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07 Feb 18:06

How to Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile and Increase Your Influence

by Benji Bateman

A few years ago, LinkedIn was a place to feature your resume and perhaps land a job offer. Those days are over. LinkedIn has now evolved into a content marketing platform with nearly 600 million members and over $1 billion in quarterly revenue.

As the reigning king of professional social media, LinkedIn is the premier platform for entrepreneurs, executives, and working professionals looking to build their network and increase their influence.

If you don’t care about your career or personal success, then stop reading. But if you want to become known as a leader in your industry, respected by your peers and surrounded by new opportunities, then this is the blog for you.

Optimize Your LinkedIn Profile

Before you focus on building your network and increasing your influence, the most important place to start is your own profile. This will act as your personal landing page—where visitors will decide if they should convert into a contact or connection.

Here are the 10 absolute must-haves for your profile and how to utilize them correctly:

  1. Profile Headline: Simply put, this is who you are and what you do. Your headline displays in search results next to your thumbnail image, which means it can determine whether or not someone clicks on your profile. More than just your job title, write a one-liner that shows how you add value or what makes you stand out. My profile headline says, “Marketing Consultant at SmartBug Media | #1 Rated HubSpot Partner”.
  2. Professional Headshot: This seems like a given, but let’s be honest—how many bad headshots are still out there on LinkedIn? Your company may cover the cost of getting a new headshot taken, but if not paying a professional photographer $150 is a career investment worth making. Pro tip: If your whole company needs new LinkedIn headshots, make sure everyone uses the same background color so your employees are easily recognizable on social media.
  3. Branded Background Image: A small amount of graphic design goes a long way here. Avoid using cheesy stock images with dramatic sunlight (unless that matches your brand guidelines), and instead create an image that features your company’s personality and logo. In my opinion, a custom background image is the most underrated and underused way to take your profile to the next level. (The design size should be 1400 x 425 pixels.)
    benji bateman linkedin
  4. Summary: Your LinkedIn summary is the first section visitors will read once they land on your profile and will determine if they keep scrolling or bounce. This is your elevator pitch. Write three to five sentences that make you sound more interesting than the Dos Equis man, then include a call to action with your email address. Keep it short and sweet.
  5. Job Experience with Descriptions: Most people have their previous job experience listed on LinkedIn; however, most people don’t have proper descriptions. Remember, this is not your resume—don’t list bullet points. Write two to three sentences about each of your previous positions focusing on what you achieved during your time at that company, not just what kept you busy.
  6. Education: In this section, list any undergrad or graduate education you have, including what you studied and when you finished. You may also want to include your GPA, relevant coursework, and any clubs or societies that you were involved in. This not only shows your qualifications, but gives people a way to feel connected to you by recognizing similar interests.
  7. Skills and Endorsements: If you have five or more skills listed on your profile, you’re 33 times more likely to be messaged and will receive 17 times more profile views. LinkedIn only displays three of your skills initially, so prioritize the ones that you want to be known for the most. The top three skills on my profile are Team Leadership, Business Development, and Social Media.
  8. Recommendations: A recommendation must be written by a first-degree connection, typically a previous coworker, and is a statement of public praise. This is an awesome way to build credibility with future employers and show that you didn’t burn any bridges on your way out. Shoot for getting one to three recommendations, especially from previous managers or executives.
  9. Awards and Accomplishments: Similar to the descriptions of your job experience, the goal of this section is to show that you didn’t just show up to work and clock in, but that you also accomplished goals and were awarded for stellar work—there’s a huge difference. Do everything you can to get this point across.
  10. Interests: The interests section adds personality by showing people what you care about and what you’re paying attention to. Which thought leaders are you following? Which companies and groups do you have your eye on?

This may take several hours, but once you’ve completed each and every one of these 10 items, your profile status will be upgraded to “All Star” on LinkedIn. Now you’re ready to get your game on.

Build Your Network

Once you’ve finished optimizing your LinkedIn profile, the next step is to begin building your network. With two new members joining LinkedIn every second (that’s over 100 people since you started reading this post), there’s no shortage of opportunities.

  1. Make Connections: Think about your job experiences and add each coworker and client you’ve ever had. By starting with people you already know, you should be able to reach the LinkedIn benchmark of 500+ connections more easily than you think.
  2. Be Active in Groups: According to HubSpot, your profile is five times more likely to be viewed if you join and are active in groups. Like posts, make comments, and share articles in groups. This is the best way to start organically making connections with people you don’t know yet who are interested in similar topics.
  3. Use Career Advice: Eighty percent of LinkedIn members have said that they want to have a mentor or be one to others. That’s why LinkedIn recently launched a feature called Career Advice, which helps you find a match and make that happen. Hone your skills as a leader and give back to a younger professional.

Once you’ve done these three things, the power of social media begins to go to work. You never know who you might meet and where your connections could take you. Let your network continue to build over time, and who knows, maybe one day you’ll reach the maximum number of 30,000 connections.

Publish Content

In the age of content marketing, publishing content has become a proven way to generate leads. That’s old news. But here’s the eye-opening statistic: Out of the nearly 600 million LinkedIn members, only 1 million users have published an article on LinkedIn. On top of that, LinkedIn makes up more than 50 percent of all social media traffic driven to B2B websites. Those numbers should make you want to immediately stop what you’re doing and publish an article on LinkedIn.

With an optimized profile and expanding network, here’s how you can start tapping into some of that content potential:

  1. Share Articles: To save time, test your LinkedIn audience by sharing articles (instead of writing them) to see what kind of content your audience is most interested in. You may be surprised by which posts go viral and which get crickets. Pro tip: When you write captions, use catchy language and one sentence per paragraph. This will entice people to click on “See More” and read your full caption.
  2. Publish Content: If you’re one of the 99.8 percent of LinkedIn members who have never published an article, here’s how it’s done. Don’t worry too much about what to write about—if you want to start establishing yourself as a thought leader, you don’t have to know more than everyone, you just have to know more than the average person. Write about what you know best, then link to your website at the bottom of your LinkedIn article to drive social traffic.
  3. Engage with Your Audience: One of the biggest appeals of social media is being able to connect with authors, leaders, and even celebrities (look at what Steph Curry cooked for dinner last night!). As you grow your expertise on LinkedIn, be sure to respond to any comments and acknowledge your fanbase. Be professional, but don’t forget to be personal as well.

Final Thoughts

The exponential growth of members on LinkedIn and the huge number of those who aren’t publishing articles is an opportunity that any professional can take advantage of. Get your profile looking right, make connections, and then spend a few minutes a day investing in your network. Your future self will be glad you did.

If you’re looking to take a deeper dive into the world of social media, check out the guide Social Media Feeds, Growth, and Reporting.

07 Feb 18:06

OutBound and the No Pitching Rule

by Anthony Iannarino

I just heard from some friends who attended what was supposed to be a big sales conference. They texted me from inside the conference to tell me that it was one giant commercial with the speakers pitching from the stage.

Sadly, this isn’t at all unusual. What looks like a conference where real content will be delivered is nothing more than a facade to get potential customers into a room for a pitch—one they paid to attend. It’s a bait and switch.

When my friends and I started the OutBound Conference three years ago, our number one value was that, without exception, no one would pitch from the stage, something each of us had seen before, believing it ruined the experience. Instead, the OutBound speakers and workshop facilitators would deliver pure, practical, tactical, and actionable content.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve received emails from people who were interested in attending OutBound and bringing their teams, but they were afraid that OutBound would be like some other conferences, ones like the description of the one my friends attended. Rest assured, OutBound in no way resembles some of the conferences where “speakers” pitch from the stage. It doesn’t happen.

No speaker or presenter on the OutBound stage needs you to hire them. They’re the very best in the business, and that is why they are on the bill at OutBound. They are the biggest names in sales development, and should you want to engage them, they aren’t hard to find.

If you were concerned about the content, I hope I have resolved that concern for you. If you still have concerns, ask around on LinkedIn and see what attendees from the last two years have to say about OutBound.

Use coupon code “iannarino100” for $100 off the main ticket.

OutBound is the very best, content-driven sales conference on Earth. It takes place at the World Congress Center in the Georgia Ballroom on April 24th and 25th, with an Elite ticket that includes a full day of workshops on April 26th. If you want the VIP experience, you’ll need to show up in Atlanta on the 23rd for an experience you can’t find anywhere else.

www.outboundconference.com

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The post OutBound and the No Pitching Rule appeared first on The Sales Blog.

07 Feb 18:05

Sales People/Manager Churn Is Unacceptable!

by David Brock

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been involved in a number of conversations with colleagues and sales execs. Inevitably, we touch on the sad state of affairs on sales talent.

The data on churn (voluntary and involuntary) is horrible! Depending on the market data, tenure for managers and sales people is anywhere between 15 and 22 months. We are completely turning our organizations–management and sales people roughly every 3 years!

This is craziness! With onboarding (for complex B2B sales) at roughly 10 months, and sales cycles often exceeding 6 months, it’s no wonder that sales performance continues it’s downward plummet. People simply aren’t on board long enough to recover the hiring/onboarding investments we make. They aren’t around long enough to build their experience/competency, to build pipelines, to drive the business. Any success they have is likely to be a result of the work of their predecessor than their own success. As you run the numbers, you quickly see we are on a death spiral.

But it gets worse, as I talk to executives about needing to develop skills in curiosity, creativity, critical thinking, problem solving, collaboration, project management, orchestration.

Often, the reaction is, “How can I afford to invest in developing these skills, if the sales person is going to leave in 15-22 months?

We have this paradox, we need to invest in very advanced skills in order to effectively engage customers in their buying journeys. But it we have this revolving door of sales people/managers. How can we make this investment?

We need to break out of this thinking that churn is unavoidable! Accepting 15-22 month turnover as inevitable has to be unacceptable—it certainly is irresponsible!

Talent will be the single most important issue facing sales execs in the coming 5-10 years. We have to invest in acquiring the right talent, investing in their development, and retaining them.

Churn is not a law of physics. We create churn by creating work places that don’t value talent. We create churn by not developing our people or creating challenging job opportunities and companies that people want to be a part of.

Some will say, “But they are millennials….,” suggesting it’s the people not the company or the management policies that cause the churn. This is simply an excuse for uninspired leadership.

People, of all generations, want to work in places where they are challenged, developed, respected, doing something they think is important. That’s not a generational problem, it’s an leadership problem.

Our customers face accelerating turbulence—rapid change, disruption, overload, overwhelm, increasing complexity, transformation, risk, and uncertainty. They are crying for help. It’s the perfect opportunity for sales people to engage the customer helping them solve their problems. But to do this requires great skill.

Leadership at all levels need to step up to their responsibilities and to the opportunity. The opportunity is too big and too important. We owe it to our customers, our companies, our people.

Perhaps, rather than giving lip service to the idea that “people are our most important asset,” we all would be better served by executing on that idea.

07 Feb 18:04

5 Ways to Improve Your Business Writing Skills

by Choncé Maddox

Before you started a business, I’m sure you never considered how much writing it might involve. You may find yourself writing emails, press releases, blog posts, product descriptions, and marketing material.

Sure, you can hire others to do the bulk of the writing in your business, but you need to have the budget for that. You also need to get clear on the voice and tone you’d like your brand to take. If you just hire random writers for different projects, this may not help your brand’s consistency.

If you don’t have much of a budget to hire writers or just want to add the skill to your roster so you can better direct the type of content your business puts out, here are 5 ways to improve your business writing skills.

1. Make Your Writing Relevant

Have you ever read something and was left wondering what the main point was? You don’t your audience to feel the same way when they come across content for your business.

You want to make your writing relevant and eliminate the fluff. Introduce the main idea early on and perhaps even tie in current events that may be affecting your audience. People take time out of their day to read your content so always stay on topic to respect their commitment.

2. Be Clear and Concise

Spouting bigger words doesn’t make you seem smarter. It just confuses your audience and comes off as unnecessary jargon. If you can something simpler, do it. Readers will appreciate clear and concise language so they don’t have to struggle to understand your core messaging.

3. Outline What You’re Going to Say

If you want to become a better writer, it’s important to outline your content before you actually start working on it. I’m a big of a long-winded writer myself and I know I can get off topic easy and sometimes I still struggle with effectively communicating my thoughts.

To combat this, create a detailed outline to guide your writing. Include how you want to introduce the topic or solution to a problem, the main points you want to cover with supporting evidence, and a solid conclusion to wrap everything up.

You want your content to take readers on a journey from start to finish. It should be organized, clear, helpful, and unique. Coming up with an outline can help you achieve this.

4. Include a Call to Action

What do you want readers to do after they finish reading your content? Your content should be a segway to help you gain trust with your audience and get them to take action. Do you want people to sign up for your email list? Purchase a product? Book a discovery call with you?

Be clear with your call to action but also don’t be demanding or too salesy. You don’t want your writing to seem like one big advertisement. It should be helpful and educate your audience first. Once you provide value, then you can ask readers to take action.

5. Proofread

I don’t understand when writers don’t proofread their work. Your first draft is hardly ever as good as your final draft. Writing is a process and you want to develop your skill.

You can’t do this is you simply brain dump your content and leave it as it. It’s important to proofread your work from a critical perspective to catch errors and smooth things out. You can also even work with an editor or proofreader who can review your content with a fresh pair of eyes.

Summary

Writing quality content for your business is a must. If you don’t have the budget to hire a copywriter for everything, you can certainly work on improving your business writing skills.

07 Feb 18:04

No sales plan survives first contact with the customer

by bob@inflexion-point.com (Bob Apollo)

RefineMilitary leaders have long recognised the importance of planning. But they have also recognised that it is the act of planning, rather than the plan itself, that is most important. The Prussian military commander Helmuth van Moltke concluded that “No plan of operations reaches with any certainty beyond the first encounter with the enemy's main force” - often simplified to “no plan survives first contact with the enemy”.

Neil Rackham, author of SPIN® Selling, acknowledged the importance of planning when he concluded that “a consistent finding about successful sales people is that they put effort into planning. Good selling depends more on good planning than any other single factor.”

And to revert back to another military leader, Dwight D Eisenhower believed that “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable”. Now, I believe that in some quarters there has been rampant and inappropriate over-application of military metaphors to the sales process. We are NOT in a battle with our customers, nor should think of ourselves as being at war with our competitors.

But we can at least recognise both the power and the limitations of planning...

In the context of selling, planning is about anticipating future outcomes, whether they be the results of a prospecting call, a customer meeting, a proposal, a potential sales opportunity, an important target account or a key sales territory.

Planning also extends to helping our customers craft a sufficiently compelling internal business case to support the decision to go ahead with the project we have been working with them on, and the conclusion that we represent their best solution option.

In every case, the complexities are such (and the risks of unprepared failure so high) that we cannot afford not to prepare before we proceed. But the complexities are also such that we will never have the perfect knowledge required to come up with a perfect plan.

The best we can expect to do is to prepare for success, and to anticipate and mitigate as many of the potential sources of failure as possible. Atul Gawande, author of the best-selling Checklist Manifesto, identified the two primary sources of failure as errors of ignorance and errors of ineptitude.

Both can be mitigated - if not eliminated - through the proper planning and preparation. Errors of ignorance revolve around a failure to know something we could have known. In military parlance, a good example would be the importance of reconnaissance. In sales environments, we can think of the critical importance of thorough discovery and qualification.

Errors of ineptitude revolve around a failure to apply knowledge that existed elsewhere within the system, but which was not applied in the particular circumstances. These are often related to failures to share important information around an organisation and leaving individuals to learn through expensive and painful trial-and-error.

A classic and all-too-common example of both factors together (ignorant ineptitude) is the use of rigid call scripts that insist that the caller follows the same precise formula regardless of how the recipient is reacting.

The purpose of planning is not to strive for perfection (an impossible goal in a complex B2B sales environment) but to help eliminate as many of the potential errors of ignorance and ineptitude as possible. Over-rigidity doesn't help.

The act of planning - by enabling us to deal more effectively with the expected - frees us up to deal more effectively with the unexpected and the unanticipated, particularly if we have focused as much on what could go wrong as on what we hope will go right.

From the moment we start our interaction with our customer, we must both keep our goal in mind and actively listen to and observe how our customer is reacting. Rather than racing through to complete our agenda, we need to be adapting and responding to what we are learning about our customer’s situation.

Doing the appropriate research upfront is essential. Having clear goals is important. But we need to be prepared to modify our position at any time in response to what we have learned.

These adaptable attitudes and situational selling skills have never been more important in complex B2B sales. Rigid, over-formulaic processes are completely inadequate. We cannot expect our sales people to succeed if they fail to apply their intelligence.

The consequences for the profession of selling are profound: simple transactions that can be automated, will be automated. Sales people that depend on rigidly applied processes will become increasingly redundant, as will sales people that have no process at all nor any ability to plan.

The future lies with intelligent, adaptable sales people who listen well and demonstrate high levels of business acumen, who go into every situation with a plan but who then intelligently adapt that plan to reflect the knowledge they have gathered during the interaction.

And it lies with sales organisations that hire for attitude, aptitude and emotional intelligence over experience, and who establish flexible frameworks that guide and support their sales teams rather than rigid processes that restrict and confine them.

And - needless to say - it lies with CRM systems that encourage sales people to think for themselves rather than traditional sales administration systems that over-simplify reality, force rigid thinking and capture often irrelevant information without ever giving any insights back in return.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

bob_apollo-online-1Bob Apollo is a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales, a member of the Sales Enablement Society, a regular contributor to the International Journal of Sales Transformation and the Sales Experts Channel and the founder of Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the leading UK-based B2B value-selling experts.

Following a successful corporate career spanning start-ups, scale-ups and market leaders, Bob is now relishing his role as a pro-active advisor, coach and trainer to high-potential B2B-focused sales organisations, systematically enabling them to transform their sales effectiveness by adopting the proven principles of value-based selling.

07 Feb 17:48

Sales Managers: The Reason Reps Don’t Follow Your Sales Process is You

by Joe Caprio
sales process adoption tips blog image

Many sales leaders think they’ve put a simple sales process in place, but they get frustrated when their reps don’t follow it. That’s because the sales processes leaders come up with are often not as clear, actionable, or repeatable as they’d hoped.

I’ll be the first to admit that. There have been many times during my career as a sales executive at Chorus and InsightSquared where I blamed reps for things that were really a result of my broken sales process.

“Why aren’t you filling in the CRM?!”  I’d nag when I hadn’t taken the time to get the right feedback on new changes I’d just implemented.

“Why did we submit this proposal without getting it approved!?” I’d snap when I came across a non-standard deal even though I hadn’t clearly outlined our criteria for making exceptions to rules.

Sound familiar?

If so, use the following tips when building your sales process to ensure that your reps actually adopt it and help you improve it over time.

RELATED: Missing Your Quota? These 3 Sales Process Tips Will Make You Unstoppable

The best way to drive adoption for your sales process is to document it in a visual way and print out a laminated copy that reps can tape to their desk. One of my favorite examples of a documented sales process comes from Wildfire and includes the following information by stage:

  • Key questions to ask the customer
  • Activities the rep must complete
  • Collateral that should be given to the customer
  • Key gets that the customer should give your rep

This visual is so powerful because it reminds reps that a good sales process is mutually beneficial and that you both give things to customers and get things from them throughout.

Don’t over-engineer the sales process

The sales process should be simple. Research from InsideSales.com shows that Sales Reps only spend 37% of their time on revenue-generating activities. The sales process should include as few steps as possible. Reps should manage as much of it as possible from the CRM so that they are not moving between many documents and spreadsheets. Don’t make the sales process too cumbersome to adopt.

At Chorus we recommend using Conversation Intelligence to automatically record calls and import them into the CRM so critical steps like detailed and dynamic note-taking are never skipped.

RELATED: Sales Automation: 250 Tools to Automate Your Sales Process

Enforce it through structure

If the sales process is not enforced, it’s as good as dead. The best way to enforce the sales process is to automate a checklist of things that must be completed and information that must be entered into your CRM during various stages of your sales process before reps progress an op. Another way to ensure compliance is to have someone from your Sales Ops organization ensure that reps are following the appropriate process before moving a deal forward to the next stage.

It’s also really important that you align on exit criteria for the stages in your sales cycle so that a rep knows exactly what they are responsible for before progressing an opportunity through the funnel.

Build sales collateral

The sales process is only as good as the value it provides to your customers and reps. On average, 58% of the deals in your pipeline will stall. Why? Reps are unable to add valuable content tailored to each sales stage.

The goal of the sales process should be to make life easier for your customers and reps by allowing everyone to proactively get ahead of any potential objections or challenges.

Some key content you’ll want to create to support the sale process include:

  • Discovery call script
  • Company overview with case studies
  • Educational white paper (e.g. why do this now)
  • Best practices
  • Business case
  • Implementation guide
  • Kick-off checklist & deck

Don’t set it and forget it

The sales process is never a set it and forget it. You need to constantly validate that it is working to reduce the time it takes to close a deal and assess gaps in the process. It is important to get direct feedback from your reps on where they are facing challenges in the sales process. That way, you can address them and evaluate your sales process using data, not your gut.

Make it buyer V. seller-centric

Often sales teams use seller-specific language when creating their sales process and stages. Things like “Demo Completed” or “Proposal Submitted” don’t do a good job of helping reps understand where the customer really is in the sales process. Instead, use customer-centric language for your stages and exit criteria that are focused on the buyer’s expectations and motions, not the sellers.

For instance, rather than listing “Procurement” as a stage that can often lead reps to get happy ears and list a prospect in this stage who has simply asked for pricing or a contract, use a stage like “Legal Redlining Contract.” This motion – that the prospect’s legal team is actively redlining the contract – is much clearer and buyer-driven than a stage like “procurement,” which is open to rep interpretation.

Use sales methodologies that work

Not every sales methodology can be applied to your organization. For instance, BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, and Timeline) is not a great methodology to use if you are selling into a very early, disruptive market.

Be careful to select sales methodologies that make sense for the category you are selling into and continuously coach the team on them before you build them into your sales process. Reps need to see that the sales methodology you’ve adopted actually works for them.

Interested in learning more about how to run a consistent and scalable sales process? Check out our guide “Clone your Closers: Your 2019 Sales Enablement Playbook for Consistency Selling”

The post Sales Managers: The Reason Reps Don’t Follow Your Sales Process is You appeared first on Sales Hacker.

07 Feb 17:44

Obquestions – Sellers’ Objections To Buyers

by Tibor Shanto

By Tibor Shanto

Not all objections are fatal, most, based on how we interpret and handle them, can usually add to the conversation and ultimately to converting the objecting prospect to a client. While there is a lot more to succeeding in sales than handling objections, mishandling them is usually fatal, and is why most salespeople dread objections. However, perhaps part of the therapy, the “objection recovery” program sales need to go through to better deal with objections, is to use the very thing they fear to drive sales.

Know Your Objections

The first thing to understand is which objections are dangerous. Like snakes, I don’t like any, but some are not dangerous at all, while others can kill you, you wanna know which is which before you handle them.

Objections that come up during a prospecting call are entirely different from the ones that come at the end of a sale. At a high level the prospecting objections you can prepare for, but there is always a random element, so we have to be ready for the known and the unknown. Objections that come up at the end of the sale we should be aware of in advance. If they are unexpected, it is likely something we missed, be that an overlooked fact, or failing to involve all the right people. However, if you have done your work, you should be able to minimize these, couple that with your sales skills (the reason you get the big bucks), and these should be par for the game.

Prep and Practice

As you know I am a big advocate for reviewing all opportunities that have entered your pipeline, regardless of the outcome, win, lose or draw. I recommend not just looking at what happened and why, but how; how things unfolded on a play by play or objection/response levels. What were some of the conversations like vs. others you had where things turned out different? Those who follow this approach to reviewing opportunities, usually do an excellent job on the big themes, but not the little details. What were the specific objections, when did they come, what was the real underlying characteristics that drove the objection?

One fundamental characteristic is whether the objection is a means of asking a question. Underlying concerns could stem from a lack of understanding or awareness of alternatives. Buyers, like sellers, are creatures of ego, rather than admit they need help, they blurt it out as an aggressive question, an objection. However, what they are saying is “I don’t understand, explain that to me.” Instead of taking it personally, our job is to create clarity. When we don’t get defensive, we actually take the time to understand what led them to that view, and work with them to understand ours, move on from the objection, (you don’t always have to overcome it, you just need to be able to move the prospect past it willingly, things can be resolved without always being settled).

Give It Back

The best salespeople do not look for a way to avoid objections. A reasonable objection tells you they are thinking about what you are saying and are asking you for help in understanding or putting what you are saying in a context that makes sense to them. The also-rans get defensive, close their mind to the possibilities, and respond in a way that turns the buyer off at the exact point when they were open to input. A good objection makes a salesperson think, and the best way to handle it is to lean on your experience and your plan. If you don’t have experience, a solid and practiced plan will help you through. If you have experience, but no plan, you’re beat from the start. Many salespeople confuse a “playbook” with a “plan”, which is why they fall short on objections. A question makes you think; an objection is a question, the pay of is in how one answers that question. The best salespeople understand the query behind the objection – because they are prepared.

Your Turn

So, what do we do when we need to break through to a prospect, when we need to understand something we are saying, to set a better context? The expert answer is to ask better questions. But often we have to move the prospect a bit further than they are ready to; what to do? Throw an objection at the prospect! That’s right, straight up an objection.

You don’t need to be rude, but given your preparation and understanding; given that you understand that an objection is just a powerful question accentuated by emotion, ask that question – Object to what they are saying. Think of it as an Obquestion!

Questions make people think, at least they should; if you need a breakthrough from a prospect it has to come from within them, you can at best lead and guide. Which means they need to break down their resistance, your goal is to get them to think differently enough to have that breakthrough. Your goal is not to play point-counterpoint; but based on your plan, and preparation, and review of previous opportunities with similar characteristics, you should be in a position to throw up an objection to the way they are viewing things. There are likely former prospects who were stuck on the same or similar points, who subsequently with your help, overcame that road-bump, and are now happy clients.

The key is to throw an objection to how they may be viewing things, not to them. Most salespeople take objections personally; you need to craft your Obquestion in a way that gets them to think, not to shut down.

Example:

I prospected a VP, left him a voicemail when he called back and heard why I was calling, he told me he had just hired another training company, one I knew well and respected. They had a great program, but it was entirely focused on a successful first meeting, there was a naïve assumption that appointments were already booked, appointments are easy to book, the challenge was that first meeting.

Prospect: Oh Tibor, bad timing, we just hired ACME Corp. (The we’re all set, just bought, we’re good objection)

Being familiar with the program, I was not going to win a pissing contest over the phone, so I threw up an objection.

Me: That’s great, I know Jim and ACME, great program. Tell me, George, once your people master the ACME program, how will you ensure they have appointment and prospects to put that great program into practice?

The post Obquestions – Sellers’ Objections To Buyers appeared first on TiborShanto.com.

07 Feb 16:59

Ebook Writing: A Marketer’s Guide

by Katrina Balmaceda

If you’re a marketer with great ideas worth sharing, you may, at some point, have considered writing an e-book. Sure, you’ve probably written dozens of blog posts and whitepapers, but deep inside, you know it’s hard to distill what you know about a particular topic into a 500 to 1,000 word article.

An e-book, on the other hand, lets you flex more of your writing muscle. A 40 to 50 page e-book for example, will have an average of 8,000 words (based on a word count of 172 words per page) which, while not as long as a novel, should allow you to discuss a topic and its subtopics at length.

Why Bother Writing an E-Book?

how to write an ebook

From a marketing perspective, there are many reasons to write an e-book.

  • When offered for free, e-books are a great way to generate leads through newsletter signups.
  • Free e-books can also drive traffic to your website through links and social media shares.
  • Publishing an e-book and sharing it as a resource for your audience can shift their perceptions and view you as a thought leader.
  • An e-book can be a profitable content asset. Instead of just relying on AdSense revenue on your blog, an e-book can be sold as a product. The expertise and thought leadership you demonstrate on your e-book can be your ticket to speaking engagements, guest blogging opportunities, and media interviews, among others.

The low barrier to entry of writing an e-book means that just about anyone can get on a computer and start typing away. Writing a successful e-book, however, is a different story. Read on to learn what separates great e-books from the rest.


Key Elements of a Great E-Book

1. A Topic You Are Confident In

When setting out to write an e-book, it might make sense to choose a hot or trending topic, thinking that’s what your audience will want to read. Likewise, if you’re publishing on Amazon, you might think it’s a good idea to zero in on the most popular categories.

But this is actually a huge mistake, as the point of your e-book is to demonstrate thought leadership.

In other words, you have to prove you know what you’re talking about. It doesn’t make sense for Rand Fishkin, one of the world’s leading figures in SEO, to write about advertising and print when his bread and butter has always been SEO and web analytics.

how to write an ebook
Your game plan: Go back to your blog’s core topic and use your most popular posts as your e-book’s launch pad (see Fishkin’s e-book on SEO). This will give you an overview of the ideas and themes you can explore in your e-book.

2. A Specific Subject Within a Larger Topic

OK, you have a general topic you’re comfortable with. Now it’s time to go deeper.

Amidst the sea of content on the Internet, you have a better chance of standing out if you focus on a specific subject within a larger topic. Take this e-book below from Concepro, How to Design Awesome Visual Content for Your Content Marketing, as an example.

how to write an ebook

Your game plan: Of course, you could always write about content marketing (if that’s what you’re comfortable with), but do you have unique ideas no one else has shared before?

If not, you can focus on a specific element of content marketing—in Concepro’s case, they chose visual content. This helps you break into new ground or dive into a relatively unexplored topic.

3. Proprietary Data

The smartest marketers and brands know that truly effective and memorable content can’t be found anywhere else. And more often than not, this content uses proprietary data, or information that comes internally—from your own research or insights from your organization’s activities.

Take this Google e-book, Understanding Consumers’ Local Search Behavior, for example.

how to write an ebook

In it, Google relayed the key findings of their own research on local search behavior, which yielded a wealth of insights that local business owners and SEO specialists could act on right away.

Your game plan: Proprietary data on its own is useless if you can’t present it effectively. Try to create images with charts, graphics, or infographics from data to make an impact with readers and generate shares.

4. A Great Cover Page

Cliché as it sounds, people will always judge a book by its cover and the same goes for e-books. Your cover page doesn’t have to be an intricate work of art, but it should introduce your e-book and set the design and content tone for what readers can expect from the rest of the document.

how to write an ebook

Your game plan: In the example above, Unbounce uses the content of its e-book, The Conversion Marketer’s Guide to

Landing Page Copywriting, to drive the design of the cover page. Look to your e-book’s topic and content as inspiration for your cover page. Again, it doesn’t have to be fancy, but it should be as relevant as possible.

Steps in Writing an E-Book

Now that you know the elements of a great e-book, let’s get down to the basic steps involved in writing one. In this section, we’ll use the e-book THE OPTIMIZATION BENCHMARK Q2 / 2015: The Race to Find the Ideal Customer Experience by Optimizely. It’ll walk you through a few things you can expect to come across in the e-book creation process. Let’s get started!

how to write an ebook

1. Indicate Whom the E-book Is For

how to write an ebook
A brief section indicating whom exactly the e-book is written for or what it intends to accomplish for the reader is a nice touch.

This part of your document helps potential readers determine whether the content of the e-book matches their level of knowledge or expertise. And if it doesn’t, at least there’s still the chance they’ll recommend the e-book to people who will actually find it useful thanks to your heads up.

2. Outline the E-Book

Before you begin writing, it’s a good idea to write an outline of your e-book by chapter, which will help you know what information to cover. This is especially helpful if you want to curate your blog content into different chapters of the e-book. However, be sure each chapter transitions smoothly from one to the other.

how to write an ebookAnd as you put the finishing touches to your e-book, your outline can also double as your table of contents.

3. Write a Brief Introduction

how to write an ebook

Like your cover page, your e-book’s introduction should set the tone for the contents of your e-book and draw readers in. As a rule of thumb, your introduction should answer these questions:

    • What is this e-book all about?
    • What information and topics will you cover in the e-book?
    • What value and benefits can readers get from reading your e-book?
    • What happens next after reading the e-book?

4. Follow a Hierarchy

When writing content for each chapter, you want to follow a consistent hierarchy of subheadings and visual cues to make your entire e-book easier to read and more visually pleasing.

Nobody wants to read a wall of text, so break sections using clear subheadings, different font sizes, or pull quotes.

5. Pick a Color Palette and Use It Consistently

When it comes to visual design for e-books, less is more. Obviously, you want to incorporate your brand colors as much as possible. But for contrasting and emphasis, it’s a good idea to have a secondary or even tertiary color as well.

how to write an ebook

Just make sure your colors are consistent throughout the document. In the case of Optimizely’s, the design features these colors (aside from a liberal use of whitespace):

  • Dark blue for headings and lighter shades for subheadings, pull quotes, and graphical elements
  • Gray and green, for graphical elements
  • Black for ordinary text

It’s clean, simple, and above all, consistent.

6. Use Visual Elements and Custom Graphics

how to write an ebook

Visual elements have the important function of emphasizing critical information in your e-book’s copy or breaking down concepts in a visual and easy-to-understand way, similar to the example above.

Graphics and images don’t just serve as eye candy—although it does help that they’re nice to look at. Instead, they should help readers understand the material they’re reading, providing important contextual clues.

Graphics are particularly important for illustrating statistics and figures, drawing in the reader’s attention and making the content more shareable.

7. Wrap Things Up with a Conclusion and Call to Action

how to write an ebook

Remember, for many of your readers, your e-book is just the beginning of their sales journey. Aside from wrapping up the content of your e-book with a nice conclusion, you want to push readers to do something that will turn them into customers down the line.

This is what’s known as a call to action (CTA).

Most e-book authors will tell readers to share the e-book (IF it’s free), but a better alternative is to drive them to landing pages where they can find resources to learn more about the topics you just presented. This will reinforce their impression of your brand and help move them along their sales journey.

Start Writing Now

While this guide to e-books is by no means complete—there’s so much more to talk about, like how to write a great title or how to create tight outlines—it should nevertheless serve as a helpful launch pad for your efforts. The writing process will take a lot of time, but if you follow the tips and steps in this guide, you should be able to get a head start on your very own e-book.

07 Feb 16:59

Are You Asking These Questions During Sales Discovery Calls?

by Roman Kniahynyckyj

As sales executives, one of the most important things you can do to convert prospects to clients is getting to know them. The more you learn, the better you can present solutions to their problems. Discovery calls are the first step in a conversation you have with a prospect. So, are you asking the right questions?

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What is a Discovery Call?

Before deciding what to ask someone, you must know what a discovery call is and why it matters so much in the sales process. As mentioned, a discovery call begins a conversation with a prospect and client. It is the initial phone call the two have after a prospect fills out a form or sends an email indicating they wish to speak to an account executive.

Discovery calls set the tone for the entire relationship a salesperson and a prospect will have, making it a vital piece of sales enablement. This is where someone from your team will qualify that prospect and guide them along the rest of the buyer’s journey. Someone may think they need a particular solution you offer, but they could benefit more from another product. Or, they may not benefit at all.

Before the Discovery Call

You might think that because a discovery call is the first conversation you’ll have with someone means you don’t have to prepare. That is far from the truth. Your prospect has done research that led them to this point – you should, too.

Research the business or person you’re connecting with, so you can have a fluid conversation. You don’t want to start a relationship by asking someone, “What’s your job title again?” or “Where do you work?” especially when you can find that information in their form submission. This may put them off and derail any further chances of talking.

Before the call, share the meeting agenda with your prospect, so your conversation goes smoothly. They could offer agenda points as well. After doing this, put any assumptions you may have aside. You may think you know what their issue is, but that person could reveal a pain point you and the rest of your company have never considered.

You should also try not to talk too much. You’re learning about them in this call, so give them ample time to answer your questions. Don’t ask multiple questions at once and try not to interject too much when they’re speaking. Your questions should also be open-ended. If you ask only “yes” or “no” questions, your conversation will suffer. You might also veer into a product demo if you feel like the discussion is dying – which is something you should never do in a discovery call.

Reassure your prospect that you’re here to help, and take notes when you’re talking, so you have information to reference when you have future conversations. Now that you know what to do before the call, here are our favorite questions to ask during discovery sales calls.

Questions You Should Be Asking

  • Tell me about your company.
  • What is your day to day like?
  • What are you responsible for in your business?
  • What made you explore our solution?
  • What is your current process like?
  • What do you hope to improve?
  • What would happen if you didn’t make any changes?
  • Are you responsible for establishing a budget?
  • Which component(s) matter most when determining the right solution for your needs? Do you already have a budget allocated?
  • Who is involved in the decision-making process?
  • Is this a competitive situation?
  • What are your timeline goals for making this decision?
  • Would you like to plan another meeting?
  • What would you like to accomplish during our next meeting?
  • Would you like to connect me with any other stakeholders in this project?

If it helps, consider writing these down and bringing them with you to your call. Your conversation may inspire new questions which may be worth adding to your list to share with your colleagues or use for future scenarios.

After you finish your conversation, be sure to send a follow-up email thanking them for their time. Your discovery call will hopefully set the tone for an extended discussion that leads to a new, happy customer. By prepping thoroughly and utilizing open-ended questions, you should be able to delight them during this call – and every call.

07 Feb 16:59

The Art of the Sales Call: Truths 21-30

by Mark Hunter

We are now on part 3 of my series called “50 Prospecting Truths”. This one is all about you and your sales calls. Yes, that means you need to get serious about engaging with the customer. Prospecting is far more than just building a plan or thinking about it. Too many salespeople suffer from that disease. You probably know the person I’m talking about – one who claims that if they only had a decent process, then they would be successful. The problem is that they’ve never even executed the process that they have, so they don’t know its potential.

I shared with you last week that you shouldn’t think that these truths hold all the answers. They are just truths that will help if you follow them, but you still need to push yourself to create your own plan.

If you missed the first two parts, I suggest you go back and read them. I’ve posted the links below:

Part 1: Truths 1-10 – It’s Your Job

Part 2: Truths 11-20 – Your Prospecting Plan

Here is part 3 which includes truths 21-30. These 10 are focused on the art of the sales call.

21. Know what your goal is before contacting anyone.

22. When you have something to offer, a prospecting call will never be an interruption in someone’s day. Any interruption has the capability of becoming an intervention when you can offer help. You owe it to them and to yourself to make the call.

23. Believe it or not, the telephone still works as a prospecting tool. Pick up the phone and call.

24. When kept short and concise, voicemails can be an effective prospecting tool.

25. Allow your personality to come through on every phone call and in every voicemail.

26. Those who believe “cold calling” is dead are the same people who don’t like talking on the telephone and want to hide behind social media to sell.

27. Maintain both prospect specific notes and industry/segment notes to help you with your long-term goals.

28. Never forget your objective with each prospecting call is to move the process forward. Start by building on a previous piece of information that was shared with you. Each call, seek to gain one new insight. Always end the call by securing a set time to talk again in the near future.

29. Do not fall for the myth that calling doesn’t work, send more emails. Those who believe this myth are the ones who are already afraid of the phone and should not be in sales in the first place.

30. Never allow a call or email response to derail you emotionally. Don’t underestimate the power you have to help others.

Are you feeling uncomfortable? Even if you’re a top performing prospecting machine, you are probably at least a little uncomfortable. I would imagine a couple of the 10 are causing your leg to twitch or your mouth to go dry right now. Your goal isn’t to just read these but to actually apply them so you can challenge yourself every single day.

Coming next week are truths 31-40. I’ll be discussing prospecting using social media and email, so get ready to be even more challenged and convicted. The following week I’ll close out the series of “50 Prospecting Truths” with truths 41-50 related to how to be successful in prospecting.

Don’t forget: A coach can help you excel in your sales career. Invest in yourself by checking out my coaching program today!

Copyright 2019, Mark Hunter “The Sales Hunter.” Sales Motivation Blog. Mark Hunter is the author of High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results

07 Feb 16:59

3 Interactive Lead Qualification Tools for a Faster Sales Cycle

by Kirsten Lyons

In the face of increasing goals and changing preferences of B2B buyers, sales and marketing teams alike are being forced to evolve in order to meet the needs of their prospects today. And on top of those changes, they’re being asked to hit lofty revenue-based KPIs, so it’s not shocking that ways to drive faster sales cycles are a hot topic today.

But the secret to faster sales cycles, as we’ll see below, is actually making sure you’re engaging with the right prospects through a process called lead qualification.

What is Lead Qualification?

Lead qualification is the process of identifying which of your prospects are the best fit for your sales process and solution, and therefore, which leads your sales team should be focusing on the most. The process of lead qualification begins in the early stages of your prospects’ research and buying process, and continues as they move down your marketing funnel, all with the goal of gathering answers to sales qualifying questions.

Better Qualification, Shorter Sales Cycles

When you focus your energy on qualifying and disqualifying leads, your sales team is able to spend their time prioritizing following up and building relationships with the very best prospects for your company.

In fact, 67 percent of sales are lost as a result of sales reps not properly qualifying their potential customers before taking them through the full sales process.

By efficiently qualifying your leads across marketing and sales generated prospects, your team can focus on nurturing the right leads, shortening sales cycles, and reducing wasted effort.

But effective qualification requires more than just activity-based lead scoring today. That’s why savvy marketers and salespeople are turning to interactive content to collect deep, qualitative information that can’t be gleaned from traditional lead scoring indicators, like visits to a pricing page.

Tools for Interactive Lead Qualification

Interactive PDFs

Interactive PDFs represent a unique opportunity to transform your top of the funnel content into a lead qualification engine guaranteed to shorten your sales cycle. Layering sales qualifying questions on top of your static PDFs presents an opportunity to learn about your prospects earlier, and tailor follow-up to move them down the funnel more quickly.

source

This example from Montage Talent does just that with their report on AI in the talent acquisition industry. While this type of industry overview guide tends to be top-of-the-funnel content, by making the PDF interactive, they were able to ask qualifying questions that resulted in nearly 28 percent clicks to leads and over 53 percent leads to form view ratios.

Read more about the power of interactive PDFs here.

Solution Finders

Solution finders are the secret weapon of well aligned marketing and sales teams, and can help radically shorten your sales cycle when leveraged correctly.

Sometimes called product pickers, solution finders are used to help prospects differentiate between multiple solutions your company might offer. They are often set up as short assessments that result in personalized recommendations for users based on information they provide.

This example from Blackbaud helps prospects differentiate between two of their fundraising software solutions by offering objective information about which solution more closely lines up with a prospect’s needs, based on sales qualifying questions. Suggesting prospects check out your product picker to fact check information you’ve already discussed, or incorporating their results into your conversations builds trust that is critical as you move into the negotiation and closing stages of the sales process. And the results speak for themselves:

ROI calculators

ROI calculators take inputs from users and combine them based on a set formula to generate numerical results. This allows users to evaluate specific solutions to their pain points quickly, which can also be critical for faster and more in-depth lead qualification.

Calculators create a dialogue with your audience by providing valuable, personalized content (in the form of numerical impact) at specific stages in their buying journey. The rich data collected from calculators can then be mapped to your marketing automation for lead scoring, trigger campaigns, disqualification, and to inform further sales conversations to speed the sales cycle.

See the live example

This example from Iron Mountain, a company that provides data and records management services, created this calculator to help their prospects understand the costs of not employing a record keeping service. By structuring their content this way, Iron Mountain created a powerful sales enablement tool, which helps create urgency, and shortens the sales cycle by collecting powerful qualifying information.

Final Thoughts

You’d be hard pressed to find a business today that would say they’re uninterested in improving and shortening their sales cycle, and improving lead qualification is an often overlooked opportunity to do so. By employing interactive qualification tools, like interactive PDFs, solution finders, and calculators, you can make sure that both marketing and sales are spending their time focused on the right leads.

07 Feb 16:58

5 Ways Sales Leaders Use Email Signatures to Generate Business

by Bobby Narang
sale rep email signature image

According to a recent study by HubSpot, 75% of companies say closing more deals is their top sales priority— yet 30% of salespeople say closing deals is getting harder. It can be daunting to think that your company’s top priority might be your biggest challenge as a salesperson. So, we’re constantly thinking about how we can bridge the gap – and turn every opportunity into a closed deal.

To be successful in sales, there are multiple critical skills, scores of best practices, and thousands of techniques that impact sales performance. Ultimately, sales leaders know that success boils down to two things: preparation and execution. And part of that success relies on knowing what tools are available to help you become a trusted resource for your prospects.

Email marketing is a proven tool, and marketing automation has made its way into nearly every organization around. But what you might not have realized is that as a salesperson, you don’t have to rely on the weekly blast from Marketing to start impacting your close rate today. And email signatures are a great way to get you there.

How Big is Email, Really?

Radicati shows that as of 2018, there are about 124.5 billion business emails sent and received each day. HubSpot research shows that 86% of professionals prefer to use email when communicating for business purposes. Think of all the emails you send on a daily basis. Each message presents a huge opportunity to get your targeted message in front of a prospect in an unobtrusive way. While the inbox certainly is crowded, it remains one of the most cost-effective and reliable methods of communication. It can be highly personalized, with a significant impact on customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, and repeat business. Perhaps the most underutilized part of the email is the email signature. Email signatures offer a great way to help boost sales conversions. Most brands don’t optimize their email signatures. In fact, 52% of companies don’t use signatures at all.

How Can You Use Email Signatures?

Forward-thinking sales leaders know how to maximize the white space at the end of your email with interesting, informative, and valuable information. If you are like most people, your email signature probably includes a pleasant, professional closing. Something like, “Regards, John Smith, VP of Sales.” It is nice, but let’s be honest: it is boring and does not do much for promoting your business, your product, or yourself. Instead, you want an email signature that works for you by highlighting company information and/or by engaging recipients and eliciting a response, such as a click, a sign-up, or some other action you choose.

So, what is email signature marketing and how can you use your email signature to generate new business? Essentially, email signature marketing is a way to turn your individual business email into a marketing and lead generation machine. Sounds great, right? Here are 5 practical ways salespeople can use their email signature to generate new business:

#1 – Pair Your Work Calendar and Email Signature

Responsiveness is one of the most important characteristics of a good salesperson. So why not make it as easy as possible for people to get in touch? Whether that’s sharing your best contact information when on the road, your travel schedule or office hours, or an automated way to schedule a meeting — pairing your email signature with your work calendar makes it easy for prospects to reach you for questions, concerns, and to get you the PO.

#2 – Promote Online and Live Events

Email signatures are a perfect place to promote your company’s online and live events. You easily can include links to registration, discounted tickets, or other snazzy graphics to get people interested. These events also can be used to help existing customers better understand your product with links to training or how-to videos. Make sure to keep the information current and remove past events.

#3 – Educate and Inform

Research shows that most prospects already know the direction they’re heading before they ever speak to a sales rep. This thought underscores the importance of a solid sales strategy that includes getting in on the decision-making process early – and helping them along the way. You can use your email signature to educate a prospect on your market conditions or pain points and why your company can help. You can do this via links to webinars, videos, ebooks, and whitepapers. It’s important to make sure your language is accurate and personalized. This personalization can significantly impact conversions as well as enable you to capture valuable customer data for future marketing campaigns.

#4 – Let Your Customers Do the Talking

According to Marketing Charts, in the B2B setting, events help generate the most leads, while case studies help convert and accelerate the most leads. Linking to a case study or customer review can be a great way to build credibility with potential customers. After all, they know your product and what it’s like working with your team. Statistics on online reviews show that 92% of B2B buyers are more likely to purchase after reading a trusted review. When emailing prospects, your email signature is a great place to include a CTA to your product’s reviews. Your signature could include a sharp review quote, show an overall rating based on reviews, or simply link to your reviews.
#5 – Provide General Company Updates

Email signatures are an excellent place to make brief company announcements or to share industry news. If your company is launching a new product, include a message with a link to a dedicated landing page for more information. Offer demos or free trials to get the product in their hands. You can track and manage traffic from these messages and see immediate ROI. Your company email signatures can be an untapped resource for promoting company news and offer a personalized way to share important information.

While adding these elements to your email signature can have a significant impact on your close rates, it’s also just as easy to do it wrong. For example, when we say you should make it easy for prospects and customers to get in touch, that does not mean listing every possible phone, email, and social profile you’ve created (and no, they do not need to see the social profile you haven’t updated in three months). It’s valuable real estate, so use it wisely.

What’s stopping you?

Email signatures offer a seamless way to promote your brand, communicate your value, and gain valuable insight into your sales opportunities (including whether or not you’re talking to the right people or sharing appropriate messages). Making small changes to your email signature can dramatically impact your conversion rate. If your company has a corporate email management tool in place, all of these steps can be automated and customized with a few clicks – and integrated directly with your sales enablement and marketing automation tools like Salesforce, HubSpot, or Marketo. But even if your company does not have a tool in place, as a sales leader, you can implement these practical steps manually and start off the new year ready to close more business.

The post 5 Ways Sales Leaders Use Email Signatures to Generate Business appeared first on Sales Hacker.

07 Feb 16:58

What’s the Most Pressing Part of the Sales Process Today?

by Dave Brock

qimono / Pixabay

Recently, I was having a conversation with a good friend and colleague. He asked me the question, “Dave, what to you think is the biggest problem area for B2B sales people in generating business today?”

I’m a little slow, I asked, “George, what do you mean?”

He responded, “Well if you look at much of the press and social media, it’s prospecting or top of the pipeline, lead to opportunity conversion…..”

“But,” he went on, “some say it’s the inability to navigate the selling/buying process on qualified deals….”

“Others say it’s the inability to articulate and defend a differentiated value proposition…..”

He continued, “Some think it’s all about ABM, account planning and development….”

“Which of those do you think is the single most important thing to drive huge improvements in sales results?”

After I thought about it, I responded, “George, the real issue is you have to do all of them, all the time! Anytime your focus becomes unbalanced, for example you spend a disproportionate amount of time on the top of the pipeline, it will ripple through and impact performance across everything.”

George, pushed back on me, “Dave, you are really out of alignment with most of the thinking out there. Look at all these ‘sales experts’ saying tope of the pipeline prospecting is the single most important thing for sales right now?”

I don’t disagree with George. Many friend and colleagues focus most of their effort on the top of the pipeline. Most of the pipelines I look at are anemic, people need more opportunities, so prospecting seems to be in need of a lot of attention.

But then, one must ask the question, “Why are our pipelines so anemic?” It may be that we have lousy deal win rates, let’s say 10%. That means, if we need to close 50 deals to make our number, our pipeline has to have 500 deals. That’s a lot deals, trying to fill the pipeline, knowing you may have to prospect 10 potentials, to qualify 1 means you have to prospect 5000 potentials.

You have to have really good prospecting skills and devote a huge amount of time to prospecting to try to keep that pipeline filled–then you wonder if you have enough time to work those 500 deals in the pipeline. Prospecting is a huge issue, in this case. And it’s something that you have to continue doing every day, every month, every quarter, every year.

But what if we looked at it differently, what if we chose to solve a different problem rather than prospecting to keep the pipeline filled. What if we focused on win rates? What if by some magic, we could get win rates up to 50%. That means we only need 100 deals in our pipeline, and we would only need to prospect 1000 potentials. Prospecting is still important, but we don’t have to go for the numbers, we are likely to do a higher quality job of prospecting, making more out of each opportunity we qualify.

Or if we could defend value more effectively, reducing our discounting, improving our win rates. Then by being better at deal execution, I need a smaller pipeline, and don’t need as much prospecting to keep a balanced funnel.

Or let’s go back to the original case, where I have a 10% win rate. Think of the opportunities we are squandering and the opportunity cost to our companies because the win rate is so low. And one might surmise, if you are that bad at managing qualified deals, then you probably will suck at prospecting as well.

See, the problem with much of this thinking is that it addresses the obvious issue, with the obvious solution. For example, anemic pipelines need more prospecting. But it treats these issues in isolation, and that leads to flawed diagnosis and thinking.

Sales is not a job where I can do part of it some days or just the parts I like. If I’m to be successful, I have to do the whole job, all the time.

In selling, everything we do is connected with everything else. One cannot isolate one area, saying this is the most important thing to focus on. We have to constantly look at all aspects, of the job, trying to figure out how best to tilt the numbers in our favor.

Sorry I couldn’t do better George, but it’s all important.

Afterword: To better understand how all the pieces/parts of selling fit together, email me for a free copy of our Sales Execution Framework.

05 Feb 19:05

A New Architecture for Next-Generation Software Companies: Announcing Mattermost

The first wave of SaaS is 20 years old. Today, the SaaS model dominates. But we’re seeing the emergence of a different type of next-generation software company. A new wave of companies that is responding to the changing needs of customers by innovating their architecture. Very simply, they liberate the database from the application.

In license software, the database ran alongside the application on-prem. In SaaS, the database runs next to the application in the cloud. But what if you freed customers from this constraint, and gave the customer the choice of where to run each? Suddenly, the customer is in control of their data in a way they never can be with SaaS.

Customers can choose where to host the database, how to secure it, monitor it, ensure it complies with new data privacy regulations, limit access, and service it. They can run it in their cloud, in a VPC or on premises.

Meanwhile, the application is delivered as any other SaaS app. It’s updated just as quickly. Even better when the app is open source. Customers can audit the code, fork it to customize it, and embed it wherever.

We’ve been looking for companies building software this way. Today, I’m thrilled to announce our investment in and partnership with Mattermost.

Mattermost embodies this new wave of software companies. They deliver open source messaging to secure enterprises and DevOps teams. They work with Uber, USAA, Department of Defense, ING, Bristol Meyers, Virgin, Samsung and many others.

We’ve spent a long time getting to know Ian and the terrific team at Mattermost. In that time, we’ve been impressed by three things. First, the recognition by the most demanding teams that this new data architecture satisfies their requirements. Second, how this model has propelled the business to far larger revenue than typical at a Series A. Third, the explosive distribution of open source also applies at the application tier, not just infrastructure.

If you’re a developer looking for a high performance, secure messenger, or you work in an enterprise that values control over data, give it a whirl.

05 Feb 18:54

Nothing Sells Better than Enthusiasm in the Job Interview

by Ines Temple

Job seekers are often surprised when they don’t receive a job offer after an interview. They wonder, “Why wasn’t I selected? What went wrong?” But imagine this scenario: I want to work in your company, but in my interview with you, I sit in a cowering posture and with downcast eyes. When you ask me why I want this job, I answer in a voice lacking any inflection, “I need this job, because I need to support my children. I’d like to do something that doesn’t require much physical effort because I have back pain. Please give me the job, because I need it.” Would you want to hire me? Would you want to hire someone who shows so little enthusiasm in the job interview?

Unfortunately, many people believe they’ll be offered a job simply because they badly need one. But the truth is that employers only hire people who bring the needed skills and experience to job. And who show enthusiasm. The employer is looking for the person who will add value and vitality to the organization.

Unquestionably, one of the traits that most differentiates one candidate from another is the passion candidates show for wanting to work in that position and in that company. Passion and enthusiasm are crucial factors in the employment equation.

In any job interview, employers will evaluate applicants according to three important criteria.

Does the applicant have the experience to perform the job?

For the most part, the applicant’s experience and skills are what led to landing the interview. Now, the interviewer will want to hear more anecdotal information about what the candidate can bring to the position in terms of competency, skills, abilities and achievements beyond what appears on the resume. Candidates should be prepared to describe specifically and quantitatively their achievements and how they contributed to their previous employers’ results.

Does the applicant exhibit enthusiasm for the position?

The interviewer will assess whether applicants demonstrate a desire and enthusiasm for the position. Here is where many people lose points. What I’ve seen in my work with job seekers is a reticence to show much interest or passion in the positions for which they interview. They think that by showing a lot of interest, it will be interpreted as desperation for the position, and it may cause them to lose ground in a future negotiation. But projecting a cool and aloof demeanor, without giving any indication of their excitement and enthusiasm for the position, does applicants a disservice when they seek employment. Remember: Nothing sells more than enthusiasm, desire and passion.

Is the applicant a good fit within the company’s culture?

Employers want to determine whether candidates will be a good match culturally within the team and the organization. Qualities such as personality, values, charisma, work style, creativity, adaptability and more will factor into the decision to extend a candidate a job offer. Applicants will want to articulate why the organization’s culture would be a good fit for them.

Always keep in mind that showing your enthusiasm is very engaging and appealing to prospective employers. Employers consider an enthusiastic team member as someone who will be committed, involved and most willing to carry out the company’s objectives. Enthusiastic employees are thought to be predisposed to learning, to developing new skills and to be a person with whom the rest of the team wants to work.

I encourage you to demonstrate your energy, enthusiasm and vitality to employers. These qualities will differentiate you among the competition and provide you with better chances of attaining any position you want.

* * Originally published at MsCareerGirl

05 Feb 18:54

The Buyer’s Journey, One Step at a Time

by Dave Brock

schroederhund / Pixabay

Most sales people focus on the outcome of the deal. They want to get to the close and an order as fast as possible. Managers constantly reinforce this rush to completion in their “coaching conversations,” by asking, “When are we going to get this deal?” or “We need this to close this quarter!”

Everything we do is focused on jumping to the end of the buying process. We start pitching our solution before we even understand what the customer is trying to achieve. We try to present the value the customer might get, before we understand what the customer values.

We do what we do almost independently of the customer’s buying journey, as a result, too often we get out of step with the customer. We want the customer to be in one place of their buying journey (making a decision), inevitably the customer is at a completely different place in their journey.

The more we are out of step with the customer, the greater the chasm we create between the customer and us. As a result, our probability of success plummets.

Simplistically, if we look at a classic buying stage model, for every stage of misalignment, our probability of winning reduces by 20-25%. For example, in a 3 stage process, if the customer is in stage 1 (problem determination, needs identification) and we are in stage 3 (presenting our solution), our probability of winning is reduced by 20-50%!

The customer has to go through all the steps. In fact, they will wander, they will need to go back, retracing their steps. They will get lost, perhaps not knowing what the next step is.

We create the greatest value with the customer when we are aligned with them. When we are in lock-step with them, helping them move through their buying journey–step by step.

They need to go through all the steps, even though we want them to skip to the end. It’s part of their learning process, it’s how they align themselves around what they want to achieve, how to do it, why they are doing it in the first place.

The more steps they skip (and they may be tempted to skip steps), the greater risk they create for themselves–either in making a decision or in implementing a solution.

It’s the buyer’s journey, we have to be prepared to navigate it with them. If we are to be successful, if we are to create the greatest value at every step of their journey, we have to be helping them at each step, we have to help them navigate these steps as effectively as they can, we have to help them move from step to step as rapidly as they are capable.

Too often, we focus on our journey and are not prepared to accompany the customer on theirs.

05 Feb 18:28

How to Deliver a Better Partner Affiliate Program Experience

by Amity Kapadia

Tumisu / Pixabay

Securing partners (and figuring out incentives) for your partner affiliate program are crucial first steps in building a successful partnership. However, maintaining and nurturing relationships as well as delivering the best experience possible can be more important aspects of your partner program. While these elements are sure to be time and resource intensive, they are also closely tied to long-term success.

With marketers adopting more personalized strategies, like nurturing via email workflows or developing segmented campaigns, partners and affiliates are also looking beyond traditional methods of engagement and expecting to build long-term relationships with organizations.

Focusing on the Partner Affiliate Program Experience

But when companies neglect to focus on the partner experience, partners often look elsewhere and satisfaction, engagement, and sales can suffer. The human element of building relationships is a must-have factor of partner marketing. Without having conversations with partners, providing up-to-date marketing materials, and education on your product/service, your partner marketing experience would be null.

Here are a few ways to focus on the partner experience, in order to build healthy, long-term partnerships:

Create an Educational Guide or Video
Send a toolkit with all of the details to new partners in a welcome email and include a link on your program overview landing page. Include information on best practices for promoting your brand, how to utilize their partner portal, recommendations for seeing success, and more.

Host a Dedicated Partner Portal
Customize the experience for each partner in your program with a “home base” in a white-labeled portal. Here is where each partner’s dashboard will live, along with promotional materials, and the ability to submit referral leads. This is a great place to post recorded webinars to share updates and provide ongoing education to communicate at scale.

Send Dedicated Emails
Encourage engagement by providing valuable information via automated email notifications (see above: top of funnel, bottom of funnel, etc.) . These emails can offer suggestions for seeing success or even highlight top performers.

Enable Engagement
Create a place where your partners can share with one another. A private Facebook group or a Salesforce community is a great place for partners to share with each other and your brand. As your partner community grows, consider in-person events or even certifications (such as, HubSpot’s Agency Partner Certification).

Encourage Employee Promotion
Provide employees that have high touch points with your partners with copy or a graphic that they can use in their email signature to promote the program.

The Value of Building Long-Term Partnerships

Engaging and building positive brand relationships with prospects via partners produces long-term results. In fact, according to a recent report by Aberdeen, the ability to deliver a seamless experience pays off big time for partners and the company. When enabled with technology and processes that support partner marketing efforts, companies see:

partner affiliate program Stats banner
When carried out at a strategic level, partnership marketing can be expansive and deliver its full potential. More so, when companies focus on delivering a world-class experience they reap the benefits of building long-term relationships, such as better engagement amongst partners, total transparency and visibility, as well as increased engagement.

And by automating the tedious tasks that go along with creating long-lasting relationships – like form submissions, lead tracking, and payments – your marketing team can start scaling a channel that really drives long-term growth.

05 Feb 18:21

Become a Millionaire… Without Selling Your Agency

by Karl Sakas
Want to become a millionaire? You might get there without selling your agency.

Want to become a millionaire? You can make millions… without selling your agency.

Have you calculated your personal Net Worth recently? If you want to become a millionaire, you might have missed something important.

Your agency’s true future value is probably much higher than its on-paper value.

Managed right, your agency can produce millions of dollars in value for you and your partners—via profits, salaries, and other compensation—without ever needing to sell the business.

This is helpful even if you do want to build an Equity-oriented agency—the money you make today helps you insist on a good exit and push back on a bad exit.

Be sure your financial advisors are aware of your assumptions about the future business, since they can help you make the projections… and minimize your tax liability. (I’m not a lawyer, CPA, or CFP.)

How to Calculate Your Personal Net Worth

The technical calculation for personal Net Worth is simple:

  • Add up your assets (brokerage account, retirement accounts, bank accounts, value of business shares, equity in real estate, Rothko paintings, Faberge eggs, etc.), and then
  • Subtract your liabilities (mortgage balances, credit cards, loans to the business, lines of credit, gambling debts to the neighborhood loan shark, etc.).
  • The result of that addition and subtraction is your Net Worth. It’ll fluctuate daily, based on movements in the stock market.

Yet Some of That is More “Liquid”…

But there’s a catch. Your accountant or financial planner is probably “discounting” the value of your illiquid assets.

  • Liquid assets are things like mutual fund shares, stock in publicly-held companies, and certificates of deposit. These are assets where people or entities would pay you cash, when requested, within a business day (or a matter of minutes or seconds, when it comes to most publicly-traded securities). Cash itself is the most liquid of all—and so are checking or savings accounts, since they’re effectively already cash.
  • Illiquid assets include things like artwork, antiques, cars, real estate, and shares in privately-held businesses. These are things that take time to sell (where “liquify” = “turn into cash”). Here’s more on the concept of “illiquid assets.”

Your CPA or CFP is reasonable in discounting the value of illiquid assets—for instance, you think that abstract painting in your living room is worth $200K… but that’s only true if someone pays $200K for it, and that won’t happen overnight. Likewise, no one’s going to suddenly buy your agency tomorrow.

Your Agency Can Help You Become a Millionaire

Although illiquid, your agency ownership stake is an unusually active asset—it pays you a salary, and you’re entitled to a percentage of profits.

The fun part is that you get to choose your salary, and you get to choose what you do with the profits. Your mutual fund shares don’t let you do that.

This is a key difference between being a business owner vs. an employee—as an owner, you have supreme control over what you pay yourself. (Within the bounds of what’s legal, ethical, and what your business can afford.)

When things are running smoothly and profitably, you bring home bank. In contrast, drama and/or a pattern of unprofitability can make agency ownership feel worse than working for someone else.

The True Value of Your Salary

My benchmark is that agency owners should pay themselves a six-figure salary. In my agency consulting work, I’ve seen agency owner salaries range from $40K to nearly $600K.

(Agency finances are a big driver, but people sometimes choose to underpay themselves. If that includes you, read Overcoming Underearning to help fix that.)

Add-Up That Six-Figure Salary

Let’s say you’re paying yourself $100K/year today via salary. Over 10 years, that totals $1 million in today’s dollars. (To simplify the examples in this article, I’m not accounting for inflation—but inflation will definitely have an impact.)

What if you decided you’d start at $100K and give yourself a 15% raise each year? In 10 years, you’d be making $350K/year… and the 10-year total would be ~$2 million in today’s dollars. That extra 15% a year certainly adds up!

If you’re already paying yourself something higher—say $200K/year—you can become a millionaire even faster.

Take That Raise Sooner, Rather Than Later

Time is of the essence—changes today will “compound” over time. Say you decide to stretch from $100K this year to $150K next year, and you stay there for the next eight years, that’s $1.45 million over the coming 10 years, in today’s dollars.

You’ll have to pay taxes, and inflation will de-value the future cash flows—but it’s still a tidy sum.

Takeaway: You don’t have to sell your agency to become a millionaire from your agency—your salary alone can total millions of dollars over time.

The True Value of Your Profits

Those hefty salary projections don’t include what you do with the profits from the agency.

Imagine 20%+ Net Profits Each Year

Ideally you’re getting 20-30% net profits—and that’s after paying yourself a market rate salary.

  • At $1MM in revenue, that’s at least $200K in profits each year.
  • At $5MM in revenue, that’s at least $1MM in profits each year.
  • At $10MM in revenue, that’s at least $2MM in profits each year.

You’ll split that if you have business partners, of course. And don’t try to take all or most of your compensation via distributions—the IRS or other tax authority will eventually catch you. (They expect you to take a reasonable salary, payroll taxes and all.)

After taxes, I hope you’re saving some of that for retirement and other priorities… and finding ways to give back, in whatever way makes sense for you. With privilege comes responsibility.

Read The Millionaire Next Door for their “Prodigious Accumulator of Wealth” (PAW) formula on how much money you “should” have at different points in your career.

Close Your Profitability Gap

If you’re not consistently getting 20%+ net profit margins, you’re hurting yourself.

QUESTION: Are you on track to become a millionaire from owning your agency? How do you feel about that?

05 Feb 18:21

Get Off the SaaS Growth Treadmill: Avoid Revenue Churn and Burn

by Anna Talerico

A recent study by Invesp found that 44% of SaaS companies are focused on customer acquisition, as opposed to just 18% that are focused on customer retention.

The focus on landing new customers makes sense to some degree. At launch, we are so focused on getting product-market fit, then gaining traction in the market and putting up good growth numbers. Before there is time for customers to churn it’s just about adding in as many new customers as you can. So, we build great sales and marketing machines.

But before we know it, if we aren’t careful, we find our growth being stunted on the top line by customer churn. And when that happens, a considerable proportion of the energy, time and money invested into growth ends up putting you on a revenue treadmill.

A SaaS company’s capital must be used wisely to maximize growth — regardless of its source or quantity. If revenue churn rate is too close to the capital burn rate, you’ve got a problem to solve. How capital is used has everything to do with how steep growth can be. Too much capital used to replace churned revenue is a recipe for a treadmill that makes it harder and harder to post strong growth numbers.

I’ve had it happen in my own SaaS business, I’ve seen it happen in my client’s businesses and I’ve heard woes of it from my friends who run SaaS businesses. It happens. But left unchecked, the growth treadmill that comes from revenue churn can burn through capital faster than you realize. You must have a solid grasp on the fundamentals of SaaS revenue metrics to understand the mechanics of why revenue churn is such an impediment to growth.

Understanding the fundamentals

You may already know this, but it never hurts to have a refresher. When you get all of these concepts, the puzzle of SaaS growth comes together.

“Gross revenue churn is the percentage of your revenue that is lost during a period due to customers canceling or downgrading.” And net revenue churn is “the percentage of revenue you have lost from existing customers in a period. To calculate net revenue churn, divide net revenue lost from existing customer in a period by total revenue at the beginning of a period. Net revenue lost is the difference of revenue lost from subscription churn minus new revenue from existing customers (i.e. upsells).” Thanks goes to Chartio for these easy-to-understand churn definitions.

Think for a moment what happens when CAC is the same, or higher, than LTV. Or what happens when customer revenue churn is simply being replaced by the revenue from new customers.

The churn rate treadmill

Revenue churn is the opposite of growth. It’s money lost period-over-period from customers that were previously acquired using precious growth capital.

Every month that monthly recurring revenue (MRR) continues or expands improves capital efficiency. But every churned or downgraded customer reduces capital efficiency. The objective is to amortize customer acquisition cost (CAC) over as long a lifetime (LTV) as possible. The higher the ratio is between CAC and LTV, the more capital efficient, sustainable and steep the growth curve can be.

When churn rate is held in check, proportionally more capital is being used to produce new revenue rather than replacement revenue. More is used to cover new ground rather than running in place.

Who contributes to reducing churn rate?

In short, everyone. Controlling customer churn starts with sales & marketing setting accurate expectations and focusing on the ideal customer profile (ICP). Those ideal customers should be on-boarded quickly and efficiently to ensure rapid adoption and realization of value. After that, customer development needs to have a path forward to upsell and deliver expansion revenue. Specific tactics vary based on sector, price point, monetization strategy and so on. But, big picture, the entire organization contributes to reducing revenue churn. It has to be a consistent focus for everyone.

What are the institutional implications of churn rate?

Institutional sources of capital really don’t like seeing their funds used to replace lost revenue. That’s considered raising execution risk which is seldom popular among banks, VCs or PEGs. In my experience churn rate is the first question asked after top-line growth, and customer acquisition are covered. If growth is offset by revenue churn, the question of why will quickly rise to the top of the list.

Every SaaS company has churn. But churn that merely is replaced by new revenue isn’t a sustainable business model, and at some point, it will catch up to you.

Churn can seriously stunt your SaaS growth

The trickle-down effects of revenue churn are widespread. They impact the P&L, the balance sheet, and company-wide morale. If you have a churn problem, you have a burn problem, and that will make it very hard to grow. I think improving customer retention and reducing revenue churn has to be any SaaS company’s number one strategic priority.

The post Get Off the SaaS Growth Treadmill: Avoid Revenue Churn and Burn appeared first on OpenView Labs.

05 Feb 18:20

Creating Value with Social Selling

by Laura Hall

Guest post by Barbara Giamanco, Founder & CEO @ Social Centered Selling
When I first began evangelizing the concept of social selling in 2006, salespeople and their managers often gave me the side eye when I suggested that changes in buyer behavior meant sellers would need to evolve their sales approach and that social media would play an integral role in selling. Creating value with social selling wasn’t fathomable!
Fast forward to today.
Reaching today’s buyers is harder than it has ever been. Not impossible but blocking unsolicited sales calls and ignoring emails has never been easier for those decision makers we want to reach. The answer to getting around this challenge? Social selling strategies, of course. Or is it?
Let’s first clear up some myths about the concept of social selling.

Myths About Social Selling

  1. Social platforms are tools. They don’t sell for you and never could.
  2. The “secret” to improving your prospecting results (i.e. converting activity and connections to sales conversations) isn’t the medium, whether that is phone calls, emails or social media. The secret is in your approach and message.
  3. Social selling tactics don’t stand on their own. By the same token, integrating the use of social into your selling strategy isn’t a quick fix for the sales challenges that all of us face.

Sales Success in Modern Sales

Yes, it is tougher to break through the collective noise to get your message heard. New tools and technology, including artificial intelligence, isn’t the answer though. Technology enables process. That’s it.
social selling tips
When it comes to social selling, it is not as simple as having a perfect online profile, connecting with the most people, or sharing your content. Using social channels to achieve your sales objectives requires a blended approach, one that includes traditional selling skills.
Using social media as an avenue to engage a buyer and get them to agree to a sales meeting is step one. What happens from that point forward makes or breaks sales opportunities. People buy from people. Therefore, salespeople must have a firm grasp on the interpersonal skills required to be great at the craft of selling.
When CEB (now Gartner) reported that some 60% of the buying process happened without a salesperson’s involvement, I think the implication was largely misunderstood. They didn’t mean that salespeople couldn’t impact the early stages of the buyer journey. They absolutely can. IF and WHEN salespeople – starting with sales leaders – change what they do.
Buyers tend to avoid sellers because they don’t have faith that salespeople can be trusted to act with their best interest in mind. Who can blame them? Websites, social channels, forums, and independent reviews make it possible for buyers to do early-stage research without talking to salespeople. That’s their preferred entry into the buying process.
I’ve listened to hundreds of prospecting calls, read thousands of emails, sat through more presentations and demos than I can count, and I can confidently say that buyers have a point.

Ditch the Pitch

Delivering a better sales experience starts with changing your mindset. This seems to be a tough habit to break, regardless of whether sales or marketing craft the messaging.
HOW we sell is more important than WHAT we sell. If your social message isn’t focused on what the buyer cares about (hint: it isn’t your product features or that last round of funding), they don’t pay attention.
social selling tips
Research is clear. Buyers want to work with salespeople who bring business value to the process. In Salesforce’s State of Sales report, buyers said they would make time to talk to salespeople who demonstrated that they were “focused on helping achieve their company’s needs, not just making a quick sale.”
People give lip service to using social selling to reach decision makers in the right way. They claim to understand the importance of doing upfront research and personalizing messages to make them relevant. However, most sellers still shortcut this process… then wonder why all that activity isn’t converting into sales conversations with qualified buyers.
Don’t try to shortcut the sales process.  Deliver a valuable experience to your prospects and buyers, whether it be via social or more traditional methods.
Interested in learning more about how social selling tactics can fit into the selling process? I have the pleasure of moderating a panel discussion at Rainmaker with forward-thinking sales leaders who will share real-world examples and advice about how to improve prospecting, engage buyers, personalize communications, and convert passive activity into proactive sales conversations.
I hope to see you there in a few short weeks!


For more on the best ways to utilize sales and social selling strategies to achieve measurable sales results from Barbara Giamanco, join us at Rainmaker – the sales engagement conference – March 11-13 in Atlanta!
Learn more and purchase tickets here.
Rainmaker 2019
05 Feb 18:20

The Big Internet Trends Impacting Local Search Marketing Right Now

by Bernadette Coleman

The world as we know it is changing, and has been for the past three decades. The foundation – trust – has remained the same, but now it’s trust amongst both consumers and search engines, versus just consumers as in the past.

The internet explosion that occurred back in the ’90s revolutionized the marketing and advertising industries, giving businesses an alternative to reach potential customers over traditional TV, radio and print. The next big hit was the smartphone, which gave users an even more convenient way to access the internet. Then before you knew it, social media was taking over, tracking user data and turning it into personalized ad experiences. Needless to say, the world has been changing significantly for almost 30 years – and it’s not showing signs of slowing down any time soon.

Make the Most Out of Voice Search and the Other Internet Trends of 2018

The big internet trends to watch, the ones that will further the online revolution, include voice search – and voice-controlled products – “near me” searches, and e-commerce. All of these trends affect the way users are consuming information, the way they are buying, and the way they are moving in this fast-paced world. This is evidenced in the Internet Trends Report, compiled annually by Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins (formerly Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers, aka KPCB).

Let’s take a look at three of the big internet trends Meeker revealed, and how you can apply them to your local search and digital marketing strategies right now.

The Voice Search Revolution

We’ve all known for a while that voice search is coming. With 30,000 skills now on Amazon Echo and a 95-percent word accuracy on Google Machine Learning, it’s safe to say that voice search and voice-controlled products are here to stay.

So how can businesses take advantage of this growing trend? The answer is a simple word: optimizing. But executing it correctly is not as simple as it sounds. There’s no magic wand to wave; no easy, fast solution that will take care of your website – there’s nothing without putting in the love and hard work.

Optimizing your website and business online persona for voice search might take some time, true – but the results are well worth the wait and effort. Yes, I’ve been talking about this for over a year. Voice search will be huge in the near future – so huge that comScore has predicted that 50 percent of all search queries will be voice search by 2020. That means if a business is not optimized for voice search, they might be missing out on many potential customers.

But how exactly will voice search revolutionize the online world? Know this: People who search by voice are looking for convenience. Since they don’t have to worry about typing – or about typos – search queries are longer, more precise, and more question-focused. They are looking at search engines to give them straight answers; so, what is the best way to rank on voice searches? You must have the content that people are looking for and write it in a user-friendly way.

Undeniable E-Commerce Evidence

According to the 2018 Internet Trends report, e-commerce revenue was up an unprecedented 16 percent! With those numbers, businesses and brands should consider optimizing their websites and social media accounts to facilitate e-commerce whenever possible. Even if e-commerce is not an option for a particular company – because of the type of products or services they offer – they should look for a way to link their offline business with their online offering.

Here’s a good real-world example of the above using nationwide property restoration company Restoration 1. The nature of the services they provide – property restoration after water damage, fire & smoke damage, or mold growth – makes it impossible for the multi-location business to offer e-commerce. But they dooffer an option to request services online. This is not only consumer-friendly and a great strategy, it also successfully ties the offline business to their online persona.

Whenever possible, brands should look into selling their products on the Marketplace (yes, Amazon Marketplace). Did you know that 49 percent of internet users start a product search directly on Amazon? Only 36 percent use search engines for the same purpose! I’ve always advocated that the value of online reviews is immeasurable – particularly for local businesses. With Amazon providing an easy way to access reviews, it’s no wonder the percentage of people searching there is so high.

What happens, though, when you don’t have a product, and therefore you can’t get reviews from marketplaces like Amazon? In that case, Google My Business is definitely your friend. Considering that 2 out of 3 customers say having positive reviews about a business or product is an important factor when they make buying decisions, I think it’s safe to say that reviews are essential for any brand or business.

The Power of the “Near Me” Search

In the past year, according to the 2018 Internet Trends report, “near me” searches have increased 900 percent. Hold on, that is not a typo– I do mean 900 percent, and that is astounding! This clearly shows that users are looking for more personalized options when searching on engines like Google or Bing. This “near me” trend is further evidenced by other search queries that also increased during last year, including “for me” – up 60 percent – and “should I,” which was up 65 percent.

People are looking for local businesses that can provide immediate services that are tailored to the customer’s wants and needs. The question becomes how to take advantage of this trend?There’s a few things businesses could do to optimize their content, but these are not overnight, simple solutions. The strategy must change constantly, always taking into consideration data and analytics.

In order for content to rank appropriately for these search terms, it must always be consistent and accurate. The content should at all times be related to the business in question. Another important aspect is to monitor the business’ reputation, as well as reviews. Is it important to reply to online reviews? Yes, absolutely! In fact, it is essentialto address them, particularly when they are delivering a negative message. Reviews should be answered politely and apologetically. Forget about going on a rant! Be diplomatic – otherwise the business’ reputation could tank in an instant.

What Actions Are You Going to Take Next?

These are only a few – but extremely powerful – takeaways points. Access the complete infographic for an easy-to-digest view of this data and the other big takeaways I spotted.

When it comes to best practices, be proactive. The needs of Google, search, and consumers are always changing. It’s important you stay aware of these changes to adapt and evolve your local and digital marketing strategies for the businesses you represent.

05 Feb 18:16

How Businesses Can Benefit From Proactive Messaging

by Brett Grossfeld

Businesses are more likely to build a real connection with their customers when their outreach is personalized. To send a thoughtful message at the right time can make a customer think, “Oh, perfect timing” and want to follow-up. But how can it be done in a way that accommodates a large customer base and in a manner that benefits the customer experience?

That concept is what drives proactive support—a strategic way of engaging customers before they reach out. One method of accomplishing that is through proactive messaging.

What is proactive messaging?

Proactive messaging is customer outreach before they’ve contacted the business. A few reasons why companies would want to initiate engagement include:

  • Influencing their customers’ decision-making to help them through the buying process
  • Educating customers on new products, services, and features by guiding them towards where they can conduct their research
  • Offering support options on known issues so that customers are aware before encountering them
  • Providing guidance if a customer is confused by or unsure when they’re interacting with a website or online product
  • Reconciliation after a poor customer experience by offering an apology or discount

Two types of proactive messaging: trigger-based and broadcast

Trigger-based proactive messaging is when an event causes an automated message to be sent. When specific conditions are met, a personalized message pertaining to those conditions is delivered to the customer.

Let’s say a customer is recognized as a “new user” in an online service and hasn’t clicked on one of the features after joining a month ago. Meeting the conditions of “1-month user” and “hasn’t used ____ feature” could trigger a proactive message designed to educate the user. It could direct them towards the feature in the interface or offer a support article on what the feature can do.

Other examples trigger-based proactive messaging include:

  • Suggesting other content (triggered by the customer not engaging with previously provided content)
  • Asking for feedback (triggered by a requested refund or a customer support interaction)
  • Guiding customers through the buying process (triggered by an abandoned cart)

Broadcasted proactive messaging highlights an event or feature so that the message is front and center for multiple customers. Usually they’re in the form of a banner or a pop-up message in a high-traffic location, such as a homepage or login screen. They’re not as targeted as trigger-based messages (since they don’t rely on specific conditions), but they can still target specific customers by choosing a strategic location.

Examples of broadcasted proactive messages include:

  • New feature or product announcements
  • Notification of outages for specific customers
  • Inviting customers to a conference or event
  • Promoting a weekly/monthly newsletter

When to use proactive messaging

Successful use of proactive messaging involves identifying high-value times to engage customers and subsequent A/B testing to find which messages will resonate with customers the most.

A great example is Freshly, a meals-on-demand subscription service, that used proactive messaging to improve their customer retention. They recognized when their customers asked to cancel their subscription, they could learn more about the customer experience. They set up proactive messages that broke the churning customers into subgroups, which allowed Freshly’s support agents to engage them with personalized conversations on each specific situation. They then used the results of those learnings to focus on where the service could be improved.

Proactive messaging can be used as part of the following strategies:

1) Acquiring customers

When trying to acquire more customers, proactive messages can help guide them through the buying process or customer journey. They can direct new users on how to fill out a profile when signing up or point them towards flash sales for first-time buyers. For unengaged prospects, the messages could offer discounts or highlight features they’d be interested in.

2) Influencing customers

Telling customers about a new product line or sales promotion can influence them to purchase; or, if they added a specific item to their cart, a proactive message could highlight another product they should purchase. It can be a good opportunity for a “you may also like…” message in regards to suggested products or content.

3) Educating customers

Triggers can be set up to provide onboarding introductions for new or unused features, or share a support article about the feature. Newsletters that include helpful tips and information can be promoted to increase readership.

4) Supporting customers

Support tickets can be deflected with proactive messaging for common support questions. One example is highlighting a known issue (like improper sizing on a specific piece of clothing) before the customer makes a purchase. If an account is in danger or gave a low CSAT score, a triggered message can offer a personalized apology or a promo code.

5) Retaining customers

Multiple triggers can indicate that customers are unengaged: they haven’t logged in over __ amount of time, no new recent purchases, requesting a refund, and so on. Proactive messages can gather feedback on why they’re no longer engaged or make suggestion that might interest them. A broadcasted message can highlight a specific feature that your churned customers asked for.

05 Feb 18:05

Should I Hire a Virtual Sales Team?

by Josh Bean

The answer? Well, it depends.

A virtual sales team and an in-house sales team are both designed to manage your company’s sales operations. However, there are key differences in their structure.

Virtual sales team:

  • Works for an agency or works independently
  • Paid to run your sales department
  • May work for other organizations as well

In-house sales team:

  • Built internally through a company hiring process
  • Paid a salary and typically a commission
  • Works only for your company to manage sales operations

A virtual sales team is basically a third-party provider/virtual service that runs sales for you (at a cost). They professionally execute on the sales model you’ve created to drive sales. The provider either creates a virtual sales team specifically for your company or they use reps already available to run the sales process. Sales reps might also be independent contractors who work outside of an agency.

Outsource sales only if it matches your company goals

You should hire a virtual sales team if one or both of the following is true:

  • You can’t afford an in-house sales team.
  • You are testing a market and don’t want to commit to an organization.

If you’re on a shoestring budget, outsourcing sales can help minimize the high costs associated with maintaining an in-house team (e.g., recruiting, training, retaining) so you can put that money toward improving your product/service.

Or perhaps you want to test your product/service on a small scale to determine if it fills a need in the market. A virtual sales team offers the opportunity to sell the initial idea without sinking piles of money. It also provides a foundation for scaling your business in the future if the idea proves successful.

It’s important to note that a virtual sales team should not be a cop-out for work you should complete yourself. First, you need to understand the sales process to help with things like strategy and sales forecasting.

You and your team know your product/service better than anyone else. Although you may not have built a sales funnel yet, you are responsible for going into the market and determining things like

  • How you’ll find leads
  • How you’ll qualify them
  • How long you think the average sales cycle will take
  • Customer acquisition costs, etc.

Gathering this information will help you develop a sales model and provide a foundation for a virtual team to execute sales.

That said, before handing over your sales to an outside party, there are many things to consider. To decide if outsourcing is right for you, let’s take a look at the challenges and opportunities associated with a virtual sales team and then review steps to building a team.

Challenges & opportunities of outsourcing sales

Just like with an in-house team, a virtual sales team will have unique problems and abilities. A customer relationship management system (CRM) can overcome many of the major challenges associated with both options. The challenges listed below, therefore, are just some things to be aware of as you think about which option is best for your business.

Challenges

An in-house sales team will naturally be closer to your product/service. They will be “in the trenches” and easily able to ask you or other employees if they don’t understand something. A virtual sales team can present challenges such as:

  • Less control – Quality relationships between sales rep and potential customer are crucial if your startup is going to grow. You’re not able to constantly monitor relationship touch points with an outsourced team, so it’s difficult to track if they’re focused on a quality customer experience. Broken confidentiality is also a risk, particularly if you have innovative software. You have to be very discerning in who you hire.
  • Communication problems – How will you communicate with your virtual team? Email, chat, Slack? Do your time zones align? While an in-house sales rep can simply pop in your office if there’s a problem, a virtual sales rep might have more difficulty relaying important information. Again, a CRM tool can help with this issue, but if you don’t have that, important messages might fall through the cracks.
  • No internal talent development – Internal skills and knowledge that could be beneficial for your company in the future won’t be retained with a virtual team. A virtual sales rep likely won’t have the same deep and specific knowledge of your product/service or the same passion that comes from being involved in the everyday process and part of your internal culture.

Because of the nature of these challenges, virtual sales teams are better suited for companies that don’t expect sales to be a core competency. If you do, you should be developing talent internally and hiring sales professionals who can grow with your company.

Opportunities

Outsourcing sales (or any other startup process) is a perfect example of delegating. Yes, you have to be careful, but it can save you significant time and give you the ability to focus on management activities and improving other areas of your startup.

  • Learn from the best – If you are just starting a company and don’t have any experience in sales, turning to virtual sales experts might be the way to go. The hiring and training are taken care of for you, which helps avoid operational inefficiencies. You can also take note as to what works best in the sales process and what type of training will be required if you hire an in-house team later on.
  • Less risk – Not only is a virtual team cheaper, the risk is also lower. The cost impact of hiring and retaining an in-house team is not a concern, since if there is a problem with your virtual sales team, you can easily switch providers.
  • Lower overhead costs – Unlike an in-house team, a virtual sales team does not require a full-time base salary (the average compensation of an in-house sales development rep (SDR) is $72.1K). You can hire by the month, day, or hour — whatever makes sense for your budget. This can help scale sales. In addition to salary, administrative costs, training costs, and management costs are lower for a virtual team. You also don’t have to spend time and money on employee retention.

Avoid the traditional costs connected with an in-house team by using a virtual sales team instead. Not only do you save on employee set-up, you also benefit immediately from the skills of seasoned professionals rather than spending time training new sales reps.

How to build a virtual sales team

If a virtual sales team makes sense for your company based on the above information, you need to consider several key things to ensure you hire the right third-party provider/virtual service for your industry and company.

In addition to your initial sales exploration discussed at the beginning of this article, below are specific steps you can take to properly outsource your sales team.

Step 1: Outline goals & budget

Create a strategy that breaks down your business needs and what kind of outcomes you want. What are your overall sales goals? If you are testing the market, how many sales do you need to know you will be successful there? How much money can you allocate to sales?

Based on your needs, determine the max amount you can spend. Remember that you want to balance cost and quality. Top expertise is worth it and will save money in the future if done correctly.

If you are outsourcing the entire sales process, you need a provider that does it all from lead generation to qualification. Let’s take a look at average costs:

  • Independent sales agent: $40 to $60 per hour (as compared to $87 per hour of an in-house sales rep).
  • Agencies: Price can vary based on your needs but $2,000 to $10,000 per month is a range to keep in mind.

Some agencies charge a rate as well as a commission fee. Scout around for top providers or contractors and find out what type of pricing packages they offer.

Step 2: Research & choose a provider

You can choose a provider that a) builds an outsourced team specifically for your company b) uses their own sales reps to manage your sales process or c) acts as an independent sales agent.

Look online at reviews and also ask colleagues if they can refer a good agency or individual. Upwork is a possible place to find independent sales agents if you’re only looking to hire one or two.

Choose a few options based on your industry and review their expertise. For example, if you are a B2B startup, finding a provider that specializes in B2B sales makes the most sense.

Consider asking potential providers the following questions:

  • What is your organization’s selling record in my industry and market segments?
  • What type of training do you provide your reps?
  • Do you choose the reps for me?
  • What types of tools and CRM do you use?
  • Can you provide examples of similar companies you’ve worked with and the results?

Find out also who manages the sales reps, what their leadership ability is, and if the sales reps are capable of top-level conversations. Of course, the questions above will be slightly different for independent contractors.

Discovering the answers to these types of questions will help you determine if the provider aligns with the strategy and vision for your company. The answers will also help you understand if the provider has been successful in the past and if they would be effective leading sales operations in your industry.

Choose a provider based on their expertise, your budget, and company goals.

Step 3: Engage with provider

Once you’ve hired an outsourced sales team, it will take time for reps to get onboarded, ramp up the sales process, and for results to be seen. That said, don’t step back to let the virtual team run sales by themselves. Yes, they have the expertise and you shouldn’t micromanage, but you need to be involved in the process just as you would with an internal team. Here are a few things you can do:

  • Schedule weekly meetings with your outsourcer.
  • Establish an open line of communication with sales reps.
  • Provide training about your product/service, update when necessary, offer sales enablement tools, etc.
  • Regularly check on key metrics and analytics.
  • Align outsourced sales with your marketing team to improve sales enablement and buyer personas.

Intentional management helps ensure that the sales process is on the right track and that end goals are being achieved. It also helps identify the most effective sales methods to implement with an internal sales team in the future.

The point of a virtual sales team is to take your sales model and turn it into a well-oiled sales process. If you’re still unsure if outsourcing is the right approach for you, try outsourcing certain sales activities first (administration, lead generation, etc.). Outsource the entire sales process later if results are good and it aligns with your company strategy.

Timing is a key factor in choosing to outsource sales. What might work now may not work in a year or two as your company grows. But especially in the early stages of a company and if you’re tight on funds, outsourcing can be a helpful strategy.

Again, a CRM is a great way to monitor all communications and the sales process of a virtual sales team. Check out our platform and also let us know your opinion on outsourcing sales. Do you think it’s a good approach? Let us know in the comments below!

05 Feb 18:05

Keep Prospects Engaged: 7 Tips for Getting Leads Unstuck

by Jenny Traster

Nurturing a lead until they become stuck somewhere in the buyer’s journey sounds like a nightmare for any sales or marketing executive. But if you feel like you were making real progress – don’t worry.

More often than not, when a lead goes cold, it’s generally due to something internal at the company. They got busy with a new project, someone went on vacation, or a variety of other things could be the actual reason – which means, you can re-engage with them successfully. Here are our tips to increase your lead engagement, and get your prospects unstuck for good.

shutterstock_662206921

1. Re-Visit Your Buyer’s Journey and Personas

While we mentioned that leads frequently go dark due to something within their own company, there is the off chance something may be amiss within your organization. If leads are getting stuck consistently, revisit your buyer’s journey to see if some of your content is no longer serving the needs of the awareness, consideration, and decision stages. Or, perhaps, your audience has slightly shifted throughout the years, and the person you’re trying to engage with is no longer your true target.

2. Let Them Know You’re Available

If someone hasn’t responded to you in some time, try emailing them again to let them know you’re there for them. Acknowledge the fact you know people get busy with other projects and offer a flexible schedule for them to get back to you. Be friendly and open, and they’ll recognize that. Also, remember to personalize your email by including their name – another tactic that shows you’re there to help them.

However, when initially re-engaging with them, don’t bring up the past. Your friendliness will seem artificial when you remind them that they didn’t respond to you three weeks ago. Stick to language that shows you’re eager to work with them.

3. Invite Them to Your Marketing Newsletter

Sometimes leads become stuck because the decision maker at the company is not on board – yet. If your marketing team sends a regular newsletter and they’re not on the list, ask if they want to subscribe. Your leads will stay on top of your company’s communication and your brand will keep resurfacing. Then, hopefully, when the time is right, they’ll be excited to begin working with you again.

4. Send Them Relevant Content

If you’re looking for a way to reconnect with a lead, sending them a piece of content that addresses their exact pain points is a good idea. Send something they haven’t seen before with a note explaining why you’re doing so. This demonstrates that you haven’t forgotten about them or their situation and hopefully opens the door for conversations.

5. Try a Personal, Non-Business Approach

For many people, they deal with salespeople a lot. They hear plenty of account executives sell them products in similar fashions. When relinking with someone, ask them a question about their lives. If something exciting is happening, people enjoy talking about it.

If you know they’re headed on vacation soon, ask them what their plans are. Or, begin a conversation about a shared interest that you continue through many emails or phone calls. These types of discussions likely are a breath of fresh air for your prospects.

6. Connect on LinkedIn

Did you know 80% of leads come from LinkedIn? That alone proves LinkedIn is an excellent source for generating leads, but it’s also a good place to nurture and reengaged with them, too. Before engaging with any prospects, make sure your LinkedIn summary outlines your experience, willingness to help, and other value you bring to prospects.

After that, using LinkedIn on a regular basis – like sharing your company’s content — can help with all leads. But for moving stuck leads along, it serves as a non-aggressive outlet to start a new conversation. You can congratulate them on milestones, promotions, or even wish them a happy birthday. Include a unique call-to-action that references your openness to start talking about your company’s solutions again.

7. Personally Invite Them To A Company Event

If your company is hosting a webinar, Twitter chat, or in-person event, send a personalized invite to your prospect. The invite will resurface your company to them, and if they accept, they’ll have another opportunity to learn about your offerings and why they should work with you. An in-person event grants you a one-on-one conversation where you can address any concerns that lead them to become stuck in the first place.

There are several ways to engage with a cold prospect. It may be a personal invitation to a webinar, or a more personal approach to the questions you ask your leads. Determine what’s best for you and your team and begin reconnecting with stuck leads. However, if you’ve tried several options to no available, you can look for something more in-depth by contacting us today.

05 Feb 18:04

Curated from LinkedIn's best how-to's and guides, introducing the 2019 LinkedIn Sales Solutions Box Set

by Amanda Bulat
2019 LSS Box Set: a heckuva deal

At LinkedIn, we want to enable you to be the ultimate sales professional by using some of the best content we had on hand, so we put together an unprecedented box set that includes our top learnings and handy tips on how to close deals faster and create more meaningful relationships in only a few easy steps.

When we talk to other sales professionals about what keeps them up at night, the concerns typically revolve around driving more revenue, shortening deal cycles, generating more leads, or achieving a larger market share. When we think about why companies can have difficulty in achieving these goals, we find it all comes back to one thing: conventional sales tactics no longer contribute to pipeline growth and closed deals like they once did. Good news though: Our 2019 LinkedIn Sales Solutions box set is ready to lead you to the path of sales righteousness.

The LinkedIn Sales Solutions Box Set includes three of our most popular eBooks and a very fancy (if we do say so ourselves) infographic.

Download one of our most exclusive box sets to date and rock your sales pipeline like the über-confident salesperson we know you are.

 

05 Feb 16:48

Are You Reaching or Connecting With Your Sales Prospects?

by Tom Martin

how not to sales prospect on linkedin

Have you ever received a LinkedIn Cold or Warm Message like the one above? You know, where someone makes a sales ask via LinkedIn’s Messaging system either as a first or second touch? Arggg. I hate those. Folks just don’t realize that you only get one chance to make a LinkedIn impression. But beyond that, it shows that so many of today’s sales teams still don’t understand the difference between Reaching and Connecting with sales prospects. More importantly, they don’t understand how the difference is costing them potential sales. So let’s dive into that today.

Reaching vs Connecting With Sales Prospects

When we’re delivering social sales training workshops for clients, we spend a lot of time teaching sales teams that social selling isn’t about selling via social media platforms. It’s about selling by being social – regardless of the platform (social, email, text, phone and in person). The first is great for reaching lots of people very quickly and at ridiculously low cost-per-person-reached number. The person who sent me the message above, who must be using his/her fancy pants software, has reached me five times in the last month. But he/she hasn’t connected with me even once. Which begs the question, what do you really get when you reach someone?

Nothing. Well maybe not nothing, but primarily nothing. You get to check a box in your CRM. You get to report that you reached someone. But if you reach them and they don’t respond, did you really reach them? Did you make an impression? Did you start moving them down the Propinquity Pathway? I’d argue no. Chances are you accomplished little to nothing and may have actually set your sales efforts back a step or two by annoying the person.

So now you’ve reached them but your no closer to selling them anything.

What if instead, you didn’t just reach them, but you connected with them? And no, I don’t mean connecting in the LinkedIn “Congrats. You’re now connected to [person name]” message you get every time you accept a connection request. Sure, technically speaking you’re connected to the person but not in any real or emotive manner.

No, when we talk about connection in our social selling at Converse Digital, we’re talking about actually making a real, memorable and hopefully lasting connection. To us, that is where you really set the stage not only for the current selling effort, but more importantly, future efforts too.

What’s The Most Important Part of The Sales Prospecting Process

I was reading an article recently about automating your LinkedIn outreach. I won’t name the author or company to protect them — yes it was that bad. Mainly because it was talking about social selling but framing the concept in traditional “it’s a numbers game” psychology.

As the largest social network, LinkedIn can become an intimidating place. By automating at least part of the process, many sales teams and leaders find that they have more time to spend on more important work.

So what’s the important work?

Well according to their article that is:

Instead of wasting time on cold emails or calls, using Linkedin automation tools means that your sales team will have more time to concentrate on actually selling. Your sales team will be spending their time chatting with people and building relationships instead of desperately trying to reach out to potential leads.

Hmmmm, well I guess if you think folks will respond to spammy automated messages that find me via my LinkedIn Messages box vs my email inbox… but seriously, are sales prospects really more willing to be cold called on one platform vs another? Me thinks not.

Quantity vs Quality in Sales Prospecting

If you approach your sales efforts from a failure mindset then yes it is only a numbers game. If you expect to fail more than you succeed with your sales prospecting, then yes, you have no option but to consider sales as a numbers game.

Here’s what I mean. If you need to gain 10 new clients a month, and your average conversion rate is 10%, then you expect to fail on 90% of your sales efforts. That means you’ll most likely have to fail 90 out of 100 times to get those 10 new customers. So you and your sales program must focus on quantity. You have no choice.

And, you certainly won’t be alone. Sales is one of only three jobs I can think of where you’re expected to fail more than you succeed — even the very best in the business are awesome because they fail less than their peers.

But what if you flip the script?

What if you focused not on reaching but connecting? What if you decided you’d reach out to fewer sales prospects, but you’d spend more time with social reconnaissance researching them prior to reaching out? Maybe you’d even find a social vs professional touch-point around which to craft your initial outreach.

The point is, most sales people are just trying to reach sales prospects. But if you can go one step further, actually try and connect with your sales prospect, you can afford to focus on quality vs quantity and still end up with those 10 new clients each month. It will just be less frustrating and a heck of a lot more fun because you’ll call on fewer prospects to get those new customers.

Turning Conversations Into Customers

In our opinion, that’s the name of the game in social selling. Be social. Create meaningful connections and conversations that put you, not your competitor, in the unique position of turning that conversation into a new customer.

05 Feb 16:48

The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing Integrations

by Amreen Bhujwala

The Ultimate Guide to Email Marketing Integrations

When a customer signs up to receive emails from your business, you get a lot of information.

Sitting in a database connected to your email account, valuable information like name, email, location, gender, purchase history, and more, is waiting to be used by your business.

You can use this information to your advantage by segmenting your contact lists, triggering automated email series, or dynamically changing the content of your newsletters to suit the interests of different customers.

All of this increases the success of your email marketing, and drives revenue for your business.

In this post, we’ll show you how integrating business apps can help you grow your revenue, and give you the tools you need to make it happen.

Why email integrations are important

According to a recent study by VentureBeat, email has the highest ROI (return on investment) of any marketing channel available, beating social media, paid search, TV, and radio, among others.

However, a lot of your success depends on getting the basics of your email marketing strategy in place: the quality and depth of your email list. Tracking your email deliverability helps maintain that strategy, once it’s in place.

If you have old subscribers who barely open your emails, your email marketing ROI will be lower than if you had an updated list with engaged subscribers.

How can you make sure your lists are always up to date, with in-depth data about each subscriber?

The answer is to use an integration.

Think about what you already know about your email deliverability and your customers’ behavior, readily available via your email reports:

  • Which emails were delivered
  • Which ones were opened
  • Which links were clicked
  • Which emails were forwarded or shared
  • Which emails bounced
  • Who unsubscribed from your emails

These are great metrics to have, but here are a few more pressing questions that can’t be answered in your standard report:

  • Which landing pages garnered the longest time-on-page from your prospects or customers?
  • What were they looking to purchase, but didn’t?
  • When was the last time someone made a purchase?

If you integrate your email marketing with other data sources, , you have the opportunity to build the perfect customer profile, giving you exactly what you need to target more customers in the future with personalized content.

Tying the information together, using marketing automation, could change how you message that customer:

  • Email them about related items. Let’s say they bought a vacuum cleaner. A few weeks later, you could present an offer for vacuum bags.
  • Send an abandoned cart email for things they almost bought, with an incentive to get them back to finish the purchase.
  • Reward loyalty to customers who shop with you often.
  • Entice them to come back if they haven’t made a purchase in a while.

By having more data about a customer in a central, integrated database, you go from generic messages for everyone, to one relevant message, to one customer, at a time. That means you get more interest in the inbox.

Integration tools to make email marketing more efficient

It’s important to remember that email marketing can’t be used as an isolated tool. Your marketing efforts are far more successful when you properly integrate email marketing into as many inbound marketing campaigns as you can.

When setting up your email marketing strategy, right from the get-go, make sure to keep in mind the integrations that help accelerate your marketing efforts. To get you started, here are some that might help when combined with strategic planning:

eCommerce Tools

If you run an online store, chances are most of your customer data is stored on your ecommerce platform. Make use of this valuable information by integrating it into your email marketing, and drive more revenue.

You could:

Segment your audience to send more relevant campaigns – You wouldn’t want to receive holiday emails during the offseason, and neither do your customers. Rather than sending the same email to your entire customer base, segment your lists based on what you know about your customer to send relevant content that interests them.

Send review request email campaigns – Customer reviews can happen organically, but don’t sit idly by and wait! Instead, make customer reviews work for you by asking for them, responding to them, and promoting them. In fact, research from Bazaarvoice shows products with reviews have a 10% higher conversion rate than those without.

Send birthday and anniversary emails – Every customer appreciates when a business recognizes them, even if that means sending your customers a simple happy birthday email. Integrating your ecommerce platform with your email tool allows you to set up automatic birthday emails that go out to your customers with a special offer or discount for their birthday, driving them to your business to make a purchase.

Send subscription reminder emails – If your ecommerce business operates on a subscription model (like Birchbox or Bagel of the Month Club), then subscription reminder emails can work, reminding them to renew, or presenting offers to upgrade their plan. By integrating your ecommerce platform with your email marketing tool, you can set up a series of reminder emails that automatically go out to customers leading up to their subscription expiry date.

CRM systems

If one of your main marketing goals is to convert customers, a CRM (customer relationship management) system can manage your relationships with prospects and customers.

By integrating your CRM and email marketing tool, you can:

Setup automated lead nurturing emails –When you create newsletters and one-off campaigns, you usually send them to a whole list of people, but automated email campaigns are set up once and automatically send to a segment of your list, or multiples segments, depending on the trigger you set.

For example, when you sign up for Constant Contact, you get a welcome email. This email introduces you to Constant Contact, asks you to verify your email address, tells you how to set-up your account, and explains how to get started with building your brand.

Lead nurturing emails can also be used to send content to prospects who might not be ready to buy or sign up, just yet. These emails can educate them on the benefits of your product, automatically nurturing them through the buying cycle.

Target prospects by stage – Sometimes your prospective clients might just need a little nudge in their decision-making, and sending them a special email (especially with a discount) can get them over the line. By integrating your CRM with your email marketing software, you can segment your prospects by their customer lifecycle stage, and send highly relevant campaigns to close the deal. Special offers or discounts can work well, as well as case studies or whitepapers, depending on your business.

Send upsell emails – These especially come handy during the holidays or year-end sales. You could even send emails upselling your other products, based on a customer’s previous purchase or browsing history. By having your CRM integrated with your email tool, you can segment your subscriber list to only show current customers, and send them a campaign informing them of the great new product you’ve released. This highly relevant email is timely driving increased revenue from your existing customer base.

Blogging and content management

If you want customers to subscribe to your blog, you need to make them aware of your amazing content and give them a solid reason to sign up for your mailing list. There are two ways people can subscribe to your blog: RSS feed or email. While both are valuable, email subscriptions can often have a much bigger impact. Since subscribers are emailed whenever new content is published (compared to manually checking an RSS feed), email has the potential to seriously boost your blog traffic.

Integrating your blog with your email tool can attract new subscribers to your blog and give you an additional opportunity to convert them into leads. The best news? That customer is being educated by the great blog content, thus they become more likely to advance through the sales process quickly.

Accounting and billing tools

For a lot of businesses, you collect several unique data points when you invoice or bill your customers, including signup date and location. These two data points alone are extremely valuable,l because you can send subscription renewal emails or geographically targeted campaigns.

Your accounting program is a wealth of information, detailing who bought what, and for how much. This information is incredibly valuable in your email marketing platform, and by integrating the two tools you can send special offers or rewards to your most valuable customers, and discounts and promotions to your lower value customers.

Grow your list via social media

65% of the top 20% of business-to-business social media lead generation marketers integrate email with social media, according to a study from Aberdeen Research.

Adding social share and follow buttons to your emails extends your reach beyond your existing customer base, expanding the visibility of your content and your brand, increasing the opportunity to generate new leads. Integrating your social media with your email campaigns allows you to send targeted emails to your customers who reach out on different social media platforms.

You can also leverage your social media presence to drive email list subscriptions.. For example, you could place a call-to-action on your Facebook page, allowing sign-ups that keep your list growing with interested contacts. If you post to online bulletin boards, have a sign-up link in your signature. If you write blog posts or comment on another, make sure to mention where you can be found online. Social media is a big part of the marketing picture, especially for small businesses. Let it help you grow.

Drive engagement with every email you send

By integrating your business apps with your email marketing software, you can start sending your prospects and customers compelling email marketing campaigns that close more deals, driving more revenue. Integrating your email marketing initiatives with other marketing channels creates a more streamlined and pleasing customer experience, enabling you to consistently build a unique marketing experience for your customers.

04 Feb 17:17

This Week’s Big Deal: Sales Content that Sells

by Sean Callahan
Sales Content That Sells

"We need to stop interrupting what people are interested in and be what people are interested in."

This quote, which boils down to the essence of content marketing, comes from Sendle co-founder Craig Davis, who made his name as Chief Creative Officer for J. Walter Thompson.

Many of today's B2B sales pros are finding that Davis’ words ring uncomfortably true. It has become far too easy for people to tune out messaging that isn't interesting and relevant to them.

Cold-calling is about as popular as a polar vortex. Unsolicited outreach has become more of a fool's errand than a numbers game. Earning the attention of buyers and decision makers is an uphill battle, to say the least.

But while these professionals tend to be very busy, they still make time to consume content — especially content that helps them solve problems and work smarter. If sales reps can deliver legitimately helpful content (not just straight-up sales collateral) to prospects, they start to become what those prospects are interested in, rather than an unwelcome interruption.

This is a fundamental cornerstone of B2B sales in the modern era. As Jamie Shanks of Sales for Life defines it, digital selling “involves creating an organizational structure around content, and an ecosystem to measure the content consumption of your customer.”

That’s all well and good. But the eternal struggle is in pinpointing those types of content that will actually make an impact on your pipeline. And while there is certainly no one-size-fits-all answer, we do have some resources and insights to guide you.

Connecting with Prospects via Sales Content

Findings from DemandGen’s 2018 B2B Buyers Survey Report make it clear that consumable, quality content is a difference-maker in the vendor selection process:

Based on these results (and plenty of other buyer preference research), it seems fair to say that the sweet spot is found in content that:

  • Is high quality
  • Is easily accessible
  • Demonstrates expertise
  • Shows an understanding of the prospect’s company

But before any of these strengths can shine through, the content needs to attract attention.

The Water Cooler Buzz

The office water cooler is the epicenter of interest. It’s where coworkers gather to discuss Sunday’s Game of Thrones episode, or last night’s buzzer-beater shot, or a trending news story that’s shaking up their industry.

Last week, the LinkedIn Sales Blog unveiled a new feature called The Water Cooler, in which we’ll regularly provide rundowns of content that is being engaged with most by decision makers on LinkedIn. This provides sellers with context around what’s top-of-mind for executives and purchase influencers at a high level.  

Unsurprisingly, many of the articles in this batch were from, or about, respected and prominent business leaders (such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffet), with a heavy focus on productivity, corporate culture, and self-improvement. When you can find timely content that intersects these themes with your particular industry or niche, you’re on the right track.

Once you start gaining visibility and attention with topics that intrigue your audience, you can start sharing content that makes more of a direct sales impact. Sending someone a case study or product data sheet out of the blue may feel like an interruption, but when that person has already come to view you as a source for useful information that isn’t totally self-serving, it’s easier to bypass that barrier.

More Sales Content Inspiration

Here are a few other pieces from the past week that do a good job of illustrating the power of sales content in action. If you want to further brush up on the subject, these are recommended reads:

  • At AdWeek, MXM president Georgine Anton explains How to Turn a Cacophony of Content Into a Symphony of Sales. “The goal is to surround the right consumers with the right content. ‘Right’ isn’t just targeted; it’s also quality content that will help to establish a level of trust that mere advertising can’t.”

  • At G2 Crowd, Devin Pickell compiled 10 different definitions of sales enablement from industry experts, and several of them drive to the heart of what we’re discussing here. “Ensuring sales has ‘content where they are’ and that it is easily found and deployed is crucial to enablement’s success,” according to Liz Kane of PrimePay. “Finally, ensuring that overall enablement efforts are having a positive impact on productivity through constant content measurement.”

  • This case study on Nykaa, via BuzzInContent, shows how a beauty brand fuels its digital selling through omnichannel content distribution, and calls out some eye-opening results achieved by this approach.

Conducting regular check-ins with marketing will be extremely helpful when it comes to aligning content with the needs, wants, and interests of your customers. LinkedIn Marketing Solutions recently unveiled a new feature in Campaign Manager called Interest Targeting, which enables companies to fine-tune their ads based on the types of content being engaged with by their target audience. Insights gained by the marketing team through this tool will be of acute interest to sales pros.

Through a collaborative, cohesive, and data-driven strategy, sales and marketing can work together to foster a sales content pipeline that helps your brand become a point of interest, rather than interruption, for its best potential customers.

Subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales Blog so you never miss out on the latest big deal in B2B sales.

04 Feb 17:16

How to Choose the Best Metrics For the Buyer’s Journey

by Katy French

There are many elements that need to be aligned to make you successful in marketing. From brand strategy and content strategy to resources and production, it takes a lot to execute everything successfully. And while you may have a grand plan for how you’re going to make it all happen, there’s one crucial element to remember: your metrics.

Without metrics (or a framework to define your metrics), all of your hard work will be wasted. You won’t know what’s working, what’s failing, how to remedy or improve your marketing, or how to justify your decisions to higher-ups. But you don’t just need metrics; you need the right ones. But how do you decide what’s right?

We’ve helped plenty of brands set up their marketing strategies, and we’ve tinkered with our own a ton (which has helped us increase our leads tremendously). What we’ve learned in that time is that choosing the right metrics is a unique process for every brand, but there are a few things that will get you on the right track.

How to Choose Metrics for the Buyer’s Journey

If you’re ready to choose your metrics (or think you need to revisit your existing ones), here are the simple steps you can take to improve your results.

1) Choose Your Goals

“Doing marketing” isn’t your job. Doing marketing that supports your business goals is your job. So when we talk about choosing metrics, the question is really, “What are you trying to achieve?”

metrics buyers journey

It’s important to map your metrics to your objectives from the very start. That way you’ll know you’re always aligned. For example, a young, hip ecommerce store might focus on social engagement and sales, whereas a B2B software sales company will track product demos and subscriptions.

(BTW, if you don’t know your goals and have never actually completed a brand strategy, here’s our easy step-by-step guide to do it.)

2) Identify The Metrics That Support Your Goals

There are a million options to choose from. If you track everything, you’ll drown in data. That’s why it’s smarter to narrow down your metrics for each of the stage of the buyer’s journey to only those that provide the most insight and value. Again, this will depend on your goals, business, unique product/service, etc.

As a rule of thumb, prioritize 2-3 that are directly aligned with your business goals, and use any others as contextual indicators. Just remember that those metrics should be:

  • Relevant: They map to your goals.
  • Available: You have the infrastructure and tools to track them.
  • Accurate: Your tools should be working correctly.

To help you narrow it down, we’ve outlined the most common metrics below (broken down by buyer’s journey stage). That said, there is overlap. You may categorize these differently according to your specific needs. We’ve also turned the metrics listed into this convenient spreadsheet template, so feel free to make a copy for yourself.

Awareness

  • Reach:
    • Impressions
    • Page Views
    • Unique visitors
    • Publication pickup
    • Social content (followers, likes, subscribers)
    • Email/newsletter (subscribers, unsubscribers, open rate, churn rate)
    • Organic traffic (SEO)
  • Perception:
    • Brand indexes/surveys
    • Social sentiment

Consideration

  • Engagement:
    • Site traffic
    • Time on site
    • Lead gen rate
    • Bounce rate
    • Return rate
    • Pages per visit
    • Comments
    • Asset downloads (e-books, coupons, etc.)

Analysis

  • Conversions:
    • Leads
    • Qualified leads
      • MQLs
      • SAL

Purchase

  • Deals closed
  • Upgrades
  • Upsells

Loyalty

  • Satisfaction and advocacy:
    • Referrals
    • Product usage
    • Customer review scores
    • Product registrations
    • Account renewals
    • Product return rate
    • Testimonials

Once narrow it down and get the OK from your team, you can put them to work.

3) Consider Your Formulas

After choosing your metrics, you may also want to take it a step further to extract even deeper meaning. Blending two metrics together will let you answer questions like:

  • How much does a lead cost to acquire? (leads totals / campaign costs)
  • What is the average lifetime value of a customer? (customer totals / average opportunity)

These can be incredibly valuable.

4) Measure and Experiment

Marketing is part art, part science. To improve your results, it’s important to test and experiment, iterate, then test again. You may also find that, as your strategy changes, there are more relevant metrics to track.

This is all part of the game. In fact, we recommend revisiting your metrics every 6 months or so to make sure they’re still working for you.

Remember: Marketing Is Ever-Evolving

Continue to educate yourself, experiment, and ensure your efforts are always aligned to your larger goals. A few more resources to help you succeed:

04 Feb 17:16

Which Webpages Should Have a Bot Versus Pop-Up Forms?

by Aaron Riddle

In our world of constant, data-driven website optimization, we are always looking for the next great idea, tool, or hack to help improve bounce rates, time on site, and exit rates; however, too often conversion rates are left untouched. Your website is your 24/7 sales and marketing (and in some cases, customer support) machine, running in the background, keeping the lights on for your organization. If it’s not converting, then it’s not being utilized to its fullest potential.

One of the tried-and-true methods for quickly improving conversion rates is utilizing pop-up forms in HubSpot, but the conversation on bots is gaining steam across the landscape. What are each of these tools, and how can each of them support your business objectives? Is one better suited for certain webpages?

Let’s look at each of these tools in more detail and consider which webpages may be better suited for a pop-up form or bot.

Note: Although this content is more suited to organizations hosted on the HubSpot CMS, some of these tips and descriptions will be useful to any CMS-hosted website.

What Is a Pop-Up Form?

A pop-up form (as defined by HubSpot) is a way to create lead capture forms that engage new leads who are visiting your website. These pop-up forms are can be placed on any blog post, landing page, or webpage hosted on HubSpot.

The pop-up form has gone through many iterations since its start back in the mid to late 1990s (the word “pop-up” still leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths). We have seen an improvement to its function over the years. In the HubSpot CMS, it is meant to be an extension of your inbound marketing strategy. When used correctly, pop-up forms can enhance the user experience and help improve conversion rates.

When using pop-up forms with the HubSpot CMS, you have the following four options for placement:

  1. Pop-Up Box: Centered pop-up that goes over page content with an overlay
  2. Drop-Down Banner: Small, thin banner at the top of the page
  3. Slide-In Box Left: Box that slides in from the bottom left corner of the page
  4. Slide-In Box Right: Box that slides in from the bottom right corner of the page

Along with these four types of placement, there are three types of triggers you can display pop-up forms on:

  1. Page Scroll: Shows based on scrolling down the page; currently defaulted to 50 percent in HubSpot
  2. On Exit Intent: Shows based on visitor exiting the page (or tab) they are viewing
  3. After Elapsed Time: Shows based on amount of time visitor is on the page; the minimum time that you can show your pop-up at the time of this post is seven seconds

Pro Tip: HubSpot recommends certain triggers for certain pop-up form types:

  • Page Scroll: Slide-in box left or right
  • Exit Intent: Pop-up box
  • After Elapsed Time: Drop-down banner

Along with that, only the centered pop-up box can be used with the exit intent trigger.

What Is a Bot?

Bots (as defined by HubSpot) allow you to set up automated responses when visitors reach out to you via chat on your website.

Bots have stemmed from what we now know as “Live Chat,” where an actual human is behind the keystrokes helping assist a user with a particular question. Bots take this a step further and take the human out of the equation by providing automated, yet contextualized answers to users’ questions based on their current behavior and past data. When implemented correctly, bots can save time and resources answering common questions about your product or service, or by assisting a customer or prospect with the information they are looking for, whether it is booking a meeting or getting an answer to a support question.

When using bots with the HubSpot CMS, you can set them up as one of the following categories:

  1. Qualify Leads: Assists in qualifying visitors before sending them to sales
  2. Book Meetings: Assists in booking a meeting with a particular employee
  3. Support Bot: Assists in creating a support ticket or access to a particular article to assist with their issue (needs HubSpot Service Pro to enable)

Once you select the appropriate category for your specific bot, you have the ability to set up your responses or actions based on existing data you have about the user or contextual questions in light of how the user is responding.

bots-actions

Pop-Up Forms and Bot Differentiators

As we look at both pop-up forms and bots, each of these tools have a lot to offer your organization and can serve a certain purpose or goal on a particular webpage. While their features are immense, there are some pros and cons to consider:

Pop-Up Forms Bots
Pros – Quick/easy to implement
– Can be shown to visitors in multiple ways
– Great for promoting one-time events/webinars
– Highly customizable
– Contextual to user questions/feedback
– Performs in a 1>many mindset (if user does this action, perform this result. If not, perform this action.)
– Ability to direct to human if needed
Cons – Can be intrusive if used the wrong way
– Poor experience on mobile (recommend hiding them for mobile users)
– Performs in a 1:1 mindset (if user does this action, perform this result)
– Implementation takes a bit more strategy/thought
– Requires some testing to ensure all pieces function properly

Which Pages Work Better with Pop-Up Forms or Bots?

Now that we have some differentiators in place and a clear description of each of these tools in HubSpot, what website pages should use a pop-up form or a bot? If the end goal is improving conversion rates on certain pages, then instances with a bot may convert better than a pop-up form. Here’s my quick cheat sheet for you to consider for which pages to use a pop-up form or a bot.

Bots Pop-Up Forms
– Landing pages (any page with a form to help assist with a conversion)
– Pricing pages
– Top-level navigation pages (Home, Services/Solutions)
– Feature pages
– “Book a meeting” pages
– Support/knowledge base pages
– Non-landing pages (promotion of one-time event or webinars)
– Blog
– Top-level navigation pages (Home, Services/Solutions)

As you can see, bots and pop-up forms have a couple of similarities in terms of what pages they can be utilized on. Why? Because each of them (when used effectively and backed by data) can be utilized on those pages to help cater to your specific goals. Your organization could be promoting a brand new e-book or wanting to push more demo submissions or meetings with sales. Each of these tools can help you explore and push your conversion rates to the next level.