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29 May 17:31

Your Unconditional Need to Refuse Your Conditioning

by Anthony Iannarino

You have been—and are still being—conditioned. You have beliefs and behaviors that have been installed in, like an operating system. Much of your conditioning can be likened to a virus in your operating system. Here are a few examples external and internal forces condition your beliefs and behaviors:

Outside Forces

  • The Media: You have been carefully conditioned to pay attention to the news. Even though very little has anything to do with you, it’s mostly negative, and there is almost nothing you can do about the events of the day, except for what is inside your control. Instead of calling yourself a “news junkie” and allowing the media to condition your thoughts and infecting you with disempowering beliefs, condition yourself to put what’s important to you and your success first. Have you noticed that no amount of paying attention to the news changes any of the events being reported? Have you noticed how few impact your life?
  • Social Media: Did you get a like or a comment? Are you anxiously awaiting attention as a form of validation that you are noticed and that you belong? The platforms, all of them, every single one, are designed to condition you to act like a laboratory rat, pushing the button to receive a tiny dopamine treat. Are you any less if no one comments or likes what you shared? Is your post worthless if few people respond? You have been conditioned to be a product, but you could condition yourself to use the platforms instead of being used by them.
  • Your Society and Culture: Much of what you think and believe has been instilled by society and culture, starting with your parents, your teachers, and your preacher. All of them conditioned you in a way to keep you safe from harm, mostly through insisting you conform to cultural norms. There isn’t much in the way of cultural norms designed to help you become the best version of yourself or insisting that you dream big and take even bigger actions, something you are going to have to condition yourself to do. Most of your conditioning has limited you instead of removing any limits you perceived, something that unintentionally makes people less safe and less satisfied with their lives.
  • Politicians: With the help of the media and social media, you are being conditioned by people who feed you fear as a path to power. You are being conditioned to believe that people who don’t share your exact beliefs are your enemy. In a Post Truth world, there are only dominant narratives and counter-narratives, as we are going through a phase where we no longer care about the truth. Of the 7,499,999,999 other people on the planet, none of them is exactly like you. There are no “others” because all there is is others. You can condition yourself to ignore anything designed to divide you from others and to believe that there is no perspective other than the dominant narrative of one tribe.

Inside Forces

It’s bad enough that these external forces come with a great deal more negative and limiting beliefs than positive and empowering ideas and actions. But because this is true, they all conspire to make you an accomplice in conditioning negative patterns.

  • Your Self-Talk: All the external forces condition you, and then you condition yourself. No one spends more time talking to you than you do, even if the voices you hear are an echo of all of history, including your personal history. You may or may not have noticed that a lot of what you say to yourself isn’t very helpful or empowering. Research shows that something close to eighty-percent of your thoughts are negative, a byproduct of the brain’s desire to keep you from dying or being harmed. You can recondition yourself by changing what you say to yourself, improving your positive thoughts, and swapping out your inner critic for an inner coach, like Cus D’Amato or Jim Rohn, someone who would insist on you turning in your best performance.
  • Your Habits: You condition your habits, and then your habits condition you. Your subconscious mind has much more control over what you do day to day. Conditioned behaviors are difficult to unwind once they are successfully burned in, even if it wasn’t your intention to create negative behavioral patterns. You can condition new habits to replace old, poor, unintentional habits, including your self-talk, but it takes conscious effort and an effective strategy.

There is not only every reason to be aware of what is conditioning you and the filters you might put in place to keep out that which is harmful to your health, wealth, and happiness, even if you are now one of the primary sources of poison and pollution. Recondition yourself by consuming and digesting only that which will improve and strengthen you. Eliminating negativity will help you develop an immunity to the forces that would make you less than what you really are.

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The post Your Unconditional Need to Refuse Your Conditioning appeared first on The Sales Blog.

29 May 17:30

How to Create a Distant Learning Culture in Your Workplace

by Paul Keijzer

In order to understand how to foster a distant learning culture in the workplace, it is imperative to first understand how culture overall is developed. Workplace culture is the glue that holds an organization together; it is the deeply ingrained identity of a company.

With COVID-19, the business landscape has shifted to virtual, thus affecting the learning culture like all other work aspects. Therefore, employers wanting to build a culture of learning in current times need to create an environment that empowers people to pursue knowledge. And this is not essential merely for individual evolution but also for the growth of the company as a whole.

Plus, given the fact that Millennials are the largest demographic group ever, leaders need to figure out a way to satisfy Millennials’ drive for career development and also manage learning opportunities for other generations in the workforce.

Deloitte’s report reveals that companies with continuous learning cultures are 46 percent more likely to have first-mover advantage and be 58 percent more prepared to meet future demand. In addition to that, they also have a 26 percent greater ability to supply quality products and they experience 37 percent greater employee productivity.

Creating a culture of learning isn’t something that happens overnight, but there are some actionable ways that can facilitate the process:

Provide Online Learning Opportunities from Subject-Matter Experts

An effective way to deliver distant learning opportunities to employees is by leveraging the skills and knowledge of subject-matter experts and conducting knowledge-sharing programs online. There is plenty of information that you would want to offer to your employees, and subject-matter experts give internal employees an advocate to turn to for questions and reliable best practices. Plus, they help you direct towards the top-notch resources and generate content that employees can gain knowledge from.

As a result, this peer-to-peer engagement creates an environment where employees can interact as active participants and learners.

Offer Gamified Nano-Learning Modules

Any type of learning that presents learners the opportunity to interact has a higher chance of success than a traditional page-turner course. And gamified learning has been astonishingly successful because of its interactive nature.

Employers can offer an eclectic range of interactive nano-learning modules of gamified learning to their employees so as to help their team pick up concepts faster and remember them for a longer time while staying engaged and motivated throughout the training.

Communicate Your Goals

Since culture is an issue that concerns the whole organization, leaders must ensure that each employee recognizes the value learning offers to them on an individual level as well as to the business as a whole.

Simply announcing your program in an e-newsletter or social media post and then expecting employees to “get it” isn’t a good idea. HR managers must integrate the learning culture into the hiring process and communicate it as a part of their employees’ values. Employers should share their philosophy around learning, energetically market their educational offerings and talk about their training and development opportunities.

Lead by Example

If, as an organizational leader, you are engaged and dedicated to your own continuous learning, a culture of learning would automatically be reinforced. Similarly, if you yourself practice what you preach – try peer-to-peer coaching and instill the habit of providing and receiving constructive feedback in your company, your team members will replicate.

You may also do this by setting your own learning goals, discussing about some training that you have recently taken and being willing to rectify and reflect on your mistakes.

Teach Your Team How to Give Feedback

Employers wanting to develop a culture of learning need to teach their employees how to effectively give and receive feedback. Many managers only give out positive feedback because they fear hurting their team members’ feelings, being disliked or having their own authority questioned. What they forget is, negative feedback that is given in a constructive way has immense power. And this constructive feedback should be concrete, with suggested plans for improvement, sparking their curiosity and their eagerness to learn and improve.

In short, when your team learns to give and receive constructive feedback, they’ll be able to continuously learn from each other and improve their skills.

15 May 17:11

Cory Doctorow wrote a good explainer about modern monetary theory

by Mark Frauenfelder

Cory Doctorow explained modern monetary theory to me last year while we were in my kitchen. It changed my attitude towards balanced budgets and national deficits. If you would like to read Cory's explanation of modern monetary theory, he wrote it on his website today.

If governments are the source of money, then they don't tax us in order to spend. They spend (which puts money into the economy) and then tax back.

If the government runs a "balanced budget" that means it's taxing as much money of out existence as it is spending into existence, leaving behind no money for the rest of us to save or spend. Balanced budgets starve the private sector of the money it needs to operate.

He also recommends this podcast interview with Stephanie Kelton, author of The Deficit Myth:

15 May 17:07

Develop Agility That Outlasts the Pandemic

by Darrell K. Rigby

Three tips to avoid going back to your old bureaucratic ways.

15 May 17:05

Plasma Jets May One Day Propel Aircraft

by Charles Q. Choi

Jet planes may one day fly without fossil fuels by using plasma jets, new research from scientists in China suggests.

A variety of spacecraft, such as NASA’s Dawn space probe, generate plasma from gases such as xenon for propulsion. However, such thrusters exert only tiny propulsive forces, and so can find use only in outer space, in the absence of air friction.

Now researchers have created a prototype thruster capable of generating plasma jets with propulsive forces comparable to those from conventional jet engines, using only air and electricity.

An air compressor forces high-pressure air at a rate of 30 liters per minute into an ionization chamber in the device, which uses microwaves to convert this air stream into a plasma jet blasted out of a quartz tube. Plasma temperatures could exceed 1,000 °C.

“We could lift a steel ball weighing about 1 kilogram using only about 400 watts of microwave power,” says Jau Tang, a physicist at Wuhan University in China and senior author of a new study describing the work.

The scientists estimated the jet pressure from their device reached 2,400 newtons per square meter, comparable to that from a commercial airplane jet engine. “This result surprised me,” Tang says. “It means that if we could scale up the microwave power and the compressed air inlet stream to the standard of an actual jet engine, we could have the same strength of jet propulsion using only electricity and air but no fossil fuel.”

If air plasma jets ever become practical, they could reduce fossil fuel use and greenhouse gas emissions, the researchers say. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, aircraft contribute 12 percent of U.S. transportation emissions, and account for 3 percent of the nation's total greenhouse gas production. Globally, aviation produced 2.4 percent of total carbon dioxide emissions in 2018.

“We are quite excited that only electricity and air are needed,” Tang says. “We do not need fossil fuels to power a jet engine.”

A schematic diagram of a prototype microwave air plasma thruster and the images of the bright plasma jet at different microwave powers. This device consists of a microwave power supply, an air compressor, a compressed microwave waveguide and a flame ignitor.
Image: Jau Tang and Jun Li/AIP
A schematic diagram of a prototype microwave air-plasma thruster and images of the bright plasma jet at different microwave powers. This device consists of a microwave power supply, an air compressor, a compressed microwave waveguide, and a flame igniter.

All in all, “I think that within five years, one could use a scaled-up plasma engine to power small pilotless airplanes or heavy-duty drones to carry cargo for shipping,” Tang says. “For an air-plasma engine to power a large jumbo jet, it would require a large array of megawatt microwave sources, high-power turbine compressors, and an extremely high electric energy storage capability. I guess that development could take another decade.”

The scientists are currently focused on scaling up the power of the system. If they can build a megawatt-strength plasma engine capable of driving a real airplane, they will then “pay attention on ways to reduce weight and size,” Tang says.

The scientists detailed their findings on 5 May in the journal AIP Advances.

13 May 16:41

Notion’s Marketing Secrets for Small Teams with Big Dreams

by Ariel Winton

Notion’s all-in-one workspace for notes, tasks, wikis and databases has received accolades from industry media and CEOs, earned a spot as Apple’s App of the Day, and is a Product Hunt favorite with more than 4,000 upvotes.

Oh, and they hit a $2 billion valuation last month.

Those are some pretty great results for a small team—only about 50 people in the whole company—that needs to navigate the challenges of selling a horizontal product serving multiple audiences from single-player scenarios to enterprise deployments.

Despite these challenges, Notion has successfully built a unique brand and earned a loyal following, so I was delighted to have the chance to speak with their head of marketing, Camille Ricketts. Camille started out as a journalist at The Wall Street Journal, transitioned into marketing with Tesla and founded First Round Review.

Camille and I talked about how Notion uses the power of being human to win (and keep!) loyal customers, how the company differentiates its brand in the marketplace, and why they founded a thriving user community.

Notion's homepage

Notion: A small company with a big audience

Notion strives to solve problems in a delightful way. They serve three distinct audiences:

  • Individuals who use it in single-player mode
  • Small businesses or teams who adopt it self-service
  • Enterprises that use it department- or company-wide and typically interact with Notion’s sales team

Camille explained that this broad range of customers drives Notion to be serious about segmentation. Getting to a high level of specificity in their key content—like onboarding emails—enables them to connect effectively with prospects and users. It’s all about understanding how different personas use Notion and how they benefit from it.

The inherent risk of pursuing so many different audiences at once is that the increased surface area of each associated task can spread you too thin. To mitigate that risk—and conserve resources—Camille recommends taking the time to identify the most appropriate beachhead market for each type of content.

Small teams like Notion’s need to be super efficient with their time and resources, so it makes sense to be thoughtful about which people will be the easiest to convert. Once you know which audience will be quickest to recognize your product’s value, tailor your test content to that group.

Pick a place to start, and then broaden your reach over time as you increase bandwidth.

Pro strategies for the small marketing team with big goals

The horizontal nature of their business means their small team has a lot of ground to cover, but Notion still manages to do an outstanding job with their marketing. Camille says that their success isn’t strictly about efficiency—it’s about being clever, honest and human. It’s also about making sure the team has the right resources:

Dedicated design and development support
Notion’s marketing team includes a designer and a developer who are 100% allocated to marketing. This relieves Camille and her team from having to beg, borrow or steal design and engineering resources from other departments and projects.

Having dedicated resources means that the marketing team can build, iterate and test quickly—that gives them a very real market advantage. As Camille explained, working with this team closely on content allows her to determine how design can help tell a particular story and then quickly get the whole thing into the wild.

“User love” and a strong community manager
Ben Lang runs Notion’s B2C community. He’s constantly creating content, coordinating events and generating a ton of momentum and word of mouth.

Get this: Ben was originally a member of the Notion community before coming onboard to run it. He had a Notion fan site called Notion Pages, and people were submitting templates to him and having valuable conversations with him. It was his idea, based on his interactions with other users, to evolve that page into a community called Notion Pros, which is composed of ambassadors selected from the broader audience.

Camille and Ben chose their ambassadors through an application process. They also took note of who was engaging with the Notion Pages website and who was promoting the Notion brand on Reddit and other sites. They put together a simple landing page describing the idea for Notion Pros and received hundreds of applications. They chose 20 people to start, with long-term plans to scale the program thoughtfully as the need arose.

Having a strong community lets you tap into existing user love. Not only does this group provide Notion with invaluable insights about what kinds of engagement users want most, it also serves as a kind of auxiliary marketing team. With these people engaged and evangelizing the Notion brand, it can seem like Notion has a ton of people on the ground who are everywhere at once—an effect that’s extremely attractive to a small marketing team like Notion’s.

In return for their time, support and insights, Notion Pros get a closer relationship with the company, opportunities to participate in beta tests and feedback groups, monthly AMAs, and even—in some cases—pathways for them to build Notion-fueled educational and consulting businesses.

Honesty, humility and transparency
Camille explained that both the inner Notion community and the broader audience respond best when the Notion team is “very human” in their communication.

When a feature ships late or something isn’t going exactly as planned (it happens), their approach is to just be real with their customers.

The power of B2C tactics in a B2B market and brand differentiation

There are two huge trends influencing marketers that sell to businesses. First, the people working within companies have more say over the tools they use. Software purchases used to be a top-down mandate, but now there’s a lot more bottom-up adoption.

This dovetails with the second major trend: an increased realization that buyers within companies—whether at the top or at the bottom—are still people. And that means that they respond best to good storytelling and great design, just like they do outside of work.

Related: SurveyMonkey’s CMO On Making Marketing More Human

These trends are the reason Notion uses a lot of B2C marketing tactics even though they’re technically selling B2B. The truth is, the lines are blurring as business buyers set their expectations based on their interactions with consumer brands.

“Brand isn’t just about what you say or even how you say it. It’s also about what you do.”

Which brings us to another secret weapon Camille mentioned: the Notion brand. Camille credits the company’s founder, Ivan Zhao, with lending his own unique and passionate voice and tone to the brand. Notion’s marketing team focuses a lot of time and attention on nurturing this brand voice because they know it’s an incredibly important part of how they differentiate themselves in the market.

Camille further explained that brand isn’t just about what you say or even how you say it—it’s also about what you do. People often think about differentiating their content or their content delivery, but true differentiation starts with a deep understanding of your audience.

This isn’t just about making educated guesses about a surface demographic. It’s about really digging in so that you understand—and have empathy for—the problems your users are trying to solve.

Once you understand the problems, it’s all about:

  1. Adopting a problem-solving mindset to meet their needs
  2. Figuring out how to articulate what you actually do differently to resolve their challenges

Vague statements and fluffy claims won’t cut it. You need demonstrable, provable, relevant value.

Notion's homepage


Leveraging brand in this way is the difference between flooding a space with poorly targeted SEO-style content and delivering highly strategic and tailored content that actually helps solve user problems. You listen to your customers, you figure out what they really need and then you deliver that in your marketing.

Things to watch out for

So where do companies get tripped up when trying to build out a unique and differentiated marketing function? Camille said that the two biggest mistakes have to do with content development.

1. Unrealistic expectations
Too often, content marketers get saddled with impossible tasks like hitting critical volume really fast without any real appreciation for how long it takes to create content. For instance, they might be required to drive a certain number of conversions each month, and then they’re told that to meet this goal they need to publish three to five posts each week.

It’d be nice to keep up that kind of cadence, but not all organizations have the resources to pull that off. What usually happens is that budgets tighten quickly, and the marketing team (or person) gets burned out. Ultimately, quality suffers.

2. Missed opportunities
The second mistake: Failing to understand that every single piece of content says something about your brand. This can work for you or against you—it’s your choice.

Quality over quantity—always. As the old saying goes, you only get one chance to make a first impression. And as most people know from experience, you can screw up a relationship at any point along the way.

In Camille’s experience, the solution to both of these challenges is to take the time to do things right. When she was developing First Round Review, she was so grateful that the leadership team understood the realities of the process enough to give her the latitude to try different things over six months. (She added that it’s actually optimal if you can give yourself close to a year for this discovery process.)

Finding your groove with this kind of marketing requires a lot of testing and a lot of listening. Experiment with different things, get to know people and see where they gravitate, and then optimize and scale from there.

This isn’t a process that you want to shortcut. You’re building a brand and a marketing foundation.

Take the time to get it right, and you’ll have all kinds of opportunities in the future.

More with Camille Ricketts

To hear more insight from Camille, listen to the full episode of BUILD.

The post Notion’s Marketing Secrets for Small Teams with Big Dreams appeared first on OpenView.

09 May 16:42

Persuasion Knowledge: A Consumer’s Defense Against Marketing

by Daniel Hopper

People are a lot more alert to the intentions of marketers than they used to be 50 years ago. Consumers have learnt to recognise the persuasive attempts of marketing developing what we call persuasion knowledge.

Persuasion & Persuasion Knowledge

To understand persuasion knowledge, we must first discuss persuasion.

In marketing, persuasion theory suggests attitude measurement predicts consumer behaviour.

Shopping in a retail store

Persuasion is the act of trying to modify a person’s attitude and beliefs toward a certain topic. Persuasion is the process of convincing someone to do or believe something. For a marketer or salesperson, they want to persuade you to purchase something. They want to convince you that you need or want it.

A person’s Persuasion Knowledge is how they “cope” with persuasion attempts, and “beliefs about the tactics that advertisers and marketers use to try to persuade them” (Boush, Friestad & Rose, 1994)

“…Because attitudes exert a strong influence on behaviour, attitude research offers a potentially useful device for explaining and predicting consumer behaviour.” (Udell,1965)

Salesperson talking to a prospect

Persuasion defined

Scholars have researched Persuasion extensively over the years since in psychology since the 1950s. Persuasion theory is adapted from the behavioural sciences, in a time when it measured the persuasiveness of propaganda — political or advertising. It was a much simpler time back in the 1960s, where government experimentation and mass-marketing were commonplace. Messages subtly tried to change the attitudes of receivers of the communication. Attitude the most commonly explored metric in persuasion research.

This was under a belief that learning is a process of where knowledge is acquired, and behaviours changed through stimuli and response. A person’s behaviours learned through their environment. Assumptions of persuasion theory are that everyone has a unique level of ability, readiness and motivations to deal with each persuasive message we encounter. Which is many.

Reinforcement is one tactic used by marketers, under the assumption that the more we see often we see a message, the more credible it becomes. Credibility is a key moderator of persuasion.

The Persuasion Process

There are four factors important in facilitating the persuasion process. First, the communicator’s credibility and reputation. Are you reliable and credible. Next is the order of statements and there are two approaches here, primacy or recency. Whether you state your position right at the beginning, or if it is the last thing you do.

Third, completeness of statements, meaning being able to cover the topic holistically, for and against, and have a complete argument. If you can weigh the pros and cons, you can be more persuasive. Finally, announcement of intentions. If you are going to persuade your audience, they need to be interested in the first place. Be specific with your message and intentions.

Several factors need to be in your favour to persuade an audience. The audience needs to be receptive and interested in your message in the first place, it needs to support the same ideas and opinions as to their own. People have a filter and quickly tune out, so receivers need to be open to a conversation and to receive a message.

Marketers always try to rationalise a behaviour, so created a formula to explain the process. Values, Beliefs and Motivations influence a person’s attitude, and this attitude then influences their behaviour. Value + Beliefs + Motives = Attitudes → Behaviour.

Marketing communicates a message to try and change an attitude. They do this in two ways. First, to try to change a belief. Second, to try and mature a belief through modifying that person’s values and/or motives. The second route is much more difficult as values and motives are part of who is a person is and is not easily changed. It is far easier to add a new value or motive.

Car sales — can be a very persuasive encounter…

Persuasion tactics

There are several tactics that marketers/brands can use to try and influence and persuade their audience. Five persuasion tactics are:

Creating Uncertainty: If a communicator has an audience strongly opposed to their view, creating questions around that topic in the audiences’ mind is a powerful tool. This tactic is used when the audience is strong in their stance.

Reducing Resistance: if the resistance in the audience is moderate, it is possible to influence their view from negative to neutral. You do not expect them to side with you but to accept your view.

Change Attitude: When the audience is neutral, there is a good opportunity to persuade their attitude to your favour.

Amplify Attitude: Where the audience is already favourable, a message reinforcing your point of view is beneficial here to stay strong.

Gain Behaviour: When your audience is strongly on your side, the goal is to act. Like for a salesperson, making the sale.

“In its most basic form, persuasion involves changing a person’s mental state, usually as precursors to behavioural change.” (O’Keefe, 2008)

Persuasion knowledge — a defence against marketing

Marketing is everywhere in our environments containing persuasive messages. We are living in a media-saturated world. “One of a consumer’s primary tasks is to interpret and cope with marketers’ sales presentations and advertising” (Friestad & Wright, 1994). A theory of persuasion would not be complete without understanding how a person’s recognition of persuasion alters what occurs.

Consumers activate the persuasion knowledge to cope with persuasion attempts, to lessen the effects of its influence. Persuasion knowledge encompasses a person’s experiences and beliefs about the goals and tactics marketers use to persuade them. This includes the extent to which they find these techniques effective and appropriate, but also personal beliefs about how to cope with these tactics. Consumers choose a response tactic and we should not assume that people use persuasion knowledge only to resist an attempt.

The understanding of persuasion and advertising starts developing at childhood with the ability to distinguish commercial content. Persuasion knowledge develops throughout their life span, learnt through different scenarios such as social interactions and conversations with friends and family, and day-to-day general observations. Because of this, persuasion knowledge will differ among individuals.

Consumers are also far more likely to develop negative perceptions towards a person trying overly hard to persuade them into something that they do not want to do. In sales situations, negative perceptions of the sales agent also lessened the agent’s ability to persuade and increased the chance of the target’s resistance to the persuasion attempt. While some of these consumers may still make the purchase recommended by the salesperson, there are still long-term consequences of these negative perceptions such as negative word of mouth and a lower chance of repeat purchase.

“When a persuasive agent uses a credible tactic, persuasion knowledge access can lead consumers to evaluate the agent and its offering more (rather than less) favourably.” (Boerman, Willemsen & Van Der Aa, 2017)

Persuasive content online

Credibility, expertise and trustworthiness are key to being able to persuade an audience online. Social media allows brands to reach their target audience in an obtrusive way than traditional media.

Many consumers who engage in an entertainment experience do not expect to find promotional motives within that context. This means people are less likely to recognize something like product placement in a movie as advertising. Similarly, on social media, some people may not recognise a fitness influencer posting photos of a product they “use” as having persuasive intent. Sponsored content in the form of endorsements can seem more natural and some people have difficulty recognising the commercial intent.

The use of celebrity to endorse products on social media is “influencer marketing”, where content suggests that a celebrity is an authentic customer of the product or service. Interestingly, studies found when sponsored content is disclosed and noticed, the positive effect of celebrity endorsement disappears, as consumers recognise the advertising intent and trust reduces. A sponsored advertisement does not have the same effect as it is not perceived as being deceptive.

Different forms of marketing have a different effect on persuasion knowledge activation. For example, People are far more likely to have a positive response towards sponsored content than banner adverts. People are more receptive to messages that are not being deceptive with advertising intent. When an advertiser uses what consumers consider a credible tactic, an individual’s persuasion knowledge can lead to a positive evaluation rather than a negative one. Audiences perceive advertisements to have more value if ad scepticism levels are low. Trust is an important mediating factor for persuasion.

08 May 16:57

5 Ways to Use Interactive Content To Prequalify Leads

by Sneha Dominic

Lead qualification is often one of the hardest jobs a marketer has. In fact, research shows that only 27% of leads forwarded to sales are actually qualified.

In this article, we’re going to look at how you, in sales, can help solve those problems and improve the quality of your leads with interactive content.

What Is Interactive Content?

Let’s start with the basics. How does interactive content differ from static content? It’s the same as the difference between a dialogue and a monologue.

What is interactive content? Essentially, it’s any content that lets people interact with it:

  • Interactive calculators
  • Quizzes
  • Chatbots
  • Assessments
  • Recommendations
  • Polls
  • Giveaways
  • Forms/surveys

Interactive content creates a more dynamic, two-way street — it requires active engagement from its consumers. The consumer has a greater voice, offers more information, and gets some benefit in return.

Because it can’t be viewed passively, interactive content is inherently more engaging and memorable, making it a valuable tool for lead generation, customer engagement, lead segmentation, and data capturing, among other things.

What is most important for us, though, is that it can help your business prequalify your prospects — making it especially useful for sales teams.

What Is Involved in Prequalifying Leads, and Why Should You Do It?

Prequalifying a lead is the act of verifying that a person who has expressed an interest in your product or service meets your general criteria. Someone who doesn’t fit your criteria and is looking for something else will only waste their time and yours.

Prequalifying a lead helps your team focus their energy on potential clients who are most likely to purchase, offering you the best ROI on your invested time and effort.

It also reduces the daily grind of research and heavy account mapping.


The job of prequalifying often falls primarily on marketing, but statistics show that 61% of B2B marketers send all their leads directly to sales while only 27% of those leads are qualified.

Now the question arises, how can you use interactive content to prequalify leads? Let’s take a look.

Using Interactive Content To Prequalify Leads

You can prequalify leads in a variety of ways. For instance, you can use their needs, preferences, budget, time frame, etc., to see how well that lead matches your companies offering.

RELATED: How to Qualify a Prospect (And 6 Common Mistakes to Avoid)

Remember, though, most leads are not going to be qualified. So when you’re creating content, you need to develop it to answer the five essential prequalification questions:

  1. Do you have what the prospect needs?
  2. Are they the right person to talk to?
  3. Do their budget needs match yours?
  4. How soon do they need a solution?
  5. Do they fulfill your basic criteria

Now, let’s look at each of these questions and the interactive content that works well for each of them.

1. Do You Have What the Prospect Needs?

How do you turn a lead into a customer? By providing a solution to their problem. As such, it is crucial to understand the kind of solution they are looking for, and if it is something you can provide.

You don’t want to offer a OnePlus phone to someone looking for an iPhone. (Trust us, they won’t be happy.) This is why it’s important to first identify the client’s problem and needs.

RELATED: So You’ve Qualified Your Prospect (Here’s What NOT to Do)

Quizzes, calculators, and surveys can all do this wonderfully.

For example, suppose you are a digital marketing company. You offer marketing solutions to clients, and you want to figure out what kind of marketing tool would satisfy their needs.

Here is an interactive quiz titled “Which Marketing Tool Is Perfect For You?” This quiz directly asks what the client’s main objective is and what tools they’ve used in the past.


This information is gold, and what’s even better is that the client is telling you directly. You’re not having to tease an answer out of a mountain of data and metrics, guessing at the information you need.

Now, all you need to do is determine if you can offer the client what they are looking for.

2. Are They the Right Person to Talk To?

While dealing with a prospect, it’s important to determine if they actually have decision making authority within their organization. Luckily, you can use just about any kind of interactive content to gather this information.

RELATED: 5 Ways to Cut Through the Noise With Buyer Enablement

A good example is Mulesoft’s Integration Value Calculator.

The lead generation form of this calculator has a separate, mandatory section for “Job Role.” It’s only after you provide this information that you receive the results of the calculator.


This helps ensure that you’re reaching out to the right person instead of wasting your time on being directed to one. You can also make sure that you’re reaching out to people from the right industry and the right profile.

For instance, if you want to enter a marketing collaboration with a company, the right person to contact would be someone like the Marketing Head, or a Project Manager, rather than a Sales Executive.

3. Do Their Budget Needs Match Yours?

Budget is probably the number one thing a client cares about, after the quality of the solution you provide. But before entering into a venture with a company, it’s important for you to know if they can afford to spend enough for the product or service you’re providing.

Figuring this out early will help you both save time. And a good way to do that is with a calculator.

Suppose you work for a construction company. If you have a client who has expressed interest in building a house, you can send them a House Construction Quote calculator. This calculator asks for all of the client’s needs and preferences, and, most importantly, it gives them an estimated budget. If the budget is over or under what you can offer, you don’t need to waste time pursuing them.

Here’s an example of an ad-spend calculator by Hubspot. This gives Hubspot’s clients a good idea of most of the possible expenses that will come up when running digital ads.


This kind of a tool puts both Hubspot and the client on the same page before they ever enter talks. The client knows about how much they can expect to pay, and Hubspot knows if this is a deal that’s worth it to them.

What’s more, they also leverage their free ad management tools after this calculator.

4. How Soon Do They Need A Solution?

Timeline is something that’s often overlooked, but it can be very important. The timeline of when you can provide a solution needs to match the client’s needs. If not, you need to know that as soon as possible.

You should be able to offer them your solution exactly when they want it and need it. You can’t spend time and effort converting them only to discover that they needed the solution yesterday.

Chatbots are a great way to determine when a prospect needs your services. Just have your chatbot ask them when they’re starting a new project or how soon they need a solution.

This prevents you from taking time working with clients whose timelines don’t match up with yours.

This strategy works great for any projects with a defined end date — weddings, construction, etc.

5. Do They Fulfill Your Basic Criteria?

Many times it’s less about if you can meet the customer’s needs, and more about if they can meet your criteria. Interactive content is a great way for determining that.

Assessments are particularly good for this role.

Here’s an example of GMR Transcription, a company that provides transcription and translation solutions for all your projects. They created a quiz called “Are You A Good Fit?” for their hiring process.

It asks questions about a person’s skills and personality, which helps them quickly eliminate leads that aren’t a good fit.

This is specifically for hiring, but something similar could easily be used to screen prospects and potential customers as well.

Key Takeaways

Interactive content can help you collect a lot of valuable information about the people who engage with it. This, in turn, can help you prequalify your leads.

You can use interactive content to learn what your prospects need — if their budget and timings match yours, and if they fulfill your ideal buyer persona.

Thereafter, you can use interactive content to segment your leads and send them targeted offers.

Interactive content has been around for a long time, but with new advances in chatbot and AI technology, the possibilities are greater than ever before.

Experiment, test, and learn how your company can use interactive content to prequalify and sort leads to increase your bottom line.

The post 5 Ways to Use Interactive Content To Prequalify Leads appeared first on Sales Hacker.

08 May 16:53

How Amazon Outmaneuvers Its Retail Rivals

by Jerome Conlon

How Amazon Outmaneuvers Its Rivals

How to compete against Amazon is a key strategic question at the moment. Rightfully so as more and more brands are forced to contend with its seemingly iron-clad business.

Having worked in key positions at Nike and Starbucks at critical points in their growth, I have some ideas that will help.

The first step in any strategic problem-solving initiative is to get the fundamentals right. Specifically, make sure you’re asking the right questions from the start. Asking the right questions determines the kinds of insight you will receive and the value of that insight. This cannot be overstated, after all Amazon’s advantage has been built on asking the right questions.

The first step in this strategic problem-solving situation is to get the fundamental questions right, so start your inquiry process by taking a close look at why Amazon has been so successful in selling products of all kinds to people in all economic groups. As you dig deeper, you’ll soon discover Jeff Bezos’ leadership principles.

The first principle is “Customer Obsession.” Amazon’s definition of customer obsession is straight forward, the primary focus is to obsessively understand and satisfy basic “unchanging” customer needs. Amazon identified three that it believes comprise basic needs that are not likely to change over time.

Amazon’s Customer Drivers:

  • Provide the lowest comparative prices (money savings) … selling new or used products
  • Provide the fastest delivery services (time savings) … Amazon Prime, one-click purchase, two hour delivery
  • Provide the most extensive product selection (long-tail of products)

By choosing to obsessively focus on delivering better results to their customers in these three areas, their physical footprint and brand sales have enjoyed remarkable success. In addition, Jeff Bezos has taken a 5 –to- 7 year ROI stance, which is longer than most businesses’ 1 –to-3 year payback period. This has allowed Amazon Retail to achieve consistent growth with low prices and margins in its retail products business. Further, Amazon Web Services is powered by AI and computing solutions aligned with their three customer drivers, giving Amazon a cost and technology advantage over most of its competitors.

Commit To Deep Customer Insight And Learn What Matters Most

Business leaders sometimes become obsessed with factors that matter very little to consumers. Some are product obsessed, intensely focused on what it takes to design, develop, and market their products. Others are focused on their business model, for example, a big-box retailer that must fill a standard store format with an optimal merchandising mix. Some are technology obsessed, focused on offering upgrades and features without a deep understanding of the motivations behind consumer decisions.

But these obsessions may prevent them from grasping how the value proposition in all of retail is changing, and so with its competitors thus distracted, Amazon has focused on innovations that do matter to the people it serves.

What is it that your customers think you do really well?

Why does your brand generate repeat customers?

What are the benefits sought most in your category of retail?

Are there any key benefits that your brand falls behind the leaders on?

Insights into these questions are important elements of a retail category segmentation study that can locate customer segments driven by different values, needs, and benefits, and provide you with the right information to focus your offers and efforts that will sustain your company in these turbulent economic times.

The first step in any segmentation study is to explore and define buying behavior. By understanding how different people behave in a category –– what they buy, how they buy, what they spend, how often they spend ‐‐ it is possible to forecast revenues and profitability by segment, and prioritize the customers that can make the biggest difference to the business.

The second step is to measure additional information that can provide insights as to why customers behave differently. This information should include category attitudes, purchase motivations, brand perceptions, and detailed demographic profiles. By understanding the differences between groups of customers on a variety of dimensions, segmentation research also brings important similarities into focus. Amazon committed to gaining this insight long ago. At The Blake Project, we specialize in these and other studies that put our clients in possession of the truth.

Create New Value That Is Aligned With Customer Values

Amazon is an important company for all retailers to study more intensely right now because they are experimenting and inventing new sources of value. This value is being integrated with old brick-and-mortar retail models. If you don’t discover new sources of value that you can own and how to align your offering with key consumer values, then your store concept will be obsolete by comparison and your business model and brand will be at a disadvantage.

Consumer research can be helpful only if it’s framed properly on the front end. To frame-up any multi-dimensional problem requires that you walk around it completely and look at it from all dimensions and directions (business model, competition, products, pricing, service speed, brand, etc.)  The best research approach to take usually emerges from the initial study of what’s going on in your business and in the competitive dynamics of the category. If your business culture is strong on innovation and thought leadership, then strategic inflection points like this one can be overcome with the right approach to strategic research. But, if your culture is driven primarily by incremental improvements to an existing business model, then multi-dimensional and highly focused competitors like Amazon will be very difficult to overcome.

Amazon is not invincible, it has its weaknesses. These weaknesses will eventually be exploited by progressive retailers that make the same commitment to gaining and using deep customer insight.

Turning our attention back to Amazon, here are its 14 Leadership Principles:

1. Customer Obsession. Leaders start with the customer and work backwards. They work vigorously to earn and keep customer trust. Although leaders pay attention to competitors, they obsess over customers.

2. Ownership. Leaders are owners. They think long term and don’t sacrifice long-term value for short-term results. They act on behalf of the entire company, beyond just their own team. They never say “that’s not my job.”

3. Invent and Simplify. Leaders expect and require innovation and invention from their teams and always find ways to simplify. They are externally aware, look for new ideas from everywhere, and are not limited by “not invented here.” As we do new things, we accept that we may be misunderstood for long periods of time.

4. Are Right, A Lot. Leaders are right a lot. They have strong judgment and good instincts. They seek diverse perspectives and work to disconfirm their beliefs.

5. Learn and Be Curious. Leaders are never done learning and always seek to improve themselves. They are curious about new possibilities and act to explore them.

6. Hire and Develop the Best. Leaders raise the performance bar with every hire and promotion. They recognize exceptional talent, and willingly move them throughout the organization. Leaders develop leaders and take seriously their role in coaching others. We work on behalf of our people to invent mechanisms for development like Career Choice.

7. Insist on the Highest Standards. Leaders have relentlessly high standards -; many people may think these standards are unreasonably high. Leaders are continually raising the bar and drive their teams to deliver high quality products, services, and processes. Leaders ensure that defects do not get sent down the line and that problems are fixed so they stay fixed.

8. Think Big. Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.

9. Bias for Action. Speed matters in business. Many decisions and actions are reversible and do not need extensive study. We value calculated risk taking.

10. Frugality. Accomplish more with less. Constraints breed resourcefulness, self-sufficiency, and invention. There are no extra points for growing headcount, budget size, or fixed expense.

11. Earn Trust. Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

12. Dive Deep. Leaders operate at all levels, stay connected to the details, audit frequently, and are skeptical when metrics and anecdote differ. No task is beneath them.

13. Have Backbone; Disagree and Commit. Leaders are obligated to respectfully challenge decisions when they disagree, even when doing so is uncomfortable or exhausting. Leaders have conviction and are tenacious. They do not compromise for the sake of social cohesion. Once a decision is determined, they commit wholly.

14. Deliver Results. Leaders focus on the key inputs for their business and deliver them with the right quality and in a timely fashion. Despite setbacks, they rise to the occasion and never settle.

These core ideas and others can be found in my latest book The Brand Bridge – How to Build a Profound Connection Between Your Company, Your Brand, and Your Customers.

The Blake Project Can Help: Please email us for more about our segmentation research expertise.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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05 May 16:45

Need to Educate Your Buyers? Use This Teacher-Approved Framework

by (Mike Renahan)

During a conversation with my friend who is a kindergarten teacher, she told me that she spent the entire day building out a lesson plan for the week ahead.

She had everything sorted out — down to the hour — and knew how to execute the plan in a way that would work for her students.

In recent years, the job of a sales representative has developed into something similar to this type of role.

Reps have transitioned from simply being providers of information to providers of information and educators. Reps must offer context around the information they share as well as teach prospects about the features and capabilities of what it is they're selling in regards to their specific challenges.

With this in mind, reps might take a lesson from teachers and start building lesson plans for their prospects.

How to Use a Teacher-Approved Framework for Your Sales Plan

When you’re setting up your lesson plan, follow this framework many teachers use:

  1. Set a learning objective: What are you trying to teach this person?
  2. Identify the crucial points: What are the key things the student needs to understand in order to be successful?
  3. Establish a test schedule: How are you going to test them on this information?
  4. Allow time for questions: When will you give them a chance to seek clarification?
  5. Ask for feedback: How can you change your teaching strategies so that students can more easily grasp the concept?

Without further ado, here’s how to apply the concept of lesson plans to a sales scenario.

1. Establish a learning goal.

If a prospect is going to learn one thing from you during a call, what would it be? Your answer to this question is the learning goal.

It’s important to enter each sales meeting with a learning goal in mind. Here are a few examples:

  • A full understanding of your product’s functions
  • How your product compares to a competitor's product
  • The ROI of your service
  • Why Strategy A is a better option than Strategy B

2. Focus on the key concepts and benefits.

As we all know from our school days, nobody likes information overload.Providing too much information interrupts how recipients of that information function as well as impacts their decision-making ability — and in sales, that’s not good.

Alternatively, just focusing on a few key concepts with prospects allows them to latch on to crucial ideas regarding how your brand and product or service can support them. So, before you go into your next meeting, decide what key points you want to hit on and then stay focused on them.

3. Include an assessment.

Why do teachers give tests? To ensure students are retaining information.

Just like teachers, it makes sense for sales reps to give their prospects tests. After all, it’s unfair to expect a buyer to pick up on what you’re telling them right away, and what is a test other than an opportunity to reinforce knowledge?

Granted, you probably don’t want to sit prospects down and have them write an essay about your presentation. However, informal quizzes can reinforce key concepts and increase the chances that they’ll buy (after all, people tend not to purchase products they don’t understand). Set aside times to review and ask questions to ensure your prospects understand exactly what you’ve told them.

4. Schedule time for questions.

Like any good teacher, leave some time for questions at the end of all of your calls. This is your chance to clarify anything your prospect might not have picked up on or understood. If they aren’t sure how something works, encourage them to ask questions and gain the knowledge they need to be successful.

It’s important to note that great teachers take time for questions throughout the lesson versus only at the end. Sales reps should use the same technique. Before you begin a new section or introduce a new topic, ask the prospect if they have any questions and take time to respond thoughtfully.

5. Seek feedback.

Finally, seek feedback through a customer survey, questionnaire, post-meeting debrief, or another format. Making adjustments based on prospect comments will help you fine-tune your presentation and the information you need to cover moving forward. Whether it’s talking too fast or not providing enough information that's tailored to a specific prospect's need, you can learn a lot about your techniques through feedback.

Start Educating Your Buyers

Teachers and sales reps might not have a lot in common on the surface, but both need to deliver information in an educational and supportive way to ensure their students and prospect understand and retain it.

The better and teachers and reps can instruct and impart knowledge, the more successful students and prospects will be.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in December 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

05 May 16:45

Remote Sales 101: 10 Easy Tips to Improve Your Online Meetings

by Anton Rius

remote sales tips and best practices

Remote sales are the only kind of sales these days. But if you aren’t familiar with the format already, learning how to sell effectively online can feel quite daunting.

In our recent industry survey of over 500 B2B salespeople, 70 percent said they don’t believe remote sales presentations can be as effective as in-person meetings.

Why the lack of confidence? Sales reps told us that remote selling is more challenging than in-person meetings because:

Your audience is multi-tasking. When you’re selling in person, you generally have your buyers’ undivided attention. People aren’t as prone to checking their email, checking their phone, or opening their web browser when you’re talking to them face-to-face.

You can’t read body language. You don’t have the luxury of looking your audience in the eye and pulling them back in when their attention starts to wander.

Your presentation is too passive. Unless you make an effort to interact, your audience can just sit back, check out, and work on other tasks while they listen to your monologue.

What can you do?

Consider this Remote Sales 101. Below, you’ll find 10 practical remote selling tips and techniques that you can use to improve the quality of your online meetings.

10 Remote Sales Tips to Improve the Quality of Your Meetings

1. Dial Down Distractions

You can’t avoid every distraction caused by participants during your call. But you can, at least, control whether or not you add to those distractions. Before every call, silence your phone, close your email and messaging apps, and make sure you won’t be interrupted for the duration of the meeting.

The goal is to make it as easy as possible for your participants to focus on you and your presentation. To that end, consider how your appearance comes across to your meeting attendees, too. Your background, lighting, sound, and video will all impact your buyers’ ability to pay attention and stay engaged.

2. Simplify Your Background

Your background should look clean, professional, and distraction-free. You don’t necessarily need a high-end studio backdrop or a green screen, but you probably don’t want your audience looking at a pile of laundry, a messy room, or pets walking around behind you—you want them focused on you.

You might be tempted to use a virtual background for your online meetings. But if you do, be aware of how your audience perceives it. Virtual backgrounds can often look pixelated and unrealistic, which could become an unnecessary distraction during your presentation.

A simple white backdrop is always a reliable option. Otherwise, choose a tasteful and uncluttered location that doesn’t pull attention away from your presentation.

3. Get Your Lighting Right

If your light source isn’t bright enough, your video might look grainy. And if you don’t position your lighting properly, people won’t be able to see your face while you’re presenting.

Make sure to position your light source in front of you. Bright, natural light from a window is ideal, but if that isn’t possible, use a simple two-point lighting setup. Place one light on either side of your monitor to create even, soft lighting for your video calls.

4. Check Your Sound Quality

Poor sound is another big distraction that gets in the way of your presentation you’re selling remotely. Depending on the device, your default microphone and speakers might make your voice sound garbled, tinny, or far away. Thankfully, sound quality can be greatly improved with a few minor upgrades.

One way to reduce background noise and improve sound quality is by using headphones with a built-in microphone. Headphones also prevent your meeting attendees from hearing your email and Slack notifications (in case you forgot to turn those off).

Alternatively, using a tabletop USB microphone can make your voice sound crystal clear to your audience. You may need to test the settings and positioning of the microphone beforehand. But once you set it up, an external microphone can greatly improve your sound quality on remote sales calls.

5. Test Your Video Quality

Depending on what kind of camera is built into the computer or device you’re using for online meetings, you might consider upgrading to a higher resolution webcam. This isn’t always necessary, but poor quality or low-resolution video can become an unwanted distraction for your audience.

6. Position Your Camera Well

You should be the focal point of your video when you’re on screen. At the same time, you don’t want your webcam pointing straight up your nose. So be mindful of how you position your camera. Ideally, your camera should sit at, or slightly above, eye level.

Think about the space around you, too. You typically want your head and shoulders to be visible onscreen, without leaving too much or too little space above your head. If you sit too far away from your camera, you might be perceived as disengaged from the conversation. But sitting close to the screen could make your viewers feel like you’re too close for comfort.

7. Dress the Part

This might sound obvious, but some sales reps assume that because they’re working from home, they can dress more casually during remote sales calls than they would in-person. That’s not the case.

Dress like you would for an in-person meeting. Your viewers will appreciate your effort to appear professional and well-groomed during your presentation.

8. Set Expectations

You’ve probably had some practice conducting remote meetings by now, but don’t assume that your attendees have that same level of experience.

When you send out your meeting invite, include instructions for how to enter the meeting password, join audio using their computer, or use the dial-in phone number. Briefly review with your participants how they can mute and unmute their microphones, use the chat feature (if you want them to), and other basics that will help them participate in the discussion.

9. Turn on Your Camera

Most salespeople (88 percent) who responded to our industry survey believe their audience is likely to multi-task during online meetings. And while the vast majority (89 percent) think people multi-task less when their cameras are on, 82 percent don’t ask their audience to turn on video. Two-thirds of sellers don’t even turn on their own cameras.

Simply put, if you want to discourage multi-tasking and other distractions from pulling peoples’ attention away from your presentation, turn on your camera. And ask your participants to do the same.

10. Encourage Interaction

Beyond using the chat feature and asking people to turn on their cameras, you can also encourage interaction on remote sales calls by asking questions.

Ask clarifying questions at key moments in your presentation to make sure your audience understands you. And ask reflective questions to give your audience time to pause and think about how their current situation relates to your message. If your meeting software allows, you can also consider using real-time polls.

Annotation is another powerful tool that encourages interaction, but it takes some practice. Using the Pen feature in PowerPoint, you can write down participant feedback in real-time, or highlight important information on your slides.

Go Beyond Remote Selling Best Practices

These 10 remote selling techniques will give you the foundation for great online sales meetings. But if you truly want to stand out from your competition, you need to go beyond these 10 “best practices.”

The way you look and sound to your audience is important. But even with the perfect background, lighting, and technical setup, your sales presentation could still fall flat.

Why? During your presentation, your presence will be shrunk down to a tiny image in the corner of a computer screen. And your sales deck (not you) is the most visible and visual part of your buyers’ experience.

Your slide presentation needs to carry the day—it should engage your audience, hold their attention, and deliver a highly memorable message that inspires action.

To learn more about creating highly captivating remote sales presentations, check out our Remote Selling survival kit. In this kit, you’ll get four science-backed resources to help you master remote sales conversations.

05 May 16:44

I’ve Been Through 6 Recessions. Here’s Everything I’ve Learned About Adapting.

by George Roberts

“Never allow a good crisis go to waste. It’s an opportunity to do the things you once thought were impossible.”

So said Rahm Emanuel, former mayor of Chicago, congressman and White House chief of staff. Emanuel certainly handled his share of crises—but nothing quite like the COVID-19 pandemic in terms of complexity and scale.

And yet his words still hold true.

No one will come out of this experience unscathed, but some will come out of it stronger than they went in and better positioned to thrive in the market that emerges from the current situation.

Related: These Cost-Reduction Strategies Aren’t Easy, But They Could Save Your Business

The “good” news is that while we haven’t been through this exact crisis before—a worldwide health crisis combined with a massive economic downturn—we have been through similar times.

My 41 years in the software industry include six different recession crises. There are lessons we’ve learned that we can apply to what’s happening today—and perhaps the most important one is to be adaptable.

Tighten your focus

Look at this as an opportunity to rethink where you’re at as a company and how you might use this time to strengthen your position and come out ahead in the long run.

So, step one: Tighten your focus. Going into a crisis, companies are often running a lot of optional initiatives for experimentation’s sake or another reason. There’s nothing wrong with these activities during the usual course of business, but a crisis demands that we take a bare-bones approach.

Related: Now’s the Time to Revisit Your Pricing

Take a good, hard look at everything you’re doing and bring your focus to bear exclusively in areas where you know you can be most successful right now and after the storm passes.

Realign your priorities

Look at where you have the most viable opportunities in this moment and beyond. Is there an opportunity for you to:

  • Gain market share
  • Take market positioning away from your competitors
  • Change the market dialog in your market segment to differentiate yourself
  • Demonstrate definitively that you are not just “a” competitor, but the top competitor
  • Provide valuable guidance to others—customers, partners—in this time of uncertainty

All of these things help to shift and sharpen how you are perceived in the market, which will ultimately help position you to great advantage as we emerge from this time.

Get ahead of the competition

Want to outmaneuver the competition during a crisis? In general, you need to adapt by using creative campaigns and guerrilla marketing techniques. You’re in survival mode. You need to think fast and consider unconventional strategies where appropriate.

Specific opportunities might include:

A competitor who is low on capital

If your competitor is low on capital and you aren’t, that might give you a chance to run some campaigns to drive higher market presence that helps generate awareness, interest and leads.

A market segment that’s worried

If your market segment appears to have concerns about the competition’s ability to maintain service, consider developing offers around simple replacement plans. This might include things like introductory offers, free service for a specific period of time, fast-and-easy transitions, and so forth.

When I was at Oracle, our Informix replacement campaign gave us the chance to put a great marketing message out there, drove the competition crazy, and gave our internal team something to rally around.

Talent who is ready for a change

When there’s uncertainty in the marketplace, people tend to start looking at options. If you’re in a stronger position than your competition, there’s no reason why you can’t recruit some of their top talent and upgrade your own team while weakening theirs at the same time.

Keep your customers happy

Your existing customers will keep you alive as a company and ensure your success during times of crisis. Keeping them happy is your number-one priority.

Everything else—from refocusing to realigning to outsmarting the competition—comes second.

We’re all being pushed to our limits by this pandemic, but those of us who are able to discern and take advantage of the opportunities it offers will stand a better chance on the other side.

Listen to OpenView’s George Roberts on the new Building to Last podcast

We just launched Building to Last, a new podcast for CEOs. Listen here.

The post I’ve Been Through 6 Recessions. Here’s Everything I’ve Learned About Adapting. appeared first on OpenView.

04 May 16:59

Pandemic relief is going to cost us a fortune — let’s make sure it helps build the economy of the future

by Martin Pelletier
Martin Pelletier, CFA, is a Portfolio Manager at Wellington-Altus Private Counsel Inc. (formerly TriVest Wealth Counsel Ltd.) a private client and institutional investment firm specializing in discretionary risk-managed portfolios, investment audit/oversight and advanced tax and estate planning. Read More
04 May 16:59

How Medical Robots Will Help Treat Patients in Future Outbreaks

by Kris Hauser
IEEE COVID-19 coverage logo, link to landing page

Nurses, doctors, and other healthcare workers form the front line in the fight against pandemics. Not only are they needed to treat sick patients, but they also put themselves at high risk of contracting the disease themselves. In the COVID-19 outbreak, thousands of doctors and nurses have fallen ill, and hundreds have died. These risks become even more hazardous when shortages of personal protective equipment (PPE) leave healthcare workers no alternative but to reuse or improvise PPE

The interest in using robotics to help combat the COVID-19 outbreak has been huge, and for good reason: Having more robots implies less person-to-person contact, which means fewer healthcare workers get sick. This also reduces community transmission, while consuming fewer supplies of PPE. At the same time, the use of telemedicine to allow doctors and nurses to communicate with patients without the risk of infection is rising sharply. And although robots have so far not been physically interacting with patients, it’s not too far-fetched to imagine a future in which this could be possible.

In this article, we ask the question: How can robots minimize exposure of healthcare workers to patients throughout the entire treatment process? Over the last several years, our research in the Intelligent Motion Laboratory at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign has built and tested prototype systems to explore the technical feasibility, human factors, and economic viability of robot use in patient care, and here we’ll share some of our insights and lessons learned.

Robots and the future of healthcare

We envision that the future of healthcare will involve an integration of robotics and telemedicine that we call tele-nursing. Tele-nursing is the idea that a human nurse can remotely control a robot to perform most (or many) of the tasks involved in patient care. In other words, the robot becomes the nurse’s eyes, ears, and body. The components needed to make tele-nursing possible—robotic manipulation, teleconferencing, augmented reality, health sensors, and low-latency communication networks—are becoming increasingly mature. As tele-nursing becomes more capable, nurses will be able to perform a large portion of patient care through robots, reducing the rates of PPE usage and improving social distancing.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the trend toward increased use of robotics and telemedicine in healthcare is accelerating. Both technologies have the potential to aid in social distancing, which reduces the rate of healthcare acquired infections for patients and personnel.

Tele-nursing is the idea that a human nurse can remotely control a robot to perform most (or many) of the tasks involved in patient care. In other words, the robot becomes the nurse’s eyes, ears, and body.

Hospitals have already been using autonomous robots to disinfect hospital rooms with ultraviolet light, transfer specimen samples, deliver food, medicine, and supplies, and greet patients and provide information. And although telemedicine is most heavily applied to in-home remote consultation, hospitals and nursing schools are increasingly using telepresence robots such as those from VGo, Beam, and Double Robotics. These “Skype-on-wheels” platforms allow for communication with patients, visual inspection, and driving around a room to view equipment and monitors. In the COVID-19 response, mobile telepresence robots with video screens and touchscreen interfaces have been adopted in Italy to let healthcare workers check on patients without physically entering quarantine rooms.

Is it realistic for healthcare robots to transition from the specialized tasks they’re performing now to the level of reliable and safe general purpose autonomy required for them to be responsible for patient treatment? One could imagine a robot like Baymax in the animated movie “Big Hero 6” that diagnoses, treats, and even comforts patients. However, human healthcare professionals are well-trained, highly adaptable, and possess specialized knowledge that sets an extremely high bar that is unlikely to be cleared by a robotic system any time soon. Instead, tele-nursing aims to combine the strengths of telemedicine (leveraging the expert knowledge of healthcare workers and face-to-face contact) with the strengths of robotics (social distancing and capabilities in hazardous environments) to give the best outcome to patients and healthcare workers alike.

Tele-nursing robot components and capabilities 

As part of years of research into telemedicine and telehealth in partnership with the Health Innovation Lab at Duke University’s School of Nursing, we’ve identified key capabilities that will enable the next generation of tele-nursing.  A tele-nursing system will require a robot that is physically present with the patient, as well as a user interface that a nurse or other healthcare provider operates from a remote location. The robot should provide manipulation capabilities in addition to the navigation and telemedicine capabilities already available with traditional telepresence platforms. 

Overall, a tele-nursing robot serves five primary functions:

  1. Communication (bidirectional audio and video link between staff and patient)
  2. Mobility (within a room or between rooms)
  3. Measurement (clinical data collection and assessments)
  4. General manipulation (from centimeter to sub-millimeter accuracy)
  5. Tool use (human or robot-specific tools) 

In consultation with practicing nurses on the front lines of COVID-19 care delivery, we identified a set of clinical tasks that are related to treatment of COVID-19 patients. In Table 1 we list these tasks and indicate which of the functions listed above are needed for each task. 

Mapping nursing tasks to primary functions. C/F/VF indicate coarse / fine / very fine manipulation. 
Table 1: Mapping nursing tasks to primary functions. C/F/VF indicate coarse / fine / very fine manipulation. (Click chart for larger version.)

Across tasks, mobility and measurement are important, but these are relatively easy to provide. The bottleneck areas for robotics R&D are manipulation and tool use, since the level of strength and dexterity required can range significantly from brute patient lifting strength to delicate precision for IV insertions. Current hardware technology is unlikely to be able to perform well at both coarse and fine scales, so coverage of the entire treatment regime will either need multiple specialized robots or a combination of human and robot patient care. 

Lessons learned from the TRINA Project

Over the last five years, we have been deeply immersed in these challenges through the development of a prototype tele-nursing robot called the Tele-Robotic Intelligent Nursing Assistant, or TRINA. Originally sponsored by the National Science Foundation in response to the 2014 Ebola outbreak, TRINA is a mobile manipulation robot with telepresence capabilities that is designed to let medical staff perform a variety of routine tasks, such as bringing food and medicine, moving equipment, cleaning, and monitoring  vital signs, while communicating with the patient.

TRINA 2.0 robot
Photo: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
TRINA 2.0, currently in development at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, features a slimmer profile that helps it travel through tighter spaces as well as more precise manipulation capabilities that let it handle smaller objects like IV connectors.

We’ve tested the TRINA platform over hundreds of hours in labs and simulated clinical tests (mock hospital rooms and professional actors used in nursing training); using both trained expert “pilots” and lightly-trained nurses as operators. There are now three versions of TRINA in operation: The original at Duke University, a second at Worcester Polytechnic Institute, and TRINA 2.0, currently in development at University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

TRINA 2.0 features a slimmer profile that helps it travel through tighter spaces as well as more precise manipulation capabilities that let it handle smaller objects like IV connectors. In reference to Table 1, TRINA 1.0 was able to perform telemedicine and unskilled physical tasks. When completed, TRINA 2.0 should also be able to perform cleaning tasks, diagnostics, and non-invasive interventions.

Direct teleoperation vs. supervisory control

One of the unique aspects of tele-nursing is that it asks non-technology experts to operate extremely complex robots in stressful, time-sensitive situations for extended periods of time. Hence, the convenience, understandability, and ergonomics of the user interface are a primary concern. Interestingly, there are two philosophically-opposed roads toward achieving usability. The telerobotics literature calls this the debate between direct teleoperation vs. supervisory control.

In the direct teleoperation paradigm, the goal is to provide the operator with an experience that is immersive, transparent, and naturalistic. In other words, the operator “feels” like the robot is part of their body. Our first implementations of TRINA experimented with this approach, but we found that controlling a robot can be a foreign experience. The input / output mapping between the human body and the robot’s body will never be exactly one-to-one, and operators can be unfamiliar with the robot’s capabilities without training. In particular, precise control of gripper orientation is challenging, and reflexes are sluggish due to sensorimotor control delays, meaning that grasping objects can feel a bit like a carnival claw game. In our tests, a trained operator using the robot was 50 to 150x slower than a human nurse wearing PPE at performing routine manipulation tasks. Matching human performance is a high bar to clear because people have mastered manipulation with their own bodies!

By contrast, the supervisory control paradigm puts the operator in the role of a supervisor over a semi-autonomous robot. The operator issues commands, monitors progress, and occasionally intervenes. For example, the nurse could use a “point and click” interface to guide the robot navigate to a target, grab items, and use them. So, even if a robot were slow, the operator uses only a fraction of their attention, so most of the time they can be free to perform other tasks (including controlling multiple robots at once).

We are also investigating operator assistance approaches that augment direct control with a bit of autonomy, reminiscent of advanced vehicle safety features—e.g., backup cams, collision warnings, and collision avoidance—as well as manipulation assistance like “grasp autocompletion.” We hypothesize that a small amount of assistance, appropriately tailored to the task context, can make tele-manipulation both casual and natural.

Designing PPE for robots

We found how important it is to listen to end users in the early stages of the development of TRINA. We were surprised that one of the most common requests from nurses was for the robot to simply turn off equipment alarms! Apparently, false alarms are frustrating and very common on a normal day, but utterly infuriating when you have to don and doff PPE just to press a single button. For example, the ability to visually inspect ventilator connections and IV lines for medication delivery, and then if confirmed false have the ability to press a button using simple, inexpensive arms to existing telepresence robots could accomplish this task, and would be a very useful step forward toward clinical adoption.

Another serious issue is that robots should be disinfected between patients and sanitized between shifts, but the electronics, joint seals, vents for fans, and wheels used in most robots make thorough cleaning difficult. An alternative is to use disposable robot PPE. We designed PPE that is compatible with a robot’s sensors and joints, ensures sufficient heat dissipation, and that can be safely donned and doffed. This took an iterative design and fitting process reminiscent of textile design. Moreover, the problem of doffing without contamination is an excellent candidate for automation, since robots can perform doffing procedures more consistently than humans.

A powerful new tool in the fight against pandemics

The COVID-19 pandemic has ushered in renewed interest in telerobotic systems that could allow clinicians to perform care delivery tasks at a distance. Beyond keeping healthcare workers safe and reducing use of PPE, tele-nursing robots also have applications in treating immunocompromised patients, improving access to healthcare in rural areas, and helping seniors age in place. Immunocompromised patients could be given a dedicated robot in a quarantine room that performs all physical interaction, never interacts with the outside world, and never gets tired.

Rural areas are also seeing shortages of local clinicians, particularly those with specialized expertise. Using tele-nursing robots stationed at rural hospitals, knowledgeable remote clinicians could be called on-demand when a patient requires specialized procedures outside of the expertise of local providers. Aging in place could be facilitated by tele-nursing robots, with nurses or family members logging to perform care tasks as needed. This would be particularly useful in remote areas with poor access to emergency and urgent care. 

Although the remaining challenges of usability, robustness, clinical integration, and scaling up will take a concerted effort of scientists, engineers, and medical professionals to address, the rewards are enormous: Once tele-nursing becomes commonplace, the world will have a powerful new tool for keeping healthcare workers safe in the fight against pandemics.

Kris Hauser is an associate professor in the Department of Computer Science and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. His research interests include robot motion planning and control, semiautonomous robots, and integrating perception and planning, as well as applications to intelligent vehicles, robotic manipulation, robot-assisted medicine, and legged locomotion.

Ryan J. Shaw is an associate professor at the Duke University Schools of Nursing and Medicine. He is the director of the Health Innovation Lab and faculty lead of the Duke Mobile App Gateway. He is a digital health scientist that engineers new models of care delivery based on emerging digital health infrastructure of health systems and society.

04 May 16:49

Animate Your Story Instead

by Hannah Squires

I have previously written about animation as the video marketers secret weapon and have recently written a sister blog article breaking down the various different animation styles.

But now with shoots becoming increasingly challenging, the value of animation may be greater than ever as brands start exploring new avenues to keep telling their stories and communicating with customers.

With the world working from home – techniques such as CGI and motion graphics could stop the production of branded content drying up.

An animation series we have been working on for the NHS during Covid 19

Brands can often be cautious of animation – perhaps this stems from a fear of the unknown and intangible. But the creative open-endedness of animation is one of it’s key strengths:

Animation helps bring impossible stories and ideas to life – it transports us to new worlds and augments the one we’re standing in. And it does so in a way you have complete control over. And right now, being about to transport an audience is particularly powerful.

“…Animation can explain whatever
the mind of man can conceive.”
Walt Disney

Is animation right for you? Here’s some considerations…

Keep it simple

You don’t have to compete with Pixar! Even the simplest animations can be engaging and have tonnes of personality. When we think of animation many of us automatically imagine cartoon characters – something that doesn’t always tonally sit well with brands. But in reality, your animation doesn’t have to contain cute characters at all. Animated text alone can deliver something punchy and engaging and often works well on social channels. Here’s an example that uses simple lines and movements to tell a really compelling story…

CGI or not CGI?

If you want to go for realism over a stylised approach then photo real CGI can stand in for live action. With CGI modelling, lighting and compositing, it’s possible to design and build and render entire environments, objects and even people. Depending on the scale of your vision, this can be a time intensive approach but something like creating a CGI product – can be a really smart and economical way to showcase features and benefits without having to assemble a film crew! These two images show a before an after shot from a recent project we worked on for DeWalt. Shooting on a real building site has obvious challenges, so we used CGI to model and build our own!

Script it

Until you properly define what you want to say you should resist getting carried away with creative ideas! Two things should drive the design of your animation, the first is your brand and second is your script. Creative choices need to be driven by what it is you’re trying to say. How you’re hoping to make your target audience, think, feel and behave. Until you know that, put the crayons away. You’ll only start colouring in before you’ve got the lines down.

Own it

So much of the marketing comms out there looks and feels the same. Brands are so limited by what they should, could and can say – it can be difficult to have a distinctive voice. Animation gives you an opportunity to make completely ownable assets. Once you’ve defined a style and approach that’s right for you, animation across a series of content can really build your visual identity. This series from Hendricks Gin is a great example of a brand developing a style that is unique to them and then creating lots of assets in that style

Use it

Once you’ve gone to the trouble of designing and conceiving an animation style that’s right for you, it’s very easy to repurpose, recut and reuse content across different platforms. Change the voice-over, replace the call to action, do a version for IGTV! You’ve got a tool kit of assets that can be used smartly across the board, so make the most of them!

Whatever form of film you work in, success is all in the storytelling. Animation and visual effects can help us continue to help us tell stories and communicate with audiences in a time where communication is ever more important.

If you’re trying to keep video rolling then virtually get in touch to discuss your brief.

04 May 16:44

How to Achieve a Competitive Advantage in Negotiations

by Steven Imke

Negotiate over a meal

There are many factors good negotiators try to control to give them a competitive advantage in negotiations. Factors such as timing and the location of the meeting, as well as the use of body language and even what each party had to eat can contribute to more successful negotiations.

Negotiations Timing

The time-frame of a negotiation can change a party’s negotiating strength.

As a buyer of goods and services, it is valuable to know that most sales organizations and salespersons have monthly sales quotas. For example, a car dealer has to sell so many cars in a month. If the sales quota has not yet been met at the end of the month, the dealership is much more likely to accept deals they would never have considered during the month.

When I bought my wife a Lexus last year, I waited until December 30th to go to the dealer and struck an incredible deal that was well below the published Kelly Blue Book value.

Timing is always an issue when I mentor clients looking to buy or sell a business. If the seller has time constraints, such as an illness or moving out of state, the buyer is in a much better place to strike a good deal.

Remember that when the other party is in duress because of a timing issue, they are relieved when the deal is done so they can move on. As a result, they are far less likely to feel they were fleeced in a win-lose type of deal. Most will view it as a compromise deal when the deal is done because a “no-deal” outcome is not acceptable.

The same can be said if the buyer needs a deal to get done in a shorter time-frame than the seller. In this case, the buyer has more power and can extract additional concessions from the seller.

When I was selling my first business to a publicly held company, we accepted a basic framework for the deal that included some cash at closing and company stock. During the due diligence process, we discovered that the company buying us had committed to meeting certain revenue numbers to its shareholders. It needed the purchase of my business to meet those numbers or its stock price would certainly have suffered. Armed with this piece of valuable knowledge, we deliberately slowed down the negotiations process. The buyer, desperate to make the deal happen before the reporting date to shareholders, agreed to an additional earn-out provision that netted us several hundred thousand dollars more than the original purchase agreement.

Location Matters

Another tactic in negotiations is to have any face-to-face meetings either at your place or at the very least, a neutral place. If at all possible, you do not what to have any negotiations in the other party’s conference room, as they will have the home-field advantage. When you are forced to meet the other party at their place of business, you see their name on the front door, their employees, you feel their business vibe as you walk thought their office area, etc. All of this increases the confidence level of the home team. In effect, they control everything, often even the timing of the meeting.

A better strategy is rather than meet on the other party’s turf, a good negotiator will try to get the other party to meet them on their turf or will insist on meeting them at a neutral location. This is one reason arbitration works since neither party has the home-field advantage.

The table where you negotiate also sends a message. Negotiations often occur in conference rooms. If one party has a member sitting at the head of the table, it conveys power.

In my old board room, we use to direct our negotiation partners to chairs that were slightly lower than our chairs. The seat height was not enough to make them consciously notice but enough to send a subtle unconscious message about who had more power.

When both parties sit across from each other at a rectangular table, it sets the expectation that the parties are adversaries ready to do battle. Alternatively, rather than be subjected to these subtle manipulations, look for a round table where you can sit next to the other party. If your only option is a square table, sit diagonally across (caddy corner) instead of opposite each other if you want to set a less aggressive tone.

Body Language

Good negotiators recognize the value of body language and use it intentionally. When the other party says something that you do not feel is acceptable, fold your arm across your chest or roll your eyes to send the subtle message that you do not like their position. When you like what the other party says, lean in or place your hands palms up on the table to signal that you’re favorable to their response and convey openness to their idea.


What you eat before a negotiation also matters. Eating a heavy meal will make you sleepy as your body digests your meal. Instead, you should eat a meal that will boost your energy and cognitive functions.

Growing up, my mom used to say that fish was brain food… and she was right. Fish and chicken are much better than eating beef, which takes more bodily resources to digest.

Coffee is also good to boost your energy and cognitive functioning going into a negotiation. Make sure you are also properly hydrated as this will also help you be a better negotiator.

Never personally consume alcohol before or during a negotiation as it will impair your judgment. Depending upon the situation, you may want to offer the other party an alcoholic drink but when it is your turn, decline to join them and chose another non-alcoholic drink option that will not cloud your thinking.

In fact, negotiating a deal over a meal checks off several boxes – it is a neutral place, they often have round or square tables where you can sit caddy corner, or you can even sit at the bar where you can sit side by side.

Speaking of restaurants, another food-related negotiation tactic is to order food that you can share. Sushi, Indian, and Chinese restaurants often have meals that are shareable and even encourage sharing. If Asian food is not to your liking, choose an appetizer that you can share because when you share food, research suggests that the other party is more open to collaboration.

Gift Giving

Another powerful tactic is using a gift to create reciprocity in the other party during a negotiation. At the beginning of a negotiation, offer the other party a thoughtful gift. It does not have to be expensive. When it comes to strategic gift-giving, you can discover a lot about another person using the Reference USA lifestyle database.

Since it is very unlikely that the other party will have thought about using a gift to leverage reciprocity, you will enter the negotiations with the other party feeling that they need to reciprocate in some fashion, which will most likely come in the form of a free concession. Even a simple act of kindness such as opening a door, pulling out a chair, or offering the other party a drink or a meal (when meeting on your turf) can all create a degree of reciprocity.

Negotiations Power Words

During negotiations, there is no more powerful word that the word “Fair”. Fair is a very powerful word that nobody in their right mind would argue against. Most people have an innate need to want to be fair. Look for ways to inject the word “fair” into the dialog whenever possible.

Create conditions to leverage social proof. People want to follow the crowd and have an irrational fear of missing out that can be used in negotiations to your advantage. When you say “Your competitor accepted these price and terms” or “Your neighbor bought this item from us yesterday”, the other party is much more inclined to feel that the deal is fair since other people agreed to it.

How can you use, timing, location, food, gifts, and spoken and body language to create advantages in your next negotiations?

01 May 17:09

SUCCESS LIBRARY: All the books you need to read to build wealth, get ahead in work, and live life to its fullest

by Business Insider

GettyImages 1140203350

Books are more valuable than ever for people seeking success.  

Career expert Michael Simmons said that many of the world's top leaders like Oprah Winfrey and Warren Buffet use books for what he calls the "five-hour rule," or a habit of spending a couple of hours each day learning. This habit can help business owners adopt new skills and build upon the strengths they already have. 

Several entrepreneurs claim reading is part of their formula of success.

Interviews with more than 1,200 wealthy people in the book "How Rich People Think" reveals that the wealthy have one thing in common — they love to read. For example, cofounder and CEO of Microsoft, Bill Gates said he reads 50 books per year or about one book per week, Business Insider previously reported

"Walk into a wealthy person's home and one of the first things you'll see is an extensive library of books they've used to educate themselves on how to become more successful," writes Steve Siebold, author of "How Rich People Think."

Whether you are studying for a master's degree in business administration or a venture capitalist, reading can bolster your business's success. To help you find the right book, we've rounded up a list based on dozens of interviews from today's top leaders. 

We regularly asks leaders for their top book recommendations. You can read all of them by subscribing to Business Insider

Billionaires' book recommendations 

Ray Dalio's reading list: 14 books billionaire investor Ray Dalio says you should read to understand today's world and lead a fulfilling life

Ray Dalio's book recs for new college grads: Billionaire Ray Dalio thinks every new college grad should read these 3 books — and they have nothing to do with finance

Ray Dalio's favorites: Ray Dalio says anyone who wants to understand today's world should read a 32-year-old book about empires

Steve Case's favorite book: Billionaire investor Steve Case said a book about a digital revolution he read in 1980 set him on the path to founding AOL, and it still influences him today

Mark Zuckerberg's reading list: 24 books Mark Zuckerberg thinks everyone should read to understand today's world

Book recommendations from Melinda Gates: Melinda Gates recommends these 3 books on mindfulness — and the surprising ways to achieve it. Stillness, vulnerability, and practice go into engaging with the present moment.

Bill Gates book recommendations: 30 books Bill Gates thinks everyone should read

Books Steve Jobs used for inspiration: 15 books Steve Jobs always turned to for inspiration

Jeff Bezos' favorite books: 12 books on leadership and success billionaire Jeff Bezos thinks everyone should read

Best books by billionaires: 27 books by billionaires to read in 2020 that will teach you how to build a fortune and run the world

Elon Musk's book recommendations: The 12 books Elon Musk says shaped his worldview and led him to business and personal success

Warren Buffett's favorite books: 20 books billionaire Warren Buffett thinks everyone should read

Books for entrepreneurs 

Billionaire entrepreneurs: 13 books to read this summer by billionaires who founded businesses and grew them into legendary empires

If you want to be your own boss: 10 books to read if you want to quit your job and become your own boss, according to people who did it — and also wrote about it

Venture capital: The 14 best books to read to break into venture capital, according to successful investors, founders, and professors in the VC space

Innovator's dilemma recap: 22 years after its publication, 'The Innovator's Dilemma' is still the best book on disruption ever written. Here are 5 key takeaways you may have missed on your first read.

Amazon best small business winners picks: 13 inspiring books chosen by the best small business owners on Amazon, from 'The Art of War' to 'Company of One'

Books for founders, recommended by founders: 15 business books successful entrepreneurs read religiously — and that they'd recommend to every first-time founder in 2020

Books for becoming an expert 

Becoming an expert on better capitalism: The best books of 2019 on how we can rethink today's capitalism and improve the economy

Becoming an expert on the US economy: 10 books to read if you want to become the ultimate authority on the American economy

Becoming an expert on race relations: 21 books Barack Obama says you should read if you want to become an authority on race relations in the US

Becoming an expert on the racial justice movement in America: 22 books on race and white privilege that will show you what's really happening in America right now

Becoming an AI expert: 7 books to read right now if you want to become the ultimate authority on artificial intelligence

Leadership books 

If you want an MBA: 9 business books picked by founders, CEOs, and industry leaders for people who don't want to go back to school to get an MBA

Dealing with imposter syndrome: 9 books you should read right now if you're struggling with imposter syndrome at work and need a confidence boost

Finding success during a recession: 12 books to read right now to help you get a job and find success during a recession

Building diversity and inclusion at work: 12 books of 2020 all managers who want to build diverse and happy teams should order right now

Lessons from Stacey Cunningham's favorite leadership book: 4 key lessons from the book that the head of the New York Stock Exchange says has made her a better leader

Building wealth: 11 books to read this year if you want to take charge of your finances, learn how to budget, and build your net worth

Books MBA students read: Required reading: These are the books top professors at the best business schools in the country are having their MBA students read

Books for managers: 12 books of 2020 all managers who want to build diverse and happy teams should preorder right now

Books for new managers: 10 management books that will help you lead in 2020

Lessons from "How to Win Friends and Influence People": 12 timeless lessons from the 1937 classic 'How to Win Friends and Influence People,' the book Warren Buffett says transformed his life

Books for business leaders: 20 books that will set apart future business leaders

SEE ALSO: The 6 best books on success and self-improvement to turn you into the highest performer at your company

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: Pathologists debunk 13 coronavirus myths

01 May 17:07

Leading Change in Sales

by Aaron Janmohamed

As digital sales transformations become mainstream, leaders begin to switch their attention from Why to How to lead a successful Change initiative.  Given 9 out of every 10 Change initiatives fail, how do you ensure yours is successful?

Your Change Directive

Historically, the consensus was that the biggest organizational headwind to accomplish change was “resistance to change”. We see something different.

We see the greatest barrier to change as inertia: as opposed to actively resisting change, employees tend to simply remain unchanged. Without the right external forces and internal motivators, people will continue to do what’s comfortable.

Your Change directive is to motivate people to move in a new direction and to maintain momentum without reverting to old habits.

Three Keys to Change

Drawing on thousands of customer engagements, along with input from global change management experts, here are three things you should include in your Change initiative:

1) Offer a compelling vision of the future, call out what’s at stake, and what’s in it for them.
2) Clearly define what you’ll measure, how, and in what timeframe
3) Build a coalition of advocates

Compelling Vision

Change initiatives force teams into unfamiliar territory. To navigate it, you’ll need a North Star.

Make a bold and believable case for Change by first answering these four questions:

1. Why shouldn’t teams be satisfied with the status quo?

* People don’t often recognize the pain, dissatisfaction or friction in their current state until they compare it against what could be.

2. What is the visionary outcome of this change?

* For example: it will enable us to enter new markets; it will enable each of us a clear path to success against quota: it will transform our customers’ experience.

3. Why is this new approach — with all its attendant disruptions to process, measurement, and technology — necessary?

4. What will the team get at the end of it?

No amount of vision or hard work will compel your people to move beyond inertia if they don’t clearly understand why they are engaged in this change and can imagine what success looks like.

Articulate the distance between “what is” vs. “what could be” for each team, make it attainable for them, recognize success along the way, and tie these changes to the strategy and values of the company you work in.


Teams expect consistency. This is especially true when you take a wrecking ball to their ways of doing business.

What you measure, how they’ll respond, and the factors that influence success, must be defined, clearly and frequently articulated, and come to represent who we are, not just what we do.

Break it down into three categories:

1. Impact
2. Reaction
3. Benefit realization


• What will stay the same? What do they need to start doing? What do they need to stop doing?
• Set expectations for each of those behaviors and how you intend to measure them.
• Monitor the speed of adoption, the level of utilization and the level of proficiency.
• Course-correct frequently and in small increments.
• Create continuous training in small, frequent increments, so that everyone can easily refresh their knowledge.
• Ensure you build the right support systems or other infrastructure to enable them to succeed.
• Agree to a communications cadence and stick to it!!
• Ensure your compensation structures are aligned with the new environment – ideally, you can build incentives to achieve your aims; at the very least make sure your comp structure doesn’t incent behavior contrary to the new environment.


• Each stakeholder will be impacted differently and will respond differently.
• Understand your stakeholders’ different perspectives and respond to them.
• Evaluate potential emotional reactions from each stakeholder persona. And build a plan to address them.


• Reiterate your vision of success.
• Help your people to imagine what that looks like personally, for them.
• Communicate that this change is an opportunity for each of them to add a valuable skill to their resume, and to enhance their work experience.
• Celebrate success every step of the way.
• Empower them to act as change agents, don’t just have them wait for directions from above.
• Be clear about the consequences for not getting on board with this change.

Build a Coalition of Advocates

• You need broad support from people who can help you see this through.
• Find sponsors who will advocate for Change.
• This is a coalition of leaders and influencers who will buy into your bold vision, will help you promote it throughout the organization, and will hold teams accountable to the measures of success.
• It will include a mix of executives, front line managers, even power users.
• Include your customers!
• Adopting new technology and new processes will impact the way you engage with them.
• Where possible, interview them. Get validation from them.
• Imagine how big of an impact a handful of customer champions could have on your internal momentum.
• Then, define what each advocate group is expected to do and communicate regularly.
• You own the execution. That means you hold the people accountable who hold the rest of the organization accountable.

Momentum Beyond Change

Change initiatives, like your digital sales transformation, can be a defining moment for you and for your business.

If you’ve already started a Change initiative but have encountered obstacles, go back to the basics – the why, and the how and reorient your efforts to get back on track. You will course correct this multiple times as you drive your initiative forwards.

Successful change initiatives, whether they are those which you implement internally, or whether you are driving these as part of your sales process, rely on continuous iteration, and a fanatical attention to keeping the initiative fresh and relevant.

To make your change initiative a standout success, report on progress regularly, capture champion stories, continuously reinforce the vision and maintain momentum beyond change.

For additional insight into a New Formula for Change by Change Management expert Raul Cevallos, click here


The post Leading Change in Sales appeared first on XANT.

30 Apr 16:31

9 Sales Questions About Pricing You Need to Know How to Answer

by Rob Steffens

As those on the frontlines of your business, your sales team is often confronted with a lot of different questions that can be difficult to answer or address.

One of the most intimidating subjects? Pricing.

As consumers become more impatient about making purchases and more thorough in their research to find the best solutions to their needs, salespeople have to adapt to a more transparent method of selling.

It may be hard to transition at first, but it’s well worth it in the long run.

How to Proactively Address Pricing

It’s a learned habit for salespeople to try and avoid discussing pricing for as long as possible. It stems from a fear of frightening off potential customers.

But if you can discuss price with confidence, you’ll immediately set yourself apart from your competitors. Your prospects will appreciate how forthcoming and respectful you are for acknowledging their needs and concerns.


Try using these strategies to show them that you’re not afraid to talk about price because you know your product or service is worth it.

Leverage Personalization Tactics.

Present the appropriate price and then immediately relate it to their personal position.

If you’ve been able to identify specific pain points at this point, then you can directly tie whatever package or product you’re offering to the information they’ve provided you. Explain your logic. Justify your reasoning.

And then push further into the conversation by asking for additional information in order to make sure you’re on the right track.

Be honest about hoping to align their needs with your best deal. It’ll show them that you’re truly trying to provide the best value that you can for them.

Make Sure Your Rates Align With Their Budget.

Don’t be afraid to verify that they’re a right fit for your company in terms of business. As much as every business would love to be able to service every customer they come across, some just don’t fit your ideal persona.

When pricing comes up, give them an average or preliminary rate and then follow up with a question about their budget. Or the other way around. Whichever fits the conversation best.


Ask what they’re able to put forward and about other prices they may have heard from other companies.

You’ll have the opportunity to try and offer them a better deal or discount (if applicable) and do a bit of market research as well.

Create a Sense of Urgency.

Make your price sound like a golden opportunity they won’t want to miss out on. If you have a special going on, let them know that there’s an expiration date.

If you speak in a confident, helpful tone, they won’t take it as you pressuring them. It’ll come across as a tip.

You can let them know that you understand how important price can be and that you’re hoping to offer them some cost-saving opportunities. But they’ll need to act quickly.

This can help speed up the decision making process.

Gauge Commitment Before You Get in Too Deep.

By leveraging the different methods above, you should be able to get a pretty good idea of how invested a prospect is in the product or service you offer. And even if you haven’t, you can ask outright about how big of a priority finding a solution is for them right now.

You’ll want to avoid spending too much time on unfit prospects who are less likely to commit to a purchase so you can prioritize ones that are.

When pricing comes up, you don’t have to hesitate in asking about how strong their need is if it’s unclear to you. Understanding where they’re at in the sales process can save both of you time and resources in the long run.

9 Common Sales Questions Your Sales Team Will Field

More than likely, the potential customer will bring up the subject before you get around to it first, and they’ll address it in different ways.

You can be prepared to handle pricing conversations with confidence, making you appear even more like a pro.

Here are some of the more frequently asked sales questions that you’ll hear:

1. What’s Your Best Price?

Probably the most common question asked, there’s something you should always clear up before answering: Are you speaking with a decision maker?


If not, then offering your “best” price may not actually be in your best interest, because by the time you get to the person with the authority to make the purchase, they’ll look for an even better price.

Instead, offer your standard rates and express opportunities to gain incentives further along when you’re able to loop the decision maker in.

2. I’m Calling to Get Some Pricing Information on Your…

If someone is coming to you to ask about a specific product or service you offer, you’ve got yourself a warm lead!

They’ve already decided that you’re one of their more viable options, and they’re in the decision stage of the sales funnel.

As exciting as that may be, make sure you don’t rush the process. Get a few more qualifying details from them to further establish a relationship and align your offers with their needs.

You’ll want to make sure your business is a good fit for them and vice versa.

3. How Much Is It?

This question usually comes up after you’ve shared a lot about your offer, but the customer is losing interest and wants to “get to the point.”

Pay attention to the customer’s tone when they ask this.

Is it irritated or annoyed? Are they curious and engaged? How long have the two of you been talking?

If you feel like the conversation is taking a negative turn, then adapt your sales pitch to try and bring them back around. You’ll want to look into your sales process after the call is finished to figure out why prospects are reacting negatively.

If you can sense some hope for a sale and feel that the customer is already invested and looking to move along in the process, indulge them. You don’t have to oversell something that they’ve already decided they’re interested in. Move on to the next step.

4. Is the Price Negotiable?

You’ll hear this one pretty frequently also.

This question can put you in a weird position. You don’t want to come across as too hard and say no, but you don’t want to just roll over for every prospect that challenges your rates.

In the case that you can negotiate, then be open about how your company goes about negotiating prices.

But if you’re not able to be overly flexible in your pricing, lead with some great incentives, add-ons, or extra value that you can offer in lieu of a lower price.

Sometimes, it’s easier to bend a little and offer a bit more than to break your own standards and earn less.

5. Can You Send Me Your Pricing?

Sending your prices isn’t the issue. It’s when they ask for it that can pose a problem.

If they ask for your pricing early in the conversation, you may not have been able to learn everything you need to know about them or share your business’ value.

When they inquire later in the call, then you run the risk of simply dropping out of your pipeline after you’ve invested a great deal of time into nurturing them.

You can try to avoid both scenarios by focusing on building a relationship between your business and the prospect.

When they ask (and they will), let them know you’re willing to send your information over, but you’d like to continue learning how the two of you can provide value for one another.

After all, it shouldn’t be about the sale or dollar sign. The goal is to enable your customers and help them find solutions.

6. How Do You Accept Payment?

For a while now, most customers have made their purchases via credit card, but the world is changing.

Nowadays, you’ll hear requests to pay via automated clearing house (ACH) payments. PayPal, Venmo, and dozens of other fintech apps have dominated the market, changing the way that businesses accept funds for customer purchases.

If your business hasn’t updated its processes to work in this new environment, you may want to look into doing so now.

Still, make sure you’re honest about your preferences to customers who ask. If you typically prefer card payment, let them know. They’ll likely still be able to accommodate you.

7. Do You Have Extended Payment Plans?

This is a case-by-case scenario depending on your industry and the product or service you offer.

Some customers in specific industries require the opportunity to pay off their purchase in increments. Think about car dealerships and home mortgages. Other businesses, like grocery or retail stores, can’t sustainably offer everyone payment plan options.

Examine your business, what you sell, how you sell it, and the type of customers you service. If it makes sense for you to include payment plans in your pricing, then make those changes to better serve your customers.

But if it’ll harm your business more than help, be honest in saying that you can’t offer that service.

8. Do You Offer Discounts for Signing Upfront?


These hopeful prospects will try to sell their purchasing decision for a lower price, and it can be an enticing offer.

But it’s important that you hold your ground when you can. Signing upfront or for a long-term commitment doesn’t qualify them as a high-value customer.

You’ll need to examine the prospect’s lifetime value before you agree to a discount in exchange for what’s basically a favor.

Will they be a big client for your company who will generate a ton of revenue and attract even more business? Or are they a one-time-purchase kind of customer who won’t provide any lasting value?

We’re not saying you should never cut a deal, but you’ll want to make sure that it’s going to be worth it in the long term.

9. What Are Your Additional Fees or Dependencies?

You’ll come across some prospects that want to know more about any extra stipulations that come with a purchase, especially if you’re selling a service.

For example, if you offer a marketing service, but require a specific software signup in order to deliver those services, they’ll need to know about the cost of the software.

The same goes for any activation, onboarding, or renewal fees.

Whether you bundle all of this into your prices upfront or charge for them individually, be prepared to share an itemized list of rates.

Talking about money with prospects can be pretty anxiety-inducing. You don’t want to scare them off if you don’t have competitive rates or risk having to sell lower than your offer is worth if you have to negotiate.

The best you can do is prepare for these conversations and practice having them. The more confident and assuring you can be when answering questions about pricing, the better the interaction will go.

29 Apr 17:51

Become a Radically Agile Organization to Create Nimble, Sustainable Products

by Marc Mosca
The modern engineering organization is tooled, skilled, and increasingly experienced in delivering products using Agile methodology. This hard-won transformation required fundamental shifts in the processes by which product is designed, developed, and maintained. Yet the business impact of all this
29 Apr 17:50

How to Stop Having So Many Remote Meetings

by Darren Chait

We’ve just hit the one monthiversary of remote work as the new normal. The how-to posts, downloadable Zoom backgrounds and virtual team building ideas have slowed down, and the world is settling into working from home. It hasn’t been easy juggling kids, co-working partners and concerns about health and job security, but it looks like we’re slowly figuring it out.

Except for meetings, that is. The data we’re seeing from thousands of tech companies tells a different story. While we would have expected a reduction in meetings accounting for the environment, we’ve surprisingly seen meeting volume increase, if anything:

This surprising metric is indicative of a larger problem but an even greater opportunity for remote teams.

Meeting culture: The silent assassin of team culture

Want to get a quick read on your company culture? Just look at your meetings. It’s all there: the interpersonal relationships, the power dynamics, the team camaraderie. For many organizations, meetings are a reflection of the company’s broader processes and health.

Related: The Ultimate Remote Work Resources Guide

At Hugo, we’ve seen this firsthand. The company was founded on the idea that we could make meetings more effective. The more we worked to change our meetings for the better, the more we noticed a correlating positive effect in other aspects of how we worked.

It makes sense, right? Meetings are where decisions get made. They’re where knowledge gets shared. Nearly everything important that happens in a company originates from something that happens in a meeting.

Now layer on the fact that we’re all operating with a completely remote workforce, where more than 75% of interpersonal contact is occurring in meetings. It’s easy to see the destructive impact that poor meeting culture has on your team.

But it’s not all bad news—there’s an opportunity. This tightly coupled relationship between meeting culture and team culture means some simple tweaks to the way you meet can easily influence your team’s DNA.

The impact of remote work on meetings

Just a few weeks ago, when we left the office for the foreseeable future, we predicted the number of meetings would rapidly decrease as sales pipelines dried up, business relationship building slowed and economic uncertainty hit.

Instead, the data shows we simply tried to port our existing way of working to a remote world. The volume of internal meetings skyrocketed. All those “quick questions,” “ideas I wanted to share,” and “watercooler conversations” were now transformed into team meetings.

Ironically, more meetings is the last thing we need while coming to terms with the challenges of working from home in the midst of a global pandemic.

So here are our four recommendations on how to build the ideal remote meeting culture—to enable you and your organization to not only mitigate the challenges of the times but turn meetings into a force for alignment, effective decision making and positive impact on your team’s culture.

What ideal remote meeting culture looks like

Asynchronous > Synchronous

One of the reasons why meetings can be so costly is because they require everyone in the room (or on the call) at the same time. No matter the attendees’ timezone, location or schedule, meetings demand attendees drop what they’re doing.

Historically, this was an acceptable tradeoff to enable collaboration—a necessary cost to keep everyone on the same page. But in 2020, with the right tools, organizations demanding meeting after meeting are hurting team culture unnecessarily when it’s not possible to collaborate on our own schedules. For example:

  • Record a video. You can communicate your idea, feedback or perspective with the same fidelity as a meeting with a short video using products like Loom.
  • Share what happened in a meeting. Not everyone who needs to be aware of meeting outcomes needs to attend the meeting. Shareable meeting notes are easy with Hugo—but regardless, recognize that the value of a meeting can (and should) be for many more than just meeting attendees.
  • Leverage project management tools. Agreeing on next steps, providing feedback and status updates ideally belong in the place where work is managed. Why not use your team’s existing project management tools like Trello to comment, mention teammates and collaborate on work? We constantly hear of important actions falling between the cracks as meeting actions are converted to tickets and tasks, and statuses from tools are transformed to updates in meetings. This can be avoided, while working together asynchronously.

The 4-hour meeting week

Our team has a rule that limits internal meetings to just four hours per week. You might be peeking at your calendar right now, saying, “But I have four hours of meetings… today!”

Let’s be clear: We love meetings. But do you know what we love more than meetings? Progress. Getting stuff done.

So with a rule that creates meeting discipline and an appreciation of the cost of meetings, we’ve been able to drive the team to find other ways to work together—without the need for yet another meeting.

For example, we no longer use meetings to “update” each other. That can happen effectively in an agenda or before the meeting. It’s easy to establish effective note-taking and knowledge sharing from the meeting, so you don’t have to be there.

Have the courage to say “Not Attending” if you think the same quality of discussion and decision making can occur without you in the room or on the call.

Embrace the huddle

One of the culprits of the explosion of internal meetings in recent times is the temptation to set up a meeting to have a conversation just because we’re not in the same office. We’ve realized that the quick shout out across the office, the tap on the shoulder or the conversation at the Bevi machine (the modern-day watercooler) is not akin to a meeting.

Embrace the ad hoc meeting (or huddle as we’ve started calling them) and realize you can reach out to teammates for a quick five-minute chat. A calendar event is typically at least 30 minutes, and the desire for social interaction while remote should not dictate a meeting.

In fact, one of the best ways to maintain normalcy in these times is to reach out for a chat as you normally would. The “Got a minute?” message via Slack is the new calendar invitation via email in 2020.

Surviving the next few weeks

We’ve all accepted that a return to normal is not yet around the corner. It’s not easy to focus on thriving as a team in an environment where business survival is itself a challenge.

So to make positive inroads into your team’s culture, look at meeting culture as the lowest hanging fruit. How you meet determines how you work, and subtle changes to your team’s meeting habits can make the biggest difference in how you navigate the next few weeks and beyond as a newly remote team.

To learn more about how great teams have fewer, shorter, better meetings, download the Vital meeting handbook here.

More on remote leadership

The post How to Stop Having So Many Remote Meetings appeared first on OpenView.

29 Apr 17:50

6 SaaS Customer Retention Best Practices

by Mia Jacobs

Effective customer retention strategies to ensure the success of your client and your business.

In customer retention, every engagement counts. There is no final effort in the days and weeks leading up to an anniversary that can overcome a poor relationship in the months prior. Rather, customer retention for SaaS enterprises is a result of the customer experience. It is an outcome based on an emotional reaction and connection to the performance of a supplier and the value a customer experiences through using that enterprise’s product.

As dependable and recurring renewal is crucial to the growth of our own enterprise, it is vital that we understand customer retention best practices must be implemented at every stage of the customer journey and reinforced by every engagement we undertake.

Why Customer Retention Matters

The digitization of business has made customer retention the lifeblood of the Software-as-a-Service industry. The continued growth of the SaaS model, led by the multi-billion-dollar successes of B2B giants Microsoft and Salesforce, reflects a more responsive relationship between customer investment and ROI. With the majority of revenue spread out across repeated cycles of renewal rather than being captured in a single sales event, enterprises must continually deliver value, or risk their customers seeking more profitable relationships elsewhere.

The result is an emphasis on mutual growth that benefits both the customer and the enterprise. To maximize the spend it derives from a customer over time, or Customer Lifetime Value, an enterprise must shape itself in its customer’s image and adopt their business goals as its own.

This process of creating a customer-centric culture that is focused on delivering additional value to the customer is what defines customer retention in SaaS partnerships. The enterprise must strive to understand its customer at every stage of their journey and continuously deliver value through personalized, proactive, and goal-based engagements.

SaaS customer retention best practices are therefore year-round and ever-evolving in an effort to maintain relevance and deliver value. When renewal time arrives, committing to another year should be just a logical extension of a successful partnership.

6 SaaS Customer Retention Best Practices

Retaining your customer’s interest, and therefore their business, depends on their ability to achieve their goals using your product. To increase the likelihood of renewal you must focus your efforts on product understanding, effective usage, and customer knowledge of how it leads to business success.

The following SaaS customer retention best practices help promote those outcomes:

  1. Know Your Customer
  2. Deliver Value at Every Stage
  3. Personalize Your Voice
  4. Create and Celebrate Milestones
  5. Focus on the Future
  6. Adjust to Customer Business Needs

The process begins with a comprehensive understanding of your customer and their business goals.

1. Know Your Customer

Every time anyone in your enterprise connects with your customer they gain a little knowledge about them. Beginning with the initial sales effort and extending through every facet of the customer journey, this information needs to be collected and stored within a common reserve that is accessible to every member of your team.

Whether it’s the amount of time spent in the product each day and when that time was spent, the details of a support ticket, or the addition of team members, every piece of information is potentially important. The more you understand about your customer the better able you are to help them achieve results they value.

2. Deliver Value at Every Stage

Customer expectations change over time. What begins as a need to learn how to incorporate your product into their workflows eventually becomes a desire to implement advanced features that deliver specific results. That’s why it is important to stay closely attached to your customer throughout their journey. By constantly checking their product usage, feature usage, and rollout though their business you can make personalised and proactive customer engagements.

If you see that a customer is failing to use a specific feature that could benefit them, point out that feature and offer training on its use for the customer’s entire team. That kind of unexpected value goes a long way toward generating positive emotions around renewal time.

3. Personalize Your Voice

As we mentioned earlier, the on-demand nature of the SaaS industry means customers expect their partners to deliver a personalized service dedicated to achieving their unique goals. The best way to create that environment is to fill your communications with facts drawn from the current customer experience. Personalizing your messaging with up-to-the-hour statements about customer progress, usage patterns, and industry-specific information tells your customer you are listening to them and are committed to their growth.

4. Create and Celebrate Mutual Success Plans

Milestones present a two-way benefit to SaaS enterprises. Firstly, they create a sense of momentum and achievement in the customer. Secondly, they give the enterprise a metric by which they can measure and monitor customer progress.

In the first instance, this means establishing clear goals around the adoption and usage of your product and a link between its implementation and the realization of business success. This reassures customers they’ve made the right choice in working with you and makes it easier for them to communicate success and wins to internal stakeholders.

In the second instance, it lets the enterprise identify when the customer is on track for success or when they have fallen behind. These milestones can be used to turn the seemingly unending customer journey into a series of goals-based actions that define the customer success process.

5. Focus on the Future

Customer retention is a promise of future growth. Your messaging should always reinforce the additional value that comes with greater mastery and implementation of your product. As the thrill of the initial sales and onboarding phases passes you should continue to deliver communications espousing future lessons, skills, and advantages.

Your product should be seen as a cornerstone of your customer’s future. There are always new features to be explored and more effective processes to be learned. Use the full potential of your product to demonstrate to your customer that your partnership is the only way to ensure their future success.

6. Adjust to Customer Business Needs

Customer goals can change based on the needs of the business. In some cases, these goals may change rather quickly due to unforeseen circumstances like an economic downturn, industry changes like mandates or legal requirements, and much more. It’s imperative that your company, product, and customer success teams can both carefully and quickly adjust to any changes. Evaluating the impact of changes on customer business needs and adjusting your strategy to meet them is both critical and time-sensitive. Full strategy shifts may have to adjust in days, as opposed to weeks or months. Teams may not have all the answers upfront, but being as flexible, agile, and responsive as possible is important to retain customers through changes in their business needs and goals.

Success Through Customer Retention Software

Delivering a personalized, proactive customer experience depends on understanding how your product is being used. The digital delivery of SaaS products means you can accurately follow customer product usage through customer success software. Such solutions allow you to effectively measure customer engagement, feature use, and license utilization to accurately follow the health of all customer accounts within your portfolio. You can also use the software as a form of early warning system to automatically notify your customer success team of any changes in the customer experience in time to ward off churn or capitalize on renewal and upsell opportunities.

That last point underlines the reality of SaaS customer retention: The defining moments in a customer’s decision to renew or leave occur at any and all times during their journey. The best way to increase renewals is to work toward delivering customer value at every engagement.

Totango designs customer success software that gets you close to your customers. Get started for free and begin to understand your customers better.

29 Apr 17:29

PODCAST 107: Origin Stories and the Core Principles of Sales Leadership with Lori Richardson

by Sam Jacobs

This week on the Sales Hacker podcast, we speak with Lori Richardson, founder of Score More Sales.

Loris is passionate about pursuing, advocating, and furthering the cause of female sales leadership and helping women advance through their careers. To that end, Lori also founded Women Sales Pros, the first community online dedicated to helping smart, savvy women get into B2B sales positions and sales leadership and to help companies find and develop great women sellers. We talk about what makes a great sales person.

If you missed episode 106, check it out here: Want to Become a CEO? Advice & Tactics for First-Time CEOs with Jim Sharpe

Subscribe to the Sales Hacker Podcast

Show Agenda and Timestamps

  1. Show Introduction [00:04]
  2. About Lori Richardson and Score More Sales [02:09]
  3. Why origin stories are so important [4:53]
  4. The essential elements of great sales leadership [10:45]
  5. Why it’s important to have diversity in sales [15:55]
  6. A primer on social selling [19:53]
  7. How to pivot to when leading a sales team during a crisis [23:14]
  8. Lori’s thoughts on the future sales after the coronavirus crisis [29:18]
  9. Sam’s Corner [34:07]

Show Introduction [00:04]

Sam Jacobs: We’re excited to have on the show, Lori Richardson, a really well-known thought leader and speaker in the sales community. She founded Score More Sales in 2002, which is her sales consulting sales training business, and she founded Women Sales Pros in 2014 and she’s passionate about pursuing, advocating, and furthering the cause of female sales leadership, female sales executives and just helping women make sure that they don’t hit that glass ceiling and that they advance through their career. She started off as a teacher and a single mom and moved into sales after that. She’s seen pretty much every trend there is in the sales scheme of things.

Now, before we get into the conversation, we want to thank our sponsor. Our sponsor is Outreach. Outreach revolutionizes customer engagement by moving away from siloed conversations to a streamlined and customer-centric journey. Leveraging the next generation of artificial intelligence, the platform allows sales reps to deliver consistent, relevant, and responsible communication for each prospect, every time, enabling personalization at scale that was previously unthinkable.

Outreach produces incredible industry leading events like their Unleash conference; I’ve been in and it’s awesome. And their city by city Unleash summit series road shows, along with top notch thought leadership content. Check them out at

Now, without further ado, let’s listen to this interview with Lori Richardson.

About Lori Richardson and Score More Sales [02:09]

Sam Jacobs: Today on the show, we’ve got a woman that a lot of people know in the sales world and a lot of women look to for inspiration. That’s Lori Richardson. Let me read you her bio really quickly.

Lori Richardson wants to literally change the face of sales and sales leadership and B2B companies, especially tech. She’s been in the world of sales for longer than most. She’s a top sales influencer, grew up selling from the time she had a lemonade stand on a dead-end street and believes sales is the ultimate profession. She loves watching ice hockey, is a former musician and used to be a fundraising auctioneer. She’s president of the Boston Chapter of the AA-ISP, is a founding member of the Sales Enablement Society, advisor for several companies and organizations including the Sales Education Foundation.

Lori Richardson: Thank you, Sam. It’s wonderful to be here.

Sam Jacobs: Tell us just about your business. Let’s give you an opportunity to tell us what you do, what your consulting services are, and then we can go from there.

Lori Richardson: I started a sales consulting business in 2002, which seems like forever ago. And about seven years ago, changed the way I did business. So it involved a lot more data. Now I work with companies on figuring out a lot of different data points about their sales teams and then help them make sense out of it and be more effective and productive. I also started Women Sales Pros about six years ago, which is an organization to get more women into sales and sales leadership.


We have a group of 50 women sales experts. Many people have heard of, you know Trish Bertuzzi and Sherry Levitan, who I know was just on your show, Jill Konrath and Colleen Stanley and just a great group of 50 women. We also have a commercial side of the house where we consult with companies to help them find, hire, retain, and promote women in sales. So I was doing quite a bit of that until a pandemic hit. And you can imagine that suddenly there are a lot of things that you had to go back down to the basics.

And so some of that’s on hold right now, but what I really like, Sam, is that some of the companies that I was working with, some said, “You know what? We just can’t deal with this. We’re not working on anything to do with how our sales teams are going to look. We just have to survive.” Other people said, “This is important. Inclusion is still a commitment to us and we’ll just put it on hold for now.” And I think how people message things is really important these days.

Why origin stories are so important [4:53]

Sam Jacobs: I agree with you. But the first thing I want to hear about is “origin story” because I think it’s pretty inspiring. So tell us, how’d you get to this point in your career and walk us through the origins of your career in sales and let’s hear about that.

Lori Richardson: I grew up in my grandmother’s clothing store and my grandmother had a high-end women’s apparel store. She had several of them actually. And I left that and ended up becoming a teacher. So I thought I would be a teacher because that was my lifelong dream. Was to teach from the time I was very young and I became a single parent in my early 20s. So what I realized is I couldn’t afford to be a single parent on a teacher salary, at least where I was, which was in the Seattle area. And so I drew on my childhood and just growing up in this business where I always knew that I knew how to sell, which is kind of unusual, especially for a woman, and I knew that maybe I could sell something technology related. And so I ended up getting into the tech boom of the ’80s which was huge. And basically you could be an innocent bystander and kind of get swooped into this and make a decent living. So it was quite a great start and I have never looked back. I’ve been in sales in one capacity or another ever since.

Sam Jacobs: What were you selling when you went in that part of the tech boom?

Lori Richardson: I was selling the first personal computers. Apple had computers that they had in schools and I sold the first business computers that Apple made. The Mackintosh is what it was called originally. IBM had computers and Compaq, which ended up being acquired a number of different… Hewlett Packard had computers. So, all sorts of PCs and peripherals and training and services.

Ended up working with some very large companies and very large deals and it was really great. My first job, there was no issue about being a woman and I worked with this amazing group of folks. Some of us still keep in touch, but subsequent positions were not the same where I had to really sell myself over and over again and take less pay and a number of different things. So I’m glad that I had a really good first initial career.

My first job in sales went really, really well. I know some people that get really turned off by their first sales experience and they end up leaving when they might’ve just had the wrong boss or the wrong company or the wrong products and services.

Sam Jacobs: You’ve been doing this quite awhile. If you were to extract a few high-level themes, what do you think has changed about the discipline, the art, the science of selling since… And I’m sure many, many things, but comparing it to when you first started selling desktop computers through the dotcom boom of 1999 to today?

Lori Richardson: I mean, it’s funny. There are always new things, there are always changes and iterations and there’s always a lot that stays the same. For example, even during this pandemic that we’re dealing with, I’ve heard people say, “Oh, don’t sell. You can’t sell right now.” Because people don’t want to hear that. And I believe that if you are a consultative salesperson, you’re a helper.

Salespeople are the helpers and right now doctors and nurses and everyone on the front lines are the true heroes. But the salespeople, those in sales that can help take ideas and products and services and turn them into dollars for companies to help them grow and be able to support their communities again, those are heroes too. And salespeople, they’re going to be the ones that help get this economy back, the balance as we call it.

Sam Jacobs: What is the advice that you’re giving folks during the pandemic? You hear that phrase, I’m afraid to sell or it’s not the right time. So is it a messaging thing? Are you advising different communication channels? What’s your approach?

Lori Richardson: Yeah, it’s been debated. You’ll see it debated on LinkedIn quite a bit. You can’t just hide, you have to talk to your existing clients. I always talk to past clients because I feel like they’re always clients of mine, and future clients. If you have a product or service that truly could help them during this time, then it’s upon you to initialize a conversation in some manner.

And it may just be, “Hey Sam, how are things going? I’m not really sure… Look like based on who you work with, you guys are probably doing okay. I’m not sure and I just wanted to check on you.” And most people will take that really well.

If you’re having a hard time, you’re going to say, “Now it’s not a good time.”

Just like anytime in selling, I wouldn’t be any different. Maybe more empathetic, but good salespeople are always empathetic.

The essential elements of great sales leadership [10:45]

Sam Jacobs: A lot of folks have a point of view on what makes a great salesperson. And you’re coaching individual reps, I’m sure, in addition to managers and leaders. What are the key qualities? Do you have a framework that you’re teaching against? When you think about what makes a great salesperson, what is it?

Lori Richardson: I believe very strongly after a lot of proof over the last six or seven years that there are 21 core sales competencies and the most important are what we call the will to sell. So that comes down to desire and it’s desire for sales success and it’s also commitment to sales success. And also being motivated, having a good outlook, taking responsibility.

No, those aren’t the conventional tactical things that we teach people, but that’s part of what it takes to be a top seller. In addition to that, there are a number of tactical skills that you add on being consultative and being able to sell value and qualifying and closing and all those kinds. Relationship building skills. So there are definitely some set of skills that we look for and that we know will make someone more successful than not.

Sam Jacobs: Thinking about the world of sales, help us define desire and commitment specifically. I think a lot of people think of themselves as committed, but is it a simple definition when you’re trying to evaluate them through that lens or does it mean something more?

Lori Richardson: I use a tool to help tell that. Desire is really the fact that you want something so badly. You want to be successful in this role, you’re going to win no matter what pandemic is thrown at you. You are going to commit every day. And then that commitment piece means that you’re going to do whatever it takes to be successful. You’re there, you’re showing up, you’re up at 7:00 AM, and it’s not about working more hours. It’s really about learning about your buyers and learning about who their customers are, and learning what the challenges are, and learning what opportunities and seeing if you can pivot your offerings. That takes desire and commitment and an outlook and responsibility.

Sam Jacobs: Do you think these are coachable, develople things? Are they innate? What’s your perspective on it?

Lori Richardson: My experience is that some of it is coachable and some of it isn’t. But time always tells. One thing, coachability in itself is something that I want to measure and see whether someone is coachable or not. If you’re not coachable, then it doesn’t matter what I try to do. And that’s why training is such a big industry with so much waste in it. People spend so much on training, but they don’t know if they’re working with reps who are coachable, who do have a good outlook, who are motivated, and we don’t know whether their managers are going to support their efforts and reinforce and repeat all the knowledge and the insight.

Sam Jacobs: To your point, I guess there’s a testing framework. I’m sure a lot of people are out there thinking, I’d like to know. Of course, I don’t want to waste money trying to teach people that aren’t teachable, but how do I determine that they are teachable?

Lori Richardson: It was a kind of an aha moment that I had because I was a reactive trainer. So people would hire me and they’d say, “Hey, we’re doing this event offsite. Could you do a half day on this or that? Could you do a session on social selling.”

I would tailor and I’d put a lot into it. People would like it. They give me a very positive review, but I could never measure the value. How much did that help you, Sam? And you’d say, “I don’t really know.” And so it made me go back to figure out if I could measure a sales team before I did any training or coaching and then I can measure it afterwards, wouldn’t that be more effective? That’s what I do now. It’s a whole process. So we put in place and I’m happy to talk to any listeners about it that have questions.

Sam Jacobs: What are the fundamentals of the process?

Lori Richardson: Fundamentals are taking in an evaluation online and answering a bunch of questions and then we crank out the data. So it has to do with not just sales reps, but also within a company, how they interact with their sales managers and BP sales and the systems and processes that they have in place and actually the pipeline as well.

Why it’s important to have diversity in sales [15:55]

Sam Jacobs: I do want to ask you about women in sales. The organization that you started, Women Sales Pros, is not philanthropic, but just an equality perspective. We want that, but why do you think it’s so important to have diversity in sales?

Lori Richardson: The most important reason now, Sam, is because you need a selling team that matches who your buyers are. We’ve seen this in many instances lately, where people just aren’t going to settle for what used to work. They want a diverse group of folks helping them, who are listening to what it is that they need. And the other advantage to having diversity inclusion on a sales team of all types is that you have different answers to problems.

I saw an instance for myself once where I took over a sales territory from someone else and a company had not let us bid on a huge project because they didn’t like the rep. The rep was a guy. He happened to be very egotistical and I was very ego-less at the time. I hope I still am, at least to some point, but I just had a whole different style. And because of that different style, I got an opportunity, we won a huge deal because of it. And that happens all the time. So it takes different sets of eyes, different questions, different sets of empathy to work together. And we know that that happens in business, that boards that are diverse are more successful, leadership that’s more diverse is more successful, the same with sales teams.

Sam Jacobs: Do you think we should be rotating accounts more often within a sales team because of the fact that different approaches can uncover opportunities that people thought were dead or closed, lost?

Lori Richardson: It’s an interesting idea, isn’t it? I mean, I would’ve hated that when I was a rep. Don’t take my account away. But there’s a lot to be seen in team selling. There’s a lot to be said for that.

Sam Jacobs: You were telling me before that some of the folks that have said that women… Just diversity in general, diversity isn’t a priority for us. And now they’re saying, I don’t know about that. It’s a pandemic. We’re just trying to stay alive. What’s your response to that and how do we make sure that diversity and inclusiveness stays a priority even as we’re trying to make sure that the economy stays afloat?

Lori Richardson: It really got me thinking because I don’t want to be promoting something that’s just a nice to have. I don’t think that diversity is just a nice to have. Some people think that it’s what we “should” do, but I think it’s much more than that. And I think today, when we’re working to get this economy going again, which we’re not even quite at that point. But maybe by the time this airs we’ll be working to get the economy going and it will take all hands on deck and it will take diverse points of view like we were talking about. I just think that it’s a requirement now more than ever. I think that we know that women have a very good dose of empathy, communication skills, listening skills. These are all things that we need in the new economy going forward.

A primer on social selling [19:53]

Sam Jacobs: You mentioned that you’ve been asked to comment or teach a course or give a session on social selling. Walk us through from your perspective because you’re pretty active on LinkedIn. What do you think are the keys to social selling?

Lori Richardson: I work with sales people, I work with sales leaders and I work with company leaders and they’re all on LinkedIn. So that’s my audience and I think that you have to know who you’re selling to. For a lot of folks, Sales Hacker has a big SaaS following and tech following, and a lot of those folks are on LinkedIn. A lot of your customers are on LinkedIn, so that matches up really well. But maybe some of the folks that I work with in manufacturing, their customers aren’t necessarily on, maybe they will be. Maybe they are now. I definitely should follow up and check on that. But first go where your customers are, go where your buyers are, go where your future buyers are and talk about their world not about your world.

It was hard for me when I started out because I started blogging long before I got on LinkedIn and I used to just start by seeing what other people were doing and trying to amplify that. And I think that’s a really good first step, don’t you Sam?

Sam Jacobs: I used to work at a company that sold to private equity firms and everybody was asking how do we make use of Twitter or social media? And the first step was always try liking something, commenting on something or re-tweeting something just as a way of dipping your toe in the water.

Lori Richardson: And on LinkedIn, comment and share your point of view. Try not to derail the conversation because nobody likes that. That’s not a good thing to do, but I don’t think anyway. If you have a lot to say, write a post. For example, someone made a comment about something to do with men and women in sales and I had a whole lot to say about it. So I wrote a separate post and then I told the person that I had written this and if they wanted, I’d be happy to share the link. So I didn’t post the link until they said, “Oh, please share it.” And then I did and I was able to say all the things that I wanted to say. It’s a good way, but try not to lurk.

A lot of people lurk, a lot of women in sales, lurk because they’re not sure of their voice. And I think that at some point, you have to just put a stake in the ground and say, “I’ve been doing my job for two years, three years, five years, here’s what I’ve learned. Here are the five things I’ve learned.” Just start from there and take your time.

How to pivot to when leading a sales team during a crisis [23:14]

Sam Jacobs: Are there specific pieces of advice that you find yourself giving right now to help people strategize, to help people be more effective, to help people…One of the things we’re hearing a lot of is just pushed deals. It’s not that the deal is dead, but it’s that the deadline is extended. So how are you coaching reps through this environment besides just, “Hey, not saying that they’re not going to be buying is not an excuse. People are going to be buying stuff. We just need to do it the right way.” What else are you selling?

Lori Richardson: Pushing things out is a great strategy. It’s like let’s just table it for now. We don’t have that deadline like we said we did. We’ll push it out. I think really it goes down to really knowing who you’re working with.

We lost a number of opportunities. We also postponed a lot of opportunities and we had to pivot because one of the things that we did a lot of was helping companies to hire better, to hire better sales reps, and we’re not doing any of that right now. We’re doing some actually with some existing clients who are the companies that are hiring, they are using those services, but we’re not selling that service right now. But we will again.

And so we had to pivot to then focus on, “Well, are you retooling your sales team? Do you want to know who’s on it? And do you want to know how strong your sales management is in a remote setting?” So being ready for everybody to pivot your message and really be able to help your buyers today or let them know that, “You know what, maybe we could talk about the future. We’ll be all positioned for when we get out of this.” So I think there’s some intermediate discussions going on and then some planning for the future. And then helping them as you can right now.

Sam Jacobs: Some of the managers I’m talking to are dealing with the reality that they haven’t been particularly adept or haven’t had to be great remote sales managers. Particularly for field sales teams because there’s a group of sellers out there that are used to being on a plane, shaking hands, going to dinner. What’s your advice to both the people managing those field reps and the field reps themselves that are now finding themselves trapped in a home all day?

Lori Richardson: I know. It has got to be tough for a lot of folks. I would over-communicate as a leader, I would want to have a standup meeting every day. I want to hear what they’re working on, what they’re excited about. I mean, I would want my reps to be accountable, whether they are field reps or not. Everybody should be accountable for their time in some manner. And I don’t mean micro-managing, but I want to know what you’re working on today, Sam, and I want to know what you’re excited about. And then tomorrow, I want to know what’s different because it’s really easy and I think we’ve all found ourselves kind of becoming jello.

This is something none of us have ever dealt with. So with understanding and empathy, there are expectations for people to find ways to work. And I think that there are companies that are finding that their messaging is off and I think that there are reps that are finding that their product or service isn’t fitting right now. And those are the ones that are going to have a tough time.

Sam Jacobs: I feel like over the last couple of years, and you can tell me if you disagree, but that the emphasis on activity-driven metrics in the absence of direct correlation of those metrics to outcomes has fallen out of favor a little bit. At the same time, I’m sure there’s a bunch of managers out there that now have field reps and they’re just saying, “We’ve got to move the pipeline, we’ve got to do something, and I have no visibility into what you are doing all day.” What’s your suggestion to those folks?

Lori Richardson: I think for some there’s some tooling that might need to be done because there are ways you can get visibility of what your teams are doing, certainly. And there are definitely ways to find out what’s going on. Maybe have more conversations than not. If you can’t see what your rep is doing, that’s a precarious position. And I think it might be a gift, not that this situation is a gift that’s happening, but we’re going to all change the way we do business because of this.

There’s probably some glaring issues that are facing leaders, company leaders as well as sales leaders, because we just didn’t know what was going on. We didn’t know what our reps were working on or they weren’t putting the time in facing the buyer and dealing with our buyers and prospects and clients.

Thoughts on the future sales after the coronavirus crisis [29:18]

Sam Jacobs: You’re a small business owner. What’s been your response on behalf of your business to the pandemic?

Lori Richardson: Well, the thing about people in sales with a background in sales is that we’re flexible. We’re chameleons. We can listen and flex and change. And so I’m very fortunate that I feel that that’s part of the makeup of our organization. Is that we will bounce back, we will continue to grow, we will continue to help. And I don’t know how long it’s going to take. I’m an optimistic person, but not in an “everything’s fine here” kind of way. I mean there’s definitely an issue.

We’ve been through other issues, but there’s nothing like this that we’ve been through. So I don’t have an exact answer. I just know that every day I’m going to get up and I’m going to work to help people to grow their revenues. And sometimes I’ll be exchanging currency for that and sometimes I won’t be. And we’re going to keep doing that until we get this economy going again. Because like I said, those of us in sales, we will be the ones helping to solve this problem with the economy.

Sam Jacobs: When we think about who are the people that have influenced you that you want us to know about, who comes to mind?

Lori Richardson: People of influence. I have a group of 50 women sales experts at I guess my thing is that often on LinkedIn, in particular when someone will put out a list of the top sales books or the top sales podcasts of which this is always one, very few are written by women. Very few books are listed that are written by women. Very few podcasts are done by women. And I have a whole list of books that are written by women in sales. And so I love to talk those up, not because I think they’re better, but I think they’re different. And I think that if you have women on your sales team and they always just see that everything’s done by men, that they’re not going to want to be leaders themselves.

And so it’s my job to help model that and to help encourage other women and men to showcase things that are done by women. So you have on the podcast Sherry Levitan and that’s one that I’m going to talk up. There are a lot of really great women that are leading sales teams in SaaS and tech and elsewhere, and I love talking about them and interviewing them and sharing what they’re doing.

Sam Jacobs: Fantastic. Who besides Sherry, give us one or two more names to the point of helping make sure that people know some of the great women out there.

Lori Richardson: Amy Franko, she wrote a book called The Modern Seller, which is fabulous. Julie Hansen is a former actor and she wrote a book called Act Like a Sales Pro, which is really great. Colleen Francis, her book is called Nonstop Sales Boom. They all do training and speaking and they all have videos that you can watch out there. Also, Trish Bertuzzi, I can’t forget her. Right?

Sam’s Corner [39:27]

Sam Jacobs: Hey everybody. Sam’s corner. I really enjoyed that conversation with Lori Richardson. Obviously I love the fact that she started Women Sales Pros. I think that now the importance of diversity in sales is greater than ever.

And this is not an opportunity, and I don’t think it’s a time when we relax our focus on diversity or inclusiveness just because we’re in this terrible situation because we’ve seen that diversity within organizations drives better outcomes. That was one of the big takeaways for me. Is just how important a continued focus on diversity is. In addition to just hearing somebody’s story about starting off and doing every kind of sale and really understanding that the core principles of sales really haven’t changed that much. It’s really about listening, asking questions, and solving problems for your customers.

What We Learned

  • Who is Lori Richardson and what is Women Sales Pros
  • Why origin stories are so important
  • The essential elements of great sales leadership
  • Why it’s important to have diversity in sales
  • A primer on social selling
  • How to pivot when leading a sales team during a crisis
  • Lori’s thoughts on the future sales after the coronavirus crisis

Don’t miss episode #108

Hope you enjoy the conversation as much as I did. Before we want to thank our sponsor Outreach. Outreach revolutionizes customer engagement by moving away from siloed conversations to a streamlined and customer-centric journey. Check them out at

If you want to reach out to me with feedback, you can find me on LinkedIn.

As always, thanks so much for listening, I’ll talk to you next time.

The post PODCAST 107: Origin Stories and the Core Principles of Sales Leadership with Lori Richardson appeared first on Sales Hacker.

29 Apr 17:25

Ways to Promote Your Business During the COVID-19 Crisis

by Justin Herring

Ways to Promote Your Business During a Crisis

It’s a tricky thing, figuring out how to promote and market your business in a time of crisis.

On the one hand, many small businesses are struggling to stay afloat, hoping they will be able to weather the storm and reopen when the crisis is over.

On the other hand, nobody wants to appear callous or opportunistic.

That said, there are still ways to promote your business during this unsettling and scary time.

The key is to do four things at once:

  1. Meet your audience where they are.
  2. Provide clear value in a time of need.
  3. Be sensitive to the times and avoid missteps.
  4. Take advantage of special advertising offers and promotions.

Here are some suggestions to help you.

Meet Your Audience Where They Are

In some ways, the fact most people are staying home and avoiding social gatherings gives small business owners a unique opportunity. At the risk of seeming too cavalier about the seriousness of the situation, you have a captive audience.

This means the people you want to reach are spending more time than they usually do online.

Digital marketing is going to be more important now than it ever has been – and small business owners can and should take advantage of it.

This is a good time to revisit your marketing mix. You should consider pulling money from things like direct mail marketing, if that’s something you’ve been doing, and putting it into:

  • Social media advertising
  • Search engine advertising
  • Email marketing
  • SEO

It’s also a good time now since we’re a couple of weeks into the nationwide “stay at home” order to revisit your analytics and see what’s happening with them.

Provide Clear Value in a Time of Need

provide value

While many Americans are scared and out of work, there are a lot of people who are working from home and eager to support local businesses.

This is a good time to get creative and think about how to serve them.

For example, I’ve seen some businesses offering “Buy Now and Save Later” promotions where they introduce offers even if the business is closed right now.

It’s a good way to keep your audience engaged and buying from you – and to create some continuity to help you through a temporary closure.

Another option is to find ways to put your regular services online. This isn’t a solution for everybody, but a lot of businesses have adapted in ways that are truly inspirational.

If you can figure out a way to harness technology to help your audience, now is the time to do it.

If you’re a manufacturer, then there are potential opportunities to help people in a way that’s direct and concrete.

A good example is Toast, a company that normally makes phone and laptop cases and other products out of natural materials such as wood and leather. In a short time, they have retooled their machinery and engineered a completely reusable face shield they are making available to hospitals and emergency workers.

Refine Your SEO

Your marketing should reflect what you’re doing to provide value.

If you’re providing emergency services or virtual services, you may want to put some money into SEO for keywords related to the changes.

For example, a restaurant now focusing on takeout and delivery might put some marketing money into local keywords to include those terms and ensure they reach their audience.

However, it’s not a good idea to stop spending on your regular keywords completely.

Remember both Google and Facebook have ad credit programs for small businesses to use during the pandemic.

It’s still important to maintain your Google rankings for your usual target keywords. If you don’t, then you may find that your ranking takes a hit – and if that happens, it may be difficult to recover when we return to business as usual.

Marketing During a Pandemic What you Should and Should NOT Do

Keep the Conversation Going

If your business is closed temporarily or providing limited services, you can still invest in “soft” marketing to keep your audience engaged and involved.

Two of the best ways to accomplish this task are social media marketing and email marketing.

You might be sick of hearing me go on about email marketing, but it still has a very high ROI and it’s a great way to stay in touch without being overbearing.

The same is true of social media marketing. Your organic posts offer an opportunity to spark conversation, find out what your followers are thinking, and remind them of your value.

Promoted posts can do the same thing.

Be Sensitive and Avoid Missteps

One of the trickiest things about marketing during a crisis is striking the right balance between sensitivity and business concerns.

Any business seen as trying to take advantage of people is likely to suffer unpleasant consequences.

The first thing to do is to avoid any marketing that appears to be taking the present situation lightly or being dismissive of the very real pain and fear people are feeling.

Empathy is the word of the day and businesses who demonstrate this will be rewarded by their customers.

The second thing is to keep your focus on your customers and not on your financial worries.

There’s nothing wrong with being worried about the survival of your business, but if it seems like the only thing you’re worried about, you may end up alienating the people you want to attract.

Be Adaptive

time to think differently

None of us know what next week or next month will bring. It may be a marketing campaign that works today will be twice as effective in a week, or it won’t deliver any results and you need to revamp.

I realize this might not be reassuring, but I truly believe with the right mindset, it can be a good thing.

Check your analytics regularly. If you can afford it, do some A/B testing to refine your campaigns. Change things as needed – and be prepared to change them again if you must.

Marketing your business is still a must during the pandemic, but you’ll need to think on your feet and do everything you can to serve your audience.

If you can do that, then your business will come through the crisis.

29 Apr 17:25

How Empathy Can Get People to Respond to More of Your Sales Emails

by (Kristen Baker)

Prospecting emails are the arch nemesis of many sales reps — they don’t enjoy the process of pitching via email, particularly because, these days, people feel more bombarded than ever by their inboxes.

That's why many reps have developed tactics for optimizing their email open rates with the help of tools and software — but, another impactful and effective tactic for improving sales email response rate is the use empathy.

In business these days, empathy is critical to building trusting relationships between your business and prospects, encouraging communication, and closing deals.

How to Boost Email Response Rates With Empathy

Here's how you can generate a close to 100% sales email response rate from busy professionals with an empathetic approach.

1. Determine what the email recipient needs.

Rather than blasting a generic intro message, reach out to your audience personally. Time to research their company’s strategic initiatives, as well as the email recipients’ movement, growth, and trajectories within their organizations. Examine whether that organization is currently using, or could benefit from using, services like the one you offer and ensure you fully understand any corresponding business models.

Before sending a message to anyone, empathize with and understand that person’s pain points — put yourself in this person’s shoes and use the information you gather to time when a message would be most beneficial to them. — this will help you make sure your messages are well-received. (You don't want a message to annoy the recipient or fall flat.)

2. Contact decision-makers at all organizational levels.

Salespeople have a natural tendency to connect with buyers at the manager, director, and VP levels. But these days, organizations are changing dramatically, with areas of leadership concentrated within multiple functions.

When browsing LinkedIn, you may come across people holding CXO, director, or VP titles. But don't reach out to these individuals. Instead, research their direct reports, who are more likely to have needs and priorities that align with what you're able to offer — identify ways to empower that individual in their role.

3. Offer value immediately.

Here’s where content comes in handy. Whenever possible, share a blog post, story, or whitepaper that could be useful to the person on the other side of the computer screen. You may also share observations about what that individual (or company) is currently doing.

All in all, you should strive to deliver exponentially more value than what you expect the company at hand to pay. Sometimes, you may also give things away for free such as consulting calls, training sessions, and even content. No matter what, be sure to treat this step as an introductory handshake to help you build long-term relationships.

4. Whenever possible, ask for an introduction.

Whenever possible, look for second-degree connections with the people you're trying to reach — and be careful when asking for these introductions.

For instance, always ask your contacts whether they would feel comfortable making the connection and be forthright about why you'd like to get in touch.

These personal and professional relationships add instant credibility to your message, signifying that you're not a stranger; rather, you're a trusted professional within a mutual connection's network.

5. Use Twitter or other social channels as complements.

As mentioned, it's no secret that business-people today are buried in emails. Build  relationships and encourage open communication with prospects by sending them a head’s up about your email via Twitter, where you're forced to be to the point. Rather than sending someone a long email that gets buried, you'll send a direct nudge regarding a straightforward message.

Start Using Empathy in Your Sales Emails

As a sales professional, empathy will be your superpower. Instead of trying to outsmart the noise, make your communications stand out by being as helpful as possible. Provide value to your audience by giving them information to succeed in their roles. The more you give, the more likely your audience will be to listen.

Editor's note: This post was originally published in October, 2014 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

29 Apr 17:24

Why Keyword Content is Imperative to Your Business

by Matthew Goulart

Digital marketing is all that the world is raving about today. From Search Engine Optimization – SEO to Pay Per Click – PPC campaigns, and from e-mail marketing to Facebook ads, marketing is all about digitized campaigns. Whether it’s a brick-and-mortar retailer or a digital service provider, every entity in the corporate sector has made digital marketing an integral part of their business. Just like all business owners, even you must be aggressively working to incorporate digital marketing strategies into your business’s growth plan.

Let’s be honest; building a digital footprint has become a necessity today. Businesses that are not developing a digital presence are depriving their business of a major chunk of potential customers. While working with marketers to build a marketing strategy, you must have heard the term ‘keywords’ millions of times. Well, keywords are words or phrases that the people type or speak into search engines.

The search engine then gives millions of results that revolve around these search queries. These words or phrases are an integral part of content marketing. However, over the past few years, marketers have come to believe that keyword usage has lost its importance, which is not true.

Keywords are the core of content marketing.

Yes, keyword stuffing has led to smarter search engine algorithms, but they have not completely ruled out the use of keywords. To be honest, there is no other way a search engine can actually provide desired results to its users. Therefore, disregarding keyword usage is one of the biggest mistakes you can make as a business owner or marketer.

Keyword Content Is What Your Business Needs

If you really want to get ahead of your marketing game and outshine your competitors, you need to strengthen your content marketing strategy. The search queries people enter in search engines tell a great deal about what the target audience wants. It is a smart option to create content around concepts and ideas that would interest your target audience and potential customers.

Think about it, what is the point of working hard to create content that no one would read? A smart approach is to direct your attention towards strategies that you are sure will help you build your customer base and take your business towards success.

Content is king. However, it is the relevant content that will help you win leads and customers. To make your business appear at the top of a Search Engine Result Page, you need to use keywords that your customers frequently use to search for products or services related to your niche. Keyword research is a major step towards understanding your customers. Only when you understand your customers, you will be able to attract them towards your business.

The keywords or key phrases serve as a linchpin between what your customers are searching for and the content you are offering. The keywords you include in your content will determine the type of visitors you get on your business website or page. If you are selling printed t-shirts, using the right keywords will attract the ideal customers. If you do not use the right keywords, you might attract visitors who want designer-wear dresses.

You see, the role keywords play in online marketing is significant. This is why you cannot just stop using a tool that brings visitors to your website. Be it SEO or PPC, the use of keywords is vital.

Proper keyword research, proper placement, and density is what your content marketing strategy needs.

Rules To Live By When Creating Keyword Content

Keywords are an integral part of a digital marketing strategy. Marketers need to understand there are rules to follow when it comes to creating keyword content.

The first rule is, of course, not to abuse keywords. Keywords give the search engine an idea about the information contained in a page. However, search engine algorithms are smart. They have the ability to detect if there is keyword abuse in content. A decade ago, marketers made excessive use of keywords in the content. The search engines detected these moves and changed their ranking algorithm.

Keyword stuffing in content reduces the readability of the content and can negatively impact your business’ ranking on a SERP.

Another factor that you need to keep a close eye is on the use of crowded keywords. If your competitors are using a certain word or phrase, you can create a similar but unique keyword. It will help you get a high ranking without much struggle. One of the most important rules is not to compromise on the quality of your content. Yes, keywords are important, but the quality and value of your content are equally important. Content with keywords but without much value will be disregarded by a search engine. The latest algorithms focus on the value the content offers to users alongside keyword usage. Make sure you create quality content with keywords.

Your content marketing strategy will not do your business any good without the proper usage of keywords. Quality content with proper keyword usage can help enhance your business’ visibility and help you get ahead of the competitors.

The wisest approach, in this case, is to hire a professional digital marketing agency that can help you create smart keyword content that offers value to the readers and high rank to your website.

29 Apr 17:23

The CEO of a $681 million energy-investment firm says the coronavirus pandemic will give these 3 sectors a boost — but threatens to unravel one other

by Benji Jones

Power line repair

  • The coronavirus pandemic has stalled growth in the solar and wind industries, but the transition to clean energy is still on track. 
  • Three sectors stand to benefit in the mid-to-near term, according to Hans Kobler, the CEO of Energy Impact Partners. 
  • Those are cybersecurity, intelligent operations, and energy infrastructure. 
  • Electric mobility will be hit the hardest in the near term, with analysts projecting electric vehicle sales to be down by nearly half this year. 
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

These days, Hans Kobler has a new item on his agenda — pitch meetings over Zoom where energy startups present their business plans to him and a handful of utilities. 

"It seems to be working, but we're still getting used to it," Kobler, the CEO of the utility-backed investment firm Energy Impact Partners (EIP), said of digitizing the pitching process. 

Turning pitch events (which Kobler calls "utility shark tank") virtual is just one of the many changes energy investors face today — especially those like EIP, a $681 million fund that supports the transition to clean energy. 

Though the pandemic has spared few industries, clean energy has been hit especially hard. The research firm Wood Mackenzie slashed its 2020 forecast for solar installations by 18% and trimmed its wind energy projections by 6.5%. And as many as 500,000 people in the clean-energy industry could also lose their jobs — equal to 15% of the workforce. 

But the industry isn't just shrinking in response to the pandemic. It's being reshaped as priorities change. 

Click here to subscribe to Power Line, Business Insider's weekly clean-energy newsletter.

Hans Kobler Energy Impact Partners

Utilities are racing to digitize everything

For one, there's a large push to digitize and automate everything, Kobler said, which is good news for energy digitization startups like Urbint and Innowatts. 

EIP's partners — which include huge names like National Grid and Xcel Energy — "see this as a starting sign to have to do things differently," Kolber said.

In a recent conversation with Business Insider, the chief executive of the utility CMS Energy, Patti Poppe, said that investing in digital infrastructure, such as tools to automate restoration schedules, has enabled the utility to go remote right away. 

"We didn't foresee how much that would benefit us today," she said. "Nobody has to talk to anybody because we have machine learning in place, and every estimate is better than the last one." 

Rooftop solar

Energy resilience takes center stage

In the wake of coronavirus, there's also a much larger focus on energy resilience and reliability, Kobler said. 

"God forbid we have a power outage and the hospitals cannot operate," he said. "People will focus more on backup power, on reliability, and on grid infrastructure." 

That's likely to give companies that operate in those areas a boost, he said, mentioning two specific categories: energy infrastructure and cybersecurity. 

In the last couple of weeks, so-called prepping has gone up 200%, according to EIP's own research, which could fuel industries like rooftop solar and storage, as Business Insider previously reported

Read more: A global pandemic and fear of power outages could fuel an emerging $50 billion market for rooftop solar companies like Tesla and Sunrun

"You have to put the infrastructure in place that allows the energy to work and work securely," he said. 

Utilities double-down on cybersecurity 

Along with infrastructure and innovation, cybersecurity also has to be a priority, Kobler said — and it's not hard to imagine the value it provides for energy utilities. 

"We're liable if factories stop or the grid stops because of cyber attacks, so cybersecurity is very important for us to invest in," said Heriberto Diarte, who runs Schneider Electric's venture arm.

And of course, it's not just energy infrastructure that cyber attacks put at risk. 

"We are all moving completely to online video conferences on very sensitive topics from home," Kobler said. "So [the pandemic] would just heighten the need for cybersecurity security across the board."

Wind turbine renewable energy power line

Renewable-energy infrastructure will benefit from low interest rates

While Kobler is concerned about funding for clean energy in a recession, he's still bullish on renewable energy infrastructure. 

"There is a major opportunity for large infrastructure investments given low interest rates and potential stimulus funding," he said. 

Government funding for clean energy is far from certain. But in a note last Friday, analysts at Morgan Stanley said there's "potential for financial support for the industry as part of future upcoming legislation, such as through an infrastructure bill." 

The banking giant said support, which could arrive as soon as this summer, would most likely be directed towards extending renewable energy tax incentives, energy storage, and carbon capture and sequestration technologies.BMW electric car

A bleak outlook for electric cars

If there's one sector that Kobler is most worried about, it's electric transportation. 

Wood Mackenzie projects that sales for electric vehicles (EVs) will fall by almost half this year, driven in part by low oil prices and a wait-and-see buyer mentality. 

"The transportation sector is suffering a lot," Kobler said. "Many of the charging stations are already not very profitable for starters. [And] many of those are not being used at all right now. Absent some strong incentives from the government, it will be slowing down." 

But when asked about the clean-energy sector more broadly, and what the pandemic means, those worries quickly fade away. 

"In the mid-to-long term, we are very, very bullish about the sector," he said. "Even in the near term, we are very bullish about investors that start investing now."

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NOW WATCH: Why electric planes haven't taken off yet

29 Apr 17:22

Five keys for successful WFH direct mail campaigns

by Matt Heinz

As we continue into week 74 of work-from-home quarantine, checking the mail and getting packages has become an anticipated event in our house.  It’s a lifeline to the outside world.  And if you’re someone who leaves packages alone in the garage for a couple days, it’s like Christmas!  That box could be anything, but you don’t get to unwrap it until Thursday morning!

In all seriousness though, many companies are successfully converting their B2B direct mail programs for a (at least temporary) work from home (WFH) environment.  And in some cases, we’re seeing evidence that WFH direct mail programs are providing measurably better results than the would have when directed to the office two months ago.

Key to those successful WFH direct mail programs are a couple things:

  1. Ask permission: Even if you can somehow verify a prospect or customer’s home address online, it’s far better to ask them directly for their preferred WFH address and get permission to send.  This has a few advantages.  One, your prospect agrees to let something work-related come to their house. Two, they’re now going to anticipate and look forward to something from you.  And three, it’s possible they are sheltering in place somewhere else (a second home, their parent’s house, etc.).
  2. Focus on warm leads, opportunities and customers (no cold leads):  A pre-existing relationship has been key to getting high acceptance rates for WFH package delivery.  In our not-quite-scientific research of list segment acceptance rates of WFH delivery, we’ve seen close to 100 percent for customers, 90 percent for active opportunities, 70-80 percent for warm leads – and less than 15 percent for cold/new leads.
  3. Send something that engages others in the household:  In other words, get the family and/or roommates involved as a positive reflection of your brand and campaign.  It could be a game, small toy, even something trivial works.  Remember when we used to go to in-person trade shows and bring back chochkies for the kids?  Similar thing here but a more intentional strategy.
  4. Make the mailer part of a more comprehensive before/during/after plan:  The mailer itself is but one component of what should be a broader, multi-channel and integrated campaign between marketing and sales.  Consistent theme and messaging focus, tight sales follow-up with added value, etc.  I’ve seen research that shows integrated campaigns involving direct mail get a 2-3X higher response in some cases vs isolated, individual direct mail sends.
  5. Keep delivery preference records up to date:  Over the next few weeks and months, some of your prospects and customers will start returning to the office.  If you continue direct mail campaigns moving forward, make sure you’re updating their preferred delivery address.  Right now getting your stuff at home might be acceptable.  Eight months from now it might again feel like a minor violation of work/life boundaries.

If you’re executing or considering WFH direct mail campaigns, I’d love your feedback on what’s working, what’s not working or even what you’re trying here as well.

The post Five keys for successful WFH direct mail campaigns appeared first on Heinz Marketing.

29 Apr 17:21

Marketing opportunities in the biggest disruption of our time

by Mark Schaefer

marketing opportunities

If there’s a silver lining to being a marketer in a sales-driven organization in the middle of this crisis, it’s this: There are marketing opportunities to build the commercial engine you’ve always dreamed about.

In my marketing career, I’ve heard “no” a lot … especially from sales.

Can marketing target this segment? No.

These leads need follow-up, can we build a better process? No.

This would make us more efficient and increase conversion. Could you collect this data point? Let’s have a meeting … followed by blah, blah, blah, no.

Change takes guts and when you’re dealing with sales in a normal, stable period there’s natural resistance because of how sales is incentivized. For practitioners of marketing strategy, there are few business irritations that rank as high as having to market at a continuous status quo.

In her book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear, Elizabeth Gilbert said if you’re aware of the ideas knocking on your door and, they can turn into something extraordinary. Wait too long and the idea will move to the next person. I think the same thing happens with marketing opportunities.

On the surface, the coronavirus crisis doesn’t feel like an opportunity.

This is a time of disorientation, apprehension, and uncertainty for nearly every business. Shifting our mindset from a place of dread and worry to one of curiosity and intrigue can soothe that fear and accelerate innovation. Here’s what we need to remember:

Cause > Fear

When you have a cause or purpose, you’ll naturally move forward because there’s no time to sit and debate fear. At my company, the mission is to connect healthcare providers and communities to transform lives. That’s a big ask. The coronavirus crisis makes it colossal.

Every one of us has a choice – be diminished by fear or absorbed in mission. Whether it’s a company or personal mission, by tackling one new tactic each day, you’ll achieve more than you once believed possible.

Early in the pandemic, a friend with an event company (one of the largest in the nation) pivoted to become a field hospital and testing site company. I placed a few calls, asked for a partnership and they said yes. Turns out this event company was starting a coalition banding 100 event companies to fight the pandemic. By being brave enough to call and ask, we became the first and only staffing company listed as a coalition partner. My focus on mission rather than fear continues to guide me to new opportunities.

Stop asking permission

The coronavirus crisis can enable you to dismiss your title and normal swim lane. This is an environment that is all-hands-on-deck, jump-in, act … and ask for permission later. As a result, it’s brought greater company awareness to marketing’s capability and earned us more voice at the table.

Case in point — several years ago, my team sought permission to take over more of the email efforts led by sales. We spoke ad nauseum about their unsubscribe rates, lost revenue, lost opportunity, and our ability to optimize results if given the chance. They wouldn’t listen to us.

When COVID-19 hit, marketing stopped asking permission and began sending. Our email communication has been far more effective, leading other teams to solicit our help to reach healthcare providers for critical positions.

My job is to find physicians and advanced practitioners who serve critically ill patients (a very difficult assignment right now!).

Despite the hurdles, we generated hundreds of new leads in a matter of 24 hours and earned the trust of healthcare workers who shared contact information they would have typically kept close to the glove.

By moving forward without waiting to be asked or asking to proceed, we had a greater impact on our organization and created marketing opportunities that will transcend the crisis.

Chaos leads to innovation

The COVID crisis introduces ambiguity and new constraints, which can feel paralyzing. However, re-framed, it’s a window to incredible creativity. The old rules don’t exist, we don’t know how the market will respond, so build from your gut. If you have a nagging idea, a hunch, something you’ve longed for, give it a try now.

During this period of chaos, we’ve re-imagined our campaign attribution model to better understand our direct relationship to ROI. Until now, our organization has run the last touch attribution model. You never want to overwrite a paid source with email as a source, so it’s been nearly impossible to quantify the financial value of marketing’s campaigns, which hurts optimization efforts.

With marketing’s initiatives taking greater visibility, we started logging every response we received, funneling them into a spreadsheet to track leads surfaced by marketing. Now we know what we can generate through email automation. The figure brings credibility to our efforts and provides a baseline of success to build on.

There’s an innovation you know will elevate your business. Now’s the time to build a small-scale pilot to prove your concept.

Humanity wins

As Mark Schaefer wrote, “The most human company wins.”


It can feel awkward to sell something in a national crisis. Instead of feeling invasive or needy, think about how your product or service genuinely helps others. That will reveal bold opportunities that could have lasting consequences.

From sunglasses to shoes, every product can create an emotional lift for the buyer. Nothing is strictly functional. If you sell sunglasses, you could be helping a runner find a pair that doesn’t fall down the bridge of their nose or someone struggling with depression during this time increase sunlight and serotonin.

In this crisis, my team has helped remind providers why they were called to medicine, which can get lost in the documentation and bureaucracy of normal practice.

For our sales teams, we’ve helped create safety by identifying leads when the normal practices failed. And for families across the country, we are doing our part to bring hope so that someday soon we can all walk outside and hug a good friend.

What I learned from working in this crisis isn’t necessarily unique, but I’ve been forced to understand core principals that I took for granted when everything was normal.

If you’re ready to reframe disruption as marketing opportunities, you’ll see a world of possibility.

Alycia Kaufmann is Division Vice President of Marketing for Jackson & Coker, one of the largest physician and advanced practitioner staffing firms in the nation. During COVID, she’s picked up indoor tennis and water bottle bowling with her family. You can connect with Alycia on LinkedIn and Twitter.

The post Marketing opportunities in the biggest disruption of our time appeared first on Schaefer Marketing Solutions: We Help Businesses {grow}.

27 Apr 16:52

10 Step Process to Get the Best Deal in Every Negotiation

by Steven Imke


Negotiations are a strategic discussion that resolves an issue in a way that both parties find acceptable. In a negotiation, each party tries to persuade the other to agree with their point of view. In business, we are constantly negotiating with suppliers, vendors, customers, and employees. To avoid being surprised at the bargaining table, you will need to be prepared with a plan. The “I FORESAW IT” mnemonic is a powerful tool that sums up what a negotiator should follow to systematically prepare for an important negotiation. Each letter reminds you of questions you want to ask yourself and then answer as part of your negotiation preparation.

The mnemonic stand for:

I- Interests

F- Factual and Financial research
O- Options
R- Rapport, Reaction, and Responses
E- Empathy and Ethics
S- Setting and Scheduling
A- Alternatives to agreement
W- Who

I- Independent criteria
T-Topics, Targets, and Tradeoffs


  • What are your interests?
  • What are the other parties’ interests?
  • What are your common interests?

The answers will help you discover possible solutions. The answers that you come up with also serves to establish a baseline to see if your offers will satisfy each party’s needs. When negotiating with a company, a skilled negotiator will not only consider the interests of the business, but also the interests of the negotiator. For example, how will coming or not coming to an agreement affect the other person, will it make them look good or bad in the eyes of their supervisor, etc.?

Factual and Financial research

  • Have you looked at the company’s website, Facebook or LinkedIn pages?
  • Have you looked at the company’s competitor’s website, Facebook or LinkedIn pages?
  • Have you looked at the negotiator’s LinkedIn or Facebook profile?
  • Have you used the Reference USA lifestyle database to discover the interests and hobbies of the negotiators?

During this step, you want to collect solid third-party facts that you can use in developing your offer and when dealing with push back so you can strengthen your case.


  • What are your possible alternatives to an agreement?
  • What are the other party’s possible alternatives to an agreement?

You should develop five or more options. Don’t be afraid to list some wild options. While many of the ideas you come up with will never work, you are likely to uncover a brilliant one.

Rapport, Reaction, and Responses

Did you discover common interests with the negotiator when looking at their social media or lifestyle database that you can use to connect with the negotiator?

People love to talk, so give them a reason to open up to you about a common interest. Ask them questions.

Sharing a personal story or divulging something that makes you a bit vulnerable with the negotiator is a great way to display that you are being honest and candid.

“You want to be hard on the problem and soft on the person.”

Seth Freeman

Empathy and Ethics

Think about the negotiation from the perspective of the other party to uncover other factors that you need to consider.

  • Do they feel stressed?
  • If they agree with elements of your offer, how will it reflect on them?
  • Have you considered if there are any ethics traps such as conflicts of interest, time pressures, obligations, conformity pressures, and others that the negotiator is trying to avoid?

You want to make sure that your offer does not force the other negotiator into an ethical dilemma that will only add undue stress to the negotiations.

Setting and Scheduling

  • Who else can hear the negotiations and how might they react to what they hear?
  • Is now the best time to negotiate or should you schedule for a different time?
  • Is the time frame to reach an agreement a critical factor for you or the other party?

If one party has time constraints toward reaching an agreement, they lose negotiation power and may more readily agree to concessions to get the deal done sooner than later.

Settings and schedule are hidden influences that can shape a negotiation.

Alternatives to Agreement

  • What is your BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement)?
  • What is the other party’s BATNA?

The BATNA of each party in a negotiation defines the relative power and leverage they will have going into negotiations. If one party’s BATNA is neutral and the other party’s BATNA is poor, the party with a neutral party is in a much better position- especially if it comes to a distributive negotiation.

Earlier, we looked at options and came up with five or more potentially wild ideas. Now is the time to use those options to try to define your BATNA.


Are there individuals that are not party to the negotiations that may have some influence?

The list represents other people whom you can contact for insight or advice before or during negotiations.

Independent criteria

  • What are industry standards?
  • Are there objective benchmarks?

Citing credible and trusted sources that both parties agree with, such as the Kelly Blue Book value of a vehicle when negotiating to buy a new car or truck, can go a long way to coming to an agreement that is fair for both parties.

Topics, Targets, and Tradeoffs

This represents the summation sheet of the key points about the creative and competitive aspects that you can use during the negotiations.

The “Topics” list the matters you will discuss during the negotiations.
The “Targets” present the range that you are willing to accept.
The “Tradeoffs” list the rank order of the topics, from most to least important.

When it comes to negotiations, it is recommended that you look at all the topics as a whole, instead of each topic separately in a linear format to get agreement. The best negotiators are willing to make concessions on the cheap in exchange for the topics they hold most dear.

The following is an example of a “Topics, Targets and Tradeoffs” worksheet I used when a large corporate tenant asked for a 3-month rent deferral; to deal with some short-term cash flow issues, and proposed an 18-month repayment plan with no interest.

Topic Target and Tradeoff table

The original proposal relied simply on an emotional appeal to help them out and included no incentive for me to accept the initial proposal as offered.

Working through the I FORESAW IT model it was clear that tenant is very committed to the location having just done a major remodel. The highest priority creative option I wanted in exchange for agreeing to any deferment of base rent was an extension to the existing lease for at least 10 more years. Further, with six more years left in the current 20-year lease, a 10-year lease extension was in their interest as well as mine making agreeing to my conditions easy to swallow.

How can you use the “I FORESAW IT” mnemonic tool to help you in your next negotiation?

The “I FORESAW IT” mnemonic is a tool created by Professor Seth Freeman of New York University Stern School of Business.