEC International forecasts we’ll see over a billion dollars of new sale single-family construction this year and a continuing disparity both geographically and in price points as builders weigh carefully where, when and what to build. High end builders are servicing an ever larger group of well-heeled individuals buying expensive homes with all cash or large down payments in an attempt to “park” their money for the long-term. Large builders will continue to solidify their hold on the Atlanta market to a degree not previously seen, due to their access to inexpensive capital and their ability to acquire and hold bargain basement land. Opportunities are out there and are likely to slowly accelerate, mirroring the national outlook. It’s all about confidence at this time.

Commercial construction has an immutable connection to single-family construction. New neighborhoods are developed in response to an in-migration of people moving into our markets with jobs. Atlanta and the state at large are beginning to develop a steadily growing highway of jobs and the people who come to fill them. DEC forecasts 50,000 net in-migration in 2011. Make no mistake about it; we are years away from a full economy, but construction often gets out ahead of the path of growth and development and this recovery will eventually mirror past recoveries. Let’s take a look at the numbers above. Commercial projects in 2007 averaged $112k. In 2009 the average was $203k and currently, the number is an average of $133k. The conclusion we draw is that we are back to a more normal mix of projects after only certain large projects already in the pipeline were going forward a couple of years ago. We see a lot of tenant finish work moving forward as lease rates are very depressed for landlords and extremely favorable for those signing leases right now. Look for an increase in medical projects, multi-family construction and more bargain priced retail to dominate this year. Also, we see a continued push for large distribution facilities as many companies consolidate smaller facilities into larger ones. Financing is available to successful, cash flush companies, but will continue to be tight for everyone else. Commercial construction will rebound faster than single- family due to the continued overhang on the single-family market.

When you look at the above numbers it’s hard to remember what a “normal” market looks like. We’ve been collecting permit information since 1993. For the same period, let’s say 1997, residential and commercial counts were 10,410 and 2,922 respectively. Worth noting, those commercial permits averaged $311k back then.

Each reader will likely draw a different conclusion as to what these numbers mean except for a general consensus that the road back is long and steep. One bright point for all you survivors out there…there is less competition at every level. There are fewer subs, suppliers and GC’s than at any time in the last 20 years, based on both objective and subjective information we accessed. Unfortunately, they are also chasing a markedly smaller market as well. And, therein lies the rub. Georgia is a big state. We have 159 counties and hundreds of cities, making it all but impossible to know everything there is to know. That’s why we hope you will rely on us with our many different reports and services designed to keep you in the know and give you that strategic advantage that you need, not only to survive, but to prosper in this market.

I hope you are on plan for a good year. We would love to hear from you concerning this blog or any other I’ve written; write me below with your comments, insights and thoughts. Or, better yet, call us today and find out how we can help you be one of those winners starting right now. It’s a fact, that historically 80% of industry participants never spend money to make money. Quite a few of them are probably not around anymore. Be proactive, call right now.

Good Selling!

Allan Feifer is the President of DEC International. Allan started DEC more than 35 years ago and has background in the process and construction industries as well as many years as a recognized authority on construction trends and analysis. Allan lives in Florida with his wife and two cats. You can reach him at allanf@dec-international.com This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

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