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How One Entrepreneur Built A New Sales Strategy From The Ground Up

via Forbes: Most business owners would be thrilled to have an inbound sales strategy as effective as the one that Mike Risich has built. As founder and CEO of Bolt On Technology, a software as a service company that offers cloud-based workflow tools to the automotive repair aftermarket, Risich estimates that his business has 4% market penetration in the U.S. and Canada, and boasts clients in every U.S. territory and South America. The majority of these clients came through organic leads. But despite this success, Risich is concerned about sustaining such rapid growth.

Founded in 2009, but only truly getting off the ground in 2011, Bolt On Technology supports over 6,000 aftermarket auto shops. Many of these clients are the kind of mom-and-pop shops found in every corner of America. Risich first realized that this niche market represented a huge opportunity in the 1990s, when he was teaching Microsoft Office to beginners.

“A shop owner took my class and started to explain the technology he was using in his business. But he couldn’t create a simple Excel chart,” Risich recalls. “I showed him how to use Excel, and I realized that this was a really underserved community. They deserve better technology.”

 Innovating With Simplicity

Bolt On Technology aims to help shop owners improve their communications to become more efficient and productive. While Risich is passionate about bringing cutting-edge technologies to an industry that had previously been largely untouched by them, some of his company’s offerings are deceptively simple.

“One of our solutions is not earth-shattering or groundbreaking. It’s this simple solution called text messaging,” he laughs. “About 10 years ago when we introduced it into this space, the misnomer was that text messaging was all performed by teenage girls. That couldn’t be any further from the truth!”

 Texting might not sound like an important asset to a repair shop, but Risich quickly realized that it could solve one of the core challenges his company’s research had identified. Many of his clients found it difficult and time-consuming to reach vehicle owners, causing their productivity to grind to a halt. Every hour that a vehicle took up space in a garage without being worked on could cost the shop owner hundreds of dollars in lost productivity.

“Imagine your vehicle is in the shop,” Risich says. “It needs some work, but the shop needs to talk to you so that you can say yes or no. They call you and leave a voicemail, but you don’t recognize that number. Four hours go by and your vehicle is still sitting on the lift. Now if they’d sent you a text message and given an estimate, you’d call them back and find out what’s going on… It saves the shop owner time, which means they make more money.”

Getting Into Sticky Business

Getting customers excited about this technology has never been a problem for Risich. For a long time his company’s sales model was heavily oriented toward organic leads, yielding exceptional results. In 2017 Bolt On Technology made the Inc. 5000 list for the second year running with an annual revenue of $4.5 million.

Recently, however, the entrepreneur has begun rethinking the company’s approach. After achieving such rapid growth, he became worried that the rate of inbound sales might eventually plateau. To combat this Risich decided last year that a strategic pivot was necessary to improve outbound sales. But switching gears has not been easy.

“We were not focused at all on any outbound efforts,” he says. “I set the enormous goal of creating an outbound process and driving it to a whole new level. But inbound is much easier! It’s going to take us a while to really get this.”

Building a Sales Strategy With Technology and Heart

To build his outbound strategy, the tech-savvy entrepreneur quickly focused on ways to streamline the company’s processes using tech. He hopes that artificial intelligence will help his team efficiently rule out prospects unlikely to convert.

“Our technology requires that the shop already has deployed a point of sales system that we can integrate,” he explains. “So we can immediately eliminate some prospects just because they don’t have a qualifying POS system. We’ve already segmented this early process, and we’re trying to build some AI in so that we can learn from the tasks we’re performing.”

Risich is pleased with the progress his sales team has made so far, saying they’ve stockpiled hundreds of potential leads to pursue. But he knows there’s still a long way to go.

“It’s going to take a lot of data to help us understand the results of our efforts,” he says. “And we want our team to go home super excited about their accomplishments. It’s not just a matter of checking things off a list. It’s really about helping the industry we cater to move forward.”

Finding the ideal balance between inbound and outbound sales efforts is a challenge that most business leaders eventually face. We’ll be checking back with Mike to find out how his new sales strategy fares and what changes it brings for his company.

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