8. What is the company’s marketing strategy? Good ABCs will be able to clearly articulate their marketing strategy. For example, some ABCs focus on signing smaller customers using field sales while others may focus on phone and Internet sales. If the company executives cannot tell you their marketing strategy, then they don’t have one, so you’ll have to figure it out on your own. If you are a master marketer then you may not need to follow the ABC’s plan, but you can build business much faster if you can execute a marketing strategy that has been proven to work over time.
9. What is the company’s target client demographic? Often ABCs will focus on a specific vertical market, such as small mom and pop businesses or larger commercial and industrial clients. Make sure the firm you partner with has the experience and focus that will allow you to target the types of clients you want. Discussing the type of accounts you typically call on and verifying that the ABC offers solutions for that class of customer will ensure that you can meet the needs of your typical customer profile.
10. What is the company’s financial health? You should ask the ABC what its cash position is, how much debt it is carrying and who its investors are, if any. The best answers are that it has no debt and a strong positive cash flow for many years into the future. The bottom line is that you want to make sure that any ABC you consider partnering with is not one bad month away from failure. There are plenty of very healthy ABCs that should be able to validate their financial status.
11. What is the company’s culture and operations model? This may seem obvious, but it is very important to talk to the CEO or president and get a good sense of the company culture and how the firm operates. Will you be expected to participate in daily or weekly meetings? How involved will management to be in your day-to-day efforts? Will there be ongoing training to keep you apprised of market changes? What about training for industry certifications? What are the back-office operational procedures related to pricing and bid preparation? Are they laid back, leaving you to work as you see fit, or are they running a boiler room style operation, employing high-pressure sales tactics? Based on the answers to these questions, do you see your self fitting in well?
St. Clair Newbern IV is president of Live Energy Inc., an energy brokerage based in Colleyville, Texas. He has owned and operated the company for more than 10 years. He is a founding member, past president and current board member of the Texas Electricity Professionals Association (TEPA). He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org .