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07 Aug 16:25

A Day in the Life of an Account Executive

by James Meincke

On paper, pretty much any sales job can sound interesting — including the Account Executive (AE) role. But reading a job description doesn’t typically give you a very good sense of what is actually done during a day in the life of an AE. 

And those day-to-day tasks can be the deciding factor in whether you choose to pursue the role. 

That said, here’s a quick rundown of what an AE’s responsibilities tend to be (at least on paper). There are 4 primary areas that an AE covers: 

  • Closing accounts
    AEs receive leads from SDRs, then meet with and demo their organization’s products. They tailor the offering to the customer and strive to close the deal.
  • Growing accounts
    After that, it’s not enough to simply navigate existing customer accounts and provide for their needs when they express interest — an AE actively looks for and creates opportunities to increase business from existing clients that wouldn’t have been possible without the AE doing so.
  • Eliminating competitive threats
    AEs also ensure that competitors can’t “poach” customers from their company. That means proactively thinking about what a competitor’s shortest path to success would be if they wanted to steal an account — then opening a dialogue with out-of-reach teams, and working with product to build offerings into their roadmap.
  • Maintaining + improving customer satisfaction
    AEs seek out regular customer feedback from customers about how the company is doing as their vendor. Not only do these questions cover the good and bad things, but they should also actively probe deeper to see how the customer feels about the vendor on a more emotional level. This also forms the basis of a strategy to improve the customer’s satisfaction.

That’s a very general overview of what an AE does; and again, it doesn’t really give you a close look at specific daily and weekly tasks. Here’s what they actually do, day-in and day-out. 

Morning, Noon, and Afternoon

A note

We provided some specific times for clarity’s sake, but those can vary, depending on the organization and industry. Most AEs work full time from about 8 — 5 but may have to stay late to meet strict deadlines, or come in early to overlap with different customer time zones. 

Morning

7:30: Email + Coffee.

While in line at your favorite cafe, checking some inbound emails. Giving some quick responses to anything urgent, or those that can be responded to quickly. Making a note of any questions that need a researched answer or other insight. 

8:00: Team or SDR/AE meeting.

Deciding what needs to happen today and establishing 2-3 priorities between the two of you. For example: 

  1. 3 demo calls with follow-up for the AE.
  2. Identify 50 new prospects and create a sequence with valuable insights for the SDR.

8:30: Email + research. 

Dig in and makes notes on the people you’re going to talk to today. This includes being prepared with the right questions to ask and relevant use-cases for each customer. 

9:45: First call or customizing proposal

Starting at about 9:45-10am, start with your first call for the day. During the call, you’re not selling, you’re discussing the prospect’s problems, listening, and helping them make an educated decision. 

Or, customize a product proposal for a customer

11:30: Follow up.

Following up on your earlier call so it doesn’t go to waste.  

Noon

12:00: Lunchtime.

Leave the office, go for a walk, get something to eat. It’s healthy to leave the office for a lunch hour, but busy workloads can lead to that not always being possible. In that case, it’s a quick lunch or lunch at your desk. 

Afternoon

1:00: Checking LinkedIn and email.

Same as earlier, dealing with the urgent and quick first; marking anything else that requires further research first. This also includes returning any missed calls, particularly with clients. 

2:00: Calls, meetings, and closing deals.

Time for discovery calls with the prospects you researched and prepped for this morning, as well as closing deals. Shooting for 4-5 calls, but probably reach 3-4 with the need to customize quotes and proposals, then follow up. 

4:00: Calling/emailing past and current customers/partners, and prospects.

This includes customers you closed a month ago to see if they’re happy — and when they say they are, ask “Do you know anyone else that can benefit from [your solution]”? 

This likely means leaving voicemails — rarely, you’ll actually get your customer or prospect on the line. Leaving a brief, energetic voicemail is the next best thing. 

5:00: Go home. 

Tips to “kill” your day+week

On Mondays

Consider skipping any social activities or check-in calls and emails. For many, Monday is all-business, all-day. But, that can also make it the perfect day for you to book or have your own internal meetings. 

On Friday afternoons

Don’t bother following up. Any action taken or requested will wither and die over the weekend. Unless it’s an urgent matter, just wait till Sunday evening. Speaking of which…

On Sunday evenings

An hour or so on Sunday evening is an excellent productivity window to take advantage of. This is a good time to reach out and get through to executive-level prospects. It’s also a good time to do some prep work for the week. 

Pitfalls to avoid

8pm — another window of opportunity

After you’ve gotten home, keep your phone near at hand. At around 8pm, the executives you’re working with are finally reaching their own email window for the day. If you don’t have your phone nearby, you may miss out on the conversation — and tomorrow morning is too late to catch up. 

End of day

Skip the check-in email, no matter how tempting it is. And if you do decide to send one, most definitely skip the “mass personalized” email. 

Skipping colleague meetings

Internal meetings are often a headache, but they’re necessary. AE’s spend a lot of time communicating with customers and prospects, but your colleagues — SDRs, Customer Service reps, managers — are on the front lines. That means you can leverage their insights about current clients and prospects that you might not receive otherwise. 

Wrapping up

The Account Executive role can be an exciting position to move into, but if you start training to become one, then find out that the day-to-day tasks just aren’t interesting to you  — what do you do then? 

Hopefully, in this post, we cleared up any questions or doubts you had. AE’s typically spend their days communicating with customers and prospects to determine their needs, developing proposals, then demoing, pitching, and closing deals. Finally, they follow up with both existing and prospective customers, and actively work to improve customer satisfaction and account growth. 
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The post A Day in the Life of an Account Executive appeared first on CloserIQ Blog.

24 Jul 17:05

The 5 W’s of Thought Leadership Marketing

by Bonnie Harris

Trust isn’t easy to come by in today’s marketplace, where most consumers conduct online research before making a purchase. Thought leadership is one of the most worthwhile marketing strategies for attaining consumer trust and boosting brand value. Not only does this marketing strategy keep your content well from running dry, but it also helps your business attract website visitors, talented employees, potential partnerships and new customers. Despite its lofty title, thought leadership is essentially the sharing of industry expertise with the goal of establishing your business as an authoritative leader in the field. Successful thought leadership marketing is about harnessing your existing knowledge and sharing it to inform and inspire others, without specifically promoting your products/services (although you will undoubtedly see an increase in sales).

So how is it done? Read on to learn the who, what, where, when and why of turning your brand into a trusted source that consumers turn to.

The Who – sources of inspiration

Though becoming a thought leader does take time and dedication, you don’t have to reinvent the wheel to position your business as an authority. You need only to tap into the expertise and knowledge you already have as a launching point. Start with your target customers and buyer personas. Develop a list of problems, concerns and questions they’re asking that relate to your products/services. Consider even surveying your existing customers to find out what they want to know more about. Deepen your knowledge by researching online search trends, and then build your content in a way that answers those questions. Inspiration can also come from your managers, designers, sales team and customer service employees. Consider offering staff incentives to encourage team members to share their insight and expertise.

The What – your content

With a wealth of content already out there, your content must provide a reliable, researched perspective with a fresh voice to be on the map. Familiarize yourself with industry trends, and look to current industry leaders’ published content as a springboard. Ask yourself how you can enter the conversation on that topic and add something more or a creative spin. It can also boost brand reputation to engage in online discussions with other leaders and even to share others’ content. When it comes to high-interest industry content, depth and quality trump breadth and quantity. Maintain an informed voice with facts and examples to influence buyer decisions, and stay true to your brand’s style.

The Where – omnichannel approach

Quality content isn’t the only consideration to becoming a thought leader. To gain necessary exposure, you can’t limit yourself to traditional formats. Yes, blogs (your own and guest blogging on sites with similar audiences) are excellent places to showcase your knowledge. However, you can also restructure your content into engaging videos, podcasts, infographics, newsletters, presentations, live streams, sharable quotes and books. Original research, like white papers and case studies, is another great way to offer informed content. Additionally, you can plan opportunities to share your insight in discussions at live events that you attend or host. And of course, a strong social media presence is essential to thought leadership strategy. Ultimately, you cannot gain recognition and visibility as an industry leader without distributing your informed perspective across channels.

The When and Why – frequency and authenticity

Thought leaders do not achieve (or maintain) their status from sharing only a few insightful pieces. Instead, they regularly publish meaningful content to stay relevant and recognizable. Create a weekly content calendar to set deadlines and designate responsibilities. Test different times of day and days of the week to maximize engagement. Be careful, however, not to push your posting ambition beyond what you can deliver. The most important element of thought leadership content is an authentic motivation to help consumers in their journey. Sometimes marketers focus too much on posting frequency, which leads to low quality content and reliance on product/service promotion. Even at a lower volume, high quality content with the foremost aim of helping the curious customer is what increases consumer trust and improves brand reputation.

In the quest to be a thought leader, it’s important to remember that recognition doesn’t happen overnight. Trust can be earned slowly over time by regularly delivering helpful, educational, well-distributed content that is not promotional. Consumers want to find knowledgeable sources that understand their wants and needs, brands they can rely on to learn new things about their career, business or life. What’s more, other industry leaders (90% of C-suite executives, according to an Edelman-LinkedIn research study) respect and admire an organization more for strong thought leadership. With an understanding of the who, what, where, when and why of thought leadership, your business can become the go-to industry source.

23 Jul 15:37

Future demand for elderly care services like assisted living & in-home care are rife for digital disruption

by Andrew Meola

As the Baby Boomer population ages, society is on the cusp of dealing with an unprecedented number of senior citizens who will need elder care.

The 65+ Age Group Will Make Up a Growing Portion of the US Population

The United States home care market is expected to grow from $100 billion in 2016 to $225 billion by 2024, driven by an expanding elderly population. An intensifying shortage of US home health aides and physicians, a booming senior population, and the prevalence of chronic illnesses all point to a need for transformative solutions when it comes to senior care services.

This will put considerable stress on Medicare and Medicaid, but the ramifications will ripple far beyond that. Below, we'll dive into how senior care is primed for digital disruption, the challenges that transformation will solve, and more.

What is senior care?

Depending on the source you check, one becomes a senior citizen at different ages. According to Medicare, you become a senior at age 65. You can start receiving Social Security benefits at age 62, even though the Social Security Office lists 67 as the retirement age.

Regardless, senior care takes many forms in the U.S. One of the most common types is assisted living, sometimes known as senior living or more colloquially as "a home." As the name implies, these locations assist people who cannot or choose not to live on their own. Assisted living facilities are not exclusive to seniors (they also house people with disabilities), but they do make up the majority of the population at these centers.

Home care is another common type of senior care, where a nurse or other aide either lives full-time in a senior's home, or spends a portion of the day in the home tending to the patient's needs.

What are the challenges in elderly care?

Senior care carries its own set of problems that aren't prevalent in healthcare for younger patients. Arthritis and osteoporosis are common physical conditions among senior citizens that can make it difficult for them to support themselves and live alone. Mental conditions such as Alzheimer's disease and dementia, while not as common, are devastating to the well being of the senior population.

That population, by the way, is only showing signs of growing in both the short-term and long-term. PRB projects that the number of Americans age 65 and older will more than double from 46 million in 2016 to more than 98 million by 2060. In turn, the 65-and-older age group's share of the total population will climb from 15% to almost 24%. 

All of which leads to the biggest problem: sustainability.

Rising patient volumes among the general population, but particularly senior citizens, will exacerbate U.S. providers' existing labor shortage. Labor makes up about 60% of hospitals' noncapital costs and is the largest driver of operating expenses, according to Deloitte. By 2025, US providers will face a collective shortage of about 500,000 home health aides, 100,000 nursing assistants, and 29,000 nurse practitioners, Mercer estimates.

Digital Disruption in Senior Health Care

The labor shortage and sustainability problem is a serious one, but increasing digitization in the healthcare industry can help resolve it. These new digital healthcare technologies can help bring down costs, improve care quality, and create a more sustainable business model for senior care.

One of the most potentially impactful technologies is telehealth in assisted living and home care. Technology has already begun to work its way into elder care, from laptops and smartphones with large buttons and displays designed for easier senior use, to personal emergency response service (PERS) tools (think the infamous "I've fallen and I can't get up" commercials).

Digital Assistants Senior Care

But now, healthcare providers are beginning to leverage those same devices for more telehealth applications. Seniors can remotely access their entire care team (primary care physicians, home aides, or even family members and friends) without having to leave their homes. Certain apps can also help seniors optimize their exercise, diet, and medicine.

Wearable devices with sensors can allow physicians to more efficiently monitor senior patients in their homes to check for any irregularities, which cuts down on wasted time and resources. Even PERS tools function as a type of wearable, used primarily for emergency situations.

Certain assisted living and home care facilities are turning into smart homes to aid the aging population. Voice assistants such as the Amazon Echo (aka Alexa) and Google Home are helping seniors remember their daily schedules, such as when to eat, take medicine, or visit their doctors. Smart pillboxes help with dosage control and timing of medication. Even some smart clothing is already helping doctors monitor their patients' movements to check for irregular gaits, or to alert the care team if a fall occurs. Beyond that, motion detectors, smart mattresses, and even personal robots can help make the assisted living experience more palatable.

The next step in the digital transformation of senior care comes from artificial intelligence, which will eventually be able to predict patterns in seniors' behavior and prevent falls and other emergencies before they take place. Elders who do have to go to the hospital will have access to a personalized wellness regimen waiting for them when they return home.

Senior Care Market Trends

As the Baby Boomer and overall population ages, the market for senior care will grow heavily in the coming years. The AARP reports that the number of seniors requiring additional care thanks to chronic illness will increase from about 14% of the senior population in 2010 to 21% by 2050.

All of this is to say that there will be a ton of opportunity for digital disruption in senior care, which means anyone who wants to capture a share of this market needs to understand the digital healthcare ecosystem, as well as healthcare regulations.

That's why Business Insider Intelligence, Business Insider's premium research service, has put together a comprehensive guide to both value-based care and the broader digital health landscape with the Digital Health Ecosystem Report.

Here are some of the key takeaways from the report:

  • Digital health is at the forefront of transformation in the healthcare industry — both as a driver of and an answer to the challenges industry players are grappling with.
  • All of the industry's major players — including payers, providers, and manufacturers — are affected by healthcare's digital disruption.
  • A confluence of forces induced healthcare's embrace of digital health, including changing consumer expectations, a new and disruptive reimbursement model, and rising healthcare costs
  • Tech-focused entrants are also breaking into healthcare, acting as catalysts for change and threatening legacy players' bottom lines.
  • Key digital health solutions like EHRs, digital therapeutics, telehealth, AI, wearables, and blockchain are the foundation of the industry's digital awakening.
  • Early evidence that digital health can address many of the industry's myriad challenges has fueled a vibrant US digital health funding market in 2018, with overall funding hitting $6.8 billion at the end of Q3.

In full, the report:

  • Details the US healthcare landscape by the role that payers, providers, manufacturers, and distributors play in the healthcare ecosystem.
  • Gives an overview of how digital health is enabling incumbents to overcome industry challenges.
  • Outlines how tech-focused healthcare entrants are pressuring incumbents and accelerating healthcare's digital transformation
  • Identifies promising digital health funding areas to illustrate what the future of digital health will look like.

Want to learn more about the fast-moving world of digital health? Here are three ways to get access:

  1. Purchase & download the full report from our research store. >> Purchase & Download Now
  2. Sign up for Digital Health Pro, Business Insider Intelligence's expert product suite keeping you up-to-date on the people, technologies, trends, and companies shaping the future of healthcare, delivered to your inbox 6x a week. >> Get Started
  3. Subscribe to a Premium pass to Business Insider Intelligence and gain immediate access to this report and more than 250 other expertly researched reports. As an added bonus, you'll also gain access to all future reports and daily newsletters to ensure you stay ahead of the curve and benefit personally and professionally. >> Learn More Now

The choice is yours. But however you decide to acquire this report, you've given yourself a powerful advantage in your understanding of the fast-moving world of Digital Health.

Join the conversation about this story »

23 Jul 15:35

These are the biggest losers in the future of healthcare

by Andrew Meola

Healthcare Players Regulation

The US healthcare sector is undergoing intense political scrutiny, giving rise to a number of legislative priorities that could undermine the creditworthiness of major players in the US healthcare industry, per a recent S&P global report. 

Creditworthiness refers to a company's ability to repay a loan, which can depend on factors like cash flow, market share, and the economic health of a sector a company operates in. With policymakers across the aisle floating proposals from "Medicare for All" to hospital pricing transparency, many long standing industry practices — and the players that rely on them — are at risk.

In The Biggest Losers in The Future of Healthcare, we break out the entities that stand to struggle from three pieces of regulation currently in circulation, and the likelihood of each legislation passing.

Click here to download the full report – completely FREE!

Join the conversation about this story »

23 Jul 15:34

Marketing Execution – Plan, Execute, Track, Measure

by Debra Murphy

Marketing Execution – Plan, Execute, Track, Measure

Everyone likes to talk about creating a marketing plan. It’s the fun part of marketing, the creative aspect of your planning process. But strategy without execution won’t help your business succeed. In fact, marketing execution is how you achieve results.

The four stages of the marketing process

Successful businesses create a marketing system that help them stay on top of marketing activities. It is too easy to fall into the client work mode and forget that we need to keep our businesses and ourselves visible so that we continually attract new clients. We only realize the issue when our pipeline dries up and we’re wondering where the next client is coming from. And with people being more selective in how they spend money, you want to be sure that everything you do provides another reason why someone should do business with you.

To create that marketing system that helps you stay consistent with your marketing, you can break the activities into four stages: plan, execute, track and measure.

Plan

Having a great marketing plan is critical to your success. Your marketing plan:

  • Is the road map for achieving your goals and guiding your decisions throughout the year.
  • Details what types of marketing activities you will do over a 90 day period to achieve your goals.
  • Helps you understand how each activity aligns and supports other marketing activities.
  • Ensures you remain consistent with messages, branding and strategies.

It’s not difficult or time consuming to write a marketing plan – just a few hours is all you need. Once the plan is in place, it will continue to guide you throughout your marketing journey.

Tools to help you plan

If you need help creating a marketing plan, there are many templates available. However, look for a template that is specifically created for a small business and not a corporate enterprise. Make sure the template is simple and asks the important questions.

I personally like a spreadsheet model that allows me to lay out my mission and purpose, target market, product or service offerings and the pricing and packaging strategies. This part of the marketing plan seldom changes unless:

  • You are evolving the business, adding new products and changing your model.
  • The market environment is changing (i.e. new competitors, changing economy, etc).

It is important to review this part of the plan at least quarterly to make sure things haven’t drastically changed.

Once you have the above identified, then create a second worksheet for your action plan to lay out your outcome goal, marketing goals, the performance-based projects and tasks to achieve my goals. Visually this is a hierarchy that flows from the outcome goal down to the tasks.

Execute

The real key to success in marketing is the ability to execute the plan, working each activity until you have attracted more clients than you can handle. I’ve seen many businesses put together a plan then don’t follow through, wasting so much time and missing real opportunities to build a successful business.

Execution is what you do on the field of play. In order to be consistent in your efforts, you need to put an action plan together that lays out the projects and tasks that will lead you to your outcome goal. Your action plan is what you commit to doing in a two week period only.

By breaking things down into “sprints” with specific projects and tasks, you are more likely to get more done because you aren’t overwhelmed with too much on your to do list.

Tools to help you execute

Everyone is different in how they work, but here are some tools that can help you be more productive.

  • Block time in your calendar to work on your marketing projects. Treat that time as you would a client meeting. Book whatever time you think you need, shut off the phone and email and commit to working on the project that was assigned. Make these appointments at the same time so they become a habit.
  • Engage an accountability partner – Working solo can make it too easy to forget to market your business. Have someone hold you accountable. Knowing you will have a weekly meeting with someone who will ask what you were able to get done helps keep you focused.
  • Plan your day the night before – Reviewing what you got done today and planning what you are going to work on tomorrow (and block time to do it) will help you stay focused. Keep your two-week action plan visible to keep reminding you of what you committed to work over the two weeks.

Track

Develop a system for tracking your results. Have a way to measure your activities to ensure they are working and worth continuing.

Digital marketing makes it much easier to track your marketing activities. But even if someone randomly calls you, you could simply ask how they found your business. You can also put the question on your website as part of the contact form.

You need to establish what your metrics are for each of your marketing activities as goals. Then track your results and adjust as needed.

Tools to help you track

For online marketing, things you should be tracking include:

  • Website traffic – Use Google Marketing Platform to track website traffic. Track your traffic from paid search ads using Google Ads.
  • Keyword ranking – Keywords Everywhere browser extension helps you generate keyword ideas. SEO Powersuite enables you to run reports to see how you are ranking for your important keywords.
  • Inbound leads – Keep track of visitors that convert to a lead via your web forms.
  • Email opens – Mail service provides like MailChimp track opens and clicks on all of your email marketing campaigns.
  • New business from new customers – Track your leads to conversion by calculating the customer conversion rate. You can calculate this by taking the number of new customers and dividing by the number of leads.

Knowing what’s working and what’s not will help you make budget decisions when you get an opportunity and you need to “find” some money in the marketing budget.

Measure

Measuring your marketing is key to seeing what works and what doesn’t. The two week sprint model encourages continuous feedback loops. By looking back at the data over the two weeks, you can determine if what you are doing is actually delivering results. Then you can keep doing what you’re doing or make adjustments.

Although your outcome goal is firm and fixed, your performance based projects and tasks can be flexible and adaptable when necessary. By looking at your results every two weeks, you can change what you are doing, update something that isn’t working well or stay the course.

Ways to measure your marketing

There are many types of key performance indicators (KPIs) that you can use to measure your effectiveness. For small businesses, you might want to measure website traffic, visitor to lead conversions or cost per lead. All of these are good ways to measure marketing campaigns and are simple calculations.

However, return on investment (ROI) is a better measurement because it shows exactly what each campaign is contributing to your revenue.

To calculate ROI, take what you spent on a marketing activity and subtract it from the sales revenue generated by the campaign. If you spend a $1000 and generate $10,000 in sales, your ROI is 900%.

Continuous Cycle

Marketing is a process that never ends and it takes time for marketing activities to bear fruit. Don’t expect instant results from your marketing activities or you’ll get discouraged and give up too quickly.

Every activity plants a seed. Every activity reinforces the previous one. Persistence and patience are the keys to successful marketing. If you implement the two week sprints, use the data you collect from the feedback loops and adjust where necessary, you’ll find that your marketing becomes more effective. Being flexible and adaptable with your plan helps you make adjustments that increase your success along the way.

23 Jul 15:33

How to Find More Qualified Sales Prospects and Stop Chasing Your Tail

by Douglas Burdett

Not all sales prospects are created equal, and the better you’re able to quickly spot the differences, your prospecting and sales efforts will become more efficient and pay greater dividends.

Tuesdays with Chad

A series inspired by my regular attendance at Sandler Training Sales Mastery, lead by Chad Stenzel in Norfolk, Virginia.

alec baldwin thumbs up

Salespeople can be the most upbeat, optimistic folks you’ll ever meet. For every prospect they pursue there’s a hope that they will make a sale.

Unfortunately, this is the same kind of hope that a lottery player has when they buy one more lottery ticket.

And that’s not good because not not all prospects are good prospects. Many prospects will never buy from you. Or worse, they’ll burn up a lot of your time and then not buy from you.

The issue is time. Your time. It’s an irreplaceable commodity. That’s why the more efficiently you invest your time in pursuing customers that fit the profile of an ideal, qualified prospect, the more successful you will be.

No prospecting = No sales

Mark_Hunter_COMBO

In High-Profit Prospecting: Powerful Strategies to Find the Best Leads and Drive Breakthrough Sales Results, Mark Hunter defines prospecting this way:

“Prospecting is an activity performed by sales and/or marketing departments to identify and qualify potential buyers.”

In the book he explains that the number one reason for failure at sales is the failure to prospect. No other reason comes close.

Sales Prospecting – More Important Now Than Before

Sales prospecting is actually more important now than before. It’s because of a phenomenon called attention symmetry.

to sell is human

In the book To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others, Daniel Pink explains that in the past when a buyer was researching a purchase, their ability to get information was more limited than now.

That’s why, in many instances, fairly early in their buying process buyers would contact the seller. For instance, when my dad was buying a car, one of the first places he’d go to get information was the car dealership.

cadillac

My dad wanted information and the seller had it. At that point the seller could guide and influence the sale and continue to withhold or provide information as leverage. That was the era of information asymmetry.

information asymetry

Now, thanks to the internet, buyers aren’t going to the seller for information as early as they once did. In fact, most sellers delay contacting the seller until as late as possible.

CEB_57

CEB/Gartner, in a study with Google found that in a B2B buying scenario, buyers are at least 57% through their purchase process before first reaching out to a vendor. Other studies put that percentage higher, but it varies by industry and product, of course.

And that’s both the problem and opportunity for salespeople.

It’s a problem because buyers are contacting sellers much later than before, after they’re more informed about what they want to buy.

But it’s also an opportunity for sellers who continue to prospect and reach out to buyers before they’ve established trust with another seller.

The most successful sellers don’t want for buyers to contact them. They are continuing to prospect, even as reaching prospects has become more difficult.

Sales Prospecting – Not as Simple as it Used to Be

In addition to buyers getting their own information via the internet, there is another wave of constantly improving technological innovation that allows prospective customers to avoid unwanted sales and marketing messages.

Examples of this technology include caller ID, ad blocking software, commercial-free video and audio services (e.g. Netflix, Spotify, satellite radio, etc), email spam software.

Like marketing, sales prospecting has become more complicated, with more layers of complexity. And while the era of lazy sales prospecting may be over, sales prospecting will never end.

But there’s also good news for sales prospecting. While it has become more difficult to get the attention of prospective customers, there has never been a better time to find out more about your prospects than before. Just like how your customers can find out more about you without having to speak with you, the same holds for salespeople’s ability to research prospective customers.

Not All Prospects Are Created Equal

Given the added difficulty in getting the attention and time of a prospect, it’s no surprise that sellers are relieved to talk to any prospect. I’m guilty of this myself. When I get through to a prospect I’m often filled (briefly) with the wistful hope of a lottery player.

But that’s a mistake, because not all sales prospects are good prospects.

Sandler breaks prospects into four groups.

  1. Leads – Anyone in your prospecting list for whom you have a name.
  2. Suspects – A lead who has shown interest or who you have an interest in pursuing. They might be looking for quotes, they might have shown an interest and filled out a form on your website, or they may be a person you’re interested in, but they don’t have an immediate need or have not yet recognized they have the need.
  3. Prospect – A suspect who has an identified need and is aware of the need for your product or service. They might be willing to discuss solving their problem with you.
  4. Qualified Prospect – A prospect who has a compelling pain, the budget to fix it and a decision-making process with which you are willing to comply.

How to Find More of Your Ideal Prospects

The object of the game is to spend the most time and effort trying to reach qualified prospects. Remember, there’s a sea of difference between an ideal prospect and one that can merely fog a mirror.

The first step toward that end is to identify the characteristics of an ideal prospect.

Not sure how to get started?

satan

Try this: think about your worst prospects. What do they have in common? What industry or industries are they in? Job titles? Why are they bad prospects? Do they never buy from you? Are they not profitable customers?

Write all this down on a piece of paper. Have some fun with this. Get it out of your system.

Now turn that piece of paper over and write down the characteristics of your ideal prospect. If you could only sell to one type of prospect, who would it be? Have some fun with this too. Wave that magic wand.

To get started, think about your best customers. Answer the following types of questions:

  • What industries are they in? What size businesses? Management or ownership structure?
  • What are the key challenges your product or service has helped them face?
  • What problems did it help them solve?
  • What goals has it helped them achieve?
  • What roadblocks and friction did your product or service remove from their paths?
  • What outcomes has your product or service helped them to obtain?
  • Is there anything your product or service has that makes you indispensable to them?
  • How has your product or service helped them to increase revenue and profits? Or have you helped them reduce waste and expenses?

If you’re like most people who go through this exercise you’ll start to spot the glaring differences between bad prospects and ideal prospects.

You may even feel a sense of clarity and renewed excitement for the growth possibilities that a more focused approach to prospecting can have. If you’ve made progress you’ll even start to feel liberated that you don’t have to (and shouldn’t) chase any prospect. Or your tail.

sales prospecting-1

What makes for a great hitter in baseball? They can spot the difference between a good pitch from a bad one early. Then they swing at just the good pitches and let the bad ones go. The same applies to the big hitters in sales in sales prospecting – they know what a good prospect looks like long before they go after them.

photo credit: timekin Catch it if you can via photopin (license) photo credit: apardavila Red Sox outfielder Mookie Betts awaits a pitch in the fourth inning. via photopin (license)

23 Jul 15:32

The B2B Marketing Funnel is Dead: Say Hello to the Trust Funnel

by Nick Nelson

Say Hello to the Trust Funnel

Say Hello to the Trust Funnel The marketing funnel as we know it is gone. Or at least it needs to be, if we as marketers want to move toward a truly customer-centric operation.  In this new installment of our Trust Factors series, we'll review the conventional models for customer acquisition and explain why they're going out of style. Then, we'll present an updated version, geared toward long-term sustainable growth.

The Funnel Fallacy

We're all accustomed to funnels: marketing funnels, sales funnels, conversion funnels. These frameworks can be helpful in guiding our strategies, but there's an inherent disconnect at play: they tend to commoditize our customers, because these models are solely focused on the end result (revenue). Traditionally, the funnel is designed to usher prospects from awareness, to consideration, to purchase, and then the job is done.  In today's buyer-controlled landscape, where retention and advocacy are at a premium, marketers need to align with every other customer-facing business unit to ensure trust is being built at each interaction — including (and especially) those after the purchase. [bctt tweet="In today's buyer-controlled landscape, where retention and advocacy are at a premium, #marketers need to align with every other customer-facing business unit to ensure trust is being built at each interaction. @NickNelsonMN" username="toprank"]

What is the Trust Funnel?

This theme has been covered in the past from a variety of different viewpoints (including a book by Brian G. Johnson), but we’ve got our own spin on it. By our definition, the trust funnel is a reconfiguration of the buying cycle, with a shift in orientation and objective. The focus here is not only generating sales, but also, generating trust (which leads to the same result).  At TopRank Marketing, we follow a modified version of the traditional marketing funnel, extending it beyond the purchase stage and accounting for the full customer lifecycle:
  • Attract
  • Engage
  • Convert
  • Retain
  • Advocacy
The Trust Funnel for B2B Marketing The trust funnel is essentially aimed at optimizing each of the first three stages to support the last two by inspiring loyalty and cultivating long-term relationships throughout. Why is this important? Because successfully mastering this process is the key to running an efficient and sustainable business. Consider that increasing customer retention rates by 5% can increase profits by 25%-95%. Meanwhile, studies show that customer-referred leads are far more likely to convert, and deliver considerably higher lifetime value on average. In short, an effective customer retention and advocacy model helps your marketing become more self-sufficient. Trust unlocks this ideal.

Optimizing for Each Stage of the Trust Funnel

Adopting the trust funnel methodology is all about a shift in mindset. The stages are not fundamentally different than those in the aforementioned marketing funnel, at a high level, but you’ll be better positioned to serve your customers when thinking about them in these terms:

1. Attract: Foundational Credibility

“Awareness” is a broad and ambiguous concept. It’s not enough to simply make people aware of our brands — we need to instill an immediate sense of credibility, so that trust is being established in the very first interactions. How can we accomplish this? Focus on three vital touchpoints:
  • Your Website. Does it convey authority of expertise in your vertical? Is it easily navigable, with quick access to resources that a curious buyer might want? Are there seamless methods to get in touch? If the site contains contact fields, do you clearly outline your commitment to privacy and care when handling a user’s personal data?
  • Your Social Media Accounts. At any given time, your latest tweet or update might be the first time a new prospect experiences your brand. As such, it’s important to be thoughtful with each one. Make sure your voice is consistent, genuine, and directly aligned with your target audience. Are you approachable and conversant?
  • Your Search Visibility. As we wrote here recently, your presence in search results is instrumental to your brand’s credibility. Are you delivering best answer content that satisfies search intent for prioritized phrases? Consequently, are you outranking competitors for these terms? Do your page titles and meta descriptions reflect an inviting and knowledgeable demeanor? 

2. Engage: Authenticity and Conversations

Once you’ve taken the appropriate steps to develop an air of credibility, it’s time to cement this perception as people begin to engage with your brand. Seize these opportunities to do so:
  • Be Available and Responsive. Candace Lun Plotkin of McKinsey & Company published a post on LinkedIn recently discussing the growing expectation of B2B customers for rapid response times. In the age of an on-demand economy, people are conditioned for short waits and fast access to what they need. This is why an always-on marketing strategy is highly advisable, and why digital tools like chatbots and predictive technologies are gaining prominence.
  • Employee Engagement. As users start to immerse themselves more deeply into your brand and its content, they’ll likely start encountering your employees, either directly or through social media. When the people who work for a business embody its philosophies and values, and are actively engaged in the work, it’s a major affirmation of authenticity. 
  • Influencer Partnerships. Working with the right influencers, who are familiar to and respected by your audience, also provides a major credibility assist as they compare solutions. Note that in order to achieve this purpose, your influencer partnerships need to feel natural and not forced. Also, influencers play a key role at every stage of the trust funnel, but their recognition and built-in authority are especially crucial in separating your solution from others at this pivotal stage of deliberation.

3. Convert: Transparency and Comfort

As a prospect moves closer to making a decision, the stakes are raised. By now a buyer (or buying committee) has likely been engaging with your brand, and they are feeling the pressure that accompanies making a major business purchase decision. It is imperative to build comfort at this stage. 
  • Be Open and Honest. The last thing you want to do at this point is make a buyer feel like there are hidden concerns or reasons for reservation. One key opportunity is to acknowledge and address negative reviews of your product/service. As our CEO Lee Odden put it in his Sophisticated Marketers interview with LinkedIn: “Millennial and Gen Z audiences expect brands to be honest and forthcoming. While some companies view information that is not a glowing endorsement of the brand as a liability, others are embracing those challenges as an opportunity to be transparent about issues and how they’re being solved. That transparency builds trust and confidence in the brand, key differentiators for customers who become loyal advocates.”
  • Lean on Case Studies and Testimonials. Of course, positive and reinforcing examples of happy customers will be your strongest assets at this stage, so you’ll want to have plenty on hand — ideally, covering a variety of different challenges and scenarios, so you can match them up to the prospect in question for maximum resonance.
  • Frictionless Purchase Process. How easy is it for someone to make a purchase from your company? Take whatever steps you can to make it painless and simple, so that a person going through it never stops and wonders, “What’s going on here?” Test relentlessly and gather feedback from existing customers.

4. Retain: Follow-through and Service

One of the most prevalent missteps for brands and marketers is a failure to account for the post-sale customer experience. The attitude that once a sale is complete it’s time to move on is misguided. This is, in fact, perhaps your most critical moment to make a positive impact. Given that everyone is aware of the relative cost difference between selling to a repeat customer and acquiring a new one, it’s kind of crazy how few marketers prioritize this stage. Note that according to one study, 68% of customer defections occur because customers perceive “an attitude of indifference.”
  • Assist with Implementation. Do you have at least one person on your staff who is solely dedicated to ensuring customers are able to implement and leverage your solution without issue? Can the customer easily get in touch with this person, and troubleshoot quickly? Although these activities don’t necessarily fall directly under the purview of marketing, there is a fair amount of overlap (social media, customer resources, integrations, etc.) and it’s an essential aspect of the customer experience so it’s important for marketers to have visibility and influence. 
  • Create a Loyalty Loop. This convention is at the center of our friend Andrew Davis’s marketing philosophy. As he puts it: “You serve your audience and subscribers first,” rather than constantly emphasizing the importance of new eyeballs and new business. Basically, the Loyalty Loop is about taking advantage of that “moment of inspiration” right after someone commits to your brand, by delighting them and reinforcing the decision. The idea is that as a result, the next time they have a need, they won’t even consider your competition. 
  • Offer Post-Purchase Content. This is one smart retention tactic recommended by Marcia Riefer Johnston in a piece for Content Marketing Institute. Post-purchase content can include things like care and maintenance instructions, set-up guides, and repair help. This type of content can line up functionally with either, or both, of the bullets above.

5. Advocacy: Relationship Maintenance

Customer advocates are incredibly valuable, but also exceedingly rare. These are the people who will autonomously recommend your brand to others, and sing your praises publicly without prompting. In some cases this will happen organically because they simply love your offering so dang much, but more often, you need to develop this deep brand affinity through ongoing engagement and relationship-building.
  • Stay in Touch. Don’t just reach out because their renewal is coming up and you want them to buy from you again. Use a birthday, anniversary, or job change as a prompt to check in and say hello. Provide helpful content just for the sake of doing it. You should aspire to be an advocate for your customer if you want them to do the same.
  • Offer Customer Newsletters. This is a great way to stay in touch at scale. Email marketing is generally viewed as a lead generation tactic but it’s also an excellent channel for increasing loyalty. Make sure the content in your newsletter for existing customers is purposeful and value-oriented.
  • Promote Customer Accomplishments. The primary issue with most case studies is that they’re so focused on the solution, rather than the customer who used it. You’ll build more affinity by highlighting the user’s accomplishment — how they smartly handled a problem and got the most out of your product or service. Heck, you can even promote achievements by your customers that don’t involve your solution. Get the good vibes rolling.

Put Trust First, and the Results Will Follow

When companies are focused on sales and revenues and bottom lines, it becomes apparent in the way they operate. This is why the “sales funnel” or "marketing funnel" concept is one I find myself referencing less and less these days. The true end-goals of any savvy modern marketing strategy are to inspire loyalty, affinity, and advocacy. The trust funnel is built to do just that. As a natural result, the sales, revenue, and bottom-line impact will follow — consistently, and over the long haul. Trust me on that. [bctt tweet="The true end-goals of any savvy modern #marketingstrategy are to inspire loyalty, affinity, and advocacy. The trust funnel is built to do just that. @NickNelsonMN" username="toprank"] Want to learn more about developing a truly trust-driven marketing strategy? Check out these other entries in our “Trust Factors” series:

The post The B2B Marketing Funnel is Dead: Say Hello to the Trust Funnel appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

23 Jul 15:29

Your Customer is Changing Their Buying Process. Your Pricing Process Needs to Change.

by Steven Forth

At the spring edition of the Professional Pricing Society (yes there is such a thing) pricing thought leader Craig Zawada challenged the audience with some provocative claims. Craig has been disrupting pricing for a couple of decades now. In 2004 he was a co-author of The Price Advantage. This book introduced some of the key frameworks for pricing strategy, value mapping (see this article for more on value mapping) and the pocket price waterfall. The pocket price waterfall is the standard tool pricing experts use when looking for profit leaks.

In 2010, Craig surprised the pricing community by moving from McKinsey to the revenue management and pricing platform PROS where he is now the Chief Visionary Officer (you can read more about this transition here). In his recent talk, he justified the ‘visionary’ part of his title with some important predictions.

His key insight was that changes to the B2B buying process plus our experiences as consumers are forcing us to change how we approach pricing. This provides a powerful lens to bring pricing processes into focus and make sure they are aligned with the buying process.

The key changes to the B2B buying process

  1. Most buyers are about 70% of the way through their buying process before they ever speak with a vendor, having done extensive research online.
  2. Procurement has gotten more sophisticated and powerful, and is generally better equipped to negotiate price than the vendor’s sales force.
  3. There has been a general acceleration in the speed of business, affecting everything from product development cycles to the speed of decision making, to willingness to change.

These three changes are having a big impact on how to price your products. Most B2B software is priced in one of two ways. The website provides some information on features and functions, maybe even a few case studies, and then potential buyers are asked to contact the vendor, sometimes after being asked to fill out a form.

The other option is a set of tiered pricing offers on the website, from which the buyer self provisions. Many companies use the second approach for smaller customers and the former for ‘enterprise’ customers. Both approaches have big problems in the new world.

Forcing people to contact you before providing critical price information, and then entering into a protracted sales process with lots of negotiation, slows down the customer buying process. As most salespeople have experienced, it can grind to a halt, and a slow decision often converts into no decision and no sale. Speed matters. Losing momentum kills deals.

The challenge with making your price public in a tiered pricing model is that you lose the opportunity to really understand your buyer and what is driving value. Web analytics will only get you so far. Even worse, a lot of value in modern ecosystems is driven by integrations and data sharing. In most cases, even with the help of applications like Zapier or Mulesoft, integrations require human intervention, generate costs and they should change your pricing (more on that in a future post).

Even the best-tiered pricing model is underpricing for some customers while scaring others away, who might have been won over with the chance of conversations. All of these challenges are getting worse.

Speed is the new currency

One of Craig’s key points at the Professional Pricing Society conference is that “speed is the new currency.”

One of PROS’ clients found that win rates went down 40% if a quote took more than 24 hours. Further analysis showed that price accounted for 67% of the time required to make a quote. The length of time it takes to generate a quote is emerging as a critical metric for pricing performance.

So how do we accelerate pricing? How do we get to a shared understanding of value quickly, without endless back and forth negotiations and pushback from procurement?

Craig’s answer to this question is that we have to make better use of pricing algorithms, that systematically connect price to value and demand. He went further than this to say that,

“People are beginning to trust algorithms more than they trust humans.”

This is a bold claim and as you can imagine many people in the audience pushed back. Media has been full of stories recently about the problems caused by content recommendation algorithms, the bias built into artificial intelligence and the impossibility of explaining how a deep neural network makes a prediction or recommendation. One of the hot trends in AI is XAI or eXplainable Artificial Intelligence. DARPA, the people who brought us the Internet, even have a project on this.

Before you dismiss Craig’s claim out of hand, think about the experience of buying a car. Some people like the negotiation process. But many of us, I am one, are a bit afraid of it. We know that the car salesman has a lot more experience with this than we do, is better trained and has more information (sort of like the procurement experts at a large company). Pricing transparency has become a value proposition in buying a new car.

There is an important lesson here. If the pricing algorithm is transparent (explainable) and makes sense, we are more likely to see it as fair than the outcomes of a high stakes negotiation. In many cases, a well-designed algorithm leads to a price that both parties see as being fair.

Ask yourself if there is an easy way to explain the algorithm behind your own pricing. The algorithm should have the following properties:

  1. Be easy to explain
  2. Connect price to value
  3. Calculate using easily available data

If your pricing algorithm has these properties, your pricing will be seen as transparent, consistent and fair. This is what today’s buyers are looking for. And by meeting these criteria it will also be a lot easier to meet Craig’s first challenge, the need for speed.

The post Your Customer is Changing Their Buying Process. Your Pricing Process Needs to Change. appeared first on OpenView.

22 Jul 17:34

Vancouver-based Jetti Receives $492,500 Funding for Clean Technology Mining Project in B.C.

Vancouver, BC, BC, July 22, 2019--The Government of Canada has announced $492,500 in funding this week to Vancouver-based Jetti Services Canada Inc. for a mineral extraction research and development project that, applied at commercial scale, will help reduce emissions and water use while lowering costs for companies.
22 Jul 17:33

Marketing Project Management: A Reliable, Reusable Framework

by Alexa Hubley

Lurking beneath every goal are dangerous assumptions. The longer those assumptions remain unexamined, the greater the risk.

– Jake Knapp, Sprint: How To Solve Big Problems and Test New Ideas in Just 5 days

Imagine this scenario. You’re a marketer, and you’ve just launched a marketing campaign that you spent weeks or months building. You checked all your boxes:

  • You assigned roles and responsibilities.
  • You kept stakeholders informed along the way.
  • You activated all the right channels to reach your target segment.

But something is wrong. Hardly any prospects are opening your emails. Almost none are engaging with your ads. The only feedback you are getting is that certain elements on your landing page are broken and, worse, don’t load properly across devices and browsers.

Your boss calls you into their office and asks: “What happened?”

The wrong answers would be:

  • “I just assumed prospects would open my emails.”
  • “I assumed the team QA’ed the landing page.”

Instead, the right answer is: “I’m going to find out where my assumptions led me wrong.”

In this post, I’ll walk you through a rigorous project management process to help you optimize your campaign strategy. Taking lessons from agile project management (specifically: sprints), I’ll show you how to build more effective, less assumptive, marketing campaigns.

Adapting sprints for marketing

sprint framework for project management. (Image source)

Brands like 23andme and Slack have adopted the Google Venture design sprint because it works. For businesses aligned with the whole “lean startup” movement, the sprint offers a formula to quickly build, launch, and test products before committing too much time and effort to something that might not resonate in the market.

It can be easily applied to marketing because it’s built around making data-driven, research-backed decisions, which are critical to creating winning campaigns.

And even though Jake Knapp explicitly advises not to adapt the Sprint—I’ve done it anyway. Over the years, I’ve made small tweaks to suit the specific goals and needs of a marketing team and marketing campaigns.

Here’s what my sprint looks like:

adaption of sprint framework for marketing campaigns. This slide comes straight from my upcoming course on marketing project management.

Sprints traditionally happen during a five-day timeframe, when product teams set aside everything else they’re working on.

In my world, I don’t do that. Sometimes, our team will spend one week on a marketing sprint; other times it might take six. That’s the nature of shipping marketing campaigns—the sprint is a framework, not a mandate, for guiding our work.

Marketing sprint phases and goals:

Although I’ve adapted the framework and timeframe, the goals during each phase of the sprint remain true to the process:

  1. Map. Set your targets and objectives for what you want to accomplish based on feedback and research.
  2. Sketch. Ideate and pitch ideas for achieving your marketing goal.
  3. Decide. Vote and decide on your campaign content, channels, and tactics based on ideas pitched in Phase 2.
  4. Prototype. Build just enough of the campaign to get it ready for testing.
  5. Test. Get feedback on every aspect of the campaign so you can go back, make changes, and launch.

Now let’s look at what’s done in each phase to achieve those goals.

Phase 1: Map

The Map phase is all about research, collecting data, and understanding the problem to set clear, measurable, marketing targets.

The first thing you need to know is your objective. Is this a lead-gen campaign or a campaign to push a new affiliate program? Is it a nurture track to convert leads into paying customers or a brand play to increase awareness?

Once you understand the goal, you can move on to the research—how you’ll achieve it and the specific targets and metrics that indicate “success.”

There are so many ways you can collect data and do research. (In fact, CXL Agency has their own rigorous research process.) As a guide, I’d recommend a mix of primary and secondary research to inform how you set your targets, such as:

  • Surveys;
  • Customer and industry interviews;
  • Reading blog posts, best practices, tips and tricks articles, etc.;
  • Heatmapping and polls;
  • Eyetracking and biometric analysis;
  • Digging into analytics and your customer insights tools;
  • Usability tests;
  • Heuristic analysis;
  • A/B testing;
  • The list goes on…

For example, for a recent campaign to launch new pricing at CXL Institute, we conducted a series of industry interviews with pricing experts, ran an average revenue per user (ARPU) projection analysis for new plans, and went through a suite of usability tests on pricing mockup designs and copy.

One piece of feedback from usability tests was that users were confused by the “Pay once” option in our pricing. Users didn’t understand if it was an annual payment or if they would keep the product for life.

example of pricing page.

The feedback triggered us to add a small disclaimer to our pricing block that made it clear that they would keep the course forever:

example of updated pricing page based on user feedback.

Phase 2: Sketch

Once you’ve collected all your research and set your targets, you’re ready to jump into the Sketch phase. This is where you put all your creative marketing ideas to work.

The first portion of this phase analyzes the research and comes prepped to an “ideation” pitch meeting with a fully baked campaign plan. Channels, content, messaging—it should all be there (or at least a skeleton of it).

A fully baked campaign prevents the meeting from turning into a mishmash of half-baked ideas that sound cool but might not make sense for the project. Often, asking for a full campaign plan leads team members to think of more complex, interesting ways of solving the problem.

It also helps marketers think more about connecting the dots across channels and assets since they’ve had to plan for it upfront. Here’s an example of what a campaign ideation pitch looks like, from a campaign I ran in my previous role at Unbounce:

sketch of marketing campaign ideas using miro. Mocked up using Miro.

Each person explains their campaign to the team, and each person votes on individual ideas, concepts, or tactics from each campaign.

I usually give people three votes and one “super vote” (worth two votes). After voting, you’re ready to move into Phase 3.

Phase 3: Decide

In this phase, you collect all the top-voted ideas, organize them, and come up with your campaign plan.

Here’s where a decision-making framework like DACI comes in handy. In the DACI framework, you assign specific roles:

  • Driver. The person(s) responsible for leading the project and corralling all stakeholders.
  • Approver. The person who ultimately makes the decision.
  • Contributor. The person(s) with subject-matter expertise.
  • Informed. The person(s) who’ll be kept in the loop on how decisions are made.

In this phase, the DACI framework is especially handy because you need one person—the Approver—to decide how all the voted ideas come together into a plan.

The Approver then comes back to the team and presents the plan to move forward, assigns roles to the Drivers, and pushes the campaign into the next phase.

Phase 4: Prototype

If you remember one thing about the Prototype phase, it should be this: Build just enough. Knapp outlines a four-step list of what he calls the “Prototype Mindset” in his book, and it goes as follows:

  1. You can prototype anything.
  2. Prototypes are disposable.
  3. Build just enough to learn, but not more.
  4. The prototype must appear real.

prototyping example from sprint book. The prototype mindset from Sprint: How to solve big problems and test new ideas in just 5 days.

As a (self-aware) perfectionist, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been in the Prototype phase and wanted to just spend a little extra time polishing a landing page, ad, or email. Resist the urge.

example of facebook post for unbounce campaign. Prototype of a fake ad for launching Unbounce popups, created with stock imagery and quickly mocked up in Photoshop.

The whole point of this phase is to build only what you need to get an authentic answer from a potential user in the next phase: Test.

Your aim is to move through the Prototype phase quickly so that you can actually learn (and improve) based on real feedback. Plus, the more time you waste making something perfect, the more frustrating it’s going to be if when you have to change it later.

Phase 5: Test

Congrats! You’ve made it to the final phase—where the real magic happens. During the test phase, you get user feedback on the prototypes you’ve built.

First, conduct a series of interviews (ideally with your customers). According to Knapp, conducting at least five interviews during a sprint is enough to get real insight. Any less and you might be operating on false information.

screenshots of user testing for prototypes. Real screenshot of prototype testing.

Ask all interviewees the same questions. You’re looking to discover:

  • Are they interacting with the prototype the way you intend? For example, if you want them to hover over a tool-tip on your landing page to discover more info, are they doing that?
  • Is their reaction positive or negative? For example, is your messaging resonating with them? If you added a joke to your email copy, did they get it? Did they laugh?
  • Are they motivated to complete the action? For example, are they finding and clicking the call to action? Is the offer something they seem enticed by?

After you conduct interviews, transform feedback into “How might we” statements. Originally an idea defined by Proctor and Gamble in the 1970s, the basis of “How might we” is to rephrase every piece of feedback (positive, negative, neutral) into a question that incites action.

For example, say you’re testing an email in a nurture campaign to convert leads into customers. A piece of feedback you might receive is: “Get to the point faster, I skim emails.”

Your role is to transform that feedback into a question: “How might we accommodate people who skim emails?”

The benefit of this technique is that it doesn’t immediately present a solution, empowering you and your team to come up with the best answer. For example, you could solve for skim readers in a few ways:

  • Reduce the amount of copy in the email.
  • Use bolding and bulleting to break it up and call attention to the main points.
  • Reorder copy so the main call to action and thesis is at the top.

Once you’ve transformed your feedback into action items, you need to prioritize. Often, you’ll get a ton of feedback, and you need to decide which feedback to put into action. Sometimes, you might not have enough time to do it all, and that’s okay.

Prioritizing feedback should be based on:

  1. How important it is to the campaign’s success. If something’s broken, you need to fix it.
  2. How often that piece of feedback came up. If everyone said they didn’t understand the headline, you probably need to rewrite it.

prioritization framework for marketing campaign ideas. An example feedback prioritization sheet from an Unbounce campaign.

From there, you’re armed and ready with a tested campaign that you can remix, fix, and—most importantly—launch!

Conclusion

Sprints are an effective and helpful project management process that you can apply to any and every marketing campaign. They ensure your work is data-driven and research-backed.

Ideally, sprints aren’t a one-and-done experience, either. A sprint lets you observe a campaign in the wild and, if it’s not hitting your targets, make tweaks and changes until it does.

If you want to learn more project management tools, techniques, and processes, check out my course at CXL Institute on project management for marketers, launching August 5. I’ll be covering the sprint process further, as well as walking you through how to iterate from annual to quarterly, monthly, and weekly planning so that your marketing team is set up for success.

22 Jul 17:19

All This Technology is Making Us More Human

by Brian Solis

Part 2 of 2

I once had the honor of giving a TEDx Talk in San Francisco. I’ll never forget it. Even though I speak for a living, speaking at TED honestly terrified me. There’s something about the TED stage, the big ideas and the iconic personalities who have graced it over the years that has a way of grounding and even intimidating you. The experience was so powerful and life-changing, I sought to subject myself to the jitters and butterflies all over again in 2014.

In 2014, I applied for a special TED event hosted in partnership with IBM. Even though my proposals weren’t accepted, I still wanted to share them with you here after all these years.

Part 2 is below. Part 1 is published here.

Brief outline of the suggested talk (in as much detail as you feel is required):

If you look out onto the horizon, the onslaught of disruptive technology is, at face value, complicated and overwhelming. Technology is having an impact on us…as human beings and also as executives, employees, and strategists. And, we can’t overlook the result of technology’s influence on the behaviors and expectations of a new generation employees too.

But there’s hope. What’s happening now, if you can take enough of a step back to see it for its promise and potential, you’ll realize that all of the technology offers the promise of making things more human again. As crazy as that sounds, it’s simply a matter of perspective.

Why do you believe this talk would be of interest?

In my day job, I’m a digital analyst. I study the impact of disruptive technology on business. I publish research and offer help to focus and expedite digital transformation. But it is my work as a digital anthropologist that allows me to see the human side of change, which helps me pave a more meaningful path toward relevant change. I hope that this human and empathetic approach to technology is as refreshing as it is inspiring.

What is the new and tangible impact or benefit this talk will bring forward or have on the world (as much detail as you feel is required)?

Technology is part of the problem but it is also part of the solution…it’s just not “the” answer.

Existing systems and processes support business as usual. As a result, companies tend to take a technology-first approach toward employee and customer engagement without understanding behavior and psychology.

Because technology is not just affecting business, it’s changing society and how people, in their personal life, communicate, collaborate, and connect. And it’s radically different than how we learned how to work. With the rise of BYOD (bring your own device) and BYOD (bring your own disposition), employees and customers are forcing businesses to change…fast. But politics, aspirations, self-preservation and other very human behaviors form a wall of detainment.

Does management prevail? Does leadership rise?

It’s the latter.

To persevere takes vision to see what others cannot and courage to do what others cannot or will not.

But that’s why I believe this is a magical time. It’s a time when the future is unwritten and in need of visionaries who can see possibilities beyond complacency and uncertainty.

I believe that in its own way, all this technology is making us more human…or it could. We just need a different perspective.

We can learn more about people than ever before if we want to really see them for who they are, what’s important to them and who they want to be.

I hope to, if selected, help those in the audience see change for what it could be not for how they react to it today. They are the leaders of tomorrow. They are the hope for businesses to change in ways that matter. They can use technology to see people for people and to help transform some of our time’s most sophisticated technology to make businesses more human again too.

What is the “one sentence” key takeaway you want the audience to know or feel after hearing the talk?

I finally see that differences behavior, people, and what they do and why they do it as the center of my strategy…it’s more than just technology.

Bonus Question (I added this for fun): How is this talk personally or emotionally relevant to you and/or how can you make it so for the audience?

I’m inspired by putting people, you and me, as everyday human beings, back into the spotlight. Our relationship with brands has become increasingly disingenious with every tech revolution that has come along. It’s still about the funnel. I hope that it becomes about what it is that we (brand and customers) can do together.

I’ve helped businesses. I’ve watched them fail. But once I started to study digital anthropology, I have been moved, impassioned and determined to help expedite change so that the work we do tomorrow matters for our generation and the generation that follows.

If it’s one thing that I learned, and if it’s one thing that I want people to leave believing, is that change is going to happen because of them…not to them. They are the future.

Photo by Lance Anderson on Unsplash

 

The post All This Technology is Making Us More Human appeared first on Brian Solis.

22 Jul 17:16

Examples of Referral Program Ideas for Small Businesses

by Jessica Huhn

You don’t have to be as big as Dropbox, Uber, or Airbnb to benefit from referral marketing. Your small business can reap great benefits from a referral program as well—it’s an awesome way for you to convert leads and increase your customer base.

What exactly do we mean when we say “referral program?” We’re not talking about a punch-card program or print referral cards for your customers to share with friends. Instead, we’re talking about an official way for your customers to spread the word about your business, and possibly get a cool reward for their efforts.

But why do small business referral programs work, and how can they help your business? Also, what strategies and best practices should you follow when designing a small business referral program? Let’s explore.

Why do small business referral programs work?

Referral programs work because people trust word-of-mouth recommendations from their friends and family more than any other source of information. Yes, they look for reviews online as well, but they’re far more inclined to believe a friend’s recommendation than a review from a complete stranger. A referral program simplifies this recommendation process and makes it more official—your customers can share your business with friends with the click of a button.

But when you start a referral program, how can you increase the likelihood that your existing customers will share your business with their friends? Customer service is key. When you go above and beyond to satisfy your customers, they’ll be more than happy to spread the word about you because they want to see you succeed.

Yes, word-of-mouth recommendations like these usually happen without prompting, so they can often be hard to control. So, why not formalize the process with a referral program, where you give customers an easier way to share (and reward them for doing so)?

How can a referral program help your small business?

Referral programs can help your small business in many ways—here are the top 4 ways we’ve identified.

Creates loyal customers

Referred customers are 18% more likely to remain your customers, and have a higher lifetime value. After all, they trust their friends! And on the other side, incentives for referring friends, such as discounts, store credits, and free products, give your referring customers a reason to keep coming back!

Sparks virality

Word of mouth travels fast, especially on social media. Since a referral program makes sharing easier, this cycle will go even faster. When a customer shares your referral program via social media, all of their friends instantly become aware of your brand (and trust what their friend shared). If a few of these friends become new customers, there’s a strong possibility that they’ll also share the referral program with their own friends via social. Thus, the cycle will keep going on and on!

Cost-effective

Your small business needs to use its resources wisely. Referral programs are easier and cheaper than other forms of advertising. Customers who spread the word to friends and family provide advertising money can’t buy!

With a referral program, you’re not spending as much money (and valuable time) on customer acquisition, and you’re not targeting complete strangers with traditional ads. Rather, you’re targeting your existing customers, who already have developed a positive relationship with your brand. These loyal customers will promote your business for you, at little to no cost. So, you won’t have to shell out nearly as much on the usual ads.

Plus, most referral program messages include prewritten text from your company itself, but also have space for the referrer to add their own personalized message. And regardless, every referral message comes from a customer, not directly from your brand. People trust the word of their friends far more than they trust traditional ads, so referral programs are a smart play for more reasons than one!

Builds solid relationships

Having a strong customer relationship for any business is important, but for a small business, solid relationships with your customers mean everything. Loyal customers who refer their friends do so because they trust your small business, feel valued as individuals rather than being just a number, and feel like they’re part of your community. Once they hear about your referral program, many of these customers will quickly think of a few friends who would also love what you do, and share your business with them almost immediately. Referral programs help create better relationships because customers who refer friends to you will feel responsible for part of your business’s success.

Referral program best practices for small businesses

Now that you know how your small business can benefit from a referral program, let’s review some of the best practices for small business referral program design.

  • Make sure your customers can quickly understand what you want them to do (refer) and what’s in it for them (your incentive).
    • Keep your explanation concise, but include all the necessary terms and conditions (Ex. What requirements must customers meet to receive the reward? Are rewards cumulative?)
  • Display a clear, enticing referral call-to-action (CTA).
    • The most effective CTAs catch customers’ eyes, concisely invite customers to refer, and quickly share the incentive.
    • Make sure your CTA is easy to find. Always put it at the top of your referral page. Display it in the biggest font, and consider bolding it. Then, follow it with an easy to find CTA button.
  • Make it easy for customers to share your referral program on social media.
  • Use referral program software to make managing your referral program even easier.
  • Use your position as a small business to your advantage.
    • Your small business has a unique personality that big-box businesses can’t duplicate. So, why not inject your personality into your referral program?
    • Emphasize being part of a community in your referral program messaging.
    • Consider using “feel-good” messaging that focuses on helping friends and your business.
    • One example of a “feel-good” message is “share the love.”
    • This messaging can include friendship-focused and/or community-focused images.
  • Offer valuable but cost-effective incentives that tie right back to your business, such as store credits/service credits, gift cards, and discounts.
    • Consider double-sided incentives (incentives for both referrer and friend) and cumulative incentives (stacking credits that can all be used at once).
    • Also, consider offering free (or more deeply discounted) products or services, but only after several successful referrals. If you choose this route, gamifying the experience through a “point” system can pay dividends because it shows customers how close they are to the exclusive perk.
    • Another route you could take is a raffle drawing, where every referral enters a customer to win a larger gift card, amount of store credit, or other larger prize from your business.
    • And never underestimate the intrinsic reward of friends helping friends!
  • Charitable giving can also work as a referral incentive, especially when it involves a donation to a charity in your community. For example, your business might donate a set amount to your local food pantry for each referral.

Small business referral program examples (and why we love them)

We’ve rounded up 5 referral programs that provide awesome examples of the best practices listed above, to help you apply them in your own small business referral program.

Tomlinson Bomberger

What They’re About:

Tomlinson Bomberger offers landscaping, lawn care, and pest control services to the Lancaster, PA area.

What We Love:

  • Enticing call-to-action (“Referrals | Want to make an easy $50?”)
  • Community-minded, “feel-good” referral messaging: “Our business has grown over the decades from all the great referrals from our clients!”
  • Company-connected incentive: $50 company credit.
  • Cumulative credit: every time a referred friend makes a qualifying purchase, Tomlinson Bomberger rewards the referrer with another $50.
  • Friendship-focused image.
  • Easy-to-find CTA button.
  • Clear referral terms and conditions that state exactly what a “qualifying purchase” is.

PA Fitness

What They’re About:

PA Fitness operates fitness centers in Marysville, Washington and Arlington, Washington.

What We Love:

  • “Feel-good,” friend-oriented CTA: “Working out is always more fun with a buddy!”
  • Concise referral text that emphasizes the “why” behind referring (still friend-oriented): “From the hottest new group exercise classes to one-on-one personal training, the latest fitness equipment, and top-notch facilities – we have you covered. Now, help us cover someone close to you.” Below the CTA button, there’s also the text that reads, “Your friends will thank you.”
  • Easy-to-find long blue CTA button (“Invite my friend”).
  • Friendship-focused image of women working out together.
  • There’s no extrinsic incentive, but the intrinsic incentive of helping a friend is pitched so well that an extrinsic reward isn’t really needed.

Borst Landscape & Design

What They’re About

Borst Landscape & Design offers landscaping design and maintenance services to Allendale, NJ and the surrounding area.

What We Love

  • Enticing, company-connected incentive: $125 credit towards any future services from Borst.
  • Cumulative incentive: “This is not a “one time only” credit, but instead applies for every new client that you refer who signs with us.”
  • Concise offer text with clear terms and conditions: “For every new client that signs a contract with Borst Landscape & Design and mentions the name of the client that referred them, we will be issuing you an immediate $125 credit.”
  • “Feel-good” referral messaging emphasizes how referrals help friends and Borst:
    • “As a way of thanking our valued customers for referring us to their friends, family, neighbors, and others, we would like to reward you with a credit on your current invoice.”
    • “We very much appreciate your business and as our company grows we would like you to be part of our success!!”
  • Clear referral terms and conditions (referrals must be new clients and sign a contract).

No Place Like Home Pet Sitting

What They’re About:

No Place Like Home Pet Sitting offers pet sitting services to the Lithia, Florida area.

What We Love:

  • Community-minded messaging: “We love our clients and want to thank you for trusting us with your precious pets. There is no greater compliment than when our valued clients refer us to their family, friends, and neighbors. To show our appreciation, we are proud to announce our new referral program.”
  • Enticing, company-connected referral reward: “Whenever you refer someone to No Place Like Home Pet Sitting and they become a new client, you’ll receive 10% of their invoice off your next invoice.”
  • Cumulative, unlimited incentive motivates customers to keep on referring!
  • Easy social sharing: easily accessible Facebook “Share” button lets customers share the business right from the referral page.
  • Clear referral terms and conditions (clients must be new, and must complete their first service).
  • Charitable element: “If you are a 501(c) 3 charity and you refer clients to us after a client completes their first sitting, you’ll receive 20% of their first bill as a thank you and to help in your rescue efforts!”

YogaWorks

What They’re About:

YogaWorks is a yoga studio franchise. Yes, YogaWorks is a larger business, but smaller fitness studios (and other small businesses) can still pick up great tips from their referral program!

What We Love:

  • Eye-catching, large CTA: “Share YogaWorks and get rewarded.”
  • Enticing CTA button (“Free week for friends”).
  • Company-connected incentives tailored to different customer situations ($25 off monthly payment for monthly members; free class for class pack holders; free additional week of membership for annual members).
  • Friend reward for new referred customers (free week of yoga).
  • A concise explanation of referral program.
  • Appeals to intrinsic rewards of referring to help friends: “Yoga is better with friends;” “grow your practice and have fun with friends and family.”
  • Cumulative incentives give customers a reason to keep on referring.
  • Referral FAQ answers customers’ most common questions about the referral program and makes the process frictionless.

Key Takeaways

Small business referral programs are an awesome way to get your customers to spread the word about your business, at a much lower cost than other marketing efforts. Your customers will feel like a valuable part of your business’s success, so your relationship with them will grow stronger. Plus, you’ll gain new customers who are more likely to keep coming back to your business. After all, people trust their friends and family more than any messages that would come directly from your business.

Be sure to offer incentives that tie back to your business, like credits, discounts, or gift cards. Use “feel-good” messaging that emphasizes friendship, community, and helping your business. And consider using referral program software to make managing your referral program even easier.

Interested in starting a referral program?

22 Jul 17:16

How Do You Win?

by Dave Brock

My good friend, Andy Paul, and I were talking about the state of selling today. We were commiserating about the absence of discussion about “How Do We Win?”

So much of the discussion about sales these days focuses on the top of the pipeline, that is, how do we find more opportunities. The reason people are worried about finding more opportunities is that we are struggling to make our numbers. The fashionable answer to making our numbers is doing more–finding more opportunities.

Alternatively, if we are making our numbers, and we are driven to grow, the fashionable answer is, find more opportunities.

It seems “the answer” to all sales attainment questions is simply doing more, in this case it’s finding more opportunities. The SaaS world gave us the metrics that seem to have been adopted by everyone in sales. “Want to grow 20%, you have to prospect and find 20% more opportunities. To double our business, “easy peasy,” just double the number of opportunities we find.” The math works, therefore the solution should be obvious.

As a result, our social medial conversations focus on doing more of all the things we do at the top of the pipeline, more prospecting (whatever your favorite version of prospecting is), more phone calls (if you believe in the phone), more email (if you believe in that), more “social selling” (if that’s what you believe).

More prospecting is the answer to every problem we have in achieving our numbers or to growing our business.

What is absent from the discussion is, “How do we win?” Or, more specifically, “How do we win more of those opportunities that we have found?” Too often, we take the win rate as a “given,” and as long was we take the win rate as a given, the only answer to sales performance is what I’ve discussed so far.

But the moment we start asking, “How do we win more of the deals that we have found,” we start opening whole new possibilities for growing.

Answering this questions forces us to think about entirely different issues. We are forced to confront:

  • What causes us to win the opportunities we find? How do we increase that, as a percentage of the total number of opportunities we pursue?
  • What causes us to lose, when we do lose? How do we decrease this?
  • What causes customers to abandon their buying process, resulting in no decision made? How do we reduce that number?
  • What is our average transaction value? How do we increase that?
  • How do we produce more from every deal we find and pursue?

Answering these questions helps us answer the original questions, how do we make our number, how do we grow our business? Yet the conversation in the sales community is remarkably light on these discussions, all the focus is on putting more in the top of the funnel to increase what’s coming out of the bottom.

At the risk of being redundant, many would say, to double our business, we have to double our prospecting, finding twice as many opportunities as we have, in the past. But once we start asking different questions or start looking for different answers we realize we can achieve the same goal by doubling our win rates or doubling our average transaction size.

As we think more deeply, we begin to think, “perhaps there is an order in which we might ask these questions, one that really optimizes our performance and drives much higher levels of growth?”

I believe there is an optimal order in posing/answering these questions to maximize our success and growth.

  1. We realize, the single most important thing we can do to drive performance is to stop squandering those opportunities we find. That is, how do we win more.
  2. Next we realize, we need to get the most out of each opportunity we possibly can, stated differently, can we find ways to increase our average deal value?
  3. Then we realize that once we’ve optimized this, what’s the next lever on driving sales performance? Some of you are thinking, “This is where the prospecting comes in….” Not so fast. Actually, the next thing you look at is “How do we win more, at higher average value, in less time (at least in terms of hours our sales people need).?” Here we are looking at how we reduce our customers’ buying cycles–or how do we reduce the amount of time we are required to invest during the customer buying cycle?
  4. Now we come to the point of “How do we do more?” But in doing this, we realize that w can do this because we have freed up time the time we need to do more. For example, in our own company, for our large deals we saw they involved, on average, a certain number of meetings or calls through the buying cycle. We re-engineered our process, leveraging design thinking. We started to design high impact customer meetings–making sure that, not only were we prepared and creating value in each meeting, but our customers were prepared and creating as much value as the possibly could. As a result, we reduced the average number of meetings to close by over 50%. Stated differently, this freed up about half our selling time, so that we now could spend time finding more opportunities and driving even further growth (The astute sales manager type will realize this simple change enabled us to virtually double our revenue at a constant cost of selling.)

Don’t get me wrong, prospecting is important, we have to continue to find opportunities to maintain our pipelines. But our job as sales people and managers is to maximize our performance and productivity. To do this, we have to first ask ourselves, “How do we produce the most from those opportunities we currently have.” To answer this, you have to be able to answer, “How do we win?”

22 Jul 17:12

Make Your Sales Training a Big Success

by Gerhard Gschwandtner
Today’s post is by Haley Katsman, vice president of account development & growth at Highspot, the highest user-rated sales enablement solution. Connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn. Today, most sales organizations are still enabling salespeople with classroom onboarding, certifications, and assessments. These methods are outdated and don’t reflect the dynamic, responsive way modern sellers engage with buyers. And they’re hurting your bottom line. Salespeople are hungry for an immersive, interactive learning experience – one that delivers the right content and guidance at the right time through the channels where they live. And reps have every reason to have this...
22 Jul 17:12

This Week’s Big Deal: Building a Recession-Proof Sales Strategy

by Steve Kearns

Is a recession in the offing? Many investors believe so.

The economy has been on a strong run over the past decade, but any realist in the business world understands that no good thing lasts forever. The realities of a changing marketplace shouldn’t fill us with apprehension or dread, but they should keep us on our toes, constantly vigilant in positioning our companies to remain steady as conditions shift.

From a sales and marketing standpoint, this means separating correlation from causation, and pinpointing the practices that will keep working even as external variables change.

The Sales Bubble

“Many sales organizations saw increases in quota attainment and revenues last year,” pronounced CSO Insights in their newly released report covering key findings from the 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study. “However, key leading metrics decreased and adherence to many sales best practices remains low, leading us to attribute the uptick in lagging sales metrics more to the economy than to any sales transformation initiatives.” 

Their conclusion: All that glitters is not gold. (In fact, that’s the title of their report.)

This can be a dangerous combination. It’s easy to become complacent in our ways when the results are there. As the above report notes, “While lagging indicators such as revenues and the proportion of sellers making goals increased … they have done so in a time of significant economic growth.” Looking deeper, CSO Insights uncovers some disconcerting numbers. For example:

  • Win rates for forecasted deals remain at less than 50%

  • Customer retention has dropped by 3%

  • Seller attrition has increased by 18%

These are the numbers we should be aiming to address. 

“To achieve long-term world-class status, sales organizations need to apply greater focus to sales transformation initiatives,” suggests Seleste Lunsford, chief research officer for CSO Insights. “Using these proven strategies, today’s sellers will be ready to win tomorrow’s opportunities, despite changes in the global economic landscape.”

Achieving Sales Transformation

The “proven strategies” cited by Lunsford above refer to 12 advisable sales practices listed in the report, all nesting within a three-pronged sales system built for sustainable success:

These practices include: 

  • Customer Engagement

    • Consistently positive interactions with customers

    • Conducting mutually valuable sales calls with customers and prospects

    • Communicating value messages with relevance to buyer needs

  • Performance Support

    • Alignment of sales management, sales operations, and sales enablement

    • Continuous development of customer-facing professionals

    • Effective coaching of salespeople to higher performance levels

    • Rigorous and accurate forecasting process

    • Effective use of call planning tools to prepare for customer interactions

  • Strategy Alignment

    • Alignment of sales, marketing, and customer service

    • Clear strategy for leveraging operational and customer data

    • Talent strategy ensures you have the right people to achieve goals

    • Continual assessment of why top performers are successful

There’s plenty more detail and insight around each of these practices in the report, so it’s a recommended read for any sales leader. But today I wanted to call out another key data point that I believe is crucial when it comes to aligning our teams with the future of selling.

Last week I sat in on a webcast hosted by Andrew Gaffney of Demand Gen Report and John Dering of Demandbase. The two were going over results from the 2019 B2B Buyers Survey Report, which we highlighted in this space last week. One interesting finding discussed by Gaffney and Dering was that 82% of respondents said purchase decisions are often accelerated or put on hold based on changing business needs.

In the event of an economic shift, changing business needs will be the name of the game. The most effective salespeople will be able to illuminate unseen challenges and solutions, striking resonant chords with prospects who welcome legitimate outside perspective at a time of uncertainty. According to the new B2B Buyers Survey from Aberdeen, buyers are most receptive to new ways to solve existing problems:

Last week our blog featured a post from Danielle Rosen about the emerging generation of buyers, and the resulting alterations to preferences and expectations. “A key challenge is that Millennials have a general distrust of salespeople relative to other generations,” Rosen wrote. “They are more likely to believe a seller’s only goal is to sell their product, not to solve their business problems.”

Rosen also shared this quote from Miller Heiman Group CEO Byron Matthews: “It's no longer just about [sellers providing] information but sellers must also provide inspiration about a problem the buyer hasn't thought of.”

All of these insights from varying sources point to the same imperative: Going forward, salespeople must go beyond pitching and provide clear value to buyers. That’s how we become indispensable and build the strong relationships that not only close deals, but earn repeat business and referrals. 

Amidst changes to buyer preferences and the overarching economic landscape, this model will endure and enable your company to keep growing.

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

22 Jul 17:12

How B2B Customer Experience Can Influence Sales Growth

by Sam Makad

In the last few years, considerable attention has been paid to improving customer experience (CX) in the B2C world, however, research by Accenture Strategy makes it clear that CX is equally, if not more, important for B2B buyers as well.

In a recent report, Accenture states that “90 percent of B2B executives cite CX as a very important factor in achieving their organizations’ strategic priorities. That’s up from 86 percent who felt that way two years ago.”

An article by Mathew Sweezey published on Convince & Convert points out that 80% of B2B buyers expect the same buying experience as B2C customers, expecting companies to respond and interact with them in real time.

b2b customer experience

Talking about expectations, B2B buyers seem to be much more demanding than B2C customers. The same write-up indicated above lists that:

  • Up to 75 percent of business buyers expect companies to send their company personalised offers, and
  • Nearly 65 percent of business buyers are likely to look for other vendors if a company didn’t make an effort to personalise communications with their organisation.

In short, B2B marketers can no longer ignore the importance of CX, dismissing it as a B2C marketing trend.

CX Maturity of B2B Organisations

According to Gartner, 81% of companies expect to compete mostly or completely on the basis of CX in 2019. Thus, more than price or product quality, customer experience would soon be the biggest differentiator for businesses, even in the B2B space.

Source: Temkin Group

In November 2015, Temkin Group published research indicating the CX maturity level of B2B organizations. Surprisingly, only 3 percent of B2B companies were found to value customer experience as an integral part of their company culture.

Fortunately, things are changing in present times. A 2018 report onThe State of CX Managementby Temkin Group highlights that 54% of companies aspire to be industry leaders in CX in the next three years.

The report also compared CX leaders with CX laggards, and discovered that “the leaders enjoy stronger financial results, are more likely to have senior executives leading company-wide CX efforts, and employ more full-time CX employees…”

Here are some more facts about CX leaders to inspire you:

  • CX leader grows 12 percent faster than CX laggards [Forrester Research].
  • Brands that improve CX experience a 10-15 percent boost in revenue and up to 20 percent lower costs [McKinsey Insights].

Three Areas to Enhance Customer Experience for Business Buyers

Transforming your B2B customer experience can boost your bottom line significantly. Let us tell you how.

b2b customer experience

1. Adopt a ‘Customer-Centric’ Business Strategy

According to research, only 14 percent of large B2B companies claimed to be genuinely customer-centric in 2016. As a corollary of this statement, it is evident that much needs to be done by B2B organisations to become customer-centric.

However, this statement also provides a window of opportunity to intelligent B2B companies which can gain a competitive edge in the market and improve profitability by offering a superior customer experience to their users.

To achieve this, you must drive your organisation to be a part of the 14 percent of companies that have customer experience deeply ingrained in their company culture.

This means, you need to engage all your employees and not just someone in HR, to consistently work on understanding customer needs.

The most successful companies in this regard are those with cross-functional teams, wherein all the departments work together to influence the customer experience.

A CMO article shares that “Creating a happy customer is not a marketing-only endeavour; customer service, product development, R&D teams, operations, and IT all play a role. However, just 12% of B2B marketers said that functional teams were strongly aligned around a holistic customer experience strategy.”

The Accenture Strategy report shares an interesting diagram that shows how ‘Masters’ (CX leaders) are far ahead of their peers when it comes to building talent models and organisational mindsets centered on customer experiences.

Source: Accenture Strategy Report

2. Make It Easier for Business Buyers to Conduct Business with You (read better communication)

Across all B2B markets, the ease of doing business with a supplier is a key metric for customer loyalty and satisfaction. Therefore, companies need to make it easier for business buyers to purchase from them by facilitating seamless transactions and interactions through technology adoption.

Besides, it is also becoming relevant for companies to be available for their business buyers to interact in real time, which can be a major factor in closing sales by facilitating a buyer’s sales journey online.

Technology adoption can be a major game-changer in this regard, facilitating omnichannel communication between suppliers and business buyers in real time.

Put simply, omnichannel refers to providing a consistent and personalised experience to your buyers to simplify their customer journey irrespective of the channel they choose to interact with you. Easier said than done, right?

Not at all.

Latest technology such as AI-enabled chatbots and live chat software with co-browsing features make it a breeze to connect with your buyers at various points on their customer journey.

In the previously mentioned Accenture Strategy report, CX leaders agree that technology adoption is the key to upgrading your customer experience for B2B buyers.

According to the report, “Masters are more tuned in to digital’s disruptive effect. Seventy-three percent of B2B execs surveyed believe smart devices and the Internet of Things (IoT) will completely change the way they market, sell and serve their business customers. Among masters, that figure soars to 85 percent.”

The report goes on to say that, “…more masters are likely to expect increased use of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) to shape interactions with customers and channel partners (83 percent versus 68 percent).”

Thus, investing in the right technology could be the key to transforming your customer experience and boosting your sales. Some noteworthy technologies to build your customer experience include:

Live Chats

A study by the American Marketing Association found that companies using live chat witnessed a 20% increase in conversions as compared to companies who don’t.

The reason is simple, real-time chat offers blazing fast customer query resolution by instantly connecting buyers with support agents. Agents can also reach out to customers at the most opportune moment in their purchase journey to maximise their chances of conversions.

Co-Browsing

Co-browsing technology offers a powerful visual engagement tool to businesses that are committed to delivering a seamless experience to their customers.

With co-browsing technology, your agents can see your customers’ browsers without visiting their physical location and fix their issues instantly – resulting in up to 18% improvement in first call resolution and 14% reduction in call handling times.

Chat Bots

Chat bots offer the perfect way to scale your customer support activities by offering 24/7 online support to customers. By using a chat bot on your website, you can help your users find answers to their problems in real time without having to waste any time making separate searches on the site.

As chat bots come packed with AI capabilities, you only need to use your existing FAQs, chat history, and knowledge base to build your Bot’s foundations.

Besides handling a substantially higher volume of interactions in a short span of time, using chat bots initiates conversations and making personalized recommendations to users, leading to a better browsing experience for customers.

3. Offer Personalised Experiences

When you walk into a garment store – you don’t want to be sold the same dress as your neighbour’s. In fact, what would really delight you would be personalised recommendations by the staff at the store, saving you time and also making you feel better owing to the personalised attention.

The same philosophy applies to B2B buyers.

Today, companies are not looking for one-size-fits-all solutions but appreciate suppliers who can give them personalised recommendations based on their business needs and budget.

66 percent of consumers say they are likely to switch brands if they are treated like a number instead of an individual.”

Indeed, at a time when B2B buyers have access to endless information and choice, personalisation is a necessity to stand out from the competition and reach out to your customers effectively.

“By 2020, 75 percent of business buyers expect companies to anticipate their needs and make relevant suggestions before they initiate contact, while 73% expect that products they purchase will self-diagnose issues and automatically order replacement parts or service.”

But how do you achieve this?

Once again, technology comes to your aid by offering a deep insight into customer behaviour that can help you personalise every point in your customer’s journey.

From getting to know your customers (you can use analytics to learn about customer demographics and browsing habits) to establishing strong communication with them (by using the technologies mentioned in the previous point) to offering the best product recommendations for their requirements (with Machine Learning algorithms), small technology upgrades can go a long way in improving your customer experience while keeping your customers’ personal data secure.

Conclusion

Having a B2B customer experience strategy is crucial for companies who wish to succeed.

However, to truly develop a customer-centric culture in a B2B organisation, delivering excellent customer experience at all levels of the business is relevant. Do so by training employees suitably. And constantly upgrading to the latest technology to facilitate seamless transactions.

22 Jul 17:11

What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Migration to MAP

by BeHai Ligas

What to Expect When You’re Expecting a Migration to MAP

Are you ready to make the leap from a basic email service provider (ESP) to a full-fledged marketing automation platform (MAP)?

Have you thought about it but just aren’t sure if you need to commit to a MAP?

Here are some questions to consider:

  • Are your newsletters not performing?
  • Do you feel online marketing is more of a chore than an engagement driver?
  • Are you bogged down in a ton of manual processes just to send out a single email campaign?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, you may need a marketing automation system. But, here’s the exciting news – marketing automation can take your marketing efforts to the next level!

  • 79% of top-performing companies have been using marketing automation for three or more years. (Venture Harbour, 2017)
  • Marketers say that the biggest benefit of automation is saving time. (Venture Harbour, 2017)
  • Companies that automate lead management see a 10% or more bump in revenue in 6-9 months time. (Strategic IC, 2017)
  • Businesses who nurture leads make 50% more sales at a cost 33% less than non-nurtured prospects. (Strategic IC, 2017)

We’re not discounting ESP’s – they serve a useful purpose. They’re cheap (or free) and they allow you to cultivate lists of emails. But always remember that you get what you pay for. In order to make the leap to the next level in business, you need more than the generic services and metrics that an ESP provides.

If you want to get to the head of the pack, you need to embrace technology. In fact, businesses are currently adopting MAPs very aggressively. You need to do the same in order to keep up with your competition.

The essential difference between an email tool like MailChimp (your standard ESP) and a MAP lies in the amount of data you can collect on potential prospects and the ability to use that data to customize your customers’ journeys.

Here’s a table that breaks it down for you:

Email Service Provider Marketing Automation Platform
✓ Batch & Blast email sends ✓ Automate Email Nurture
✓ Email Metrics ✓ ROI Metrics
✓ Manual List Management ✓ Dynamic List Segmentation
✓ Simple Opt-in ✓ Preference Center
✓ Multi-Channel Campaigns
✓ Landing Page + Forms

With a MAP, you’re not just sending emails anymore – hoping they strike the right nerve with your customers. A MAP gives you the information you need to nurture your prospects and add dynamic content to your emails.

So, what happens when you graduate from an ESP to a MAP? It’s important to recognize that you’re not just graduating your technology – you’re also graduating your strategy. You’re moving everything to the next level! This is important because if you just keep doing the same thing over and over, you cannot expect to grow.

Here are some of the things you can expect when you’re migrating from an Email Service Provider (ESP) to a Marketing Automation Platform (MAP):

1. The ability to segment lists becomes dynamic.

No longer is your email list static. No more manual updates to each and every list for a single email send. A MAP allows you to update your list dynamically based on demographics or behavior data points. This saves you a lot of time and effort.

An ESP offers a very manual process of updating and segmenting email lists and target lists. A MAP will automate much of that tedious work by allowing you to set up automatic rules that will capture customer data and automatically put customers/prospects in the correct lists.

2. You graduate from the single touch experience.

Batch and blast emails are a thing of the past when you move to a MAP. You can automate customer journeys to educate and nurture your contacts, providing multiple touches over time.

3. You can tailor and personalize messages to individuals.

Because you can now see individual as well as aggregate behavior data, you’ll be able to tailor messages to individuals rather than blasting emails out to large groups. Your MAP allows you to record digital behavior (above and beyond the basic vanity metrics). Now you can see what pages people have visited and for how long. You can gather information anonymously and then attach it to a record once they raise their digital hand.

4. You can see individual as well as aggregate behavior data.

With a MAP, you have access to a plethora of data you didn’t have before. You’ll be able to see email as well as web activity – individual and aggregate behavior data. You want this information so that you can segment your email lists, but this data can also help you strengthen the alignment between Marketing and Sales.

You might say, “Well, we’ve got Google Analytics for that.” Google Analytics is fine, but it doesn’t give you the whole story. It does not tie the info back to specific people. It’s buckets of information, but you’re missing the bridge from email to web activity. With MAP, you get both the email and web activity tied into a single record.

5. You can create trigger campaigns to react to lead behavior.

Now that you have access to all the behavioral data, you can create trigger campaigns that react to that behavior.

Newsletters are one way to communicate with your database, but what if your prospects need a little nudge? Let’s say you have several prospects that have shown interest in purchasing a product or service (which you know because of the web/email activity tracked by the MAP). Now you need more than a newsletter – you need a nurture campaign.

How do you get prospects interested in purchasing? How do you figure out who’s a good lead? Who qualifies for your product/service? The answer is to develop content that’s relevant to the product or service you’re promoting and then send out emails to these prospects at a regular cadence. This keeps your prospects engaged and keeps your product/service at the top of their mind.

6. You can share digital behavior to Sales.

Migrating to a MAP breaks you out of the ESP bubble. Now that you can tailor your messages to specific people, you’ll be able to share valuable information with Sales. Sales will now know when specific people are spending a lot of time in specific places on your website. With this information, Sales will be able to target prospects more intently.

The sales engagement type platform gives Sales a glimpse into what marketers do. Sales can see, for example, that Marketing is doing several onboarding campaigns and a welcome nurture. This helps Sales be smarter when it comes time to talk to prospects. Why bother with cold calls when you have all this new data to warm up the call?

Depending on the tool, MAPs have some really neat features. The Marketing team gets to drive the motorcycle, but Sales is along for the ride in the sidecar! Sales get to see Marketing’s efforts and they get the results of those efforts as well.

7. You can prioritize leads for Sales based on lead scoring.

Now that you have MAP, you can start up a lead management process that will connect and align your Sales and Marketing teams. A MAP gives you the ability to score leads for Sales. You’ll be helping your sales team prioritize and focus their workload.

The point of a MAP is to automate the top of funnel/mid-funnel work, giving good leads to Sales once the leads hit the right score. By letting Marketing handle the front end of the sales cycle, MAP creates efficiency for Sales. Your Sales team will get a priority list of people to talk to that have already shown interest in your product/service.

8. You can measure beyond email vanity metrics.

An ESP will give you basic vanity metrics (opens, clicks, unsubscribes, etc.), but it won’t tell you if a customer converted to a prospect. And it won’t tell you how many opportunities were created.

With a MAP, you have the ability to track web-behavior. When everything is set up correctly, you can tell when an anonymous person visits your website. That person (which we identify with a unique IP address) might decide to “raise their digital hand” by filling out a form. Now you can connect the previously anonymous behavior with an actual person. All of the anonymous activity gets merged into the known records, tracking the digital footprints of visitors to your website. You don’t get this information from an ESP or Google Analytics. You get it from marketing automation.

These are gold nuggets that you want to capture and utilize! You might say, “Well, Google Analytics gives us the web behavior we need.” Does it really? Google Analytics, like ESPs, will give you basic vanity metrics. With MAP, you can capture inferred data – for example, where the majority of website visitors are coming from. You’ll be able to see people coming from a specific company and spending time on your website, which pages they visited and where they spent the most time.

9. You can see what channels/campaigns generate revenue via source data.

With the valuable data, you get from your MAP, you can see what revenue you’ve been gaining. This is because you now have the source data! Migrating to a MAP will allow you to track a person back to their original source, helping you see where your Marketing spend should be focused.

Being able to track back that information (through the use of hidden fields, UTM parameters, web tracking, etc.) will give you a full picture of what is happening and will allow you to report ROI. You will know if your company made any money as a result of what Marketing did!

Being able to see the ROI is a huge benefit to having a MAP. Marketing will no longer be the “make it pretty” department. Now you’ll be able to prove the money given to you for a certain thing brought about a certain return. You need a MAP to be able to track that ROI.

Think further! You might say, “We’ve always done it this way…” Well, what’s the next step? What do you want to happen next? Are you going to keep doing it this way for the next 10 years? What if you add scoring? Then you’re doing more than simple email blasts. You’re collecting data that will be useful to Sales and to Marketing.

22 Jul 17:11

The Sad Tyranny of an Inbound-Only Approach to Winning Clients

by Anthony Iannarino

Each of us is a prisoner to our beliefs. Our beliefs shape our interpretation of reality, as well as what we believe is good and right and true. Our interpretation can constrain our thoughts, and those thoughts can restrict our actions, even when other people have different beliefs, ones that increase their choices instead of limiting them. Those constraints can be a form of self-imposed tyranny.

For the last decade, since Web 2.0 and the advent of the social channels, there has been a significant push towards Inbound Marketing. The ability to create and share content to share with your prospective clients changed marketing, eliminating the need for a budget, an agency, or most importantly, permission to publish. For the better part of this period, salespeople, sales leaders, and sales organizations have been sold the idea that Inbound is more effective than Outbound, with the loudest voices suggesting that outbound and cold outreach is no longer necessary. They have also suggested that salespeople and sales organizations that employ an outbound approach will soon be out of business, that no one will work with people companies that use cold outreach.

Inbound-only is not a strategy that any salesperson or sales organization should consider. The result is an opportunity-starved sales force, and on that is reliant on others. 

100 Pieces of Content

Recently, a well-known social media marketer suggested that people create 100 pieces of content, a strategy this individual executes perfectly, with help from a large team and a massive investment of both time and money. The inbound-only proponents applauded the idea as an excellent idea. While it might be helpful for an individual working to develop a well-recognized brand, and a terrible idea for salespeople, and one that would be impossible to execute.

Imagine a sales force of 200 salespeople. Each salesperson creates a single blog post each week. First, someone is going to have to approve the content, another person will have to edit the content, marketing will have to vet the content, and in many industries, legal will have to consent to the publication. There is no reason for a sales force to create 10,400 pieces of content a year, and there is no marketing professional who approves a strategy that would create confusion and chaos.

Let’s set aside this extreme misinterpretation of a strategy for personal brand building as a sales strategy, and look at the real problem with an inbound-only approach.

Passivity and Waiting

Nothing about selling lends itself to passivity or waiting. The idea that one must sit patiently, waiting for content to bring them leads and opportunities might be one of the most debilitating and destructive beliefs to take hold in some organizations. The idea that content will cause people to beat a path to your door is every salesperson’s dream; what could be easier than merely taking orders? What could be better?

There is a reason we use the word “hunter” to describe salespeople. It signifies one that has to go out work to be able to feed themselves. We ‘don’t describe salespeople as fishermen or fisherwomen; the idea that someone would put a line in the water and wait for a bite, no matter how long it takes, and no matter how hungry they might be is a non-starter. 

For many reasons, there is no waiting in sales. Unlike most other areas of business, salespeople have a quota, a time-bound goal. With each day that slips by without the salesperson creating new opportunities, the deadline gets closer. Waiting is a dangerous strategy and a choice that isn’t available to salespeople or companies that intend to grow. 

A Detrimental Reliance on Others

Some people with sales titles believe that inbound should replace outbound, that it is marketing’s responsibility to bring them leads. When salespeople complain about leads not being qualified, what they are suggesting is that marketing should bring them “opportunities,” a prospect that is “ready-to-buy.” Marketing has its metrics and goals, and “new opportunities” ‘isn’t likely to be found among them. The idea that a salesperson should rely on marketing is to misunderstand the difference in the roles and goals.

Not only does an inbound-only approach cause one to rely on marketing, but it also requires them to rely heavily on luck (even though Luck loves a hustler and ignores non-hustlers). Inbound requires your dream client to open their browser, navigate to a search engine, and type it some keyword that an algorithm directs to your website. You have to rely on your client searching, the algorithm to deliver them to you, and the content to cause them to reach out to you proactively.

A Sad Form of Tyranny

The idea that your results are not within your control or influence is an unhealthy belief, and especially harmful for salespeople. Having to wait for someone else to proactively reach out to them before being able to engage with a person or company who would benefit from their help is to accept that you have no agency, that you are nothing more than a victim of circumstances beyond your control.

There is no question that inbound marketing is important, that it should be done and done well, and that it is a powerful form of marketing that can and does help sales organizations. But inbound is ancillary to an effective outbound approach, one that includes cold outreach. Outbound is greater than Inbound. 

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22 Jul 17:10

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like a Marketer

by Victoria Taylor

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Instagram has proven itself as a business platform that brings results. It’s no longer about candid pictures or random selfies. Instead, it’s become a space for up and coming brands to make a name for themselves alongside corporate giants.

Gathre, a brand created by two moms, specializes in items for the home like outdoor accessories, yoga tools and leather goods. It used Instagram for a summer campaign and saw a whopping 81% increase in revenue based on Instagram ad spend as a single summer ad campaign.

Instagram knows the potential it holds for businesses. Over the last few years, it has built a community for a global audience, enabled shoppable posts, and checkout features to capture sales without asking potential buyers to switch platforms.

At the same time, anyone who has created a business account knows, just having an account isn’t enough. There’s a lot more than goes into growing your sales with Instagram than most people let on. In this article, I’ll be showing you in five steps to use Instagram to drive sales.

1.Optimize Your Business Instagram Account

Before you start promoting products, you’ll have to optimize your Instagram business account

What you’re doing here is ensuring that when potential buyers search or discover your brand online, your Instagram profile will have the information and contact details to prevent them from turning away.

Add a Recognizable Photo and Username

One of the worst mistakes you can make is to have an unrecognizable username and display photo. If you’ve already got this part down, you can skip to step two, but if there’s the slightest chance that you might want to make a few changes, stick around and let me show you how it’s done.

You’ll want an Instagram username that’s the same as your business name so that searchers can easily find you. That’s what shoe brand Payless did.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Whereas Red Lobster took a creative approach by using two red lobster claws as their profile image, which sums up what and who they are.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Claiming your business name might be easier said than done if you were late to join Instagram. With more than 500 million users on the platform every day, someone might have already taken your Instagram business username.

If your original username is gone, just add a variation to it, and you’re good to go. Take Later, for example: someone else has already taken the username @later, so the marketing team used @latermedia instead.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Need help coming up with an Instagram Username? Check out Plann’s fun guide to creating Unique Usernames for Instagram That Will Get You Noticed.

Include a Link to Boost Traffic to Your Site

There’s no point in getting sales with Instagram if you don’t promote your website link on your Instagram channel. Drop your link your Instagram bio to boost website traffic and sales.

Instagram Example: All Bird

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

An Interesting Bio That Hooks Followers

People will often scan your bio and photos before deciding whether they should follow you.

Think of your Instagram bio as an elevator pitch to get people hooked on your brand. You can write a simple line or use up the entire bio word limit of 150 characters.

Here are two brands with great Instagram bios:

HUM Nutrition

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Nike

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

2. Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy

If you fail to plan, then you plan to fail. Create an Instagram marketing strategy for your business so that you can set goals and actions that align with your content. A strategy also helps you to measure how effective your Instagram marketing is in terms of the type of engagement, revenue, and the impact you want your brand to have.

Now more than ever, a marketing strategy is critical. With Instagram’s changing algorithm working on over 95 million posts every day, you’re going to need a plan to push your brand above all that content and noise.

You can use the following to get started on your Instagram marketing strategy:

1. Create a Marketing Goal Why are you marketing on Instagram, and what do you want to accomplish? It’s a given that you’d like to increase sales. But how do you intend to do it?

It could be as simple as planning to sell x amount of products per month, get more subscribers, increase repeat shoppers or all of the above. Whatever the case may be, it’s wise to start with one goal at a time so you don’t get overwhelmed.

2. Create a Content Marketing Plan Now that you have a goal in mind, you’ll need to create a content marketing plan that will complement it. Your content marketing plan is the key to creating amazing content (we’ll talk more about that later), and it’ll help you to keep your sanity when you’re coming up with content ideas to post on Instagram.

Here’s a detailed guide to show you How to Build a More Complete Content Marketing Strategy to start seeing some Insta-famous results come your way.

Pro Tip: If your already have a content marketing strategy but the results are underwhelming, here are 6 reasons your content strategy isn’t working and 25 tips on how to fix it.

3. Social Media Strategy (Checklist) What’s a social media checklist?

It’s a daily, weekly, and monthly to-do list for your social media accounts. It helps you manage your Instagram account with ease, without feeling overwhelmed with comments, likes, and messages constantly flooding you.

I’ve created a step-by-step guide on how to make a social media checklist so you’ll be handling Instagram like a pro in no time.

It can seem like a lot to take in, but if you want to start using Instagram to drive sales to your business, you’ll need to get serious about how you handle it, or you’ll just be posting with little to no results. Take it from me: a well-executed plan pays off in the long run.

3. Boost Engagement on Instagram & Strengthen Customer Relationships.

Engage with Your Instagram Followers

No customer wants to walk into a retail store and be ignored; the same goes for customers going to your Instagram page.

When customers are ignored on social media or notice an inactive brand on Instagram, they’ll most likely unfollow you or buy from your competitors.

That’s something no one wants, so start engaging!

Engagement increases your social media presence, builds loyalty, drives ROI, and attracts new followers.

Take a look at 720 Sweets & Etc. answering customer questions about their locations. As simple as it is, it can also drive foot traffic to your brick and mortar store.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Fitness brand Equinox has over 200,000 followers, yet they still take the time to engage with their followers by candidly answering and liking comments.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

When you engage with followers, you should naturally promote your product website or store. Try not to make it seem forced. For example, Primark’s Instagram account occasionally suggests customers come into their store to buy their products, or they ask customers to share how they style Primark pieces. Here’s an example below:

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

4 Effortless Ways to Engage with Followers on Instagram

  • Ask them a question about your products
  • Answer their questions in the comments
  • Recommend products they might need or want
  • Talk with them in the comments section
  • for feedback about your services or products

Jumpstart Your Instagram Engagement with Contests

Social media contests are a marketer’s growth hack when it comes to getting more followers, more engagement, and generating leads with the serious potential to drive massive sales.

Brands like Hydroflask make giveaways an essential part of their Instagram marketing strategy to gain more followers and increase sales during holidays. They host giveaways every three months and partner with complementing brands to make each giveaway prize even better than the last.

For example, for summer Hydroflask got over 100,000 likes and over 50,000 likes and comments with their partnered giveaway with Pura Vida’s Stickers.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

4 Most Popular Types of Instagram Contest:

Like-to-Win or Comment-to-Win: USANA Summer Giveaway

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Follow To Win: The Beauty Spy

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Tag -A-Friend : Tono & Co.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Click The Link In The Bio To Enter : World Photography Organisation

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Pro Tip: Just like Facebook, you’ll need to follow the contest rules. You don’t need a lawyer for this one, but instead use this Complete Instagram Giveaway Rules Guide (With Examples).

Answer Your Instagram DMs

When you’re using Instagram for business, managing all of your direct messages, comments, and replies can take up a lot of time! Sometimes you’ll have to answer the same question, over and over (and over) again.

But keep at it! Answering direct messages and comments is essential when it comes to maintaining engagement with your new and current followers.
Luckily, Instagram now offers saved replies in your direct messages, so you can save yourself the trouble of typing.

How to Use Quick Replies
  1. Open your profile and tap the button with three lines in the top-right corner of the screen. This will open the sidebar menu where you can access your Instagram settings.
  2. Next, tap the settings button and scroll down to Business Settings. Here you should see an option for Quick Replies.
  3. Tap the “+” button in the top-right corner to create a new quick reply.
  4. Once you’re happy with your quick reply, tap the ‘Save’ button in the top-right corner (you can always come back and edit or delete your quick reply later).

When you go into your direct messages to access your replies, you can click on the icon below:

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

4. Drive Sales with Instagram “Shopping”’ Content & Features

Now that you’ve shaped your Instagram into a lean, mean sales machine, it’s time to produce, package and deliver content and features to drive sales on your Instagram.

Promote Your Products with Creative, Professional Photos

Share your products, events, and giveaways on your Instagram profile.

You want to ensure that you promote your products with creative, professional photos. Since most online shoppers can’t physically touch the product, they need to see your products in a good light (no pun intended).

Your customers need to see what they’re buying. The product image needs to be professional or placed in a lifestyle setting so that they can imagine a product in their day to day life. One of the reasons most products on Instagram sell so well is the high quality in product photography and display.

No matter how good your product is, without the right pictures, shoppers will still hesitate to click ‘Purchase’.

Everlane’s Instagram shows off their products and pieces with fun lifestyle and product shots.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

If you’re on a budget or need help taking better product images, Hootsuite’s got you covered with a step-by-step guide on How to Take Good Instagram Photos on Your Phone.

Sharing content in your Instagram story is an easy and effective way to expand your reach. With Instagram’s ‘swipe up” feature to drive customers to your website, you can capture a few sales in between.

Write a Killer Caption That Sells

A common mistake that most brands make on Instagram is trying to “hard” sell products to Instagram followers. Instagram was made for connecting first. Business became a part of it later. Try soft selling to appeal to Instagram’s Social Culture.

Think of your captions like mini-movie trailers or sales pitches; you don’t start off the bat by saying ‘buy now’, not unless you have a monster of a following of loyal buyers like Nike or Old Navy.

The length of your caption can vary, despite popular belief that it should always be short, that may not be the case. Take Herbivore, for example, when they posted about their discount for their 8th birthday. It’s a bit lengthy, but it’s engaging:

Instagram Example: Herbivore

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

You can also use hashtags in your captions. Hashtags help to make your post discoverable for people searching for your brand or the products that you offer.

You can incorporate hashtags to make your captions more actionable. Take Chinese Laundry, they use the hashtag #ChineseLaundry for brand awareness and #TapToShop to let users know they can tap the image for Instagram shoppable posts.

Instagram Example: Chinese Laundry

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Use Instagram Ambassadors to Share Your Brand

Using Instagram influencers has been proven to drive to drive sales. Around 49% of consumers depend on influencer recommendations, and 40% purchased something after seeing it on Instagram.

Now major brands like H&M have been known to use influencers for every fashion collection.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

According to Mediakix, influencer marketing is expected to grow to a $5 – $10 billion market by 2020. More and more influencers are popping up each day, as more brands begin to take up dedicated influencers for their own.

You don’t need an influencer who has millions of followers. You can use micro influencers who have between 5000-200,000 followers. More and more marketers are looking to micro-influencers to deliver affordable, professional and amazing content.

5 Best Tools To Get More Sales On Instagram
  1. LinkTree: Linktree allows you to turn your tiny Instagram website link into a sales funnel for your business. Take a look at what happens when you click on Wishpond’s Instagram Linktree URL:

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

  1. Like2Buy:
    Owned by Curalate, Like2Buy was the first company to offer brands the chance to turn their Instagram posts into shoppable images. Brands like Target and Sephora trust Like2Buy to help drive sales for their Instagram marketing.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

  1. Instagram Shoppable Post:
    Once your business has a product catalog via Facebook connected to your Instagram account, tagging products is as simple as tagging a person in a post. Instagram shoppable posts are marked with a “Tap to View Products” pop-up or small white circle with the shopping bag icon.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

  1. Instagram Checkout:
    March 2019, Instagram dropped the checkout feature vendors had been waiting for. Now, not only can you tap to view a product, but you can offer viewers the chance to use the “Checkout on Instagram” button on the product page, so shoppers can pay for their order without leaving Instagram.

Once the buyer’s first order is complete, the information will be stored securely for convenience the next time they shop.
How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

  1. Instagram Stories Shopping Stickers:
    Similar to the regular Instagram shoppable posts, you’re able to tag physical products from their inventory or e-commerce platform. When you click on an item in Instagram, you’re able to view the item name, price, and description.

You can use Instagram Stories stickers on both images and videos, and there are four different types of stickers. It is restricted to certain countries, just like a shoppable post.

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

5. Beat Instagram’s Algorithm & Measure Your Success

So your content game is strong, and your account has taken over the gram. To keep that success coming, you’ll need to watch out for Instagram’s ever-changing algorithm and measure your success so you’re on the right track.

How to Beat Instagram Algorithm

Every year, business owners over the world grumble about Instagram’s algorithm as they try to grow their following, but there are some good intentions behind it all.

At the end of the day, Instagram’s algorithm, like YouTube, rewards content with high engagement. The not-so-secret sauce to beat the algorithm is to stay consistent with your content strategy and online activity. Wolf Software shows it best:

How to Use Instagram to Drive Sales Like A Marketer

Just like a fish swimming upstream, the moment you stop moving, stop being active, you risk losing your pace.

Don’t fall into the trap of post-it-once-and-forget-it. Keep up with these Important Instagram Algorithm changes, and you’ll be able to use the algorithm to work for you.

How to Measure Your Instagram Success

You’ll need to go beyond how many followers you gain for the month. New followers aren’t always paying customers; they’re new leads you can turn into potential customers. That’s to say that having 10,000 followers isn’t the same as 10,000 orders. Maybe a small fraction of those customers purchase from you, and an even lower percentage become repeat customers. Which is why it’s important to measure your success, and take a close look at the impact your Instagram has on your revenue.

Look at your engagement, how many queries for prices and orders you get along with how many people complete purchases on your website after coming from Instagram. From there, you’ll begin to measure how successful your Instagram is when it comes to driving sales for you.

Summary

Here’s a quick recap on how to use Instagram to drive sales and grow your engagement:

  1. Optimize Your Business Instagram Account
  2. Create an Instagram Marketing Strategy
  3. Boost Engagement on Instagram & Strengthen Customer Relationships.
  4. Drive Sales with Instagram “Shopping”’ Content & Features
  5. Beat Instagram’s Algorithm & Measure Your Success

Whether you’re just starting out or you’ve been on Instagram for a while, you can use these tips to push you in the right direction.

Which tip was your favorite, or which are you trying now? Comment below and let me know. I’d love to hear!

22 Jul 17:10

5 ways to overcome the "Your product is too complicated" sales objection

by steli@close.io (Steli Efti)
sales-objection-complicated-1

If you're selling anything more complex than paper clips, your product can be intimidating. It could be software, or office equipment, or social media management. Any of those things can seem very complicated.

And that can make for a hard sell.

"It sounds good, but it's too complicated" is a common objection in SaaS sales, but it shows up in other industries, too. It's tough to deal with because you can't make your product simpler. (Well, that's mostly true; we'll get to a sort of exception below.)

But with the right approach, you can reframe this objection as an opportunity for growth. With that reframing and carefully attending to the real objections underlying this one, you can make the sale.

Want to take your objection management skills to the next level? Get our free objection management template today!

Before we get into the five ways to deal with this objection, let's talk about something that many sales reps don't realize:

It's not about your product

Let's get this out of the way right now: dealing with this objection isn't about your product. It's not about your company. It's not about you.

It's about how your prospect is feeling.

Buyers are overwhelmed, they're fearful of difficult change, and they're often cynical from past negative experiences. Would you buy in that state? No. And neither will they. So it's your job to get them out of that emotional condition.

They need to go from overwhelmed, fearful, and cynical to clear, confident, and comfortable. If you can get them excited about buying, you've already won the battle.

This is a big mind shift for a lot of people. But remember: selling isn't about your product. It's about your customer. Keep that in mind and you'll be set to deal with any objection. But it's especially important for this one.

Trust me. We worked super hard to make a sales CRM that's as simple as possible. We cut out all of the features that we didn't need. It's a lean, slim, sales productivity powerhouse. But people are still afraid of how complicated it is.

I've dealt with this objection more times than I can count. And you can absolutely overcome it.

Bad experiences in the past don't help

bad-product-experience-1

Let's go back to where I said that buyers can be cynical.

This happens when they've had a bad experience with a similar product in the past. Maybe they bought a similar type of software and had a disastrous implementation process. Or they never got past the introduction phase so they lost a ton of money on a product.

This makes people really nervous to buy something similar. But you can still overcome that nervousness to make a sale.

But again, lots of salespeople have trouble with this one. They get into trash talking their competitors, or emphasizing how easy their product is to use, or some other bullshit.

That's not what you need to do in this situation. Here's what you need to do:

Get agreement on the value of your product

Ask your prospect point-blank: "If it wasn't for the complexity, would you be excited about making this purchase right away?"

If they say yes, you're golden—you can move on to the next step.

But if they say no, you have more work to do. A "no" means there are other objections to the sale—and the prospect doesn't buy into your value proposition. You need to dig further into what they're nervous about.

You're never going to move the sales process along with a prospect who doesn't believe in your value proposition.

There are lots of sales objections, and I won't get into dealing with all of them here.

But there's a crucial tactic you need to use in this situation: getting your prospect to tell you what the value of your product would be to them. Actually, verbally tell you. Ask them "How would this product benefit your company? How much value would you get out of using it?"

If they seem to understand the true value of your product, great. You're right on track. Mention other ways that your product can add value to their company. Or reconfirm what they said with examples from other customers (case studies are invaluable here).

On the other hand, if they don't seem to understand your value proposition, you need to clear it up for them. Tell them how similar companies have gotten a lot of benefit from your product.

Once you've come to an understanding on the value proposition, you have five ways to proceed. Go with the one that makes the most sense for your company and your prospect:

1. Pitch them on a simple start

pitch-product-simple-start

Jumping into a complex software system—or any of today's complicated products, really—is intimidating. There's a lot to learn and a lot that can go wrong. That makes people nervous because they know they're going to commit a huge amount of their time to something that might not work.

But prospects are often comforted knowing that they don't need to go all-out from the start.

Maybe they can implement a single part of your software. Or start using your product in a single office building instead of throughout their entire company. If you have a complex product, give your customers a way to ease into it

Here's a bonus tip: remind your prospect that successful approach change in a smart way. They start small, make adjustments, and grow. They don't jump in, fail, get discouraged, and quit. That's a recipe for getting stuck in the past and passed up by competitors who are more comfortable with modern tech.

If your company doesn't yet have a good way to start simple, try to come up with one. It's often cheaper than some of the other ways to deal with this objection, which is a definite bonus when you're selling it.

2. Show them how to get help

There are tons of talented contractors and consultants out there. I'm certain that there's one who will help people implement your software, set it up, and get it running at full speed.

This takes a huge burden off your prospect's shoulders. Now they don't have to go through a potentially weeks-long process that, frankly, often sucks. They can hire someone else to take care of the hard part.

So your prospect gets all the value of your product without most of the hard work. It's a win-win. Whatever cost they pay to bring in a consultant to help with this will be paid back in full by the gains they get from your product.

I also like to offer help in finding the right person to help with this. Over time, you get to know the people who work with your product, and you're bound to meet consultants who can help your prospects.

If you're going to do this, you'll need to be ready for the price objection. You might get asked, "You're trying to sell me an expensive, complicated product, and you want me to spend more money to hire someone to help me use it?"

You need to be really on your game with your value proposition here. Show them with previous examples that paying even thousands of dollars for a consultant will pay off because of how awesome your product is. "It'll seem really expensive at first," you can say, "but you'll be blown away by how much more effective you are once you're up and running."

3. Do the work for them

sales-do-work-for-prospects

"I know this seems super complicated. But for clients like you, we take care of the hard part. We work through implementation, set up our API, do any necessary customization coding, train your employees, give you the full handbook on how to use the software, and put you in touch with our customer success team once a month to make sure everything's going well."

How could you say no to that? Lots of prospects can't. Which is a great reason to provide all the support your customer needs. Overwhelm and cynicism go out the window.

Of course, you have to be able to actually provide all of this support. This is not the place to overpromise on what you can deliver.

But if you can help your customers get up to full speed fast, you'll probably find that you make a lot more sales.

Keep in mind that you don't need to provide 100% full-service setup help. You might be able to just help with the most difficult part. Maybe it's integrating your API, or running employees through training. Find what your prospects are most nervous about and find a way to help them through it.

(And yes, you can charge an upfront fee for this. Here's how to do it.)

4. Make them realize the complexity is worth it

This is often what sales reps think they're doing. But you need to approach it more carefully than you expect. Don't just tell the prospect that they're wrong—you have to make them think it was their idea that the complexity would be worth it.

For example, you can point out that their biggest competitors all use this product and that they've seen great results. Or point to industry trends that show increasing adoption of your type of technology.

If you have stories about other companies that bit the bullet and just dealt with the complexity until they became comfortable with your product, this is a great place to share them.

Because sometimes this issue just comes down to a tough truth: you're going to have to deal with it.

Just like the situation above where you recommend hiring a consultant, show your client that once they're set up, they'll see amazing benefits. That it'll be worth the rough start and growing pains.

5. Show them it's not as complex as they think

I started this post with the idea that modern products are complex. And that's true. But sometimes prospects think that your product is more complex than it is. For example, anyone who's tried to set up a Salesforce instance knows that CRMs can be extremely complex and hard to use.

When we tell them about Close, we sometimes have to convince them that it's not as hard as they think it is. We built Close to be simple, but some people have a hard time believing that a CRM can be easy to use.

We could explain to them how easy it is to set up our CRM. But sometimes it takes more than that. Is a prospect convinced that your product is complicated? The best thing you can do is demonstrate its simplicity.

sales-crm-close-inbox-1

That's why we sometimes walk people through the entire setup process for our CRM in a single call. 20 minutes into the call, they’re able to call all their priority leads, and that changes their minds to a degree that no amount of persuasive talk could achieve.

Once they see that you're offering something simpler than they're used to, you've got 'em.

Reframe the objection as an opportunity for growth

No matter how you decide to tackle this objection, there's one crucial aspect: turning what seems like a problem into an opportunity for growth. Your product can help prospects grow their revenue and scale their businesses. It might be hard at first. But those results are worth the time or money it takes to get past the complexity (however they decide to deal with it).

Convincing people of this isn't always easy. That's why you need to be a picture of clarity and confidence. You need to be excited about this opportunity. You're helping your prospect meet their ultimate business goals, and that's awesome. When your prospect can tell that you're excited, they can't help but feel more positive.

Remember: for companies to grow, they need to be able to implement software and take on projects that would have seemed impossibly complex in the past. Do what you can to help them reach that stage, and you'll have a long-term customer with great lifetime value.

Want to learn how to turn any objection into another step towards closing the sale? Download our free objection management template today!

GET YOUR FREE OBJECTION MANAGEMENT TEMPLATE

20 Jul 16:49

Why Nobody Answers the Phone Anymore – Not Even My Mom

by A.C. Evans

Have you ever wondered why it’s so hard to get people to pick up the phone? The CEO and co-founder of Drips.com, an SMS industry expert and the pioneers of conversational texting, joins us for a guest blog on why over 80% of consumers won’t be picking up phone calls in 2019.

The Anatomy of Attempting a Phone Call

During my commute home, I’ll often call my closest friends, family, and co-workers to just check in unannounced. This is about the only time I make unsolicited phone calls because this is usually the result:

Call my best man Tim: Two rings, sent to voicemail.

Call my co-founder and CTO: call answered.
The call transcript:
Anthony: “Is this urgent?”
Me: “No, I was just…”
Anthony: “Ok, I really can’t talk, in the middle of something.”

Me: 🙁

Call my wife: no answer.

Call my sister: Text back: “I’m still at work.”

Mom…my mom will always answer my calls: Goes to voicemail, get a semi-automated text: “I’m busy, what’s up?”

“I’m busy, what’s up?” is the response I get from calling my own mother. She obviously has too much going on to take a quick phone call, but she’s happy to engage in a potentially drawn-out text thread.

Getting Phone Calls Was Once Rad, Now Bad

So what has changed since the time where we actually liked getting phone calls? Let’s rewind to 25 years ago when I was 12 years old to find out. Back then the home phone rang, my sister and I would literally fight our way through the house to the kitchen to earn the privilege of answering the phone so we could see who was calling firsthand.

Today, even though everyone is positively glued to their smartphones, most people would sooner cut off their own arm than to tap the green answer call button. Even if it’s from their OWN SON, apparently. I’d like to think that it’s not just that my friends and family don’t like me enough to talk to me on the phone. So what gives?

Sure, we all have to deal with the deluge of scammy robocalls, which makes the sound of your phone buzzing about 900% more annoying than it used to be. Hopefully, new FCC rules will help with that, but this still does not explain why my mom thinks it’s cool to ignore my calls. Or why I also disregard phone calls from my friends, family, and coworkers.

The simple answer is that we’re too busy with other stuff and we have a ton of non-voice phone call ways of communicating with each other now. In the blissfully internet-free early ’90s, my sister and I were bored to death. The only practical way to communicate was to go knock on your friend’s door or call them on the phone. To further illustrate how utterly bored we were, we had one of those TVs with the bunny ears (plus tinfoil for extra signal) and about 12 fuzzy channels. The only value it brought us was TGIF (thank you Urkel!).

It would be years before Blockbuster Video had gone nationwide and a decade before on-demand video would be available for the most affluent of households. It really wasn’t that long ago that the only thing you could get ‘on demand’ was PIZZA! Domino’s was the tip of the spear in a trend that would change the face of commerce and communication worldwide.

The Smartphone Ruined the Joy of Phone Calls

Today, we have these magical devices called smartphones in our pockets. Whether they be iPhones or Androids (or Blackberries if you’re my COO), these phones and their addictive apps and games assure that we may never be bored again. I can download a book on my phone, listen to podcasts, pause live television, record a ton of shows remotely that I’ll never get to on my DVR. If I need a ride I don’t have to sit around and wait for a friend to pick me up. Just click and there’s an Uber. I don’t even have to go to the store anymore because Amazon can get just about anything to my door in a day. (Ok, fact checkers, for Akron Ohio the best case is 2-day prime, but you get the point.) Just like optimizing a landing page and removing friction for higher conversion, they’ve removed the friction and inconvenience of having to leave the house. Hell, if I want a date tonight (yes, even in Akron), I can simply swipe right.

So with all of this opportunity to entertain herself, my mom ignores my call and texts me back to tell me she’s busy.

Texting is the On-Demand Phone Call

The psychology here on the passivity of communication is interesting, but what it comes down to is that texting is ‘on-demand’. Each party, my mother and myself, or business and consumer, can do it when it’s convenient for them. There’s much less pressure or expectation to immediately reply. It’s not that people don’t want to talk, they just want to do it on their own terms and timelines.

We have, in many cases, replaced a five-minute phone call, with a five-day conversational texting thread. All, conceptually, for the sake of convenience. Do you know what’s not convenient? Taking an unscheduled, unwanted call, when you have something more important or interesting to be doing.

A comedian recently said that calling him without sending a text first is like walking in his living room without knocking on the front door. While that is funny, for businesses that need to contact their consumers, it’s not a joke. Even if we’re talking about calling someone who is already your customer with a legitimate business purpose (helping them fix their account, etc.) if you do it out of the blue, they are going to feel like you are invading their privacy. Now, if you’re calling to upsell a customer or ringing up prospects, hell, you might as well kick down their front door at dinner time and spit in their mac and cheese.

Getting people warmed up with conversational text messages is that knock on the door. It’s you saying “hey, I’m your neighbor and I’m here to help. Let me know when it’s a good time to talk!” Then your customer can hit you back when they have some spare time and either finish the transaction over a text thread or schedule a time that works well for them. This makes the customer way happier to talk to you and far more likely to convert.

Check out this post to see how to prevent barging into your customer’s lives and connect with them via text message to increase your sales. You may even be able to use some of these tactics on your mom.

20 Jul 16:47

Embracing CRM As Your Small Business Technology Hub

by John Oechsle

All-in-One CRM

The conversation around CRM (customer relationship management) is always shifting. Over the past several years, we’ve seen cycles of increased focus on enterprise CRM technology and strategy and periods where the conversation has largely centered on the ways in which small and midsized businesses (SMBs) can utilize these tools to compete with larger corporations. At times we’ve seen a lot of buzz around CRM technology in specific industries (real estate, insurance and financial services comes to mind) and yet there’s also been a push toward customization and adaptability, particularly in the SMB space, for the CRM to flex to fit the needs of the specific business—regardless of their vertical or geographic location.

This is all part of the ebb and flow of the technology as providers race to meet the evolving needs of the day’s business landscape. However, there has been one sizable shift which has developed slowly but is really picking up steam in 2019—and that is the move toward all-in-one CRM solutions.

When was the last time you read an article, saw a news item or held a conversation or planning meeting about your business’s CRM needs that focused solely (or even primarily) on contact management? More than likely, not any time in recent memory. Instead, any discussion of CRM today will almost invariably include a focus on additional connected tools and services that businesses are increasingly expecting to see included as part of the broader CRM solution.

And there’s good reason for all the chatter about all-in-one CRMs. For starters, they provide more features that help improve customer interactions that, in turn, can lead to increased transactions if utilized correctly. They can help improve communication—both between the business and its customers and between departments like sales, customer service, tech support, R&D and the organizations management. Last but not least, bundling additional features into an all-in-one CRM can help drive the price down significantly.

CRM providers have caught on and are beginning to position themselves as all-in-one solutions ready to handle all your business’s needs, both now and as you grow in the future. However, upon closer inspection this isn’t always the case. Many CRM providers will add a tool here, a feature there and try to pass their technology off as all-inclusive. But if you’re considering adopting an all-in-one CRM solution, there are a variety of features you’ll want to make sure the product you’re looking at has covered to make sure your business will be able to benefit from all the opportunities that come with a truly comprehensive platform.

First, you’ll want to make sure any all-in-one CRM you evaluate is built on solid, easy to use contact management technology. While many CRMs are looking to stretch into supporting sales, marketing and other business functions, the reverse can be true as well. If the tool you’re looking at doesn’t appear to have a well-built contact management dashboard that easily captures and displays all of your essential customer info, understand that this may be a marketing or sales-based tool that is adding in a layer of contact management functionality rather than using this core CRM technology as its basis.

Next, take a look at the automation technology included in the software. A recent Forrester report revealed that marketers have already spent more than $11 billion on automation solutions—and are projected to more than double that spending by 2023. With both current and projected adoption rates this high, marketing and sales automation technology is becoming increasingly vital in any all-in-on CRM solution. And it’s no surprise, the right automation tool can help maximize the efficiency and impact of email marketing campaigns and provide insight into website, marketing and sales material engagement. An effective marketing automation tool natively integrated into your CRM can help accelerate sales and provide the boost you need to scale your business quickly.

Additionally, if you’re looking for a robust, all-inclusive CRM solution, be sure to evaluate the platform’s predictive analytics technology. Understanding the most effective course of action throughout each touchpoint with a current or prospective customer is an essential component of effective CRM technology in today’s business environment. As your customer moves through the sales funnel, your CRM should be able to tell you—based on both your interactions with that specific customer and similar interactions with others—the best way to communicate with them to ultimately produce a sale.

Finally, get a feel for the API of a prospective CRM and whether or not the platform is designed to seamlessly accommodate valuable third party applications. No single CRM can have everything natively built into their solution. Therefore, it’s essential that any CRM purporting to be an all-in-one solution be able to deliver high value platform integrations with third party solutions to help deliver a truly comprehensive tool that provides the highest level of utility for the end user.

All-in-one is indeed the future of CRM and this technology will increasingly be relied on to serve as the hub of a business’s sales, marketing and customer experience efforts. However, not all CRMs are equal and they aren’t all ready for that future today. Take some time to consider how your existing CRM, or the solution you’re evaluating, measures up against these touch points for true all-in-one capabilities and you should have no trouble finding the right technology for your business.

20 Jul 16:46

How NASA Sold the Science and Glamour of Space Travel

NASA used marketing strategies to gain support for its space missions, leading up to the moment Apollo 11 astronauts landed on the moon on July 20, 1969 (50 years ago today). But soon after, the American people's doubts returned. I’m featured in this really great (high production value) mini-documentary by Retro Report.

I hope you will take 6 minutes to check it out. I believe the marketing aspects of the Apollo missions were as important as the spacecraft and what better day to learn about this than the 50th.

20 Jul 16:42

Primed for Disruption: 12 Wacky Amazon Patents Fueling the Future of Fulfillment

by Linda Bustos

With 2018’s Prime Day moving over 100 million products (expected to grow this year) — fast and reliable fulfillment is top-of-mind for the world’s largest retailer. And it’s no surprise Amazon’s so patent-happy when it comes to improving logistics.

We’ve rounded up 12 of the wackiest ideas Amazon’s patented (so far) that could forever transform fulfillment as we know it. While there’s no guarantee they will see full fruition, these filings give us a glimpse into the Jestons-like world of future-fulfillment.

Optimizing Delivery

Anticipatory shipping

Amazon’s Anticipatory Shipping patent (filed in 2011) is the foundation for a wide range of disruptive fulfillment innovations.

Anticipatory shipping uses predictive analytics to move inventory to geographies and locations closest to where it’s most likely to be purchased. Predictive algorithms leverage regional trends in search, browse and purchasing as well as items sitting in carts and wishlists to determine when and where orders will likely be placed. Items or groups of items can be pre-packaged and shipped to stationary or mobile warehouses in these regions.

Getting pre-packed orders as close to the customer as possible reduces transport costs and supports same-day and even same-hour delivery (by human, robot or drone).

Airborne fulfillment centers (AFC)

Anticipatory shipping aims to reduce last-mile delivery and support same day or even same hour fulfillment. One proposed way of storing and deploying packages is the airborne fulfillment center (AFC) — a FedZeppelin, if you will.

amazon airborne fulfillment center patent

At 45,000 feet, helium-powered blimps hold goods and drones that can be stationed near urban centers or stadiums, beaches, fair grounds and anywhere a surge of demand is expected at a given time. For example, temperature-controlled drones can carry food and beverages to offices, sporting events, festivals or wherever people get the munchies. AFCs may also be used to display advertising.

To replenish inventory, the patent outlines “shuttles” that could carry drones and people from the ground to the AFC. And to optimize delivery, “smart drones” share data about weather, wind and delivery routes between each other in real-time.

Parachute delivery

Dropping parcels from the sky carries risks of damage, especially for products like electronics and…nacho chips. Naturally, Amazon has patented parcel parachutes that can slow parcels’ descent and minimize breakage. A package’s trajectory may be controlled by pneumatic actuators, electromagnets and spring coils controlled by its drone, which hovers nearby should the parcel veers off course due to wind or other factors.

amazon parachute delivery patent

One proposed method for the Aerial Package Delivery System bakes parachutes into shipping labels, complete with cords, sensors and even shock absorbers to ensure soft and precise landings. Labels will be equipped with appropriate chuting based on package weight and size.

Parachuting parcels saves drone battery life and allows them to stay at high-hover, protecting them from theft and damage.

Mobile containers

Amazon warehouses may soon ride the rails. Intermodal vehicles (shipping containers) can be transferred from ships to trains to trucks. Wireless networks transmit orders to these micro-fulfillment centers, signalling robotic arms to load goods onto delivery drones that fly out the top of the containers.

intermodal vehicles patent amazon

Pop-up warehouses

Like pop-up shops, transient warehouses stay on-the-move and can be placed in locations more convenient for last-mile delivery trucks than large centers in the outskirts of town — for example, parking lots or under the bridge downtown. Combined with anticipatory shipping data, Amazon could uber-optimize transit times within specific locations when order density is expected to spike — especially helpful for perishable items and those that require temperature control.

transient warehouse amazon patent

The beehive / drone airport

Most of today’s large fulfillment centers lie on the outskirts of major metropolitan areas. Amazon would like to see warehouses built up, not out, as multi-level “beehive” structures within the city.

amazon beehive warehouse patent

The hives may hold humans and robots, and will certainly house drones as worker bees — the unmanned aircraft could fulfill hundreds of thousands of same-day deliveries.

El Chapo tunnels

Should drone airports fail to fly, Amazon has a back up plan. Through a matrix of underground tunnels, conveyor belts and pneumatic tubes could shuttle packages directly to warehouses, airports, railways, locker storage sites and even consumers’ homes.

subterranean delivery network amazon patent

Robot roommates

To solve the current problem of packages left on doorsteps (and the future problem of no one home to catch a drone-drop), Amazon’s AGV (autonomous ground vehicle) patent proposes retrieval robots stationed within homes and other buildings. Equipped with sensors and GPS, these bots can fetch packages from nearby trucks, drones, lockers and more.

The patent suggests multiple robots could be summoned within a neighbourhood to a single delivery truck to maximize efficiency. The bots would be notified in advance of the truck’s arrival.

I suspect Amazon sees retrieval robots as one way to eliminate courier and postal service costs entirely. Combined with smaller, self-driving mobile fulfillment stations and drones, Amazon can own its fulfillment journey end-to-end.

Optimizing pick-and-pack

Underwater storage

Picking and packing multiple items in a large warehouse requires a lot of walking, consuming precious time. Standard warehouse shelving systems also use space very inefficiently.

Amazon’s Aquatic Storage Facilities patent aims to solve both these problems. Liquid-filled environments (water or other viscous substance) allow for packages to be stored and retrieved in more efficient and compact way. Depth control devices determine how buoyant packages are, allowing them to be stacked in layers.

amazon aquatic storage tank

Tanks feature inlets and outlet chutes for packages, sonars, jets, conveyors and “flexible bladders” to buoy parcels to the surface. When a package is ready to surface, sonars emit an “acoustic tone” that triggers an inflatable mechanism within bladders containing their own air tanks and computer processors to communicate with sonar.

aquatic storage facility patent amazon

Ultrasonic wristbands

Amazon hopes to pair ultrasonic devices near inventory bins and wearable wristbands to help warehouse workers store and retrieve items more accurately. Incoming inventory is typically placed in bins before shelving, which can be difficult to keep track of in large warehouses. Locating bins takes up a significant amount of time — especially when they look the same and may change contents day-to-day.

The Wearable Haptic Feedback System equips workers with wristbands that track their movements around the warehouse and monitor hand movements, including timestamps for given actions. Ultrasonic pulses guide workers to inventory bins and provide instant “buzzer” feedback if they make errors placing or pulling product.

haptic feedback system patent amazon

Some view the haptic track-and-shock system as draconian. Amazon’s defense is wearables replace handheld scanners routinely used to check inventory and fulfill orders, and relieve workers’ eyes from computer screens. “Like most companies, we have performance expectations for every Amazon employee and we measure actual performance against those expectations, and they are not designed to track employees or limit their abilities to take breaks.”

AR spy goggles

Amazon has also patented augmented reality goggles for use in training and to provide turn-by-turn directions and more for both human and robot workers. Despite their cool-factor, AR goggles have drawn even more criticism than haptic wristbands. With the potential to track walking speed, dwell time and eye gaze at all times, folks wonder whether the glasses are truly intended for optimization or surveillance.

ar goggles amazon patent

Rock ‘em toss ‘em robots

Robotic Tossing of Items in an Inventory System equips sci-fi robots equipped with “sensor packages” can detect product attributes like weight, size, shape, material, RFID serial numbers and more. Based on these attributes, the robot can determine the best way to toss the item safely and accurately.

amazon robotic fulfillment patent

Jury’s out on how realistic these hair-brained innovations are, and how likely Amazon is to bring them to life. If anything, they’re a hedge they can leverage should they hold any value or competitive advantage.

How will future-fulfillment impact you?

As a consumer

As an Amazon shopper or Prime member, expect your orders to ship even more quickly and efficiently thanks to optimized warehousing and delivery. As a citizen, you may find working around drones and retrieval robots is a nuisance.

As a business

With Amazon aggressively expanding its B2B marketplace, B2B buyers and procurement departments can take advantage of faster and potentially more reliable delivery. These innovations may attract even more suppliers to the marketplace, looking to take advantage of these perks.

As a merchant

Innovative warehousing and fulfillment infrastructure makes FBA (Fulfillment by Amazon) and even more attractive option for retailers. As customers increasingly demand same-day shipping, using other 3PL solutions may quickly become a competitive disadvantage. We may see Amazon licensing its patented tech, operations and logistics infrastructure to third parties such as FedEx and UPS, or we may see these slow-to-adapt companies die off.

While many of these patents sound like pure science fiction, we can’t wait to see how future-fulfillment will impact digital commerce.

20 Jul 16:42

6 Google Ads Targeting Hacks to Lower CPCs and Boost Sales

by Nicole Blanckenberg

Do you want to keep your Google CPCs low while still reaping big rewards – heaps of converting traffic? Of course you do!

That’s the ultimate eCommerce traffic goal, isn’t it? Finding those unicorn Google campaigns that bring highly-targeted traffic packed with high-intent buyers for the least amount of spending possible.

We may all be aiming towards these unicorns campaigns, but without a good Google Ads targeting strategy, getting there can be easier said than done. And how do you tweak your strategy to lower CPCs? We’ve got just the Google Ads targeting tips and hacks for you, whether you’re totally new to Google Ads or a seasoned marketing expert who needs ideas to improve your stats.

Google Ad Targeting Hack 1: Go Deep With Your Remarketing Audiences (Basic)

We know that remarketing campaigns can be fantastic for your bottom line. The secret to Google remarketing campaign success, though, is being as detailed as possible with your remarketing lists. Let’s say you’re running a campaign that targets previous traffic that visited your home page. The results may be okay, but to really win, you want to narrow down that targeting further.

Instead, you could segment your targeting to those visitors who visited your home page and a specific product page or category. This way, you can tailor your messaging to traffic that has shown interest multiple times. The more segmented and specific you are, the lower your CPCs and the higher your chances of conversions will be.

Newbie Tip: If you are brand new to Google Ads, head over to our step-by-step Google Ads Remarketing guide.

So, how do you drill down targeting for your Google remarketing campaigns? The first place you want to look is Google Analytics, for your traffic flows/behavior.

how to see traffic flow on store

With these flows, you can get an inside look into the routes your traffic is taking once they get to your site. This data is very valuable as it allows you to create more defined remarketing segments and refine your messaging – making your campaign more personalized. In a nutshell, the smaller (more segmented) your audience is, the higher your chances of conversion at a lower cost.

Google Ad Targeting Hack 2: Mix Remarketing and In-Marketing Segments (Intermediate)

Once you have mastered the basic Google targeting hack above, it’s time to roll up your sleeves and take your retargeting ads to the next level. An in-market audience is described by Google as,

“A way to connect with consumers who are actively researching or comparing products and services across Google Display Network publisher and partner sites and YouTube.”

How Google determines their in-market audiences is by assessing clicks to related ads and conversions from those clicks, which sites they visit and how often, and the content of the pages or sites they visit.

Using in-market audiences with remarketing isn’t as complicated as you may think; you can select a list of in-market audience categories for any Search ad campaign:

Targeting > Interests and Remarketing > In-market Audiences.

Why is this so handy? By layering in-market audiences with your highly segmented remarketing campaigns, you are essentially narrowing them down even further to target only those people in your remarketing lists who are very actively interested in what you are selling. All while retaining relevancy – which keeps your CPCs down – and improving conversions.

Google Ad Targeting Hack 3: Building Your Own Custom Affinity Audience

Have you experimented with Google’s custom affinity audiences yet? Using custom affinity audiences, similar to intent, enables you to create an audience that targets potential shoppers by the types of products they are interested in and the types of media they are consuming.

Newbie Tip: You can create this audience by going to your audience lists, clicking ‘Custom’ and navigating to ‘Interests & Remarketing.’ From there, you can select ‘Custom Affinity Audiences’ and then ‘Create new.’

This will give you a lot more targeting control over your Google Display Ads and is excellent for building your online brand.

Google Ad Targeting Hack 4: Upgrade Your RLSAs (Expert)

The next Google Ads targeting tip we recommend for keeping CPCs low and chances of conversions high, involves tailoring your bids and targeting to traffic behavior. Think of it this way: it’s segmenting down your audiences further, beyond that we’ve already shown you above. Your goal is to have more campaigns to smaller segmented audiences, than fewer campaigns to bigger audiences. RLSAs play a big role in achieving this. Here are two examples:

Example 1:

Let’s say you are now running Google remarketing campaigns based on specific traffic flow (hack 1) and their intent (hack 2). You could then create a new remarketing list that includes conversions from that specific campaign. But if you really want to segment your target, you may then split those conversions based on what they bought or how much they spent, i.e. average order value.

Example 2:

Another way you could get creative with your RLSAs is to set up a campaign that bids on a competitor’s term that is served to a remarketing audience. This means you are targeting previous traffic that is currently searching for products very similar to yours only. You can take that further by creating an RLSA list that only includes conversions, thus ensuring you have an increased likelihood of conversions while making sure you are spending on profitable customers.

Getting creative with your RLSAs is what separates the newbies from the experts, and can have a considerable positive effect on your bottom line. However, like with any Google element, it’s going to take tweaking and testing. Head over to our 11 RLSA Strategies guide for more inspiration.

Google Ad Targeting Hack 5: Mix RLSAs With Social Audiences (Expert)

As any successful eCommerce store owner will tell you, if you want awesome eCommerce traffic, you need a cross-channel strategy. It is not enough to have Google or Facebook campaigns, and it’s still not enough to have campaigns on both platforms without an integration strategy. You need a cohesive cross-channel marketing strategy. This is where combining RLSAs and Facebook comes in. The benefits are huge:

  • Being able to target similar shoppers on Facebook from successful Google campaigns
  • Integrating ad elements, like headlines, on various channels
  • Boosting Google conversions with Facebook and vice versa

google ctr increase with facebook

  • Taking your Google campaign to new heights with remarketing

Let’s look at the last benefit in more detail and see why it makes our top Google Ads targeting hacks list.

Let’s assume you are running a successful Facebook campaign that’s using lookalike audiences to attract new potential shoppers. By creating an RLSA that targets traffic generated from that campaign with specific keyword strategies, you then have a bigger chance of converting those shoppers. Why? Because you are able to target potential shoppers who are actively looking for what you are selling and already familiar with your brand.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on creating your first cross-channel campaign:

Step 1: Create a Facebook awareness campaign aimed at attracting new potential shoppers. Make sure you remember to add exclusions so that you prevent previous site visitors or customers from being included.

Step 2: Use UTM tags so that the clicks from this campaign audience will then be added to your analytics.

Step 3: Create an RLSA list based on the audience list from the Facebook campaign results in your analytics, and create a new Google remarketing campaign from this list. You want to make sure that it includes your top funnel keywords at a campaign level.

Step 4: Use ad groups to experiment with bids and create more specific ads based on traffic generated by this Google remarketing campaign.

For a full cross-channel strategy that combines the power of Facebook with Google, check out our full Cross-Channel Strategy Guide.

Google Ad Targeting Hack 6: Up Your Long-Tail Keyword Game (Basic)

When it comes to basic and expert targeting tips for Google ads, no list would be complete without mentioning keywords. Why? Because, as we know, keywords are an essential part of your Google targeting strategy. Using only general keywords with high competition doesn’t just mean you could be stuck with very costly clicks; it may also mean less-targeted traffic, which in turn means less conversion potential. This is where your long-tail keywords come in.

[Image Source]

Let’s say you have an online apparel brand that sells leggings. Bidding on the keyword ‘leggings,’ for example, could be very costly and bring lots of traffic that may be looking for a type of legging you are not selling. AKA untargeted traffic. Instead, you could use ‘where to buy the best yoga pants,’ for example. Yes, long-tail keywords have lower search volumes, but they also have less competition, are cheaper and allow you to target shoppers searching for very specific things, therefore creating a more personalized ad.

keyword research for leggings store

By expanding this term to be more specific, you will face less competition (CPCs) and more chances of conversions.

This strategy isn’t exclusive for Google Ads; it should also be part of your eCommerce SEO strategy. Here’s a guide from keyword research experts Ahrefs.

And that’s it; six Google Ads targeting tips and hacks to boost conversions. Like with any Google Ads tips, we always highly recommended that you test and tweak new targeting for your specific niche, audience and brand to find the winning formula for you. Don’t be afraid to get creative!

Have Google targeting questions? Post them in the comments below; our Google Ads experts are standing by!

20 Jul 16:37

The Biggest Sale You Will Ever Make

by Mark Hunter

The biggest sale you will ever make is very similar to the biggest sale I ever made. The biggest sale you will ever make is the one you make to yourself when you start believing 100% that you can make a difference because of what you sell and the outcomes you create.

Find out more about your biggest sale in this video:

When you make the firm commitment and truly jump the shark, cross the threshold and shift your mindset to helping others, you will begin selling to yourself. If you’re able to sell to yourself, the door will open for you to begin confidently selling to others.

No one goes into sales thinking they will fail, yet this is what I see happen with far too many people. When I talk with these people, their excuses for failing are typically, “the price was too high,” or they tell me, “my leads were bad,” or “nobody wanted what I was selling.” I could go on and on about the excuses I’ve heard.  Rarely, do I hear a salesperson call themselves out and their lack of action as the reason for their failures. You control far more than you realize, and more importantly, you control your mind which is the most important part of you. What you think and how you think impacts both you and your customers.

Success is never guaranteed, however, it certainly is more probable with people who believe in themselves and how they can help others. The biggest sale you will ever make is to the customer you see every single day. You actually live with that customer, and you know them better than anyone. This customer is you, so it’s your job and only your job to close the sale.

Close the biggest sale you’ll ever make, and you’ll begin opening up more relationships than you ever dreamed possible. This gives new meaning to a phrase I use, “we don’t close customers, we open relationships.” When we open relationships, we will naturally create the next sale, the next sale, and the next sale.

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

20 Jul 16:37

Why The Time To Argue For A Meeting Is Now

by Anthony Iannarino

You’ve had a meeting or two with your dream client. They’re engaged, and you have developed an excellent understanding of their needs. At the end of your last meeting, they asked you to send them pricing and a proposal and told you they’d have a meeting with you in two weeks after they’ve had a chance to review what you send them.

The chirping you hear are the crickets that the Gods of Sales have sent as a plague against your pipeline, a punishment for your ceding control of the process and failing your dream client (you have left them alone to figure things out for themselves). You are now chasing them, a desperate stalker begging for a meeting.

If you are going to argue for a meeting, you want to do it while you are in a meeting. Waiting and chasing does nothing to improve your odds.

Who Leads This Dance?

In a choice between you leading your client through the process of making a decision to change or allowing them to lead, the responsibility to lead belongs to you. You can, no doubt, collaborate and bring your client into that process with you, improving their buy-in and both of your results. Or you can allow them to lead, even though they lack your knowledge and experience.

Your dream client buys what you sell infrequently and for a single company. You frequently sell your solution and help many different people and lots of different companies, giving you a distinct advantage in situational knowledge. You know what works when it works and when it doesn’t, and why you might do one thing instead of something else.

If someone should be leading, it should be you. It’s your responsibility, even if your dream client is trying to drive. There is a reason we call what we do “selling.” You have to sell a meeting, then you sell the process (a series of other meetings and commitments), and then you sell your solution.

The Time to Sell a Meeting Is Before You Lose Control

The time to sell the meeting is before you lose control of the process. The time to sell the process is when you are sitting across from your contacts. If you are going to trade value (an idea you will find in The Lost Art of Closing: Winning the 10 Commitments That Drive Sales), your rationale for the meeting and what your dream client gains by saying yes, is before your contact tries to take control of the process. You recommend the next steps and share how it benefits your client. No more pushy sales tactics. The Lost Art of Closing shows you how to proactively lead your customer and close your sales. The Lost Art of Closing

If you miss the window and your contact tries to take control of the process (something they may not even be aware they are doing), you have to try to take it back by arguing your case for a meeting (without being argumentative, but by being a combative diplomat).

You gain nothing by ceding control. You leave your dream client in a worse position, knowing they cannot answer their questions or resolve their concerns. They are also unlikely to be able to answer questions from their peers, and you should not expect them to sell the deal for you. You do, however, have a lot to lose.

Losing Without a Fight

There is a difference between being likable and needing to be liked. It is helpful to be likable, the kind of person people with whom people want to do business. Being smart and likable is an excellent combination. What is not helpful is needing to be liked, which means “conflict-averse,” unwilling to have difficult conversations when that is what is required. Being smart isn’t enough to make up for an unwillingness to engage in the conversation about what comes next.

Look, you are going to leave some meetings without another meeting securely locked on your client’s calendar. However, there is no reason to give up without making a strong case for doing what you know to be right and preventing your dream client from skipping steps and avoiding the conversations they need to have to get what they want in the future. You gain nothing by giving up and giving in without giving your best effort in securing the next meeting.

A Greater Challenge Later

It’s no more comfortable having the conversation about what your dream client needs to do later, after time has gone by and you have spent months chasing them across time and space, both of you older and neither of you any wiser. Arguing your case with your dream client’s voice mail isn’t wildly effective, nor is making your case over email, where your note will quickly slip off the screen and forgotten.

There is no scenario where waiting to have this conversation makes it easier for you to gain the commitment you need. It may, however, make it more difficult after your contacts have had conversations without you present to help them.

If you have a choice between doing what is right and doing what is easy, do what is right. Doing what seems easy makes things more difficult in the long run.

Trade enough value that you deserve a yes, and then ask. If you don’t get a yes, restate the value and ask again.

Essential Reading!

Get my 2nd book: The Lost Art of Closing

"In The Lost Art of Closing, Anthony proves that the final commitment can actually be one of the easiest parts of the sales process—if you’ve set it up properly with other commitments that have to happen long before the close. The key is to lead customers through a series of necessary steps designed to prevent a purchase stall."

Buy Now

The post Why The Time To Argue For A Meeting Is Now appeared first on The Sales Blog.

20 Jul 16:36

How Satya Nadella's leadership style catapulted Microsoft to a trillion-dollar valuation — and what you can learn from it

by Sherin Shibu

Satya Nadella

  • Microsoft is valued at over $1 trillion, making it one of the most valuable companies in the world.
  • The key to this has been an emphasis on cloud computing, which took center stage this weekend, and a psychological attitude called a growth mindset.
  • Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella has operated as a transformational leader and based his management philosophy around a growth mindset.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

When Satya Nadella took over as CEO in 2014, Microsoft was known for its internally competitive culture and plateauing shares. On Monday, Microsoft opened at a record high, propelling the giant to a whopping $1.097 trillion market cap

Over those five years, Nadella has made a series of sound business decisions after assuming the CEO position: He used his experience running Microsoft's cloud and enterprise group to push the intelligent-cloud effort that's driving Microsoft's overperformance in quarterly earnings. He was willing to work with competitors like Oracle and Sony and supported Linux on the Azure platform. He even walked on stage at Dreamforce in 2015 with an iPhone to demonstrate Outlook.

Cut to Saturday's announcement that Microsoft had secured a $10 billion cloud-computing contract with the Pentagon. Even as late as Friday evening, Bloomberg considered Amazon the frontrunner for this contract, but Microsoft secured it. Despite complaints from employees that taking a defense contract would mean being complicit in "increasing the lethality" of the defense department, Microsoft confirmed that it "will be engaged" when it comes to the U.S. military. 

As a company, Microsoft has visibly grown from where it stood in 2014. 

So what changed?

Consider the impact of Nadella's leadership style, and how he's shaped Microsoft's culture. 

Read more: Microsoft and Sony's surprise game streaming alliance is a shocker, and it raises an uncomfortable truth about the cloud wars

Prioritizing growth and transformation

Nadella has been very public about his embrace of a growth mindset, a concept that actually grew out of developmental psychology.

The Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck was studying what made grade-schoolers succeed or not when she noticed something odd: Some of the kids loved riddles and difficult problems, while others shut down in the face of them. When the riddle-loving children encountered a problem they didn't understand, they didn't think they were failing — they thought they were learning.

Hence a growth mindset, in which people jump at challenges and see failure as part of a larger learning process, and a fixed mindset, where challenges are a turn-off and failure something to be urgently avoided.

Over the decades, Dweck and her colleagues have found that a growth mindset leads to success in the classroom and the workplace alike.

And Nadella has credited "Mindset," Dweck's popular book, with the tech giant's culture change.

Ushering in a growth mindset across a culture

Nadella's style of leadership is different from what Microsoft is used to. Bill Gates built a workaholic culture that he has since characterized as intense. Steve Ballmer focused on short-term sales performance over long-term sustainability.

In making his many unprecedented moves, Nadella has demonstrated a growth mindset on a large scale.

According to the New York University psychologist Jay Van Bavel, acquiring a growth mindset means focusing on how your group is improving over time, as well as getting everyone to work on collective goals. It takes the focus off competitors and moves it to the company's internal strategy for sustainable growth.

Crucially, growth mindset destigmatizes making mistakes and struggling with tough problems — like, for instance, if you're trying to take a software giant and push it into cloud computing.

Read more: The rise of Satya Nadella, the CEO who totally turned Microsoft around in 5 years and made it more valuable than Apple

Shaping identity

To Van Bavel, Nadella is also an example of an identity-based leader.

"You get your team to feel like you're all part of a common group," he said — for example, by leading a 38-hour hackathon bringing together some 10,000 employees, as Nadella did five years ago.

It's about getting everyone to buy into a vision, like a growth mindset, and modeling it yourself.

Identity-based leadership is a hallmark of executive performance, though it is not without risks. SpaceX chief Elon Musk is another example of the identity-oriented leader, as is ousted WeWork CEO Adam Neumann.

For Nadella, the proof is in the earnings. In the latest quarterly earnings release, announced Wednesday, Microsoft's cloud business generated $11.6 billion in revenue, an increase of 36% year over year. This marks the second consecutive quarter that commercial cloud led the way in earnings. The other two main segments of Microsoft's business, "More Personal Computing" and "Productivity and Business Process", each yielded $11.1 billion for the company.

Microsoft Chairman John Thompson told Business Insider in July that the most important driver of growth was "the cultural transformation that Satya's led."

"The attitude that the team has about each other, their engagement with customers and partners, their belief in openness and inclusiveness," he said. "All of those things have changed under his leadership."

SEE ALSO: Microsoft blew away Wall Street estimates in its most recent quarter and grew its revenue by 12% from last year

Join the conversation about this story »

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20 Jul 16:36

B2B Reads: Emotional Intelligence, Keeping Leads Warm, and Keywords

by Kailee McKinney

In addition to our Sunday App of the Week feature, we also summarize some of our favorite B2B sales & marketing posts from around the Web each week. We’ll miss a ton of great stuff, so if you found something you think is worth sharing please add it to the comments below.

Can brands automate emotional intelligence?
A look at the importance of emotional intelligence when it comes to business. Thanks for your insight, Gregg Johnson.

It’s Never Going to Be Perfect, So Just Get It Done
There’s no point in agonizing over making things perfect, sometimes you just have to get it done. Great article, Tim Herrera.

Keeping Leads Warm: How Sales Managers Can Smooth the Handoff Between Marketing and Sales
Some helpful tips on how marketing and sales can work together to keep your customers happy. Thanks, Dave Mattson.

Rituals Strengthen Couples. Here’s Why They’re Good for Business, Too
Can business benefit from deliberate rituals? Thanks for your thoughts, Dina Gerdeman.

How to Choose Keywords for Your Blog (and Attract the Right Audience)
Are your blogs attracting the wrong kind of traffic? Here’s how the right keywords can help. Thanks for the advice, Marion Selista.

Seven Valuable Traits To Look For In New Team Members
A look at some of the traits people value the most when it comes to hiring potential team members. Some great insight via Forbes.

A/B Testing: 3 Tests Our Marketing Team Ran and the Surprising Results
It never hurts to keep testing, you might be surprised at the results you get. Thanks for the article, Christine Otsuka.

Email Isn’t Dead; You’re Just Doing It Wrong
You shouldn’t count out the power of a well-executed email campaign. Thanks for your insight, Matt Kamp.

A Day in the Life of an ABM Marketer
A great look at what a day in the life of an ABM marketer is really like. Thanks, Brandon Redlinger.

It’s Past Time Your Webinar Landing Pages Got A Makeover
Some really helpful advice for how to improve your webinar landing pages. Thanks for the tips, Daniel Waas.

The post B2B Reads: Emotional Intelligence, Keeping Leads Warm, and Keywords appeared first on Heinz Marketing.

19 Jul 15:50

The ultimate guide to nailing a sales pitch that closes the deal every time

by Jay Dixit

meeting, interview, office

  • Jay Dixit is the founder of Storytelling.NYC, where he teaches corporate workshops on how to use storytelling techniques to build relationships and drive sales.
  • Sales is an ethical pursuit, he writes — and a successful sales pitch is much less about showmanship and high-pressure tactics than it is about empathy and listening to what your customer actually needs.
  • Below are his tips for nailing a sales pitch, including selecting your prospects strategically, asking the right questions, and learning to anticipate and even welcome objections.
  • Validating what your customer is saying is crucial: One study found that waitresses who repeated customers' orders verbatim made 70% more tips than those who simply acknowledged or paraphrased them.
  • "People don't buy products, they buy better versions of themselves," he writes.
  • Click here for more BI Prime stories.

Although I run my own business, I spent years resisting anything to do with sales.

I'm a creative type, I told myself. I traffic in ideas and insights. Sales pitches felt icky and vulgar. I always felt like I was above having to worry about trying to hustle people for money.

Looking back, I had no idea what a sales pitch really was. The idea I had in my head came from "Glengarry Glen Ross," "Boiler Room," and that scene in "The Wolf of Wall Street" in which Leonardo DiCaprio sells a stock to an unsuspecting schmuck who's responded to a "Get Rich Quick" ad in the back of Hustler Magazine. In my mind, sales pitches were all about bluster, charm, and manipulation — playing on a customer's subconscious to convince them to do something that was not entirely in their best interests.

Jay Dixit

Once I started my company, I realized how wrong I'd been. All three of those movies were about scams — people swindling customers with cheap penny stocks and worthless swampland in Florida. Those men weren't salesmen — they were con artists who never cared about their customers' best interests. Since these guys weren't selling a legitimate product, manipulation and deception were the only tools they had.

I'm proud of the value I bring to my customers, so I now see that sales is an ethical pursuit. A successful sales pitch is much less about showmanship, high-pressure tactics, and psychological manipulation and more about perspective-taking and empathy — listening to what your customer actually needs so you can figure out how to help. As role models ranging from Steve Jobs to Harley Davidson have shown, sales is about truly hearing the people we're selling to, and helping them become greater versions of themselves. The same themes are borne out in the research, whether it's the tips servers make or the success of traditional telephone sales calls. 

As I ultimately had to accept for my business to take off, being creative doesn't exempt you from the need to sell. Whether you're a founder or a solopreneur, a software engineer or a sculptor, chances are that part of your job is to get others to see your vision. With that in mind, here are some tips for nailing the sales pitch every time.

Select your prospects strategically

There's an idea out there that a good salesperson can sell anything to anybody. That's a myth. The best salespeople spend most of their time sorting through data to identify prospects who most stand to benefit from their product or service.

The flip side is accepting that some people aren't viable prospects. If someone doesn't need your product, don't waste your time trying to convince them they do. You're better off spending your resources prospecting for customers who actually need what you're selling.

"The best salesman I ever saw was a 16-year-old kid selling bottles of water in the desert after a concert," explains Wayne Elise, a conversation skills coach who runs a weekend seminar called Conversation Camp. "Because he was smart enough to sell the right thing, at the right time, to the right people."

presentation work meeting

Read more: The founder of a $1.7 billion startup shares the one slide every pitch deck needs to succeed

Focus on trying to help

Part of my original aversion to sales was that I don't like to impose. What can I say — I'm Canadian. To me, sales always seemed liked pushing yourself and your agenda onto people who would probably rather be left alone.

As it turns out, acting pushy doesn't work that well anyway. Consumers are good at spotting ulterior motives, and honesty, transparency, and sincerity are ultimately more persuasive than pressure tactics.

Fortunately, the insight that ultimately made sales palatable to me is also what's made me fairly good at it — and something that warms my Canadian heart. And it's that I have the customer's best interests in mind.

A good sales pitch shouldn't be oppositional. Yes, sales is technically about getting someone to take an action they may be hesitant about. But the best way to do that is to stop worrying about getting the sale and focus instead on trying to be helpful. Instead of wondering what you can say to get them to buy, ask yourself, "How can I help them achieve their goals by using my product or service?"

"The best sellers adopt an attitude of service," writes Dan Pink, author of "To Sell Is Human." "They believe in the value of the product and how it will impact the life of the buyer."

There's no need to push your product or service on your customers. Instead, work to help them accomplish their goals. When you genuinely care about helping them improve their lives, you'll not only offer more targeted solutions, but they'll also sense your sincerity and respond in kind.

Ask questions 

There's another myth out there that sales is all about talking — that the best salespeople are chatty extroverts who can charm their way into a conversation and talk people into anything.

But a meta-analysis of 35 studies — involving 3,800 salespeople — found that the correlation between extroversion and sales success is close to zero. "Extroverts can talk too much and listen too little, which dulls their understanding of others' perspectives," writes Pink. "They can overwhelm others with the force of their personalities."

But people who were too shy to pick up the phone weren't the best salespeople either. The best salespeople, the analysis found, were neither extreme extroverts nor extreme introverts, but people in the middle.

Many of us have a conception of a sales pitch as being like a spiel or mini-presentation in which the salesperson talks while the customer listens and makes a decision. But that's backwards. To truly help your customer improve his or her life, you need to have a deep understanding of what they care about — and to do that, you need to ask questions.

To help your clients improve their lives, you need to know what they care about. Allow yourself to be curious about their situation and their interests. Ask questions that get to the heart of what they care about, what they're trying to accomplish, and what problems they face. By asking good follow-up questions, you may even uncover challenges they don't even know they have.

Listen and empathize

The single most valuable asset in any sales interaction is an understanding of what your customer wants and needs. Contrary to the old stereotype, you should actually be doing more listening than talking. In fact, an analysis of 25,000 sales calls found that top closers listened 57% of the time.

So worry less about getting your energy up and projecting confidence, and more about listening to the needs of your prospect. Empathize, validate what they're saying, and demonstrate that you truly understand their situation. One study found that waitresses who repeated customers' orders verbatim made 70% more tips than those who simply acknowledged or paraphrased them. By reflecting orders in a precise way, they assured customers they'd been heard and understood. By listening well, you'll not only get a better understanding of your customers' goals, needs, and desires — you'll also build trust and rapport.

coworker conversation

Read more: I'm a CEO who gave up my corner office and placed my seat in the middle of the room — and it's been great for business

Focus on solving the problem

When you're closely connected to your product or service, your perspective is naturally skewed. No doubt you're proud of its features, and you may have spent months helping make it the best it can be. You're eager to share your knowledge and tell your prospective customer all the details about the product and its features.

That enthusiasm is great, but when it's time to pitch, you need to leave that mindset behind. Customers don't buy a product because of its features — they buy it because they have a job they need done. Customers only care about what's in it for them, and a successful sales pitch zeroes in on how you'll make their life better. In the words of Basecamp CEO Jason Fried, "Here's what our product can do" is very different from "Here's what you can do with our product."

When Steve Jobs introduced the first iPod, he didn't just talk about technical features like the Firewire port and 5GB storage capacity. He offered people a device that "puts 1,000 songs in your pocket."

There's an old saying in business: "People don't buy drills, they buy holes." What that means is that customers don't care about your product — they only care about what they can do with it. But even that saying doesn't go far enough. In reality, people don't care about holes — what they truly want is the ability to hang art on their walls and make their house feel like a home.

This approach works even if what you're selling isn't something your customer needs in the strictest sense. Your customer may not need a new pair of designer shoes. But if wearing those shoes makes them feel sexier and more confident, then you're helping them achieve a goal.

Harley-Davidson, for instance, doesn't just sell motorcycles — they sell a fantasy. As one company insider put it: "What we sell is the ability for a 43-year-old accountant to dress in black leather, ride through small towns, and have people be afraid of him."

To put it another way: "People don't buy products, they buy better versions of themselves."

Tell a story

As I tell my clients in my "Storytelling for Sales" workshops, sales is about creating desire. And the best way you can create desire is by telling a story.

When you're trying to sell something to someone, it's natural to think you need to make your case, presenting your argument for and evidence like you're arguing in court.

But trying to persuade someone through arguments and evidence can be a trap. When someone senses that you're trying to convince them of something, their defenses go up. The brain's automatic response to hearing arguments and evidence is to evaluate them, weighing facts and assessing merit. Scientists call this "counterarguing" — the little arguments a prospect makes in their head that they may never articulate out loud.

Storytelling is different. When you tell your client a story, you bypass the evaluative regions of the brain and activate the experiential and emotional regions instead, triggering a brain state known as "narrative transportation." Rather than focusing on evaluating your claims, the listener is instead transported into the world of your story.

That's not to say you never mention facts and evidence. If you have metrics that prove the effectiveness of your product, by all means mention them. But by framing them in a story, you'll help sidestep their habitual skepticism.

Think of your customer as a character struggling against an obstacle — to which your product or service is the solution. By painting a picture of a future state in which their life has improved, you'll help them see how you can help them get the results they want.

Seeing is believing, and when people hear a story, they can't help but visualize it. If you can get your customer to imagine themselves using your product or service to solve their problem and achieve their goals, you've already won.

Read more: An early investor in Pinterest and Uber who sold a company for $150 million says there's a specific order in which early startups need to target customers

Anticipate and address objections

Most prospects you talk to will have objections — reasons in their mind why your product might not be right for them. Since your prospect doesn't yet know everything about your product, those reasons may or may not be accurate. So part of a successful sales pitch is handling those objections.

The first step is to anticipate them. Identify the ten most common objections — including reservations about value, price, urgency, or relevance — and prepare a concise response for each one.

Second, welcome objections. They mean your prospect is engaged in the process and providing information about their needs — and giving you a chance to address them. So make your customer feel safe to voice objections. Don't argue, be defensive, or try to minimize the objection. If your product or service can help them in spite of their concern, tell them how. And if you discover you can't help them, say so and ask for a referral instead.

woman boss employee coworker office

Follow up

As important as it is, your initial sales pitch is just a small part of the process. As any salesperson will tell you, the majority of sales happen not in the first encounter but in follow-up conversations.

At the end of your initial pitch, let them know you'll be following up and ask how they prefer to be contacted. Then, follow up promptly to thank them for their time and lay out next steps. Be friendly and available, follow up when you say you will, and end every interaction by scheduling the next one. Be persistent — and above all, never interpret a lack of response as a rejection. Track every attempt to reach them, and keep following up until you either get the sale or the prospect tells you they're not interested.

Read more: The ultimate guide to going freelance — and making more than you did at a full-time gig

Ask for the sale

It's not enough just to present your vision. You need to actually ask for the sale. In theory that's simple, but it's often the scariest part of the entire process. Many people are afraid to ask for the sale for fear of hearing no, appearing pushy, or jeopardizing the relationship.

But when you've listened to your client, taken the time to see the world through their eyes, and used empathy and storytelling to communicate exactly how you can help, then closing is simply the next logical step. If you genuinely believe your product or service can improve your customer's life, you're doing them a service by offering it to them. Remember, the answer is always no until you ask the question.

Jay Dixit is the founder of Storytelling.NYC, where he teaches corporate workshops on how to use storytelling techniques to build relationships and drive sales. Follow him on Twitter. 

SEE ALSO: A 34-year-old freelancer who quit the job she hated and now makes $200K a year debunks 3 of the biggest myths she's encountered about becoming your own boss

Join the conversation about this story »

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