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14 Feb 23:54

How One Head of Sales Tackled Building a Sales Playbook

by (Trish Bertuzzi)

SNkevin.jpgKevin Dorsey is a fantastic sales leader. As Head of Sales for SnackNation, he leads a team of 12 Sales Development Reps and 30 Account Executives. SnackNation offers office delivery of healthy snacks that create happier and more productive teams.

In just one year, Kevin grew the teams from a handful of reps to over 40. Along the way, he decided that the best avenue for reinforcing and scaling critical sales competencies was to build a Sales Playbook.

And over the next 3.5 months, he did just that.

Lesson #1: He immersed himself in his SDRs' process

"I knew that if I wrote the Playbook from behind my desk exclusively, it probably wouldn't be very good."

Kevin got his hands dirty, getting in the seat with the SDRs and really seeing what that day-to-day felt and sounded like. He was looking to combine emergent best practices (identified by his team) with industry and thought leaders learnings.

 The playbook is broken into three sections:

  • What do we need to know about our customers to help them succeed?
  • What must every single SDR be able to do well?
  • What data / technologies do we need to effectively execute?

Lesson #2: He started with the most important piece- The Why

"My favorite part of the playbook is the why section. I really tried to explain to new hires why we do certain things the way we do."

Right up front, the playbook lays out the thinking behind how SnackNation reps execute. Kevin shares what mistakes have already been made and lessons learned along the way. Most companies direct their teams on how to go after deals, but rarely share the why.

Kevin’s team knows the why, they believe in it, and mostly importantly they can teach it to others.

Lesson #3: He got his team involved

"When I finished a chapter, I presented it to the team. I said, 'Tear this apart. Tell me where I'm wrong. Tell me what's off that doesn't work in real life.' Getting the team involved builds ownership."

After the 3.5 month initial writing period, Kevin continues to revise the playbook monthly. He makes updates for each new hire class. His goal is to make the previous SDR class jealous - to the point where they're saying, "Man, I wish I had all this when I started."

Equal to what goes in the playbook is how you communicate it. You have to put everything in a format that reps can absorb. Even the best writing, if presented as a wall of words, won't help your reps learn and grow.


Sales teams need playbooks to make the most of every single sales interaction. You want to capture industry best practices, bubble up emerging techniques, and continuously refine buyer-based messaging so that, as Kevin says, your old timers are jealous of the tool you're handing to your new hires.

An aside, here at The Bridge Group we write Sales Playbooks that rock, if I do say so myself (as do our clients).

Don’t make your new hires do sales tool archeology; hand them a roadmap to success. Any questions for Kevin?

23 Jun 16:40

Silicon Valley's rental market is so absurd, tech workers are living in vans — here's the Reddit community where they commiserate

by Melia Robinson

The life of a "van dweller," or a person who lives in a converted vehicle, is nomadic and legally precarious. Van dwellers risk being found out by their employers for parking on  company lots, and many keep their living situation on the down-low.

While van dwelling is an increasingly popular lifestyle choice among tech workers in Silicon Valley, it's far from mainstream, making resources sparse for prospective or struggling road warriors.

For those who eat and sleep on the open road, Reddit becomes a second home.

The subreddit vandwellers is a safe space on the internet where 36,000 subscribers talk about what life is like living in a van, share hacks, and seek advice. Members from nearly every corner of the US appeared to be on it when I browsed the group earlier this week.

I found out about the subreddit from a van dweller who works as an engineer at a major tech company, and who says he made friends with other Bay Area-based, van-dwelling techies through the group.

Some of the most well-known cases of Silicon Valley van dwelling involve a software engineer at Google who lived in a truck in the company's parking lot, saving 90% of his income, and a Tesla employee who paid off $14,000 of student loans by living in a van for five months.

We like to party. Sunday morning #church. #prayforsnow

A photo posted by jason roesslein (@jason.roesslein) on Feb 1, 2015 at 12:25pm PST on

Living in a van provides appeal to those who want to save money, either because they can't afford to live elsewhere, or because they want funds for entertainment and travel. After the initial build process is over, the owner's biggest expenses are gas and maintenance.

A Reddit user by the name of PM_ME_SOME_BIRDS dwells in a Jeep Liberty and claims to pay nothing in rent, utilities, or internet. When they need to charge their devices, they plug them into a power strip at the gym or library.

"Mine is barebones [sic] in the shady part of town but I've never had any issues," PM_ME_SOME_BIRDS writes.

Packing up camp, and heading to the Beartooth Highway 😍

A photo posted by Home-Sweet-Van (@homesweetvan) on Jun 20, 2016 at 7:31am PDT on


Getting started goes far beyond hiring a real estate agent. The community turns to one other for help. In the last week, subscribers have posed questions ranging from "what's the best mini-fridge?" to "what it's like to live in a van with a significant other?"

One San Francisco-based user, Moon_Man_Jay, offers to trade beer for help diagnosing a mechanical issue with his friend's '79 Volkswagen. Last year, an experienced dweller held an AMA (or, "Ask Me Anything" forum) filled with tips on the best places to park and observations on towing enforcement.

Life in a van is not without its drawbacks.

VΔN LIFE DREΔMS • • Repost from @sprintervanlife #VanCrush #vanlife #vanlifedreams

A photo posted by Van Grrrl (@van.crush) on Jun 14, 2016 at 9:25pm PDT on


In a post on what it's like to dwell in the Bay Area, one user named fulfilled-life says the cold weather can be a bear. "I'm living in San Francisco in a van," they write. "When I'm 'home,' I wear a marmot [sic] 700-fill jacket, and have a -25 degree sleeping bag at night."

A female San Francisco resident warns the most dangerous part of van dwelling is the risk of being broken into. "It's a little tough at first to get used to the sounds of people walking by without getting paranoid," badluckbritt writes. "Best advice I can give: black your windows out in some way." She owns a knife and pepper spray just in case.

It's unclear just how many subscribers live in vans, work in the technology industry, or reside in the Bay Area. A recent poll of the subreddit showed 36 survey participants consider themselves full-time or part-time van dwellers, while 84 people are actively preparing for the transition. The rest were just curious.


The legality of van dwelling varies from state to state, making the decision to go mobile even more difficult.

Reddit user Vanholio, who drives his van across America and blogs along the way, recently posted an overview of the laws to the group. "While living in your vehicle is a legal right, this freedom is often curtailed," they write.

There's no law that explicitly requires US citizens to maintain a permanent address, but failure to do so can result in a flurry of issues. Applying for a driver's license, registering to vote, or filing taxes, for example, requires an inordinate amount of communication between the van dweller and the government to overcome the obstacle.

It's also illegal in a growing number of cities to sleep in your car. Even if your area protects your rights as a van-vagabond, the company that owns the parking lot you squat in is entitled to call the cops on you for trespassing or loitering.


For some, the liberation of living in the city of their choosing is worth the risk of being caught or judged by their peers.

Reddit user censorinus works in a tech support role and moved into a van about four months ago. The user currently parks in public garages, and hopes to one day drive the van into the woods or the mountains.

"I'm sure I am like many vandwellers [sic] these days who are gainfully employed, maintain a neat and respectable appearance, and am just sick and tired of being financially boxed in," censorinus writes. If more people adopt the van dwelling lifestyle and rebel against the rental market, "it can only be a good thing."

SEE ALSO: How to buy a home in San Francisco's completely insane housing market

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Only in San Francisco — inside the 232-square-foot micro apartment that sold for nearly $425,000

23 Jun 16:39

The 17 Worst Social Media Tips I Ever Got

by Susanna Gebauer

A couple of years ago, I was a total social media fool. I mean, I registered on Facebook because my brother Jonathan and I founded an online based company – everybody was already there and talking, and I did not know how it all worked. I got a personal Twitter account to give our newly created company account a first follower; I had no clue that my personal account would fast outgrow our company account and become one of our most valuable social media assets.

We desperately lacked knowledge, so we talked to many people, who we thought had it all figured out, what we should do and how social media would be done right. That was in 2010. We got some great tips and funny hacks, like clicking on user profiles in XING (the German language equivalent to LinkedIn); that one really worked because Xing shows their users the visitors to the profiles, people got curious and we got their attention. Not a real strategy but it got us some first users for our startup.

But between all the crazy, sometimes working and sometimes total screwed advice, there were some social media tips that are still floating around today, years after I first heard them. Somehow some so called experts keep these tips afloat and listening to them can easily break your social media efforts.

1. You need to be everywhere

When we did not know how to get it right and had no knowledge about any social network, we tried that: Being everywhere. The result is inevitable: Nothing.

Instead of trying to be everywhere at once without getting one social network right, your efforts are not going to pay off. But the advice still runs around that more networks also mean more success. With new networks and channels springing up from the ground everywhere you will soon feel like a hamster in a wheel and still not see results.

I have even seen „experts“ recommending tools to signup in „all“ social networks at once. Sorry, but that is total bullsxxt. Each and every network has its own tweaks and specialties, none of them „work“ simply by being there and starting to post something.

I have also been asked by participants in one of our workshops, why we would not work more with videos on Facebook. While we would love to do that, and really hope to find the time for that soon, the question in itself is a bit like going around and asking a lawyer why he is not a mathematician or doctor or any other random job. The answer is simply: Because I can’t be everything or everywhere at the same time.

You need to focus and set priorities, or your efforts are doomed to fail.

2. The more you post, the better

While many social media newbies struggle to find enough stuff to post in social media the advice is still out there that you need to post as often as possible. Then you see their accounts spit out updates to random topics in high frequency, and you simply have to mute them, or you will drown in superfluous and uninteresting updates.

Know what you are doing and what topics your audience is interested in, before you go for posting more and more. And when you have your topics straight, measure how many updates your audience likes. There is definitely a “too much” at some point.

3. Automation is all bad

I have been told that I should not automate my social media accounts, or people would not follow me. Interestingly enough most of the time this kind of advice comes from accounts with a few hundred followers. They have no clue what it is like to handle several accounts with thousands of followers. They have no clue how it is to run social media accounts besides a full-time job. For us, automation is a gift from heaven.

Social Media marketing automation can be the solution to your marketing problems if you are a blogger or small business owner and if you have other tasks to do and want your accounts to stay active.

The problem is that you should not automate because you can even though you do not know what you are doing. Figure out what works best for your account and then look for a reasonable way to use automation to free up your time for other tasks again.

4. Automation is the solution to everything

It is so easy, and you can do so much with automation. But it comes with some dangers. Automating things before you fully understand them, will easily make all your efforts fail. Advising newbies to automate as much as they can is so bad it leaves me speechless. To harvest the fruits of social media, you have to understand, try things, measure and adjust. Automating may sound like a good idea (and often it is), but it will backfire if you do it blindly.

5. Connect all your accounts and save time

I thought the times of connected accounts when I had to mute friends on Facebook because they spammed me with an endless mix of tweets, pins and Instagram post were long over. But there recently seems to be a revival of this totally gross behavior. And for me, it is an absolute No-Go.

All networks have their own posting schedule and format for a reason. If I want to see your tweets, I will follow you on Twitter, and if I love your pictures, I will find you on Instagram or Pinterest.

If you are not willing to invest the time in all the networks, simply focus on one or two. Tweets on Facebook will simply not do the trick.

6. Hashtags, More Hashtags

Again, before hashtagging everything, make sure you understand how to use them in the different networks. While Instagram will certainly need some more hashtags, a tweet with more than one or two hashtags becomes more or less unreadable and will get you less attention.

Hashtags are a clear case of „more is not necessarily better“ and “know the rules before you start.”

7. Never use DM s on Twitter in Marketing

(Automated) Direct messages seem to be more of a „hate“ factor than a love relationship. But declaring them spam or something you should never do is simply short-sighted and limiting.

I was told a long time ago that I should not use automated direct messages because people would not follow me if I do. Interestingly enough that happened when I was nearing 100k followers on Twitter and usually the people telling me this had a couple of hundred followers.

The truth is while Jonathan and I were still running exploreB2B, Twitter direct messages where an awesome marketing channel for us. We obviously found a message that people did not see as spam, but we gave them something they were looking for and our conversion rates were outstanding.

Direct Messages can work wonders as a marketing channel but you have to be careful with the messaging, or your message will drown in all the other sales messages.

The same goes for a lot of other “never do this” advice. It may just be the solution to all your marketing questions if you get it right. Never say never too fast.

8. Tag influencers

Yes, influencer marketing is the new hype. But there is certainly more to influencer marketing than tagging them in your tweets or images on Facebook.

To be honest, if you tag me in your spammy messages the best that can happen is that I ignore you, I may even take the time and report you as what you are: a spammer.

9. Always respond to negative comments/do not respond to negative comments

I have tried to take trolls seriously, bad idea. Don’t! You can never win. The thing with negative comments is: You can take them seriously and sometimes you should. But there also are times when it is better to ignore them. In the end, it is a gut feeling that will help you decide how to react.

You can never get it right for everybody. That is life!

10. Get started; strategy comes later

Starting social media marketing without the slightest clue about how and what you want to achieve means you are headed straight for huge frustration. Believe me; we have been there.

It’ss not that your strategy needs to be right and goal-getting right from the start, but you need to be clear about what you are doing and where you are headed in order to figure out if it works and what exactly does not work. Only then can you analyze, adjust and eventually achieve what you are looking for.

Starting without a strategy makes it virtually impossible to achieve anything worth your efforts.

11. Get an Intern, no need for an expert

I know that money is scarce when you are starting out. But I also know that you need results – fast. Hiring someone who knows the same that you do (=nothing) is dangerous but can work if the person is willing to learn. Handing over your marketing to an intern is worse. Because once your intern knows what he/she is doing, you will be left right at the start again, because your intern will be gone for a better job.

The nice thing about social media marketing is: You can learn it, too – and you can achieve something with social media even if you do not have the time to do it full time. Plus your personality has the power to give your social media marketing and branding and extra push.

You need to pay respect to your marketing.

12. Social Media equals Facebook; everything else is for pussies

This may be a more German problem, but I see it over and over again. Everybody who knows how to set up a Facebook fanpage and a Facebook ad campaign calls themselves Social Media Manager. They openly admit that they „never understood Twitter“ and Pinterest is only for businesses that work a lot with pictures, right?


Facebook may be a good solution for your social media marketing, but so may Twitter, Instagram, Slideshare, or you name it.

For us, it was not Facebook in the beginning; it was Twitter. If we had followed the advice we would have wasted a ton of money on acquiring Facebook fans for nothing – we did some of that anyways before we figured out that our money was better spent elsewhere.

13. Social Media is the new email

Have you heard recently that „email is dead“ and social media is the new email? Well, whoever told you that is an idiot. Social Media is great, and it is especially great to get subscribers for your email list.

We are social media marketers, but marketing does not stop at social media. You need to put it relation to your other marketing assets. And sure one of your most valuable assets is your list of targeted email subscribers.

It still holds true: The money is in the list – at least if you did not buy it but earned it.

14. Keep your personality out of the equation

This advice is kind of contradictory in itself. After all social media is about being social even if we use it for marketing. Once you have a huge audience, you may get off with being automated and neutral, but to build it you have to show who you are and build a relationship.

Many social media marketing newbies are afraid of showing personality because it makes you vulnerable. But it is also what makes you unique and stand out. Simply keep in mind, that social media is kind of a smaller picture of the world. You will never be friends with or liked by everyone. If you come across people who do not like your personality, move on and connect with people who appreciate who you are. But a lot of people will like your BECAUSE of your personality.

15. Post great content and get people to engage with your updates and you will get more fans/followers

We have been there and done that. Posting great content and trying to engage with people – and waiting for some followers and fans to flock to our accounts. Most of the time, it will not work like that simply because when you are starting out, your following is by far too small to make it spread and no one will see all your efforts to connect.The 17 Worst Social Media Tips I Ever Got

You have two options: either actively make your account being noticed on the social network – it can be but does not have to be via ads – or get famous in another way outside of social media and use your fame to grow your accounts – that is what celebrities do.

16. The only post once a day (Twitter) or three times a week (Facebook)

Most people who cannot make social media work for their business post not often enough. One tweet per day is almost like not tweeting at all which is as good as invisible. And posting every other week on Facebook is the same.

It is not all about posting more and more all the time. You have to figure out what your audience wants – and find stuff to post that your audience likes. If you have nothing to say, then do not say anything. If you have value to share, your audience is going to like some more of it.

17. Be very careful what you say – it never gets deleted

We have heard this often, and we have seen what comes of it: People who are too afraid of saying the wrong thing, so they end up saying nothing.

You are allowed to have an opinion and a voice in social media, simply keep in mind that you are still talking to people. They have feelings and a right to their own opinion. Stay polite and do not get offensive – and you will be ok. You got along all your life outside of social media; you know how to talk to people!

Final Words

I started this post as a quick rant – obviously, we got a lot more bad social media advice along our way than I thought. The main thing you should take away from this post is: Listen to advice but do not believe everything. Some advice is simply bad and some tips may be right for some situations but may not apply to you. If in doubt, just try it out and measure your outcome. That is the best answer you can get to the question: should I or should I not.

This article originally appeared on our blog.

23 Jun 16:39

Opting Out of Android Push Notifications Just Got a Whole Lot Easier

by Todd Grennan

For a lot of people, when they think about mobile messaging, they think of push notifications. And while that’s an incomplete view—there’s more to push than just smartphones and tablets, and channels like in-app messaging, email, and News Feed Cards should all be part of your mobile outreach mix—the association is understandable. Push notifications came to prominence with mobile and they’re still one of the most effective ways to reach customers with urgent outreach.

But they only work if your customers are willing to opt-in to receive them. And a little-noticed announcement at last month’s Google I/O event suggests that reaching Android customers with push is about to get a lot harder.

The Android/iOS opt-out difference

Right now, only 40% of iOS users and 60% of people on Android currently accept push notifications. And a major factor in the opt-in gap between iOS and Android apps is the way that each operating system handles app permissions.

On iOS, in order to get permission to send a customer push notifications (or to collect their location information, access their contacts, or use their phone’s camera, for that matter), brands have to trigger an iOS system prompt that allows customers to opt in or not. That makes it easy for customers to say no. Android, on the other hand, has traditionally granted app permissions in bulk at the time of install—meaning that someone who chose to download an Android app had to manually opt out of push after the fact, making it less likely that they take that step.

The new announcement: Two taps and (opted) out

During Google I/O, David Burke, Google’s vice president of engineering for Android, announces that Android N—the new version of the mobile OS, due later this year—would make it even easier for users to silence or opt out of push notifications. He wasn’t kidding: on Android N, when a user receives a push notification from one of their apps, all they have to do to access that app’s push notification permissions setting is long tap the message; a second click can make future pushes from that app silent, or block them completely.

That’s a game-changer for Android push notifications. By removing a major obstacle that Android users face when it comes to opting out of push notifications (namely having to find and manually update push permissions), Google’s update will likely lead customers to rescind push approval more frequently, potentially limiting the impact of this messaging channel on Android.

How marketers can respond

It’s always been a good idea to send your customer messages that are relevant and add value. But with Google’s new announcement, providing customers with a top-flight, individually customized messaging experience isn’t a nice-to-have thing anymore—it’s essential.

With this update to Android N, if you send an irrelevant or annoying push notification to one of your Android users, they’re only two taps away from opting out of push. And that’s true for every single push you send them. Using this channel in slapdash or generic ways is a recipe for a major drop in the number of customers you can reach with push.

To avoid that, marketers can:

  • Personalize the messages they send for each recipient
  • Target their outreach to customers based on their preferences and in-app behavior
  • Use send-time optimization to make sure that users get push notifications at times when they’re open to engaging
  • Take advantage of multivariate testing to optimize the messages they send
  • Keep the user experience central to their messaging by putting themselves in their customers’ shoes

By focusing on using your messaging to create and maintain strong, mutually beneficial relationships with your customers, you can incentivize them to stay opted in for push notifications while also making it more likely that they stick around over the long-term.

23 Jun 16:38

How To Get In Touch With Mark Cuban

by Nikhil Sharma


Whether it’s Justin Bieber or Mark Cuban, everyone you may seek to get in contact with is only six connections away from you. For example, if I wanted to connect with President Obama, I could go through a former classmate of mine from middle school (contact 1), I’d then go through her dad who went to college with Obama (contact 2), who could could get to Obama. In this case it only took 3 steps for me to get to the President, but you get the point.

So many people have a great idea, or a great record that just needs to get to the right singer; yet they feel it’s virtually impossible to reach that person. Wrong! I’d say most of my business relationships today came from a cold-email, or if that wasn’t enough, it was a text message, or a WhatsApp message. If you know me, you know I never give up on getting in touch with whomever I want to get in touch with, no matter who it is.

Mark Cuban? Had a great conversation with him. Fifth Harmony? See for yourself, here. Naveen Jain? Such a humble man. Pitbull? I remember he told me and a few Google execs the backstory about his song “Google Me.” Gary Vaynerchuk? Yep, we WhatsApp-ed too. The point is, I don’t give up whether you’re a celebrity, billionaire or someone who vacations in Space. Why? Because if I can figure out a way to hit you up and we can mutually benefit each other with some form of value, why resist?

Now, here are some of the quick ways to start getting in contact with people:

1. Check the Whois Records

You can never go wrong with checking the Whois record for someone. Most people purchase their domains through top 3 providers, all of which charge an extra $7.99 a year for Whois privacy. And for the most part, people leave it open; exposing their phone numbers, addresses, emails, etc.

Try it out with Hoodie Allen — a pretty big rapper. I think his first EP even debuted at #10 on Billboard.

So first, you need to figure out his website address. It’s simply

Next, go to, and paste the domain in the search bar. Hit “enter.”

Boom. He didn’t protect his info. You can see his email, address, and phone number. Sometimes people put an office number though, so the best test is to put that number in iMessage (if you have an iPhone; if you don’t have an iPhone, just leave) and send a message to see if it’s green or blue. If it’s blue, then you’ve got the cell #, which in this case you do for Hoodie Allen!

2. Try Googling For Their Email

This is how I found Mark Cuban’s email. Again, this is not weird. In fact, I found tons of forums and threads on how he gets back to nearly everyone who emails him during his 2–3 hour treadmill sessions. He responds to everything from random messages thanking him for something he may have done, to pitches for startups and investments.

His was pretty simple: first-initial, last-name @ gmail dot com. You didn’t hear it from me.

3. Use ZoomInfo For Their Email

ZoomInfo is such an amazing yet creepy platform. The idea is that you can join for free and get access to 80 records of info if you link your own email contacts when you sign up. They basically collect information from everyone’s contacts and put it in their database. I’ve also heard they scrape email signatures? I doubt that’s true though.

This is a great tool if you’re just looking for a few names. I encourage you to check it out (it’s free), and grab a few emails and phone numbers (they only have office lines) of people you’ve been dying to connect with.

4. Just Get Creative

If none of the above methods work, then you need to get creative. Utilize different channels to get the attention of whoever you’re trying to grab attention from. Whether it’s through Twitter, Medium (in the comments), Facebook Messenger, Instagram DMs, Snapchat, Product Hunt comments, or LinkedIn, there are so many ways you can get in touch with a person. If all else fails, then use the 6-person rule and start hacking away at those relationships to get to your final introduction.

This article originally appeared on Nik’s daily content series, The Life of Nik on Medium, here.

23 Jun 16:33

Seller Differentiation Is the New Competitive Differentiation


Even if you represent a strong brand and product, you may need to work on seller differentiation in order to be positioned favorably in the buyer’s mind.

In this age of empowered buyers, commoditization is rampant. Buyers tend to over-simplify product comparisons, stripping it down to price. What’s more, they lump all sellers into the same category — often the “to be avoided” category, unfortunately.

To standout from the crowd, sellers need to distinguish themselves. Seller differentiation gives buyers a reason to seek you out. Note: that’s YOU, not your product or service or brand. YOU.

Seller Differentiation Matters Even More When Competitive Differentiation Is Weak

Without clear competitive differentiation of products or brand, this is even more important.

In this scenario, a seller’s best shot at making the sales is to personally differentiate himself or herself from all the other sellers vying for the buyer’s business. The benefits of seller differentiation go beyond this initial sale, too.

Some sellers retain customers single-handedly. That’s what’s happening when buyers migrate to follow a seller who leaves an organization. Buyers choose the seller even though the company, brand or product is no longer competitively differentiated in the customer’s mind. Every seller should strive for that kind of buyer loyalty by differentiating himself or herself.

Seller differentiation includes anything setting you apart in a way that makes you competitive. Without relying on your company’s brand or your product’s strengths, think about why a buyer would choose to do business with you personally. What do you bring that is of value?

As you consider this question, focus on what you bring with real, relevant and apparent value to the buyer. That you were the #1 seller in your company last year is simply not of value to the buyer. That you have more experience than most other sellers in your market and field is also not of interest to your buyer. In fact, both of these facts could be viewed negatively by the buyer. The top seller, the buyer may think, must be really aggressive and pushy. The most experienced seller, a buyer might assume, won’t have any fresh or new ideas for us and will be stuck in the past.

Next Steps:seller differentiation

  • This blog post features an excerpt from the best-seller “DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected.” To learn more about how to connect with buyers and gain their trust, buy the full copy of this award-winning book from as a paperback or e-book.
  • When you need sales or management coaching, customized sales training, or a dynamic speaker call us at or book an appointment with Deb.
  • Check out these resources for sales managers and front line sellers. New webinars, infographics, research, podcasts and more added every month!


The award-winning CONNECT2Sell Blog is for professional sellers who believe, as we do, that Every Sale Starts with a Connection.

Deb Calvert, “DISCOVER Questions® Get You Connected” author and Top 50 Sales Influencer, is President of People First Productivity Solutions, a UC Berkeley instructor, and a former Sales/Training Director of a Fortune 500 media company. She speaks and writes about the Stop Selling & Start Leading movement and offers sales training, coaching and consulting as well as leadership development programs. She is certified as an executive and sales coach by the ICF and has worked in every sector and in 14 countries to build leadership capacity, team effectiveness and sales productivity with a “people first” approach.

The post Seller Differentiation Is the New Competitive Differentiation appeared first on People First.

23 Jun 16:29

Killing the startup myth: “We never marketed our product”

by (Steli Efti)

What’s the quickest way to tell any investor, advisor, or experienced entrepreneur that you have no idea what you’re doing?

Simple. Just tell them this: “We didn’t spend any money on marketing.”

The no-marketing movement is an epidemic among new founders, like somehow it’s “cool” to neglect a vital part of startup growth.

Forget fads. Here’s the truth: You can’t get customers without marketing. If a startup has even one customer, they’ve marketed their product.

End of story.

Anyone who says otherwise is either lying to make themselves look better, or doesn’t understand what marketing actually is.

What “marketing” actually means

Most people who claim they’ve never marketed don’t understand what it actually means to market something.


When they say, “We grew to 5,000 customers without marketing,” what they really mean is, “We grew to 5,000 customers without paid advertising.”

Although paid advertising is a form of marketing, that’s not all marketing is. Put simply, marketing is any activity that generates customers.

  • Building an MVP? That’s marketing.
  • Creating a website? Marketing.
  • Cold calling campaigns? Also marketing.
  • Listing your startup on LinkedIn? More marketing.
  • Telling your mom about your product? Yup, also marketing.

Even saying, “We’ve never marketed our startup,” is marketing, because you’re telling someone about your business.

Back to basics: The 4 P’s of marketing

Almost everything you do in a startup is marketing. To better understand this, take a look at Neil Borden’s 4 P’s of marketing:

  • Product: Creating a product with the intention of selling it to a specific market.
  • Price: Pricing your product based on the budget of your ideal customers.
  • Placement: Positioning your product in various distribution channels.
  • Promotion: Word-of-mouth marketing, social media, cold emailing, etc.

When most people think of marketing, they only think of promotion, but promotion is usually the last step in a long marketing process.

No marketing? No funding

Never tell a potential investor you haven’t started marketing yet. It won’t impress them. If anything, they’ll write you off immediately.

You may think you’re saying, “We’ve already got 1,000 paying customers without marketing. Just imagine what we could do with your funding,” but that’s not what they’re hearing.

To them, you’re saying, “I know our numbers aren’t great yet. That’s because we don’t really understand marketing. But once you give us your money, we’ll try and figure it out.”

At best, you sound like you don’t know what you’re talking about. After all, any worthwhile investor knows you couldn’t have gotten where you are without marketing.

At worst, you sound desperate and dishonest, like you’ll say whatever it takes to impress them out of their money.

You might win over a few investors with a marketing-free pitch, but they’re not the type of people you want tied to your startup. These types of investors are inexperienced, irresponsible, and reckless.

Stop pretending, start implementing

If you’ve been pretending to be a marketing-free startup—stop. It isn’t helping your business or impressing your audience.

If anything, it’s making you look worse.

Take control of your marketing by planning intentional campaigns and tracking your data. Not sure where to start? Look at what’s worked in the past. Identify your most valuable customers and ask these three questions:

  1. How did we acquire these customers?
  2. Are those strategies scalable?
  3. If so, how can we repeat them? If not, what can we do instead?

Use those answers to create your first official marketing campaign. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or expensive; it just needs to provide trackable data to improve future campaigns.

After a couple campaigns, you’ll have enough data to start approaching investors again. And this time, they’ll actually want to hear what you have to say. After all, data speaks louder than words.

There’s no growth without marketing

Don’t be impressed or inspired by startups who say they don’t market. They’re wrong and, unless something changes, they won’t be around for long.

Marketing is what got you your first customer and is what will get you your millionth. There’s no way around it, so you may as well embrace it.

The sooner you get strategic about your marketing, the sooner your marketing can start working for you.

Soon you’ll find that you’ll scale much faster than those “marketing free” startups could ever dream of.

Recommended reading:

SaaS pricing: You're too cheap if you never lose customers because of pricing
Price is one of the 4 P's of marketing. If your SaaS never loses customers because the price's too high, you're priced too low. Learn why and how to avoid this typical pricing mistake.

How to create your ideal customer profile for B2B lead generation
Want to generate high-quality marketing and sales leads? It begins with developing an ideal customer profile. Here's the no-nonsense guide that creates killer results.

How to determine the ROI of your marketing (without analytics)
Want to find out which of your marketing efforts are most effective? Here's a simple hack. You don't need complex tracking software!

23 Jun 16:29

Essential Customer Service Skills We’ve Forgotten in the Digital Age

by Stuart Leung

Evidence shows that consumers believe overall customer service is actually getting worse. Arizona State University found that customer complaints climbed from 45% to 50% between 2011 and 2013. And, according to a 2014 study by NewVoiceMedia, poor customer service costs businesses in the U.S. approximately $41 billion every year. More and more clients are having negative customer experiences, and those experiences are translating into a substantial dollar-loss for businesses throughout the nation.

With today’s competitive marketplace, fed-up customers are discovering they can simply take their business elsewhere. Gone are the days when customers were forced to endure poor service due to lack of available alternatives. The modern consumer has an almost limitless field of possibilities, all available at the click of a button. As a result, they are becoming much less forgiving of customer neglect. In fact, 65% of customers have completely cut ties with a brand over a single bad experience. And internet-based businesses aren’t immune to this new-found customer awareness, either: Roughly 60% of web users who encounter a problem (customer experience or otherwise) on a company’s website immediately leave the site and/or visit a competitor’s site. So, whether your company is B2B focused, business-to-customer oriented, web-based or brick-and-mortar, there’s no doubt that customer neglect can significantly reduce your profits.

The decline of the customer-centered mentality

What’s the cause of this decline in customer service? The answer depends on a variety of factors. For one thing, the modern customer is more aware of what good customer service is. Companies that are being consistently recognized as having superior customer service are taking advantage of the positive publicity a customer-focused business plan creates. They use transparency and social media communication to ensure potential customers around the world know exactly what kind of positive experiences they could be having. This puts a great deal of pressure on businesses to provide equally awe-inspiring customer service. Once clients realize top-quality service is a possibility, they begin to expect it from every business they encounter.

The almost infinite reach of the internet has made it possible for even the smallest of businesses to amass customers from all over the world. As this international customer base grows, business leaders are forced to reallocate more and more of their finite resources towards customer service. This becomes an even more difficult task to accomplish as your client base grows. Add to that the issues of providing customer service across multiple languages and cultural norms, and the cost and complication increases even more.


Digital difficulties

Virtually every issue associated with the decline of customer service results from the advancement of the digital age. Simply put, as our reach and abilities have increased, the one-on-one focus of pre-internet business has declined. This is unfortunate, because approximately 70% of buying decisions are made based upon how a customer feels that he or she is being treated.

The digital age doesn’t have to mark the end of the era of customer satisfaction. By recognizing and re-committing to some essential customer service skills that businesses around the world have been disregarding, you can ensure your customers remain happy.

Here are four customer service skills that many businesses need to re-learn:

1. Patience
If there’s one thing that has come to define the digital age, it’s speed. High-speed internet, instant video streaming, Wikipedia-style informational databases, online shopping with next-day delivery—all seem to promise customers everything, all without having to wait for it. Businesses believe that by rushing potential customers through the sales process, they’ll have more time to devote to acquiring new leads. However, there’s something to be said for taking a more leisurely approach. When companies and clients are able to move slowly through the sales funnel, the extra time allows for better mutual understanding. Of course, many customers may still insist on a quick resolution. It’s the responsibility of the business to ensure the customer fully understands what he or she is committing to. When necessary, explain to hurried customers that in order to provide the best customer service, there are important steps that can’t be rushed. Most customers would rather invest the time to ensure competent service, than be quickly rushed into something they may end up regretting.

2. Knowledge
Few things are more frustrating for a customer than having to deal with unknowledgeable company representatives. A nightmare situation many consumers have experienced happens when a customer is transferred from department to department, having to re-explain their situation again and again to representatives who either don’t have the authority or understanding to make things right. The majority of employees who work directly with customers are often situated at the bottom rung of the corporate ladder. It’s become even more prevalent as many businesses are now choosing to outsource customer service departments in answer to their growing customer base. But while it may make sense financially to spend less on customer-service specialists, it makes absolutely no sense at all when you consider the customer service implications.

Your customers are your company’s most important resource, and without them your business ceases to exist. So, spend necessary time, effort, and money to ensure that those within your organization who work directly with your customers have the training and authority necessary to give them a positive experience. Think of these added expenses as investments: 55% of customers would be willing to pay more for a better customer experience, so go ahead and charge a little bit more to make up for the added training.

3. Understanding
When you have the opportunity to meet your customers directly and communicate with them face-to-face, it’s generally less difficult to understand them. But as more and more customer interactions are taking place on the virtual stage, the ability to accurately ‘read’ customers is diminishing.This is because there are many more layers to conversation than can be conveyed through words. Body language, voice inflection, and a thousand other details that are vital to communication are garbled when businesses and customers attempt to communicate through text, telephone, or video conferencing. These limitations can be circumvented, however. A 2013 Business Insider article provides a number of useful tips on how to read people, and many of those tips can be easily adapted for use in long-distance communication. That having been said, when it comes to accurately conveying intentions, feelings, and ideas, there is no substitute for honesty. If customers and representatives can communicate openly, they’ll be more likely to reach a favorable outcome.

4. Approachability
Customers don’t simply want the best products or the best prices; they want the best people. Personality has always been an important aspect of the customer-business dichotomy. But with the necessary automation of sales processes, it’s becoming more difficult for customers to connect with businesses. As a result, businesses become faceless, uncaring entities in the eyes of the consumer. The remedy: A simple name tag. A name tag shows your customers that you welcome their questions, concerns and anything else. Of course, when operating over a digital medium, a physical name tag becomes somewhat ineffective. You can make up for that via social media pages that are well-maintained and give your customers a place to connect with your organization. The benefits of this kind of connection have been well documented: 77% of buyers are more likely to buy from a company if its CEO is active in social media, and 46% of web users visit a company’s social media pages before committing to a purchase. Also, organizations that deliver customer support through social media achieve gains of 7.5%, in comparison to the 2.9% gains seen by those organizations that do not.

The digital age has opened up an entirely new universe in which businesses are able to generate new leads and establish customer relationships. Unfortunately, it has also played a part in driving a wedge between consumers and organizations. However, by identifying the aspects of customer service that are routinely being neglected and training employees to focus their attention on repairing these breaches, your organization can take advantage of the increased speed and reach of the 21st century digital landscape.

Don’t let customer neglect separate your business from the people on whom it depends. Recommit to customer retention and satisfaction through building customer service skills, and you’ll find that as you make their happiness your priority, your customers will respond accordingly.

Want more tips for awesome customer service? Download the free e-book for 25 of them!

23 Jun 16:29

Why Popup Overlays are Taking Over Lead Generation

by James Scherer

Why Popup Overlays are Taking Over Lead Generation

It’s not even an argument anymore.

There are enough sites out there with some form of popup overlay that I can stop arguing about whether or not your business should consider them.

Wishpond alone uses entry, exit, scroll and javascript popups throughout our sales funnel. We’ve increased our blog signup rates by 82% with them, doubled blog subscription, and improved final-stage conversion (on the pricing page) by 22%.

This article will give you the popup overlay strategies we’ve seen revolutionizing the lead generation world.

Use Scroll Popups to Build your List

Blog subscription is likely the most common way businesses are using popups and it’s no surprise why.

A scroll popup (like the one below) is set to be triggered a set distance down your blog article (we’ve found that 30-50% works best).

Scroll popups work because they’re delivered only when your blog readers have already gotten value from your brand. They’re halfway down an awesome article and you ask them if they’d like to receive more content like it.

Prospective leads are never more likely to convert than when they’re already smack dab in the middle of receiving something of value from your business.

Here’s a scroll popup overlay example:

Why Popup Overlays are Taking Over Lead Generation

Use Click Popups to Boost Blog Lead Generation

Click popups are the most influential thing we’ve added to the Wishpond blog in the past couple years. When we switched over from landing pages to click popups, our lead generation conversion rates doubled overnight.

I wrote about that in “How We Doubled Blog Lead Generation with Click Popups” if you’re interested in learning more about it.

Click popups work because you’re not making your blog or site traffic go anywhere to convert.

Your site traffic is lazy. The easier it is for conversion, the higher rate you’ll get.

Think of it like this…

You’re walking down an aisle in a grocery store. A table has been set out and they’re giving away free samples of something awesome – chocolate, beef jerky, Glenlivet, whatever.

You try it, love it, and the young man behind the table tells you “right now this product is on sale, 50% off!”

But then he says, “the only problem is that you have to go to our other branch, which is on the other side of town, to get it.”

A click popup is the equivalent of that young man saying “right now this product is 50% off and you can have the one I’m holding.

Get it?

Here’s an example:

Use Entry Popups to Frame E-commerce Buy-ins

Ecommerce purchases are a fickle thing. To optimize for an e-commerce purchase, the price has to be right, the reviews have to be good and, most of all, there can’t be fees at the final stage which the consumer did not anticipate.

The majority of potential purchases that get to the “checkout” stage aren’t completed because of shipping or tax additions – they turn a $30 purchase into a $37 purchase, which makes all the difference.

Entry popups are a proven way to frame the entire process. Give a 10% discount or free shipping to first-time visitors and their entire online shopping experience will be different.

The most common way you see this is through an incentivized subscription, like below:

Why Popup Overlays are Taking Over Lead Generation

Again, creating this popup from a Wishpond template took me all of 2 minutes (mostly the finding and uploading of the background image).

Once you’ve created your entry popup, switch over to the “Thank You” part of the editor and drop in a discount code (your e-commerce platform will have a walkthrough.

Simple as that.

Use Exit Popups to Reduce Bounce Rates

Website optimization is all about little wins: turning a page which converts at 22% to one that converts at 25%. Sure, it doesn’t sound like much, but those little wins go a long way over the course of a year or 100,000 visitors.

Exit popups are an easy way to give you an easy win.

When the rest of your website has failed to capture your traffic’s interest, an exit popup is pretty much your last chance (unless, of course, you’re running a remarketing campaign).

Triggered automatically when a visitor’s cursor indicates that it’s leaving the page, an exit popup should be focused around a value-add. And you should, if anything, ask for less than the page does.

For instance, if I’m running a “5 Free Yoga Sessions” promotion on my yoga studio’s website, the exit popup might look like this:

Why Popup Overlays are Taking Over Lead Generation

Recently, Wishpond has been A/B testing the addition of an exit popup on our pricing page – prompting visitors to register for a free VIP demo before deciding whether our software is right, or wrong, for them.

Here’s the results of that A/B test:

Why Popup Overlays are Taking Over Lead Generation

Because this is running on our pricing page (an extremely important page within our sales funnel), that 22% increase translates to several thousand dollars a month in increased revenue.

22 Jun 18:22

7 timeless lessons from Bill Gates' favorite business book

by Richard Feloni

bill gates

People listen when Bill Gates has something to say.

Two years ago, Gates had his favorite business book, 1969's "Business Adventures" by John Brooks, pulled out of obscurity and put back into print. With the force of Gates' passionate recommendation behind it, it became a bestseller.

He continues to publicly vouch for it, most recently last month in an interview with the New York Times Style Magazine.

On his personal blog, Gates said that he fell in love with the book, a collection of Brooks' New Yorker articles detailing some of the most important events in corporate America in the mid-20th century, back in 1991, when he was still CEO of Microsoft. He had asked Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett what his favorite business book was, and Buffett responded by sending Gates his personal copy of "Business Adventures."

"Brooks's work is a great reminder that the rules for running a strong business and creating value haven't changed," Gates wrote in his post.

We've gone through "Business Adventures" and highlighted some of its key lessons that are still applicable today:

SEE ALSO: I spent 4 days in Arkansas for the 14,000-person Walmart shareholders meeting, and it's unlike anything else in the corporate world

Innovators need to keep innovating

Gates wrote that one of the most instructive stories in the book, especially when taken in a historical context, is the article with his favorite title, "Xerox Xerox Xerox Xerox." Brooks chronicled how Xerox recruited researchers to develop the product that would replace the mimeograph machine and change how offices worked around the world. Five years after the Xerox 914 hit the mass market in 1960, "xeroxing" was part of pop culture and the company brought in $500 million in revenue.

But beyond Brooks' account, Xerox's leadership had grown comfortable with its early success. This attitude would eventually lead to huge losses in the late 1970s as competitors started releasing their own photocopiers.

Gates believed this could have been avoided by Xerox executives embracing, rather than ignoring, the advances Xerox made with graphical user interfaces. They did not turn it into a marketable technology because they believed it didn't fit into their legacy, but companies like Apple and Microsoft built on this tech to great success.

"I know I'm not alone in seeing this decision as a mistake on Xerox's part," Gates wrote. "I was certainly determined to avoid it at Microsoft. I pushed hard to make sure that we kept thinking big about the opportunities created by our research in areas like computer vision and speech recognition."

Place extra resources into what matters for long-term success

Xerox's founding is important to look at, as well.

Joseph C. Wilson, the company's founder, inherited The Haloid Photographic Company in the late 1940s. After learning of the physicist Chester Carlson's invention of an electronic printing machine, he made an agreement with Carlson and decided that his company's future was in finding a way to turn the experiment into an easy-to-use office tool.

Wilson took the new name of this copying process, xerography, and renamed his company Haloid Xerox in 1958, while the xerography machine was still in development.

Wilson's board grew anxious as he insisted on the years of R&D the machine required, and Brooks explains that even the researchers weren't convinced they could create a marketable product. Wilson could have given customers a cumbersome product, but it likely would have bombed and then later improved upon by a competitor. But $75 million later, the Xerox 914 made Wilson and his executive team rich and Xerox a household name.

Business can be done with social purposes

Brooks expressed fascination with Wilson's do-gooder rhetoric, concluding that it was genuine.

Today, many companies hype their compassionate corporate cultures, but it was less common in the 1960s. Wilson believed that it was his duty to donate millions of dollars to charities and universities and to have progressive hiring policies during the civil rights movement.

Wilson's unorthodox ideas initially faced pushback, and then, along with similar initiatives, were torn apart in the 1970s by the Nobel Prize-winning-economist Milton Friedman, who advocated for placing utmost primacy on shareholders, not society.

In the post-Great Recession world, however, Wilson's ideals of investing resources into employees and society are now fundamentally seen as beneficial for business performance, and thus good for shareholders, too.

See the rest of the story at Business Insider
22 Jun 18:21

How Startups Can Bounce Back After a Failed First Launch

by Jodi Goldstein
Bouncing back after you don't get the traction you need sounds so simple in hindsight. However, in the moment, it's an extraordinarily daunting task.
22 Jun 18:17

These 12 cities are going all in on renewable energy

by Danielle Muoio

A number of cities are ready to step away from fossil fuels.

wind turbine sunset

While some cities have already accomplished this goal, others plan to in the near future. Either way, many cities are taking the step towards a more sustainable future.

Scroll down to see if your hometown makes our list of cities set to rely entirely on renewable energy by 2050.

MORE: Chameleons have a sticky secret to help them hunt

UP NEXT: Pharma stocks are soaring for the first time in weeks because something didn't happen

Well to start, some cities are already relying 100% on renewable energy sources! Like Aspen, Colorado.

Aspen runs entirely on renewable energy produced from wind, solar, and geothermal heat. The city reached its goal in September when it signed a contract with the Municipal Energy Agency of Nebraska. Aspen gets its wind energy from four wind farms in Nebraska and South Dakota.

Source: Aspen Times

Greensburg, Kansas

The small city of Greensburg accomplished its goal of running entirely on renewable energy way back in 2013. It constructed energy efficient, LEED-certified buildings after a large portion of the city was destroyed by a tornado. Wind turbines supply much of the city's renewable energy, about two-thirds of which isn't even used and is supplied back to the energy grid.

Source: US Department of Energy

Burlington, Vermont

Burlington is actually the first major city to run entirely on renewable energy and accomplished its goal of doing so in early 2015.  The city runs on a mix of biomass, wind, solar, and hydropower. However, if the renewable plants aren't producing enough power, Burlington will use traditional power. 

Source: Fast CoExist

See the rest of the story at Business Insider
22 Jun 18:17

Turn Gmail Into a Powerful Collaboration Tool with These Apps

by Sandy Stachowiak

When it is time to collaborate with your team, there are plenty of extensive applications that can assist you. However, these days many of us still live in our inboxes. So, when you want to collaborate on emails received, those you are composing, or even hold a quick conversation, this can all be done right from your Gmail account. Luckily, there are terrific tools and tips that can help. Let’s take a look at some of the best. Email Tools That Can Help Hiver With Hiver, you can manage your business right from your Gmail account by using labels, assigning...

Read the full article: Turn Gmail Into a Powerful Collaboration Tool with These Apps

22 Jun 18:16

Dropbox targets business users with new productivity tools including mobile document scanning

by Josh McConnell

Dropbox Inc. unveiled tools for scanning documents using a smartphone camera and for creating new Microsoft Office documents with the click of a button, as the file-storage company pushes into new parts of the corporate cloud-services market.

The new features will let users scan physical documents, whiteboards, receipts and Post-It notes and store them as Dropbox files, the San Francisco-based company announced Wednesday. Business customers of Dropbox can then search the captured files using character recognition. People working on the free mobile app for Apple Inc.’s iOS can click a new Plus button to create Word, PowerPoint and Excel files and automatically save them to Dropbox.


Dropbox is trying to expand from file-syncing and sharing into the far larger market of cloud-based collaboration. The company is focusing on adding features that let employees work together, comment, chat and create, putting Dropbox into competition with a larger group of companies, from current rivals Microsoft Corp. and Google to newer competitors like Slack and Atlassian.

“We want to go from keeping your files in sync to keeping your team in sync,” said Todd Jackson, the company’s vice president of product and design, in an interview before the company’s announcement. “We are starting to layer on communication on top of files.”

Real-time comments

New communication features will include one that lets users highlight a piece of text or image in a file and comment on it. The company also previewed a tool for adding a series of real- time comments at the top of a file, so several people can hold running discussions. The company declined to give details about how the previewed features will eventually appear in the products.

Another future tool will tell users which coworkers are also looking at a file or have viewed it recently — a Dropbox function that works with Microsoft Office files now, but the company wants to bring it to many other file types and apps, Jackson said. Several of the new features rely on a partnership between Dropbox and Microsoft, which is also one of Dropbox’s biggest rivals.

“We want to take the tools that people know and love like Microsoft Office and make them more collaborative,” Jackson said. “We’re working with them really closely, and to their credit they’ve been incredibly open. They, like us, want to embrace the tools people are using.”

Closely held Dropbox has faced questions over its valuation — which reached US$10 billion in a 2014 funding round — in the past year as several investors wrote down the value of their holdings in the company. It’s trying to cut costs and focus on attracting more business customers with additional productivity and security features. Last week at the Bloomberg Technology Conference, Chief Executive Officer Drew Houston saidDropbox isn’t profitable yet but is free-cash-flow positive, a milestone Jackson attributed to revenue growth and greater discipline on costs.

The cloud file-sync and share market was forecast to generate US$1.95 billion in revenue last year, according to researcher IDC, divided up among companies like Dropbox, Microsoft and Box Inc. as well as Apple Inc. and Google. Jackson said Dropbox wants to more directly address the broader — and more competitive — market for cloud collaboration services and Internet-based software, which he sees as more like tens of billions in sales annually.

Later this year, Dropbox also plans to revamp its products to give information technology administrators greater control and added security options, part of its effort to lure more corporate customers, Jackson said.

Bloomberg News

22 Jun 18:14

How to Get Around Most Airlines' Hidden Fees

by Kristin Wong on Two Cents, shared by Andy Orin to Lifehacker

Flying is cheaper than it used to be. Adjusted for inflation, a ticket from LA to Kansas City cost $575 in 1955 , compared to a couple hundred bucks today. Flights are more affordable these days, but pretty much everything costs extra. Here’s how to get around those fees, especially the hidden ones.


22 Jun 18:03

The National Post guide to Brexit: Things to know as Brits head to the polls — and a worried Europe watches

by Tristin Hopper

In Thursday vote, the European Union could see the first-ever departure of a member state. The United Kingdom is putting their E.U. membership to a country-wide referendum that still remains too close to call.

For an anxious Europe, meanwhile, Brexit (British Exit) is about way more than passports or tariffs; if the Brits leave, the whole postwar European experiment could come crashing down in their wake.


The United Kingdom, unlike a certain Canadian province, is known for asking clear and understandable questions in its referenda. On June 23, Britons will be asked, quite simply, “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?”



National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

Future historians will hasten to note that the U.K.’s Brexit debate occurred at the height of the Syrian refugee crisis. And indeed, only a year in which one million migrants flooded into Europe, there’s very little the U.K. could do to stop them moving to Manchester if they get E.U. citizenship. Just like in the United States, free movement of labour is a pretty key component of the whole E.U. experiment. Acccording to YouGov, more than 40 per cent of decided Brexiteers are casting their ballot primarily because of immigration fears.

Everyone hates the E.U.

National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

Few Britons “love” the E.U. And even some of the fiercest defenders for the Remain camp will admit that the E.U. is an annoying, power-hungry Romance-language-speaking bureaucracy. The divide is whether Britain should try to change it from the inside, or ditch it altogether and (possibly) pray for its destruction. “I am negotiating hard to fix things that most annoy British people about our relationship with the EU,” said Remain-defender David Cameron in his New Year’s address.


All about the quid

National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

Just like Paul McCartney’s 2008 divorce from Heather Mills, there may be good reasons for an E.U. separation, but it’s not going to be cheap. The almost universal opinion among economists, from the IMF to the Bank of England, is that Brexit will incur job losses, kneecap growth and shrink government revenues — although it’s anybody’s guess how much. The essential verdict from the accountants is that E.U. membership is akin to a Guns N’ Roses reunion tour: Sure, it’s awkward and unpleasant, but tell that to the swimming pool of money it generates

Believe in…Canada?
In what may be a first in British history, campaigners are touting a cause on the grounds that it would make the U.K. more like Canada. The Great White North, along with Australia and New Zealand, has been mentioned frequently by Brexiteers as a model of how their country should conduct itself. Namely, Canada isn’t subject to any E.U. rules or fees, but the country will soon be getting a free trade agreement with the Eurozone anyway.


National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

Nigel Farage, Leader, UKIP

The longtime head of anti-EU forces in the UK. In what he hoped would be his final speech to the European Parliament, Nigel Farage said he hoped Britain’s exit would bring “an end to this entire project.”


National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

The Sun

At 2.2 million readers, The Sun is the U.K.’s second largest newspaper by circulation. This week, the Rupert Murdoch-owned tabloid urged readers that voting “yes” was their last chance to escape a “relentlessly expanding ­German dominated federal state.” The result was an immediate edge for the Leave camp. 

Scottish politicians have warned that if the U.K. leaves Europe, Scots will leave them. But it’s a different story in England’s other semi-independent appendage, with polls showing the Welsh siding with England in backing Brexit. The idea seems to be that the Common Market has ravished the Welsh steel industry, and that Brexit could free up some extra money from London.

National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

Boris Johnson, former mayor of London

Johnson, the world’s most famous British municipal politician, has been the premier quote generator for the Brexit campaign. Among other things, he’s compared breaking up the E.U. to breaking up the Warsaw Pact — everyone will be better off once it’s over.



National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

Eddie Izzard, Comedian

A self-described “British European” who is the celebrity face of the Remain campaign, Izzard is notable for being the only one showing up to televised Brexit debates wearing a pink beret and a “STAND UP FOR EUROPE” t-shirt.



National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics


David Cameron, U.K. Prime Minister
For the second time in two years, Cameron is once again championing the status quo side of a too-close-to-call referendum whose result could end up being the first line of his eventual obituary.



National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

Every living former Prime Minister

To wit; Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and John Major. Major and Blair even made a joint appearance in Northern Ireland to warn that a Brexit could reignite The Troubles. Brown, meanwhile, compared the Leave campaign to Donald Trump; an increasingly lazy political insult in Europe these days.



The dead tell no tales, but they do become unwilling spokespeople for European politics.

National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

Margaret Thatcher

The Iron Lady has been claimed by both sides in the Brexit debate. Thatcher was an instrumental supporter of the 1975 referendum that brought Britain into the proto-E.U. But in the latter years of her career, she resisted the bureaucratic growth of the organization — and has been blamed for kickstarting an antagonism with Brussels that stands to this day.


National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

Adolph Hitler

Naturally, no European political debate is complete without a mention of Der Führer. E.U. supporters contend that a European government is the best bulwark against a future Hitler. E.U. opponents, meanwhile, have charged that the organization itself is Hitler. A kind of single European authority is exactly what the German dictator was going for, albeit by “different methods,” claimed Boris Johnson.

Imperial War Museum
Imperial War MuseumChurchill and Charles de Gaulle in Paris in 1944. Churchill has been wheeled out as a mascot by both sides.


National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

Winston Churchill

Churchill, who died even before the term “European Union” was a thing, has also been wheeled out as a mascot by both pro- and anti-Brexiteers. Churchill was an English exceptionalist and a staunch advocate for global free trade, which would have put him at odds with an E.U. that is essentially a tariff-protected trade bloc. But Churchill also spoke of a “United States of Europe” as early as 1946. In a May speech, David Cameron urged his countrymen to follow Churchill’s example of European integration. “Whenever we turn our back on Europe, sooner or later we come to regret it,” he said.

National Post Graphics
National Post Graphics

Charles De Gaulle

Twice in the 1960s, French president Charles De Gaulle singlehandedly vetoed the entry of the U.K. into the European Common Market. The Brits were too “insular,” too “maritime” to play nice in the budding Continental club, reasoned the former leader of Free French Forces. Should Brexit happen, several columnists have noted that it would have the unpleasant effect of proving De Gaulle right about something.


Apocalyptic hyperbole isn’t merely the domain of U.S. presidential elections. Below, some of the more scary predictions hitting the Brexit debate.


  • Mass rapes in British cities
    This was hinted at by UKIP leader Nigel Farage in relation to the reports of hundreds of sex assaults in Cologne, Germany on New Year’s Eve, with most of the assaults being attributed to recent asylum seekers. Asked if Cologne-style attack could come to Britain, Farage said “It depends on if they get EU passports. It depends if we vote for Brexit or not. It is an issue.”
  • U.K. to become “province” of Brussels
    This was literally in George Orwell’s 1984; the British Isles had been reduced to “Airstrip One,” a small corner of the massive superstate of Oceania. “The EU will not stop until Europe has become a federal superstate,” claims the pro-Brexit group GetBritainOut. Stay in, goes the argument, and U.K. courts and legislators will all soon be subservient to the continent.


  • Ethnic cleansing
    Well, maybe not ethnic cleansing in the most sinister sense. But sources as official as the Home Office have claimed that up to five million people could be forced out of their homes by a Brexit; two million British expats kicked out of Europe, and three million E.U. citizens kicked out of Britain. This ignores the fact that a Brexited U.K. would still strike some kind of immigration deal with the E.U., and presumably the one that wouldn’t result in mass deportations.
  • End of the U.K.
    With Scotland, Northern Ireland and even some overseas territories like the Falkland Islands leaning towards the Remain camp, the implication is that they may soon be forced to choose between the E.U. or the U.K. In the worst case scenario, say critics, a Brexited U.K. will just be a bunch of English and Welsh patrolling Hadrian’s Wall.
  • World War III
    A humongous 24-language parliament is a pain, to be sure, but Europeans are quick to say that they only reason they did it is because the alternative seems to be constant warfare. “If you believe, as we do, that the EU has at least contributed to our safety and security, think carefully before turning your back on it,” read a public letter co-written by WWII veteran Harry Smith and published on the anniversary of D-Day.


Nobody seems to enjoy E.U. myth-mongering quite so much as the Brits. It’s now such a firm part of British culture, in fact, that the E.U. has even built a massive online English-language directory of “Euromyths.”

Bendy bananas

The most famous of all Euromyths, it relates to a trade regulation stating that bananas imported into Europe must be “free from malformation or abnormal curvature.” The myth is that the policy is a ban on bent bananas. But while there’s no evidence to this effect, it’s still an easy shorthand for E.U red tape.

£350 million a week!

Brexiteers are frequently repeating the mantra that the U.K. pays the equivalent of $650 million to the E.U. every week (equal to $64,000 a minute). While technically true, what the figure leaves out is rebates and the E.U. funding that ends up back on British soil. The more accurate figure is somewhere around £170 million per week.

The E.U. Army

British lads forced to wear the gold stars of the Union and sent to die in some distant war cooked up by Brussels. This one actually isn’t all that far-fetched. While there is no continent-wide draft planned, a recently leaked German white paper did hint of a plan to integrate European armies into “permanent cooperation under common structures.”

• Email: | Twitter: TristinHopper

22 Jun 18:00

So what if Millennials won’t leave the nest?

Young man leaning on kitchen counter and watching his mature mother slicing vegetables and making healthy salad in the kitchen at home. (istock)

Young man leaning on kitchen counter and watching his mature mother slicing vegetables and making healthy salad in the kitchen at home. (istock)

“You can’t go home again,” warned American novelist Thomas Wolfe. “You can’t go back home to your family, back to your childhood.” He may have been a great writer, but Wolfe is of little use in understanding the 21st-century family. Today, you can go back home whenever you want.

One of the most striking features of modern family arrangements is the irresistible attraction of the parental home for young adults. Since 1981, the percentage of Canadians aged 20 to 29 living with their parents has leapt from 27 per cent to 42 per cent. This group includes those who never left, as well as many who may have flown the nest for school or work, only to return later. And it’s a trend that’s gathering speed among mature youth. The share of 25-to-29-year-olds at home has more than doubled over the past three decades.

This “failure to launch” always attracts sharp debate. It may simply reflect circumstances beyond the control of young adults. Soaring real estate prices, longer and more expensive education and a tough job market have certainly made it more difficult for younger generations to establish their independence. On the other hand, perhaps all those coddled Millennials simply prefer living in a state of perpetual childhood at Chez Mom and Dad. And if this is the case, shouldn’t a national maturity gap worry us all, because it would have important implications for parental retirement and the economy at large?

Last week, Statistics Canada took a close look at this phenomenon, and put to rest fears we’re raising a generation incapable of living on its own—though it did raise a few concerns of its own.

Related: The new underclass

The recent study picks over census data to draw out the social and financial factors that may explain why life in the parental home has become so attractive. Young men, for example, are much more likely to live at home than young women, suggesting a gender—rather than generational—issue. Immigrants and visible minorities, especially Asian and south Asian families, also demonstrate a strong predisposition for living longer in the parental home. “There could be cultural expectations related to parental co-residence that influence particular groups of young men and women in different ways,” the report observes. Other research shows parents who stayed longer in their family home tend to be more welcoming of their own adult children back home, which adds momentum to this trend. A large part of the current situation may thus be explained by steady growth in immigration and an evolving Canadian culture, rather than any failure on the part of younger generations to grow up.

The phenomenon of adult children at home is also more pronounced in big cities where the cost of living is high, such as Toronto and Vancouver. And lengthening expectations of education appears to play a big role as well: almost 60 per cent of twentysomethings attending post-secondary school live with their parents. Both factors suggest a strong financial case for spending more time in the familial abode.

None of the above indicates any reason to worry about generational failure; living at home reflects the changing face of Canada and certain unavoidable financial realities. Plus, a better educated, stable and mature work force is a great advantage to the Canadian economy. Curiously enough, fretting over delayed departure appears to be something of a perpetual pastime. In 1937, for example, a report from the precursor to Statistics Canada observed that “as the age of leaving school becomes higher and higher, it represents a more and more serious problem.” The author worried young people were not reaching “independence” until their nineteenth year. “If the tendency of the last generation continues,” it went on, “they will in comparatively few years still be dependent on parents when reaching their 20s.” Twenty-year-olds still living at home? Somehow we survived.

While StatsCan’s recent report alleviates many concerns, there are still some areas of note. Parental income could play a significant role in facilitating this new life stage, as living at home is obviously a more viable option for families with larger homes and incomes to match. And if this is the case, lower-income Canadians may find themselves shut out of higher-education opportunities or unable to establish themselves in larger metropolitan centres. The ultimate result could be an unwelcome reduction in income mobility and an exacerbation of income inequality. It’s something to keep an eye on.

Finally, given the evolution in social attitudes toward living at home, it may also be time to tweak the behaviour of those on the receiving end of the experience. According to StatsCan, a stunning 90 per cent of adults in their 20s who live with their parents contribute nothing toward household expenses. Perhaps it’s time to chip in. The occasional “thank you” would also be nice.

The post So what if Millennials won’t leave the nest? appeared first on

22 Jun 17:22

CREDIT SUISSE: Brexit could be worse than 'Black Wednesday'

by Ben Moshinsky and Ben Moshinsky

If Britain chooses to leave the EU on Thursday, it will make economic waves both in the short and medium terms.

One of the most immediate effects would be a sudden drop in the value of the pound, and a severe capital flight, according to analysts at Credit Suisse.

It could be as bad or worse as Black Wednesday – the day the pound collapsed in 1992 after the British government pulled the currency from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism after failing to defend its high valuation against the Deutsche mark.

The research echos George Soros, who famously made £1 billion betting against the pound that day, writing in The Guardian on Monday, "that after a Brexit vote the pound would fall by at least 15% and possibly more than 20%." 

Here's the chart from Credit Suisse putting Black Wednesday in context:



On Black Wednesday itself – September 16, 1992 – the pound fell 4%. It had lost around 15% of its value by the end of the month.


If the markets threaten a drop of a similar magnitude, the Bank of England might be tempted to step in to support the currency because the fallout from a collapse could be much worse than in 1992.

Here's Credit Suisse:

  • Wider current account deficit: "At the time of Black Wednesday the UK’s current account deficit was near 2% of GDP, but since then it has ballooned to nearly 7% of GDP (now the widest deficit in G10), and gross international assets and liabilities have increased to north of 500% of GDP. These factors might suggest that GBP has likely become more vulnerable to external shocks."
  • Asset prices are more vulnerable. "In 1992 the UK property market had suffered a period of stagnation, and the FTSE100 had fallen by over 15% between May and September 1992. By contrast, the FTSE100 has broadly been stable since March 2016 and is still near post-crisis highs. UK property price growth has stalled in recent months, but both London and UK prices are still near their highest in years."

With so much at stake, the Bank of England might want to try to prop up the currency, using its currency reserves in what might prove to be a costly fight.

BI brexit referendum graphic

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Why this Instagram star withdrew $1.2 million in cash — then deposited it the next day

22 Jun 17:21

How To Harness The Machines: Being Productive With Task Runners

by Adam Simpson


Task runners are the heroes (or villains, depending on your point of view) that quietly toil behind most web and mobile applications. Task runners provide value through the automation of numerous development tasks such as concatenating files, spinning up development servers and compiling code.

How To Harness The Machines: Being Productive With Task Runners

In this article, we’ll cover Grunt, Gulp, Webpack and npm scripts. We’ll also provide some examples of each one to get you started. Near the end, I’ll throw out some easy wins and tips for integrating ideas from this post into your application.

The post How To Harness The Machines: Being Productive With Task Runners appeared first on Smashing Magazine.

22 Jun 17:21

14 Ways to Avoid Email Spam Filters

by Elna Cain


Do you spend hours painstakingly crafting an email for your new marketing campaign only to get a poor open rate in return?

The number one reason your email isn’t read is because it automatically gets sent to the spam folder by your user’s email provider (Gmail, Outlook, etc.).

According to ReturnPath, one in six permission-based emails don’t reach the inbox. When you are sending emails that you know are relevant to your audience and can offer value, this can be extremely frustrating.

There are two main reasons your emails can get sent to the spam folder:

  1. Emails are flagged by a spam filter. Spam filters are computer programs – like SpamAssassin – designed to search for certain criteria in email messages and flag the message as spam if it crosses a predetermined threshold. Each email provider has their own top-secret filters that look for: common spam signatures in the email headers, common spam words in the subject and body, high image to text ratios, and more.
  2. A recipient marks your message as spam. If a reader doesn’t like your message – even if they opted-in – they can send it to the spam folder themselves. If enough people do this, email providers are more likely to classify messages coming from you as spam in the future.

The likelihood of your emails reaching their intended target’s inbox is known as deliverability. Luckily there are many things you can do to try and improve your own email deliverability.

1. Get On Your Subscribers’ White List

Nearly all email providers like Gmail, Outlook (Hotmail), Yahoo, and your own ISP, allow you to add specific email addresses to your contacts database (whitelisting). Email sent from these addresses typically bypass the spam folder and is delivered straight to the inbox.

The easiest way to reliably get into your subscribers’ inbox is to ask them to add you to their contacts list. Comm100 suggests asking your subscribers to add you as a contact:

  • In the confirmation sign up email
  • On the confirmation page
  • During most customer service transactions

They suggest adding a line such as “Ensure that you continue to receive quality information from us that you enjoy by adding us to your contact list.”

For example, Melyssa Griffin sends a welcome email after you subscribe to her list. She makes it clear to her new subscribers to add her to your contact list:

spam 1

You need to be careful, though, as it is possible to be removed from the whitelist if your email gets marked as spam too often.

2. Provide an Out

Make sure you have a clear unsubscribe link in your email – it’s a legal requirement in most jurisdictions, actually. Just because someone has subscribed to your list in the past, it doesn’t mean they will always be interested in what you have to say.

Derek Halpern of Social Triggers has a clear unsubscribe link at the bottom of every email he sends out.

spam 2

Don’t try to hide your unsubscribe link or use a really small font. If you make it easier for your reader to click unsubscribe than to mark your email as spam, then your sender reputation will reflect this.

3. Test First By Sending to Yourself

Always send yourself a test version of the email before you send it out en masse. If it goes straight to your spam folder then you need to re-evaluate your message.

Bryan Harris of Video Fruit calls this a subject dry-run. He advises to write your subject line as normal and send it to a Gmail account – as the majority of people use Gmail to view their mail.

Gmail does have a Spam folder – which you definitely want to avoid – but you also want to avoid being filtered into your customer’s Promotions tab or folder. Google analyzes emails and, by default, files them into specific folders.

spam 3

To make a long story short, if your email doesn’t end up in the Primary tab – the inbox – your open rates will suffer. Try rewriting your test email’s subject and/or tweaking its content, and sending again.

When the email finally reaches your inbox, go ahead and send it to your list. When Bryan used this method, he increased his open rate by 75%.

4. A/B Testing

As with any marketing campaign, A/B split testing can help you to see what is working and what isn’t with your email marketing. All good email marketing providers will have a reporting dashboard containing metrics to monitor your campaigns. Check out Mailchimp’s below.

Spam 4

5. Double Opt-in

A double opt-in subscription process means that a subscriber must confirm twice that they want to be added to your list.

First, via an email lead capture form, and secondly in a confirmation email sent directly to their email address. For example, designer Cole from Pines Up North has a free branding course for small businesses. Once you click on his enroll button, a pop-up appears asking you to enter your information.

Spam 5

A few minutes later, you receive an email to confirm your subscription.

The benefits of double opt-in for preventing spam are two-fold:

  • You have a high-quality list. Asking visitors to confirm twice shows that they are really interested in what you have to say because they have to go to the effort of clicking once and then opening up an email and clicking again. An engaged readership is much less likely to report your messages as spam compared to those that aren’t as engaged.
  • Protection from competitors. In the single opt-in process, anyone can add ANY email address to your list because they don’t need access to that address to confirm. This can lead to underhanded tactics from competitors. Inactive or honeypot email addresses can be added to your list, increasing the chances that you are classified as a spammer.

6. Don’t Assume You Can Send Whatever You Like

Email marketing is a form of Permission Marketing, a phrase coined by Seth Godin.

Permission marketing is “the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them.” A good measure of whether or not you are doing this effectively is whether your readers notice when you don’t send anything or “if you stop showing up, people complain, they ask where you went.”

If you take advantage of this permission by sending information that does not add value or is not relevant to the recipient, then you can expect it to be ignored, or worse, marked as spam. With advanced marketing automation technology that’s available – like list segmentation and tagging – there is no excuse for not targeting the right people with each campaign.

7. Comply with the Spam Laws

If you are a business operating (or marketing to people) in the United States and you’re sending “any electronic mail message, the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service,” then you must abide by the CAN-SPAM Act 2003. The main requirements are:

  • Don’t use false or misleading header information
  • Don’t use deceptive subject lines
  • Identify the message as an ad
  • Tell the recipients where you’re located
  • Tell recipients how to opt-out of receiving future email from you
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly
  • Monitor what others are doing on your behalf

These requirements must be followed, or you could face penalties of up to $16,000 for each offence – that’s $16,000 for each email on your list that you spam.

Most other countries have similar laws, such as Canada’s CASL or Europe’s EU Opt-in directive.

Also, keep in mind as Neil Patel and Ritiki Puri say, don’t think it’s ok to carry out spam-worthy activity “just because it’s legal.” You will quickly annoy subscribers and be removed from their whitelists.

8. Take Time On Your Subject Line

How you compose your subject line in your campaigns is a huge factor in whether or not you get a high open rate, get ignored, or get marked as spam.

First off, the choice of language is very important. There are certain words and phrases that will trigger spam filters and get your mail sent straight to where you don’t want it to be.

Hubspot has a pretty comprehensive list here divided by areas of business. Here are some words to avoid no matter what sector you operate in:

Spam 6

As well as trying not to trigger the filters, you must also make sure your subject line doesn’t provoke a reader to mark your message as spam before they even open it.


  • Writing subject lines in capitals. As Mailchimp says, this is screaming and is just rude.
  • Making spelling mistakes.
  • Using one-word subject lines such as “Hi.” Even though Barak Obama had success with a “Hey” as an email subject line, it’s not the norm. If you are trying to capture a reader’s attention by being mysterious, Vertical Response recommends asking a question instead. Based on the fact that when tested on social media posts, this method produced 92% more comments.
  • Trying to sell. Mailchimp says, “When it comes to email marketing, the best subject lines tell what’s inside, and the worst subject lines sell what’s inside.”
  • Being impersonal. Nothing turns a reader off quicker than a generic “Hello unnamed customer” greeting. Jeanne Hopkins says that personalization is “about creating a natural process of conversation between companies and customers”. Talk to your readers like you would if you were one-to-one and face-to-face with them, and you will reap the rewards.
  • Pleading with the reader to “Open me!” or “Read me”

9. Getting Off the Blacklist

Having either your sending IP or domain name get put on a blacklist can decimate your email marketing campaign.

There are a number of free services out there you can use to check if you are on such a list.

Some of the biggest blacklists are:

  • CBL (Composite Blocking List)
  • SORBS (Spam and Open Relay Blocking System)
  • Spamcop

Some are easier to get off of than others. To be removed from them you must contact each specific provider, explain what you’ve done to resolve the situation, and request to be taken off.

This is something your email service provider may handle, but keep in mind, if you do get your providers’ mailing IP addresses put on a blacklist – by being careless with your mailings – you may risk account termination, and fines.

10. Stay Away from Foul Play

Although not seen much anymore, there are a number of old tricks used by email spammers back in the day. However, some naive marketers may read an older article and think some of these things are worth a try. They’re definitely not recommended, and using tricks – or similar ones – like these can cause damage to your reputation. Here’s a small list of things not to do:

  • Don’t hide text (that would normally trigger filters) in an image
  • Don’t use Re: or Fwd: in the email subject line to trick the reader into thinking that they have already spoken to you about a certain topic
  • Don’t make false claims in the subject line

11. Keep Your List Clean

Hubspot sums it up pretty well, “even if your list is entirely built on valid opt-ins, you are at risk of being branded a “spammer” if you don’t practice proper email hygiene.”

Inactive email addresses trigger filters because spammers buy and sell lists that are full of these.

As an extreme example, bad list hygiene – a list of mailing addresses in this case – cost Tennessee Temple University $1,935,000. The University was moving locations and the build costs were considerably higher than expected – over $1.5 milllion more to be exact.

They had to rely on this money being funded by donations. And they were expecting a large amount of these donations to come from alumni on their mailing list. However due to having a poor quality list with outdated contact addresses, only 1 percent of 17,000 alumni responded to their marketing campaign.

12. Watch Your Images

You have to be mindful when including images in your email campaigns – especially if your messages are short. Mailchimp flagged, “too many images, not enough text” as the top reason their emails set off filters.

Spam filters can’t read images so spammers can use them to conceal trigger words that would normally get their email flagged.

A maximum 60/40 text to image ratio is a commonly recommended upper limit. Pardot suggests adding more text than usual if you have to send large/multiple images.

Many email providers and desktop email clients like Outlook block images as standard anyway, so depending on your user base, you may want to consider if sending your image is worth the risk at all.

13. 500 is the Magic Number

A recent study by Email on Acid found that in emails with 500 words or more, “content to image ratio does not affect deliverability.” They believe this is due to the fact that spam messages generally contain 1-3 sentences with a single link in them such as the one below.

Spam 7

14. Dial Down the Excitement

When you’re about to send an email to hundreds or thousands of people it’s easy to get excited about spreading your message.

The problem with this, as pointed out by Neil Patel and Ritika Puri in the Definitive Guide to Marketing Automation is, “what you see as ‘excitement’, your email list will see as excessively obnoxious behavior.” You need to dial it down.

Always focus on the reader when composing emails. Put yourself in their shoes and imagine reading your messages or subject lines for the first time from their perspective.

Case Study 1:

Spam 8

When working with Rich Fettke of, Kristie Tamsevicius increased the delivery rate of his newsletter by 22%.

Rich improved deliverability by implementing three of the steps mentioned above:

  • Adding a note telling readers that they could add Rich’s email to their address book to ensure they received the newsletter
  • Changed from all-caps to mixed case on the headings and the subject line
  • Removed words and phrases that triggered the spam filters

After these adjustments, all 5,538 of Ryan’s subscribers received the email.

Case Study 2: Mailchimp

Spam 9

MailChimp analyzed the open rates of different subject lines from over 200 million emails.

They found that phrases such as, “help,” “% off,” and “reminder” all had a negative impact on open rates. And the amount that went to the spam folder too.

Mailchimp concluded that using localized content such as a city name, lines shorter than 50 characters and phrases framed as questions all performed well and had higher open rates.

Wrapping It Up

There are a number of rules you can follow to reduce the chances of your emails hitting the spam folder. Some of these are technical and some are even enforced by law. But if you are being honest, relevant to your reader and adding value then you are already half-way there.

What are you doing to avoid triggering spam filters when sending your email campaigns?

22 Jun 17:21

A New Era of the Channel: Why and How the Rules for VARs Have Changed

by Jessica Baker

There is a morphing going on with partner types today. It seems like just yesterday we could put a clear definition of a VAR, SI, MSP, etc, on a PowerPoint slide and it all worked. Then came cloud and the Chicken Little cry of “disintermediation” and impending channel doom. And yet here we are years later with no doom. Although the lines have blurred, and what it means to be a VAR has changed, I believe that now – more than ever – the channel is needed to pull all the different SaaS, mobile, cloud, and IoT strings together in a package that is consumable by the end user. There is plenty of room – if not more – value to be added to a single instance of a technology sale. Enter the need for some professional services that didn’t exist before. Enter the need for the “Technical Channel Account Manager”. Enter a new era of the channel.

The new era will have fewer partner choices, with a younger generation at the helm. CompTIA figures there has been a 36% decrease in the number of new partners entering the market since 2008, and that of the existing space 40% are approaching retirement age. That makes room for M&A, more consolidation and Millennials to enter at a rapid pace.

When you combine the market force, with the changing demographics of the partner space, there is no way we can put hard and fast definitions of partner types on a page now and call it done. The “V” in VAR just got a whole lot more interesting and there are new rules for both sides of the equation.

New Rules for VARS

  • Invest in Pro Serve – If you want to bring value, you need to help your clients sort through all the SaaS, cloud, mobile, IoT interoperability and availability issues. This is no laughing matter, and the success of your ability to add value to your customer depends on this expertise. SaaS products come and go with ease. If you can help your customers add/move/change products and make it all work together, then you have some VALUE to add to the RESALE.
  • Own Your New Identity – With all this new-found value, you may just cross over into MSP land. But that’s ok. As you morph into a trusted advisor, your clients will, no doubt, look to you to bring more value to their business. Here’s your chance to either build it out – or acquire it. Remember, market demands are creating M&A opportunities. This could be a good time to go for it.
  • Don’t Race to the Bottom – There is value in what you bring to a client, and believing in and investing in your breadth and depth of value will set you apart. Not to mention drive your profit margins up! Even though components of your total solution are racing to the bottom (like cloud compute and storage)and thus driving out margin and competition, don’t undervalue what you can provide. If you can hold your own, your reputation will grow, and so will your lead list!

New Rules for Vendors

  • Invest in a TechCAM – With your VAR partners adding all this technical depth, they are going to need a trusted contact back in vendor-land to help them navigate this. If you can identify these break-put VARs, and give them the support they need, you will have the opportunity to ride this wave with them. While a Technical Channel Account Manage (TechCAM) won’t carry a quota, they will influence a TON of choices and be the technical sounding board to your VARs. Having a resource like this is a huge plus to your program, and your partners will be more apt to spec your product, knowing you have their back.
  • Place Value on Education – If you haven’t already put some type of training certification or accreditation in place, or if your enablement materials are not up to par, you should invest in the training and enablement of your partners. If they are trained correctly, then they can support your product correctly. Don’t forget to include training on integrations with other products because, most likely, your product will be used in conjunction with another. A highly trained partner base equals a highly loyal partner base.
  • Be a Matchmaker – If you have an internal M&A expert, you need to get them to lend some expertise to your partners. Now is the time – with all the changes happening, the switched-on partners will recognize M&A as an opportunity to grow. You should be having these strategic conversations with partners and act as matchmaker where you see synergy. This again will only strengthen your position of value with a partner and keep your solution the top of mind with them.

So, no disintermediation, no doom. The opportunities are even more plentiful now for those that are willing to change, adapt and act. Don’t be left behind in this new channel marketplace. Find your VALUE and capitalize on it.

The post A New Era of the Channel: Why and How the Rules for VARs Have Changed appeared first on OpenView Labs.

22 Jun 17:20

15 Ways to Prepare for the Microsoft LinkedIn Acquisition

by Colleen McKenna

Already, just days after the announcement of Microsoft buying LinkedIn, much has been written about this acquisition. Analysts, social media bloggers, LinkedIn enthusiasts and social selling experts have shared their varied opinions and hopeful enthusiasm.

In short, the more I think about it and understand it, the more I consider it a smart move. LinkedIn, with Microsoft’s resources, will no longer be Cinderella. And, finally and hopefully, LinkedIn will emerge as the business tool we describe rather than another social media channel.

Yes, LinkedIn will socialize Microsoft Office but make no mistake, the point is to increase the professional and economic currency for all working professionals and organizations, globally.

There is no going back. And, for every CEO, owner, company president, and managing director who says they don’t need LinkedIn, think again.

Are you willing to come up as a faceless person within your customers’ Outlook inbox?

Are you okay with your employees’ profiles looking lifeless and dull with no company description or value proposition?

Are you satisfied with incomplete employee profiles that are nothing more than online resumes that only position your employees for their next job, and not their next customer?

If not, read on.

15 ways to prepare for the Microsoft/LinkedIn acquisition:

And, by the way, if it doesn’t go through (highly doubtful) you, your employees and your organization will still benefit from this focus and approach.

  1. Review your mission, vision, and values. If you don’t have any of these, consider working on these business fundamentals. Even if you are a business of one, you still need these.
  1. Review every one of your value propositions for each persona. Make sure your value propositions are relevant.
  1. Know your key differentiators. Write them out if you have not done so already.
  1. Consider your employment and marketing branding messages.
  1. Is your website up-to-date? Where on your site will you direct people?
  1. Do you have content? If you have put original content on the back burner or not considered the role it should have for demonstrating your industry perspective, thought leadership or employment brand, now is the time to rethink, your strategy.
  1. Craft your LinkedIn strategy.
  1. Educate, educate, educate. Talk and work with LinkedIn specialists whose sole purpose is to train, coach and consult on LinkedIn. More than ever, you need a specialist who is less of a social media expert and more focused on social selling, recruiting and messaging.
  1. Explain to your employees that there is a new expectation regarding how they use LinkedIn and Outlook. They will need to review how skilled they are with Microsoft’s productivity suite (Office) and potentially Microsoft Dynamics, as well as LinkedIn.
  1. Determine employee expectations and KPIs and weave these into their job descriptions, reviews, and assessments.
  1. Make sure you assess employees’ LinkedIn profiles, skills, and activities.
  1. View and discern leadership, marketing, sales and recruiting profiles with a particularly keen eye and work to ensure that they are up to “code” quickly.
  1. Begin to determine how your company looks via your LinkedIn Company Page and what you will post to create a more active presence moving forward.
  1. Encourage your employees to connect with the right people and expand their networks, so you and your organization gain more visibility and relevance in a greater number of networks.
  1. Don’t assume your marketing department can manage this alone. Moving forward, your LinkedIn profile, network and activity will provide a highly transparent business advantage or a glaring example of dating your business. LinkedIn will be a business tool that needs a strategy and ongoing assessment.
  1. Determine premium memberships for key members of your organization.
  1. Review your current customer relationship management platform. Is your team really using it? If you don’t have one, consider Microsoft Dynamics.

LinkedIn is not a sprint; it’s a marathon that only the most committed and disciplined will win. Begin to master it now and you will be well positioned for the dawning of a new LinkedIn experience, viewed through the lens of Microsoft.

22 Jun 17:20

Three Ways to Find Your Marketing Creativity Again

by Jeff Weinberger

It would be hard to find a marketer who would not agree that marketing has become much less creative and much more process-focused. We tend to idealize the 1960s world, stereotyped by the television show Mad Men, where the creative team ruled the business and the great idea was the best product marketers had to offer their client or employer. At the same time, we lament the rise of technology, complaining that marketing and sales automation has forced us into a never-ending loop of justifying our value based on whatever numbers our client or bosses choose to watch.

What Happened to Marketing Creativity?

It’s easy to blame the shift to more process-focused marketing on the rise of marketing technology and the associated capabilities of measurement. But it’s also true that we have used technology as a crutch, a substitute for our own creativity, in order to get things done faster, or, at times, with less hard work.

Don’t get me wrong: Automation and measurement are important to a functioning marketing team. Without it, you can’t scale and you just don’t know what’s working and what’s not. You need automation to deliver just the right message to just the right person at just the right time and to know whether you succeeded and whether the person took the action for which you were hoping. As marketing gets more and more personal, the need for technology to handle more tasks at a higher level of functionality will only increase.

Is marketing creativity getting lost in automation? I don’t think so.

Creativity, though, marketing creativity is the role―and the greatest contribution―of humans in marketing (and beyond). You can’t delegate that to an automation system. I think it’s time for us, as marketers, to remember it is still human creativity that drives our work; our automation systems cannot be the source of our creativity but rather the tools we use to automate and scale that creativity.

Is your marketing really as creative as it could be? Here’s an example of using technology as a substitute for marketing creativity. See if this scenario sounds familiar:

Your digital marketing team is about to launch another email campaign (the last one worked pretty well, right?). They decide on the new target audience. They then look at the last campaign in your marketing automation system and copy it. They edit the content to more closely match the new idea. They swap out the calls-to-action with new ones (which look surprisingly similar to the old ones―with apologies to Pete Townshend). They check it over and hit send.

This is how the vast majority of marketing is being done today. Email campaigns are being copied. Ads are being tweaked. Even paid search parameters don’t really change much. It’s comfortable. It’s easy to understand. It’s low-risk―both from an investment perspective and in how you have to explain the lower results (it was just like the last one―we thought it would work!). We accept incremental change and incremental results because we can understand it. And because our marketing automation systems, which were designed to automate tasks, are being used as a substitute for creativity.

Nobody ever made a difference in any market by doing something just like what they had done before. You can insert the Apple branding story of your choice here because the ways they changed thinking and changed consumer preferences is exactly the point (My personal favorite story about how ads changed minds and the market is the “Reach Out and Touch Someone” campaign.).

How do we put the marketing creativity back into marketing? It’s not easy, but it’s critical if you want to make a difference in your market, to your clients, and to your company.

Three Ideas for Putting Marketing Creativity into Your Marketing

Here are three ideas I use to get my creativity back into my marketing efforts:

1) Kairos

Morgan McLintic, managing director for the U.S. for Lewis Global Communications wrote an interesting piece for LinkedIn, titled Why You Aren’t Creative Anymore. He discusses the ancient Greek culture’s two different expressions for time:

Chronos, he explains, is the concept we understand as the ticking of the clock as time passes. It’s the way time gets measured and how time passes. It’s how we synchronize (notice the root word, chronos) to get a common understanding of when things happen.

Kairos, on the other hand, is a qualitative passage of time, similar to Csiksgentmihalyi’s concept of flow. It’s the place where we take the time to focus and create.

McLintic argues that the endless distractions and demands prevent us from creating the space for creativity. We are not just endlessly busy; we are distracted. We might be with our families, but we are thinking about work. We might be meeting with a colleague but really worried about the meeting with our CEO tomorrow. Focus―a key element of flow―is hard to come by. Plus, we live in a culture that values busyness. We are always under pressure to appear busy, even if we are not. That ends up creating more stress as we force busy-work on ourselves to meet the expectation we think our surroundings―especially our work environments―force upon us.

Getting that space is hard, probably harder than it’s ever been. But it works. Here’s how I saw that happen recently.

I was leading a messaging project for my company. We needed to not just revise our messaging but simplify it and communicate it in a clear, simple, concise way that anyone―in our market or elsewhere―could understand. Even if you do every day, you know this is no easy task. I took the usual steps, interviewing lots of people, consolidating feedback, looking for common threads and so on. When I looked at my output, I had four PowerPoint slides with messaging statements and explanations― anything but simple.

I threw it out. I found a quiet place and put on the music that, for me, tends to inspire but not distract me (Mozart’s Symphonies No. 40 and 41). I thought. I recalled everything every customer and prospect had said. I wondered why they bought from us. More importantly, I wondered what they were trying to achieve when they bought from us. As I sat there, the image came into my head of what must be in their heads. Then the word showed up that described it. Then I used the word in just the right sentence. And that was it. I had my answer.

Now, I stop just like that for every campaign I launch. I encourage my team to do the same. The result is I am starting my work with creativity―the critical element of marketing success. I’m not letting my marketing automation system be my crutch for marketing creativity; I’m doing the creative work and letting the marketing automation system do its job of automating what I created.

2) Finding Our Inner 4-year-old

Sir Ken Robinson discusses how our schools kill creativity. It’s worth the nearly 20 minutes to watch.

He tells this story (slightly edited for readability):

When my son, James, was four in England―actually, he was four everywhere, to be honest. If we’re being strict about it, wherever he went, he was four that year. He was in the Nativity play. Do you remember the story? No, it was big, it was a big story. Mel Gibson did the sequel; you may have seen it: “Nativity II.”

But James got the part of Joseph, which we were thrilled about. We considered this to be one of the lead parts. We had the place crammed full of agents in T-shirts: “James Robinson IS Joseph!” He didn’t have to speak, but you know the bit where the three kings come in? They come in bearing gifts, gold, frankincense, and myrrh. This really happened. We were sitting there, and I think they just went out of sequence, because we talked to the little boy afterward and we said, “You OK with that?” And he said, “Yeah, why? Was that wrong?” They just switched. The three boys came in, four-year-olds with tea towels on their heads, and they put these boxes down, and the first boy said, “I bring you gold.” And the second boy said, “I bring you myrrh.” And the third boy said, “Frank sent this.”

Kids will take a chance. If they don’t know, they’ll have a go. They’re not frightened of being wrong. I don’t mean to say that being wrong is the same thing as being creative. What we do know is, if you’re not prepared to be wrong, you’ll never come up with anything original―if you’re not prepared to be wrong. And by the time they get to be adults, most kids have lost that capacity. They have become frightened of being wrong. And we run our companies like this. We stigmatize mistakes. And we’re now running national education systems where mistakes are the worst thing you can make. And the result is that we are educating people out of their creative capacities.

Trust me, it’s much funnier when he says it. But he’s right. He tells the story―now pretty much folklore in the education business: when you ask a class of kindergartners who is an artist, pretty much everyone raises their hand. When you ask a class of sixth-graders the same question, only one or two raise their hands.

You probably can’t go to work and act like a four-year-old. But you can take the time and focus to let yourself play with your thoughts and ideas like you did when you were four, then take what you come up with, and put it into grown-up terms your colleagues will understand.

I can pretty much guarantee you show more marketing creativity than anyone―including you―ever expected.

3) Avoid Groupthink

This should be pretty obvious to anyone who’s ever tried to make a decision in a meeting. You know the pattern all-too-well: Everyone speaks, carefully avoiding stating an opinion, until the boss chimes in, then everyone suddenly agrees with the boss, showing how what they already said supports their agreement. This is not just a business phenomenon.

Brainstorming sessions are a really good way to avoid this. But most brainstorming sessions fall prey to the exact same malady. We are afraid to offer ideas that might seem too far away from the norm―or worse, too stupid. We want to be seen as part of the team, and we want to be seen as intelligent.

One technique I have seen used is to let everyone do their brainstorming alone, while in a group. In this approach, you might hand everyone slips of paper or post-it notes. Ask everyone to write down everything they can think of, one idea per slip or post-it. When everyone is done, collect the notes so they are not associated with any individual. Let the group get together and look at the ideas, then start sorting them out and prioritizing.

Groupthink is a very dangerous and insidious bias that can kill any attempt to offer anything creative before it is even stated. You probably know this intuitively. Avoiding the fear of groupthink will let you find a way to offer your marketing creativity and maybe make a big difference in your next project.

These three suggestions are far from the only ways to reestablish marketing creativity. I’m pretty sure you have a few other ideas (please offer them in the comments below!).

Reestablishing the role of creativity is critical to the success of your marketing efforts and to the success of your organization as a whole. It’s time to stop letting automation drive all our thinking and let it do its job―automating the creativity humans bring to the work.

22 Jun 17:19

5 In-App Campaigns That Really Work

by Sophie Walsh

It’s one thing to be able to send targeted, personalized and triggered in-app messages and campaigns. But it’s quite another to figure out exactly WHAT campaigns are going to make a real difference to your mobile business.

Fortunately, we’re here to help. Here’s five in-app campaigns that can really deliver value and ROI.


1) Promote Feature Discovery

You’ve probably gone to a great deal of effort to design and develop your mobile app, and potentially spent a large sum of money on acquiring users for it. Now you need to ensure that those users actually use the app, and most importantly use ALL of the app. Users who don’t discover the full functionality of your product are far more likely to churn. And that’s a waste.

You can begin by highlighting some of the key features to the user that they have yet to discover or use.

Simply identify the group of users who have not yet used a particular feature (personalized alerts in the example below) and let them know about it via in-app messages. It’s that easy – but makes a huge difference.

2) Localize onboarding by engaging users with regional in-app messages.

If your app has an international audience, then blanket mobile marketing campaigns won’t work – or at least they won’t work particularly efficiently.

In an ideal world, you’ll send the right message to the right user and in the right language. But that takes time and means an awful lot of individual campaigns. The alternative is simple enough: create content in each relevant language, and then let your mobile marketing engine handle sending each individual user the relevant message based on the language setting on the phone itself. Simple.

The result is a significant improvement in engagement rates – from 20% upwards to 100%.

3) Interactive onboarding

Any time a user opens the app, they are asking the same questions – most obviously: what can this app do and how do I use it? Answering those questions with an intuitive onboarding process can do wonders for retention numbers.

This campaign couldn’t be simpler. It consists of a number of initial screens delivered as in-app messages, that do exactly the job described above. Most importantly, because they are delivered ‘outside’ the core app, they can be edited, optimized, personalized and tested on-the-fly. That makes all your efforts significantly more effective and does wonders for retention figures.

Remember, onboarding doesn’t end after install, and you should continue this multi-stage onboarding with further in-app messages in the first couple of weeks after install to users who haven’t yet been fully ‘activated’.

4) Convert non-purchasers

In-app campaigns are a great way to migrate users from the state of ‘browser’ to the state of ‘purchaser’. Getting users to that first purchase is of course vital – too vital to simply sit back and wait. A smart in-app campaign combines an understanding of the users behavior to that point, appropriate incentives, and content that is tested and known to be effective.

Again, by getting these campaigns out of the core app experience, it becomes possible to move each user to purchase as an individual, rather than hoping the same approach will work for all (it won’t). The result is a significant increase in the percentage of users spending real money in-app – a number that is about as important as it gets in the mobile business.


5) Drive Improved App Store Rating

Every business with a mobile app aims for great app store ratings. Higher ratings mean improved app store chart positions and increased ‘click through’ when users browse to your app download page.

Given that’s the case, it’s surprising how many mobile businesses send any and all of their users to the app store to provide a rating. As an alternative, try this approach: first send an in-app message asking users if they are enjoying the app experience.

If they are, then send them right on to the app store to rate the app! And if they’re not, you can find out exactly what the problem is – useful in its own way. Campaigns like this have the ability to increase app store ratings by significant amounts, so this is one in-app message you should certainly look to implement.

Just remember – your users won’t recommend your app if they don’t like it – so make sure that you perfect the ‘first-time user experience’ for day 1!

22 Jun 17:18

4 Secrets to Emailing Important, Powerful People and Actually Hearing Back

by (Aja Frost)


If you think about it, asking a random professional for advice or help should never work.

After all, you want them to give up precious time in their day to share their hard-earned wisdom and experience with a stranger -- and a salesperson, no less.

So, why do people ever say yes to coffee dates or phone calls with reps? It’s possible the person asking got lucky and stumbled upon someone who’s incredibly altruistic. But more often than not, they reached out in the right way.

Want to make your own chances of success with snagging time on an important person’s calendar way higher? Follow these four best practices.

1) Don’t ask to “pick their brain.”

I’ve seen people involuntarily cringe after getting requests to “pick their brain.” This phrase conjures up images of zombies, vultures, and other brain-devouring creatures -- probably not the best effect when you’re asking for a favor. Plus, reps already have a reputation for being self-interested and sneaky.

This phrase is also problematic because it’s about you and how you’d benefit from a meeting. That violates the number one rule of effective networking, not to mention effective selling: Make it about the other person.

Fortunately, there are several easy swaps for “pick your brain” that put the focus squarely on the person you’re attempting to book. Try one of these phrases instead:

  • "Would you open to sharing your expertise on [topic]?"
  • "Congrats on [achievement]! I’d be grateful for the chance to learn more."
  • "Would you be willing to give me some insight into [topic]?"

2) Be specific about what you’re hoping to learn.

If you’re reaching out to someone who could be the decision maker for a deal, they’re pretty influential -- meaning they probably already have a million things on their to-do list. Do they have the mental energy to mull over open-ended questions like “How can I be more successful?” or “What do you think I should do?” Not a chance.

Specific, finite questions, on the other hand, feel much more doable. And if the person you’re asking immediately knows the answer, they’ll probably be eager for a chance to show off their expertise. (Hey, it’s human nature.)

Here are a few before-and-afters to give you an idea:

Before: "How should I gauge my progress?"

After: "Besides quota, which two or three metrics tell you whether a first-year rep is improving?"

Before: "What’s the tech landscape like in Austin?"

After: "Have you found the SMBs in Texas to be more or less willing to invest in HR software than in Seattle?"

Not sure whether you’re being too vague? Your question passes the specificity test if the person could conceivably answer in five sentences or less.

3) Explain why you’re asking.

You might think it’s obvious why you’re asking this specific person for guidance: They hold an important position in your industry, possess years of experience in the field, have a reputation as thought leader, etc.

But even if the reason you’ve chosen them is clear to you, laying it out in your message has a couple desirable effects. First, it tells the person you’re not just emailing random people -- you have a specific reason for reaching out to them in particular. (If the meeting goes well, that’s when you can discuss your product.)

Explaining your choice also makes them feel good. Who doesn’t love being called an expert? Finally, since complimenting someone can make them more generous, a couple kind words will increase your odds of success.

I usually add my flattering explanation to the beginning of the message, where the influencer is more likely to read and react to it. Here are some sample lines:

  • "I’ve been following your career for years, ever since you accomplished X … "
  • "My colleagues and I frequently cite you as our role model for Y… "
  • "Your ability to do Z is extremely impressive ... "
  • "After [watching you talk, reading your book, subscribing to your blog, hearing you on a podcast], I was inspired … "

4) Ask for a short meeting.

Even if you’re hoping for a lot of face (or ear-) time, always ask for a short meeting. It’s easier to get a stranger to commit to 20 minutes -- and then turn that 20-minute meeting into a 45-minute one because you’re having a great conversation -- than ask for a 45-minute meeting up front.

In fact, 20 minutes is the sweet spot. If you ask for 15, you’ll seem naive or disingenuous, since tackling anything of value in that time span is nearly impossible. On the other hand, 20 minutes isn’t  too long -- and if you create some rapport and ask thoughtful questions, your short meeting will typically go longer.

Acknowledging the person’s jam-packed schedule is also a good move, as it shows respect.

Putting it all together, here’s what your ask might sound like: “You’ve probably got a ton going on -- would you be open to spending 20 minutes with me on Tuesday or Thursday next week?”

Here’s a slightly more formal approach in case that’s more appropriate: “I’m sure you’ve got a full schedule -- would you be willing to spend 20 minutes talking on Friday 6/14 or Tuesday 6/18?”

Adopting these four best practices will help you get more positive responses to meeting requests immediately. If you want to really boost your game, check out our ultimate guide to writing networking emails people can’t ignore.

HubSpot CRM

22 Jun 17:17

14 Phrases That'll Instantly Sabotage Your Negotiation

by (Aja Frost)


Back in March 2014, the Red Sox screwed up in a big way. They completely bungled negotiations with their star pitcher, Jon Lester, by giving him an insultingly low initial offer -- and as a result, Lester went to the Chicago Cubs.This incident was (and still is) devastating to Sox fans, but it’s also a good reminder of how challenging negotiations are. If you say the wrong thing, the deal can be dead in the water.

Don’t lose your buyer the way the Sox lost Lester. Here are the 14 things you should never say in a negotiation.

1) “I’ll be honest.”

Some reps think saying, “I’ll be honest,” “I’ll be straight with you,” or “I’ll be blunt” makes it seem like they’re passing along valuable or confidential information. But these phrases usually backfire; after all, they imply you haven’t been honest up to this point.

What to say instead: Rather than giving your statement a long wind-up, just come out and say it. For example:

Before: “I’ll be honest, we probably won’t be able to deliver the product in less than a month.”

After: “We probably won’t be able to deliver the product in less than a month.”

2) “You won’t find a better product out there.”

It’s pretty hard to take this claim seriously; nonetheless, many sales reps still assure their buyers their product is “by far the best” or ‘the most superior offering on the market.” Don’t say this unless you want to lose credibility.

What to say instead: Emphasize your product’s unique strengths or features. Maybe yours is the only one with unlimited bandwidth -- instead of saying, “Our product beats all of the competition,” say, “We don’t cap your usage, so you can upload as much content as you want.”  

3) “I’ll give you X, but only if you sign by [date].”

“The rationale behind this kind of ultimatum is that its inherent time-sensitivity will overcome the prospect’s objection and compel a purchase,” explains HubSpot sales writer Leslie Ye. “The problem is that it puts an unnecessary burden on the buyer -- buy now or lose your opportunity to buy under these conditions, forever. [And] you can’t force a buyer onto your timeline.”

What to say instead:  “What’s stopping you from pulling the trigger today/this week/this month?”

Ye recommends using this question to surface the buyer’s remaining objectives -- a far better tactic if you want to reach the finish line.

4) “Trust me.”

While you might toss out a “trust me” to reassure the buyer, it can be received as fake and manipulative. Plus, trust isn’t something you can simply request: You have earn it. As they say, if you have to ask, the answer is a “no.”

What to say instead: “I’m confident that … ”

For instance, “I know a single day of training doesn’t sound like a lot, but I’m confident we can cover everything we need to in that time.”

5) “I need this deal by X to hit my quota/win a contest.”

It might seem reasonable to share your timeline with the prospect, so they’ll be motivated to move faster and help you out. Right?  

If only. Buyers aren’t concerned with your agenda, they’re concerned with their own -- which means you should be prioritizing their agenda over yours, too. Mentioning your quota or contest makes you seem self-serving (not to mention desperate).

What to say instead: “To hit [buyer’s milestone] by [date], we’ll need to wrap everything up by [date].”

Showing the buyer how the timeline impacts their goals is a much more effective path toward closing quickly. For example, if they need the product on September 1st and it’ll take a month to deliver, wrapping up negotiations by the end of July is in their best interest.

6) “No.”

When you give the buyer a hard and fast no, it’s pretty hard to get the conversation back on track. That’s not to say you have to compromise every single time they make a request, but you can soften the no by using positive language.

What to say instead: “While I certainly understand, I’m afraid that’s not possible.”

Alternatively, if you are willing to make concessions, try, “We can’t necessarily do X, but we can do Y and Z, which will get us a lot closer to where we want to be."

7) “I’d [like, need to get, have to have] … ”

Whenever a rep is talking about their own needs and desires, it’s a problem. The focus must always be on the buyer -- yes, even during the negotiation. So although you should be well aware of your objectives and where you’re willing to compromise, your language should always be tailored to the buyer’s needs and desires.

What to say instead: Explain how the terms you’re proposing benefit the buyer.

For instance, you might say, “To give you the customer support you’re looking for, we’ll be in the 12 to 15 seat range.”

8) “That’s not fair.”

A conference room is not a courtroom:  Appealing to your prospect’s sense of justice will only make you look like you don’t understand how business works. Ideally, you’ll come up with an agreement that makes both you and the buyer happy -- but you should never say “that’s not fair” when they propose something you consider outrageous.

What to say instead: To show you’re listening, clarify what they’re asking for. Then, identify their motivations for the request. You can use this information to float a counter-idea.

Here’s how that might look:

You: “You’d like the $500K package with 240 day payment, correct?”

Buyer: “Yes.”

You: “Tell me about how those payment terms will affect your cash flow.”

Buyer: “Well, we’re currently looking for ways to decrease our annual payables outlay.”

You: “Got it. What if we instead did … ”

9) “You want a high-quality product, right?”

Rhetorical questions like, “You care about quality, right?” or “You want the best bang for your buck, don’t you?” will make most buyers bristle. You want to focus on the value of your product, but this method of reinforcing benefits is way too aggressive.

What to say instead: Lead the other person to their own conclusion by asking a price or quality-focused question. Let’s say you provide business video software. You’d ask the buyer, “Are you interested in having an account manager? That option is only available with the package we’ve been discussing, but the training and support can help you get the most out of the platform.”

10) “I don’t usually do this, but … ”

If you’re selling to a family member or life-long friend, then sure, giving them a better-than-average deal wouldn’t be too strange. However, when you’re talking to a normal buyer, this line comes across as a seedy tactic to induce gratitude. Not good.

What to say instead: If the deal is unusual in some way, you can explain why, but be straightforward and direct. To give you an idea, you could say, “Normally, our pilot programs only last 30 days, but we can extend it to 60 days since you’re implementing the software within two business units.”

11) “I enjoy working with people like you who appreciate value.”

There are a couple problems inherent with this sentence. First, who doesn’t like working with people who appreciate value? Second, it’s far too reminiscent of the stereotypical used car salesman -- not exactly the association you want buyers to make.

What to say instead: Pay the buyer a genuine compliment. If they make an insightful comment, tell them, “That’s an excellent point.” If you’re impressed by their analysis, say, “That’s a smart way of looking at it.” By sticking to the truth, you’ll make them feel good without sounding inauthentic.

12) “I’ll send over the contract right now for you to review and sign.”

Technically, there’s nothing wrong with asking the buyer to sign a contract when the negotiation is complete. But those are pretty cold terms -- “contract” and “sign” scream sleazy salesperson, not invested business partner.

What to say instead:  “I’ll send over the [agreement/proposal] so you can review and okay it.”

Simply subbing in “agreement” (or “proposal”) and “okay” has a big impact on how friendly and collaborative this phrase feels.

With these phrases cut from your negotiation vocabulary, your chances of closing improve dramatically.

13) “This shouldn't take too long.”

You're trying to put the buyer at ease and make the negotiation process feel quick and easy, so you use this line or promise to get them on their way ASAP.

Yet speed is actually your enemy in negotiations. When the other party feels like they're on a deadline, they tend to act rashly and be more stubborn. If you reassure them that you can take as much time as necessary to answer their questions and develop the best possible agreement, their willingness to compromise will shoot up.

What to say instead: "Do you have any obligations I should know about for time purposes? I'm happy to spend as long as you need getting this proposal to a point we're both happy with."

14) “How low do I need to go to make this happen?”

While you might be trying to identify your buyer's ideal price and/or figure out how aggressively you'll need to discount, this question makes you seem desperate. Your prospect will conclude you'll bend over backward to get the sale -- and they'll use this knowledge to their advantage.

And thanks to the anchoring effect (or "the common human tendency to rely too heavily on the first piece of information offered"), once they've named their price, any price you name above that will sound unreasonable.

What to say instead: "Our price is X. [Silence.]"

Naming the first amount gives you the power to set pricing expectations. In addition, your prospect probably already has a good sense of what your product costs -- if your company doesn't have a pricing page, they can usually find third-party reviews and comparisons. You also should have already qualified them for budget. Since you know they can afford their solution, don't be afraid to give them a number. Then pause. If they want to negotiate it down or request other concessions, they will.


What would you never say in a negotiation? Let us know in the comments.

HubSpot CRM templates

22 Jun 17:17

5 Lessons Learned from a SaaS Home Run

by Sonia Simone

laura roeder - a customer-first approach to software

Laura Roeder is known for putting together agile companies that put the customer first — including her current hit, Edgar, a SaaS (software as a service) product that hit a million dollars in revenue in its first year in business.

She excels at “keeping it simple” — maybe because she ran ultra-successful online education companies for five years. She turned around and put those lessons into a software business — and she’s crushing it.

Laura leapt out on her own as a freelancer at 22, without giving it a lot of thought. As she laughingly put it in her Unemployable interview with Brian Clark, it was:

“… probably the worst way to do it.”

You can find that interview here: From Freelance Designer to SaaS Superstar

She hadn’t done any prep, she hadn’t lined up any clients … she didn’t even know what a proposal was.

Lesson #1: You learn by doing

While I don’t particularly recommend that approach for most of us, it underlies a key principle of starting a business:

You learn the real lessons by doing.

(If you’re looking for a lower-risk way to learn those lessons, the “side hustle” — a part-time business you can run in your spare time — is a fantastic middle road.)

Educating yourself is important — and you can find lots of techniques and strategies here on Copyblogger and our sister site, Digital Commerce Institute.

But education is the initial, back-of-the-envelope sketch. It’s when you actually start building a project, product, and business that you really make that learning come to life.

And you can start small — with experimental products and services that don’t require you to “bet the farm.”

Speaking of which, that leads us to one of the most common misperceptions about people who launch businesses …

Is it true that entrepreneurs are extreme risk-takers?

Laura definitely has a bold, optimistic personality — it’s what led her to take that leap at 22.

But there’s a big difference between “bold” and “foolhardy.”

Smart digital entrepreneurs launch controlled, low-risk offerings, sometimes called the minimum viable product model, until they find the perfect mix of product and market.

Laura’s software business, Edgar, grew out of the needs of her online education company. And unlike a lot of software development (raise millions of dollars, spend a year writing code, then see if you can get some buyers), she was able to deploy Edgar quickly to find out if it would interest her market.

Her development costs were light enough that the tool was worth developing even if they only ever used it in-house. But instead, Edgar turned out to be a home run.

Lesson #2: Reduce risk through experimentation

One of the things that makes business interesting is the need to constantly pay attention to shifting landscapes and patterns. And that allows you to notice what’s working — even if it’s subtle — and to figure out how to do more of it.

It also helps you notice what isn’t working, so you can correct the issue.

It sounds simple, and sometimes it is, but of course that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. But this type of careful observation is the best business teacher around.

Lesson #3: Look for the bigger picture

“At our company … one of the things we [ask employees] is, ‘Are you killing it?'” – Laura Roeder, from her interview on Hack the Entrepreneur

Laura values ownership in her company, giving each team member the information they need to make smart decisions without a lot of micromanagement.

How do they decide which decisions are smart? The ones that contribute to growth and excellent user experience — recognizing that success comes from the combined efforts of multiple teams and roles.

Rather than focus on one or two “KPIs” (key performance indicators) for each position, Laura recognizes that selling online is a matter of creating smart customer paths — and that requires a more holistic way of looking at teams and how they work together.

Her question to employees — Are you killing it? — makes room for a wider view of how the business is working.

Lesson #4: Focus on what you’re excellent at

Most founders, particularly in the early days, think of themselves as “chief cook and bottle washer.” In other words, they try to fill every single role in the company.

Laura, on the other hand, has always been strongly aware of her weak spots … which has allowed her to leverage her strengths.

As she said in her Hack the Entrepreneur interview:

“Something that I’m especially bad at is customer service.”

But rather than allowing that to create an expensive blind spot that “customer service isn’t that important,” it led her to value her support team that much more.

In fact, Laura wrote a fascinating article with that point of view here: Stop Insulting Your Team by Making Everyone Do Customer Service.

A key aspect of entrepreneurial creativity is figuring out how you’re going to work with the gaps of your own weaknesses — whether that’s by hiring someone, partnering, or some other creative solution.

Lesson #5: Think like a marketer

Because of Laura’s background, she thinks like a marketer — which gives her a monster advantage as a business owner.

She’s open to new ideas, but she doesn’t fall in love with them — until she sees how they can serve the needs of her audience and expand out into a wider market.

That lets her start planning a new product, project, or company with the right question:

What audience problem is this going to solve? How will this delight the audience I’ve pulled together?

This customer-first thinking is the cornerstone for most successful business, and it’s an antidote to what I call “Inventor’s Syndrome” — grinding away to push an interesting technical idea that buyers just don’t share your enthusiasm for.

Her million-dollar business Edgar came out of an education product called Social Brilliant, which taught Laura’s methodology for social media.

Edgar was a natural evolution that came at the intersection of what Social Brilliant was doing well (advice on social media strategy) and the audience’s needs (better, simpler tools to implement the techniques).

Keeping her eyes open and her attention focused, she realized the need — then discovered from her Ruby-on-Rails programmer fiancé that creating an automation tool was totally doable.

(His assertion that “I can do that in a week” did turn out to be a bit overoptimistic. Welcome to software development!)

Hear more about Laura’s journey to SaaS founder

We’re excited that Laura will be joining us this October at our live Digital Commerce Summit in Denver, Colorado on October 13-14.

Laura’s going to spill the beans about her journey, starting as that cocky 22-year-old freelancer, becoming a high-profile information entrepreneur, and now heading a hot SaaS that hit the million-dollar revenue mark its first year in business.

Her talk is called Leveling Up: How I Went From Infoproducts to SaaS, and will take you behind the scenes to see exactly how a non-technical marketing mind used the skills she developed in online courses to quickly become a major player in a whole new industry.

Join us for a focused, single-track curriculum that will teach you how to level up to the next phase of your business — and will load you up with action steps that you can start moving on before you even get on the plane home.

Claim your spot and get the best price on tickets here.

The post 5 Lessons Learned from a SaaS Home Run appeared first on Copyblogger.

22 Jun 17:17

US homes sell at strongest pace since 2007

by CB Staff

WASHINGTON – Americans snapped up houses in May almost as soon as properties were listed, fueling the strongest sales rate in nearly a decade.

Sales of existing homes rose 1.8 per cent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.53 million, the highest level since February 2007, the National Association of Realtors said Wednesday.

People remain intent on buying homes, despite the low inventory of properties on the market that has caused prices to rise. The elevated demand likely stems from low mortgage rates and a relatively healthy jobs picture with unemployment at 4.7 per cent, even with a recent slowdown in hiring.

“May’s existing home sales numbers suggest that healthy demand continues to support a recovering housing market, but that inventory woes are preventing a full recovery to pre-recession levels,” said Ralph McLaughlin, chief economist at online real estate firm Trulia.

Homes sold in May after just 32 days on the market, the fastest pace ever measured by the Realtors since they began tracking the figure in 2011. Homes stayed on the market on average for 40 days a year ago.

Sales rose in the Northeast, South and West last month but fell in the Midwest where real estate is generally considered more affordable.

The median home sales price was $239,700 in April, a 4.7 per cent increase over the past 12 months.

The sales gains have failed to convince more current homeowners to list their properties. Many are still recovering equity lost during the crash. For some of them, a sale would fail to generate enough of a profit to cover the expense of buying a new home. The number of listings has fallen 5.7 per cent from a year ago, meaning homebuyers have fewer and fewer options.

Home ownership rates have yet to improve despite the sales growth since the housing bust triggered a recession in late 2007. The national rate is close to a 48-year low of 63.5 per cent.

But Americans still want to own homes if they can afford it, according to a separate report released Wednesday by the Harvard University Joint Center for Housing Studies. The pressures of student debt, rising rents and the leftover wreckage from the housing bust have restrained people’s ability to buy, even though the dream remains alive.

Sales have been strong enough so far this year that the Realtors expect total sales to rise 3 per cent from 2015, revising an initial forecast of nearly flat sales in 2016.

First-time buyers accounted for 30 per cent of sales last month, well below the historic average of 40 per cent.

Builders have increased construction, yet by focusing on higher-end properties they’ve done little to relieve the supply pressures. Single-family house starts have climbed 14.5 per cent this year, according to the Commerce Department.

Low mortgage rates have helped boost demand. Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said the average 30-year fixed-rate mortgage dipped to 3.54 per cent last week from 4 per cent a year ago.

The post US homes sell at strongest pace since 2007 appeared first on Canadian Business - Your Source For Business News.

22 Jun 17:15

How One Head of Sales Tackled Building a Sales Playbook

by (Trish Bertuzzi)

SNkevin.jpgKevin Dorsey is a fantastic sales leader. As Head of Sales for SnackNation, he leads a team of 12 Sales Development Reps and 30 Account Executives. SnackNation offers office delivery of healthy snacks that create happier and more productive teams.

In just one year, Kevin grew the teams from a handful of reps to over 40. Along the way, he decided that the best avenue for reinforcing and scaling critical sales competencies was to build a Sales Playbook.

And over the next 3.5 months, he did just that.

Lesson #1: He immersed himself in his SDRs' process

"I knew that if I wrote the Playbook from behind my desk exclusively, it probably wouldn't be very good."

Kevin got his hands dirty, getting in the seat with the SDRs and really seeing what that day-to-day felt and sounded like. He was looking to combine emergent best practices (identified by his team) with industry and thought leaders learnings.

 The playbook is broken into three sections:

  • What do we need to know about our customers to help them succeed?
  • What must every single SDR be able to do well?
  • What data / technologies do we need to effectively execute?

Lesson #2: He started with the most important piece- The Why

"My favorite part of the playbook is the why section. I really tried to explain to new hires why we do certain things the way we do."

Right up front, the playbook lays out the thinking behind how SnackNation reps execute. Kevin shares what mistakes have already been made and lessons learned along the way. Most companies direct their teams on how to go after deals, but rarely share the why.

Kevin’s team knows the why, they believe in it, and mostly importantly they can teach it to others.

Lesson #3: He got his team involved

"When I finished a chapter, I presented it to the team. I said, 'Tear this apart. Tell me where I'm wrong. Tell me what's off that doesn't work in real life.' Getting the team involved builds ownership."

After the 3.5 month initial writing period, Kevin continues to revise the playbook monthly. He makes updates for each new hire class. His goal is to make the previous SDR class jealous - to the point where they're saying, "Man, I wish I had all this when I started."

Equal to what goes in the playbook is how you communicate it. You have to put everything in a format that reps can absorb. Even the best writing, if presented as a wall of words, won't help your reps learn and grow.


Sales teams need playbooks to make the most of every single sales interaction. You want to capture industry best practices, bubble up emerging techniques, and continuously refine buyer-based messaging so that, as Kevin says, your old timers are jealous of the tool you're handing to your new hires.

An aside, here at The Bridge Group we write Sales Playbooks that rock, if I do say so myself (as do our clients).

Don’t make your new hires do sales tool archeology; hand them a roadmap to success. Any questions for Kevin?

22 Jun 17:15

How DigitalOcean Turned a Team of 5 Sales Reps Into the Spartans from 300

by Kevin Chiu

After attending The Sales Machine Summit last week, I discussed with my two good friends, Richard Harris of The Harris Consulting Group and Scott Britton of Troops, how most sales teams don’t operate at maximum velocity. I’ve learned throughout my career that highly efficient and productive teams can make or break your revenue targets and was urged to write down how DigitalOcean recently turned our team of 5 sales reps into the Spartans from the movie 300.

Richard, Scott, and I realized that the interesting part amongst the majority of sales teams is that most of them consider their organization highly efficient sales machines, but in reality, they’re far from it. Most teams are simply filling “headcount” and then calling it “hyperscaling” their sales org. Teams like this grow from 1 to 20 to 200 to 1000… and then, ultimately, end up back at 200. From the outside, everyone thinks that a company who is hiring a lot or has sizable sales organization is doing well and they must be crushing it. Wrong.

Through our conversations discussing teams at scale, I mentioned to Richard and Scott how DigitalOcean has an incredibly small sales team with 5 reps total (our first group started in mid-February) yet we operate at the speed and effectiveness of a team that is twice our size. After speaking with dozens of sales executives and front line reps at much larger brand name organizations, it has become obvious that there is a common link between most of them: grow, grow, grow.

Sometimes this meant to grow at all costs. In reality, while most teams are focused primarily on scaling up, managers and directors should focus just as much on optimizing as they do on growing. Teams should grow, optimize, grow, optimize, and so forth. Instead of keeping your head down and trucking forward, look at the data you’ve collected during growth spurts, figure out what went wrong, replicate what went right, and take steps forward in the right direction. Sometimes that direction is not just the next step forward; it might be a step back to take two steps forward down the correct path.

During my conversations with these VPs and sales executives, we discussed their issues around not having adequate visibility into their sales process: it was incredibly difficult to ensure that the reps put the right data into Salesforce, adjust to new technology tools, and keep the team consistently organized in their overall approach. These conversations typically uncovered a never ending laundry list of a variety of reasons that all were leading to lost productivity and as a result, less time selling.

So, how do you find a solution for these bottlenecks when you have revenue targets to hit? The easy answer is to put another body on the sales floor and grow. I mean… if you put another person on the team, they’re bound to contribute to the overall team quota, right? Sure. It sounds simple, however it is way more cost effective to get 5 reps to each put up 20% more through optimizing their current role:

  • Eliminate bottlenecks
  • Obtain more qualified leads
  • Shorten sales cycles and/or improve close rates

InsightSquared has a great article with more on that specific topic.

It’s not an unusual thought process when you’re building out a new sales team to only worry about revenue, but if that comes at the point of sacrificing scalability and a playbook that’s repeatable, your sales team will hit a peak eventually and they’ll run into a brick wall. Once you hit that peak, the only way forward is down, and nobody wants to be Frosty the Snowman when his torso snowball is rolling down Mt. Everest. Hopefully this article will shed some light on how to build a lean but effective sales machine, how to capitalize on ROI opportunities, and how to get a different perspective on the opportunity cost of growing too fast, too quickly.

So, if you’re wondering how we did this or how to turn your team into the Spartans from 300, here is the short answer: make the right hiring decisions and be smart about how to optimize your process. Bring in a bunch of badass sales professionals who are passionate and care about your product and who– at the end of the day– love selling efficiently.

I’ll tell you what the answer isn’t  —  Account Based Sales.


Now, I’m not saying ABS (Insert Trendy Sales Process Name Here) isn’t the way to go (we definitely use that model here at DigitalOcean) but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what sales process you put in place, it matters who is implementing and executing that process.

Below is a breakdown of what I believe to be the foundational formula for success for any sales team that puts productivity first:

1. Leadership —

Think about who’s at the front of your sales organization. Do they resemble Leonidas or Xerxes?

UntitledAre they someone who leads by example at the front or are they someone who is in the back barking orders on a high chair? Do they walk around tossing a basketball and telling the reps to make a cold call but never picked up the phone themselves? That’s a huge, huge mistake if it’s the case. Don’t tell the reps to make cold calls, show them how to make an effective one.


2. Hire The Best —

Bring in people who really believe in your mission, are passionate about your product/service, and have a track record of giving it their all. Of course you’re going to want to look for all the standard traits of a good sales professional, but the number one thing to look for is people that are better (and smarter) than you. Surround yourself with people that can push and challenge you but who are also collaborative; after all, you are on the same team, trying to win the same business. You should never be the smartest person in the room and if you are, you should be worried.

If you already have a decent-sized team, take a good look at them. Would you say they look like anything like the team below? And no — that does not mean hire all males — but more on that topic in point #3.


Do you see any fat on that squad? Not a carb in 6 months.

In all seriousness, this photo represents trimming the fat and doing it quickly. Non-performers and negative attitudes are like leeches and you are only as strong as your weakest link. If you’re going to have an elite sales team, every single person counts. Have a full team of A-players and if not all members are at the same caliber of Kobe Bryant, then at the very least make sure they’re coachable. If your sales organization is a lot bigger and B-players are a more scalable option, make sure they have an A-player attitude. It’s a lot more worthwhile and a much better investment to turn a B into an A than put time into turning a C into a B. Always go from good to great, not worst to mediocre.

How do you ensure you hire the best? Structured. Recruiting. Processes. Don’t just go into an interview or phone screen and wing it. A structured interview process ensures that you’re vetting the candidate for all the right things. At DigitalOcean, the process has 6 stages:

  1. Recruiter phone interview
  2. 1-hr Google Hangouts manager interview
  3. Homework assignment
  4. On-site panel interview with 4 hiring managers
  5. Meet the COO
  6. Final round: meet the CEO

During that process, our team performs reference checks, and I’m probably (definitely) doing a back-channel reference check through mutual connections. And please, please do not try and do this all in an excel spreadsheet. Use recruiting software like to help you manage the hiring process and to find great candidates to fill the funnel. Minimize hiring mistakes at all cost because it’s a heck of a lot more expensive to fix one later. One of the best articles I’ve read on sales recruiting is from First Round Capital.

At the end of the day, people solve problems, not money; don’t keep hiring to grow fast because you think that it will help the team hit revenue goals quicker. Sam Jacobs, SVP of Sales and Marketing at LiveStream, made a great point in regards to this at The Sales Machine Summit last week during the session, “Building a Culture Optimized for Growth.” Jacobs mentioned how you should think about your sales team and its growth similar to a bus: don’t just fill the seats as quickly as possible– really think about who you’re giving each seat to and ensure that it’s the right person for the job.

3. Culture

Think about how your team defines culture. Is work a happy place where everyone enjoys each other’s company and truly wants everyone else to succeed? Do people hang out outside of work? Do they hang out anywhere else besides the local bar? Think hard about your sales culture and what kind of experience you want to represent. Try to create an environment that actually drives real team culture in the day-to-day where people aren’t afraid to be themselves, are proud of their work, enjoy collaborating with others, and see a career path reachable within a reasonable timeframe within your organization.

Earlier this month, I leveraged our in-house Talent Development team to help with planning an off-site for the sales org. They were able to help drive team development, open up conversations about pain points that weren’t apparent to others, and have everyone take a look at things from a different person’s perspective. As a result, I can honestly say that the sales team has felt closer with a new level of trust that we’re all in this mission together. Inevitably, there’s going to be ups and downs but it’s about making the team realize that the grass isn’t always greener and the light at the end of the tunnel is going to be worth it. This was by far one of the best things I decided to do in my experience managing sales teams.

Dave Greenberger, VP of Sales at Splash, recently sent me a note asking if I knew any good sales ops candidates. I asked him if they should be junior or senior level and he said, “Doesn’t matter. Culture over everything.” To Greenberger’s point, you can teach skills (most of the time if it’s the right hire) but you can’t fix a bad culture fit.

Emmanuelle Skala, VP of Sales at Influitive, reported a situation where her reps cared so much about culture that one rep sacrificed a deal to help another rep out. They didn’t care about their quota (granted they were probably already there — it’s the thought that counts) but cared more about getting to the finish line together.

And finally: diversify, diversify, and diversify some more. When you’re building out a new team, make sure that everyone on the team has a different skillset. Don’t hire the same profile early on. Try to have all your bases covered:

  • 1 person should be the best cold caller
  • 1 person should be the best emailer
  • 1 person should be the best at social selling
  • 1 person should ______.

Let them feed off of each other and do not — under any circumstance — force a sales rep who isn’t good at calling, call. If they can write a damn good cold email, why does it matter how they get the demo? And lastly, don’t underestimate the importance of a good ratio of female to male ratio. To learn more, DocSend has an awesome infographic with stats and data on how much better teams perform when they’re more gender-diverse.

While there might be a lot more male sales talent (at least in NYC), it is important to have female reps also. I literally just spent 20 hours sourcing for female candidates; ladies of the sales tech community, start referring your friends!!

Picture below to see how well we’re doing with that initiative:


One’s better than none! Shameless plug but reach out to me if you know anyone : )

4. Training —

Can’t stress this one enough either: make sure to have an on-going training program. At the bare minimum, have basic trainings set up (most teams don’t):

  • call trainings
  • role plays
  • email evaluations
  • shadowing, and more

The sales team at DigitalOcean does a weekly sales call training where the entire team listens to a sales call that was recently held by one of the reps. This helps build a collaborative, transparent environment that enables peer-to-peer feedback. In addition to that, we have a bi-weekly sales book club to propel reading something that helps us in our sales process. Our most recent book was The Challenger Sale and next on our list is The Sales Development Playbook by Trish Bertuzzi. All the knowledge necessary is nearby so create a learning environment where your team can absorb from a world where everything is now on-demand and instantaneous.

In addition to basic training and sales literature, we’re planning on hosting a 3rd party trainer soon (like John Barrows) to get a different perspective and help with efficiency amongst the team. Don’t put a dollar or budget on sales training when the ROI will speak for itself after a few deals. If you approach this the right way, your team should look something the below:


5. Sales Operations —

It’s never too early to fill your first Sales Operations role. A Sales Operations hire was the 6th person DigitalOcean brought on to the sales org and he’s been instrumental to our process. Sales Ops is integral because most VPs of Sales or early sales hires aren’t savvy with Salesforce. While they’re a heck of a sales person — they know how to sell and can sell bottles of canned air to someone if they tried — they’re coaches, leaders, recruiters, and do’ers. It’s rare when you get all of that plus someone who’s sales operations savvy and thinks about optimization, scalability, and has the ability to architect it all in Salesforce.

For this hire, make sure the candidate knows how to get their hands dirty, helps you implement all of your sales tools, runs continuous implementation, and continues to optimize the sales funnel. There’s a million things to do when you’re building out a brand new sales team and the last thing you want is to be stuck doing administrative tasks. Our Sales Operations analyst has helped us understand bottlenecks and we’ve been bucketing them into three categories on a regular basis:

  1. Automate
  2. Eliminate; or
  3. Outsource

Sales Operations is responsible for helping arm your team with the right tools to succeed, repair things when they are broken, and understand the optimal formula for success. If you think about it in the perspective of 300, sales ops (in that movie) was whoever helped them pick their gear for battle and gave them another perspective from the outside on how to prevent leakage in their formation.

By doing so, the soldiers were able to capitalize on having a lean team, leveraging teamwork as a solidified unit, and as a result, win battle after battle (spoiler alert – except obviously at the end when they lost because the little gremlin sold them out – buzzkill). Now, if the Spartans were your sales reps, their spears and swords would be the sales tools you use to arm them with and their formation/strategy would be your sales process/playbook. Once you’ve found the right people (soldiers), those are the two key important pieces to creating a high velocity sales team.

For DigitalOcean, we realized that most of the reps were going to be living in G-mail and Salesforce given our target market. Because of that, we set our reps up for success by utilizing tools like that lives wherever the sales rep are to allow them to be highly efficient while conducting sales activities.

In summary, you should really think more about optimizing your current process rather than adding to it. Instead of simply scaling and hiring more reps, it’ll save your company more time and money if you focus on leadership, quality of hires, culture, training, and synthesizing operations. You’ll also learn more and gain more experience along the way, setting you up for success in your career.

Happy hunting and hope you enjoyed this article. I’d love to hear your feedback, so please leave your comments below : )



The post How DigitalOcean Turned a Team of 5 Sales Reps Into the Spartans from 300 appeared first on Sales Hacker.