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04 May 17:37

How to Effectively Nurture Your B2B Leads

by Kelly Groover

As inbound marketing continues to become ubiquitous with generating leads, and ultimately revenue, the importance of a lead nurturing strategy also becomes more evident. The goal of any marketing and sales departments is to turn leads into paying customers – and lead nurturing is a successful way of doing so. But what is lead nurturing, and how do you it productively?

lead-nurturing

What is Lead Nurturing?

You and your team want to move your leads from prospects to paying customers through your marketing efforts – an essential goal of any marketing department. To effectively do this, you must engage in lead nurturing. Lead nurturing involves targeting your target audiences, or buyer personas, by providing relevant information to them at every stage of their buyers’ journey.

How Do I Effectively Nurture Leads?

Unfortunately, only a small percentage of inbound leads are ready to make an immediate purchase, according to studies done by Forrester.com. This only highlights the importance of having an effective lead nurturing strategy your team can utilize.

Forrester’s study also concludes that you can see up to a 20% increase in sales opportunities from nurtured leads versus non-nurtured leads. So, that begs the question: What are the best tactics to employ when it comes to lead nurturing?

Engaging, Targeted Content

The foundation of a solid lead nurturing strategy is delivering the right information to the right people, at the right time. To do that, you need to focus on creating content that’s both engaging and targeted. And it all begins by ensuring you have up-to-date buyer personas – another key piece of lead nurturing.

So, with your personas in tow, you can begin creating content based on the interests, goals, objectives, and motivations of each of your buyer personas. You can also use them to ensure you have content that relates to the three stages of the buyer’s journey.

Part of this strategy involves producing a variety of content that is designed to move someone down your funnel. A lead that’s in the early awareness stage may react positively to a blog post while someone else who’s in the consideration stage may respond better to a comparison chart or whitepaper.

Tip: To keep your content organized so you can employ it in a lead nurturing campaign, (like an email campaign, for example) apply a naming convention in your HubSpot portal.

Personalized Emails

Email marketing remains a classic, effective tactic for lead nurturing. Many lead nurturing campaigns come in the form of a series of emails that increasingly move someone down your lead funnel. But, to make it even more effective, you should personalize your emails.

Thankfully, with HubSpot, there are numerous ways to personalize your emails. You can send behavior triggered emails, like when someone downloads a gated piece of content, and reference the content in the body of the email. Similarly, you can send them follow-up emails if they clicked or opened other specific campaigns. And of course, you can include their first name or company name in emails with personalization tokens.

However, when it comes to emails involved in your lead nurturing strategy – personalized or not – there are certain things you shouldn’t do:

  • Do not email them every day, even if they are in a lead nurturing campaign.
  • Do not send them every email in a drip campaign – some may not apply to them.

Smart CTAs and Smart Content

As noted, personalization helps in lead nurturing. When your content relates better to your visitor, they’re more likely to react favorably.

For example, with HubSpot’s smart CTAs you can make sure your users aren’t seeing something that doesn’t relate to where they are in your buyers’ journey. If she or he has already signed up for your newsletter, they will not be prompted to re-enter their information. If they’re somewhere closer to the middle of your funnel, they’ll see a more appropriate CTA, helping in the effort to nurture them.

Likewise, HubSpot’s smart content tool can alter the content displayed in a specific module on your website, email, or landing page depending on that viewer’s characteristics. You can set things like preferred language or country, so users can see text that’s tailored just for them.

Timely, Appropriate Follow-Up

Seeing a lead come through to your team is always exciting, and you may be tempted to hand it off to sales. According to a study done by the Harvard Business Review, timely-follow up is critical. That means not responding too quickly, but also not responding too late. The most optimal time is to respond within a day – if that lead is truly ready to be contacted.

So, this tactic involves a little research about your leads. HubSpot makes that easy by providing metrics on your contacts such as: what they’ve been looking at on your website, how often they’ve been viewing your website and content, what type of content they’ve seen, and more. Combining this information with a timely follow-up should prove successful.

Sounds Great – How Do I Start?

Lead nurturing can potentially sound complicated, but once you start, you’ll see it’s worth the effort. Once you have your buyer personas in place and content ready, you can start utilizing our tips to create your initial lead nurturing strategy.

04 May 17:27

9 Ways to Win at B2C Marketing on LinkedIn

by Larry Kim

PhotoMIX-Company / Pixabay

Are you investing time into your brand’s LinkedIn page?

It’s easy for companies — especially B2C’s — to neglect LinkedIn in favor of channels like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.

But the truth is LinkedIn is a unicorn social channel where B2C companies can thrive.

There are more than 260 million active users on LinkedIn.

More than 40 million users are in decision-making positions, and more than 61 million are senior-level influencers.

In other words, LinkedIn provides tremendous opportunity to connect with individuals who are in a position to form strategic partnership, stock your product or invest in your business.

The bottom line?

Marketing your brand on LinkedIn can only help your brand.

Discover 9 ways to win at B2C marketing on LinkedIn.

1. Promote your own content and get creative!

Drive traffic to your site by promoting your blog posts, case studies, sales, etc.

Videos and images really boost your ability to drive engagement, so always makes sure to include a visual component to your posts.

You can also syndicate your blog posts with a native LinkedIn Post.

2. Interact with other people’s content.

It’s a social network, so don’t forget to be social!

Comment on and reshare other people’s posts, especially influencers and individuals who you’d like to align with your business.

Interacting with their content is the first step toward creating a relationship with them!

3. Repurpose Content From Other Social Channels

What’s been really successful on your brand’s other social channels?

Use it on LInkedIn, as well.

You can try posting it exactly as it is, or give a slightly different angle to better suit LinkedIn, if need be.

4. Leverage hashtags.

As with all social networks, you can use hashtags as a means to connect with people outside your network.

Choose hashtags related to your business or industry.

Tools like Hashtagify can help you find out the most popular hashtags.)

5. Tag People and Brands

Whenever you’re creating a post, make sure to tag those you mention.

It seems obvious, but it’s a step that can be overlooked — especially if you’re posting content to LinkedIn via a third-party app like Buffer where it’s not even possible to add a live tag.

Tagging is important because 1) it gets the post in front of the person you mentioned and 2) the post will make it into the LinkedIn news feeds of that person’s audience.

6. Create discussion and ask questions.

Not only does asking questions help you learn more about your audience and consumers, it also drives engagement on your page.

Post thought-provoking, open-ended questions with the intent to spark conversation among your followers.

You can post questions directly related to your product or service to better understand what people like or how they are using it, or you can post lifestyle questions to build out your persona research.

7. Post job opportunities, company successes and customer stories.

People go on LinkedIn to connect with employers, find jobs and discover new companies they aspire to join.

As a marketing company, you should be sharing information about your brand that appeals to every user.

Post information about everything going on in your business: company values, product knowledge, jobs and employee and customer stories.

By focusing on what LinkedIn is all about, you’ll be able to pinpoint more business connections while appealing to more people.

8. Avoid business jargon.

It can be easy to slip into marketing jargon when talking about your business, but don’t do it!

This will only isolate your audience and limit the amount of people you will reach.

The best strategy to make sure your content is reader friendly is to ask yourself this question: Is this how I would explain my company to a friend over coffee?

Sticking to the coffee conversation rule will make sure that you’re engaging with as many people as possible and making your business relatable.

9. Research your competitors.

Always keep an eye on what your competition is doing, including what they’re doing on LinkedIn.

Look at other brands in your space.

What are they posting?

Are they succeeding?

Let their efforts inspire your own.

Originally Published on Inc.com

04 May 17:24

101 Small Business Marketing Ideas, Part 1: Naming, Logos, & Branding

by Sneha Mittal

Entrepreneurship comes with its own set of challenges and with so many options out there, it might be difficult for you to master all aspects of the business.

Marketing is evolving each day and even more with the technological evolution changing the way consumers live. When done right, marketing can help your business grow rapidly.

Are you a business owner who wants to grow your business but doesn’t know much about marketing? Do you want to attract more customers to your business? Do you want a quick checklist of things you can do to grow your business?

This post is a part of 10 part series which takes you through the basics of small business marketing.

Ultimate Small Business Marketing Guide Overview

The 10 part guide is divided into the following sections:

  • Naming, Logos & Branding
  • Your Product / Service
  • Marketing Planning Basics
  • Online Marketing
  • Advertisements
  • Promotions
  • Pricing
  • Email Marketing
  • Social Media Marketing
  • Content Marketing
  • Grow Your Network
  • Customer Focused
  • Physical Evidence
  • Teaching

In this post, we start with small business branding basics.

Naming, Logos & Branding

  • Have a simple name

Naming your business can be stressful. Once you choose a name, you may never be able to change it again, hence, it is very important to select a name for your business which can stand the test of time. Think of your target audience and decide what kind of name you should be looking for. Ask yourself, if the name should be something professional or fun? Should it include the details of what my business offers? How do I want people to feel when they listen to this name? Should it be a long name or a short catchy one? Once you know the answers to these questions, look for business name ideas and finalize the one which best fits your criteria.

  • Create your own logo

A logo defines your company’s identity and defines what your business stands for. It’s an easily recognizable symbol which when used across communication materials, communicates ownership. A memorable logo design can quickly grab customers attention and pique their interest in the product. Hence, it is important to have a logo which distinguishes you from the competition and facilitate brand loyalty.

  • Find a catchy tagline

Next step in the branding process is to create a catchy tagline which describes your unique selling points and key benefits. When the customers come across your logo, the next thing they seek is a quick description of the business which can tell them if it is what they were looking for. It helps you differentiate your brand and helps your customers in recognizing your business. When trying to create a catchy tagline for your business, write down your USPs and try to sum them in a single line of fewer than 10 words. Use this tagline in your marketing communication.

  • Choose colors carefully

Colors hold a significant meaning in marketing and human psychology. Colors can help you stand out while a poor color choice can have a negative impact on your business. Colors broadly align with specific traits and aligning your colors with the type of personality you want to portray for your brand can help boost conversions. In addition, color trends for men and women are also different. Hence, depending on your target audience you can choose which colors you want to use in your logo and associate with your brand.

  • Stand for something

Branding is all about figuring out what your brand stands for and what kind of values and beliefs your brand portrays. Your values are the core of what you do and how you do it. People like brands that they can relate to and the brands which have similar core beliefs as they do.

Decide what values and beliefs you want people to think of when they think about your brand, and stand for those values. All your business actions should be a reflection of what you want your brand to stand for.

  • Be consistent

The consistency of your communication across channels helps in building a strong brand. When you know what your brand stands for, you should be consistent in communicating those values in your communication materials. Your logo should be printed on all materials, your designs should be in sync with your brand colors and your business name should be included across all materials. Maintaining the consistency of your brand elements will help in making them more prominent and will leave a long-lasting impact on your customer’s mind.

  • Build your buyer persona

A buyer persona is a fictional representation of how your ideal customer should look like. A buyer persona can help you understand your customer’s needs and help you tailor your marketing content to their needs. When trying to create a buyer persona, try to define details like their age, demographic, lifestyle, occupation status, family status, goals, challenges, education, shopping preferences, etc. If your product/service caters to different customer segments, then you can create a buyer persona for each segment. Once your buyer persona is ready, you will understand their challenges and needs and can then tailor your marketing content according to their requirements.

  • Craft your own story

Storytelling is a powerful tool for any business. A great story about your product or service can leave an everlasting impact and increase customer retention of your business. If you’re worried that you’re not a great storyteller, then don’t worry.

Every story needs 5Cs: circumstances, curiosity, characters, conversation, and conflict. So, when creating a story lay out the circumstances, set the context, generate curiosity with questions and headlines, use conversations between characters to generate the story and last but not the least generate conflict to reach a solution with your products/services.

This post was originally published on Just Creative.

04 May 17:22

The Chain Reaction of Attraction™

by Alan Weiss

The more “attractors” you lure into your community, the more they will, in turn, attract still others. Don’t simply look for quantity for your lists and activities, instead seek quality. “Quality” here consists of people whom others will readily be influenced by and will follow. Instead of “recruiting” one person alone, every attractor might be worth 100 people to you, creating a “chain reaction” of responsiveness.

My followers and supporters have followers and supporters who also have followers and supporters. That’s how you build critical mass, how you gain attention, how you impress a publisher, how you guarantee your offerings will be successfully received.

This works at the corporate level, as well. When I worked with Fortune 500 companies, there were scores of buyers at varying levels. If I were good enough for someone three levels up, I was certainly good enough for the subordinates who had their own budgets.

The chain reaction of attraction™: Work smart, not hard.

04 May 17:22

Don’t Give Up on Your Leads – Follow Up! | Sales Strategies

by Colleen Francis
Salespeople notoriously do not follow up with leads that they are working on. They get distracted by new promising leads coming into the pipeline and they forget about the leads they are pursuing. Simply put, they give up too soon. …
Read More »
04 May 17:21

Purchase Decisions: 9 Things to Know About Influencing Customers

by Peep Laja

If you want to get people to buy your stuff, you need to understand how consumers make purchasing decisions.

People research products. They compare competitors. Some 87% of buying decisions begin with research conducted online, usually on Amazon or Google.

Product quality and seller reputation matter, of course. But what about when the product matches the customer’s needs and they trust the seller? What influences a purchase decision once those fundamentals are in place?

Here are 9 things you should know if you want to win over customers as they make a decision to buy.

1. Reviews matter for deciding on products and companies.

Many studies in recent years have confirmed what we already know: People read reviews and decide what to buy based on them.

Some 88% say they trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations, and 39% read reviews on a regular basis. In fact, only 12% of those surveyed don’t read reviews at all. (And that was a few years ago.) We’ve written at length on the impact of user-generated reviews.

There’s a strong correlation between a product’s review stars and the number of orders. (Image source)

So start gathering reviews on your site. If you sell commodity products, you might want to pull reviews from an external site so that you can display more of them. Use structured data to get review stars from highly reviewed products into search results. Our internal study on the impact review stars showed that they can increase click-through-rates by as much as 35%.

More reviews can help insulate your reputation from the inevitable impossible-to-please customer. That said, don’t delete negative reviews. They actually help sales if there are only a few of them and they’re politely worded.

If there are tons of negative reviews, most people are naturally turned off and look elsewhere.

2. People gather buying recommendations from mixed sources.

Even though social media and the Internet rule, customers make purchase decisions using a combination of old media, new media, and conversations with friends and family. (To read more about this, I encourage you to check out People Comparison Shop, Stupid.)

According to a 2009 study by Harris Interactive, the most common methods for gathering information prior to making a purchase are:

  • using a company website (36%);
  • face-to-face conversation with a salesperson or other company representative (22%);
  • face-to-face conversation with a person not associated with the company (21%).

Another, slightly more recent, study claims that 59% of people still consult friends and family for help with a purchase decision.

friends discussing a purchase

Even in the modern era, the influence of friends and family on purchasing decisions remains strong. (Image Source)

Asking people around us for recommendations remains commonplace. This means the experience you provide to your customers matters a great deal.

Omnichannel journeys are on the rise as well. Customers are no longer relying on single sources. According to recent research, 73% of retailers say omnichannel is important to them, but only 38% say they are beyond the beginning stages of an omnichannel journey.

3. People don’t often know why they like something.

There’s a famous study about jam tasting. Scientists asked a big sample of consumers to rank jams on taste, ordering them from top to bottom.

Then the scientists re-did the study with a different, but still statistically representative, group. This time, they asked the sampler to put the jams in order of taste and explain their thinking. The order flipped. The jams that the first group ranked as the best tasting were judged to as the worst by the second group.

The reason is that the conscious brain suddenly got involved in a task it didn’t really understand. Suddenly, there were social pressures (i.e. what they should choose), leading answers away from what people actually liked.

People make instant decisions with their subconscious. When they have to explain the choice, the choice may change completely because the rational mind is involved. (To learn more about rational and irrational thinking, check out our articles on System 1 and System 2.)

Takeaway: Don’t trust people when they explain why they bought something. They might not know themselves.

4. The crowd leads the way to buyer preferences.

Most of our preferences are learned and formed by social norms and expectations.

large crowd

Your buying habits may depend more on crowd behavior than you think. (Image Source)

An old Washington Post column uses the example of clam chowder. Decades ago, it was thin. But now, it’s almost uniformly thick. What happened? At some point, restaurateurs got in the habit of adding flour to make chowder thicker and thicker. Now, this is what consumers have come to consider a bowl of “authentic” clam chowder.

These learned preferences can just as easily involve characteristics that, from an objective standpoint, don’t make a product any better—and might even make them worse, especially when it comes to texture.

Ravi Dhar, a marketing professor at the Yale School of Management, notes that although Heinz ketchup does not reliably win in blind taste tests, it has established itself as the gold standard in its category because it’s thicker. In the marketing world, Dhar says, “meaningless attributes often lead to meaningful differentiation.”

Ever wondered why so many products on store shelves are so similar? Wouldn’t it be better to make them different? Not necessarily.

“There are huge incentives in consumer markets, even for competing companies, to make everything the same, ” says Dan McGinn, president of a research and strategy consultancy in Arlington, Virginia.

Yes, our preferences evolve as society evolves. That impacts our purchasing decisions. A “family car” used to mean a station wagon. Then it was a minivan. Now, it’s an SUV.

If you’re interested in this concept, we’ve written an article on the idea of familiarity as a marketing tactic. Essentially, the more we’re exposed to something, the more likely it is that we’ll develop a preference for it and decide to buy it.

Takeaway: In markets where people have a lot of experience with the product category, it pays to mimic the market standard.

5. Simplicity always wins for decision-making.

Cognitive fluency is the human tendency to prefer things that are not only familiar, but also easy to understand. (That’s why simple sites are scientifically better.)

For marketers, this means that the easier it is to understand an offer, the more likely people are to buy it.

Psychologists have determined, for example, that shares in companies with easy-to-pronounce names significantly outperform those with hard-to-pronounce names. Coincidence? Nope.

Why people love to buy unlimited plans.

Understanding and comparing different cell-phone plans is a pain. It takes time to identify the best option. Who wants to spend 20 minutes comparing monthly minutes and text limits? So what do people do? They buy the unlimited plan. It’s often not the best value, but it’s easy to understand.

unlimited plan from verizonConsumers often decide to buy unlimited plans because they’re simple to understand, not because they make the most financial sense. (Image source)

Cell phone companies make the most money from unlimited plans, and they have an extra incentive to make other plans confusing. Plans with a fixed number of minutes charge high fees for going over your allotted minutes. It’s designed to cause you enough pain that you switch to a plan with a higher regular fee.

Previous positive experiences matter.

Cognitive fluency also explains

  • Why you continue to buy from brands and service providers you’ve used before
  • Why you often order the same thing from the menu.

It’s just easy. You’ve tried it, it worked, and you don’t want to spend a bunch of time researching alternatives. You don’t want to risk a bad purchase.

As a marketer, this means it’s super important to get a customer to decide on that first purchase. Pack your first offer with value and make it as easy as possible to buy. Once consumers have their first positive buying experience, it’s much easier to get repeat purchases.

Hard to read, hard to buy.

Make your website easy to read. When people read something in a difficult-to-read font, they transfer that sense of difficulty onto the topic they’re reading about.

The same goes for products and purchases. We’ve conducted a number of original studies on ecommerce product pages. In one of those studies, we found that the way products are described matters. The format of text descriptions influences how people perceive the products themselves.

Takeaway: Make every aspect of the decision to purchase as simple as possible.

6. For retail stores, even flooring influences purchasing decisions.

Research by Joan Meyers-Levy suggests that the way people judge products may be influenced by the ground beneath them.

“When a person stands on carpeted flooring, it feels comforting,” says Meyers-Levy. “But the irony is that when people stand on carpet, they will judge products that are close to them as less comforting.”

carpet and wood flooring

If you’re trying to persuade your retail customers to buy, even elements like your store flooring can impact their purchasing decision.

When people were standing on soft carpet and viewed a product that was moderately far away, they judged that item’s appearance to be comforting. However, people who examined products while standing on the same plush carpet judged items that were close by as less comforting.

This translates online as well. The way things are presented and emotional factors come into play. It’s your responsibility to be aware of them and manage them accordingly. Seemingly unimportant details can affect consumers’ decision to buy or click away.

Takeaway: Cover walking areas in your retail store with soft carpet, but use hard flooring next to products.

7. The jury is out on social media’s influence on buying decisions.

There’s conflicting research on the influence of social media on purchase decisions. One study found that consumers are 67% more likely to buy from brands they follow on Twitter.

Another report showed that social media rarely leads directly to online purchases. Data indicated that less than 2% of orders resulted from shoppers coming from a social network. The report found that email and search advertising were much more effective vehicles for turning browsers into buyers.

The difference between these two studies is that the first was based on what people said, but the second was based on what people actually did. (However, they were tracking direct click-throughs from social media, not taking into account the positive influence it may have over time.)

The real answer is that social media probably impacts purchase decisions, but it’s a slow, relationship-building process. Just shouting “buy this” works on a very small number of people.

More recent research confirms this. Reviews (45%), promotions (44%), ads (30%), and trends (25%) observed on social media influence buying decisions, but not directly. Only 16% of those surveyed purchased directly from a social media platform.

social media influence on shopping behavior

Image Source

That said, as the popularity of off-site buy buttons increases, so might direct purchases.

influence of buy buttons on social media purchases

Image Source

Social media links have an influence, too.

A study examined how the presence of a Facebook “Like” button and the Twitter logo might affect online purchase decisions.

The findings:

  • When the product was one for which public consumption is desirable (sportswear, fragrance), the presence of the Facebook and Twitter icons made people 25% more likely to purchase.
  • When the product was more private in nature (Spanx, Clearasil), the presence of Facebook and Twitter icons made participants 25% less likely to purchase.

Does buying your product make your customer seem more or less cool? Place the Facebook and Twitter icons accordingly.

8. When it comes to buying, we make emotional decisions and rational justifications.

Do people make decisions based on emotions or logic? McCombs marketing professor Raj Raghunathan and PhD student Szu-Chi Huang point to their research study.

It shows that comparative features are important but mostly as a justification fofr after a buyer makes an emotional decision. Here’s how they ran their study.

The story of two chickens

Research participants were shown two photos. One was a nice-looking, plump chicken. The other was a chicken that looked thin and sickly. Participants were told that the plump chicken was a natural chicken and that the thin chicken was genetically engineered.

Do we make rational buying decisions? A study with two chickens suggested otherwise. (Image Source)

Researchers informed half the participants that natural chickens were healthy (but less tasty) and genetically engineered chickens were tasty (but less healthy). The other half were told the opposite.

Overwhelmingly, participants preferred the plump chicken, but their reasoning was different:

  • The first group claimed that it was because they valued health above taste.
  • The second group said it was because taste was more important.

Neither group justified their choice based on how they felt about the chicken’s looks. They felt compelled to justify their emotional choices with rational reasons—to the point that the two groups gave opposing accounts to justify the same “purchase” decision.

Emotions rule in all areas of buying behavior.

The scientists replicated the results in other areas, including marketing, politics, religion, etc.

“This process seems to be happening somewhat unconsciously, people are not really aware they’re coming up with these justifications. What is even more interesting is that people who claim that emotions are not that important, who consider themselves to be really rational, are actually more prone to fall into this trap.”

What does this mean for marketers? Raghunathan suggests that the earlier you can make an emotional connection, the better. Once consumers have decided that they like a particular option, it’s difficult for them to backpedal.Rational thinking will only justify their emotional choice.

(You might also be interested in reading about how consumers use post-purchase rationalization to avoid buyer’s remorse. The brain doesn’t like to think it made an emotional decision, so we assign rational reasons for our decisions post-purchase.)

9. The subconscious drives purchase decisions.

For the last 50 or 60 years, market research, as an industry, has believed that people make decisions based on rational, conscious thought processes. Science tells a different story, one that turns that fundamental belief on its head. Most decision-making happens at the subconscious level.

We may focus on facts and numbers, but in many cases, it’s the subliminal that makes people decide one way or another.

Conclusion

People are complex. We’re just beginning to scratch the surface of what they really want. Some tests have shown that people prefer items on the right or at the bottom of the list. Why?

We don’t know yet. Sometimes we make purchasing decisions even when we aren’t paying attention to the products. New questions about human thought processes and decision-making pop up every day.

Neuroscience is still working on the answers, but there are some insights that we can start putting into play now.

03 May 15:16

How to Grow Your Business Beyond Your Borders

by kniemisto

New opportunities to grow your business beyond your current market come up every day. How can both small- and medium-sized companies seize these opportunities to learn, grow, increase their sales, and retain customers? How can your business offer excellent service to customers across the world?

Opening an office in your preferred location is one method of expanding your business. However, there are challenges involved such as hiring a local workforce, initial investment costs, office costs, and so on. Not to mention increased marketing expenses in a bid to introduce your brand to the local market!

Why should you expand into new markets?

There has been an influx of small businesses across the US. Indeed, the number of incorporated small businesses in the US is reported to be just short of 6 million. Unlike in the past when big corporate brands ruled the global business realm, small businesses are currently steering the business forward across the world. So why are so many of them seeking to expand across the planet?

Today, it’s easy

The digital revolution has transformed the way business is done. With more people today having access to the internet, the expression “the world is your oyster” rings even truer today because anyone in any location can be a prospect or potential consumer of your business with the click of a mouse.

Unlike in the past when going global was an arduous task, businesses do not even require to be physically present in a different country to engage in business. Your business can easily become an international entity from anywhere across the world.

The gig economy

The gig economy is a free market system characterized by temporary positions where various organizations collaborate with freelance or independent employees on short term contracts. Today, many companies are hiring individuals they have never, and will never, meet in person.

The remote economy can help you complete projects without having employees inside your office. This system is more affordable compared with hiring full-time employees to execute the same task, which would require office space, personnel taxes, and other overheads.

How can businesses expand to global markets?

Thinking about taking your business global can be intimidating. So you’ve done your research, market opportunity assessment, and competitive analysis. You’ve been learning about different customs, values, culture, and language. But, even armed with all of this, it may not be enough to help your brand achieve meaningful traction and generate sales.

Collaborating with a local partner can help you benefit significantly from their experience and knowledge of the local market, contacts, and regulations. Establishing a partner in your preferred destination is a great way of taking confident and meaningful first steps on your way to succeeding with global expansion.

There are various types of partnerships. For instance, you can choose to invest in a foreign country and take their time to understand how things are executed in the country. You could also collaborate with a local vendor and get the opportunity to provide their products to the vendor’s clients. You can benefit more by hiring the vendor as a local consultant, who will help them understand the local market more effectively.

While there may not be one definitive method of venturing into global markets, being adaptable and expressing the willingness to explore different possibilities can increase your chances of succeeding in a global venture.

Challenges faced when growing internationally

Below are some of the challenges you are likely to face on your global expansion journey:

Understanding the market

You may have done your research on the market opportunity in terms of potential revenue and sales—what are the expectations of your audience, what do they want or don’t want, how saturated or not is the market—but if you don’t speak their language (quite literally) then you will be in trouble.

Nothing demonstrates a brand’s desire to truly put its customers and—for B2B businesses—put its customers’ customer first, then providing a website and local content in the language of the market you are in. Do not overlook the importance of this.

Transcreation—modifying a message from one language to another albeit retaining its style, intent, context, and tone—is a key factor that entrepreneurs and brands alike. It’s used to achieve success on the global marketing front. Transcreation helps you to adjust your marketing content to a new global market, and cater to their needs (not yours).

Export fees and tariffs

If you export goods or products, instead of services, then you’ll need to know import/export laws and tariffs beyond just how much it costs to put something in the mail! Many countries charge a fee or tariff to companies seeking to import goods into their country. And this applies especially to ecommerce businesses.

Knowing these tariffs helps you factor them into your budget for the new market so you don’t make the same mistake as many companies and over-spend like crazy! Understand the different tariffs that are applied depending on the logistics and shipping regulations in the country you are importing to, and also the local laws and regulations—what are your customers’ right and, indeed, any logistics or on-the-ground partners’ rights, let alone yours, for serving a new audience in a different country.

Some companies may not be able to afford these tariffs, especially start-ups, and do not want to pass these costs on to their customers. An alternative option that can be more economical and efficient for all parties is to offer a personal shopping concierge service, which is becoming increasingly popular for today’s busy professionals who want multiple items from multiple companies.

What it takes to succeed globally

Success for some is simply breaking even or keeping the lights on. Either way, it is not a quick or easy journey, so let’s have a look at a business that has managed to penetrate foreign markets successfully.

While favorable circumstances and fortune (and great business acumen!) can influence a company’s global success having and sticking to a concrete plan plays a major role in promoting global growth.

Today, the digital revolution and easy access to the internet has enabled many entrepreneurs, and also established national brands, to grow their businesses beyond their own borders. Having a concrete strategy before taking your business on the global stage plays a major role in helping you succeed. It’s the usual story and age-old expression: “if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail.”

The post How to Grow Your Business Beyond Your Borders appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

03 May 15:11

3 Hacks to Never Stress About Your Business’s Social Media Content Ever Again

by Shaina Weisinger

Not only are businesses told that their brand has to be everywhere their potential customer is, but businesses are also taught to educate and speak to their audience differently based on various social media platforms.

What’s posted on a business’ Instagram account is usually very different than what’s posted on their LinkedIn. It can feel like a headache. Figuring out what to post on each platform is time-consuming and – let’s face it – confusing (we all know how quickly social media algorithms change).

But there are 3 simple ways to make sure you always have something engaging and optimized to post on each social platform, without hours of design or research. Let’s stress less about what to share on social media, and focus more on our business.

1 – Repurpose What You Already Have

It’s easy to get lost in day-to-day tasks and forget about all of the awesome, value-packed content you’ve already created. Even blog articles from 6 months ago (as long as they’re evergreen) have tons of great information that your audience still benefits from.

Do an intake of your existing content including podcast episodes, blog articles, PDFs, videos, recorded webinars, speaker sessions, etc. Then queue those up to be shared on social media.

There are several ways to share your existing content in creative ways. You can:

  • Directly share the link to where the content lives. BUT … If it’s a video, don’t post the link to YouTube. Upload it as native video so that it auto plays in people’s feeds. TIP: For Facebook and LinkedIn, once you paste the link in your status draft, remove the URL after it loads and and write engaging copy in its place. This way, it looks cleaner, like this:
  • Scroll through impactful sections of your content and turn them into a simple image quote cards. Post that quote as a picture on your social media. This way, you don’t have to think of new things to say – you’re pulling from something you’ve already said or written. Here are a couple of image quote examples:

  • Ask your partners or others featured in the content piece to share it as well on their social media. If it’s a podcast episode with a guest you interviewed, encourage them to share the interview on their profiles. Then once they post it, be sure to share it on your profiles (share, retweet, repost, etc.).
  • Turn your existing content – whether it’s audio only, written, or video – into optimized video memes designed for social media. This Business 2 Community article teaches you exactly how to do that, step by step. It also explains the best sizes to post on social media, how to get more engagement from these videos, and more.

2 – Choose 4 – 5 Brands to Associate Yourself With

Who are other authorities in your industry that don’t compete with your product or service? Who serves your same audience, but in a bit of a different way? It might be an online magazine, blog, etc. Choose 4 – 5 brands who create lots of great educational content (that your team wouldn’t create) and share their knowledge.

If you’re a personal trainer who focuses specifically on building workout routines for clients, for example, find a brand that specializes in nutritional education and share some of their blog articles or videos on your social media to educate your audience full circle. Always make sure you tag that business to give them credit.

You can share their content one of 2 ways:

  1. Grab their content from their site or wherever it lives, and post it organically yourself.
  2. Share/ retweet/ repost something they’ve already posted.

We recommend doing both. If you are going to share something they’ve already posted, on Instagram you can use a tool called “Repost” that allows you to share their image or video. This option takes less time as the content already exists for you to share.

However, if you find a piece of content from one of these brands that you can’t find on their social media, download it and post it yourself and give them credit. Here’s an example of this with a Neil Patel video. Click “See More” to understand how the copy was done:

 

This also makes your social media less promotional and “salesy”; it’s clear you’re here to educate your audience and give them the best resources possible (even if it’s from other experts!). Also, not to mention, it builds great rapport with those brands.

Do this about once a week on all of your social profiles.

TIP: Use a Google Chrome extension like Save to Pocket to make this even easier. When you visit these few brands’ pages, you can bookmark awesome articles or videos of theirs that you’d like to share later. Batch them up so that the next time to go to post something, you already have links stored. This saves you even more time.

3 – Implement the Selfie-Style 1 Minute Videos

Dennis Yu, author of “Facebook Nation” which is taught in over 700 colleges and universities, has a ton of knowledge on social media engagement and posting.

In a recent interview, he stressed the importance and ease of posting short, one minute videos that are value packed that you simply record with your phone. Don’t edit these. Don’t script them. Film them and post them raw.

It’s great to film these while you’re doing something, like walking, cooking, etc. The point is to make them look natural and organic. This way, your audience relates to them. They’re also super short and to the point, your viewers don’t have to dedicate a lot of time to understand your message, and they connect more with your personal brand.

These 1-minute selfie videos in combination with the polished image quotes and memes from Hack #1 will add a ton of awesome variety to your feeds.

At the end of this article is an example of a selfie-style 1 minute video from Dennis himself (notice at the end he gives a shout out to the 1 minute video strategy!).

But overall, you don’t need to spend hours creating or researching things to post on your social media platforms in order to give your audience valuable, high-performing content. It’s about strategy, implementing what works, connecting with other authorities in your community to leverage audiences, and being as efficient as possible. These three hacks allow you to do all of that.

For those who want handfuls of social media assets created for them (those image quotes and video memes), that’s exactly what our team at Repurpose House specializes in, and we’d love to help.

Now, for that Dennis Yu example!

Life is a balancing act! If we focus on more than one aspect of our lives, another aspect suffers!

Posted by Dennis Yu on Saturday, April 13, 2019

03 May 15:08

Can Your Sales Funnel Pass These 4 Powerful Questions?

by Zak Mustapha

Just buy from me already!

Yeah that’s how every business owner secretly feels. If only it was that easy and simple…

Unfortunately, not everyone is going to buy what you have to offer right from the get-go. Most people need nurturing through what is known as a sales funnel.

A process that takes a prospect through the buying journey.

Whether you already have one or not – here are 5 tests every sales funnel must follow in order for it to be a success…

1. Do you have a reliable source of traffic?

To succeed online you need traffic and conversions.

It’s pretty straightforward yet entrepreneurs like to complicate it. They’re always looking for the latest gimmick or growth hack.

Are you even getting enough traffic in the first place? And how do you define “enough” traffic?

Only then can you move onto the next question.

2. Do you have a free product?

Before anyone buys from you, how do they get a taste of what you offer or a feel of your style? That’s where offering a free product comes in handy – you give people a taste of the value you could potentially offer.

You may need to create a few free products and send some traffic to each one to find out which one converts best.

When they choose to get access to your free product, usually you want to get their email address in return so you can offer them more value in the future.

3. Do you have a low-cost product you can upsell them after they subscribe to get the free product?

Right after people subscribe to get the free product, because they’re already in that “buying zone” it’s best to upsell them on a low-cost product that’s almost like a no brainer and doesn’t require much commitment from their side.

Not everyone will buy it, but hey… some people will.

Besides those who don’t buy… you’ve already got them on the email list where you can warm them up a bit.

4. Do you have an email sequence to educate your subscribers?

Here is where you get to show your magic by adding value to your subscribers.

Educate them and warm them up. Build trust with your expertise that will help them out.

Don’t stop emailing them. Email your list frequently but not too frequently.

Don’t go too long too quiet otherwise they may forget you. Your goal is to stay on top of their mind – so when they do need that extra help, you’ll be the first person they’ll come to.

Consistency is the important part here.

If you can consistently add value to someone’s life… sooner or later they’ll buy from you.

03 May 15:07

Measuring Sales Enablement: The Metrics You Need to Assess Success

by David Bloom

Sales enablement has a problem. People think we suck at enabling our reps because we can’t prove the impact of what we do.

Many SaaS companies struggle with ramp time, and it’s getting worse over time. The Bridge Group reports that, on average, it takes 5 or more months for new sales reps to ramp at SaaS companies today.

And sales teams are not hitting quota. There’s usually a handful of reps carrying the bulk of the revenue number. Everyone else is a B or C player and not contributing as much as they should.

This means there’s a lot of money being left on the table.

Clearly, we need a reliable way to measure sales enablement –– and fortunately, with today’s technology, there is a way. Keep reading to learn the metrics you can use to prove your onboarding and training are successful.

The Opportunity Cost of Unmeasured Enablement

The two main areas enablement can help are Onboarding and Ongoing Enablement. But before we can look at how we should measure results in these areas, we need to evaluate the opportunity costs in each.

The ROI of Sales Enablement During Onboarding

What’s the value of ramping one month faster? Two months faster? Let’s break it down using a couple assumptions.

Let’s say your reps have a $600K yearly quota, and you’re a scale-up adding 48 new reps over 24 months (two new reps each month).

If your average ramp (time to consistent quota) at your company is seven months, ramping two month sooner will add $2.1M revenue across those 50 new hires.

measuring sales enablement on boarding roi

We’re not talking about significant improvements in ramp time here, but the revenue gains are massive!

The ROI of Ongoing Sales Enablement

Now let’s switch to ongoing quota attainment.

Let’s again assume your 48 reps each carry a $600K annual quota, and the average quota attainment across your team is 52%.

Improving quota attainment a measly 4% –– from 52% to 56% –– is an additional $1.2M in annual revenue, without having to make any drastic improvements.

measuring sales enablement ongoing roi

The math is there. Great Sales Enablement has the opportunity to drive significant revenue numbers for organizations. But without the right measurement, we can’t actually enable reps correctly –– much less measure the effect of that enablement.

GET THE EBOOK: The Definitive Guide to Sales Enablement

Why Can’t Sales Enablement Get Better?

Let’s take a page from the Learning and Development book and look at the Kirkpatrick Model to understand.

measuring sales enablement Kirkpatrick Model

Kirkpatrick was a professor at the University of Wisconsin who popularized a theory for evaluating the effectiveness of training courses.

This model has four levels, which are designed as a sequence of ways to evaluate the effectiveness of your training programs. As you proceed deeper through each of the levels, the evaluation becomes more difficult and requires more time.

Here’s a quick overview of the four levels of assessments for the Kirkpatrick model:

  1. Reaction: This is the first level of assessment and is the most basic. Here, you measure your reps’ initial reaction to the training. Did they like it? Did they find it useful? Was the material good? Did we use the right experts to run the programs? Etc.
  2. Learning: This is the second level of assessment. Here, you measure how much of the material was absorbed by your reps, and map it to the learning objective.
  3. Behavior: This is the third level of assessment, where you measure how much your programs have influenced the behavior of your reps and how they’re applying it in the field.
  4. Results: This is the fourth and final level of assessment. Here, you measure the impact your programs had at the business level. For this, you want to look at revenue and pipeline growth in sales, and you want to tie results to the different parts of the program or individuals.

To prove its value, Sales Enablement needs to measure the effectiveness of its programs on all four levels. But there’s a problem: There’s no rigor in instructional design in the sales enablement function. As a result, the bottom two layers aren’t always measured.

Sales enablers usually either come from:

  1. A Sales Management background – knowing the behaviors and numbers reps should have.
  2. A Learning and Development background – knowing how to train adults, but not for sales skills, since they lack expertise in carrying quotas and hitting numbers.

On top of that, there aren’t many tools and processes that can help combine these two backgrounds and areas of expertise. That makes it really hard to be effective at sales enablement.

If we’re not measuring for the bottom two layers of Kirkpatrick –– behaviors and bottom-line results –– then we’re only training for the sake of knowledge, and not for the sake of skills.

measuring sales enablement behavior and results

Unfortunately, this isn’t going to be an easy change, and here’s why…

Many trainers still use spreadsheets and live training as the anchor to their enablement or onboarding. Unless you’re manually gathering metrics, you don’t have enough data to prove enablement is actually working. It’s time to invest in some tools.

For the rest of you who are using some sort of tech, like a CMS or LMS, good! You can pull assessment numbers from many of those tools. But there are still gaps in the data you get from these tools.

For example, you may have good measures of skill improvement but still have trouble correlating those improvements to revenue results in your CRM.

You must be able to show behavioral and business-related metrics that demonstrate your enablement is working.

What’s the Future of Sales Enablement Measurement?

So how do we fill these gaps?

There’s no single (or simple) way you can measure everything you do for sales enablement. But it’s critical that the CRM is at the center of your enablement tech stack in order to be able to measure all the way down to deal metrics –– which correlates with Kirkpatrick’s 4th level.

A 2017 Gartner report, “Sales Enablement Technology Transforms the CRM Sales Landscape,” observed that some sales enablement vendors have matured into platform solutions and are well-suited for sales leaders.

The major jump in maturation is a direct result of deep integration into CRMs like Salesforce.

Take a look at how complex the sales enablement landscape has become. CRM and API integrations are at the center of it.

If you’re not integrating your enablement programs into your CRM (i.e., spreadsheets and corporate LMS), you can’t really call it “enablement” anymore.

At the very least, you need to be judging the ROI of Sales Enablement programs by business-level metrics, like pipeline and closed revenue. Otherwise, how do you know if you’re actually enabling reps?

You might just be another function of HR.

It’s time to put our sales hats on. It’s time to do the hard work and put our numbers on the line. There’s no easy way to do it –– but it CAN be done, and it’s the only way to be effective at sales enablement.

Start measuring those deal metrics against enablement, and you’ll quickly reduce ramp and improve quota consistency at your organization.

The Metrics You Need to Perfectly Assess Sales Enablement

In order to effectively measure your sales enablement, you need to identify the metrics that prove your onboarding and training is successful at each assessment level in the Kirkpatrick Model.

how to perfectly assess sales enablement

Metrics to Assess the Reaction, Learning, and Behavior Levels

At these levels, you’re measuring consumption of training and engagement with it.

  • # of content views
  • # of programs launched
  • # of programs completed
  • # of certifications
  • # of video practices or calls recorded
  • # of coaching activities

Metrics to Assess the Business-Level Results Level

Here, you’re measuring the impact of training and revenue productivity metrics.

  • Time to first activity (TTFA)
    • Time to first call
    • Time to first meeting
    • Time to first demo
  • Time to first deal (TTFD)
  • Time to 50% quota (TT50Q)
  • Time to 80% quota (TT80Q)
  • Time to 100% or full quota (TTFQ)

For a full list of metrics click here.

Bottom Line

Unless you’re able to attribute your sales enablement programs to metrics that matter to you, you can’t prove they’re doing the job of helping your sales reps hit their goals.

It’s especially important to track a few key metrics in the Results level when assessing the effectiveness of your sales onboarding programs. They will help you create a predictive onboarding model, so cohorts of new-hires –– whether it be two, 20, or 200 people –– can all ramp in a consistent way.

How are you measuring the effectiveness of your enablement programs? What’s working (or not working) for you? Share your ideas in the comments.

The post Measuring Sales Enablement: The Metrics You Need to Assess Success appeared first on Sales Hacker.

03 May 15:07

We Give Waaaay Too Much in Sales

by John Barrows

We are givers in Sales.

We give and give and give in the hopes that at the end of the sales process, we get what we want – which is the signed contract and commission.  The problem is we tend to give a bunch of stuff away without really getting much in return.  When this happens, we’re actually conditioning the prospect to treat us like a doormat.

We’re conditioning them to think they can get whatever they want without having to do anything for it.  This is why at the end of the sales process they sometimes don’t even give us the courtesy of a callback!

This conditioning and resulting actions by the prospects are, to a certain degree, based on respect and what one of my mentors (Jeff Hoffman) calls your Social Value. Think about the relationships you have in your personal lives. The ones that are more equal are the ones you’re closer to and you have more respect for, which usually dictates how to interact with them.  It’s the same way with clients.  If there is a significant inequality to the relationship, they don’t respect us and they will treat us accordingly.

There is a human condition that helps us understand and address this and is described by some as the “Rule of Reciprocity.”

This rule effectively states that as humans we are all bound, even driven, to repay debts. Most of us don’t like owing anyone anything, regardless of how small. However, the longer we wait to repay that debt the less likely it is to happen. On the other hand, the longer we wait to ask for something in return for what we’re giving away, the harder it is to get.

There is a direct relationship to the length of time it takes to get something in return for what you’re giving away and the likelihood of us getting it.  This is why when we give a bunch of stuff away throughout the sales process and wait until the end to get something in return, the client doesn’t remember all the stuff we did or what they “owe” us.

How do we fix this and create more of an equal relationship with our prospects throughout the sales process?

Just make sure you never give something away without getting something in return for it, no matter how small it might seem.  Get a scheduled meeting, direct dial or cell phone number for giving away information.  Get an NDA for giving a demo. Get a testimonial in return for a discount.

There are tons of things we can and should be asking for throughout the sales process. List them out and ask for them early and often to build up your Social Value.

Make it happen!

Want to learn more about how you can use the Rule of Reciprocity during the sales cycle? Check out my Driving to Close program and use code CLOSEMORE20 to save 20% in May 2019.

The post We Give Waaaay Too Much in Sales appeared first on JBarrows.

03 May 15:06

Product Differentiation and What it Means for Your Brand

by mhart@hubspot.com (Meredith Hart)

We're going to get personal for a minute.

Before you run away, hear me out. I'd like to introduce you to … Billie.

Why am I introducing you to a body care brand? Because they've mastered the art of product differentiation.

While personal care might seem like a standard part of your daily routine, Billie strives to bring out the 'magic in the mundane' by making high-quality and affordable body care products.

Billie's co-founder, Georgina Gooley, said, "I really want to try and carve out our own brand and our own following and not try and replicate what another brand has done, because we are trying to be different."

The product is differentiated from typical direct-to-consumer body care brands by focusing on women first, combatting the pink tax, providing premium products, and making the future brighter for all women. This strategy has helped the company realize monumental success and develop a recognizable brand with a positive reputation.

So, how can a differentiation strategy work for your business? Let's demystify product differentiation.

Free Download: The Ultimate Inbound Marketing Kit for Startups

Also known as a differentiation strategy, product differentiation is a method for companies to make their products stand out and grab the attention of consumers. This helps the company develop a strong brand that potential customers will recognize. And it increases the likelihood they'll pick your product over a generic or un-differentiated product or service.

Businesses that make product differentiation work for them have the following qualities:

  • Innovative
  • The resources to create high-quality products or services
  • A strong research and development team
  • Marketing and sales strategies that communicate the benefits and competitive advantage of the product or service

The differentiation strategy a business chooses will depend on its industry, competitive market, and the products or services it's selling.

Types of Product Differentiation

Depending on the type of strategy you choose, there are specific areas where you can differentiate your product.

  1. Features
  2. Quality
  3. Reliability
  4. Price
  5. Looks
  6. Location
  7. Brand image
  8. Marketing and promotion
  9. Distribution channels
  10. Post-sale support

Advantages and Disadvantages of Product Differentiation

Before pursuing a product differentiation strategy, it's best to review the advantages and disadvantages and consider how they'll impact your business.

Advantages of Product Differentiation

1. It creates additional value.

Product differentiation will give your prospective customers added value. This value can either come directly from the product and service, or from the brand perception.

2. It develops brand loyalty.

Every time people see your products on store shelves or in an online ad, they'll know exactly what your brand represents. And they'll be more likely to choose your product over the competition.

3. It allows businesses to compete in different ways.

With product differentiation, companies have the ability to compete in areas other than price. They can be innovative in style, quality, features, etc. It's up to the business to decide which area of differentiation will work best for their target markets.

Disadvantages of Product Differentiation

1. Revenue increases are not guaranteed.

Will consumers find value in the unique features your product provides? A differentiation strategy doesn't necessarily guarantee that consumers will find the value that separates your product from other, standard options.

For example, if your product is more expensive than the competitor selling the standard product, and the consumer doesn't see the added value in your product, they'll likely choose the cheaper option.

2. The offering's perceived value can decline.

As consumers become savvier and technology and products advance, the differentiation of your product might no longer provide value to customers. You should consider how long your differentiation strategy will last and if it will need to be modified eventually.

3. It can strain resources.

Pursuing a differentiation strategy means a lot of time, energy, resources will be spent to develop a product that sets itself apart from the competition. This can put a burden on research and development teams, product manufacturers, and even your profit margins. These effects are felt more by smaller businesses who have few employees and limited resources.

Product Differentiation Examples

Differentiation strategies can be used in a variety of industries and business types. Here are a few product differentiation examples of businesses that have made the strategy work for them.

1. Airstream

Main competitors: Fleetwood, Jayco, Winnebago

Airstream Product Differentiation Example

There's a retro mystique about Airstream's RVs. They're silver, streamlined, and highly recognizable on the road.

The company sets its RVs apart from the competition by focusing on quality and their value increases with time. Higher quality means lower maintenance costs and higher resale value. Plus, they're known to last for generations:

"Since the 1930s, Airstreams have been handed down from generation to generation, passed on to family members, friends, or new adventurers -- and they look just as great in their 30th year as they did in their first. That’s the quality standard we hold ourselves to."

Airstream's brand is further developed through its heritage, which builds trust with potential customers and highlights the company's success over the years. With the tagline "Live Riveted," Airstream inspires people to get on the road and travel with an RV.

2. Nike

Main competitors: Under Armour, Adidas, Reebok International

Nike product differentiation example

What separates Nike from the competition? Branding. The company positions itself in the market as an innovative company that creates high-quality sports apparel and shoes.

The company works with high-profile athletes to wear and promote Nike apparel. A few of these athletes include Serena Williams, Michael Jordan, Cristiano Ronaldo, and more. This attracts new (and returning) customers because many aspire to be just like their favorite athletes.

Nike creates new and innovative product lines and creates buzz and excitement for the product launches through its promotions. Not only does this pique the interest of new customers, but it also keeps existing customers coming back for more.

3. Lush

Main competitors: The Body Shop, Origins, Sephora

Lush product differentiation exampleLush stands out from other cosmetic brands due to its focus on fresh, handmade cosmetics. This is something that isn't often done by generic cosmetic brands, and it's what differentiates Lush from the competition.

Its message is another area where Lush stands out from the crowd. Their target customer values social responsibility, and the company takes it to heart. All the products are made using natural, vegetarian ingredients, reusable and recyclable packaging, and without animal testing.

And each visit to a Lush store offers a unique experience. You can test out products and have your questions answered by impeccable, friendly store associates. Each aspect of Lush's differentiation strategy makes it the recognizable and well-loved brand it is.

These examples show us how a well-planned product differentiation strategy can set your business and brand apart from competitors. For even more product differentiation examples, check out these companies who brilliantly differentiated themselves from the competition.

And if you're ready to start a business of your own, use these small business ideas for inspiration.

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03 May 15:06

The 25 most influential books ever written about business

by Mara Leighton

Insider Picks writes about products and services to help you navigate when shopping online. Insider Inc. receives a commission from our affiliate partners when you buy through our links, but our reporting and recommendations are always independent and objective.

25 most influential books 4x3

Warren Buffett — arguably the most skilled investor of our time — said reading 500 pages a day was the key to success, because, "That's how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest."

This is likely why so many important businessmen and women make reading a daily part of their lives. It's why Bill Gates reads 50 books every year (roughly one a week) and Mark Zuckerberg kicked off 2015 with the goal of reading one every other week.

If you want exposure to new ideas, modes of thinking, and a compounded aggregate of diverse knowledge, then reading is important. And it's going to help you in business, be it by a mixture of accounts on other corporate successes or failures and lessons on lean startups, or a 2,500-year-old military tome that works just as well in boardrooms as war.

Below are the 25 most influential business books of all time, if you're looking to start with those most worth your time:

Descriptions provided by Amazon and edited for length.

READ THIS: Here are 15 books that will help you succeed in the tech world

"Business Adventures" by John Brooks

What do the $350 million Ford Motor Company disaster known as the Edsel, the fast and incredible rise of Xerox, and the unbelievable scandals at General Electric and Texas Gulf Sulphur have in common? Each is an example of how an iconic company was defined by a particular moment of fame or notoriety; these notable and fascinating accounts are as relevant today to understanding the intricacies of corporate life as they were when the events happened.

Note: Bill Gates wrote in his blog, gatesnotes, that Warren Buffett not only recommended this as his favorite book about business, but actually sent Gates his own personal copy to read. Gates writes that more than four decades after it was first published, "Business Adventures" remains the best business book he's ever read. 

Buy it here >>



"The Intelligent Investor" by Benjamin Graham

The greatest investment advisor of the twentieth century, Benjamin Graham, taught and inspired people worldwide. Graham's philosophy of "value investing" — which shields investors from substantial error and teaches them to develop long-term strategies — has made "The Intelligent Investor" the stock market bible ever since its original publication in 1949.

Note: Warren Buffett refers to "The Intelligent Investor" as the "best book on investing ever written."

Buy it here >>

 



"The Innovator's Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business" by Clayton M. Christensen

Offering both successes and failures from leading companies as a guide, "The Innovator’s Dilemma" gives you a set of rules for capitalizing on the phenomenon of disruptive innovation.

Note: Steve Jobs used this book as an explanation for one reason Apple needed to embrace cloud computing and is frequently associated with both Jobs and Jeff Bezos.

Buy it here >>



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
03 May 15:05

Microsoft launches a drag-and-drop machine learning tool

by Frederic Lardinois

Microsoft today announced three new services that all aim to simplify the process of machine learning. These range from a new interface for a tool that completely automates the process of creating models, to a new no-code visual interface for building, training and deploying models, all the way to hosted Jupyter-style notebooks for advanced users.

Getting started with machine learning is hard. Even to run the most basic of experiments takes a good amount of expertise. All of these new tools greatly simplify this process by hiding away the code or giving those who want to write their own code a pre-configured platform for doing so.

The new interface for Azure’s automated machine learning tool makes creating a model as easy as importing a data set and then telling the service which value to predict. Users don’t need to write a single line of code, while in the backend, this updated version now supports a number of new algorithms and optimizations that should result in more accurate models. While most of this is automated, Microsoft stresses that the service provides “complete transparency into algorithms, so developers and data scientists can manually override and control the process.”

For those who want a bit more control from the get-go, Microsoft also today launched into preview a visual interface for its Azure Machine Learning service that will allow developers to build, train and deploy machine learning models without having to touch any code.

This tool, the Azure Machine Learning visual interface, looks suspiciously like the existing Azure ML Studio, Microsoft’s first stab at building a visual machine learning tool. Indeed, the two services look identical. The company never really pushed this service, though, and almost seemed to have forgotten about it despite the fact that it always seemed like a really useful tool for getting started with machine learning.

Microsoft says this new version combines the best of Azure ML Studio with the Azure Machine Learning service. In practice, this means that while the interface is almost identical, the Azure Machine Learning visual interface extends what was possible with ML Studio by running on top of the Azure Machine Learning service and adding that services’ security, deployment and life cycle management capabilities.

The service provides an easy interface for cleaning up your data, training models with the help of different algorithms, evaluating them and, finally, putting them into production.

While these first two services clearly target novices, the new hosted notebooks in Azure Machine Learning are clearly geared toward the more experienced machine learning practitioner. The notebooks come pre-packaged with support for the Azure Machine Learning Python SDK and run in what the company describes as a “secure, enterprise-ready environment.” While using these notebooks isn’t trivial either, this new feature allows developers to quickly get started without the hassle of setting up a new development environment with all the necessary cloud resources.

03 May 15:01

Bringing science discipline to pricing - an interview with Joseph Schneider of Becton Dickinson

by Steven Forth
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Ibbaka with its partner Leverage Learning has been working with Becton Dickinson for the past three years on a series of marketing capability projects. One of the most innovative is on Pricing Excellence. Our internal thought leader was Joe Schneider, who brings wide experience from different fields to pricing leadership. Joe has his finger on some of the most important challenges facing pricing today: how to make the transition from products and services to solutions, how to manage pricing in large complex sales that can combine highly differentiated offers with others under commoditization pressure, how to manage changes in the value chain and pressure from stakeholders to reduce overall costs in the healthcare system.

Ibbaka: How did you come to a pricing leadership role at Becton Dickinson?

Joe: I came into pricing almost by accident. Working with business leaders, we found that people did not really know why they were using the pricing models or levels they were. They had just accepted what had been done before and were working within that framework. I wanted us to take a step back. We needed to put pricing more in the context of customers and not just let prices be driven by habit, our internal needs and our competitors.

We needed to develop a better price setting process. One that was rooted in our customers’ need. One way we tried to get people to change their thinking was with a simple question. We asked people to take a look at their offers and pricing and ask “If someone tried to sell us that would we be willing to buy at that price? Why?”  Asking that question to ourselves, made us think about how we were creating and capturing value with customers in the marketplace.

The way of thinking we are working to drive into the company is based on customer driven strategies. We have to look at a few things in detail.

  1. How are we creating value?  (i.e. What really is our strategy to create preference with customers in a market?)

  2. What is the business model for Becton Dickinson and for our customers and business partners? Does that business model enable or hinder our strategy?

  3. How should we price? (Capture value !)

  4. At what price should we simply walk away? (One cannot afford to win all deals, especially not to win them on price.)

Ibbaka: You have done a lot of things over the years, and currently play a key role in areas like customer insights for Becton Dickinson. How do you bring these different skills to bear on your pricing work?

Joe: I started my career as a research scientist in biochemistry. This gave me two key traits that have shaped my career, curiosity and the need for a rigorous process for generating and testing hypotheses.

I am genuinely curious about how we create value and about what we know and what we just think we know. We have to ask …

What do we know?

Why do we think we know this?

What are our hypotheses?

How can we test them?

Pricing requires people to be very inquisitive and data driven at the same time

After my research career I had the opportunity to work in sales. Sales is really a great way to understand needs, problems and solutions with a degree of granularity that is hard to attain from other sources.  It also a very nerve wracking and humbling experience. Your customers tell you a lot. I was fortunate to have a great mentor in Steve Goodstein (nurse who moved into sales executive roles) who taught me a key lesson when I was starting, which i still recall to this day:

“I don’t want to know more about my solutions than the customer. I want to know more about the customer’s problems than the customer. If you know that, then people are glad to see you.”

This is hard and the exact opposite of the “leadership” role that many companies want to play with their customers. At Becton Dickinson we are getting better at this. We used to see our business in terms of products and manufacturing plants. This is going to be harder to be successful with going forward, as our customers change and as our competitors change.  Our competitors can have very different profitability requirements depending on how they are financed (public vs. private companies). The capacity game is over. We have moved from pushing our products to our customers to having our customers pull solutions from us. We want our solutions to impact our customers’ key performance indicators.

Products are a much easier thing to manage than are customers. You can see the direct contribution of a product to the P/L. Can we get to a point where we understand the contribution of each customer to the P/L?

We want to become a customer driven business, one that is built on a deep understanding of our customers and how we are creating value for them. This requires a change in mindset on how we engage.

Pricing plays a critical role in this transformation. I was able to bring a new perspective to pricing at Becton Dickinson as I did not live in a part of the business with P/L accountability. That let me be more agnostic and introduce a more rigorous approach.

The combination of research discipline with sales experience is critical to my success. Both of these teach one to deal with contentious topics. To succeed in pricing one has to be able to understand and integrate different points of view.

Ibbaka: How have pricing challenges and opportunities changed as Becton Dickinson has moved towards solutions?

Joe: Becton Dickinson has a strong position in several markets. We enjoy a combination of high margins, high market share and are able to charge significantly more than our competitors. We try to better understand why our customers are making these choices. As we move to solutions there is the potential that may earn lower margins, but have a more “competition proof” customer base.  It is critical that we understand the tradeoffs between price, gross margin and perceived value, even as we are moving from managing products to managing portfolios that can provide value across the whole path of a disease or for an entire provider system. The basics never go away.

As part of this transformation, we need to get better at designing and managing risk-based contracts where we share risks and rewards with our customers, and performance-based contracts where we are paid for impacting key performance indicators. The organizations that develop these as core competencies are going to be among the winners going forward.

This will require a good understanding of game theory. One has to be able to understand one’s own risk, the risks the customer is taking on, and even the risks facing competitors. We have to think about pricing and our business as a whole as being involved in risk transformation for our customers. How do we change their risks?

As we start to price based on outcomes, we have to start asking ‘How can I align my business model with that of my customer?’

Ibbaka: What is changing in your markets and how will this impact pricing?

Joe: There is going to be a lot more pressure all along the value chain to demonstrate value and show that pricing is justified by the value being delivered. This challenge will be felt across entire disease states and for all healthcare providers, and is coming from customers, regulatory agencies, and political systems.

The government will be putting more and more pressure on the healthcare system. The percentage of the gross domestic product (GDP) spent on healthcare cannot continue to grow. This is going to put pressure on the whole value chain beginning with the pharma companies, but pressure on companies like Becton Dickinson to demonstrate value will also be intense. The value models of many parts of the sector will have to change and become much better defined. Intermediaries like pharma benefits providers will also come under a lot more pressure.

This means there will be a need for a lot more pricing transparency right out of the gate. As I guide our businesses through their pricing strategy and pricing decisions I want to make sure that what we are doing is fair, transparent and will stand up to external scrutiny.

Digitization is going to have a big impact here. Digital business models mean that a lot more data is collected and available for analysis. Digitizing the healthcare system should lead to a lot more transparency for all participants, and this will then feed back into strategy setting.

Becton Dickinson will have to get better at managing prices in the context of the value being created across the entire value chain. We will need the skills to deliver profit management through the solution, customer and portfolio lenses.

If I boil this down to three things, we are going to see a lot more value chain integration, a demand for transparency and an expectation of fairness.

Ibbaka: What are your passions beyond work?

Joe: I have young and very active children and we do a lot of things together as a family. We ski, play soccer get out of the house together, but we also sit down and play board games and work on puzzles. We also love food. Food of all kinds, especially ethnic foods. I have to travel a lot for work and one thing I enjoy is trying out all sorts of different ways food can be prepared and served.  I think every culture has some form of a dumpling...food wrapped in dough. It makes me think there is some basic need for humankind to put food in a dough wrapper for easy consumption. I also know I have yet to try a dumpling that I have not enjoyed :).

Ibbaka: What is the lasting impact you hope to have with your work?

Joe: When you get down to it, it is about the brand we are building at Becton Dickinson.

“Advancing the world of health.”

To really deliver on this, we have to have processes that support it, a way of thinking that embodies it, and we have to be able to create and communicate value. The way to do this is by thinking differently about our customers.

Permalink

03 May 14:59

Overcoming objections in sales: 40+ examples, tactics, and rebuttals

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

Nothing defeats an inexperienced salesperson faster than an unexpected objection. Most salespeople invest hours perfecting their pitch without a second though to what comes afterwards. But even a perfect pitch can be ruined by poor objection handling.

If you’re tired of losing deals to responses like, “Your price is too high,” “Now isn’t a good time,” or, “We’ll buy if you add these features,” it’s time to get serious about overcoming objections. Instead of hoping your prospects won’t have objections (they always will), spend some time preparing for them in advance.

Use our list below to start overcoming sales objections and closing more deals, or jump down to any section that deals with the types of rebuttals you see most often.

Let’s get started with some of the basics about sales objections, and what the most common types are.

What are sales objections and how can you overcome them?

A sales objection is a rebuttal from your current lead during the sales process that explicitly states a reason why they will not be buying from you at the moment. These can include problems with price, usefulness of the product, or a lack of time to engage with you currently, among other things.

Here’s one important thing every seasoned salesperson understands:

Getting an objection from a client is a good thing! It means the prospect has enough interest to at least engage with you, rather than flat out dismissing you. For you, the salesperson, a sales objection is an opportunity to learn more about your prospect’s needs, and find better ways to communicate the value your solution has to offer to them.

sales-objection-techniques-close-deal

How to handle sales objections:

To handle sales objections, you must be prepared for what is coming at you, listen attentively to your potential buyer, and demonstrate that you truly understand their concerns. To master handling objections, you need to prepare responses to common rebuttals from your leads to regain the upper-hand.

Salespeople often struggle with objections because of the surprise factor that accompanies them - you weren’t expecting it! If you need to know how to manage any sales objection, these strategies can help take the shock value out of the conversation, and get you back on track to close.

10 proven strategies for overcoming objections in sales

  1. Really listen to the objection - You might think jumping in with a quick response is the best tactic, but it’s much better to listen carefully to what they are saying so you don’t make assumptions about what they want/what they mean.
  2. Take the time to understand the objection - Ask further questions about what they mean, as it’s common that your potential buyer isn’t revealing their real objections. Explore with them to get to the real root of the issue that’s holding them back.
  3. Craft a response addressing their biggest objection - Once you understand it, provide a rebuttal to their concerns. If you can overcome this barrier, the call can likely continue with less resistance.
  4. Try to resolve their objection in real time - The better you can satisfy their concerns right away, the more likely they are to proceed further in the sales process.
  5. Keep responses clear and to the point - A long response where you go on and on isn’t likely to be well-received, but instead, seen as more ‘selling’ and less like addressing their concerns.
  6. Don’t wing it - Making up things on the spot is likely to get you in trouble; buyers can sense this and it will create a level of distrust that - in all likelihood - will end the sales call. If you need more information, ask for it, or look it up.
  7. Confirm you’ve satisfied the objection - Don’t assume you have just because they accept what you say. Ask your potential buyer how they feel about what you’ve said, or if you’ve alleviated their concerns. This can help you move in for the close, or if necessary, move on to addressing further concerns they have.
  8. Create an objection management document- This document should list the top 25 objections you face, along with a 1-3 sentence response for each. If you work with a team, collaborate on this project together.
  9. Practice the objection responses and commit them to memory - You don’t have to recite them word-for-word, but you should at least have them in the back of your mind so you have a strong foundation and can deliver confident, compelling responses every time.
  10. PRO TIP: Customize your objection list to market - Each market has its own objections, and if you aren’t prepared for those, you’re going to lose deals to someone that is. Sort your objections into groups by market, and add objections you get from only certain areas.

The best way to become a master of these strategies is to practice them while selling. But you want to be prepared for these objections so you aren’t losing sales while mastering your objection handling. Here are the objections you’ll see in sales on a regular basis.

Most common sales objections

Different sales people face completely different objections, right? Wrong. What you’re selling will clearly affect the minor details of the objections that come your way, but the truth is, most salespeople face the same objections from their leads.

These are the types of objections in sales that most people see on a regular basis. Jump down to the one that you deal with most, or start working your way through the list.

We’re going to jump into one of the biggest objections salespeople deal with: a price that doesn’t seem to work.

Overcoming price objections: Sales rebuttals for no budget/too expensive

These objections will range anywhere from “We simply think your product is too expense” to “I need a discount to buy” to “We already allocated all of our budget for this type of things.” To overcome these, you need to assure the potential customer that the value they’re getting from your product is worth the price.

Often, people use price as a defense mechanism to hide what their real concerns are - or they’re just feeling you out to see if you’ll offer a discount. Make sure you get to the root of what’s really going on with a price objection.

1. "Your product/service is too expensive."

sales-objection-too-expensive

When a prospect says your product is too expensive, it isn’t always about price. In many cases, they have the budget for your product, but you haven’t demonstrated enough value to justify your price.

But sometimes it isn’t about price or value. Sometimes your prospects will use the pricing objection to hide their real concerns. The first thing you need to do when you hear the pricing objection is find out what’s really going on.

Master the too expensive objection: How do you manage the pricing objection in sales?

2. “We have no money.”

When your lead throws this one out there, it’s hard to press further because it’s likely true that they simply can’t afford you - right now. The best way to counter this is with strategically-placed follow-ups based on their growth.

Track what’s going on over there, and pounce again when you see some growth that might allow for you to sneak into the budget.

Master the no money objection: Dealing with a “no money” objection

3. “We’ve already spent our budget.”

This is very similar to the no money objection listed above, yet it differs in one key way you can utilize to change your prospect’s mind: funding will return eventually.

You can counter this problem in 2 ways:

  1. Ask your lead when the cash flow will return to them, and follow-up then
  2. Work with your prospect to brainstorm ways you can allocate some of the budget to your product or service - especially if your service is something that will help them save money

Master the no budget objection: 5 ways to tackle the “no budget” objection

4. “I need to allocate this budget elsewhere.”

This objection means that the potential is there to spend money on what you’re offering, but your prospect just doesn’t see it as a priority compared to other things, so they’re putting the money elsewhere.

The best way to counter this is with specific examples or case studies on how other companies like theirs benefited from implementing your solution, and bonus points if you can show them how they’ll actually save money using you. That will make it awfully hard for your lead to object to when it comes to budgeting and resource allocation.

Master the budget elsewhere objection: How to handle “no budget” telesales objections

5. "Your product looks great, but the price is too high."

product-too-expensive-objection

Whenever a prospect throws out the idea of getting a discount before they even try your product, don't give in. Instead, refocus the conversation on what matters most: your product, and even more importantly, the value it will create for your prospect.

Instead of engaging in cumbersome discount negotiations, use this technique to weed out bad fits, and demonstrate value to prospective customers.

Master the not worth the price objection: SaaS sales negotiations 101: How to respond to discount inquiries

6. “I don’t want to be stuck in a contract.”

Many people don’t want to get tied into a contract, especially if it’s for up to a year. This puts their cash flow availability at risk, and makes the commitment they make to you today a lot more serious than signing up for one month, or one quarter.

Another thing they might be saying is “I need to think this over” - because they need to make sure it will be worth the commitment. To counter a “I need to think it over” that becomes a “No,” see if you can offer shorter terms, or allow an option for them to leave the contract after 6 months. That safety net might mean the world to them, but if your product is good enough, they probably won’t exercise that right down the road.

Master the don’t want to be stuck in a contract objection: How to confidently handle sales objections: A field-tested action plan

7. “The ROI potential just isn’t there.”

If your prospect is telling you that what you’re offering won’t give them the Return on Investment they’re looking for, you need to show them exactly how it will. A case study of a similar business seeing ROI from your solution is the best way to counter this.

Don’t make the mistake of just repeating key features - they heard you the first time, and saying it again won’t convince them the ROI is there. You need to figure out how your prospect’s company is making money, and give them a concrete example of how your service, product, or solution will make them more - or save them more money than what they’ll spend on you in the process.

Master the no ROI objection: Addressing the ROI objection and measuring ROI

8. “Another option is cheaper.”

Well, it’s difficult to argue with that logic - if your service is completely identical to another but costs more. But is that usually the case? No! If it was, you wouldn’t be in business for very long. With this objection, you need to convince your lead that cheaper isn’t always better.

Show they exactly why your service costs more - and show them why that actually means it’s better. Demonstrate how some of your advanced features that they would be paying for will help them increase their own sales and make more money, or how it will streamline processes, saving time for employees. The better of a job you do at showing how this small investment now will pay off in the long run, the better position you’ll be in to counter this objection.

Master the cheaper option objection: Another agency can do it cheaper: Sales objections part 5 of 5 [+video]

The ‘not a good fit’ objections: When your product isn’t right for them

When someone tells you you’re just “not a good fit” - it hurts! But what are people actually saying when they say this to you? “It’s not you, it’s me” is a little cliché, but these objections are often the polite way of saying “I’m not engaged with what you’re selling right now.”

To get to the bottom of these objections, use critical questions to gain a better understanding of what’s holding your prospect back, and have your responses prepped when you feel them trying to push you off the sales call.

9. “We don’t have the ability to implement this solution.”

This one can be a deal-breaker in some cases. If your prospect looks at your product and realizes it would require them hiring another person or would take their current employees away from their regular duties, they may write you off altogether.

Try to find some ways that your product could make things more efficient for your prospect’s employees to help them see a long-term benefit of adding your product to their workplace.

Master the can’t implement now objection: 4 objections you need to overcome to increase sales

10. “This product doesn’t work with our [X].”

If your prospect is committed to their existing system/tools and your product isn’t compatible, you’ll have a hard time getting them to switch. However, if you know a workaround, or if your product would eliminate the need for whatever their current setup is, explain the benefits of making the switch.

Master the “this doesn’t work” objection: What to do when your prospect doesn’t want to switch software

11. “I’ve never heard of you and your company is too small.”

Though this may sound quite negative at first, what they’re indirectly asking for is more information about your company. Give them some key points about your company, what you do, and how you can help them.

Master the never heard of you objection: How to overcome the “your startup is too small” objection

12. “I don’t understand this product/service.”

When you get one of these responses, you should consider whether you want to keep pursuing this prospect, as you don’t want to waste your time trying to explain your product to someone who ultimately isn’t likely to move forward with a sale.

If you want to keep trying to land the sale, ask them to clarify what part of your product’s description is unclear to them, then phrase your explanation in a different way to see if it makes more sense to them.

Master the don’t understand function objection: The simple reason products fail: Consumers don’t understand what they do

13. “I’ve heard negative feedback about your company.”

It’s nice to know that people are talking about your company/products with their peers, but when the information or opinions shared about you are negative, it can be hard to come back from.

Instead of scrambling to defend your company against whatever claims are presented to you, let the prospect know that you’ll pass the feedback on to the appropriate person or department. Then, offer them information on how you can improve or add value to their company with your product/service.

Your goal is to change how they view your company without directly combating the negative claims they’ve heard. You also want to steer away from saying negative things about the competitor/customer, as bad mouthing them isn’t what’s going to keep your sales call on track.

Master the bad reputation objection: Bad mouthing the competition - does it help or hinder sales?

14. “Your product is too complicated for me.”

In these cases, the first thing you should determine is whether the prospect is confused about what your product is/does, if they’re struggling to understand some of the features, or if the product itself is just too complex for them. If they see your product as something that would potentially create complications for them, they’ll have no interest in purchasing it.

If the issue is just that they need further explanation of your product’s functions and features, try phrasing it in a different way than you did previously. Also make sure they know that they can get in touch with you and your company’s support team if they need any help with using the product or setting it up.

Master the too complicated objection: Are you making things too complicated for customers?

Sales rebuttals for not interested: When they don’t see why your product is valuable

These objections are similar to the “not a good fit” above, but differ in one key way: these objectors aren’t hiding behind a polite excuse. When someone tells you outright that they aren’t interested, it means they’ve thought of at least one good reason why they know they don’t need to buy what you’re selling.

To counter these objections from the apathetic or uninterested, you have to have some real, concrete reasons why they reason they think they don’t need your product or service is flat out wrong. Convince them to change their perspective on that one thing they’re fixating on, so the call flows back in your favor.

15. “We’ll buy if you add these features.”

add-features-objection

Feature demands are common when selling to enterprise customers. They’re used to getting what they want, and what they want is for you to customize your software to their needs.

When prospects demand features that aren’t aligned with your vision, the best thing you can do is walk away. You may lose some accounts over this, but that’s better than compromising the integrity of your product. Besides, you’ll be surprised how often taking the deal away is all it takes to close on your terms.

Master the add features objection: 2 common B2B SaaS sales objections (and how to handle them)

16. “Your product/service is a fad and won’t last.”

If your company is selling a product that’s the first of its kind, you’ll need to prove that your product is setting a lasting trend, and not just a fad that will fade away as quickly as it came (so long, fidget spinners).

To change their mind, tell them about some of the positive feedback you’ve received from other customers, and give any stats you have about how your product can improve their metrics; convince them that you’re worth a shot.

17. “I’m happy with the way things are.”

You’ll find that many people are hesitant to change anything when things seem to be going well. However, if you can get them to spill the beans about any issues they’re experiencing that you may be able to solve, then you have an in. If they really think everything is perfect as is, you might want to give up on that prospect and move on.

18. “[X] problem isn’t important to me currently.”

Find out why this problem that your product would solve isn’t a priority for them right now. Are there real reasons for it not to be a priority, or are they just making excuses? Try to create a sense of urgency so they treat the problem more seriously and are more likely to consider moving forward.

Master the not important right now objection: How to create urgency to close sales now

19. “I don’t see how your product will help me.”

This is another time where the prospect is indirectly asking for more information. The simple strategy here is to explain how your product can solve problems they may be experiencing in their line of business. Use your knowledge of the problems experienced by other similar prospects to guess what their main issues might be.

20. “You don’t understand my needs: I need [X] not [Y].”

This typically happens when you didn’t qualify a prospect properly, and instead made assumptions about them. Let them know what your understanding of their situation was, apologize for any misunderstanding, and ask them to explain their needs to you again.

After you are sure you understand, paraphrase their needs so they feel heard, understood, and validated. Move forward from there by explaining how your product can fulfill their needs now that you’re on the same page.

Too busy to deal with you: Objections with investing time in you

Yes, we’re all busy, so why are your leads always telling you they don’t have time to talk right now? Many of these objections are also polite excuses veiling the real reason your prospect isn’t interested in sitting down and having a real conversation.

To deal with these, you once again need to ask more detailed questions to get them to express the real concerns they’re having. You also need to be open to following up, and learn not to leave things open-ended for too long.

21. “Your solution isn’t a priority right now.”

sales-solution-not-a-priority

When a prospect says your product isn’t a priority, one of three things is true:

  1. You’re selling to the wrong customer
  2. You aren’t pitching to your prospect’s priorities
  3. Your prospect is masking their real concerns

First things first: uncover what’s really going on. Then you can customize your approach based on their situation. In most cases, you just misunderstood what was really important to them.

Master the not a priority objection: Sales objection: "It's not a priority right now"

22. “Just email me more information and I’ll get back to you.”

email-back-sales-information

Your prospect may have good intentions when they promise to get back to you, but you’ll probably never hear from them again. When you leave the responsibility of follow-up to your prospects, you’re basically surrendering the deal.

Agree to send them more information, but don’t hang up yet. Ask them an open-ended follow-up question like, “Just so I know what to include in my email, can you tell me…” Usually that will lower their guard enough to start a conversation, and you won’t end up needing that email after all.

Master the email me information objection: 3 outbound sales objections any inside sales team needs to learn to overcome

23. “I don’t have time to talk right now.”

no-time-to-talk-objection

If you hear this objection early in the sales cycle, your prospect is just trying to get you off the phone. Your response needs to convey that you only need a few moments of their time to provide a ton of value.

If you hear it later in the sales cycle, it means you’ve dropped the ball; they were interested, and now they aren’t. Your price has exceeded your perceived value and, until you tip the scales, you won’t close the deal.

Master the I don't have time objection: Cold calling: How to respond to "I don't have time"

24. “We’ll buy soon.”

we-will-buy-soon-sales-rebuttal

This objection is another example of good intentions. The prospect may want to buy from you next week, but something’s going to come up. Next week turns into next month, and next month into next year.

When a prospect says they’ll buy sometime soon, find out if there’s anything that could happen to derail the deal. If there is, create an action plan. If there isn’t, walk them through the virtual close so you both understand exactly what needs to happen next.

Master the buy soon objection: Prospect says they'll buy soon? Ask this question...

25. “There’s too much going on right now - call me back next quarter.”

We’d recommend addressing this objection directly: ask what’s going to be different next quarter. Don’t be too aggressive, but don’t let them just brush you off or make excuses. If there are legitimate reasons why they need to hold off, prepare yourself for a follow-up with them.

Master the call me back objection: Master the sales follow-up with this proven formula

Passing the buck objections: When you’re not talking to the right decision-maker

How do you get past the gatekeeper when time and time again, they won’t pass you on to the person who is really making the decisions? Many of these objections involve “passing the buck” - where your lead will act like the next move is completely out of their control - but we know that just isn’t true.

Get your prospect to reconsider blocking your access to key decision-makers by pointing out illogical aspects of their excuses, and reminding them of the value of what your product has to offer to their team.

26. The gatekeeper

gatekeeper-sales-calls

Gatekeepers are living, breathing objections and, in many cases, they’re the first roadblock you’ll face. How you interact with them determines the direction of the entire deal. The gatekeeper is a unique objection because they can become one of your most valuable assets. If you can convince them to buy into your vision, they’ll become your internal champion and most vocal advocate.

Your best strategy is first, to stop thinking of them as gatekeepers. Develop trust with them over time, and demonstrate the value you have to offer them, or any other members at their company.

Master the gatekeeper objection: 3 strategies for getting past gatekeepers

27. “I can’t sell this to my team.”

Arm your prospect with the information they need to counter any objections they might receive from their team. Rather than giving in to their assessment that they can’t sell you or your product, help them prepare to pitch your product to their team the same way you pitched it to them in the beginning.

Master the internal struggle objection: How to pitch your ideas internally

28. “We’re downsizing right now.”

This is another situation where it’s better to just let it go - pushing here isn’t the right move. Leave things on a positive note with your contact so that when the coast is clear, they might reach out to you to pick things back up.

29. “I can’t make a commitment until I meet with [other decision-makers].”

meeting-with-other-decision-makers

The larger the businesses you sell to, the more common stakeholder meetings will be. They slow down the sales process, but can also be powerful sales tools. The trick is getting an invite.

Next time your prospect says they need to meet with other decision-makers, find out if you can be present (even just over the phone). If this meeting is between all relevant stakeholders, you may be able to close the deal on the spot.

Master the other decision-makers objection: B2B sales tips: Internal champions are great, but you sell to decision-makers

30. “I’m not authorized to sign off on this commitment.”

Easy! Just ask them who would be the right person to speak to and get their contact information so you can get in touch.

Master the lack of authority objection: Finding the right name to call

31. [Economic buyer] “I’m not convinced.”

Know when to walk away. Unfortunately, not every prospect is going to lead to a successful sale. If the contact you’ve been communicating with isn’t able to convince their superiors that your product is worth it, don’t waste your time.

Master the not convinced objection: The 1 thing you need to win every negotiation

32. “I’m part of a buying group.”

If you’re not able to offer the same discounted prices that your prospect is getting when buying in bulk with a group of other companies, this will be a challenge. See what the requirements are for their buying group. Are they allowed to make separate purchases on their own or are they bound by a contract of some sort? Look into becoming one of their approved vendors, or if you don’t think there’s any real opportunity, move on.

Master the buying group objection: 8 advantages of purchase groups

Competitor objections: When you’re not stacking up to comparisons

These objections are some of the hardest to combat, because it’s entirely possible that your competitor is offering a more advanced feature package, or a cheaper price - and there’s nothing you can do to change that. What you can change, however, is your lead’s perspective on value.

Maintaining a confident stance that your product is actually superior, and not letting yourself fall victim to bullying tactics is step one to countering these objections. Step two is finding a concrete example or area in which your product is superior, and proving it to your leads.

33. “You've got a great product, but we're going to go with [the industry standard].”

competing-with-the-industry-standard

With a failure rate of 90%, it’s no wonder prospects hesitate to commit to startups when they could keep using the proven incumbent. Your product may be better, but the industry standard is safer.

The trick to winning over these prospects is presenting an option they haven’t thought of: using both solutions. Turn an “either-or” situation into an “and” situation, and you can close even the most stubborn prospects.

Master the industry standard objection: Startup sales objections: Selling against the incumbent

34. “We’re already working with [X competitor].”

If your prospect is already using a similar product/service from one of your competitors, then they already know they need something that serves that purpose. Your goal here should be to gather information about their experience with your competitor.

Ask them what works well with their current supplier, what doesn’t, why they chose it, and so on. Use that information to your advantage to present your product as the superior option.

Master the already spoken for objection: How to outcompete your competition (by pitching their product)

35. “I’m already locked into a contract.”

This objection implies that while the prospect is interested in your product, they don’t want to take the financial hit to get out of a contract with your competitor. In this case, see if you can offer them a discount to sign with you instead, or find some long-term financial benefit of making the switch that would make up for the loss they’ll have to deal with in the beginning.

Master the stuck in a contract objection: How to convince your prospects to switch software [video]

36. "Your offer/product/company is not good enough!"

not-good-enough-objection

Don't fall into the trap of the bully prospect. Their entire mission is to break your confidence and get what they want from you. You already know they're interested in what you're selling (no matter what objections they may bring to the table), but they don't think you know that.

Stand firm and go into the conversation strong, and you're guaranteed to flip things around and get what you want. You just need to keep one question in the back of your mind the entire time: What are they still talking to us?

Master the not good enough objection: How to turn a bully prospect into a paying customer

37. “I’m happy with [X competitor].”

Similar to #34, even if your prospect is happy using one of your competitors, you can identify areas where your competitor falls short, and in turn, promote your own product as something that would meet the mark.

Master the happy together objection: Stand out and sell more: How reps can crush the competition (Q&A webinar)

38. “[X competitor] told me [false statement] about your product/company.”

Ensure them that those claims are untrue. If they have any further questions about it, offer to provide information/proof that those claims are false. This presents you with an opportunity to follow up with the prospect with further information.

Dealing with a hard no: When you just can’t get them on board

If your sales call has gotten to this point, it’s hard to keep pressing on, especially if you’re dealing with rude behavior. However, the call isn’t over until it’s over, and even then - it might not be over!

Dealing with hard “No” objections means being persistent, and pushing through the hard questions and concerns your prospects have. It means following up with something convincing that changes their mind. And, it means not letting yourself get discouraged when it seems like all is lost.

39. “No,” “No…” and “No!”

hard-no-sales-rejection

There are three different kinds of “no's” in sales. Early in the sales cycle, it means, “You haven’t provided enough value,” later in the sales cycle, it means, “Not yet,” and at the end of the sales cycle, it means, “I'm not interested.”

Each “no” requires a different response, so the trick is learning to differentiate between your prospects’ rejections and responding accordingly.

Master the firm "NO" objection: Learn to love the "no" (and win in sales)

40. “I’m busy right now.”

Make it clear that you won’t take up much of their time and just want to have a quick chat with them about your product. If they still won’t take a few minutes to talk to you, arrange a follow up.

Master the “I’m busy” objection: Five new ways to handle “I’m too busy”

41. “I’m not interested.”

If they’re quick to dismiss you during your first call, arrange to have a follow up call or send them an email with more information so they can consider your offer more thoroughly later.

Master the firm not interested objection: Six ways to handle the “I’m not interested” blow off

42. “How did you get my information?”

Be honest about where you got their contact info. Whether they filled out a form on your website a long time ago and had forgotten about it, or you met at a networking event, just give them a gentle reminder that they provided you with their information. If you took their information from a list you found online, respect their wishes if they don’t want you to contact them.

Master the “how did you find me?” objection: 4 reasons why prospects fear cold calls

43. “I hate you.”

If your prospect just doesn’t seem to be getting along with you for whatever reason, consider passing them off to another sales rep. This isn’t necessarily your fault at all, so if you think one of your teammates would be better suited to deal with the prospect’s personality, try to save the sale by passing the prospect to them.

Master the “I hate you” objection: 7 steps for dealing with angry customers

44. *click*

When a prospect hangs up on you, try calling them back a few minutes later and act confused about your call being disconnected. If they hang up on you again, try reaching out to another person at the same company that might be more willing to chat with you.

Master the hang up objection: When a prospect hangs up on you, this is what you need to do

More great resources for mastering sales skills

No deal worth closing will come easily, but that doesn’t mean you should make it harder than it needs to be. Remember these key tips to turn objections into sales:

  • Next time you practice your pitch, practice your objection handling skills
  • Every time you successfully overcome an objection, make a note of what you did
  • Talk with other salespeople about the responses that work for them

The next time you get frustrated by your prospect’s sales objections, remember: anyone can sell to eager prospects. Salespeople exist for the difficult customers, the ones who say, “No,” “Maybe next month,” and, “Yes, but …”

So start overcoming objections, and stop letting them overcome you. Create your objection management document, practice your responses, then get out there and crush it.

DOWNLOAD YOUR OBJECTION MANAGEMENT TEMPLATE

03 May 14:59

The B2B Content Marketing Derby: When & Where to Place Strategic Bets

by Anne Leuman

When & Where to Place Smart B2B Content Marketing Bets

When & Where to Place Smart B2B Content Marketing Bets The Kentucky Derby has long been referred to as the fastest and most exciting two minutes in sports. And when it comes to your B2B content marketing efforts, getting your audience to sit on the edge of their seats, glued to your content for two whole minutes can be a major feat. To generate Kentucky-Derby-like attention for your B2B brand, your content marketing strategy needs to leverage the right tactical mix for your audience, industry, product mix, and objectives. However, over the last decade, the content marketing field has become crowded and even convoluted with hopeful tactical and strategic champions. The field has evolved from traditional winners like blogging and eBooks to include a new breed of favorites like influencer marketing, interactive content, and more. So, when and where should you place your B2B content marketing bets? Read on to learn about the latest content marketing tactics and their odds of putting your brand in the winner’s circle.

The B2B Content Marketing Derby Contenders

1. Old Reliable

What: Blogging Racing record: Blogging is the trusty content marketing steed: It’s Old Reliable, with origins dating back some 25 years. With the right audience focus and SEO insight, blogging allows B2B marketers to consistently create relevant, quality, best-answer content for every stage of the buyer’s journey. But having been the reliable favorite for so many years, the blogging field has become crowded and fiercely competitive. Anyone and everyone can have a blog—and topical and target keyword overlap with your direct (and indirect) competitors is inevitable. In fact, the number of bloggers in the United States alone is expected to reach 31.7 million by 2020. via GIPHY Odds: Old Reliable is a smart bet for your content strategy if you have dreams of creating a consistent content drumbeat to educate your audience at multiple stages of the funnel. For the best odds, SEO—another favorite content marketing stud—needs to be part of your blog ideation, creation, and ongoing optimization. This helps ensure you’re creating data-informed blog content around keywords and topic clusters that can boost search visibility and capitalize on white space. Read: Nearly 3 Years Later, Antea Group USA Still Seeing Triple-Digit Growth Thanks to SEO-Driven B2B Content Marketing Strategy

2. Hollywood Heartthrob

What: Video Marketing Racing record: Over the last few years, video has become a top consumption channel for audiences. Now that bingeing TV shows and movies on streaming services like YouTube, Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime have become the norm, so too has bingeing video content on social media networks, Vimeo, TikTok, and others. Research supports this trend with 57% of consumers saying they want to see video content from brands. Plus: However, professionally produced video can be time, budget, and resource intensive. In addition, live video featuring more unscripted commentary and scenarios in the B2B space can be hard to get buy-in on. Odds: If you’re looking to bring your brand to life and infotain your audience, strategic use of video content, who we like to call Hollywood Heartthrob, is a horse to add to your betting roster. The key of course is choosing the right video content type and style to engage and nurture your audience, and align with and support your marketing goals. Generally speaking there are four video content marketing types:
  • Teasers
  • Trailers and Previews
  • Explainers
  • Video Essays and Companion Videos
As far as keeping production costs down, there are plenty of free apps that can turn your phone into a studio any director would love. Vidyard is tool that can help you produce, publish, and track high quality videos without expensive equipment. As a more general rule for creating great video, you need to be able to tell a story—a story that doesn’t focus on hitting all your product talking points, according to seasoned B2B marketer and comedian, Tim Washer. “For example, we did a mini documentary for Cisco that showed how smaller service providers are serving third-world countries,” he mentioned in an interview. “It focused on how our customers are making a difference, and of course inferred that our technologies are helping them make that difference.” [bctt tweet="As a general rule for creating great video, you need to be able to tell a story—a story that doesn’t focus on hitting all your product talking points. @timwasher #B2BContentMarketing" username="toprank"]

3. Fact Not Fiction

What: Infographics Racing record: Infographics are loaded with information. But so is an encyclopedia. One of the best benefits of infographics is that they provide valuable information in an easy to read, easy to understand way. It pairs text-based information with data visualization, graphs, and pictures to help educate audiences. And it is for this reason that 40% of marketers listed infographics as their top performer for driving engagement. Odds: When it comes to educating your audience in a simple, easy to understand way, infographics are second to none. Plus, they’re extremely shareable, extending your reach to a larger audience. Fact Not Fiction is a smart bet for your content strategy when awareness and education are top of mind, or if you’re attempting to simplify a complex topic.

4. The Proof Is in the Pudding

What: Case Studies Racing record: Evidence is some of the most compelling content you can create. Testimonials, case studies, and reviews show audiences that your products and services actually work. It also allows them to envision themselves as a customer and see how they could benefit from similar services. According to the 2018 Demand Generation Benchmark Survey Report, 73% of marketers found case studies to be the most successful tactic for converting and accelerating leads in the middle and late stages of the funnel. Image credit: 2018 Demand Generation Benchmark Survey Report Odds: When prospects are in the consideration or conversion stage of the buyer journey, proof and evidence can help guide them towards a purchasing decision. If moving more buyers through the funnel means winning for your brand, relevant and insightful case studies are a great bet.

5. One for the Record Books

What: eBooks Racing record: According to the 2017 Demand Generation Content Preferences Survey Report, 63% of buyers are willing to share information about themselves (e.g. email addresses) in exchange for eBooks. By creating longer, more visual content through eBooks, studies show that eBooks are a great lead generation tactic. In addition, eBooks rank in the top five most effective content marketing tactics for both the top and middle of the funnel. Odds: One for the Record Books is able to last for miles, diving deep into a niche topic to further educate audiences and provide valuable information in great detail. This is helpful for both the top and middle of the funnel when education is key. When gated, eBooks are also great lead generation tools that open up new paths for audience nurturing—as long as the content delivers the kind of robust insight and value that warrants an exchange of information. Read: To Gate, or Not to Gate? Answers to an Age-Old Digital Marketing Question

6. Social Butterfly

What: Social Media Marketing Racing record: The number of active social media users is expected to reach 3.02 billion by 2021, according to Statista. And the average person spends nearly 2.5 hours on social media each day. If you want to meet your audience on their turf, social media marketing needs to be a part of your content marketing betting strategy. Because social media allows you to share content on a channel where your audience spends a great deal of time each day, there are opportunities for growing a following, building a community, delivering customer service, and boosting engagement. However, the social media ticket is evolving thanks to a few scandals, abuse concerns, and platform changes to aimed at enhancing the user experience. So, if you’re getting ready to double-down on your bet, go in with eyes wide open. Odds: Savvy B2B marketers said goodbye to organic-only social strategies built on “post it and they will come” a long time ago. But still, Social Butterfly can be a great community building tool for B2B brands if you’re providing relevant, thoughtful, and valuable content and insights. via GIPHY Take the time to research your audience’s content consumption preferences (e.g. leverage your website and social analytics, survey your existing customer base, etc.) to uncover patterns and top content types, as well as gauge which platforms deserve your care and attention.

7. Dapper Don Draper

What: Digital Advertising Racing record: Organic visibility and reach are anything but guaranteed on today’s content marketing track. But digital advertising can give you a competitive edge, supplementing your organic efforts at every stage of the buyer’s journey. Studies have shown digital ads to be an effective method of top of funnel lead generation and awareness with findings like: However, it’s important to note that a quarter of U.S. internet users blocking ads. The good news is that the real beauty of Dapper Don Draper is it’s versatility, with options including native text and video advertising, paid social, search, and display. Odds: With clearly defined objectives and the right content, Dapper Don Draper is a well-placed wager. Whether you’re breaking into a new market and need some quick brand awareness wins or you’re promoting a new interactive influencer asset, Triple D can help your other efforts win, place, and show. For the highest probability of generating results with your digital advertising, it’s important to use all of the audience targeting features available to you. In addition, native advertising units are very effective as they appear similar to the other content on the page.

8. Black, White & Gray All Over

What: SEO Racing record: SEO, which we’ve affectionately named Black, White & Gray All Over, has one of the longest and wide-ranging B2B content marketing records. She’s won some and certainly lost some, but her place in the B2B Content Strategy Derby Hall of Fame is confirmed. Why? Because as TopRank Marketing CEO Lee Odden has often said: “Content is the reason search began in the first place.” And according to Internet Live Stats, there’s currently an average of 40,000 Google searches every second. That’s the equivalent of 3.5 billion searches per day on Google alone. But search is growing more crowded by the second, with trillions of website pages already indexed and counting, and algorithms growing more sophisticated. [bctt tweet="Content is the reason search began in the first place. - @leeodden #B2BContentMarketing #SEO" username="toprank"] Odds: SEO is a fickle filly, with her training regime and environment evolving at the speed of machine learning. But she’s built for the long haul if the content jockey builds good rapport at all stages of the funnel. Increase your odds by regularly reviewing results and identifying opportunities to attention to optimize existing and future content to better match search intent, volume, competition, and more. In addition, look for white space that you can fill with relevant, best answer, SEO-informed content.

9. On Good Authority

What: Influencer Marketing Racing record: Influencer marketing, aka On Good Authority, burst on the content marketing scene a few years ago and has proven to be a rising star. In fact, Instagram influencer marketing is expected to hit $8 billion in spend by 2020. But that growth trajectory is not limited to consumer brands. B2B companies are also realizing the value of collaborating with influential thought leaders for marketing purposes and count the practice as one of the top 4 tactics planned for 2019. On Good Authority’s efficacy and worth have been questioned, but the results speak for themselves. (Checkout our cheat sheet of inspiring B2B influencer marketing examples.) Odds: Fast out of the gate with a strong finish, On Good Authority has great odds when it comes to increasing brand awareness, thought leadership, and even lead gen. But place your bets wisely. Topical relevance, for one thing, is absolutely critical. So, for the best chance of success with your influencer marketing programs, make sure you’re working with the right influencers that have the appropriate levels of expertise, relevance, and reach.

10. All That and a Bag of Chips

What: Interactive content Racing record: All That and a Bag of Chips is perhaps the prettiest horse in the race. It grabs attention. It encourages interaction. It improves the user experience. And it’s been known to work well with all of the other horses listed above. But just because this horse is a team player, doesn’t mean it’s not here to win. In fact, 87% of marketers agree that interactive content is more effective at grabbing attention than static content. Plus, one of our interactive campaigns drove three times the average share rate and a 500% increase in pageviews. Prophix Crush It Interactive Quiz Odds: If you’re looking to go bold at every stage of the funnel, All That and a Bag of Chips is as good as gold. To ensure that this horse is crossing the finish line first, consider pairing it with another horse in the race to slingshot it to victory. For example, create an interactive infographic, eBook, or influencer-driven landing page. You might just see your results compounded.

Place Your B2B Content Marketing Bets

To win big at the B2B Content Marketing Derby, the “watch and win” approach isn’t advised. You need to place smart bets on multiple horses, pairing them together and investing in different heats to hit your marketing goals. Depending on variables like budget, objectives, or time, any combination of the above contenders could win their way into your content strategy—there’s a time and a place for each of them. So, step on up and place your bets … wisely to win. via GIPHY Need a little help selecting your strategic bets? Follow this three-point checklist for documenting your B2B content strategy.

The post The B2B Content Marketing Derby: When & Where to Place Strategic Bets appeared first on Online Marketing Blog - TopRank®.

03 May 14:58

3 Challenges Facing Sales Enablement Professionals

by Carson Conant

When you Google “selecting a sales enablement solution” you’ll come across multiple articles that discuss what factors sales enablement professionals should look for in a sales enablement solution to ensure they’re providing their sellers with the best tools to impact revenue and increase quotas.

Recently, Mediafly Chief Evangelist Tom Pisello connected with Tad Travis, Research Director at Gartner responsible for the CRM sales research agenda, to discuss what the biggest challenges are for sales enablement professionals when selecting a solution. Based on his conversation with Tom, I listed what Tad considers as the top three challenges.

Warrant the need for a growing technology stack

With the advancement of technology, sellers have more solutions available to them than ever before. It’s easy to argue that solutions like CRM, interactive tools, sales enablement, etc. are necessary to help increase sales productivity and effectiveness, however, the cost can quickly add up. Today’s solution providers need to better justify the cost of a solution up-front to help economic-focused buyers overcome executive and procurement resistance. Once deployed, the purchased solution must show a return on investment to prove value and drive continued expansion.

Justify mobile device capability

Before making the final decision on sales enablement technology, ensure that you understand how the technology works across every channel that your sellers need. Often, companies select a technology that looks great on paper but does not run consistently from desktop to tablet to mobile device. This is extremely important as many of today’s sales conversations aren’t occurring in offices or boardrooms. Rather, many sellers are out in the field selling on location and need a reliable platform to ensure a quality sales conversation.

Sales enablement professionals must research products to guarantee that the application they deploy provides a consistent and unified experience across every channel. This is especially true for B2B sales organizations that rely on channel partners to sell their products or solutions. If a sales application provides a poor experience, you will see a dip in adoption and engagement from your sellers.

Content and resource recommendations

Do you know the quality of your sales application’s search results? Are sellers receiving the right content recommendations? Is it difficult to tag content for improved search effectiveness? Why is this important? Think about companies that you interact with on a daily basis like Amazon and Netflix. Each day, these companies share personalized options for you based on your viewing or purchasing habits. This saves users time and provides relevant options. Similarly, B2B buyers expect a personalized buying experience with relevant content at every stage of their journey.

With the need for personalized sales interactions, sellers must have access to the right content at the right time. When selecting a sales enablement technology, keep in mind that automatic tagging, natural language processing, and machine learning all contribute to the effectiveness of search and your ability to optimize content recommendations.

As you complete your evaluation of sales enablement technologies, take into consideration the three points above. Additionally, be able to ensure the following:

  • Find a vendor that is capable of quantifying the value their solution will bring to your business on the context of your business goals or challenges to drive the best possible sales outcomes.
  • Select a multichannel platform so your sellers can access materials and personalize sales interactions, anywhere, anytime, and on any device.
  • Confirm the sales enablement platform can help sellers curate the knowledge and content buyers need to motivate purchase decisions.

By incorporating these considerations into your sales enablement evaluation, you can feel confident that sellers will adopt the platform, maximizing the return on investment of your sales enablement solution.

03 May 14:58

How to pinpoint the right buyers for your B2B product or service

by Expert commentator

It’s never been easier for B2B businesses to identify and target their ideal customers online. "I have a great product or service but I just can’t seem to be able to find buyers." I hear this a lot. It's one …..

The post How to pinpoint the right buyers for your B2B product or service appeared first on Smart Insights.

03 May 14:57

5 Tips to Speed up Sales Onboarding without Sacrificing Quality

by Kent Holland

A pipeline full of high-quality leads is great, but you can’t close them without skilled sales reps who know what they’re doing. So, when you do find a skilled rep, you want to make sure your sales onboarding process is efficient — and that they’re fully trained, ramped up, and ready to begin as quickly as possible.

According to a recent study by CSO Insights, ramping up new hires as soon as possible is one of the top concerns for 45% of sales leaders. And the average ramp-up time for new sales reps is over 10 months. To cut down on training time, here are five tips you can apply to your sales onboarding process to make sure it’s as efficient as it can be — without sacrificing training quality along the way.

  1. Start sales onboarding immediately after the new rep has accepted your job offer.

Entering a new sales environment is nerve-wracking for a lot of new hires. One of the biggest questions many people have is: what’s the first day going to be like? Don’t leave them guessing.

Start your sales onboarding on the right foot by creating a sense of belonging and familiarity for the rep before they’ve even stepped into the office. Overcoming that uneasiness before they start will enable them to get into their “zone” sooner.

There are a few ways to do this:

  • Have a pre-boarding session. Before the employee’s first shift, schedule a call with them to provide a walkthrough of what they can expect on the first day.
  • Send them an email covering common first-day questions. Address common questions like where to park, what to wear, and typical hours.
  • Have their tech ready to go. A lot of companies save this for the first day or two of sales onboarding. This can be a waste of a day (or week). New hires shouldn’t have to sit around waiting for IT to come by their desk and set up their laptop for them. Their technology tools should be ready before they come in, including their phone, email, and system logins.

Don’t waste valuable sales onboarding time on admin work or setting up technology, and make it easy for your rep to get started on the team by answering standard new-hire questions early.

  1. Sales onboarding should be role-based.

Most sales teams are divided into segments of reps with different specialties. So, it’s a good idea to take a role-based approach to your sales onboarding process to ensure each of your reps receives specialized training that best fits their role.

Two common examples of sales roles include Sales Development Reps (SDRs) and Account Executives (AEs). The SDRs will likely focus on researching, identifying, and reaching out to potential customers. Their training should have a heavy focus on prospecting, learning your company’s ideal customer profile and user personas, using your CRM and email automation software and mastering phone etiquette to make outreach as efficient as possible.

Meanwhile, AEs should focus more on running demos and giving presentations, as well as identifying customer pain points that may be blocking them from buying and finding solutions to these blocks. Their training should consist of product knowledge, the tools your company uses to give demos and presentations to clients, how to report buying obstacles, and negotiation tactics.

  1. Provide new sales reps with a sales onboarding itinerary.

In any job, setting clear expectations is important. In sales, where there are defined quotas to hit, these expectations should be especially clear. That’s why giving your new hires a structured training curriculum to refer to can be hugely helpful.

The curriculum should include an outline of everything the sales rep can expect to learn throughout their onboarding and what their goals should be for each stage. This will give them a clear path and get them in the right headspace. They’ll also know whether they’re meeting expectations (or exceeding them) and which areas need work since they’ll have it all in writing.

A good way to design this curriculum is in a 30-60-90-day format: what will employees know after one month? Two months? Three months? With this format, new hires know precisely what to focus on during each 30-day period. This will speed up sales onboarding because it reassures sales reps on their performance and instills confidence when they meet and surpass their goals.

  1. Recognize that a lot of your new hires are going to be youngin’s.

A lot of businesses ignore the fact that the vast majority of their newer sales reps are millennials and Gen Z-ers that have grown up with the internet. This means older sales onboarding methods (like the 30-page information packet printed on *gasp* paper) don’t work anymore.

When designing your sales onboarding process, keep age demographics in mind. Sure, older generations of sales reps were quite happy with the textbook-based learning approach. But, as new generations join the workforce, this is no longer the case, as they’ve grown up interacting with digital media and other modern means of communications — and this is what they expect.

  1. Practice makes perfect.

Ah, the classic cliché. It hasn’t stopped being true though. Like any other aspect of life, the sales process can be mastered with repeated practice. This is true for sales reps especially as they learn at an increasingly faster rate with repeated practice. So, make sure that your curriculum also includes a healthy amount of real-world practice scenarios.

Anything that gets your new hires practicing what they’re learning (as they’re learning it — not months later after they’ve already forgotten it) will increase sales training stickiness and rep confidence.

Speeding up your sales onboarding process shouldn’t mean sacrificing the quality of training for your sales reps.

Having an efficient sales onboarding process is crucial for not only your new sales reps but the entire organization too. It may seem like a long process and a lot of effort — and it is. But it’s an investment that will pay for itself many times over when done correctly. Put in the work now, and enjoy all the time you’ll save and accounts your reps will close later. Having a robust onboarding process in place will get them ramped up and ready to go in no time.

 

03 May 14:57

How 2 Sales Experts Leverage LinkedIn Sales Navigator

by Erica Cornell
LinkedIn Sales Navigator

LinkedIn has added a number of features that can be game changers for users of Sales Navigator. But there’s something salespeople need to do first before they can see that value: They need to Save Leads & Accounts in LinkedIn Sales Navigator. 

That may sound complicated. But it's not. Read on to hear how two experts — Alejandro Cabral, Global Digital Sales Transformation Leader at Kimberly-Clark Professional, and Gabe Villamizar, Global Sales Evangelist at Lucidchart — get the most out of LinkedIn Sales Navigator by Saving Leads and Accounts.  

Alejandro Cabral, Global Digital Sales Transformation Leader, Kimberly-Clark Professional

Alejandro on Why You Should Save Leads & Accounts

  • “The minute you start saving Leads, you tell Sales Navigator that you are interested in those people and…then it can provide you with talking points so when you engage with them you know what you’re taking about.” 
  • “What that’s doing for me is it’s making it faster and easier to just find the right people, save them, and start getting some insights.”

Alejandro on the Value of Custom Lists

  • “Saving is also a practical way for you to find them [Saved Leads] again. Before the new feature Lists came out there were a couple of ways you could do that but…you couldn’t group them. With the Lead List feature, regardless of which Account you save them to or any tags you add to them, you can create a list and add all those Leads there.”

Alejandro on the New Functionality of Alerts

  • "[A tip on getting started]: If you don’t have enough leads  you’re not going to get Alerts to work. If have you saved a lot of Leads you may need to clean up your Leads first to make sure you have the right amount and relevant Leads.”

Alejandro on what Sales Navigator Delivers for Salespeople 

  • “What I expect out of these features is that: 1.) it shortens the time that it takes reps to find the proper context 2.) it accelerates the time that we spend creating a building pipeline – that’s important 3.) it impacts the revenue that our reps can bring in and source themselves [on Sales Navigator]."

Gabe Villamizar, Global Sales Evangelist at Lucidchart

Gabe on Why You Should Save Leads & Accounts

  • “Now I can sort and filter them to see things like in the past 90 days, 10 of [my prospects] have changed jobs.”

Gabe on the Value of Custom Lists

  • “Let’s say I’m an AE and I have a BDR that’s setting me appointments and I also have a sales engineer working on the account… now you can share with them and they can add comments… Selling is a team sport within LinkedIn Sales Navigator and everyone can be on the same page with next steps, roadblocks and how you can move forward.”

Gabe on the New Functionality of Alerts

  • “It gives you relevant insights on the companies and people that you’ve saved that you should be aware of."

Gabe on what Sales Navigator Delivers for Salespeople

  • “LinkedIn Sales Navigator is now giving you relevant, fresh new information on the people and accounts that you care about.” 

Learn more about how Sales Navigator can help you close deals. 

03 May 14:57

The Best Sales Management Software of 2019

by mhart@hubspot.com (Meredith Hart)

I love taking trips to new places, but finding my way there can be a challenge. Whenever I need directions somewhere new, I always pull out my smartphone, open Google Maps app, and enter my desired location.

Within seconds, I have a clear route and set of directions. Not only does the app save me time, but I also know the information is accurate and I can trust it. This tool has made navigation easy to accomplish a task that was once difficult before this technology was introduced.

In many ways, technology, like Google Maps, is similar to sales management software. Both of them simplify activities that can be time-consuming or challenging to complete.

Did you know, 27% of salespeople spend an hour or more on data entry each day. Sales management software provides streamlined tools for data entry and management to speed up this process. And they often include some of the most popular sales tools (e.g., CRM, social prospecting, data and list services, email engagement, phone, and sales cadence tools).

Sales management software is used by salespeople to record their day-to-day activities and keep track of their pipelines, prospects, and customers. And it's used by sales managers and leaders to identify trends, opportunities for improvement, and team wins.

Ready to find out which sales management software is right for you? Let's explore the best options.

Free Download: Sales Plan Template

Whether you have a small business with a team of five, or you're the head of sales for a corporation with hundreds of salespeople, sales management software can aid in the success of your team.

Free Sales Management Software

A CRM database is one of the best sales management software options you could choose. Here are some of the best free sales management software options available.

1. Free HubSpot CRM

Price: Free

While it might sound too good to be true, the HubSpot CRM is free forever. Not only can you automatically log your sales activities (e.g., emails, calls, and meetings), but you can also manage your entire sales pipeline. You'll have full visibility into your sales activities. And salespeople can keep track of their contacts and deals. Plus, the free CRM seamlessly integrates with HubSpot's sales and marketing tools.

2. Freshsales

Price: Free

With Freshsales Free CRM, you can see all of your lead information in one place. This includes any demographic information, conversations you've had with them, plus, and notes, tasks, appointments, and attachments. The free version of the software allows you to score your leads so you're reaching out to the best-fit prospects every time.

3. Workbooks.com

Price: Free

While the free version of Workbooks caps you at two-users, it provides you with the ability to track leads, monitor your campaigns, and build and maintain relationships with your customers. There are paid versions of the CRM available when you're ready to expand your team's usage and enjoy the benefits of a broader range of features.

Sales Management Software

Paid Sales Management Software

Here are the best paid sales management software options. This data was collected by G2 Crowd and the ratings for each software were determined based on reviews gathered from its community of users and data from online sources and social networks. G2 Crowd provides an in-depth overview of its scoring methodologies here.

4. Velocify LeadManager

Price: Varies

This lead management software leverages automation to speed up sales processes. Your sales team will be able to reach more prospects, respond faster, and boost production. Velocify LeadManager prioritizes leads, creates reminders, and triggers follow-up actions to simplify processes.

5. VanillaSoft

Price: $80 per user/month

VanillaSoft simplifies the inside sales process by offering tools like lead and sales tracking, auto-dialing for calls, call recording, lead routing, and more. Its sales engagement platform helps sales leaders and salespeople manage data and accelerate team and personal performance.

6. MindTickle

Price: Varies

MindTickle is a sales enablement platform that offers solutions for sales onboarding, coaching, and continuous learning and skill development. You can analyze your team's capabilities to identify any skill gaps. And you can keep them engaged and motivated to learn and excel with points, badges, and leaderboards.

7. Ambition

Price: Varies

Ambition is a sales operations and goal management solution that can help your sales team meet and exceed goals. One reviewer says, "It provides a visualization of individual/team performance and achievements. It also provides a method of involved gamification and team camaraderie which encourages higher, more enjoyable performances."

8. Gryphon Networks

Price: Varies

Gryphon Networks is a sales intelligence platform. Sales leaders can view interactive dashboards of all sales and marketing activities and compare performance against goals and across salespeople, teams, and offices. Salespeople can make calls from any phone, tablet or CRM and their call activity is recorded automatically. It allows salespeople to listen back to their calls and receive feedback from their managers on what can be improved.

9. LevelEleven

Price: Varies

This sales management system helps sales leaders motivate, engage, and coach their sales team to success. The LevelEleven software allows sales leaders to create contests for their teams and reward the sales behavior they'd like their salespeople to develop. And the sales coaching solution keeps track of key performance indicators for each salesperson so managers can provide impactful coaching sessions.

10. Hoopla

Price: Varies

Hoopla is a motivational platform for your sales team. It has a user-friendly interface and integrates with other applications used by your team. You can recognize employees by sharing their achievements, track progress toward goals, inspire collaboration, and create sales contests to keep the team motivated.

With the right sales management software, you'll be able to provide direction for your sales team, increase productivity, and identify opportunities for growth.

Looking for more? Check out these sales manager resume tips and templates next.

sales plan

03 May 14:57

Expert Tips to Hire the Best Salesperson

by Lisa

By Jamie Crosbie

Like many things in life, it’s not necessarily simple to hire the best salespeople.

Good hiring practices don’t just happen. Locating, recruiting, and hiring the best sales talent requires planning, ingenuity, and focused action. To thrive in competitive markets, you need to create a value proposition that attracts highly qualified sales candidates. Bear in mind, though: Your company is not the only one out there looking.

Write a Good Job Description for Salespeople before You Hire

In the same way that every building needs a strong foundation, you first need to ask some key questions so you can write a successful job description to fill a sales position.

  1. What qualities, aptitudes, attitudes, experience, education, and skill sets are really required to be successful in that role?
  2. What is the nature of the work environment?
  3. What will the employee be responsible for?

Writing a good job description does not, by itself, automatically allow you to hire the best salesperson. It is, however, a big step in the right direction. Simply put, a vague or poorly-written job description is really the worst of both worlds. Badly-worded or confusing job descriptions tend to attract a lot of underqualified candidates, while simultaneously missing the people you want to target.

Make Sure You Have a Strong Company Brand

Bear in mind that your company brand means more than simply creating an appealing footprint for clients. Strong companies understand that branding goes hand in hand with creating a good company culture. This, in turn, reduces turnover by creating happier salespeople.

Happy employees are not only more likely to remain with your company longer; they are more productive and tend to create more positive experiences for your customers. In short, a strong brand creates a win-win situation. You get more qualified sales candidates who will perform better for a longer period of time.

Your Sales Hiring Process Must Encourage Retention

Hiring and retention are really two sides of the same coin. Paying attention to one without also taking care of the other is like sailing in a leaking boat: No matter how much you bail out the water, the situation will not improve until you find and fix the leak causing the problem.

Nowadays, sites such as Yelp, Facebook, and Glassdoor allow people to post feedback about your company, including management style, benefits, and compensation. If potential employees see a lot of negative reviews, they may not consider your company a good place to work. That does not mean you need to just clean up negative reviews. Instead, you should examine them thoughtfully and seek to address genuine issues.

One way to do this is to survey your employees to create mutually beneficial solutions. Creating a company culture that focuses on making everyone feel valued and empowered can dramatically improve morale, productivity, and employee turnover rates.

A Sales Candidate’s Personality Counts

While technical skills are important to employee success, soft skills are equally critical.

That does not mean every potential sales hire has to be a happy-go-lucky ball of sunshine. But it does mean a candidate’s personality plays a factor in who is or is not a good fit. The right candidate needs personality and/or character traits that match the demands of the job.

Sales Managers Need to Be Good Interviewers

There is an old computer programming phrase that applies to interviewing candidates: garbage in, garbage out. Meaning that wrong data leads to wrong results. The interview process for sales jobs can be easily sabotaged by underprepared, distracted, careless, or indifferent interviewers.

Far too many sales managers believe they can pick good candidates based on their gut feelings. Unfortunately, this is usually just not the case. The best way to gauge a candidate’s aptitudes, qualifications, and skills is to use behavior-based testing alongside insightful questions designed to measure core competencies. For more about separating the wheat from the chaff and building strong teams, please follow our blog. A poor hire can cost you in lost opportunities and revenues. When you absolutely must hire the best of the best, call us at 214/720-9922 or email jcrosbie@proactivate.net. At ProActivate, we know how to link top talent with forward-thinking companies. We have worked with Fortune 500 companies as well as small startup businesses to help improve their top line.

Today’s post is by Jamie Crosbie, CEO and founder of ProActivate. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

The post Expert Tips to Hire the Best Salesperson appeared first on Sales 3.0 Conference.

03 May 14:56

How To Meet Your ‘PERFECT 10’ on LinkedIn? Use The 80/20 Rule!

by Brian Basilico

There was this movie that I remember from the year I graduated high school. I mean, there were a lot of movies that year, but this one kind of stuck out. Now, I’m not going to tell you the year (but you can go look it upon Wikipedia). The name of the movie is “10“.

Today, I want to talk about how to meet your perfect 10 on Linkedin using the 80/20 rule, which is also known as Pareto’s Principle. If you don’t know about Pareto’s Principle, you look that up on Wikipedia too. Actually, it’s pretty simple, but we’ll dig into it. So, 10 was a romantic comedy. It starred Dudley Moore and Bo Derek, and also had Julie Andrews in there. The reason that kind of resonated with me was because he was a songwriter, he was middle-aged, and he saw this girl in a car and basically fell in love with her and chased her all over the world and ended up in Mexico with her.

It’s a romantic comedy, and it’s kind of crazy. The core message in the movie is that he found out that his dream wasn’t necessarily as great in reality. When he had finally gotten to the point where he got with his 10, it wasn’t as good as he thought it was.

Dream vs Reality…

That’s kind of what I hear from gurus on LinkedIn. I hear them ask, “Are you killing it on LinkedIn?” There are tons of courses promising unlimited leads: “Try my unlimited lead system, my LinkedIn prospecting system.” But what they are selling is kind of a myth and hard. I want to talk about this a little bit differently because I don’t believe you should go into LinkedIn and connect up with everyone with the hopes of snagging a few sales. I think what you really need to focus on is your perfect 10.

Who’s In The Perfect 10?

Who is your perfect avatar? Your perfect avatar is the person who you absolutely love to do business with, and the person who absolutely loves to do business with you. Now, it’d be great to find one of those people. It’d be even better to find 10 of those people. But I have to tell you, there are probably 100 of those people with LinkedIn accounts. They may not all be perfect 10s, maybe some are nines or eights or sevens. The bottom line is a lot of those (so called) systems focus on hitting a mass audience and trying to draw in the right people, which, in theory makes sense. But here’s the thing: if you really understand who is a great fit for you and your business, and you could connect with 100 of them on LinkedIn, the chances are at least 10 to 20 of those people would at least be good potential power partners in working with you. Let’s talk through that math.

The Pareto Principle is also known as the 80/20 rule. What it basically means is for many events, roughly 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. So if you interpolate that, it means that 80% of the benefit comes from 20% of the people that you connect with. So, are you willing to connect with 100 people to let 80% of them kind of wallow? The right answer here is, if you could have 10 perfect 10s out of 20% of 100 people, then yeah, I’d do it. I don’t know about you. Using this math will help you increase your odds of success. So let’s break that down a little bit further.

What’s a QUALITY Connection?

First, we need to start by defining what is a quality connection is to you. A quality connection is somebody who has relevance to you and your business, but they don’t always necessarily have to be a direct sales opportunity. That’s where I find a lot of the other systems flounder, and frankly fail. Just connecting with all of these people that fit a broad criteria doesn’t necessarily mean that they’re going to buy from you or they’re going to be perfect 10s. They may be transactional, which means that you may have to fight on price, or they could be tire kickers, and often, they are just waste your time.

A 1 In 10 Chance Beats 100% of 0

What you really want to do is find 100 people that could relate to you and your business, and narrow it down to your perfect 10. Some of those quality connections could be influencers, they could be vendors etc., while others could really be ideal referral sources, meaning people that they might refer other people to you. That leaves the last group of perfect potential customers. So, should you only focus on people that are going to buy from you, or are there other opportunities that you may be missing by skipping influencers or vendors or referral sources? I am telling you that you should pay attention all of them.

Start With the Great 100

So, if you connect with 100 quality people, you will find not all of them will be active and responsive. I have found this to be the reality of LinkedIn, both for myself and others I’ve taught how to effectively use LinkedIn. Here’s how it works:

First and foremost, connect with that great 100 people. Out of those 100 people, about 50% of those people will be completely inactive. That means you can send them a message, but they probably won’t respond. They could be perfect, but they’re just not engaged on LinkedIn. They may not using it the way that you hope for. The next 30% of people may actually watch, read your profile, pay attention, or even see what you post. But maybe they’re not really ready to engage. They’re not ready to reach out to you and say, “Hey, I want to buy what you have to sell,” or, “I want to refer people to you,” or any business producing interaction. Let’s call them Looky Lous!

So with that, 50% of the people aren’t going to pay attention, 30% of the people are going to be watching, maybe engaging, but not ready. So that leaves us with 20% and that’s the Pareto’s Principle 80/20 rule.

That Special 20%

So from that remaining 20% think about it this way: What if 10% of those people could be good referral sources, maybe people you could refer business to and maybe people that can refer business to you? Treat them as if they’re a resource and not as a sales opportunity. Then the last 10% could be some of the people that potentially are going to buy from you, but they have to be in that perfect 10 range YET, right? They have make need a little relationship building to be transformed into that optimal person, that perfect Avatar.

So if you break it down: 50% are probably not going to pay attention. 30% are going to kind of wallow and watch. 10% will maybe refer or at least maybe share some of your stuff to their audience where you could potentially get in front of the right people and 10% would eventually maybe purchase from you.

Final Thoughts

Now, let me ask you this question. What could 10 new clients do for your business today? What could it do in the next month? What could it do in the next year? Now, I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t extrapolate. Just because you connect with a thousand people doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to get 100 good clients out of it. What it boils down to is you have to start focusing on creating quality connections and quality relationships with people that can help you become more consistent in your business. With that being said, it’s a very realistic path to success on LinkedIn.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this. Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas or questions about showing the concepts presented. Have you had to overcome any of the presented concepts? What worked and what did not live up to expectations? Do you have any ideas or advice you could share?

03 May 14:56

The Traditional Product Management Method is Broken

by Willie Tran

According to the State of Salaries report from Hired, Product Manager (PM) was the highest paid tech role in 2018. And yet, the overwhelming majority of companies aren’t leveraging their product managers to the greatest advantage. In fact, many of these companies have set up a structure in which PM incentives are completely out of alignment with the ultimate goals of the company.

This pattern has cropped up again and again in conversations I’ve had with colleagues and other people in my network. It’s a phenomenon I’m personally interested in because of my own experience as a PM. I joined Testlio as Head of Product when the company had fewer than ten employees, and by the time I left they had nearly fifty. When I joined Dropbox as a Growth PM, our team was about a dozen people, but grew to sixty+ in the two-and-a-half years I was there. Today, I’m a Growth PM at MailChimp.

I’ve found that—in an ideal world—there would be no need to differentiate between a “Growth PM” and a “Traditional PM” because all PMs would operate from a growth mindset. The traditional product management method is broken and needs to be permanently retired.

The Problem Is Focusing on the Solution

The underlying issue that creates a disconnect between PM and company objectives is a basic cart-before-the-horse problem. Most PMs are too focused on creating solutions, when they should be paying more attention to the actual problems they are trying to solve.

Far too often, the product roadmap is based off solutions and features. That’s not a product development roadmap, that’s an execution roadmap—first you do this, then you do that. An effective roadmap isn’t simply a list of features; it’s a strategic guide constructed around a framework of problems to solve and areas to investigate. Instead of being driven by bells and whistles, it’s driven by a coordinated and strategic effort to deliver specific business outcomes.

Solutions are easy to create. The hard thing is figuring out which is the right problem to work on to achieve an intended outcome.

By adopting a feature-focused approach to product management, a company sets itself on a track that weakens the PM role. To begin with, the misunderstanding of how to build a product roadmap leads many inexperienced companies to grade and incentivize their PMs based on output. When you think about it, output is a ridiculously stupid metric on which to measure a PM. But many, many companies continue to reward PMs based on whether or not they released features. It doesn’t matter if the features make any difference to the big picture as long as the PM got them done.

In this kind of environment, PMs naturally tend to only want to work on sexy projects with high visibility. They aren’t interested in doing any in-the-trenches experimentation because they need visibility in order to score promotions. They also know that they will be rewarded even if whatever they launch doesn’t do well because by the time anyone has analyzed the data and figured out that whatever they did failed to move the needle, they’ve already collected their reward and moved on to the next sexy project.

In the worst case scenario, a traditional PM may intentionally overlook or downplay a project’s lack of viability because they are more focused on pushing something out the door than on making smart decisions for the product. So, instead of putting a DOA project out of its misery, they forge ahead, wasting time, resources and money in the process.

It’s not hard to understand how companies end up operating this way. In addition to the widely held assumption that the traditional PM approach is the only way to go, there are other factors that contribute to companies getting caught up in pursuing the wrong “roadmap.” There’s the issue of company leadership making casual product suggestions without understanding the weight their words carry. (If a founder or CEO asks if the team has considered doing such-and-such, the members of the team are likely to assume that they need to get to work making such-and-such happen). There’s the scenario in which a founder has a hard time giving up control. (I’ve often seen this when someone in a position of power invites non-experts to the table and lets their opinions skew the conversation in non-productive ways). And then there is the common issue of a company culture that’s simply not set up to make good use of data. (If the higher-ups aren’t equipped or predisposed to make data-driven decisions, the rest of the company usually won’t be either).

There is a Better Way

At the opposite end of the spectrum, Growth PMs are all about data and experimentation. They start with the problem instead of jumping prematurely to solutions. Growth PMs are beholden to a KPI, so they have a reason to see their efforts all the way through. They care about the data and the outcome, not just checking off a series of releases. Instead of being responsible for delivering a list of features, Growth PMs are responsible for delivering results. For instance, rather than being tasked to release a new functionality, a Growth PM might be asked to take on responsibility for new user activation—figuring out what’s working and what’s not working, where there are opportunities, which elements warrant further investigation and how all of it can be used to achieve a specific business outcome.

This approach requires data literacy and experimentation skills. Frankly, it’s upsetting how many PMs I’ve come across who don’t know how to make solid, data-informed decisions. Understanding data, knowing how to navigate it, being able to detect biases—all of these should be basic requirements for any PM. And all PMs should be experimenting. Experimentation is how you deconstruct a problem so that you have the information you need to build the right solution. It’s a tool that every PM should be using to get to the desired outcome more efficiently.

And there are other tools and strategies that all PMs would do well to use. The squad model, for instance, is a powerful product management strategy that revolves around an autonomous cross-functional team dedicated to solving a very specific problem. Typically, such teams include a PM, a designer, and however many analysts and engineers are needed to get the job done. They can build whatever they want without worrying about anyone (even the CEO) derailing their efforts. Their only task is to solve the problem they’ve been given.

Discover the Value of Productive Push Back

All of this boils down to a pretty simple bottom line. If you want to switch gears from a Traditional PM model to a Growth PM model, you need to have the gumption to constantly push back and ask the big question: “Why?”

A company with a growth-mindset approach to product management is a company where the culture encourages PMs to ask the hard questions:

      • What problem are we solving?
      • How big is this problem?
      • Why do we think this solution will solve the problem?
      • Did the solution solve the problem?

And from there, the PM has to be empowered to demand the data that backs up the answers to those questions. While the PM can keep an open mind about every request, they have to have the right to create their roadmap and make their decisions based on the data. They have to be allowed to put every request through the full set of paces, including full analysis and experimentation, before green lighting any project.

It’s a smarter, more efficient approach to product management that will ultimately save a company time, money, and a lot of wasted effort building features that were doomed to fail from the start.

The post The Traditional Product Management Method is Broken appeared first on OpenView Labs.

03 May 14:56

Am I Productive or Just Busy? Sales Leadership Lessons

by Mark Hunter

It is easy to think that just because you’re busy, you are productive. Nothing could be farther from the truth. The words “busy” and “productive” are often polar opposites.

I see salespeople and sales leaders spending countless hours updating reports and building out spreadsheets. These same people are quick to say that they just don’t have time to prospect or meet with customers because they’re busy. They are busy doing “busy” work.

Ask yourself these two simple questions before you start working on anything:

  1. Will this make a difference with a customer?
  2. Will this grow sales or increase profits?

If you lead a sales team, I hold you responsible not only for the work you create for your people but also the requests you get from others above you. During my days of leading sales teams, I remember how often I pushed back on marketing, finance and other things to stop the chaos! Honestly, I wish I had pushed back even harder. Every hour that a salesperson spends doing reports, etc. is another hour not spent with a customer.

Think about this for a moment: if a salesperson is responsible for generating $1 Million in sales per year, then each week they need to generate nearly $20,000. Now divide that number by 40 hours per week and it works out to $500 per hour. This means that each spreadsheet that a salesperson spends two hours a week working on costs $1,000 per week! Do you think that spreadsheet is worth $50,000? I doubt it! Yes, that’s a simple example but if you were to get serious about the revenue per hour that a salesperson is expected to generate, we would all start to wipe out much of the stupid busy work.

It’s not about being busy but about being productive by being busy on what really matters. I can’t stress this enough. Your goal for this week is to keep the two questions I asked in front of you to challenge you each time you’re about to do anything that’s not customer facing.

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

01 May 17:03

Promoted! Effective Sales Management Begins with Letting Go

by deb.calvert@peoplefirstps.com (Deb Calvert)

Why is there so much confusion about what effective sales management looks like?

01 May 16:49

PointDrive Presentation Templates for Each Stage of the Sales Funnel

by Steve Kearns

Sales success, more often than not, comes to us when we create win-win scenarios. Our ideas always make sense to us, but traction only occurs when our proposed changes start to make sense from the prospect’s point of view.

Sales technology works the same way. To assist the selling process, technology must hold clear advantages for both buyer and seller, and that’s what makes LinkedIn PointDrive so effective.

If this is your first time hearing about PointDrive and you’re not familiar with how it works, I recommend checking out the two-minute overview video below:

For sellers, the benefits of using PointDrive are abundant. LinkedIn’s own sales team relies heavily on this feature – a few team members drew from their experience to help us highlight the many advantages PointDrive provides to sales pros. It’s also never been more vital to meet buyers “where they are” because they expect us to engage them in the right context. To this end, PointDrive brings otherwise hidden insights into plain view.

As for what makes this feature a win-win, here are a few reasons why PointDrive makes sense from your buyer’s perspective as well:

  • Nearly three out of four buyers want vendors to make it easier to access their content. PointDrive provides your prospects and customers with a convenient, streamlined experience that email simply can’t match.

  • Buyers can easily and safely share your PointDrive presentations with other stakeholders (and you’ll be alerted when they do).

  • It’s all too common for a content experience to look terrific on one device and horrific on another. Your PointDrive presentations will look great no matter which device your buyer accesses them from. This is important as more B2B executives are using their mobile devices to make purchasing decisions.

  • Buyers can easily view several content formats without needing to open attachments or navigate to different URLs. For example, an event-based PointDrive presentation might include a video, a map, a PDF brochure, and a PowerPoint presentation.

Now that we’ve established why PointDrive makes sense on both sides of the sales equation, let’s dive into when and how to best use this LinkedIn Sales Navigator feature. You can leverage PointDrive for almost any scenario. And of course there are certain sales situations that are tailor-made for PointDrive.

The challenge for many B2B sellers is that the exact “situation” isn’t always apparent. We simply know that our prospect is in beginning, middle, or later stages of a deal, and to meet our goals, we need to expertly guide these potential buyers to and through the next stage of the sales funnel.  

PointDrive Presentation Templates for the Top, Middle, and Bottom of the Sales Funnel

This is where PointDrive comes in handy for both buyers and sellers. Buyers need access to the right information to aid decision-making and advance an agenda for change. Sellers need insight so that they can engage the account’s various stakeholders in the right context. Specifically, sellers need to know who those stakeholders are and the interests of each. A single PointDrive presentation can give both sides what they need.

Top-of-Funnel PointDrive Template

The goal here is to build trust and establish expertise. Sellers can accomplish this by packaging up non-salesy third-party content around the prospect’s areas of interest.

Think about your success stories: your sold-and-satisfied customers. What sparked their initial interest? Did they gain a fresh perspective from a particular influencer in your industry? Are they seeing industry research that’s driving their motivation for change? Are they seeing a particular piece of your company’s content before they express an interest?

Also, why did your customers trust you enough to include you in their buying process? How did your customers’ perceptions of you or your company differ from those who didn’t end up buying from you? How or where did your customers form these perceptions?

You likely won’t have exact answers. That’s quite alright because PointDrive will ultimately help you substantiate your findings over time.

For now though, asking yourself these questions can help you come up with three to five content assets to share in a PointDrive presentation for early-stage prospects.

Here’s what a top-of-funnel PointDrive presentation might look like:

  • A “big idea” article that tends to get prospects excited about the possibilities of change

  • A thought leadership article that conveys you or your company’s expertise in this area

  • A video that demonstrates your company’s unique approach to solving problems (Ideally, viewers of this video will come away feeling like they know and trust your company more for having watched it.)

  • An infographic that makes a point in a visually compelling, highly shareable way

Middle-of-Funnel PointDrive Template

Now that you’ve established that the prospect is in the market for a solution like yours, you’ll want to share content that helps them with their research, but doesn’t come off as extremely biased. Objective review sites, factual data sheets, and “how to” videos that demonstrate your solution but don’t shove it on people can be particularly effective in this stage.

Here’s what a middle-of-funnel PointDrive presentation might look like:

  • An article from (or link to) an objective review site

  • A data sheet that empowers prospects to more easily compare solutions

  • A video that showcases how your “power users” take full advantage of your solution and how they accomplish key objectives because of it

  • An article that overviews all the criteria a company might consider when deciding upon a solution such as yours

Bottom-of-Funnel PointDrive Template

Here you can start to rely more on your own persuasive first-party content as you try to push a prospect across the finish line. Customer testimonials and success stories, peer recommendations, feature lists, and cost-justification tools can be especially effective at this stage.

Here’s what a bottom-of-funnel PointDrive presentation might look like:

  • A PDF packed with customer testimonials

  • An article that demonstrates how your company is committed to meeting customers’ future needs

  • An Excel ROI calculator

  • A video that prompts the prospect to imagine a better life with your solution

Don’t get hung up on creating the perfect PointDrive presentation. Just get started because the sooner you do, the sooner you’ll have access to engagement insights that will help you optimize future PointDrive presentations. For instance, after sharing your top-of-funnel template with two prospects, you might notice that both prospects viewed and shared the same two articles but didn’t touch the other content. Using this info, you might test replacing the unused content with something else.

Also, “perfect” is highly relative when it comes to sales presentations. Whenever possible, tweak your PointDrive templates so that they meet the specific needs of the prospect or account you’re sharing it with.

For more ways to achieve win-win scenarios alongside your sales prospects, subscribe to the LinkedIn Sales blog.

01 May 16:40

The Art of Qualified Leads: Years of Training Not Required

by J. Christine Feeley

If done correctly, lead qualification is a bit like a well-choreographed dance. It requires two willing partners – sales and marketing – and an interactive plan that maps out each step. It’s an art that can be acquired by any company, of any size, any industry. The only criteria – a willingness to stop talking about better solutions, and a little initiative to take the first steps to create a better solution. We’ve outlined your first 3 steps:

1. Where are the inbound leads coming from?

The answer to this question may shed light on why leads are or are not meeting qualifying criteria. There are many tactics used to help drive inbound leads. The best approach should be based on the goal – is the objective focused on volume and the need to grow a sales database? Or is the objective focused on growing a sales pipeline with leads that meet specific criteria used to define “qualified”? Many of our clients will respond with “we need both”. Fair enough, providing the sales team is set-up to truly handle the qualified volume. In these situations, you’ll want to cast the widest possible net over a pre-qualified audiencemeaning, any activity you engage with has already been quantified and qualified to meet your pre-qualified criteria of what an ideal lead looks like. Below are a few of the inbound lead gen drivers we use to support this type of effort:

  • Digital Referral Engines
  • Digital News, Information, Research resources
  • Tradeshows and Conferences
  • Webinars/Podcasts

This is a highly effective approach – we’ve never had a failure. However, there is critical due diligence that needs to occur pre and post-launch.

Pre-launch

  • Ferret out all of the Referral and Digital publication options and run some performance impact estimates. This will shed critical visibility on fair pricing, ROI, and estimated volume. Now ask, “Can the sales team handle the volume if the estimates are within +/- 10%?”
  • This approach requires an automation system – make sure that marketing and sales have agreed to scoring rules. The leads may all be qualified, but there are leads that will be closer to “sales ready” – those are the highest priorities, and the contacts most likely to pick up the phone.

Post-Launch

  • Don’t wait the customary 30 days to determine if the plan is working – armed with the performance impact estimates from your pre-launch, you will know within one to two weeks. Be sure to reach out to any resource that’s under-performing – they’ll quickly make adjustments, or in rare cases, you’ll want to stop the campaign and re-allocate toward other resources.
  • Check your scoring rules! As leads stream into the sales database/funnel, there are typically adjustments that need to be made – add more filters or loosen filters based on what sales can handle.
  • Sales – don’t touch any leads until they’re ready! It’s tempting and exciting to see the pipelines fill up – but keep in mind why we wrote this article, you’re looking for qualified, sales-ready leads.

2. What criteria is being used to determine qualification/value?

Despite the buzz you’ve heard – when it comes to lead gen, tons of content isn’t necessary. Thinking back to the original objective – is the goal to increase the size of a sales database or a sales pipeline – if the sales pipeline is the highest priority, a company doesn’t need content “volume”, but you do need content with a purpose. We’ve documented the following solutions that are most commonly missing from a lead generation plan – but also add a significant amount of horsepower:

  • Create Content to Auto-Prioritize Sales Ready Interest vs. Creating Volumes of Content with No Meaning

Before making the investment in developing content – articles, white papers, webinars, etc – determine what types of topics and information will help identify a lead’s interest in your products/services. We use the following system to identify which lead is actively researching a solution, and which leads are actively seeking a company to implement the solution:

  • Configure the automation system to organize leads based on where a lead resides in the pre-purchasing process and seize a 74% advantage.

According to Gartner and other like resources, when your business is the first to reach out to a company considering a new solution/product – by the wide margin of nearly 75%, you’ll have the competitive advantage to close that deal. Step one is only successful if the automation is configured and organized to capture both the leads and the type of content consumed. This is where an automation platform will pay for itself, by automating a stream of communication/content that encourages leads to access the information your sharing – helping them gather what they need to solve their business problem. With each step, the system is prioritizing and qualifying the leads– sending out notifications to sales only when the lead has met pre-determined criteria.

3. Is the timing, right? Is the sales script, right?

Using a typical inbound lead process and best practices sales scenarios, the following might be a close reflection of your process/scripting:

When new leads appear in the database, sales’ instincts and years of training kick into high gear. A call is quickly placed, a voice mail is left or perhaps the good fortune to connect directly with the lead contact. Typically, one of two scenarios occurs:

If you’re going to deploy this new strategy, you’re going to want to modify your timing and your script. The following are a couple of quick do’s and don’ts:

  • Marketing DO work with sales to determine what defines a “sales qualified” lead
  • Sales DON’T call a lead until you receive a notification that the lead opportunity has met pre-determined “sales qualified” criteria
  • Sales DO follow-up with the lead contact(s) within 24-48 hours (tops) following a notification
  • Sales modify your scripts –You’ll want to pursue this lead wearing your “consultative” hat – “Is there additional information I can send?” “Is there a specific issue that you’re working on?”
  • Marketing and Sales DO sit down at least twice a month and review sales qualified scoring criteria and gather feedback on the content.

There is an art to qualified lead generation. But fortunately, the “art” doesn’t require years of training, but rather a willingness to step back and re-look at new and better solutions. When the plan comes together, and the sales pipeline begins to build – the appreciation for the “art” will be companywide, and typically encores are expected.

01 May 16:40

What is Call Tracking and Why Should You Use It?

by David Gasparyan

Are you tracking results from all the marketing campaigns you have initiated? Like most people, you are probably tracking some but not all your campaigns. You might be tracking things such as page views, social media followers, email subscribers, and so on. However, sales do not only result from online marketing activities.

If you advertise your business on a newspaper, how can you track the ROI from your ad spend?

The answer lies in call tracking.

What Is Call Tracking?

Call tracking is a way of tracking the number of leads generated through phone calls from an online or offline campaign. For example, you can track calls coming from ads placed on a newspaper or flier to determine the success of the marketing campaigns.

How Does Call Tracking Work?

Google Ads Call TrackingCall tracking can help to determine ROI from offline or online marketing campaigns. For example, when you run an AdWords PPC campaign, your website may show up on the first page of Google for a specific keyword (call tracking tools) you are targeting.

When customers see the phone number on the ad, they’ll call your business. But how will you know that they called because they saw the particular AdWords ad you set up?

The solution is call tracking.

To get started with call tracking, you’ll need a call tracking software to record details about the calls made. By monitoring the calls made to specific numbers, you will know which campaigns are generating the most leads and which ones are draining your dollars without a great ROI.

What Are the Benefits of Call Tracking?

Call tracking and analytics help you monitor which areas of marketing are performing and which areas need some improvement. Call tracking works well in the following areas:

  • Organic Search Engine Traffic – You can determine the landing pages which are generating calls to your business.
  • Pay-Per-Click Campaigns – You can check which keywords are performing well.
  • Digital Adverting Campaigns – You can see which campaigns are performing by using a different phone number on each ad campaign.

Through call tracking, you can uncover the following:

  • The time when a call was made
  • The marketing channels that are generating the most calls
  • The customer service team’s response to the calls, etc.

This information helps you to identify the best performing campaigns. For instance, let’s imagine you place ads on:

  • Sunday newspaper
  • Weekday papers

If you find that most calls are coming from ads placed on the Sunday newspaper than those placed on weekday papers, then you can scale back on weekday advertising and increase the ad spend for the Sunday paper.

Call tracking helps you know the performance of every marketing channel you are using. For example, if you were to run three marketing campaigns:

  • Online pay-per-click campaign
  • Ads on a local newspaper
  • Printing fliers

By using call tracking software, you can compare results from all these marketing channels.

Campaign Cost Number of Calls
Online pay-per-click campaign $1000 10
Ads on a local newspaper $500 3
Printing fliers $1500 0

This table shows that the fliers that you’ve been printing are not generating any calls. In that case, reduce or stop spending on flier marketing and redirect your spending into the pay-per-click campaign where you can get more inquiries.

Why You Should Use Call Tracking

Many businesses are still not monitoring all their marketing channels and so are missing out on leads. Call tracking service is something you should not ignore. Call tracking provides accurate data about your marketing efforts. In the above instance, it was clear that there was wasted budget upon printing fliers which were not generating any inquiries. Pay-per-click was generating more leads, so more of the budget should be allocated to it. Tracking calls across all marketing channels can save you time and money.

How Does Call Tracking Help in Maximizing ROI?

Call analytics and tracking provide a lot of data, which you can interpret and use to optimize your campaigns for the best ROI while keeping costs low. For example, if you see that most AdWords campaigns calls are coming in the afternoon, you can tweak the ads campaigns to be shown from noon. This means your budget will not be wasted during the morning hours.

Call tracking is a critical marketing aspect for all types of businesses. Through call tracking software, you can identify metrics that will help you get the best ROI for your ad spend.