The Franchise Sales Solution’s John Armatas Shares How He Brings Together Qualified Entrepreneurs and Franchise Brands (Part 2 of 2)

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photo2This is the final portion of my interview with John Armatas, principal at The Franchise Sales Solution. We continue our discussion about how his company helps franchisors rise above this difficult situation of finding good franchisees.

David: What services and tools do you provide your clients?

John: If you look at it from a franchise sales support perspective, we take them from the lead strategy to the initial calls, through the discovery, and through a physical discovery day, and (in most cases) we are actually there for the signing of the documents to guide the new franchisor through the signing of the papers. Because we believe so heavily in organic content to drive leads, we also provide social media monitoring and interaction, blog writing, and have developed relationships with individuals like you (David) who are on the cutting-edge of driving strong potential or qualified candidates to a brand. We also have relationships with public relations companies. I come from an operations perspective, so we really strive to provide a very thorough list of services depending on where our clients are in the process. A young franchisor will need us a lot more in these pieces, and a more mature franchisor will need us less. Ultimately, we want to be working with franchisors even if they have their own in-house marketing or PR or other external firms. We want to have a pipeline to that franchisor so we are promoting the right opportunities so we can be found organically and begin to engage people who are in transition. Our list of services is pretty wide depending on what our client’s needs are.

David: So, on the lead gen side, strategically you’re a believer in what I call in-bound marketing whereby you use organic strategies and content marketing to drive interest to the franchise site. Then once you have captured that prospect, you have people who qualify that prospect, and then do you hand that off to the franchisor?

John: We don’t hand it off. What we do at this point in the process is guide that potential candidate through the discovery with this franchisor. On our end, once we believe they are qualified both financially and from a background perspective, we set up a meet and greet call where the franchisor has an opportunity to share their vision for the company, talk about the company’s history, and get to know more about the candidate. It’s a sharing of information. When the franchisor says good-bye at the end of the call, we follow-up with the candidate to see if there’s any synergy. If there is and they feel good about the brand, we’ll schedule a more thorough visit with us. Rather than just send people to a discovery day, we like that initial conversation. Hopefully, using the comprehensive websites we help build with our franchisors, the candidate has done enough research and has talked to franchisees in the system to validate the brand before they even talk to the franchisor.

David: There are several other companies that provide a similar kind of service where you’re straddling the line between marketing, sales support, sales development, and broker (even though you’re not a broker)…So, how do you differentiate yourself?

John: On the front end, our value is in the relationship that we develop with our franchisors.  In many, many cases, we are on the phone with our franchisors one to four times a week to discuss a variety of things – not just what kind of leads came into the system today. Because we provide so many services and try to make sure the strategy is one everyone agrees with regardless of what we’re going to try or do next, we are in ongoing contact. It’s not about the dollar. Of course, we want to get paid for the hard work we do, but for us it’s more about building a growing system. If our client is growing and we’ve engaged them with our sales systems and programs and built a solid relationship with them, we hope to keep them as a client for years to come. We don’t want a short-term relationship; that’s typical of other sales companies. There’s no guarantee they’re going to be around in six months, eight months, a year from now. We provide a value that makes our clients want to keep us around. They think of us as a partner, an important part of their team. This doesn’t just happen. It’s based on the kinds of people we have working for us and the culture we’ve created.  Regardless of what role we’re serving, all of us at The Franchise Sales Solutions have the same approach toward our clients – that we want to be of assistance and make sure we provide a service that will be of value to them.

David: Sounds like the trust relationship is everything?

John: Yes, I think so.

David: How do you think firms like yours have changed over the last few years?

John: The professional placement firms or those leaning toward the brokering side of the continuum have begun to narrow in. The economy has partially forced this. There are less people financially qualified to get into franchises and own a business. However, there is a bigger group of people who are looking for the next step. We have this dichotomy between people who want to do something on their own but can’t afford it and can’t find financing to a group that has been displaced and needs to find something because they’re used to earning a fairly big dollar and they can afford to invest some money and they want to find the right fit. From a transition perspective, I think it’s a group of people out there who are looking at both verticals. The thing is that I think a lot of firms have begun to focus on is people who are financially more astute and able to make an investment and have (to some degree) forgone the folks who need find an opportunity or a service-based business or something that fits for them. Our goal is to help anyone who is looking for an opportunity. It doesn’t matter if that’s a $50,000 investment in a business and they’re going to be on a truck building a route over four to five years as long as the expectations are correct from day one, we feel good about it.  We’re not just looking for the client who is financially able to buy a large territory that generates a large fee for the firm. I completely understand where a lot of these firms have gone; it’s just not where we’re going – not that we don’t want to have someone come in and purchase a large territory, but we often coach the candidate to purchase one, get it open, and be successful. It’s not just about the dollars for us. Let’s make sure they’re good at what they do before we sell them a territory of four or five and they have so many issues coming up that they can’t maintain the momentum the franchisor wants them to maintain or they are frustrated, for whatever reasons, with operations on their first one and you have to take away some of the territory. It becomes an antagonistic relationship if they aren’t suited for this. Until someone is actually in running the business, you never know for sure. I think this willingness to go slowly and to work with clients along all points on the pendulum is what sets us apart from other firms.

David: Where do you think your kind of firm in the franchise vertical will be heading in the next three to five years?

John: There are only so many sources of lead generation. There is no magic bullet. We’re all racing to get to the same qualified people. How we get to them is the differentiator. The top of the funnel and the inbound marketing strategy is something we focus on and believe in.  We partner with others who understand it and can help us from a lead generation perspective. We think it’s important to form relationships with others in the industry. We don’t have the only ideas that have value. There are too many smart people out there with good ideas. We want to collaborate with them to get to the end game, putting people into a business they can be happy going into every day.

I’d like to extend a big thanks to John for taking time out of his busy schedule to share his insights with us on the difficult task of finding qualified franchisees. This is a subject I know all franchisors struggle with at some point.

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The Franchise Sales Solution’s John Armatas Shares How He Brings Together Qualified Entrepreneurs and Franchise Brands (Part 1 of 2)

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photo2If you’re a franchisor, I know you’re looking for qualified franchisees. I also know how difficult this task is, and it’s only getting harder. I had the pleasure of meeting with John Armatas, principal at The Franchise Sales Solution. I talked to him about how his company helps franchisors rise above this difficult situation. This is a two-part interview. Tune in next week for the conclusion.

 David: Explain to us what The Franchise Sales Solution offers the franchise community, please.

John: Sure, we are a full-service sales company. We’re not brokers, even though we do play that role from time to time. To some degree, we like to see ourselves in the “back of the house” for a franchisor and their franchise operations. We do the work to help up-start and well-established brands grow strategically and rapidly by bringing them qualified entrepreneurs who are ready for the right franchise opportunity. We can do this because of our many years of experience in the franchise industry. We have developed a system to match the right prospect with the right franchise. Even though we operate independently from our clients, I tell folks they should feel like we’re just two doors down from the founder’s office. We’re providing what they would have in-house but just as an outside provider.

David: Tell me about your background and how you got into franchising.

John: I spent the first part of my career with the YMCA. A good friend of mine, at the time, owned a franchise called The Entrepreneur Source. It piqued my interest in owning my own business. He guided me through a sales process, evaluating a number of franchises to see if one was a good fit for me. Eventually, I decided to purchase a Fast Signs franchise. It’s interesting because what my friend taught me back then has been instrumental in guiding what I’m doing today. I really liked the way he walked me through the process. I never felt like I was being pushed into a brand. I was being guided and counseled through the purchase of a franchise. After I purchased the Fast Signs business, which I owned for eight years, I gradually moved into franchise development and really focused on the sales side. We purchased The Franchise Sales Solution in 2010. My in-roads into the business were actually as a franchise owner with Fast Signs. That started my passion for this business.

David: So, you actually purchased The Franchise Sales Solutions; you didn’t start that from scratch?

John: It was a business in name only. There wasn’t anything going on with it. I was part of a development company, but nothing was happening on the franchise sales side even though the company was setting there. I decided to purchase the rights to the sales side because I thought that was where I was best suited.

David: Let’s talk about your company and the kind of clients who are a good fit for your business.

John: We are most able to help franchisors who are busy running their day-to-day operations and their company store, dealing with the operations of their franchise system. The ideal fit is a franchisor who is looking for someone to come in and take over the sales process and integrate it with their operations and their team. It’s important for us to be seen as part of the team from the very beginning. We make a real effort to get to know as many of the staff as we can, either on the operational side or the franchise side from marketing to training so that we can better understand what they do and how they do it. We’re focused on the kind of client who doesn’t want to worry about his franchise sales strategy or process but would rather turn it over to someone who he knows is going to take care of it for him and, hopefully, qualify people and bring to the forefront those best suited to his opportunity. So, we do our due diligence and don’t bring prospects to our clients to talk to until well into the process. That’s by design. We want to involve the franchisor at the right time to get the prospect excited and not bog down the franchisor in details they don’t want or shouldn’t have to deal with.

David:  When you are interviewing a client, before you agree to represent them, what gives you an idea of whether or not they are a good fit for what you do?

John: First and foremost, we try to determine what the client is looking to do. Obviously, they are looking to outsource their franchise sales side, but why? Knowing the answer to that question is really important. That guides us to see if they are going to be a good fit. If their perspective on it is that their in-house sales guy isn’t doing a good job or they don’t want to spend the money to have an in-house person do the job, that’s not necessarily indicating to us that the client recognizes what we bring to the table. Ideally, our clients look to us because they recognize that they aren’t experts in franchise sales and we are. They want our team of experts to help them grow their brand. Then, we dive into the roles of who is going to be doing what in this synergistic world of theirs. Whom will we be working with? If it’s just the CEO, that’s limiting for us. We need to be involved and have a direct line of communication with different people in the client’s organization. We want an expansive role that enables us to be engaged.

My Interview With Peter Capodice, Founder of Capodice & Associates (Part 2 of 2) How To Land Your Next Big Job

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Peter Capadice

Hopefully you had a chance to read my blog last week, which featured the first half of my interview with Peter. It talked more about the executive search industry. Today, the focus is on getting expert advice from Peter about what you should and shouldn’t do in your next big job interview. And, he should know. He’s helped many of the top franchising executives build their careers.

David – Let’s switch gears now and take advantage of your vast knowledge on the subject and talk specifically about what you recommend for executives who may be looking for a new opportunity specific to the franchise vertical.

Peter – Sure, happy to.

David – What’s the best time of year to look for a job in the franchise industry?

Peter – I would say the most active times are during the third and fourth quarters as companies are preparing their budgets for the next fiscal year. We tend to see an increase in activity in late October or the beginning of November. The latter parts of January through April are also very active. This said, I would still encourage you to look for a job outside of these time frames.

David – What kinds of things do you look for or that jump out on a resume as someone you want to talk to?

Peter – To answer that question, we have to consider the type of firm Capodice & Associates is. There are different types of executive search firms: Contingency firms represent candidates, and retained firms represent the client (company). We are a retained firm, so we represent the client company. But, as resumes come in, we want to get to know people and their background. The things we like to see are good tenure in a position. But, having said that, we don’t necessarily like to see someone who has been with the same company 25 or 30 years. We like to see candidates stay at a company for 5 to 10 years. Somewhere in this range is good. Ideally, we want to see some kind of career progression. That can come from the breadth and depth of experience they are acquiring. It could be from going from a smaller to a larger company or vice versa where you’re gaining more responsibility. We want to see results, big time. Our clients want to know that the candidate is going to be able to perform for them. There’s nothing better than showing what you’ve been able to accomplish on your resume. It doesn’t matter what the position was; the results are what is important.

David – Your clients look to you to deliver candidates with the right kind of experience who can deliver results. What do you advise candidates to focus on in an interview that conveys the message they have the experience and can deliver the results?

Peter – I recommend a couple of things. First, they should thoroughly research the company they are going to interview with. They should know the company’s key players and the company’s past performance. They should know a little about the folks within the organization and what the company’s objectives (growth or non-growth) are. The Internet is a great tool for this. Thorough knowledge of the company is critically important. A recent real-life example I can give you is this: We have three candidates vying for a very senior role (president) at a client company.  Of the three who interviewed, they are only moving two forward in the process. One of the candidates, who was possibly the brightest of the three and definitely had equal experience and could have been successful at the job, was under prepared for the interview. The candidate had done minimal research on the company. This was a red flag to the company. The candidate was very qualified for the position but was eliminated from the running due to lack of preparation. You cannot over prepare for an interview! Second, understand what you’re good at, what your strengths are, what you can contribute to the company you’re interviewing with. Don’t embellish, but sell yourself honestly and passionately. Determine what the best cultural fit is for you. Now, if you are in a position where you’re going to be making a move that involves a relocation, as great a reputation the company has – maybe they’re a high-flying fast casual or in the hot segment like health and fitness is now – you always want to consider the fit first. Even if you really want to be with one of these “now” companies, consider the fit. Maybe it’s not the best fit for you even though it is a “now” company. Make sure your strengths are put to work for a good company. Don’t get yourself in a bad situation that creates a gap in your resume and causes difficulties in your personal life.

David – Job-hunting and the interview process can be very emotional. Great advice to keep the process a bit more strategic by putting the focus on the fit first and foremost. Now, I’d like to look at the other side of this. You’ve been at this a long time, so I know you’ve heard a lot of stories. What do you advise candidates to absolutely never do during an interview?

Peter – I would tell you that as comfortable as the interviewer makes you feel, don’t let your guard down. They want you to feel comfortable and to let your guard down so they can see what you’re really all about. We’ve had some really interesting things happen even at the senior level we work with. Choose your words so that you aren’t saying anything inappropriate. Words that are appropriate in your world may not be appropriate in the interviewing world. Believe it or not, we’ve seen that. Be prepared and understand the interviewer wants to get to know who you really are.

David – I also think it’s also good to point out to be very cautious in how you use social media.

Peter – You are absolutely, 100 percent correct. Don’t post anything you wouldn’t want prospective employers to be able to see.

David – Such great advice, Peter. At the executive level, the interviewer is really trying to see who a person really is and how they behave under pressure. They’re trying to determine how the candidate will behave when dealing with other people inside the company or with independent contractors. They want to know what the candidate’s business approach is. I was recently used as a reference for candidate in a very senior level position and they were asking me those kinds of questions. This is what they wanted to know – their behavior. Their questions weren’t as direct, but behavior was what they were driving at. They want someone who is going to fit in and has the same values and can execute the values of the founder, is that accurate?

Peter – Without a doubt, and I’d take it a step further. If you’re working with a retained search firm, remember they are working for the client (company) and not the candidate. That doesn’t mean we don’t want to help the candidate, it doesn’t mean we don’t have interest in making it a successful relationship, but the client is paying the fee. So, keep in mind, when you are talking to the executive search firm, you are in essence talking to the company. Be careful what you say.

David – I have one last question for you. How have things changed in your industry over the last few years? Specifically, what’s been the evolution of this process over the last four or five years?

Peter – In 2009 with the economic downturn, we saw many search firms go away. The search firms that truly added value to their process are the ones that are still around. So, what do I mean when I say “adding value?” I mean you’re not just submitting bodies to a company. You’re someone who has tenure in the industry, and you’re engaged in the industry. You know the successful individuals in the industry and what they are doing, and you understand the behaviors that apply to success. You can coach and counsel an organization as to what type of candidate will be best, building your credibility. Lately, we’re seeing this still holds true. The successful search firms are continuing to add value. Anyone can put a body into a company, but the most successful firms with the long-term credibility are those adding value by building comprehensive industry knowledge, knowing the best candidates, and delivering real results.

A big thanks to Peter for his insightful advice. You’ll want to keep this information in mind when you’re going for your next job interview. Good luck!

My Interview With Peter Capodice, Founder of Capodice & Associates: The Inside Scoop From the Industry’s Leading Executive Search Firm (Part 1 of 2)

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Peter Capadice

I recently had the pleasure of sitting down with the go-to guy when the top franchising brands need top executives. In the first half of my interview Peter talks about the executive search industry and how it works. In the second half of my interview with Peter, which I’ll run next week, he shares practical (and applicable) information that will assist you with landing that next big job.

David – Tell me about the focus of your firm.

Peter – The focus of Capodice & Associates is to work with client companies to assist them with acquiring the best talent available who will be the most productive.

David – Share with us your background and how it is you ended up becoming the leader in the executive search industry.

Peter – Sure, my background and experience began in the restaurant franchising sector, beginning with the S&A restaurant corporation. From there I moved on to run a segment of the Northeast operations for Pearl Vision, heading up their sizable manufacturing and distribution facility in that area before moving on to direct the sales and marketing for US, Canada, and Puerto Rico for them. When I left Pearl Vision I joined up with a small optical franchising company, overseeing their franchise development and operations. I made the move to get into the executive search business because I found I had a real passion for it. In my experience running operations and development, I had worked a lot with placement firms and knew first-hand the importance of hiring quality staff. I put a lot of time and emphasis on identifying good people, developing their skills, and ensuring my stores had the most effective staff working for them. I wanted to do the same for other companies to help them be successful.

David – Why not join an existing firm? Why did you decide to form your own search firm?

Peter – First and foremost we wanted to do things differently than what we saw going on in the market. We wanted to be able to identify traits in people and traits in organizations that would lead to excellence in performance. In essence we were bringing a bit of science into the mix. We deployed an assessment tool that had a reach far beyond what the typical Meyers-Briggs personality type assessments do. We’re able to successfully go two or three steps beyond what Meyers-Briggs offers to strip away the “interview behavior” to identify the probability of a long-term fit for the candidate and the client once the initial honeymoon period is over. We can determine how successful the candidate will be in the organization and if they truly have the competencies that the company in looking for. This thinking became the cornerstone for our business and has been what has set Capodice & Associates far apart from others. We now have thousands of behavioral profiles of some of the top industry leaders. We understand what the key traits are, what the behaviors look like, and how important the proper fit is. We can identify a good fit from a poor fit. Our assessment tool enables us to use concrete information to make an objective, tangible hiring decision as opposed to the more subjective, emotional decision based on liking a candidate or just by looking at a candidate’s past successes. Environments are different from company to company.  We match candidates with the work environments they are most likely to be successful in going forward.

David – You’ve been in the business for quite awhile. What do you attribute your longevity to?

Peter – Well, first of all we deliver results. In my business it’s all about being able to deliver candidates that are going to be successful at a company. We do the critical backend work to ensure the candidate’s behavioral profile and experience are a good fit with the company’s environment. We go to all the conferences and work to get to know all the major players.

David – So, is it safe to guess that you share my passion in the power of analytics?

Peter – There is no question about it!

David – Very good…

Next week I’ll post the second part of this interview that gives great tips on what companies are looking for in potential candidates.

What’s New In Lead Gen Technology? My One-On-One With Salim Notta of eMaximation. (Part 2 of 2)

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If you read last week’s post, you know it featured the first half of my interview with Salim Notta, President and General Manager of eMaximation, a top developer of innovative, web-based software tools that work. If you missed part one of this interview, you’ll want to check it out.

David: What innovations are coming in the lead generation management industry and what are the opportunities in the next year?

Salim: Google’s much-anticipated, new search algorithm “Hummingbird” will impact lead generation and franchisors. Search engines will become major players in lead generation. I see a technology shift coming. Franchisors are going to want to invest in research to see what the buyer wants and strategies to attract them to increase their value proposition.

David: I think in the very near future if not now, it comes down to whom you want to attract and how you boost your value proposition. You have to do a lot more testing, tying everything back to content. Prospects will release information if they get something back that’s of value. Content helps accelerate conversion architecture to provide better quality leads.

Salim: You got it. We recently rolled out Max Engage, a customizable website solution lead engagement platform. When a lead comes in, it connects the franchise roadmap (based on client needs), and walks the lead through the process of steps they need to take. It’s a controlled environment that gives the franchisor the ability to gauge interest. Engagement tools are the new trend, the next step after marketing automation. As you mentioned, content is becoming more valuable. Companies can’t echo the same thing as their competitors. Prospects need unique information to get them excited. Testing is critical in lifting conversion rate. eMaximation has a lead grader component  that looks at leads and factors in multiple verticals such as:  What is the prospects’ dillusion rate? What has the prospect done or looked at? The system then grades the prospect from A to D based on actions and other pertinent criteria. It’s like an automated lead scoring system.

David: What about leads not coming through a portal? Can your system be applied?

Salim: Not yet, but that ability is coming soon. Custom landing pages could be integrated at some point. Off the shelf CRM packages don’t solve the problem. You have to invest in human capital and a customized system. This will make it easier and more effective in the long run.

David: How did you get involved with eMaximation? What’s your background?

Salim: I’m a Georgia State grad with a degree in Computer Information Systems and Management. I worked with start-ups and developed applications for the digital personal assistant PalmVII. I also worked at Franchise Opportunities Network as a database administrator and web developer. I later became their Chief Technology Officer. It was there that I really acquired a lot of practical experience with lead generation and data management. It really interested me, so I shifted my attention to this. Shortly after, the opportunity to join eMaximation came along; it was perfect timing for me.

A big thanks to Salim for talking with us. To learn more about eMaximation, log on to their website at http://www.emaximation.com.

What’s New In Lead Gen Technology? My One-On-One With Salim Notta of eMaximation. (Part 1 of 2)

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Last week I had the pleasure of talking with Salim Notta, President and General Manager of eMaximation, a company that has my attention because they are a top developer of innovative, web-based software tools that work. I was so intrigued by our conversation, I immediately knew I had to share his insights with you to get you thinking about your own lead generation, what you need to do for 2014, and the new technology available to you. (Look for more Q&A formats in my blog in 2014 as I share helpful information with you from some of the industry’s leading players.)

David: Tell me a little bit about your company.

Salim: Sure. At eMaximation we work to make franchise leads more valuable through our innovative sales and marketing web-based automation software tools we’ve developed. Using our technologies, our clients are better equipped to more effectively and efficiently manage leads and their development teams.

David: I know you have an impressive list of clients.

Salim: Yes, we’re proud of our service to over 400 franchise brands.

David: What are some of the key features of your system?

Salim: Well, there are two I think I should mention. First is our ability to lead capture from any lead gen sources, third-party portals, or websites. Currently, we’re integrated with 1,500 different sources. Second is our capacity to offer advanced lead customization of segmentation. This segmentation information is sent to the sales person, eliminating timely and inconvenient manual work and ensuring consistent lead assignments and e-mail communication. Our lead routings are based on demographics, financials, round robins, or just about anything the client wants.

David: Anything new you’re working on?

Salim: We recently rolled out critical automated lead prioritization that helps sales quickly and easily identify the hottest prospects – automatically prioritizing the marketing campaign and follow-up tasks. No one in franchising has this lead component in place.

David: Very impressive. Can you explain how it works?

Salim: It’s based on a simple algorithm. If you have already scheduled a task, like “call prospect tomorrow” – this would be the first tier. The second tier would be the new leads coming in. The third tier is activity by the prospect, like they opened the campaign, or clicked on the link, or filled out the advanced form, things like that. The fourth tier is much more generalized. The beauty is we can change prioritization based on client needs and business requirements. Some want all new leads first or those who clicked on the campaign, etc. We want to make it as easy as possible for the sales person. This system helps the sales person know whom to contact next based on behavior or response to keep those who are active at top of mind. Thru our system we can send out real-time sales and activity lead notifications via e-mail so the sales person can see instantly when an action has been taken, and the system automatically bumps the candidate up in the prioritization.

David: What do you think is the biggest challenge for lead generation and data management?

Salim: Now more than ever, the customer is in control. Businesses have to adapt and have the processes in place to react. The investment in lead management is vital to revenue growth, and sales and marketing efforts must be aligned with a proper feedback process. Lead performance has to be tracked throughout the entire lead lifecycle and should be automated. Business intelligence reports are important because they allow you to mine lead data to provide insight as to why leads are or are not closing and what lead gen sources are pulling strongest. Everyone involved has to understand the lead lifecycle process. If something’s not working, make changes to the marketing campaign, the landing page, etc. You can’t just produce leads and not have any feedback and reasons for the results. We stress to our clients that they have to train their sales staff and hold them accountable. Marketing automation helps align sales and marketing. Our system helps further score, nurture, and prioritize a lead within the sales cycle so sales can be alerted to hot leads that are ready for the close. People research before they buy; that’s applicable to all industries, especially those looking to buy a business. eMaximation is like a 24/7 sales person. A lot of research happens after hours, engagement is automatically in place and prioritized thanks to automation. You can start to nurture the prospect right away. Also, most people don’t think of it, but revive campaigns work well for your leads you thought were dead.

We’ll be publishing part two of our interview with eMaximation President Salim Notta next week.  In the meantime, to learn more about eMaximation, log on to their website at http://www.emaximation.com.