Let momentum smooth out the road for your business, not crash it into a ditch.

Judo masters understand how to use momentum to throw their opponents. Business masters can use momentum to grow their businesses or they can let momentum drive them into the ground. This month, we'll explore how you can use momentum to your advantage in the business world.

Sales Momentum: You may think you're in the service business, but the reality is that you're in the sales business and service is what you're selling. The sooner you understand this, the sooner you'll start building sales momentum. If you're earning referrals and your marketing is clicking, you'll begin to have trouble keeping up with all the calls. Schedules will get further behind, calls will be missed, and you may become frustrated that you're not able to get to all your customers.

If you're in the service business, you'll begin a frantic search for the next service person with a pulse and a driver's license. If you're in the sales business, you'll recognize that sales momentum is beginning to build. Instead of diluting your momentum with the additional drag of a misfit employee, you should consider boosting sales with your current staffing and infrastructure. How do you increase sales without adding personnel? You simply raise your selling prices and offer more options to the customers you can get to.

Raising selling prices may help to reduce your backlog, since the higher prices may keep a few customers away. Obviously, the higher prices will also improve your bottom line. The additional sales will give you the funding you need to properly recruit and train the next staff member. Instead of diluting your momentum, you're building upon it.

Marketing Momentum

In the sales business, you'll never stop marketing. At first, you're looking for nearly any customer with a need and the wherewithal to pay for it. As your business grows and matures, your focus will turn toward fine-tuning your customer base. Your marketing momentum works hand-in-hand with your sales momentum to propel your business into the dreams and goals you've set for it. Sales works with marketing because your selling price helps define the type of customer you're going to serve, just as your advertising helps to bring in more of that type of customer.

For example: It doesn't make sense to advertise in bargain shoppers' newsletter if your prices are three times higher than anyone else's in town. Most of these callers will be a waste of your time, a source of frustrating price complaints. On the other hand, if your specialty is short, quick jobs for bargain hunters who are willing to wait a few days for service, then you're going to be a disappointment for demanding clients in gated communities. Market to the customers who fit your selling price and performance level and you'll maximize your marketing momentum.

Hiring For Momentum

Have you ever thought about how your hiring decisions affect your sales and marketing momentum? The better your staff is in the customer care department, the more momentum your business has. On the other hand, if your staff is burning customers, you'll have to expend extraordinary efforts to keep your machine rolling.

Every employee who comes in contact with your customer should make that customer glad they called. Happy customers bring more happy customers. But if you're paying over $200 each for new customers, only to lose them because of your abrasive customer service rep, then you're burning up your marketing momentum.

Making customers happy requires more than a pretty face and a pleasant voice. While smiling on the phone, your CSR should be accurately collecting information from your customer. Your dispatcher should keep your customer up-to-date while keeping your service professionals rolling efficiently. Your service professional should handle the technical side of the problem while earning the right to ask for a referral.

If momentum is so affected by your employees, then why let your hiring process rely upon chance? Did you hire your CSR because he/she is related to someone else in your company or was it because he/she has the ability to smile on the phone while accurately recording information? Do you wait until there's a vacancy before you begin recruiting or are you constantly courting new service professionals, CSRs and dispatchers? Do you base your pay scale and benefits on “the going rate” or on what it takes to attract “momentum-builders” to your business? By taking charge of the hiring process, you're directing and enhancing the momentum of your business.

Financial Momentum

While debt may sometimes be necessary to fund growth, it also can become a drag on your business momentum. The less debt you carry, the more momentum you'll have for getting beyond slow spells, unexpected expenses and other hurdles. Debt can be an espresso shot of caffeine for your growth, but if your management skills and systems aren't up to the additional stress, you could find yourself caught up in feverish activity with no discernable profits. Exercise restraint when financing growth, especially if you're using debt to fund speculated growth rather than to catch up with your current trend.

Before running to your banker, try letting your customers fund your growth. They may surprise you by how willing they are to participate in your company. To get your customers into the game, simply raise your rates. If it has been a while since you raised your rates, you may be pleasantly surprised at how little impact the price increase will have on your customers' satisfaction while the additional profits can help you fund your next step of growth.

The best thing that can happen would be for you to fund your next level of growth without giving your banker control of your momentum. Imagine the hit your momentum would take if you had borrowed money, then weren't able to increase sales enough to cover the cost of the borrowed money.

You can also lose momentum if you are the financier. If a significant percentage of your sales is tied up in receivables, you could be simply spinning your wheels with no forward momentum. For example, your say company is operating at a net profit of 10 percent or so. Now check your receivables. Let's say, on average, that 10 percent of your sales is tied up in receivables. Now, ask yourself a couple of questions: How do you feel about having to borrow money to fund growth when your accounts receivable holds plenty of capital that could be used for growing your company? How do you feel about paying income taxes on money that is sitting in another person's bank account? Can you see what a drain on your momentum your AR can be? (Note: You may be one of a few savvy contractors who has the cost of AR built into your business model so that you're actually profiting from AR. If you are, then good for you!)

Momentum Means More Fun

When your sales process and marketing program are working hand-in-hand, you're leveraging your momentum. If they work against each other, your growth can become stagnant or simply grind to a halt. Add your properly chosen employees to the mix and your momentum builds even more. Or, they can eliminate all the momentum your sales and marketing programs develop. With all cylinders firing, your profits can fund your growth, keeping you away from the banker who eats momentum for lunch.

When momentum is working for you, you don't have to spend as much time trying to keep your juggernaut in motion and in the right direction. Hire the right people, focus your marketing, serve the right customers and watch your bank account grow. Let your momentum smooth out the road.