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12 Oct 21:32

The Leadership Playbook: What Not to Do. Who Not to Do It With.

by Anthony Iannarino

Strategy is about deciding how you intend to compete and win. It’s your plan to create an advantage, and it is how you create focus. As a leader, you are charged with ensuring that your sales strategies and sales tactics are aligned with the company’s overall strategy; they serve as a guide to what you will do.

Strategy is also a guide to what you will not do.

Who You Won’t Serve

Bringing strategy to life means deciding who you will not serve. It dictates who you will not pursue as clients as much as it dictates who you will. It is the underlying foundation for both targeting (the dream clients you will call on) and disqualifying (who you will not call on).

If your company is not the price leader, your strategy will dictate that you forego calling on prospects whose primary deciding factor for choosing a partner is price. A price-driven prospect needs value creation around obtaining a lower price, and your value-creation lies elsewhere. That’s a strategic mismatch.

Some large, well-known companies live their strategy, and it is, in part, why they are so successful. Apple Computers purposely and willingly gives up market share in laptop computers by targeting and selling to a higher price point; they are willing to lose all of the potential laptop buyers whose primary concern is price. The other side is WalMart. They are the low price leader, but if you want a clean, bright store instead of a warehouse for your household shopping, WalMart is willing to forego your business.

This guidance is critical to leading the sales force effectively. When you can tell your sales force who not to call and why, you free up their time and the resources to focus on who you do want them to pursue.

What We Won’t Do

Targeting and qualifying are also more effective when the sales force has been provided concrete guidance as to what you won’t do.

If there are some things that you can’t, won’t, or don’t want to do because your strategy dictates otherwise, then helping the sales force to understand the strategy prevents them from wasting time pursuing the wrong prospects.

If a prospect requires a solution that you cannot provide, if they have very specific needs that you aren’t able to meet, or if they operate in a way that requires something other than what you do, eliminating the time working on these prospects frees up time for better activities.

Because you need to identify and move opportunities through the pipeline from target to close, it’s easy to fall into the trap of trying to serve everybody. You might believe that maybe you can find a way to make what you do work, or maybe you could change the prospect’s mind about what they need. And sometimes, you may be able to find a way. But the great majority of the time, doing so is a more complicated decision that means making a bad strategic choice.

Your strategy should guide what you do, as well as what you will not do. It should also guide who you target and who you disqualify. These decisions are critical, and you owe the sales force clear guidance.

The post The Leadership Playbook: What Not to Do. Who Not to Do It With. appeared first on The Sales Blog.

12 Oct 17:39

How to Turn Your (Awesome) Content Idea Into Several

by Annika Rautakoura

Contentideas

“Never settle for the first draft” is something that skilled content creators know to be true. You shouldn’t settle for the first idea that comes your way, either. Ideas are diamonds to be polished, and they will only shine after the right amount of planning and optimizing. Oh, and eliminating the waste.

You should work towards multiplying a killer idea and turning a fledgling of a thought into something usable. How?

Compartmentalize.

When you recognize an idea you can work with, be sure to take full advantage of it, as one idea can serve a great variety of purposes. Make note of your ideas thoroughly and in the right place, so that you can find them later. Give files appropriate names so you won’t overlook them in the future. Also give items a proper timeline and plan ahead, so that you can tell future and current plans apart.

Prioritize. Be realistic in terms of what you want and should produce. Take care of gems and kill the ones that will most likely (and unnecessarily) eat up your time. If you have projects that need to be cleared out of the way, finish what you’ve started, and then think of what to tackle next, whether it’s for money or passion.

Think format.

Can something work better on a different channel or format than you initially thought? By modifying style and length a little bit, you can come up with whole new pieces that work better for a different target audience. If you’re overwhelmed with choosing the right content format (and figuring out what a Boomerang is), consider resources with the best ROI in mind, and always factor in audience needs.

If you can’t decide between pretty colors and fitting as much text as possible, rethink your original notion. For example, a lively interview can translate much better as a Q&A than a write-up, and what you thought would work better as a checklist could make for a killer infographic.

Repurpose content.

You should definitely shake up an old piece of content every once in a while and think of ways to rekindle your best ideas. There are some genius ways you can repurpose old content.

Take the best phrases out of a blog post you previously wrote and create visual content around them. Update outdated info in an article and refresh it to boost rankings. Turn old into something new! Break an article into a series of social media updates. Combine several pieces of content and turn them into an ebook or whitepaper. Use data creatively for case studies. The list goes on.

Remember to only repurpose content that is timeless and of high quality, and pay attention to what garners the most engagement. And tie everything to your content strategy.

Take a step back.

When you look at something from too close, you don’t necessarily spot the little things that will eventually determine the ultimate outcome of a piece of content. That’s why it’s important to allow a good idea to brew. It’s also smart to get someone else’s perspective on an idea – two pairs of eyeballs is better than one.

Finalization is even more crucial than planning. You can have the most carefully laid out roadmaps, but ultimately the outcome depends on execution and careful scrutinizing, which sometimes means removing everything you initially did to make way for something better.

Content creation is not just planning. It’s a craft of being able to pick up spontaneous ideas and make them work in the long run. Just remember to experiment and learn. Content creation mistakes (whoops) often lead to terrific revelations.

12 Oct 17:39

Google 2017: Top 3 Ranking Factors

by Shivam Trika

Google is well known to periodically change its search ranking algorithms and 2016, well, proved to be no exception.

But search ranking is something that most marketers pay close attention to (it’s often a major source of visitors) and adhering to Google’s continued nudges certainly makes a difference in the long run, if not overnight.

If Google says I have to jump to reach the top of my SERP, I MOST CERTAINLY WILL! Fun aside, the next year is just around the corner and a new google algorithm must be waiting for us as usual, maybe.

To get ready for the battle with Google to reach the top of your search rankings like every new year. Here are the top 3 factors that will most probably effect your search engine rankings in 2017 —

3. Website’s Mobile Friendliness

Google’s latest(August) nudge came as a blow to those marketers who relied heavily on on-site Advertisements(interstitial) for monetization, especially on mobile sites as Google made a call that websites that use pop-ups and interstitials are worse search results and will rank them lower because of it.

Later, Google revealed that the number of mobile searches has overtaken those from desktops.

If history is of any evidence, prioritizing mobile users is something Google has increasingly been doing with its search algorithm. Last year it began boosting the rank of “mobile friendly” websites, and in 2014, it boosted the rank of sites with encryption as well.

And why not, Google knows that we are getting more familiar and habitual with using the smaller screen for everyday activities and they have been focusing on creating a smoother experience for their ever increasing mobile users.

Well, they are a firm after all and searchers are their customers. Advertisements, Interstitials or Pop-ups — whatever you choose to call it — are annoying as they block content and are hard to get rid of.
So, it should be of no surprise that causing hindrance in viewing the content on a mobile site through a pop-up or interstitial will drag you lower in your search results and will surely effect your conversions.

While there are “hundreds of factors” that go into Google’s search result rankings, it’s not like every website that uses these ads will feel pressured to remove them overnight. If a site with a pop-up still has the best information, it’s still likely to appear first. But this change ought to benefit one site over another when those two sites appear roughly equal.

These new changes will go into effect next year, beginning on January 10th. From that point on Google will start lowering the rank of sites “where content is not easily accessible” and/or on-site advertisement that covers a “reasonable amount of screen space.”

2. Link Building

A backlink, or inbound link, is a link coming from another site to your own website.

The formula is that the more relevant and authoritative links refer to your website, the higher your site will rank in its SERP.
Backlinks or Inbound links are different from Outbound links i.e. links from your website to another website and Internal links i.e. links from one website to another page of the same website.

Right now, building backlinks is one of the most powerful factor for upping your organic rankings(unpaid) and they are very likely to provide the same effect on your rankings in the coming future.
Note that manipulative directory submitting link building strategies will completely fail in the coming future. They will not even provide the short term benefit that they give now.
And marketers must look for opportunities within networks, provide brand recognition content, tap social signals, and do some content research to build juicy backlinks that have the power to take them to the top of their SERPs.

Here is a list of ways to build authoritative, high quality backlinks

1. Content

I am sure you must have guessed it by now.
While Social Media may have a completely different story, Content is and will be the King for Google!

Somewhere around this time last year, Google’s AI RankBrain was introduced to the world which eliminated the idea of keyword density, because its challenge was to understand each content and to rank it according to the value it provided to search engine users.
Keyword stuffing and irrelevant content went useless after the introduction of RankBrain.

Relevant, clear cut content that fulfills user expectations is going to take center stage in 2017. As it was in 2016 or 2015…..

While RankBrain fouses on providing relevant content, it’s still Content that prevails.
There hasn’t been much from Google in 2016 apart from the Mobile friendly update in August.

The Penguin 4.0 update was scheduled to be released in March of this year, but nothing happened and we have been waiting nervously ever since.

Why worry about something that is yet to be released? Or maybe not. Right!
Still, one of the best things you can do to improve your SEO is to invest in having quality content created for your website on a consistent basis; this becomes more effective if this content is published on a blog associated with your domain name.

So at the moment and in the near future, yes it’s mobile friendliness, links and content that are keeping your webpages at the top of the SERPs, but with machine learning quickly developing and figuring out the best way to serve results as naturally as possible, surely it won’t be long before relevance will be everything.

 

12 Oct 17:38

7 unforgettable leadership lessons from the ancient Roman conqueror Julius Caesar

by Áine Cain

Julius Caesar

After eliminating his rivals in a civil war, general and politician Gaius Julius Caesar began serving as dictator of Rome in 49 BCE.

He established a number of political reforms before getting stabbed to death on the Ides of March in 44 BCE.

This sparked yet another civil war that doomed the Roman Republic to mutate into an empire with Caesar's adopted heir Octavian at the helm.

Today, Caesar is still considered one of the greatest military commanders in history. His name is also synonymous with cults of personality and political strongmen.

So how exactly did the one-time high priest of Jupiter accrue so much power during his lifetime?

Business Insider looked through some of his own writings — as well as the less-reliable but still interesting works of contemporary ancient writers — to get a sense of his leadership style.

Here are the top seven lessons we came up with:

1. Presentation matters

The best leaders don't just do amazing things — they know how to present a compelling story.

After a relatively brief war with a certain Pharnacles II of Pontus, Caesar had to sit down and write out a report to Rome detailing his conquest. According to both Greek biographer Plutarch and Roman historian Suetonius, the commander didn't go into too much detail, writing simply: "I came, I saw, I conquered."

The phrase proved so catchy that we still remember it, centuries later.

Caesar could have gone on and on about his military prowess (in fact, he was the author of several long military accounts). Instead, he realized that the simple note would convey the most powerful message.

2. Take risks

In ancient Rome, crossing the Rubicon River with an army was kind of a big deal. It was tantamount to a declaration of war and could be punishable by death.

When Caesar crossed the Rubicon with his legion, he put everything on the line. In "The Life of the Deified Julius," Suetonius writes that Caesar quoted an Athenian playwright as he crossed the river, declaring "the die is cast."

He risked it all and it paid off (in the short-term, at least).

3. There's nothing wrong with starting small

Oftentimes, you've got to start out as a large fish in a small pond in order to succeed as a leader.

Caesar understood this. He managed to climb back into a position of power, even after losing his inheritance in a coup as a young man.

According to the ancient Plutarch's "Parallel Lives," the general also made a rather curious remark while passing through a small village in the Alps: "I assure you I had rather be the first man here than the second man in Rome."

4. Nothing is set in stone

As a general, Caesar new that circumstances could change in an instant. According to Bill Yonne's "Julius Caesar: Lessons in Leadership from the Great Conqueror," Caesar once wrote that "in war, events of importance are the result of trivial causes."

Resting on your laurels is never a good idea — because things can always take a turn for the worst.

5. Never kid yourself

Even if you're a successful leader, you never want to get to the point where you start to buy your own nonsense.

In his chronicle of the Gallic Wars, Caesar concludes that: "i n most cases men willingly believe what they wish" when describing a tactical mistake on the part of his Gallic enemies.

The best leaders behave rationally and don't allow their feelings or preconceived notions to dominate their decision-making. Gut calls and instincts are important too, but the best leaders utilize both — not one or the other.

6. Don't get comfortable

No matter how good things look, the best leaders never fail to anticipate the worst outcomes.

In his "Commentaries on the Gallic Wars," Caesar writes: "The immortal gods are wont to allow those persons whom they wish to punish for their guilt sometimes a greater prosperity and longer impunity, in order that they may suffer the more severely from a reverse of circumstances."

Basically, if you're on a winning streak, watch out. Caesar would have done well to actually follow this advice himself. Instead, he allowed a conspiracy to boil under him once he became dictator, resulting in his famous assassination.

7. Never sell yourself short

In order to lead, you need confidence in your own abilities. This is something that Caesar never seemed to lack.

This is illustrated by one notable incident in the ancient Roman's life (involving pirates, of all things). In his account of Caesar's life, Plutarch writes that, as a young man, Julius Caesar was abducted by the pirates that swarmed the Mediterranean Sea.

Livius.org provides a translation of what happened next: "First, when the pirates demanded a ransom of twenty talents, Caesar burst out laughing. They did not know, he said, who it was that they had captured, and he volunteered to pay fifty."

Caesar went on to promise the pirates that he'd personally kill them once he was free. After he was ransomed, he raised a fleet, hunted them down, and did just that.

SEE ALSO: 9 timeless lessons from the great Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius

DON'T MISS: I read the 87-year-old book recommended by Elon Musk, and my favorite chapter reveals the dark side of innovation and adventure

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: How to make a Caesar salad that is actually healthy

12 Oct 17:38

What Separates Top Sales Performers?

by Phill Keene

For nearly a decade I’ve been immersed in the world of sales, and I have continued to discover new ways of how I can separate myself from the rest of the pack. That was until I recently stepped back from sales and became a peer in the Octiv marketing team.

Joining the marketing team opened my eyes to what makes great salespeople great. A few things stand out to why those top sales professionals are consistently making their number.

They work as a team to get deals done.

What separates top performers from their less successful colleagues is their ability to leverage the resources and people around them to get a deal to the next step. Too often, sales teams use the language of teamwork without taking the actions of a team.

We spend our energy competing against each other when the true competition is outside of the building. The best-performing sales reps treat those around them with a high level of respect and appreciation by thanking those who offer help. It’s not just the decent thing to do; it also builds personal brand equity that can be put to future use.

The best salespeople also know when to make requests of their fellow team members. They know which resources to request to move a deal forward, and when to ask for them. Salespeople will need to ask for help throughout the process: whether it’s marketing for early-stage content or an executive to sit in on late-stage negotiations. To be a top performer, you must identify and use resources effectively, from first interaction with a prospect to closing a deal.

They do things when they say they will.

Nothing is more frustrating for a buyer than when a sales rep makes a promise they don’t intend to keep. The best salespeople always meet deadlines and keep commitments. These actions build trust time and time again both internally and externally – which can become a competitive advantage.

In sales, you might only get one shot with a company and a missed deadline or commitment can kill a deal quickly. The most effective salespeople don’t get in their own way, they find a way to keep their word.

They are brutally honest from the beginning.

Richard Harris sums it up well: “Be so brutally honest that they thank you and then ask for more.”

More often than not, prospects have purchased something from a company like yours before. They know when they are being lied to, or mistreated. It is in your best interest to tell them the truth from the first interaction until the last.

Sales reps who are honest about whether your product is a fit will buy themselves trust with prospects and begin to work better deals while selling a solution that actually helps their prospects.

It likely only takes one lie before everything that was done before can come into question, and lose a deal. The “small” lie, is not worth losing the relationship and possibly a potential deal later down the road.

They build relationships for the long term

A career in sales in a marathon, not a sprint. I recently had a conversation with Stephanie Woodall, an inspiring salesperson here at Octiv, about how every relationship is important, and customers who buy from you once are likely to buy again. And if they don’t, they’re still likely to serve as a reference for you in the future either for a job or a potential sale with a different prospect. The greatest asset any salesperson can have is a phone full of contacts that actually pick up the phone when you call and ask a favor. At very least, it’s the right thing to do.

You should go into every call thinking about how to expand and grow your relationship with the potential prospect. Not from a sales standpoint, but from a pure relationship. If you went to every call believing that you would interact with the prospect for the next 20 to 30 years, the types of things you ask and talk about change.

Each of these points is about building trust and maintaining strong relationships. Sales is hard enough, and those that need to be a lone wolf rarely find long-term success. In fact, look at the lone wolves you know that are making their number quarter after quarter…and look to see if they are really going alone or working quietly with everyone around them to get deals over the line.

The post What Separates Top Sales Performers? appeared first on Sales Hacker.

12 Oct 17:38

6 reasons to choose Android over iPhone (AAPL, GOOG, GOOGL)

by Jeff Dunn

Google Pixel

Earlier this week my colleague Steve Kovach gave you a quick list of reasons why you should buy the iPhone over any Android alternative. They’re all perfectly valid.

As someone who owns and uses phones from both sides of the fence, though, I thought it’d be fun to see if I could still take the opposite tack.

So consider this a counterpoint. If you don’t want to hop on the Apple train, here are a few time-tested advantages Google’s mobile OS has over its rival from Cupertino.

 

SEE ALSO: How to fix the most annoying change in iOS 10

There’s a variety of devices, at a variety of prices.

What we’re really arguing when we talk about “iOS vs. Android” is whether you like a closed ecosystem or an open one. With the iPhone, Apple holds the keys. It makes all the hardware, and has final say over all the software. This lets it have all the benefits noted in the piece linked above — guaranteed updates, extensive support, minimal bloatware, and so on.

Android, meanwhile, is fair game for everyone. (Relatively speaking.) There’s a bunch of different companies all fighting for the same market. That isn’t great for their bottom lines, but it means you get a diverse selection of devices, at a diverse set of price points.

You cannot get a functional iPhone for $50. You cannot get a full-featured flagship iPhone for $400. The old joke is that Android is for poor people, and while that’s not wrong, allowing more people to own a good smartphone isn’t exactly a bad thing.



It’s usually first to get advanced hardware features.

Apple just incorporated (official) water resistance with the iPhone 7. Next year, it’s expected to adopt a more vivid OLED display with the (presumed) iPhone 8. It recently upgraded the storage space of its current models, but it still doesn’t support microSD cards, which’d expand it further without making you drop another $100.

Android phones have had all of these things, and more, for years. Wireless charging, faster charging, removable batteries, dual-SIM support (which makes it easier to use your phone internationally), dual cameras — all of it is available, and usually available first, outside of Apple’s walls.

Now, will all these features be available on the same Android phone? Usually, no. But if there’s some niche feature you think would make your life easier, you’ll much more likely to find it on Android.



You can customize.

Do you ever get tired at looking at the iPhone’s same grid of apps, update after update? Well, here, you can just download a new look. You can also take apps you don’t normally use off of your home screen. You don’t have to dig into your settings menu every time you want to turn off location tracking, either. Nor do you have to 3D Touch notifications whenever you want to get more out of them. The point is, if you don’t like something, you can actually change it in Android.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
12 Oct 17:23

5 Life-Hacks That’ll Boost Your Productivity!

by Shivam Trika

Productivity, productivity, productivity! Your boss expects it from you, you expect it from yourself and well don’t forget your mates and family, they expect it from you too! Seems like everyone expect you to be more productive when there’s a million things out there to get you distracted and diminished.

Watching that viral video before you start working or just logging into your Facebook account and boom! You have already wasted 2 hours of your precious time watching cat videos and checking your facebook feed.

Being productive all the time is hard with deadlines chasing you quicker than a rat and stress from all around the world resting on your head! Procrastination seems the only way out, but only for the time being! What will you do tomorrow? What happens if you’ll miss your deadline? More stress! More thinking! Less work! The struggle is mind numbing, we know.

So, here are 5 sure fire ways which will take your productivity levels through the roof!

1.Do the easier things first!

Many times, the work to be done is so much that the only way we see out is by delaying it further. This builds up stress and stress is a foe to your productivity. Cater to the easier, less time consuming things first. The point is to start somewhere…. Anywhere!

All what matters is that you start with something. Even If you have 10 blogs to write in a row, start searching for new topics or start reading random blogs. It will break your hesitation barrier as you will come up with new ideas for your blogs and will start your flow of productivity!

2. Set Cycles!

Your mind can not stay at the peak of it’s ability all the time. You are not a machine that chugs up coffee and produces! Setting work cycles and taking breaks in between of your work replenishes your brain. It’s important to set work-break schedules and follow them strictly to maintain a subtle level of creativity and productivity throughout your work hours. The best routine, in my opinion and of others, is working in 90 minute blocks with 10 minute intervals. Try it, test it and if it doesn’t feel right, alter it but don’t dump it!

3. Unmess the mess!

Want to get more done? Clear the mess in your office and keep it that way! Simple as that! Remember, mess creates stress. And well, stress is bad influence for you and your productivity.
Andre Agassi, the tennis icon, once said that he never allowed anyone to even touch his tennis bag because if it got disorganized, he’ll get distracted!”
That’s the kind of distraction you want out of your life!

4. Ditch the Multi-tasker in you!

If you think you will double your productivity by multitasking stuff, you’re wrong! It is now scientifically proven that your mind is not meant for multitasking. It hinders your productivity levels rather than increase it. And there’s a high chance that it will lower your IQ as well in the near future!

A study at University of London found that participants who multitasked during cognitive tasks experienced IQ score declines similar to what they’d expect if they had smoked marijuana or stayed up all night!”

Better instead, focus on a single important task at a time and put all your focus on it. Your mind works better that way!

5. Learn to say ‘No’!

Learning to say ‘No’ when you want is hard. Shunning down people is harder, when you have a deep desire to be liked and loved, it’s normal. And that desire pushes us to agree to everything that other people throw at us. Letting go of that desire is vital for delivering elite productivity, both in your personal and professional life. Next time, be a little selfish and say ‘No’ and focus on YOUR work first, save the favours for later!

About us?

Interakt is a free, simple yet effective solution to all your customer engagement problems. All its apps work together as one, so you engage, support and retain all your customers with ease, from one place.

Want to see how Interakt App works? Check it out here.

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Happy Interaktion!


5 Life-hacks that’ll boost your Productivity! was originally published in Interakt Blog on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

Read the responses to this story on Medium.

12 Oct 17:22

What The 50 Fastest-Growing B2B Companies Can Teach Us About Sales & Marketing

by Erik Devaney

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published by Drift. You can read it here.

Theory is splendid but until put into practice, it is valueless.

– James Cash Penney

Google the phrase sales and marketing advice and you’ll be met with more than 90 million results.

With so many different theories, opinions, and strategies on sales and marketing to sort through, it can be hard to separate the good advice from the bad. And when faced with contradictory ideas, who do you believe?

Do you side with the sales and marketing influencer from this company over here who’s telling you to do x, or the consultant from that company over there who’s telling you to do y?

We recently teamed up with Mattermark to take a different approach to understanding sales and marketing best practices. Instead of simply listening to what companies were saying about sales and marketing, we looked into what companies were actually doing.

And more specifically, we looked at the 50 fastest-growing B2B companies in the U.S. to see what we could learn.

Click here to download the report for free. No forms, no fuss.

Our goal in creating this report was to turn the spotlight on the sales and marketing tactics of high-growth B2B companies.

Using Mattermark data, we identified the 50 fastest-growing B2B companies in the U.S. based on factors including employee headcount, social traction, website traffic, and funding.

Next, we researched and audited the websites of those 50 companies to see what they were up to.

Here are a few of the findings that caught our attention:

44% (22 out of 50) of the fastest-growing B2B companies offer downloadable content, like ebooks or whitepapers.

downloadable-content-blog

For comparison, 80% (40 out of 50) of the companies maintain a blog or online publication. So it seems like most of the fastest-growing companies are focused more on top-of-the-funnel content vs. lead nurturing content.

Of those 22 companies that offer downloadable content, 14 of them gate it. The other 8 leave their content ungated.

gated-content-blog

See, we’re not the only ones doing it! With 8 of the fastest-growing B2B companies keeping content ungated, this form-free approach is clearly capable of facilitating growth.

That being said, more of the companies on our list are still relying on the traditional, gated approach to content. So we haven’t reached an inflection point … yet.

22% (11 out of 50) of the fastest-growing B2B companies have a live chat widget on their website.

live-chat-widget-blog-1

The individual use cases of live chat really stuck out to me here. With most websites, the live chat widget would appear on the homepage in the bottom right corner, and remain there throughout your stay on the site.

But in 3 cases, companies would have the widget appear only after you navigated to a specific page (e.g., a pricing page or contact page).

And in one case, the live chat widget only appeared after you filled out a free quote form.

These types of qualitative findings can help us to better identify and understand the nuances of our own sales and marketing operations.

Ultimately, all of the tactics and approaches we use become woven together to form the overall experience our website visitors and customers have. And that experience is what determines success.

Or as James Cash Penney put it:

“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.”

Header image courtesy of Drift.

The post What The 50 Fastest-Growing B2B Companies Can Teach Us About Sales & Marketing appeared first on OpenView Labs.

12 Oct 17:21

Why Doctors Without Borders is turning down a million free pneumonia vaccines

by Lydia Ramsey

streptococcus pneumoniae

As it turns out, giving away medicine for free won't be the way to end drug pricing fury. 

The director of Medecins Sans Frontieres (otherwise known as Doctors Without Borders), a humanitarian group focused on supplying medical care in emergency situations around the world, penned a blog post Monday detailing the organization's reasoning for not accepting free pneumonia vaccines from pharmaceutical company Pfizer.

In theory, it might make sense: Give a set of vaccines away for free, and then they can be used by people who might not otherwise be able to afford them. But, MSF argues, it'd be better if the organization could just pay for the drug at a discounted rate than deal with the complications and restrictions that come along with donations.

"Free is not always better. Donations often involve numerous conditions and strings attached, including restrictions on which patient populations and what geographic areas are allowed to receive the benefits," the organization's executive director Jason Cone wrote. "This process can delay starting vaccination campaigns, which would be an untenable situation in emergency settings, or grossly limit who you’re able to reach with the vaccine."

Donations, Cone argued, are also not a sustainable solution, since the donation can be cut off or discontinued at any time.

Pneumonia, which can be caused by a virus, bacteria, or fungus, was responsible for killing 920,000 children in 2015. Pneumococcal vaccines protect against the bacteria Streptococcal pneumoniae. There are two pneumonia vaccines out there that MSF is concerned with: one made by GlaxoSmithKline, one by Pfizer.

For the past two years, Pfizer and GSK have been donating the vaccines to MSF, which Cone noted was a one-time thing.  MSF has been pushing both companies to supply the vaccine for $5 a child, and in September GSK agreed to do it for around $9 a child. 

A spokeswoman for Pfizer told Business Insider that the company had offered MSF another 1 million vaccine doses, including 100,000 doses right away, which Pfizer said would "build on the significant donation previously provided to MSF."

When asked if the donations would be the only way Pfizer would provide doses (as opposed to cutting the price), the company said, "We are actively exploring a number of new options to enable greater access to our pneumococcal vaccine, Prevenar 13 (Prevnar 13 in the United States), to aid NGOs facing humanitarian emergency settings."

Other organizations that provide vaccines to developing countries, such as the GAVI Vaccine Alliance, have policies in place about drug donations. GAVI, for instance, only resorts to donations "under exceptional circumstances."

"Donations of medical products, such as vaccines and drugs, may appear to be good 'quick fixes,' but they are not the answer to increasingly high vaccine prices charged by pharmaceutical giants like Pfizer and GSK," Cone wrote

SEE ALSO: Here's how common pain relievers actually work in your body and brain

DON'T MISS: The 10 most expensive drugs in the US

Join the conversation about this story »

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12 Oct 17:19

Why is Sales Leadership So Tough? And What to Do About It

by Nancy Sells

Sales leadership must be one of the toughest jobs in business. Just plug the term into Google, and more than 30 million results come back in about a half-second. You’ll find articles from Harvard Business Review, Forbes, Salesforce.com, and many, many others. They relay advice about the most effective habits of sales leaders, the characteristics of true sales leaders, the difference between sales leadership and sales management, and leadership behaviors that drive sales force improvement.

My advice? Read them. Not all 30 million. And not as a steady diet. But, if you are or aspire to be a sales leader, and you want to continually improve your performance, you should be well read on the topic of sales leadership.

I know firsthand about the trials of being a sales leader because I was one earlier in my career. It is a definite challenge, especially for those leading and managing change initiatives. Time and again, we at Richardson hear feedback like this from our clients:

“The most important lesson learned from this training program is the value of having executive-level support. From the CEO to the COO to the division presidents, [we have] unanimous support and vocal champions for the consultative selling approach.”1

“…the Sales VP championed what was the beginning of [our] Foundational Sales Program, an initiative to gain consistency across all sales teams in language, process, skills, and attainment of the five core competencies the company deemed most important.”2

Sales Leadership Priorities

Leadership of any kind takes a special kind of person: one who can motivate employees, set strategy, achieve results, satisfy stakeholders, and align with partners and influencers. Leading a sales function overlays an additional layer of complexity, requiring the discipline to keep sales manager and sales professionals focused on the right behaviors to hit their numbers.

If you are like most sales leaders, you probably came from a sales background. You were a great seller and got promoted to sales management and then to higher levels of leadership. But the skills that got you where you are as a leader are different from the ones needed to lead your people.

Even if you know what to do, the hardest part is doing it. You might be tempted to step in when your sellers are faltering and a sales opportunity hits a snag, but in doing this you do yourself and your sellers no favors. As a sales leader you have to rely on your team. You can’t hit your numbers by yourself; you need to develop every seller to be the best that they can be. In fact, I would say 60% of your time as a sales leader should be spent developing your people. If you work 40 hours each week, that’s 24 hours you need to devote to coaching and developing your team. If you work 60 hours each week, which is more likely, that’s 36 hours spent on development.

Sales Leadership and Sales Training

Even if you send your team to sales training, you still need to put in the time to learn what they’re learning and then coach to those behaviors so they become embedded in the culture. When sales leaders coach their teams, they become a force multiplier, keeping sellers on track and actively engaged in transforming their own performance.

What about all the other important things you need to do as a sales leader? Use the remaining 40% for strategy, reports, meetings with executives, and everything else. Excelling in sales leadership is an issue of time management, and it isn’t easy. But, if you can commit the majority of your time to coaching and developing your people, your results will reflect the greater contribution everyone makes as part of an effective, well-performing team.

To learn more about how to excel in sales leadership download Richardson’s developmental sales coaching brochure, email us at info@richardson.com or call us at 800.526.1650.

Download Richardson's Sales Leadership Training Brochure


1.All quotes for reference only; not for publication. This quote comes from the AlliedBarton nomination for the 2015 Brandon Hall awards program.
2.From the 2014 Stevie Awards, Sales Training or Coaching Program of the Year, WellPoint

The post Why is Sales Leadership So Tough? And What to Do About It appeared first on Richardson Sales Training and Enablement Blog.

12 Oct 17:18

Buying a Business? Look for These 7 Traits

by Dave Schoenbeck

Many people want to avoid the daunting process of setting up and growing a new business from scratch. As a result, buying an existing business has become a reasonable alternative. There’s no question about it: buying a business – no matter the size – is a big commitment.

If you’ve been pondering the idea of acquiring an existing small business, here’s a list of 7 traits you should be looking for prior to making the final decision. A big thanks to Brad Sugars for sharing his insights with me.

7 Traits to Look for When Buying a Business

buying a business

1. It has the potential to survive and thrive.

There’s no point in buying a business with minimal or zero opportunity to grow throughout different economic cycles. Learn all you can about the financial conditions of the business. Look at sales growth, profit margins, overhead, cash flow and working capital through various business phases. What trends do you see? Research the company’s main competitors to find more about changes in the market and industry.

2. It must have a repeat business future.
You want to buy a business that has a promising long-term outlook. This means buying a business with sustainable profits and repeat customers. Study the industry as a whole. Get specific information about opportunities and threats, as well as how the business is positioned in the market.

3. It functions with staff possessing lower-level skills.
This ensures you have access to ample and affordable labor. At the same time, you should aim to retain key employees who understand every nook and cranny of the business.

4. It has significant cash flow and is not asset-intensive.
Stay away from buying a business that is heavily capitalized, or one that requires large capital investments. It’s risky to buy a business with huge assets (i.e. heavy inventories, buildings, or equipment) that are worth less than your proposed price. Remember, you want to buy an income stream, not scary liabilities or significant assets with diminishing value.

5. Its opportunities for improvement are clear and fixable.
You want to buy a business where you can contribute your own skills and experience. You should have a vivid idea about the scope for improvement. Do you want to lower overhead costs and improve margins? Or do you want to focus on getting better lead flow and higher lead conversion rates?

6. It must be a great deal for the purchase.
This goes hand-in-hand with the financial health of the business. Are the records accurate and believable? Do the numbers add up? Take your time to do your due diligence. Have a thorough review process that will not only help you understand whether the company is as valuable as the seller has stated, but that will also alert you to potential problems.

7. It must have a great “jockey.”
You should want to buy a business that has a strong leader that will stay or transition the business. It’s important to learn about the company’s past and current owners. Find out why they want to sell the business: is it due to a divorce? Retirement? Do they have a desire for a lifestyle change or their children are not interested in running the business?

Likewise, learn about their ability as a leader. What have they accomplished with the business? Ideally, you want to look into businesses with talented owners and a next generation of non-family leadership.

It’s not possible to give a complete checklist of things to look for during the process of buying a business. In fact, purchasing businesses in different industries will involve many varying questions and decisions. However, these are some basic points to get you started.

12 Oct 17:17

Google DeepMind has doubled the size of its healthcare team (GOOG)

by Sam Shead

DeepMind Mustafa Suleyman

DeepMind, an AI research lab acquired by Google for £400 million in 2014, has provided an update on how its DeepMind Health unit is doing.

The London-based company told Business Insider on Tuesday that it has doubled the size of its team from 20 to 40 since launching in February this year, hiring several big names in the AI world along the way.

New hires include security and privacy expert Ben Laurie, who is the founding director of the Apache Software Foundation, a director at the Open Rights Group, and a veteran Google software engineer, and former CIO Tony Corkett, who helped the NHS to digitise X-rays.

Former Google Maps team leader Andrew Eland has been brought in to head up DeepMind Health's engineering efforts, while Will Cavendish, a former civil servant that worked on NHS online booking and prescription services, has joined as strategy lead. Elsewhere, ex-GE Healthcare executive Cathy Harris has been appointed as DeepMind Health's product lead.

All of the new hires will work alongside Mustafa Suleyman, DeepMind cofounder and head of applied AI at Google, and Dominic King, DeepMind Health's clinical lead.

The expansion of DeepMind Health comes as the company looks to do increasing amounts of work with the NHS. The company has announced three NHS partnerships so far, including an eyecare project, a kidney monitoring project and a cancer detection project. None of the projects hold any commercial value for DeepMind but the company eventually plans to start charging the NHS and others for access to its products and services.

The potential for AI to revolutionise healthcare is huge but there are issues that need to be addressed along the way, including complex matters like privacy, which caught out DeepMind earlier this year when New Scientist obtained an NHS information-sharing agreement between DeepMind and the Royal Free NHS Trust that showed the company had access to millions of medical records.

"Since we announced DeepMind Health earlier this year, we’ve been inundated with requests and suggestions from patients, nurses, doctors, researchers and Trusts," said Suleyman in a statement. "It’s clear there’s massive demand for new technology to help patient care, and many brilliant people across the NHS with practical ideas about how to make it happen.

"We also know that working in health is complicated, and we need many different types of expertise if we’re to build tools that have real clinical impact, integrate well with the needs and existing infrastructure of the NHS, and set ever higher standards for privacy and security. We don’t underestimate this challenge at all.

"Over the last year we’ve brought together some amazing leaders with diverse skills and experiences to join us on this mission. With continued input from and engagement with patients and clinicians across the country, we’ll be working hard to deliver on the promise of positive impact for the NHS and those, like us, who depend on it."

Join the conversation about this story »

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12 Oct 17:16

Why Sales Enablement Must Operate as a Business Within a Business [Podcast]

by Alyssa Drury

Over the last few months, the Sales Enablement Society has been growing to new heights, bringing together sales enablement practitioners all over the country to better define their roles and goals in a more strategic manner. At the first few meet-ups I attended this past summer, it was clear that the attendees were all so passionate about elevating and formalizing sales enablement as a strategic role and process—and uniting around a set of principles created for the group, by the group. These visions have now come to fruition, as the Society will have a number of regional meet-ups before its first national meeting on November 18.

The national meeting will highlight a number of accomplishments the Sales Enablement Society has achieved thus far, including the designation of the four main areas of enablement, the services enablement should provide, and the operating model of “enablement as a business within a business.” These tenets (and many more) will be discussed and explored at the national meeting in November, but we recently spoke with Jen Marie Jacober, a founding member of the Society, on the Sales Enablement Shift podcast about what a business within a business entails, and why it is so important to enablement’s success.

Jen Marie is a Founding Director of the Sales Enablement Society, as well as an independent consultant for organizations that are building or revamping their sales enablement strategies. Prior to this experience, she was the Senior Director of Sales Enablement at ViON. Jen Marie’s consulting background lends a valuable mindset to the business within a business operating model, and she shared some best practices with us on this week’s episode of the Sales Enablement Shift podcast.

In our last episode, Tamara Schenk shared best practices for building the internal business case for enablement, but it can’t stop there. Sales enablement is a strategic, ongoing process, so it’s imperative to set incremental goals with quantitative metrics that serve your internal customer.

Jen Marie offered a number of ways that practitioners can run enablement as a business within a business:

  • Identify the internal customer: in most cases, this is the entire sales force, but there is much value derived from starting with a small group and rolling out enablement incrementally
  • Identify the business needs your organization would derive from enablement: these will differ from one organization to the next, but could include aligning sales and customers, providing knowledge, skills and tools, fostering a smooth customer experience, removing obstacles to sales outcomes, facilitating collaboration cross-functionally, and more.
  • Determine how enablement impacts the bottom line: if sales enablement is unsure how it is affecting business goals, it will not succeed. Jen Marie recommends focusing on one or more strategic imperatives, such as shortening the sales cycle, accelerating time to productivity, optimizing deal size and type, increasing win rates, and more.

Operating a business within a business is ultimately viewed as a cost center for an organization, so this last tip is imperative. By tying enablement goals to the strategic goals of the entire organization, enablement is able to label itself as a revenue generator rather than a cost center. Sales enablement will be a unique entity at any company, so it’s important to define your customer, gain executive buy-in, and build your services in relation to organizational goals.

12 Oct 17:16

6 Accounts Payable Problems That Are Hurting Your Business

by Mahesh Jain

Most SMEs and large organisations make a high number of purchases every month. For this, numerous bills need to be processed. Also, there are many opportunities for negotiating discounts when the purchases are made in volume. Needless to say, most businesses find it challenging to track, pay and optimise the processing of the bills.

You may think, “Does it really matter? My AP process is working fine anyway.” But this tendency of not fixing what is not broken can make your business bleed money – without even realising it. An inefficient AP (accounts payable) process can:

  • Lead to loss of potential volume rebates
  • Drive up the cost of processing
  • Force you to inflate the team size
  • Prevent you from accessing clear data on vendor spend
  • Hurt relationships with suppliers due to late payments and penalties

While most of the problems in this process are a result of inefficient systems and errors due to manual entry, there are many other common issues that can hurt your AP process. Some of the most common issues include:

1. Manual entry and human errors

One of the most tedious and attention-demanding tasks in AP is keying in the data for entering, approving and paying a vendor invoice. Not only does this seemingly simple task eat up a lot of resources, but it also opens the floodgate for the errors. If your organisation relies on paper documents at every stage of the AP process, the likelihood of manual errors rises exponentially.

The easiest way of reducing the manual errors is through automation. For instance, using a Purchase Order system can help to digitise and automate most of the steps in the AP process, which leaves little room for human errors. Not only does this help save time, money and effort, but it also minimises the possibility of manual errors.

2. Challenges of information management

When you keep in mind the fact that a single purchase can require 2-7 paper documents, it is not hard to imagine that AP activities generate a lot of documents. As the documents are important, they need to be stored for a fairly long time. The bigger the business, the greater is the number of documents. And they pile up year on year!

Not only does it cost a lot of money to store the documents, but over time it becomes more and more difficult to track, access and manage them. This can have a huge impact on the efficiency of the AP department in the long run. In addition to reducing the transparency of your finances, this can also lead to duplicate payments.

The obvious solution to this problem is the digitisation of the documents. Use a secure server to store all the documents. Give your staff role-based access to the documents to make the information accessible without compromising security.

3. Changing expectations from the AP department

There used to be a time when the accounts payable process was viewed as a separate area of service, isolated from other financial and accounting areas. Not so anymore. Today, it is essential for FCs, FDs and CFOs to access information of all the F&A functions in one place. Owing to this need for consolidated information, AP is more than just recording and reviewing transactions. But paper-based processes make the task of searching and analysing information extremely difficult.

However, through a strategic use of technology and digitisation, not only can you enhance the AP functions but also add more value to the overall financial reporting and cash management. By combining analytics and digitisation with an optimised accounts payable processes, you can gain a much better visibility on corporate spend.

4. Complicated bills process

Purchase orders start at various levels in a large organisation. These may require the approval of several authorities. When there’s several departments involved and the chain of approvers is long, things not only get complicated but also slow down the payment process and drive up the costs of internal communication. A purchase order may end up passing through 5-6 people and the information can distort in the process, leading to decisions based on inaccurate data.

To combat the above, it is essential to streamline the AP process, aggregate all the AP functions in one centralised location and use a single staffing group for the billing of each department or company. A step-wise AP system that is hard coded into a software system can deliver dual benefits: speeding up of the bills process and elimination of human errors.

5. Inefficient payment process

Late payments to suppliers can have bitter consequences: the supplier may block your account or you may be penalised for late payments. At the very least, it will damage your reputation and trust. Similarly, duplicate payments may impact the cash flow and have a negative effect on the credibility of your finance function. The common reason for this is missed payments, duplicate payments or manual payments to suppliers who are set on direct debit.

In order to overcome this problem, it is essential to cut down on the instances of duplicate payments, ensure that the suppliers send the correct data at the start and to have a simpler process for approval of pending payments. Many businesses have nearly eliminated this issue through the use of an automated workflow process and system.

6. Cyber fraud

If you’ve been reading the above points carefully, you must have noticed that technology, digitisation and automation are essential to solving the key AP problems. But when you rely on technology, you bring in the possibility of cyber fraud. For instance, it is possible for fraudsters to contact your AP staff over email or phone and trick them into sending money to their accounts.

We understand the reach and impact of online fraud and have in place rigorous systems and standards to prevent fraud.

Summing up

At the end of the day, the challenge is to streamline your AP processes and put in place a system to ensure the implementation of a standard process. If you are able to resolve the above issues, you will not have to worry about late payments, you will maintain good relationships with your suppliers and your business will be able to make the most of rebates on high volume of purchases.

12 Oct 17:15

Telephone Prospecting Tips Article #1: Getting the Right Mindset and Attitude

by Mike
old-phone

Prospecting is back! Who would’ve thought that good ole traditional prospecting and picking up the phone to proactively call (and interrupt) prospects (without permission) would become so popular again? Heck, for all the abuse and lies heaped upon prospecting and prospectors the past five years, I’m surprised that we even have phones anymore let alone that there’s now this great desire to learn how to use them effectively :-)

Am I being extreme? Kinda. A little. Maybe. Reality is that I could write an entire post, probably an entire book, making fun of the nonsense that’s been preached, consumed and passed off as “new sales truth” this decade. But I promised you a series of articles that will provide powerful, practical tips to help sellers become more effective using the phone to secure meetings, so I’ll stop the potshots at today’s nouveaux sales “experts” (charlatans) and get down to business.

Mindset and Attitude

mindsetWhat we believe has a huge impact on how we perform. Said another way, just like in sports, what’s going on between our ears affects what our body does. As many of us can attest, it’s pretty hard to drive the golf ball down the center of the fairway when your mind is screaming “duck hook” or “banana slice” during your backswing!

To succeed at securing meetings using the phone, it really helps, if, deep down, you believe that it works. And if you were to watch and listen to most sellers doing half-hearted telephone prospecting, you could tell immediately that they, forgive the pun, are just phoning it in. Oh, they’re picking up the phone and dialing, but they’re just going through the motions. Their hearts aren’t in it, and frankly, neither are their minds. If asked confidentially, these sellers would admit that they don’t believe phoning prospects will create significant sales opportunities. This negative and flawed mindset becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Those who think they’ll fail succeed at failing.

Let me offer a different perspective: You (and/or your company) are experts, problem-solvers, solution-providers and value-creators. Stop, and read that last sentence again. Now ask yourself a few critical questions: Do you believe that? Do you truly believe that you (or others at your company and/or your product/service) provide a great value? That you address a prospective client’s issue or need? That their business or life will be improved by working with you/your company? That you really do solve a problem, reduce a liability, lower a cost, improve profit, speed production, remove hassles, increase _________, or create a better outcome?

In the name of all that’s good and right in business, I sure hope you can answer those questions in the affirmative. Because when you can, two very important benefits accrue to you as the seller:

  1. You actually want to prospect for new business. That’s right. When you truly believe that you’re the best option for the prospect and that you’d be remiss and irresponsible not to make every effort to secure a discovery meeting, your attitude about “interrupting” prospects changes. When you know they’re in danger (like a kid about to run into the street), or they’re suffering with a suboptimal solution, or they’re stuck, confused or unknowingly lost, it actually makes you want to call them – for their own good! You are not calling to bother them; you are calling because you very likely have the solution that will produce a better outcome. What could be a better and more pure motivation for wanting to meet with them?
  1. Top-producers see themselves as experts, value-creators, consultants and professional problem-solvers. That’s right. The very best salespeople I’ve observed and coached, initiate contact with a prospect believing that they can help and deliver great value. They’re convinced the prospect needs them and would be foolish not to want to visit with them. That’s a big contrast with the majority who struggle to develop new business – those who go into prospecting uncomfortable that they’re bothering the prospect or believing that the prospect would not be interested in a meaningful conversation.

I know that many of you reading this post were hoping for some tricks and techniques – a few key phrases and some magic words that will immediately produce meetings. I promise, those tips will come in the next few installments of this series. But please don’t blow off this topic. What you believe about yourself, your solution, the prospect’s condition – and just as important, the effectiveness of picking up the phone – are all critical, and possibly have more impact on your results than the words you choose or how well you push past initial resistance. Let me say that again: Your attitude and mindset about your job, your prospective customer, and the act of picking up the phone have as much, or more, to do with your success prospecting than anything else.

Every week I work with professional sellers in a wide variety of industries who have become highly proficient prospectors. Sure, they love a lead when they get one and they’ll gladly ask for and pursue referrals. But these top-producers take responsibility for keeping their pipeline full of new opportunities and the phone is the prospecting weapon of choice to ensure that happens.

Friends, telephone prospecting works exceedingly well when done well. So let’s get our minds and out attitudes right about picking up the phone.

12 Oct 17:15

With IoT data, sometimes less is more

by Gary Davis
intel2

Connected devices may be the biggest security challenge we face over the next several years. Companies are keen to analyze user IoT data to better understand consumer behavior and are sometimes gathering more data than they need for their service. But what are the potential consequences to your customers, and your company, if this personal info is stolen or accidentally released? What happens when a criminal uses this information to stalk someone online?

Gary Davis, Chief Consumer Security Evangelist

Gary Davis, Chief Consumer Security Evangelist, Intel

With so many IoT devices, apps, and services coming to market, more and more personal info is being captured, transmitted, and stored, yet much of this data is unnecessary to support the functionality of the device or service. You may think this is not a big deal, but the more personal data you have, the more resources your company will have to devote to protecting it. If there is a breach, the bad guys can extract a large amount of personal information about customers. The potential consequences range from identity theft and fraud of your customers to significant financial damage to your company’s brand.

Once a month I get an email from my thermostat service, telling me how I compared to the previous month, to my neighborhood, and what external factors may have caused my energy use to change. This is valuable info that does not violate my privacy, and if I want to share it there are Facebook and Twitter buttons on the infographic. Even if I choose to share it publicly, there is no info that would give away my location, or when I am away from home.

unknown

Compare this to my fitness wearable, which wants to post to Facebook for every workout. While this is probably done for good reasons to help encourage and reinforce my exercise regime, it releases potential info on when I am at the gym and not at home.

When developing a new device or service, make it better by collecting less data. Instead of gathering everything you can possibly think of, determine what minimum data is required to deliver your service. Pay special attention to items that constitute personally identifiable info, and ask why they are needed. These include:

  • Full name and address
  • Document numbers, such as social security, passport, or driver’s license
  • Credit card or bank account info
  • Date of birth
  • Biometric data, including photographs of the face
  • IP address or other session identification details

One of the most common ways of identifying an individual is via a username and password. It’s been around since almost the inception of the digital age and is a constant source of concern as we see an increasing number of high-profile breaches exposing usernames and passwords. An emerging authentication alternative is using multiple factors such as your fingerprint and your device location to create a one-time token to authenticate a specific transaction like a banking or retail purchase online.

For IoT data, tokens improve security

This would be used instead of relying on usernames and passwords. These tokens only exist for the time to complete your specific transaction and are not vulnerable to a brute force attack, and cannot be reused even if they are stolen. Moving to single-use tokens greatly improves the security of your interactions.

Tokens can be validated more easily than a complicated password encryption, reducing login time, and the password is not stored anywhere else and does not travel outside of your most secure systems. In the event of a breach, any stolen tokens are useless for authentication and do not enable the attacker to calculate the next valid token. In the spirit of doing more with less, think about embracing authentication tokens instead of usernames and passwords.

With so many new devices and services coming to market, it is necessary to safeguard your business and your customers. Connected devices should not collect, keep, or transmit more data than they need to operate the service, especially personally identifiable information. There are multiple companies doing this right, which delivers value to me as a consumer while also gathering useful data for their own use, without revealing personal info.

The post With IoT data, sometimes less is more appeared first on ReadWrite.

12 Oct 17:14

Influencer Marketing for Salespeople

by Miles Austin

Influencer marketing for salespeople. Why would a salesperson want to learn about this?  I hope to share some powerful reasons in this post and the rest of the posts in this 5 part series.

Influencer marketing means using company leaders, thought leaders, experts, big names, and other well-known people in your industry to promote your business to their audience. It’s a style of online marketing that brands and companies are using to expand their audience and establish their own names. If you’re not taking advantage of influencer marketing now, you should be and here’s why.

Influencer marketing for salespeople

Can I Borrow Your Audience?

One of the main advantages of influencer marketing is that it allows you to leverage someone else’s reach for your own benefit. When an influencer mentions you or publishes your work to their audience, this puts your name out to a great deal of people. If your content or offering is a good match with the influencer you’ve chosen, you’ll see great results. You’ll also acquire some of their audience who will now start following you as well.

Trust and Authority

Influencer marketing helps you build trust and authority. When an influencer promotes you, they’re giving you their seal of approval. They have a loyal audience that trusts what they say. When they say that you’re worth following too, they lend this credibility to you. In a way, it gives you overnight expert status with the influencer’s audience. This is a very powerful form of social proof.

Small Investment, Huge Returns

Unlike content marketing and other online marketing techniques, influencer marketing involves relatively little investment on your part. The way you get an influencer to promote you is through building a relationship with them. This may involve you doing some favors or work for them for free in return for the promotion you’ll get from them. This makes it one of the lowest-investment but highest-return marketing methods available.

How to Get Started with Influencer Marketing

There are many different ways to get an influencer to market you. You could have them feature one of your products or services. You could create a piece of content for them to publish for you. One extremely easy technique is to interview the influencer or have them interview you. Even the simple mentioning of your name on social media can gain you many new followers.

The first step is to decide what you want to achieve and identify influencers that can help you do that. Choose influencers that have a great deal of reach and that are relevant to your business; in other words, they have the kind of audience you want. Once you’ve identified some good prospects and narrowed them down to a manageable number, you should start connecting with your influencers and figuring out what value you can offer them.

Influencer marketing is powerful because it’s like a referral from a trusted friend. The only difference is that this trusted friend has thousands of fans and followers who are hungry for what you have to offer.

Original article: Influencer Marketing for Salespeople

©2016 Fill the Funnel. All Rights Reserved.

The post Influencer Marketing for Salespeople appeared first on Fill the Funnel.

        
12 Oct 17:13

5 Powerful Tips to Create an Amazing Call to Action

by Nicki Howell

5 Powerful Tips to Create an Amazing Call to Action

No matter how wonderful your campaign is, nothing will happen until your prospect actually does something.

Marketers know they need a powerful call to action to make this happen. But many are missing small details that have the ability to transform results from mediocre to amazing. And in most cases, these changes aren’t the big stuff; they mean swapping out a few words, changing the color or simply rearranging placement.

For example, scaling back to a single, unified call to action (from a landing page with two) boosted email click rates for one company by 371 percent and sales by 1,617 percent. So here’s the question: What single change could you make that would generate serious results? Here are a few powerful strategies to start using now.

1. Select Proven Words

An effective call to action must generate excitement and compel the reader to act right away. But how can you make this happen more often, more effectively? One answer is simple: Use words that are proven to generate results. Here are five words to use in your next call to action.

  • You. Using the word “You” feels more personal and engages the reader with greater impact. It’s warmer, and you get away from having to choose between “him,” “her,” and “their.”

When possible, take engagement one step further by using the reader’s name. In a 2015 Experian study, personalizing the subject line with the recipient’s name increased open rates by as much as 42 percent.

This is a screenshot showing increase in open rates when personalization was used. Consider adding personalization to your call to action.

  • Free. In his book Predictably Irrational, Dan Ariely set out to test the power of the word “free” in relation to value. His first study asked people to select between a 15-cent Lindt truffle and a 1-cent Hershey’s Kiss. Only 27 percent selected the 1-cent Hershey’s Kiss, even though it was priced much lower than the Lindt truffle. In the next study, Ariely did something interesting. He made the Hershey’s Kiss free and dropped the price on the Lindt truffle to 14 cents. When using the word “free,” 69 percent selected the Hershey’s Kiss. Test using the word “free” in your call to action to generate more conversions.
  • Because. This word helps you answer the customer’s critical (if unvoiced) question of “What’s in it for me?” It makes your CTA compelling because you are giving the customer specific reasons your product is the solution to their pain point.
  • Instantly. Customers today demand instant gratification. For example, Kissmetrics found that 47 percent of consumers expect a website to load in two seconds or less. MRI studies have also shown that our brains get fired up when we envision instant rewards. So when you use the word “instant” in your call to action, you are generating excitement and delivering precisely what the customer demands.
  • New. Along with instant gratification, customers also get excited about brand-new offerings and innovation from their favorite brands. They love new solutions to old problems and new features added to their favorite products.

2. Strategically Place Your Call to Action

Along with using powerful words strategically, it’s important to also consider the placement of your CTA. Where is that sweet spot? Top of the page, bottom of the page or somewhere in between?” Previously marketers usually opted for the top of the page. They wanted to capture attention before the reader got lost in the content. But marketers today are finding that at the top of the page, the reader simply isn’t engaged enough yet. It’s like giving someone a marriage proposal prior to a first date.

For example, landing page builder Unbounce found that placing less content at the top of the page keeps readers scrolling down farther.

Check out this heat map. It shows how attention shifts when you put less at the top and more at the bottom (including that critical call to action). Readers move much more easily through your entire page of content.

This image shows a heat map for to show where you should consider placing CTA's based on where your audience is clicking.

3. Provide Urgency or a Special Offer

Popular conversion optimization blog ConversionXL set out to understand conversion rates between CTAs that provided a sense of urgency.

They tested two different CTAs. One communicates urgency and how many packages have been bought, where the other does not.

This image illustrates an A/B test to see which call to action performed better.

Blog author Marcus Taylor noted: “This is one of the most impactful A/B test I’ve ever run. The conversion rate of variation B was almost 3x that of variation A.”

Another powerful tool marketers can use to create a sense of urgency is color. For example, red and orange are both proven choices. The Content Marketing Institute uses orange text in their “Handpicked Related Content” to drive readers to more of its blog posts.

cmi

And finally, you can use powerful phrases that create a sense of urgency. For example, Expedia states there are “only two seats left,” which compels the shopper to act quickly. Airlines commonly advertise limited-time offers, which are only good for a set period of time.

A couple of examples of powerful phrases include:

  1. Only X days left.
  2. Available today only.
  3. Offer ends on X date.
  4. Act now while supplies last.

All of these phrases create a sense of urgency. Customers are afraid that there is a limited quantity available, and the scarcity mindset comes into play. They are driven to take action now. And the funny thing is, on some level readers know why these words are there – but they still respond.

4. Make Your Offer Feel Exclusive

Have you ever read an offer and felt like it was of higher quality, and only few could take advantage of it? If so, you’ve likely viewed a call to action that deployed the “exclusive” tactic. People want what they can’t have, so they are more likely to act quickly if they view an offer that is available for a limited time and where membership is exclusive.

For example, MarketingProfs offers a “Content Marketing Crash Course.” If they wanted to deploy this tactic and ramp up results, they could add a sense of exclusiveness to the offer: “We’re accepting only 10 students to this intensive course.”

content-marketing-crash-course

Another tactic that could work under certain circumstances: Make your contest (or whatever) by application only. After receiving all applications, review and hand-select only a few. It’s like creating a red carpet and only a few are beckoned to walk it. Caveat: This would be risky for most organizations; you can alienate the people you don’t choose.

You can amp up the urgency by integrating a few key phases into your call to action, such as “Limited spots available” or “Seating is limited –preregistration required.” By doing so, you elevate the perceived value and the perceived attractiveness level of the product or service.

5. Show the Benefit in the Call to Action

As Kayla Matthews notes on Convince & Convert, 70 percent of people are shopping for something in order to solve a problem. If you can show that your product or service is the solution to their specific problem, you can generate much higher conversion rates.

For example, QuickSprout helps companies drive more traffic. So they already know that readers desire more traffic, higher conversion rates, and greater revenue.

quicksprout

The company puts a clear benefits statement that targets the reader’s pain points in the call to action box on the right. They offer a free course with signup that will “Double Your Traffic in 30 Days.” Plus, they offer a secret bonus, which creates mystery, and is valued at $300. You’ll also notice that they use one of those power words listed above when they say, “Fill out the form below to start your FREE Course.”

And finally, pay careful attention to their signup button. It doesn’t say, “Sign Up.” Again, it’s focused on value by saying, “Yes, Let’s Start the Free Course.”

Quick Guide — Dos and Don’ts

Creating stronger calls to action is important for marketers, opening the door to greater results and revenue. Yet many aren’t sure where to start. In addition to the above tips, here are a few quick dos and don’ts to guide you along the way.

Do

  • A/B test your CTA. This is the only way that you’ll truly understand what works for your audience. And you may be surprised that a tiny change can make a serious impact. Change a power word to all caps. Change the button color. Change the text color.
  • Use multiple CTAs on a really long page to break up the content and engage readers along the way. A good example of this is The Content Market Institute, which includes a few different calls to action for each of its lengthy blog posts. For example, after reading a few paragraphs they place a “Handpicked Related Content” box which drives you to related content on their website. For most marketing, it’s wise to use only one call to action. But for blog posts, integrating several throughout the page can help readers stay at your site longer and drive deeper engagement. You can also run the same CTA in several places, so your readers don’t have to scroll back up (or down) to find the CTA.
  • Integrate classic design principles. Use white space to make your CTAs stand out and capture attention.

Don’t

  • Focus too heavily on your company. For example, the CTA should focus on the benefit to the reader, instead of on the features of your product.
  • Use the word “submit” on a call to action button. Instead, use benefit-focused phrases, such as “Claim your XXX to start driving more traffic today.”
  • Create a call to action that is too strong in some way. For example, a pop-up box that won’t go away fast enough actually detracts from the user’s experience and negatively affects your conversion rate.

Moving Forward with Success

The call to action is too often a “set it and forget it” task. The unexamined approach can produce lackluster and unimpressive results. Review some of your most popular content marketing pieces. What would happen if you experimented with the calls to action? You already know the piece is popular — would changing the CTA generate more results, drive more leads and create more revenue? Implementing a few changes could generate surprising results. Don’t forget to test, and test, and test again.

Act-On eBook: Turn Your Website into a Lead Generation Machine

12 Oct 17:13

How Our Generation Impacts Our Mobile Use

by Ted Bauer

There’s tons of information out there — some more valid than others — on mobile trends relative to different generations. These mobile trends, in turn, have a lot of implications around everything from product search to selection to even how our workday looks.

First, it’s probably helpful to define the current generations working, earning, and interacting with technology. Depending on which research you cite, the exact age ranges of the generations (birth years) can differ slightly, but the buckets are usually:

  • Generation Z (youngest generation; typically in college or just out of college)
  • Millennials (a little more established in their careers by now; mid-20s to early 30s)
  • Generation X (mid-30s to early-50s, generally; probably have younger children and are more established in their careers)
  • Baby Boomers (50s/60s, generally; very established in their careers and potentially considering retirement relatively soon)
  • Silent Generation (sometimes referred to by other names, but typically born between 1925 and 1945; usually retired by this point, but not always)

There’s obviously a huge age range here. Whereas a Boomer may have had a Palm Pilot or Blackberry from the late 1990s, they still began interacting with mobile technology later in life than a Generation Z member — for whom the first generation of the iPhone came out in fifth grade. This all factors into how mobile trends evolve across these generations.

We’ll walk through this generation-by-generation, starting with the youngest: Generation Z.

Mobile trends: What types of apps are Generation Z using?

Via Fluent’s annual survey, the top five categories of app usage in the Gen Z demo are:

  • Social media
  • Messaging
  • Music
  • Gaming
  • Travel/Maps

By contrast, the five least-used are:

  • Data
  • Fashion
  • Bargain/coupon
  • Retail
  • Food-related

The above makes sense if you think about the fact that most Gen Z’ers haven’t grown into their real spending power. But the fact that mobile is their go-to for key areas of their life, from friends to music, tells us that as they become more financially independent, they will undoubtedly turn to mobile to spend.

Mobile trends: Millennials and purchasing products on mobile

Per research from Forrester:

When it comes to purchasing products, 40 percent of Gen Z does so at least weekly compared with 49 percent of Gen Y, 26 percent of Gen X, 11 percent of younger Boomers, 7 percent of older Boomers and 4 percent of the Golden Generation.

(In that pull-quote, “Golden” refers to “Silent” from above and “Gen Y” is being used for “millennials” above.)

These numbers would indicate millennials are doing the most mobile purchasing and that the less-established Gen Z is quickly picking up the pace.

What does this mean for retailers? Get ready. Invest in mobile now or risk losing out on capitalizing on what soon may be the preferred way consumers buy: via mobile apps.

Mobile trends: Gen X and messaging apps

SMS still has a lot of promise in terms of mobile marketing. Most research indicates that 90% or more of text messages are read, and usually within three minutes or less. That’s a goldmine for marketers, but many companies still haven’t mastered mobile marketing yet. Per research from RealityMine as reported on AdWeek, we can compare different generational segments in terms of SMS and OTT messaging:

Adweek_cropped.png

Image

These stats are likely in line with what you’d assume — texting goes up as the ages go up, and tools like Snapchat and WhatsApp go down. That 35-to-44 bucket combined with the 45-to-54 bucket on this study is where Gen X resides. They text more than anyone, and the younger Gen X members use Facebook Messenger more than any other cohort. While the Forrester research above noted the mobile purchasing power of millennials, research on Gen X has shown higher earnings than even some segments of the Boomer population. Mobile marketing to Gen X should involve a mixture of SMS and messaging apps, per these usage statistics.

Mobile trends: Have Baby Boomers embraced smartphones?

Per research from Nielsen:

nielsen.jpg
Almost 8.5 in 10 millennials own smartphones, with that number likely to rise for Generation Z. That’s rather large scalability — and should point to the fact that every brand needs to be competing on mobile by now.

Boomers and the Silent/Golden Generation have the lowest ownership of smartphones, but…

Mobile trends: The Baby Boomer context

Baby Boomers are still (overall) the most powerful generation in terms of earning, so understanding their relationship with technology and mobile is crucial as a marketer. There’s an interesting psychological context here. Despite a generalization about Boomers often saying millennials (and other younger people) are “always on their phones,” Boomers view technology a little bit differently. 82% of Boomers and above equate their mobile device with “freedom.”

Younger generations tend to view it more as “a leash.”

This is likely because Boomers use mobile for direct conversations (SMS, calling people) and don’t spend as much time in apps (see above). Mobile trends around connecting with Boomers in a mobile marketing context, then, are more about being direct and less about wooing them through a hot new app. Or, if you are trying to market an app to the Boomer audience, focus on the value proposition. How will this help their lives? Can it improve their communication with others or help them complete a task easier?

Less Baby Boomers own smartphones than these younger generations, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be focused on mobile marketing to Boomers.

Mobile trends: Mobile usage by generation

There’s a detailed report from Pew released near the end of 2015 on the topic of mobile usage by generation, including this key take away: “An ‘experience sampling’ of smartphone owners over the course of a week illustrates how young adults have deeply embedded mobile devices into the daily contours of their lives.”

Survey Sampling International did a global study in April 2016 and found the largest difference in mobile usage occurs between Baby Boomers and millennials. For example, 71 percent of millennials surveyed said they use a smartphone for reading news; 41 percent of Boomers said the same. The closest gap was on using a smartphone to choose a restaurant, and that was still 25 percentage points — about ¼ of Boomers said they used smartphones for that purpose, whereas ½ of millennials did.

Global research consultancy Kantar TNS has found millennials spend about 3.1 hours per day on smartphones, which equates to essentially one full day per week. By contrast, Boomers spend about 1.2 hours per day on their mobile phones — but 4.3 hours per day on TV, newspapers, and the radio. Baked within that statistic is a major marketing shift of the next 5+ years.

Mobile trends in general

You can find numbers around mobile trends to support almost any argument; there are dozens, if not hundreds, of different studies and infographics out there on how different generations use their phones. Take some of it with a grain of salt and use vetted brand names to make sure you’re not totally off base. But rest assured that while mobile usage may vary across different generations, the underlying theme that mobile plays a key role in all of our lives remains true.

New Call-to-action

12 Oct 17:01

Not all Leads are Created Equal: The Power of Saying No Thank You

by Ryan Shelley

Not_all_Leads_are_Created_Equal-.png

I tend to enjoy learning things the hard way. Well, maybe enjoy is the wrong word but nonetheless, experience has always proven to be my best teacher. As an agency owner, I choose to focus on working with high-tech engineering firms and local businesses who shared our same passion for connecting with their audience. The goal was to set a clear line between those we will do work with and those we won’t. While this line was drawn, there have been times when I made exceptions. Sometimes it worked out, but most of the time it didn’t end well. Learning to say no to some opportunities makes room for better ones and saves you a ton of headaches.

I tend to enjoy learning things the hard way. Well, maybe enjoy is the wrong word but nonetheless, experience has always proven to be my best teacher. As an agency owner, I choose to focus on working with high-tech engineering firms and local businesses who shared our same passion for connecting with their audience. The goal was to set a clear line between those we will do work with and those we won’t. While this line was drawn, there have been times when I made exceptions. Sometimes it worked out, but most of the time it didn’t end well. Learning to say no to some opportunities makes room for better ones and saves you a ton of headaches.

Not all leads are created equal. Watching a person make their way through the buyer’s journey can be exciting for the marketer or salesperson. Every time I pick up the phone my adrenaline starts pumping. But without checks and balances, it’s easy to get sucked into the moment, which could lead to saying yes to a bad deal. Generating leads is one of my main jobs not just for my clients, but for myself as well. While generating leads is great, turning leads into customers is what we all are looking for. According to SalesForce, about 13% of leads become opportunities, and 6% of those opportunities turn into deals. So let’s talk about a few ways we can make sure we are focusing on the right leads.

Find Your Niche

The first step is determining who you want to work with. “Everyone” isn’t a valid answer here, no matter how amazing or disruptive your product or service is. If you are trying to reach too many people all at once, you will be less effective. The goal of finding your niche is not just for marketing and sales effectiveness, it’s for your own sanity as a business owner. It allows you to stay laser focused on your target audience and look for more personalized ways to connect with them.

When finding your niche, you need to make sure that you are targeting a group or segment that you want to work with. If you hate what you’re doing, you won’t be able to do it for very long. You also need to make sure that the segment you are targeting wants/needs your product or service and has the means to purchase it. No one can choose your niche for you, so be proactive, do your homework and go get em’.

Stick To It

After determining who you want to work with, you need to stick to it. There will be opportunities that come your way that you’re going to want to jump at. It’s natural. But this is where I have gotten into trouble. You’ve picked a niche for a purpose. It helps you focus your marketing and streamline how you deliver your services to your clients. If you start getting too broad you can easily get overwhelmed and swamped by all of the differences and angles you need to cover between industries . Find your niche and stick with it.

It’s Ok to Say No

Passing on a “sure deal” can be hard, but in my experience, there are no such things as “sure deals.” Yes, I’ve taken work just because I needed it to survive, that’s part of being an entrepreneur, but sometimes NO is your best bet. Here’s a scenario:

A lead engages with your site. They download a ton of information and then before you can even reach out, the phone rings. It’s the person who just filled out the form!!! Based on their interaction with your content you know they are interested. Before you can ask a question they tell you about their amazing, disruptive and life changing idea. That they have millions in backers but need to get this idea out now. They have cash and are willing to pay today if you can help them. Drawn in by the excitement and enthusiasm you say, “we sure can!” And just like that, you have a deposit and a new client.

There are a number of red flags in this that we often miss in the intensity of a situation. First off, we know nothing about this person, what they do and even if what they are selling works. We didn’t take the time to even see if they were a company we want to work with. We saw the easy close and we said yes. The idea of a quick and easy sale captivated us and now we are scrambling to learn about this new customer.

Now, I have had a sale close fast before and they can work out great. But more often than not, they are terrible. I have found that most people in a panic to close this fast are usually in trouble, need results now and want more than what they pay for. This leaves you, the marketer, stressed, frustrated and ready to pull your hair out. If you find yourself in this situation here are three things to do.

  1. Slow the conversation down: Take back control of the conversation and start asking questions about them and their company.
  2. Set up a follow-up call: Never say yes on the first interaction. Have them convince you they are worth your time.
  3. Say No Thanks: If they won’t agree to a follow-up, politely say “This is not an opportunity we want to take on at this time. Thank you for your call.”

Learning to say no is one of the hardest things to do, but it’s a must if you want to truly grow your business. In order to effectively vet your leads, you first need to know who you are looking to do business with. Remember, when determining a niche keep in mind what drives you. You need to be passionate about the people you serve. After that, stick to your guns. You chose the niche you are targeting for a reason. Don’t lose focus. When interacting with leads, make sure you know who they are and what they are doing. Take control and uncover as much about them and their business as you can. Trust your gut! If it feels like a bad deal, it probably is.

 Business Leads - Lead Gen Tips

12 Oct 17:01

How to Leverage SEO for B2B Lead Generation

by Nate Dame

How to Leverage SEO for B2B Lead GenerationToo many marketing activities still happen in silos, and search engine optimization (SEO) is one of the most isolated. While SEO and lead generation are primary drivers of new leads for most B2B organizations, these teams typically only collaborate when new content needs an SEO review (if that).

The general understanding seems to be that SEO helps the website—and all the content therein—get noticed online, which generates leads in a big-picture sense, while lead generation is a completely separate set of tasks targeted specifically at acquiring new leads.

But a changing marketplace is placing new demands on how marketers (and sales reps, and…just about every part of an organization) relate to their target audiences. Lead generation strategies are evolving to meet new expectations, but the one element still missing from most play books may be the one that could make the most dramatic improvement: SEO.

Modern SEO Strategies Need User Intent Research

Marrying SEO and lead generation strategies starts with a modern understanding of SEO—specifically a concept called “user intent.” User intent is the real meaning behind the keywords people type in a search engine text box.

There are two primary types of user intent:

  • Inform: When someone is looking to learn about a topic
  • Purchase: When someone is shopping for something described by the keyword

Discovering what your audience really means when they use your keywords is as simple as Googling them. The pages that rank highest for a keyword represent the type of content people are looking for most often when searching that particular keyword. How do we know? Because Google is heavily invested in providing the best user experience, and their algorithms are working 24/7/365 to decipher the intent behind every search term.

For example, a search for the term “email marketing” yields search results that are mostly marketing software companies trying to sell their platforms. In other words, when most people search for “email marketing,” they have a purchase intent. They want to buy software. The term “marketing automation” yields very different results. Most of the Page 1 results are definitions and basic information about the concept of marketing automation. People are looking for information.

This is valuable insight for any part of your SEO campaign. When you know users’ intentions, you can steer them to content that meets their needs. For example, based on the information above, a business selling email marketing should make sure their content includes a strong product page that targets “email marketing” and related keywords. Whereas, a business selling marketing automation, on the other hand, should focus on creating high-quality, informative content for that keyword.

Lead Generation Needs User Intent Research

Buyers and are self-educating further into the sales funnel than ever before. They are unconcerned with your carefully crafted buyer’s journey model—entering the funnel wherever they like and proceeding through it completely at their own pace.

Most marketers recognize this and are adapting their lead generation strategies to keep up with evolving trends and expectations. Many are hard at work developing engaging, helpful content. That’s an encouraging first step, but, as with any digital content, it’s important to pause and ask yourself whether it’s reaching the buyers who need it, when they need it.

Building content doesn’t mean the leads will come. While sharing your own content is important, a digital marketplace commonly turns to search engines when they’re ready to research or make a purchase. That means the content you create for every stage of the sales funnel has to be search engine optimized for the user for their unique buyer’s journey.

Buyers at the top-of-the-funnel, or the beginning of their buyers’ journeys, are looking for educational or entertaining information: definitions of key lingo, simple explanations of core industry principles, infographics, and other easily digestible media. That means the keywords that are generating those kinds of search results are the ones most likely being used by the segment of your audience that is at the top-of-the-funnel. Those are the keywords your entry-level content should be targeting.

By contrast, the keywords that generate strong purchase intent search results are likely being used by the portion of your audience that is ready (or almost ready) to buy. Those results include a lot of product pages, vendor comparisons, price sheets, etc. As you create that kind of content, target the keywords that are being used by people who are ready to make a purchase.

How to Use SEO for Lead Generation

From start to finish, here are five steps to use SEO to improve your lead generation strategies:

  1. Make a list of relevant keywords. If you’ve never done this before, you can use free tools like Google’s Keyword Planner, Google Trends, and/or Keyword Tool.io. You can also start with a list of your key products and services, and terms that are important to your industry.
  2. Google them. You may want to use spreadsheets for this step to help keep everything organized. Google each of your keywords, and make a note about whether the search results primarily reflect an inform or purchase intent, and to what degree. Some will be heavily skewed, and others will be fairly balanced.
  3. Organize the results along your sales funnel. Keywords that generate a strong inform intent are most likely going to represent users at the top-of-the-funnel. Those that generate search results with a strong purchase intent are likely being used by people closer to the bottom-of-the-funnel.
  4. Optimize existing content. Review content you have already created. If some assets were developed specifically for one stage of the funnel, make sure it is using appropriate language. If a piece of content was created to target a specific keyword, make sure it is addressing the user intent behind that keyword.
  5. Create content to fill in the gaps. There will be gaps, and that is where you really get to work. If you have the wrong type of content for a particular keyword/user intent, you don’t necessarily need to remove it, but you do need to create additional content. For example, if an important keyword yields a strong inform intent in search results and all your website has is a product page for that term, you need to start building some informative content assets, such as blog posts, landing pages, and ebooks. If a keyword has a fairly balanced user intent—a few informative pages and a few product pages—it’s 100% okay to create a few (high-quality, engaging, helpful) pages based on related keywords for each user intent.

SEO and Lead Generation

The market is changing, and while most marketers are aware and are working hard to keep up, it can be difficult to stay on top of all of it. SEO itself is constantly evolving, and generating a steady flow of qualified leads is every marketer’s eternal priority. Both strategies can benefit from tearing down some silos and working together.

Start by conducting user intent research on a few of your top keywords. See if the results are what you expected, and, if not, how your company’s content meets the need. With some strategic content, properly optimized for the people who need it most, your lead generation strategy could quickly take on a whole new life.

Have you started marrying your SEO and lead generation strategies? What other tips do you have? Share them in the comments below!

12 Oct 17:01

Humanize It: 10 Tips to Make Your Tweets More Human [Podcast]

by Pam Moore

10 Tips to Make Your Tweets More Human

Are you speaking to your audience in a way that they understand? When you tweet do people listen? Do they take action? Do your tweets help you increase brand equity, generate leads and sales? Are your tweets helping you grow community and nurture relationships? Are your tweets helping you increase the ROI of all of your content marketing, digital and brand marketing?

If you answer no to any of these questions then you have incredible opportunity to fix the problem and turn every answer listed above into a yes.

Could it be that you are over automating your tweets? Maybe you are speaking to your audience like a robot vs being a human. Maybe you are over selling? Or maybe your tweets are all about you and it’s obvious you are only using social media and Twitter to blast noise about yourself.

The concept of people buying from people was not invented by Facebook or any other social network. People have been connecting with other people in human ways for centuries. We communicate, we share, we help one another.

Social media is really no different if you think about it. It’s just a medium for us to do the same. Social networks such as Twitter, simply enable us to more easily connect with other human beings.

Just because you can spam and automate every message on Twitter 24/7 doesn’t mean that you should.

Instead of logging on to Twitter each day and thinking… how can I get people to read my blog, watch my video or buy from me, we should be thinking how can I empower, inspire and help my audience be and do more.

Would you like to…

  • Connect with your audience in a human way?
  • More quickly earn trust with your target audience?
  • Provide your audience massive amounts of value via your tweets and content you create on other platforms such as your blog, YouTube channel?
  • More quickly establish thought leadership in your niche or industry?
  • Generate more qualified leads?
  • Increase sales?
  • Increase ROI of every marketing dollar you spend?
  • Become the “go to” source of information for your industry and niche?

Take a listen to the 224th episode of the Social Zoom Factor podcast to learn 10 easy ways to humanize your tweets!

Take a listen to episode 224 of the Social Zoom Factor podcast to learn the following:

  • 10 ways to humanize your tweets
  • How to connect with your audience in multiple ways via one 140 character tweet by tappig into emotion, empowerment, etc.
  • Why you must listen more than you talk when it comes to social media
  • Why you can’t fake caring or fake relevancy on the social networks
  • Why your over automation of tweets may be hurting your brand more than helping
  • How to balance automation with real-time engagement
  • How to make time to connect with your audience in a human way
  • Importance of varying the types of content you share on Twitter (video, images, text etc.)
  • How to become a curation expert by sharing 3rd party content
  • Tapping into the power of the OPC – other people’s content and community
  • Tips to humanize your visual brand – personal profile image, colors, header etc.
12 Oct 16:50

Going Above and Beyond With Your Email Marketing [Part 2]

by Matt Banner

Previously on Sales Wars: Part 1 of our two part series “Going Above and Beyond With Your Email Marketing” emphasized the importance of personalizing and maximizing one’s email marketing strategy. This week—sales Jedi Matt Banner returns to share how this new and improved strategy can be used to take on the marketing universe.

7 Ways Email Marketing Puts Your Business and Your Brand on Blast

1. You Can Measure Your Success

Results

Measuring the success of your marketing can be extremely difficult when you’re dealing with things like social media, organic search, and PPC campaigns. This isn’t the case with emails; however, through a few simple statistics, you can track the exact return on your investment:

  • Track email open-rates
  • What email platforms users have
  • Click-through rate
  • Conversions

With these simple statistics, you can pinpoint exactly how much return you made on your email marketing efforts. Can’t beat that!

2. Professional Email Build Links
Link Building

While the main focus of your email marketing is to reach consumers, nurture leads, and gain conversions, a great email campaign can do so much more for your business. When you’re planning out your link building efforts, email outreach will quickly become a viable option. Knowing how and when to send emails to your influencers can mean the difference between a link and a pass.

3. Email Marketing Can Be Personalized
Email Marketing

Many types of marketing focus on a wide audience, and fail to bring unique and tailored experiences to different types of customers. This is where email marketing rises to the occasion. You can start this process by segmenting your email list into different types of subscribers.

Here are a few to consider:

  • New subscribers (people who haven’t bought anything)
  • Recent conversions (they bought something for the first time)
  • Dedicated buyers (frequent purchases)

While you want to continue narrowing down these categories, starting with something like this allows you to understand the current mindset of the users you’re targeting. The new subscriber wants more information from your company’s blog, the recent conversion wants more options to choose from, and the dedicated buyer wants a VIP experience and exclusive promotions.

It’s Getting Better:
Today’s email marketing solutions will help you create personalized emails like these that pull from a customer’s recent purchases or behaviors. You can even set triggered emails to send when customers do something like make a purchase or sign-up for your email list.

4. Email Marketing Costs Less
email marketing costs less

While other types of marketing will have high overhead costs and require a large team to maintain, email marketing can be done with a fraction of the time and capital. There are a variety of services and software that can help you utilize templates and automation to manage your email marketing campaigns without the need for a massive team.

5. A Variety of Users
Perfection

Email can be used for almost any aspect of communication between your business and your customers. Whether you’re sending an announcement, promoting your latest blog post, or inviting them to an event, email is one platform that can satisfy almost any communication need.

6. Faster Sales Conversation
Bullseye

No other platform but email allows a customer to see a call-to-action and immediately purchase the product within a few clicks. This friction-less process allows for massive conversions based solely on impulse buying nature.

7. Global Reach

Once someone provides their email to you, a direct connection is established between you and them, no matter where they are. This ability to reach customers on a global scale makes the potential of email marketing practically limitless in terms of reach. In a world where organic reach on social media is dwindling, in email marketing—it’s never been higher!

Final Thoughts
Email is incredible in that it offers a low-cost, high return opportunity to reach countless new leads and customers, regardless of their location. It is a powerful means of communication, and it’s not going anywhere anytime soon. With the right tools, and an understand of how subject lines and personalization plays into the overall strategy, you can create long-lasting relationships with your customers, and foster new ones through lead nurturing.

How do you utilize email to build links, generate leads, and skyrocket your conversions?

12 Oct 16:50

How to Get Sales and Marketing Working Together Better

by Ashley Irving

Here’s the truth: Sales and Marketing need each other.

But here’s a colder, harder truth: They hate each other.

According to a recent survey, 87% of the terms marketing and sales team use to describe each other are negative.

Based on my experience working in different industries, the main culprit is the failure to act as one.

Most businesses don’t see sales and marketing as working together as one team, so they’re kept separate.

This means marketing is doing their job, without knowing what sales really needs, or what the prospects are asking for (like white papers, marketing collaterals, etc).

Also, marketing is generally salary-based work, whereas sales is commission-based.

I don’t argue for one or the other, but this could cause friction where both teams are trying to improve the number of leads or sales; when they should be focused on improving quality.

So, how do you bridge the gap between two of the most powerful teams in your business?

Set up a regular meeting

At my time at HubSpot there was a meeting every week. Both marketing and sales would get together to look at numbers, or experiments they’re working on. Sales and marketing work together a lot, and their numbers are tied together, instead of being walled off.

Make them realize they need each other

Marketing has the content sales need to convert leads:

  • Whitepapers
  • Brochures
  • Blog articles
  • Webinars

On the other hand, sales has the information marketing need to conceptualize and create new ideas. As much as possible, have the marketing team attend sales calls or listen to recorded sales calls afterwards.

The materials that marketing can make from these activities are valuable in creating effective campaigns.

Likewise, have your sales team attend regular meetings on marketing strategies and development. They can provide insights on what’s going on in the field; which makes it easier for marketing to create relevant content.

In time, both will realize how much information can be exchanged, propelling them to a new sense of respect and accountability for excellence.

Create a buyer’s journey

Each customer undergoes 3 stages before a purchasing a product:

Awareness – The buyer is aware of his problem and intends to learn more about it

Evaluation – The buyer has identified the problem and conducts a thorough research on how to address it

Decision – The buyer is ready to make a decision

The marketer’s goal is to spot the types of information customers need at every phase of the journey. Afterwards, marketing will pass this information to the sales team, who is now ready to engage leads with clarity and understanding the specific requirements to close the sale.

Sales shouldn’t try to sell at the awareness stage.

Instead, buyers would prefer to get a whitepaper, an idea kit, or a tip sheet to educate them further.

On the other hand, buyers below the decision stage won’t find a how-to video helpful.

Developing a buyer’s journey guarantees that everyone is harping the same message, targeting the same problem and speaking to the same customer.

Integrate technologies into an effective and measurable hand-off process

Bill Babcock once said:

You need an easy way to get leads into the right hands automatically, a way for them to report on whether they have accepted or rejected the lead, and, if they accepted the lead, what the disposition eventually was—won, lost, or not really a lead.”

Wouldn’t it be great for both the Sales and Marketing to use the same technology stack?

Think about the benefits of having one:

  • An inbound marketing activity provides a detailed information on how to move forward in the sales process
  • Gathering sales feedback is much easier resulting in better marketing campaigns and efficient allocation of funds
  • Real-time reporting helps identify key challenges and opportunities within the sales funnel
  • Create helpful and personalized messages when nurturing leads

Evangelize the Power of Smarketing

According to HubSpot, smarketing refers to the alignment between your sales and marketing teams created through frequent and direct communication between the two.

I believe smarketing is the best way for improving lead generation and increasing profits.

Here’s why.

When working closely, sales and marketing enjoy a 36% higher customer retention rates. Plus, companies who have their sales and marketing aligned can achieve up to 20% revenue growth.

How is this possible?

First, smarketing allows sales to address the issue of prospecting leads. With marketing sharing customer insights with sales, reps can give a more personalized approach to the lead.

And the more personalized the message is, the more likely that leads convert and become long term customers.

Second, smarketing lets marketing increase its lead conversion rate. By following up on leads, sales can help marketing gain insight on how to create content in making conversions better.

Is the turf war real?

Can you think of other ways to bridge the gap between sales and marketing?

abc

12 Oct 16:50

4 Ways Marketing Managers Can Benefit From Working With Pro Freelance Writers

by Laura MacPherson

Imagine having enough time in the day to actually get your important-but-not-urgent projects finished. Or being able to level up your content marketing. Or increasing the conversions on your landing pages so you’re able to deliver more high-quality leads to sales.

I don’t know of anyone leading an in-house marketing team who wouldn’t want those things. But most in-house teams are kept at capacity — their time is taken up with all the things that are a part of their own job descriptions.

If you’ve got an in-house creative team, pro freelance writers may not be on your radar, but they should be. Here’s why.

1. Expertise

Few companies that aren’t large corporations can hire teams of full-time pro writers who are content strategy experts, who understand persuasion psychology, and who are well-versed in conversion optimization. The hiring budget just isn’t there.

But when they work with pro freelance writers who specialize in these areas, companies are able to take advantage of that expertise without paying a full-time salary plus benefits. And because there’s no long-term commitment, managers have a much easier time getting a budget approved for freelance help.

2. Experience

Pro freelance writers can bring new ideas and fresh perspective to the mix, because they typically have a wide range of experience across a variety of industries. They can provide insights that your own team just wouldn’t be able to without the benefit of the same experience. And they can recommend what worked in another industry and tweak it to work for yours. Ideas that never would have occurred to you can boost your campaigns to perform better, enabling you to deliver more value to the company (and increase your own value simultaneously).

3. Efficiency

Full-time, salaried team members have their attention scattered across many different areas, and they’re constantly being pulled in different directions. Let’s face it. Because freelancers work on a project basis, and because their income is directly tied to how efficiently they perform their work, they tend to be able to deliver individual projects faster than an in-house team member would. If you need to get something done in a timely and reliable manner, a pro freelancer is often the best way to do it.

4. Affordability

The combination of expertise, experience, and efficiency equals affordability. And I’m not talking about someone who has cheap rates. True pro freelancers are able to complete projects more cost-effectively because they create high-quality work that performs well, they contribute ideas that come with the package, and they meet deadlines.

Even if you’re paying a high rate (which you will be, if the freelancers you’re hiring are true professionals), your company is going to get strong ROI. Especially if you use your freelancers on a regular basis, you’ll maximize the money you’re spending. This benefit is the one that will probably sell your CEO and financial leadership on the idea of adding freelancers to your in-house team — when they see the numbers laid out, it’s a no-brainer.

What could a pro freelance writer or two do for your team? Think about the possibilities, make your own specific list, chart out the budget with the projected ROI, and pitch the idea to your leadership. You may be surprised how easy it is to make it happen.

Free-Landing-Page-Checklist-CTA

12 Oct 16:50

Buyers Are Ignoring Your Sales Prospecting Emails. Here Are 7 Ways To Get Through.

by pcaputa@hubspot.com (Pete Caputa)

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Dear salespeople,

High-volume email sales prospecting is an arms race you're not going to win. Stop doing it.

Regards,
Pete

It all began with mail merge -- a seemingly harmless way to more efficiently send direct mail. But then the technique moved to email and has become a plague on all our inboxes, especially buyers’. Today, there seems to be a new automated email prospecting tool popping up every month. These software programs make it easy to steal or guess email addresses, then send a series of emails in just a matter of clicks.

But prospects have had enough of the spammy email messages they're getting from salespeople. Don't believe me? Try reading the comments on my most popular post on this blog: "Salespeople, Please Stop Sending Terrible Prospecting Emails Like This." Get HubSpot's free CRM here to start tracking how your prospecting emails  perform.

Also consider this: If you're sending loads of emails that aren't garnering a response from most of your prospects, you’re literally biting the hand that feeds you.

Not ready to stop? You might not have an option at some point. Prospects are so pissed off, they're fighting back. And in this fight, I'd bet on them any day of the week. Email sales prospecting is an arms race you're not going to win. Just as you find more ways to send spam, buyers will find easier ways to ignore your emails. Like democracy trumped communism, buyers will defeat salespeople in this cold war.

4 Ways Buyers Are Already Ignoring Your Emails

1) They’re relying on email less.

"We use Slack for our company's internal coordination instead of email now. One of its many benefits is that we get distracted by unsolicited sales emails a lot less frequently," says Chris Handy, founder of Thinkhandy Marketing.

I did much of the research for this post in a Slack group, including soliciting that quote from Handy. Organizations using Slack are collaborating in real time with colleagues in an environment unpolluted by unsolicited sales emails. As companies rely on email less frequently, your buyer will be less likely to even see your email, let alone bother to respond to it.

2) They're using software to route your messages out of their inbox.

"SaneBox has truly cleaned up my inbox," says Joe Jerome, founder of BrandBuilders. "On a typical day, I’d come into the office with about 60 to 100 unread emails. SaneBox learned which emails are important to me by observing which emails I acted upon. I also trained it by setting up some filters. Now, I have only 15 to 20 unread emails per day, all of which are high priority."

Tools like SaneBox and even Gmail itself are making it easy for users to sort important messages from unwanted ones. I’d be willing to wager that email service providers will eventually solve this problem for buyers, once and for all.

3) They use a separate email alias for web forms.

Gmail has a feature that allows users to create aliases automatically. Users just have to add a "+" and anything else after their email alias and before the "@" sign. For example, years ago, I started using the alias myemail+blogsubs@gmail.com to sign up for subscriptions. Then, I set up a filter to route those messages into another folder.

Some buyers go a step further and set up an entirely separate account or alias to use in website forms. This prevents salespeople from simply removing the text after the "+" and sending sales and marketing messages straight to a prospect’s inbox anyway.

4) They filter messages containing commonly used sales phrases.

Are your prospecting messages predictably scripted? Jason Diller, director of marketing for The DSM Group, created a filter using common phrases found in typical sales emails.

For example, any email that includes a phrase like "companies like yours" or "time for a demo” gets automatically routed to his archive folder with a "salesperson" label on it.

7 Tips to Connect With Email-Prospecting-Proof Prospects

Because more prospects are blocking your messages, your normal email prospecting habits are probably getting you diminishing returns. What should you do instead? Try these seven tips:

1) Build real relationships.

People who like and respect you will take your phone calls and answer your emails. Their SaneBox won’t auto-sort you into an archive folder.

Now that I've been in the workforce for over 20 years, I truly understand the importance of building genuine two-way relationships based on trust and mutual benefit. There are hundreds of people I could call right now to ask for a favor, a referral or to help me directly with my next project. But it doesn't take 20 years to build your network. If you're new in sales, start now. Help people when you have the chance to do so. They'll remember you fondly and will always take your call.

2) Attract prospects to you by publishing valuable content.

Maybe you’re not a writer. Managing the website and publishing blog content is probably not your responsibility.

Well, make it your responsibility. Or stand up on your desk and demand more from your marketing team. Publishing content that attracts and educates your target buyers is one of the smartest things you can do to improve your connect rate. You’d be amazed at the number of messages I get after publishing just one blog post. HubSpot generates tens of thousands of leads per month because we’ve been committed to blogging for a decade now.

Don’t take my word for it, though. A few hundred salespeople we surveyed who work at our customers’ companies report that inbound marketing is their best source of leads, even better than referrals and word of mouth. 

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3) Use a wide variety of touchpoints to connect.

Don't rely exclusively on email prospecting. As it gets harder to make it through to buyer's inboxes, salespeople need to get better at efficiently using other methods for connecting. Get better at networking (both online and in real life), attend events, and build up your social following. You can even start your own Slack group and invite your buyers to join it.

Also, get more comfortable making prospecting calls. Too many salespeople rely on email prospecting to schedule every one of their phone calls. But picking up the phone and calling someone still works if you do it enough and do it right. You might face resistance from buyers when they answer, but with practice, you will avoid and handle the resistance better.

(Want more? Here's 45 prospecting tips from some of my favorite experts.)

4) Stop pitching over email.

Too many salespeople prematurely pitch over email. They describe the features and benefits of their products and services, what they do and how they do it. As should be evident by the low response rate these types of emails get, their pitch is falling on deaf ears. 

What should you do instead? Determine whether a prospect has a need before pitching anything.

In your first emails to a new prospect, try keeping your messages short and about your buyer. Here's 28 approaches I've tested that don't include phrases like "When can we schedule a demo?"

5) Pay attention to the clues your prospects leave you.

Too many salespeople start their day by sending unsolicited emails to unsuspecting prospects. Even worse, these emails are often irrelevant to the buyer given their situation and priorities.

It just doesn’t work.

Instead, pay attention to the clues prospects are leaving. Read the company and product announcements they publish, blog posts they share and updates they make on social media sites. If you have prospects visiting your website, determine their interests based on what pages they view.

All of this is pretty easy with the right software. If you're not using tools that help you track your prospect's activity on your website or monitoring buying signs on social sites, you need to start. Instead of cold emailing, spend your day responding to clues.

6) Make yourself available when prospects want to talk to you.

Salespeople are usually pretty responsive when a prospect emails or calls. But, since most buyers check out vendor websites long before they decide to reach out to salespeople, smart salespeople are prompting conversations earlier in the buying cycle by making it easier for a buyer to connect to them immediately. Here are a few ways you can do this:

The moral of the story? When a buyer wants to talk to you, be available.

7) Constantly improve your emails.

I’m amazed that salespeople send the same message over and over. Sometimes to the same prospect. From one salesperson, I literally received the same message from them every few weeks for 12 months.

While timing and persistence is important, so is constant improvement.

Experiment with different messages. Measure which messages get the best results and use them more frequently. Once you find a few that work, use those. But, don’t stop tweaking and trying new ones.

If you run out of ideas, ask for feedback and coaching from your peers or your manager. Invite colleagues to critique your emails, and ask them to share their best-performing ones too.

To Start Being Worthy of Attention, Stop Fighting For It

The internet, email, social networks, and sales and marketing software have given salespeople the ability to sell to more buyers more efficiently than ever before.

But for some reason, salespeople always seem to push the envelope too far, as if sales is some sort of warfare. Unsolicited, uncustomized, high-volume, cold email prospecting is a prime example of an activity that you need to stop.

I’m flabbergasted by the number of salespeople abusing email, when a better path is so readily available. It has never been easier to be immediately helpful to prospects because of the data available to us about buyers, the ability for them to learn about us through our online presence and the tools we have to track their behavior.

If you want, you can start doing better immediately. It’s not that hard. Before reaching out to your next prospect, do some research to learn about them as an individual and what’s unique about their company, then tailor your approach. Share opportunities for improvement that fit their individual context. Offer them assistance. Then, be ready to help when they want it. Not only is this approach better for the buyer, you’ll find that buyers respect you more because you don’t seem so desperate to sell your solution.

Need help designing a better prospecting and selling process for your company? Enroll in HubSpot’s free, on-demand sales training program to craft prospecting messages that get responses.

HubSpot CRM

12 Oct 16:50

Salespeople: If You're Asking Questions This Way, Stop Now

by lye@hubspot.com (Leslie Ye)

ask-one-question-at-a-time.jpg

Salespeople are curious by nature. You have to be -- if you genuinely have no interest in learning more about your prospect’s business, you’ll have to spend every day fighting your instincts to do your job. And when you spend your entire day fighting your natural instincts, it’s not likely you’ll be successful.

Curiosity is a crucial trait. Learning more about your prospect and their business is the only way you can make tailored recommendations for their businesses and the only way you can provide value. We all know that salespeople who don’t provide value don’t make sales -- ergo, to make sales, you must be curious.

But curiosity can go too far. While you can find out a ton of information about your prospect and their business online and through tracking prospect activity on your website, you’ll never get a complete picture just by reviewing online activity.

That’s why the best salespeople enter calls with prepared questions and a few assumptions about the prospect’s business that they’ll as their point of contact to confirm or deny. They’ve prepared just enough to come up with informed questions that’ll actually drive the conversation forward, instead of asking about banal details they could have easily discovered themselves.

Unfortunately, many of the best salespeople get so excited about their list of questions that they immediately shoot themselves in the foot.

I’ve heard it happen a hundred times on live sales calls and in call reviews. The salesperson will start out with a great open-ended question that will reveal a key business challenge or goal. They take a breath. And before the prospect can respond, the rep asks four more questions.

It sounds something like this:

In my research, I found out that you have separate recruiters assigned to each department at your company. How does each team source candidates? Was there a specific reason for dedicating recruiters to specific teams, and do they work well together? Do you have an internal communication system to track all candidates in one place, or does each department have their own system?”

Whoa. This salesperson clearly has done their research and has an assumption about the recruiting structure at his prospect’s company, but he’s trying to do too much. In one sequence of questions, he’s trying to find out six pieces of information:

  1. How recruiters find and work with candidates
  2. The rationale behind assigning recruiters to specific teams
  3. Whether there’s any communication among recruiters assigned to specific departments
  4. Whether that communication is productive or not
  5. Whether there’s an overarching candidate tracking system in place
  6. Whether each department has its own specialized process for recruiting

That’s six different pieces of information necessary to start forming an educated recommendation to this product. But because this salesperson asked the questions in this way, he probably won’t get more than one or two key points.

If you ask questions like this, you’re hurting your deal in four major ways.

1) You’re making assumptions.

Asking multiple questions at once inherently contains assumptions. An effective line of questioning unearths one piece of information at a time, then builds upon that information with more questions. You should always be prepared to pivot your questioning strategy based on the answers your prospect provides, and asking multiple questions at once prevents you from doing so.

It also comes off as presumptuous to prospects. Asking a lot of follow-up questions is essential to discovering their challenges, and prospects are usually happy to give you more detail when prompted -- after all, they want your help too. But asking a string of questions without even waiting for one response tells the prospect you care more about confirming your own assumptions than keeping an open mind and learning about their situation.

2) You’re overwhelming prospects.

Read that example again. Can you imagine getting on a call and being asked for six different pieces of information in a row, some of which might not even be relevant to you? It’s completely overwhelming for prospects to be posed with this many queries at once. Some might tell you to reiterate one question at a time, but many will be polite and just attempt to answer everything in one fell swoop. The result? You won’t get a complete answer.

3) You’ll have to repeat yourself multiple times.

If your prospect doesn’t try to answer every question at once, they’ll ask you to repeat your questions, one by one. Not only will you have to recall the entire sequence of requests, you’ll also be putting your prospect in an uncomfortable position. Right off the bat, they’re revealing that they weren’t able to follow you -- which can make them embarrassed, defensive, and feeling like they have less power than you in the conversation.

Save yourself some time and your prospect some grief, and ask questions one at a time.

4) You’re priming your prospect to give you a certain response.

The multiple-questions approach often rears its head when you’re asking a question with multiple possible responses. For example, the sales team I work with consistently asks prospects about their sales processes -- specifically, where prospects get new leads and how they follow up with them. There’s multiple possible answers -- maybe the prospect has a steady stream of inbound leads and follows up with a predetermined email and call sequence. Maybe they’re cold-sourcing leads and following an outreach playbook. Maybe they have no process in place at all.

It’d be easy to fall into the trap of naming these options after asking, “Where are you currently finding leads and how do you follow up with them?” But doing so primes prospects to answer questions a certain way. A prospect with no sales process who’s embarrassed by his lack of sophistication is more likely to make up an answer to make himself sound better if you’ve already provided him options of what a sales process could look like.

Prospects who do follow a certain process might omit parts of it, and just respond, “Yes, I do X.” The second you start answering your own question, you automatically build walls around the prospect’s answer because you’ve anchored them to the options you’ve already provided, and you’ll learn less as a result. Keep things open-ended by asking one question and shutting up.

Restraint is the mark of a seasoned sales rep. You won’t be successful until you can keep quiet and let your prospects’ answers guide the sales conversation, rather than trying to drive and damaging your ability to make an informed recommendation in the process.

HubSpot CRM

12 Oct 16:49

5 Simple Tricks Salespeople Can Use to Talk Less

by afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost)

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One of the simplest ways to differentiate untrained salespeople from experienced ones? Pay attention to how much they talk.

Successful reps spend the majority of their time with prospects listening and asking questions, rather than talking about their product -- or talking at all.

Not only does this strategy help them earn buyers’ trust, it also leads to insights reps can use to personalize their messaging and recommend the right solution.

Despite the major payoff of saying less, many salespeople struggle to do so. These five techniques will help overly talkative reps be more brief.

1) Write Yourself a Post-It Note Reminder

A visual reminder to speak less can have a big impact. Reps can write a note to themselves and stick it somewhere visible, such as on their monitor or near their phone. When they’re on a call, seeing that note typically helps them tamp down the instinct to talk.

HubSpot sales rep Gary Valenti keeps a note on his desk that reads “W.A.I.T.,” an acronym for “Why Am I Talking?”, and also uses technique #2 to keep his conversations focused.

This technique still works in face-to-face meetings, although it requires getting a little creative. Salespeople can jot down their desk reminder on the front page of their notes when they attend client meetings. When they look at their papers, they’ll see the reminder. Clients, of course, will have no idea.

2) Ask Your Question, Then Press Mute

Reps who can’t stop interrupting their prospects should use their phone’s mute button. Pressing “Mute” while the buyer talks makes it impossible to cut in -- even if the salesperson does let something slip, their prospect will be none the wiser.

This strategy also gives prospects the chance to expand on their thoughts. They often seem like they’re completely finished talking. However, in the second it takes reps to press “Unmute,” many prospects will take a breath and continue talking.

3) Track How Long You Speak

To keep their prospects engaged, salespeople should generally speak for less than 30 seconds at a time during discovery. The average person can pay attention for a mere eight seconds -- so if the rep has been asking questions for half a minute, there’s a strong chance their prospect has stopped listening or forgotten the original query.

Reps should review their recorded calls with a stopwatch to see how long they usually speak. This exercise will give them a good sense of when they’re talking too long.

4) Don’t Announce Intent Before Making Requests

Most people naturally preface a request by explaining why they’re asking. But as Jeff Hoffman explains, this tendency doesn’t just make salespeople sound pushy -- it also adds five to 20 seconds every time they pose a question or make an ask. Over the course of a call, those seconds add up.

Reps should get to the point faster by cutting out their initial explanation.

Announcing intent: “Now that we’ve determined your needs, I’d like to loop in the other stakeholders. Is there a good time next week for us to meet?”

Getting straight to the point:Is there a good time next week for you, me, and other stakeholders to meet?”

As a bonus, eliminating the upfront explanation helps reps cut out selfish phrases like “I’d like,” “I want,” “I’d love,” and so on.

5) Write Down Your Questions

Salespeople should fight the urge to ask multiple things at once by writing down their questions. With the question in front of them, reps won’t feel compelled to ask it immediately so they don’t forget. As an added bonus, they’re free to concentrate fully on the buyer’s answer instead of reminding themselves to ask the question, an essential part of active listening.

6) Ask One Question at a Time

Two, three, or four-part questions are overwhelming for prospects. It’s impossible for them to remember everything the rep asked, so they usually end up answering the last question they heard. Reps will need to repeat themselves to get the information they’re looking for -- which means they’ll be taking up even more airtime.

This also helps reps adapt to their prospect’s responses. If the buyer gives an unexpected response to the salesperson’s first question, the salesperson will probably want to change their next one. By asking one question at a time, reps give themselves the freedom to modify their line of inquiry.

It’s tough to speak less. You need to be conscious of everything you say: Its purpose, relevance, and impact. Once you’ve mastered the art of brevity, your prospects will reward you with deeper engagement and greater respect.

HubSpot CRM

12 Oct 16:49

Is Lead Funnel Obsession Bad for Your Business

by John Jantsch

Is Lead Funnel Obsession Bad for Your Business written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

client generation system

Jump on over to Facebook some time today, and there’s a pretty good chance you’ll encounter an ad for the hottest Internet Marketing fad going – online lead funnels.

If you’re a business owner or marketer trying to grow your business I can pretty much guarantee you’ve seen this pitch – maybe you’ve even purchased a course or webinar promising to teach you how to make it rain leads – no matter what business you are in.

The graphics promoting these magic solutions often contain numerous boxes and arrows and combat themed phrases like trip wires and lead magnets all designed to help you attract, sort, segment, score, and manipulate your prospects into submission – oh, and did I mention you can do this from the beach?

Now, I’m not opposed to generating lots of leads, but here’s the problem with this fad. You don’t want leads; you want customers. Most businesses aren’t trying to fill a course or sell an info product. Most businesses just need a handful of the right new clients on a steady basis.

So, falling hypnotically in love with an autopilot lead funnel consisting of 437 simple steps just might not be the right approach at all. Oh, it sounds enticing, and, what the heck, everyone’s doing it, but just stop and think about all of this for a minute.

What you need is a client generation system.

I work with a lot of independent marketing consultants and most them simply want to work with about ten of the right clients at any given time.

So let’s do some math. Let’s say you have four clients right now, and you would like to get six more. The typical consultant acquires new client by attracting a lead that wants to meet and learn about how you might help them. Let’s say one in four of those meetings turns into a client. (That’s terribly low for the approach we teach, but I’ll use it be conservative.)

With the math above it will take you 24 sales meetings to get the additional six clients needed to fill your practice and meet your revenue objectives. So, in building a lead generation and conversion system there are two primary questions.

What does it take to get a consistent flow of appointments and how can you convert more appointments to clients. Build a system that does that, and you won’t need to worry about all of the lever pulling elements and moving parts in most lead funnels today.

If you need six clients, build a system that gets you in front of 10-12 qualified prospects, and you’ll land six clients in a matter of weeks, it’s that simple.

Below you’ll find the ten steps involved in creating a customer generation system for your consulting business.

Set a goal for meetings

The very first step is to determine your revenue goal for the year and go backwards to determine how many clients you need to reach that goal. Then break it down to determine how many meetings, proposals, and pitches you need to make to hit that goal.

Example:

Goal – $250,000 in revenue in 12 months means that if you sell a $500, $3000, or $5,000 service, you will need either 42, 7, or 4 clients respectively to reach that goal.

$500               $3000                        $5000

X 42 clients    X 7 clients                  X 4

X 12 months X 12 month                X 12 months

From this point, you simply need to factor how many appointments it will take to land one new client, and you’ll have your primary metric – X meeting per month. (You may not know how many meetings, but it’s a number you need to watch and reduce as much as possible – lowering this number is the key to success.)

Narrowly define your ideal client

Of course, it’s my hope that you have a pretty good idea of who makes an ideal client for your business but if not keep this in mind. At first target the group you can help the most, the fastest. The reason I advise focusing on this group is that you’ll probably be able to demonstrate how you can help them easily and by getting quick results, build some raving fans.

For example, as a marketing consultant, I can use a set of tools that can show me how badly a business needs marketing help. It’s a matter of auditing their online presence and matching it with a few other bits of data such as industry and even local reputation or groups they might belong to.

Create one workhorse piece of content

Now it’s time to create a valuable piece of content that will resonate with your target audience. Most likely this will come out in the form of a blog post.

You may have some ideas about the kind of content that will attract your target audience if you want to make sure this one piece of content is the workhorse you need for your system, spend some time researching the questions and problems your target audience experiences the most.

You can start with a tool such as keywordtool.io to identify the most frequently asked questions around a subject. Then move to a forum search by typing forum+your keyword topic (this can be an industry, i.e., forum+chiropractor), and you’ll find forums where your target audience hangs out to ask questions and get advice. The data from both of these sources may prove invaluable as you search for hot topics for your blog post.

Finally, when you think you have a couple of solid ideas, take your topics to BuzzSumo, and you’ll discover a list of the most shared content for each theme. You can often use this information to determine a very hot topic and ideas for how you could create an even hotter post on the topic.

Build or buy a list of ideal clients

Once you know who you want to target you can usually buy or rent a list based on demographics and location if you don’t already have a list you’ve collected. You could also append this list with some other elements such as members of an association or community group if want to refine it further. If properly targeted this list doesn’t have to be very large either.

Use this list to build a custom Facebook audience and further create an expanded lookalike audience to increase the number of potential targeted prospects.

Advertise the content and upgrade

Now that you have an audience ready to target you can create Facebook ads driving people to your workhorse piece of content. In fact, if you don’t even want to go to the trouble of creating ads you can simply point to your blog post in a status update and “boost” your post to the custom or lookalike audience you created.

This means the post will show in your timeline and show up as sponsored post in the timelines of those you’ve targeted. It’s standard practice for any content, but make sure your post has a large image that pertains to the topic. This will help it stand out.

The key to making this kind of promotion work as the first step in customer generation is to add what is called a “content upgrade” to the post.

A content upgrade is simply an offer for related, but perhaps a different form of, content made inside the blog post that entices those that visit to exchange an email address to receive the upgraded version of the content as well.

The reason this is such an effective form of list building is that the person responded to your ad in the first place because the specific topic appealed to them. Once they visited and found the content was solid they are much more inclined to trust you to deliver something even greater.

Your content upgrade can be in the form of a checklist, ebook, or even a video. As you can see this post has a form of content upgrade offer above, but in this case, I’m not asking for any sign-up. Your content upgrade should come with an ask for an email address so that you can respond with more information.

We use the Thrive Leads plugin to create all of our content upgrade and subscriber boxes in our content.

Offer value to those who respond

Once someone responds to your content upgrade offer, simply reach out and offer to provide a valuable service for no charge as a way to demonstrate how great it might be to work with you.

For example, as a marketing consultant, I might use a few tools to run an audit on their online presence and quickly show them a few glaring weaknesses or places where a competitor has apparently invested and is benefitting.

I could even spin up a nice looking report and offer to simply mail this to them with a further offer to sit down with them and go over a plan of action for improving their current marketing situation.

If you’ve targeted and educated your prospect in this manner, then you are no longer creating demand and selling your harvesting demand and teaching.

An example offer might go something like this:

“would you like me to show you why your competitors outrank you and what you can do about it?” –  I’m happy to show you free ranking factors and create a custom plan for you – no cost or obligation.”

Qualify and set appointments

As you deliver value and move to an appointment, you want to make sure that your prospect is fully qualified to move forward with what you are going to propose.

We use a series of “Discovery” forms that help us understand the prospect’s objectives, goals, and potential challenges. This tool not only helps us learn more so we can deliver more, but it also places a hurdle that might not be approached and scaled by someone that’s not serious.

You can do a lot of free consulting if you don’t target and educate properly.

This doesn’t mean you only help those who are ready to buy; it means you only expend the precious time and specific knowledge you have with those who need and appreciate what you have to offer.

As part of this discussion I might add something like:

“Let me warn you,  I can’t help everyone – I can only help people who already have a solid service/product, are looking to increase their online presence and are willing to work hard at getting a return on what I ask them to do.”

Do the research and deliver the value

Once you’ve established a need and qualified for fit, do the research required to over deliver on what you promised as you set the appointment.

Run your reports on their online presence, use one of the many research tools to teach them about trends in their industry, give them a full rundown on their competitors, and map out the priority initiatives you see them needing to address right now.

For me there are two very significant ways to help our clients get more business immediately – increase the number of leads they are converting and do more business with existing customers.

These are the two areas I’ll address to show them how they could get more business now as we go to work on building a steady stream of new leads and clients.

Close the deal

Now you’ve done the research, and so you assume you have all the answers and the entire plan and you’re simply going to “show up and throw up” as I’ve heard more than one sales trainer describe it.

The key to engagement in this form of lead harvesting is to help the prospect tell you in their words what’s wrong and what not fixing it is costing them. Get them to dream a bit about where they want to go and what they think it might take to get there before you prescribe anything.

Once you have them engaged in their story, you can start to talk about quick wins they could they could realize if they did one or more of the things you have in your plan – remember now it’s solely based on what they are telling you.

Then you can stretch and talk about more things that could be done long term to get the solid gains over time. This near-term vs. long-term vision is important to help your prospect see the road ahead and how they get both immediate and lasting change from working with you.

If done properly you simply need to ask them if they would like to achieve these kinds of gains from working with you.

While there are a few things you need to get in place initially and few moving parts you’ll want to test and tweak as you go, a customer generating system doesn’t have to be that complex, it simply needs to be based on your overall growth needs and goals.

12 Oct 16:49

How to Tactically Treat Your Inbound Sales Leads

by Keith Zadig

Inbound Sales Development Reps have an interesting role in a sales organization. They often act as the ambassador of our businesses, sometimes even before the Outbound SDR, and their goal is to treat every inbound sales lead that walks in the door (so to speak) with the same care as one of the highest paying customers in the organization.

But contrary to popular belief, not every inbound sales lead is created equal. In order to determine what kind of lead you’re dealing with, it’s the job of Inbound SDRs, to qualify each and every inbound sales lead quickly and efficiently.

It’s tempting to consider every inbound sales lead as a perfect potential customer, but SalesLoft’s Inbound Sales Development Rep Patrick McGill is here to share how to define your leads right off of the bat, and how to treat them throughout the inbound sales qualification process. Watch the video below to learn Patrick’s best practices:

Video Transcript:

Hey everybody, my name’s Patrick. I’m an Inbound SDR here at SalesLoft. Today I’m going to share some tips with you on the different mindsets you have to be in to handle inbound leads, because not all of them are going to be the same.

Every lead has a different story. Some leads: you have to be in more of a hunter mindset, where you provide a lot of value and be incredibly persistent in order to set the meeting.

Other leads: they raise their hand. They want a meeting, but you have to make sure they’re qualified, and that takes an entirely different mindset. When a prospect downloads a piece of content or an ebook from your site, they’re not necessarily looking for a meeting, but instead just doing research.

The best way to show them the value of your product and follow up with them is to be up to date with what your outbound team is doing. That way, you’re using the best cadences and the best talk tracks to convert them to an appointment.

Right now, we’re on our contact request page. This is where prospects come to raise their hand and let us know they’re interested in our product. When this happens, we put them on a 12×5 cadence. That way, we can contact them, make sure that they are qualified and ready for an appointment.

When you come to our website, you’re able to get in contact with an inbound representative — like myself — through our live chat feature. When that happens, it takes an extra layer of qualification before we can pass someone over for a meeting.

We need to make sure that they’re both A. ready for an appointment, and B. they’re the decision maker in the process. That way, we’re not wasting their time or the time of our own team.

Inbound reps are a lot of times the first line of communication, so it’s important that we provide an excellent experience for a prospect to set the stage as they move on through the buying process and then eventually become customers.

I hope these tips were able to provide some value for you and your team. We have a lot of other great content on the blog, so be sure to check that out, and remember: Happy Lofting!

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