Shared posts

13 Feb 20:21

Video: Encouraging women to consider mining as a career

Conversations That Matter features Anna Tudela, Vice President, Diversity, Goldcorp. Tudela discusses the challenges facing mining companies committed to increasing women in their ranks at all levels. Her “Creating Choices” program is designed to encourage women to pursue a career in mining. This is episode 72 in a series of videos by Stu McNish.
13 Feb 20:18

Shifting Your Sales Process to Account-Based Sales Development: As a Rep

by Brad Ansley

Account-based sales development (ABSD) is the biggest buzzword in sales right now. If you follow thought-leaders in the space, by now you’ve read a blog post (or five) explaining what a game-changer ABSD is for your team.

While it is a game-changer, what does it mean for you as an individual Sales Development Rep? What kind of mindset shifts will you have to make as you transition to ABSD?

Think Accounts Over Leads

In the ABSD model, you will no longer be prospecting and chasing down individual leads. Your leadership team will have determined a list of companies that fit your Ideal Customer Profile, and you will be assigned specific accounts to work.

This should be a very good thing for you — When done correctly, ALL of your accounts will be qualified. In ABSD, there is no such thing as “unqualified.” In each of your accounts, there are two potential outcomes:

1. Sucessfully set an initial demo or meeting for the AE

2. Determine that the account is locked up in contracts (or is 6-12 months away from evaluating your solution)

Only when you have success — or push out the timeline for an account — will you receive a new one. This means that your messaging and strategies within these accounts need to be extremely intentional. Get rid of your breakup email. When you know an account is qualified, you don’t ever want to “break up” with them. If you’re unable to start a conversation with a particular prospect — talk to someone else in the company. You’re not looking for a quick win, you’re building a relationship.

Be Intentional With Your Messaging

In a lead based, greenfield approach, you’re playing a numbers game. Blasting through 50+ leads a day, seeing who shows interest, and knowing that you can add plenty more leads tomorrow if you get a message like this:

Braddddddddd

That’s not going to cut it in ABSD. If you do your homework, and send messages that resonate, your prospects will not ask you to “unsubscribe” like they would for a fully automated message.

The time you used to spend on prospecting should now be spent on research. Identify the decision maker(s), read the latest news on the company, dive into LinkedIn/Twitter to find a blog post that your contacts have written or shared. Find anything you can leverage to make a connection, and craft your messaging around that.

Become an Expert on the Phone

The research you’ve done ahead of time is crucial for phone calls, as well. When you’re lucky enough to get someone on the phone, you need to be prepared with a deep understanding of the account. Keep in mind that your call volume will likely drop at first, and that’s okay. What will increase is your conversation-to-conversion ratio. The goal here is an intelligent discussion, not a feature dump. What are your prospects goals? How do they intend to hit their numbers this year? How can your solution help them do this?

The ABSD approach is much more consultative. It requires you to have a deep understanding not only of your product, but your industry as well. Become an expert as to where your product fits into your customers’ technology stack. Keep up with your competitors and trends in your space. You need to position yourself as a thought-leader.

Leverage Social Media

Hopefully this doesn’t come as a surprise to: your prospects are googling you, too.

And what do they find? A faceless LinkedIn profile that lists skills you thought were relevant when you graduated? Or an active thought-leader in the space that’s passionate about solving their problems?

Updated LinkedIn and Twitter profiles are crucial to developing relationships in an account-based model. You should be sharing relevant content on a consistent basis, and interacting with your target accounts regularly. Follow them on LinkedIn, like a tweet, comment on a blog post — social touches go a long way in building relationships and initiating conversations.

Focus on Pipeline Contribution Over Number of Demos

Typically, SDRs are measured on the number of qualified opportunities they create for the Account Executive team. But with ABSD, every account you are working should already be qualified. Obviously you want to convert as many of your accounts as possible, but how do you prioritize? All opportunities are not created equal.

What you should be measured on in ABSD? Pipeline contribution.

For example: in your best month as an SDR, let’s say you sent over 40 qualified leads that added $5K MRR to the pipeline. Your quota was to set 25 appointments, so essentially, you had a great month.

But in ABSD, the pipeline contribution number is much more important.

You may only send over 10 of your accounts to the AEs, but you’ve prioritized by opportunity size, and those 10 accounts represent $15K MRR in the pipeline. Pipeline contribution is a much stronger indicator of your effectiveness and value as an SDR.

It’s not easy to change your process, especially if you’ve been crushing your numbers operating from leads. But the most important thing to keep in mind as you make this shift is that your goal is be more effective in driving revenue for the company. You’re fostering strategic relationships as an advocate for your product and brand.

Focus on being intentional with your outreach, and you’ll see your success rates sky-rocket!

The post Shifting Your Sales Process to Account-Based Sales Development: As a Rep appeared first on SalesLoft.

13 Feb 20:18

Here's what LinkedIn's CEO said to motivate employees after its stock was slashed by 40% (LNKD)

by Biz Carson

jeff weiner

When LinkedIn's stock nose-dived last week after earnings, even its CFO admitted he was "pretty surprised" by its skid. 

The social network for professionals lost more than 40% of its value in one day, slicing $10 billion off its market cap.

At an all-hands last week, LinkedIn's CEO Jeff Weiner tried to reassure employees and remind them that's it not about whether or not you'll experience this issue, but how you get through it.

"We are the same company we were the day before our earnings announcement. I'm the same CEO I was the day before our earnings announcement. You're the same team you were the day before our earnings announcement. And most importantly, we have the same mission, vision, and sense of purpose in terms of our ability to create economic opportunity. None of that has changed," Weiner said in the all-hands meeting. "It hasn't changed one iota."

What did excite Weiner was the World Economic Forum report that showed that 5 million jobs would be displaced by emerging technologies by 2020. Innovation is moving too fast and outstripping the ability to train people for the jobs that will be here in the future, he said, summarizing the report.

"Does that sound familiar to anyone?" he said with a smile. "It should, because that's been our narrative for years."

Weiner believes LinkedIn's role will be helping the individuals in the workforce keep up with innovation, and hinted a new holistic plan for the company to do it. While the video of the meeting, released by LinkedIn, cut off before that plan was revealed, Weiner said if the company executes on it, "our valuation will take care of itself."

Here's a portion of his speech:

 

SEE ALSO: LinkedIn CFO is 'surprised at the magnitude' of the drubbing the stock is taking

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: 5 insider tips for getting noticed on LinkedIn

13 Feb 20:17

How to Attract Your Prospects and Make Them Care

by Don Purdum

Are you having a difficult time attracting new prospects and your website or social media? Do they even know or care that you exist to serve them and working yourself crazy to let them know you exist?

It’s six o’clock in the morning and as you slowly get of bed and head to the coffee pot or Keurig you wonder to yourself if today will be better than yesterday?

Maybe overnight you hoped that someone filled out a form on your website or emailed looking for a consultation or meeting? or perhaps they bought something from you and your checking account is a few dollars happier this morning?

Or, perhaps they bought something from you and your checking account is a few dollars happier this morning?

Sadly, you open your email to discover nothing.

You even log in to your bank account just to make sure there wasn’t a mistake. But there is not one and it’s still that same, low, sad number it was when you went to bed last night.

Up to this point you’ve done everything you’ve been taught or told to do.

You built a website, created some social media pages and even set-up an email opt-in.

But it’s not working and nothing you do seems to make it any better.

Your prospects are not coming and if you’re honest with yourself you’re feeling you may be feeling a bit angry, frustrated, disappointed and maybe even a bit desperate.

What are you to do and how are you going to dig out of this financial hole?

Has Marketing Really Gotten This Complex?

Marketing today may feel more complex and challenging than ever as I shared in an article on my blog titled “Why Digital Marketing is Complex and How You Can Simplify It“.

Your experience is that it has become harder and harder to reach those who are able, willing and ready to buy from you.

Everywhere you go you hear marketing experts at one meeting after another who say you need:

  • Digital this…
  • Blogging that…
  • Social media…
  • Video
  • More email addresses

And the list goes on and on.

Businesses both offline and online are more and more understanding that the internet is a place they have to play but aren’t always comfortable about doing something they don’t understand.

And it’s the lack of understanding and clarity combined with unfamiliarity that is driving your uncertainty and causing you to feel overwhelmed.

But there is great news!

You don’t have to feel this way and I’m going to show you why in just a moment.

What is the Real Reason Your Prospects are Not Finding You?

For over a decade small businesses have been sold the story that all you need is a website, search engine optimization, email and social media. If you put it out there, they will come.

You’ve learned by now that it’s not that simple.

So, let’s identify the problems that a lot of businesses are having online in 2016:

  • You have a great looking website that few visit, know about or stay on
  • You have some traffic from search engines like Google but not nearly enough anymore thanks to all of their changes
  • Your social media isn’t doing its job like you want it to… you want more sales from a tool that isn’t a sales tool
  • And you don’t want to invest the time in something that you honestly don’t understand. And time is money.

Okay, that’s fair enough. After all, you are building a business.

But that’s the point!

As a business owner, one of your biggest responsibilities is to ensure that your business is growing and that happens through marketing; and marketing today is a mix of online and offline activities with a widely recognized belief that online marketing is the key to many businesses success.

Online marketing is generally cheaper and has a potentially higher reward.

With that in mind, how do most businesses measure if they are successful online?

Unfortunately, it’s by how much traffic your website gains or how many people are following you on a social media site.

This is a very flawed model and way of looking at it. I’ve seen businesses with massive traffic and followers make no money and websites with small amounts of followers and low traffic make it rich.

Why? What was the difference maker for both those companies?

Is Traffic to Your Website or Social Media Numbers the Solution?

Before I go into more detail, as I established website traffic and social media numbers are perceived to be the measure of success online.

Who isn’t impressed by thousands and thousands of followers?

But is that the true measure of success?

What about traffic to your website? Is a lot of traffic the true measure of success?

Without traffic people can’t find the forms to fill out to contact you, they can’t get your phone number, or maybe they cannot buy your product right off of your website.

Without traffic, people can’t discover what is happening in your business, what new sales you’re offering, or what new and exciting products you’ve come out with that they might want to buy.

Last week I was talking with a business start-up in Washington D.C. who has owned several successful businesses over the last ten years and he has since sold them for a lot of money.

He is now starting a new business and he is recognizing, as many businesses are recognizing, that the internet is changing and he is concerned about it.

Here is what he was worried about:

  1. He can’t keep up with the myriad of changes happening on the web.
  2. His number one concern: IT’S GETTING HARDER AND HARDER TO GET TRAFFIC TO HIS WEBSITE

My business friend only has it partially right when it comes to traffic, in many ways it is harder to get traffic to our websites but make no mistake that there are hundreds, thousands or maybe even millions of people who need you!

If you can message yourself properly they are just waiting to find you and have a reason to buy from you.

But, they can’t find you and as a result they are missing out on all you have to offer.

How Can You Find Your Prospects?

There are a lot of good reasons that people aren’t able find you online.

But I want to offer the real reason.

According to the 2015 B2B Web Usability Report, respondents said that the number one reason they leave a website immediately is due to a lack of a message.

In October 2015, IBM put out a survey in which 80% of respondents said that businesses in virtually no way were relevant to their needs, wants or desires.

What this means is that the real problem a business has is this; they don’t know “what business they are ‘really’ in.”

Get Clear on Your Prospects and Customers See Your Business

In over ten years of entrepreneurship in working with hundreds of businesses in marketing and web design I’ve learned that very few businesses can answer the question;

“What business are you “really” in?”

I can always see it… the blank expression, the panicked look, or the feeling of terror as their nerves take over.

It’s the same question in essence when you ask someone; “so, what do you do?”

By the time ten seconds has gone by in the conversation the person I’m talking with is trying to figure out how to escape, lol…

But it’s inevitable that the question comes up because no one really looking for an answer.

It’s just an ice breaker and small talk to see if that person had anything interesting to say.

Isn’t that’s how many of us unintentionally treat our website visitors and social media followers?

People are searching and looking for solutions for their problems but within seconds we’ve already told them we don’t care about their problems; just “buy me”.

That doesn’t work anymore.

Consumers have been blanketed with advertisements and intrusive forms of communications.

We are all constantly solicited to buy things we don’t think we need or want, and we have taken the initiative to educate ourselves about how we want to be communicated with.

How Do You Know “What Business You are ‘Really’ In”?

The truth is that the question “what business am I really in” can only be answered when you’re able to answer the following questions:

  1. What are the “specific” problems you are passionate about solving? (Want to learn more about this foundational principle? Check out my article titled “How to Discover Passion, Influence People and Increase Sales
  2. What are the tangible values your customers experience and how do they feel about the experience?
  3. What are the “specific” problems you solve for each tangible value?
  4. Who are you “specifically” solve each problem for (in detail)?
  5. How are your products or services “a” part of “a” solution?

These questions force us as business owners and entrepreneurs to make a serious shift in our thinking.

It’s a shift from thinking about you, how great you are and “buy me” to really understanding your prospects and how to communicate to them in a way that is relevant, compelling and inspiring because it’s not about you; it’s about them!

People will resonate and identify with what you have to say and they won’t feel conned, manipulated or coerced.

You will be able to share who you are and what you do in a way that is convincing and without ever saying anything about your product or service until your readers or prospects give you permission to do so.

I was working recently with Codelocks, they are a company that manufactures keyless locks.

Just to give you an idea they only have a brochure/catalog website that no one visits because they aren’t addressing the issues people are having. This is a very large multi, multi-million dollar corporation.

They learned the following after going through my process; this is just one, short example:

  • Tangible Value – I don’t have to worry about getting locked out of my house
    • Problem:
      • My son came home from school and realized he forgot his house key. It’s 18 degrees outside and no one will be home for hours and the neighbors are not home.
    • Solution:
      • If Johnny forgets his access code he can call Mom or Dad and they can remotely unlock the door to let him in where he will be warm and safe.

We created dozens of these. After we did that we were able to narrow down a concise statement about the business they are really in:

“We are in the business of providing world-class safety with world-class convenience”

When you know your business, it makes it a lot easier to communicate and attract those who are able, willing and ready to buy from you.

In addition, you will start attracting the right audience because your content will appeal directly to those you want to reach.

Create a Plan and Execute It

Now that you’ve done the hard work in your business it’s time for the fun part and create a plan to attract the audience that has no idea you even exist.

How do we do that?

Remember what we did a minute ago when we were learning what business I’m “really” in?

It’s time to take that information and put it into executable form.

A plan consists of strategies, goals and objectives.

Each strategy has specific and measurable goals (you might be familiar with SMART goals?) and the objectives (or tasks) to complete it.

When you have a roadmap it makes it a lot easier to get where you want to go.

I can’t stress how important this is!

If you want to connect with those who are searching for you, you will need to create high level strategies that could include the following tools:

  • Blogging
  • Online networking
  • Social media
  • Email
  • Video
  • Podcasts
  • Blogging communities
  • Connecting with influencers
  • Networking events

No one strategy is for everyone and you probably can’t do it all, but you can find what works for your prospects and you; and that’s what is important.

Here is one example of a strategy I personally implement in May 2014:

Strategy: Connect with influential bloggers who serve a similar I serve but in a different way.

Goal (could be numerous): Connect with one influencer per week

Objectives (tasks):

  • Read one new blog article per day
  • Leave meaningful comments
  • Share on social media with meaningful note of why someone should read the article
  • Determine who engages back
  • Repeat

I know that seems simple, but that one simple strategy has earned thousands of readers in six months and tens of thousands of dollars in new business.

Here is a hard truth; skills if you don’t ever create a relevant, compelling ad inspiring message you will never be able to create the right strategies, goals and objectives.

The foundation of your business is your message and it guides all of your strategies.

Without a message that people feel and say to themselves “OMG, how did they know?” you will continue to struggle.

The Benefits to Knowing “What Business You are ‘Really’ In?”

The greatest benefit you will ever have is clarity and focus!

When you have clarity and focus it changes your business forever.

Clarity and focus impact your message, the consistency of your message, how you message and where you message.

It will help guide you in your strategies, goals and objectives and help you in the details to connect with specific people who are searching for what you offer on a search engine or a social media site; or when influencers that you engage with refer you new business to you.

It’s when you’re able to combine your compelling message that resonates with people and then pursue intentional strategies that introduce you to those who are able, willing and ready to buy.

Conclusion

Wouldn’t it be nice if you woke up tomorrow morning to discover that your missing audience showed up out of nowhere?

Well, that’s not going to happen by accident.

But if you take the time to learn what business you’re “really” in and then create the opportunities to find, meet and engage with your audience online it can be a massive game changer for your business.

It won’t happen overnight, but it can happen quickly if you’re willing to learn, grow and implement some new ideas that will help your marketing carry your business to new opportunities that will increase your sales.

Wouldn’t it be nice if people were coming to your site and saying; “OMG, how did they know?”

Wouldn’t it be nice if they were contacting you for an appointment or if they were buying from you?

Do you have a question, thought or comment? Please share it in the comments section. I would love to interact with you and converse.

13 Feb 20:16

Bits are beating atoms: The Google, Facebook, Apple and Amazon shuffle

by Peter Yared, Sapho
4 horsemen

GUEST:

Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon have been dubbed the four horsemen of the tech industry. They are the biggest consumer companies and dominate the discussion through new initiatives such as drones and acquisitions such as Oculus.

As our current tech era has evolved, Apple has led the pile with a huge market capitalization, and Facebook was the newcomer with the smallest market cap.

In the past few weeks, however, Apple’s phenomenal iPhone sales have finally slowed and Amazon’s endless losses have finally caught up with it. In the meantime, Facebook has blown past Wall Street expectations and Google is continually growing despite its per click revenue dropping. Google and Facebook are weathering the recent tech doldrums better than their peers.

market caps

It all makes sense from a macro perspective: It’s far easier for Google to get you to do another search and Facebook to get you to look at another photo than it is for Apple to sell you another iPhone or Amazon to get you to purchase more merchandise. As the adage goes, with Google and Facebook, you’re the product, and advertisers are paying your way.

The marginal cost of revenue of a software company is far lower than a hardware or commerce company. Amazon is attempting to extract more efficiency by owning its own shipping and aircraft. Apple is continually optimizing its supply chain. However, increasing efficiencies in atoms can never catch up with bits; software is in fact eating the world.

Bill Gurley of Benchmark thinks that perhaps Amazon may have disintermediated Google since many people buy everything they need from Amazon. However, no one is looking for movie show times, restaurant recommendations, plane tickets, and many other services on Amazon. Google still has plenty of dry powder to grow, especially in a macro economic environment where consumers are choosing services over goods.

During the dot com era, the “four horsemen” were business-oriented Sun, Oracle, Netscape, and Cisco that sold the picks and shovels that fueled the dot com gold rush. A dark horse to consider in the current race to the top is business-focused Microsoft, which now has a market capitalization approaching Google and Apple. Microsoft’s shift away from Windows and into device-independent subscription services such as email, Microsoft Office, and Dynamics has been very successful.

It is incredibly difficult to keep moving more atoms at a massive scale. Google and Facebook’s bits are virtually free of earthly bounds, while Apple and Amazon’s atoms are increasingly shackled by reality.

Peter Yared is founder and CTO of Sapho and formerly CTO/CIO of CBS Interactive.










13 Feb 20:13

Get the Most Relevant Value Proposition with Lisa Dennis

by PFPS

When you see the world through your customers’ eyes, you can integrate marketing and sales techniques to create more relevant value propositions.

Join Lisa Dennis, President of Knowledgence Associates, for a workshop on how to improve the value propositions you present to your buyers. Lisa will be working with samples submitted in advance by CONNECT! listeners, so don’t miss this unique opportunity for no-cost, no-obligation support that big companies pay big money to get!

Online Business Radio at Blog Talk Radio with CONNECT1 on BlogTalkRadio

The post Get the Most Relevant Value Proposition with Lisa Dennis appeared first on People First.

13 Feb 20:13

Nail That Initial Call With Help from LinkedIn and Social Selling

by Bob Woods

initial-sales-call

Let’s get this out of the way right now: Social Selling (and by extension, using LinkedIn) is not a passive process.

It’s not just about writing articles and/or blog posts, updating your LinkedIn timeline, making sure your Profile is set up to generate phone calls and emails, and so on.

While all of those are very helpful in Social Selling and using LinkedIn, you have one ultimate goal: to actively use LinkedIn and other social tools to schedule phone calls and meetings with qualified buyers. You’ll then utilize whatever sales process you normally use to filter them out in your sales funnel and take the ones that make it through to the close. (Social Selling can help in the prospect-to-close process, too, but that’s for another article.)

Those in sales know that this process takes time and especially effort. Social Selling is no different. I want to be clear about this point (so I’m putting it in bold): One of Social Selling’s major purposes is to get that initial, all-important first call booked—be it a phone call, Webinar/screen share, in-person meeting, or another form of conversation—and then take the conversation offline. The actual selling starts once you’re offline.

I do get questions on how to do just that by using Social Selling. This is where what I call the “discovery call” comes in. It’s a short (15 minutes or 30 minutes) call where you get to show your expertise in a way that hopefully not only solves a problem or two, but gets them to want more. That “want” will hopefully lead to a closed sale.

How To Set The Call

Just like everything else in the sales process, it involves a templated script (you douse scripts and templates in your sales process, right?). While I have all kinds of conversation-starting templates for various situations, the following is the base for all of my scripts and serves as a generic “starter” for your online-to-offline activities.

Whether you’re a straight-up Social Seller, or you’re just using LinkedIn to augment your general sales activities, this script can help you with your first-degree connections. Feel free to customize it for your situation, “voice,” and so on:

[NAME]:

I invite you to have a conversation. Whether or not we decide to do business together, I am confident our call will be full of insights that can help you grow your business. Here is a link to my calendar:http://www.BookACallWithBob.com. Please pick both a time-frame and specific time that are most convenient for you. I am looking forward to our call.

There are other techniques for reaching second- and third-degree connections, people you don’t know, and so on. I’ve written about those in the past. Think of this article as more of a generic way to both secure and move through that all-important first call.

(NOTE: I know that scheduling via an online calendar can seem impersonal. I usually include a short note about how using one saves time and headaches on both sides. If you’ve ever been in one of those endless “let’s set up a time” email chains—I can almost guarantee you have been, too—I think you’ll see the value in using one.)

After the Appointment is Set

Just as in any call, it’s time for you to put all of that Social Selling work you’ve done to practical use. The call/meeting/whatever needs to be chock full of insights about your industry, and to prove further that you (and by extension, your company) are that “go-to gal/guy” in the business. You also need to determine if you can be of help to them and that the both of you are a good fit; if so, this process should ensure many follow-up conversations. Here’s how in seven steps:

Pre-call prep. Because of course you should. Research the person’s LinkedIn Profile. Use the “People Similar to [NAME]” and even the “People Also Viewed” sections in their Profile to check out their competitors. Visit and digest their company’s LinkedIn page, too. And use any other tools, Websites, etc. that you usually do for pre-call prep in your other selling activities.

Start the call right. Make sure she/he knows straight off the top that this phone call is about them: [NAME], I am looking forward to our call. Before I jump into an agenda, is there anything specific you were hoping we would cover today?” This question also hones in on any need they have and/or the direction they would like the call to go; after all, it is vital to ensure that you meet her/his needs. If you jump right into your agenda without asking, you may entirely miss the opportunity to serve their needs.

A fork in the road. From here, one of two things will happen:

  1. If they have an agenda or specific questions, just go with that. Follow their needs and don’t worry about anything else, Just be sure that in this part of the conversation you offer insights that you promised her/him when you invited them to talk. I’d say this happens three out of four times in my calls; what’s more, you’ll have a better chance of further engaging them in subsequent calls or meetings if they’re inquisitive at the start.
  2. If they took your call because you asked for it, you’d need to flip everything you ever knew about networking on its head: You’ll need to talk about yourself. When I run across this in a phone call, I say “Great, I am looking forward to each of us learning more about our respective businesses so we can explore ways we may be able to help one another. I am a sales trainer and coach. I’ve been on LinkedIn since it started, and I use LinkedIn and Social Selling as a prospecting tool, too. I use a proven curriculum that has helped hundreds of clients; from individual salespeople up to Fortune 2000 companies. I am also a speaker and writer, and have published a best-selling book on how to monetize LinkedIn and Social Selling for business development. As promised, when I requested this call with you, I’d like to learn more about what you do and who you help and possibly offer you some strategies that can have an immediate impact on your business, so please tell me about you.” By giving them more of an idea of what you do, they’ll likely come up with questions or situations they have, so you can go to the next step.

Time to be schooled. Now it’s time to learn just enough about them so that you can offer helpful ideas. You don’t need to hear their entire life story, though. The only way you can make this call effective at this point is to ask targeted questions to help them zero in on their current situation. These questions can and will lead you to offer powerful tips, strategies and ideas that will have an impact on their business. Then let them talk. And…

Listen. I mean, really listen. Take notes (put them in your CRM, if you have one). Also, ask insightful questions based on what they’re saying. You’ll refer to them in the next step.

Demonstrate you’ve been both listening and care about them. Hands down, the best way to do this is to recap what you heard from them. At this point, you can offer one or two implementable steps based on their specific situation that will make this call well worth their time.

At this point, you need to keep two things in mind:

  1. This call was not free to them. It took up her or his time, which is more valuable than money in many cases. Plus, time is always money.
  2. Your time is worth money, too… as is your expertise. Don’t give away the store; instead, offer them just one or two “to-do” items. Just do the best you can to offer something that’s new.

The close. In this case, your “close” is… a second phone call or meeting, where you can hopefully close the sale (depending on your sales process and their specific situation). As you approach the end of the call, say “[NAME], we’ve covered a lot on this call. I look forward to hearing about (whatever to-dos you gave her/him). I have some other ideas I’ve offered some of my clients that would be very beneficial for your situation as well. I know we are close to our time today, but with your permission, I would like to schedule a second call/appointment so I can share them with you. Can we look our calendars now?”

Keep in mind that this initial call isn’t a “sales call” per se, where you offer specifics on what you can offer them. That process will start to happen in subsequent calls or meetings.

Of course, each type of sale is different. Your process may be somewhat (or totally) different from what I do when I go through it. Feel free to modify these steps, but keep one thing in mind: This initial call is a discovery conversation; one where both of you determine if there’s a basis to move forward in the sales process.

Scheduling

In my online calendar, I usually offer the option of having a 15-minute call or a 30-minute call. In either case, I have a 15-minute buffer built into the back end of my calendar, in case the call goes long. I highly recommend this for you, too. After all, you never want to rush a call, right? In my opinion, nothing is more impersonal and (quite frankly) rude than having to wrap up a call before it ends “naturally.”

Just as in any sales strategy, properly securing and conducting that initial phone call plays a crucial role in both Social Selling and in your process.

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn.

13 Feb 20:12

10 Sales Initiatives Every Salesperson Should Take to Have a Monster 2016

by Brandon Gracey

We’re all guilty of the beginning of year lull that follows the end of year madness. The challenge is that last year’s madness was at least partially driven by not having a strong and strategic enough start twelve months earlier. With that in mind, below are ten sales initiatives that you can––and should––take right now to get the year started.

10 Sales Initiatives for a Monster 2016

1. Dig into last year.

This one is the foundation for everything else. Go through a handful of your closed deals, the easy wins, the hard wins…the big loses, and the no decisions. Everything. Start looking for the shared characteristics of the companies AND of your execution of the deals. Did you run bulletproof discovery? Did you skip steps in your sales process? Were they bought into a specific value proposition? From a key industry? Figure out the themes so you can…

2. Identify what a winner looks like.

Stop chasing un-winnable business! By applying what you know about past winners you’ll win more in the future. Start by documenting what a winner is so you have a lens to put each of your new opportunities through. Take the time to do this now and you’ll save yourself a lot of heartache this year!

3. Clean out your pipeline.

Once you document the winners you’re going to be looking at lot of deals in your pipeline that just don’t align. That’s why you didn’t win them at the end of last year! With a finite capacity to work deals, every un-winnable deal you’re working is robbing you of time to work your good customers/prospects – so get rid of them!

4. Lost to a competitor? Call those lost prospects.

You lost some deals to your competitors last year. We all do. There’s no reason to turn your back like a scorned lover. You should call them now because 1) it’s a great way to learn how you can improve and 2) it’s the only way to make sure that if something goes wrong, you’re waiting in the wings to pick up the pieces.

5. Call for referrals!

“91% of customers say they’d give a referral, but only 11% of salespeople ask for them.” – Dale Carnegie

“84% of B2B decision makers start their purchase with a referral.” – Edelman Trust

“Buyers are four times more likely to buy when referred by a friend.” – Nielsen

“There’s no excuse not to.” – Me

6. Look at how you spend your time.

Start next Monday by keeping a log of how you spend every minute of your day. When the week is done, classify how you spent your time and prioritize and plan for what’s important. It gives you insight into problems to fix (like how I was checking email 15+ times per day) and what you need to prioritize.

7. Calendar recurring times for what’s important.

Are you not finding time to prospect? Not getting around to reading up on new sales tactics? Spending too much time in email? Calendar specific times now, and you won’t skip what’s important. If you don’t, good luck “getting around” to finding new customers.

8. Get real-time advice.

Foundational sales books are critical. The problem is that the “next big thing” book that’s being written today won’t be published for eight months. Meanwhile, the guy who’s writing it is attending meet-ups and networking events giving talks on the most cutting edge tactics now. Read content from thought leaders in real time (check if they have a blog, like ours!) and meet the most forward thinking salespeople in person.

9. Get excited again.

All that content your marketing team is putting out is gold, and as often as you send it––when was the last time you really absorbed it? When was the last time you watched a testimonial video or read a white paper? When was the last time you went through that setup? Re-acquaint yourself with how excited you were when you started, so that enthusiasm transfers when you talk with customers and prospective customers.

10. Follow the nine-month year.

Take your annual quota and recalculate it into a nine-month year. At the beginning of the year (when you’re reenergized) is the time to set your sights on blowing out your number, not hitting it on 12/31.

I’m a big believer that there are no “silver bullets” in sales, but if you’re doing the things that work more often––and earlier––you’ll set yourself up for that monster 2016.

13 Feb 20:08

99 Motivational Sales Quotes (And 11 Videos) to Rock the Remainder of 2017

by Matt Smith

I love reading sales books just like most sales nerds. That said, most salespeople are very busy and don’t have time to read books. With the swamped sales hacker in mind, I’ve compiled 99 of my favorite motivational sales quotes to allow you to quickly gain knowledge from the greatest sales books of all time.

Sales is also a tough grind. Even the best sales negotiators aren’t immune to the mighty hand of uncle rejection. That’s why we all need a little motivation sometimes.

FYI – All the quotes are tweetable so you can look smart even if you did not actually read the books 🙂

Aaron Ross of “Predictable Revenue

  1. “Qualified opportunity growth leads to Predictable Revenue growth” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “The quality of your people means everything to you and your team’s success” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “As Winston Churchill said, ‘Never, never, never, never give up!’ (with ideal prospects).” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “Use Sales Development Reps to prospect & pass qualified opportunities to quota-carrying salespeople” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “The better your lead gen is, the less dependent you are on the quality of your salespeople & process” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “Bad process is better than no process, because you can improve systems but not randomness” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “If you have to throw your VP Sales at every big deal, you don’t have a scalable sales process”– Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “1-time revenue spikes that aren’t repeatable won’t help you achieve consistent YoY growth.” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “Customers don’t care at all whether you close the deal or not. They care about improving their business.” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “In fact, if you’re making cold calls, you are doing everything wrong.” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “Of course you want more revenue, but what good is it if it isn’t predictable?” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]
  1. “Are you making excuses for not finding ways to get around your challenges?” – Aaron Ross[Tweet It]

Tom Hopkins of “How to Master the Art of Selling”

  1. “Repeat anything often enough and it will start to become you.” – Tom Hopkins [Tweet It]
  1. “I never see failure as failure, but only as the game I must play and win.” – Tom Hopkins [Tweet It]
  1. “You begin by always expecting good things to happen.” – Tom Hopkins [Tweet It]
  1. “You are your greatest asset. Put your time, effort and money into training” – Tom Hopkins [Tweet It]
  1. “I am not judged by the number of times I fail, but by the number of times I succeed.” – Tom Hopkins [Tweet It]

Neil Rackman of “SPIN Selling”

  1. “Successful people ask a lot more questions during sales calls than do their less successful colleagues.” – Neil Rackham [Tweet It]
  1. “It’s more dangerous to ignore signals of customer concern than it is to explore potential concerns and get them out into the open.” – Neil Rackham [Tweet It]

Dale Carnegie of “How to Win Friends and Influence People”

  1. “Any fool can criticize, complain, and condemn—and most fools do.” – Dale Carnegie [Tweet It]
  1. “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic.”- Dale Carnegie [Tweet It]
  1. “Everybody in the world is seeking happiness—and there is one sure way to find it. That is by controlling your thoughts.” – Dale Carnegie [Tweet It]
  1. “Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.” – Dale Carnegie [Tweet It]
  1. “You can’t win an argument. You can’t because if you lose it, you lose it; and if you win it, you lose it.” – Dale Carnegie [Tweet It]
  1. “Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” Dale Carnegie[Tweet It]
  1. “To be interesting, be interested.” – Dale Carnegie [Tweet It]
  1. “Why talk about what we want? That is childish. Absurd. Of course, you are interested in what you want.”  – Dale Carnegie [Tweet It]
  1. “Arouse in the other person an eager want. He who can do this has the whole world with him. He who cannot walks a lonely way.” Dale Carnegie [Tweet It]

Zig Ziglar of “Secrets of Closing the Sale”

  1. “You were designed for accomplishment, engineered for success, and endowed with the seeds of greatness.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “There are no traffic jams on the extra mile.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “There is no elevator to success…you have to take the stairs.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “Where you start is not as important as where you finish.”  – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “If you don’t see yourself as a winner, then you cannot perform as a winner” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “Each close you use should be an educational process by which you are able to raise the value in the prospect’s mind.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “You don’t build a business –you build people– and then people build the business.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “Anything worth doing is worth doing poorly until you learn to do it well.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “Success is not measured by what you do compared to what others do, it is measured by what you do with the ability God gave you.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “When obstacles arise, you change your direction to reach your goal, you do not change your decision to get there.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “When you do more than you’re paid for, eventually you’ll be paid for more than you do.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “A goal properly set is halfway reached.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “If you can dream it, you can achieve it.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “How you see your future is much more important than what happened in your past.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “For every sale you miss because you were too enthusiastic, you’ll miss a hundred because you weren’t enthusiastic enough.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “The more you complain about your problems, the more problems you will have to complain about.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “Selling is essentially a transference of feelings.”- Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]
  1. “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help enough other people get what they want.” – Zig Ziglar[Tweet It]

Harvey Mackay of “Swim With the Sharks Without Being Eaten Alive”

  1. “You don’t need a big close, as many sales reps believe…Keep the customer actively involved throughout your presentation, and watch your results improve.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “To be a champion, you have to learn to handle stress and pressure.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “Most fears of rejection rest on the desire for approval from other people. Don’t base your self-esteem on their opinions.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “Deadlines aren’t bad. They help you organize your time. They help you set priorities.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “Too often, sales reps simply regurgitate their presentations and expect to land the sale. It doesn’t work.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “You do not get what you want. You get what you negotiate.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “I believe that visualization is one of the most powerful means of achieving personal goals” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “You can win more friends with your ears than with your mouth.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “By getting your customers to agree with you in small steps along the way, you have a better chance of reaching agreement when it’s time to do business.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “Expect to make some mistakes when you try new and different approaches.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “The quality of your life is determined by the quality of your relationships. The quality of your business is no different.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “If you want people to know how much you care, show them how much you remember. Learn their names and use them often. It’s an important skill to develop.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]
  1. “Remember you’re not entitled to anything. You have to earn your success every day, and you will make mistakes like everyone else.” – Harvey Mackay [Tweet It]

Daniel Pink of “To Sell is Human”

  1. “One of the best predictors of ultimate success in either sales or non-sales selling isn’t natural talent or even industry expertise, but how you explain your failures and rejections.” – Daniel Pink [Tweet It]
  1. “Questions are often more effective than statements in moving others.” – Daniel Pink [Tweet It]
  1. “There’s an idea out there that salespeople have actually been obliterated by the Internet, which is just not supported by the facts.” – Daniel Pink [Tweet It]
  1. “The ability to take another perspective has become one of the keys to sales” – Daniel Pink [Tweet It]

Dan Waldschmidt of “EDGY Conversions”

  1. “Pretending that we know more than we really do is one big reason we’re not as successful as we should be. It’s probably the worst self-limiting behavior that we have.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]
  1. “Success looks a lot like failure up until the moment you break through the finish line.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]
  1. “The only thing standing between you and outrageous success is continuous progress.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]
  1. “If you haven’t had to cry because you cared, you need to care more.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]
  1. “Discipline drives your dreams toward success.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]
  1. “Success demands planning, patience, and passion.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]
  1. “Every amazing achiever gets told they can’t do it. Winners use that disbelief to drive outrageous results.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]
  1. “Working smarter is the luxury you earn once you’ve worked yourself half to death.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]
  1. “Success has a price. If you aren’t prepared to pay it, you shouldn’t expect to achieve it.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]
  1. “You create your future one thought and one decision at a time.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]
  1. “If you wouldn’t kick down your customer’s door and spit sales facts in his face in person, then don’t do it with your calls and emails.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]
  1. “Just because you call it business doesn’t mean it’s not personal. It always it.” – Dan Waldschmidt[Tweet It]

David Ogilvy of “Confessions of an Advertising Man”

  1. “Our business is infested with idiots who try to impress by using pretentious jargon.” – David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]
  1. “The more informative your advertising, the more persuasive it will be.” – David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]
  1. “It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product.” – David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]
  1. “Never stop testing, and your advertising will never stop improving.” – David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]
  1. “In the modern world of business, it is useless to be a creative, original thinker unless you can also sell what you create.” – David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]
  1. Good copy can’t be written with tongue in cheek, written just for a living. You’ve got to believe in the product.” – David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]
  1. “On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy.” – David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]
  1. “Don’t bunt. Aim out of the ball park. Aim for the company of immortals.” – David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]
  1. “The headline is the ‘ticket on the meat.’ Use it to flag down readers who are prospects for the kind of product you are advertising.”- David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]
  1. “I do not regard advertising as entertainment or an art form, but as a medium of information.” – David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]
  1. “It is flagrantly dishonest for an advertising agent to urge consumers to buy a product which he would not allow his own wife to buy.” – David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]
  1. “Ninety-nine percent of advertising doesn’t sell much of anything.” – David Ogilvy →  [Tweet It]

Mark Cuban of “How to Win at the Sport of Business”

  1. “I still work hard to know my business. I’m continuously looking for ways to improve all my companies, and I’m always selling. Always.” – Mark Cuban[Tweet It]
  1. “I love to compete. To me, business is the ultimate sport. It’s always on. There is always someone trying to beat me.” – Mark Cuban[Tweet It]

Jeffrey Gitomer of “The Little Red Book of Selling”

  1. “People don’t like to be sold, but they love to buy!” – Jeffrey Gitomer[Tweet It]
  1. “The key to mastering any kind of sales is switching statements about you – how great you are, and what you do – to statements about them.” – Jeffrey Gitomer[Tweet It]
  1. “After you listen to a strategy or sales technique, try to use it within the hour.  Listening followed by doing leads to mastery.”- Jeffrey Gitomer[Tweet It]
  1. “Making the sale is a gateway to a relationship.”- Jeffrey Gitomer[Tweet It]
  1. “Quality performance (and quality service) starts with a positive attitude.” – Jeffrey Gitomer[Tweet It]
  1. “There’s no lotion or potion that will make sales faster and easier for you – unless your potion is hard work.” – Jeffrey Gitomer[Tweet It]
  1. “Great salespeople are relationship builders who provide value and help their customers win.” – Jeffrey Gitomer[Tweet It]
  1. “I don’t want features, I want value. I don’t want benefits, I want value.”– Jeffrey Gitomer[Tweet It]

What did I miss? Please leave your favorite motivational sales quotes and books below 🙂


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The post 99 Motivational Sales Quotes (And 11 Videos) to Rock the Remainder of 2017 appeared first on Sales Hacker.

13 Feb 20:08

How to Milk LinkedIn for Maximum Inbound Lead Generation

by Dave Orecchio

Inbound lead generation with LinkedInSeveral social media platforms offer salespeople opportunities to build awareness and generate leads. However, few offer the same multitude of powerful inbound lead generation techniques as LinkedIn. This point is especially true for B2B sales.

Here are 8 strategies your business can use to attract quality leads with LinkedIn:

1) Follow Prospects and Customers

LinkedIn is built on “Connections.” It’s sensible for your team members to follow people with whom they already do business. More importantly, when you are connected to people in LinkedIn, you often have the opportunity to make new contacts with third-party connections.

When you connect with someone, LinkedIn gives you a list of other “People You May Know.” Often, these recommendations are driven based on similar profiles or interests as your existing connections. When LinkedIn delivers recommendations for partners of your clients, or people in similar industries, leverage your mutual relationships to grow your network.

2) Track Your Profile Views

You also have the ability to identify prospects based on an interest they take in you. By paying the monthly fee for a premium profile, you gain access to a detailed look at people who view your profile.

When you review the profiles of on-lookers, you get a chance to read through a prospect’s background. You have a natural conduit through which to initiate a connection request or to inquire about the person’s interest in your personal profile or company page.

3) Start or Join Groups

Groups are a virtual community where you can participate in conversations and content sharing with others. Some groups are started by industry leaders, which gives you convenient access to other players in industries in which you find great prospects.

Joining and effectively participating in LinkedIn groups is an art form. Inc. magazine recently discussed several strategies to maximize the time you put into groups. As you share information and interact with other members, you may find direct access to a prospect, or an opportunity to inquire about referrals from someone you get to know.

4) Search for Prospects

One of the simplest, most effective and often overlooked prospecting tools on Linkedin is “search,” according to a recent Forbes article. You can search for users based on such parameters as location, job title, company size or keywords.

If you target particular types of buyers in a city, for instance, enter a common job title along with the city name. Not only do you get a list of potential targets, but Forbes also noted that about half of the profiles on LinkedIn are people who play important decision-making roles in companies.

inbound lead generation linkedIn

5) Share Content with Links

LinkedIn also allows you to post updates and articles, which aligns with content marketing strategies you probably already use for inbound lead generation. You could post an update on a major business award or product development, for instance, and include a link to a detailed landing page.

In addition to posting articles on your company blog, post on LinkedIn to extend your reach. An advantage of posting on LinkedIn is that users easily access your content. Interested readers also have the option to follow your posts, and ultimately may seek out your website for more information.

6) Build a Compelling Personal and Business Profile

The foundation of LinkedIn is an individual profile or business page. To turn profile or page views into leads, deliver strong copy outlining the benefits of what you do. Address the common problem faced by your customers and explain briefly how your company goes about solving them. Include a high-quality, professional image, and make yourself look appealing to someone seeking your products and services.

7) Give to Get

Another commonly used tool on LinkedIn is “Recommendations.” These are endorsements of the skills and accomplishments of another person. You can simply endorse a person by noting that he or she has certain skills. You can go a step further by offering a narrative testimonial that speaks to the character, accomplishments or performance of the other party.

While it is great to receive recommendations on your profile, giving recommendations to others is also a great way to get your brand in front of more potential contacts. When people look at the profile of someone you endorse, they may scan through endorsements and see what you have shared. You could benefit from good timing if someone stumbles upon your recommendation at the time he is looking for a solution you offer. If nothing else, you spread your name and gain positive sentiment from those you support.

8) Buy Sales Navigator

If you want to get beyond the free or basic premium tools for inbound lead generation, you can pay for LinkedIn’s sales prospecting tool, Sales Navigator. With this tool, LinkedIn delivers contact recommendations to you, based on your target interests. You also gain access to real-time updates on industry news and profile changes that may impact your contacts at certain companies.

Besides, Sales Navigator integrates with Salesforce and Microsoft Dynamics, allowing you to track your LinkedIn activity in the same central location where you manage your customer relationships. The company offers a demonstration as well as a free trial, so you can test Navigator out for your inbound lead generation campaign before making a financial commitment.

Conclusions – How To Maximize Inbound Lead Generation

By identifying contacts through LinkedIn tools, adding these contacts to your inbound marketing database, you now have the ability to nurture them to a sale and convert cold calls to warm. You have many ways to perform effective inbound lead generation on LinkedIn. It is often best to identify two or three approaches initially and then add new strategies after achieving success with the first few. In general, make yourself “digitally” attractive online to drive traffic to your website, engage prospects, and approach new potential prospects through targeted searches or industry groups.

24 inbound marketing tips to set your company apart

13 Feb 20:07

From Impossible To Inevitable: 3 Painful Truths About Sales & Marketing

by Andrew Tate

Aaron Ross (Predictable Revenue) and Jason Lemkin (SaaStr) have helped companies like Salesforce.com and EchoSign achieve record-breaking growth. In their new book, From Impossible to Inevitable, they team up to share their systematic approach that has led to their repeated successes. Ross and Lemkin have proven that taking a company from nothing to hyper-growth requires much more than a great product. It requires dedication to all levels of the business, and the ability to systematize a growth mindset in your company.

In From Impossible To Inevitable, they show how you can grow your company through developing repeatable processes that will consistently drive revenue and increase your growth. But they also show the painful truths that entrepreneurs, salespeople, and marketers have been holding onto for too long and are keeping them from reaching their full potential.

Here are 3 of those painful truths for sales and marketers, and how Ross and Lemkin suggest you can get over them to take your company to the next level and “kick off your biggest growth spurt yet.”

Key Lessons: From Impossible to Inevitable

Painful Truth 1: “Build it and they will come” is a fairy tale

You can have an awesome product, but no one will find out about it if you don’t have a lead generation pipeline. This is the takeaway from Create Predictable Pipeline, the second section of From Impossible To Inevitable.

That predictability comes not only from developing specific sales and marketing processes, but also predictable customer success processes, as most of your customer’s lifetime value comes after the initial sale.

Customer success should be at the heart of your business strategy. Ross and Lemkin see the head of customer success as being on par with the heads of marketing and sales, and just as important to achieving this predictable pipeline. By putting customer success at the core of your company, you’re “targeting, creating product for, and servicing, the kinds of customers that need your product.”

Customer Success As A Revenue Driver

Through this mindset, customer success moves away from being “glorified customer support” and becomes a true revenue driver. By investing in customer success you can:

  • Lower your churn—Keeping your current customers successful means they will stay, and stay paying.
  • Increase revenue—Those customers will refer others, and also be more amenable to newer products and upgrading.
  • Improve your marketing—Customer success gives you testimonials to use on your site, showing potential customers coming through other lead generation efforts just how much companies like them appreciate your product .

#1 on that list, lowering churn, is about the best thing you can do if you want to have stellar growth and really boost your revenue. Every customer you lose is not only lost revenue from that person/company, but also the additional money you have to spend to replace them. Lowering churn increases customer lifetime value (LTV) and decreases customer acquisition costs (CAC). Achieving the fabled 3:1 LTV:CAC ratio required for huge growth is only possible if you get your churn to rock bottom. And we mean rock bottom.

Retention with Different Levels of Churn

A monthly churn level of 3% is generally considered good within the SaaS industry. But all that churn adds up to losing almost a third of your original customers within a year. Those are all customers that you have to replace just to break even, without even considering growth.

And that’s good churn. With a churn level of 5% per month, something that SaaS companies can see from time to time, you’ve lost half your customers. With 10% churn, 3 out of every 4 of your original customers will have to be replaced by the end of the year.

Good churn is actually negative. Though you can’t get negative customer churn, you can get negative revenue churn. This is where you not only keep your customers, but they upgrade, spending more by the end of the period than at the beginning.

Account Value by Cohort at 5% Negative Churn

Tom Tunguz shows what this can look like when you start negatively churning cohorts on top of each other. Each cohort grows over time as the customers in it upsell and cross-sell. These layer on top of each other, increasing the foundation for each new cohort and increasing your revenue from both new and current customers.

Ross and Lemkin point out that by investing in customer success you can significantly lower churn, setting that solid foundation for the rest of your team, company, and revenue to grow.

From The Book: Brad Varga On Dropping Churn

Brad Varga is the SVP Customer Success at Gild, a company that helps others recruit engineers more effectively. He lays out the 3 methods Gild uses to drop churn to rock bottom:

  1. 90-day adoption: As soon as the customer signs up, the customer success team at Gild goes to work. They train the new users on how to use the product, best practices for recruiting engineers, and keep the excitement levels high through these first few uses.
  2. Quarterly business reviews: By getting together, onsite, with customers every quarter, the customer success team can continually make sure that the customer is getting the most out of the product, and using it as intended.
  3. Predictive tools: Using both external (Zendesk, Olark) tools and internal dashboards, the customer success team can spot at-risk customers whose usage is dropping and contact them to iron out issues. They can also use this data to see who is maximizing their use of Gild and should be contacted by a sales rep for possible upgrade.

The takeaway from Gild is that people who understand the core value of your product are the ones that retain. Show that to them early, and you’ll not only reduce your churn, you’ll also have a customer who is going to tell everyone else about how awesome you are, want more, and spend more.

Painful Truth 2: Growth exposes your weaknesses

From Impossible To Inevitable is all about scaling, and one of the core focus points of Make Sales Scalable, the third section of the book, is how to scale your team so that you are always hiring the right people for the job at the right time.

At each stage—from small, to medium, to large, to huge—having the right people to execute the right strategy is critical. This goes double for sales. Get the wrong VP Sales at the wrong time and your growth can quickly stall, and you’ll have trouble regaining any early momentum you picked up.

If your VP Sales is your weak point, then that will have a serious detrimental effect on your company. It’s hard to deal with, but you will have to make the decision to move that person on and get the right salesperson in to do the job.

The Right VP Sales At The Right Time

Ross and Lemkin lay out the 4 types of VP Sales needed for critical junctures in your growth. Each of these will make a crucial impact on your company, but only if they’re hired at the right time:

The Right Sales VP

The Evangelist: $0-$1M
This is what most people think about when they envision a VP of Sales. Someone who is all passion for the project and the product. For early stage startups, an evangelist can seem like the answer to their prayers.

The problem is that they often have trouble moving beyond this stage. As they have always made their sales through their enthusiasm and personality, they have no idea how to scale and systematize sales. They’re good for those first few big deals, but just when you need to a put a process in place, they can’t help.

What’s more, an early stage startup should already have an evangelist-type salesperson—the CEO. You should be your evangelist, and only hire a VP of Sales when you’re ready to put a system in place and need some experience.

Mr. Make it Repeatable: $1M-$10M
This is the guy who takes your sales strategy and turns it into a constant pipeline of leads, prospects, and deals. It is a crucial hire in these early stages as it’s the person who is laying the foundation for continual growth. It’s also the hardest hire to make.

This is because not a lot of people have the right experience to make this predictable pipeline happen. You’ll be looking to hire someone away from a big company with the promise of a flashy new title and a sweet compensation package. But the salespeople at billion-dollar companies don’t necessarily have the skills to build a company.

But it’s imperative you make this hire. As Ross and Lemkin say, “Everything seems much simpler and clearer. Almost immediately, revenue goes up. Because they know how to close, recruit, hire and coach. And they know how to build the basic processes you need to make it predictable.”

Ms. Go Big: $10M-$40M
This position is all about taking the process and super-sizing it. They increase hires, start specializations within the team and work with the VP Marketing to grow the inbound and outbound marketing and sales. They want to make a machine that produces revenue.

Ross and Lemkin say the best place to look for these VPs is companies that have just gone through this stage and have crushed it themselves. If they know how to keep the sales machine turning, you want them now.

Mr. Dashboards: $40M+
This is the final, but not necessarily inevitable, hire. Ross and Lemkin say you might need this guy once you are “past Unstoppable,” but that he is a liability before that, not knowing how to really scale and get to that $40M point in the first place.

He is going to refine your process, picking out all the way you can make marginal gains in an already successful team, but his skills lie in managing managers rather than growing revenue himself.

Leadership is what’s important, and different leadership is vital at different stages. Don’t be won over by great resumes alone. Just because someone has worked at a unicorn, doesn’t mean they got that unicorn to grow. Look for exactly what you need at each stage of your growth and hire due to those requirements. Get it wrong and you’ll stall, but get it right and you’re on track to hyper-growth.

From The Book: Mark Roberge On Sales Recruiting

Roberge is HubSpot’s Chief Revenue Officer and grew the sales team at HubSpot from $0 to $100M. He has hired hundreds of sales reps and interviewed thousands. He lays out what he sees as the 5 indicators of future success for hiring anyone in your sales team:

  1. Coachability. This is always #1. If they can’t learn your way of doing things, then they aren’t going to make any significant difference to the company.
  2. Prior Success. This doesn’t have to come from sales. If someone has excelled in any area of life, that can show that they have the determination to succeed in business. A great example of this type of hiring thinking at HubSpot is Colleen Coyne, an inbound marketing consultant. Yes, she had previous experience at Groove Networks and Microsoft, but what really stood out was that she is a gold medal-winning olympian.
  3. Work Ethic. Sales is a lot of rejection. Therefore, anyone that’s going to excel needs the ability to keep going even in the tough times. They also need the work ethic that will get them on calls, emails, and visits all day long.
  4. Curiosity. The people that are really going to get the great sales are the ones that want to know exactly what potential customers need. They are going to go that extra mile to find out, always asking why.
  5. Intelligence. This should go without saying. You’re not hiring for a boiler room. You need intelligent salespeople who can ask the right questions and get the right answers for their customers.

Painful Truth 3: It’s hard to build a big business out of small deals

If you’re selling your product for $10 per month, $100M ARR is a long, long way away. It’s possible, and some of the most well-known companies achieve high growth selling a low-priced tool, but there is a quicker, easier way to get to $100M: instead of selling companies your product for $10, sell them your solution for $100K.

This is the advice in the Double Your Dealsize section of From Impossible To Inevitable. Ross and Lemkin have nothing against low-priced products, and point out that every company starts with small customers and that they’ll continue to be a not-insignificant part of revenue for even large companies for years.

Finding The Right Deal Size For Your Company

Using EchoSign as an example, they show that there is a common split of revenue for most SaaS companies in their early years.

40% of revenue comes from big customers, 40% from SMBs, and 20% from very small businesses. But once you get to $1M ARR, you are going to have to choose one of them as your number one priority. A diverse pool of customers and revenue is good, but one sector has to take precedent.

And that sector should be those big customers. If you can solve a big problem for them, they will pay, and pay big.

If you look at what upping revenue per customer can do, you’ll see why. Increasing revenue per customer means you need to acquire fewer customers:

Customer Revenue/Customer/Year Customers Needed for $100M ARR Individual $120 833,333 Small Business $1,000 100,000 Medium Business $10,000 10,000 Large Business $100,000 1,000 Enterprise $1,000,000 100

Fewer customers means that you can concentrate your resources on the customers that are really willing to pay for them, making yourself more efficient.

You have to offer these customers a solution rather than just a tool. Again, looking at EchoSign, their tool, a way to sign documents digitally, was worth $15 per month to users. But a solution for companies on how they could manage, sign, and distribute thousands of documents? That was worth $1,000,000.

If you are offering just a tool to companies, it is incredibly difficult for your contacts within that company to get buy-in from key stakeholders. They can’t see how a tool is worth $10K, let alone $100K. But if you can offer an entire solution to these companies, solving their problem with support, marketing, or payroll, that is worth that $100K to the C-suite, and solves a burning pain for an enterprise company, and they will pay.

By going upmarket, you can increase your deal size while decreasing the number of deals needed to grow. Of course, you’ll still want diverse streams of revenue, so you don’t want to ignore or remove SMB customers, but having the framework in place to service and provide a solution to enterprise customers will mean big deal after big deal.

This means more people, more infrastructure, more security, and more cost. But this is the type of investment that is crucial to boosting growth and going from an SMB yourself to massive company.

From the Book: Mark Cranney On Going After Enterprise

Mark Cranney, partner at Andreessen Horowitz, points out 3 things about going upmarket that most entrepreneurs and startups will never have dealt with before:

  1. Dealing with internal processes: “You have to learn how to go after and sell to companies who are hundreds or thousands of employees. And it’s a new skill. Decision-making in large organizations is a long, tortuous process due to legacy technology deployments, internal politics, entrenched home-grown solutions, sunk cost of integrations, account control by incumbent vendors, and the sheer size and scale involved.”
  2. Salespeople create new value for customers:At Opsware, sales reps would come back to me and say, ‘Look, there’s no budget for data center automation at XYZ company.’And I’d say, ‘of course there was no budget for data center automation back then: the market hadn’t been established yet.’ Our job was to go out there and show customers a different and better way of doing business.”
  3. It only starts when you’ve landed the big deal: “It’s precisely when the product seems to be selling itself that building out this sales team and process is critical: Stopping or stalling at that point could expose the company to the competition and lose the race to be #1 in its category.”

All You Need To Achieve Hyper-Growth

There’s plenty more to learn from this book on all parts of building a successful company. Whether you’re wondering how to hire right for your sales positions, how to get out of a rut in Year 5, or how to inspire ownership among your team, Ross and Lemkin have advice from their extensive experience, as well as from other entrepreneurs and investors.

Ross and Lemkin reiterate that it all comes down to building a process. Don’t expect any quick wins, hacks, or viral hits on your pathway to success. What’s really important is putting the systems in place to get the right people, build the right product, generate the right leads, and get the right customers. From there, hyper-growth goes From Impossible To Inevitable.

13 Feb 20:07

5 Mistakes That Are Killing Your Online Sales

by Ty Rothstein

Stop hurting your business

When you’re starting out every new visitor or sale is like a gift of the Gods.

But as you grow that quickly gets old.

You get smarter about where you can find new customers and plug the gaping holes in your website. But how can you further improve your sales if there are no obvious wins?

As you get bigger the intangible stuff becomes more important: are you speaking to the right people, do people trust your site, do they see you as an expert? These are things that many people describe as the fluffy stuff.

In this article I’m going to make the fluff real and show you five mistakes that other stores make. I’m going to show you bad examples that will help you to avoid those mistakes and show you good examples that will take your sales to the next level.

Start Learning: 5 Mistakes Killing Your Online Sales

Mistake 1: Not Knowing Who You are Selling to

This one seems obvious; of course you know who you are selling to!

You sell to college students / women that are into yoga / anyone that needs garden furniture / your answer.

Most store owners get this far. Just a tiny bit specific but still vague enough to make sure you don’t exclude anyone that could possibly buy your products.

But digging down deeper into your target group might reveal more details. If you sell to women that are into yoga, ask yourself what a 23 year old woman has in common with someone of 64 years of age?

They both do some type of yoga but they will probably have different reasons for doing it. The younger woman might be doing it to get more toned, while the older one simply wants to stay active.

Tip: If you describe your audience as “Anyone that needs …” you don’t have a grasp on who you’re selling to.

Why is this important?

If you don’t have a clear idea of who you’re selling to, it will be hard to convince your visitors why they should buy from you instead of any other store.

The better you understand what they are really after, the more they will feel at home and the more likely they will buy.

Targeting a specific group of people goes beyond adding a tagline to your site that says: yoga gear for 18-32 year old women.

In some cases it could make sense to use a tagline, but if you really know your customer you can be a lot more sophisticated. You can tap into their goals and aspirations with your store’s name, your design, product images or your content.

Let’s take a look at some examples!

If you land on the homepage website below, it’s unclear you’re in an online store.

Scrolling down further they do explain what the site is about: Wearable fine art, printed. There are also some products so you understand what that looks like.

Putting that tagline on top of the page will make it more clear what this site is all about.

mistake of now knowing customer killing sales

Putting that tagline on top of the page will make it more clear what this site is all about.

The reverse can also be true: a homepage that tells exactly why your store exists and what your products stand for. But if people get to your store via a product page instead, they don’t have any idea what makes your products different.

bad product page killing sales

Here’s yet another example. Seems like a normal bow tie, right? But if you go to the homepage, you’ll discover a whole other angle.

don

Here’s yet another example of a web store killing its own sales! It turns out that their whole site is about vegan, cruelty free clothing and accessories. This seems to be the main selling point of the store, so making sure it’s visible no matter where you are on the site is essential. You could pull this off with a site-wide banner or including it at least in your product description.

Need to communicate product value to customers

The next example is an approach I see a lot, especially with stores that are dropshipping. The site below works fine, there are plenty of products and each of them has got a product description. But something is missing.

not knowing your customer decreases sales

Who is this store for? Anyone that needs anything related to Electrics? What sets this store apart from others? At the end of the page there are a couple of their selling points:

mistake killing sales not mentioning value

Again these are pretty generic and don’t set this store apart from others.

If you know exactly who your customers are, you could specify more what kind of support they need.

Are your customers do-it-yourself type of people? Are you targeting the professional market? Or do you want to sell to people that want to improve their home, but have no technical skills and need other people to install it for them?

That’s only thinking about the way you can offer and frame the support you give. But you can see that if you apply this thinking to other parts of your business and it can really give you unique and creative ideas to set your store apart.

If you land on the Zen Coloring Pages’ homepage, it’s clear what they sell to whom:

ecommerce brand knows customer

Next is an example how your customers and products can influence the name. Mindzai is a site that sells a lot of anime and cartoon figurines. The store name sounds Japanese (-zai) and the logo also has something that resembles a Japanese character. A big part of their offering is around anime products. So the Japanese name connects to that.

mindzai logo helps customers

You can also use your brand in little design elements on your page. Beauty Express has a lipstick-looking line below their titles.

knowing customer increase online sales

If you’re running into some of the same issues as mentioned above, take a step back and really take a look at how you are approaching your customers.

Things to get your juices flowing:

Mistake 2: Hiding Information From Your Visitor

People love surprises right? Whether that surprise be getting that extra 10% discount, adding a gift to their order or thanking them with a handwritten note.

If you manage to delight your customers, you start of the relationship well and set yourself up for repeat purchases or referrals.

That also works the other way around if you do things like hide shipping or additional costs in the checkout process.

Visitors will feel tricked; they won’t buy and will probably tell others about it.

Take a look at the extra insurance that was added to the cart below. Can you spot how to get rid of it?

mistakes bad for ecommerce business

Even if you have the best of intentions, people might still feel tricked if you’re not straightforward about things like shipping costs.

A UK study on shopping cart abandonment showed that 26% of shoppers placed an item in their basket just to check delivery costs. So if your cart abandonment rate is too high, this could be one of the reasons for it.

Let’s take a look at some examples that handle this well.

Birchbox offers free shipping on orders above $50.

informing customers costs

Another eCommerce brand that has successfully found a way to let customers know about shipping costs before checkout is OZscopes. They have a shipping calculator in their sidebar that will show you exactly how much shipping will be. That’s one great way to improve the eCommerce shopping experience.

Free shipping and returns might not make sense for your business. But you can be as clear as possible about shipping, tax, returns and possible additional costs.

If you’re unsure if you’re doing things right, you could run a user test with people that haven’t been on your site before. Let them make an order and quiz them afterwards to see how obvious your shipping and return policies were.

Mistake 3: Making a Bad Impression With Your Product

There are two ways to make a bad impression with your products: sell a crappy product or present a good product in a bad way.

If you sell crappy products and visitors can tell from just looking at the pictures there is no hope for you. You might be able to trick some visitors into buying, but word will get out and your store will go nowhere.

Even if your products are great (or just good), your presentation might stink. For example, when shopping for a specific type of quadcopter I found the following 3 sites that are selling the exact same product.

Site 1:

way image is taken is crucial

Site 2:

need to get product image right the first time

Site 3:

product quality must be high

Personal design preferences aside, the product looks totally different on these three sites.

Product presentation matters. If all you do is put up all pictures and texts that the manufacturer or supplier has provided, you probably are not going to stand out from other sites.

But if you take the time to customize the content to your audience, you’ll see better results. The last store in the example above took some time to take new pictures, it gives you a feel for the size and adds a human element to it.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a lot of work. But this is where you add extra value.

Most store owners will try to do the least amount of work possible and use the pre-made content, making it more valuable if you do something else.

Boring products

But what if your products are good but just a bit boring?

In an effort to find the least sexy product I came across the Hacos HM, an industrial machine to produce chocolates. Their product pages look a bit dull, but in one of the product pictures the machine is working and you can see all the delicious chocolate!

boring product photography mistake that is decreasing salesProduct in Action

Adding that picture might seem like a small thing, but showing how the product can be used makes it more real to your visitor.

Great products

Let’s take a look at example from Betabrand. Many of their products are unique, fun and really visual like this Gold Disco Hoodie.

mistake that ruins sales bad product description

If your product is great, make sure you also show it with a good description, plenty of pictures or videos and good reviews!

Mistake 4: Only Going for the Direct Sale

Most visitors come to your site with no intention of buying. It’s more likely that they are there to read an article, browse around or consider some of your products for a future purchase.

Only a very small percentage of first-time visitors will be in buying mode.

That percentage goes up every time a visitor is brought back to your website. An ecommerce study that compared conversion rates for new vs repeat visitors found the following:

  • New visitors: 1.55%
  • Repeat visitors: 12.61%.

While there are things you can do to convert more of those first time visitors, it’s clear that the money is in bringing people back to your site.

Two ideal tools for this job are retargeting and email marketing.

Retargeting

This is a type of advertising that allows you to show banner ads to people that have visited your website.

The two big places you can use to setup retargeting campaigns are Google Adwords and Facebook ads. It’s easy to waste money when you start advertising, so make sure you get things right from the start.

You can get really specific and show them the exact products they were looking at. Or you can keep it simple and reinforce your store’s brand.

Check out this retargeting ad via Google that promotes a one product store.

ecommerce mistake not doing retargeting

Retargeting via Facebook also allows you to advertise a specific set of products.

mistake that cuts into sales not retargeting

Email marketing

Even if a visitor isn’t ready to buy on his first visit, you might be able to convince him to join your email list.

You can offer exclusive content, special deals or a discount if they join your list.

rookie mistake of information overload

This popup offers a 5% discount if you join. If they’d remove the social media buttons it would increase focus and probably lead to more opt-ins.

The below store invites a visitor to “Subscribe to news”. Unless visitors love your store, it’s unclear what’s in it for them if they sign up.

popup that drives traffic away

Now take a look at an eCommerce site that creates attractive popups that convert visitors into leads and customers. Autumn and Indigo have created a stellar popup that catches your attention, and of course, tells you what you get in return for signing up.

won

Once you’ve got the visitor’s email address, you’re in the driver’s seat. You have permission to get in touch as long as you’re providing them value.

This can range from a newsletter with the latest products to a series of emails educating them about how your product can make their life better.

Mistake 5: Produce Content That Not Even Your Mum Wants to Read

If you’re relying on content marketing to bring people to your website your goal is basically to earn the attention of people.

To get that attention you need to provide value in exchange.

A keyword stuffed blog post might result in a small trickle of traffic to your site. But if it’s poorly written you’ll see those visitors going faster than you can show a popup. They will also not click through to your products or spread it on social media.

The bar for content that will attract and keep the attention of visitors is high. So take a step back from the 3 posts a week schedule that has been stressing you out.

Focus on your audience, what content are they looking for? Can you create something that can educate, inspire or entertain them?

Let’s take a look at some examples.

A sleeping bag buying guide from REI. This articles allows them to teach visitors before buying to get them the exact product they need.

avoid the mistake of bad content marketing

Below is a how to guide from Repair Clinic. This one is about what to do if your humidifier is not getting water.

These type of problem oriented searches work great in Google. Repair Clinic does this well: they offer valuable advice and perfectly tie in their products which are replacement parts.

content marketing cover up mistakes

Or you can make it more entertaining like Scotts, which sells men’s clothing and shoes. Their articles range from the best albums of 2015 to obscure movie references.

Most businesses will focus on getting the cornerstone content in place first: buyers guide, product reviews, etc. And if successful, they will move on beyond keyword research infused articles and really start thinking about branding. Creating high-quality content requires, above all, a great understanding what your audience is interested in.

Content can also work to inspire your readers. This is also strongly tied to branding. What does your audience really like. A nice example from Huckberry, about exploring the outdoors in the morning.

example of awesome content marketing

A lot of these examples are very well executed pieces of content by bigger companies.

You might think that you don’t have the resources that they’ve got. But remember that in the end you are competing with them for the same attention of a potential customer.

Time to Fix Mistakes

That wraps up this article. Have you discovered you were making any of the 5 mistakes mentioned here? If you were I hope this article got your head buzzing with ideas on how to improve your store!

13 Feb 20:07

Planning to Build a B2B Referral Program? Here Are the Answers!

by Isha Vohra

71% Higher Conversion Rate! 69% Faster Deal Closure! 59% Higher Customer Lifetime Value!
These are some of the facts revealed by a research focused on Sales Leaders, done by Heinz Marketing. They all look so tempting! These are the results achieved by companies with a robust referral marketing program. REFERRAL MARKETING creates a direct impact on your Sales pipeline and drives new revenue.

Referral Marketing

So, if you are defining a strategy to build a referral program, here are questions you should be answering steps to get started:

1. Who do you want to target?
Segment your audience & identify the advocates. To do this, look at the customer profile and identify product/service adoption level, CSAT score if available and account health. If a customer doesn’t qualify these criteria, get your customer success team to fix the issues. It is recommended to run an NPS survey before asking for referrals. This may reduce the size of your target segment but can deliver higher conversion rates for the program.

2. How will your build and promote your program?
To launch a referral program, you would need:

  • Invite Email
  • Registration & Thanks Page
  • Thanks Email
  • Welcome Email
  • Reward Email
  • Alert to Marketing Email

The flow should be simple – promote your program so that referrers can fill a form to submit a new lead. Once this lead is submitted, you can send out a Thanks email to the referrer and a Welcome email to the referred lead. Post verification, you can send the reward/gift card to the referrer. After you have tested the whole workflow, you need to focus on the promotion. It is recommended to approach your target audience through different channels. Ideal channels include targeted email campaigns, blogs, newsletters, and social media, and link in the email signatures of your employees.

3. How would you reward the referrers?
This is where referral programs get tricky. Should you reward the referrer when he submits a lead or wait till that lead gets converted into a customer? The answer to this depends on your budget as well as the value of a new lead generated. It is recommended to use a small reward to attract more referrers and give a bigger reward when a referrer lead becomes a customer.

4. How would you engage referred leads?
Referral marketing has been around for a decade. However, in B2B marketing, there have been gaps on how you can engage a referred lead. Once the new lead comes in your marketing system, you should send a Welcome email, telling them about who referred them. This can be followed by a series of nurture emails to understand if they are interested in your product/service. The nurture program can include links to content assets or sign-up for a trial/demo. Once engaged, you can mark them as an MQL and handover to the sales team.

5. How will you scale the program?
Automation. Yes, you would need to automate the complete workflow when you build this program. This should not be very complicated if you are using any automation platforms like Marketo, Eloqua or Pardot. Typically, you can automate sending the invite email, qualifying the referred leads, adding them to the nurture program, and finally sending the rewards.

6. What will you report to measure the ROI?
Reporting is critical for every program that you build. Initial reporting can include engagement from the program promotion. If you run an email campaign, you can look at the open rate, click rates, and conversion rates. Similar stats can be pulled from other channels like social media. After you start receiving some referred leads, you can start reporting on their funnel stage, sales velocity and opportunity conversion.

Once you have answered these questions, you can get your team started to build the program. Need some help for a referral program? Talk to our certified marketing automation team and one of our Marketo automation experts will get in touch with you soon.

12 Feb 17:37

Keyless entry system creates a new code for each Airbnb guest

by Springwise
parakeet-airbnb-security-keyless-propert

Many of the hosts on Airbnb are vacation property managers with multiple lettings, and we have seen a number of startups offering management platforms and services that enable them to optimize their sub-letting business. One platform lets users automate their pricing to maximize bookings, while another provides rental assistants who will check-in guests on behalf of busy hosts. Now, Parakeet is a platform that enables hosts to manage and monitor their property remotely via a cloud-based dashboard and keyless entrance system.

parakeet-1-airbnb-security-keyless-propert

The Parakeet system can control locks, garage doors and thermostats remotely, enabling hosts to let their guests in securely without needing to be there in person — this means that they can offer more flexible check-ins and check-outs. To begin, users connect their Airbnb account to their Parakeet system. Then, whenever a booking is made, Parakeet will automatically generate a disposable electronic key code and program the locks to match. Next, the code is sent to the guest prior to their visit and they can use it to let themselves in, whenever it is convenient. The host can keep an eye on the whole process via their smartphone or desktop.

Parakeet also offers temperature and flood sensors, so the host can monitor their properties during lettings. Could similar keyless entrance systems be used for other buildings with changing occupants — such as co-working spaces?

Website: www.goparakeet.com
Contact: info@goparakeet.com

The post Keyless entry system creates a new code for each Airbnb guest appeared first on Springwise.










12 Feb 17:37

Cheap Drugs from Canada Won’t Reduce U.S. Drug Prices

by Rafi Mohammed
feb16-12-106338410

Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have both proposed importing cheaper drugs from Canada as part of their solutions to lower drug costs for Americans. The proposal isn’t new: other politicians, including former Republican presidential candidate John McCain, have also endorsed it.

Why import from Canada? The general argument is that prices are cheaper (estimated to be 35% to 55% lower), safety regulations are in place to ensure drugs aren’t tainted or fake, and transportation is easy since it’s located close by.

Currently, importing pharmaceutical drugs from other countries is illegal. However, in certain instances, such as limiting personal imports to less than a 90-day supply, the FDA acknowledges it will look the other way.

“We’ll reduce American pharmaceutical prices by importing cheaper drugs from Canada” is an appealing sound bite. Voters are led to believe the solution is as simple as trucking discounted pills over the border. But the reality is far more complicated. It’s a stretch to believe pharma executives will lean back and in essence say, “Sure, we’re okay with allowing our big profits from the U.S. to dwindle because we’re selling drugs at a discount to Canada.” Drug companies won’t allow such mass importation to occur.

The reason why pharmaceutical prices are relatively high in the U.S. is that drug companies employ a common strategy called differential pricing. This strategy targets specific segments with different prices. So instead of having the same price for everyone, the goal is to tailor the “right” price to various segments. Movie theaters, for instance, use differential pricing by offering lower prices to students and seniors. The assumption is students and seniors are sensitive to price, so offering targeted discounts to them is profitable. As a result, moviegoers seated next to each other often have paid different prices.

For differential pricing to be profitable, targeted segments have to be easily identifiable, and, most importantly, arbitrage cannot occur. By arbitrage, I mean those who receive discounts don’t resell to customers who are currently paying more. This strategy works well at cinemas: it’s easy to identify seniors/students, and since tickets are sold individually at the door, enterprising seniors/students typically aren’t reselling discounted tickets for a profit.

Why are drug prices so much higher in the U.S.? The answer is straightforward: most countries regulate prices or have a single-payer health care system, in which the government pays for citizens’ health care costs. In a single-payer system, the government buys all a country’s pharmaceuticals, and it has leverage in “take it or leave it” negotiations with pharma companies.

In contrast, the U.S. doesn’t regulate drug prices, nor does it have a single-payer system. As a result, each U.S. health-related entity (primarily insurance companies) has to individually negotiate with pharmaceutical companies, which leads to higher prices for two reasons. First, no U.S. health insurance player is big enough to play pricing hardball with drug manufacturers. Just as important, to keep their plans competitive, insurance companies are under pressure to make deals to provide the best medicines to their policy holders. So in contrast to prices being dictated by foreign countries, drug companies have the upper hand in U.S. negotiations. What results is the intended outcome of differential pricing: different countries pay different prices for the same drug, with U.S. citizens paying a hefty premium.

To understand why importing drugs from Canada won’t result in lower prices, let’s return to the cinema. Suppose you own a movie theater and notice groups of students are reselling their discounted tickets in the lobby to customers who normally pay full price. What would you do? Probably discontinue the discounts or impose restrictions to limit the arbitrage. This is exactly how pharmaceutical executives will react if Americans start importing large quantities of drugs from Canada. New restrictions will be attached to discounted Canadian deals. For example, exports will be banned, or quantities sold at a discount will be limited (enough to cover citizens), with amounts over the limit being charged full price. Poof, there goes the grand plan to lower American drug prices.

Policy makers need to realize that importing drugs from Canada will result in the equivalent of a whack-a-mole pricing game. Pharmaceutical companies will quickly and easily amend strategies to close the discount loophole. After all, drug companies are for-profit companies with a mandate from investors to earn the highest profits.

Reforming prescription drug prices is a two-step process. First, understand whether Americans want reform. They may be fine with subsidizing other countries and be uncomfortable with any tradeoffs from reform, such as a potential reduction of R&D. Just as important, Americans need to realize that there is no free-market mechanism that will reduce drug prices, that regulation or single-payer strategies are the only options to do so.

This issue is the real root of the debate, and one Americans can’t simply avoid by taking a detour through Canada.

12 Feb 17:36

CEOs of publicly-traded companies fired too soon: UBC study

Pity the poor CEOs of publicly-traded companies. They’re fired far too quickly, putting firms at a long-term disadvantage, according to a University of B.C. Sauder School of Business study that suggests investor pressure to increase stock value in short time frames sets leaders up to fail.
12 Feb 17:34

5 Ways to Improve Your Site’s User Retention

by Nadav Shoval

 

5 Ways to Improve Your Site's User Retention

The browsing experience is a two-way street. Today, nobody wants to be spoon fed information. Instead, they expect a chance to take part in the conversation, either by voicing an opinion or by participating directly in the action. In part, this trend has a lot to do with advancement of the millennial customer as they become increasingly dominant players as both business leaders and consumers.

Millennials are hardly a passive generation. In fact, according to Search Engine Journal, Gen Y is eager to participate in a brand’s marketing. That’s why marketers have reported a conversion rate of 70% when interactive elements are included, in contrast to just 36% when it is absent.

By employing interactive elements, you win in more than one way. After all, the relationship between interaction and increased user retention cannot be ignored. Logically speaking, if you give your users an activity or opportunity to contribute, they appreciate both the entertainment and the fact that your brand sees value in their opinions and everyday needs.

Now that the importance of interaction is clear, here are some hacks to help you make it happen.

User Generated Content

User generated content is one of the most exciting things to hit content marketing since its inception. Because content marketers always have to be on top of the latest and greatest ways to deliver fresh content, stories, and insights, the job can be tiring to say the least. But thankfully, the process is new and exciting for your user base.

That’s why UGC is such a hit. UGC gives your users the rewarding opportunity to participate in your creative marketing campaigns. Through sharing their pictures, videos, articles, and opinions, they feel a greater connection to your brand, while you generate the ability to gain new and innovative perspectives within your content.

Brands such as Coca-Cola and Starbucks have famously used UGC to gain loyalty and spark further interest in their products. In addition, when such campaigns feature hashtags and other social elements, they have the ability to go viral fast—attracting more and more people to visit your site and encouraging them to stay and explore.

Interactive Content

Like UGC, interactive content is a total game changer in the realm of content marketing. While users have grown to appreciate content as a source of information, with everyone getting on the bandwagon, they need more to keep people interested. Interactive content gives your users the chance play an active role in your content through taking quizzes, watching videos, using  interactive infographics, and more.

As a result, they are not simply sitting around taking in every last word but being entertained and valued as both users and a source of worthwhile information. Since millennials are more inclined to participate in content that entertains them, keeping them active has proven to be an extremely successful retention strategy.

Keep Conversation Flowing

Many blogs and online publications are weary of conversation. Their fears are legitimized by the array of trolls, spammers, and plain old nonsense that can be found in comments and messaging boards across the internet. But while it may seem tempting, eliminating comments is not the answer, despite the growing popularity of the practice.

The reason for this is simple: comments promote conversation, and conversations build community. (highlight to tweet) Community gives your users a sense of belonging and a reason to visit your site. Ensure your site has the tools for conversation. Sites such as EW use Spot.IM’s social sidebar to give users the opportunity to speak their mind about content in a manner that is fun, modern, and non-intrusive.

Likewise, Quartz employs an annotations feature which allows users to give input on particular points within the article in a manner that is clever and informative. By utilizing modern and creative commenting systems, people become drawn to your dialog and have more reason to keep coming back.

Social Buttons

Social buttons are a way for users to show an opinion without contributing too much time and effort. In milliseconds, a person can show if they like or dislike a piece of content, legitimizing their beliefs and making them feel heard. Some sites such as BoredPanda and Buzzfeed even give the opportunity to connect feelings or ratings to social buttons, which allows users to reveal even more insights as to how on point the content is according to their opinion.

By utilizing this small yet intuitive feature, you give people a means to express themselves without getting overly involved, appealing to more of the general population. As a result, more users get involved in your site’s offerings and play an active role in your content.

Customize the Experience

A website is an experience. But like all experiences, they can be good or bad. What makes an experience good is entirely subjective. For one person, a roller coaster is thrilling, and for another, it’s terrifying. That’s why you need to know what drives every user segment you may encounter in order to appeal to their needs.

By customizing your site for individual users, you successfully pinpoint their problems, connect to their emotions, and understand what makes them tick. As a result, they are more likely to feel greater loyalty and be more enticed to participate in your site’s interactive content.

Every site wants to increase their user retention. A high user retention rate has the power to boost your prominence on Google and increase your credibility. By making your site interactive, you give your users every reason to stay on your site longer, keep returning, and endorse you to their friends. As a result, your brand grows in popularity and gains loyalty for years to come.

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12 Feb 17:34

How Sales Leadership Can Drive Desired Behaviors

by Maureen Hunzicker

Selling is a human activity. So, it makes sense for sales leadership to take a human approach to motivating their sales professionals.

On a business level, this means insuring your people have all the resources that they need to be successful and mitigating any obstacles that stand in the way.

On a personal level, it means taking the time to get inside the head of each member of your sales team to understand what is important to them and why. Do they value challenges? Do they look for recognition? Is being a part of a team important to them?

We are all different, with different strengths, and motivated by different things. The more you, as a sales leader, get to know the individuals on your sales team, the more effective you can be in articulating and driving desired behaviors. Performance for the individual and the team should improve, with your organization — and the customer — benefiting in the process.

Consider this typical leadership scenario: the ride along. Ideally, the ride along presents a mutual learning opportunity in which sales leaders see first-hand how their team members pursue a prospect or interact with a client, and sales professionals gain constructive coaching and feedback from their leaders.

What happens too often, however, is the sales leader reacts instead of responding appropriately: “I can’t believe you said that in the meeting. What were you thinking?” Or, sales leaders will jump straight to their own preferred solution, providing an answer without asking the sales professional what they might have done differently.

The problem with reacting is tone, which sounds punitive. The problem with going straight to the solution, instead of having the sales professional work through the issue and come to his/her own conclusion, is you teach sales professionals to rely on your expertise rather than develop their own. They learn dependency, not proficiency. It’s the sales version of the old adage, “Give a man a fish, and you have fed him once. Teach him how to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime.”

As leaders, we need to provide rich feedback to our team, take the time to understand what’s going on with each member, and foster collaboration in the spirit of wanting everyone to be successful. Not only do we need to communicate about desired behaviors, we need to redirect when behaviors are off-point. Just as important, we need to pay attention to tone of voice and body language so that what we say is received and understood in a positive way. Finally, we need to recognize people for what they’re doing well and the progress that they’re making.

Sales leaders who embrace their role as coach and champion of their sales teams become a multiplier of results, with each individual fully engaged and aligned with common goals. If sales leaders come to their role without the necessary skills required to lead people, and there is no sales training or development provided by their organization, they risk becoming disengaged and creating a dysfunctional sales team. That’s a problem that the sales leader’s own leadership should recognize and address, developing each layer of leadership to be able to articulate and coach to the kinds of behaviors necessary for the organization to reach its goals.

As said at the beginning, selling is a human activity, and sales leadership is the linchpin — an essential, coordinating element to focus every member on how to bring their best selves to the job.

sales-leadership

The post How Sales Leadership Can Drive Desired Behaviors appeared first on Richardson Sales Enablement Blog.

12 Feb 17:34

The 6 Questions We Ask Ourselves to Create a High Converting Landing Page

by Wishpond

There’s an old adage that goes, “if you want better answers, ask better questions”.

With so many tools and programs at our disposal, often times we can get so busy building that we forget to sit back and think about what we are trying to achieve.

Landing pages and marketing automation are only as good as the people behind them.

Mimicking the results of another company’s A/B test or landing page design might work in the short run, but if it’s done with a lack of understanding as to why these tests and layouts were successful for that specific audience, then I’m afraid you’re just shooting wildly in the dark.

If all this has you wondering, “then how will I know what’s right for me?” then I have good news for you.

Seek and you shall find, young Jedi.

In this article I’ll outline 6 questions you need to ask yourself that will set the groundwork for a high-converting landing page.

Landing Page Optimization Question #1 – Who am I talking to?

Before you run off to find a new catchy headline or sleek landing page design, first ask yourself “who am I talking to?”.

By asking this question, you can start to drill down on who your users are, what their goals are, and how you can help them achieve those aims.

One strategy used to achieve this is called persona building.

Persona building is the process of developing a hypothetical user profile which all marketing decisions are tied to.

When developing a persona, take into account:

  • Age
  • Education level
  • Occupation
  • Location
  • Goals and challenges

Once you have information for all of these variables, you can start to build a landing page that caters to the specific preferences of this persona.

That can include images of similar people on the page, phrases unique to their generation, or references to their geographical location.

Landing Page Optimization Question #2 – What am I offering?

At the core of all landing pages is an exchange of value.

This usually comes in the form of contact information in return for some sort of promotion or a piece of educational material.

Next to who you’re talking to, what you’re offering is the most important thing you’ll need to consider when building a landing page.

There are an unlimited number of offers you can make on a landing page. Whether you choose to give away an ebook, webinar, or some sort of free trial or discount code doesn’t matter. The most important thing is to offer something that’s useful to your users, since that’s what will have them coming back for more.

Once you’re clear on what you’ll be giving away, it’s time to make it clear to your users.

Think about the specific features of your offer and how it’ll benefit them. The best way to convey this type of information is usually in a list format with a clear headline describing how your offer can positively impact their life.

Take a look at this example of a landing page from Vonigo. Notice how they succinctly describe their service and core benefits in bullet points below the headline.

Landing Page Optimization Question #3 – What do users need to know?

Your landing page is designed to serve one goal: to get conversions. So don’t muddy up your page with extra information that doesn’t push toward that main objective.

That being said, the more you ask from your users, the more information you’ll need to provide them with in order to persuade them to convert.

For example, a free ebook that only requires an email address might only need a headline, a couple bullet points, and a brief description of the book. A consultation request, which requires an email, name, phone number, and a brief message might need a longer form page with descriptions of the company’s history, testimonials, and a map of the business location.

Long story short, always consider the magnitude of what you’re asking for in relation to the amount of information presented on your page. If in doubt and you find yourself tempted to add a ton of information just to be safe, remember that there is a point of diminishing returns in terms of the amount of content on a page. More doesn’t always convert better, and sometimes more actually converts worse.

Take a look at this example from AssesmentDay. They found by eliminating either the FAQ section or the screenshot section they were able to increase conversions by 50-60%.

What’s interesting is that when both sections were deleted together, conversion rates actually dropped by around 3%.

What does this tell us?

It’s a fine a balance between not providing enough information and providing too much. Always be asking yourself, what does a user NEED to know in order to convert?

And when doubt, nothing beats a good old fashioned A/B test.

Landing Page Optimization Question #4 – Does my page pass the 5 Second Test?

There’s a general rule of thumb in web design that says you need to be able to determine what a page is about in 5 seconds or less, otherwise the page is either overcrowded or unfocused.

The nature of the internet is that there are always a ton of other options out there and the difference between a view and a conversion is just a back click away.

To ensure your page isn’t lacking clarity, ask someone you know if your page can pass the 5 second test. What that means is that in 5 seconds or less can they tell you what the page is about, what your offer is, and what’s in it for them?

If they can get a general sense of what you are trying to convey in 5 seconds, your page passes the 5 second test. If not, it’s time to start thinking about ways you can make your headline more clear, list your benefits more succinctly, and clearly explain your offer in a simple way.

If no one’s around to give you a hand (and since you’ll be biased from designing the page), you can try an online tool like the 5 Second Test online.

Landing Page Optimization Question #5 – Is my headline congruent?

If you’re using paid traffic to drive traffic to your landing page, don’t make the cardinal error of not matching your landing page headline to your ad copy.

The reason that people clicked on your ad in the first place was so that they could find out more about what you promised them in your ad headline and description text.

Once they did that though, one of the worst user experiences you could give someone is to bring them to a page that has nothing to do with what they just indicated they were interested in.

This might mean that you need to create separate landing pages for different ad campaigns, but it will allow you to create a better user experience and keep your messaging consistent.

Take a look at this example of a winning Facebook ad and landing page combination to get a sense of what I’m referring to:

Landing Page Optimization Question #6 – What happens after someone converts?

The post entry page is one of the most overlooked and underappreciated parts of the lead gen process. After a user takes you up on your offer, what are you going to do? Are you redirecting them to your homepage? Did you design a post entry page for them to land on? Is there a message that you want to leave people with?

Generally speaking, if someone converts, it’s likely that they’re a much better fit for your business then someone who didn’t convert. It means they clicked on your ad, read your landing page copy, and decided to take advantage of your offer.

Smart marketers can use this information in a post entry page to push them towards another conversion goal.

Take a look at this example on a Wishpond ebook page. Once a user converts they’re sent to a post entry page with their ebook download as well as a secondary CTA to sign up for a free Wishpond account.

They also receive an automated email with their ebook file as well as an option to sign up for a VIP demo.

The lesson? Don’t forget about your post conversion nurturing strategy!

Getting people to convert is only half the battle.

Conclusion

There you have it, 6 questions to get you going on the right track for creating a high converting landing page.

I hope you found that useful especially when designing your next landing page.

Are there any questions that we missed? Feel free to comment below.

12 Feb 17:33

How Killer Business Ideas Are Born

by Sam Davtyan

Many people become entrepreneurs because they have a brilliant idea that they want to bring to market. But what if you feel a passionate drive to be an entrepreneur, but don’t yet know how to get started? Where, exactly, do great entrepreneurs get their killer business ideas?

Do What You Love

What’s your passion? What’s the thing that you’ll avoid your friends for, cancel plans for, save money for? What’s the thing that you love more than anything else?

One of the great things about pursuing entrepreneurship is that you have full control of your career. If you want to spend your life creating knitting or sewing patterns, developing mobile gaming apps, or showing tourists through the historic sections of your town, you can do that – as long as you can figure out a way to monetize it.

Look at your passion. Are other people doing what you want to be doing? Ask one of them for advice on how to get started. If you think you’ve come up with something incredibly unique, you’re probably wrong; someone, somewhere, has started something similar and built it into a success.

Bring An Old Product To A New Market

You’ve heard that food delivery businesses are booming, and your town doesn’t have one. A particular demographic has been traditionally underserved by a business, market, or economy. Social media is booming, and there’s an opportunity to create a community around a particular product, service, or demographic that isn’t currently finding space.

Bringing an old product to a new market can be a great business plan. It usually helps if you have some connection to the market in question. Ravelry has become an incredibly successful social media site for knitters in part because the founders were knitters, and understood what the cross section of tech-savvy knitters would want in their connections. Goulet Pens has leveraged content marketing in a way that few retail stores do, producing huge amounts of free content that educate and inform users about fountain pens and papers. This worked because the founder, Brian Goulet, has loved fountain pens for many years, and was in tune with what enthusiasts would want to know the products that he sold.

Knitters, social media, and fountain pens, all existed before these businesses, but because the founders had an irreplaceable story for presenting the product to a market that wasn’t adequately served, they found success.

Deliver A New Product To An Existing Market

This is somewhat trickier than selling an established product. You not only need to explain the value of the product to the market, you need to overcome their resistance, which is usually based around the idea that whatever they’re using now is “good enough” or “just fine.”

For example, if you have a great product idea for a new type of baby carrier that you think mothers will love, you’re not only going to need to show them all the usual things – that it’s priced right, attractive, and affordable – but you’re also going to need to convince them that it’s better than the baby carriers they already use.

Bringing new products to markets that already exist is often easier when you’re a member of the market in question. For example, when you can say “As a mother, I struggled to find a baby carrier that worked for my baby because…” and “This carrier solved my problem because…”

Do not try to claim an identity that you don’t have. This is the age of the Internet; people will find out, and it will destroy their faith in your company.

There are many different values that you can see within entrepreneurs, but one that is common is a certain restlessness. Entrepreneurs tend not to be satisfied with good enough, tend to look for new ways to tackle old problems, and search for new problems that need to be solved. They see opportunities wherever they look, and they don’t give up when they’re faced with difficulties.

If you want to be successful as an entrepreneur, it’s a good idea to begin to contemplate this mindset, and look for ways to bring it into your day to day life. Look for opportunities, keep notes on things that continuously annoy you, and consider ways to solve those problems.

Your killer business idea will arrive before you know it.

12 Feb 17:33

Why I Love Small Business

by Lindsay Bayuk

If you’re half-hearted about something, just don’t do it. As cliché as it might sound, you really do need to love what you do. Okay, maybe not everyone needs to love their work, but I do. Working at a startup like Pure Chat is too hard, too ambiguous and too unpredictable to not love what I do. If you’re part of an entrepreneurial endeavor that you don’t care about, just stop. It won’t work.

If you don’t care you’ll take short cuts. You be motivated by just revenue, not people. Your product or service will start to suffer as a result. Or, you’ll just do a mediocre job of creating a product and marketing it. Customers won’t get value and eventually they will leave.

In my experience, to build a great product you need to care deeply about the folks who use your product. You can’t do rewarding work if you don’t care about your customers. I was reminded of this the other day after reading a quote by the incomparable Gary Vaynerchuk.

“If you’ve lost your hustle, it’s because you aren’t in tune to why you are doing it.” – @garyvee

I’m lucky enough to talk to small business owners and entrepreneurs all the time. I get to hear their stories, triumphs and frustrations. There are a lot of reasons that I love my work, but a core part of what makes this job special is the customers we get to serve. Here’s why I love small business:

Small business is a thread throughout my life.

The jobs I’ve loved the most in my career have been either working in or serving small business. My very first “real” job in high school was for a local cabinet maker. After that, I spent a few summers working for a shoe boutique. Even later in my career, I joined a startup that serves small physical therapy practices. Small business has been a consistent thread throughout my career. Can’t seem to help it! I love the hard-working people, the community and the deeply personal nature of small business.

Entrepreneurs are driven by more than money.

Successful small business owners are driven by their passion to create something meaningful. They are builders, makers, creators, innovators–you name it! The primary reason they launched their business is to “live the life [they] want to live” and “do the work [they] love.” Sure, revenue and profits enable growth and security, but more often than not, money isn’t the top priority. The State of Small Business Growth report found that 39% of small business owners are motivated to grow their business to have more freedom. They want freedom with their time, freedom with their choices and with their work. The top priorities for most small business owners are creating something valuable, designing a flexible lifestyle that makes room for family, and living by their own rules.

Small business isn’t just a political talking point.

Entrepreneurs are the economic backbone of America, and the data proves it. Small businesses entered 2016 in growth mode. Forbes reported that “businesses with less than $5 million in annual revenue experienced, on average, 7.8% annual sales growth during 2015.” That’s good news because there are a lot of them! There are over 28 million small businesses in the US that drive 63% of net new private sector jobs according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. And it seems that the growth will continue.

The 2016 Small Business Marketing Trends report by LeadPages and Infusionsoft found that 4 out of 5 small business owners plan to use digital marketing to drive sales and brand awareness this year. This means that small businesses are better positioned than ever to reach the 81% of consumers and 89% of B2B researchers looking online for products and services. Slick politicians can say whatever they want. More shoppers and B2B buyers spending money with millions of small businesses is a good thing for the economy. That revenue (and the subsequent economic boost) is hard-earned by the businesses that make it happen. If we can help small business owners fuel even more growth in some small way, I’ll be a happy camper.

Small businesses make our communities special.

What would your neighborhood be without the local restaurants, bars, boutiques and coffee shops? They give us a sense of local pride. They become part of our identity, our tastes and traditions. Got a promotion at work? Or have a family reunion coming up? You’ll probably visit a favorite restaurant. Want to find a special gift for a friend? You likely have a beloved local product to share that’s unique to your community.

Let’s talk about grit.

Building a business is hard. It’s taxing mentally, emotionally, physically and socially. There are so many unknowns and time is scarce. Randi Zuckerberg defined the entrepreneurial dilemma in a tweet a few years ago.

entrepreneurs dilemma randi zuckerberg

Something’s gotta give. I have so much respect for the sacrifices made by small business owners. Many of the customers I talk to are making all sorts of sacrifices, but they do it because of the drive for passion and freedom. Their persistence is unfathomable and part of why small businesses are so special. I don’t believe there’s such a thing as work-life balance. You just make choices. Entrepreneurs are defined by their choices, the consequences and the stories they can tell as a result.

Small business stories inspire.

If you watched Super Bowl 50, you may have seen the commercial for Death Wish Coffee. Thanks to Intuit Quickbooks, this tiny 12-person team of coffee aficionados from upstate New York won a Super Bowl commercial. Death Wish Coffee makes the strongest coffee in the world. When we learned about their Super Bowl commercial (Death Wish is one of our customers) we were thrilled! I encourage you to watch the video of their founder, Mike finding out they won the Grand Prize. I got goosebumps. It’s impressive and heart-warming that such a small team, doing something they love can hit the big time. Oh, and we’ve had their coffee. It really is super strong (which is good because we’re always hard at work)!

I enjoy being a small business customer.

I always try to shop small. Why? Because the best small businesses focus on quality and customers. In fact, 60% of small business owners love customer service (compared to other daily activities) probably because they know how important it is to keep customers happy! I have what my husband likes to call a “citrus-candle-problem”. I’m always on the hunt for the best quality citrus-scented candles. Thanks to Instagram I found my new favorite–Standard Wax. Their marketing is eye-catching, their website is lovely and their soy candle containers are reusable after the candle has melted away. Plus, they’re local — I’m hooked!

These companies are crazy and cool.

Every day at Pure Chat we learn about the new small businesses that sign up to use our live chat software on their websites. After years of serving small business, I sometimes think I’ve seen it all. And, quite regularly, I’m proven wrong. One of the reasons I love small business is because they are so unique. I just can’t believe the businesses some entrepreneurs create! It’s amazing. One of our favorite customers is The Bear & The Rat. They make ice cream for dogs. Yes! You read that correctly. Frozen treats for dogs. I don’t even have a dog and I love this business. Not to mention that owners Matt and Meg are such nice people. Another unique customer of ours is Rent the Chicken. You can rent chickens and coops, then try your hand at raising them in your backyard. I knew you could rent homes or cars, but chickens? Wow.

Small businesses do good while doing well.

Not only are small businesses creating new jobs and driving economic growth in this country, they also give back to their communities. Small businesses buy the Girl Scout cookies and Boy Scout popcorn. Their small teams run food drives and sponsor scholarships. According to the State of Small Business report, 22% of small business owners were motivated to grow their business in order to make an impact in their community. There are so many ways that small businesses give back—even with small teams and small budgets. Madalyn Sklar, a Twitter marketing expert, not only shares her knowledge with the small business community with weekly Twitter chats, but she also mentors young women in the music industry. One of my favorite product people, Justin Jackson, regularly shared his expertise on his podcast, currently gives free content to his dedicated subscribers and has built a community around makers and product minds.

I want to spend my life doing something meaningful.

My parents taught me the importance of standing up for the little guy. If you’re in a place to have a voice, use it to help others. One of my favorite quotes is from the running legend, Steve Prefontaine who said, To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.” I’m so fortunate to have been given many gifts in my life. Mentors, friends, family and employers who have all helped me grow and learn. In return, I want to do the same for others. I don’t want to sacrifice the gift, but instead use my talents and experiences for something meaningful.

Serving small business customers is hard work. Just because they are small, doesn’t mean that small businesses are simple. Creating valuable software for small business is hard. Small businesses have ever-evolving, diverse needs across a myriad of industries. That’s the fun and that’s the challenge. It’s the work I choose to do because I believe it matters.

I believe that small businesses are important to our lives and our communities. I believe that helping small businesses is a meaningful endeavor because we all benefit from more small business growth. If life is short, I want to make something that matters to people. And small business owners are my people.

If you’ve read this far, I hope you, too, have a special place in your heart for small business. If you love small business, I hope you’ll spend your money with them, give your advice, share with your friends and celebrate the small businesses in your community.

So tell me, why do you love small business?

12 Feb 17:31

Sales Email Templates: How and When to Use Them For Maximum Results [ + Examples]

by lucas@sportofsales.com (Lucas Walker)

sales_email_templates.jpg

Sales email templates can be one of your best tools, saving you time and optimizing efficiency. But these benefits are only enjoyed when you use templates correctly.

Start sending customized sales emails in the free HubSpot CRM right now.

Used incorrectly, email templates can make you appear lazy, sloppy, and inconsiderate to your buyers. And that's not a good way to start a relationship.

This is why it's critical to strike the delicate balance between standardization and customization. Crafting personalized sales emails based on your own templates and making sure to carefully customize before hitting "send," you can quickly reach more people while remaining authentic. 

When to Use Sales Email Templates 

The best time to use a template for your sales emails is when you know that the same basic type of message will be sent over and over again. Have you ever caught yourself typing out the exact same sentences or phrases in a brand new message? Capitalize on the opportunity to create and save a customizable template, so you don't have to reinvent the wheel every time.

Sales email templates can be used in multiple scenarios. For example, you might create a template around a similar series of prospecting emails that booked you a considerable amount of meetings, or a simple follow-up email that you've noticed gets prospects gone quiet talking again. 

Here are a few recurring scenarios in which I've found sales email templates extremely valuable:

  • After you’ve met someone for the first time, for instance, at an industry event.
  • When you're moving a conversation to email from Twitter or another social network.
  • Ahead of a meeting. Remind the prospect of your meeting, request any necessary additional information, confirm attendees, and check in on any pre-meeting homework.
  • After a meeting. Thank your attendees for coming and include next steps.
  • Prospecting. My personal best prospecting email template has a 70% open rate and a 33% meeting booking rate.
  • Regular outreach to customers. How many customers have you talked to recently? Probably not enough. Effective sales reps are constantly talking to customers and building relationships for referrals down the road. 
  • Breaking up with a prospect. If they’re going silent and aren't likely to close, don't hesitate to send a templated breakup email.

When to Avoid Using Sales Email Templates

But just as using a template can be a huge time saver, the strategy can also backfire if used incorrectly. If you’re ever on the fence as to whether you should use a sales email template or not, it’s best to err on the side of caution and just type it out.

Here are some times when a sales email template isn't appropriate, no matter how customized it may be:

  • If you’re only sending this email once. It goes without saying, but the primary point of using a template is to save you retyping the same sentences over and over again. If you’re only sending this email once, don’t bother with a template.
  • When you’re in a rush. I hate to admit it, but I’ve sent out templates with placeholder text or someone else’s company in the subject line. The only response this will get you is an angry “unsubscribe me.”
  • Reaching out to multiple members of the same team. If one contact shares your email with their team and someone else received an identical message, your potential deal will implode quickly.
  • When your message hasn’t been successful in the past. Sales tools make it easy to track sales email success. If you’re unsatisfied with a particular email's open or response rate, templating it will only make you fail faster and harder.
  • If you haven’t triple checked the spelling. It might be basic, but you don’t want you’re buyers thinking you don’t even know the difference between "your" and "you’re." (Note: typo included to prove a point). 

6 Best Practices with Sales Email Templates

Just as there are optimal (and suboptimal) times to turn to a template, there are best practices when using them.

Here are the six best practices I swear by in regards to my sales email templates:

  1. Be original. There are some templates at the bottom of this post. If you use them, make them your own -- only using my words and phrases for inspiration. If a prospective buyer receives the same cookie cutter email from two reps, neither will get a response.
  2. Test before sending. Make sure that your template doesn’t cause formatting issues. Preview your email before sending so you can make sure it arrives in your prospect's inbox looking the exact way you want it to. 
  3. Triple check everything. What’s worse than a typo in an email? A typo in 10 of them. 
  4. Have multiple templates. Don’t be afraid to create slightly different versions of the same template depending on your audience. Remember -- the more customization you can insert into your templates to cater to your varying ideal customer personas, the better. 
  5. Always be measuring. There is no shortage of tools to help you measure your success. Measure the success of your email templates, and use the results to inform strategic changes.
  6. Check your signature. Using a template can sometimes result in a duplicate signature. Again, test your email before sending, and verify that your signature is correctly formatted. 

4 Sales Email Template Examples

Here are a few templates I've used that are applicable to common stages in the sales process.

But before we get to the examples, it's worth repeating: Use these only as inspiration. Make sure to make them yours, and remain authentic when using them. If you'd like more templates, check out 12 more CRM-ready sales email templates here.

1) After an Event

Talk soon

[First name],

Great meeting you at [event] and discussing [item #1], [item #2], [item #3]. As we discussed, it would be great to chat more about [action item] once we’re settled and caught up.

How does your schedule look like Thursday/Friday of next week for a quick 10 minute chat? [Note: edit your call to action to suit your needs]

Cheers,

[Name]

 2) Before a Meeting

Meeting tomorrow

[First name],

Looking forward to meeting tomorrow/later today. Have you had a chance to review XYZ ahead of our meeting?

Also want to confirm that Attendee #1, Attendee #2, and Attendee #3 will be attending.

As a reminder here are the meeting details:

[Details]

Should anything come up, feel free to text me on my cell. 

Cheers,

[Name]

3) After a Meeting 

Great chatting today and next steps

[Attendee #1], [Attendee #2], [Attendee #3],

It was a pleasure meeting with you and giving you a demonstration of our software. Your login credentials are below:

[Login credentials]

As we discussed during our meeting, we will meet at [date] [time] for 30 minutes to discuss your trial.

Cheers,

[Name]

4) Prospecting  

Your most recent FB ad

[First name],

Saw your recent FB ad -- great job on retargeting. Are you using a lookalike pixel of your customers? Many of our customers are using lookalike pixels to turn their blog readers into buyers. Our software helps these lookalike campaigns be 40% more effective on average.

Would you be free for a quick five-minute chat later this week or early next to see if we can increase your conversions as well?

Cheers,

[Name] 

I hope these sales email template examples and best practices provide you with the inspiration you need to create and nurture more relationships in less time. Be sure to make them yours, remain authentic, and never stop testing.

Leave any questions or comments below, or ask me directly on Twitter. I’ll even review a template for you if you ask nicely.

HubSpot CRM Prospects

12 Feb 17:31

17 Things High-Performing Companies Do to Optimize Their Buyer Personas

by Katie Martell

If you haven’t read the Understanding B2B Buyers 2016 Benchmark Study, you may not know that companies who exceed revenue and lead goals are more effective at creating, using, and consistently maintaining personas than those who miss their targets.

(Or maybe you knew that already, because organizations from SiriusDecisions to Aberdeen Group to Forrester have all studied, at length, the impact and importance of buyer personas to fostering and achieving customer-centricity in marketing organizations.)

But getting to a state of persona nirvana is easier said than done. There are many steps along the way – after you’ve created personas – that can mean the difference between a high-performing persona strategy and a failed one.

From our research study with over 150 B2B organizations, we identified some habits of high-performing organizations, the ones who have it figured out. With this research, we developed a framework for buyer persona optimization to help marketers like you benchmark your persona strategy.

Here are 17 things the top performers do really well.

Core attributes

1. They have at least one internal resource accountable for owning personas with a related KPI

2. They make personas fully accessible across all lines of business, and use them as a mandatory part of the planning process, new offer launches, sales conversations, and campaign development

3. They allocate specific budget dedicated to persona research, technology, maintenance and training annually

4. Persona training is integrated into new hire orientation and offered at a regular cadence across the organization

5. There is executive sponsorship from the CEO. Although the CMO is the primary sponsor, each member of the executive committee has assigned leaders on their team to ensure personas are used throughout the organization.

Creating personas

6. A regular cadence of qualitative interviews dedicated to persona research are conducted with both customers and non-customers

7. Survey tools are used to identify and validate persona research for both customer and non-customer communities

8. In addition to internal CRM data insights, extensive external data sources are used to augment internal data, this may include personality attributes, professional details, social indicators, education level, income, and more.

9. Both competitive and industry trend research is conducted at least quarterly

10. The full customer community is represented by persona for user, champion, economic, buyer and influencers. This could mean four or more personas.

11. Personas are full of deep insights including demographic information, role in the buying process, buying preferences, hobbies and interests, organizational goals and priorities, drivers and motivations, fears and challenges, associations, content topic preferences, KPI/success metrics, and personality traits.

Using personas

12. Personas are used across the entire business including in sales training, messaging, product development, customer support, executive decision making, designer inspiration, demand generation and external agency briefings.

13. Personas are used for comprehensive database mapping using progressive profiling, demographic information and content signals

14. 90% or more of the customer database is mapped by persona and 50% of the prospect database has an identified persona associated with each record

Maintaining personas

15. Personas are systematically updated at least once every 6 months and as part of any new growth initiative

16. Personas are made easily accessible via online collaboration tools that are kept current, along with on-demand training modules

17. In addition to internal CRM data insights, extensive external data sources are utilized to augment internal data.

If you’re ready to take your personas to the next level, we hope the persona optimization framework will help you to understand the various components of a high-performing persona strategy, the areas for improvement, and a structure to guide you towards full optimization.

12 Feb 17:31

10 Rocking Social Media and Content Marketing Insights

by Gerry Moran

At the end of the day, our marketing strategy depends on connecting with the reader with the best content to incite action. Like buying from you — right?

Here are ten social media, content marketing and customer experience facts and insights to help you put the ‘I know’ behind the ‘I think’ as you develop and activate your marketing plan this week.

10 Social Media & Content Marketing Lessons

10 Rolling Stones Songs To Inspire Your Social Media Strategy

Just because you are a B2B marketer does not mean you cannot create inspiration from the most unusual places. Including — the most famous rock and roll band in the world! Source: MarketingThink.com

10 Top Job Skills You’ll Need In 2020

You can’t create content or a customer experience for tomorrow if you don’t develop and hire for tomorrow’s skills, right? There’s no mention of content, social or connection in this skill list. But, those listed are critical to being successful in your plans. Source: World Economic Forum

It Takes 8 Cold Calls To Make A Connection

Sales and marketing need to integrate communication and content marketing programs — so cold calls can become ‘warm calls’ to get your brand in the door sooner. Source: TelNet and Ovation Sales Group

30% Generate More Sales With A Better Customer Experience

Create a shorter and more buyer-centric journey with your content marketing and you will make it easier for people to buy more ‘stuff’ from you. Source: Cognizant

51% of Marketers Expect An ROI From Content Marketing

More brands are creating more content, and more customers have more content to choose from to educate themselves. It’s time to have a social media plan to repurpose your content to develop a profitable buyer relationship. Source: Blue Fountain Media

40% of Buyers Complain Promotions Are Not Relevant

More brands are creating more content, and more customers have more content to choose from to educate themselves. It’s time to have a plan to repurpose your content to develop a profitable buyer relationship. Source: Blue Fountain Media

65% of Decision Makers Say A Brand’s Content Sealed the Deal

Better messaging cuts through the content clutter. Teach your readers about your value proposition and you will be ‘sealing those deals’ in no time. Source: The Knowledge Tree

46% Say Photography Is Critical To Current Marketing Plans

If you use stock photography, then you might be confusing or losing your readers. Think about how custom images can help your customers picture themselves using your products or services. Source: HubSpot

92% of Buyers Want To Engage With Someone Who Adds Value

Arm your sales and marketing teams with educational and value-add content and you’ll be cashing in on that 1-1 relationship. Source: The Knowledge Tree

78% of Viewers Will Watch Super Bowl 50 For The Commercials

78% of Viewers Will Watch Super Bowl 50 For The Commercials. Fish where the fish are, and you’ll catch more sales. Just make sure you create custom content for the event so you won’t disappoint or confuse people. Source: Forbes and Statistica

Do you have any additional insights from this week’s facts? If so, please share below or reach out to me directly at moran.gerry@gmail.com

Thinking the facts are one thing. Developing actional insights is another. Here’s to making your marketing strategy more effective this week!

12 Feb 17:31

Going Global: 11 eCommerce Strategies

by Danny Wong

When I built my first eCommerce business, every order mattered. We accommodated as many customer requests as humanly possible to get product shipped out the door and into happy shoppers’ hands to earn an extra buck. Sometimes, we even fulfilled orders at cost because we were so eager to grow our customer base and get the word out. But when an order came in from Canada, we weren’t quite sure what to do. As a U.S.-based company focused on servicing customers in all 50 states, we felt overjoyed. It seemed as though we could open ourselves up to a completely new market and multiply sales that way. But our first cross-border shipment was disastrous. First, our shipment was delayed because we honestly didn’t know how long it would take to ship to British Columbia. Then, the product arrived in the wrong size (the customer thought he was getting a product measured in centimeters not inches), so we had to do an exchange. Finally, after the right product in the right size landed, we found payment to be tricky on two fronts. For one, the customer didn’t realize he was paying in USD so his bank charged him currency exchange fees. Our payment processor also charged us a fee for accepting a foreign transaction. The unanticipated fees, plus the cost of delivering to Canada and the cost of exchanging product decimated our already thin margins. On our first international customer, we actually lost money.

However, our story isn’t unique.

Almost every store owner I know has flirted with the idea of selling their products abroad. And there are countless stories about overseas orders gone wrong. Yet, the promise of sales growth is highly appealing; selling to a different country means access to thousands of potential new customers. Of course, for some, the challenges outweigh the opportunities.

Some businesses are incredibly successful because they stay committed to and focused on serving customers in their home market only. Others profit largely because they can sell beyond their geographical borders.

Below, I’ve included 11 strategies that will help you:

  1. Decide whether or not to expand overseas
  2. Overcome the major obstacles of international expansion

1. Gauge demand

In eCommerce, it can feel as if the world is your oyster. Because the Internet is border-free and global expansion can be done in the comfort of your own home (wherever that may be), it is always tempting to arbitrarily pick a new market to expand into. Data-driven store owners, on the other hand, rely less on their instincts and look to their existing customer base first to identify international demand. You may discover that a majority of your international orders originate from one location, which is where you may begin to focus your overseas expansion efforts.

Google Trends - Hoverboard searches

If you haven’t yet sold any product to international customers, review old customer inquiries to see if there are any requests to ship to specific countries. Or look at your website’s analytics to see where most of your international traffic comes from. Alternatively, use Google Trends to measure interest in your product in certain countries around the world. Over the past year, for example, hoverboards have become incredibly popular in the U.K.

2. Understand foreign currencies and prices

Before you price your products, gather an understanding of the value of each country’s currency relative to your own and how much locals already pay for similar products.

$50 USD in the U.S. may equal about $71 AUD in Australia (with a 1.42 exchange rate) but a product worth $50 USD in the U.S. may be worth $73 AUD to Australians. That is because Numbeo estimates consumer prices in Australia to be 3.17% higher than in the U.S.

Also, as a rule of thumb: avoid countries with historically high inflation. This year, the IMF predicts inflation in Venezuela will rise a whopping 720% which means any Venezuelan bolívar you earn is guaranteed to be worth a fraction of what it once was before the year is over.

3. Account for local and import taxes

In Spain, the value added tax (VAT, also known locally as IVA) is 21% for most consumer goods. This is a huge cost to account for when most U.S. stores only charge a single-digit sales tax. And when importing product, eCommerce companies must be mindful of how much more they may have to pay on duties. In Thailand, most imported goods are taxed between 10% and 80%, which does not include the country’s 7% VAT.

Christopher Ward VAT

While it is possible to pass these additional costs onto the consumer, such price premiums may make it difficult to sell any product.

4. Distribute limited products

Your best-selling products in the U.S. might seem silly to customers in Brazil. Surprisingly, products you may have discontinued last year may be in high demand in Norway. Before you initiate international expansion, conduct thorough research to identify which of your products you should export to certain markets. This will help you keep costs down and build a brand that actually understands locals’ needs in different countries.

5. Pilot sales on local marketplaces

Before heavily investing in launching your product in a new market, test how well it will sell by distributing it on local marketplaces. For example, you can resell your product on MercadoLibre (Argentina’s eBay equivalent) to see which copy, prices and products customers around Latin America may respond to. To target Chinese consumers, you can market your products on Taobao. For Japan, Rakuten.

MercadoLibre

This is a safe, risk-free way of teasing a new market with your product to gauge its potential. With instant access to millions of shoppers, the hard work is already done for you.

6. Develop local packaging

Starting out, eCommerce store owners should reuse their original product packaging on international orders. It’s cost-effective and easy. But overtime, issues arise when some customers are unable to understand how to use their products or when shoppers endanger themselves because the safety warnings are in an unfamiliar language. And, of course, local governments may crack down on products that do not meet their regulations. In Quebec, Canada, products must be labeled in French and English to accommodate their bilingual residents.

7. Partner with local distributors

When you only fulfill a handful of orders each month in a certain market, it may be most cost-effective to ship product either directly from your manufacturer to the customer or from your main distribution center where your company is headquartered to buyers. Unfortunately, this can cause unnecessarily long shipping times. As demand for your product grows in overseas markets, it may make sense to ship product in bulk to local distributors who can warehouse your inventory and ship product locally as soon as an order is placed. Local logistics companies may even help you manage and process returns too.

8. Create a localized site

Tmall

Entering a market as an outsider can be tricky. Most eCommerce managers assume it is as easy as cloning their original website and translating some text. Wrong. There are many cultural nuances that impact how shoppers will receive your marketing messages and respond to your offers. Work with local graphic and web designers to build an online shopping experience customers in a certain geographical area would appreciate more. Spend some time exploring other eCommerce sites targeting the same audience to gather a sense of how their websites are structured. This should also provide insight into how your target customers shop online.

And to instantly create trust among shoppers, purchase a country-specific domain. In South Africa, shoppers are more responsive to websites with a .co.za domain extension. Chinese customers tend to be more open-minded about stores with a .cn URL.

9. Make company representatives accessible

For shoppers everywhere, quality customer service is a major reason why certain brands are preferred over others and why people remain loyal to specific stores. So although you and your team may be halfway around the world, you will want to make yourselves accessible to clients who may have complaints or concerns with your product. If possible, provide live customer support through instant message and over the phone using a local number. And at the very least offer customer support through email with the promise that you will respond within 24 hours.

When you start to process hundreds of orders each month in a certain market, consider hiring someone local to lead customer support as they will be better able to empathize with customer issues and can be accountable for timely responses during local business hours.

10. Provide customer-friendly payment options

iDEAL payments

In the U.S., credit cards and PayPal are preferred payment options among online consumers. In Germany, customers largely pay for product through bank transfer after products are delivered. Shoppers in the Netherlands use iDEAL. In China, Alipay is the country’s answer to PayPal. Consumers in other markets pay cash upon delivery. Avoid assuming that shoppers everywhere are happy to pay for their product in advance and with a credit card.

11. Beware of fraud

One of the biggest risks of expanding your business overseas is encountering fraud. Thieves can steal your information and liquidate your local bank accounts or order thousands of products on fake or stolen credit cards. While that may happen in any country, these unfortunate occurrences may be near-impossible to reconcile remotely.

To mitigate the risk of becoming a victim of fraud, eCommerceWeekly advises taking a careful look at irregular transactions such as:

  • “Larger than average orders”
  • “Large quantities of the same item”
  • “Big-ticket item orders”
  • “Rush or overnight delivery orders”
  • “Multiple shipments to the same address, but processed with different payment methods”
  • “P.O. box vs. physical address for the shipment destination”
  • “Names that don’t match up with the email address”

Lastly, know your legal options for recovering stolen resources.

Closing thoughts

Although selling your product abroad comes with many complications, it can be incredibly rewarding. If market forces at home (such an economic downturn and a general dip in local consumer spending) stymie growth, consider expanding your store to markets where shoppers are eager to spend money and purchase your products. Going global is easy if you do your homework beforehand. In some cases, too, you may earn more selling to foreign countries than you do to your home state.

12 Feb 17:30

‘I Run My Blog More Like a Television Network’: Inside Shopify’s Next-Level Newsroom

by Erin Nelson

Tommy Walker and his editorial team at Shopify have every intention of getting you hooked. More benign than Walter White, Walker’s drug of choice is content, cooked with the same formula as your favorite TV show.

“I run my blog more like a television network,” Walker mentioned casually, as if this concept was intuitive. “Week to week, there’s a narrative that is very much like a TV show that’s in Serial format.”

Walker, editor-in-chief of the Shopify Plus blog, an editorial extension of the e-commerce software company, uses a squad of vetted freelance and staff writers to publish stories that focus on technology, entrepreneurship, and marketing. As part of his process, Walker ensures the subject of each piece is well-researched, created for a specific audience, connected to other posts, and integrated into a cohesive distribution plan.

“This format helps people to tune on a regular basis and want to come back over and over again,” he said. “The reason television programming is called ‘programming’ is that you are programming people to come back.”

From e-commerce to publishing

Shopify was founded in 2004 as a solution to sell snowboards online. When the founders realized there was no existing software that could sell their product the way they wanted, they decided to build it themselves. Since then, what began as a five-person operation has become a comprehensive e-commerce platform for retail brands, representing over 200,000 online stores and responsible for over $12 billion in sales.

As Shopify has grown, so, too, has its content strategy. In August 2015, the company expanded its online publication to cover enterprise-level solutions. In the introductory post, Walker declared the blog’s mission: “Write heavily-researched yet easy to understand essays to solve enterprise-level problems.”

The purpose was to provide engaging, informative, and actionable material specific to enterprises that could benefit from the new enterprise software product, Shopify Plus. The goal, as Walker clarified, was not just to cover topics that went over what works for enterprise companies, but to use “case studies, behavioral economics, buyer psychology, and industry data” to be able to tackle why certain tactics work.

Once Shopify honed in on the blog’s mission, it had an even bigger challenge: to determine just how to reach the right audience with that useful content.

Making a methodology

Walker’s process for conducting market research is technical and precise. In fact, it boils down to a near-science.

On LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, Walker finds enterprise CMOs, marketing directors, and other high-level executives, and scores them. Specifically, he evaluates them in two areas—knowledge and interaction—by rating them on scales of one to 10.

When calculating a knowledge score, Walker uses himself as a baseline score of five. If people share articles that help him learn new things on a certain topic, they get higher scores; basic content gets lower scores.

The interaction figure, meanwhile, rates the level of conversation, rather than the content itself. Administering a score, Walker determines if people are spamming the group, giving basic feedback (“Hey, great post!”), or responding with instructive and compelling replies.

By compiling the knowledge and interaction scores in a spreadsheet, Walker gets a clear idea of both the topics his target audience are immersed in and where to distribute Shopify’s original content.

For example, he found LinkedIn groups that discussed the speed of technological development, and when one person commented, “I remember when all we had to worry about were Facebook ads,” Walker landed on a topic he wanted to pursue, which led to “The Acceleration of Everything,” an article Walker wrote for Shopify before sharing it with those LinkedIn groups.

In addition to social group studying, Walker also follows trending hashtags in his Tweetdeck, reads Amazon reviews about similar products, and tags industry blogs in his Feedly as part of his audience research. “I follow these outlets to find out the cadence and the tonality that people are using,” he said. “With that information, I start to develop a marketing message … and construct a narrative that starts to stand out from that.”

The high-level strategy makes for a good quotation, but, when pressed about specifics, he revealed that the levers to influence people largely actually hinge on two crucial variables: age and culture.

“Culture is the thing that it comes down to and different age categories have specific cultures related to them,” Walker said. “You talk to someone from the ’60s and the media that influenced them is going to be vastly different than the media that influenced somebody who was born in the ’80s. Instead of looking at people as demographics, you need to understand what that demographic has actually been exposed to.”

In the case of this article on how rapper 2 Chainz made $2 million on Shopify in 30 days, the publication doesn’t just reference an iconic rapper to attract young demographic clicks. The in-depth case study also weaves in the history of hip hop, something culturally relevant and unique to some millennial entrepreneurs.

The inspiration for this approach came from Walker’s own experience as a music and movie buff. “All you have to do to appeal to me is play off that nostalgia and understand the editing and visual style of the things that I’ve grown up with.”

Turning data into consistency

When it comes to data, Shopify’s editorial operation focuses on four goals. Content meant to be shared, drive traffic and conversation, generate leads, or help sales.

According to Walker, each piece of content should have only one intention at a time. “If you’re creating a piece of content to be shared, every word you write needs to have that as part of its intent,” he said. “Because then you start turning phrases in a way that makes people go, ‘Oh, man, I really want to share this.’”

Shopify’s team uses this approach to structure the editorial calendar, making sure there’s a balance of all four types of content. The framework also helps Walker establish themes and consistency. For example, the site publishes multiple stories on one topic over time. Last August, Shopify published an article titled, “Add to Cart: How to Get More People to Take Action on Product Pages.” A week later came “How to Reduce Shopping Cart Abandonment by Optimizing the Checkout.” Seven days later, there was a third installment: “Designing The New Customer Experience: What Happens After Checkout?” Then the site wrapped up the series with “How To Create a Memorable and Shareable Unboxing Experience for Your Brand.”

Four stories by three different writers over a four-week period.

“We’re creating this sort of universe where shares, comments, generated leads, and sales work together strategically because everything around that content calendar is designed towards very specific goals, but each piece is also bringing people toward other parts of the network.”

The result is a narrative in which each article can stand on its own but still leaves you wanting more—just like episodes from your favorite TV show.

Making a scene

Before Tommy Walker was an editor, he worked as an actor for 10 years. Being on camera and creating content for CMOs may not have much in common at first glance, but to Walker, his background has significantly influenced Shopify’s content strategy.

As Walker sees it, analyzing enterprise markets and dissecting scripts have a lot in common. While actors fill in the blanks by assessing dialogue and scene direction, marketers follow hashtags to pick up on industry and demographic trends. Ultimately, both are in the business of storytelling, relying on research to appeal to audiences.

“I firmly believe that we view the computer no differently than we did televisions or movie screens of the past. In marketing, we’re creating entertainment more than anything else,” he explained. “The idea of branding just came from building a character.”

12 Feb 17:30

4 Tips for Optimizing Revenue Impact Through Aligned Sales and Marketing Strategies

by Rick Baker

In an ideal world, every sales rep at your company would be an all-star who magically knows exactly what to say to every lead he or she encounters. However, in reality, customer journeys have become so complex that even your top performers need the right guidance to be the most effective.

This is where marketers come in to provide content that better equips sales teams for each unique scenario they might find themselves in. But even with this helpful material, there’s often a disconnect between what marketers have in mind when they create it and how salespeople end up using it.

The sales process is a choose-your-own adventure of sorts that reminds me of an old road sign in Alaska: “Choose your rut carefully. You will be in it for the next 200 miles.” The same could be said of sales and marketing. In many organizations, these departments are stuck in their respective ruts, and they will continue to be until there’s a determined willingness to join forces.

Why Get Aligned?

When sales and marketing don’t align their efforts, a gulf arises between the two departments and their strategies become disconnected.

Marketers can spend millions of dollars and countless hours assembling and storing massive piles of sales content. These collections are often difficult to sift through, and sales representatives will either spend way too much time searching for what they need or settle for something that isn’t quite as helpful or relevant as it should be.

For example, with limited alignment, a marketing team could spend several hours compiling multiple in-depth case studies for a seller when a simple competitive battle card about a rival company would have sufficed. Marketing teams might also organize their materials in a manner that makes sense to them but seems illogical or unhelpful to salespeople.

In the end, marketers end up solving a problem they didn’t need to solve or salespeople simply can’t extract the full value of the materials that are already available to them. Both scenarios result in tons of wasted time and missed opportunities — and salespeople, as you know, are very busy. This is why effective collaboration is so crucial.

Companies that achieve alignment between marketing and sales experience the following benefits:

  • Utilization: There’s no question that marketers are creating relevant material, but what good is that material if sales teams can’t find it — or if, once they do find it, they can’t quickly glean its relevance? Collaboration ensures the correct content is readily available for sales teams and is presented in a fashion that makes sense to them. Naturally, this results in better utilization because the right materials are being used to address the right scenarios.
  • Measurable impact: Successful collaboration doesn’t just impact leads, demand, and awareness; it improves the entire sales cycle by encouraging relevancy. Marketing can help sales as leads convert into opportunities and as opportunities convert into closed deals. Further, both marketers and salespeople receive a measurable return on their investments of time and energy.
  • Reduced costs: Wasted time also results in wasted money, and alignment cuts down on all redundant costs. When sales and marketing work out who owns what and the timing of deliverables, there’s a quicker, smoother handoff between teams because everyone is on the same page.

Nothing is more thrilling than a fast-paced ride through a winding river full of rapids and drops that challenge your skills, senses, and navigation strategy. When these two departments get on the same page, sales teams no longer feel like they’re floating solo, guessing which route to take while putting themselves at risk of capsizing the ship. Instead, they hear the clear, trustworthy voice of their guide, urging the team to place their oars in the water at the right moment and in the right direction.

4 Tips For Reaching Alignment

For marketing and sales to bridge the gulf that exists between them, they need to agree upon a few key details. Key representatives from each department should sit down and have a discussion where they ultimately:

  1. Agree on the problem. But the discussion shouldn’t be about whose fault it is or who’s responsible for getting it fixed. Rather, it should be about who will step up to ensure it’s fixed correctly. Usually, both groups will share some of that responsibility. Agreeing on the problem will make it much simpler to find the solution.
  2. Agree on the goal. After getting on the same page about the problem, set a clear goal. Is the objective to reduce content creation time, cut down the search process, or optimize customer-facing time? Once sales and marketing agree on the goal and the outcome, they’ll know what they’re making progress toward.
  3. Agree on the approach. Determine the best way to go about overcoming the problem, and set milestones along the way that guide your teams toward this goal. Milestones could be training, content evaluations, or investments in technology that helps sellers easily find the right marketing materials. The decided approach will only work if both teams stick to the plan. If one group deviates from it, the existing problem will only grow.
  4. Agree to commit to the journey. After determining the timeline, the entire organization needs to commit to sticking to it. This means all parties must have realistic expectations about the nature and length of the journey. Everyone must understand that the goal isn’t going to be reached overnight.

Marketing and sales need to work together like an orchestra, in which multiple different instruments work together to achieve a harmonious output.

If all members play whatever they want, the result is just noise. But when every person is playing in unison from the same page of the songbook, beautiful music reaches consumers’ ears.

Alignment ensures customers are engaged in a meaningful fashion, evoking a higher level of confidence in their buying decision.

12 Feb 17:30

6 Ways to Increase Sales That Are Sitting Right Under Your Nose

by BusinessVibes

Nouveau business ideas that are guaranteed to increase sales are peddled across the World Wide Web with what seems like ever-increasing frequency. From purchasing Facebook Likes to pursuing supposedly unpunishable black-hat SEO tactics, the too-good-to-be-true paths relied upon by the foolhardy rarely result in sales that lead to lasting positive results, because legitimately increasing sales can’t be happened upon in the bottom of a jar of snake oil. Skip the tactics that are likely to fail or land you in hot water. Here are six simple ways to increase sales that are so simple, they’re probably sitting right under your nose.

1. Get Incentivized

You probably already think you’ve got incentive to increase sales, and whether you’re the boss or the sales director, you’re probably right. However, there’s no reason to avoid looking for more. Are you a securities software reseller? Learn how Cisco incentives help resellers sell more. Are you a marketing firm producing a wide variety of digital and online campaigns? Make winning a Webby Award a true goal. Almost every industry has a way to get incentivized beyond the day-to-day grind of desiring more sales. Let those incentives add fuel to your fire.

2. Sell to the Customers You Have

The customers who have already bought into your business are some of your greatest assets, and keeping them around, happy, and buying from you should be an essential part of your ongoing business plan. Everyone loves the idea of getting fresh leads and converting those leads into customers, but doing so takes a big investment of time and resources.

So, make things easier for yourself: Instead of trying to increase sales by acquiring new customers — a prospect that costs roughly four to 10 times more than retaining current ones — sell to the customers who already like your product or service. Target them with offers, loyalty incentives, and other promotions. Not only will it increase your sales, but it will also make your existing customer base feel appreciated.

3. Get Niche-ier

If you’re already operating a successful business, the odds are pretty good that you’ve distinguished yourself from your competitors by operating within a niche that fits you and your customers’ needs. Well it may be time to get even niche-ier. Within the markets you already sell to, identify even smaller niches. Then, target those niches with products and services that appeal more specifically to them. Customize your ad campaigns so those particular segments of your market can more easily see the appeal of what you offer as it relates to their desires.

4. Turn All Your Ads Into Offers

Are you developing new product lines and a new marketing campaign to promote them? Make sure all your advertising includes offers. Even if all you offer is free information related to what you’re selling, doing so will generate more traffic and interest, which can then be converted into sales if you play your cards right. Just be sure that you’re offering something of actual value to customers and potential customers. Nobody who’s looking at buying a fishing boat is going to jump at a tutorial on how to bait a hook, but they would probably like to peruse a white paper regarding different boats’ maintenance costs over time.

5. Undo the Customers’ Risk

New customers are notoriously shy about shelling out money for a product or service they’ve never tried before. Instead of trying to coax them into doing business with you via glowing testimonials, a zillion positive reviews, and well-placed calls to action, remove their risk. Offer a money-back guarantee that covers a decent time period — at least 30 days — with no strings attached. By assuming all the risk of the transaction, you position your company and its wares as having unquestionable value. Customers will respond to your confidence and that money-back guarantee, which should result in a measurable uptick in sales.

6. Improve Your Copy

One of the easiest ways to increase sales is to say what you mean more effectively. Improve the copy on your website, social media sites, and print material so when potential customers consider what you have to offer, they arrive at understanding quickly. Lousy copy that’s meandering, grammatically incorrect, unnecessarily verbose, or otherwise off the mark will reduce sales. If writing clear and concise copy isn’t your — or anyone in your employ’s — strong suit, hire the job out to a firm or individual for whom it is.

Increasing sales doesn’t have to be rocket science. As these six tips show, from removing customer risk to getting even more niche, many great opportunities are sitting right under your nose.

12 Feb 17:30

Time to Abandon Spray-and-Pray Lead Generation

by Paul Gillin

Spray hose

A couple of years ago, a client told me he was having some lead quality problems. The company had contracted with a major IT publisher for a webcast that guaranteed 150 leads. But the leads weren’t panning out; the quality was terrible and salespeople were pointing the finger at marketing.

I offered to check it out myself, and over the next few days spoke to 20 people on the list at random. Only two remembered registering for the event. A handful had seen a confirmation but didn’t remember registering, and the overwhelming majority said not only had they not registered, but the topic wasn’t even relevant to them.

The experience said a lot about the quality of leads that traditional channels are able to provide in a chaotic media world. B2B publishing houses have long relied upon their subscriber lists for the generation. People filled out qualification cards to get the publication for free, and then publishers monetized the business by selling access to the list.

Dan McDadeBut nearly all those print publications are now gone, along with the data that readers provided. That means lead generators have to work existing lists harder, resort to lower quality lists, and even engage in shenanigans like the case outlined above to meet lead guarantees. That means lead quality suffers, and bad leads cost more than no leads at all. Lead generation expert Dan McDade (left) says he’s seen campaigns in which 99 percent of the leads generated were worthless. Ninety-nine percent.

Quality time

This doesn’t mean lead generation is a fool’s errand, or that there aren’t good sources out there, but any marketer who judges the success of a campaign based upon the quantity of leads generated is asking for trouble. Poor lead quality is one of the most contentious issues that divides sales and marketing organizations, and despite a bounty of evidence that lead scoring and nurturing improves sales efficiency, many marketers I’ve dealt with still measure success by the number of names in the spreadsheet.

With good lists becoming harder to find, lead brokers are bringing technology to bear to improve lead quality. Predictive analytics can be used to qualify people based upon the characteristics or behaviors they exhibit without asking them to explicitly give up any information. Social channels are a promising new source of this type of lead, and startups are sprouting to provide this capability as a service.

A related and promising new strategy is account-based marketing. This technique focuses on a few highly desirable accounts, identifies individual influencers, and treats them as markets of one. Sales and marketing groups work arm-in-arm on account strategies. Social media also plays an important role here because profiles and conversations yield valuable insight that can be used for targeted messaging. Once the domain of only the largest companies, account-based marketing is now becoming accessible to everyone through cloud platforms like Engagio and Demandbase.

The bottom line is that marketers need to abandon the traditional spray-and-pray approach to lead generation in favor of more targeted and intelligent approaches. They need to rejigger their criteria for selecting lead-gen partner around qualitative rather than quantitative metrics. The good news is that the technology exists to make that possible. Ultimately, better quality leads create stronger partnerships between marketing and sales, and more productive engagement on both sides. The collapse of lists is a blessing in disguise.

Creative Commons photo by Scott Akerman via Flickr

12 Feb 17:29

6 Ways First-Year Reps Become Their Own Worst Enemy

by mrenahan@hubspot.com (Mike Renahan)

nervoussalesrep.jpg

First-year sales reps are in a tough spot. 

Not only is their new job challenging, but also their skill set isn’t developed enough (at least not yet) to excel in  it. 

So what’s a first-year rep to do? How does a rookie handle their day-to-day responsibilities without succumbing to stress and anxiety?

Maybe more important than what to do is what not to do. Below are six behaviors first-year reps should avoid. 

1) Focusing only on closing

Attempting to step into a sales role and only working your bottom of the funnel leads is a quick way to fall behind. While you do want to close deals in a timely manner, it’s also important to set yourself up for success in the months ahead. The long-term health of your pipeline shouldn’t be ignored for one glorious 30-day run.

In fact, research from Vantage Point Performance and the Sales Management Association shows that healthy pipeline management results in 15% faster revenue growth.

Instead of approaching every day with an “always be closing” mentality, remember to spend time prospecting and helping leads who aren’t ready to buy yet. While you might exceed quota initially by only focusing on closing, you don’t want to find yourself without any potential buyers to connect with the following month.

2) Overworking

It’s easy for a newbie to think they have to work twice as hard as everyone else to make an impact. Yes, getting up to speed will require your maximum effort and a large time commitment, but working as many hours as you can doesn’t guarantee success.

First-year sales reps should work smarter, not harder. For example, reps can cut down on prospecting time without sacrificing results by identifying simple LinkedIn hacks to improve their efficiency. If rookies can get more done in less time, they won’t burn out a month into their job.  

My colleague Lindsay Kolowich recently wrote that for some employees, overworking can result in more on-the-job mistakes and negatively impacts your health. Both are detrimental for a first-year rep.

3) Judging yourself based solely on competitions

Many sales teams hold monthly contests.These contests help motivate salespeople to crush their quotas month after month and can play a major role in the team’s overall success. But for a first-year rep, learning is the top priority, not dominating the leaderboard.

After all, some first-year reps might find themselves at the bottom of the competition month after month simply due to inexperience. And this can have a detrimental effect.

“If the environment is too intense, sales reps near the bottom of the performance ladder can become discouraged, which is the exact opposite effect sales managers hope to inspire,” writes TechnologyAdvice’s Jenna Puckett.

While contests are appealing, competing against yourself every day is likely to produce better long-term results.

4) Ignoring your coaching

Learning the nuances of each phase of the sales process is challenging. Mastering effective prospecting doesn’t mean you’re going to be great at closing.

When times are tough, rookie reps won’t have to look far for help: Sales managers can likely pinpoint where in the sales process the rep is going awry. And after listening in on a few calls, leaders can provide powerful insights that spur a rep’s development.

Unfortunately, first-year reps can sometimes form a mindset of “I know best,” which hinders their development. Instead of heeding the advice from their managers, some first-years try to do everything on their own, falling behind in the process.

If you aren’t open to constructive feedback, you likely won’t last in your role because you won't develop. In most cases, it’s impossible to improve without guidance from sales leaders. Experienced managers know what it takes to be a great salesperson, and are eager to teach you. Take the feedback in stride and keep learning.

5) Making the deal about you and not the prospect

Some first-year sales reps make the mistake of thinking if they close a deal, their job ends there. However, just as important as closing the deal is the relationship you develop with the prospect afterwards.

In fact, research from Forrester’s Kate Leggett discovered that customer success is what’s behind increasing revenue and influencing new sales. Says Leggett, “Actively managing customer relationships to strengthen relationships has a quantifiable return on investment as measured by churn reduction, increased revenue from cross-sells and upsells, and new bookings. The industry recognizes this.”

By treating each customer’s success as your own, you set yourself up for a long-term relationship. This mentality builds trust and camaraderie, and benefits both the buyer and the seller. 

6) Focusing only on rejections

First-year reps are likely hearing “No, I’m not interested” fairly often. For most reps, this scenario has become commonplace. But for a rookie rep, this is probably the first time they’ve dealt with rejection so frequently.

While it’s easy to get down after being told “no” often, remind yourself that rejection is part of the job. Some prospects aren’t going to be a great fit, while others aren’t ready to buy. Instead of framing rejections as purely negative, treat them as a learning opportunity.

As Aaron Ross points out, “no” isn’t a bad thing, it’s a chance to learn. “If people aren’t buying, look at it as market research. Are you targeting the right people with the right need, right time, and right message? What needs to change to improve?” says Ross.

Take every lesson from a “no” and put it towards turning future calls into a “yes.”

Learning the fundamentals isn’t sexy, but it’s critical for first-year reps. While it’s tempting to step into a role and immediately try to prove yourself worthy, it’s likely those actions will have a negative effect. Being aware of the behaviors that you should avoid puts you in a position to be successful down the line. Sometimes it’s about what you decide not to do that makes the biggest difference.

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