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  • How to Determine Product Market Fit in Your Industry
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    Think of product-market fit as the moment when “your customers become your salespeople.” Josh Porter, of Rocket Insights, calls it the magical moment when three things happen: Existing users recognize your product’s value. They tell others about their great experience with the product. Your company replicates the great experience for the new users. Daniel Ek, CEO of Spotify, recognized that many of the necessary pieces for product-market fit were already in place when music-sharing platform Napster collapsed in 2001 following allegations of copyright infringement. The content already existed, mobile devices stood poised to distribute the music, and Napster had amassed a sizeable market of users. Ek banked on the possibility that this market of users would pay a small fee for legal access to the music, and he was right. As of May 2019, Spotify boasted 217 million monthly active users. Indicators of Product-Market Fit Forbes Magazine characterizes product-market fit as a hair-on-fire problem that an identifiable group of people have. It’s a scenario in which a product satisfies customer needs in a way that alternative products do not. Stated another way, if more than 40% of your customers would be very disappointed to see your product disappear from the market, there’s a good chance you’ve created a must-have item. If your customers buy your product faster than you can manufacture it, you’ve likely achieved product-market fit. Other signs include a significant amount of press coverage or the need to hire more people quickly. Marc Andreessen, who coined the term “product-market fit’ in 2007, believes companies who have achieved this ideal state can feel it, because money is piling up and investment bankers are staking out the company. On the other hand, companies who haven’t achieved product-market fit can feel it as well, because word of mouth isn’t spreading, deals aren’t closing, and press reviews are flat. Product-Market Fit Goals for Startups Startups should prioritize product-market fit above all other goals, because those that find it will dramatically increase their odds of success. Conversely, many startups fail because they waste money on products that no one wants to buy. To avoid this fate, make sure you understand the pain points your product solves as well as the challenges your customers are seeking to solve. You can do this by focusing on six primary areas: 1. Determine your target customer Work to identify the target customer who represents the users that will most likely benefit from your product. Use market segments to define your ideal customer. Develop “archetypes” for those customers so your team will clearly understand who it is building toward. TechStars’ Entrepreneur in Residence Sean Higgins defines this process in four steps: Analyzing your product or service Familiarizing yourself with your competition Choosing segment criteria Performing research The research phase itself is carefully crafted around defining your buyer persona, identifying which part of that persona you’ll target, conducting market research with prepared research questions, and summarizing your findings into digestible takeaways to share with your individual contributors, executives, and board. 2. Gather intelligence Talk to your customers to determine their pain points and how much they would consider paying for a solution to those challenges. Seek insights from your sales and marketing teams to identify recurring customer complaints. Collect a large enough data sample to provide meaningful feedback. Consider, too, that face-to-face conversations will often generate feedback that online surveys will not. 3. Focus on a single vertical Startups have notoriously small budgets, which means that trying to sell your products to everyone will likely result in disaster. Begin with a narrow focus and dive deep into that industry. Establish yourself as the industry expert in a single domain with a goal to stimulate a viral spread. For example, Spotify saw that people were ready to pay a small fee for unlimited access to music, legally. They didn’t go into the market trying to take on existing music streaming services like the discovery centered Pandora or the more traditional, pay-per-album structure of iTunes. They created a platform for people who wanted to listen to any album, any time by only paying one fee. They identified a gap in the market and targeted the people in that gap. 4. Specify your value proposition Determine which customer needs you can best address with your product or service. Figure out how you can outperform your competitors and surprise your customers. Don’t lose sight of your product roadmap when determining which challenges you’ll address. Not every problem will fit into yours. For example, Spotify’s value proposition positions the streaming service as offering access over ownership, providing data-driven personalization, and the opportunity for content unbundling. 5. Measure your product-market fit You must measure your performance in order to manage your success. Identify key data points that will help you track performance. Start by identifying your total addressable market (TAM) otherwise known as the total number of people who can benefit from your product/service (i.e., If everyone who could use your product/service started using it). TAM is calculated by multiplying your average revenue per user (ARPU) by the total potential customers in the market. Once you have your TAM, determine what percent what percentage of your TAM are currently customers. 6. Avoid complacency If you manage to achieve product-market fit, don’t assume you’ll always have it. Your customers’ needs will change over time, and you must constantly re-evaluate market conditions in order to continue meeting those needs. This could look like sending out a simple survey that asks customers, “How would you feel if you could no longer use [product]?” Product-Market Fit Examples Wonder: Are You a Painkiller or a Vitamin? Your customer relationships will drive your quest for product-market fit, from the search to find it to the battle to maintain it. Guy Cohen, chief revenue officer at Wonder, points to his company’s drive to be a painkiller rather than a vitamin. “Vitamins are nice-to-haves, but people can’t live without painkillers.” In its development, the company recognized that it had endless verticals to pursue, but it also understood the need for laser focus. The company developed a list of 15 verticals it believed it could help and then cold-called countless companies within those verticals to ask a barrage of questions. Wonder chose its first vertical by determining which one felt the most pain and would therefore be willing to pay for a solution. Uber: The Free Ride Uber captured product-market fit by initially offering free rides between regional tech events in San Francisco. Uber’s co-founders recognized that the taxi system was prohibitively expensive and outdated, and few people used it. Once the Uber app gained steam, Uber offered 50% discounts to first-time users. Experts point to Uber’s ability to solve a problem and create a need at the same time. Consumers weren’t demanding better taxi service, but once a more convenient, simpler option emerged, users began to rely on the concept. The network effect kicked in and users began sharing their experiences on social media, providing social proof for the startup. To date, Uber has about 75 million riders, and the company recorded 5 billion rides in 2017 alone. In most cases, product-market fit doesn’t happen on the first try. You’ll likely test and adjust your product or service a number of times before you find the perfect combination of value proposition, customer base, and distribution. Continually experiment based upon the feedback from your audience. Tweak your concept if your data indicates it and be prepared to pivot if necessary. When you achieve product-market fit, your job will become much easier, because your customers and other interested parties will become a major part of your marketing effort. They’ll share their own stories with others so you can focus on the work of creating the same great experience for everyone who interacts with your company. Read more »
  • Best Regards vs. Kind Regards: How to Use Them Each in an Email
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    You write a masterful email. The subject line is uber-clickable. Your greeting is friendly without being overly familiar. And then you get to your sign-off. "Thanks" is too generic, "Sincerely" is too formal, and "Cheers" seems tired. "Best regards" and "kind regards" are two of your best options for business email signatures, but it can be difficult to know how to use each correctly. To avoid bad first impressions or email faux pas, I've created a quick-and-easy guide for when and how to use each one, so your emails are always appropriate and grammatically correct. When to Use "Best Regards" "Best regards" is the less formal version of the two. It's a safe, friendly, and respectful sign-off to clients you're familiar with but not yet well-acquainted. It's a neutral sentiment that communicates respect and appreciation without claiming to have a relationship beyond what you've built with your prospect, client, or colleague. Here's a list of scenarios in which you'd use "Best regards": When emailing existing clients When speaking with vendors you've worked with for 3+ months When communicating with prospects you've engaged in regular, two-sided conversation with When reaching out to colleagues within your organization Any time the other party sets a more casual tone over email And here's an example of how to use "Best regards" in an email:   Hello Jay, Here's that case study we were discussing yesterday. It should answer your question about how BG Solutions can streamline your accounting process by integrating with your existing software. Please let me know if you have any questions. Best Regards, Dee If you're looking for a formal or semi-formal alternative to "Best regards", use one of the sign-offs above instead. "Best Regards" Alternatives Respectfully Best All the best Thank you Thanks again Thanks in advance Thank you for your time Cheers Talk soon Looking forward to our next conversation Looking forward to hearing from you Have a wonderful [day, weekend] Happy weekend Reach out with questions Let me know if you need anything  Here are a few scenarios in which you would use "Kind regards": When conducting warm outreach When in the early stages of communicating with prospects (especially if they haven't responded to your emails) When emailing an executive at any company, any time When introducing yourself to a mutual acquaintance of a friend or colleague When you're uncertain which sign-off to choose And here is an example of how to use "Kind regards" in an email:   Hello Jay, I noticed you downloaded our most recent case study about how BG Solutions helped streamline the accounting operations of enterprise company Stillwater Inc. If you have any questions about that study, I'd be happy to answer them. Kind Regards, Dee When you've built rapport and a closer working relationship with a business associate, it might be appropriate to drop the "Kind "and "Best "entirely and just send "Regards," though some experts feel this is colder rather than more familiar. Below is an example of "Regards" in an email:   Hello Jay, It was great to speak with you on the phone earlier. I sent you a calendar invite for the demo call we agreed upon for Thursday, September 20th at 3:00 PM EST. You'll also find an agenda for the call attached below. Please let me know if you have any questions. Regards, Dee Regardless, it is the most informal version of the sign-off and denotes the closest kind of working relationship. Reserve this for clients or colleagues with whom you work regularly and whose email tone and style you understand, and vice versa. "Kind Regards" vs. "Warm Regards" "Kind regards" is a more formal sign-off than "Best regards," -- and "Warm regards" takes the familiarity a step forward.  "Warm regards" is generally reserved for close friends and family and should not be used in professional correspondence. When considering whether to use "Warm regards" in an email, choose one of the "Kind Regards" alternatives listed above to be safe and appropriate at all times. When in Doubt, Match the Customer's Tone Still not sure which one to use? As a rule of thumb, match the formality in your business associate's tone. If they've signed their last email "Best wishes," reply with the same signature or substitute "Best regards." If they've used a more formal signature like, "Sincerely," err toward "Kind regards," as it matches the tone and sentiment your associate has used. To learn more about sales communication check out these alternatives to "Looking forward to hearing from you" next.   Read more »
  • Great Sales Habits Start with the Psychological Principle You Probably Forgot
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    Are you familiar with the famed Psychologist Hermann Ebbinghaus?  If you said no, you’re not alone. But you experience Ebbinghaus’ pivotal discovery every day without even realizing it. I’m talking, of course, about the Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve.  Still not ringing a bell? Here is a quick summary: In 1885, Ebbinghaus mapped out the rate in which humans forget information. By his calculations, humans retain 100% of new information at the time of learning, but rapidly forget over 60% of the information over just a few days. After a month, the number is as high as 90%.  In the sales world, this annihilates results. How many sales coaching sessions are totally forgotten? Though not the sales rep’s fault (humans are human, after all), it costs organizations billions in lost revenue, as sales mistakes continuously occur despite ongoing sales coaching.  So how do you make sales reps remember their sales coaching?   That’s where Immediate Reinforcement comes in. You may be familiar with this concept already -- the sooner the reward to the trigger, the more likely a person is to change behavior. As an example: Imagine if every time a sales rep talked too fast during a sales call, alarm bells immediately sounded throughout the office. That rep would slow down right away -- no sales coaching required.  Frequently, organizations manually apply immediate reinforcement. Managers or peers provide feedback immediately after the conclusion of the call. Though effective on a small group, it simply doesn’t scale well and sales reps are hesitant to commit time to something that doesn’t immediately help them hit quota. The result is a bit ironic: immediate reinforcement is used less and less as companies grow and become more sophisticated.  Here are a few things, manual and automated, that you can try with your team: 1. The Trusted Ride-Along   A peer listens to live calls and provides guidance during and after the call. Frequently, a peer or manager connects to the call externally and listens on mute, providing suggestions via single-side audio that only the sales rep can hear (called “Whisper Mode” by most phone providers).  For fairness and objectivity, managers should use the same evaluation criteria for each sales call. They should also make sure that reps have a clear understanding of the criteria they will be evaluated on.  Here is a general sales call evaluation outline that works for most sales environments: Pros: Allows for immediate reinforcement, both during and immediately following the call. Provides managers with specific context around the call for a more informed coaching session. Provides an opportunity to work directly with reps who may not otherwise receive 1:1 training. Cons: It can be awkward. It can be distracting. It’s still subjective - the manager may give advice based on what's worked for him or her, not what is objectively correct. 2. Personal Reflection Write down behaviors immediately after the call. For example, reps might carry a memo pad with them and jot down a minute of notes at the end of every call. Alternatively, they might mark a tally on a piece of scratch paper every time they successfully execute a particular skill. After two to three weeks, consider having the rep graph out their results against a goal. By committing to a clear goal, they are more likely to keep it top-of-mind during their sales conversations -- a phenomenon known as “reactivity.” Additionally, it gives an opportunity to celebrate small successes along the way, as the rep’s ongoing improvement is recorded. Pros: Feedback is fairly close to the antecedent. It can be done personally, without the pressure of a manager, prospect, or peer involved. It can be done simply -- simply tallying a piece of paper when a trigger occurs can have great results. Cons It’s generally time-consuming and often energy-intensive, especially for longer meetings. There is no second opinion, so mistakes still go unnoticed and bad habits may be inadvertently reinforced.  Reps often don’t like doing it, especially if they have immediate deadlines. 3. 1:1 Peer Coaching Routinely, every sales rep listens to another rep’s call and provides comprehensive feedback.  In order for peer coaching to be successful, sales managers must proactively schedule out coaching sessions. At Balto, we schedule team-wide peer coaching during our Monday morning sales meeting, when the entire sales team is in one place, and reps coordinate schedules on the spot. If you wait until later in the week, everyone will be too busy. Pros: Reps sometimes feel more comfortable giving and receiving feedback amongst peers instead of managers. It can scale well, as it increases the total “coaches” available for feedback. It builds trust and camaraderie amongst sales teams. Cons It’s still after-the-fact, when the call has already been lost. The coaching abilities and experience of the reps affect the quality of the feedback. It's still very time consuming and some portion of reps won’t want to do it. 4. Real-Time Speech Analytics Sales coaching software that listens to calls and provides guided insights, live on each call. Believe it or not, recent advances in speech recognition and artificial intelligence now make it possible to automate immediate reinforcement. For example, Balto understands phone conversations and tells sales reps what to say, live on each call. That way, immediate reinforcement happens automatically.  Pros Provides immediate reinforcement, live on call. Provides objective insights based on data analysis. Is always available and happy to help. Cons It’s an additional cost burden on an organization. Without buy-in, reps may hesitate to trust the technology’s feedback, especially compared to a trusted peer or manager. Requires technical time and resources to set up and roll out -- not a quick fix. These options will have a substantially different performance impact, both in terms of upfront investment and final results. As a starting point, calculate what lost calls are costing your team, here. This gives you a better idea if a big investment is even worth making.  If you still don’t know where to start, try something basic; for example, have a rep jot down every instance in which he or she uses a specific sales buzzword. It won’t be perfect, but it will reduce buzzword usage over time. You can rinse and repeat for new habits.  Good luck selling! Read more »
  • 10 KPIs Every Sales Manager Should Measure in 2019
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    KPIs for Sales Managers New Leads/Opportunities Client Acquisition Rates Sales Volume by Location Competitor Pricing Existing Client Engagement Employee Satisfaction Upsell/Cross-Sell Rates Net Promoter Score (NPS) System Touches Sales Cycle Length Sales managers -- and particularly field sales managers -- can often feel like they are trapped in a fog. Without a regular physical presence in the field, it’s difficult to keep tabs on their team and business operations. Instead, they rely heavily on their field representatives to be their eyes and ears. The best way for field managers to gain visibility into their team’s activity is to collect and measure both team and product performance through KPIs. KPIs, or Key Performance Indicators, are metrics used to track the performance of a business, a department, or individuals against goals. The key is to choose the KPIs that are most relevant to your industry and business goals -- focusing on the wrong ones is costly to your company. To save you some time, we’ve narrowed down a list of commonly used KPIs to those we believe are most important to managing field sales teams. 1. New Leads/Opportunities This is the metric that managers most consistently monitor. How are your salespeople contributing to the expansion of your business in their given territory? Who’s reaching their quota? What percentage of your team is hitting their number? Is quota too high? Too low? Share this data with your team so they can see how they stack up against other reps. There’s nothing like a little competition to get your team motivated. 2. Client Acquisition Rates Another commonly used measurement is rate of client acquisition. Of the new prospects your reps reach out to, how many convert to customers? It’s natural for some salespeople to perform better than others -- but if there are large discrepancies between conversion rates, dig deeper. Are lower-performing reps approaching bad-fit prospects? Is there something that over-performers do in sales meetings that others don’t? Compare conversion rates to the number of prospects a rep reaches out to. If you find that conversions decrease after a certain number of touches, use that number as a benchmark to prevent your reps from getting burned out or stretched too thin. Finally, use conversion rates to compare different outreach methods, such as emailing or cold calling versus pursuing face-to-face interactions. 3. Sales Volume by Location By comparing sales volumes across locations including physical stores and online transactions, you can see where demand for your product is highest and lowest, then tackle the why. If sales volume is large in region A, perhaps there is a higher demand there, in which case you can focus on customizing certain products and services for that region. Or, if you are comparing numbers across physical stores, you can take advantage of A/B testing. For example, if two locations see relatively similar sales volume in January, try implementing a promotional sale in one location and not the other in February to see if it drives sales. In addition to promotional sales you can try other tactics such as shelf displays, discounts, coupons, demos, or samples. 4. Competitor Pricing While managers and business owners shouldn’t track competitors’ every move, being aware of their pricing can help create a competitive strategy. If your prices don’t differ much, you can consider a price-matching strategy to guarantee your customers the lowest prices, and you the most sales. Additionally, by keeping track of the average retail price of your products, you can measure the impact of cutting your prices or implementing a promotion. And make sure you're training your reps to handle pricing objections appropriately. Try role-play exercises so they're prepared to discuss price without defaulting to discounts. 5. Existing Client Engagement Maintaining good rapport with customers after the sale is important to ensure long-term business. By regularly touching base with their customers to understand how things are going and how they can help, salespeople can build trust and keep customers happy. When reps are consistently available to help, customers know they’ll always have somebody there to support their business needs. Beyond benefiting your company’s business outlook, keeping in touch with clients supports your business’ strategic goals as well -- it's a sales metric that matters. Ask your salespeople to keep a tally of interactions they have with each of their customers, then compare the number of touches to the average length of a client relationship. If, for example, you notice that your top 10 long-term clients touch base with their sales rep approximately once per quarter, take a deeper look. What do those touch bases look like? How often do reps encounter an issue they're able to help their client solve?  6. Employee Satisfaction Ready for some sobering news? A 2018 survey by Marc Wayshak reported only 17.6% of respondents rate their job satisfaction as "outstanding."Think that's bad? 47.1% rated their jobs as just "good." Working in sales requires persistence, and sometimes representatives can run out of steam. So one of your biggest challenges is making sure your sales reps are motivated and enjoy their work. With a remote workforce, how do you keep your sales force in sync? Do they feel like they’re part of a team? Do they agree with the sales methods that you’ve implemented? Employee feedback is crucial to a successful sales culture. KPIs are used not only to measure your team members, but also your performance as a manager. Employee satisfaction can be difficult to quantify. Try asking each employee to rank their job satisfaction on a numeric scale, along with a few qualifying questions to understand what’s making them happy or unhappy, then compare the results against your goal. It's also a good idea to learn how to spot burnout in your salespeople and determine a plan to combat it quickly. 7. Upsell/Cross-Sell Rates The most qualified leads in your CRM? It's your existing customers. Have your reps track their upsell and cross-sell numbers, and use that data to identify whether certain verticals respond well to certain product/service pitches. For example, if reps have good luck selling Feature X to clients with Product Package Y six months into their tenure with you -- this might be a worthwhile milestone to add to your sales process. Look at when, how, what, and to whom your reps are upselling and cross-selling, and adjust your efforts accordingly. 8. Net Promoter Score (NPS) Your NPS is a measurement of how likely customers are to recommend your product/service to someone else. The survey asks participants to rank the likelihood of a recommendation on a scale of 0-10. Their numerical ranking is divided into three categories: Promoters (9-10): They like you, they really like you. Not only will these customers likely renew, but they also won't hesitate to recommend you to friends or colleagues. Passives (7-8): They're satisfied, but that's about it. Passives are ripe for the competitive picking, because they feel your product/service is status quo. Detractors (0-6): They don't like you, they really don't like you. Detractors will likely churn, might tell others to avoid doing business with you, and will do the most damage to your brand. Send your NPS regularly -- and remember not to send it too early to new customers. There will always be kinks that need to be worked out of the system before an NPS is sent. Cadence of survey sends depends on your business and goals. As a rule of thumb, start by sending an NPS every three-to-six months. To calculate your score, subtract the percentage of detractors from the percentage of promoters. You can also use this handy NPS calculator. 9. System Touches Ideally, you'd like your sales process to be fairly "low touch," meaning your salespeople are closing new business efficiently for your company and your consumer. If you review a salesperson's quarterly numbers and see that they missed their quota and had a very high number of touchpoints per closed-lost deals (say, five video meetings, 11 emails, and seven phone calls), it might be time to revisit how effective that rep's strategy is.  Analyze your most successful reps' average touchpoints. Do their closed-won deals average three video meetings, eight emails, and four phone calls? Ask these reps to share their strategies, techniques, and advice to streamline your team's average, collective sales cycle. 10. Sales Cycle Length Similarly, it's important to look at the average length of your team's sales cycle. Are some reps closing in three weeks while others are closing in six? What are the respective churn rates six months from onboarding?  Analyze what sales cycle length produces the highest number of closed-won business. And don't forget to also look at how successful those deals are down the line. If you have a rep who's closing business in record time, but you find that their customers are dissatisfied with your solution and often churn after nine months, a longer sales cycle might yield a healthier business.  Once you have data on your KPIs, analyze the information to understand why you got those results. Then, determine how you can improve performance and follow through with action. And remember -- as important as establishing KPIs are, they must be always tied to an overarching goal. Read more »
  • 3 Ways to Cut Churn and Increase Sales Motivation While You Scale
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    The following is an excerpt from the new From Impossible To Inevitable (2nd Edition), the hypergrowth bible of Silicon Valley, by Aaron Ross and Jason Lemkin. It’s republished here with permission. Mark Roberge learned a few things in helping HubSpot scale from $0 to $100M in revenue and from zero to 425 salespeople across multiple countries. What does he see as some of the biggest problems in sales teams and scaling them? 1. Where Can You Tie Sales Comp Plans to Customer Success? The biggest problem Mark sees today in the sales world: sales doesn’t care enough about customer success. We talked earlier in the “Seeds” chapter about creating a dedicated Customer Success team, but how do sales comp plans affect customer success? People talk the talk . . . but when push comes to shove, vanilla sales teams are going to do whatever it takes to close a deal, then collect a check, and let other teams pick up the pieces later. Can’t blame them. Executives -- and their bosses the investors -- expect and demand it, and it’s what salespeople are measured and paid to do. To Mark, a root problem is sales compensation. Sales teams obsess 99% over their attention on contracts, revenue, and commissions, and what happens post sale gets crumbs. Shelfware existed because a sales team would get a million-dollar deal done, then the client needed 18 months to implement it . . . and by that point, no one used it. This was an epidemic in pre-SaaS software (and still happens, even in SaaS). The cloud/subscription model changed everything. It reduced the friction to implement software or move to a different vendor if one overpromised. By paying over time, software companies are incented to keep customers happy, rather than extract as much money upfront as possible. People understand this intuitively, but our sales compensation plans haven’t caught up. Think about this scenario: you have two reps who both closed $1M in revenue this year. Your first rep, all of her customers are happy and they’re expanding and renewing their contracts because of it. While your second rep’s customers are miserable, complaining and churning out. If your compensation model is set up so that both of those reps are compensated the same, you’ve got a problem. Mark proposes incorporating a customer lifetime value trigger into your comp plan. Churn and retention are the best indicators of customer lifetime, but they take too long to tie to your sales comp. Mark says to find an “aha moment” in your product or service that your customer completes in the first two months that flag them as an ongoing success. Pay the sales rep half their commission when they sign the contract, and half when that “aha moment” happens. Some popular examples of how a company knew a customer would be successful: Dropbox -- when an account has added one device, one file, and one user. Slack -- once a team exchanged 2,000 messages. HubSpot -- once the customer used 5 out of the 25 available features in the platform. Twitter -- after someone followed 30 other people. 2. Predefined Sales Promotions In a role where success and failure are so easily quantifiable, having an annual performance review to decide on an annual percentage bump in salary doesn’t make sense. It provides little incentive for your top performers to push harder and doesn’t provide them a clear path to getting to the next level. Instead, Mark recommends adding tiers to your sales roles -- each with clearly documented milestones to hit. Each milestone should have a sales component, a productivity component, and a customer lifetime component. If you hit all three, you get promoted to the next level. Here’s what that looked like at HubSpot (ARR = Annual Recurring Revenue) Sales Associate Level 1: $50k base + $50k variable (6.25% commission on an $800k ARR quota) Milestones—Close$800k in ARR, customer churn rate below “X.” Sales Associate Level 2: $50k base + $66k variable (7.33% commission on a $900k ARR quota) Milestones—Close$ 900k in ARR, customer churn rate below “X.” Sales Associate Level 3: $50k base + $80k variable (8% commission on $1M ARR quota) Milestones—Close $1M in ARR, a customer churn rate below “X.” You’ll notice that we did not include a tenure piece in the milestones. Mark’s best reps took seven months -- and some took 20 months -- to hit their first level up. It was all up to them. The stars can level up faster without waiting for annual (or arbitrary) performance reviews for the next bump. Additionally, providing clear and public expectations gives everyone transparency into what management values. 3. Have Reps Help Redesign Their Comp Plans Mark always involved the sales team in comp redesign. He started with a “town meeting.” After communicating the goals for the plan, he’d open up the floor to structural ideas. The brainstorming would begin. As the meeting progressed, he’d share some of the structures that were being considered and invite people to offer their feedback. As a follow-up, he created a page on the company wiki, reiterating the reasons for changing the plan, stating the goals, and describing some of the structures that were being considered. The conversation would then continue online with ideas and reactions. He responded to most comments and taking it online allowed salespeople to catch up on and participate when they had time. Involving your reps in helping redesign their plans reduces comp plan change friction; They have a voice and can contribute concerns and ideas, it reduces surprises, and reps are pre-educated before a new comp rollout. 4. Rate Salespeople Like Uber/Lyft Drivers It’s not Mark’s advice, but this fits here. Do you know which of your salespeople are creating great customer experiences, and which ones are too aggressive or overpromising? (Remember: big megaphones.) If you can’t tie comp to an “Aha Moment,” maybe customers can rate your salespeople. After a string of painful SaaS buying experiences, Jason proposed . . . Survey: 90 days after a sale, send an automated survey to buyers with one question: “How was the buying process, on a score of one to five?” Sooner than 90 days is too early. “Churn and burn” deals, where products are sold to customers that don’t need them and “fakeware” deals where the rep overpromises on features, don’t show up right away. Sales Score: Reps with a five-star sales score on an individual deal, and a 4.8 or higher overall score get an accelerator bonus. Maybe even 20%. Enough to be material. Possibly this accelerator is in lieu of other accelerators, perhaps it’s the only one. Public: Every salesperson’s Score is published internally, so everyone knows. Customer Success can be alerted when a low-rated salesperson is closing a deal, as can the CEO. And their calls can be listened to for corrective action earlier. Align your salespeople to the metrics of success that customers and management care about. Even with these examples, it will take creativity on your part, because sales teams and customers vary so much market to market. But do it and you’ll reap huge short and long-term rewards. Read more »
  • Here's My Free Networking Template for Tracking New Connections
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    You know what sucks about networking? Keeping track of everyone you've spoken with. I attend events, send emails, tweets, the whole networking nine-yards. But it often feels like I'm shooting shotgun pellets into the distance in the middle of the night. Having a "handy" stack of business cards doesn't remind me how or when I met the person. "Connecting" with everyone on LinkedIn doesn't share the specifics of what I talked to them about. Since I've yet to find a great tool to manage my networking, I've created my own. Inspired by the HubSpot CRM deal boards and the way I manage my sales pipeline, I modeled my own Personal CRM using Trello, a free collaboration tool. Trello makes it easy for me to visualize my connections, take notes, and understand the relationship I have with anyone in my network. Trello Contact Management Using Trello as your personal "CRM" in tandem with your free HubSpot CRM can be an easy way to stay organized and alert. By integrating the two platforms, you can create Trello cards for bounced emails or when a HubSpot CRM contact property is changed, and build a variety of triggers, such as when a new deal is created. Want to ditch the third-party integration? Consider HubSpot Projects, a native HubSpot tool that allows you to see every task that's been created for all of your projects. Use filters to sort tasks based on assignee, status, and due date. And create projects and add details such as assignees, due dates, and descriptions. Plus, you can attach HubSpot assets, create templated projects, and archive or delete your projects. Ready to get to the Trello template? Read on. Personal Contact Template If you're interested in learning how it works/trying it for yourself, I've listed the steps below. Here's what it ultimately looks like: Step 1: Copy the Personal Connections template First, sign in (or sign up for free) with Trello. Once you're logged in, select the "Menu" drop down on the right side of the screen. Under there, you'll see an option to "Copy Board." Go ahead and do that. Step 2: Create your first contact card Trello is based around the idea of “cards.” For our purposes, each “card” is an individual. Within each card you can take notes as you connect with people and have conversations. To create your first contact card, simply click the tiny pencil icon at the top right corner of “EXAMPLE CARD” and click "Copy" from the right-side menu that appears. Once the card is created, I typically like to populate it with some basic information about the contact -- such as job title or even a headshot to make it an even more visual networking database. To accomplish any of this, just click into the card and scroll down to the "Comment" section to attach images or write notes. Step 3: Populate each contact card with a high-level relationship status By clicking into the card, you'll notice three high-level questions that provide a great quick-view of what your relationship with this person is like. The questions I use are: "Have I added value to this person?" To jog our memory on how/if we’ve helped this person. "Have I asked for something from this person?" To know if we've asked them for favors yet. I generally aim for a 1-1 ratio of asks-to-favors. "Does this person actually know my name/face?" Be honest with yourself. If this person passed you on the street or saw that you wrote an article that they’re reading, would they make the connection and know you? If not, we need to get a few more touch points. Step 4: Drag and drop cards with each touch point I'm a firm believer that true relationship is formed with a contact after you've interacted at least six times. So, let's say I had Anum Hussain on my Personal Connections Trello Board with the intention of selling to her one day. One checkpoint I may make is commenting on one of her recent blog posts to show my interest. After marking off that checkpoint, I can move Anum from the "People to connect with" list to the "Touch 1" card. Step 5: Comment helpful notes as the relationship progresses As you work through each connection, consider commenting helpful notes on their respective cards. Most of the time, we're hustling many connections at once. Some we'll work through in a month, some may take a year, so having the right notes to spark conversations and jog our memories can prove incredibly valuable. I typically take notes along the lines of: "What are the things this person is passionate about?" "How did I meet this person?" "What was something we spoke on last that would be good to check in on?" "Any other notes on their mannerisms or ways they communicate." Tip: Card Aging On this Trello template, I've enabled the "card aging" Power-Up. So, if any of your cards progress with no activity at milestones of one, two, and four weeks, the card will begin to become transparent. Once the card completely fades away, it may be a good reminder to make another touch point or re-establish the connection. Of course, once you go through all six touch points, you can drag your contact into the "Established Relationship" list. Now, at any given point in time, you can look into this Trello Board and see where you stand with any of your contacts. Or let's say you suddenly bump into one of these contacts at an event -- just pull up this Personal Connections Board and refresh your notes on who they are and where your relationship stands before conversing. Read more »
  • 23 Sales Podcasts Every Rep Should Listen To
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    After a long day at the office, Netflix is usually more appealing than cracking open a sales book or streaming a sales training video on YouTube. Fortunately, there's a simpler way to learn new sales techniques without having to set aside extra time in your day -- through podcasts. The next time you're walking the dog, commuting, exercising, cleaning, or doing any other task that doesn't require mental energy, pop in your earbuds, press "Play," and learn from sales leaders and experts. 1. Conversations with Women in Sales Hosts: Barb Giamanco, CEO of Social Centered Selling and author of "The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media." Length: Approximately 30 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Stitcher Dedicated to becoming the best resource in the world for female sales professionals, Barb Giamanco's podcast is a platform for female sales leaders to share their stories. Episodes highlight leadership, career management, overcoming adversity, and more -- all featuring female executives you need to hear from. Notable Episodes: Reaching the Top 1% in Selling with Cynthia Barnes in which listeners learn how to work their way to the top of their field. 2. Your Sales MBA Podcast Hosts: Vice President of Hoffman, Cece Aparo, and Founder and CEO of Hoffman, Jeff Hoffman Length: Approximately 20 minutes Listen on: iTunes | GooglePlay | Spotify | Stitcher Looking for a podcast with actionable advice? Look no further. Aparo and Hoffman produce weekly shows that dive into how to craft the perfect pitch, maneuver tire-kicking, and close deals faster -- a perfect listen for the rep who's actively selling and looking to scale their skill set. Notable Episodes How to Win Deals and Influence Prospects: The Psychology of Negotiation: You'll learn how to toss out antiquated negotiations in favor of confident and authoritative closes. 3. B2B Growth Show Hosts: Sweet Fish Media Founder James Carbary and Head of Business Development Jonathan Green Length: Approximately 20 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Stitcher | SoundCloud This daily podcast is geared toward helping B2B sales executives achieve growth. Learn about sales team management, creative business development strategies, time-saving sales tools, B2B strategic partnerships, aligning sales with marketing, effective prospecting, negotiation techniques, and more. Notable Episodes: Avoid These Two Prospecting Mistakes: In this episode, CEO at Partners in Excellence and Author of Sales Manager Survival Guide, Dave Brock talks what not to do when prospecting. 4. The Advanced Selling Podcast Hosts: Sales trainer Bryan Neale and author, speaker, and coach Bill Caskey Length: 10-25 minutes Listen on: iTunes This podcast focuses on tactical tips and techniques you can implement immediately. One week, Caskey and Neale discuss lead generation; the next, they talk about communicating value or resolving objections about price. You can get even more out of this podcast by downloading its app, which'll give you access to bonus content and the ability to ask the hosts questions. Listeners can also join the LinkedIn group for the opportunity to connect with other sales professionals and swap advice. Notable Episodes: How Not to Annoy Your Prospects: In this episode, Caskey and Neale interview the head of a digital agency to learn buyers' biggest pet peeves. Commission Detachment: While money is always a powerful incentive in sales, reps must also genuinely want to help prospects. This episode covers techniques for balancing your motivations. 5. Women in Tech Podcast Hosts: Espree Devora is producer of "The Girl who Gets it Done," host of "WeAreLaTech.fm," "Uniting LA Startups," and, of course, "WomeninTech.fm." Length: 20-60 minutes Listen on: Player.fm | iTunes Get inspired by just a few of the top female executives in tech. You'll get tips on how to excel in your career, promote diversity and inclusion in the workplace, empower yourself as an independent business owner, and more. Notable Episodes: Dalana Brand of Twitter, Diversity and Inclusion as a Competitive Advantage: Twitter's Vice President of People Experience and Head of Inclusion and Diversity stops by to share why D&I is not just the right thing to do but an imperative for the future of your business. 6. Sales Gravy Host: Jeb Blount, author of People Buy You Length: 5-60 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Stitcher Excited about the idea of podcasts, but not sure when you'd have the time to actually listen to them? Try the Sales Gravy podcast. Most of its episodes are around five minutes, so you can easily fit them into your schedule. Blount consistently shares practical and inspiring advice on everything from overcoming your fear of rejection to doubling your callback rate. Notable Episodes: 3 Steps New Sales Managers Should Take Now: Transitioning from an individual contributor to a team leader is challenging -- especially in the sales world. Discover the three things you should do when you first make the jump. 7. The Salesman Podcast Host: Will Barron, founder of Salesman.red Length: 30-45 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Stitcher | Overcast If you're eager to learn more about the role of influence, body language, and psychology in sales, subscribe to this almost-daily podcast. Sales professionals at all levels will find value in Barron's interviews. He has a knack for asking questions and letting his guests take center stage. Along with sales leaders like Dave Kurlan and Trish Bertuzzi, you'll hear from former FBI agents, Stanford University professors, and startup CEOs. Barron's questions are designed to elicit tactical advice you can implement right away. Notable Episodes: Why Your Beliefs About Money Are Holding You Back With Peter Sage: Are you scared to discuss price with your prospects? Overly eager to discount? This interview with Sage will help you overcome your mental roadblocks. How to Master the Art of Prospecting With Mark Hunter: Hunter is a prospecting master. This episode is a gold mine of tips for both new and veteran salespeople. 8. Sales Success Stories Host: Scott Ingram, Account Director at Relationship One Length: 45-120 minutes Listen on: iTunes This podcast features interviews with the top 1% of sales professionals. Scott uncovers everything about the best sales professionals, including their favorite sales books, habits, routines, and tips.Scott not only continues to produce a continuous stream of interviews with top performers but has also built the Sales Success Community to help listeners connect with like-minded sales achievers. Notable Episodes: HubSpot's Top Account Executive -- Nora Edmonds: Nora and Scott discuss what it takes to be a top sales rep at HubSpot, taking a customer-first approach to sales, and the importance of truly believing in what you sell. 9. In the Arena Host: Anthony Iannarino, entrepreneur, sales coach, and founder of The Sales Blog Length: 20-50 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Android On this podcast, sales expert Anthony Iannarino interviews well-known sales professionals from both B2B and B2C companies. The topics run the gamut from social selling and sales automation to balancing your priorities and eliminating excuses. Every guest provides a fresh perspective on sales, making this show a great choice if you want to expand your knowledge. Notable Episodes: Tell and Sell: Why Stories Build Trust and Sell Things For More, With Paul Smith: Do you rely on your slides and data to sell for you? If so, this episode will help you move away from those crutches and tell engaging stories. 10. The Ziglar Show -- Inspiring Your True Performance Hosts: Tom Ziglar, CEO of Ziglar, Inc. and Kevin Miller, CEO of Free Agent Academy Length: 30-75 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Stitcher This top-ranked business podcast is focused on self-improvement. Each week, Ziglar and Miller spend roughly 30 minutes to an hour exploring new ways to improve your career. Most of the episodes are inspired by Zig Ziglar's philosophy; however, they're not explicitly focused on sales topics. To give you an idea, past subjects have included positive peer pressure, meditation, and purposeful procrastination. Notable Episodes: Sell With a Story -- Paul Smith: If you want prospects to remember your points, Paul Smith (yes, the same Paul Smith from #6. recommends framing them in stories. 11. The Sales Evangelist Host: Sales coach and president at The Sales Evangelist LLC., Donald C. Kelly Length: 9-36 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Stitcher Enjoy tips and actionable wisdom from a B2B sales pro who knows how to hustle in this daily podcast. Sales trainer Donald Kelly interviews experts in sales, business, and marketing, so you can learn how to take your career up a notch. Notable Episodes: Rethinking the Way You Sell: Sales expert Jeff Bajorek talks salesperson-centric versus customer-centric selling, the power of connection, strategies for scaling, and more. 12. Bowery Capital Startup Sales Podcast Host: Rotating hosts from the Bowery Capital team, an early-stage venture capital firm focusing on technology startups Length: 25-45 minutes Listen on: iTunes This podcast focuses on the unique challenges of startup sales. However, its tips are applicable whether you're working at a young company or a large-scale enterprise. Previous episodes have delved into subjects like writing emails that convert, perfecting your sales script, and balancing personalization with automation. Like what you hear? Bowery Capital has been producing this show since 2014, so there's a lot in the archives. Notable Episodes: Sales Cadence Strategies That Work, with Gabe Larsen: Get practical suggestions on building, organizing, and managing your sales cadence, as well as advice for customizing your sales process to different situations. Perfecting the Sales Script, with Nick Romito: Nick Romito, the Founder and CEO of VTS, talks about writing and iterating on your team's script. 13. Accelerate! Host: Andy Paul, speaker, sales strategiest, and author of "Zero-Time Selling: 10 Essential Steps to Accelerate Every Company's Sales" Length: 18-49 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Stitcher Six times a week, Paul interviews sales giants like Jeffrey Gitomer, Robert Cialdini, and Jill Konrath. You'll learn strategic insights to generate value for your customers and advance your career. Notable Episodes: What Do Buyers Want From Sellers: Deb Calvert, president of People First Productivity Solutions, breaks the code of how to tell what buyers really want from salespeople. 14. Get in the Door: Sales Prospecting Strategies & Tactics Host: Steve Kloyda, founder of The Prospecting Expert Length: 10-35 minutes Listen on: iTunes Get in the Door is a podcast that focuses exclusively on helping you connect with new accounts. During each episode, host Steve Kloyda interweaves practical suggestions with examples and stories taken from his own sales career. Kloyda believes strongly in serving the customer and thinking about the "why" behind your goals. Notable Episodes: A $250,000 Sale In Fifteen Minutes: Learn how to work with objections, instead of "handling" them -- and how this approach can help you win huge deals. 15. The Sales Babble Podcast Host: Pat Helmers, creator of Selling With Confidence Length: 15-35 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Android This show features selling tips for small and medium businesses and entrepreneurs. Helmers explains sales concepts in easy-to-understand, plain language. The topics range from broad (prospecting, setting the right mindset, winning referrals. to specific (selling new or unproven products, pitching startups, selling to government institutions, and so on.. Notable Episodes: How to Sell Big Clients and Win Tremendous Deals, with Melinda Chen: Sales executive Melinda Chen shares her tips for targeting the right big accounts, gaining access to hard-to-reach decision makers, and framing your value proposition. 16. The Jordan Harbinger Show Host: Jordan Harbinger, social interaction expert Length: 5-80 minutes Listen on: iTunes If you can't form genuine connections with your prospects, you'll probably struggle. But all hope isn't lost if you're not naturally charismatic. Harbinger says he was lacking the social skills he needed to advance professionally -- so he decided to learn them. Now, he shares his insights with his podcast audience. Each episode features several fresh, research-backed tips from guests like Simon Sinek, Nilofer Merchant, and David Burkus. Notable Episodes: Why Success and Happiness Aren’t Mutually Exclusive: Shawn Achor, a leading expert on the connection between happiness and success, talks about why you'll perform better if you help others operate at their best. 17. Sell or Die Host: Jeffrey Gitomer, author of Little Red Book of Selling, and Jennifer Gluckow, renowned LinkedIn and networking expert Length: 5-60 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Stitcher Together, Gitomer and Gluckow have created a podcast that centers around the art and science of selling. They invite leaders in sales, marketing, and personal development to join the conversation on each episode leading to lively discussions on dealing with rejection, artificial intelligence in sales, and more. Notable Episodes: The Toughest Sale: Gitomer interviews insurance industry expert Mark Steinberg as they discuss the toughest sales in their careers. 18. Sales Pipeline Radio Host: Matt Heinz, president of Heinz Marketing Length: 22-30 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Stitcher Have you caught the latest wave in sales growth? Industry favorite Matt Heinz is here to help. Each episode features an expert in B2B sales or marketing. Learn about driving greater volume, velocity and conversion of sales pipelines, from demand gen to lead management and more. The goal? To help you find, manage, and win more business. Notable Episodes: Real Talk with a Successful B2B Sales Rep: Morgan J. Ingram, a sales development manager at Terminus, talks video, social selling, and ABM. Stories and Data: 3 Proven Methods for More Accurate Sales Forecasting: HubSpot's very own director of sales, Michael Pici, shares how he got his start in sales and his thoughts on sales forecasting. 19. Make It Happen Mondays -- B2B Sales with John Barrows Host: John Barrows, founder of JBarrows Sales Training Length: 30 minutes Listen on: iTunes This sales podcast is recorded live on Facebook every Monday and covers everything in the sales cycle from calling to closing, along with career growth and success topics. Each episode features actionable takeaways and anecdotes from John's career. Notable Episodes: Personal Branding and Career Growth with Morgan J. Ingram: Morgan J. Ingram shares how he's achieved success early in his career. 20. The Sales Podcast Host: Author, speaker, and The Sales Whisperer CEO Wes Schaeffer Length: 25-90 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Stitcher Host Wes Schaeffer answers questions about growing your sales, inbound selling, and the entrepreneurial mindset. Looking for a straightfoward, practical take on sales? This is your podcast. Notable Episodes: Michelle Weinstein is the Pitch Queen: Shark Tank veteran Michelle Weinstein shares her tips on adding value on top of value, anticipating and addressing objections in your pitch, and her secrets for practicing. 21. SaaStr Hosts: SaaStr founder and godfather of SaaS Jason M. Lemkin, and The Twenty Minute VC podcaster Harry Stebbings Length: Approximately 30 minutes Listen on: iTunes | SoundCloud | PodBean Hear weekly interviews of the most prominent operators and investors on how to attain success in the world of SaaS. You'll learn how to get from $0 to $100m ARR, how to scale, and how to hire. Sales, investing, and entrepreneurial tips meld effortlessly in this industry-favorite podcast. Notable Episodes: Why It Is Harder To Go Enterprise Down Than SMB Up: SaaS exec Paul Albright discusses what an efficient sales and marketing engine looks like, how to build it, and why it's harder to go SMB up than enterprise down. 22. Conquer Local with George Leith Hosts: Vendasta CRO George Leith Length: 25-30 minutes Listen on: iTunes | Google Play | Soundcloud If selling to local businesses is your game, this weekly podcast is chock-full of tips and strategies that make it easier. In each episode, George Leith interviews sales leaders and talks about his own 30 years of experience in the industry. Notable Episodes: Rank Fishkin: Startup struggles & sales strategies: In this episode, George sits down with Rand Fishkin to talk about his experience growing Moz, and what he learned as an entrepreneur and CEO. Plus, Fishkin has a ton of valuable advice to improve your sales strategies. 23. The Failure Factor Hosts: Megan Bruneau, therapist, executive coach, and Forbes contributor Length: Approximately one hour Listen on: iTunes | TuneIn For salespeople, fear might look like worrying that if miss your quota again, you'll lose your job. Fear is part of a salesperson's career, and therapist Megan Bruneau has strategies to help you do more than cope with it. She shares how listeners can capitalize off their failures to achieve fulfillment and success. Notable Episodes: Daybreaker and Thinx Cofounder on the Challenges of Being a Woman in the Boardroom: Serial entrepreneur Radha Agrawal shares her story as a woman in business, her departure from a former company, and what she learned from it all. Roughly one in five U.S. adults say they're monthly podcast listeners. If you're not already one of them, the shows on this list might convert you. For more sales resources, listen to our playlist of motivational songs next. Read more »
  • The Ultimate Guide to Sales Demos That Close Prospects
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    Have you ever considered buying a product or signing up for a service but felt you needed to see that product or service in action prior to making your decision? Maybe because you were unsure of how it actually worked or you didn't know whether or not if would solve a challenge you were facing. That's where a sales demonstration comes in handy. Before we dive into the sales demonstration process, let's look at the difference between a sales demo and a product demo, as they're often confused terms. Sales Demo vs. Product Demo To reiterate, a sales demo is the process of providing a prospect with a demonstration of your product or service. A product demo is the same process but it involves a current customer. The point of a sales demo is to create a sale whereas the point of a product demo is to show an existing client how to use the product or service they already invested their time and money in. Sales Demo Basics Now, let's answer a few more questions that may come up as you begin thinking about your business's process and as you prepare to start delivering demos to prospective customers. Use HubSpot's Sales Hub to organize and manage all aspects of your sales processes including your demos. Who delivers a sales demo? At virtually every company, a sales rep will deliver a demo to the prospective customer. Why deliver a sales demo? You deliver a sales demo to close a deal. With a sales demo, you're showing a prospect exactly how your product or service meets their specific needs and can mitigate any pain points and issues they're experiencing. This makes your prospect want to buy your product or service (or at least want to learn more about it so they can convert later on). When do you deliver a sales demo? Sales demos typically occur after a visitor becomes a lead. Depending on where a prospect is in the buyer's journey, there are a few specific points in time when you might deliver a sales demo (or ask if your prospect is interested in a demo). When a visitor completes a micro conversion (signs up for your newsletter or requests more information) When a lead contacts a member of your sales team to learn more about your product or service When a lead requests a consultation How do you deliver a sales demo? There are a number of channels through which you can deliver your sales demos. You might offer your prospects different options to be flexible and meet their needs. Ensure you have all of the tools needed to offer these sales demo delivery methods. For example, if you decide to deliver a sales demo via video chat, make sure you have access to software like GoToMeeting or Zoom, which allow easy screen share, face-to-face video chat, messaging, call features, and more. Here are some more examples of common sales demo delivery channels: Phone call Email In-person Automated/ pre-recorded video Live video chat Since you now have a better understanding of the basics behind the sales demo process, let's take a look at how to actually deliver a sales demo. 1. Research Your Prospect The first step in the sales demo process is to research your prospect. As the rep who's delivering the demo, you should have a deep understanding of the prospect's needs and pain points as well as what it is the company they work for does. This will allow you to tailor and customize the demo to the prospect's specific needs and situation, which is a critical component of a successful sales demo. 2. Confirm the Sales Demo A sales demo is something that's almost always planned in advance — so it's important to remember to confirm the demo prior to it happening. Make sure the planned time of the demo still works for the prospect and give them a window to postpone if they've accidentally double-booked or if something else came up. Send a calendar invite as soon as you've confirmed the date and time of the demo (don't forget to include any dial-in information if needed). Ask if anyone other than the person (or people) you listed on the invite will be attending so you can add them. Then, follow up with a confirmation email the day before, or a few hours prior to, the demo. Use free scheduling software to efficiently plan, organize, and manage all of your meetings. 3. Plan Your Sales Demo Before the Meeting There are many ways to plan your sales demo in a way that will enhance it and make it more engaging depending on the channel you choose to present through. For example, share your screen during the call with tools like the ones we mentioned above, create a personalized slide deck (with a tool like Canva), and have any relevant links loaded and ready to go in tabs on your browser to reference so you can easily incorporate them throughout the presentation. Examples of these resources include a customer case study, an informative infographic, and any other web pages, like your testimonial web page, you think may come in handy during the demo. You should also prepare statements around each tool or service you plan to show your prospects as well as any tie down questions — which spark agreement and invite the prospect to better define the value of a given tool or solution for their business — to ensure your prospect is following along and understanding the given information. Plan tie down questions for each tool or section in your demo to ensure your prospect is following along, understanding your descriptions, and grasping how these tools can help them solve their problems. You want to lay out a clear path from A to B so they can envision the way your product or service can resolve their challenge. 4. Humanize the Sales Demo If you start the demo with, "Hi. I'm Kristen ... Let's start the sales demo now!" you officially sound like a sales zombie. To avoid coming off as a pushy, untrustworthy, and possibly unpleasant, ensure you're personable and show your caring, human side at the beginning of the call. After all, at this stage in the sales cycle, you and the prospect probably don't know each other that well. You might ask the prospect how they've been, how their latest project went, if their dog is finally potty trained, whatever. Time is precious, but so is rapport. And rapport does not stop here. Build it at the beginning of the call and ensure it's continually injected throughout all other parts of the sales demo as well to establish a human and trusting relationship. 5. Set an Agenda for the Demo Your sales demos should always follow an agenda. Prospects should be informed of this agenda prior to the demo beginning and can also be reminded of which stage of the agenda they're actually in throughout the demo. This sets expectations and keeps everyone organized and on task. Knowing what will happen during the demo will put the prospect at ease. Emphasize there will be time at the end of the demo for the prospect to ask detailed questions (but you can also stress questions are welcome at any time). 6. Summarize Past Conversations As you begin presenting the demo, mention any past conversations you've had with this specific prospect. This will remind them why they needed your assistance to begin with, why they considered doing business with you in the past, and how you determined you can help them during any previous conversations. One way to neatly do this is by outlining the prospect's goals, plans, challenges, and timeline (GPCT). Once they confirm this information is right, you can use this presentation slide (or brief discussion) as a springboard to jump into the meat of the demo. 7. Provide Background As a rep, gaining the trust of the prospect is a critical component of closing any deal. To do this, provide some background information about your company. This will establish your company as a reputable and innovative potential partner for the prospect. The ticket here is avoiding generic babble and incorporating specific facts about your company and it's products/ services that align with the needs of the prospect and their company. 7. Explain the Product or Service Now, it's time to explain your product or service. When doing this, you'll want to ensure the explanation is both specific and tactful. Start with an overview or the product and it's basic features. Explain why this product exists, and link it to the prospect’s needs (which you already confirmed with the GPCT). Each feature being presented in the demo should tie back to why the product is the best solution for the prospect's challenge. Next, bring in the "wow" factors. This should answer the question, "What unique value does the product offer?" This is where personalization is key. For example, if a HubSpot prospect mentions they want to improve their blog's SEO, you could feature the SEO, Content Strategy, and Keywords tool. You can also always refer back to any previous conversations and plans you worked on with the prospect during earlier conversations and ask a tie-down question to ensure you're all on the same page at this time as well. Furthermore, if your company provides excellent customer service to help with the onboarding process and beyond, include that information in this part of the demo. Knowing help will be available when needed does wonders to reassure a doubtful prospect. 9. Address Any Questions the Prospect Has As mentioned, you'll want to ensure every demo has time for Q&A at the end of the demo. Throughout the demo, try to anticipate possible objections the prospect might have by listening to their tone and even watching their facial expressions (if they're on a video call or meeting in person). By picking up on these emotions and concerns, you can frame your responses and answers in a more personalized way. You can also determine whether or not you should pull out that extra infographic or show an example of a customer successfully solving the same problem using the tools being referenced. This builds social proof, credibility, and shows the prospect that others have succeeded by partnering with you. 10. Set Expectations For Next Steps Whew! You've officially completed the delivery of the sales process. Now, the big question: Is the prospect interested in moving this conversation forward to possibly make a deal? Let the prospect know upfront what's required on their end for the solution to be successful. For example, show a final slide to summarize the discussion in terms of the prospect’s necessary commitment, skills, time, willingness to learn, and budget for the solution to be a worthwhile investment for them. If they're interested in learning more or keeping the conversation going, you can set up a follow-up conversation. Or — even better — if the demo was highly effective in convincing the prospect, it might be time to begin a closing sequence to complete the deal (yay!). Sales Demo Best Practices There are some best practices you'll want to make sure you follow and consider while working on your sales demos to meet the needs of your clients and develop a consistent, effective, and repeatable process for you and your fellow reps. Personalize the Sales Demo Personalize the sales demo to fit the needs of the specific prospect you're speaking with. You always want to distill your demo down and customize it to your audience's situation with only the essential information they need. To do this, make sure your demo demonstrates the ways your product is suited to address their pain points and meet their needs. Prospects and customers only care about the features that impact them in a positive way, so you'll want your demo to highlight those. Always Explain "Why" With everything you present and share throughout the demo, you must explain the "why" behind it. Why is your product better than your competitor's products? Why is your product or service ideal for managing the prospect's issue? Why should your prospect want to do business with you? Why do your current customers love your product? These are the types of points and comments that may just move your prospect from an interested lead to a new and loyal customer — they differentiate you from other companies and make your demo significantly more convincing. Remember To Be Adaptable The sales demo steps are a bit like an adaptable script you can refer to and pull from to ensure you're providing all prospects with an on-brand, consistent, and professional experience. You can also make sure you run through various situations regarding the reasons why prospects might need your product or service and how it can help them with your sales manager so you're ready for all scenarios. Additionally, you might choose to review some possible questions the majority of prospects currently ask the rest of your team so you're ready to provide quick, helpful, and impactful responses on the fly. And remember, every interaction, prospect, company, and situation is unique, so prepared to adapt the demo as needed. Your job is to meet your prospect where they are to show your support, flexibility, and commitment to their success. Listen Prior to, during, and after the delivery of any sales demo, it's critical you listen to both the prospect and your fellow reps. You need to listen to your prospect's needs, pain points, concerns, questions, hesitations, and positive or negative feedback. This will allow you to customize the demo and all future conversations to fit their needs and tailor the points you make during the demo to highlight the ways your product can resolve their challenges. Additionally, you need to listen to your fellow reps. Your demo process is ever-changing and you're the group people who are actually working with prospects, conversing with them about their issues and needs, and delivering the demos every day. So, who better to ask for feedback on the current demo process (what should stay the same and what could be improved) than the other members of your team? Because, maybe they've uncovered something you've never thought about or encountered (and vice versa). Include Real Data Data speaks volumes about your products, services, and ability to positively impact your customers. As we mentioned earlier, in your demos, don't be afraid to include real data about your company's success, the percentage of current customers who have solved problems similar to those of your prospects with your product or service, and more. If a prospect asks for specific information about one of your product's capabilities, you can also pull in real data about the ways in which your solution works and functions. Begin Creating Your Sales Demo Process The demo is to sales what the climax is to a movie — this is the part where all the action has built up and resulted in one big moment where everything comes together. That's why it's so important to get the demo right. Take the time to prep, understand your prospects, and determine how to tie your product back to the prospect's needs and challenges. This way, it'll be smooth sailing and improve the likelihood of closing a deal. Read more »
  • We Created Our Business Card Scanner Tool to Help You Reduce the Friction of Data Entry and Lead Generation. Here's How.
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    Meet Mark. Mark is the managing sales director at his company, and his job is to help businesses grow better. He spends each day meeting prospects and clients, understanding their core needs, attending conferences, and exchanging information. We used our free Build Your Persona tool to better understand Mark. Try it now to create your company’s own buyer persona. Mark operates in the finance sector, where information is primarily exchanged with business cards. When he receives new cards from contacts, he sits down at his laptop, opens his CRM, and manually transcribes the information. Mark doesn’t always enjoy this process, but each and every business card is important, and he needs to capture that information for his CRM. Sound like a clunky, monotonous, time-consuming process? It is, and Mark isn’t alone. HubSpot recently conducted a survey on how sales teams operate, and they found that salespeople spend 20% of their time on data entry activities, such as inputting lead information, adding notes, and attaching documents. That’s almost two hours of an eight-hour workday … which is valuable time that could be spent on other revenue-generating activities. At HubSpot, we decided this wasn’t good enough. We dug deeper into that 20% and tried to understand how and where this data entry was happening. We found that although modern technology is universal, salespeople still depend on exchanging contacts the old fashion way — through business cards. From conferences to one-to-one meetings to baseball games, this was happening everywhere. Business card etiquette also varies between cultures. With HubSpot expanding to markets like Japan where exchanging cards is a requirement at business meetings (and Paris, where bilingual cards are crucial), our own salespeople were also in need of a data entry automation tool. Creating the Business Card Scanner Our Mobile Sales team first launched the HubSpot Business Card Scanner tool as an Android App. We started with a rudimentary version that used a simple, rule-based model, allowing for quick release and market validation. For example, if a piece of data was a number, the Business Card Scanner tool recognized it as a phone number. If the data included an @ symbol, the tool captured it as an email address. Upon release, the Business Card Scanner tool quickly became an invaluable tool for traveling sales representatives. We saw an immediate boost in usage, about 20% week-over-week. With validation in place, we started brainstorming version two of the Business Card Scanner. We were working in a competitive space and needed to differentiate our product. With the feature already in the market, we had a rich pool of users telling us the same thing: they wanted the Business Card Scanner to be quick, accurate and cheap. As we dug deeper, it became evident that no matter how seamless and accurate the business card data extraction was, salespeople wanted the technology to classify the data for them. We needed to approach this problem systematically. We divided the challenge into three phases: Capture, Optical Image Recognition (OCR), and Classification The first phase, Capture, was all about image detection and capture, photo perspective corrections, edge detection, cropping and other factors that prepared the image for step two. For the next phase, OCR, we used Google Cloud Vision to extract the business card text. As we developed this solution, we researched and benchmarked four OCR tools using the business card data from version one. These included two open-sourced tools (Tesseract 3 and Tesseract 4) and two proprietary solutions (Amazon Rekognition and Google Cloud Vision). Google Cloud Vision consistently came out on top. The final phase, Classification, was where the fun happened. It was the perfect problem for machine learning and artificial intelligence to tackle. At a high level, machine learning is all about attempting to copy human decision making. If a human is given unlimited time and the right data, they’d be able to make the right decision — this is what artificial intelligence attempts to emulate. This was the exact challenge we had with the Business Card Scanner. Our goal was that when someone used the tool to scan a card, it would automatically set the text to the CRM property they wanted. For example, if a job title was pulled from a business card, the tool would set that data as the Job Title in the CRM. Before we started doing this prediction, we needed to train the machine learning model to know which field in the business card corresponded to the proper CRM property. To train the model, we released version two of the Business Card Scanner to our iOS users as they’d been asking for the tool since the Android release. We also wanted our machine learning model to capture and learn from how the users manually set CRM properties for the scanned data. Download our Business Card Scanner app and transform your business cards into CRM contacts in seconds. Once our model captured enough classification data, the team was able to devise a predictive model that would classify key properties without any user input — with 95% accuracy. That meant that for every 100 properties scanned into the Business Scanner Tool, only five would need manual changes. This would be how our product stood out among competitors. It was time to release our final version to our users. We’d gone from a tool that required users to manually select the CRM properties friction. Our new version was also twice as fast — what used to take over 10 seconds now took merely five. Our Business Card Scanner Helps You Grow Better HubSpot’s mission is to help millions of organizations grow better. Our Business Card Scanner is now saving our users valuable time that they previously dedicated to manual data entry. By automating processes such as this, we fulfill part of this mission, allowing you to focus on what matters the most — build relationships and grow their business. Read more »
  • Scaling Your Business: 6 Stages You Need to Know
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    When leading a young sales team or startup, it’s easy to focus on two things: product-market fit and scaling the business. David Skok, of Matrix Partners, argued at SaaStr Annual 2018 that businesses should connect the two by searching for repeatable, scalable, and profitable growth. Often, once a business finds product-market fit, they immediately hire 10 salespeople to grow the company. But this skips several important growth phases and can permanently stunt company performance. So, before building a sales army, he recommends ensuring your sales strategy and market fit is repeatable, profitable, and scalable. Here are six steps you can take to get there. 1. Identify milestones To do this -- and do it well -- Skok recommends linking capital with each phase of your company’s growth. Begin by identifying when you’ll run out of cash. Then, work backward to define milestones you need to hit and a timeline for when you need to hit them. This should give you a fully budgeted roadmap for moving forward and allow you to plan enough time for fundraising. Skok also warns against viewing valuation as a number that only goes up. Instead, when speaking to investors or board members, focus less on your valuation and more on how risk changes your valuation over time. 2. Focus on risk reducers Risk reducers signal healthy growth. A risk reducer is any company attribute that reduces risk for investors or customers. For example, share a number of recent customers with potential investors and make sure each is referenceable. Similarly, share how your usage numbers are increasing over time. This provides data-backed proof your customers realize the benefits of using your product -- and want to use it more. These risk reducers show investors customer success is proof of greater market potential. 3. Watch for an increase in bookings You’ll know your sales organization is thriving when bookings begin to increase. More bookings should equal new ARR (Average Rate of Return). To achieve an increase in bookings, Skok recommends making early access sales, ensuring customer success, identifying a predictable, repeatable strategy, and making that strategy profitable. This should provide you with a well-defined path to success. Then, it’s time to hone the profile of your ideal customer. 4. Identify your ideal customer Identifying your ideal customer will take time. But this step -- and its inevitable mistakes -- move your business toward sustainable growth and devoted customers. Skok offers three tips to keep in mind when identifying your ideal customer: Pick one target market - Don’t sell to too many different groups. Understand your ideal customer and select a repeatable, profitable, and scalable way to sell to them. Find a single use case - Similarly, if you sell to a variety of use cases, you haven’t proven your process is repeatable. You’ve introduced too many variables that will make it more difficult to optimize for your target buyer. Message your product well - Be clear when communicating your business benefits to your buyer. Make them concise, attention-grabbing, and differentiated from your competitors. Once you’ve identified your ideal customer, build your sales funnel. While many sales organizations take a vendor-centric approach to funnel design, Skok recommends using a buyer-centric lens. So, before building a sales funnel that orbits around your needs as a business (i.e., a prospect fills out a form on your website, your sales team immediately schedules a demo, and 30 days later they become a customer), study your buyer’s behavior. Would your demos be more qualified if you had a discovery call first? Is a 90-day sales cycle more realistic for your buyer? Consider these things as you’re building your funnel. Now’s also the time to build a buyer persona. Consider what your ideal customer cares about, how they buy, and what processes they use. Once you know the answer to these questions, solve for your sales cycle -- and shorten it. 5. Optimize for the buyer Once you’ve identified your ideal buyer and their needs, optimize how you market and sell to them. Do they conduct consumer research on peer-to-peer review platforms? Build out your profile on prominent sites and ask customers for reviews. Do they educate themselves by reading blogs and industry publications? Build a company presence on each. Skok also advises regularly checking your initial lead source on Google Analytics. This allows you to fix your lead funnel in real time. 6. Don’t hire salespeople too early The number one mistake most founders make? Skok says it’s hiring sales staff before the company’s ready. He warns against thinking more salespeople will lead to more business. Instead, he recommends ensuring your product is ready to be sold. When asked what the ideal sales staff should look like for an early stage startup or young company, Skok said, “Founders should prove they can sell the product before they hire any salespeople.” Once they’ve identified a predictable, repeatable motion -- it’s time to hire a sales director and an SDR who can build processes and lead growth. Skok calls the first two sales hires the “pathfinder and trailblazer.” They’re not like ordinary salespeople, he explains. They don’t need to follow a playbook to perform. Instead, they help the organization understand how to sell better. They build the playbook as they go. When in doubt, work backward from the bottom of the funnel. Start with how much revenue you need to generate, identify the number of deals you need to get there, and consider how many demos, calls, and emails it’ll take to achieve your revenue goals. Are those goals achievable with your current headcount? It might be time to hire. But make sure everyone on your team is pulling their weight. You don’t want to hire salespeople simply because one of your reps isn’t working hard enough. In closing, Skok said the end goal for every startup should be to turn your product/service into the salesperson. It should be so good, it speaks for itself. The more phases of the sales process you can take salespeople out of -- focusing their time and attention on more valuable actions -- the better, stronger, and more lucrative your business will be. Read more »
  • The Best Small Business Accounting Software of 2019
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    If you’re like me, the last time you took an accounting class was in college. So, what do you do when you’re starting a small business and can’t quite justify an accountant? You find the best small business accounting software to meet your budget and needs. If you’re just starting this search, it won’t take long for you to discover the accounting software landscape is a packed one. It can be difficult to know where to start, which solutions offer the features you need, and whether they’re better for enterprise or startup size. So, I’ve put together a list of the best accounting software just for small businesses. Browse the list below and find a solution that will help your business grow -- and keep you from feeling like you’re failing your accounting midterm ... again. What Accounting and Bookkeeping Software Should You Use? It's great to have a list of software, but how do you identify which is the right one for your business? Here are a few things to keep in mind when you're searching for accounting or bookkeeping software. Identify your needs Do you need a platform that allows you to track inventory or are receipt-tracking and sales tax more direct concerns? Make a list of your accounting needs and prioritize them from least to most important. Before you start researching solutions, agree upon a goal number of needs your chosen software will meet. You can be flexible here, but it's easy to get distracted by the bells and whistles of a product that solves for 18 needs you don't have. Be honest about your budget Again, before you embark on the research phase of the process, identify how much you can afford to spend on accounting or bookkeeping software. Once you know how much money you have budgeted, try not to spend too much time evaluating software that's outside the realm of possibility. Budgets often have some wiggle room but make it a rule that if a solution is more than 25% over your set budget, you'll walk away. Research for features that meet your needs It's easy to get starry-eyed about features. But if you find yourself considering software that specializes in providing accounting services for global teams -- and you only conduct business in the US -- you might find yourself paying for a lot you just don't need. Don't get distracted. Return to your list of prioritized needs and evaluate only the software that meets the majority of those needs. Ask the right questions If you're choosing software that requires a sales process, it's important you ask the right questions. Here are a few to ask: "How secure is your API?" "How do you back up system data?" "What other costs or fees should I expect?" "Tell me about customer support. What are their hours and how quickly should I expect to get a response if I submit an issue or a question?" "Can you tell me about a client you've worked with that's similar to my business? What pain points have they experienced with your software?" Pick a solution that will grow with you "I can't wait to buy more software ..." said no one ever. Of course, if your solution isn't working for your company, you should find a new one as soon as you can. But you don't want to have to switch software in six months because you've already outgrown it. Be realistic about how quickly your business is growing and ask the sales rep you're working with how well their product grows with clients as their businesses scale. Best Accounting Software for Small Business 1. Intuit QuickBooks Online Image source: QuickBooks Best for: Receipt capture, 24/7 chat support, and integrations with PayPal, Shopify, and Square make this a crowdpleasing small business software. All plans allow you to track income and expenses, send invoices and receive payments, run reports, send estimates, track sales and taxes, and capture and organize receipts. More advanced plans allow you to track inventory, manage 1099 contractors, track time, and even run full service payroll. Pricing: Simple Start, $7/month for one user; Essentials, $17/month for up to three users; Plus, $30/month for five+ users App: iOS | Android 2. FreshBooks Image source: FreshBooks Best for: If you send out recurring invoices, need time tracking capability, or run a subscription model business, FreshBooks could be ideal for you. You can even see the exact location a customer opened your invoice -- to avoid those pesky “I never got it” excuses. They integrate with many business applications and provide you with a single dashboard to manage your finances and accounting. Regular secure backups are included, and a mobile app allows you to keep track of your business at all times. Pricing: Lite, $15/month for five clients; Plus, $25/month for 50 clients; Premium, $50/month for 500 clients; Yearly plans available for 10% off App: iOS | Android 3. Wave Image source: Wave Best for: If you’re operating as a freelancer, or have just a few employees, Wave could be for you. Most of its services are free, including invoice- and transaction-management. And all of your information syncs with Wave’s software, so your bookkeeping is always up to date. However, if you’re looking for built-in time tracking, inventory tracking, or project management, you’ll likely need a different software. Pricing: Accounting, free; Invoicing, free; Receipt scanning, free; Online payments, 2.9% + $.30/transaction; Payroll, $35/month base fee in tax service states and $20/month base fee in self-service states App: iOS | Android 4. Sage 50cloud Image source: Sage 50cloud Best for: Sage works well for small- to medium-sized businesses. You’ll spend less time on administrative tasks, since Sage sends invoices, tracks payments and expenses, and calculates what you owe come tax season. Time tracking and collaboration tools are two things you won’t get with Sage, and payroll is a separate product. Pricing: Pro Accounting, $46.83/month for one user; Premium Accounting, $72.41/month for one user; Quantum Accounting, $182.91/month for three users; Yearly plans available App: iOS | Android 5. Xero Image source: Xero Best for: Do you conduct most of your business on the go? Xero allows you to send custom invoices, track inventory, and create purchase orders to attach to bills -- all from your phone or tablet. Get financial performance reports sent straight to you, and connect your bank account for a seamless experience. If you need payroll services, you’ll have to use them through Xero’s partnership with Gusto. And if you value live support, you should probably look for another provider. Pricing: Starter, $9/month; Standard, $30/month; Premium, $70/month App: iOS | Android 6. Zoho Books Image source: Zoho Best for: Want accounting software known for its ease of use? Give Zoho a look. Perfect for helping your small business manage cash flow and finances, Zoho also offers excellent support, the ability to accept payments online, balance sheet creation, and an easy-to-read dashboard users love. Pricing: Basic, $9/month per organization; Standard, $19/month per organization; Professional, $29/month per organization; Yearly plans available at a discounted price App: iOS | Android 7. GoDaddy Bookkeeping Image source: GoDaddy Best for: This low-cost option integrates with and imports data from Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and your bank accounts. It puts that data to use creating invoices and calculating quarterly tax estimates. If you sell over one of the sites listed above, GoDaddy could be a good option for you. However, if you’re looking for a solution offering project management, extensive reporting, and international billing capabilities, GoDaddy won’t meet your needs. Pricing: Get Paid, $4.99/month; Essentials, $9.99/month; Premium, $14.99/month App: iOS | Android 8. Kashoo Image source: Kashoo Best for: Perfect for small businesses searching for a truly simple solution, Kashoo tracks expenses, enables customized invoices, offers insightful reporting you can share with your accountant, integrates with Stripe and BluePay to accept credit card payments, and provides real-time bank feeds. Pricing: Annual, $16.65/month or $199.95/year; Pay As You Go, $29.95/month App: iOS 9. AccountEdge Pro Image source: AccountEdge Best for: If mobile isn’t a deal breaker for you, AccountEdge could be just what you need. It provides double-entry accounting tools -- from time billing and reporting to inventory -- that are customizable and optimized for desktop users. Like the software but really need a mobile option? A cloud-collaboration option is available for purchase. Pricing: AccountEdge Pro, $399 one-time fee; AccountEdge Basic, $149 one-time fee 10. OneUp Image source: OneUp Best for: Another double-entry accounting solution, this software is especially advantageous if you’re focused on inventory management and pricing. It syncs with your bank, categorizes bank entries, and validates suggested entries so your books are done quickly and accurately. Pricing: Self, $9/month; Pro, $19/month for two users; Plus, $29/month for three users; Team, $69/month for seven users; Unlimited, $169/month for unlimited users App: iOS | Android 11. Tipalti Image source: Tipalti Best for: If you’re a deadline-driven business, Tipalti can help you meet them every time. Late payments, non-compliance, and administrative overload are all issues they aim to correct. They can streamline international payment processing in around 190 countries, automate your payment operations, and even make sure you’re tax compliant. Pricing: Available upon request 12. OnPay Image source: OnPay Best for: If you’re a small- to medium-sized business that needs help streamlining payroll, automating tax filings, and entering payment data, you might consider OnPay. The solution can also manage benefits including compensation insurance, health insurance, and 401(k). You’ll also receive unlimited payroll runs for W-2 and 1099 workers. And, OnPay can estimate your payroll taxes, manage tax form filings, and even pay your taxes. A bonus here? They’ll also take responsibility for any tax filing errors committed while using the product. Pricing: $36/month base fee + $4/month per person 13. NetSuite ERP Image source: NetSuite Best for: NetSuite prides itself on growing with businesses, "from pre-revenue through IPO and beyond." Their Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) product helps businesses manage inventory, order management, accounting, human resources, and beyond -- integrating these functions into one system that's streamlined. If you anticipate rapid growth, you might want to consider NetSuite ERP. Pricing: Available upon request 14. FreeAgent Image source: FreeAgent Best for: If you create a lot of estimates and invoices, want to monitor your cash flow, keep track of receipts, and track your time -- look no further than FreeAgent. You can also connect FreeAgent to your bank account and view income performance and profitability. Sign up for a 30-day free trial and rest easy that you have a transparent view into every financial aspect of your business. Pricing: $12/month for 6 months, then $24/month App: iOS | Android 15. Accounting Seed Image source: Accounting Seed Best for: Accounting Seed offers subscription or recurring billing options, has a secure and reliable API, and works with your company to link critical business applications and bank accounts for real visibility into the financial state of your business. It's also a cloud-based platform, meaning you can log in anytime, anywhere. And it automates many of the menial tasks that eat up your day. Pricing: Base price, $250/month + $55/user/month Leaving your accounting to chance -- or an intern -- is never something you want to do. Invest in the right software early on, and know when it’s time to upgrade, outsource, or find a solution that better fits your company’s needs as you grow. Happy number crunching! Read more »
  • 15 Valuable Entrepreneur Training Courses That You Can Take For Free Online
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    No one -- absolutely no one -- will tell you starting your own company is easy. It’s supposed to be incredibly tough. And most entrepreneurs learn the hard way: from their mistakes. While there’s nothing wrong with that method (failure is a great teacher), you want to save it for the big lessons. Other lessons, such as managing the books and leading your team, can be taught just as effectively in the classroom. To help you cut down on your learning curve as much as possible, here are the top free (or very inexpensive) courses online for running a startup, organized from introductory to advanced. 1. Creativity & Entrepreneurship from Berklee Online Length: 4 weeks (3-5 hours/week) Price: Free ($49 for certificate) Level: Introductory Want to harness your creativity? Take this course. It treats entrepreneurship as a creative process, applying concepts from the world of music creation (like observing, prototyping, and iterating) to career development and business innovation. You’ll get to hear from famous entrepreneurs, innovators, songwriters, producers, creative directors, educators, performers, visual artists, and chefs. 2. Financial Analysis for Decision Making from Babson Online Length: 4 weeks (2-4 hours/week) Price: Free ($99 for certificate) Level: Introductory Anyone who wants to quickly get a grasp on the financial elements of starting a company should enroll in this finance course. It’s designed to “take the mystery out of financial analysis and help you make the right business decisions.” To that end, you’ll learn the various options for funding your business, how to determine whether a new product or service will be financially viable, and how to value a stock, bond, or company for business opportunities. 3. Becoming an Entrepreneur from MIT Launch Length: 6 weeks (1-3 hours/week) Price: Free ($69 for certificate) Level: Introductory Hundreds of thousands of people have signed up for this class on entrepreneurship. It features a combination of videos and exercises, covering: The most common myths about being an entrepreneur How to set goals for your business How to identify opportunities How to perform market research and select your target audience How to design and test your product How to plan your business logistics How to pitch and sell to buyers 4. Building and Leading Effective Teams from MIT OpenCourseWare Length: Self-paced Price: Free Level: Introductory Originally held in 2005, this one-week program from MIT’s Sloan School of Management is now partially available online. Read the lecture notes and complete the assignments to get a crash course in leadership. 5. The Essential Guide to Entrepreneurship by Guy Kawasaki Length: Self-paced Price: $11.99 Level: Introductory If you’re just wading into the waters of entrepreneurship, this course by famous entrepreneur and investor Guy Kawasaki will help you get your feet wet. It tackles the A to Z process of starting a business -- from launching and team building all the way to marketing and evangelizing your product. With plenty of interactive exercises, anecdotal advice and real world examples, and engaging videos, Kawasaki’s lecturers are highly informative and entertaining. 6. The Complete Product Management Course Length: Self-paced Price: $11.99 Level: Medium Understanding the product creation process will definitely come in handy when you’re running your own company. Whether you’re launching an MVP yourself or working with engineers, it’s critical to know how something goes from concept to spec, which tools to use, and how to find your market niche. This course features case studies from NASA, Google, Zappos, and more -- grounding abstract concepts in plenty of real-world examples. It also teaches you the fundamentals of Agile (the methodology of choice in Silicon Valley right now) and even reveals the secrets of the product management interview process (so you can hire the right product manager when the time comes). 7. Introduction to Web Development: HTML Length: Self-paced Price: Free Level: Medium Is it necessary for entrepreneurs to know HTML? No: You can build a billion-dollar company without ever learning the difference between <p> and <br>. However, it’s definitely helpful -- not only will you understand the basic components of web pages, you’ll also grok how programming generally works. That’ll come in handy when you talk to developers (plus, you are less likely to get taken advantage of freelance coders!) 8. Startup School by Y Combinator Length: 10 weeks (or self-paced) Price: Free Level: Medium It’s incredibly hard to get into Y Combinator -- depending on whom you ask, the acceptance rate hovers around 1.5%. But getting into the online version of the accelerator? A lot more doable. If you’re actively pursuing a startup, you’re eligible to sign up. Everyone (whether or not they participate in the program) will have access to online lectures and office hours, but participants will also get a peer group. This group is run by a Y Combinator alumni who provides weekly 1:1 consulting over video and email. The 10 lectures feature famous members of the startup world, like Slack CEO Stewart Butterfield, Box CEO Aaron Levie, and Facebook VP of Growth Alex Schultz. 9. Entrepreneurial Finance from MIT OpenCourseWare Length: Self-paced Price: Free Level: Advanced If you think you’ll be getting outside investment, I’d recommend this course. It tackles the main financial challenges founders face when funding their startups -- specifically looking at tech companies in the early stages. It addresses: How much money can you raise? How much should you raise? When should you get funding? From whom? How do you come up with a reasonable valuation for your company? How do you structure funding, employment contracts, and exit decisions? The class also includes a deep dive into the world of private equity. 10. Free SEO Training Course: Building Sustainable Traffic for Business Growth from HubSpot Academy Length: One hour and two minutes Price: Free Level: Introductory Need eyeballs on your business? You need SEO. In this course, HubSpot Director of Acquisition Matthew Howells-Barby demonstrates how to evaluate your current SEO, develop and approach for your business, and identify specific areas for improvement. A helpful workbook and 15 videos you can move through at your own pace make this course a valuable one you shouldn't miss. 11. Financial Engineering and Risk Management Part 1 from Columbia University Length: 32 hours to complete Price: Free Level: Advanced Are you a finance or economics nerd? You're going to love this class. It promises to help you begin to understand the "rocket science" behind financial engineering and view financial models with "a healthy degree of skepticism." 12. Private Equity and Venture Capital from Bocconi Length: 12 hours to complete Price: Free Level: Introductory When you're pitching your business to venture capitalists and private equity firms, it's important to have a firm grasp of their world. If you don't understand valuation or deal making, you'll lose respect and authority fast. So, enroll in this course to learn how private equity investors finance through equity companies at different stages of growth, and how they deal with activities including scouting, valuation, and financing. 13. Effective Fundraising and Leadership in Arts and Culture from the University of Leeds Length: 2 weeks Price: Free ($99 for unlimited course access and a Certificate of Achievement) Level: Medium Fundraising for arts and cultural initiatives have never needed funding more, but the landscape can be difficult to traverse. This course teaches the importance of effective leadership through diversification of income streams. Discover new leadership styles, change management strategies, and fundraising techniques that will set your business up for funding success. 14. Corporate Entrepreneurship: Innovating within Corporations Specialization from the University of Maryland Length: Approximately 6 months Price: Free Level: Introductory Want to become an entrepreneur without ever leaving your current company? That might just be possible. This course explores how to create new business opportunities within existing corporations. You'll learn how to overcome barriers and built partnerships to create new businesses or initiatives inside your company. This course is designed for junior- or middle-managers who have the ability to start an initiative within their organization. 15. Branding, Content, and Social Media by The Ohio State University Length: Self-paced Price: Free Level: Introductory If an entrepreneur launches a new business and no one hears about it -- does it even exist? Well, yes. But it won't do anyone much good. This course is designed for entrepreneurs working in small- to medium-sized businesses who want to learn about branding, social media, content, and more. You'll also dive deep to understand audience segmentation, messaging, and evaluation, to ensure the right people are hearing the right information about your business at the right time. They say failure is the best teacher. But free and inexpensive online courses might be the next best thing (not to mention, better for your morale and wallet). I hope you find these ones useful. Read more »
  • Multiple Decision Makers? 5 Strategies for an Easier Sales Process
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    You might sell a product that genuinely makes conducting business easier, but this doesn't grant you a simple sales process. The sales process can be long, tedious, and frustrating, no matter how innovative your product may be. Selling to businesses often means proving to multiple decision makers that your product can make their jobs more efficient, provide a significant return on investment ,and outdo competitors in functionality and price. This is no easy task and I’ve experienced these challenges first-hand after developing project management software for the finance industry. I worked hard to create a software that makes complex financial transactions more cost efficient, productive, and collaborative. However, I still have to defend these facts to numerous stakeholders in order to gain each sale. Luckily, over the years I’ve uncovered a few strategies that makes selling to businesses with multiple decision makers effective for all involved. 1. Make it Easy to Share Information When multiple stakeholders are involved, it’s important to provide pricing and information regarding your platform in a clear, transparent, and digestible way that can be easily shared among decision makers. Giving your potential customers the ability to quickly share your pricing model and platform details with their colleagues will make it simpler for them to come to a final determination. In order to do so, create clear and transparent pricing models with no hidden fees or complex up-charges. When being compared to competitors, be the product that stands out for clear, honest pricing. It’s also helpful to provide attractive one-pagers which visualize the pricing structure and key benefits of your platform. DealRoom’s marketing collateral and one-pagers clearly outline how the platform will benefit our customer’s process and how our pricing compares with our competitors’. This shareable content provides clear visualization of why to select our platform and can greatly assist in the decision-making process when multiple stakeholders are involved. At the end of the day, businesses want to make quick and informed decisions about which software to implement. Make this process easier for them by being transparent, genuine, and straightforward. 2. Verbalize Key Differentiators and Benefits Continuously verbalizing the benefits and key differentiators of your platform with prospective clients will enable them to effectively describe your solution to other stakeholders. You should be able to explain what makes your product unique in a concise way that can be easily repeated. What is your elevator pitch and can you easily work it into your demos and conversations with potential customers in a straightforward way? The software I developed allows teams to close complex financial transactions faster because we provide project management solutions. The ability to clearly verbalize how our software does so in a digestible way will usually determine whether or not our product is selected. For example, when my team is conducting demos or corresponding with potential clients, they clearly state that we, unlike other virtual data rooms, have project management capabilities to help close deals faster. “Close deals faster” is a phrase we use repeatedly because that’s our software’s mission and that’s what we want our customers to walk away with from each conversation understanding. So, decide what you want your key takeaways to be from each conversation and continuously verbalize them in a concise and repeatable way. 3. Be Willing to Conduct Multiple Demos When multiple decision makers are involved in the sales process, you must conduct as many demos as is necessary to close. However frustrating this may be, allowing all stakeholders the chance to view your product will greatly increase the likelihood they’ll choose your service. Express willingness and availability to demo the product even if it’s not asked of you. This presents openness and approachability that your competitors may not offer. Providing your potential customers with content about your platform, such as pre-recorded demo videos, is also extremely beneficial. Recording such demo videos also gives decision makers the ability to view the product -- even if they don’t have time to schedule a call or go through the entire service. If decision makers feel comfortable with your product and believe implementation will be easy, they’ll feel more confident your service is right for them. 4. Answer questions effectively and directly Actively listen and pay attention to your potential clients during conversations and demos in order to answer their questions in a direct and helpful manner. I’m sure we have all been in the situation of looking to buy a product, asking questions regarding its functionality and then not receiving adequate or direct answers. This can be incredibly frustrating and lead you to pursue other options. It also confuses and delays the decision-making process. After conducting a demo, your goal should be to leave your prospects with no lingering questions or concerns. Be an active and perceptive listener, and genuinely prioritize their questions over preconceived agendas. For example, if your prospect(s) have a lot of questions surrounding a certain area of your product, make sure you revisit that subject before ending the conversation by simply asking if they have any further questions. This demonstrates that you don’t mind answering questions again or providing further detail. It also gives your prospect(s) the chance to bring up any unresolved doubts or concerns. Noticing and analyzing frequently asked questions also helps you target questions they may not even know they have. In practice, it’s great to keep a log of questions asked during product demos. It’s likely, many of the same questions will be asked again and again. Providing a page with frequently asked questions can create easier decision-making processes and help you sell your product. 5. Have Empathy and Be Patient The greatest tool I’ve used during my career is, by far, empathy. Empathizing with your prospective clients and understanding their motivations, pain points, and hesitations will make the sales process better and more equitable for everyone involved. Practicing empathy allows you to address the concerns of your prospects before an issue or roadblock arises. Most often, decision makers worry about selecting a product that will produce a return on investment, make their business more efficient, and provide proven and positive results. Leveling with potential users around these uncertainties will garner trust and close more successful sales. My team recently closed a deal that highlighted the importance of empathy. We were working with a man trying to sell his large, multi-regional organization without the help of bankers. He was clearly overwhelmed and needed direction regarding the best ways to approach his deal and close it successfully. After listening to him and understanding his situation -- instead of simply trying to sell him a data room -- my team and I provided him with free resources and project management tips to ease the pressure of his upcoming deal. This helped us sell our product by standing out against competing data rooms, but also enabled him to sell his company so he could retire. At the end of the day, we all want to be successful and progress in our chosen fields. These techniques have worked exceedingly well for me as I continue to grow my business. If you’re selling a product you truly believe in, these five tips on selling to organizations with multiple decision makers will improve your sales process and enable stakeholders to make better, more informed decisions regarding which products to buy. Read more »
  • The Complete Guide to Sales Contracts: 6 Templates to Shorten Your Sales Cycle
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    Ever heard of contract lifecycle management (CLM for short)? If that answer is “No,” you’re not alone. You’d even be forgiven if you thought it was just another convoluted business term with an accompanying three-letter acronym (Why are the acronyms always three letters long?). But, in this case, you’d be wrong. Many business owners, managers, and sales reps think contract management is just a matter of getting a signature and storing the contract away in a CRM. The result for the vast majority of businesses? Lost leads, sales, and revenue. The reality is that contract management is a fundamental part of the sales cycle. Implementing well-tested processes around the creation, approval, and renewal of contracts can dramatically boost your sales while cutting costs. In this guide, we’ll cover two things: how to streamline and improve your contract management process, and how to enhance the effectiveness of your contracts with templates and tips just for you. In essence, a contract contains the names of the parties involved, the goods or services being sold, and any additional terms. A sales contract is usually sent towards the end of the sales cycle. It comes after sales-focused documents like quotes and proposals have been sent. When a client agrees to receive a contract, they’re usually ready to start a business relationship. Sometimes, contracts are included as part of a broader proposal or quote, depending on the needs and expectations of the recipient. What is Contract Management? “Contract management” refers to the set of processes and guidelines companies use to create, send, store, and review contracts. There are four critical stages in a contract’s lifecycle: 1. Request for Contract The “request stage” occurs when a potential buyer agrees to purchase and asks to receive a contract. Usually, buyers will have a specific set of requirements depending on their industry or sector, and contracts should be tailored to meet them. Government contracts, for example, typically come with numerous stipulations. 2. Creation Creation involves the writing and sending of the contract. Because contracts are primarily legal texts, legal teams will have a high degree of involvement in this business process. Usually, lawyers must approve the final version of a contract, especially if a salesperson is responsible for putting it together. 3. Approval and Storage Once a contract is finalized, it is sent to the recipient for signature. It’s common to receive feedback from potential clients at this stage. You might need to amend parts of a contract. If using a paperless workflow, contracts will be stored digitally. 4. Review and Renewal Periodically, contracts should be reviewed to ensure that both parties are acting accordingly. As the contract period ends, renewal may occur. 5 Proven Tips for Writing Better Sales Contracts Before we look at some useful templates, here are five general ways to improve your contracts and your entire contract management process: 1. Use Contract Management Software Implementing contract management software as the basis of your operations will almost certainly save you significant amounts of time, workforce, and money. And it’s not just about removing the hassle of paper contracts, with the continuous printing, scanning, and hand signing they require. Paperless proposal and contract solutions provide a host of powerful features for streamlining everything from contract writing to client follow up. Contract management software makes it dramatically more accessible, for example, to consistently create high-quality contracts with the use of pre-built templates, ready to use content libraries, drag-and-drop electronic signature and payment blocks, approval workflows, and more. What’s more, automation and tracking features enable salespeople to improve outcomes beyond creating and sending. Analytics tools, for example, clearly show when potential clients open, read, and respond to proposals, allowing you to tailor your email responses accordingly. 2. Automate Work from a Proven Template Most salespeople and lawyers aren’t natural writers. So how can you ensure high-quality contracts without the need to hire people with strong writing abilities? Simple: templates. Templates eliminate an array of errors. They provide tested structures for writers and ensure all necessary legal texts are included. What’s more, improving in-house templates based on testing and data from recipients is one of the surest ways to boost your close rate. 3. Include eSignature and Payment Options The manual printing, signing (often by multiple parties), and scanning of contracts are one of the biggest hurdles to approval. Adding electronic signature and payment options to contracts, which allow multiple recipients to sign with only a few clicks, can significantly boost conversions by removing this unnecessary friction. Electronic signatures are fully secure, often more so than handwritten signatures, and it’s becoming increasingly common for decision makers to use them. 4. Adhere to Any Industry Requirements Sometimes, contracts are only accepted if they meet specific requirements. Some industries have regulations surrounding quality assurance and delivery of service that must be adhered to and specified in the contract. Government agencies, for instance, will often have strict stipulations demanding high levels of transparency. Equally, it’s essential to ensure that legal allowances are made for areas that are often problematic, like intellectual property rights for freelancers or accident liability in construction. 5. Provide Important Legal Documentation One of the biggest reasons for slow contract creation is a legal team that takes weeks to amend essential documents. A simple way of overcoming this problem is to create reusable content that contract writers can access during the contract creation process. Content protection features in online software ensure that text is not tampered or edited. Communication tools in a central dashboard enable the legal team to make any necessary changes quickly. Content libraries also provide writers with the ability to drag-and-drop relevant sections like Ts&Cs, warranties, payment contract terms, and so on. 6. Prevent Errors with Accurate Product and Pricing Data from CRM Records Pricing mistakes are prevalent in business documents. If a recipient signs a contract that’s priced in a particular way, only to be told that a mistake was made, it can cause an utterly unnecessary holdup. It doesn’t look too professional, either. It’s good practice to have a standardized set of prices that managers, salespeople, and others can consult. And one of the easiest ways to do this is to integrate and sync your CRM (like HubSpot) with your contract creation software. Whenever a rep or manager is putting together pricing information, they can automatically request information from the CRM, where prices for goods and services are stored. They can then select the appropriate pricing with virtually no margin for error. What Should You Include in Your Contracts? Most contracts follow a similar general template. Irrespective of the recipient’s industry and unique needs, certain elements should always be included. Here’s a quick rundown of the essentials: Names of both parties - Use a cover letter that displays the name of the client and the name of the recipient. Scope of work - The “scope of work” describes the goods or services exchanged. Delivery method - How and when will the goods/services be delivered? Terms of payment - This section should include the price of the goods/services along with any payment methods, timeframes, etc. Additional legal items - You may also wish to include confidentiality agreements, quality assurance, compliance processes, termination rules, force majeure (unforeseen circumstances), and so on. Sales Contract Template Sometimes, a standard sales contract will do the job. Other times, it won’t. It’s important to recognize when to tailor contracts to specific industries. And it’s worth having dedicated templates for each of those sectors. Here are the main contract types and the more substantial differences between them: 1. General Business Services Contract Business contracts usually cover multi-faceted deals that include a mixture of goods and services. For this reason, it’s vital to include a detailed section that outlines the scope of work along with a specified timeframe that informs clients about when they can expect to reach individual goals. You might wish to attach specific quality criteria to outcomes so that recipients do not doubt what constitutes a satisfactory outcome. It is also essential to include a section that covers liability and indemnity (compensation). Many recipients will want to know they are not liable for any mistakes on your part. See full template: Business contract template 2. Freelance Contract Freelance contracts are simple with comparatively less use of legalese, as projects tend to be smaller in scope. It’s also more common for freelancers to include contracts as part of a short proposal, with the expectation that recipients will quickly sign-off after having verified a project. Make sure to dedicate sections to a description of services, specific deliverables, pricing, and payment terms (methods and deadlines). It’s sometimes necessary for freelancers to surrender any intellectual property rights in a contract, as clients may want full ownership of work. A confidentiality clause may also be required. See full template: Freelance contract template 3. Product Contract Goods contracts are usually more straightforward than service contracts, which tend to cover broader projects with more terms attached.   The detail is essential when it comes to goods contracts. Along with an exact item-by-item breakdown of the goods sold (or reference to an order form), you should also provide specific information about delivery, potential changes, and quality assurance. Buyers may also want to inspect products on arrival, so include any terms relating to this activity. Clearly outline any payment stipulations, like when invoice payment is due and what happens in the case of faulty items. Make sure you include information about taxes if they are not already shown in the pricing. See full template: Sales contract 4. Consulting Contract The word “consulting” covers an array of activities, everything from one-off training events to long-term positions on company boards. Because of this, it’s crucial to outline the exact terms of engagement. Stipulate what will be provided, for how long, the amount of compensation, and which fees, such as travel and accommodation, will be included. It’s usually also appropriate to include a section about confidentiality, intellectual property, and personal liability (as you won’t be an employee of the company). See full template: Consulting contract template. 5. Editor Contract Contracts for editing services tend to be more straightforward and more concise than other contracts, as the scope of work is usually limited. If you are an editor, ensure that you include a full description of the work along with detailed pricing. Importantly, a section should be dedicated to intellectual property rights. See full template: Editor contract template. 6. Agile Software Development Contract Software contracts have several unique features. When putting software contracts together, you should assume that the recipient has at least some development knowledge. Project deliverables and timelines should be explained in terms of well-understood benchmarks like wireframing, prototyping, troubleshooting, final implementation, and so on. Also, include information about your requirements from the company’s development department (if necessary) and details about the members of your team. See full template: Agile software development contract template Conclusion A well-written contract is a cherry on top of your delicious “business deal sundae.” Contracts cement all the hard work of engaging, persuading, and closing deals. So it’s vital that you include all the appropriate information and remove all friction. What’s more, a proper contract management solution will ensure that you won’t lose repeat customers. A host of tools enable you to streamline and improve your contract lifecycle, often at a fraction of the cost of using legacy processes. As a business owner, manager, or salesperson, there’s no excuse for not taking advantage of them. Now, time to get to work on your first template. Read more »
  • 17 LinkedIn Sales Navigator Secrets All the Best Prospectors Know
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    Want to become a prospecting superstar? LinkedIn Sales Navigator is a fantastic resource. It simplifies the process of finding, contacting, and staying up-to-date with prospects, referrals, and customers. Rather than spending hours manually tracking prospect activity on the platform, you can get instant insights. That means more time for high-value activities like calling people or giving demos. Whether you’re new to Sales Navigator or a veteran of the tool, these tips will help you take your social selling game to the next level. Professional Price: $79.99/month or $64.99/month for an annual plan 1. Message Prospects Without Using Your InMail Quota Professional, Team, and Enterprise Sales Navigator users can send up to 20, 30, and 50 InMail messages per month, respectively. If you want to send more than that, target users with “Open Profiles,” who won’t count toward your InMail quota. As a bonus, “Open Profile” users are generally pretty receptive to being contacted.     2. Download the Mobile App Salespeople who spend lots of time away from their desk will appreciate the Sales Navigator app (available for iOS and Android.) The app delivers real-time updates about saved accounts and leads, so reps can quickly reach out after a prospect has written a new post, showed up in the press, or shared company news. Users can also see their daily account and lead recommendations and browse buyer profiles. The ability to save leads and accounts is also handy. With this feature, field sales reps can instantly save the connections they’ve made after a meeting or call rather than waiting till they’re in front of a computer. Lastly, the Sales Navigator app lets reps send InMail and messages on the go. Contacting a prospect quickly after a compelling event can mean the difference between winning and losing a deal, so this is a powerful feature. 3. Upgrade Your Profile It’s easier to stand out with a Sales Navigator Team or Enterprise account, since these come with a larger profile picture and background photo. In addition, these users are displayed more prominently in search results. If a prospect searches for someone matching a rep’s description, that rep has a greater chance of catching her eye. Team Price: $129.99/month or $99.99/month for an annual plan 1. Integrate Sales Navigator with your HubSpot CRM LinkedIn has partnered with several CRM providers --- HubSpot, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, Zoho, and Infor  --- to bring profile details and shared connections from Sales Navigator experience into your CRM. That means as you’re doing your day-to-day in the CRM, you won't have to open a new tab (or three) to track down the lead or account in Sales Navigator Send InMail directly from a contact record View shared connections Ask mutual connections for introductions Add leads at the same company and add them to your Sales Navigator leads list Connect with people at an organization who have shared connections or interests Find out who you're already connected to in the organization Here’s a sample of what that integration might look like, in the context of HubSpot CRM: Already using one of the CRMs that integrates with Sales Navigator? Set up the sync now. Using another CRM, or not using one at all?  Fear not: LinkedIn will be expanding the universe of CRM integrations in the near future, so stay tuned.  Note: To use HubSpot's integration with LinkedIn Sales Navigator, you must have a LinkedIn Sales Navigator Team or Enterprise account. 2. Apply the TeamLink Filter According to LinkedIn, you’re almost five times more likely to schedule a first meeting with someone if you have a mutual personal connection. With the TeamLink Connections filter, you can easily find the prospects who meet your search criteria and share an acquaintance with you, whether it’s a first or second-degree connection. This filter taps the networks of the other members of your sales team and your first-degree connections. Note: You must have a Team or Enterprise accounts to use TeamLink. 3. Save a TeamLink Search Just because you don’t have a mutual connection with a prospect now doesn’t mean you never will. Your contacts form new connections every week. But it’s inefficient to manually run the same searches again and again in the hopes something has changed. Fortunately, the “save search” feature lets you automate this step. Once you’ve defined your search parameters and applied the TeamLink filter, check the “Save Search” box. Now, if one of your coworkers connects with one of your leads, you’ll be instantly notified. Note: You must have a Team or Enterprise accounts to use TeamLink. 4. Check out the TeamLink Section You can also check out the TeamLink section of an accounts page, which helps you build strategic relationships at an organization you’re targeting. Let’s say you want to work with Blue Leaf. When you check out the TeamLink section of the Blue Leaf account page, TeamLink will display the current employees who are connected to members of your network. You can now ask those mutual connections for introductions. Note: You must have a Team or Enterprise accounts to use TeamLink. 5. Access the network of every person at your company TeamLink lets you tap into the connections of every Sales Navigator seatholder at your company. But that mostly limits you to salespeople, recruiters, and maybe your executives -- after all, the average marketer, customer support rep, or finance associate isn't going to need an account. With TeamLink Extend, these people can now opt in to the Sales Navigator network. That means your pool of available contacts becomes much bigger. "If you’re trying to reach a prospect, you can quickly see if anyone in your company has a connection with that person and reach out to your colleague to ask for a warm introduction," explains LinkedIn Sales Solutions head of product Doug Camplejohn.  The first 1,000 seats of TeamLink Extend come bundled free with every Enterprise Edition contract. 6. Tag Your Prospects to Keep Track of Their Status According to new research from Weidert Group, up to six different people are now involved in every B2B purchasing decision.  To effectively work an account, you need to keep track of who’s involved in the buying process, form connections with them, and identify their unique objectives and priorities. It’s no small feat. Add tags and leave notes for each lead in Sales Navigator helps streamline this information. Once you’ve identified a relevant contact, you can tag them by their role (decision maker, influencer, and so on) and leave notes for yourself (“Has only been in position three months; commented on group discussion about changing furniture vendors.”) You can also create custom tags to match your company’s sales process and terminology. 7. Use the “Interested In” Filter to Find Ways of Providing Value Finding ways to add value to your prospects’ lives isn’t always easy. Thanks to the “Interested In” filter, you can instantly figure out which buyers need your help -- which’ll give you a major advantage when reaching out. For example, you can run a search for “mid-level marketing managers” and further narrow down the pool with the “Interested In: Industry experts” filter. Every prospect the search returns has self-indicated they’d like to meet industry experts. You can volunteer your own expertise, offer to connect them with a specialist inside your company, or introduce them to an external contact. 8. Use Advanced Filters to Identify Your Ideal Customers Thanks to Sales Navigator’s advanced filters, salespeople can hone in on specific prospect types. These include: Exclude saved, viewed, or contacted leads Company type: Public, private, or nonprofit (Also available in LinkedIn Premium) Groups (Also available in LinkedIn Premium) Years in current position Years at current company Years of experience (Also available in LinkedIn Premium) Member since (Also available in LinkedIn Premium) Headquarter Seniority level (Also available in LinkedIn Premium) Posted content keywords 9. Target High-Value Accounts Sales and Marketing, good news: Working together on LinkedIn campaigns is easier than ever before, thanks a new integration between Sales Navigator and Campaign Manager. Like before, marketers are responsible for ad creative, budget, and timeline. Yet now, they can target the leads and accounts their sales reps are pursuing -- meaning your messaging and value prop will be top-of-mind when you're engaging with potential customers. Marketing can even take advantage of lookalike modeling, so they can find and market to users similar to existing prospects and customers. Salespeople can see exactly how their prospects are engaging with marketing content and will even get alerts when a saved account has read, liked, or shared their company's sponsored content.  Enterprise Price: Contact LinkedIn for pricing 1. Build Rapport With “Shared Experiences” Sales Navigator already allows users to save leads, but the “Share experiences with you” filter makes it easier to surface opportunities within that database. The filter gives you a strong foundation for building rapport by pulling together all the prospects who have at least one thing in common with you: Maybe you both lived in Manhattan at one point, worked for the same company, volunteered with the same nonprofit, or have another point of commonality. Mentioning this point of similarity when you reach out (either in your email subject line, the message body, or in your voicemail) will boost your chances of getting a response. 2. Unlock Out-of-Network User Profiles The unlock feature, which is available with Sales Navigator Team, lets reps view the full profile of a user outside of their network. Once they’ve unlocked a profile, everyone on their Sales Navigator team can see it. Every team member can unlock up to 25 profiles per month. To do so, click the blue “Unlock member profile” button in the top section of a member’s profile. 3. Refine Your Lead and Account Recommendations Sales Navigator can help reps keep their pipeline full with automatic lead and account recommendations. To make sure their recommendations align as closely as possible with their buyer personas, salespeople should take advantage of the tool’s Sales Preferences. These criteria include region, industry, function, and seniority level. To add or modify these settings, click your profile picture in the top right corner and choose “Settings.” Then scroll down to the Sales Preferences section, type your choices, and click “Done.” Sales Preferences only apply to lead and account recommendations, meaning regular searches include results that fall outside of a user’s saved choices. For instance, a rep might ask for recommendations for executive assistants in California, but simply searching “executive assistant” could generate prospects that live elsewhere. 4. Validate Your CRM Data "Clean data" might not be the most glamorous two-word string in the English language, but it's critical to a high-functioning sales org. Without up-to-date, accurate information on leads, prospects, and customers, it's much harder for a rep to build rapport, earn credibility, add value, and eventually win the business.  That's why LinkedIn's Data Validation feature is so great. It automatically updates contact data in your CRM in real time. Maybe you're in the early stages of your sales process when your main contact leaves the company. Because he updates his title, the record in your CRM changes too.  5. Get More Insight Into Reps' Pipelines LinkedIn recently launched DealBook: A straightforward tool that gives sales managers complete visibility into all the deals in the hopper. This allows them to give relevant, timely suggestions and coaching feedback, like, "I saw you're talking to an ecommerce company in Austin -- how many stakeholders have you connected with?"  Remember that closing your LinkedIn Sales Navigator account means you'll lose saved data such as messages and saved leads. You can learn more about the cancellation of your LinkedIn Sales Navigator account here. Learn more about the HubSpot-LinkedIn Sales Navigator integration here. And find out the anatomy of a great LinkedIn sales message template.  Read more »
  • Own Your Process to Stay Out of the Procurement Pit
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    This is an excerpt from the book, "Sales Truth" by Mike Weinberg. It has been republished here with permission. Just because a customer asks for a demo or a sales pitch, does not mean that it benefits you to do so. And that is even more true when a customer instructs you to work through their procurement process or solicits a request for proposal (RFP). Most of us in sales are not paid to do work. We are paid to bring in new business and win deals. Said differently, there are no rewards for jumping through hoops, perfectly complying with someone’s ridiculous process, or for completing more pages of RFPs than other sellers. I’m sorry if this message offends you or upsets your apple cart, but I have some harsh news. Blindly going along with a buyer’s direction simply for the sake of scoring “obedience points” is not going to help you bring in more business. Too many salespeople wimp out on their own sales process and continue defaulting to the buyer’s process even when it makes no sense. This deprives them of the opportunity to execute proper discovery work, enhance relationships with the right customer stakeholders, and prevents them from being able to tailor their approach, presentation, and proposed solution. I understand that for many salespeople, pushing back against the customer’s suggested (dictated) process creates discomfort. We want to be liked. We want to be perceived as empathetic. We want to be helpful and responsive and respectful. We want to be easy to do business with. We want the prospect to want to work with us. Those are all great motivations and there is nothing wrong with our desire for a smooth relationship. But there’s just one problem with what I call the “Acquiesce Approach,” and it’s a biggie. Acquiescing to the customer’s strict process can prevent us from positioning ourselves as true advisers and consultants, stops us from differentiating our approach, and often ends up getting us commoditized as procurement lumps all potential suppliers together into the same box. I can’t speak for how much you enjoy getting stripped of the opportunity to differentiate yourself, your company, and solution, but I can speak for myself. I hate it! Getting commoditized sucks. Playing by someone else’s rules whose desire is to squeeze all the creativity, differentiation, and profit margin out of our deals is not fun. Following orders from a certified procurement person whose stated mission is to “level the playing field” is not very motivating to me and certainly not why I am in sales. I have two missions as a professional salesperson. First, I am driven to create the absolute best possible and highest-value outcome for the client. Second, I am committed to winning every deal for which I compete – assuming, of course, that I’m convinced that is in the best interest of the client. Those two missions are what drive me and drive my sales process. I am beholden to getting the client what they need to win and doing what I need to do so I can win. The term “win-win” gets thrown around a lot, but this is one instance where it perfectly applies. I’m committed to creating a win-win situation, and if that means having to circumvent, avoid, or alter the client’s buying process, so be it. I don’t work for procurement people. I work for my client contact (business person), for my company, and for myself. It’s incumbent on me to do whatever is ethical and necessary to ensure the client gets the best solution and to give myself the best chance of winning. Translation: when I perceive that the customer’s stated buying process or instructions to me are counter to either creating the best solution or improving my likelihood of winning, that’s when it is time to stand my ground and push back. Top-Producers Are Usually Pretty Good at Telling Procurement to Pound Sand Based on my experience from years of coaching salespeople at all levels of experience and success, I am confident that a good number reading this will not believe the following statement: Top-producing sales professionals regularly alter their customer’s buying process. Regularly -- as in doing so is the rule, not the exception. And if that #SalesTruth baffles you, let me take it a step further. Quite often, top-producing salespeople not only disregard procurement’s directions and rules, they actually dictate to the customer how their companies will do business together. These top sellers change the rules, change the game, and change the outcome – all in their favor! Taken from Sales Truth by Mike Weinberg Copyright © 2019 by Marissa Orr. Used by permission of HarperCollins Leadership. www.harpercollinsleadership.com.  Read more »
  • 14 Sales Presentation Techniques That Will Help You Close More Deals Today
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    Sales Presentation An effective sales presentation tells a compelling story, highlights your value proposition, and aligns with your audience's needs and desires. It ends with a strong call-to-action and leads prospects to your differentiators instead of leading with them. Hate the thought of doing sales presentations? You’re not alone. But the best reps have sales presentations down pat, even if it’s not their favorite activity. The best sales reps know that when done right, sales presentations are a high-earning skill. So, let’s hone that skill with simple sales presentation techniques that communicate an irresistible narrative and get buyers to close. Sales Presentation Techniques 1. Send your buyer the presentation deck before your call Be honest. Internally, you read that title and said some version of "No way." Am I right? Well, know this: I only preach what I practice. When the Gong.io team started sharing our deck before opening sales calls, we learned it’s a winning move. You might assume that sending a buyer the deck before a call is like revealing whodunnit on the cover of a murder mystery. No one’s going to pay attention to the rest of the book, right? Wrong. If your deck is compelling, prospect’s will want to get into it with you, even if they know the main point. Together, you can dive in, dissect the good bits, and talk through questions. It’s going to be a juicy conversation and they know it. If you want to see how closely your buyer paid attention to your deck, start your call with, "Based on the information in the deck I sent, where should we start?" Don’t worry if they didn’t review it. They’ll just tell you to take it from the top. Nothing’s lost except their opportunity to jump into a deeper conversation faster. That’s what you’re after: a top-tier discussion, right off the bat. You can get into one much faster, if your buyer has seen your deck and is ready to talk about it. It saves everyone time and kicks the sales process off to a quick start. 2. Invoke self-discovery It’s tempting to stick to a positive and linear story during your sales presentation. That usually involves talking about benefits, outcomes, and desired results. But that approach is a mistake. Before you discuss solutions and results, you must understand the problem. More importantly, you have to be sure your prospect understands (read: admits to) the problem. Self-discovery is the ticket that gets you there. Instead of telling your buyer what the problem is and how you’ll address it, get your buyer to connect with the problem on their own. Tell a story in which your buyer is just like the main character. 3. Talk about Point A. Don’t skip to point B. This tip is 100% linked to the last one. There’s a problem (Point A) and a desired outcome (Point B). Point A is the status quo. It’s the problem your buyer will continue to face if they don’t make a change. Would it surprise you to know that 95% of messaging focuses on Point B (shiny outcomes) instead of Point A (the problem)? Here’s how you can stand out. Switch the focus of your presentation to Point A. Talking about a pain point is shockingly more effective than talking about positive outcomes. That’s because of one simple principle called loss aversion. Here’s the quick version: People will work twice as hard to avoid loss as they will to gain benefits. Focusing on Point A triggers loss aversion, and the natural human reaction to loss aversion is a sense of urgency. Now you’re getting the inside scoop on deal-closing sales presentations. Make your buyer feel the pain that results from the status quo. Convince them the pain is only going to get worse without your solution -- because you know that to be true. You should only talk about benefits once they’re on board with that line of thinking. Urgency is what allows benefits to land. Without urgency, benefits are just happy points that hold no real meaning. 4. Insight is your #1 lead story Buyers are the experts on their company’s circumstances. But they want insights into their situation from you. You’re most likely to impress a buyer by telling them something new about themselves. They’re bogged down in their own perspective, and your shiniest offering is new insight into their problems and opportunities. They can get common information about your product’s benefits from a brochure, thank you very much. But an insight into themselves? That’s worth its weight in gold. Check out this TaylorMade video. It’s a bang-on example of how to lead a presentation with insight, and then move on to your product’s strengths: You learned how to get more distance from your golf swing (an insight into what you’re doing). Then you learned how that’s supported by the product’s particular strength. Insight comes first. It changes how your buyers think about the problem your product solves. Only then benefits can land effectively. 5. Don’t lead with differentiators, lead to them Think about what makes your product unique. Nothing you say about differentiators matters, if your buyer doesn’t value that differentiator. So, how do you get buyers to care about your unique strength? Help your buyer understand a problem or opportunity they’ve missed. Educate them, and be sure the solution relates to your differentiator. At Gong.io, we’ve taught our sales reps to speak with buyers about an important problem only we can solve. It’s the delta between top producers and the rest of the team. After naming that problem, reps offer insight into it and begin to build urgency: "The numbers from your top reps are fantastic." "The downside is they’re annulled by everyone else who’s missing their quota." "Your team goes from outstanding numbers to breaking even or missing quota. Both of those options are unsustainable." We only introduce our key differentiator once the backstory is clear and the buyer gets it. Then, our reps say something like this: "Gong is the only platform that can tell you what your top reps do differently from the rest of your team. We can tell you which questions they ask, which topics they discuss, when they talk about each one, and more." See why we lead to our differentiator, and not with it? It just wouldn’t land the same way if we started with the differentiator. In fact, it might not land at all. 6. Say it like an exec Remember this the next time you open your mouth in a meeting: You get delegated to the person you sound like. Focusing on specs and features is a poor sales strategy that gets you booted from decision makers. "This is interesting stuff. You know who would really connect with this? Our IT guy. He’s in charge of these kind of things and I think we’ll hand off to him at this point." -Every senior executive you bored with features talk Time for a reframe. When you talk about your value prop, use language that reflects strategic issues. That’s what resonates with executives. They want wins for corporate business problems, not tech snippets in the trenches. They want you to help them tackle strategic opportunities like these: The competition Market dynamics and market share Trends If your solution relates back to those problems, you can sell to the C-suite. 7. Flip your presentation There’s an incredibly predictable bent to most presentations. They’re logical and they flow from one point to the next, eventually achieving a shiny, final outcome. This is a great way to set yourself up for failure. Logic works when we introduce people to new topics. It’s used at all levels of the education system. But it doesn’t work well for presentations. Here are two presentations for constructing a new city. The first one is logic-based, and the audience is a big-wig politician. "Ms. Politician, we’d like you to consider this empty plot of land": "Sure, it’s a barren patch of earth right now. But hold on to your hat! We’ve envisioned a transformation: new buildings, roads, sidewalks, greenery. A day when our first stop light appears." "And if we take that a step further, we get to the good part. There’s an economic boom coming, and pretty soon we’re going to have homes and local businesses moving in. There’s going to be a big box store around the corner in no time." "Growth begets growth. New enterprises will emerge and eventually, we’ll have a metropolitan centre that will amaze and astound you. According to our plans, in just a couple of decades, that empty plot of land will have turned into a booming, gorgeous city rivaling Manhattan!" Let’s debrief. There’s a lot of build up. A lot of anticipation. And it’s all built on logical progression. But it took so long to get to the point, and that’s the wrong approach when you’re dealing with busy politicians. Or, in your case, busy decision makers. Here’s the second presentation. "Ms. Politician, we’re pleased to present our audacious dream for a new city. We’ve set out a plan and determined that if we stick to it, in just a few decades, our city will look like this:" "We’d love to have a conversation about our plans in any level of detail you like. Big picture or granular, let’s talk about what’s interesting to you." The main difference in the second example is that it started with the end result. The conversation unfolded after the seller revealed a big outcome. Of course, we know these conversations sound different in real life. But you take our point, right? During a presentation you want to reveal an outcome first and let the conversation grow from there. There’s one other tactic underlying it all: The best product demos start with topics the buyers highlighted on the discovery call. Your product demo should mirror those important topics back to the buyer. Start with the most important one first, and work your way down as the conversation moves along. This is something the team at Gong saw repeatedly in our analysis of winning product demos. In the opening section of your presentation, address the biggest issue from discovery. Address the second biggest issue second, etc. It’s called solution mapping, and it’s going to change your sales presentation process forever. Stop saving the big reveal for last. Stop building anticipation. Start with the good stuff. Let it rip right out of the gate. 8. Turn your presentation into a conversation If you sensed we’re looking for a two-way dialogue during your pitch, you’re right. That’s a relief to most salespeople, especially the ones who hate delivering traditional presentations. A two-way dialogue is going to make your pitch feel more natural. Stay away from one-way conversations like this one: If you look at this through the lens of a talk-to-listen ratio, it’s terrible. So much talking. So little listening. That means the rep isn’t asking the right questions, or getting long enough answers. Save your long monologues for Broadway. They won’t help you have a real conversation with your buyers. Instead, aim for a great two-way conversation: Picture that conversation in your mind. It’s connected, and real, and both people are fully engaged participants. That’s exactly how you want your buyer to behave at this point in the process. 9. Keep your presentation to 9 minutes max This tip is crisp and clear: Don’t present for more than nine minutes. Presentations for lost deals last an average of 11.4 minutes. Why does anything over nine minutes go poorly? Because humans don’t think well for that long. Our brains call a timeout at the nine-minute mark. When you hit the nine-minute mark, you need to change channels in your buyer’s brain. You can do that by switching up who’s speaking in real life or on a video or demo. That resets your clock to zero and you’ve got nine more minutes for the next portion of the show. Ignore this rule and you’ll lose your buyer for good! 10. Use this kind of social proof or face the consequences Social proof. Best friend or worst nightmare? It can be either one, so use it carefully. Generic social proof (i.e., naming impressive clients for brand power alone) is a disaster. Try it and your close rate is likely to drop by 22%. Early stage calls are the worst time to throw down generic social proof. That move will earn you a 47% drop in close rates. What’s happening here? Why is it so damaging to name two or three mega clients to regular buyers? Simple: The regular buyers don’t identify with big-name brands. Sure, they’re dazzled that you nabbed those clients. You’ll probably get some impressed nods in your meeting. But internally your buyers are thinking, "Wow. Google is their client?! Clearly their product isn’t designed for me." Here’s a much more effective strategy: Use tribal social proof. Clients who belong to your buyer’s tribe have the same pain points, challenges, and needs. Instead of naming a couple of magnificent clients, evoke tribal social proof by naming six same-tribe clients. The best reps rattle off half a dozen or more, when they’re using this technique. If you don’t have that many, you can get away with naming clients from a different tribe. But you have to know what you’re doing. You have to tell an accompanying story about the client and their pain points must match the buyer’s. Otherwise, forget about naming clients from different industries. The reason you’re naming these clients in the first place is so your buyer will see themselves in the customer story you’re telling. Keep reading for more tips on customer stories that sell. 11. Ditch ROI calculators. Use customer stories. ROI has a deep psychological hold on plenty of salespeople. They think these cold, hard facts are hard to ignore. But they missed the memo that says using ROI during the sales process leads to a 27% drop in won deals. That’s true at any point in the process, and I’ll tell you why. It’s connected to how human brains work. We process information in two ways: logically and emotionally. Discussing ROI triggers the wrong process. ROI awakens the logical processors where critical analysis and debate happen. When you talk about ROI, your customer’s brain can’t help but argue with your assumptions. It’s a natural reaction when you trigger their analytical system. Instead, provoke your buyer’s emotional brain, because that’s where buying decisions happen. Do that by telling a before-and-after customer story. It’s a tactic that doesn’t stir any arousal in your buyer’s logical brain. It sneaks into their head and makes a point without setting off any alarms. And don’t get so excited about the "after" results that you forget to mention the "before" metrics. The contrast between "before" and "after" is where buyers learn about your product’s value. This unedited slide is straight from one of our business case decks: One of the reasons this works so much better than discussing ROI is that there are no assumptions to argue over. Your story stands entirely on its own and buyers understand it at face value. The trick is to get your buyers to see themselves in that story. If they do, your job gets a lot easier. They’ll be ready to sign in no time. 12. Talk price after you establish value Would it surprise you to know it matters when you talk about certain topics? It can actually affect whether you win or lose a deal. Pricing is a great example of this principle. The top salespeople wait to talk about pricing. They know it’s important to demonstrate their product’s value first. You can get into real trouble if a buyer decides they want to talk pricing early in the call. Set an agenda at the start of your call, so your buyer knows when to expect a pricing discussion. They’ll be less likely to raise it early, and if they do, you can refer back to the agenda. Open with something like, "I’d like to talk about A, B, and C on our call today. Then we can go over pricing at the end and -- if it makes sense for you -- talk about next steps. Does that work for you?" You’re all set. 13. Learn your competitor’s strength and use it This is one of my favorite competition-crushing techniques. It’s easy to focus on your competition’s weaknesses. That’s why most salespeople do it. A more sophisticated technique involves using their strengths against them. Mentioning your competitor’s weaknesses leaves you vulnerable to attack. Your buyer can dispute or correct your points. What if you could show your buyer how your competitor’s strengths make their product a poor fit? That’s exactly what one of the biggest names in the fast-food business did in the mid-1980’s. By 1985, McDonald’s was losing market share to Burger King, and their marketing teams were going head to head. That’s when Burger King decided to take down everything McDonald’s promoted as its strengths. McDonald’s branding was highly focused on being the place for kids. From Happy Meals and Play Places to Ronald and his friends, McDonald’s was undeniably kid-oriented. The genius marketing crew at Burger King framed their counterpoint: it was the place for adults and real burgers, not just "fun food." Knowing your competitor’s strengths is just as important as knowing their weaknesses, if you know what to do with that information. Sales jiu-jitsu in your back pocket. 14. Solidify your position early on Here’s another way to use the competition to win deals. Talk about them. Our data shows that you’re more likely to win a deal if you talk about the competition early in the sales process, instead of ignoring them completely. For best results, practice this during your first sales presentation. Waiting until the end of your sales process puts you into a dangerous red zone. Your buyers will already have formed opinions, and they’ll be harder to change. Sales managers, pay particular attention to this one and jump into competitive deals early on. We love these words from Geoffrey Moore, who wrote "Crossing the Chasm:" In other words, at the end of the day, buyers will justify a decision they made early in the process. That’s why it’s critical to set yourself up as the winner early on. Talk about the competition in your presentation. Put the conversation out there. Get your buyer to see you through that lens, and you’re golden. You have 14 new tips and techniques to throw down this quarter. These data-backed moves are straight out of our own playbook and have proven highly effective. Implement them all and I know you’ll boost your numbers. Want to keep reading? Check out these tips for ending your presentation with a bang. Read more »
  • The 4 Most Common Sales Org Structure [+ Pros/Cons]
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    The structure of a sales force has significant bearing on its success. For example, a rep used to selling to a given region might flounder when asked to concentrate on just one industry nationwide. If each of your company's products require deep and specific technical knowledge, it might not make sense to have reps sell all products by territory. It's simply not true that sales talent translates into all situations. Take a software representative who sells exclusively to manufacturing companies, and ask them to start selling hardware across all verticals. They're probably not going to be as good at one of these assignments as the other. Salespeople who excel get very good at excelling in a particular environment, and organizational structure is the bedrock of that environment. In his book Aligning Strategy and Sales, Frank V. Cespedes, senior lecturer of business administration at Harvard Business School, explains in depth how organizational design impacts selling effectiveness, and emphasizes the importance of choosing a structure carefully. In the chart below, he lays out the pros and cons of four commonly used structures. Accounts and opportunities can be divided by: Geography/territory Product/service line Customer/account size Industry/vertical segment Take a look, and then think about whether a reorg is in order. Source: Table 8-1 from "Aligning Strategy and Sales" by Frank V. Cespedes. Reprinted here with permission.   Sales Organization Chart Here's an example sales organization chart. This can be modified depending on which organizational structure you choose (i.e., by geography/territory, product/service line, customer/account size, or industry/vertical segment). Source: Lucidchart Looking for more? Check out the difference between sales and business development next.   Read more »
  • The 15 Best Real Estate Websites for Selling a Home in 2019
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    A 2017 survey by the National Association of Realtors® reported 51% of buyers found their homes on the internet, 30% found homes through an agent, and a dwindling 7% discovered their eventual home through a yard sign or open house. This should tell you one thing: if you’re selling a house in 2018, you don’t just need to be on the internet, you need to be on the right real estate websites. So, exactly what are those websites? I’m so glad you asked because I’ve got a list of favorites below. Best Real Estate Agent Websites 1. Zillow Best for: Buyers, renters, sellers, finding agents, finding mortgage lenders About: Whether you’re buying, selling, or browsing Zillow has something for you. If you’re listing a home on Zillow yourself, you’ll receive access to a sales proceeds calculator, your home’s “zestimated” value, a local news feed, and tools to help you price your home accurately. Mobile App: iOS | Android 2. Realtor.com Best for: Buyers, sellers, renters, finding agents, finding mortgage lenders About: Sellers can calculate what their home’s worth, discover how to start the home-selling process, and learn how to select just the right agent for their needs. And, Realtor.com is licensed from the National Association of REALTORS®, so you can trust the content you find here. Mobile App: iOS | Android 3. Redfin Best for: Buyers, sellers, finding agents About: Redfin helps you sell your home for as low as a 1% listing fee. In this entry package, you’ll receive the help of a local Redfin Agent, professional photos and a 3D walkthrough, premium placement on Redfin.com, a yard sign, and open houses. Willing to pay a little more? Their 2% Listing Fee service includes everything in the 1% plan, plus, a custom home improvement plan, vetted service providers, and cost coverage for project management, deep cleaning, professional staging, and decluttering. Mobile App: iOS | Android 4. Trulia Best for: Buyers, sellers, finding an agent About: Trulia goes beyond static listings. They source insights from the people who live in your neighborhood to offer buyers neighborhood map overlays that provide deeper understanding of the community they’re buying into. See the prices of recently sold homes in your neighborhood and home values in your community. And, get advice from local real estate agents, brokers and others on Trulia Voices, their namesake real estate community. Mobile App: iOS | Android 5. MLS Best for: Buyers, sellers, realtors About: MLS.com is a free Multiple Listing Service search for real estate MLS listings from licensed Realtors® and other real estate professionals that are members of their local MLS. List home for sale, new homes, resale homes, new construction, acreage, lots, land, commercial property, and investment property here. Mobile App: N/A 6. CENTURY 21 Real Estate Best for: Buyers, sellers, finding an agent About: Did you know the typical home sale today involves more than 20 steps after the initial contract is accepted? CENTURY 21® agents walk you through each step to move toward a quick-and-easy close. Together, you’ll create a marketing plan, add value to your home before selling, set the right price, and show your home at its best. With CENTURY 21, you can expect a traditional, full-service approach to real estate. Mobile App: iOS | Android 7. RE/MAX Best for: Buyers, sellers, finding an agent About: Whether you’re looking to sell your home locally or expand your real estate globally, commercially, or into the luxury realm -- RE/MAX can help. And with franchises and agents available in all 50 states, you’re sure to find one that specializes in your city and specific needs. Mobile App: iOS | Android 8. Coldwell Banker Realtors Best for: Buyers, sellers, finding an agent About: CBx is new Coldwell Banker technology giving their agents an edge. It provides more accurate pricing, uses big data to locate the right buyers for your home, and strategically markets your property by focusing on only the most qualified prospective buyers. Request an estimate on Coldwell Banker’s website to get started. Mobile App: iOS | Android 9. HomeFinder Best for: Buyers, sellers, renters About: HomeFinder is purely a listing tool. For $39 per month, you’ll be able to upload as many photos of your home as you’d like, easily share your listing on social media, and receive priority sorting, which means your listing will appear ahead of basic properties. HomeFinder also gives you the option of allowing home buyers or renters to email or call you directly. Mobile App: iOS | Android 10. Craigslist Best for: Adventurous buyers, sellers, renters About: Oh yes, it’s possible to sell or at least advertise your home on Craigslist. And with 50 billion pageviews every month, it’s easy to see why so many people choose Craigslist as a real estate hub. Simply create a new post, click “housing offered,” and optimize your ad with a killer headline, great photos, and descriptive copy. Obviously, you’ll want to beware scammers and unwanted investors -- but if you favor an avant-garde approach to life, listing your house on Craigslist might give you a thrill. Mobile App: iOS | Android 11. Facebook Best for: Sellers About: Want to sell your home, fast? Find a Facebook-friendly real estate agent and start running ads. Ensure your agent is up to date on the latest in this social media giant’s algorithm changes, because you’ll want to know whether to create videos, static images, or text forward posts to get the most bang for your buck. Facebook’s targeting abilities allow you and your agent to get your home’s ad in front of the people who will find it most relevant, and a link back to your realtor’s site or the MLS listing will funnel leads directly to your doorstep. Mobile App: iOS | Android 12. Homes.com Best for: Buyers, sellers, finding an agent About: Let Homes.com know what matter most to you in a home and they’ll match you with properties that meet your demands -- plus, they’ll give you a unique match rating so you know just how much of a match each home is. See a home you like? Snap a picture and Homes.com will help you source a few similar option. Like a dating site for your house, Homes.com promises to find the perfect buyer or home for you. Mobile App: iOS | Android 13. PropertyRecord.com Best for: Sellers About: Current property value, land value, number of bathrooms, and government property records are just a few of the details you’ll learn from this information aggregator. It might not be fancy, but it uses an advanced algorithm and real reviews to give you a high-quality report on any home you’d like to sell. Mobile App: N/A 14. Movato Best for: Buyers, sellers, agents About: Movato taps into the MLS to provide up-to-date listings you can peruse with confidence. Find your dream home? They'll connect you within minutes to one of their local agents. And you'll get access to their cutting-edge communication tools, AI, and data scientists for a real estate experience that is truly modern. Mobile App: iOS | Android 15. Open Listing Best for: Buyers About: Feeling brave? Buy your home online. Open Listing makes it possible to search homes on the market, book tours with agents who won't pressure you to buy, submit your offer online with the help of a locally based agent, and get a 50% commission refund when you close.  Mobile App: iOS Selling your home is one of the biggest financial decisions you’ll ever make. Don’t choose the wrong website or agent. Start with this list and find the right fit for your needs. Are you a realtor hoping to grow your business? Check out these tips for starting a real estate business, a list of top real estate blogs, and these motivational, relatable and just plain funny real estate quotes. Read more »
  • Sales Close Rate Industry Benchmarks: How Does Your Close Rate Compare?
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    Your sales close rate is a number you need to keep a close eye on -- out of all the deals in your pipeline, what percentage do you actually close? Sales close rates let you know how efficient and effective you are as a sales rep. And it's a good way for managers to measure sales rep and sales team performance. The higher the close rate, the better your rep and team are at converting opportunities in the pipeline into revenue. While it's great to have internal metrics, it's also good to know how you compare to other sales organizations in your industry -- including your competitors'. With industry benchmarks, you can evaluate how you or your team are performing in the overall landscape, which is not only a good reality check but gives you a better understanding on whether improving your close rate is something you need to prioritize now. Close Ratio The close ratio is a measure of a salesperson's efficiency. It's calculated by dividing the number of closed deals by the number of prospects the salesperson worked with. Let's say a salesperson closed 10 deals out of the 40 they were working. The close ratio in this case is 25%. Once you've calculated your close ratio, you can compare it to industry benchmarks and targets. Sales Close Rate by Industry To help you figure out where you stand, we analyzed the close rates of over 8,900 companies' sales organizations across 28 industries and multiple sizes to put together a set of sales close rate benchmarks. Here are a few sales close rates by industry: Biotechnology Industry Close Rate: 15% Business & Industrial Industry Close Rate: 27% Computer Software Industry Close Rate: 22% Computers & Electronics Industry Close Rate: 23% Finance Industry Close Rate: 19% You can see how you compare using our form-free Sales Close Rate Industry Benchmark tool here. Check out our Sales Metrics Calculator below, too. Read more »
  • The 15 Best Crowdfunding Sites to Launch Your Business or Product
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    Does this sound familiar? You’ve put together a business plan, invested all your savings, and have been working your idea as a side hustle for a few months. Finally, you feel like it’s the right time to raise some real capital. That’s a big step. Luckily, the bank isn’t your only option these days. Crowdfunding sites abound on the internet, and I’ve rounded up a few of the best. Whether you’re funding the next hottest startup, a creative endeavor, or a caused-based organization, you’ll find a crowdfunding site below that might just be perfect. Crowdfunding your next business venture can be a fast and relatively easy way to raise money. However, you should know which type of crowdfunding is best for your business and what it requires. Here are the most common types of business crowdfunding: Equity crowdfunding: The most traditional type of funding in this list is equity crowdfunding. You sell a piece of your business to an investor or groups of investors and they provide you with the funding (capital) to move your business forward. Donation crowdfunding: If you're a nonprofit or local business, donation-based funding might work for you. It simply requires you to create a campaign asking for donations for your business. The money is donated, and there is nothing to repay. Debt crowdfunding: Also called "marketplace" funding, debt crowdfunding is when business owners borrow money from other individuals, instead of from a bank. You borrow at a set annual percentage rate, and loans are often structured similar to those of a traditional business loan. Rewards crowdfunding: This is likely the most well-known type of crowdfunding. Made popular by sites like Kickstarter, funders are offered products, services, or other gifts in exchange for a set donation amount. For example, if I'm trying to fund my dog walking business, I might offer one hour of puppy snuggles to anyone who donates $50. For those donating $100, I might offer one hour of puppy snuggles plus a free grooming session. Best Crowdfunding Sites for Startups 1. Kickstarter Kickstarter helps artists, musicians, filmmakers, designers, and other creators connect with the resources to bring their ideas to life. Since their launch in 2009, the company has helped 15 million people pledge $3.7 billion to successfully fund more than 143,000 projects. Funding is all or nothing, so you must meet the goal you set within the allotted time or everyone gets their money back. Price: It’s free to create a project on Kickstarter, but if it’s successfully funded, Kickstarter applies a 5% fee to collected funds. There will also be processing fees between 3-5%. 2. Indiegogo Indiegogo offers both live crowdfunding campaigns and a marketplace for innovative products. It’s helped entrepreneurs raise over 1 billion dollars for more than 650,000 projects. Acquire starter capital and find out quickly whether your idea has legs with Indiegogo’s “global network of early adopters.” And with this platform, you don’t have to stop raising money at a specific time. There are no fundraising targets or deadlines. Plus, you can apply equity, offer securities, revenue sharing, and even cryptocurrency sales. Price: Indiegogo charges a 5% platform fee for all projects. If you’re raising money for a cause, you won’t pay a dime on Indiegogo’s sister platform, GoFundMe. 3. Crowd Supply Crowd Supply’s mission is to “bring original, useful, respectful hardware to life.” Whether you want to bring a family recipe to market, create cutting-edge open hardware, or build electronics, Crowd Supply can help. 70% of launched projects have been successfully funded (2X more than Kickstarter for comparable projects), and the average amount raised per successful projects is $66,000 (6X more than Kickstarter for comparable projects). Price: Crowd Supply has a variety of plans. The Standard plan is 5% of gross campaign sales, not including payment processing fees and the Custom plan is 6-15%. Features differ per plan and include campaign management, media asset creation, and even a dedicated PR team. 4. Crowdfunder Crowdfunder is a community of 200,000 entrepreneurs and investors offering equity crowdfunding -- which allows entrepreneurs to sell shares in their company to accredited investors. Their network of 12,000 VCs and angel investors has helped startups of all kinds raise money (Over $150 million) from Pre-Seed to Series A. Price: Crowdfunder offers Free, Starter ($299/month), and Premium ($499/month) plans -- each with a variety of services, from document storage to personalized support. 5. Experiment Experiment is a platform funding scientific discoveries. From dinosaur fossil excavation to the historical study of medieval monasteries -- Experiment backers will fund it if it “pushes the boundaries of knowledge.” They fund project scientists themselves, so there’s no overhead like the 50-60% that comes with a university grant. Here are the guidelines for what makes a fundable experiment. Price: It’s free to start a project, but once you receive full funding, Experiment charges an 8% platform fee plus payment processing fees between 3-5%. 6. Chuffed If you have a social cause organization aimed at helping animals, your community, or the environment -- to name a few -- Chuffed can help. For nonprofits and cause-based organizations exclusively, their most successful campaigns raise an average of $7,000. Nearly 8,000 campaigns have successfully raised $18 million collectively. Price: Donors pay your processing fees. For example, a donation of $100 would require a $3 fee. And all donors are encouraged to make a small donation to Chuffed on top of that. 7. Patreon Patreon allows artists, musicians, writers, and more get paid by running a membership business for their fans. Providing a meaningful revenue stream, fans pay you a subscription amount of their choosing in exchange for exclusive experiences and behind-the-scenes content. Over $350 million has been paid to creators, and the average patron pays a monthly fee that’s more than most consumers pay for Netflix or Spotify. Price: Patreon takes 5% of successfully processed payments. There’s also a payment processing fee each time a payment is processed (usually batched at the beginning of each month). You can also expect payout fees charged for moving funds from your creator balance to your bank or PayPal account. 8. Fundable Create a profile, then choose whether you’d like to raise funds by selling your product, taking pre-orders, and selling merchandise or by raising funds from accredited investors. The former, their rewards program, is recommended for consumer-facing companies aiming to raise up to $50,000. The latter, their equity program, is recommended for between $50,000 and $10 million funding goals for product, service, or B2B businesses. Price: It’s free to create a company profile then $179/month to fundraise. There are no success fees, but for rewards-based raises there is a processing fees of 3.5% + $.30 per transaction. 9. WeFunder WeFunder allows you to raise between $50,000 and $50 million from investors. Most campaigns take between one and three months to reach their goals. From breweries and restaurants to tech startups and fashion businesses, you’ll be able to solicit funds from WeFunder’s more than 150,000 investors. Price: It’s free to create a profile. WeFunder doesn’t charge management or transaction fees. Administrative fees are charged to investors which covers all the costs of operating WeFund. 10. SeedInvest SeedInvest works with high-growth, professional, and early-stage companies. You can raise either preferred equity or convertible note funding. For priced rounds (preferred equity), you’ll need to provide the pre-money valuation. And for convertible notes, you’ll need to provide the valuation cap, conversion discount, interest rate, and term length. You’ll need to create an application, make it through a screening committee, and conduct your due diligence before making a profile and closing your round. This is a platform for companies that are ready to make it big. You should expect the process to take a minimum of 60 days to complete. Price: There’s a 7.5% placement fee charged on the total amount raised on SeedInvest, and it’s paid only on the successful completion of your offering. You can also expect a 5% warrant coverage based on the amount raised and up to $10,000 in due diligence, escrow, marketing, and legal reimbursement expenses. 11. Fundly “Raise money for anything,” no raise requirements or startup fees involved. That’s what it says on the Fundly homepage. They fund everything from personal health needs to politics and even trips. Create a page, manage your campaign from the Fundly app, and use Fundly’s Facebook OpenGraph integration to maximize your reach. There’s no minimum amount to raise to keep your funds, payments can be withdrawn within 48 hours of the donation, and automatic transfers can be arranged. Price: Everyone pays a platform fee of 4.9% plus a credit card processing fee of 2.9% and $.30 per transaction (depending on your country). 12. LendingClub LendingClub provides personal loans up to $40,000 and business loans up to $300,000. LendingClub is not a bank. They connect borrowers with investors. In exchange for solid returns, investors purchase Notes that correspond to fractions of loans. LendingClub screens borrowers and facilitates all transactions. For business loans, get all your capital up front, one-to-five year terms, no monthly payments, and no prepayment penalties. They recommend their loan program for large, one-time expenses. LendingClub also requires you be in business for 12 months or more, have at least 50,000 in annual sales, no recent bankruptcies or tax liens, and ownership of at least 20% of the business. Price: Expect an origination fee of between 1.99 and 8.99%, and total monthly payments per $10,000 borrowed of between $227 and $955 with total annualized rates of between 9.77% and 35.71%. 13. StartSomeGood StartSomeGood is a cause-driven crowdfunding site. If you have an uplifting project that needs funding, StartSomeGood can help. You can be a nonprofit, for-profit, unincorporated group, or any other status -- they care about your ability to have social impact. View more of their criteria here. Price: It’s free to submit your project, and you’ll only pay a service fee of 5% if your project reaches its funding goal. You can also expect payment processing fees. 14. Crowdcube Crowdcube is an equity crowdfunding platform built to turn your friends, family, fans, and customers into investors. They’ll help you set realistic targets, a sensible valuation, an effective pitch, and a well-executed communication plan to unlock Crowdcube’s investor community. You’ll launch publicly when your pitch reaches 20% of goal. The average pitch reaches their full target in just 22 days. At 75% funding, Crowdcube’s legal team will become involved to help complete your round quickly. Price: There are no fees for listing your business on Crowdcube. You’ll be charged a success fee of 7% on the amount you successfully raise, and payment processing fees also apply. 15. Funding Circle Expand, hire staff, or fund your next step with fast, affordable business loans. They’ve funded veterinary clinics, cosmetics brands, and more. Interest rates run between 4.99% and 26.99% per year, and you’ll repay in between six months and five years. There are no prepayment penalties, and you can borrow between $25,000 and $500,000. Simply fill out an online application, enjoy a dedicated account manager, and get a fast decision. Price: Besides possibly steep interest rates, you’ll pay an origination fee of between 0.99% and 6.99%. There’s also a 5% charge on late payments. Are your creative juices flowing? Get started with one of these crowdfunding sites today and turn your dreams into your day job.   Read more »
  • A Comprehensive Overview of Sales and Operations Planning (S&OP)
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    Henry Ford, business magnate and founder of the Ford Motor Company, once said, "Quality means doing it right when no one is looking." If you want to create a quality product and provide an outstanding customer experience, your business processes should be fine-tuned so every step, from manufacturing to delivery, is well-executed. Processes can be made for just about anything. And the sales and operations planning (S&OP) process is crucial to any successful business. Let's demystify sales and operations planning (S&OP) and learn more about the S&OP process. So, what's the purpose of S&OP? It's to coordinate across business units, increase transparency, balance supply and demand, and to achieve profitability. There are some key benefits to sales and operations planning (S&OP). Increased transparency between departments Informed decision making about a product's demand and supply Improved inventory management Better sales and budget forecasting A clear understanding of a product's lifecycle and its management Streamlined processes that improve the overall customer experience The American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS) created an infographic that highlights the steps to S&OP success. Source: APICS 1. Forecasting At this stage of the S&OP process, data is gathered about prior sales and forecasts are made for future sales. It's important to consider any internal and external factors that can impact sales (e.g., industry, customers, competition). Any trends will be identified and analyzed. 2. Demand Planning Demand planning is when cross-functional collaboration comes into play. The forecasts are analyzed, and adjustments are made to inventory and customer service policies based on the product demand and sources of demand. The demand can be measured in either revenue or units of a product. 3. Supply Planning During supply planning, representatives from finance, operations, and materials to evaluate capacity. They'll determine if there are any constraints on people, machinery, and suppliers. From there, a supply plan is created that will account for any capacity constraints. 4. Pre-S&OP Meeting During this stage of the S&OP process, leaders from finance, sales, marketing, operations, materials, product management, and human resources meet to collaborate. They'll compare the forecasts to the demand and supply plans, and they'll consider the financial impact of the plans. 5. Executive S&OP Meeting The final stage is when executives meet to analyze all the forecasts, plans, and recommendations from the pre-S&OP meeting. By the end of the executive S&OP meeting, a final sales and operations plan will be approved. Here's a visual overview of what the S&OP process looks like. Source: Smartsheet S&OP Metrics When evaluating your S&OP process, there are some key metrics you can use to gauge performance. Demand and Supply S&OP Metrics Demand and supply metrics will help you determine if your forecasts are accurate and the demand matches the supply. Demand forecast versus actual Production forecast versus actual Inventory turnover Capacity utilization On-time delivery Accuracy in order delivery Cycle times Financial S&OP Metrics These metrics show you how the business is performing from a financial perspective. Total sales in a period (e.g., month, quarter, year) Total sales versus forecast Gross margin Working capital versus plan S&OP Software Which tools should you use for your sales and operations planning? Instead of solely relying on spreadsheets, here are some software options you can use to streamline your S&OP. 1. Oracle S&OP Cloud Oracle provides process templates you can use to make your sales and operations planning run smoother. You can monitor each stage of the process and dashboards allow you to see KPI summary graphics. It allows you to collaborate with colleagues and assign tasks. Plus, it integrates with Excel. 2. SAP Integrated Business Planning The SAP Integrated Business Planning software makes your S&OP planning quick and agile. Key features include scenario planning, simulations, and advanced analytics so you can stay on top of forecasts and hit your financial targets. 3. Infor Sales and Operations Planning With the Infor Sales and Operations Planning software, you can synchronize demand and supply imbalances, coordinate across business units, and analyze performance. It even includes predictive financial analysis so you can see how business decisions will impact the bottom line. Looking for more? Learn how to create a strategic plan for business development next. Read more »
  • 4 Ways to Design Successful Sales Incentive Programs
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    Nothing boosts your sales team's excitement and energy more quickly and reliably than an incentive. After all, most salespeople are born competitors -- adding a compelling reward to the mix makes them even more enthusiastic. However, motivating your reps isn't as simple as choosing a desired outcome (like more calls or higher conversion rates) and promising a cash prize to the winner. In my years as a sales leader, I've learned the ins and outs of effective motivation. These four strategies will increase the impact of your incentives. 1. Implement Personal SPIFs Because motivation is so specific to the individual, I use personal SPIFs in addition to team-wide contests. Let's say I notice one of my reps seems disengaged. They're still hitting their quota, but their body language and tone-of-voice suggest they're not as enthusiastic as they used to be. Rather than trying to figure out what they'd like -- and potentially choosing the wrong thing -- I'll ask, "How can I motivate you?" Maybe they say they'd like tickets to a specific music show. Then I'd say, "Okay, what do you have to do to get those?" The rep will name a goal. Typically, this target will be equally (if not more) ambitious than the one I would have picked. Salespeople always feel honored by the responsibility you're giving them in choosing their own objective and reward, so they don't want to let you down by picking a slam-dunk. Lastly, I'll ask the salesperson to set a deadline and send me an email detailing our agreement. Because they chose a prize they truly want, they're highly incentivized to both work toward that goal and keep track of their progress. I don't have to do anything. Of course, sales managers can't show favoritism. If you give one salesperson a personal SPIF, you may have to do it for everyone. You should also double-check there's enough budget before you agree to anything. Nothing will destroy a rep's faith in you faster than a broken promise. 2. Give Non-Monetary Rewards I usually try to avoid purely monetary prizes. To understand why, let's suppose you give the winner of your first sales contest a $500 check. They deposit the check, maybe buys a nice dinner or a new shirt -- but the glow of winning fades relatively quickly. Now imagine you give the winner of your second contest a flat screen TV. Every time they have people over, they'll say, "Sweet TV -- where'd you get that?" I know first-hand the effect of a physical prize. In 1983, I won a table in a sales contest that I still have. Visitors ask me questions about it to this day. My salespeople have won everything from slippers to treadmill desks. As long as the reward is personal and memorable, it'll be motivating. 3. Make Sure Everyone Has a Chance Your team will quickly become frustrated if the same person wins your contests over and over again. There are a few ways to prevent this from happening. First, you can exclude the salesperson in question from the competition. Maybe a salesperson dominates every single prospecting-related contest. Tell them they're not eligible for those anymore -- and make it up by placing them in a different bucket or giving her a separate contest. It can also be helpful to create different "classes" of participants, so your top, middle, and lowest performers compete against their peers rather than everyone on their team. This strategy helps drive enthusiasm among reps who normally wouldn't stand a chance of winning. Some sales leaders use head-to-head match-ups. Let's say you just started offering a new add-on service. You could hold Jeopardy-style quizzes between reps to test their knowledge of the service. The winner of the round scores a point for their team; at the end of the month, the team with the most points gets a prize. Alternatively, switch up the rules and design of your contest so you're not rewarding the same skills or behaviors every time. If the last contest you ran rewarded the salesperson who sold the most of a specific product, maybe the next one goes to the rep who increases their demo-to-close rate by the greatest percentage. 4. Ask for Personal Preferences I've found some salespeople are turned off by public recognition. They're embarrassed rather than proud when you stand up in front of everyone and say, "Matthew got more referrals this quarter than anyone else." Unsurprisingly, you don't want to make your reps uncomfortable. It's a good idea to identify each salesperson's preferences when you start working with them. (Although it's never too late, so don't give yourself a free pass if you've managed a rep for a year and have never asked how they like receiving praise.) Here are a few questions you can use during a one-on-one or coaching session: "Would you rather get praise or acknowledgment in front of the team or in private?" "If you win a contest, what's the best way to announce that?" (Email, at a team meeting, at a private check-in like this one, etc.) "Are you motivated by stack rankings or leaderboards?" Motivation is an art, not a science. Although these strategies have been proven to be successful, it's worth experimenting to find the optimal sales incentives program for your team, objectives, and culture. To learn more, check out these elements of an effective sales contest next. Read more »
  • 8 "Sorry to Bother You" Alternatives Every Salesperson Needs
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    When you've been in sales a while, it's easy to develop bad habits. You pick them up from other reps or take a shortcut during an especially busy week and, all of the sudden, you've added some skills to your repertoire that aren't helping you meet your quota.If you're not regularly examining your behavior and results, these habits can cause mistakes that end in deals falling apart, annoyed prospects, or missed numbers. And I'm not just talking about waiting too long to update a contact's information in your CRM. Seemingly innocuous phrases like, "Sorry to bother you," sneak into our regular sales emails and phone calls and poison our relationships without us even realizing it. Here's how to stop it. Why You Should Never Say, "I Am Sorry for Bothering You" Ideally, sales reps would never have to write a follow up email because they would avoid the number-one follow-up mistake: Failing to set a next step before ending the call. All it takes is one cringeworthy phrase to kill a sales follow-up email. One of my least favorite moves is asking for a prospect to respond "ASAP." But apologizing for contacting your prospect is nothing short of poisonous to deals, and should be cut from the vocabulary of every sales rep. It usually looks like this: It's me again Hey Mike, Sorry to bother you again, but I wanted to make sure you received my last few emails with a great offer for our firewood package this winter. I don’t want you to miss out on this opportunity. I know you’re busy, but I just wanted to touch base one last time. All the best, Annoying Allen So, why should you avoid saying "Sorry to bother you again?” It implies you've become annoying to your prospect. It also reminds the prospect they’ve reached out several times before (“again”) to no success. Even if the sales rep hasn’t annoyed the prospect yet, this is the phrase that might do it. It implies you've done something wrong. In addition, people use the word “sorry" after doing something they deem wrong. When we make a mistake that negatively impacts someone, the first phrase that often comes out of our mouths is "I’m sorry." This phrase means we’ve acknowledged wrongdoing and know we need to fix it. It signals desperation. Reps send “sorry to bother you again” emails in hopes of starting a conversation after not hearing back. The message is a last-ditch effort to pique the potential buyer’s interest -- on the rep’s timeline. It communicates your time and energy is not as valuable as the prospect's -- which simply isn't true. Maintain authority and equal footing with your prospect by never apologizing for being in their inbox or voice mailbox. If you find yourself using this phrase in an email -- stop writing. Instead, regroup and focus on providing value to the prospect and grabbing their attention instead of “bothering” them again. There are a multitude of ways to provide value in a sales follow-up email. Here are a few I suggest. Alternatives to Saying, "Sorry for Bugging You" 1. Send a customer review A customer review provides value because modern-day buyers trust their fellow buyers to give honest feedback about a product they’ve used. Think they might not trust a written review coming directly from you? Connect them with current and past buyers who can provide honest feedback on why working with you is great as well as some of the drawbacks. For example, you might open an email with, "Instead of sending you a pitch, I'll let a previous customer do the heavy lifting with their unvarnished (really) testimonial." 2. Include a case study Case studies allow prospects to discover how a business in a similar position to theirs solved its problems. Send your latest and most relevant study with a note saying, "This case study made me think of your business. I know your time is valuable, and I think this is worth the few minutes it will take to read." You've acknowledged their time is a priority for you, without discounting your own schedule and what you're offering. 3. Link to a blog post A blog post is a way to build credibility with prospects and provide them new information about the product and company as they start to make a decision. If you're trying to grab a prospect's attention, try sending one with an especially snappy title. You might even work with a marketer to craft a post just for them. After all, who isn't going to click the link to a post titled, "9 Reasons Julie Needs ABC Staffing Solutions Today." 4. Reference a mutual connection Surfacing a mutual connection allows the prospect to ask their acquaintance about the sales rep and gather more information. It also signifies that if a friend works with this sales rep, the prospect might also enjoy working with the same sales rep. And it gives you something in common to bond over. For example, "I see we have a mutual connection: Sansa Stark. Her family bought several dire wolves from me a few years ago." You've given your conversation and relationship something to build upon -- and that can be a huge help when conducting outreach. 5. Provide a suggestion A small strategy tip can help sales reps build credibility and showcase the value of their insight to buyers. When a salesperson’s name appears in a prospect’s inbox, the reaction shouldn’t be, “No, not this rep again!” or “Who?” but “I wonder what they’re sending me -- I better check it out.” Send them a new industry benchmark report or a mention a recent move their company made, and offer unique insight into how your product/service could help. For example, "I thought you might be interested in the latest benchmark report from [insert trusted industry source]. Their findings on the 25% increase in mobile app usage might be especially interesting to you and relevant to your work." 6. Drop shop-talk altogether Want to really get their attention? Don't talk business at all. Instead, send them a casual email saying, "I watched a documentary on Colorado ski country this weekend and thought of you immediately. Have you hit the slopes yet this year?" While your prospect might not be ready to discuss business -- most people like talking about their hobbies and out-of-office interests. Once you have them engaged again, use your best judgement to steer them back to the topic at hand: your offer. 7. Offer to walk away If you've reached out multiple times over the course of several weeks or months and your prospect still hasn't responded, do yourself a favor and walk away. You should be spending time on deals that actually have a chance of closing, and pleading with an unmotivated prospect to respond to your emails isn't doing either of you any good. Simply say, "Tony, I've tried to reach you unsuccessfully a few times now. Usually when this happens, it means my offer isn't a priority for you right now. Is that safe for me to assume here? If so, you won't hear from me again." If your prospect is still interested, this should grab their attention. If not, it gives them an easy way out. You can always leave the door open for a call or email six months down the line to see if things have changed. 8. Compliment them If your prospect recently published a new blog post or the company unveiled a shiny, new product, let them know you're paying attention.  Chances are, they put a lot of time and effort into their recent project, and would love for someone to notice. Send a simple note saying, "I saw your recent feature in Forbes and wanted to tell you what a great write-up it was. I especially liked your observation that AI will begin to take a stronger hold in sales." It's short, specific, and complimentary.  Great emails build rapport and credibility. By looking for this deadly phrase before sending your emails, you can improve your odds of a response, and eventually, a relationship. Want other ways to improve your sales emails? Check out these killer opening email lines or explore alternatives to saying, "Hope you're doing well" -- guaranteed to put your prospect to sleep before they've even read sentence two. Read more »
  • The Ultimate Guide to Creating a Sales Process
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    Implementing business processes can streamline the completion of any simple or complex task. Processes can also make your employees more efficient, consistent, and accurate in their roles and interactions with your customers. The benefits of processes in business apply to your sales department as well. A sales process that complements your business, sales representatives, customers, and products or services will allow you to boost conversions, close more deals, and ensure all of your reps are providing customers with positive and consistent experiences — no matter who they're talking to. However, building a scalable and repeatable sales process can be tough, especially because every business, sales team, and target audience is unique. We've created this guide to help you. Below, you'll find the best tactics to create and map a sales process tailored to your business that works for both your sales team and target audience. Let's dive in. Before we cover the details of creating and mapping your sales process, let's review the answer to a question that may come up as you begin working on your sales process: What's the difference between a sales process and a sales methodology? Sales Process vs. Sales Methodology Understanding the distinction between a sales process and sales methodology is important as they're both important terms. Although they're closely related, a sales process and sales methodology are two different things. A sales process, as we reviewed earlier, is a concrete set of actions your sales team follows to close a new customer. A sales methodology is the framework for how your sales process is to be carried out and how it will help your business grow. Here's a diagram to help you visualize this: Think of your sales process as the high-level map of the steps your team takes, while your sales methodologies are the different ways your team can approach the sales process. Sales Methodologies Choosing a sales methodology sets the foundation for your team as they approach their work and sales process. Although it's not a necessary part of your process, your business might choose to incorporate one since they are another way to streamline your customer's buyer journey and ensure professional, impactful, and helpful interactions between those customers and your sales team occur. Here are some of the most popular sales methodologies for your consideration. Challenger Sales Methodology The Challenger Sales method is an approach to sales that says the seller, or Challenger, must teach the prospect. Sellers learn about a customer's business, tailor their selling techniques to their needs and pain points, and challenge any of their preconceptions throughout the process. Solution Selling Solution selling requires reps to focus solely on the customer's pain points instead of the products or services they're selling. Products are framed as solutions and emphasis is placed on what a resolution for the customer's pain point would look like. Consultative Selling Consultative selling places emphasis on the salesperson becoming a trusted advisor to the customer, gaining authority and trust over time. Consultative selling happens when sales align with the customer's buying experience — it's defined by the customer-rep relationship. Inbound Selling The inbound sales approach is characterized by attracting buyers with tailored and relevant content rather than advertising irrelevant messages and hoping they'll buy. The Inbound Sales Methodology With so many choices in today's marketplace, it's important for sales teams to put the needs of their buyers ahead of their own. The inbound approach came from the belief that: Buyers can now find most of the information (online or elsewhere) they need about a company's products or services before they ever engage with a salesperson. Buyers have become better at blocking out cold and interruptive sales techniques (cold calls and irrelevant sales emails, for example). Buyers have heightened expectations around the experience of buying. They can control the experience and move through the process largely on their own timeline. These shifts in buying trends are all examples of how buyers have seized control of the sales process from the sales reps who once held all the power. With these changes in mind, it's important for sales teams to adopt a more helpful, human approach to selling — or inbound selling. Now that we've covered the difference between a sales process and methodology, let's review the steps of the sales process so you can begin developing one for your team. 1. Prospecting Prospecting is the process of sourcing new, early-stage leads to begin working through the sales process with. It's a vital part of the sales process and part of most reps' daily or weekly workflow. Prospecting might involve online research on sites like LinkedIn or Quora. It also might take place at conferences or industry events. Additionally, you can prospect by asking current clients or colleagues to refer individuals who might be interested in your product or service. 2. Connecting The connect step of the sales process involves reps initiating contact with those early stage leads to gather information and decide whether or not they're a good-fit lead for your business and whether or not they'll likely move forward in the buyer's journey. A rep can typically determine this over a "connect" or "discovery" call (sometimes over email if not via phone). To do this, a rep might ask: "Tell me about your role." "What do you do day-to-day?" "What problem are you trying to solve?" "Why is this a priority for your business?" 3. Researching Next comes the research step. Learning more about your prospect and their company as they progress through the sales process can help your reps offer a more tailored and personal experience to improve the likelihood of closing a deal. This might require a rep to speak with other people at the company in different departments to get a holistic view of the business and their objectives. Many longtime reps say a good salesperson understands the company as a whole better than the individual prospect who works there. 4. Presenting Most salespeople, across industries, will run a formal presentation or demonstration of whatever it is they're selling for the prospect. This step is time-consuming, so it typically comes deeper in the sales process and is reserved for more serious prospects. (You don't want your reps wasting any of their valuable time if it's clearly avoidable). A presentation should be tailored to meet the specific prospect's unique use case and pain points. Additionally, a rep might bring an engineer or executive to the meeting with them to demonstrate the level of service the customer will receive when doing business with your company. This also allows them to answer more technical questions the rep might not be best suited to comment on. 5. Closing This step of the sales process refers to any late-stage activities that happen as a deal approaches closing. It varies widely from company to company and may include things like delivering a quote or proposal, negotiation, or achieving the buy-in of decision-makers. The close step is what every salesperson works toward. It should result in a mutually-beneficial, contractual agreement between the prospect and the seller. Once a deal closes, the salesperson receives a commission on the price they negotiated with the customer, and the account usually passes to an account manager or customer success representative. Now that we've covered the steps of the sales process, let's discuss how you can map those steps. How to Map the Sales Process Mapping your sales process will allow you to clearly identify and clarify each of the sales process steps (as reviewed in the above section). This way, your team will develop a sustainable strategy suitable for long-term growth. When you map your sales process, you answer the "why" behind every decision you make in your sales process. This is critical because your sales process is the foundation of everything your team does. 1. Analyze your current sales process. The first step in mapping your sales process involves analyzing your current process. You'll want to consider what is and isn't working for your reps and prospects to tailor your new process to better fit their needs, so more deals are closed and more customers are delighted. Here are some ways to analyze the success of your current sales process. Observe your reps as they work through the sales process. Look back at the last five or 10 deals you closed. What did these deals look like from beginning to end? What were the touch points with the customer? Consider roughly how long the entire process took and how much time elapsed between each step. The more examples you have (and the more people on your team those examples come from), the better. Once you've identified that timeline, work backward to understand the timeline for each deal. For example, if six of those 10 deals closed in approximately six weeks, take a look at what the average steps were to get there during that time period. Working backward might look something like this: One week of deliberation before a signed contract (during the closing step) Three to five follow-up emails and phone calls (during the closing step) One demo (during the presenting step) One phone call and two to three emails (during the researching step) One discovery call (during the connecting step) Two warm emails and three phone calls to prospect (during the prospecting step) You can also dig a bit deeper to understand the subtle motivations and pain points that drove each deal to close. Define the prospect action that moves them to the next stage. You'll want to have a clear understanding of what causes a prospect to move from one stage to the next to really understand your sales process. Ideally, the reason or cause will be based on the actions of the prospect, not the perception of the sales rep. To determine the action that moves prospects to the next stage, ask the following questions: "While conducting warm outreach, did a rep hit on a specific pain point(s) that motivated the prospect to schedule a discovery call?" "During the demo, were there objections that stalled the deal or featured that moved it forward?" When a rep made a pitch, was the answer an immediate "yes" from the customer? If so, consider carefully why that happened. How did they build up to the pitch? Now that you have a better understanding of your current sales process, you should look at the buyer's journey from the perspective of your target persona. 2. Lay out the buyer’s journey for your target persona. Lay out the buyer's journey for your target audience, or your buyer personas. This will allow you to look at your sales process from the perspective of your customers. You'll be able to get a better understanding of the interactions they have with your reps, the pain points they experience, and why they need your product or service. When you lay out the buyer's journey for your target persona you'll gain insight into how you can tailor your sales process to ensure your team has everything they need to build strong relationships with prospects and close more deals. 3. Define exit criteria for each step of the sales process. Next, define exit criteria for each step of the sales process for your team. This means you should identify the things that need to happen for your prospects to move from one step of your sales process to the next. You can refer to the sales process steps and the steps of the buyer's journey (as mentioned above) to get started with this. For example, if you're working through the "presenting" step, your reps might determine they need a specific type of content — such as customer testimonial videos — to share with your prospects to move them to "closing". When determining exit criteria for each step of the sales process, consider the following questions to ensure all of your reps have the same information so they can provide all of your prospects with positive, professional, and on-brand information. What should reps know? What information should reps know about your brand, whatever it is they're selling, and your sales process steps prior to getting in contact with a prospect? What should your reps do? What actions should your reps take throughout each step of the sales process? What should your reps say?What should your reps say throughout each step of the sales process? Make sure your reps are aware of the multiple ways a conversation could potentially go and that they know how to manage all of them. What should your reps show? What specific types of content should your reps show your prospects during different steps of the sales process? This is especially important in the "presenting" step, where your reps might need to provide your prospects with videos, blogs, testimonials, or case studies to move that prospect to close. 4. Measure your sales process results. It’s likely your sales process will evolve as your team finds ways to work more efficiently and move prospects through your pipeline faster. As you define and enhance your sales process over time, you’ll want to measure your success to ensure your sales process is successful in coordinating the efforts of your team and reaching your target audience. For example, look at how many prospects transitioned into and out of each step of the sales process in a given time period. This way you can draw conclusions like, “In July, we started with 75 prospects in the ‘awaiting demo’ step ... at the end of the month, we had moved through 28 prospects, and added 19, leaving us with 66 prospects in the ‘awaiting demo’ step.” Here are some other examples of metrics to consider for the different steps of your process: The average time prospects stay in each step The step (if any) that takes too long for prospects to move out of The percentage of prospects who close after a demo The percentage of prospects who request a demo after a discovery call The churn rate (i.e., if certain customers are churning quickly, how can you vet for this mismatched prospect early in the sales process?) These are the basic metrics most teams find value in measuring. Give some thought to metrics specific to your business that will help you define success or the need for improvement in a particular step. Another great way to measure your results is with the three levels of sales process success.  3 Levels of Sales Process Success Determining which level of success you're in will provide you with more insight into what it is you need to fine tune for your team and prospects in terms of your sales process. The three levels of success include humming, experimenting, and thrashing.  1. Humming Your sales process is humming when 80% or more of your reps are hitting their quota every month. This is also when all of your new hires are being ramped up quickly to target performance and your team isn't providing you with any negative feedback about the sales process. 2. Experimenting Experimenting is when your sales process isn't quite humming, so your team is experimenting and testing different tactics within the steps of the sales process to determine what's most effective for reps. For example, a team might be experimenting with different modes of contact, in the "connecting" step of the sales process, to get sales discussions going with prospects. They can test to see whether or not their prospects respond best to a specific email template when getting a discussion started with a rep. 3. Thrashing Thrashing is when a team is rapidly moving from one solution to another within a specific step of the sales process. Thrashing is ineffective and something you'll want to ensure your team gets out of as quickly as possible if you're ever experiencing it. For example, your reps might be trying different presentation techniques in the "presenting" stage making it impossible to really determine what's working for the majority of prospects. Remember, your sales process is never perfect. It should always be evolving to fit the needs of your team, business, and prospects. Speaking of being open to analyzing and updating your sales process, let's take a look at some common mistakes businesses make when developing their sales processes as well as some tips for success. Sales Process Common Mistakes Review the following common mistakes and tips for success to help you develop a sales process ideal for both your team and customers. 1. Leaving your sales process steps open to interpretation. It’s important to define specific, concrete actions that move your business's prospects from one stage to the next. If you don't identify these triggers, your sales team might come away with a less than accurate understanding of what is and isn't working for prospects, potentially causing them to mishandle part of the process. Once you define your sales process, document it, share it, and practice it with your team. Try role-play exercises to drive home the valuable techniques they should be taking during each step. 2. Expecting just one sales methodology (if you use one) to be the "silver bullet”. While some teams choose to stick with and follow one methodology closely, others choose to study several popular sales methodologies and combine bits and pieces they find useful from each. Regardless of which approach you take, it’s a good idea to stay aware of what's new and changing over time. As the needs and desires of buyers and your business change, different approaches, methodologies, and ways of managing your sales process will fall into and out of favor. On that note, it's important to remember your entire sales process is also ever changing. 3. Forgetting your sales process will always be a work in progress. Your sales process is never complete or perfect. It should always be a work in progress. So, in addition to consistently measuring your success, you should also have check-ins with your reps, who are working through your sales process every day and communicating with prospects, on a regular basis to ensure they haven't uncovered any major issues or red flags in regards to your process. Remember, continually developing and improving your sales process will make the work of your reps more straightforward and improve the interactions and experiences your customers have with your reps and business as a whole. Begin Working on Your Sales Process Creating and mapping a sales process will help your sales team close more deals and convert more leads. This will also ensure your team provides every prospect with the same type of consistent experience, representative of your brand. Follow these steps to create and map a sales process tailored to your business, sales team, and customers to begin boosting conversions and building lasting relationships today. For more on sales processes, take this free on-demand sales training course or download this sales process cheat sheet.   Read more »
  • 5 Sales Pitch Examples Too Good to Ignore
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    Your sales pitch can make or break the deal, so it's a good idea to have that nailed down before meeting with your customer. It's your opening line, your verbal business card, and the first thing your customer will hear when you call or meet with them. I've been in sales for 15 years and have heard some really great pitches and some really bad ones.For this post, I'd like to discuss the anatomy of a good sales pitch and share examples of the best sales pitches I've ever heard. What is a sales pitch? Sales pitches are also called "elevator pitches" because you should be able to tell the story in the time it takes you to ride an elevator with a prospect -- a maximum of 1-2 minutes. Salespeople are past the point of giving prospects an hour-long presentation to sell products or services. Nobody has that kind of time and, to be honest, if you need an hour to relay your value proposition, you're doing it wrong. Your sales pitch should be short and have a clear message. In your pitch you should explain your customers (e.g., what they do and who they are), the problem they're facing, a plan for how your product will help them, and what their success will look like as a result of using your product. Storybrand's Donald Miller shows the structure of a good sales pitch in his book, Building a StoryBrand: Clarify Your Message So Customers Will Listen. He explains the elements of a pitch in a very short list: Character - Who are your customers and what do they do? (i.e., accountants working in the United States and Europe) Problem - What problem do they have right now? (i.e., they are always busy and Excel spreadsheets for reporting are hard to manage) Plan - How does your product or service help them? (i.e., your company has designed a data visualization platform that's easy to set up and automates busywork) Success - What does success look like for your customer? (i.e., they get to spend more time with their family/more time with important customers and less time working on reports) "Short" is key when discussing sales pitches. Ideally, your pitch should be a one-liner summarizing what your company does, how they do it, and for whom. And this is not just a requirement for sales reps. Anyone in your company -- from the CEO to sales consultants needs to know your one-line sales pitch by heart. For my company, InsideSales.com, the one-liner would be: "We help salespeople build and close more pipeline faster using artificial intelligence." So, how should you start your sales pitch? The Sales Pitch Framework This is the one-line version, but if you have time to properly expand and work on a conversation, touch on points of interest. Here's a framework you can use for building your elevator pitch: Problem: Start with a statement or question about the problem you solve and share eye-opening statistics. Answer the why. Value Statement: Share a very clear, concise statement of value. Be action-oriented and outcome focused. Avoid using jargon. Share benefits. How We Do It: Highlight unique differentiators and explain what you do. Proof Points: Provide clear reference examples and list recognizable achievements. Share industry validation and awards. Customer Stories: Share customer examples and successes. Tell emotional and personalized customer stories. Make it real and tangible. Engaging Question: Close the pitch with an open-ended question creating a space to have a conversation. Many companies use success stories in their pitches to ensure the sale. Name-dropping really works, so be sure to use that to your advantage. And if your product is small or light enough to keep in your pocket, you should always have one on-hand to show your prospect. I always stress the need for a concise sales pitch. So keep it free of professional jargon, don't get into the weeds and be sure to talk more about your prospect and their problems than yourself. Nothing's more off-putting than a bragging salesperson talking about themselves, their company, or their services. That's what I call the "me monster." The actor in your story is the customer, not you -- period. Distribution matters Lastly, presentation and distribution are everything. You need to deliver your sales pitch to the right person at the right time with the right tools on hand (like a demo, or free trial, or presentation). The sale starts with your list of contacts. Define your list and personas, know their correct contact information, get an introduction, and make sure you contact them at a time of day when they're likely to respond. This is where intelligent sales technology comes in. How can you make your sales pitch the best it can be? Here are some sales pitch ideas. 1. Tell a story. Keep your listeners engaged by telling a brief story. The story could be either about the company or how a customer found success through your product or service. 2. Include a value proposition. What value will you be providing for this person or their company? While your pitch should be short and sweet, the value proposition is the core of your sales pitch. 3. Personalize the sales pitch. Who are you talking to? Make sure your sales pitch is relevant to them and piques their interest. You'll be able to customize it so it addresses the items that are most important to the person you're speaking with. 4. Switch up your pitch. There are a variety of sales pitch types to choose from: The One-Word Sales Pitch The Question Sales Pitch The Rhyming Sales Pitch The Subject Line Sales Pitch The Twitter Sales Pitch The Pixar Sales Pitch Depending on the potential customer and situation, change up the type of pitch you use. 5. Practice your pitch. Practice, practice, practice. Once you've created your pitch, practice it so you feel comfortable presenting it in front of prospective clients. 5 Great Sales Pitch Examples I promised I'd give you some examples of great sales pitches, and they've been pretty fun to collect. At the Salesforce's annual Dreamforce conference last year, I visited booths and recorded sales reps and their pitches. These are the best five sales pitches we recorded. 1. Brightfunnel "Brightfunnel is a marketing attribution platform designed to help marketers understand the true value of their marketing touches and their impact on the revenue and buyer's journey." This is the shortest pitch of those I heard at Dreamforce, and it was chosen by our users as the top pitch. Data actually shows a short pitch is better. Gong.io, for example, demonstrates that talking about your company for more than two minutes kills your sale. Our contest also served as a good experiment. We had almost 7,500 votes on our sales pitch contest, and the top two were the shortest at under 35 seconds. The longer the pitch, the less votes it got. I can't stress this enough: Help your customer understand what you do, who you do it for, and how in under two minutes. Your customer is busy and doesn't have more than two minutes to spend with you. A short sales pitch helps you as a salesperson as well, because the faster you can disqualify people who aren't interested in your offer, the faster you can reach someone who is. 2. Conga "We are a suite of intelligent automation solutions for Salesforce, for everything from data, documents to reporting." This was the number two on our list and the second most popular of our contest. We had over 2,000 votes for this one. This short pitch outperformed others because it simply speaks to the user's needs. In one short sentence, I get the character (Salesforce users), the problem (dealing with too much information and too little insight, the plan (using intelligent automation solutions), and the success (deal with all of this through automation). 3. Vidyard "We are a B2B video platform for businesses. We change the way organizations communicate their video content through onboarding, training, and knowledge sharing as well as externally through sales, marketing and customer support. We can show the ROI of your video marketing initiatives by tracking who watches your videos, and for how long, so that you can justify the spend on those videos." Vidyard is a company that's been making waves lately -- mainly because salespeople are finding video an effective prospecting tool. They found great sales pitches are personalized, and what better way to do that than to add a human face to your message? Their sales pitch rocks not only because they identify their prospect clearly from the first sentence (B2B companies that use video platforms for sales, marketing, or enablement), but they also focus on the competitive advantage they have from the get-go. They don't just sell this service, they "change the way you communicate," -- and that makes a difference. The Gong.io data also showed leaving the discussion about competition too late in the conversation usually kills your sale. Vidyard knows this, which is why they make sure to include it in their pitch. 4. Xactly "We automate and streamline the commission process for sales organizations. For a lot of companies, that means getting you off an Excel spreadsheet or a home-grown cumbersome system. The Xactly advantage is that we've been in the cloud since 2005. We have been able to anonymize all of our customer's data to allow you to leverage different data points when making your decision." The Xactly sales pitch focuses on the problem their customer has -- an important part of a successful pitch. I discussed the "me monster" above, and you should be wary of it when creating a pitch. Xactly does this well. The trick is to address your customer's problems and concerns and highlight how your product or service solves these problems. In the case of Xactly, it's about getting people off cumbersome legacy systems and Excel spreadsheets. 5. G2Crowd "G2Crowd is the user voice platform for people to accurately say what they think about software and not be told by analysts or people who don't use it, or get a reference from the best customer. They actually hear it directly from the user and engage with people who actually use the product." This is an interesting way to build your pitch: Make a note of what really annoys your customer and pitch how your service can resolve this grievance. It's another way of reframing the customer need, and it works because it's a powerful way to describe the situation. When they discuss how you're being told by analysts what to do, or people who haven't used a product, they highlight a clear disconnect in the market between what you need and what you get. The company allows verified users of products to write reviews and becomes an essential resource for their users. Why A Short Sales Pitch is a Good Pitch An important note to make about these sales pitches is that they are all amazingly optimized for a short conversation -- and the sales reps were extremely efficient with their time. All the top sales pitches were under 35 seconds, while the top two winners (sales representatives from Brightfunnels and Conga) were able to explain what their company does in 19 and 9 seconds respectively. I can't stress enough how much brevity matters for a sales pitch. Gong.io had the latest data on this, and they highlight how certain language patterns for salespeople have a negative effect on their sales pitch. Talking too much, using filler words, and talking about their company for more than two minutes are among the three conversation killers Gong identified. They have the full data on it in an excellent article they published on SalesHacker, but I think any experienced sales representative would be able to tell you this without looking at any data whatsoever. Talking too much and not listening enough kills your sale. So, keep your sales pitch short, clean, and simple! Your customers will thank you. Read more »
  • The Ridiculously Successful Way to Introduce Yourself Over Email
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    Writing an email to a stranger is easy. Writing an email to a stranger that gets a response? Not so easy. The typical professional gets so many messages on a daily basis it's a feat if they even open yours -- let alone reply. Luckily, at HubSpot, we know a lot about effective emails. Here are our best tips for introducing yourself over email. How to Introduce Yourself in an Email Write a compelling subject line. Tailor your greeting to the industry and situation. Make your first line about them. Explain why you're reaching out. Provide value for them. Include a call-to-action. Say "thanks" and sign off. Follow up with them. 1. Write a compelling subject line. Persuade your recipient to open your email with a compelling subject line. Piquing their curiosity is key; unlike a message from someone whose name they recognize, there's no guarantee they'll read yours unless it grabs their attention. Take a look at the subject lines that have convinced HubSpotters to click. And take a look at a few of the best subject lines we've seen here: Networking subject lines: "Beers on me?" "Can I buy you lunch?" "No such thing as a free lunch (until now?)" "Long-time [listener, reader, fan], first-time emailer" Sales subject lines: "Do you have an online course for [book]?" "40% growth in 3 months -- wow" "Have you considered Twitter ads?" "Hello from [company]" Job search subject lines: "Curious what working at [company] is like" "Are you looking for a [job title]?" "Saw [company's] hiring a [job title]" 2. Tailor your greeting to the industry and situation. It might be one word, but the greeting you opt for makes a difference. If you're emailing someone in a conservative industry, like finance or government, go with the traditional "Dear." If you're emailing someone in a more relaxed industry, such as tech, media, travel, or fashion, use "Hi," "Hello," or even "Hey." Picking a greeting they're familiar with shows you've done your research. As for the second part of the salutation: Their name. I recommend referring to them by first name. These days, that's the norm across industries. Steer clear of "[First name] [last name]", which sounds stilted and robotic, and "Mr./Mrs./Ms. [last name]", which makes you seem young. 3. Make your first line about them. The opening line is one of the most important parts of an introduction email. Here's where you try to establish relevance. If you succeed, you give your recipient a reason to keep reading. Even though your first instinct is probably saying something about you -- such as "My name is X and I'm reaching out because …" -- this will quickly cause their eyes to glaze over. Here are some equally bad first sentences: "We've never met, but …" "You don't know me, but …" "I'm a complete stranger, but …" Never highlight the fact you're a stranger -- it's like telling your recipient your email will probably be irrelevant. Instead, you want to lead with something about them. After all, most people like talking about themselves more than any other topic. HubSpotters loved these openers: "I noticed you manage one of the software teams at HubSpot." "Just saw your post at the HubSpot blog about organizing posting calendar in terms of topic clusters." "Have you ever thought about turning your book into an online course? Or creating an online course based on the same topic as your book?" "I'm inspired by the work you've done, not to mention your unique career." "I've never learned so much from a single piece of content." Want more inspiration for your salutation? Check out these email opening lines and greetings that put "Hi, my name is" to shame. 4. Explain why you're reaching out. Now that you've stimulated their interest and genuinely complimented them, it's time to connect the dots. For example, let's say you're hoping to set up a networking meeting so you can learn more about their role (and potentially get a job referral). If your first line is "You've done an impressive job at [company] building [X strategy] and revamping [Y program]", your second line might be, "I'm considering a career in [person's field] and would love to buy you coffee so I can learn more about it from an expert." Or perhaps your goal is booking a sales call. Your first line might be "I see you host several campus events per year," and your second could be "I work with companies like Facebook and Google to help promote their college recruitment events." The key is making your explanation as relevant to your recipient as possible. You want them to feel special -- not like one person on a list of 100 that you're emailing. And always make sure you're writing sales emails prospect's actually want to read using this five-step process. 5. Provide value for them. Before you ask for anything, you need to provide value. Thanks to the principle of reciprocity, receiving value makes people want to return the favor. In Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion, Dr. Robert B. Cialdini describes a study in which an unknowing test subject received a can of soda from the researcher. The soda cost $0.50. Later, the same researcher asked the participant to buy $5 worth of raffle tickets. Agreement rates were much higher than for participants who didn't get any soda. A thoughtful, authentic compliment can definitely provide value, so if you've already said something nice in your first few lines, you don't necessarily need to do more. However, it doesn't hurt to go a little further. Here are some ideas: Review their book on Amazon, Goodreads, etc., and share the link Recommend an article they might find helpful Suggest a useful app or tool Offer to introduce them to someone who they'd benefit from knowing 6. Include a call-to-action. The final piece of the puzzle? Your call-to-action (CTA). Remove as much friction from your ask as possible; if you want them to meet with you, for example, provide a link to your meetings tool so they can instantly see when you're both available and book a time. Or if you want them to review a post you've written, include the attachment so they can immediately read it. Take a look at these sample lines: "Would you be willing to comment on the LinkedIn post I wrote? It would be great to have your unique perspective (and hopefully get some discussion going)." "If you're thinking about how Greener could apply the concepts in the guide, I have some ideas I'd love to share. Here's the link to my calendar: [Link]." "Are you open to answering a few questions about your experience working at HubSpot? Happy to chat over phone or email, whatever's more convenient." Try to strike a balance between polite and confident. Phrases like, "I know you're busy, but …", "I'd normally never ask, however …", "You probably don't have time, so …", "It would mean the world to me …" and "I'll be forever in your debt if …" make you seem desperate -- and suggest your recipient would be massively inconveniencing themselves by saying yes. Because you're reaching out to a stranger, your request shouldn't be that excessive or unreasonable. If it is, that's a completely separate issue. Don't hurt your chances of a "yes" by sounding insecure. 7. Say "thanks" and sign off. No need to write anything more. The best emails are short, sweet, and concise. After all, extra information or unnecessary details lessen the probability your recipient will actually read the email -- they'll be too put off by its length. You also run the risk of distracting them from what actually matters. With that in mind, say "thanks," "thank you," or "thanks so much" (depending on the size of your request), and add your name. Looking for more sign off ideas? Try one of these powerful email closing lines that'll intrigue your recipients and prompt responses. 8. Follow up with them. If you send this incredible introduction email and the unthinkable happens (i.e., they don't respond) send a follow-up email they won't be able to ignore. Here are a few things to try: Send them actionable advice. Send a how-to guide and offer to follow up in person. Share weaknesses in their business and solutions you've identified. Share relevant industry articles/news. Respond to a social media message, then follow up with more. Reference a blog they wrote and ask a question about it. Invite them to an upcoming event. Bring up a pain point your buyers face and present a solution. Want more tips on great follow up? Here's a guide to sending a follow-up email after no response. Introduction Email Template Now that you have all the building blocks, let's see each section in action working together as a full introduction email. 40% Growth in 3 months -- wow Hello Elena, I'm inspired by the work you've done in customer success, not to mention your unique career path. I saw your recent article on managing surges in support tickets and had to reach out. I've helped companies like yours easily manage accelerated support tickets, which has contributed toward as much as 40% growth in as few as three months -- this case study illustrates how. If you're interested in learning how to implement some of these strategies in your team, I'd love to share more. Here's a link to my calendar [insert link]. Thank you, Caroline How to Introduce Yourself to a Group Maybe you just started a new job or joined a different team, and you need to introduce yourself to a group of people. Use this template to create your email introduction. Hello enterprise sales team Hi all, I'm the new sales director for the enterprise sales team. I wanted to take a moment to say an official hello. The work you've done and the numbers you've hit have been key factors in our successful year. And I'm thrilled to work with you more closely over the coming months. In the future weeks, I'll be reaching out to everyone so I can meet you all and say hello. Should you have any questions or concerns during this time, don't hesitate to reach out to me directly -- my door's always open. Looking forward to working with you all. Thank you, Katrina By Way of Introduction "By way of introduction" is a common phrase just as commonly misused. When introducing a new topic, person, or idea, you would say, "By way of introduction ..." and include examples or anecdotes to give your new subject context. For example, "Our next guest will be Aja Frost, by way of introduction, I'd like to share a few of Aja's accomplishments with you." "By way of introduction" is a phrase that can be used when introducing a new person. And below we'll take a look at the best way to introduce others via email. How to Introduce Someone via Email If you have a contact who would benefit from connecting with a friend or colleague of yours, use this template to introduce them via email. Include reasoning for the introduction and make sure the connection will be valuable for both individuals. Introduction -- Kelly Davis and Rob Cortez Hi Kelly, Please meet Rob Cortez, a manager for our top-performing, mid-market sales team. He previously managed sales operations at a tech startup, [Company Name], and has insight into new sales ops technology. He's interested in our sales operations and would love to learn more. Kelly is a senior manager on the sales operations team and she's reviewing the tools and software the team's using for the next year. I've copied Rob on this email so you can connect about sales operations and technology -- and I'll let you two take it from here. Best, Valentina How to Introduce Yourself to a Recruiter/Hiring Manager Sure, you might spend hours polishing your resume and cover letter for a job -- but do you give the submission email any love before hitting send? When recruiters are sorting through applications, you want to do everything you can to stand out. The first step is sending a thoughtful introduction email. Don't write a novel, but do write a friendly and professional "Hello" note. In the example below, I state the reason for my email, share no more than one sentence explaining why I'd be a good fit for the role, and offer to provide more information upon request.  It's concise and gives my application a little extra shine. Meg Whitton -- Candidate for SDR Hello Sara, I'm pleased to share my resume and cover letter for the position of Sales Development Representative at SpotHub. I'm confident my background as a BDR for Sales-R-Us has equipped me to succeed in this position, and I'm excited to submit my application. If I can provide you with any further materials to illustrate my fit for this role, please don't hesitate to reach out. I appreciate your time. Regards,Meg Whitton How to Introduce Yourself to an Executive Getting a response from a CEO or executive is tough. But your introduction can make all the difference. Remember a few things when crafting your email. First, make your ask gentle and advice-driven. Executives are great with people and usually love helping others. Open your email with a request for information or advice, instead of a request to sell. Another great tip: compose your email to them on your phone. Executives are busy and often check emails while they're on the go. Compose your email on the phone, to make sure you're providing them with a good reader experience. And don't forget to put your email signature to work. Have time for rebrand geek? Hello Amber, I noticed you recently unveiled a shiny, new rebrand for BlueHouse Designs. It looks fantastic, congratulations! My name is Amy, and I'm interested in learning more about what drives executive teams to determine it's time to rebrand. Would you have time for a 15-minute phone call to walk me through your decision to rebrand? Regards, Amy Polish[Company name][Company tagline][Website link] How to Introduce Yourself to a Gatekeeper Never underestimate the gatekeeper. Set yourself apart by offering to help them before you help yourself. In the example below, Liz provides value to the gatekeeper and explains that she wants to "earn" the introduction to Tom's boss. Can I make your week easier? Hi Tom, I know you likely get a lot of email from salespeople trying to get through to your boss. I'm no different -- except that I want to earn the right to be passed along to Amber. My name is Liz, and I help companies like yours decrease hiring time by up to 25%. So, that marketing coordinator your team is currently hiring? I can get a top candidate in that role faster. Have I earned a few minutes with Amber? If so, feel free to book time on my calendar, here: [Insert calendar link] If not, I've got more up my sleeve. Regards,Liz Prater Introduction emails don't have to be awkward or unreliable. Follow this formula, and your introduction emails will go over like a charm. And if you're looking for more email tips, check out these less pushy alternatives to "As Soon As Possible" next. Read more »
  • 9 Free Sales Activity Tracker Templates
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    How do you keep track of everything? Calendars, planners, to-do lists: these are just a few of the tools we use to stay on top of our day-to-day activities. But, how can you stay on top of your sales activities? Luckily, there are sales activity trackers that can help you out. A sales activity tracker helps salespeople manage things like contacts, deals, quotas, etc. If you're a sales leader, it's important to determine the key metrics your sales team will be evaluated on. From there, you can reverse engineer your sales process to set sales goals. Then, monitor performance using sales activity tracking tools. Using a sales tracking spreadsheet makes it easy to have all the information you need to review in one place. Plus, they can be used to quickly identify trends and any corrections that need to be made. And they can be used in one-on-ones and team meetings to review performance. Ready for some sales activity tracker templates? Let's dive in. Sales Tracking Spreadsheet Use these sales tracking spreadsheets to manage your sales activities. 1. Weekly Sales Tracking Spreadsheet This is a sales activity report that allows sales reps to keep track of their activities each week and compare their progress against goals that have been set. Source: Microsoft 2. Daily Sales Goal Tracking Spreadsheet Want to track your sales goals on a daily basis? This sales activity tracker template will help you do that. Source: Template.net 3. Sales Goal Tracking Spreadsheet Here's another template that offers a simplified way to track your sales goals. Source: Template.net 4. Sales Tracker Spreadsheet Keep track of revenue from sales with this sales tracking spreadsheet. Enter the number of products that were sold and breakdown revenue by each product. Source: Smartsheet 5. Leads Sales Tracking Spreadsheet If your sales organization doesn't use a CRM, it can be a challenge to keep track of your leads. Luckily, this sales tracking template will help you manage your leads manually. Source: Smartsheet 6. Sales Funnel Spreadsheet Manage your sales funnel with this sales tracking spreadsheet. Source: Smartsheet 7. Sales Pipeline Spreadsheet To see which deals are coming down the pipeline, use this sales pipeline template. Source: Smartsheet 8. Sales Forecasting Spreadsheet Set clear goals and targets with a sales forecasting template like this one. Source: Smartsheet 9. Sales Report Spreadsheet Stay on top of your sales reporting with this sales report template. Source: Smartsheet Looking for more? Check out these opening lines to use when calling contacts from your site next. Read more »
  • 5 Highly Effective Examples of Real Estate Ads for Facebook & More
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    What's the purpose of an ad? It's to spread the word about your business, product, or service. Ads increase awareness about your offerings. In the world of real estate, ads are a valuable tool to share information about the services you offer or the homes you're trying to sell. With 50% of home buyers finding their homes on the internet, online advertising has become even more important.  So, how can you use ads to spread awareness for your business? Real Estate Ad Real estate ads are used to promote realtors and real estate companies. They can come in many forms (e.g., text, image, and video). And they all have the same purpose: to get the word out about your business. Effective ads, including Facebook ads, should: Be visual Be relevant Include a value proposition Have a clear call-to-action Here are some of the best real estate ads. Plus, we'll dive into what makes them so special. Real Estate Ad Examples 1. Facebook Real Estate Ad from Realtor.com Source: Realtor.com This ad's purpose is to share that the realtor is a top real estate agent in the area and a local expert. The visual is clear and clutter free. And the call-to-action is "Let me help find your dream home!" 2. Facebook Real Estate Ad from Zephyr Real Estate Source: The Registry Real estate agents can even share their listings using Facebook ads. This ad from a Zephyr Real Estate agent shares the listing details, a well-lit photo of the home, and a call-to-action to check out the home. 3. Video Real Estate Ad from Windermere Real Estate Source: Windermere Real Estate Windermere Real Estate created cinematic commercials that highlighted their tagline: All in, for you. They highlight how their agents go above and beyond to give their clients the best service. 4. Video Real Estate Ad from Redfin Source: Redfin Redfin's video ad is short and sweet, and it uses humor to capture the attention of the audience. This advertisement talks about the key highlights of Redfin's services and why people should work with them. 5. Print Real Estate Ad from Corcoran Source: Corcoran Corcoran's Live Who You Are Campaign included a series of high-quality prints. The campaign had its own hashtag, #livewhoyouare, so people could join the conversation. With effective real estate ads, you'll be able to reach new contacts and earn more clients. Looking for more? Check out these real estate marketing ideas next. Read more »
  • What Are Leasehold Improvements & How Do They Affect Your Small Business?
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    Small business owners who rent commercial space typically need to invest a substantial sum of money into that space to make it work for their needs. In some cases the construction budget for these leasehold improvements can exceed a full year’s worth of rent. But what is a leasehold improvement exactly -- and why are they important? For example, if a business owner installs new carpet when signing a 10-year lease and it’s expected the carpet will need to be replaced in five years, the cost of the carpet is amortized over that five-year period. This is amortizing over the useful life of the improvement. If the leasehold improvement is expected to last longer than the term -- let’s say this 10-year scenario is now a three-year lease -- the cost is amortized over three years. This is because the carpet will stay in the space after the three-year term and the tenant will not be retaining it (meaning it will stay in the space). This is amortizing on a lease-term basis. Most tenants prefer to have their leasehold improvements funded by their landlord. While most commercial landlords will charge 10% interest to play the role of banker, it’s usually worthwhile for the small business owner because there is more access to capital for other elements of their business, such as inventory, payroll, and marketing or promotional efforts. It’s a good idea to denote in your lease agreement anything you want to retain possession of after you vacate the premises. For example, if you want to keep your custom-built reception desk and chandelier from the boardroom, they should be referred to in your lease as fixtures you can take with you after the expiration of the lease. How Does a Leasehold Improvement Affect Small Businesses? There are two main areas to consider regarding leasehold improvements: Who is going to pay for the improvements? Who is going to pay for their removal? It’s crucial to answer these two questions in your lease agreement, but let’s take a deeper look at what each of these mean, below. Funding Leasehold Improvements In the case of a retail store, leaseholds might still exist from the previous occupant of the space -- but may not be reusable. An example of this situation might be a dentist’s office being converted into a coffee shop. If the property requires a full demolition and rebuild job, smaller landlords might not want to fund the construction cost of the entire project, particularly if the small business owner is not well established. A splitting of the construction cost is common, as are personal guarantees which require the business owner to personally indemnify the rent due over the course of the lease. Let’s look at a 1,000 square foot retail tenant with a construction budget of $40 per square foot ($40,000). The landlord might consider funding $20 per square foot. When amortized at 10% over a five-year lease term, the value of this “loan” will add $2.50 per square foot, per annum to the rent. If the landlord is willing to accept $30 per square foot in rent without funding any leasehold improvements, the landlord might charge $32.50 per square foot and pay for half the improvements. The business owner would then pay cash for the other half of the construction, and the landlord could require a personal guarantee because they’re still out $20,000 before the lease commences. Leasehold Improvement Removal A restoration or “make good” provision is built into most leasehold agreement templates. This obligates a tenant to restore the premises to the original or base building condition -- otherwise known as a concrete shell. This cost is typically five to ten dollars per square foot and varies depending on the level of build out. Many landlords will agree to remove this clause and allow for the tenant to simply leave the premises in a broom swept condition at the lease expiration. However, this does require the business owner to ask for the removal of the clause during the negotiation of the lease. You’ll usually have a 50/50 chance on successfully removing this clause. It comes down to negotiating leverage, level of vacancy in the landlord’s portfolio, and how reusable the tenant’s layout is for future tenants. Good luck negotiating, and find more about starting your own small business, here.  Read more »
  • What Does a Sales Analyst Do? We Break It Down
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    Considering a career in sales but want something that pushes the limits of a traditional sales rep’s role? Enter, the sales analyst. It’s a sales operations role that’s less about selling a product or service to customers and more about selling next steps and solutions to your internal sales team. The result? A career and career path that draws heavily on your ability to think critically, analyze complex data, and communicate your results clearly to peers and executives. Let’s take a deeper dive into the career trajectory of a sales analyst and what you can expect to earn at each stage. Finally, we’ll look at real-life sales analyst job descriptions, so you know what to expect when you start the hunt for your next move. Sales Analyst Career Path 1. Sales Analyst A sales analyst’s job is to increase sales and revenue for a company. This is achieved by running competitive analysis, conducting forecasting, and making recommendations on how the sales, marketing, and other teams should move forward. A sales analyst might even coordinate with the marketing team on how to run successful campaigns, or work with the supply chain team to make production or inventory run smoothly. While there are no specific education requirements you’ll see across the board, a bachelor’s degree in statistics, math, market research, or computer science is a plus -- and a master’s degree in a related field can increase pay and make promotions more accessible. 2. Senior Sales Analyst The next step in your career growth is as senior sales analyst. It generally also means a pay bump -- with an average annual salary of $61,782. The responsibilities are similar to that of a sales analyst, but may call for more advanced data collection, statistical software use, and the conversion of complex data into easily digestible presentations, graphs, or reports. This role might also be more client- or management-facing, sharing the results of a whole team of analysts. Many senior sales analyst positions require, or strongly prefer, a master’s degree in market research or a related field, but certifications can be a valuable way to boost your resume. The International Institute of Market Research and Analytics offers a Certified Market Research Professional (CMRP) exam worth looking in to. 3. Financial Analyst Forecasting, long-term financial planning, and operational and financial reporting are just a few of the skills you’ll home in on this position. It might sound similar to a sales analyst position, but it requires you to focus on one area and master it. Your ability to analyze results in Business Intelligence (BI) Applications like Looker, Tableau, or Qlik will give you a leg up when speaking to your experience creating data models. And forecasting to increase team or business efficiency, business planning, and staffing requirements will broaden your scope outside that of a traditional sales analyst. With greater expertise comes a higher salary. Financial analysts receive an average base salary of $65,817 annually. 4. National Account Manager If you’re ready for a new challenge, you might make the eventual jump to national account manager. In this role, you’d serve as the liaison for client relationships, communicating sales and marketing messages and assisting in the management of the account. Outlining sales goals, defining budgets, and setting margin targets are tasks you’d oversee. You’d also likely provide monthly or quarterly sales overviews outlining wins and challenges the account faced over that period of time. You might also work directly with the legal team to iron out proposals and other contract initiatives. Finally, working to add value to existing accounts would be an important part of the role. Whether developing promotional materials or desirable services or programs for your clients, searching for new ways to keep them as a customer is a major focus for this type of role. The good news? The average annual base pay for a national account manager increases to $78,045. 5. Sales Operations Manager A sales operations manager still relies heavily on your ability to use BI software, analyze data, and interpret results that will drive strategic decisions. But instead of being client-facing, your focus rests internally on supporting the front lines of your sales team. You should expect to need expert-level Excel and SQL knowledge, have experience solving complex business problems, and maybe even have an M.B.A.. The average base pay for a sales operations manager is $93,876 annually. 6. Finance Director Once you’ve proven your ability to manage the financial health of a sales team, you might be ready to take on more responsibility as a finance director. In this role, you’ll be responsible for your company’s overall financial well-being. Both operational and strategic, you’ll put your forecasting skills to use creating a financial roadmap for the business. You should have demonstrated experience analyzing and communicating complex financial information and be familiar with the software your company uses. Show your history of reporting, creating strategies, and communicating results in a concise, jargon-free way. The national salary average for a finance director is $137,582. 7. Director of Sales Operations As director of sales operations, you’ll work with many of the analysts and other previous roles we’ve discussed to identify an overall strategic vision and roadmap for the sales organization at your company. You’ll likely develop key performance indicators for your salespeople to hit, meet with sales leaders to discuss challenges and ways forward, and listen to your analysts to determine strategic steps forward in your industry. You’ll lean heavily on your analytical background to understand the information presented to you. And at this stage in your career, you have at least 10 years of experience and a proven track record in the business. Base pay for this position averages in at $139,650 per year. A sales analyst may be asked to work across sales, marketing, and even supply chain departments. Forecasting will likely be a crucial part of the role, and you should demonstrate excellent communication skills. For example, you might consider sharing a time when you condensed complex or technical information into a palatable and easy-to-understand presentation -- and make sure to mention how you measured success. You should be comfortable sharing your results with executives and demonstrate the ability to not only diagnose problems but implement solutions as well. Have statistics or predictive modeling experience or class work? Be sure to mention that. And highlight any experience in Excel, Demand Caster, Net Suite, or other statistical software, also. If you’re like me, you learn best by seeing things in the real world. So, here are a few actual job descriptions for sales analyst positions and above. Sales Analyst Job Description Example Image source: Encore Access Sales Reporting Analyst Job Description Example Image source: HubSpot Financial Analyst Job Description Example Image source: HubSpot Sales Operations Analyst Job Description Example Image source: HubSpot  So, do you think a sales analyst role is right for you? If so, jumpstart your industry knowledge with this ultimate guide to strategic planning for perfect sales operations. Read more »
  • The Ultimate Guide to Channel Sales
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    What is channel sales? In a channel sales model, a company sells through third partners -- affiliate partners (who get commission on each purchase), resellers, value-added providers (who typically bundle your product with their own), or another entity that doesn't work for it directly. One of the biggest challenges to scaling revenue? Your salespeople only have so much time. Even if you hire the most focused people, invest in tools that boost their efficiency, and remove all distractions, there’s a limited number of selling hours in the day. Some companies choose to hire more reps. That works -- but it’s not the only solution. Plus, recruiting, hiring, and employing salespeople is expensive and cuts away at your margins. Another potentially game-changing strategy: Using a channel sales model. The Definition of Channel Sales With channel sales, you rely on third parties to sell your product or service. That can include resellers, affiliate partners, distributors, value-added providers, independent retailers -- basically, anyone who doesn’t work directly for your organization. Compare channel sales to the direct sales model, in which a company’s own reps sell to clients. Examples of Sales Channels So, which sales channels can you choose from? Here are some examples of sales channels through which you can sell your product or service. Resellers Affiliate partners Distributors Wholesalers Value-added provider Independent retailers Dealers Agents Consultants The Benefits of a Channel Sales Model Built-in trust: If your channel partner is already well-known within a market or vertical, you don’t have to do the work of establishing a brand presence. Your product will automatically seem more credible because of their endorsement. Efficiency: One channel manager paired with several channel partners can bring in the same amount of revenue as five or six salespeople at a fraction of the cost. It’s also typically easier to bring on new partners than hire a new salesperson -- especially once you’ve created the program and worked out the kinks. Rapid testing: Channel partners let you experiment with new customer bases, products, packages, promotions, and/or marketing campaigns in a low-stakes environment. Customer success: If your customers need training, onboarding, implementation support, and service, partnering with vendors who offer these services lets you focus on closing new business without sacrificing your existing users. The Drawbacks of a Channel Sales Model Less control: You’re not directly managing the sales process. Your reps might not be able to jump in and take control if a partner is mismanaging a deal. They also might have zero say over the timeline of the deal -- which can be frustrating and lead to unpredictable revenue. Brand risk: If you partner with someone who has a poor reputation or treats customers badly, you’ll look worse by association. Reduced profits: In exchange for bringing in and/or closing deals, your partners will get a piece of the pie. You’ll make less on individual sales (but keep in mind, it’s probably cheaper to acquire each one). Harder to manage: It can be difficult to update your sales strategy, change your messaging, add a new product, or make any kind of major shift. You’re not simply rolling out a change to one group -- you’re asking multiple external groups to adapt. Slower feedback cycle: Because your partners are talking to some or all of your customers, feedback will take longer to get to you. And that feedback might not be 100% accurate -- even if your partners are trustworthy, they may ask bad questions, use unreliable methods of gathering and/or analyzing the results, or unintentionally give you a biased interpretation. Potential conflict: Things can get very messy, very quickly when your direct salespeople compete with your partners for the same business. Suppose a rep decides to cut her partner out of the deal because she doesn’t want to give up the commission. If the partner finds out, he’s unlikely to ever pass her leads again. Implementing a Channel Sales Model Wondering if channel sales is right for your organization? Here are six things to consider. Company size and maturity: Small companies can use partners to grow their business without needing to invest in hiring and training a sales team. Once they’re larger, they can bring their own reps on board (or if channel sales is working, continue with what they’re doing!). Product maturity: If your product is still in the early stages, you might want to take advantage of a direct relationship with your customers so you can quickly and efficiently assess what’s working, what’s not, and what to build next. Sales process maturity: Before you can teach other people how to sell your product, you need to understand how to sell it yourself. If you haven’t defined the various stages of your sales process, the most important buying triggers, which customer stakeholders are typically involved, how long the average deal takes to close, and so on, you may want to postpone a channel sales initiative. Sales process complexity: Along similar lines, the lengthier and more complex your sales cycle, the harder it will be for your partners to resell. A simple, straightforward, relatively short process is ideal. Location: If your offices are spread out, it might make sense to use a channel sales model. That makes creating multiple sales teams unnecessary. Of course, you can also use an inside sales model where appropriate. Revenue needs: It takes a lot of time and energy to get a partner channel system up and running. If you need money sooner rather than later, focus on direct sales for now. Firas Raouf, an expert in early-stage B2B tech companies, recommends building at least $20 million in revenue before launching a partner sales program. How to Structure Your Channel Sales Partnership There are three main ways to structure channel sales. First, you and your partner can sell together. Your products improve each other. For instance, if you offer catering services, you might partner with a company that provides event clean-up. This type of partnership helps companies add more value to their customers. Second, you can sell through your partner. Department stores are a classic example -- they curate items from a range of third-party brands. Variety is typically the key. If you can find a partner who’s already selling several similar products to yours, they may be a good fit for this type of partnership. Third, your partner can sell for you. These partners incorporate your product into theirs -- in fact, the end user may never know about your company. When you go to the supermarket and buy the store brand, you’re actually buying an independent brand that’s been packaged with the grocery store’s label. You don’t have to use one method exclusively. Many companies use two or even three of these simultaneously, along with a direct sales model. It all depends on your needs. How to Find Channel Sales Partners Just like trying to sell to everyone reduces your focus and actually harms your overall results, trying to partner with everyone is a bad idea. The process of finding partners is almost identical to finding prospects: First, you need to define what an “ideal partner” looks like. Components of an ideal channel sales partner: Complementary solution: The partner’s product or service would fill a gap in your offering or help your customers use your offering more effectively. For example, HubSpot’s marketing agency partners help small businesses take full advantage of HubSpot’s marketing software.CeCe Bazar Aparo, director of account-based revenue at EverTrue, recommends interviewing your customer service and technical support teams. “These people will be able to provide you with a real-world sense of exactly where customers need more help or are suggesting complementary products and services that might be best delivered by a partner channel,” she explains. Market: You should also consider whether your partner’s customers would benefit from your product. Are they demanding additional support, features, or solutions that your partner can’t currently provide? Are their customers the right fit in terms of geography, use case, and size? Marketing expertise: How sophisticated is the partner? You might have to do very little education and support -- or you might have to do a great deal. Although training a partner requires more time and resources, it also gives them an additional incentive to work with you. Technical expertise: Identify how much technical knowledge your partner would need to sell (and potentially service) your products. Do you need a partner with an outside sales team, an inside sales team, both, or neither? Process: Your partner’s sales process should be compatible with yours. Ideally, there’s a natural point in their sales or services process for introducing or upselling your product. Other partners: Can you work with a partner who’s already reselling another solution? Even if they’re not contractually forbidden from selling your product, will it be in their best interests? Commitment level: Ask yourself how much commitment would be required for success. For example, maybe your partner would need to spend one full day per quarter at your office getting training. On the other end of the spectrum, perhaps all they need is a basic understanding of your product they can learn from one 30-minute video. Your potential value: Even if a partner would be extremely valuable for your business, they won’t be interested in working with you unless they’re also benefitting. Figure out who you’d be able to help -- by enabling them to sell additional services, reach new clients, or enhance the value of their product or service. Once you’ve crafted your ideal partner persona, rank the characteristics by importance. This exercise will give you a framework for evaluating specific partners. How to Recruit Channel Sales Partners When HubSpot was building channel sales program, our team used inbound marketing principles to attract partners. “From day one, we started hosting a lot of educational webinars that were directed specifically at marketing agencies and consultants. When they were over, I just sat back and watched the interest in our program fly in,” says Databox CEO and former HubSpot VP of Sales Pete Caputa. Not only is this strategy easier to scale than an outbound one, but it also guarantees that your potential partners know about your company from the first conversation. Use your ideal partner persona to craft relevant, useful content. For example, if you want to work with staffing firms, you might write an ebook on how to place consultants, or host a virtual networking event for staffing firms to meet job candidates. Once you’ve started talking to a potential partner, Caputa advises making their needs the focus of the conversation. “We found that the messages that resonated most with resellers revolved around how they could fix issues in their own business, as opposed to talking about our software and their client’s needs,” he says. “As it turned out (and this is still true today), most small and mid-sized marketing agencies and consultants need training on how to run their own business.” Depending on the nature of the partnership, your partner might not be looking for (or you might not be able to afford) such a high-touch model. If your average selling price (ASP) is low, and your partners resell your product relatively infrequently, investing so much into training them isn’t wise. Make sure you’re tracking how much revenue the average partner is bringing in compared to the average return. If this sounds familiar, it’s the CAC:LTV ratio applied to your partners. How to Measure Your Channel Sales Program Wondering what success looks like? Here’s what to measure for every aspect of your channel sales program. Channel sales recruitment metrics: Total number of partners Recruitment quota attainment Partner attrition rate Percentage of partners recruited by channel (for example, 50% from networking groups, 20% from proactive outreach, 10% from referrals, etc.) Average cost of recruiting and onboarding new partner Average length of time to recruit and onboard new partner Channel sales success metrics: Total number of partner deals registered Average value of partner deal Percentage of accepted partner-submitted deals Percentage of closed partner-submitted deals Average sales cycle length Percentage of partners who registered lead in past month or quarter Channel sales training and support: Percentage of partners using provided sales and marketing collateral Percentage of partners who attend optional events and/or ongoing training Average partner satisfaction score Percentage of partners who attempted certification Percentage of partners who completed certification Channel sales profitability metrics: CAC for partner sale versus direct Retention rates for partner sales versus direct Cross-sell and upsell rates for partner sales versus direct Channel Sales Manager Job Description Looking for someone to manage your channel partner relationships? Here’s a job description you can use. Channel sales manager A channel sales manager works with potential and existing channel partners to drive sales. They typically establish a strategy, help their partners implement it, and work toward a sales quota. The national average salary in the U.S. is $94,358. [Company] is looking for a channel sales manager in [location]. This is an exciting opportunity to [grow a new channel, take a high-growth channel to the next stage]. As our channel sales manager, you’ll identify potential new partners, show them the value of working with [company], and enable existing customers to sell [product]. In this role, you will: Work with internal stakeholders (Support, Customer Service, Marketing, Legal, Direct Sales, etc.) to ensure partners have everything they need to successfully resell Ensure partner expectations are being met (or exceeded!) Ensure partners are following agreed-upon guidelines Proactively help partners hit their sales goals/milestones Give [demos, virtual presentations, in-person presentations] to potential partners Create demand using tools like marketing collateral, campaigns, webinars, events Communicate regularly with partners and company stakeholders Travel to customer and partner sites [on a weekly, monthly, quarterly basis/as needed] We’re looking for someone who has: [X to Y] years of relevant experience in [consulting, channel sales]. Experience working in [industry]. It’s a plus if you have established relationships with potential partners. Proven record of achieving in sales roles. Ability to work autonomously in a [fast-paced, technical, complex buying] environment. Excellent written and verbal communication skills. [BA/BS/MBA] [preferred, required]. Ability to travel [X%] of the time. What you’ll like about working for us: Aspect of your culture #1 Aspect of your culture #2 Work perk #1 Work perk #2 Tailor this job description to your company’s employer branding. If you’re relatively formal, you may need to tweak the language so it’s less casual. If your messaging is typically relaxed and friendly, you might want to turn up the playfulness. How to Motivate Channel Sales Partners Channel sales is extremely challenging because you’re trying to motivate people you have no direct influence over. If a regular salesperson doesn’t meet quota, you can work with them and/or put them on a performance plan. If a partner isn’t selling -- well, there’s not much you can do, apart from “fire” them from the program. That’s usually not the most desirable option. To get partners to sell, try these strategies: 1) Develop excellent resources You should invest twice as much in content for your channel partners as your direct reps. After all, your partners are much less familiar with the product, not to mention your direct competitors, existing customers, company history, and use cases. Make sure they’re armed with clear, comprehensive, prospect-ready product specs, testimonials, customer examples, competitive comparisons, email templates, call scripts, meeting agendas, and objection-handling cheat sheets. Having this material will make partners feel more confident, which will boost their desire to sell. 2) Communicate often If your partners rarely hear from you, they won’t be as invested in the program. They also won’t know the latest news, product updates, and strategic announcements. On your end, you might not discover issues until they’ve festered for a while. The solution? Maintain regular contact with your partners. Send a periodic email, create a Slack room, make a Facebook group, hold partner “office hours,” run webinars, host meetings at your office -- whatever you need to do to stay in touch. 3) Offer extra rewards While earning commission on deals is a compelling incentive, some companies (like HubSpot) add additional reward systems to their partnership. This lets you create “superpartners” and drive specific desired behaviors. For example, you might have a tiered system: One tier for basic partners, a higher tier for partners who sell over a specific amount per month or year, and a third tier for partners who sell over an even higher amount per month or year. Depending on their tier, offer advanced marketing support, tickets to exclusive events, strategic consulting, meetings with your executives, access to beta features, premium listing in your directory, opportunities to interact directly with your audience, features in your email newsletter, and so forth. While building a channel sales program is a major investment, it can make a huge difference to your company. Not only will you reach new customers, but you’ll develop mutually beneficial relationships throughout your space.  Read more »
  • How to Create a Business Development Strategy for Your Sales Team [Template]
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    Before HubSpot was named "HubSpot," it was LegalSpot. According to Brian Halligan, LegalSpot was going to be "a suite of applications that helped you manage your law firm." He and Dharmesh Shah then "tinkered" with their business model until they transformed it into the universal Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service Hub it is today. The moral of the story? Brian and Dharmesh had a business plan from the start. They created a development process that fostered growth and strategized for long-term success. That's what propelled a lunch table idea into the first software for Inbound Marketing. If you want your business to grow, you need a business development process that's organized and consistent. If you're not sure where to start, let's begin with discussing what a business development process is and how to create a strategy to improve it. Then, we'll wrap up with a free template you can use to implement a plan at your company.   It's important that your sales team understands your business development process because they can use that knowledge to set annual sales targets. For example, let's say your business development team finds that your U.S. sales are growing and are projected to hit five million dollars in five years. With this information at hand, sales management can set hiring goals and review sales strategies to ensure they meet their projected growth. Once you hash out your business development process, you'll need a plan that improves it over time. To help you get started, let's go over what a business development strategy is and how you can implement one at your company. If your company doesn't have a development strategy, or you're unsure about how to make one, let's go over the steps to creating a plan in the next section. Business Development Strategy Plan 1. Mission Statement and Background Your business development strategy should begin with outlining your company's purpose as well as any relevant background information. This includes your mission statement, vision statement, and company history. Having this information front and center makes your organization's intentions clear to the reader and present throughout the document. 2. Team Before you start describing your goals and strategies, it's important to highlight the employees that will make this plan possible. You should outline who your sales leadership consists of, the team's overall structure, and any new hires that join the organization. This not only develops a chain of command, but it also helps you identify hiring needs and fill vacant positions. 3. Target Market Once we have the background information out of the way, the next step is to describe your target audience. You'll need to identify who your product or service is designed for and how you'll segment this audience for your sales team. You should also discuss audiences that shouldn't be pursued to ensure your team is engaging with qualified leads. The best place to start is by describing the location of your target audience. Are they nation-wide or region-based? If region-based, how will you reach them? Then, include your buyer personas. Buyer personas are representations of your ideal customers based on market research and existing customer data. This will highlight to your sales team the exact type of customer they should be pursuing. 4. Tools, Software, and Resources The next section should describe the tools, software, and resources that will help you achieve your goals. This includes your CRM, marketing automation, social media, and customer service tools. These assets streamline functions and store valuable information about your customers. Your sales team should be aware of each of these tools as they may be useful for closing a deal. While your sales team may work with a variety of tools, there are some core ones that should always be listed in this section. For example, email and calling software are essential tools for sales teams. Without them, your salespeople wouldn't be able to effectively communicate with your customer base. 5. Positioning The positioning section should describe how your product or service is viewed in your industry. Start by outlining the market conditions, then explain how your business brings value to the industry. This information is important for new hires who need to understand how your company is different from competitors. You can take it one step further by including a competitor analysis as well. A competitor analysis highlights your company's strengths and weaknesses and provides counterpoints to address your organization's flaws. This will help your sales team maintain consistency when communicating with customers. 6. Marketing Strategy This section should include an overview of your entire marketing strategy. This includes any email, blog, event, video, social media, or direct mail campaigns. It's important for marketing and sales teams to work together, so your team will need to know which campaigns are being executed and when. 7. Prospecting Strategy Your prospecting strategy should describe the steps your sales team will take to qualify leads. If this process is inconsistent, your team will have trouble closing deals. Be sure to list each step in your prospecting strategy so your team knows exactly how to engage customers. You should first list your criteria for reaching out to a prospect. Explain what a prospect has to do in order to be viewed as a good fit for a sales pitch. Then, describe your inbound and outbound prospecting strategy. These are the steps your team takes to convert a prospect into a customer. 8. Goals Now, it's time to set goals. Determine what your sales targets are and list them in this section for your team to see. This should include metrics like revenue, deals closed, and units sold. Make these goals clear to your team and keep them relevant to your work over time. If there are any lulls or declines, remind your team about your goals and what they can do to achieve them. 9. Action Plan Once your goals are set, you'll need a plan to achieve them. This section is reserved for the steps your sales team will take to hit your goals. This includes the number of calls they'll make, locations they'll visit, and high-profile clients they'll work with. Making these quotas clear provides your team with a realistic strategy for meeting your goals. 10. Budget You should conclude your business development strategy by outlining your sales budget. Explain how much you're willing to spend on your sales initiatives and forecast what you predict the actual amount will be. Be sure to consider factors like payroll, commission, travel, food, and anything else that keeps your sales team operating. Business Development Strategy Plan Template Now that you're familiar with every aspect of a business development strategy, it's time to create one for your sales team. To help, we put together the free template below that you can download here. For more ways to improve business strategy, read about these business development skills. Read more »
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People [Summary & Takeaways]
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    We all want to succeed. And one path to success is identifying the habits that can help us on our journey. I recommend starting that path by reading Stephen Covey's best-selling book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. Don't have time to read all 432 pages? I get it -- most of us don't. That's why we summarized the entire book for you below. What habits do highly effective people have? The book opens with an explanation of how many individuals who have achieved a high degree of outward success still find themselves struggling with an inner need for developing personal effectiveness and growing healthy relationships with other people. Covey believes the way we see the world is entirely based on our own perceptions. In order to change a given situation, we must change ourselves, and in order to change ourselves, we must be able to change our perceptions. In studying over 200 years of literature on the concept of "success," Covey identified a very important change in the way that humans have defined success over time. In earlier times, the foundation of success rested upon character ethic (things like integrity, humility, fidelity, temperance, courage, justice, patience, industry, simplicity, modesty, and the Golden Rule). But starting around the 1920s, the way people viewed success shifted to what Covey calls "personality ethic" (where success is a function of personality, public image, attitudes, and behaviors). These days, people look for quick fixes. They see a successful person, team, or organization and ask, "How do you do it? Teach me your techniques!" But these "shortcuts" that we look for, hoping to save time and effort and still achieve the desired result, are simply band-aids that will yield short-term solutions. They don't address the underlying condition. "The way we see the problem is the problem," Covey writes. We must allow ourselves to undergo paradigm shifts -- to change ourselves fundamentally and not just alter our attitudes and behaviors on the surface level -- in order to achieve true change. That's where the seven habits of highly effective people come in: Habits 1, 2, and 3 are focused on self-mastery and moving from dependence to independence. Habits 4, 5, and 6 are focused on developing teamwork, collaboration, and communication skills, and moving from independence to interdependence. Habit 7 is focused on continuous growth and improvement and embodies all the other habits. 1. Be Proactive Quick Summary: We're in charge. We choose the scripts by which to live our lives. Use this self-awareness to be proactive and take responsibility for your choices. The first habit that Covey discusses is being proactive. What distinguishes us as humans from all other animals is our inherent ability to examine our own character, to decide how to view ourselves and our situations, and to control our own effectiveness. Put simply, in order to be effective one must be proactive. Reactive people take a passive stance -- they believe the world is happening to them. They say things like: "There's nothing I can do." "That's just the way I am." They think the problem is "out there" -- but that thought is the problem. Reactivity becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, and reactive people feel increasingly victimized and out of control. Proactive people, however, recognize they have responsibility -- or "response-ability," which Covey defines as the ability to choose how you will respond to a given stimulus or situation. It is our willing permission, our consent to what happens to us, that hurts us far more than what happened to us in the first place." -Stephen Covey In order to be proactive, we must focus on the Circle of Influence that lies within our Circle of Concern-- in other words, we must work on the things we can do something about. The positive energy we exert will cause our Circle of Influence to expand. Reactive people, on the other hand, focus on things that are in their Circle of Concern but not in their Circle of Influence, which leads to blaming external factors, emanating negative energy, and causing their Circle of Influence to shrink. Key Lessons: Challenge yourself to test the principle of proactivity by doing the following: 1. Start replacing reactive language with proactive language. Reactive = "He makes me so mad."Proactive = "I control my own feelings." 2. Convert reactive tasks into proactive ones. 2. Begin with the End in Mind Quick Summary: Start with a clear destination in mind. Covey says we can use our imagination to develop a vision of what we want to become and use our conscience to decide what values will guide us. Most of us find it rather easy to busy ourselves. We work hard to achieve victories -- promotions, higher income, more recognition. But we don't often stop to evaluate the meaning behind this busyness, behind these victories -- we don't ask ourselves if these things that we focus on so intently are what really matter to us. Habit 2 suggests that, in everything we do, we should begin with the end in mind. Start with a clear destination. That way, we can make sure the steps we're taking are in the right direction. It's incredibly easy to get caught up in an activity trap, in the busyness of life, to work harder and harder at climbing the ladder of success only to discover that it's leaning against the wrong wall." -Stephen Covey Covey emphasizes that our self-awareness empowers us to shape our own lives, instead of living our lives by default or based on the standards or preferences of others. Beginning with the end in mind is also extremely important for businesses. Being a manager is about optimizing for efficiency. But being a leader is about setting the right strategic vision for your organization in the first place, and asking, "What are we trying to accomplish?" Before we as individuals or organizations can start setting and achieving goals, we must be able to identify our values. This process may involve some rescripting to be able to assert our own personal values. Rescripting, Covey explains, is recognizing ineffective scripts that have been written for you, and changing those scripts by proactively writing new ones that are built of your own values. It is also important to identify our center. Whatever is at the center of our life will be the source of our security, guidance, wisdom, and power. Our centers affect us fundamentally -- they determine our daily decisions, actions, and motivations, as well as our interpretation of events. However, Covey notes that none of these centers are optimal and that instead, we should strive to be principle-centered. We should identify the timeless, unchanging principles by which we must live our lives. This will give us the guidance that we need to align our behaviors with our beliefs and values. Key Lessons: Challenge yourself to test the principle of beginning with the end in mind by doing the following: 1. Visualize in rich detail your own funeral. Who is there? What are they saying about you? About how you lived your life? About the relationships you had? What do you want them to say? Think about how your priorities would change if you only had 30 more days to live. Start living by these priorities. 2. Break down different roles in your life -- whether professional, personal, or community -- and list three to five goals you want to achieve for each. 3. Define what scares you. Public speaking? Critical feedback after writing a book? Write down the worst-case scenario for your biggest fear, then visualize how you'll handle this situation. Write down exactly how you'll handle it. 3. Put First Things First Quick Summary: In order to manage ourselves effectively, we must put first things first. We must have the discipline to prioritize our day-to-day actions based on what is most important, not what is most urgent. In Habit 2, we discussed the importance of determining our values and understanding what it is we are setting out to achieve. Habit 3 is about actually going after these goals, and executing on our priorities on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis. In order to maintain the discipline and the focus to stay on track toward our goals, we need to have the willpower to do something when we don't want to do it. We need to act according to our values rather than our desires or impulses at any given moment. "The challenge is not to manage time, but to manage ourselves." -Stephen Covey All activities can be categorized based on two factors: Urgent and important. Take a look at this time management matrix: We react to urgent matters. We spend our time doing things that are not important. That means that we neglect Quadrant II, which is the actually most crucial of them all. If we focus on Quadrant I and spend our time managing crises and problems, it keeps getting bigger and bigger until it consumes us. This leads to stress, burnout, and constantly putting out fires. If we focus on Quadrant III, we spend most of our time reacting to matters that seem urgent, when the reality is their perceived urgency is based on the priorities and expectations of others. This leads to short-term focus, feeling out of control, and shallow or broken relationships. If we focus on Quadrant IV, we are basically leading an irresponsible life. This often leads to getting fired from jobs and being highly dependent on others. Quadrant II is at the heart of effective personal management. It deals with things like building relationships, long-term planning, exercising, preparation -- all things we know we need to do but somehow seldom get around to actually doing because they don't feel urgent. In order to focus our time in Quadrant II, we have to learn how to say "no" to other activities, sometimes ones that seem urgent. We also need to be able to delegate effectively. "The key is not to prioritize what's on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities." -Stephen Covey Plus, when we focus on Quadrant II, it means we're thinking ahead, working on the roots, and preventing crises from happening in the first place! This helps us implement the Pareto Principle -- 80% of your results come from 20% of your time. We should always maintain a primary focus on relationships and results, and a secondary focus on time. "Think effectiveness with people and efficiency with things." -Stephen Covey Key Lessons: Here are some ways you can practice putting first things first: 1. Identify a Quadrant II activity you've been neglecting. Write it down and commit to implementing it. 2. Create your own time management matrix to start prioritizing. 3. Estimate how much time you spend in each quadrant. Then log your time over 3 days. How accurate was your estimate? How much time did you spend in Quadrant II (the most important quadrant)? 4. Think Win-Win Quick Summary: In order to establish effective interdependent relationships, we must commit to creating Win-Win situations that are mutually beneficial and satisfying to each party. Covey explains that there are six paradigms of human interaction: 1. Win-Win: Both people win. Agreements or solutions are mutually beneficial and satisfying to both parties. 2. Win-Lose: "If I win, you lose." Win-Lose people are prone to use position, power, credentials, and personality to get their way. 3. Lose-Win: "I lose, you win." Lose-Win people are quick to please and appease, and seek strength from popularity or acceptance. 4. Lose-Lose: Both people lose. When two Win-Lose people get together -- that is, when two, determined, stubborn, ego-invested individuals interact -- the result will be Lose-Lose. 5. Win: People with the Win mentality don't necessarily want someone else to lose -- that's irrelevant. What matters is that they get what they want. 6. Win-Win or No Deal: If you can't reach an agreement that is mutually beneficial, there is no deal. The best option is to create Win-Win situations. With Win-Lose, or Lose-Win, one person appears to get what he wants for the moment, but the results will negatively impact the relationship between those two people going forward. The Win-Win or No Deal option is important to use as a backup. When we have No Deal as an option in our mind, it liberates us from needing to manipulate people and push our own agenda. We can be open and really try to understand the underlying issues. In solving for Win-Win, we must consider two factors: Consideration and courage. Take a look at the following chart: "To go for Win-Win, you not only have to be nice, you have to be courageous." -Stephen Covey Another important factor in solving for Win-Win situations is maintaining an Abundance Mentality, or the belief that there's plenty out there for everyone. Most people operate with the Scarcity Mentality -- meaning they act as though everything is zero-sum (in other words, if you get it, I don't). People with the Scarcity Mentality have a very hard time sharing recognition or credit and find it difficult to be genuinely happy about other people's successes. When it comes to interpersonal leadership, the more genuine our character is, the higher our level of proactivity; the more committed we are to Win-Win, the more powerful our influence will be. To achieve Win-Win, keep the focus on results, not methods; on problems, not people. Lastly, the spirit of Win-Win can't survive in an environment of competition. As an organization, we need to align our reward system with our goals and values and have the systems in place to support Win-Win. Key Lessons: Get yourself to start thinking Win-Win with these challenges: 1. Think about an upcoming interaction where you'll be attempting to reach an agreement or solution. Write down a list of what the other person is looking for. Next, write a list next to that of how you can make an offer to meet those needs. 2. Identify three important relationships in your life. Think about what you feel the balance is in each of those relationships. Do you give more than you take? Take more than you give? Write down 10 ways to always give more than you take with each one. 3. Deeply consider your own interaction tendencies. Are they Win-Lose? How does that affect your interactions with others? Can you identify the source of that approach? Determine whether or not this approach serves you well in your relationships. Write all of this down. Email is one place we all quickly build poor habits. Rather than wasting time by copying and pasting email templates that you use every day, we recommend using HubSpot's free CRM to easily send personalized email templates in Gmail and Outlook. 5. Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood Quick Summary: Before we can offer advice, suggest solutions, or effectively interact with another person in any way, we must seek to deeply understand them and their perspective through empathic listening. Let's say you go to an optometrist and tell him that you've been having trouble seeing clearly, and he takes off his glasses, hands them to you and says, "Here, try these -- they've been working for me for years!" You put them on, but they only make the problem worse. What are the chances you'd go back to that optometrist? Unfortunately, we do the same thing in our everyday interactions with others. We prescribe a solution before we diagnose the problem. We don't seek to deeply understand the problem first. Habit 5 says that we must seek first to understand, then to be understood. In order to seek to understand, we must learn to listen. "You've spent years of your life learning how to read and write, years learning how to speak. But what about listening?" -Stephen Covey We can't simply use one technique to understand someone. In fact, if a person senses that we're manipulating her, she will question our motives and will no longer feel safe opening up to us. "You have to build the skills of empathic listening on a base of character that inspires openness and trust." -Stephen Covey To listen empathically requires a fundamental paradigm shift. We typically seek first to be understood. Most people listen with the intent to reply, not to understand. At any given moment, they're either speaking or preparing to speak. After all, Covey points out, communication experts estimate that: 10% of our communication is represented by our words [CLICK TO TWEET] 30% is represented by our sounds [CLICK TO TWEET] 60% is represented by our body language [CLICK TO TWEET] When we listen autobiographically -- in other words, with our own perspective as our frame of reference -- we tend to respond in one of four ways: 1. Evaluate: Agree or disagree with what is said 2. Probe: Ask questions from our own frame of reference 3. Advise: Give counsel based on our own experience 4. Interpret: Try to figure out the person's motives and behavior based on our own motives and behavior But if we replace these types of response with empathic listening, we see dramatic results in improved communication. It takes time to make this shift, but it doesn't take nearly as long to practice empathic listening as it does to back up and correct misunderstandings, or to live with unexpressed and unresolved problems only to have them surface later on. The second part of Habit 5 is " ... then to be understood." This is equally critical in achieving Win-Win solutions. "Seeking to understand requires consideration; seeking to be understood takes courage." -Stephen Covey When we're able to present our ideas clearly, and in the context of a deep understanding of the other person's needs and concerns, we significantly increase the credibility of your ideas. Key Lessons: Here are a few ways to get yourself in the habit of seeking first to understand: 1. Next time you're watching two people communicating, cover your ears and watch. What emotions are being communicated that might not come across through words alone? Was one person or the other more interested in the conversation? Write down what you noticed. 2. Next time you give a presentation, root it in empathy. Begin by describing the audience's point of view in great detail. What problems are they facing? How is what you're about to say offering a solution to their problems? 6. Synergize Quick Summary: By understanding and valuing the differences in another person's perspective, we have the opportunity to create synergy, which allows us to uncover new possibilities through openness and creativity. The combination of all the other habits prepares us for Habit 6, which is the habit of synergy or "When one plus one equals three or more and the whole is great than the sum of its parts." For example, if you plant two plants close together, their roots will co-mingle and improve the quality of the soil, so that both plants will grow better than they would on their own. Synergy allows us to create new alternatives and open new possibilities. It allows us as a group to collectively agree to ditch the old scripts and write new ones. "Without doubt, you have to leave the comfort zone of base camp and confront an entirely new and unknown wilderness." -Stephen Covey So how can we introduce synergy to a given situation or environment? Start with habits 4 and 5 -- you must think Win-Win and seek first to understand. Once you have these in mind, you can pool your desires with those of the other person or group. And then you're not on opposite sides of the problem -- you're together on one side, looking at the problem, understanding all the needs, and working to create a third alternative that will meet them. What we end up with is not a transaction, but a transformation. Both sides get what they want, and they build their relationship in the process. By putting forth a spirit of trust and safety, we will prompt others to become extremely open and feed on each other's insights and ideas, creating synergy. The real essence of synergy is valuing the differences -- the mental, emotional, and psychological differences between people. "The key to valuing differences is to realize that all people see the world, not as it is, but as they are." -Stephen Covey After all, if two people have the same opinion, one is unnecessary. When we become aware of someone's different perspective, we can say, "Good! You see it differently! Help me see what you see." We seek first to understand, and then we find strength and utility in those different perspectives in order to create new possibilities and Win-Win results. Synergy allows you to: Value the differences in other people as a way to expand your perspective Sidestep negative energy and look for the good in others Exercise courage in interdependent situations to be open and encourage others to be open Catalyze creativity and find a solution that will be better for everyone by looking for a third alternative Key Lessons: 1. Make a list of people who irritate you. Now choose just one person. How are their views different? Put yourself in their shoes for one minute. Think and pretend how it feels to be them. Does this help you understand them better? Now next time you're in a disagreement with that person, try to understand their concerns and why they disagree with you. The better you can understand them, the easier it will be to change their mind -- or change yours. 2. Make a list of people with whom you get along well. Now choose just one person. How are their views different? Now write down a situation where you had excellent teamwork and synergy. Why? What conditions were met to reach such fluidity in your interactions? How can you recreate those conditions again? 7. Sharpen the Saw Quick Summary: To be effective, we must devote the time to renewing ourselves physically, spiritually, mentally, and socially. Continuous renewal allows us to synergistically increase our ability to practice each habit. Habit 7 is focused around renewal, or taking time to "sharpen the saw." It surrounds all of the other habits and makes each one possible by preserving and enhancing your greatest asset -- yourself. There are four dimensions of our nature, and each must be exercised regularly, and in balanced ways: Physical Dimension: The goal of continuous physical improvement is to exercise our body in a way that will enhance our capacity to work, adapt, and enjoy. To renew ourselves physically, we must: Eat well Get sufficient rest and relaxation Exercise on a regular basis to build endurance, flexibility, and strength Focusing on the physical dimension helps develop Habit 1 muscles of proactivity. We act based on the value of well-being instead of reacting to the forces that keep us from fitness. Spiritual Dimension: The goal of renewing our spiritual self is to provide leadership to our life and reinforce your commitment to our value system. To renew yourself spiritually, you can: Practice daily meditation Communicate with nature Immerse yourself in great literature or music A focus on our spiritual dimension helps us practice Habit 2, as we continuously revise and commit ourselves to our values, so we can begin with the end in mind. Mental Dimension: The goal of renewing our mental health is to continue expanding our mind. To renew yourself mentally, you can: Read good literature Keep a journal of your thoughts, experiences, and insights Limit television watching to only those programs that enrich your life and mind Focusing on our mental dimension helps us practice Habit 3 by managing ourselves effectively to maximize the use of our time and resources. Social/Emotional Dimension: The goal of renewing ourselves socially is to develop meaningful relationships. To renew yourself emotionally, you can: Seek to deeply understand other people Make contributions to meaningful projects that improve the lives of others Maintain an Abundance Mentality, and seek to help others find success Renewing our social and emotional dimension helps us practice Habits 4, 5, and 6 by recognizing that Win-Win solutions do exist, seeking to understand others, and finding mutually beneficial third alternatives through synergy. "Not a day goes by that we can't at least serve one other human being by making deposits of unconditional love." -Stephen Covey As we focus on renewing ourselves along these four dimensions, we must also seek to be a positive scripter for other people. We must look to inspire others to a higher path by showing them we believe in them, by listening to them empathically, by encouraging them to be proactive. "The more we see people in terms of their unseen potential, the more we can use our imagination rather than our memory." -Stephen Covey The real beauty of the 7 Habits is that improvement in one habit synergistically increases our ability to improve the rest. Renewal is the process that empowers us to move along an upward spiral of growth and change, of continuous improvement. Key Lessons: 1. Make a list of activities that would help you renew yourself along each of the 4 dimensions. Select one activity for each dimension and list it as a goal for the coming week. At the end of the week, evaluate your performance. What led you to succeed or fail to accomplish each goal? 2. Commit to writing down a specific "sharpen the saw" activity in all four dimensions every week, to do them, and to evaluate your performance and results. Read more »
  • Sales vs. Business Development: Differences, Similarities, & Job Titles to Hire For
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    Sales and business development. Just two different ways to refer to the same activity -- getting your company's product into customers' hands. Right? Actually, sales and business development should not be considered the same job at all.Instead, think of the two roles as complementary halves of a whole. It's true that both positions exist to help grow your business, but they achieve this end in different ways. Read on to understand the division between sales and business development, and learn what parts of the sales process each team owns. First things first. There are two types of activity commonly referred to as "business development," but they bear little resemblance to each other in both job function and importance within an organization. Business development is the practice of identifying, attracting, and acquiring new business. The aim is to reach and surpass your company’s revenue and growth goals. The type of business development we're talking about here, however -- also known as sales development -- is a specialized sales role. Business or sales development reps are tasked with researching, prospecting, and qualifying leads before passing them off to the sales team to further develop and close. This means that SDRs do not carry quotas -- although they are responsible for bringing in enough qualified leads that generate a certain amount of business, they are not directly responsible for closing deals. What is sales? Sales is all about closing. After receiving a qualified lead from an SDR, sales reps take the deals across the finish line. Sales reps might perform some additional qualification in certain circumstances, but their primary objective is to close deals. Sales reps are also responsible for demonstrating the product, handling prospect objections, and drafting contracts. Although sales and business development are different teams and functions, it's easy to see how important it is for both strategies to work in lock-step: effective selling isn't possible without dedicated business development, and business development relationship-building can only be done if a business has a solution and reputation for being able to help meet a need in the market. SDR and sales rep positions don't have too much crossover when it comes to day-to-day activities, unless your reps are also responsible for some of their own prospecting. However, the teams should be hyper-aligned. Both SDRs and sales reps must understand your organization's ideal buyer persona and be able to spot good fit opportunities. According to Bryan Gonzalez, a sales development analyst at research and advisory group TOPO, there are two primary reasons why the sales process has been split into sales development and sales -- the increased difficulty of reaching buyers and the benefits of specialization. Reaching a buyer "now requires a larger effort by smarter people," Gonzalez said. "More research and more touches on a lead are required to connect, and it's not as valuable to have someone with a quota on their head doing that." So taking a cue from Henry Ford, companies have split the sales cycle into specialized areas of responsibility to maximize efficiency and output. Closing is no easy feat, and it doesn't make sense to have your top sales reps spend time researching companies and hunting for leads if they're best at selling. In the same vein, prospecting and qualifying is neither a fast nor simple process. Separating prospecting from selling allows each team to focus all their energy on one task, instead of dividing their time between two different and time-consuming objectives. Another advantage of splitting the two roles is the ability to mold reps from an early stage in their careers and cut down on hiring costs, says HubSpot's global director of business development Justin Hiatt. "A sales development team takes some of the prospecting and qualifying burden off your quota-carrying reps' shoulders," Hiatt writes. "But its grander purpose is to become a training ground for your sales organization. It's a place for your SDRs to prove they can become quota-carrying reps and should feed new reps into your organization every year. " Sales to Business Development Handoff The point at which an SDR passes a lead to a salesperson will vary from company to company. It rests on how your sales team defines what makes a lead "sales qualified." There are several different frameworks for sales qualification: BANT (Budget, Authority, Need, Timeline), ANUM (Authority, Need, Urgency, Money), and GPCT, to name a few. But no matter what framework you use to qualify leads, SDRs should become adept at uncovering the following: Whether they're talking to a decision maker. If the contact is a low-level employee with no purchasing power, it's imperative to figure that out sooner rather than later. Whether the company could use your product. If your product or service solves a problem that doesn't exist in your lead's industry, it's not a good idea to pass that lead along to a sales rep. Whether the lead's problems can be solved by your product. Every company has different needs. Digging a little deeper to find out exactly where a lead needs help is critical to determining whether or not your product can solve the problem. Many organizations have their SDRs go a step further than this basic qualification to get a better sense of whether a lead is ready to buy. They require SDRs to look for two additional pieces of information: Whether the lead needs a solution in the near future. It's possible that at the time your SDRs first make contact with a lead, their problems aren't serious enough to warrant a purchase. This doesn't mean the lead is dead, but passing it along too soon is a waste of sales reps' time. What kind of budget the lead is working with. This isn't the time to get into specific pricing breakdowns or negotiations, but it's important to know if your product is priced in the same ballpark as what a lead can afford. Throughout the qualification process, SDRs should spend the majority of their time asking questions and listening to the prospect. However, it's also important that they educate leads about what solutions your company offers and start demonstrating their value so any potential misalignment is rooted out early. Sales Development Call vs. Sales Call As outlined above, an SDR's responsibility is to find out as much as possible about a lead's company, pain points, and need for a solution. Early conversations should revolve around gathering this information. A sales conversation should pick up where the SDR left off, with the endgame of getting a deal signed. Sales calls can cover a wide range of things -- here are just a few examples: Demonstrating how your value proposition applies to your prospect's business pain Comparing your product to your competitors' Setting up a trial of your product, if applicable Product demonstrations Price breakdowns Implementation plans Contract terms The degree of separation between business development and sales will vary from organization to organization. Especially in smaller companies, sales reps might be responsible for both prospecting and closing, and that's okay. But as you grow, separating and clearly defining the roles of the two teams will allow each to focus on what they do best, and help your business reach new heights. Business Development Titles Looking to hire? Here are some business development titles to hire for. Business Development Manager Business Development Specialist Business Development Representative Vice President of Business Development Director of Business Development Creative Job Titles for Business Development There are other, creative job titles for business development you could hire for as well. Strategic Partnerships Manager Strategic Alliance Specialist Senior Solutions Consultant B2B Corporate Sales Senior Account Executive To learn more, read about how to improve sales development performance next. Read more »
  • 75 Key Sales Statistics That'll Help You Sell Smarter in 2019
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    Every time I think I've gotten a grip on the weird, wonderful world of sales, I learn something new that forces me to change my perspective and question my beliefs. Like just 17% of salespeople think they're pushy -- compared to 50% of prospects. And along similar lines, only 3% of buyers trust reps. The only professions with less credibility include car sales, politics, and lobbying. Ouch. Luckily, not all sales-related data will bum you out. This list of sales statistics has invaluable nuggets of wisdom on everything from which words to avoid in your email subject line to the optimal number of questions to ask during a discovery call. Sales Statistics [2019] Sales Prospecting Statistics 1. More than 40% of salespeople say this is the most challenging part of the sales process, followed by closing (36%) and qualifying (22%). If you find prospecting to be the most difficult part of your job, you're not alone. 2. HubSpot Research found 72% of companies with less than 50 new opps per month didn't achieve their revenue goals, compared to 15% with 51 to 100 new opps and just 4% for companies with 101 to 200 new opps. 3. Gong's data science team analyzed 15 months of data and found average salespeople made far more calls in the last month of the quarter than the first two. And the success rate of those "eleventh hour" calls were usually lower than any other month. Devote time to prospecting each and every day. You should be prospecting just as much on the first day of the month or quarter as the last. 4. Almost six in 10 buyers want to discuss pricing on the first call. 5. More than half of prospects want to see how the product works on the first call. 6. One in four buyers want to discuss budget, authority, and timeline. This indicates that buyers are less concerned with the qualifying topics salespeople are usually most interested in: 7. 19% of buyers want to connect with a salesperson during the awareness stage of their buying process, when they're first learning about the product. 8. 60% want to connect with sales during the consideration stage, after they've researched the options and come up with a short list. 9. 20% want to talk during the decision stage, once they're decided which product to buy. 10. It takes an average of 18 calls to actually connect with a buyer. 11. Only 24% of sales emails are opened. 12. Nine in 10 companies use two or more lead enrichment tools to learn more about prospects. 13. Seven in 10 B2B buyers watch a video sometime during their buying process. Use that to your advantage, and send them a customized video. 14. Videos about product features are most popular, followed by how-tos and professional reviews. 15. At least 50% of your prospects are not a good fit for what you sell. 16. 77.3% of respondents said their company provides at least one quarter of their leads. Sales Follow-Up Statistics 17. An analysis of more than 2,200 American companies found those who attempted to reach leads within an hour were nearly seven times likelier to have meaningful conversations with decision makers than those who waited even 60 minutes. 18. Drift tested the response time of 433 companies. Only 7% responded in the first five minutes after a form submission. More than half didn't respond within five business days. Sales Email Statistics 19. The average person deletes 48% of the emails they receive every day. This task takes them just five minutes. 20. The vast majority of prospects want to read emails at 5 and 6 a.m. (Who knew there were so many early birds out there?) Use an email scheduling tool -- like the one in HubSpot Sales -- to send your message at the perfect time. 21. Here are the most effective words to put in your email subject line: Demo Connect Cancellation Apply Opportunity Conference Payments 22. And the most ineffective words to use in your email subject line are: Assistance Speaker Press Social Invite Join Confirm 23. According to Boomerang's analysis of 300,000 emails, an all caps subject line hurts response rates by approximately 30%. 24. Subject lines with three to four words get more responses than shorter and longer ones. 25. The Boomerang team also found messages written at a third-grade reading level are 36% more likely to get a reply than those written at the college reading level. 26. The more you write, the less likely you are to get a response. Only one in three messages that are longer than 2500 words receive a reply. However, you shouldn't be too brief: A 25-word email is roughly as effective as a 2000-word one. What's the sweet spot? Between 50 and 125 words -- or around the length of this paragraph. 27. Don't just provide information -- request some, too. Emails that contain one to three questions are 50% likelier to get replies than emails without any questions. Sales Call Statistics 28. According to Gong's analysis of 519,000 discovery calls, there's a clear relationship between the number of questions a rep asks and their chances of success. In other words, if you want your discovery call to go well, make sure you're periodically posing questions to the buyer. 29. Asking 15-18 questions over the course of your discovery call is only marginally more effective than asking 7-10. Aim for 11-14, Gong found. 30. Wondering what to ask? Questions about your prospect's business pain points and objectives are closely tied to a won deal. 31. And when should you ask these questions? While average salespeople ask most of their questions at the beginning of a call -- usually because they're moving through a checklist -- great ones space their questions evenly throughout the meeting. This makes the conversation feel like a natural back-and-forth rather than an interview. 32. Top performing salespeople are up to 10 times likelier to use collaborative words and phrases than low-performing ones. With that in mind, default to "we," "us," "our," and "together" over "you," "I," "me," and "your." 33. The most successful reps use terms that inspire confidence, such as "certainly," "definitely," and "absolutely," five times more often than low performers. 34. 41.2% of salespeople said their phone is the most effective sales tool at their disposal. 35. Research from Gong reveals these are the worst words for your conversion rates. "Show you how": Drops close rates by 13% when used more than four times during a single call "Discount": Decreases close rates by 17% "Contract": Hurts close rates by 7% "Free trial": Lowers likelihood of securing next steps by 5% Your company's name: Harms close rates by 14% when used four-plus times in one call "Competitor": Makes you less likely to get next steps or close "Million," "billion," "trillion": Large quantities are too abstract, so they harm close rates 36. Gong.io analyzed over 100,000 connected outreach calls and found successful salespeople talk for 54% of the call, while unsuccessful salespeople spent only 42% of their time speaking 37. The use of collaborative words had a positive impact on the calls and using "we" instead of "I" increased success rates by 35%. 38. Using "Did I catch you at a bad time" makes you 40% less likely to book a meeting, while asking "How are you?" increases your likelihood of booking a meeting by 3.4X. Social Selling Statistics 39. 65% of salespeople who use social selling fill their pipeline, compared to 47% of reps who do not. 40. Four in 10 reps have recently closed two to five deals directly thanks to social media. 41. Half of revenue is influenced by social selling in 14 common industries, including computer software, healthcare, and marketing and advertising. 42. Using social selling tools can increase win rates and deal size by 5% and 35%, respectively. Sales Productivity Statistics 43. HubSpot Research's survey of salespeople revealed more than half rely on their peers to get tips for improving. 44% looked to their manager, 35% to team training resources, and 24% to media. 44. Nearly six in 10 salespeople say that when they figure out what works for them, they don't change it. 45. Only 7% of top performers report pitching, while 19% of non-top performers pitch their offering. 46. Salespeople spend just one-third of their day actually talking to prospects. They spend 21% of their day writing emails, 17% entering data, another 17% prospecting and researching leads, 12% going to internal meetings, and 12% scheduling calls. 47. Around three in four organizations use classroom training as their primary way to train salespeople. 48. High-performing sales organizations are twice as likely to provide ongoing training as low-performing ones. 49. Sales professionals with three to four years of selling experience spend 50% more time on training than those with two years or less and 110% as those with five years or more -- probably because rookies aren't sure if they're going to stay in sales and veterans don't believe they need to develop further. 50. Sales development reps use on average six tools. 51. The most popular sales tools include CRM, social prospecting, data and list services, email engagement, phone, and sales cadence. 52. Here are the top ways to create a positive sales experience, according to buyers: Listen to their needs (69%) Don't be pushy (61%) Provide relevant information (61%) Respond in a timely manner (51%) 53. The biggest challenges today's salespeople face: Establishing urgency (42%) Getting in touch with prospects (37%) Overcoming price objections (35%) 54. The top sales priorities are: Closing more deals (28%) Improving sales funnel efficiency (18%) Improving sales technology (11%) 55. Google found nearly half of all buyers are millennials. 56. And calling high might not be the best strategy anymore: While 64% of the C-suite has final sign-off, 81% of employees not in the C-suite influence purchasing decisions. 57. Almost half of deals are lost because of budget. 25% are marked closed-lost because of timing. Lack of authority, time to review, and urgency are the third, fourth, and fifth most common reasons, respectively. 58. Budget is the most common reason stronger sales opportunities fall apart. 59. A study of sales development organizations from 900+ companies found the average SDR performs 94.4 activities a day, including social, call, voicemail, and email touches. 60. These activities led to an average of 23.1 appointments set and 72.3% of these appointments become opportunities passed to sales. 61. An average of 12.5 opportunities are accepted per month and 29.3% are closed. 62. A survey by sales strategist, Marc Wayshak, found that 41.2% of respondents said the phone is the most effective sales tool.  63. Only 24.3% of salespeople exceeded their quota last year. Referral Sales Statistics 64. 84% of buyers now kick off their buying process with a referral. 65. Nine in 10 buying decisions are made with peer recommendations. 66. 92% of buyers trust referrals from people they know. 67. After a positive experience, 83% of customers would be happy to provide a referral. But salespeople aren't asking -- just 29% of customers end up giving a referral. 68. About 47% of top performers ask for referrals consistently, versus only 26% of non-top performers. Sales Career Statistics 69. Forrester predicts one million sales reps will be out of a job by 2020. 70. Total compensation for SDRs is on average $72,000. 71. Most SDRs spend around 2.8 years in the role and require 4.1 months to ramp. 72. OTE for an AE is $115,000. 73. The typical AE spends 2.7 years on the job and takes 4.7 months to ramp. 74. One in four salespeople majored in business. The second most popular major? The degree of life. 17% never attended college. 75. Only 39% of salespeople intended to go into sales. Are you surprised at what you've learned, too? Numbers might not tell the whole story, but they certainly illuminate many aspects of it. Keep checking this page for updates. As new data comes out, I'll add it to the list. To learn more, read about some of the top challenges inside sales is facing. Read more »
  • How to Write InMail Messages to Recruiters on LinkedIn [Samples + Templates]
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    What if you tripled your typical email response rate? People are three times likelier to reply to a LinkedIn InMail message than a traditional email -- so if you're going to reach out, an InMail might be the way to go. With InMail, you'll have the ability to connect with new people and recruiters on LinkedIn. Here's how to send a message with InMail. 1. Find the LinkedIn user you want to contact. Use the search tool in the top left-hand corner of the page to search for the person you'd like to reach. 2. Go to their profile. Once your search is complete, click on the user’s name and navigate to their profile page. 3. Click the "Message" button underneath their headshot and headline. If you don't have a Premium, Recruiter, or Sales Navigator plan, clicking this button will prompt you to upgrade. 4. Write your InMail message. The InMail message is a conversation starter. Keep your message short and to the point, use a conversational tone, and let them know what prompted you to reach out. 5. Customize every InMail message you send. When you reach out to someone for the first time on InMail, make sure you do a bit of recon beforehand so you can write a customized message they will actually respond to. Make sure you spell their name correctly, acknowledge that you're familiar with their work or industry, and start a natural conversation from there. LinkedIn InMail Samples and Templates If you have Recruiter, LinkedIn lets you create up to 500 InMail templates (and even share them with your coworkers). Everyone else can still use templates -- you just need to save them somewhere that's easily accessible and then copy and paste them into the InMail composer box. InMail Examples and Template for the Recruiter and Hiring Manager Trying to bring new talent on board? Whether you're a dedicated recruiter, the hiring manager, or an entrepreneur, make your InMail customized and compelling. This InMail is effective for several reasons. It's enthusiastic and human-sounding. It comes from the CEO, which naturally makes me sit up and pay attention. It makes the company seem like a great place to work and drops some impressive growth stats. It uses a soft close ("Let me know what time works for you"), assuming I'm interested. It's highly scalable -- note this InMail could work for any content marketer. Here's a similar template: Hi [candidate name], I came across your profile while looking for successful [insert job title, e.g. "SaaS salespeople"] who are clearly [adjective 1 and adjective 2, such as "driven and tech-savvy."] You fit the bill. I think you could be a great fit for a [function, like "sales"] role at [company] -- we're [growing fast, just raised $X in funding, currently #1 in Y space, etc.] I'd love to chat with you for a few minutes about the opportunity. Let me know when you're free. Thanks, [Your name] This recruiting InMail is also a great example. It's incredibly concise and manages to get the point across in a few lines. Rather than describing the job or mentioning any specifics, this message is intended to determine my interest. For the same effect, try this template: [Candidate name] -- Impressive background and profile. We need a stand-out [job title] like you [to help with X objective, on Y team]; is that something you'd be interested in discussing? Let me know if you're open to a call. [Your name] Job Inquiry Example and Template When you're applying for a job, a good "backdoor" strategy is finding someone with a similar or identical role on that team and reaching out for advice. Not only will they often offer to refer you -- which gives you a huge boost in the application process -- you can get inside information on the culture, requirements, and company. Here's the message I sent Lindsay Kolowich when I was applying to the HubSpot Sales Blog writing position (it's an email, not an InMail, but could just have easily been sent via LinkedIn): This message works because: I connected with Lindsay over Twitter first, so she was expecting my email. I show I'm a fan of her work. I make it easy to answer my questions. Here's a template that uses the same techniques: Hi [employee name], [Insert commonality or compliment here, such as, "It's great to connect with someone else who's written for TechCrunch," or "I sent all of my coworkers your primer on SSL -- best guide I've read!" I'm interested in [company's] open [job title] role, and since you [have been at company for X years, work on the Y team, are doing great work there], I'd love to get your thoughts. Would you be open to answering 3-5 quick questions? It would be so appreciated. Thank you, [Your name] Some candidates also directly reach out to the hiring manager. Beware, career expert Alison Green warns this method can actually backfire. Put yourself in the hiring manager's shoes: You're incredibly busy, and you're getting a request for "more information" that's a thinly veiled attempt to differentiate yourself or "jump the line." The job description almost always has enough information, and applying is a strong indication of interest -- so there's no need to reach out beforehand or simultaneously. Connecting InMail Example and Template You likely come across people all the time who would be incredibly handy to have in your network. If you want them to respond, be helpful, friendly, and complimentary. Apart from getting my name wrong, this InMail message is well-executed. It's flattering. It offers a fantastic reason to connect -- I'll gain potential sources for content. It's cheery, easy to read, and short. This template was inspired by the above message: Hi [name], I'm [a big fan of your work, impressed with your career, an enthusiastic listener of your podcast, etc.] and would love to connect on LinkedIn. If you ever need help with [X specialty] or [Y area of expertise], I'd be glad to offer a hand -- or introduce you to someone who can. Cheers, [Your name] Press Outreach Example and Template Getting bloggers and journalists to write about your startup, product, or experience is no small feat. You'll have the best odds if you quickly and succinctly describe why this is a print-worthy story. This InMail got my attention because: It references details from my profile. It demonstrates the sender did research. It's relevant. It ends with a short, simple question. Try this template: Hey [writer name], I've read and really enjoyed several of your articles on [topic] -- especially like how you [did X]. (I also noticed [detail from profile], which is pretty cool.) Since you have the [topic] beat, I thought you might be interested in hearing about [insert pitch here]. I think [publication's] readers would find this story intriguing because: - Reason #1 - Reason #2 What do you think? [Your name] 1. Be direct. LinkedIn says simple, straightforward messages get more responses. 2. Make a small request. Asking for too much too soon will scare people off. 3. Spark their interest. Use your InMail to start a conversation. 4. Be natural. Try to sound like yourself. Write like you're talking to a coworker over coffee. 5. Explain why you're reaching out. Speak to their ego by mentioning what drew you to their profile or qualifications. 6. Make it about them. Rather than talking about how they can help you, discuss how you can potentially help them. 7. Don't make them do work. Linking to a job description or your product page is presumptuous and won't help your chances. 8. Customize your templates. LinkedIn templates are a great time-saving tool; however, relying on them too much is counter-productive. According to LinkedIn marketer Neha Mandhani, personalized messages are 15% more successful than canned ones. 9. Mention next steps. Using terms like "connect," "talk," "chat," "follow up," and "discuss" all positively boost the probability of a reply, so try to include a line about having a conversation. 10. Keep next steps vague. Typically, HubSpot advises making your call-to-action as specific as possible, e.g. "Are you free at 2 p.m. tomorrow for a 15-minute call?" But LinkedIn's data shows specificity is actually bad for your response rates. Before you offer a date and time, mention a salary range, or provide your email address, gauge your recipient's interest. If they bite, delve into the nitty gritty. And check out how to send a message to someone you're not connected to on LinkedIn now. Read more »
  • The 6 Elements of a Truly Consultative Sales Process
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    We know that best-in-class sales organizations use a consultative sales process. But what does that really look like? A sales process is consultative when the stages and actions align with the customer’s buying experience and are defined in terms of the customer relationship. It's only successful when sales leadership and the sales force execute with dedication and competence. That's why a true consultative sales framework has both a process component and a human component. Let's dig into each. Consultative Sales Process A typical consultative sales process is made up of six stages. Each stage maps out winning behaviors and strategies. Here's an example: Stage 1: Target and Qualify Stage 2: Explore and Assess Stage 3: Access and Develop Solution Stage 4: Present Solution and Follow-up Stage 5: Negotiate and Close Stage 6: Implement, Follow Through, Assess Results, and Expand The sales process stages should help guide salespeople in qualifying, closing, expanding business, and building relationships. Each stage should define the objective, best practice activities, tools, models, and customer actions that signal readiness to advance to the next stage (for example, the customer agrees to a meeting in stage one or provides access to the executive buyer in stage two). There should also be a list of sales coaching questions related to each stage. Some examples in Stage two would be: What business problem is the customer trying to solve? Have I reached the executive sponsor? The stages must align with the buyer's journey: The process buyers go through to become aware of, evaluate, and purchase a new product or service. Here's a typical buying cycle, along with the corresponding salesperson action. Stage 1: Target and Qualify The customer becomes aware of a business problem. Alternatively, the salesperson creates a pre-stage one opportunity by introducing an idea or challenge that is not yet on a customer’s agenda, or raises the visibility of an issue the customer has underestimated. For example, a salesperson speaking with a company that offers online educational courses might say, "Some of your competitors have seen a decrease in online course subscribers as our economy has come out of the recession. Luckily, I've been able to help them find new avenues for attracting new business." In this scenario, the salesperson identifies a problem, or a potential problem, the company or its industry is facing, and teases a solution. Stage 2: Explore and Assess Customers assess how much of a priority the issue is, determine their options, and develop decision criteria and decision process. Salespeople can help their prospects by sending them how-to blog posts, offering to run a consultative call, and sending them relevant content resources. At this point, the salesperson would send case studies about how they've helped similar businesses overcome dwindling subscribers. They might also share relevant research or other articles that take a closer look at the state and future of online education. And don't forget about video. Sending a helpful TED Talk or webinar is also a great way to grab a prospect's attention and provide valuable educational resources in an engaging manner. Stage 3: Access and Develop Solution Customers research, compare solutions, narrow down choices, and refine decision criteria. The salesperson must differentiate, focus on business outcomes, and prove value. How will your solution differ from your competitor's? Make sure that's clear for your prospect. In our online education example, this might look like the following: "Many of our competitors offer to help you buy subscriber lists. We believe emailing thousands of people who have never signed up for your service is a bad customer experience. Instead, we help you target relevant subscribers at the right events, with the right ads, at the right time. This allows you to build a relationship instead of pitching your classes before your audience even knows who you are and how you can help them." The salesperson has clearly outlined how they're different from others in their industry and the unique solution they offer for their prospect's business. Stage 4: Present Solution and Follow Up Knowledgeable customers make their selection and negotiate. Skilled salespeople will have already involved procurement prior to this stage. You should already know what steps need to be taken for your prospect's organization to buy a new product or service. That knowledge is crucial for presenting a solution with a realistic timeline. Make sure you understand what the procurement process is and confirm that the solution you've laid out meets your champion's expectations. For example, "I know that before I present to your executive team, your finance and paid advertising teams need to sign off on our solution. Do you think we will able to get their approval by the 14th of this month? And if so, would an executive presentation be realistic by the 20th?" By securing your champion's agreement to the timeline, you have a more concrete plan forward, which makes follow up easier. Step 5: Negotiate and Close Customers make the purchase. Salespeople support implementation and follow-up. When a close is imminent, it's more important than ever to make sure your prospect feels supported. You never want to lose a deal that's close to the finish line because you took attention off of nurturing a "done deal" and shifted it to a prospect higher in your funnel. Check in with your late-stage prospects regularly. Ask if they have any questions or concerns. And get ahead of any red flags that might arise. If you touch base with a prospect who says, "My manager has approved the deal but is dragging her heals to sign the paperwork," ask if it would be appropriate for you to reach out directly to that stakeholder to answer questions or provide a gentle nudge. Giving your champion prospect the backup they need is crucial at this stage. Step 6: Implement, Follow Through, Assess Results, and Expand Customers are in an evaluation mode. In the post-purchase stage, customers implement, measure outcomes, and evaluate performance against the sales promise. They decide on the future of the relationship. Salespeople must discuss results, prove value, and build on the rapport they previously created. It is at the intersection of sales process and the buying process that sales are made. Marketing must step up to the plate and support the sales force not only with qualified leads but with knowledge sharing, research, and insights into industry and customer priorities, personas, and challenges. At that point, it is up to salespeople to build on that foundation to understand their customers on an individual, granular level to solve their business problems. It has been my experience in building sales processes that almost all sales organizations have the fundamentals of an effective process within their reach -- but most don’t reach. Defining a sales process doesn’t take significant blocks of time. To start, pull together a diverse team of sales leaders and top performers, operations, service, and marketing people to map out and capture elements such as key milestones in how customers buy, best practices, tools, customer actions, and models for each stage. Consultative Salespeople A consultative sales process is powerful because it clarifies for salespeople what is expected. Additionally, it guides sales managers in what to coach and evaluate. A sales process, however, is not a silver bullet -- nor is it cast in stone. Instead, it's a map that detours and changes based on conditions. The sales process should also be flexible enough a salesperson can adapt it using their best judgment. The success of a consultative sales process takes more than even the most clearly defined stages, models, and tools. What you won’t find laid out in the sales process are the salespeople tasked with carrying out the process, the sales managers committed to coaching to it, and sales leadership that fosters an open and supportive culture. These stand equal with process. Just as customers’ buying patterns have dramatically changed, so too has what it takes to be a consultative salesperson. To execute, salespeople need a number of new skills and resources, including deeper knowledge, a higher level of skill, greater creativity to bring new perspectives and ideas to customers, better sales tools, and most importantly, committed sales leadership and coaching. A new emphasis has been placed on sales process, but as essential and valuable as a consultative sales process is, success depends on the ability and dedication of sales leadership and the sales force to execute. In his book "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance," Robert Pirsig makes a point worth remembering: The instruction book -- i.e., the process -- is only as good as the driver. Read more »
  • Ways to Avoid LinkedIn's Commercial Use Limit in 2019
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    The commercial use limit resets at midnight PST on the first day of each calendar month. LinkedIn won't lift the limit if you request it. You will never see the exact number of searches still available -- and if you run through your searches too quickly, the warning may not show up. After you hit the limit, you'll still be able to see search results, but only a very small number. How to Work Around the LinkedIn Commercial Use Limit Searching for contacts by name on LinkedIn doesn't count. So, if you're looking for "Jane Doe," typing her name into the search box at the top of every page will have no impact on your usage count. Browsing your first-degree connections from your connected page doesn't count either. And exploring the "People You May Know" feature doesn't count towards the limit. Finally, you can search for jobs via the jobs page without penalty. Here's what does count: Searching for LinkedIn profiles (either on the site or app) using keywords and/or filters. Clicking on LinkedIn profiles from the People Also Viewed section on the right sidebar. It's also worth noting browser plug-ins that run searches or view profiles on your behalf might count toward the limit. These third-party tools will search for and view accounts in the background. If you're frequently going over and don't know why, I suggest disabling these apps. Frequently reaching the commercial use limit is a good sign you should buy Sales Navigator. LinkedIn Premium Essentials and Career plans still include the commercial use limit. And learn more about how to write an effective LinkedIn headline here. Read more »
  • New Sales Manager? Follow This Guide to Crush Your First Quarter
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    So you’ve just been promoted to sales manager -- congratulations! You were a top-performing individual contributor in your previous position, but in your new role you won’t be able to do everything yourself. Making that transition and becoming an effective coach and leader aren’t easy. In your first three months as a manager, you’ll have to learn an entirely new set of processes -- some related to sales, some not. You’ll have to accomplish three primary tasks: Learn to empower your reps Scale your own management process Foster team growth The most important exercises you’ll need to undergo in each area are outlined below. Good luck, and happy managing! If you don’t get to know them, you will have no idea what scares them, what inspires them, what motivates them. -- Bo Schembechler, football coach 1. Assess your strengths as a manager Before you became a sales manager, you should have thought hard about why you wanted to be a front line manager. A great book that I would recommend to anyone in leadership is Peter Drucker’s On Managing Yourself, one of the Harvard Business Review’s 10 Must Reads. The book focuses on knowing yourself. “One cannot build performance on weaknesses, let alone on something one cannot do at all," Drucker writes. If you understand your strengths, your team will follow your lead. A few questions to ask yourself as a new manager are: What is your leadership style? What is your management style? What is your coaching style? What are your strengths and areas of improvement? Once you understand your strengths as a leader, share them with your reps so they know how best to communicate with you and how your work styles mesh. 2. Get to know your team Your team has a collective goal, but each of your team members are unique individuals and should not be treated the same. This might sound challenging, but it’s one of the coolest aspects of a managerial role. Each person on your team will have their own set of motivations, goals, challenges, and way of thinking. If your company offers a training around situational leadership, I would highly recommend it. Caring about your team as individuals will go farther than you think. If you believe in each rep for their unique strengths, chances are you’ll be in the back of their mind the day they doubt themselves. And believe me, that day will come sooner than you think. We all need guidance and empowerment. 3. Understand how your team wants to be managed One of your first acts as a sales manager should be to set up meetings with each person on your team. Eventually, you’ll have two weekly meetings with each of your team members: one for forecasting and pipeline review, and one for coaching, career discussions, or any other topic determined by the rep (more on that later). But for now, your top priority should be understanding the shape your future meetings will take, and that means figuring out what your team members need out of their professional relationship with you. Below are a few questions that you can ask in your initial meetings with your team members: What does success mean to you? What is your biggest strength? What is one thing you would like to improve on? What would prevent you from achieving your goals? What do you think makes a good leader? How do you like to be managed? How do you like to receive feedback? What do you look for in a coach? What motivates you day-to-day? How can I help you be better? 4. Create a team-wide weighted pipeline One of your responsibilities as a sales manager is to roll up a weekly or monthly forecast to your head of sales. A weighted pipeline, which assigns a value to each potential deal (a combination of the deal’s value and its stage in the sales process), serves as a snapshot of what your total pipeline is “worth” at this point in time. Deals in early stages are weighted less than deals that could close this week, and no deal is weighted at 100% until it closes. To build a weighted pipeline, group all potential deals by their stage in the sales process and sum their value. Then, multiply the total value of each stage by the weight assigned to that stage (your company should have standard weights you can use). Here’s an example of how to put together a weighted pipeline: Discovery call with an influencer (5% weight) Deals: 50 Potential value: $100 Weighted value: $5 Discovery call with a decision maker (7% weight) Deals: 33 Potential value: $66 Weighted value: $4.62 Presentation/demo with an influencer (20% weight) Deals: 17 Potential value: $34 Weighted value: $6.80 Presentation/demo with a decision maker (40% weight) Deals: 8 Potential value: $16 Weighted value: $6.40 Budget approval (60% weight) Deals: 12 Potential value: $24 Weighted value: $14.40 Legal approval (70% weight) Deals: 10 Potential value: $20 Weighted value: $14 Contracts sent out (80% weight) Deals: 12 Potential value: $24 Weighted value: $19.20 In this example, although the total potential value of all your team’s deals is $284, the weighted pipeline more accurately represents your pipeline’s current value -- $70.42. Even for deals in late stages, things can go wrong. So I recommend generating a pipeline that’s four times your goal. Read on to find out how to accurately assess your reps’ pipelines. 5. Schedule forecasting meetings with each rep To build a weighted pipeline, you’ll have determine which deals to include and which to omit. Set up a weekly forecasting meeting with each of your reps to assess their pipelines and offer guidance. Handle each meeting a bit differently with each person while keeping your fundamental pipeline questions the same. Once you provide a pipeline cadence, your conversations will start to flow without even asking the questions. A few forecasting questions are listed below to help guide you: Who is the economic buyer? What does the landscape look like when the contract is going to be signed? (Is your rep going to physically camp out at the prospect’s office? Will they walk down to Legal?) What stage is this deal in? (Use the deal stages in your CRM for uniformity.) Why would they buy now? Is there a cash flow or budget issue? How can we solve it? What is their timeline? What is the consequence if they don’t buy now? How many roles are you speaking with? Does this cover all the departments that need to be involved? Where is this initiative coming from? Will the CEO/anyone C-level need to give final approval? What is the purchasing, legal, and procurement process? Is there a deal size threshold that triggers a legal review? How strong is your champion? Do we have access to and the cell phones numbers of all people involved in this deal? How can I help? Make it clear that the forecasting meeting is about collaboration. Your top reps will want to know that you’re there to help and provide guidance, not interrogate them. 6. Set a weekly optional meeting with each rep As a manager in today’s fast-moving environment, I recommend setting two short meetings with your reps per week. The first, outlined above, is about deal forecasting. The second should function as a general meeting to help your reps grow. This can cover a range of topics, from career guidance to call reviews to specific coaching. I like to keep these meetings to 30 minutes to keep them focused, and let my reps choose the topic. This ensures that we’re covering areas that are relevant for them and will actually be useful. 7. Set a weekly, monthly, and quarterly cadence for your team members’ sales activity A weekly cadence for metrics in sales can promote effective behaviors amongst your team by giving them a concrete goal to work toward. Some ideas for a weekly cadence meeting to drive accountability are: Weekly calls Meetings booked per week Qualification calls per week Weekly product demos/presentations Weekly goals Have reps self-report on either hitting or missing these goals. If they miss, ask them to create a plan outlining their plans to get back up to speed. To set these goals, compare your reps’ benchmarks to company benchmarks. On average, how many deals does a rep need to close to meet their quota? How many demos or presentations do they need to deliver to make that number? How many meetings do they need to book? Work backwards until you know the average number of outreach activity each rep needs to complete per week, adjusting their individual targets as necessary. A rep who already exceeds these targets won’t need much hand-holding, but a rep whose activity level is a half of what it needs to be will require some ramping up. 8. Define your hiring process As a manager, you’ll be directly responsible for hiring new members of your team, so you’ll need an interviewing and evaluation strategy. You should also think about what other resources are available to you -- for example, are there people on your team who could help you evaluate potential candidates? Your company will have a hiring playbook, but you’ll need to develop a profile for your ideal candidate as well. Use the questions below to guide your interview process: What type of candidate are you looking to hire? How many years of experience are you looking for? What key attributes define your most successful rep? Bonus tip: Even if you think you have an all star hire on your hands, don't skip the reference checks. You never know what you might find out! 9. Create a peer mentor program A peer mentorship program can often serve as a leadership initiative path for the members of your team that show interest in taking their career to the next level. Assign each level you manage a peer buddy and create guidance for the mentor program. Whether it’s shadowing, reviewing calls together, or weekly check-ins, peer mentors provide an extra perspective that adds a valuable additional perspective to your coaching. 10. Foster peer-to-peer learning environments Collaboration won’t just happen -- as a manager, it’s your responsibility to create situations that foster it. For example, a weekly team meeting is a great way to drive cross-team collaboration on deals in progress, where everyone is helpful and supportive. Define your team incentives and what drives your team. Does a team dinner drive results? Do people get excited about spending time outside of work with one another? Find the events or activities that make your team “click” (and also improve performance), and then double down on them. 11. Don’t solve your team’s problems for them This can be really hard as a first time manager. You most likely came from doing very well in an individual contributor role yourself, so it’s tempting to just do your reps’ work or tasks for them. Avoid this temptation! Your team will learn and grow with your help, but their effort should be in the forefront. Allowing your team to solve problems on their own is also empowering. Ask them to explain to you the process of how they got there and provide feedback to them if you are asked. Letting them develop their own solution will build your team members’ confidence more than if you simply tell them what to do. Remember: It’s never about you. Being a manager is about your people and how you serve them. 12. Always solve for the company first As an individual contributor, you spend most of your time thinking about yourself -- whether you’re going to hit your number this month, what you need your manager’s help with, what you want your next career move to be, and so on. As a manager, you should be thinking more big-picture. Put your company before your team, and put your team before yourself. Your legacy as a manager won’t just be about your performance and your number. It will be about the impact and and development of your people. The best days for front line managers are the days their people over-achieve and receive promotions for their hard work and dedication. This is what matters. Sales managers empower, lead, support, and guide reps, but that’s not all we do. We get to make an impact on each individual’s day-to-day experience and overall quality of life. It’s not easy, but when you look back? Wow -- it is rewarding! Read more »
  • Lead vs Prospect vs Opportunity, and How to Upgrade One to Another
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    What is a sales opportunity, and when do you know it's not a lead anymore? There is no single, universal definition. However, some common misconceptions deserve to be clarified because the concept of an opportunity impacts your sales process, your ability to qualify, and your alignment with marketing (if you can't agree with marketing on what an "opportunity" is, you'll have all kinds of challenges in scaling your sales). In this article, I am writing about a first-stage opportunity, immediately after it's converted from a lead -- the true starting point of your selling process.   Even a brand-new sales rep knows that a "sales opportunity" is when you are working with a qualified prospect who has a good chance of becoming a customer. But what does "qualified" mean, and how do you know the chance of a deal is not imagined? After all, typically only 10 to 15% of B2B sales opportunities become deals. This might seem like a picky point, but the definition of "sales opportunity" at your company has significant bearing on forecasting accuracy. If each rep has a different conception of what entails an opportunity, they'll move leads through the CRM sales stages at wildly varying paces. With such inconsistency across your sales team, good luck projecting revenue with any hope of accuracy -- you need to define clear sales process stages to ensure deals are being categorized correctly. It's also possible salespeople are taking shortcuts in the sales process because they don't understand the value of accurate forecasting, and believe that appearing to have more opportunities in the pipeline is better. Let's start with the definition of a lead. A typical B2B "marketing-generated lead" is an inbound top of the funnel inquiry; for example, a white paper or eBook download. A "sales-generated lead" is an outbound asset -- maybe a person an SDR called and got interested in learning more or scheduling a call. But a "sales opportunity" is more than a "lead," and herein lies the rub. Many think that a lead becomes an opportunity when you qualify based on BANT criteria -- Budget, Authority, Needs, Timeline. However, as the name of this article suggests, that's not the case in my opinion. The reason is this -- it should not be necessary to know the prospect's budget, timeline, or authority right at the very beginning when you're just deciding whether you have enough there to convert the lead to an opportunity. If the prospect tells you that she has budget and a 30-day timeline to buy your product then you have yourself a nice late-stage opportunity with maybe an 80% chance of closing, not a first stage opportunity that typically comes only at a 10 to 15% win rate. So, if BANT does not a first stage opportunity make, what does? At the most fundamental level, I believe all sales opportunities should share three traits. Start with these, and then layer criteria particular to your company on top. Sometimes there's confusion between a lead and a prospect. A lead is an unqualified contact, while a prospect is a qualified contact who has been moved into the sales process. So, how can you move leads and prospects to opportunities? Look for these characteristics. Characteristics All Sales Opportunities Must Share 1. Pain I think we can all agree that a lead needs to have some sort of pain (AKA need) before they can be converted into an opportunity. People generally buy to reduce pain, so if there isn't pain, there probably isn't a high likelihood of a sale. However, it's the job of the sales rep to identify that pain. Just because a prospect doesn't explicitly express the pain to you out of his or her own volition doesn't mean there is none. To be successful in sales, a sales rep needs to develop the right qualification skills to bring that pain to the surface and pull it out of prospects by asking carefully crafted questions. This goes for inbound leads as well. It's great that a prospect downloaded an eBook from your website, but that might just mean they want to learn the content. So the rep still needs to qualify for pain before converting the lead into an opportunity. 2. Interest The next thing I look for is interest. For example, the prospect might be aware of their problem, but does that mean they're interested in solving it? Ask them how long they've had this problem. If they say it's been around for 20 years, then why would they care to solve it now? They've lived with the issue a long time without being bothered by it. There is clearly little interest in solving it. Executives must pick and choose their battles, and the most acute pain will get solved first. 3. Fit Let's say you have a prospect who has a pressing need and a strong desire to solve the problem. Just one issue. They operate a three-person company, and your product is made for businesses with 100+ employees. Does this person represent a sales opportunity? No, because they're not the right fit for your offering. They might want to buy your product, but the salesperson shouldn't sell it to them. Since the product and the prospect's situation aren't well aligned, it's a recipe for an unhappy customer. And unhappy customers often take to online review sites to express their frustration. What You Don't Need to Qualify a Sales Opportunity In my opinion, these three traits are the only criteria salespeople need to establish before converting a lead to an opportunity in their CRM. Sales reps who qualify with the BANT framework might be a bit confused. Where's the budget qualification? The timeline? The authority? If you are able to establish B, A, N, and T during a first call, then you don't merely have an opportunity on your hands -- you practically have a deal! The prospect is far more advanced than a first stage opportunity. By definition, an opportunity means that you have a chance of selling a customer -- not a guarantee. A fully BANT-qualified prospect is essentially a guarantee. An opportunity is a prospect who has pain, interest in solving that pain, and fit. A salesperson can pick up on the budget, timeline, and authority throughout the sales process to further qualify (or disqualify) the opportunity. Using these three criteria to upgrade leads to opportunities ensures that sales managers and leaders analyze apples to apples in reporting. Once you've established the milestones a lead needs to satisfy to be considered an opportunity, put similarly well-defined criteria in place for the other stages in your sales process. Clear exit criteria ensure consistency and repeatability -- the foundations of a strong sales process. To learn more, check out the sales cycle explained in less than 500 words next. Read more »
  • The 19 Best Group Scheduling Tools in 2019
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    Who thinks they have enough time in a day? If you're in sales or marketing, I'm willing to bet you answered 'no' to that question. Most of us are constantly pulled in many different directions and, as a result, are forced to multitask all day long. Finding time in a packed schedule can be challenging, especially when you're trying to find free time in your own schedule as well as ten other peoples'. The best way to minimize extraneous time spent on simple tasks is to outsource that work to a third party -- in this case, a group scheduler. A group scheduler will enable you to mitigate unnecessary back-and-forth emails, and ultimately reduce friction in your workflow. Here, we're going to explore some of the best group scheduling tools you might use to create a more effective scheduling process. But first -- what should you look for in a good group scheduling tool? A group scheduling tool needs to meet a ton of requirements to be considered "good." Simply having integration with your calendar apps isn't enough. Nowadays, a good scheduler has powerful sales integrations. Your tool should be able to integrate with: Calendar apps (iCal, Outlook, Google Calendar) Sales automation tools (ex. Lead generation, growth, email, etc.) Customer relationship management software (CRM) Most group scheduling apps are able to find common times to meet, but some have additional features such as being optimized for mobile functionalities, privacy, speed, and transparency. Next, let's explore our favorite 19 scheduling tools. The descriptions below will give you an idea of the capabilities and scope of our favorite apps. 1. HubSpot Meetings Price: Free HubSpot Meetings simplifies and automates what used to be a very arduous and often manual process. Fully integrated with HubSpot's free CRM, the Meetings function allows you to: Cut out back-and-forth scheduling emails Provide transparency and flexibility for your team or prospects to schedule with you when they see you're free Smooth out the lead-capture process by asking key client questions before the meeting even happens The tool can be embedded in your site and set to reflect your branding on client and in-team communications. Once a client inputs their information to create a new meeting, their data is collected into a database, which you can use for future contact with them and to grow your clientele as you get more connections. HubSpot Meetings also offers the option for group meeting links. You can alter the settings so that you receive notifications once new meetings are created, and include critical meeting information within the link such as meeting length, subject matter, etc. 2. Doodle Price: Tiered pricing, from free to $69/year depending on the plan Doodle is arguably the best scheduler available for smartphones on the market. Currently compatible with iOS and Android, Doodle relies heavily on the polling function to crowd-source available meeting dates. Doodle first lets you set up a MeetMe page, where you can display your free times and choose your designated branding. You can set up a poll of your available dates and times and let people vote on time slots that are convenient for them by sending them a link via email or directing them to a URL. It offers several response options -- not just the yes/no binary -- and allows choosers to rank or explain responses. You can see who has responded and who hasn't and keep responses to a limited number if needed. It's compatible with most commonly used calendars. Image Source 3. Boomerang Calendar Price: Free Boomerang Calendar is a Google extension that connects with your Firefox or Chrome browser. Once it's installed, it plugs into your Google Calendar and Gmail, so if you don't use those email services, this might not be the choice for you. Bibi Lauri Raven, founder of BibiBuzz, describes Boomerang Calendar as such: "It's seamless and doesn't add to 'app clutter.' It also takes into account the different time zones and is integrated in Gmail, Chrome and my Google Calendar. While I'm emailing, I can easily pull up my calendar to let folks pick the best time to have a call. They only see the times I'm available, not my other appointments and activities." As she mentioned, it's a tool that is very well-integrated with your email and calendars. As you're typing up an email, you can embed your schedule into the text body. There are a few other methods too, but its main appeal is that it's centralized and operates entirely within your email page. The event is created once an invitee selects a time, and that time is automatically recorded in your calendar. However, the plug-in is a bit of a contradiction -- it's privacy-oriented in that it protects the details of your schedule from being shown, but in order to use the service, you have to grant it access to some of your private information, including your calendar, contacts, and email. This might not be the service to choose if you or your invitees prefer a certain degree of online anonymity. Image Source 4. Mixmax Price: Tiered pricing, starting from $9/month to custom pricing for enterprise Mixmax is a scheduler built into your email. Compatible specifically with Gmail, this platform is particularly great for those who work in sales. Some of the sales features it includes are: LinkedIn Sales Navigator integrations Salesforce auto-create features Sales dialer Beast mode Mixmax makes email scheduling easy. You can use customizable templates to send emails, track opens and clicks, send notifications, and use slash commands to get your clients scheduled. You can even embed links and other media within the email using Mixmax. Here's how Yura Riphyak, Founder and Chief Product Officer at YouTeam, puts it: "This scheduling tool stands out for one simple reason: it allows you to schedule meetings directly in the body of your email. Not only does this facilitate the conversion in outbound outreach campaigns, but it also cuts excess friction in all communication points that leads to a meeting." Austin Mullins, founder of Conversion Creatives, also uses Mixmax. He appreciates the ability to throw links directly into your emails -- "Since prospects don't have to click-through to see available times, it increases the likelihood of them actually choosing a time," he says. Image Source 5. WhenIsGood Price: Basic and account plans are free, premium plans are $20/year WhenIsGood is a very simplistic option, but it's effective for group scheduling. Though other options might be better for those who need a feature-intensive service, this is a good option for your basic needs. First, you create an account and set up a calendar covering the days you're available. You can choose time slots based off of your meeting length requirements and select the time window you're available. Once you've chosen a time window, you can add your information and create the event. Creating the event generates three links. Each link has a purpose: One is to make changes to your calendar One is to send out with meeting invites One is to handle to poll outcomes When you send out the link for people to choose from your availability, they select the times that work for them and it syncs with your poll outcomes link. From there, you can decide the ideal meeting times for everyone involved. It doesn't have the most integrations, but it does the trick. Kaleigh Moore, copywriter extraordinaire for SaaS and eCommerce businesses, uses the tool and describes what she likes about it here: "My favorite meeting scheduler is a very no-frills tool called WhenIsGood. The basic version is free and does everything I need -- plus it's extremely simple to use. No training or downloading or anything required by any party. Just a simple way to crowdsource the optimal meeting time for two or more people." Image Source 6. YouCanBook.Me Price: $10 per calendar per month, $108 per calendar per year, $192 per calendar per two years YouCanBook.Me is another popular group scheduling tool for teams. It's a simple but powerful tool. The system integrates with GCal, Office 365, and iCal. Additionally, the tool is good for large organizations because you can use the calendar to book multiple people, services, or locations. It's optimized for mobile and customizable -- you can tailor your colors and notifications to fit your needs. Its customer booking system allows your clients to choose their specified times in the correct time zone. You can add buffers between appointments and adjust appointment length. Ryan Farley, co-founder of LawnStarter, describing why he loves YouCanBook.Me: "I absolutely love using YouCanBook.Me for calendar scheduling. Scheduling meetings without it can take half a dozen back and forth emails at a time. Instead, I just send someone my booking link and say, "To make things easy, want to find a slot that works for you here?" Additionally, I can block off times on my schedule, and manage the length of time slots I want available." Jeroen Corthout, co-founder of Salesflare, echoes that sentiment, although he notes that "the design is not as modern as some other tools, but it's highly customizable and can fit any workflow you want to build." Overall, it's a great tool for teams and groups looking to shave off a few hours per week in back-and-forth emails. Image Source 7. 24Sessions Price: Pricing available upon request. 24Sessions is a feature-rich group scheduling tool that is a favorite among high-functioning sales teams. It also includes video and screen sharing, which makes it a great tool to serve most sales meeting functionality. Clients can book their meetings based off of your availability. The calendar accounts for time-zone differences and allows for data tracking. It syncs with GCal and Office 365. Keller Tiemann, founder of Leadsurance, describes why he loves the tool: "It covers the most important things like integrating a calendar on our website, or a standalone landing page, for our prospects and clients to schedule meetings. It also automatically creates calendar appointments and reminders for everyone and sends out links to the video chat meeting room. 24Sessions offers dial-in features, meeting recordings, the ability to host multiple participants, and a lot of other features that allow us to use it for everything from scheduling demos to supporting our most complex clients. It has made scheduling and hosting efficient and timely meetings completely seamless for us." If you're looking for a feature-heavy one-stop-shop for sales teams and group scheduling, this is a good solution for you. Image Source 8. TimeTrade Price: Pricing available upon request. TimeTrade is a solid group scheduling tool. It's mobile-optimized, and you can match clients to employees and services. Additionally, the tool allows you to enable video calling for appointments, and you can connect TimeTrade to your CRM to facilitate easy process flow. Paul Granger, founder of Website Promoter, loves the mobile-focus of TimeTrade -- "With 80% of mobile device users claiming to never leave home without their phone, you can safely say that one of the best ways to do automate group scheduling would be through their favorite device." Notifications are easily enabled for both you and your customers. You can set your own rules for meeting design and availability, and even check out your analytics using this tool. Image Source 9. Cogsworth Price: $49/year Cogsworth is a scheduling service with a focus on smooth customer experience that integrates with Office 365 and GCal. It's customizable based on location, availability, and services provided. Through a step-by-step question process, you can schedule your appointments. You'll have to input: What type of meeting you want (and how long) With whom you want to meet A time zone, date, and time Your name Your phone number Your email Confirm your meeting You can orchestrate appointment buffers and time zones into your calendar, send out notifications, translate text, and make sure your calendar embeds into your website. Image Source 10. Skedify Price: Tiered pricing, $333-$1673 per month depending on your plan Skedify is a solid option if you have a large organization with vast, complicated scheduling needs. It's pretty good for teams or franchises because you can add a certain teams' available time and sync individual calendars within the master calendar. It allows you to choose: The location of your meeting The time The people who should attend Skedify offers plenty of integrations -- it allows you to assign tasks and track customer experience, while adhering to necessary security measures. Johan Vandecasteele, co-founder at LeadStreet, uses Skedify with a few of his clients. As he puts it, "it works great with complex situations. One client has more than 100 franchises, and you can schedule a meeting with any of them directly from the website. We build a custom sync with HubSpot that works super smoothly." Image Source 11. MeetingBird Price: Free for up to 25 meetings a month, $9/month for Pro MeetingBird is a Chrome extension created by the inventors of Front, which acts as a group email for multiple people. Your calendar is displayed in conjunction with your email. In order to use this tool, you must have Office 365 or Gmail. It offers plenty of the same operational abilities as many other apps in this list -- displaying your calendar to respondents, creating events and notifications, providing meeting templates, and offering poll generation. However, it stands out uniquely in one way -- it allows you to save time for yourself. And that's really the point of all these things anyway, isn't it? Baptiste Debever, head of growth at Feedier, says, "It's a very versatile and integrated tool. It plays nicely with the G Suite tool and can also be integrated with Zoom. All-in-all, I like the tool, and it powers most of the features I need, for free." Image Source 12. Calendly Price: Tiered pricing, from free to $12/year depending on your plan Calendly is a very common choice for tech entrepreneurs. It has a very simple and aesthetically pleasing interface. It's user-friendly and offers cross-software compatibility, making it a popular choice for external clients. It connects with Outlook, Microsoft Office 365, iCal, and Google Calendar. To use the tool, you simply enter your availability into Calendly, which then provides you a link to your calendar. When communicating with people you need to set up a meeting with, just send them your link, and it will show them times you are available. They can then choose a meeting name, time, length, and location. This will generate a meeting on your calendar, and a notification will be sent to remind you and your invitees before the meeting begins. Image Source 13. ScheduleOnce Price: $7.50/month for one user, $10/month for up to 10 users ScheduleOnce is a good tool for sales teams. It prioritizes easy connection between your companies' prospects and sales team to feed directly into the funnel. It's easily embedded into your website, marketing, and email marketing campaigns, so rather than just merely allowing for lead capture, your prospect can immediately schedule from their first point of contact. It then automatically distributes the meeting information to the appropriate team members. These events will be synchronized across all of the participants' calendars. Image Source 14. Acuity Scheduling Price: Starting free for one person, and ranging up to $50/month for large companies The functionality of Acuity Scheduling is wide-ranging, but the more you pay, the more you get out of the service. All paid plans are compatible with Google Apps, Office 365, Exchange, and Outlook. Video conferencing is emphasized as well, so Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Join.me are integrated. The tool isn't simply for embedding a scheduler into your site, although it does allow you to do that. It also enables you to control invoicing, accounting, payments, and mass emailing. Your clients can see your schedule and book their own time to see you. The easy access makes it simpler to reschedule and pay you online. In some ways, it's the Swiss Army knife of schedulers. Here's how John Doherty, founder of Credo, describes their decision to switch to Acuity: "We've tried most of the scheduling tools out there, and recently decided that we're going to move all of our scheduling to Acuity Scheduling because it gives us API ability to do custom integrations for our platform, still allows for custom redirects for goal tracking, and lets us add multiple users to multiple meeting types as needed." Image Source 15. Rallly (Web) Price: Free In contrast to the Boomerang Calendar function mentioned earlier in this list, Rallly is the best option for those who worry about their private information being exposed. It does have drawbacks, however -- such as a lack of widespread email integration, the inability to choose times, and a general dearth of deep customization capabilities. It is poll-based like many of the other apps and plugins in this list, but unlike the others, Rallly allows its poll respondents to retain their anonymity, even if they decide to engage in the discussion portion. After you create your poll, you can invite people by sharing the link or emailing them. Image Source 16. FreeBusy Price: Tiered pricing, from free to $16+/month depending on your plan FreeBusy is often a favorite option for B2B companies, specifically because it integrates with so many different services. It operates as a Chrome extension or plugin for Outlook email. Here are the calendars it supports: Outlook Oracle Microsoft Exchange Office 365 OwnCloud Salesforce Facebook Google IBM Verse iCloud Yahoo Zimbra Zoom (for video calls) When you sign up, you get a unique URL that hosts your calendar. You can send that link to people who want to schedule with you, and they can sign up on your page, or you can add participants to a meeting you create and offer one of your available times. If that doesn't work, they can reference your URL. You can also include buffer times around your meetings, so you're not rushed. Additionally, you're able to restrict certain individuals from requesting meeting times. Image Source 17. Vyte.in Price: Tiered plans, from free to $10/month for Pro; custom pricing for enterprises Vyte.in is a scheduler that works best with iOS. It's a poll-based system that lets users vote on suggested meeting times and dates once they receive an email from you with the information. Vyte.in remembers respondent's availability and then suggests meeting times to you. It records your meeting time in your calendar once everyone agrees on the details. Of course, respondents can also just look at your calendar with the custom URL Vyte.in generates. The Pro feature is where it really shines -- Pro allows you to build-in buffers (much like FreeBusy) between meetings and prevents you from overbooking yourself by enabling you to write down dates even if they're tentative. Image Source 18. Meetin.gs Price: $12/month or $129/year per organizer Meetin.gs is a personal scheduler that is compatible with Google applications and Office 365. It works best via mobile devices that operate on Android and iOS. Like many other applications, it allows you to make your own page -- with a unique URL you can send out -- devoted to your calendar. You can customize the length, location, and style of meeting you want, then send out invitations. This app allows the user to see all of their meetings on a timeline and takes agenda or meeting notes within the application for everyone to access. The crowd-sourcing and sharing feature make it easy to pass notes or agendas to your employers or employees. Image Source 19. X.ai Price: from $8 per month X.ai is debatably one of the most unique apps in this list, as it's run entirely by artificial intelligence. Once again, if privacy is your concern, this may not be the service for you, but if you prefer efficiency, this is a good option. It's compatible with Google apps, Okta, and Outlook. When you register your account, you allow access to all of your pertinent information -- calendar, contacts, email, IDs, etc. When you set up an event, email the invitee and CC your bot's email address, which will be given to you as you set up. In the email, you write down the bot's name and then the event instructions. If further clarification is needed, the bot can email the invitee with your schedule availability and can hash out the details from there. Once a meeting is agreed upon, an invite will be sent to all involved parties. Max Benz, founder of EasyContent, explains why the tool is particularly helpful: "You might think that the term 'AI' is used too often, and you might be right, but this tool definitely solved my pain point. The tool allows me to set up meetings via email or Slack. X.ai lets me directly create meetings, but it also takes over the conversation to find a suitable date and time for a meeting if needed. Basically, it acts as my personal 'AI' assistant … which was a bit weird first (but results speak for themselves)." Image Source Ultimately, the options are endless for group scheduling tools. The choice is up to you which one fits your personal workflow. Whether you value privacy, efficiency, or transparency, any one of these services would be worth investigating for your business. If you're looking for a quick and easy way to schedule meetings or appointments, check out HubSpot Meetings. Read more »
  • 7 Attention-Grabbing Sales Prospecting Phrases That Buck Conventional Wisdom
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    Most sales trainers and experts agree that the best sales reps prospect fearlessly. But what "fearless" truly means is up for debate. To me, being fearless doesn't mean plowing past a prospect's objections and desperately trying to turn their "no" into a "yes." Instead, true fearlessness is accepting the "no's" with just as much grace as the "yes's." If a buyer doesn't want to talk to you for a half hour, you can't and shouldn't make them. Your determination to get one particular prospect to agree to a meeting means you have less time to find five new prospects who would welcome your invitation. Once you have the right conception of "fearless" prospecting, use the following four one-liners to grab your prospects' attention and entice them to take another call with you. Some buck conventional sales wisdom, but I guarantee you'll blaze through your call list with increased speed and effectiveness if you give them a try. Attention-Grabbing Sales Prospecting Phrases 1. "We haven't met before." Prospects often perceive a sales rep's friendliness as familiarity, and this can confuse them. Have they met you before? Do they know you from somewhere? They'll likely spend the first minute of your conversation wondering if and how you know each other. But when it becomes evident that this is a sales call and the rep is in fact a stranger, they feel tricked, and become angry. Take the guesswork out of your intention by stating up front, "We've not met before," or "I don't know you." This sets the prospect's expectations and ensures they don't feel the rep is bamboozling them. In the long run, being straightforward and honest is always better than relying on cheap tricks to perk buyer interest. 2. "This call will take three minutes." During prospecting calls, many reps say something along the lines of "this call will only take a few minutes." But the lack of specificity is a red flag to prospects. They know that "a few minutes" doesn't actually mean a few minutes -- it means however long they're willing to listen to you talk. Set a clear finish line so the prospect isn't desperately trying to think of a way out of the conversation while you're talking. A time limit allows the prospect to concentrate on the content of your speech because they know they won't be on the phone long. In addition, this keeps the conversation brief, and shorter, more frequent touches are always better than longer and less frequent contacts in sales. 3. "I don't know much about your company." Sales reps should research their prospect's organization before a call and demonstrate that knowledge while on the phone. So why would you tell your prospect "I don't know much about your company"? The answer is simple: Prospects respond more positively to curiosity than credibility. Every sales rep strives to portray themselves as an expert, but not many take on the role of a curious student. And this latter approach is more appealing to buyers. Just make sure to follow this statement up with an insight that shows off your knowledge. For example: "Now, I don't know much about your company, but I noticed that you just launched your third software release this year. What have the results been like?" Sell the prospect on your curiosity first, and then demonstrate your credibility. This will earn you more interest than the other way around. 4. "I'm lost. Can you help me?" Use this phrase to get start a conversation with the prospect. Or say something like, "This is my first call to your organization and I'm not sure where to start." Not only does this disarm the prospect, but it also sets the expectation that you need their help, and they need to decide if they'll help you or not. If they don't help you, it lets you know that you should spend your time prospecting elsewhere. Words like "help", "lost", and "start" are easy expressions to understand and connect with. It's likely your prospect has needed help, was lost, or had trouble getting started with something -- this is a great way to connect with them. 5. "Our companies have spoken in the past, but I haven't reached out before. I'm trying to decipher the notes from the previous account manager who spoke with you." This comes in handy when you inherited an account from someone else and you're not sure where to start. And it can be used if your company has had a prior relationship with a prospect's company. Similar to the previous phrase, you're relying on the customer to help you out. Frame it in a way where you're seeking assistance from them and express your genuine interest in learning more about the company. 6. "I'm looking to get more detail or background about your executive and what they like or don't like about sales calls." If you're talking to an executive assistant, ask them about what their executive is expecting from a sales call. You could even add something along the lines of, "I'm doing my prep to understand exactly what they're looking for." Not only will you build a connection with the assistant, but you'll have an idea of what you should include or avoid when speaking with the executive in a future sales call. 7. "Thank you." Maybe you're calling for a referral to the right person to talk with about your product. If the contact gives you the name and email address of the appropriate colleague, don't drag the conversation out. Simply thank them, wish them a pleasant day, and end the call. But you're not done yet. After you've hung up the phone, pick it up again and call the same person back. When they answer (and it's highly likely they will since you just talked with them), say the following: "I'm sorry to call you back, but I forgot to ask you -- why is John the person to talk with about this?" I find that this two-call approach yields far more information than if the rep tries to cram all their questions into one long conversation. Again, frequency trumps duration. Two five-minute calls are more agreeable to the prospect and more valuable to the rep than one half-hour long meeting. To learn more, check out these sales prospecting techniques you should be using next. And gain even more sales insight at YourSalesMBA® Blog and listen to the SalesMBA® Podcast. Read more »
  • The Ultimate Guide to Pricing Strategies
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    Setting prices for your products can be tough. Set prices too high, and you miss out on valuable sales. Set them too low, and you miss out on valuable revenue. Thankfully, pricing doesn’t have to be a sacrifice or a shot in the dark. There are dozens of pricing models and strategies that can help you better understand how to set the right prices for your audience and revenue goals. That’s why we’ve created this guide. Whether you’re a business beginner or a pricing pro, the tactics and strategies in this guide will get you comfortable with pricing your products. Bookmark this guide for later and use the chapter links to jump around to sections of interest. If only pricing was a simple as its definition. However, there’s a lot that goes into the process. Pricing strategies take into account many of your business factors, like revenue goals, marketing objectives, target audience, brand positioning, and product attributes. They’re also influenced by external factors like consumer demand, competitor pricing, and overall market and economic trends. It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs and business owners to skim over pricing. They often look at the cost of their products (COGS), consider their competitor’s rates, and tweak their own selling price by a few dollars. While your COGS and competitors are important (as you’ll see in the various models below), they shouldn’t be at the center of your pricing strategy. The best pricing strategy maximizes your profit and revenue. Before we talk about pricing strategies, let’s review an important pricing concept that will apply regardless of what strategies you use. Price Elasticity of Demand Price elasticity of demand is used to determine how a change in price affects consumer demand. If consumers still purchase a product despite a price increase (such as cigarettes and fuel) that product is considered inelastic. On the other hand, elastic products suffer from pricing fluctuations (such as cable TV and movie tickets). You can calculate price elasticity using the formula: % Change in Quantity / % Change in Price = Price Elasticity of Demand. The concept of price elasticity helps you understand if your product or service is sensitive to price fluctuations. Ideally, you want your product to be inelastic — so that demand remains stable if prices do fluctuate. Now, let’s cover some common pricing strategies. It’s important to note that these aren’t necessarily standalone strategies. Many can and should be combined when setting prices for your products and services. Competition-Based Pricing Strategy Competition-based pricing is also known as competitive pricing or competitor-based pricing. This pricing strategy focuses on the existing market rate (or going rate) for a company’s product or service; it doesn’t take into account the cost of their product or consumer demand. Instead, a competition-based pricing strategy uses the competitors’ prices as a benchmark. Businesses who compete in a highly saturated space may choose this strategy since a slight price difference may be the deciding factor for customers. With competition-based pricing, you can price your products slightly below your competition, the same as your competition, or slightly above your competition. For example, if you sold marketing automation software, and your competitors’ prices ranged from $19.99 per month to $39.99 per month, you’d choose a price between those two numbers. Whichever price you choose, competitive pricing is one way to stay on top of the competition and keep your pricing dynamic. Cost-Plus Pricing Strategy A cost-plus pricing strategy focuses solely on the cost of producing your product or service, or your COGS. It’s also known as markup pricing since businesses who use this strategy “mark up” their products based on how much they’d like to profit. To apply the cost-plus method, add a fixed percentage to your product production cost. For example, let’s say you sold shoes. The shoes cost $25 to make, and you want to make a $25 profit on each sale. You’d set a price of $50, which is a markup of 100%. Cost-plus pricing is typically used by retailers who sell physical products. This strategy isn’t the best fit for service-based or SaaS companies as their products typically offer far greater value than the cost to create them. Dynamic Pricing Strategy Dynamic pricing is also known as surge pricing, demand pricing, or time-based pricing. It’s a flexible pricing strategy where prices fluctuate based on market and customer demand. Hotels, airlines, event venues, and utility companies use dynamic pricing by applying algorithms that consider competitor pricing, demand, and other factors. These algorithms allow companies to shift prices to match when and what the customer is willing to pay at the exact moment they’re ready to make a purchase. Freemium Pricing Strategy A combination of the words “free” and “premium,” freemium pricing is when companies offer a basic version of their product hoping that users will eventually pay to upgrade or access more features. Unlike cost-plus, freemium is a pricing strategy commonly used by SaaS and other software companies. They choose this strategy because free trials and limited memberships offer a “peek” into a software’s full functionality — and also build trust with a potential customer before purchase. With freemium, a company’s prices must be a function of the perceived value of their products. For example, companies who offer a free version of their software can’t ask users to pay $100 to transition to the paid version. Prices must present a low barrier to entry and grow incrementally as customers are offered more features and benefits. High-Low Pricing Strategy A high-low pricing strategy is when a company initially sells a product at a high price but lowers that price when the product drops in novelty or relevance. Discounts, clearance sections, and year-end sales are examples of high-low pricing in action. High-low pricing is commonly used by retail firms who sell seasonal or constantly-changing items, such as clothing, decor, and furniture. What makes a high/low pricing strategy appealing to sellers? Consumers enjoy anticipating sales and discounts, hence why Black Friday and other universal discount days are so popular. Hourly Pricing Strategy Hourly pricing, also known as rate-based pricing, is commonly used by consultants, freelancers, contractors, and other individuals or laborers who provide business services. Hourly pricing is essentially trading time for money. Some clients are hesitant to honor this pricing strategy as it can reward labor instead of efficiency. Skimming Pricing Strategy A skimming pricing strategy is when companies charge the highest possible price for a new product and then lower the price over time as the product becomes less and less popular. Skimming is different than high-low pricing in that prices are lowered gradually over time. Technology products, such as DVD players, video game consoles, and smartphones, are typically priced using this strategy as they become less relevant over time. A skimming pricing strategy helps recover sunk costs and sell products well beyond their novelty, but the strategy can also annoy consumers who bought at full price and attract competitors who recognize the “fake” pricing margin as prices are lowered. Penetration Pricing Strategy Contrasted with skimming pricing, a penetration pricing strategy is when companies enter the market with an extremely low price, effectively drawing attention (and revenue) away from higher-priced competitors. Penetration pricing isn’t sustainable in the long run, however, and is typically applied for a short time. This pricing method works best for brand new businesses looking for customers or for businesses who are breaking into an existing, competitive market. The strategy is all about disruption and temporary loss … and hoping that your initial customers stick around as you eventually raise prices. (Another tangential strategy is loss leader pricing, where retailers attract customers with intentionally low-priced items in hopes that they’ll buy other, higher-priced products, too. This is precisely how stores like Target get you — and me.) Premium Pricing Strategy Also known as premium pricing and luxury pricing, a prestige pricing strategy is when companies price their products high to present the image that their products are high-value, luxury, or premium. Prestige pricing focuses on the perceived value of a product rather than the actual value or production cost. Prestige pricing is a direct function of brand awareness and brand perception. Brands who apply this pricing method are known for providing value and status through their products — which is why they’re priced higher than other competitors. Fashion and technology are often priced using this strategy because they can be marketed as luxurious, exclusive, and rare. Project-Based Pricing Strategy A project-based pricing strategy is the opposite of hourly pricing — this approach charges a flat fee per project instead of a direct exchange of money for time. It is also used by consultants, freelancers, contractors, and other individuals or laborers who provide business services. Project-based pricing may be estimated based on the value of the project deliverables. Those who choose this pricing strategy may also create a flat fee from the estimated time of the project. Value-Based Pricing Strategy A value-based pricing strategy is when companies price their products or services based on what the customer is willing to pay. Even if they can charge more for a product, they decide to set their prices based on customer interest and data. If used accurately, value-based pricing can boost your customer sentiment and loyalty. It can also help you prioritize your customers in other facets of your business, like marketing and service. On the flip side, value-based pricing requires you to constantly be in tune with your various customer profiles and buyer personas and possibly vary your prices where your customers vary. Download our free guide to creating buyer personas to easily organize your audience segments and make your marketing stronger. Like we said above, these strategies aren’t necessarily meant to stand alone. We encourage you to mix and match these methods as needed. Now, let’s discuss how to apply these strategies to different businesses and industries. Pricing Strategies Based on Industry or Business Not every pricing strategy is applicable to every business. Some strategies are better suited for physical products whereas others work best for SaaS companies. Product Pricing Strategy Unlike digital products or services, physical products incur hard costs (like shipping, production, and storage) that can influence pricing. A product pricing strategy should consider these costs and set a price that maximizes profit, supports research and development, and stands up against competitors. 👉🏼 We recommend these pricing strategies when pricing physical products: cost-plus pricing, competitive pricing, prestige pricing, and value-based pricing. Digital Product Pricing Strategy Digital products, like software, online courses, and digital books, require a different approach to pricing because there’s no tangible offering or unit economics (production cost) involved. Instead, prices should reflect your brand, industry, and overall value of your product. 👉🏼 We recommend using these pricing strategies when pricing digital products: competition-based pricing, freemium pricing, and value-based pricing. Restaurant Pricing Strategy Restaurant pricing is unique in that physical costs, overhead costs, and service costs are all involved. You must also consider your customer base, overall market trends for your location and cuisine, and the cost of food — as all of these can fluctuate. 👉🏼 We recommend using these pricing strategies when pricing at restaurants: cost-plus pricing, premium pricing, and value-based pricing. Event Pricing Strategy Events can’t be accurately measured by production cost (not unlike the digital products we discussed above). Instead, event value is determined by the cost of marketing and organizing the event as well as the speakers, entertainers networking, and overall experience — and the ticket prices should reflect these factors. 👉🏼 We recommend using these pricing strategies when pricing live events: competition-based pricing, dynamic pricing, and value-based pricing. Services Pricing Strategy Business services can be hard to price due to their intangibility and lack of direct production cost. Much of the service value comes from the service provider’s ability to deliver and the assumed caliber of their work. Freelancers and contractors, in particular, must adhere to a services pricing strategy. 👉🏼 We recommend using these pricing strategies when pricing services: hourly pricing, project-based pricing, and value-based pricing. Pricing Strategy Examples Pricing models can be hard to visualize. Below, we’ve pulled together a few examples of pricing strategies as they’ve been applied to everyday situations or businesses. Dynamic Pricing: Chicago Cubs I live in Chicago five blocks away from Wrigley Field, and my friends and I love going to Cubs games. Finding tickets is always interesting, though, because every time we check prices, they’ve fluctuated a bit from the last time. Purchasing tickets six weeks in advance is always a different process than purchasing them six days prior — and even more so at the gate. This is an example of dynamic pricing — pricing that varies based on market and customer demand. Prices for Cubs games are always more expensive on holidays, too, when more people are visiting the city and are likely to go to a game. Another prime example of dynamic pricing is INBOUND, for which tickets get more expensive as the event nears. Freemium Pricing: HubSpot HubSpot is an example of freemium pricing at work. HubSpot provides a CRM for free (forever), but charges for access for other marketing, sales, and service tools. Moreover, within those marketing tools, HubSpot provides limited access to specific features. This type of pricing strategy allows customers to acquaint themselves with HubSpot and for HubSpot to establish trust with customers before asking them to pay for additional access. Penetration Pricing: Netflix Netflix is a classic example of penetration pricing: entering the market at a low price (anyone remember when it was $7.99?) and increasing prices over time. Since I joined a couple of years ago, I’ve seen a few price increase notices come through my own inbox. Source Despite their increases, Netflix continues to retain — and gain — customers. Sure, Netflix only increases their subscription fee by $1 or $2 each time, but they do so consistently. Who knows what the fees will be in five or ten years? Premium Pricing: AWAY There are lots of examples of premium pricing strategies … Rolex, Tesla, Nike — you name it. One that I thought of immediately was AWAY luggage. Does luggage need to be almost $500? I’d say no, especially since I recently purchased a two-piece Samsonite set for one-third the cost. However, AWAY has still been very successful even though they charge a high price for their luggage. This is because when you purchase AWAY, you’re purchasing an experience. The amazing branding and image AWAY portrays for customers make the value of the luggage match the purchase price. Pricing is a Process Thinking about everything that goes into pricing can make your head spin: competitors, production costs, customer demand, industry needs, profit margins … the list is endless. Thankfully, you don’t have to master all of these factors at once. Simply sit down, calculate some numbers (like your COGS and profit goals), and figure out what’s most important for your business. Start with what you need, and this will help you pinpoint the right kind of pricing strategy to use. More than anything, though, remember pricing is an iterative process. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll set the right prices right away — it might take a couple of tries (and lots of research), and that’s OK.   Read more »
  • 22 Responses to the Sales Objection "It's Not a Good Time to Buy"
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    You've been speaking with a prospect for a while. You've got a sense of their goals and their pain, and it seems like your offering is a great fit for their business. You're all ready to set a date for a product walkthrough or start discussing contract terms, but then your prospect says something that stops you in your tracks. "Can we talk about this next quarter? It's just not a good time for us to buy right now." Great. Not only is this a deal you had in your pipeline, but you've also sunk a significant amount of time working with your prospect. And now they're not going to buy? Prospects commonly use the sales timing objection to stall or force you to walk away. Although sometimes there are true obstacles, a prospect who wants to buy but truly can't right now will proactively let you know their timeline and exactly what's blocking them. This objection is most often raised when a prospect doesn't feel a sense of urgency or hasn't seen enough value in your offering to buy. Use these timing objection responses to get to the heart of your prospect's hesitation. Common Sales Objections Related to Timing How many of these sales objections have you seen? It's not a good time. Call me back next quarter. I'll get back to you with at a better time. We'll think about it. I'll have to talk to leadership. Sales objections related to timing can be difficult to overcome. Your prospect is busy and just doesn't have the time for you or your offer. So, how can you respond to a sales objection? Here are a few responses you can use. How to Respond to a Sales Rejection 1. "If money and resources were no object, would you be willing to start with our product today?" If your prospect says no, they don't think your product is valuable. Find out why. If your prospect says yes, dig deeper to discover what logistical hurdles are standing in their way. 2. "What's holding you back?" By getting your prospect to talk through their reasoning, you'll be in a better position to address their hesitation. 3. "When would be a good time to buy?" If your prospect's answer doesn't sound all that different from their current circumstances, follow up with #9. 4. "What are your company's other priorities right now?" It's possible that your prospect has several other pressing projects that need to be completed. If you have the whole picture, you'll be able to tell how much of an impact your offering can really make right now, or even better -- how your product can help achieve the other goals. If it turns out your prospect's goals are being pushed aside by management, follow up with #5. 5. "How can I help you get the resources you need to sell this to the decision maker?" Determine where your prospect's having difficulty gaining traction, then help get internal buy-in. 6. "So is X goal no longer a priority for you?" Tie your product to a tangible goal you and your prospect have discussed. This question moves the discussion away from the actual purchase process and back to the story of how your offering can improve your prospect's business. Follow up with #7 and #8. 7. "What happens to those goals if you don't act now?" What's your prospect's Plan B? Maybe they have a good one, and in that case your offering may not be a good fit. But making your prospect realize they have no other way of solving their problems will get you back in the game. 8. "When are you hoping to achieve X goals by?" If your prospect can't define this, you're either talking to them in the education stage or their problems aren't severe enough to warrant solving right now. But if they need to hit a goal in the next three months, there's clear pain to be addressed. 9. "If I call you back next quarter, what circumstances will have changed?" Maybe your prospect is in the middle of a massive internal initiative and doesn't have bandwidth to talk to you right now. Maybe your prospect is waiting on a round of funding to come in. Or maybe they're just stalling. Get your prospect to evaluate whether anything -- their budget, their priorities, their goals -- is actually going to be different when you next speak. If they'll truly be ready to pull the trigger then, why not now? 10. "What's going to be different next quarter?" A broader, rhetorical spin on #9. Question your prospect's motivations for brushing you off without coming right out and saying it. 11. "How are you performing against your end-of-year goals [as they relate to your product]?" A good way to remind your prospect why they were talking to you in the first place. A prospect who saw absolutely no problem with their current business wouldn't have taken your call. Delaying a purchase will only make those problems worse. 12. "Here's the timeline for ROI if we start in X months. Does that work for you?" There's that sense of urgency again. Remind your prospect that implementing a new product doesn't produce overnight results. The question here is implicit -- can they really afford to wait to buy? 13. [Silence.] "I hit the mute button and wait to see how my prospect continues," says Dan Tyre, sales director at HubSpot. A prospect with a real objection will ask, "Are you there?" or wait for you to follow up, says Tyre. But if your prospect starts to waffle more or talking in a stream-of-consciousness, it's a good sign they're just brushing you off. 14. "Do you understand [product's] value?" "In all my years of selling, nobody's ever said no," says Tyre. Follow up with #15 to really drive this point home. 15. "Which part of [product] do you think would help your company the most?" This question gets your prospect to reiterate their goals and forces them to tell you why your product is a good fit for them, instead of making them listen to you talk about it. It can also trigger important red flags -- for example, if you've been focusing on one area of your product but they bring up an entirely different area, it's a sign you need to restart the conversation on different terms. 16. "Is it the timing, or is something else concerning you?" A timing objection may be a smokescreen. To find out what's really holding your prospect back, ask this question. The buyer will either say something along the lines of, "Well, I'm worried about [different issue] … " or "It's not a good time to buy because [valid reason] ... " In both cases, you'll uncover the true issue -- which you can then resolve. 17. "Why?" Simple answers are sometimes the most effective. The buyer is probably expecting that you'll try to convince them it is a good time to buy, so this response will catch them off-guard (in a good way). Once they've given you context, you can decide whether they're in a position to move forward or not. 18. "I understand, as a customer of mine was in a similar situation. They ultimately decided to purchase [product] because of [trigger event, challenge, opportunity] and [product's ROI]. In the past [X amount of time], they've seen [Y results]." Your prospect has shared why they want to wait (see the previous question) -- but you think it's in their best interest to act sooner. Use a relevant case study to make your prospect think twice about turning you down. After you've shown them evidence your solution works, they'll be eager to reap its benefits for themselves. 19. "Thanks for your honesty -- I don't want to waste your time or mine until you're ready to make a decision. In the meantime, can I send you any valuable content I find on [prospect's industry, market, challenge, role]?" According to HubSpot sales director Dan Tyre, this response works well with prospects who can't buy soon no matter what you say. (They've already exhausted their budget for the year, the company's strategy is in flux, new legislation will go into effect soon and they need to gauge the implications, and so on.) Pressuring them to buy will only make them screen your calls and emails. Instead, ask to periodically send them helpful content. You'll stay top-of-mind while adding value and building up your status as a trusted advisor. When they are ready to buy, you'll be the first salesperson they contact. 20. "Sometimes when people say X, it really means Y. Is it safe for me to assume that's the case here?" Sales pro Mike Rogewitz saves this question for those objections he just can't overcome. It's Sandler's Negative Reverse Selling methodology, and it goes something like this: Prospect Sam: "I'm headed into a meeting; can you give me a call next week?" Salesperson: "Sam, I've tried to connect a few times now. Typically, when this happens, it means this is a low priority for you at the moment. Is it fair for me to assume that's the case?" Prospect Sam: "Well if you don't want to talk to me, then I'd rather not do business with you." Salesperson: "Hey Sam, my apologies. I do want to talk, but I feel like I'm driving you crazy here with all these voicemails and missed calls. I'd hate to keep bothering you if it's not necessary. It might be best if you reach out when it's a better time." Rogewitz warns, "It should never feel like you're taking revenge on an uninterested prospect by saying, 'You always say you'll call me back, Sam,' which turns the conversation into an accusation and, sometimes, an argument." He continues, "By keeping things constructive, you've put the negativity on yourself instead of on the prospect." 21. "Are there any large company events/initiatives coming up that would make this a priority?" If a prospect is unwilling to commit to your timeline, it might be because their budget is uncertain, a large company announcement is on the horizon, or large industry event is looming that would make your timeline difficult to implement. Ask questions like, "The timeline seems to be a stumbling block for us. Is there a company/industry event coming up that might be causing you hesitation to pursue an aggressive timeline?" If the answer is, "Yes, I'm actually worried my budget might be cut next week." you know what the objection is and how to proceed. If the answer is, "No, our company has a lot of red tape, and I'm worried this timeline doesn't reflect that." you've still gotten to the bottom of the real issue and can move forward. 22. "Is there anything I can give you to make a stronger case to [decision maker]?" Sometimes, your prospect might be hesitant to move forward simply because they've received pushback from their manager or the ultimate decision maker. Ask if there's anything you can do to support your prospect and help them make a stronger case to their boss. This might look like a one-sheet of talking points, a case study, or an informative blog post. A simple, "How can I help," can mean the different between closed lost and close won.  Looking for more? Check out these tips to magically get prospects interested in you next.   Read more »
  • How to Build a High-Performing Sales Team: 5 Steps
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    "If you can find good people, they can always change the product/service. Nearly every mistake I've made has been in picking the wrong people, not the wrong idea." - Arthur Rock Selecting sales personnel is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, challenge for any organization. Failure to achieve revenue targets, manage customer relations, and deliver service can be traced directly to hiring salespeople unequipped to carry out their assigned roles. Recruiting is a commitment; it should consume about a fifth of the sales leader's time, and the process should be as well organized as the company's sales methodology and forecasting systems. The following mini tutorial is taken from my online video training program for sales managers. Follow these steps to recruit the best possible team that can bring about the best possible results. How to Build a Sales Team 1. Define the Ideal Profile The key to building a winning sales organization is understanding whom you want to hire. Why? Because thorough development and analysis of the ideal sales representative profile heightens your chances of recruiting the right person. Here's how to start: Make your own list of essential salesperson characteristics. As the hiring manager, start by writing down your definition of a great sales representative. Ask company leaders to make a list. Ask management and members of the sales team to identify desirable sales traits. Test your top sales representatives. Ask your company's most successful sales representatives to complete a personality profile or psychological test administered by a third party. Record the data and look for common denominators among your top salespeople. 2. Think About Behavioral Types Reviewing the basic personality types often encountered in sales can provide additional insight into hiring effective sales representatives. Understanding an applicant's most typical behavioral style when interacting with others can reveal how that person solves problems and makes decisions. And you can learn how flexible the applicant is in dealing with contrasting personality styles. The four types: Dominant: A dominant individual loves a challenge and is always ready to take on the competition. Dominant people are direct, positive, and straightforward. They continuously seek new horizons and like to make decisions quickly. Some consider dominants restless, because they become impatient and dissatisfied with the status quo. They are generally resourceful and adapt readily to new situations. Cautious: Cautious people are humble, loyal, and non-aggressive. They are usually conservative, slow to make decisions until they have absorbed all available information, and sticklers for detail. Cautious individuals want to be appreciated and will go to extreme lengths to avoid stepping on someone's toes. They strive for a stable, ordered life, and tend to be more task- than people-oriented. Interactive: These individuals are outgoing, persuasive, gregarious, and generally optimistic. Interested in people, they're poised in social situations; at an initial meeting they may greet you warmly by your first name, as if you've been friends for life. Interactive types may act on emotional impulse, making decisions based on a cursory analysis. Steady: Usually amiable, supportive, and relaxed, steady individuals appear contented and laid back. Patience and deliberateness are their defining characteristics. People high in steadiness strive to maintain the status quo and avoid rocking the boat. They value relationships that they have worked hard to establish, and operate well in a team environment. Matching the salesperson's personality to the job -- or even to the type of client he or she interacts with -- makes sense. But remember that people often display characteristics of two or more personality profiles. 3. Measure the Profile Once you've compiled all your information on the sales position and the applicant's desired personality profile, boil it all down to five or seven objective, measurable characteristics. Why so few? Because you need to focus on key responsibility areas that drive success. For example: 100% percent quota achievement for a minimum of five years Articulate Experience with opening new territories Regional sales experience Specific industry expertise Create a measurement scale for each characteristic, like this: [Ineffective] -5, -4, -3, -2, -1, N/A, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 [Effective] and use it to rate each candidate during the interview session. Don't be fooled by the profile's simplicity, or the fact that it measures only five characteristics. This is the distillation of sound input from numerous sources, as well as benchmark data based on the personalities and performance of your top sales representatives. Focusing your work in an easy to understand, simple format places the emphasis on implementation and results. It's important to make this profile document available to everyone involved in the interviewing process, including recruiting firms. 4. Refine the Profile To derive the most benefit from your new recruiting tool, interview a minimum of three candidates for each position, and make sure that every interviewer in the process rates each candidate from -5 to +5. Continue to refine the profile by gathering input from both internal and external sources. Studies show that successful sales managers spend 15 to 20% of their time on recruiting. Whether or not there's an opening in your sales ranks, take the time to meet new candidates or reacquaint yourself with candidates whom you have been courting. When you least expect it, your top candidate may become available. 5. Strive for Consistency Now that you have a plan to fill the pipeline with quality candidates, the next step is to systemize the process for choosing and winning the right candidate time after time. Communicating an established process to all involved parties not only saves time, but sends a clear, unified message to candidates that this company has its act together, increasing their desire to join the sales team. The following model has worked in the past. Consider it as a foundation for your sales recruitment process. Identify and document each stage in the interview process, and who (at least three people) in your company will participate. Perform personality testing on your top sales reps. This provides a benchmark for evaluating candidates in one-on-one interviews. Distribute to all participants an outline of the interview process, the ideal sales candidate profile, the interviewing scorecard, a list of base questions to ask every candidate, and the candidate's resume. It takes effort to build a recruiting process, and even more to ensure that everyone follows the plan. But the result -- the creation of a winning sales team -- is guaranteed to make life less stressful for any sales leader. To learn more, check out these hiring practice recommendations next. Read more »
  • Sales Operations Manager: What They Do, How Much They Make, & More
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    Would you like to become a sales operations manager? Or are you considering hiring one? Research from CSO Insights found that 79.1% of organizations in the technology industry already have a dedicated sales enablement initiative or function, compared to an average of 50% across other industries. If you're like these companies, who need to create effective sales systems so salespeople can be productive and effective in their roles, then it's likely time to hire a sales operations manager. So, what key skills and experience should a sales operations manager have? Let's dive in and take a look. Sales Operations Manager The goal of sales operations is to reduce friction in the sales process, so salespeople are successful in their day-to-day activities. A sales operations manager is responsible for supervising a team of sales operations specialists. Leadership and prior sales operations experience are often required for a sales operations manager role. Sales operations managers often report to a VP or director of sales operations. A bachelor's degree is often required, and a higher level of education like a master's degree might be recommended for those applying to senior operations manager positions. Sales operations managers should have the following skills: Business acumen Organizational skills Pipeline management Program management Analytics and reporting expertise Understanding of CRM and database software Experience with financial systems Prior people management experience Sales operations manager salaries vary by company, job location, and years of experience. Here are a few average base salaries for sales operations managers. 1. $60,460 (Indeed) This is the average salary for a sales operations manager in the United States. It was estimated by salaries submitted by sales operations manager employees and users, and from job advertisements on Indeed. 2. $76,033 (PayScale) PayScale found that $76,033 is the average salary for a sales operations manager. Use the PayScale tool to enter you city, years of experience, skills, and education to get a customized salary estimate. 3. $93,876 (Glassdoor) The national average sales operations manager salary in the United States is $93,876, according to Glassdoor. Filter the salary estimate by industry, company size, and years of experience to adjust the result. 4. $94,230 (Salary.com) According to Salary.com, the average salary for a sales operations manager is $94,230. Create your own customized salary report to get a personal estimate. Sales operations manager job descriptions often vary by company or the experience level the company is hiring for. Here are a few additional sales operations manager job description examples. Sales Operations Manager Job Description Examples 1. Sales Operations Manager Job Description This sales operations manager job description was created by Hewlett Packard. Source: Indeed 2. Senior Manager Sales Operations Job Description The senior sales operations manager job description was written by Skillsoft. Source: Skillsoft Sales operations managers are key to running a successful sales operation and enabling your sales team to do its best work. To learn more, check out this ultimate guide to strategic planning next.   Read more »
  • Intrapreneurship vs. Entrepreneurship
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    Look up "intrapreneur," and Google will ask if you meant to search for "entrepreneur." But this position is slowly becoming more well-known as companies around the world use it to drive internal innovation and keep up with their startup counterparts. Here's how to decide whether intrapreneurship is right for you. The Benefits of Intrapreneurship To many, being an intrapreneur holds a lot of appeal. Intrapreneurs get much of the rewards of entrepreneurs -- visibility, money, power, learning opportunities, connections, and maybe most importantly, the chance to create something new -- without much of the risk -- bankruptcy, major failure, etc. A successful intrapreneur is hugely valuable to their employer, which means they receive high salaries, tons of benefits and perks, and leverage. Questions to ask yourself: Would I rather have the resources and support of a large company or the freedom of running my own? How important is job security to me? How tolerant of risk am I? Do the responsibilities of managing my own business scare or excite me? Can I navigate an existing culture, or would I prefer to create my own? Not sure what intrapreneurship looks like in action? Here are a few examples. Intrapreneurship Examples 1. Google Google's email tool, Gmail, was developed as a result of intrapreneurship. Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail, worked independently to build the first version of the tool. 2. Apple Are you familiar with Apple's Macintosh computer, also known as the Mac? It's just one example of a product that was created via intrapreneurship. Steve Jobs organized a group of intrapreneurs to work independently to develop the computer. 3. Facebook Facebook hosted hackathons that allowed employees to work on projects they were passionate about. A prototype for the "Like" button was developed as a result of these hackathons. Looking for more? Check out these small business ideas next.   Read more »
  • The Best 10 Web Chat Tools in 2019
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    Did you know this? HubSpot Research found that 82% of consumers rate an "immediate" response as important or very important when they have a marketing or sales question. And 90% of consumers rate an "immediate" response as important or very important when they have a customer service question. Speed is everything for today's buyers and customers. Web chat tools can be used at almost every stage of the customer lifecycle. They help marketers nurture leads, allow salespeople to engage with prospects, and assist customer service representatives to respond to questions quickly. In this digital age, live chat has become ever popular, with many websites sporting live chat buttons in the bottom corner of their websites. They make it easy to get more information about a product, receive assistance from a company representative, or have their question answered by a bot. So, which web chat app should you choose? Take your pick from some of the best chat tools. Here are some of the best web chat apps you can choose from. 1. HubSpot Live Chat Price: Free HubSpot Live Chat helps your team communicate with visitors quickly and easily. Since it integrates directly with the HubSpot CRM you’ll know exactly who you’re chatting with (e.g., prospect, long-time customer, new contact) and you'll see their history with your company. Manage incoming chats with Conversations, a free, collaborative inbox that your entire company can use to collaborate on incoming messages. Deals, tickets, and more can be created from live chats. And transcripts are stored on the contact's record in the CRM. And use HubSpot’s free Slack integration to get chat notifications and respond directly via Slack, or carry out conversations using the HubSpot mobile app. 2. LiveChat Price: $16/month per seat (Starter), $33/month per seat (Team), $50/month per seat (Business), $149/month per seat (Enterprise) Add this web chat tool to your website to capture new leads and engage with prospects and customers. It can be customized to fit your site's theme and language. Use automatic greetings and canned messages to speed up your response time. And use chat transcripts and LiveChat's ticketing system to keep track of your messages. 3. LiveZilla Price: Free for one operator or bot (LiveZilla ONE), 200€ - 1100€ for two to unlimited operators or bots (LiveZilla PRO) LiveZilla is a web chat tool that offers unique features like screen sharing, real-time translation, and a global knowledge base. It even offers real-time visitor monitoring where your visitors are from, the site that referred them, and which keywords were used to find your site. You can take this web chat app wherever you go. It is available on all modern browsers, Windows 7/8/10, Apple Mac OSX, Linux, iOS, and Android. 4. LiveAgent Price: $15/agent/month (Ticket), $29/agent/month (Ticket + Chat), $39/agent/month (All-Inclusive) This web chat tool allows your sales or customer service team to work with multiple channels. Any chats, emails, calls, social media mentions will appear in a universal inbox. Advanced automation and rules make it easy to assign chats and quickly respond to your contacts. 5. Freshdesk Price: Free for unlimited agents (Sprout), $15/agent/month billed yearly (Blossom), $29/agent/month billed yearly (Garden), $49/agent/month billed yearly (Estate), $109/agent/month billed yearly (Forest) Freshdesk takes an omnichannel approach to its software. You can manage communications through chat, your website, email, phone, and social media. Intelligent ticket assignment, canned responses, and automation make it easy to respond to chat tickets. And the features can be customized to fit the needs of your team. 6. Drift Price: $0 for individuals (Free), $50/month billed annually for individuals (Standard), $400/month billed annually for teams (Pro), $1,500/month billed annually for teams (Premium), pricing available upon request (Enterprise) Use Drift to generate leads using its chatbot tool called LeadBot. Automatically book meetings with your contacts and route new leads in your CRM. The bots act as virtual assistants that are active 24/7 on your website. Plus, they can answer questions by integrating with and pulling information from your knowledge base tool. 7. Zendesk Chat Price: $0 (Lite), $14/agent/month (Team), $29/agent/month (Professional), $59/agent/month (Enterprise) Zendesk Chat is a customizable web chat tool that integrates directly with Zendesk and other popular software. Use a pre-chat form to collect contact information and send targeted messages based on the behavior of your contacts. This tool also has an AI chatbot that helps out your sales or customer service team by letting them focus on more complex questions. 8. Zoho Desk Price: $0 for three agents (Free), $12/agent/month (Professional), $25/agent/month (Enterprise) Zoho Desk has an embeddable chat widget that lets you engage with your contacts wherever they are. The chats can then be converted to tickets, so you have all the information you need to assist the contact further. Automation and canned responses make it easy to reply. And you can ask for feedback directly within the chat so your prospects and customers can rate their interaction. 9. Intercom Price: from $136/month (Essential), from $202/month (Pro), pricing available upon request (Premium) With Intercom's web chat tool, you can use automated campaigns to nurture your leads. And they can be monitored throughout each stage of the sales process. The lead qualification bot and lead qualification profiles simplify the prospecting process. A team inbox makes it easy to assign these leads. 10. HelpCrunch Price: $0 (Free), $12/month billed monthly (Standard), from $21/month billed monthly (Premium) HelpCrunch is a customer communication platform with a web chat app for sales and customer service. You can pre-qualify leads with pre-chat forms, even when your chat agents are offline. The chat widget can be customized to match your website design. And it includes other features like localization, file sharing, chat transcripts, and multi-channel messaging. Looking for more? Check out this guide to using live chat software in sales next.   Read more »
  • The Ultimate Guide to Prospecting: How Many Touchpoints, When, and What Type
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    It's incredibly rare that a prospect responds to a salesperson's first outreach attempt. This means following up … and following up on your follow-ups. But how many prospecting touchpoints should salespeople make before they call it quits? When's the best time to reach out to a prospect? What's better: phone or email?The "how," "when," and "what" of following up is important to get right if a rep hopes to snag the buyer's attention and make a sale. Here's a guide to help you optimize your prospecting process and significantly improve your response and connect rates, without changes to the content of your messaging. How Many Touchpoints Are Necessary? First, let's define "touchpoint." To me, a touchpoint refers to a voicemail, email, or live conversation. I don't consider interactions through social media or a call with no voicemail to be touchpoints. Social media is a great tool for finding information, but I wouldn't recommend you use it for cold outreach. More on that later. When it comes to the number of touchpoints necessary to guarantee prospecting success, there's plenty of evidence that suggests response rates rise with each outreach attempt. And statistically, across a broad spectrum of data, that number is around eight. So, when you surpass eight touchpoints, the law of diminishing returns comes into play. What does that mean? The law of diminishing returns states that if one production factor (e.g., calls or emails) is increased while other factors are held constant, the output (e.g., open and response rates) will eventually decrease. In other words, a tenth touchpoint is not much more effective than an eighth. With this in mind, eight touches is a good benchmark number of touchpoints. There are two important caveats to this number. First, every industry and buyer persona is different. While eight touches might be the right number for your company, seven or three might be right for another. This is why you must test and observe your response rates over time. The second caveat is related to the first. In order to see accurate results from touchpoint testing, you must choose a number and stick to it with each and every single prospect you engage. Most reps vary the number of attempts they make based on the particular buyer, but how will you discover the "magic" number for your territory or situation without consistent data? If you decide to work a lead, you must commit to making a set amount of touchpoints. Reaching out multiple times won't work unless you vary your messaging. Every time you contact a prospect, provide value in a new way. For instance, you might send a short tip in one email and link to a helpful ebook in the second. When Should I Make My Attempts? In my experience, connect rates rise as the day, week, and month advances. According to this maxim, here are the ideal times to reach out: Time: 3 p.m. and later local time (call), five minutes before and after the hour (email) Day of week: Thursday and Friday Date: 28th -- 31st Most salespeople make their prospecting calls early in the morning and early in the week. However, this is precisely the time when buyers are planning out their workload and prioritizing their tasks -- they don't have time for a sales call. You'll have better success when the day is winding down, and the prospect has more bandwidth for an unexpected request. In terms of email, you can write messages at any point in the day, but be careful not to send them until five minutes before or five minutes after the hour. Since you want your email to be no lower than 12 messages from the top, you'll need to send it at the precise moment when the buyer opens their inbox. Five minutes before and after the hour is the span of time when buyers walk to and from meetings and check their email. Hitting "send" in this 10-minute window dramatically increases your chances of getting a response. So, how should you distribute your touchpoints? Over the span of a month, most reps skew early. They might reach out two times the first day, once a few days later, once a week later, and then one final time a few weeks after that. But this pattern communicates to the buyer that your request isn't urgent. To express urgency, I recommend skewing your touchpoints the opposite way. I wait quite a while after making my first attempt to follow up -- anywhere from 12 days to two weeks. Here's what this schedule might look like: Day 0: First touchpoint Day 14: Second touchpoint Day 21: Third Day 25: Fourth Day 27: Fifth Day 28: Sixth Day 29 (in the morning): Seventh Day 29 (in the afternoon): Eighth Now the buyer senses that my message is growing in urgency instead of decreasing. What Types of Messages Should I Use? Your prospecting message mix should be just that -- a mix. The specific divide between calls and emails should be determined by you and your manager based on what works best in your industry. That said, in my experience, leaning on the phone slightly more than email generates the best results. For that reason, I recommend following a three calls / two emails split, but three emails / two calls is also acceptable. What I don't recommend is all emails or no calls, or four calls and one email. Keep it as balanced as possible while playing to the preferences of your buyers. Can I Use Social Media? How can you use social media -- and use it well? I get this question a lot. Social media can be a great tool for prospecting if used correctly. Social media is a great place to find triggers or events you can use to capture your prospect's attention. Since your aim is to get them to read your email, and you'll most likely have to send more than one email before that happens, you have to find varying topics of conversation to catch your prospect's attention. Reaching out multiple times with the same copy and pasted email won't work, and your prospect will notice. Every time you contact a prospect, provide value in a new way. For instance, you might send a short congratulations about their recent new product launch in one email and comment on a recent blog post from their website in the second. If you can skew your outreach earlier than later, make at least eight attempts with each and every prospect, and mix up your approach, I guarantee your connect rate will climb. Also remember to keep a close eye on how different times of day, types of message, and numbers of touchpoints affects your success, and fine-tune your strategy accordingly. Looking for more tips? Check out Your SalesMBA® The Podcast for impactful, tactical, and engaging advice to help you close deals and crush your quota. Read more »
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