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04 Feb 00:35

7 time-saving hacks that will free up hours in your schedule

by Rob Ludacer and Chris Weller

Does it feel like there's never enough hours in the day? Everyone's looking for ways to find free time in their lives for a little R&R. Here are 7 tips to help you get there.

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04 Feb 00:35

3 Website Hacks to Radically Improve Your Conversion Rates 

by Rohan Ayyar

3 Website Hacks to Radically Improve Your Conversion Rates

Is your website getting good traffic but not converting the way you want? Effectively guiding visitors down the conversion funnel is no easy task and there is no magic formula to success.

Ecommerce is a trillion-dollar industry. In the United States alone, online sales are expected to reach $523 billion by 2020.

This could mean a number of things for consumers. For ecommerce business owners, it means that optimizing their online platform needs to be a top priority, if it isn’t already. The problem, however, is that competition is tougher than ever.

There is no shortage of online shopping outlets and consumers have no problem bouncing from platform to platform to find the best options. With an infinite number of choices literally at their fingertips, it is essential to go above and beyond to meet the wants and needs of visitors in as many ways as possible.

Let me start by saying that in most cases, a website just needs a few small tweaks to boost conversion rates, as opposed to a full revamp. Regardless of what adjustments need to be made, it is always wise to look before you leap. Planned and methodical A/B testing helps you see which tactics and strategies lead to good results and which ones should be set aside or improved upon. Optimizing your website should be a constant work in progress.

Without further ado, let’s take a look at three website hacks you can use to completely alter your ecommerce platform and bring conversion rates up.

1. Showcase relatable content

When a website displays stellar content, everyone wins. Generally speaking, marketing fluff – website copy or blog posts full of jargon, buzzwords and rehashed advice – doesn’t work nearly as well as it did a few years ago.

Consumers like viewing brand material that captivates them on a level they can relate to. Therefore, a good content strategy should be on every ecommerce business owner’s radar. An Aberdeen Group report titled “Crossing the Chaos” revealed that companies that prioritized content marketing increased their website conversion rates by more than 5 times.

There are many approaches to take at the drawing board with your content strategy. However, the bottom line in all your efforts should be to produce material that tells a story and provides a strong degree of value to the reader.

Looking to the future, marketing to millennials is going to be a very important task. This generation’s spending power is expected to exceed $200 billion in 2017. When it comes to buying patterns, user-generate content (UGC) has proven to be extremely effective. In fact, a joint study conducted by Ipsos, Crowdtap and the Social Media Advertising Consortium found that UGC is 20% more influential than any other type of media when influencing purchases among this age group.

One of the best types of UGC to showcase on your website are reviews. Showcasing reviews and previous customer experiences have the power to give your brand credibility from a third party – this is what comes closest to magic that increases sales.

Here is an example from Keurig’s website:

Showcase Relatable Content for improve your conversion rate

Showcase Relatable Content for improve your conversion rate 2

Keurig decided to implement customer reviews as a central theme of their website. They ran contests and sent newsletters to incentivize and encourage customers to review their products and leave comments. The results were huge. Keurig saw a 125% increase in conversion rates from visitors who interacted with these testimonials.

Compelling UGC need by no means be restricted to just reviews. Boosting conversion rates all start with the ability to keep visitors on your site. And the best content ideas don’t start with doing; they start with listening. A great strategy is to monitor social media to get an impression of your target audience and their opinions, questions, and concerns. Tools like Mention and Brandwatch are awesome for keeping tabs on what others are saying about you, your competitors, or your industry in general.

With such insights, you will get a good sense of what type of audiences, personas and segments you need to create and display content for.

GoPro is one of the best examples of how to showcase stellar content. The “Watch” channel on their website is a platform in which the customers themselves can share their life’s most memorable experiences, captured on – what else – a GoPro camera.

Go Pro for improve your conversion rate

The reason GoPro is so effective with their content is because it delves deeper into the concept of owning a video camera. This being that people don’t buy cameras just to capture the highlights of their lives, they buy them to share these experiences.

When a visitor goes on the GoPro website, they are exposed to a countless number of breathtaking customer experiences and are encouraged to create their own.

This genius form of content marketing provides so much more than just a customer experience. GoPro provides a vehicle for customers to create their own experiences with the product, and a community to share it.

For perspective, there are over 6,000 GoPro tagged videos uploaded to YouTube every day.

Of course, content creation is far from a one-size-fits-all entity. Each industry has its own audiences with their own concerns and desires. The best way to stick to a successful content strategy is to produce two-way material that aims to educate, promote, and tell a powerful story that gives the viewer a clear-defined takeaway. Don’t be afraid to get creative and experiment. You never know when you might strike gold.

2. Speed up your site

The average human attention span is at an all-time low: it currently stands at about 8 seconds.

With this in mind, everything on a web property – be it a website or an app – needs to run smoothly, and more importantly, fast. When Google returns its search rankings, website speed is a huge factor, so you need to do absolutely everything you can to stay in the reckoning.

Additionally, if you happen to sell something online, potential buyers will turn away in droves if your website is slow.

Speed Up Your Site for improve your conversion rate

Image Source

A fast website is the key to keeping visitors around to guide them down the conversion funnel. Get this:

Speed Up Your Site for improve your conversion rate2

Image Source

There are many factors that contribute to slow loading times. If you’ve tried all the small adjustments such as compressing code and images, shortening forms, or getting rid of unnecessary plugins, chances are, your web host is the problem.

When a user interacts with your website, there is a request to connect to the server in which the platform is hosted. The truth of the matter is that not all hosting services are created equal.

If your site is slow due to your host, more than likely, all the other aspects of that platform such as storage and tech support are subpar as well. If this is your situation, don’t waste time on fighting your provider – there are innumerable alternative options. Just be sure that you use a compatible hosting provider based on your CMS or scripting framework. For instance, if you used WordPress to build your website, start by looking into the fastest WordPress hosting services.

A good user experience (UX) is the foundation of any online ecommerce store, media publication, or forum. A fast website leads to good UX, and a good UX leads to more and quicker conversions.

3. Make your CTA buttons work harder

Whether you’re an online retailer, SaaS tool vendor or individual professional service provider, your call to action is the most important element of your landing page. Regardless of where the user is coming from and what information they are presented with, in the end, their focus needs to be on the CTA button. It should be so obviously placed that the user can identify it with a single glance.

Believe it or not, there a lot of psychological factors that go into a CTA button. In fact, CTA buttons are the most split-tested aspect of an ecommerce website. They make up around 30% of all tests.

Color is perhaps one of the most important factors that results in clicks. While there is no set-in-stone rule to coloring your CTA buttons, it should stick out prominently in contrast to the background layout. Preferably, it is a color that is not used anywhere on the rest of the page.

In this experiment conducted by Dmix, red and green CTA buttons were tested. The results saw that the red button received an increased conversion rate of 34%, in contrast to popular perception that “green” equates to “go.”

Make Your CTA Buttons Work Harder for improve your conversion rate

The text on a CTA also has a big impact on garnering conversions. Most importantly, the text needs to answer the key question of “Why should the user click this?”

Look at the button as a standalone object without the context of the rest of the site. Does it still make sense? It needs to be sharp and simple with a clearly communicated outcome.

“Read My Secrets For Free” instead of “Download”

“Start Your Job Search” instead of “Register”

“Save $200 On Retail Price” instead of “Buy”

Here is an example from iMPACT. This was their original CTA:

impact for improve your conversion rate

This was their new one:

impact for improve your conversion rate3

By changing the copy from “Free Download” to a more personal approach, their website’s conversion rate saw a 78.5% increase. Adding a personal touch can do wonders.

Placement plays a huge factor as well. In addition to being obvious at first glance, trying different spots on your page is definitely something that should be thoroughly tested. Try every place, including the header, sidebars, center, and below the fold.

Ecommerce, social networks, media, and content consumption are all changing. And so are users and customers. Testing and optimizing your CTA buttons will likely be a never-ending project.

Over to you

As a business owner with a website, increasing your conversion rates will be one of your top priorities for the rest of your life. You should always be testing to improve. Keeping tabs on your analytics and identifying more avenues to test and optimize needs to be a daily task in this process.

Remember, there are endless options for online consumers; they are prone to switch loyalties before you can snap your fingers. The trick lies in drawing them to your website and providing a UX that keeps them interested, informed and engaged. Good luck!

04 Feb 00:33

Things You Do Not Have Time Not to Do

by Anthony Iannarino
  • You don’t have time not to prospect. Prospecting isn’t ever going to be something urgent enough to capture your attention until is too late for prospecting to be of any use to you. Once you fall behind, it’s impossibly difficult to catch up because you can’t do anything about the sales cycle.
  • You don’t have time not to nurture your dream clients. Your dream clients are going to take a long time to win. They are already working with your competitor, and they have relationships that they aren’t going to throw away because you call them. The best time to start nurturing your dream clients was two years ago. The next best time is right now.
  • You don’t have time not to develop yourself personally and professionally. You live in time of accelerating, disruptive change. Keeping up with this change is going to require that you reinvent yourself, over and over again. You don’t have time not to work on that reinvention. You are going to need a different mindset and skill set in the future, and you need to build that now.
  • You don’t have time not to say thank you. The little things are still the big things. Gratitude is one of them. If your prospective client makes time to meet with you, send a note of appreciation. If they give you their business, you should be grateful enough to send a personal note thanking them for their trust in you.
  • You do not have time not to have a presence with your clients. You have time for your email. You have time to open a browser. You are present on Facebook and Instagram. If you have time for that, you have to show up and have a presence at your client’s location. Presence is proof you care, and you don’t have time not to be present. Complacency and entitlement are things that catch up with you without warning.
  • You don’t have time not to come up with the next idea. The way to retain clients is to go from one valuable initiative to the next without interruption. That’s quarter after quarter, and year after year, always pressing forward. A lack of new value is what opens you up to being competitively displaced.

You have time for whatever you believe is important. If you don’t have time for what is important, you need to pause and reevaluate your priorities. There is no time to do this when it’s already too late.

The post Things You Do Not Have Time Not to Do appeared first on The Sales Blog.

04 Feb 00:32

24 ways to influence even the most resistant people

by Richard Feloni and Diana Yukari

Crystal ball

Seduction — persuading a person to yield to your advances — isn't used only in the pursuit of a love interest.

Influencing others is how we get jobs and promotions, win negotiations, sell products, and gain notoriety.

In "The Art of Seduction," popular author Robert Greene explores the ruthless tactics of some of history's greatest seducers, from Cleopatra to Casanova.

We've summarized Greene's 24 rules of seduction below.

SEE ALSO: 14 habits of the most likable people

1. Choose the right victim.

Your target should be someone "for whom you can fill a void," Greene says. Don't try to get the most out of those who are too eager to please you, because they are usually looking to get something in return; instead, find those who give subtle hints, like shyness in your presence, that they are open to your influence.



2. Create a false sense of security — approach indirectly.

If you want to initiate a relationship with someone who would be of value to you, you risk forcing them to raise their guard if you approach them and immediately ask for something. Before making a proposal, reach out to them via a third party, or develop a neutral or friendly relationship before making it about business.



3. Send mixed signals.

Once you've got someone hooked, give yourself an air of mystery to keep that person's interest. Don't reveal too much about your background or your intentions.



See the rest of the story at Business Insider
04 Feb 00:31

Top 21 Out-of-The-Box Tools for Effective Content Development

by Jessica Freeman

Content marketing is a popular online promotion strategy which encompasses several different activities. You are educating your audience, offering value through content, and then proceeding to convert your audience into customers. It’s a way of reaching more people that are not really interested in buying something. With the help of your content, brand awareness increases and the chance of a purchase increases.

This strategy is only effective – obviously – if it can provide a positive ROI and an overall satisfying success rate. If it takes too much time, even if you’re not necessarily wasting money in the process, it’s not worth it. In order to improve your chances of performing a successful content marketing campaign, you must take advantage of all available resources. Presently, there are hundreds of content marketing and writing tools that could make your life easier. We have only selected the best out of the best.

construction-work-carpenter-tools-app

What Sort of Content You Should Create

If you have a great piece of content you are really proud of but nobody reads it, it’s pretty much useless. In order to make your content more relevant, check out these tools and resources:

BuzzSumo

BuzzSumo is a brilliant tool which will help you identify trending topics in your niche, as well all the key influencers worth following. All you have to do is enter a keyword or phrase you want to research, and it will provide you with a list of most popular links containing your keyword. Their popularity is calculated based on the total number of shares they have received across all major social platforms: Facebook, Google+, Twitter, Pinterest, and Twitter. If it all seems a bit complicated, it really isn’t, because all that data displayed graphically inside BuzzSumo’s intuitive interface.

Google Trends

Even though you may have heard of Google Trends, you have probably avoided using it. This is a mistake, as Google is one of the biggest online platforms that gathers an enormous amount of analytics and statistics. The best thing about Google Trends is that it’s not only free, but you can use it right away, without even having to register. Google Trends tells you how a particular keyword or topic has trended over time. You can also limit the analysis to a particular geographic region, or view the changes in popularity with animated maps.

Quora & Reddit

Quora and Reddit are probably the best two places online if you are looking for high-quality, in-depth answers to any question. It’s surprising that most content marketers have failed to see their value as keyword research tools. Because all of the content on Quora and Reddit is generated by users, they have already done your keyword research for you. All you have to do is take advantage of that and create trending content containing phrases your audience would use.

Atomic Writer

AtomicWriter comes in three different varieties: as a web app you can access through your browser, Chrome extension, and as plugin for your WordPress account. This tool helps you make your content more relevant and accessible to your audience. The way it does this is by providing suggestions on how to structure and format your writing so that fits your audience’s skill level, which you can choose using a convenient color-coded slider. You can also make use of its Atomic Insight features, which gathers traffic and shares data about your posts.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer

The percentage varies, depending on which study you consult, but around 80% of the people that come across your article will never venture past the actual headline. There can be many reasons for this, but it may be because your headline is problematic. But, that can be remedied with CoSchedule Headline Analyzer. Simply paste your headline into the app and let it do its magic. You will not only receive a score on a scale of 0 to 100, which indicates how well your headline might fare, but also suggestions on how to improve its impact on your audience.

Title Case

Another useful tool which can help you improve the quality of your headlines, albeit in a different way. Title Case is especially good if you’re publishing articles on a consistent basis. The app’s role is to craft your title’s letters and words in such a way that it looks neat and professional. And your work can only look professional if it is consistent, among other things. The app analyzes your titles and allows you to convert your titles to upper case, lower case, and almost a dozen other conversions.

Canva

One of the best things you can do for your content is to enhance it with some killer visuals. This can be tricky if you are not a designer, or if you can’t afford hiring one. Fortunately, you can solve that by using Canva, which allows you to gain access to a huge selection of beautifully designed templates, which you can use for social media cover images, posters, slideshows, infographics, or just about anything else you can think of. And it’s so easy to use.

Piktochart

Infographics are all the rage because they are capable of displaying a large amount of information in a visually appealing and easily digestible form. And it’s also one of the easiest ways to engage your audience and get them to share your content. Piktochart provides you with access to a whole bunch of different infographics templates and layouts, crafted by professionals, so that you can create your own amazing infographics. Also comes with an entire library of design elements, shapes, fonts, and images.

Evernote

Even though Evernote was primarily designed as an efficient note-taking application, it can also be used to come up with better content. Because it can be accessed from any platform, you will be able to capture your ideas at any moment, provided that you have your smartphone with you. Also, you can save your online research and pages which you will rely on later. It’s better than bookmarking, because you can add notes to your research. Finally, it features an integrated text editor, allowing you to write down entire chunks of text which will serve as a basis for your next post.

Word2CleanHTML

Writing your posts inside a word processor of your choice, instead of doing the same in your content management system (WordPress, for example), is usually the right way to go because you have more formatting options. The problem is that some of that formatting might result in a weird-looking text in CMS. With Word2CleanHTML, you can simply paste your draft, and let the app do its thing, after which your text will look neat and tidy in your CMS.

wood-architect-table-work-app

How You Should Write It

There are also plenty of tools out there which allow you to polish your work, and at the same time, improve your writing chops. Make use of the following writing tools:

Grammarly

If you’re truly serious about content marketing, you need to understand that no one enjoys reading a poor quality text. Perfect grammar and spelling are two of the most important requirements that must be present in a writer’s content. Grammarly app searches through your text, finds the mistakes, and it provides good suggestions for fixing the errors. It’s free, and you can add it to your word processor, use their online platform, or add it to your browser’s extensions.

Cliché Finder

Your readers definitely enjoy consuming valuable and unique content. If your content contains clichés, it’s just going to blend in with all the other content out there that is bland and generic. Cliché Finder is a tool which purpose is to find clichés within your text and help you come up with a different, more original way of conveying your ideas. This way, you can make sure that you’re not filling your content with irrelevant expressions and concepts.

HemingwayApp

HemingwayApp is useful for any type of writer. As a reader, you expect to encounter easy-to-understand and easy-to-digest content. This app offers a “readability score” which is rated from 1 to 10. If you’re above 7, it means that you must modify your sentences to make them more readable. The tool gives all the suggestions and marks the problematic sentences and paragraphs.

Thesaurus

If you’re tired of using the same words over and over again, take advantage of Thesaurus. This online platform is just like a dictionary, only that it offers so many synonyms and suggestions for alternative word usage. Definitely useful for any content marketing campaign and writing activity!

UK vs US Spelling

When you’re planning your content strategy, you must take into consideration who you’re writing for. In case you’re writing for a US demographic, and you’re a UK native, you must find the differences and change your style according to your audience’s needs. This tool helps you find the most common mistakes that UK/US writers make, and provides relevant suggestions on how to improve upon them.

HelpMeWrite

As the name suggests, HelpMeWrite is useful for writers that are struggling to come up with new content. Instead of brainstorming on your own, let the community help you with ideas. You can simply share your ideas with your community and also with your target audience, and find out what people are interested in at the moment.

Reedsy

Reedsy is an awesome community which connects writers like you with editors, publishers, designers, and also marketers. In case you’re only writing your content but have issues with other aspects, I’d suggest joining Reedsy community. Things will become way easier the moment you have all the necessary resources for an effective content marketing campaign.

pexels-photo-29596-app

How to Be More Productive

Finally, there is the issue of productivity. Content marketing is time-consuming, and if you’re at least little prone to procrastination, you can easily get in trouble, However, the following tools might help you with that:

Stayfocusd

Stayfocusd is a browser plugin which acts as a guardian of your time. It pushes away distractions by blocking access to them. For example, it can limit or fully block your access to social media channels. It’s quite flexible as well. Take a look through their examples page to see what it can do for you.

The Most Dangerous Writing App

This app is probably the most destructive writing app out there. The concept is simple. First, you set a specific timeframe in which you want to write without pause. When you stop typing, the text changes its color, letting you know that in a few seconds, everything’s going to be deleted. If you stop writing for too long, you’ll lose all of your text and will have to start again. I’d only recommend this to fast writers!

Focus Writer

Focus Writer is a distraction-free writing environment application. Some writers need to have no distractions at all when they’re in the writing process. If you’re one of these writers, this software should be really useful for your activity. The app has a hide-away option (more like an interface) which you can access by moving your cursor to the edges of your screen. It’s available for most of the operating systems.

Zen Pen

Zen Pen is another distraction-free writing tool. The interface’s color is pure white, and its objective is to help writers stay sharp and focused on the task at hand. The software can be accessed online, so you only need a PC and an internet connection. It’s free to use.

Conclusion

Smart businessmen understand the importance of their time; therefore, they are doing everything possible in order to leverage it. I believe that this is truly essential for anyone, including you! If you’re a content marketer, a writer, a businessman, or even an employee, you should start thinking this way. Start taking advantage of these tools and you’ll see your productivity skyrocket.

04 Feb 00:31

21 Common Mistakes on Twitter to Avoid

by Veronika Baranovska

Mistakes happen. And with no edit button, Twitter easily lends itself to human error. The best way to fix something is to prevent it going bad in the first place, so we compiled a list of common mistakes on Twitter that you should avoid making.

Before you proceed just a note of reassurance: all of us have done these things in the past and lots of us still do today, but we would be much better off without them.

Twitter mistakes to avoid, especially as marketers

#1 Link out in every post.

If you find yourself constantly linking out in tweets, you are doing it wrong. Schedule tweets in advance with images, participate in fun national holidays, reply to mentions, go live with video and create polls to mix it up.

#2 Make any spelling, grammar or punctuation mistakes.

Companies have no excuse for bad grammar or spelling. Spell-check and schedule your content in advance. Remember, each blog post can be tweeted multiple times as long as you change the headline and images.

#3 Insult others or leave negative comments.

Social media is the wrong domain for this and it should be avoided at all costs. All negative feedback received should be handled with extra care by your company’s support team.

#4 Burst-tweeting.

Tweeting multiple posts when you’re at the computer or phone and then falling into silence for a day or two. Instead, spread posts out evenly to have a higher chance of reaching more audiences – your favorite social media management tool can help with that.

#5 Complain about your job or company.

This goes to everyone who has a personal or business account on Twitter – never complain about your company or job role on social media. This never ends well.

#6 Use #too #many #hashtags.

Avoid sounding too promotional and making your tweets look messy, especially when it doesn’t add value. According to best practices for Twitter, you shouldn’t use more than two hashtags per post. It’s also best to research the hashtags before you use them.

#7 Over promote your products.

Stick with the 80/20 rule of marketing – share 80% that will add value and only 20% of that which is promotional. Keep product plugging to a minimum and find ways to tell your story rather than going in for a hard sell.

#8 Constantly retweet others.

Sharing too much can be an issue. Don’t blindly retweet every message you see – read the article, share your comment in relation to it. Take the time check the link in the tweet and share your favorite bit from the article or video in your own.

#9 Get carried away with automated retweets.

Don’t be a bot and retweet the messages you haven’t seen or read, but don’t be discouraged either. Automated retweets are incredibly useful for hashtag competitions and developments in niche topics.

#10 Go off-topic.

You might love cats and dogs, but posts of that nature have nothing to do with your company’s Twitter feed (unless you’re a pet shop or a charity that finds homes for animals).

Follow your favorite companies and influencers to always have great quality content to share. If you have a bigger budget, find a social media tool with a content library that has content suggestions on all the topics you might need.

#11 Use boring auto-welcome messages.

Automated welcome messages are frowned upon, but only because they’re usually overly promotional, repetitive and impersonal. Create messages with a purpose, e.g. to introduce your blog or share a part of your company story.

Sendible’s social media automation tool lets you create welcome messages, randomize them and send them either as a public tweet or a direct message, so you can mix things up.

#12 Get involved in sensitive topics.

Political and religious beliefs are sensitive subjects to discuss on Twitter. So make sure to avoid them when possible, especially when they have to relation to you, your country or business.

#13 Interrupt a Twitter chat to try to sell something.

Be respectful towards others and don’t just jump into conversations to make a sale. Social listening is all about giving advice, not directing customers to product pages. With Sendible, you can use keyword searches to reach out to Twitter users that have expressed an interest in a product, company.

#14 DON’T CAPITALIZE YOUR TWEETS!

Enough said?

#15 Share trivial information.

Thing is, everyone is too busy doing their own thing so you need content that will cut through the noise. Offer something they can’t find on other networks or by solely visiting your website. Think about providing value first, self-promotion second.

#16 Take all the credit.

If you found a great source or piece of content – always make sure to credit it to the right person or source. Retweet the best messages and tag the original creators.

#17 Be inconsistent.

Your followers on Twitter have followed you because they’re interested in what you do and they expect the same quality of tweets throughout. Never disappoint them.

#18 Automatically follow everyone who follows you.

According to Twitter, 23 million of its active users are actually bots, so be mindful of those who follow you without engaging with any of your content. Make sure that the accounts you do decide to follow make sense as prospects, industry influencers or are your customers.

#19 Automatically share images from other networks.

There may be a big temptation to simply blast one Instagram photo and automatically share it on Twitter and Facebook, but don’t. Take the time to post a unique post with different copy for Twitter. Besides, since recent Twitter changes, images don’t even count towards the character limit.

#20 Jump between tones of voice.

Your company should have one tone of voice, so make sure it’s consistent throughout your profile, tweets and branding. It’s equally as important to follow through with your strategy and keep your buyer persona in mind. To help you keep track of all of that, why not download our Social Media Health Check – it will save you heaps of time.

#21 Lie.

There may be a temptation to over-emphasise how well things are going. Avoid being overly promotional of your own success and make sure it’s always authentic.

To sum it all up – be truthful, provide value and don’t over promote your brand. Mastering Twitter for business can be difficult as a marketer, but with knowledge of the best practices and what you should avoid, the task should get that bit lighter!

04 Feb 00:27

Can Your Voice Cost You the Sale? 2 Common Vocal Habits that Distract Buyers

by Julie Hansen

You work hard to get an opportunity to present your solution to a prospect. You have a great message to deliver. The last thing you want is for your audience to misunderstand it or discount it because of how you sound. Can your voice cost you the sale? The unfortunate answer is, yes. Your voice is a powerful instrument with the potential to bring your message to life or cause it to fade into oblivion. Finding your best selling voice is critical today when competition is tight and people are distracted.

The way you use your voice can affect the attention, perception, and ultimately opinion of your audience. Studies show that 38% of what we communicate to another person comes from the sound, the tone and the quality of our voice. Your voice takes on even greater significance by magnifying bad vocal habits during remote or phone presentations.

Here are 2 ways your voice can cost you the sale by detracting from your message and creating an often undeserved negative impression. If you recognize yourself in any of them, I include some simple steps you can take to get find your best selling voice!

2 vocal habits that distract buyers (and what to do about it!)

1. Monotone Mark

Like a song played entirely on the note of C, Mark delivers every word of his presentation at the same level. Good news and bad news sound exactly the same and audience tune-out danger is high. His message is strong – but if no one’s listening, what does it matter?!

Many presenters use a very limited section of their full vocal potential. With prospect’s shrinking attention spans a monotone voice can easily cost you the sale.

How to break the monologue habit:

  • Run scales. Think of your voice as floating on a scale and do some vocal exercise that run up and down the scale. Your goal is to increase the number of notes that you can play, both in the upper and lower end of the scale, thus broadening your range.
  • Read Dr. Seuss. Reading children’s books out loud in as animated a voice as possible delights your kids and exercises your voice. Doing so stretches your voice and helps you to find all of the different colors and shades you have access to.
  • Add variety. Your words come alive with meaning when you use variety. Look for natural places to add variety. For example, when you want to call attention to a particular point, consider changing your intonation, volume, or provide emphasis. Although it may seem unnatural at first, with practice it can be part of your natural repertoire. Read more about breaking the monologue habit here.

Speed-talker Sara

Sara’s prospects are impressed by her natural enthusiasm — and her seeming ability to speak at length without oxygen. Unfortunately, this steady stream becomes too much for most listeners, and they shut down, often well before Sara gets to her main point.

Once audience members get lost, they tend to give up and tune out. Pausing is important as it allows your audience the chance to catch up. Remember, you may have given a presentation dozens of times, but this is the first time your audience members are hearing it, so slow down and give them a chance to take it in and digest it.

How to put the brakes on speed-talking:

  • Speak with punctuation. When you’re finished with one thought, put a mental period on it. Let the impact of what you’ve said stick by pausing before moving on.
  • Leave space for your audience. Rapid, nonstop speech is exhausting for your audience — and you! So take a beat and allow your prospect a chance to respond occasionally. And bonus: Your prospect may actually tell you something you wouldn’t have otherwise found out if you’d kept speaking
  • Mix it up. You don’t have to turn into a slow talker, but try alternating your quicker pace with a slower pace throughout your presentation. Doing so gives your audience a much-needed chance to catch up.
  • Prioritize. Rushing can be the result of trying to cover too much in too little time. Instead of trying to squeeze everything in, prioritize sections so that you can leave out the less important ones. To find out what to do when your prospect is short on time, read here.

Dont’ let your voice cost you the sale. The way you use your voice, the number of notes you play, and when go a long way toward keeping today’s attention-challenged audiences attentive, interested, and ultimately moved to take action.

04 Feb 00:27

Electric-car buyers in B.C. can now save up to $11,000 after trade-in deal doubles

by Kent Spencer

B.C. residents looking to trade in their clunker for an electric vehicle got a $3,000 boost on Wednesday from a non-profit society called B.C. Scrap-It.

The society is now offering $6,000 — double what it offered before — for those willing to buy a new electric vehicle and take their gas guzzler off the road.

Add in the B.C. government’s Clean Energy Vehicles for B.C. program, in which up to $5,000 is available toward a new electric vehicle purchase, and consumers could save as much as $11,000.

Scrap-It CEO Dennis Rogoza said the program will benefit the environment and make the air cleaner in Metro Vancouver.

“Eventually there will be a significant reduction in carbon emissions,” he said. “The condition is you have to scrap a gas-powered car and get an internal combustion engine off the road.

“Batteries have extremely low greenhouse gas emissions. That’s the net benefit to the environment.”

Up to 500 incentive packages are available in 2017 for new electric vehicle purchases, and to make it fair to those who can’t shell out the full $40,000 cost of a new car, another 400 incentives are available for those purchasing used electric vehicles.

Rogoza predicted the electric revolution will gather momentum this year with the introduction of additional models whose range will be sufficient to take the fear out of running out of power.

One model, the Chevrolet Bolt, due in Vancouver in a month or so, will be able to go more than 300 kilometres on a single charge, he said.

“This is the year you’re going to see quite impressive technologies coming onto the market. There will be lots of variety from most of the major manufacturers,” Rogoza said.

Scrap It’s program applies to all-electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids, which are electric vehicles with small gas-powered motors to boost range. The program does not apply to full hybrids, which use a combination of gas and electric motor technology.

Rogoza said the incentive programs are likely to encourage more people to make the switch.

“The price reduction is quite significant. We’re looking forward to a lot of transactions,” he said.

Blair Upton, general manager at GM’s Dueck Downtown dealership, expects electric car sales to increase as a result of the incentives. Electric vehicles are still a niche market — three Dueck dealerships sold just 75 last year — but interest will grow over time, he predicted.

“People who are focused solely on the electric car want to make a statement about being green and saving dollars on fuel. They’re going to buy an electric car from someone,” Upton said. 

Both gas-powered and electric vehicles offer price advantages: The price of gas-powered cars is cheaper initially, but fuel is more expensive over time.

“Do you want to pay a premium on the purchase price of an electric vehicle and save money on fuel, or pay for gas and and start off with a less expensive sticker price?” Upton said, describing the main financial choice facing consumers.

He was unable to say which technology was cheaper in the long run.

He said variables are in play in the cost of each purchase: Some consumers are content with a cheap gas-powered vehicle and have a huge price advantage over electric technology, while some tastes go to expensive gas-powered models which are much closer in price to electric cars; the amount of gas consumed varies as well, depending on how quickly drivers accelerate; and costs of charging systems vary. 

Upton said there is no doubt the price differential between technologies is getting less and less. He noted a recent statement by a major U.S. auto manufacturer that 50 per cent of all vehicles sold would be electric in about 15 years time.

Charging infrastructure is in its infancy in Metro Vancouver, he said, adding that a relatively small numbers of vehicles are in service.   

kspencer@postmedia.com

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04 Feb 00:25

The winning growth formula: How marketing, sales, and success need to get their shit together

by steli@close.io (Steli Efti)

I recently gave a presentation at Growth Marketing Conference, sharing the lessons I’ve learned about creating alignment between marketing, sales, and success. Find out why it’s so important, how to recognize signs of misalignment, and most importantly how to align these three departments.

Want more customers? Get your free copy of From 0 to 1,000 customers & beyond, written by myself and Hiten Shah. 

What misalignment is and why startups are vulnerable to it

In the dictionary, misalignment is “the incorrect arrangement or position of something in relation to something else.” In a business, this means that the teams aren’t arranged or organized in order to hit their long-term goals. In fact, they may not even agree on what their long-term goals are—or realize they disagree.

In one survey, when asked to list their companies' top three priorities, executive team members were in sync at just 2 percent of the companies studied. Even worse? 64 percent of the respondents predicted that their executive team's strategic priorities would match up nearly perfectly.

So how is it possible for a startup to become disorganized and disagree on its goals?

The path from perfectly aligned to misaligned

In the early days of a startup, a small group handles growth. Creating growth with a tiny team and shoestring budget is hard. Yet, they move faster than larger teams with more resources because their small size makes it easier to get on the same page.

As the startup grows more successful, it grows larger. Growth splits in marketing, sales, and success. Each team becomes laser-focused on hitting their own goals and making their department look good. However, as they gradually lose sight of the big picture and how their work ties together, they become misaligned.

As the survey above points out, it’s possible to be misaligned and not realize it. This is how you spot the results and signs of misalignment.

Spotting misalignment bullshit: The blame game and vanity metrics

In my experience, misaligned teams produce meaningless results that don’t lead to sustainable startup growth. For instance, a founder told me his app had earned over $1 million in the iTunes store in less than three months. My response: “Awesome. How many active customers do you have today?”

This immediately made him uncomfortable. Why couldn’t I be impressed by the million dollars rather than ask him an unflattering question? It doesn’t matter how much revenue your startup earns if customers pay once and never return: high churn will kill your startup.

The moral of the story: If you aren’t measuring and hitting meaningful metrics, you're producing misalignment bullshit. Depending on how well things are going, there are two signs of misalignment: the blame game and vanity metrics.

When things aren’t going well: The blame game

When things aren’t going well, misaligned teams immediately blame each other. Complaints fly through the air:

  • Marketing: “Sales can’t close shit!”
  • Sales: “The leads suck!”
  • Success: “Sales is closing too much shit!”

Yet, no team is actually right or wrong. Their misaligned priorities and definitions are responsible for their frustration with each other.

Take the case of sales complaining about the quality of leads. For the sales team, qualifying leads is generally based on authority, budget, and need. These are called sales qualified leads (SQL). But, if marketing qualified leads (MQL) are leads who filled out certain forms on the company website, then guess what? Marketing and sales will never get along.

Even though both teams want “qualified leads”, they’re not talking about the same thing. Without the same criteria for qualifying leads, it’s impossible to know whether marketing needs to attract better leads or sales needs extra training. So sales will continue complaining about the leads and marketing will continue believing sales can’t close shit.

When things are going well: Vanity metrics

Even if the numbers sound great, question the metrics you hear. While the blame game can damage relationships between teams, it’s also easier to spot because the teams vocalize their disagreements. With vanity metrics, the danger is more subtle. You won’t realize there’s a problem until it’s too late.

Here’s how vanity metrics lead each team astray and the types of questions you can ask to uncover the truth.

Marketing: “Traffic is exploding!”

Marketing launches a new campaign. Visitors pour onto the website and a ton of emails are captured. The marketing team starts celebrating since the campaign is an obvious success—until you ask:

  1. How much of that traffic converted into sign-ups?
  2. Out of that traffic, do you know the quality of the traffic and leads? What are the chances of that traffic converting to trial sign-ups or customers?

The marketing team stumbles through an answer but they have no fucking clue. They focused only on traffic, not conversion or quality.

However, traffic without conversion is a bullshit metric. Having 10,000 viewers with serious buying intent produces more revenue than 100,000 viewers who don’t have any intentions of buying.

Sales: “We crushed booking quotas!”

It’s the last quarter of the year and sales is crushing it. Despite the holidays, they’ve managed to exceed their booking quota. However, you challenge them by asking:

  1. How many of those bookings will turn into revenue?
  2. How much of that revenue will be retained or expanded over time?

Like the marketing team, the sales team has no clue. Instead of trying to bullshit an answer, though, their attitude is “Why should I care?” As far as they’re concerned, they’re paid to close deals with anyone with a pulse, not predict which customers will churn or expand.

Success: “Churn is down!”

The success team excitedly reports they’ve hired two more team members and reduced churn by 50% over the past six months. That’s incredible! You want to know more and ask them:

  1. What type of churn are we talking about? Customer churn? Seat churn? Revenue churn?
  2. How did you bring down churn?

The first question stumps them. Still, they’re willing to answer the second one: “We did more upselling, and more annual and biannual contracts.”

Which is another way of saying they’ve done bullshit. Annual and biannual contracts don’t reduce churn; they disguise it. Including annual contracts in your churn math instead of only including customers who can churn simply gives the illusion of lower churn. If a customer with a longer contract is unhappy, the reality is that they will still churn when their contract is over.

In all three cases, each team focused on their own goals and hit them. Yet, they produced bullshit because the results didn’t align with the startup’s real needs. That’s why fixing misalignment starts with determining which goals to focus on.

Step 1: Live and breathe the same goals

As a startup, you only have two goals:

  1. Make your customers more successful.
  2. Gain more successful customers.

Everything else is a distraction. However, to achieve these two goals, you must understand the difference between happy and successful customers.

Why you need successful customers, not happy customers

A happy customer likes you as a person. They don't complain or overwhelm you with support requests. They also have an internal champion who roots for your company. In short, they sound perfect.

Except, the real criteria for success isn’t how much a customer likes you, but how much they need your product. If a new employee assumed your internal champion’s position and had to decide whether to keep paying for your product, could they prove the value of your product outweighs the cost?

If they can’t, your startup is in trouble. While happy customers like you, they won’t stick around for the long-haul. Successful customers will since they can prove they receive more value than they pay.

If you don’t know how to identify your successful customers, create an ideal customer profile. Knowing who your successful customers are and how to find them sets the foundation for alignment.

Step 2: Create “Team Successful Customers”

The next step is to make the heads of marketing, sales, and success one team: Team Successful Customers. As the name implies, they’re responsible for making customers successful and gaining more successful customers.

As a team, they must focus on the startup as a whole rather than their individual departments. This has several benefits.

First, they must regularly meet to discuss their progress and share insights. This means they can no longer silo info in one department that could benefit the entire company.

Second, they must develop the same priorities and metrics. To go back to an earlier example, rather than debating between MQL vs SQL, they must agree on how to qualify leads. This would make the hand-off of leads from marketing to sales smoother and increase productivity.

Finally, if their teammates are struggling, they must help each other. Otherwise, the entire team fails. For instance, if marketing is killing it but sales isn’t and churn is high, that’s not winning. Team Successful Customers means either marketing, sales, and success win together or fail alone.

Step 3: Organize your team into pods or an assembly line

There are different models to organize your team, and here I’ll cover two: The assembly line model and the pod model.

Under the assembly line model, there is a team of specialists in each department. For instance, the typical sales team has SDRs qualify leads and account executives close deals.

An assembly line creates more efficiency. But, there’s a risk of individuals becoming disconnected from the company's mission. Each member of the team is focused only on the very specific step of the sales process they are responsible for, without seeing the bigger picture.

An alternative is the pod model, which combines different specialists into tight-knit teams. For instance, two marketers, two salespeople, and two success people could make up a pod. They would own the entire customer journey for specific customers and compete against other pods.

The pod model promotes a focus on the broader mission and encourages alignment because members are responsible for the entire customer journey. Yet, it sacrifices efficiency for versatility since individuals have to take on more roles.

If you can’t decide between the assembly line or pod model, read this.

Step 4: Increase empathy between teams with workshops, training, and shadowing

Nothing increases empathy faster than doing someone else’s job.

During Close.io team retreats, we have engineers do sales calls and qualify leads. On those days, after each call, the engineers say, ”I would kill myself if I had to do this every day.”  But they also become immediately nicer to salespeople. They understand the pressure salespeople are under and try to think of ways to make the sales team’s job easier.

In turn, salespeople have to find a small bug, see if it’s replicable, spec it out, and help the engineers fix it. At the end of the day, the salespeople say the same thing: ”I would kill myself if I had to do this every day.” Yet, they also get why the engineering team can’t fix every random problem on their computers. (This isn’t the only lesson salespeople can learn from engineers.)

The same principle works for other teams. Here are ways to promote empathy between marketing, sales, and success:

  • Have marketing make sales calls. Marketing will appreciate how taxing sales is and work to deliver better leads.  
  • Have sales handle customer success for an afternoon. Sales will see first-hand the costs of selling to the wrong customer.
  • Have customer success create a marketing campaign. Customer success will learn what goes into attracting customers.

Try different approaches to nurture an environment of mutual empathy and respect.

Step 5: Enforce long-term KPIs (LTKPIs)

Let’s say your startup has a churn problem because sales closes bad deals. Don't let sales get off scot-free while success fixes their mistakes. Instead, develop secondary sales KPIs that bring in higher-quality revenue. In this case, churn rate and revenue expansion would make great secondary KPIs.

First, track how each member of the sales team performs. Then, at the end of the quarter, reward them for their performance. How you set the ratio of reward between net new and expansion revenue depends on your startup’s goals.

Want to close more deals fast? Split the commission 80/20 to reward net new revenue more. Want to sustainably grow revenue? Split commissions 50/50 to equally reward net new and expansion revenue. Experiment with what works for your company.

Secondary KPIs can also align marketing and success goals with broader company goals. Decide which KPIs for each team align with your startup’s goals and hold teams accountable.

Working together + common goals = The winning growth formula

It’s basic human nature to form groups and protect each other, generate quick wins, and avoid taking ownership for everything.

However, these very same qualities can sabotage the success of your startup. If marketing, sales, and success can’t work together to create meaningful growth, nothing they do as individual teams will matter.

That’s why you must be hyper-aware of misalignment bullshit and focus on:

  • Making customers successful and getting more of them
  • Joining the heads of marketing, sales, and success on the same team
  • Organizing your team in a manner consistent with your mission and goals
  • Developing empathy between teams
  • Holding each team accountable for the overall success of the company with secondary KPIs

If you shift your company culture to take ownership and work as one team, you have a winning growth formula.

To experience even more growth, get your free copy of "From 0 to 1,000+ customers & beyond." As serial entrepreneurs, Hiten Shah and I have decades of experience scaling startups. Whether you have a sleek product and customers or not, we show you the exact strategies we used to get thousands of customers.  

Claim your FREE B2B customer acquisition guide

Recommended reading:

Conflict resolution 101 for startups
This is your step-by-step guide to resolving conflicts between people in high-pressure, high-growth startups.

How can sales drive customer success?
How can sales drive customer success? At every stage—before the deal, after they signed up and after they cancel—there are customer success opportunities.

Engineers vs. salespeople: How to respond when you lack a feature the prospect requests
Here's a lesson salespeople can learn from engineers about selling: How to respond to a prospect that requests a feature you don't have.

04 Feb 00:24

How to Identify Buyer Personas for Professional Services Marketing

by Elizabeth Harr

Developing a content marketing strategy can seem intimidating. How do you begin? How do you know what to write, or who you’re writing for? After all, your clients come to you with varying, often complex needs. Sometimes you work with the CEO, at other times, you’re selling directly to the people in the field. Ultimately, your goal is to capture the interest of all segments of your audience—and then convert that interest into a sale.

One strategy you can use to help focus your thinking is to create buyer personas. Think of buyer personas as imaginary clients that fit within each of your target markets. Fleshing out your buyer persona(s) with the right demographic, educational and industry-related information will help you to clearly see who your blog posts and other content will be speaking to.

4 Questions to Ask When Creating Buyer Personas

1.Who are your buyers? It might seem like a basic question to ask, but simply identifying who your buyers are is a crucial first step. For starters, are they all in the same industry? Dividing your buyers up by industry can be a good place to start your persona development.

From there, consider what level they are within the organization. The decision makers will likely be interested in case studies and other hard evidence of your business successes. Influencers are probably more interested in blog posts that showcase your firm’s unique perspective.

2.What are their pain points? Once you establish who they are, it’s easier to understand what issues they wrestle with. What are the business problems that keep them up at night? CEOs may be most concerned with efficient and accessible solutions, while managers may be more focused on tactical discussions.

Today, buyers search for solutions online. And when checking out a professional services provider, 63% of buyers are searching online (aka “Googling”) to get answers to questions (see the figure below). Whether they are ready to purchase now, or some time in the future, they are arming themselves with information and looking for trusted resources. By sharing educational content that addresses their problems, in language that they understand, you can become a trusted resource.

Buyer personas for professional services

3.Where are your buyers online? If you’re developing content for specific personas, you want to make sure they can find it. Knowing where your buyers are online allows you to publish your content in a place it will be seen.

Different social channels attract certain types of people. For example, LinkedIn doesn’t have the same user base as YouTube or Google+– but those may be viable marketing options depending on the audience. Identifying where your buyers are online keeps you from wasting time publishing content in a place they don’t frequent.

4. How do your buyers consume media? Now that you know the information your content needs to include and where you need to publish it, you need to know what medium your buyers gravitate towards. Are they more likely to read blog posts or guides, or would they prefer to digest short videos and infographics? Your content strategy will likely be most effective if it includes multiple approaches, but understanding your buyers’ preference is important for maximizing their experience.

Taking the time to create detailed buyer personas helps you understand the markets that you are working with so you can create the type of content they want. This helps you to generate more qualified leads for your business—and reach the ultimate goal of converting those leads into sales.

04 Feb 00:15

The Top 35 Sales Blogs & Websites Every Sales Pro Should Bookmark

by afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost)

Best Sales Blogs

  1. Sales Hacker
  2. Heinz Marketing
  3. Jill Konrath's Fresh Sales Strategies
  4. HubSpot Sales Blog
  5. LinkedIn Sales Solutions
  6. The Make It Happen Blog
  7. Salesfolk
  8. Sales Gravy
  9. Gong Labs Blog
  10. Sandler Training Blog
  11. Marc Wayshak's Sales Blog
  12. Art Sobczak's Smart Calling Blog
  13. Your SalesMBA® Blog
  14. Sales for Life
  15. The Sales Blog
  16. OpenView Labs (Sales Category)
  17. Sales Benchmark Index
  18. The Ambition Blog
  19. Inside Sales Experts Blog
  20. Sales Source
  21. SaaStr Blog
  22. Datanyze
  23. The Sales Leader
  24. No More Cold Calling
  25. Topline Leadership Blog
  26. CloserIQ
  27. The Center for Sales Strategy Blog
  28. Entrepreneur
  29. Inc.
  30. Forbes
  31. Bloomberg Business
  32. Business Insider
  33. She Owns It
  34. Quora
  35. Wall Street Journal

As a busy sales professional intent on meeting your objectives, you might wonder if you can afford to consistently read sales blogs.

After all, each minute you spend on a post is a minute you could be connecting with a new prospect, coaching one of your salespeople on an essential skill, or developing a new qualifying framework that'll help your company scale.

But the real question is: Can you afford not to read sales blogs? Whether you're a rep, a sales manager, or an executive, your ability to reach your goals grows exponentially when you incorporate others' wisdom, experiences, and strategies.

To help you find the sales blogs with the most valuable content, we've curated the following list.

Best Blogs for Sales Reps

1. Sales Hacker

Best for: B2B sales reps, managers, and executives

Sales Hacker consistently publishes the latest strategies and suggestions for prospecting, social selling, qualifying, calling, and more.

Its content ranges from blog posts and ebooks to webinars, videos, and more, meaning there's an option for every learning style.

Must-read post: 12 Months. $1.5 Million. Zero Cold Calls.

2. Heinz Marketing

Best for: Inbound sales professionals and marketers

If you're looking for a daily source of B2B sales and marketing insights, look no further: Heinz Marketing releases a new post every day. You'll find thought-provoking content on engaging your prospects, filling your pipeline, and creating an effective content strategy -- and that's just scratching the surface.

Look out for "Matt's App of the Week," a weekly feature from Heinz Marketing's president, and "How I Work," a series spotlighting how successful B2B leaders stay productive.

Must-read post: 10+ Sales Pitch Pet Peeves I Could Seriously Do Without

3. Jill Konrath's Fresh Sales Strategies

Best for: Sales reps

Jill Konrath, author of "Selling to BIG Companies," "SNAP Selling: Speed Up Sales and Win More Business with Today's Frazzled Customers," "Agile Selling," and "More Sales, Less Time," is an expert when it comes to navigating complex sales, making prospects' lives easier, and increasing efficiency.

Her posts frequently include stories from her life, which make them relatable and engaging.

Must-read post: Value Proposition Examples -- Words That Get Meetings

4. HubSpot Sales Blog

Best for: Salespeople, managers, and executives

Brand-new reps and sales veterans alike will gain valuable insight from the HubSpot Sales Blog (at least, that's our goal). Contributors include many of the most well-known names in the sales world, including Donald E. Kelly, Jeff Hoffman, Anthony Iannarino, Trish Bertuzzi, and more.

From writing the perfect email subject line to negotiating a mutually beneficial deal, you'll receive all the tips you need to meet or beat your quota -- or if you're a manager, lead your sales team to success month after month.

Must-read post: The Best Cold Call Script Ever [Template]

5. LinkedIn Sales Solutions

Best for: Sales reps

Social selling is becoming a big priority for sales teams. Subscribe to LinkedIn's sales blog to stay up-to-date on the latest social selling news and techniques and get a refresher on universal sales best practices.

Must-read post: The Water Cooler: Why Posts on LinkedIn About Leadership Are Engaging Decision Makers in the Consulting Industry

6. The Make It Happen Blog

Best for: Salespeople

John Barrows reinforces his sales advice with stories from his days as a salesperson and his current role as a sales trainer. These anecdotes make his posts both engaging and memorable. Not only will you learn how to give better presentations, address common objections, discover your personal drivers, and more, you'll also learn how to improve your own narrative skills.

Must-read post: The Story of How My Emotions Stopped Us from Winning the Deal

7. Salesfolk

Best for: Sales reps and managers

You've likely seen the difference in your open and reply rates when you use buyer-focused, personalized outreach emails versus generic ones focused on you and your product.

However, crafting an attention-grabbing message can be difficult even for top sales pros. Heather Morgan's blog is an excellent source of examples (both good and bad), straightforward suggestions, and fresh ideas.

Must-read post: Why Selfish Emails Never Work

8. Sales Gravy

Best for: Sales reps

You might be the best closer in the world, but you won't sign any new business without prospects. Jeb Blount is one of the foremost experts on prospecting (he literally wrote the book on the topic), so it's not surprising his company's blog has ample content on filling the top of your funnel.

Must-read post: Avoid Missed Opportunities and Sales Disasters

9. Gong Labs Blog

Best for: Sales reps

Gong is chocked full of great data, expert tips, and advice for reps in the trenches and sales leaders looking to motivate their teams. You'll find actionable articles that help you meet your quota, close business, and have more successful calls during your sales cycle.

Must-read post: Revenue Success Secrets From Today's Top CROs

10. Sandler Training Blog

Best for: Sales professionals

The Sandler training team has a seemingly never-ending stream of advice for every type of sales professional -- individual sellers, managers, and executives. Their posts typically include examples and sample messaging, so readers understand exactly how to put the concepts they learn into action.

Must-read post: 5 Ways To Help Prospects Determine the Break-Even Point

11. Marc Wayshak's Sales Blog

Best for: Sales reps

Marc Wayshak, founder of Sales Strategy Academy and author of "Game Plan Selling," doles out a wealth of practical knowledge and tips. He uses short videos to communicate most of his advice, so this blog is a good pick for those who prefer watching videos over reading content.

Must-read post: The Single Best Way to Start a Conversation With Any Prospect

12. Art Sobczak's Smart Calling Blog

Best for: Sales reps

Calling prospects is both a science and an art. Learn how to create interest, handle brush-offs and objections, and lay the foundation for a mutually beneficial relationship -- without resorting to manipulative, out-of-date, or selfish tactics.

Must-read post: How to Add Value and Not Just Check In or Introduce Yourself

13. Your SalesMBA™ Blog

Best for: Sales reps

Sales trainer and creator of the Your SalesMBA™ training program Jeff Hoffman lets readers in on the secrets to effective prospecting, qualifying, social selling, and more. His posts are digestible, relevant, and tactical.

Must-read post: Calm Down. (You've Got the Meeting!)

14. Sales for Life

Best for: B2B sales reps

The Sales for Life blog helps salespeople sync up with modern buyers. From engaging your prospects in a friendly, helpful, and convenient way to using sales automation effectively, you'll learn both the fundamentals and latest tips from the Sales 2.0 movement.

Must-read post: Cold Calling Advocates: Sincere, But Sincerely Wrong 

15. The Sales Blog

Best for: Sales reps

Anthony Iannarino, author of "The Only Sales Guide You'll Ever Need," publishes daily insights and thought leadership on his blog. You'll appreciate his direct, readable style, practical suggestions, and motivational words of wisdom.

Must-read post: 4 Battle-Tested Strategies That Create a Competitive Advantage

Best Blogs for Sales Leaders and Executives

16. OpenView Labs (Sales Category)

Best for: CEOs, founders, and sales leaders

OpenView is a venture capital firm focusing on early-stage software companies. Its blog is a valuable resource for senior executives -- especially the sales category, which features substantial articles on everything from building a sales enablement program and training BDRs to interviewing rep candidates and removing bias from your hiring process.

Must-read post: Establishing Data-Driven 1:1's as a Sales Manager

17. Sales Benchmark Index

Best for: Sales managers and leaders

Every post on SBI's blog is ultimately meant to help you do one thing -- meet or exceed your team's quota. You'll discover fresh insights on hiring the best salespeople, crafting a winning strategy, and promoting a healthy yet achievement-driven culture.

Must-read post: Will Your New Hires Help You Hit the Quarterly Number?

18. The Ambition Blog

Best for: Sales leaders

Average sales managers supervise their reps. Good sales managers motivate their reps. Great sales managers inspire and coach their reps so each individual is performing at their maximum potential.

Want to be in the last group? Check out Ambition's blog for tips on hiring, driving performance, and promoting productivity.

Must-read post: A Lethal Weapon for Inspiring Workplace Accountability

19. Inside Sales Experts Blog

Best for: Inside sales managers and executives

Are you responsible for hiring, retaining, and training inside salespeople, creating and managing territories, and tracking your team's success? Bookmark the Inside Sales Experts Blog. It features in-depth, tactical content from Trish Bertuzzi, author of "The Sales Development Playbook," and other members of her consulting firm.

Must-read post: How One Head of Sales Tackled Building a Sales Playbook

20. Sales Source

Best for: Sales reps, managers, executives, and entrepreneurs

Geoffrey James, author of "How to Say It: Business to Business Selling," shares a variety of sales, marketing, and general professional advice on his daily Inc.com blog. If you're interested in writing better sales emails, becoming more productive, motivating yourself, improving your negotiation skills, and more, check out Sales Source.

Must-read post: How to Request a Meeting With Someone's Boss

21. SaaStr Blog

Best for: Sales leaders and entrepreneurs

Venture Capitalist and SaaS enthusiast Jason M. Lemkin began SaaStr as a simple WordPress blog housing his answers to questions he received on Quora. Today, it's one of the largest communities of SaaS founders and entrepreneurs in the world.

Readers can expect big-picture articles on the growth of SaaS businesses, as well as tactical advice for sales leaders on how to get more from your team.

Must-read post: When Should You Add a Second Product?

Best Blogs for Sales Managers

22. Datanyze Blog

Best for: SaaS sales managers

Software as a Service (SaaS) industry leaders and sales experts regularly contribute to this blog. The average post is upwards of 800 words and jam-packed with tactical tips, so you're guaranteed to derive value from each one you read.

Must-read post: Why Better Objection Handling Leads to Less Friction in the Sales Process

23. The Sales Leader

Best for: Sales leaders

Colleen Francis, author of "Nonstop Sales Boom," gives sales leaders the tools and techniques they need to drive results. Her posts cover a variety of topics -- including pipeline management, sales leadership best practices, and personal productivity -- and get right to the point. When you're looking for a quick tip, go here.

Must-read post: The Critical Way Buyers Have Changed

24. No More Cold Calling

Best for: Sales leaders

Salespeople hate making calls with zero personalization or research. Buyers hate receiving them. If your team is still using these types of calls to prospect, read this blog. Referrals expert Joanne Black teaches sales leaders how and why to implement a referral program -- and eliminate the need for random dials.

Must-read post: How Getting Fired Actually Launched My Referral Business

25. TopLine Leadership Blog

Best for: Sales managers

The success of your sales team often hinges on their attitude. However, keeping each member enthusiastic and committed isn't easy -- especially when you're also trying to diagnose their weaknesses, improve their techniques, and make your playbook as solid as possible.

The TopLine Leadership Blog focuses almost exclusively on motivation. Whether you're hoping to inspire an unengaged salesperson or encourage everyone to hit their numbers, you'll find the tips you need.

Must-read post: Gaining the Sales Team's Acceptance When You Get Promoted

26. CloserIQ Blog

Best for: Sales managers and recruiters

CloserIQ is a sales recruitment platform, and their blog provides plenty of guidance on the hottest skills your job candidates should possess, how to identify top talent, and how to manage a successful team.

Must-read post: How to Identify Top Sales Talent by Their Resume

27. The Center for Sales Strategy Blog

Best for: Sales managers and recruiters

This is another blog packed with guidance on recruiting, developing, and managing the best sales talent on your team. Having trouble with turnover or attracting high-performing salespeople? This blog has the tips you need to increase your sales revenue by building a culture centered around professional development and client needs.

Must-read post: The Aha Moment: How to Know When to Pivot Your Sales Strategy

Best Sales Websites

28. Entrepreneur

Best for: Sales managers and reps

Get news stories about entrepreneurship, small business, and startups. Most salespeople have an entrepreneurial spirit, and reading this website regularly will keep you up to date.

29. Inc.

Best for: Sales managers and reps

Small business and startup news is what you'll find on Inc. along with interesting profiles of founders and groundbreakers, you'll get the news you need to keep you up to date for your prospects and dreaming of your own future business.

30. Forbes

Best for: Sales managers and reps

Find articles on finance, investing, and other industry topics. Check in for daily updates and headlines you need to to know for watercooler talk with prospects and meeting chit-chat with your boss.

31. Bloomberg Business

Best for: Sales managers and reps

When a story breaks in the business world, it's important that you know what's happening and how it affects your business and your prospects. Get up-to-the-minute information on Bloomberg Business.

32. Business Insider

Best for: Sales managers and reps

The latest in tech, finance, media, and industry-specific verticals is all covered here. A good stop first thing in the morning — Business Insider will fuel you with the talking points you need throughout the day.

33. She Owns It

Best for: Entrepreneurs

She Owns It celebrates, supports, and connects women entrepreneurs. Find inspiration, advice for the unique challenges women face in tech and business, and — if you're not a woman — some insight into how to be an ally in the workplace. 

34. Quora

Best for: Sales managers and reps

Quora is the world's largest question and answer platform that allows you to ask questions and receive answers from pros like Jason Lemkin as well as salespeople in the trenches. Get advice, learn something new, or answer a question yourself.

35. Wall Street Journal

Best for: Sales managers and reps

This Pulitzer Prize-winning publication should be a mainstay in your daily reading. Breaking news, expert journalism, and deep dives into the industry news you need make this an important stop on your morning reading tour.

If you're looking for specific sales bloggers to follow on social media, here's a quick list of folks we recommend reading more about. Find them on Twitter. Connect with them on LinkedIn, and start learning from them immediately

Sales Bloggers

  1. Anthony Iannarino
  2. Jill Konrath
  3. Dan Tyre
  4. Jill Rowley
  5. Lori Richardson
  6. Trish Bertuzzi
  7. Jeff Hoffman

More of an auditory learner? Check out our roundup of top sales podcasts here. 

04 Feb 00:14

4 Email Prospecting Techniques the Best Salespeople Use

by mpici@hubspot.com (Michael Pici)

outreach-email-sales-197231-edited.jpg

Email can be an extraordinarily effective prospecting tool. Most prospects check their inboxes throughout the day, so you’re engaging them where they’re already spending time.

Another benefit to emails: If you craft them strategically, buyers should only need a minute or two to read and respond. They can quickly move on to other work.

However, no matter how many advantages this prospecting channel has, your results will always reflect your technique. You can’t simply blast prospects with generic, salesy messages and expect your calendar to fill up with meetings.

For more tips on email prospecting, check out the Get Sh*t Done Show -- a video series by salespeople, for salespeople.

If you want high response rates, implement the following four email prospecting techniques the most successful salespeople use.

4 Successful Outreach Email Techniques

1) Include a Visual

Some of the most successful messages my salespeople send include a GIF, meme, or picture. There are three reasons:

  1. A visual says a thousand words. Emphasizing or reinforcing your message with a visual usually means you can write less -- and brevity has a big impact on your response rate.
  2. A visual is eye-catching. You’ll simultaneously grab your prospect’s attention and differentiate your email from the all-text emails in their inbox.
  3. A visual humanizes you. The buyer will see you as a regular person rather than a personality-less sales robot.

Wondering how to incorporate visuals into your email templates? Try these ideas:

  • Reference a popular movie quote or plotline and add a visual of the character or appropriate scene.
  • Tie in your content to a well-known pop culture phenomenon and use a relevant meme.
  • Find a GIF or picture your prospect will like based on their social media posts.

Of course, visuals aren’t appropriate for every industry or buyer persona. If you’re reaching out to the senior executive of a financial company, you might want to send a traditional email. If you’re contacting a marketing manager who frequently tweets his favorite GIFs, on the other hand, using a GIF will earn you major points.

2) Measure Results -- and Iterate Accordingly

I recently had lunch with someone who’d just started her first sales job at a local startup.

“Some of my prospecting emails do really well, but some flop,” she said. “Do you have any suggestions?”

When I asked what her high-performing and low-performing templates had in common, the salesperson admitted she didn’t know.

Tracking open and response rates is a good first step. However, you can’t improve your results if you don’t act on this data. This salesperson -- and every other sales professional using email to prospect -- needs to periodically and systematically review her emails and ask:

  • What do my highest- and lowest-performing email subject lines have in common?
  • What are the average lengths of my highest- and lowest-performing emails, respectively?
  • What are their various CTAs?
  • Am I having more success with some buyer personas than others?
  • Am I using specific language across my highest-performing emails? My lowest?

Once you know what’s working -- and what’s turning prospects off -- adapt your emails appropriately.

3) Make It Easy on Prospects

The easier it is for your prospects to read and reply to your emails, the likelier they are to do so. This concept seems obvious, but I frequently see prospecting messages that are:

  • Excessively long
  • Confusing
  • Open-ended

There’s a simple three-step prescription.

First, cap your emails at six sentences. You shouldn’t require any more if you’re sticking to one concept per message.

Second, focus your email. Provide a single tip or describe a single concept and ask one question or suggest one action step. This ensures your message doesn’t overwhelm or confuse the buyer.

Third, make the next step extremely clear. Should the prospect answer your question? Book a meeting on your calendar? An explicit direction helps them act quickly and effortlessly.

4) Find Something Noteworthy to Comment On

Many salespeople leverage commonalities with their prospects to build rapport. While this technique can be effective, it’s also relatively transparent. Some buyers don't want to talk about their favorite basketball team or home state, since these topics are irrelevant to the deal.

I suggest instead looking for a notable achievement, skill, project, or other detail along these lines. Praise your prospect or ask a related question. Not only will you boost their ego, but you’ll show them you’ve done your research while staying professional.

It can also sound less creepy to say, “I saw the recording of your autonomous cars presentation. What are your thoughts on Tesla’s strategy?” than, “I’m also a huge fan of the wings at Petey’s BBQ!”

Your prospects’ LinkedIn profiles are a valuable source of this type of detail. You may also find great conversation starters on their blogs, personal websites, company “About” pages, external bios, and/or social media pages.

Use these four email prospecting techniques, and watch your response rates skyrocket.

Are there any great strategies you rely on? Let me know in the comments!

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04 Feb 00:13

7 Great Sales Quotes from this Year’s Rainmaker 17 Speakers

by Matt Wesson

It’s almost here. SalesLoft’s annual Sales Engagement Conference. Rainmaker ’17. Tickets are selling fast, the hotel block is filling up and, most importantly, the lineup of speakers is starting to get STACKED.

While sales reps come to Rainmaker each year for a number of reasons, the one we hear most often is to learn. The modern sales professional needs to constantly be learning and evolving to succeed. And with the list of day-to-day responsibilities for sales professionals only growing longer, finding time to learn can be a real challenge. That’s why we do everything we can to make sure that every minute of Rainmaker is packed with valuable insight from industry thought leaders and pioneers.

In their recent eBook, one of our favorite partners, Gong, compiled insights from the industry’s leading minds and one thing that stuck out to me as I was reading it was how many of them will be speaking at the conference.

So I thought I’d pull together a few of the best to give you a preview of what’s to come at Rainmaker on March 1st!

“People buy from people; they don’t buy from the perfect pitch, script, or canned demo. The more real and transparent you are with them the more real and transparent they will be with you.” -John BarrowsClick To Tweet
“When you make how you sell as important as what you sell, your sales team will become the ultimate differentiator.” -Jacco VanderkooijClick To Tweet
“Those reps that make the buyer feel like they are the most important person in the world and that they passionately believe they can help them - are the ones that succeed.” -Craig RosenbergClick To Tweet
“Now that we have made ourselves more efficient, people are finally realizing that is only 30% of the battle. The other 70% of the battle happens in the conversations.” -Richard HarrisClick To Tweet
“Of all the sales organizations we study, the top-performing teams have a fanatical obsession with the buyer.” -Kristina McMillanClick To Tweet
“It’s time to stop acting like a cheesy salesperson and act like a business person.” -Emmanuelle SkalaClick To Tweet
“Start with: I realize I’m an Interruption. Enjoy the fact that 95% of the prospects will chuckle and let you give your 30 second pitch” -Chad BurmeisterClick To Tweet

That’s just a small taste of the 100+ page ebook and the stacked list of speakers we have lined up for Rainmaker this year. Don’t miss out and book your tickets today!


rainmaker-CTA

The post 7 Great Sales Quotes from this Year’s Rainmaker 17 Speakers appeared first on SalesLoft.

04 Feb 00:12

Post-Purchase Emails: How to Boost Retention and LTV

by Danny Wong

A common mistake ecommerce store owners make is accepting the sale as the end-goal. It is easy for brands to think in such a transactional way; looking beyond each purchase can prove challenging.

A 2014 survey by Econsultancy revealed, “Just 42% of companies are able to measure customer lifetime value.” Though the remaining 58% understand the importance of customer loyalty and retention, they may find it difficult to execute and analyze customer happiness and conversion campaigns.

For a business to thrive, it must provide customers with long-term value that translates into repeat purchases and, thus, increases the customer’s lifetime value to the company.

And that is where carefully crafted post-purchase emails come in.

The ROI of Post-Purchase Emails

Post-purchase emails should have a primary goal of improving the customer experience, whether it’s an order confirmation email to give shoppers peace of mind, a product information email to educate users on how to extract the most value out of their purchase or a replenishment reminder that gently encourages repeat purchases.

Of course, an incidental benefit from well-designed post-purchase emails is a boost to customer satisfaction and sales.

The Research Says…

Research from customer experience firm Medallia published in the Harvard Business Review states, “Customers who had the best past experiences spend 140% more compared to those who had the poorest past experience.”

And follow-up emails help facilitate positive brand sentiment which, in turn, leads to more sales.

Broad data about email marketing reinforces the fact that it is an effective and powerful medium for customer engagement. The Direct Marketing Association’s (DMA) 2015 National client email report tells, “Email has an average ROI of $38 for each $1 spent.”

In one case study, retention marketing software firm Windsor Circle shared how much one of its clients benefitted from strategic post-purchase emails.

CoffeeForLess made over $500,000 in 6 months from data-driven lifecycle marketing powered by Windsor Circle. These emails had 66% higher open rates and 125% higher click rates compared to their average rates for the same time period.

Here’s the data…

Windsor Circle

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Using a mixture of product recommendations emails, replenishment reminders, win-back campaigns, and reward offers, CoffeeForLess added more than half a million dollars to its nearly $19 million in sales.

Now, think about how you too can benefit from implementing a thoughtful post-purchase marketing strategy.

The Impact of Different Types of Follow-up Messaging

On January 3rd, 2017, MailChimp updated its email marketing benchmarks page after analyzing billions of monthly email sends across its user base of 14 million accounts. Under the ecommerce category, MailChimp reported an average open rate of 16.71% and an average click rate of 2.34%.

Last year, email marketing software provider GetResponse published its State of Email Marketing Report which shared similar results: with retail and ecommerce grouped together, the analysis revealed an average 16.78% open rate and a 3.07% click rate.

GetResponseImage Source

In IBM Marketing Cloud’s 2016 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study we also see comparable stats. Among retail and ecommerce emails, the survey found an average open rate of 20.5% and a 3.5% click rate.

IBM Marketing Cloud

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Of course, when we delve deeper into the impact of post-purchase emails, we see significantly higher engagement. This month at Conversio, we analyzed 12.1 million follow-up emails and 24.5 million digital receipts ecommerce stores sent through our all-in-one marketing dashboard during the full 2016 calendar year.

Overall, we noted:

  • An average 40.5% open rate, a 6.4% click rate and a 0.7% conversion rate across all follow-up emails.
  • 
An average 65.0% open rate, a 10.4% click rate and a 1.4% conversion rate across all digital receipts.

Here, we see that follow-up emails are twice as likely to be opened and clicked than the average ecommerce marketing email. Digital receipts have an open and click rate more than three times the average ecommerce email send.

Beyond the Typical…

Below, we explore how ecommerce marketers can leverage four under-utilized types of post-purchase correspondence to boost customer happiness and conversions.

Since most store owners already invest heavily in optimizing emails that include discounts, customer referral prompts and product feedback requests, we will skip over those here to focus more on post-purchase emails brands should add to their arsenal.

1. Digital Receipts & Order Confirmation Messages

When a shopper converts into a customer, the first email they expect from you is their order confirmation. Therefore, it is no surprise that we see so much engagement with the average receipt.

However, most stores squander this opportunity by plainly listing what the customer purchased, how much it cost and when they can expect to receive it.

At the National Retail Federation’s 2014 annual expo, Jack Dorsey, CEO of payments processor Square, asked the audience:

What if we see the receipt more as a publishing medium — a product unto itself that people actually want to take home, that they want to engage with, be fully interactive with?

What can we build into this canvas that’s actually valuable, that’s independent of the product you just sold? What can you give in this communication channel, this publishing medium, that people want to engage with?

All of you [store owners] give these receipts out by the thousands if not millions every single day — how do you make them viable unto themselves?

The answer, of course, takes into consideration the context of the purchase (a holiday sale, a gift for another recipient, an everyday item), the customer’s order history with your store and data you have gathered from other shoppers regarding their buying behaviors.

Five of the most engaging elements you can include within your receipts are:

  1. A unique discount code to facilitate repeat purchases.
  2. 
Recommendations for other products your customer may like.
  3. Incentives and prompts for your referral program.
  4. Social sharing buttons that either encourage customers to connect with you on their favorite channels or share their shopping experience with their friends.
  5. 
A request for customer feedback.

In fact, when we at Conversio compared plain receipts against those with any of the features above, we saw:

  • Receipts without any additional marketing assets had a 61.7% open rate, a 5.1% click rate and a 0.1% conversion rate.
  • Including just one of the five elements above (a discount code, product recommendations, a refer-a-friend prompt, social sharing elements, or a feedback request), on average, meant receipts saw up to a 14.6% increase in open rate, a 64.7% increase in click rate and a 2200% increase in conversion rate.

The revenue implications of a strategically crafted receipt are huge too.

Receipt

When Food To Live, a family-run business that sells healthy, organic snacks and foods, decided to redesign and optimize its digital receipts, its receipts began driving an additional $12 in new revenue per send.

2. Product Education & FAQs

In 2015, OrderDynamics, a developer of omnichannel order management systems, commissioned advisory firm IHL Group to conduct a study that quantified the cost of product returns for retailers. Globally, the report estimates returns cost brands $642.6 billion a year.

Although returns may be free for many shoppers online, they are expensive for the stores receiving them. Data from Marketing Alternatives, Inc. states, “Returned items [cost] $12 a piece notwithstanding the cost of shipping, repair of damaged products and repackaging.”

And for some stores, returns have an even bigger impact on already-thin margins. Tony Hsieh, CEO of Zappos, wrote in an article for Harvard Business Review, “Our returns run high — more than a third of our gross revenue.”

Reducing the Cost of Returns

While Hsieh accepts his company’s high return rate as a necessary expense in delivering consumer happiness, other ecommerce brands can still strategically curb the cost of returns through product education and frequently asked questions (FAQs) in post-purchase emails.

FAQs

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WooCommerce’s Nicole Kohler recommends proactively sharing information customers may need to answer questions that arise after they complete their purchase. Kohler says:

You could put a mini FAQ right in your [marketing emails] to answer your [customers’] most common questions.

If you don’t want to take up that much space, you could simply link to your FAQ or customer support page where all of these questions are addressed.

This enables stores to turn what would otherwise be a negative purchasing experience into a positive one.

By sending information that helps your buyers better understand how to extract the most value from their order and lists all of its different use cases, you remove obstacles that may hinder their success with your product.

3. Product Recommendations & Cross-Sell Emails

In 2013, management consultancy McKinsey & Company estimated that Amazon generated 35% of its revenue from its on-site and email product recommendations. That year, the company earned $74.45 billion in sales.

We Miss You

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When JP Mangalindan of Fortune interviewed an Amazon employee about the company’s cross-selling strategy, he discovered that the secret was in the mega-store’s emails to customers.

Mangalindan reported, “The conversion rate and efficiency of [product recommendations] emails are ‘very high,’ significantly more effective than on-site recommendations.”

The psychology behind this makes sense; when ecommerce marketers use data to understand how past purchases can predict future orders, they can surface relevant product suggestions customers may actually enjoy. Consequently, of course, stores increase their revenues.

Quantifying the Impact

Research from Experian’s 2010 transactional email report helps quantify the potential impact of including product recommendations in emails to cross-sell inventory. Results from the whitepaper claim, “Transactional emails that include cross-sell items have 20% higher transaction rates than those without.”

Recommendations

When we dug into our data, we found that follow-up emails featuring product recommendations sent through the Conversio platform in 2016 had a 100% higher conversion rate than emails without product recommendations.

Rather than take the hard-sell approach of emailing your shoppers a unique promocode, this can be a subtle way of prompting repeat purchases and improving a customer’s lifetime value.

4. Replenishment Reminders

Many products have a predictable consumption cycle, whether it is staple items on your weekly grocery list or a tube of your favorite toothpaste every three months. And for savvy marketers, this is where the replenishment email comes in.

Ecommerce marketing expert Jimmy Daly explains:

A replenishment email is one that simply reminds people to re-order items when they run out. Replenishment emails are designed to drive recurring revenue. They are [a] perfect example of behavioral email marketing.

Dog food is a great example. When a customer buys dog food, take note of how much they bought and when they bought it. Then, send them an email reminder when it’s time to order again.

This strategy rocks because you know the customer has a need. You even know when they need it. It’s a pain point that’s easy to relieve. If you sell products that can be re-ordered, you are crazy not to send this email.

Recognizing that many of its customers would want to purchase its seasonal products each year, gardening supplies store Harrod Horticultural decided to implement replenishment email reminders.

Replenishment

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A case study by customer-driven marketing firm Adestra details:

To do this, Harrod Horticultural focused on customers who had purchased a product exactly a year before, and created an automated recurring campaign simply asking whether they wish to re-order the product in question. To begin with, they focused on products like fleeces, mulch, rock dust, mud balls and slug nematodes.

Thanks to the slug nematodes email, Harrod Horticultural have seen a fantastic 50% increase in sales year-over-year of the product Nemaslug. In April, this email received an outstanding click-to-sale rate of 47%, and has become their best performing conversion campaign based on purchase history. With a 45% open rate, these emails aren’t just about short-term revenue, but ‘front of mind’ selling and engaging content, that their customers find welcoming and relevant.

When beauty company Annmarie Gianni Skin Care partnered with Windsor Circle, the marketers behind the brand were finally able to send customers replenishment reminders backed by data science.

Data-Backed Replenishment

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Windsor Circle’s case study of Annmarie Gianni Skin Care’s success reads:

Annmarie Gianni Skin Care has set up more than 70 automators based on criteria such as purchase history, product recommendations, next predicted order date, etc. For instance, they trigger replenishment emails for customers who have purchased a certain product more than three times and have a predicted order date, based on an algorithm that looks for patterns in a customer’s buying behavior.

Beauty products are ripe for replenishment, because these items often need to be purchased on a recurring basis. The replenishment campaigns, along with all of their automated emails, have been very successful for Annmarie Gianni. In fact, these messages have an overall average open rate of 56% and 14% click rate. Additionally, the automated emails have made Annmarie Gianni Skin Care more than $1.8 million since they’ve been enacted.

Although consumers have begun to adopt weekly and monthly subscription services, many shoppers have not yet signed up for automatic delivery and purchase of products that are only consumed quarterly or annually.

Therefore, brands that sell items which need less frequent replenishment should issue scheduled email reminders.

Conclusion

The sale does not end as soon as your customer completes checkout.

Successful ecommerce marketers know that at this point their work is just beginning if they want to enhance engagement and foster brand loyalty from their post-purchase correspondence.

Start by applying these four strategies…

  1. Redesign your receipts to include marketing information and components that encourage repeat purchases, highlight your referral program, prompt social sharing, or facilitate product reviews.
  2. Educate your customers about how to make the most of their purchase, which can maximize customer happiness and minimize product returns.
  3. 
Send customers emails featuring products they may want to buy, based on their past purchases and items other customers like.
  4. Use replenishment reminders that hit your customer’s inbox at a time when they have a clear and demonstrated need.

With these additions to your marketing strategy, you may see an increase in both customer satisfaction and overall revenue.

04 Feb 00:02

4 Ways Demand Generation Marketing Is Like Football

by Randy Frisch

marketing is like football

They say the toughest position on a football field is the quarterback. You’ve got hundreds of plays to learn and optimize. You need to learn how to play in the scorching sun (think Miami) and adjust to the bitter cold a week later (think Green Bay). You get hit with a blow when you least expect it and need to dash to an opening that presents itself. Your team counts on your strategies to win the game and you take the blame for losses. Whether your name is Montana, Favre, or Brady, you are in control. And there’s nothing better than holding the ball and knowing what’s possible when you have control.

Before I lose those of you who are not football fans, I want you to reread the entire opening paragraph with a revised first sentence: “They say the toughest position in a high growth company is the demand generation quarterback.”

Okay, I guess we don’t have to truly adapt to the weather as marketers, but geography plays a factor! With Super Bowl 51 just around the corner, I decided to have some fun and draw some parallels between football and demand generation marketing. Feel free to drop yourself into the quarterback slot here and see if you can relate.

1. It’s a Game of Inches

Has a bad football movie ever been made? My wife, who’s the last person to suggest watching a real-life game, is always up for a football flick. And perhaps the best line ever is the reminder from Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday that “it’s a game of inches.”

After hearing that line, can’t you relate as a marketer? From the subject line tweak on your email campaign to the right CTA beside your latest blog post–the details are what make the difference. Don’t count on the Hail Mary.

2. Control and Optimize

Just as a football team can always prepare a bit more by analyzing videos, you’ll never hear a modern marketer tell you they have nothing to optimize. The field is always changing. One of the tools our team uses to ensure we can optimize and maintain control is Unbounce. Many of our campaigns require landing pages either to gate content or create an event sign up page. With Unbounce, our team is able to control and optimize the little details as the campaign progresses by making changes on the fly.

When we launched our first user conference Uberflip Experience last year, we were constantly adjusting messaging, pricing, and CTAs to entice customers and prospects to take a chance and come check out our first big event. With Unbounce, we were able to adjust these variables within minutes, as often as needed, to drive registrations to the conference.

3. It Takes More Than One Play to Score

In 2016, the Patriots scored 3.6 touchdowns per game but needed 66.3 plays per game to get there. Sometimes in football, we see exciting plays where a kickoff is returned for a touchdown, a first pass of the game is thrown downfield for 6, or an interception is converted without the offense coming on the field. But the reality is that most points in a game are the result of several downs to take a team into the end zone.

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing better than having a prospect Google your company and phone in to say, “I just want the best price and need to be up and running today.” Love those days! But let’s be honest. Most businesses create a sequence of experiences and events that they offer in the right place, and at the right time to get a prospect over the line.

Back to our quarterback, our VP of Marketing, Shannon uses a combination of tools, such as Marketo and Bizible, to track the various “plays” needed to get a prospect over the line. Just as the quarterback would like to execute a set number of plays when there’s a minute to go and they’re down by 5, the goal in content marketing, naturally, is to minimize the number of touches needed to get someone through the buyer’s journey. We can’t rush it or skip some steps. We must learn which plays are the most important and impactful.

I’ll give you a quick example. Last year, I was standing with our CEO at an event we sponsored, Sirius Decisions Summit. We were talking about going bigger on that event for the next year and debating whether we could pull out of another industry conference to create the budget. Just as we landed on cutting the event, a prospect walked over and said, “Hey Randy, we met at last year’s conference and this time I’ve got my boss here. Could you give him that demo you gave me last time?” As he walked away more or less ready to buy, I couldn’t help but laugh since that was the same event we were about to cut. I learned last week that this prospect recently became a customer.

Although we wanted to throw our investment all into one play, we realized that winning this prospect’s business happened throughout multiple plays. In fact, this event was probably just getting him into the end zone, with a steady drip of relevant emails and sales touches to add the final nudges.

4. The Quarterback Can’t Win Alone

I started by giving all the glory to the quarterback. Don’t get me wrong. Shannon has some mad demand gen and marketing skills, but there are only so many quarterback sneaks or runs that can happen in a game. The marketing quarterback needs a strong offensive line and receivers to make each play happen. On our team, Shannon relies on our offensive lineswomen: Kelly (product marketing), Tara (demand generation), Maya (events and community), and Katie (social). She also needs help from the sidelines from people like Quentin, our graphic designer. And of course, no play would start without a solid snapper–luckily we have Jermaine Reyes, our content manager. Bottom line is that every member of her team ensures she gets time to release the ball.

football play in marketing

So if you’re into the analogy, you’re probably trying to figure out who the receivers and running backs are. Well, sales of course! Assuming the ball is the prospect (and unless you’re running an online sale), most of us rely on salespeople to get the deal over the line. On our team, we have a sales team of just over 30 members, all ready to take an MQL and work through the plays to get the deal done. Our salespeople actually need to wear a marketing hat too, because some prospects require a bit of guidance to progress.

One way our sales team coordinates with the marketing quarterback is by choosing which content to share with their audience. This is easier said than done. In many companies, salespeople search a dated wiki article, bulky excel file of links, or actually search Google for their company’s own content. Fortunately, our team has full access to our marketing content hub so they can quickly send off successful content passes to their prospects.

This ensures that the entire sequence from first-touch to last follows our brand guidelines and overall core messaging. The last thing you want is a wide receiver celebrating too quickly while heading downfield.

At the end of the day, as marketers, we need to always be dialed in to keep the leads and customers coming. Just look back to about a year ago from this time today, where neither of the 2016 Super Bowl teams even made the 2017 playoffs! What worked last year may not work tomorrow. There is no such thing as auto-pilot for marketers. Those who purchase an engagement platform and assume it’s cruise control are destined to early elimination. So whether you’re cheering for the Pats or Falcons, let’s hope the coach and quarterback have rallied their team with a few trick plays to win the customer (I mean game).

What other similarities have you seen between football teams and demand generation teams? Share your observations in the comments below!

 

04 Feb 00:02

How To Build A Powerful Personal Brand On LinkedIn, with Viveka Von Rosen [Podcast]

by Mario Martinez Jr.

Viveka Von Rosen, personal brand on linkedin

If you aren’t building your personal brand on LinkedIn you are likely missing many opportunities. My guest today is THE expert at teaching sales leaders and business professionals how to build their personal brand on LinkedIn in ways that get almost immediate results. Viveka von Rosen is an internationally known LinkedIn speaker and author. She is known as the “LinkedIn Expert” and is the author of the best-selling “LinkedIn Marketing: An Hour a Day” and “LinkedIn: 101 Ways to Rock!” As a contributing expert to LinkedIn’s official blog and their “Sophisticated Marketer’s Guide,” she is often called on to contribute to publications like Forbes, Money, Entrepreneur, Social Media Examiner, etc. She has taken the business knowledge she has perfected over the past 10+ years and transformed it into engaging and informational training, providing over 100K+ people the tools and strategies they need to succeed on LinkedIn.

Viveka Von Rosen - Personal Brand on LinkedIn

Viveka Von Rosen

LinkedIn is a powerful place to build your personal brand.

LinkedIn is the only social network dedicated strictly to business interactions. Clearly, if you don’t do a good job of branding yourself there you are missing the opportunity to not only put your best foot forward but also show your expertise to the very people you need to be noticed by. Viveka Von Rosen is on #SellingWithSocial to tell us why a well-crafted personal brand is especially powerful on LinkedIn and how you can begin taking the steps to ensure that you aren’t missing out on the leads, sales, and opportunities LinkedIn can provide to you and your company.

A common question: Do you build the company’s brand or your personal brand on LinkedIn?

It can be a bit confusing to determine if it’s more advantageous to build your personal brand on LinkedIn or to spend your time focusing on the company’s brand (because you’re an employee). The LinkedIn Expert, Viveka VonRosen says you need to do both. When you build your personal brand using LinkedIn you are positioning yourself as one of the company’s main assets – an expert in your particular area of focus. That builds a reputation for you AS an expert and respect for the company at the same time (after all, they were smart enough to hire you). Viveka has lots of tips for how you can build both brands at the same time so make sure you listen to this episode.

Sales Leaders need to be setting the example when it comes to personal branding on LinkedIn.

If you are leading a sales organization or department you need to make sure that you are setting the right example when it comes to how you utilize LinkedIn. From the way you set up your profile, to the content you share, to the kind of engagement you take on the platform, your team will only do what you do in most cases. That’s why as a leader, you have to lead. Viveka Von Rosen tells us what sales leaders can do to make the most of their leadership role when it comes to getting the entire sales team working effectively on LinkedIn, on this episode.

If you want to learn LinkedIn for personal branding, Viveka Von Rosen is the one to teach you.

Viveka Von Rosen is known and the LinkedIn Expert and for good reason. She’s been instrumental in teaching me some of the most important things about using LinkedIn effectively and I consider her a mentor. On this episode, she’s sharing a generous amount of her expertise with the #SellingWithSocial audience as well as unpacking some of the simple tips for LinkedIn success from her new book, “LinkedIn: 101 Ways To Rock!” I hope you’ll take the time to hear what she has to share. You won’t find a more knowledgeable person when it comes to how to leverage LinkedIn for your personal and company brands.

Outline of This Episode

  • [1:26] My introduction of the great, the wonderful Viveka Von Rosen!
  • [6:08] Viveka’s new book and what inspired her to write it.
  • [8:22] Why personal branding is so important in our day.
  • [11:17] Promoting the company brand AND your personal brand.
  • [17:08] Why it’s important to leave a digital footprint.
  • [21:28] Why Viveca’s book is unique on the topic of Personal Branding.
  • [24:35] The 3 things Viveca wants readers to walk away with.
  • [28:54] The things you need to STOP doing right now.
  • [36:57] The typical results Viveka gets for her clients.
  • [42:23] Viveka’s tips for sales and business leaders.
  • [43:59] The best ways to connect with Viveka.

Resources Mentioned

04 Feb 00:01

Action Words That Generate Responses

by Samrat Patel

We’ve all been there, sitting at our desks, writing an email or a communications for work and wondering if we’re potentially using words that could keep people from opening our email or could also positively influence them as they read it. There’s a reason there’s plenty of articles out there that tackle this exact conundrum of determining the best words for generating a response from your contacts.

Since its birth in 1991, the world wide web grows everyday. The internet, as of January 2017, has over 4.78 billion registered web pages and over 3.48 billion users. The email realm is even greater: by the end of 2017, it is estimated that there will be 4.9 billion email accounts with over 206 billion sent daily. The sheer size and scope of content available is daunting to any blogger or marketer trying to build, but there are methods on how to capitalize on the audience size the internet provides: call to action words.

Call to Action words, CTAs, are not just verbs, but rather words that will provoke responses. CTAs can be placed in blog titles, email subjects, and advertisements links, and they increase the likelihood of grabbing attention from cold leads, or people who may not have heard of you, your website, company, or brand. MarketingExperiments, an Internet-based research lab that specializes in optimizing sales and marketing processes, has found that CTAs can increase clicks by upwards of 110%.

In the content world, language plays such a big role that it cannot be ignored, our customers must be convinced to respond. In the IoT – the internet of things – persuasion is the only way to appeal and gather popularity and recognition. In short, action words are the words that have more persuasive power than other vocabulary. After research and experimentation, we at Contactually found that these five action words and phrases are the most powerful in provoking responses and fostering genuine relationships in the wide world of Internet and email communications.

Action words that generate responses:

Check out

One of the most common yet most persuasive CTAs out there. It invites people in a suggestive and welcoming way, rather than an aggressive one that could spur people away. Modern phrases are more informal, and they are growing in popularity because they work so well with the growing younger generations. Typical words to replace with “check out” are command words, such as “watch now,” “click here,” and “read this.” This CTA is a friendlier command, and surely it will get more people to check it out.

Discover

There is a reason why Discover is also the name of a credit card company. This CTA hints to expanding one’s horizons. “Discover” insinuates a new opportunity to learn, grow, and prosper. This CTA particularly also places initiative on the reader to discover the content themselves rather than having it delivered to them directly. Common words to replace with this CTA are “learn,” “catch up on,” and “find.”

Earn

“Earn” is a cultural trigger word here in the States. It is synonymous with Americans above everyone else because of the American Dream, which explains how a good life can be earned with hard work. Globally, “earn” equivocates to money; our society is achievement-oriented, and so use that social psychology to your advantage. This CTA motivates the audience to achieve more on their own, the key to which is in the resource advertised. Words to replace can be “make,” “generate,” and “get.”

Why

A method to provoking responses, clicks, and interactions is by poking the audience’s inner curious George. Humans are naturally curious creatures, so we naturally wonder answer to many unknown questions. “Why” is one of the most wide-ranged question words due to its explanatory nature. This CTA challenges principal meanings and encourages readers to dig deeper immediately. Answers can vary, allowing room for personal interpretations.

How to

This CTA refers to “hacks”, strategies for managing one’s time more efficiently. “How to” also helps simplify a dauntingly complex topic, such as computer coding. Touching once again on human curiosity, humans always are seeking out new ways to do various tasks, procedures, and habits. Whether a new habit or just another method, “how to” is a guaranteed way to capture people’s interests.

Where do I apply these words?

While promoting a product, specific content, or simply announcing exciting news via a blog post or email, CTAs can attract audiences like moths to a flame. Especially in situations when a new audience needs to be established, CTAs make it that more likely for readers to engage and engage later again.

The most opportune places to use CTAs is in titles of web pages, email subject lines, and social media posts-these are the first text people read. For emails in particular, there is a higher click rate on links on the bottom and left side of emails than any other region, so the most potent place to use CTAs is there. Also we should note that CTAs need to be used sparingly-overusing them is like overusing hot sauce, you can hurt yourself and your goal of a response.

04 Feb 00:01

From Idea to Execution: 5 ABM Tactics to Implement Today

by Brandon Redlinger

There are many arguments on blogs, podcasts, and talks declaring “Account Based Marketing isn’t new.” Sure, there are elements of ABM that smart B2B practitioners have been doing for years, such as focusing on accounts rather than leads and sending personalized communication to decision makers. However, there are many aspects that have been recently established to supplement selling efforts or overhauled and modernized. But rather than continuing to debate whether it’s new or not, our time is much better spent on moving the industry and idea forward.

Don’t get me wrong – there’s value in understanding the what and why of ABM, but the more interesting thing to address is how. How do you actually execute an effective ABM program?

Here are 5 tactics you can use right now to close larger deals with Account Based Marketing and Sales Development.

1) Use Intent Data to Read Your Prospects Minds

Intent data can uncover signs that a target account is in the market right now for solutions like yours.

“It is a crucial part of effective ABM, because it is not enough to reach any person at a company, intent defines those who are influencers and decision makers. In fact intent is a more accurate indicator of influence than job titles or departments.”
-Tom Koletas, Madison Logic

This can include any behavioral data that indicates the right activity, including:

  • Topics people at this company are researching on 3rd party sites
  • Participation in forums
  • Content interaction and downloads
  • Ad clicks

This data is sourced from forums, job boards, and similar sources. In addition, intent vendors such as Bombora, MRP, and The Big Willow can deliver a layer of insight to maximize your findings, depending on your specific solution and targeting criteria. Intent data is increasingly important because most enterprise IT vendors are selling to the same 5,00-10,000 companies. If you can get to them when they’re actively thinking of this kind of solutions, you have a major advantage.

2) Leverage Predictive Scoring to Look into the Future

Just as Netflix predicts which movies you’ll like based on the ones you’ve already watched, Predictive Scoring forecasts the companies most likely to close by analyzing historical data from customers who have already closed or become opportunities.

Models will often include all the firmographic (company information), technographic (what technologies are used at that company), intent (meaningful behavioral data from that account) and engagement data (how engaged your company is with that account) that you might use in a manual scoring model. The difference is that predictive models allow you to analyze vastly more dimensions and data points. Predictive Scoring looks at leading indicators at a level and volume that far exceeds our human ability.

“Yes, you need to look for intent signals. But I’d hate to try to build a predictive model on it exclusively – there’s just not enough of it in the market compared to companies that fit and companies you’re already engaging with.”
– J.J. Kardwell, EverString

Though not an exhaustive list, consider partnering with organizations that provide predictive analytics solutions, including:

3) Take Advantage of Social Intelligence to Listen to Your Customers

According to the ITSMA, “75% of executives will read unsolicited marketing materials that contain ideas that might be relevant to their business.” So, how do you know what executives at target accounts care about? Listen! Leverage services like Google Alerts, or even better Mention.com (much more powerful, and worth the price). This way, you can keep pulse of what’s going on in your target accounts and their industries. The power of Mention.com is that you can also monitor their social activity, which will help you uncover what they care about.

Social intelligence tends to be an extremely powerful form of intelligence. The information someone shares on social media is something they care about and can make for easy connections. It’s time to channel your inner Sherlock Holmes and dig up some valuable information on your prospects beyond just LinkedIn and Twitter.

4) Get Other Members of Your Team Involved to Sell to An Account

In her book Whale Hunting with Global Accounts, Barbara Weaver Smith explains that today’s buyer wants to meet not just you, the sales rep, but also the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) and everyone else on your team. This begs the question if people want to buy from the whole team, why do we only expose them to certain members during certain times?

You must get your entire team involved!

We’ve written about this before, but I want to show you what this actually looks like with an example from our Playbook. Here’s one of our prospecting/door opener Plays that’s manually launched when you want to leverage a mutual connection. The players involved on our team are an SDR and our CEO. The players on the buying team are the CMO and the Head of Sales.

Mutual Connection Play for blog post

That’s a high-level view, but to give you a better idea of the role of our CEO in this Play, here’s the email template for step 3.

Mutual connection email example

When this email is sent, this is what the receiver sees.

Common connection example email

That may seem like a lot of work for your CEO when you look at applying this to many accounts. However, you can have your ADR do the research and fill in the snippets so all your CEO has to do is approve and hit send. Then, since the ADR is CC’d on the email, he or she can hit reply and get a conversation started. The best part is the ADR doesn’t have to manually reply. If you’re using the right software, this can be semi-automated, or fully automated!

5) Create a Waterfall of Content for Your Top Accounts

When your sales and marketing teams are on the same page, it will make life easier for everyone.

One way to make this happen is to go to your sales team and tell them you want to help create some collateral specifically for their target accounts. They’re never going to turn that offer down. Find two or three of the most common questions they get when talking to prospects, then turn it into an educational piece of content. Aim for mid-funnel and purely educational content that brings value to prospects even if they don’t buy. Of course, if you do it right, you’ll position it so that the answer to the problem is your product, but let the prospects draw that conclusion on their own.

Work with your sales team to come up with enough content to write an ebook. Then use your content marketing skills to find some additional research, add some graphs or charts, and package it up nicely for reps to deliver to prospects.

Now that you have this one main piece of content, brainstorm with your sales team on how you can break it up and create a waterfall of smaller pieces of content for them to utilize throughout the sales process with other accounts. Repurpose this content in many different mediums to get the most out of it. You could write a series of blog posts, create infographics, design worksheets, print physical versions, shoot videos, host webinars, get press, share social posts, etc.

Do this a few times, and you’ll have your sales team coming to you with new ideas. I love nothing more than when my sales reps go to the marketing team and say, “I have an idea for some content I want to work with you on.” Those are usually some of our best ideas.

Blurring the Lines

In the traditional demand gen model where sales and marketing are completely separate, one team would own half of what I’ve just written about, while another team owned the other, and never the twain shall meet. However, when you’re taking an account-based approach to revenue, it’s not just recommended that sales and marketing work together, it’s demanded.

Which brings me to my final words of wisdom before parting: Stop calling it Account Based Marketing. When we use these labels, it only perpetuates the misconception that only one department is responsible for thinking and acting at the account level. For complex B2B sales, nothing could be further from the truth.

That’s why it’s leaders in the space, like Jon Miller, David Brock and Craig Rosenberg (to name a few) call it Account Based Everything.

04 Feb 00:01

3 Account-Based Marketing Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make

by Joe Paone and Vyoma Kapur
account-based marketing mistakes

Author: Joe Paone and Vyoma Kapur

Account-based marketing is gaining in popularity in large part due to its high potential for improving return on investment (ROI). Couple high ROI with the fact that new technology allows marketers to conduct ABM at scale, and you’ll quickly realize how it can transform your business. But how do you ensure your strategy is headed in the right direction?

Whether you’re an early adopter of ABM or just venturing into it, there are many mistakes that you could be making that will limit the effectiveness of your strategy. Hopefully, we can help you avoid some of those pitfalls with a closer look at some of the most common mistakes in the world of ABM. We’ll take a look at three mistakes now, but if you’d like a deep dive on the below and/or are interested in learning about additional mistakes, you can register for our upcoming webinar, 8 Biggest Mistakes Account-Based Marketers Make and How to Avoid Them.

Let’s jump right in and take a look at three big mistakes account-based marketers make and how to avoid them:

Mistake #1: Poor Account Selection Methodology

Nothing will derail your ABM strategy faster than selecting the wrong accounts to include in your programs. If you rely solely on sales to select accounts, you may end up with subjective accounts that look good to a sales rep, but are not the accounts that will generate the most ROI. On the other hand, if you act unilaterally and attempt to select accounts only using a marketing lens, you may find it difficult to get sales buy-in when it comes to execution.

Start off strong by identifying the right accounts for your organization. There are many different strategies and approaches you can use for selecting accounts, and each of them has their own merits. For example, some organizations may target companies that are using a solution that complements their own, while others may target key verticals or accounts that meet other specific criteria. If you have a large list of accounts, you may want to create a tiered strategy that prioritizes your focus on different levels of high-value accounts.

As a rule of thumb, account selection should include some or all of the following:

  • High yield: Accounts that are likely to result in larger than average deals and generate substantial revenue over the long term.
  • Product fit: Accounts that have business needs that clearly match your solutions, which increases the likelihood they will purchase.
  • Strategic importance: Accounts that align with your company’s strategy. For example, winning a big logo in a new territory or vertical to help your company enter those new markets.
  • Competitors’ customers: Accounts that are using your competition’s products or services.

It’s also important to consider accounts that exist outside of your database. There are many different vendors that you can use to help you find net new companies to add to your database. You’ll want to leverage the critera above to determine which accounts you should purchase from your chosen vendor.

Regardless of which inputs you use to select accounts, all stakeholders should be part of the account selection process. This will ensure everyone is on the same page and each group feels ownership of the process.

Mistake #2: Operating in Silos with a Disjointed Strategy

Once you have selected the right accounts, coordinate your channels and work cross-functionally to deliver a seamless customer experience. The biggest mistake you can make in ABM is to work in silos with only a few channels and tactics. For ABM to be successful, multiple functions not only need to be aligned, but also be committed to playing their part in penetrating the target accounts.

abandon silos

Here are some of the ways account-based marketers can work with other teams and departments to leverage their programs for an integrated ABM strategy:

  • Events: Event marketers humanize your brand, creating opportunities for buyers and sellers to meet face-to-face. There are plenty of opportunities to leverage events when it comes to ABM. Work with your field and corporate events teams to prioritize target accounts before, during and after an event, whether it involves alerting your sales reps when attendees from target accounts check in or giving them an exclusive offer after an event.
  • Content marketing: Because ABM is a targeted strategy, you’ll need to leverage relevant content to engage your accounts. The good news is that ABM in itself requires a deep understanding of your target accounts and their pain points, which can be leveraged to create relevant content or repurpose existing content. At the same time, think about how you can leverage content launches for your programs. One way to prioritize target accounts is to give them exclusive early access to premium content. This could go a long way in building relationships with these accounts.
  • Paid programs: With multiple vendors offering paid advertising solutions for the purpose of ABM, there are plenty of opportunities to reach your target accounts across the web. You can target your accounts precisely and layer on additional filters such as intent data, engagement history, and types of content consumed to target the right people at the right time.

Mistake #3: Measuring the Wrong Metrics

Account-based marketing is different from broad-based marketing in multiple ways. While the goal of broad-based marketing is to drive as many high-quality leads as cost-effectively as possible, ABM flips the traditional B2B marketing funnel and starts with identifying key accounts, penetrating them, and then landing and expanding them. Accordingly, the metrics that matter look very different.

In broad-based marketing, conventional metrics such as leads, conversions, and MQLs are used to determine program, channel, and campaign performance. Because ABM is a very targeted approach, only tracking these metrics will not give you a complete and accurate picture.

Here are some key metrics, which can be found in your engagement platform or CRM system, that are instrumental in determining the success of ABM:

Early-Stage Metrics

ROI-centric metrics take time to mature as prospects become familiar with your offerings, but until then, there are early indicators that you should be tracking to make sure that your campaigns are progressing in the right direction.

One metric that you’ll want to track from the start is account score. An account score groups the individuals involved in a buying process and provides a group view of readiness to buy, which will help you understand their overall engagement. If the account score is low across your target accounts, it is an indicator that you should revisit and rethink your program mix and content strategy.

If you are seeing account engagement, you’ll want to look at specific channel metrics to see which channels are performing the best. Some (but, not all) of those channel metrics may include:

  • Ad views: Look at impressions and click-through rates to gauge the effectiveness of your ads in drawing key accounts into your funnel.
  • Web traffic: See how many people from target accounts visit your website and how well the personalized web experiences drives content engagements, downloads, conversions, and other desired actions. Did you receive multiple visits or visitors from the same organization?

Mid-Stage Metrics

As the prospects within your target accounts engage with your communications, take a look at how they interact with your marketing programs and sales team by tracking the following metrics:

  • Marketing campaign and channel metrics: If you are using a marketing platform, this data often lives within in the platform. Analyze it to understand how your various campaigns are performing and whether prospects are converting.
  • Web engagement: Interested prospects will be visiting your site in almost every stage of the sales cycle to further educate themselves on your offering. Look for high visit counts to identify potential buyers that are drilling into your content.
  • CRM: Look into your CRM platform to see what information the sales team may have logged and determine how that can inform your future activities.
  • Sales feedback: Talk to the sales team to discover how close the prospects are to engaging.

Late-Stage Metrics

It may take some time to measure revenue, but it’s essential to determine the success of your efforts. Don’t leave out the bottom-of-the-funnel as revenue is the key measurement that both sales and marketing can influence. These late-stage metrics include:

  • Opportunities created: Take a look at the number of qualified leads your campaign generated who fit your criteria. The number of opportunities for each campaign reveals how valuable your leads are in regards to your primary internal customer–the sales team.
  • Account penetration: Number of key people (decision makers, influencers. etc.) that are in your database and opted-in.
  • Deal sizes: The average selling price (ASP) of closed-won opportunities from target accounts. The average deal size of target account opportunities should be higher than that of other accounts.
  • Win rate: The number of closed won opportunities as a percentage of the total number of opportunities closed. Like deal sizes, this should be higher for target accounts vs. default accounts.
  • Velocity: The number of days it takes for an account with an open opportunity to become a customer. The average of this should ideally be smaller for target accounts than default accounts

Curious about other mistakes marketers make when it comes to ABM? Register for our webinar, 8 Biggest Mistakes Account-Based Marketers Make and How to Avoid Them on Feb 8, 2017.

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3 Account-Based Marketing Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make was posted at Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership. | http://blog.marketo.com

The post 3 Account-Based Marketing Mistakes You Can’t Afford to Make appeared first on Marketo Marketing Blog - Best Practices and Thought Leadership.

04 Feb 00:01

Survey of 1,000 SaaS Executives Reveals Major Blind Spot Around Pricing

by Kyle Poyar

As companies hit milestones in their growth, they naturally bring on functional experts to help optimize their businesses. Experts have seen it all before and can quickly recognize patterns and work more productively than generalists. They get the job done right the first time. What’s more is that functional experts who own a few specific areas can be held accountable when their metrics don’t move up and to the right – there’s only one throat to choke so to speak.

HubSpot and InsightSquared very deliberately hired such experts as they were growing their teams from 0 to 100. Among a SaaS startup’s first 100 hires, there should be seven or more department executives (Product, Finance, Marketing, Sales and so forth).

Jason Lemkin of SaaStr also notes that SaaS companies should bring on functional leads to build out important capabilities around outbound lead gen (BDR/SDR), sales operations, demand gen, field marketing, product marketing, content marketing and more.

There’s one key gap both in Lemkin’s advice and the above org chart. There’s not one resource in either of these models to specifically own pricing. Consequently, all too often pricing becomes an ad hoc, gut decision, and fails to get the dedicated attention, research and testing required for its optimization. SaaS companies make thoughtful, data-driven decisions on so many facets of their business. Why is pricing such a blind spot?

According to a recent OpenView survey of more than 1,000 SaaS executives across different stages of growth, we found that among expansion stage SaaS companies (1-$20M ARR), 55% say they have nobody in their company who handles pricing as part of their job description. For the remaining 45%, pricing tends to be a small piece of someone’s responsibilities, rather than a dedicated focus area. Growth stage companies (>$20M ARR) fare somewhat better, but still have significant room for improvement. Even at this stage of growth, 37% of companies fail to hire a specific resource to handle pricing and only 26% say they have a packaging/pricing manager on staff.

Our survey results show that companies that fail to hire a specific pricing resource rarely conduct market research on customer value and pricing, nor do they A/B test pricing changes. These types of analyses reveal a company’s price-value position in the market and whether there’s an opportunity to increase prices, which drives a far higher profit improvement than any other initiative. Put simply, companies without dedicated pricing resources are literally losing money because of it.

With so few folks actually working on pricing, you might suspect that companies don’t think pricing is worth the attention of management. But the opposite is true. More than two-thirds of expansion stage companies say that CEOs or company leadership ultimately own pricing and make pricing decisions.

SaaS CEOs are blindly making decisions on a topic that is fundamentally important to their long-term success without the subject matter expertise required to succeed. It’s high time to put someone in charge of pricing. But when you finally make that move, what attributes should you look for in a new hire and where should they sit within your organization?

What to Look for in Your First Pricing Lead

Value-based pricing sits at the nexus of the customer, competition and costs. A great pricing lead needs to have a handle on each of these. First, and most importantly, they need a relentless focus on the customer. They should be insatiably curious about customer needs, common pain points, different segments in the market, how the buying process works and how the value proposition resonates. Understanding the competition and costs are both teachable skills, and a qualified candidate needs only the aptitude to get up to speed on both rather than specific in-depth knowledge.

Since pricing touches on so many different parts of an organization, a great candidate will be a relationship builder and a strong communicator. Look for someone who’s willing to spend a week sitting with the Sales team or going on ride-alongs with customers to fully grasp how pricing works “on the ground.” Meanwhile, make sure that person has credibility with the Product team and is passionate about the product roadmap. Ideally, pricing will come to have a strong influence on the roadmap since it collects the richest set of data on what customers need and value.

Let’s not forget that your pricing lead should also be analytically savvy and comfortable with both qualitative and quantitative techniques. For instance, they should be able to jump into your Salesforce and billing data to unearth opportunities as well as design surveys to extract pricing insights from your customers.

Where Pricing Should Fit in Your Organization

There is no widely accepted wisdom around where pricing belongs, and I’ve seen it roll up to Marketing, Product, Sales, Finance and Operations. In many organizations, it becomes a part of Product Marketing, which similarly rolls up into different departments depending on the company. Here’s what to consider for your company.

Do you have someone in charge of pricing? Where do they sit in your company? Let us know in the comments, we’d love to hear from you!

The post Survey of 1,000 SaaS Executives Reveals Major Blind Spot Around Pricing appeared first on OpenView Labs.

02 Feb 17:26

How to Establish a Meaningful Lead Definition

by dan.mcdade@pointclear.com (Dan McDade)

How to Establish a Lead Definition

Walk out of your office and ask the first three marketers and the first three sales executives you encounter one question:

What constitutes a lead?

I suspect that you will get 6 almost entirely different answers to this essential, strategic question.

Before technology came into play things were bad enough. With technology it is now possible to get more poor quality leads to sales faster than ever before. Most of them are a waste or wasted.

Watch this brief video to learn how to establish a lead definition.

Generally speaking, companies define their market too broadly, resulting in wasted time and effort applied to too many prospects. Are we marketing to IT decision makers in the F100? Or are we looking for IT security execs at enterprise-level healthcare organizations? Knowing the difference lets us engage the “real” leads in a meaningful and far more efficient manner. In one case recently a client sent us 4,200 prospects. The total addressable market was 804 and they were missing over half of those targets.

Frequently, the definition of a lead is not shared by marketing and sales (or even within marketing or sales). If there is no agreement on a good lead definition, there will continue to be infighting between organizations, and waste. Is a good lead only one where a decision will be made in the next quarter? Or do we recognize the value of relationship development on longer-term leads? Must we talk to the CEO, or is this a decision that the CEO will have no role in? You always want to sell high, but there is no sense in selling too high.

While most companies say they sell a solution, not a product or service, the message around what that offering is (made up of a product, price and delivery mechanism) is more likely than not described differently by every marketing and sales executive in the organization. Do we provide staffing, or are we a HR services firm? Are we a niche vendor, consultant, or service aggregator? All involved need to agree and have the ability to articulate who we are, what we do, and why we’re better and different consistently and concisely.

Finally, the alphabet soup of lead qualifying criteria such as BANT and ANUM are not the solution to the problem. For most high dollar, strategic selling, BANT and ANUM disqualify companies based on the lack of timeframe and/or budget – a huge mistake that will allow more agile competitors to get in early, solidly position themselves while you are waiting around and too late to have any shot at competing. For more, take sixty seconds and watch the video.

 

Comments please! Let me know if you want to explore solutions to this problem for your company. 

01 Feb 16:48

Zipcar Doesn’t Just Ask Employees to Innovate — It Shows Them How

by Soren Kaplan
feb17-01-101595983

Innovative companies have innovative cultures. Always. Think of Google, or of how GE has sustained an innovation culture that goes back to its founding father, Thomas Edison. Today GE has once again reinvented itself, as “the digital industrial company” — not bad for an organization founded in 1892.

As mysterious as it can sound, creating a culture of innovation isn’t rocket science. The dynamics are simple: Employees have experiences that come from leaders’ conscious and unconscious decisions and behaviors. Those experiences shape assumptions about what behavior is desirable or undesirable. If you want to change your employees’ behavior, it’s easier to create new or different experiences to shift their assumptions than to directly assail the assumptions themselves.

How do you do that? Here are four strategies.

Use Symbolic Experiences

Zipcar, one of the first ride-sharing services, almost singlehandedly established the “sharing economy” in the United States and paved the way for others in the industry, like Uber and Airbnb. But even a business model innovator like Zipcar must eventually respond to a changing world. A stark reality recently crept up on Zipcar: It had designed its entire customer experience as a desktop-and-laptop experience, so it didn’t have a way to sign up, service, and help members manage their memberships from their phones. The world had changed, and Zipcar needed to change along with it. It would require a big shift in employee mindsets and behavior, and Zipcar needed to move fast.

Zipcar did several things to jumpstart its new mobile model, but one of the first actions orchestrated a surprising employee experience that would immediately become a symbol of its new mobile-first mindset. Employees were invited to a meeting where leadership discussed its mobile business imperative. To help drive home the point, people were given sledgehammers so that they could personally take up arms against the “old view” by pounding on two desktop computers. Smashing the old to bring in the new (literally and figuratively) created a poignant experience and instantly wrote corporate folklore that could be passed on as a symbol of exactly what was needed for the future.

Consciously designing experiences provides the opportunity to intentionally design culture.

Create Customer Sightlines

In addition to orchestrating the sledgehammer experience for employees, Zipcar did something even more compelling. The company created a direct line of sight to its new breed of target customer — the “mobile-first Millennial” — by giving employees a direct taste of the 21st century’s mobile reality. Zipcar’s “member roundtables” occur on Saturdays and include about a dozen customers who share their needs, experiences, wishes, and feedback directly with Zipcar staff. Roundtables are undeniable experiences; it’s hard to disregard customer needs after a face-to-face conversation. These types of direct interactions with customers are powerful ways to shift employee mindsets and create the impetus for change, focusing on delivering value that directly meets customer needs.

Companies don’t necessarily have to bring live customers into the office to create a line of sight to them. Spacesaver Corporation, the leader in commercial storage and shelving for libraries and museums, displays giant posters of their customers’ installations throughout its manufacturing facility. Even workers who never step off the factory floor are reminded every day of the value they create through their efforts, such as the gigantic storage system used by the Field Museum in Chicago that houses dinosaur bones that are enjoyed by thousands of visitors every year.

Creating customer sightlines gives people visibility into the all-too-often-missed line of sight between the fruits of innovation, which can be highly motivating, and the day-to-day behavior required for it.

Provide “Worthless” Rewards

Some of the most valuable rewards when it comes to shaping culture cost next to nothing in financial terms. The Chinese company Haier, now the largest appliance company in the world, has a culture of continuous innovation. To reinforce that message, it names new innovations after the employee (called “makers” in Haier’s language) who came up with the idea.

Or consider the public television and radio station in San Francisco, KQED, which designed an award specifically to reinforce both small and large innovations that surface throughout the year. The award is a trophy topped with the letter Q. This subtle branding links the award to the organization and the other innovation efforts happening there, such as the “Q-vation” team, which is responsible for collecting ideas and promoting KQED’s culture of innovation on an ongoing basis.

Other companies give experiential rewards to reinforce innovative behavior. Westin, the hotel chain, awards its top innovators a five-day exotic trip each quarter. Sure, there’s a financial value to the trip, but Westin gives away something that’s inherent to the innovation and to the service the company provides. The award reinforces the value of the customer experience by giving that very experience to those who are most successful in making it better.

While most companies reward those who make a direct contribution to technology or product innovation, the best approach involves recognizing anyone who makes a significant contribution, regardless of the type of innovation. Doing so helps spread the value of innovation into areas responsible for the broader operating model. This cultural diffusion happens as a result of highlighting the underlying values tied to the success story (e.g., this was an HR innovation that transformed how we do college recruiting and now we have a flock of new innovative employees). This can inspire other functions to create the innovations they want to add to the business.

The most valuable rewards go beyond financial incentives to tap into what really inspires people to innovate. It’s the deeper motivations — a sense of affiliation, contribution, and making a difference — that can become infectious across an organization and that change culture for the better.

Develop Talent to Develop the Culture

One of the greatest forms of employee recognition is an investment in someone’s personal growth and development. While many companies provide training, few explicitly link professional development to strategic business growth, let alone create a culture of innovation. NBCUniversal is doing just that. Widely known for its successful television networks, cable channels, motion pictures, and theme parks, the company is facing massive change as it navigates a rapidly changing media and entertainment landscape.

NBCUniversal’s Talent Lab isn’t your typical corporate university. To promote new mindsets and behaviors that grow the top line, the Talent Lab provides programs specifically geared to senior leaders whose role it is to shape culture and business strategy. Its programs aren’t about academic case studies; they focus on high-potential talent, people viewed as game changers, culture carriers, and pioneers for the business. Participants in the Talent Lab’s six-month DRIVE program, for example, comprise 25 top executives from across the company’s portfolio.

The group is divided into five cohorts, all focused on a specific enterprise challenge that requires rethinking the company’s — and the industry’s — business model. Cohorts visit parent company Comcast’s Silicon Valley incubator, meet with strategic partners, and share their observations and recommendations with executive management to conclude the program. Along the way, participants gain new mindsets, strategic frameworks, and tools to use in their day jobs running NBCUniversal’s various businesses. The result is a one-two punch that includes real opportunities for transforming the industry and a talent base that goes back to drive individual businesses with a strategic lens focused on business-model innovation and growth.

Underlying everything the Talent Lab does is the recognition that deep experiential learning viscerally infuses innovation into not only participants’ views of their own roles but also their leadership methods, which helps them to collaboratively shape the future of the company, its culture, and the industry.

Supporting a culture of innovation doesn’t have to be a multiyear, multimillion-dollar effort. Rewriting the unwritten rules starts with deciding what assumptions will drive the results you want most. If you give people specific, consistent experiences that clearly communicate the importance of those new assumptions, the behavior — and culture of innovation — will follow.

01 Feb 16:45

Why every sales opportunity needs a regular risk assessment

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

Risk Management Square.pngIf you were working in the health or social services, or in the nuclear, aerospace, oil, rail and military industries, you would be well aware of the need to perform risk assessments on a regular basis wherever there was a serious threat of a hazardous situation.

In fact, if you happened to be in a management or executive position in those environments, you might well have a legal responsibility to ensure that the necessary risk assessments were performed to the appropriate professional standard.

Some may regard these risk assessments as burdensome, and a few might hanker after a simpler, less bureaucratic climate. But there’s no doubt that risk assessments have saved many lives, and will continue to do so. Which might lead us to consider whether risk assessments could save sales deals, as well…

You can imagine the response from some of the more traditional sales people: having to do a risk assessment would be yet another unnecessarily bureaucratic, burdensome process, another management-driven “hoop to have to jump through”. But they would be wrong.

Unless your experience is very different from mine, you can probably look back on deals that sales people assured you were “in the bag” - and yet they escaped (or the bag disappeared). You can probably look back on deals that went quiet, and being assured that there was nothing to worry about. And yet there was.

EVERY OPPORTUNITY HAS SOME ELEMENT OF RISK

Every sales opportunity - no matter how cast-iron - has its share of risks, and most deals have many more risk factors than are usually acknowledged. Sales people tend to be predisposed to listen to good news, and to avoid seeking out bad news for fear of what they might discover.

This is why thoughtfully designed checklists have become such an important element of the modern sales process - they force sales people to assess factors that have been proven to impact their chances of sales success. They make it harder to miss the obvious. As Atul Gawande points out in The Checklist Manifesto, they serve to systematically eliminate errors of ignorance and ineptitude.

And that’s precisely why I’ve been working with a growing number of clients to create opportunity risk assessment checklists that ensure that they uncover and pay proper attention to a range of well-proven risk factors that they cannot afford to ignore or sweep under the carpet.

I’ve learned that these risk assessments are most effective when jointly conducted between the sales person and their manager - and if there has been significant pre-sales involvement it’s often invaluable to have their perspective as well.

DO YOU RECOGNISE ANY OF THESE RISK FACTORS?

It’s possible that you’ll have a few risk factors that are specific to your environment, but if you’re in a complex B2B sales environment, the following risk factors tend to be universal:

  • Projected close date has changed more than once: when opportunities get their close dates pushed on a regular basis, it’s often an indicator that all is not well with the deal
  • Projected close date is unrealistic: if the proposed close date is significantly shorter than the average actual close date from the current pipeline stage, it’s often a sign of wishful thinking
  • Opportunity value has changed significantly: substantial or regular changes in the deal value may indicate a change in the buyer’s circumstances or process that may not have been fully taken into account
  • Economic justification is weak: If there is no compelling case for change, or a clear return on investment, or if these exist but have not been explicitly agreed by the prospect, the deal is at risk
  • Progress has stalled: if the opportunity has remained “stuck in stage” for longer than average winning opportunities, this often a significant risk factor
  • Activity levels have declined: if the amount of recorded activity (and in particular the number of substantive interactions with the prospect), the opportunity is at risk
  • Any element of the decision process, team, criteria or timetable is unclear: if there is any uncertainty about how and why the prospect will make their buying decision, the deal is at risk
  • Lack of engagement with decision team: if there has been little or no substantive engagement with the decision-making team, the opportunity is at risk
  • Over-reliance on an unproven champion: if you are relying on a single individual to make the case internally, and in particular if they do not have a track record of being able to mobilise their colleagues, the deal is at risk
  • Recent change in circumstance: if there has been a recent change in the decision team, sponsor, criteria or any other significant factor, the opportunity is at risk
  • Failure to align with corporate priorities: if the opportunity cannot be clearly and obviously associated with a current high-priority organisational initiative, the deal is at risk
  • Opportunity has unusual characteristics: if the opportunity has any unusual characteristics - for example, being significantly larger than the average sale, or into a sector where you have few references, the deal is at risk
  • Missing steps in the process: if the sales person has failed to complete key steps in your defined sales process, the deal is at risk. If you don’t have a defined sales process, all opportunities are at risk.
  • Any other issue you are aware of but have not confronted: if there are any other issues the sales person has become aware of, but have not confronted or resolved with the prospect, the opportunity is at risk

And that is only a partial list of the most common factors. If any of the above risk factors are present, or if any of the risk factors are unknown, you must determine what action is required to mitigate the identified risk, and put that action plan into place.

Sweeping the issue under the carpet, or failing to ask the tough questions, is a recipe for disappointment and failure. You can do better than that. A little healthy paranoia is much more useful than a large dose of complacency.

These opportunity risk assessments are a core element of our Value Selling System. I’d be very interested in your comments: have I missed any other common risk factors? And after considering this list, how many of the opportunities that are currently being forecasted might be at risk?

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Apollo_3_white_background_250_square.jpgBob Apollo is a Fellow of the Association of Professional Sales and the Founder of UK-based Inflexion-Point Strategy Partners, the B2B value selling experts. Following a successful career spanning start-ups to corporates, Bob now works with a growing client base of growth-phase tech-based businesses, empowering them to systematically establish their uniquely relevant value to their customers.

01 Feb 16:44

Ask the Expert: Craig Hess, on How to Sell to Multiple Decision Makers

by Judy Tian
  • multiple-doors

It used to be that most sales transactions involved the sales rep and a single decision maker. The two communicated extensively until the sale was final. In the sales landscape we find ourselves in today, however, relying on one relationship isn’t enough, especially when you consider that the average B2B purchase now involves 6.8 decision makers.

To help sales teams break free from the one relationship habit that hampers results, we spoke with SAIT Corporate Training Associate Director Craig Hess about best practices for selling to multiple decision makers. Here’s what he had to say:

LI: In your experience developing managers, how can sales leaders help their teams break free from the “one-relationship habit” when they themselves are looking to change this ingrained behavior?

CH: I’m a big believer that data and visuals go a long way to help deliver messages and ingrain new behaviors in a process. For sales people or sales teams that have relied on 1:1 relationships, a sales leader needs to find ways to develop the case for change, and the engagement of multiple stakeholders.

As such, a couple of great resources I have shared with my team are Mike Derezin’s Hanging on by a thread presentation from this year’s SalesConnect conference. Conceptually, I believe, strong sales people understand the importance of building multiple relationships. In practice, it becomes easy to take a key relationship for granted, only to wake up one day and find that a 1:1 relationship has changed due to a key contact changing jobs, organizational restructures, etc. Mike’s presentation provides a great visual – and stories – to reinforce the additive value of multiple relationships.

Additionally, I am a big fan of the Challenger Sale, and Challenger Customer work from the CEB folks. They should be required reading for anyone involved in anything more than a “simple” B2B sales process.

LI: What tools and processes do you recommend for sales leaders looking to connect with multiple decision makers at both prospective and client accounts?

CH: Leverage. Your. Network.

Sales leaders, sales teams, and sales people today have an abundance of connectivity tools at their disposal. As a result, personal and business networks are larger and more interconnected than ever before. Our “6 degrees of separation” are shrinking, and there is no excuse for a professional, proactive sales team to not leverage the power of social – Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn – to gain introductions and build connections. For us, as our organization has over 2,000 employees with industry connections, the TeamLink feature is a tremendously powerful tool.

LI: What advice do you have for sales leaders who have traditionally operated regionally, but now must initiate and strengthen global relationships to ensure their organizations’ success?

CH: This is an interesting question. For me, there really isn’t a difference with the exception of being able – perhaps – to build rapport within a region by referencing common shared experiences. I.e. it is likely easier for sales leaders to keep up to date on the immediate issues facing their regional clients. However, the principle applies globally. The business issues or challenges that clients are looking to solve are likely quite similar. The circumstances that have led to those challenges may be different, and impacted by cultural / social issues that differ from those regionally. My advice would be to be patient, and build your knowledge of the local issues impacting your global clients. Again, leverage your network to gain insights, and leverage the seemingly endless amount of data we now have at the drop of a Google search. Sales people are generally inclined to want to move quickly, and as such, may assume client’s sharing the same issues will all respond to the same messages. Don’t make that mistake. Do your homework, reach out to those that can help you understand, and then engage.  

LI: Are there any team building exercises you can recommend for sales leaders who want to champion change within their organizations?

CH: I’ve never been a fan of the “traditional” team building “trust fall” type exercises. I tend to believe that teams that can build together, grow together. To do this, leaders need to be willing to share their challenges openly and honestly with their teams. Help them understand the issues the team needs to address – or the opportunities that need to be pursued. Get your team’s suggestions, and make them part of the process to build solutions together. Transparency and involvement go a long way to gaining support, and ultimately developing a team that rises up together to accomplish big goals.  

**

Looking for more ways to bond with buying committees at your accounts? Check out LinkedIn’s Definitive Guide to Selling to Multiple Decision Makers.

      
01 Feb 16:44

Stephen Hawking and Elon Musk backed 23 principles to ensure humanity benefits from AI

by Sam Shead

stephen hawking

Cosmologist Stephen Hawking and Tesla CEO Elon Musk endorsed a set of principles that have been established to ensure that self-thinking machines remain safe and act in humanity's best interests.

Machines are getting more intelligent every year and researchers believe they could possess human levels of intelligence in the coming decades. Once they reach this point they could then start to improve themselves and create even more powerful software, according to Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom and several others in the field.

In 2014, Musk warned that artificial intelligence has the potential to be "more dangerous than nukes" while Hawking said in December 2014 that AI could end humanity. AI could also help to cure cancer and slow down global warming.

The 23 principles — known as the Asimolar AI Principles and published online this week — are broken down into three categories:

  1. Research issues
  2. Ethics and values
  3. Longer-term issues

The principles, which refer to AI-powered autonomous weapons and superintelligent machines that can outsmart humans, were created by the Future of Humanity Institute.

The non-profit Institute — founded by MIT cosmologist Max Tegmark and Skype cofounder Jaan Tallinn, and DeepMind research scientist Viktoriya Krakovna in March 2014 — is working to ensure that tomorrow's most powerful technologies are beneficial for humanity. Hawking and Musk are on the board of advisors.

Beneficial AI conference

"Artificial intelligence has already provided beneficial tools that are used every day by people around the world," wrote the Future of Life on its website. "Its continued development, guided by the following principles, will offer amazing opportunities to help and empower people in the decades and centuries ahead."

The principles were developed off the back of the Beneficial AI conference that was held earlier this month and attended by some of the most high profile figures in the AI community, including DeepMind CEO Demis Hassabis, Facebook AI guru Yann LeCun, and Oxford philosopher Nick Bostrom.

At the conference, Musk sat on a panel alongside Hassabis, Bostrom, Tallinn, and other AI leaders. Each of them were asked in turn whether they thought superintelligence was possible.

Superintelligence was defined by Bostrom in an academic paper as "an intellect that is much smarter than the best human brains in practically every field, including scientific creativity, general wisdom and social skills"

Everyone said yes, except Musk, who appeared to be joking when he said no. 

When asked whether superintelligence will actually happen, seven said yes. Bostrom said "probably" and Musk again joked "no." Interestingly, when the panel was asked whether it wanted superintelligence to happen, there was a more mixed response, with four people opting to respond "it's complicated" and Musk saying that it "depends on which kind." 

The 23 Asimolar AI Principles

Research Issues

1) Research Goal: The goal of AI research should be to create not undirected intelligence, but beneficial intelligence.

2) Research Funding: Investments in AI should be accompanied by funding for research on ensuring its beneficial use, including thorny questions in computer science, economics, law, ethics, and social studies, such as:

  • How can we make future AI systems highly robust, so that they do what we want without malfunctioning or getting hacked?
  • How can we grow our prosperity through automation while maintaining people’s resources and purpose?
  • How can we update our legal systems to be more fair and efficient, to keep pace with AI, and to manage the risks associated with AI?
  • What set of values should AI be aligned with, and what legal and ethical status should it have?

3) Science-Policy Link: There should be constructive and healthy exchange between AI researchers and policy-makers.

4) Research Culture: A culture of cooperation, trust, and transparency should be fostered among researchers and developers of AI.

5) Race Avoidance:Teams developing AI systems should actively cooperate to avoid corner-cutting on safety standards.

Ethics and Values

6) Safety: AI systems should be safe and secure throughout their operational lifetime, and verifiably so where applicable and feasible.

7) Failure Transparency: If an AI system causes harm, it should be possible to ascertain why.

8) Judicial Transparency: Any involvement by an autonomous system in judicial decision-making should provide a satisfactory explanation auditable by a competent human authority.

9) Responsibility: Designers and builders of advanced AI systems are stakeholders in the moral implications of their use, misuse, and actions, with a responsibility and opportunity to shape those implications.

10) Value Alignment: Highly autonomous AI systems should be designed so that their goals and behaviors can be assured to align with human values throughout their operation.

11) Human Values: AI systems should be designed and operated so as to be compatible with ideals of human dignity, rights, freedoms, and cultural diversity.

12) Personal Privacy: People should have the right to access, manage and control the data they generate, given AI systems’ power to analyze and utilize that data.

13) Liberty and Privacy: The application of AI to personal data must not unreasonably curtail people’s real or perceived liberty.

14) Shared Benefit: AI technologies should benefit and empower as many people as possible.

15) Shared Prosperity: The economic prosperity created by AI should be shared broadly, to benefit all of humanity.

16) Human Control: Humans should choose how and whether to delegate decisions to AI systems, to accomplish human-chosen objectives.

17) Non-subversion: The power conferred by control of highly advanced AI systems should respect and improve, rather than subvert, the social and civic processes on which the health of society depends.

18) AI Arms Race: An arms race in lethal autonomous weapons should be avoided.

Longer-term Issues

19) Capability Caution: There being no consensus, we should avoid strong assumptions regarding upper limits on future AI capabilities .

20) Importance: Advanced AI could represent a profound change in the history of life on Earth, and should be planned for and managed with commensurate care and resources.

21) Risks: Risks posed by AI systems, especially catastrophic or existential risks, must be subject to planning and mitigation efforts commensurate with their expected impact.

22) Recursive Self-Improvement: AI systems designed to recursively self-improve or self-replicate in a manner that could lead to rapidly increasing quality or quantity must be subject to strict safety and control measures.

23) Common Good: Superintelligence should only be developed in the service of widely shared ethical ideals, and for the benefit of all humanity rather than one state or organization.

Join the conversation about this story »

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01 Feb 16:43

10 Silos Impact Customer Experience

by Lynn Hunsaker

customer experience silosDoes your business have a silo detective? This might be the highest-ROI effort of your customer experience council, chief customer officer, chief operating officer — or better yet, every employee. Things that don’t make sense in the way business is done can almost always be traced to silo-ization. And the pain of business silos is well-known to everyone, whether employee or customer.

But don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Silos in business, like most things in life, have “two sides to the coin”. The good side: variety, ownership, accountability, specialization, and efficiency — yes, we need these. The bad side: short-sightedness, self-centeredness, inaccessibility, and inefficiency — of course these are painful. Use wisdom in determining whether a silo should be eliminated. In some cases, elimination creates its own set of downsides.

Overall, the key to dealing with silos inside a business is in expanding our perspectives and motivations in the work we do. This is the genesis of collaboration and universality (i.e. compatibility) needed to overcome the negatives while benefiting from the positives.

Your silo detectives should seek ways to expand perspectives, motivations, collaboration and universality whenever a silo is identified.

Did you know there are at least 10 silos impacting customer experience?

1) Organizational Silos
“Another department handles that” is all-too-common for customers to hear. In customers’ minds, “You have to go to X to get that” or “I’ll transfer you to Y” means delays in getting on with their objective. It means hassles: having to re-explain the situation, or worse, having to recite yet again account numbers and security answers.

Obviously businesses must have departments to specialize knowledge and streamline work. What’s missing for the customer experience is information-sharing, empowerment and collaboration among departments to minimize delays and hassles. Additionally, chronic thorns in customers’ sides typically span multiple organizations, emphasizing the dire need for organizational collaboration.

2) Channel Silos
“We only handle in-store transactions; you’ll have to contact the dealer you bought from, or our online group.” In customers’ minds, this means extra costs, delays, premature roll-outs, and lack of brand integrity: am I dealing with one brand or a mish-mash of opportunists?

A variety of sales and service channels help customers get what they need when they need it. What’s missing for the customer experience is integrated data, policies, and procedures, and experience continuity across sales channels, across service channels and between sales and service channels.

3) Systems Silos
“You’ll have to log-in to our other site” or “That mobile app isn’t available for the type of account you have” or “That went to the fax machine at our national site”. In customers’ minds, this means red tape nuisances, mustering patience to understand the lack of logic, chasing things that fell into a black hole, and tiresome delays.

Businesses acquire other businesses and adopt new technologies, and it takes time to consolidate or integrate. What’s missing for the customer experience is proactive communication about what to expect, carrying the ball for the customer rather than pushing the inconvenience on them, and taking initiative to prevent black holes.

4) Data Silos
“That’s in another database” or “thanks for being transferred to me; what is your account number and situation again?” In customers’ minds, this means repetition, wasted time, and uncertainty.

Businesses capture data all along the customer life cycle, from different sources, and in various formats. What’s missing for the customer experience is minimization of the mundane and laborious steps to get what they need.

5) Process Silos
“Welcome from your dealer” and “welcome from your success manager” and similar messages from so many departments might underscore your enthusiasm for the customer, but multiple groups sending onboarding notes, or requesting survey feedback, and so forth indicate broken processes. In customers’ minds, this means means extra reading, redundant interactions, and confusion about who to go to for what, another set of things to integrate into their already busy life.

Businesses have many moving parts that serve customers and want customer inputs. What’s missing for the customer experience is simplicity, with a focus on their own life/business rather than a sizable amount of their mindshare on the supplier’s business.

6) Vision Silos
Different people managing different parts of the customer experience have different visions of the customer experience strategy. Information Technology’s vision may be at odds with Marketing’s vision, and so on across the C-suite. Furthermore, voice-of-the-customer managers envision survey responsiveness that maximizes referrers, while loyalty managers envision renewals that hit monthly quotas, digital marketing managers envision personalized interactions, and customer care managers envision first contact resolution. In customers’ minds, this means enticements to behave when and how the company wants them to, and policies and requests that don’t always seem to be in their best interest.

Businesses have targets for growth, cost containment, and risk reduction, adjusted for each functional area. What’s missing for the customer experience is an irrefutable feeling that their well-being comes first, when and how it best fits their objectives, as a trust-builder and precursor to organic growth, cost containment, and risk reduction.

7) Assumption Silos
Different people throughout a company have different understandings of customers’ realities. Focus on survey scores rather than customer survey verbatims, journey maps focused on a touchpoint, and other common practices obscure an accurate big picture of the end-to-end customer life cycle. In customers’ minds, this means inconsistent empathy for their plight, and inconsistent experience across their end-to-end journey or life cycle.

Businesses are busy with running the business, and it takes a concerted effort to create a common understanding across thousands of employees. What’s missing for the customer experience is “doing the whole job” across customers’ needs and feeling valued as a long-term customer as much or more than a new customer is valued.

8) Goal Silos
Customer-facing staff have customer experience goals, but staff that doesn’t interface with customers typically do not see a connection of their work to customer experience; they’re focused on productivity or other internal criteria. In customers’ minds, this means products, processes, policies and business models that don’t always respect customers’ expectations.

Businesses have multiple obligations: shareholders, industry analysts, customers, and so forth. It’s easy to dilute the over-arching importance of customers as the lifeblood of funding for all the business does. What’s missing for the customer experience is getting things right the first time and all the time, as much as is humanly possible — preventing the need to rely so heavily on customer-facing staff and enticements.

9) Metrics Silos
Performance measurement of the business may be different from performance measurements of organizations, individuals, and teams. Particularly when it comes to dashboards, incentive pay, and recognition. In customers’ minds, this means heroics take precedence over prevention of issues, they’re directed to give a certain rating when the survey comes around, issues are resolved for individuals rather than customers collectively, and the supplier is content with industry-leading survey scores rather than resolving chronic issues once and for all.

Businesses measure what’s tied to goals; this may work well if the goals are accurately tied to accurate assumptions and well-founded shared vision for customer experience excellence. What’s missing for the customer experience is prevention of issues and anticipation of their expectations and reactions.

10) Handoff Silos
“That’s not my job” may be heard anywhere in a company, and anywhere across a customer experience journey or the customer life cycle. “That’s the fault of Y” is often heard by customers when sloppy handoffs occur between software or hardware or services, or between headquarters or branches, or between alliance partners, and so forth. In customers’ minds, this means headaches in trying to achieve their objectives, a possible bottomless pit of time and effort to figure things out on their own.

Businesses need to define scope and boundaries to maintain productivity and return on investment. What’s missing for the customer experience is prevention of surprises and true solutions toward their objectives.

Next Steps
Your silo detectives will certainly be busy identifying missed opportunities among these 10 silo categories. Missed opportunities mean precious resources are wasted, potential growth is unrealized, money is left on the table, avoidable churn of customers and employees takes a toll on the whole business, and return on investment across a wide variety of business endeavors could be much higher.

If you’re seeking to stand out from the crowd, span silos. If you want to thrive in ease-of-doing-business, span silos. If your aim is customer experience excellence, it’s imperative to span silos.

Image purchased under license subscription from Shutterstock.

01 Feb 16:39

6 Buyer-centric Sales Lessons from 74 Top-flight Sales Leaders

by Chris Orlob

“74 unread messages in your inbox,” I read as I checked my email on a cold December morning.

I had spent the previous 30 days reaching out to the world’s top B2B sales practitioners to ask them:

What’s the most valuable piece of advice you have when it comes to conducting winning sales conversations?

74 of them wrote back with some of the best sales insights I had ever read. Each submission is worth reading, re-reading, and meditating upon if you’re a B2B sales professional.

But there was one common theme that emerged time and again: Salespeople must fully orient their sales efforts to be buyer-centric and buyer-aligned. 

Each of the experts that talked about this idea had their own, unique perspective and thoughts on how to go about doing that. I’d like to share six of them with you.

1. There’s No Such Thing as a Complex Sale; Only a Complex Purchase

“Thinking we can accelerate sales by changing what we are doing is the height of self-centered sales thinking. Instead of sales acceleration technology, we need buying acceleration technology.”

– Garin Hess, CEO of Consensus

Garin’s point is a subtle, but powerful one. When we focus on making products easy to sell, we load up our sales and marketing communication with benefits and lists of sales arguments.

While these seem to align with our buyers’ needs and values on the surface, buyers recoil from this kind of communication. Instead of shoving benefits and sales arguments into buyers’ faces, what we need in our salespeople is communication that makes the product easy to buy rather than easy to sell.

In short, salespeople need to understand and communicate positioning. They need to help the entire buying panel to sort through the plethora of products in their ecosystem and understand:

  1. Who your solution applies to
  2. In what situation does it apply
  3. How it’s unique to dozens of other choices
  4. The end-results that can be expected

When we focus on positioning rather than hard-sell chase-the-buyer benefits and sales arguments, we make our products easy to buy. Ironically, easy to buy becomes easy to sell.

2. BANT Qualification is Dead; Try NOTE Instead

“The process of qualifying buyers for your product has historically been seller-centric. BANT – Budget, Authority, Need, and Timing – has been the qualification methodology used since the 1960s and has become antiquated given the informed nature of the modern buyer.”

– Sean Burke, CEO of KiteDesk

Sean and his team at KiteDesk have invented a new qualification methodology that aligns seamlessly with how the modern buyer progresses through the purchasing process. They call it “NOTE.”

  • Need: Let the buyer describe to you their needs in detail
  • Opportunity: Help your buyers determine if solving their need creates enough opportunity for their company; is it worth the change?
  • Team: Together with your buyer, identify the members of the buyer’s team that are responsible for capturing the opportunity you have both uncovered
  • Effect: Identify the specific, measurable effect that your work together will produce

When sellers use the outdated BANT method, they may get the information they’re looking for, but they often see irritation coming from the buyer. It’s misaligned with buyer expectations and purchasing processes. Implementing NOTE turns discovery meetings into a well-oiled buyer-oriented conversation.

3. Sales Is Like Curing Addiction

“You would never just walk up to an addict and loudly proclaim ‘Hey! I found this awesome rehab facility in Malibu called Passages. Ready to go?’ Yet we do the equivalent in sales all the time by prematurely proposing our solution. I teach all of my sales teams to get the prospect to admit they have a problem before anything else. The sales process very closely models how one would treat addiction. You need an addict to admit they have a problem, understand that fixing the problem is important and that they need to do something about it right now before it’s too late. Then, and only then, is someone going to be open to treatment.”

– Scott Leese, SVP of Sales at Qualia

Scott draws an impactful analogy. The process of influencing people in any setting follows a similar psychological process. The goal is to align yourself with where that individual lies in the process and facilitate the rest of the journey forward in the most frictionless way.

4. Entice with Education, Not Product Demos

“My voicemail is cluttered with offers to see product demos. What I dislike most about these messages is that the offer is completely misaligned with my stage in the buying journey. I am more interested in understanding how to frame my problem, and learning best practices to pursue my goal or address my challenge.”

– Mark Roberge, former CRO at HubSpot.

The takeaway? Sales professionals would do well for themselves if they understood the common problems their buyer personas experience, and reached out with education and information about addressing that problem before asking to do a demo (or even a generic discovery call).

5. During Demos, “Do the Last Thing First”

When it’s time to present their solution, most sales reps do their demos “from the ground up.” That is, they start with some of the most basic functions that lead to the most valuable pieces of the solution. The thinking is that this brings context to the “finale” and packs a strong punch.

Peter Cohan, author of Great Demo! and founder of The Second Derivative advocates the opposite approach.

“Start with the last part of your demo, first – the most valuable screen or feature. Even if you leave off how you arrived at this part to begin with. When buyers see exactly what they want right off the bat, they will ask how you got to that point if they feel they need that information.”

I’ve started incorporating this advice in my own demos, and it has made a world of difference.

For more on this topic, check out this podcast with Peter and Inside Sales Gurus here.

6. Use Risk-Reversal Language

Most B2B sales professionals hate giving opt-outs, cancellation options, money-back guarantees, or anything of the sort. They don’t want to deal with the future headache of a canceled customer and having to pay back their commissions.

Reflect on the above sentence.

Who’s concern does it address? The sales rep’s concern? Or the buyer’s? The sales rep’s, of course.

Meanwhile, the buyer has spent months championing your technology internally, getting buy-in, and now they’re suddenly faced with inking a contract that doesn’t protect their downside if things don’t work out.

Buyers often get fired when they make poor purchasing decisions. Of course they get cold feet if you don’t mitigate their risk!

When we analyzed B2B sales conversations using AI, we discovered win-rates increase (on average) by 32% when sales professionals liberally tout risk-reversing deal policies such as:

  • Opt-outs
  • No contracts, cancel anytime
  • SLAs (service level agreements)
  • And any other term or language that eases a buyer’s fear at the end of the sales cycle

Yes, your cancellations may increase a tiny amount. But that will pale in comparison to the spike in your closing ratio. At the end of the day, you have slightly more headaches but a much fatter wad of cash in your pocket.

What About the Other 68 Sales Leaders?

I wish I could post all 74 of these sales leaders’ contributions on this blog. But I managed to document all of these sales conversation insights into a new (free) online guide: The Ultimate Guide to Winning Sales Conversations.

You can access the guide here. And be sure to let me know what you think by tweeting to @Gong_io.

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The post 6 Buyer-centric Sales Lessons from 74 Top-flight Sales Leaders appeared first on OpenView Labs.

01 Feb 16:38

7 Myths about Account-Based Marketing for the Unconvinced

by Lauren Frye

While account-based marketing has generated a lot of buzz recently, it’s also surrounded by a fair amount of skepticism.

Doubters wonder whether the strategy is actually as new, as effective, and as ‘easy’ as proponents tout it to be. We’re big fans of account-based marketing, but we understand that it’s not a walk in the park to make the switch from demand generation to ABM.

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Here are seven myths surrounding account-based marketing, and we’ll be candid in our analysis. As a company that has made a 100% shift to account-based marketing, we’ve experienced the good, the great, and the admissibly difficult elements of this highly-targeted marketing strategy. And we’d still recommend it, hands down.

MYTH 1 — Account-based marketing is a new concept

Actually, it’s not.

Account-based marketing is the rebirth of an old concept with a far more comprehensive and digitally-based focus. It takes new strategies and capabilities and applies them to old concepts. Account-based marketing is really outbound sales, because you’re specifically targeting account rather than waiting for interested parties to find you first.

However, the difference is how that process is accomplished — what the outreach and engagement looks like and how those interactions are tracked and reported. We’ve wrapped martech and new strategy around a traditional concept, so don’t feel like people are trying to fool you. Yes, there’s a buzz around ABM, but it’s technically nothing new. It’s a highly targeted, data-enriched form of marketing and sales outreach.

That’s not to say it isn’t effective — it is highly effective if done right. And it’s that “new” part of the old approach that causes a dramatic upward shift in win rates and profit margins for myriads of B2B companies.

According to the 2016 State of Pipeline Marketing report, 67% of B2B marketers are doing some form of account-based marketing. And, on average, B2B marketers who do ABM are more tightly aligned with their sales teams.

MYTH 2 — Account-based marketing doesn’t work in cahoots with inbound

Actually, they play nicely together.

Most inbound marketing tactics will cross-apply to an account-based marketing system. This also means that you can run both in tandem, and they don’t get in each other’s way.

While account-based marketing tactics tend to be highly personalized and targeted, many of the same offers, ebooks, articles, webinars, and other marketing activities will also attract potential customers inbound-style.

In the State of Pipeline Marketing report 2016, 35.4% of marketers reported that only 25% of their marketing is ABM — which means that they have account-based marketing strategies and demand generation strategies running alongside each other. And it’s no problem. This also serves as evidence to debunk a third myth about account-based marketing.

MYTH 3 — You have to make an about-face switch to account-based marketing

Actually, you probably shouldn’t.

That same State of Pipeline Marketing report showed that 67.5% of B2B marketers are using account-based marketing strategies in one way or another, but only 4.4% of those marketers have committed 100% to a full-fledged ABM strategy. While an about-face switch to account-based marketing is possible, it requires extensive amounts of preparation, management, auditing, testing, and training. Some companies do it, but it’s a lot to tackle in one go.

account-based-marketing-tactics-sopm.jpg

Instead, incremental adoption of account-based marketing has been found to be helpful, and some companies never completely forgo demand generation strategies.

There’s one catch — it is difficult to reconcile ABM and demand generation reporting methods. One approach is based on leads, and the other is based on accounts and contacts. It’s nearly impossible to run both types of reporting simultaneously because both require a specific CRM configuration.

So at some point, companies will need to “take the plunge” and switch their reporting from lead-based reports to reports based on contacts and accounts.

MYTH 4 — Account-based marketing is strictly a marketing approach

Actually, it’s for sales, too.

While it’s been dubbed “account-based marketing,” it applies just as much to your sales team as it does to your marketing team. When sales works in a lead-based system, each lead is an isolated entity, separate from his/her company and his/her interactions with their coworkers during the buying process.

An account-based sales approach looks at a company/account holistically. Salespeople tailor their outreach to specific personas in that buying center, and they try to engage as many personas as possible across that account.

MYTH 5 — Moving to account-based marketing won’t require a change to your outreach methodology; it only affects your target list

Actually, a lot will need to change.

This is an entirely different way to sell, and both marketers and salespeople need to be trained on the nuances. Then, they will need new outreach tactics, new workflow sequences, and possibly some new content offers.

Changes in tactics might include more direct mail campaigns, more personalized outreach to higher-ups, and more specific messaging that will appeal to individual personas.

Account-based reporting methods will show the number of times various personas have engaged with marketing content and sales outreach, and advanced reporting systems will provide a predictive engagement score (an algorithmic score based on the engagement from personas across the account).

These are new metrics for your sales team that will inform a new way of selling, and they’ll need to adjust their selling strategy to accommodate the new (and extremely helpful!) information.

MYTH 6 — Account-based marketing will magically solve all of your marketing org’s problems

Actually, it’s not magic. It’s a targeting system.

And, a case could be made that ABM could magnify any strategic issues your organization is currently facing. Because account-based marketing is so highly targeted, you won’t have any “out-of-the-blue wins” that you had with inbound. Your success is based entirely on how well you research, track, reach out, and engage a very specific target audience.

It’s important to make sure that, when your org switches over (at whatever rate you choose), all teams are equipped with the right strategies and martech solutions they need to succeed.

What are some of these needs?

  • Marketing automation
  • Marketing attribution
  • Sales outreach tools
  • Data enrichment solution(s)
  • CRM integrations between martech / sales solutions

MYTH 7 — Account-based marketing measurement should only focus on engagement, not revenue

Actually, while engagement is important, it’s not the end goal.

Revenue should be the main focus of any account-based marketing strategy. With the emphasis that account-based marketers put on engagement tracking, it’s easy to assume that it’s their single most important metric.

Yet, engagement is a symptom of an underlying intent to buy, so an ABM strategy should be able to link engagement patterns with down-funnel, closed-won customers.

Tracking revenue is critical in account-based marketing, and an attribution solution can help you directly connect your account-based marketing tactics to the revenue they generate. If it’s not followed by a purchase, engagement alone isn’t worth much.

If you’re interested in how to orchestrate a switch to account-based marketing, you can download our ABM Orchestration Template, which gives examples and advice for organizing, prioritizing, and planning an account-based marketing strategy.

Account-based marketing is a powerful, highly-targeted strategy that can eliminate a lot of wasted marketing spend and fruitless sales efforts — as long as it’s implemented properly. Learn how to make the switch as smooth as possible for your team.

01 Feb 16:38

How To Leverage Live Chat to Win More B2B Customers

by David Cacik

Can live chat overcome the status of just a customer service tool, and become a sales generating machine? Are phone calls dead and live chat is about to become its successor? Let’s take a look at Software Advice’s findings first.

  • More than half (56%) of respondents have used live chat at least once to answer a question on a company’s website.
  • 49% of respondents prefer using live chat for online-shopping questions, while 74 percent prefer phone for more complex financial queries.
  • Regardless of the nature of the question, 56 percent of respondents aged 18 to 34 prefer live chat to phone, compared to 27 percent of respondents aged 35 and older.

Screen Shot 2017 01 22 at 15.06.31

B2B sales representatives and marketers are taking an example from their B2C counterparts and are starting to utilize live chat software to communicate with their prospects, resulting in increased sales and customer satisfaction.

Not long ago, the use of live chat was associated with B2C oriented businesses. However, this communication tool is now being frequently deployed by B2B-oriented marketing and sales teams to support their customer acquisition activities.

Some of the key benefits of Live Chat for B2B:

Proactivity is key

According to research done by Forrester, 44% of online consumers say that having questions answered by a live person while in the middle of an online purchase is one of the most important features a web site can offer.

Imagine a situation where a customer visits your website with the intent to purchase your product or service. Talking to the customer through live chat can have multiple positive outcomes for you:

  1. The #1 benefit is that live chat is more accessible for the customer, thus being online and starting a conversation with a prospect prevents them to go look elsewhere.
  2. With live chat, you can route the lead to the best possible person to reply their queries, you can also collaborate and multiple users can chat in one conversation
  3. You can capture prospect’s contact information like email, phone, and purpose before the chat is initiated, which helps determine the size of the deal, which can work well with systems like Leadfuze.
  4. You can use live chat to reduce the size of your Salesforce by using it to qualify leads. A big advantage is that one chat agent can handle multiple chats at once, which is not possible with phone.
  5. Online chat can serve as some sort of “cold calling” tool. With proactive invitations, you can automatically invite your website visitors based on the websites they visit or the time they spend on your website.
  6. Up-sell a customer and increase revenue immediately, or suggest cheaper options to build trust and secure the customer for further purchases.
  7. Selling to businesses tends to take more time than selling to customers. Follow up with the customer through email or phone later. Some help desk software providers offer live chat functionality, which means email, phone, and chat are all in one place.

Examples of B2B companies that utilize live chat

Sli.Do

Sli.do, an audience interaction platform, has been using live chat to leverage both its potential for acquiring new B2B Clients and provide customer support in real time. Every second matters, when it comes to live events, that’s why they can’t afford long stalls on phone. In 2016, sli.do managed to support customers 24/5 and cut down their response time by 50%.

Screen Shot 2017 01 23 at 08.44.02
Hygiena

Chris Frascella wrote on CrazyEgg about Hygiena’s success with live chat in B2B: “Hygiena does not serve a very flashy market. They manufacture and sell microbiology and hygiene testing kits for food safety and healthcare infection control. Most of their customers are industrial food processing quality managers, hospital infection control nurses, sanitarians, and chemical/janitorial companies. From 2013 to 2014, incoming leads grew nearly ten percentage points, from 60.6% to 70.2%. As of June 2015, the proportion of incoming leads via website YTD exceeded 73%. Live chat is shifting the distribution of leads in the website’s favor.”
ZCO Corporation

ZCO Corporation, a mobile application development company, explains that “the most common [live chat] questions are around pricing and process. For example, how much would this app idea cost; what would the design process be like?”

Even if you are in the most unattractive B2B market, you can employ live chat in your sales process. Whether it’s for cutting down the response time, increasing the number of captured leads or for being more open and “there” for new prospects, in most cases, live chat can justify its cost.

Is Livechat dominating over Phone?

Screen Shot 2017 01 23 at 09.25.33

When it comes to comparing the two communication channels, data shows that phone still has an edge over live chat. Especially with sensitive queries such as financial questions, customers prefer to use phone over chat. But but this apply in B2B as well? Let’s see what Katie Meurin, head of marketing of ZCO Corporation, has to say:

“I think people are intimidated to get on the phone with a sales rep and ask about pricing or process questions too early, because they don’t want to get hard-sold when they are just fact-finding.”

Conclusion

Don’t close down your telephone support line just yet. Rather use live chat to gain a competitive advantage. Especially in B2B, where online chat is not as common, there is great potential to offer something extra, and distinguish yourself. Customers remember.

01 Feb 16:38

3 Critical Sales Metrics You May Have Overlooked

by Rachel Serpa

Are you a data-driven sales leader? If so, you’ve realized that simply measuring revenue does little to inform or impact success. Rather, you must measure and optimize the actions and processes that lead to revenue. As such, there is likely a number of key sales metrics and formulas that you rely on a daily basis, from team capacity and call outcomes to lead source conversions and win rate.

Discovering the right sales metrics for your team takes time and patience, and even the best data-driven sales leaders sometimes find that they’ve missed a key calculation along the way. Here are three sales metrics that are often overlooked but can be critical to improving your sales productivity and performance.

Time to First Action

The instantaneous nature of social networks and Google search has accustomed consumers to receiving immediate answers and attention. In fact, it’s been proven that companies that are able to respond to leads within one hour are 7X more likely to qualify the lead as those that reach out after two hours.

Monitoring your sales team’s time to first action, or the amount of time it takes for your reps to reach out to a prospect once they enter your CRM as a lead, can offer actionable insight into how to improve your sales conversions. Identifying which reps are lagging behind opens the door to coaching opportunities, while recognizing those with the fastest response rates reinforces valuable behavior.

time-to-first-action

Taking this a step further and viewing time to first action by deal outcome enables you to calculate the ideal response windows for your reps.

time-to-first-action-by-time

Stage Duration

Think about your sales funnel, which is essentially a visual representation of your sales cycle. Now imagine a handful of leads being dropped into the top or wide end of the funnel, and closed deals (both wins AND losses) falling out the narrow end or bottom of the funnel. If someone were to ask you why some deals fell faster than others and emerged as wins versus losses, how would you explain it?

The answer is, you’d have to guess, because you have no idea what’s actually going on inside the funnel. This is where stage duration comes into play. Stage duration refers to the amount of time each of your deals spent in a given stage of the sales pipeline, such as Qualified, Quote or Close. Conducting a stage duration analysis like the one below reveals where deals are getting stuck or lost in your sales pipeline so that you can improve your processes in these stages.

Digging further into this information also enables you to identify the types of deals that take longer to close than others, or are more likely to get stuck in a particular pipeline stage. It also enables you to calculate the win likelihood of a deal based on the amount of time spent in a particular stage compared to deals that have been won. This kind of information is highly valuable when it comes to knowing what deals to bank on and nailing that forecast.

stage-duration-2

Deal Loss Reasons

Frustrations aside, there is a lot you can learn from a lost deal. Rather than closing the books and moving on to the next opportunity, leading businesses take the time to compare won and lost deals to identify the key differences between the two. One way to do this is by defining a set list of reasons why a deal might be lost (poor follow-up, chose a competitor, price, etc.), and requiring all reps to choose a reason from this list each time it happens.

After a period of time, enough data will have been collected that you will be able to see which of these reasons are the root cause of your losses. Once you have this information, you can begin taking steps to turn these losses into wins.

loss-reasons-by-owner

For example, if you discover that you are consistently losing to a competitor, you can provide your team with more competitive insights and a fresh pitch deck. On the other hand, if you were to find out that you were being consistently outsold on product functionality, you may dig into what exactly these lost prospects were requesting, and then get with your product development team to make it happen.

Metrics Made Easy

To aid businesses in ensuring that key metrics such as these are not overlooked, some CRMs and sales platforms offer the ability to generate pre-built visual reports in just one click. To learn more about these types of metrics and reports, download our free white paper, Understanding the New Metrics of Sales.