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Embrace the Sales 2.0 Movement to Increase Sales and Outsmart Your Competition
by Justyn Howard
Embrace The Sales 2.0 Movement To Increase Sales And Outsmart Your Competition. By Justyn Howard firstname.lastname@example.org
Please share freely under the Creative Commons Attribution-No Derivative Works 3.0 license. Copyright © 2007, 2009 by Justyn Howard All Rights Reserved Editor: Preston Hull, Layout: Valerie Spencer
Note from the Author
It’s been almost 2 years since the first edition of this book (then titled the Passive Pipeline) was written. In that time the processes and tools available to help Sales Professionals work smarter have been enhanced dramatically. Tools like LinkedIn and targeted email marketing have become commonplace. Technologies like Twitter and the iPhone have given us new opportunities, and a whole new breed of software like InsideView, Genius.com and SlideRocket has emerged. Many of the tools I wrote about in 2007 have been replaced with more powerful and easier to use resources. In terms of efficiency and productivity it’s a better world for professional sales today. Unfortunately, our economy has also temporarily handicapped us, so it’s more important than ever for Sales Professionals to work smarter and more efficiently. It’s more important than ever to embrace new tools and processes when engaging with prospects and customers. Those of us who take this as an opportunity to grow will increase their business dramatically while our competition and those around us who choose not to do so will find this business climate very difficult. We’re facing reductions in sales forces across the globe. Companies will be forced to do more with less. Those of us fortunate enough to stay employed will have to become better than ever at maximizing our productivity and finding new ways of conducting business.
That has always been the spirit of this book, as well as improving the buyer-seller experience by bringing a more professional level of sales to the mainstream. Sell Smarter will give you new ideas and increases in efficiency. There are lots of ways to be more effective in your work, many of them coming from advances in intuitive web technology. Consider this book an opportunity to grow your skill-set and leave your competition and coworkers wondering how you blew out your sales quota in the midst of a recession. Did I mention you no longer have to cold-call? I haven’t made one in nearly three years, yet I still managed to have a record year in 2008 and a 300% 4th quarter during the economic collapse. Yes, I am a current quota-carrying Sales Professional who uses everything written in these pages. I simply won’t share a tool or practice that I have not used and found success with. I hope you embrace the ideas presented. If they help in some way, please recommend this book to a friend or colleague. Thank you, and I wish you all the best in 2009. - Justyn
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Table of Contents
Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
What You Will Learn . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 4 What’s Possible? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7 Adopt Or Perish. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
How To Use This Book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19 The Broken Model . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
How Salespeople Perpetuate Dysfunctional Buying Practices . . . . . . . . . . 25 How Sales Managers Perpetuate Dysfunctional Selling Practices . . . . . . . 30
Quick Tips: Professional Selling . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36 Data Is Power . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
The Power Of Data In Sales. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Customer Relationship Management Software . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Assessing Your Current Solution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Choosing A CRM Tool . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Power Of Queries . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Turbo Charge Your CRM . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38 40 42 44 53 56 57
Quick Tips: Client Relationships . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 58 A New Era In Email Marketing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61
Then And Now . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 62 Why Email Marketing Works . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 63 Standard Email Equals Lost Business . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 65
Choosing The Right Email Tool . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Build Your Mailing Lists . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Absolutes For Email Success . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Building Your Email Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Using Email Templates To Boost Productivity . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . The Elements Of A Good Email Signature . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Crafting Emails That Get Responses . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Avoid The Most Common Email Mistakes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Permission Based Email . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Legal Considerations For Email . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Reporting & Analytics . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Email Automation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Newsletters . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
68 72 73 74 76 78 80 85 88 88 90 91 92 93
Important Lessons About Communication . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94 Blogging . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
Why Should Sales Professionals Blog? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 98 Reasons Why You Should Blog . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 100 Is Blogging Right For You And Your Business? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105 Definitions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 109 Building Your Blog . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 110 Easy Ways To Build Blog Traffic. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119 Maximize Your Reach With Quality Content. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 123 Analyzing And Tuning Your Blog . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 125 Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 128
Quick Tips: Sales Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 129 The New Professional Networking . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132
Your Personal Business Network – Compliments Of Web 2.0 . . . . . . . . . Enter Web 2.0-Powered Personal Business Networking.. . . . . . . . . . . . . How LinkedIn Can Impact Your Sales . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . How To Build (Or Enhance) Your LinkedIn Network . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Twitter: A Quick Guide For Sales Pro’s . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Developing A Social Networking Strategy . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Managing Your Online Reputation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 132 133 135 141 144 148 153 157
How To Create And Deliver A Great Sales Presentations . . . 158
Discovery vs. Presentation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . To present last? Or first? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . In Person vs. Virtual. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Slides. Slides. Slides. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Summary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 160 160 162 167 173
Quick Tips: Meetings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 174 Creating A Defined Short-List Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176 Additional Tools And Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 180
SlideRocket! . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 181
LovelyCharts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Jigsaw. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Sales Success Forums . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Zoominfo . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Microsoft Live Writer . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Remember The Milk . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . GetAbstract. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Xobni. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . LeadLander. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Google Reader . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Google Alerts . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
182 183 184 185 186 187 188 189 190 191 192
Tying It All Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 195
Putting A Plan Into Action . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . CRM Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Email Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Blog Resources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Additional Software Tools . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Recommended Readings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 197 201 201 202 202 204
There are many absolutes in sales, but one supersedes all others: In order to earn business you must be invited to the table. You “Must be present to win”. Another absolute is that your chances of winning are directly affected by the stature with which you enter the equation. I call this your Credibility Upon Entry (CUE). This book is a collection of tools, techniques and processes designed to increase your effectiveness in these two areas. While there are many stages in the sales process, without an effective means to execute the first two, the rest become useless. Many of the ideas presented will increase your effectiveness throughout the sales process but our focus will be on getting you to the closing table, poised to win. This book will help you build a set of processes and tools to dramatically increase your presence, find more opportunities and increase your close rate. Best of all, many of the components are automated. They work 24 hours a day to promote you and your business and they do so more efficiently and with better results than you could possibly achieve alone.
“Must be present to win.”
New advances in sales have been absent for at least 30 years.
It’s no secret that cold-calling no longer works well. It’s a fact that you spend more than half of your time working on deals that you have little chance of winning. And it’s an unfortunate truth that less than one quarter of your time is spent actually selling. With the tools and technologies available to sales professionals today, these truths will no longer limit your success. The concepts embedded in this book have been in use since the onset of trading and selling. An example is traditional professional networking. Networking has always been the process of forging relationships that will capture future business. Well-executed networks continue to generate business with very little maintenance. The same is true with the Passive Pipeline, but on a much grander scale. Networking will always be a staple of the business community, but there are dozens of new, more effective techniques emerging that are easy to use and less taxing on our most precious resource…time! In addition to increasing your market presence, these techniques will create a sphere of influence around your sales process that will make it nearly impossible for competitors to derail you. There have been tremendous advances in technology in the last ten years, and the opportunities they present in sales are staggering. Unfortunately, most traditional sales wisdom was established before these new tools were invented or widely accepted.
“My belief and experience is that if people have a better model, better skills and if they get better results, they will change. Otherwise they will fall back on what they know, even if it seems dysfunctional.” – Mahan Khalsa
In fact, it’s often acknowledged that new innovations in sales process have been absent for at least 30 years. Fortunately there have recently been major developments in Sales 2.0 tools, though adoption of these tools has not yet hit critical mass. In this book, I plan to show you ways to advance your own selling practices beyond the majority. Many sales professionals are already using the techniques I will discuss and these early adopters are cashing in. Others are so busy trying to reach quota and are too entrenched to realize they’re being left behind. A power shift is ensuing in our field between those who embrace technology and those who do not. It will become increasingly harder for those who don’t embrace technology and new methods to capture business. The gap between sales professionals who understand how to be effective in today’s business climate and those who don’t is widening every day. At this very moment, by reading this book, you have a head start. It will be years before widespread change occurs. Even if changing the way you work seems a little daunting, get started now. Seize this opportunity to advance your sales career to a new level!
What You Will Learn
Sell Smarter is a series of tools and techniques that operate on the same premise as networking: build your pipeline, infuse your influence via the network, and increase your income, all while spending your time working with high-potential prospects and adding a great deal of value to their buying process. Each component of this system serves this purpose in some way, while the core of creating a passive pipeline chains these components together to create a perpetual business-building process requiring minimal upkeep. The ideas we will discuss cover two major components: 1. The first are the tools and techniques designed to positively impact your sales, either through generating opportunities, securing the opportunities you have, or enhancing your influence and outreach, all while saving you a tremendous amount of time. 2. The second component involves chaining all of these tools and techniques together to unlock their real power. The entire process creates an automated, cyclical pipeline-building “machine” with many points of entry and a single uniform purpose. Skillfully intertwining these ideas will elevate the effectiveness and professionalism with which you work.
What it can do for you.
Here are some of the things you will accomplish in the following chapters; Your prospective clients will prefer to do business with you, before you ever even speak to them. You will manage your prospects’ buying and selection process with exclusive authority. You will know who is buying before they ever tell you (or your competition). You can create at least three times more opportunities than you are capable of generating with your current efforts. You will become an invaluable resource to your prospects, someone whose expertise they would not consider moving forward without. You will obtain the most comprehensive set of demographic and contact data possible for your market. You will be able to execute the most precise and effective prospecting efforts possible, without wasting your time on ineffective and outdated methods. You will build a highly visible list of professional references that will turn your contacts into your greatest lead source and eliminate the need for self-promotion. You will save hours every week in building your business,
Own your territory.
while seeing exponentially better results. You will effortlessly build tremendous credibility that will increase your stature before ever interacting with a prospect. You can “own” your territory in a manner that was never before possible. You can be the first person into every deal you work. You will close more business, make your boss smile, frame your next W2 and steal your competitor’s commission!
These are pretty aggressive goals, and without the advances in technology over the last 10 years, they would be impossible. Sales is a fast moving occupation. We tend to get so overwhelmed with the task at hand that we fail to recognize innovation. Our profession as a whole is notorious for being stuck on what worked yesterday (in some cases it didn’t even work then). Small pockets of sales professionals such as real estate and recruiting have admirably embraced change and have found great success in doing so. The biggest change that will work to our advantage is that these tools and techniques are no longer exclusive to those with tremendous resources and technical savvy. The learning curve is gone. Anyone can use these techniques with similar results, but the reality is that not many are today. You still have a great opportunity to outmaneuver your competition.
Imagine if the following were true: You could be alerted when a prospect was evaluating a competitor’s product or service. Prospects sought you out for advice and expertise at the beginning of the buying process. You could see in real time when a prospect or client opened your email or visited your website. Your sales presentations were more relevant and more valuable. You were involved with every buying process in your territory. You could be alerted when potential clients were unhappy with your competition.
All of these things (and many more) are already possible. The next few pages contain three real-world examples of how we can leverage widely available technology to increase our sales and outsmart our competition. As you’re reading the next few pages, ask yourself how these scenarios differ from your current business practices. Focus on not only the practice being executed, but also the ease and “passiveness” with which it is performed.
Email marketing that isn’t targeted is useless.
Real-World Example #1 Yesterday I received a press release from our marketing department regarding a client in the banking business. Within five minutes, I had personally emailed every contact I had in the financial industry. The email included a note stating that I thought their team might find the attached article of interest. I also included several links to various articles I wrote and published on the web, to product pages, to downloads, and I closed with a call to action. This is pretty basic, right? You can do all of this today, right? But do you? The real WOW factor came a little later in the day. By utilizing one of the tools we will discuss later, I was able to see who opened my email, whether it was forwarded to any coworkers, and precisely which links in the email were followed. Sounding better? My call to action had prompted a few responses already, but what about the ones that hadn’t responded? I noticed a contact I hadn’t spoken with for some time had downloaded the RFP template that was included as a link in my email. I called and told her I noticed she had downloaded the template. I had the opportunity to chat with her regarding her future business plans. I asked her the following questions:
The days of ineffective practices are numbered.
“Is your team planning to source in the near future?”; “Would you like a sample business case that some of my clients have used in the past to sell the project to executives?”; and “Anything else I can help you out with?” Using traditional practices, this would have been just another marketing email sent off into the abyss. I would have never known that she visited our website, or that she was even interested in buying at this time. This particular contact is just one of a couple dozen that took measurable action as a result of this email. Realistically, I probably never would have sent this email if it weren’t for my Passive Pipeline. I simply never had the time or the data for precision marketing of this nature. If you’re like most people, you may send out a mass (untargeted) email or newsletter once or twice a month. Once in a while you may even get a response and close new business. The days of those ineffective practices are numbered. We will discuss some more amazing things you can do with your marketing efforts in 2009.
My prospect was following me.
Real-World Example #2: (this one hits on several fronts) Establish yourself as a sought-after expert in your field. Have prospects that want and prefer to do business with you, before you even speak to them. Manage your prospects’ buying and selection processes with exclusive authority. Know who is buying before they ever tell you (or anyone else). Be the first person into every deal you work.
Blogging is a very important opportunity for sales professionals, so I have dedicated an entire chapter to it. We’ve all heard of blogging, and tens of thousands of people make a living at it, but what you might not know is that it can be the #1 source of new opportunities for your business. Today, I noticed that a top-level manager for a company I have been courting for over a year downloaded an RFP template (the same one I mentioned in the previous example) that I had posted on my blog. This in itself is a great thing because the template was authored by my company and was understandably in our favor. I called the contact to follow up and ask him about his current plans for sourcing this solution.
Establish yourself as an expert in your field.
As the conversation progressed, I learned that my blog had a direct feed into his team’s intranet site and that they had been following it for some time. Furthermore, they found my articles very useful and began to use my insight as a measure of their project strategy as they moved forward. I cannot imagine a better example of Credibility Upon Entry (CUE). Not only did this prospect see me as an expert, his team was using my materials to develop their strategy. On top of that, I was able to manage the buying process through my RFP template. I was now the first person in the deal and the prospect was predisposed to rely on my expertise. How hard do you think it’s going to be for another salesperson to get the upper hand in a sales process like this? Real-World Example #3: Prior to my calls in both of the previous examples, I was able to, from within my contact management software: See all relevant company data including size, locations, competitors, etc. Determine any contacts I had in common with the person I was calling including current and past employers (e.g. Dave used to work at IBM with Joe’s current boss) See buying triggers including acquisitions, jop openings, news
announcements, etc. These are just a few examples of how the tools we will cover can be combined to elevate your business to a new level. There are dozens more in the pages of this book. The power of combining these strategies is even greater the more tactics you utilize. “These things won’t work for me!” As I was writing this book, I thought about the salespeople who are process-regimented and not creatively encouraged. I played devil’s advocate for a minute and went over the possible scenarios: “that’s not how my company works” – mine either. “my company handles all of our marketing efforts” – mine too. “my company dictates what email programs and relationship management software I use” – mine too. “I don’t have time for all of this stuff” – neither did I, which is exactly why I had to embrace and develop these techniques.
My point is that I am well aware of the typical structure and tools available on today’s sales floor. The good news is, these tools won’t turn your company upside down or mean that a battle with IT is imminent. I have worked for two organizations in the past 10 years, each with very different requirements and procedures. In both, I was able to deploy and develop the techniques in this book with very little
Implement the ideas that make sense for you.
I have also used these practices in my own businesses. Those of you working independantly or running your own business will have even more flexibility in building your Passive Pipeline. You don’t need to adopt everything presented in this book to make a dramatic impact on your business. While the ultimate power of the Passive Pipeline is in using all of the tools combined, don’t be afraid to start with the few you think will provide the greatest benefit. You can do away with the tools that don’t make sense for your business. I don’t use them all in my 9-5 (err…7-7) job. Some of them are not a good fit. Some of the ideas make more sense for my other endeavors. The more ideas you can adapt to your business, the better the results.
Adopt or Perish.
Adopt Or Perish
We need to face the fact that there are people working smarter and more efficiently than we are. If we don’t start to recognize that the business climate has changed and start using the powerful tools available to us, someone else will. Your competition might be three chapters ahead of you in this very book. Start today and stop letting someone else steal your commission!
I’m not an established author, sales coach, or motivational speaker. What I am is a top performing Enterprise Sales Professional with a creative mind and a knack for technology and writing. I am a student of sales, a believer in helping my clients succeed, and an observer of human nature. And one more...I have been able to remain at the top of the sales board for nearly my entire career by defying tradition and finding new ways to excel. When I first entered the sales profession, I pounded the phones to make contacts and attempt to secure clients because that’s the way I was taught. I was in a competitive industry at the time (I still am), and I quickly realized I was going to need a more effective way to build my pipeline and get a head start on my better-known and more seasoned competitors. My natural curiosity, computer savvy, and desire to excel began forming the ideas that evolved into this book. This was only nine years ago, but it may as well have been a million years because of the way technology advances. As I began learning and applying the strategies I will be discussing in this book, I presented a problem for my employers. I was at the top of the sales board (usually by a good margin), but I didn’t employ many of the practices they were teaching and measuring. In some cases, they stopped posting certain metrics because they didn’t want the
Embrace today’s tools.
rest of the sales staff to see that I had the highest sales and the lowest “metrics” of anyone on the sales floor. I was doing very much the opposite of what was taught and required of salespeople. Luckily, some managers were accepting of my “alternative” ideas, and some converted, but this was not always the case. I’ve been called un-teachable, difficult and lazy (though not according to my sales numbers). Yet I’ve had former employers later request that I teach them about the methods I was using to succeed. Technology has provided advantages that weren’t available when the “legendary” sales books were written, or when your supervisor entered sales, or when your company’s founders established their “tried and true” sales system. It’s time to embrace today’s tools and take our profession to a new level.
Love what you do.
I absolutely love what I do and I hold a 110% conviction that we maintain one of the most important, challenging and respectable jobs that exists. You’ve probably heard the phrase “nothing happens until someone sells something”. It’s true, and it breaks my heart to see salespeople who, by using senseless, unfocused methods, are perpetuating the false notion that we are to be avoided and mistrusted. As I developed the practices I will be sharing with you, I had no intention of writing a book. I didn’t really think what I was doing was that uncommon. I was simply trying to discover a better way to succeed in my profession. If I was going to be doing sales for the long haul, then I was determined to make the most of it. Over the last couple of years, I really started to develop a system for my approach to business. Technology became integral and allowed me to do my work even more efficiently. When I finally stopped long enough to evaluate my evolving business approach, I came to an unexpected conclusion: my techniques really were unique. I began to look around for other resources: books, seminars, workshops; any means to help me expand my skills. I rapidly came to the conclusion that this type of support didn’t exist for sales professionals. I had to rely on books and seminars for Internet entrepreneurs and online
marketing experts to learn more. It was frustrating because no educational opportunities were put into a context that spoke to our profession. The great authors and speakers and coaches in the sales world had either missed these advances or chose to ignore them. I think it was simply because they were unfamiliar concepts and widely unadopted. There are hundreds of books published every year about the human and psychological aspects of sales, selling style, how to ask questions, negotiating and creating rapport, the way that business is evolving, and how we must adapt. To date, there is little about how technology can be used in sales to do our jobs more effectively. There is not a single book targeted at sales professionals regarding the effective use of a CRM system, online personal business networking, or targeted email campaigns at the sales representative level. No one can argue with the fact that the greatest impact in the last 50 years of business evolution is technology. However, when was the last time you read anything about using technology in a sales book? You may have read about how to manage your time using a PDA or the “do’s and don’ts” of email marketing, but tell me about something that can really make a difference in your sales potential! There are some phenomenal sales tools available today, and they will play an important role in your success.
How To Use This Book
This book is composed of both explanation and application. I recommend you read through once to fully understand the concepts. Don’t stop and begin work in any one area. After your first reading, it will serve as a workbook and you can begin to implement the ideas immediately. While engaged in this book, make note of the concepts and methodologies that can be applied to your business. While most people will find all the concepts are applicable, certain elements will have a more substantial and immediate impact. Focus on implementing those ideas first; move on to the others later. As I have mentioned, the real power of what you will learn will be realized when several of these ideas are working together simultaneously. However, don’t attempt to pull all the methods together at one time, as you will likely find yourself overwhelmed. This may result in several half-attempts resulting in your failing to obtain the benefits of each concept. Software & Links Throughout the book you will see references to software, websites and blogs. Whenever possible, I have included a direct link to the software download, article, website, etc. At the time this book was
Understand, then implement.
The tools are easy to use.
published all links were active. If any of the links stop working, please email me at justyn@ passivepipeline.com. The majority of the tools and services discussed in this book are either free or available at a very low cost. They are also all easy to use.
The Broken Model
The world of buying and selling is constantly changing, while mysteriously our approach to sales is not. Unfortunately, mediocre selling and buying practices have become the norm over the years, leaving buyers skeptical and sellers willing to compromise in order to make a sale. The more prospects resist, the more disconnected our selling practices become. For success in sales today, we have to identify means to change the apathy in the sales industry and deliver value to our prospective customers in a different, more subtle, (but quite deliberate) fashion. Buyers today have what are often unreasonable expectations. You must know how to meet the consumers’ needs but they provide you with little or no useful information with which to do so. Because of past experiences and skepticism, some buyers attempt to answer all of their own questions and then simply look for the best bid. If buyers truly had the expertise to pull this off, they wouldn’t need outside vendors at all. The buyer’s request or demand that no meaningful discussion take place between you and the very people whose needs are meant to be met. If you sell to businesses, you’ve likely heard, “it’s all in the RFP.” If you want to secure a sale, you must follow the outlined process and ask all
Buyers have unreasonable expectations.
questions in a public forum. By no means are you to vary from these rules. Any attempts to consult directly with the business owners or to uncover what really needs to transpire in order to meet their needs are often met with scrutiny and you will probably (unknowingly) be labeled as “difficult.” In an honest effort to do what is in the best interest of the client, you are seen as making the buyer’s job harder. In dealing with consumers, you may be perceived as just a commissioned salesperson who knows little about the product and who certainly doesn’t have the consumer’s best interests in mind. Consumers have been conditioned to avoid and mistrust salespeople even more than corporate buyers, though it’s usually a silent matter. The sad reality is that the buyers are not to blame for this scenario. Salespeople have been using inadequate selling practices for so long that the consumer’s suspicion is justified. You can’t take it personally. The problem stems from thousands of salespeople before you who made buyers feel compromised. Executives have had their time wasted. Receptionists have been reprimanded for allowing salespeople through. Salespeople continuously cold-call people who have no interest in the product or service being offered and add absolutely no value to the prospect’s day. These are just a few examples, but you get the idea. The skepticism we face is, in most ways, justified. It’s not personal, but it’s very real.
Commit to working above the standard.
As a result we have been trained to get past the “gatekeeper.” We have learned how to leave vague or urgent messages that prompt a response. We develop “elevator pitches” to sell our product in 30 seconds (because we are conditioned to think that’s all the time a salesperson should expect to get). As much as I would like to see a change in this grim reality, it’s unlikely to happen (at least not in the next couple of lifetimes). What we can do is commit to working above the standard that exists in sales today. If we can infuse the system with more effective practices, we will be able to disassociate ourselves from this pattern. Change is urgently needed. We’re never going to be exceptionally successful in sales if we must continually battle the poor buying and selling practices that we (as a whole) have created. Instead, we need to move forward from this point by building a new foundation which fosters success for both the buyer and seller. In the grand scheme, we can see this as an opportunity to be the trend setters for a new approach to sales. It’s much easier to stand out in a crowd when you adopt an approach that promotes a winning situation for all parties. We have the capacity to turn a poor perception of salespeople into a powerful tool for change. We ultimately want to associate with the clients who appreciate our hard work, not the ones that lump us in with the negative stereotype of what a “salesperson” is.
Value the people you serve.
In addition to providing you the ability to uncover more opportunities, this approach allows you to do so on terms that are conducive to a successful sales process. How much better do you feel about your job when you are seen as a trusted advisor to your clients rather than an annoyance? My goal is that you never experience the latter again. Sales professionals like you and I add value to the people we serve. We take our chosen profession very seriously. We are mindful of our prospective clients’ time and therefore we work hard to best meet their business goals. We don’t need an elevator pitch because the people we serve respect and value our opinions and recommendations and will allow us the time needed to help them be successful. This is my reality, and I hope it is yours. The distrust and skepticism we face in the sales industry is no reflection of the way we do business. They are part of the perception created by our cohorts and many salepeople before us. It may be surprising that something as impersonal as technology might be the key to regaining the respect and trust of our current and future clients, but it’s true.
A call without value is a prospect lost.
How Salespeople Perpetuate Dysfunctional Buying Practices
The single biggest way that salespeople perpetuate this broken model is the manner in which we solicit opportunities (prospecting). At some point in your career, you have likely been told that if you make 100 phone calls, you will speak to 10 people, book 2-3 appointments and make one sale (or some similar version of this nonsense). You are told it’s a numbers game. More contacts equates to more sales. I argue that the more ineffective calls you make, the lower your chances of success in the long run. Out of the 100 people you call, how many of them will need your product or service over the next couple of years? Many of them probably will, but how many of them do you alienate and irritate using the methods we currently employ? More often than not, those opportunities are lost forever. The fact is that a very small percentage of the people you contact are in fact ready to buy today. However, by calling these folks constantly you are putting yourself at risk of being categorized as the type of salesperson they would like to avoid. In their opinion, you are just another needy salesperson about to waste their time (especially if they don’t need what you are selling).
Stop pushing buyers away.
The consequence of this “tactic” is that prospects don’t call you back. In fact, they won’t return any of your phone calls or emails. At some point during this one-sided exchange, something important happens that most of us fail to realize: that person makes a subconscious decision at that very moment to never contact you. Even six months later when they actually need what you are selling, they will not be calling. Why? Because they have ignored you for months and they actually feel bad about it. Not only did they ignore you, but your persistence made it worse. Your sales manager may applaud your persistence; your bank account will not. The second reason you won’t be hearing from them is that because people don’t like to admit when they’re wrong. Maybe they should have called you and simply said that they didn’t need your services at that time. They didn’t call because they viewed you as the stereotypical salesperson, and they assume you’d be calling them again next week anyway. If you didn’t, another one would. Ultimately, rather than returning your calls, they will avoid the situation altogether and call someone else, even if you have the best product for their particular needs, simply to avoid any guilt. The best thing we can do is keep buyers away from that emotional pitfall. Sales are driven by emotion (and if you don’t believe that, then you probably haven’t cracked a sales book in the last decade).
Your prospect pool is not endless.
If you’re like me, you have a limited number of prospects. It might be your territory, a vertical or named accounts. The point is, you probably don’t have an endless supply of prospects. Every time you put one of your prospective clients in the situation I described above, you are essentially diminishing your territory. When your prospect list gets smaller but your quota continues to grow, what happens? You get desperate for sales. You practice below-average sales methods and you alienate your prospects even further. Traditional methods also lead to poor time management. The purpose of a cold-call (over the phone, through email or in person) is to deliver a message. Ninety percent of the time we never get that chance. This means that 54 minutes of every hour spent seeking new clients yields no results, other than to annoy the people we are trying to reach. If that same hour were spent on efforts that could reach thousands and build your Credibility Upon Entry (CUE), the results would be exponentially higher. Similarly, if that hour were spent calling on people who are actually in the market for your product or service, you could substantially increase your success. There are three possible outcomes of cold-calling: that you will not reach the intended contact, that the person will not be interested in what you have to sell, or that the person is ready to purchase your product or service.
Be in the right place ALL the time.
None of those scenarios have much value to you. “But the person is ready to buy!” you say. Sure, but other circumstances need to be considered. Another salesperson (maybe more than one) is probably already leading the charge. They either had an inside line or they were simply in the right place at the right time. Maybe they even reached the client first because of a cold-call. The Passive Pipeline is about being in the right place ALL the time, and reaching opportunities with the right timing and credibility needed to win. I’m not saying that cold-calling will not benefit your business. One sale out of 100 calls will certainly help (though I doubt the ratio is even that high). What I am saying is that there are other ways to prospect and find opportunities. You must break the cycle of inferior sales methods while maintaining and building your professionalism and credibility. Let your competition perpetuate the poor sales processes so that when a buyer is ready, you will be their choice. There are better ways to find opportunities. The beauty of the approach taught in this book is that your prospects will begin to find and approach you, and while this was a result of your efforts, it never feels like prospecting (to you or the prospect). You build credibility before entering any sales process, and have clients who are grateful to be working with you (not the other way around).
Build your credibility and presence.
This new approach brings the client to you because of your knowledge, expertise, integrity and respectful nature. It creates a brand around your very name that tells prospects that you are someone they should do business with. They didn’t find you by chance. They found you because of some very calculated efforts on your part toward building your credibility and presence. This is a perfect example of how a sales effort doesn’t have to mean being a “salesperson”. Here are a few more examples of why traditional prospecting methods don’t work: Real decision-makers rarely take time for pitches or cold-calls. The people who will take your calls don’t have real power. You have no competitive advantage when you enter the sales cycle using these methods. You are constantly trying to prove your usefulness, simply because of the way you approached the opportunity. Gatekeepers are never going to connect you with the real decision makers. You will be passed off to someone who collects information, has little authority, or manages vendors for a living. People prefer to do business with people they seek out, not the other way around. It puts the client in control.
Do the things that work 100% of the time!
If you’re a subscriber to the 80/20 rule (it’s hard to argue with), then 80 percent of your opportunities come from 20 percent of your efforts. So the question becomes: why don’t you get rid of the other 80% and do the things that work 100% of the time? Technology and advances in sales process have allowed us to identify these effective practices, it’s no longer necessary to “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks.”
It’s our fault.
How Sales Managers Perpetuate Dysfunctional Selling Practices
Most sales managers were salespeople at one point in time. They have been operating on the same traditional buying and selling practices as everyone else. Along with the rest of us, they fail to realize that the business climate, as well as the most effective buying and selling practices, have changed. Today, the number of calls and appointments made doesn’t translate into sales. While it is an easy metric to track, if your efforts aren’t resulting in sales, it is simply activity with no results. Pushing salespeople to consistently court buyers who aren’t ready to buy is not going to work either. Accepted sales “wisdom” tells you it’s all about persistence. While it’s true that persistence is paramount to success, persisting in doing the wrong things has no real purpose. Traditional sales theory (especially around prospecting) simply does not apply in today’s business environment. Most sales managers (and salespeople) also operate under the misconception that the product with the best features or lowest price will succeed. Most managers don’t attach enough importance to the CUE with which you enter the sales process. Finding opportunities and failing to turn them into business is worse than not finding an opportunity at all because of the drain on your time and resources.
There are many other factors at play that create such a misguided buying/selling relationship. We have marketing departments that that waste our time with unqualified leads, CRM software that we were never properly trained to use and unrealistic urgency pushed upon us that leads to more frantic and disconnected sales effort. Most studies reveal that we spend less than two hours a day actually selling. The rest of the time is spent on ineffective prospecting, working with CRM systems that aren’t working for us, forecasting sales, and sitting in meetings, among other things. The two hours that we do spend selling are primarily wasted on unlikely opportunities, trying to force-feed our expertise to prospects or inefficiently drafting responses and communications. We are spread too thin, which has, in part, led to our inefficiency and lack of success. The good news is that the practices, tools and techniques needed to correct the situation are readily available. I’d like to recap the outcomes this book can deliver:
The tools are readily available.
Successfully obtain prospects that want and prefer to do business with you, before you ever speak to them. Directly manage your prospects’ buying and selection process with exclusive authority. Know who is in a position to buy before the client tells you (or or your competition).
Get better results.
Create at least three times the opportunities you are capable of generating with your current efforts. Effectively establish yourself as a sought-after expert in your field. Obtain the most comprehensive set of demographic and contact data possible for your market. Execute the most precise and effective prospecting efforts possible, without ever picking up the phone or asking for the “person who handles such-and-such”. Build a highly visible list of professional references which will make any competing sales person wonder why they even attempted to take your commission. Save hours (days in some cases) every week in building your business while seeing exponentially better results. Locate and be introduced to the people you want to do business with, and present them with a “billboard” of your credibility before ever interacting with them. “Own” your territory in a manner that was never before possible. Be the first person into every deal you work. Close more business, make your boss smile, frame your next W2 and steal your competitor’s commission!
A better way.
Here are two very different approaches to courting a prospect which summarize the ideas presented in this book: With the traditional model: You have a list of companies to call and dial furiously to make just a couple of connections. Ninety percent of the people you reach become irritated and make a mental decision not to work with you. Maybe two or three agree to an appointment. Of these, few have any buying authority. You may spend months trying to convince them to buy your product or service when the people with authority don’t have a need for your product or don’t even know you’ve called. Or, you may find a legitimate buyer with a genuine need, but you are the ninth vendor they have spoken to! This is not a sales model I choose to participate in. A Smarter Model: A buyer finds you because you have established a presence through your passive pipeline. The buyer contacts you. You have now entered the sales process on an equal footing with the prospective client and you are no longer perceived as a salesperson. You help the buyer manage the purchasing process, provide them with useful information, and begin to mutually explore solutions with them.
Set the standard.
The buyer is thrilled and satisfied to be working with you. The sales cycle is shortened, and if by chance more vendor quotes are required, they are simply accepted as a matter of process. Other vendors and salespeople are being measured against the standard that you have set. In addition to this buyer, thousands of other potential prospects are finding you through your Passive Pipeline. You are seen as a professional and you have the luxury of only working deals you have a high probability of winning. Final Thoughts Before We Move On . . . I’m going to get off the soapbox now and detail exactly how you can start using technology to make today’s selling climate work in your favor. Much of what you will read in the next few chapters will be entirely new to you. You may start to wonder why these techniques have not been made available before. Let me address that now. These are not new ideas. They are proven and they work. Many top performing salespeople, real estate professionals and internet businesses are using them today with exceptional results. The concepts we will explore have simply never been widely applied to professional selling.
“No one has ever found success by doing the same things tomorrow that resulted in mediocrity today.”
Great authors, speakers, and sales coaches of our time simply are not in tune with the new resources available to us today. They are superb in teaching the human aspect of selling, closing, prospecting, time management and so on. I am not in any way discounting the excellent speakers and authors out there and I think we should continue to rely on the best of them for guidance. I simply think we need to augment these teachings to match the pace at which the business climate is changing. These are uncharted and unfamiliar waters to most people in the sales industry. Human nature often resists change in favor of what’s comfortable and familiar. But the sales world is no longer a comfortable place. Chances are you aren’t satisfied with your current selling situation or you wouldn’t be reading this book. No one has ever found success by doing the same things tomorrow that resulted in mediocrity today.
Quick Tips: Selling
Quick Tips: Professional Selling
The most important sales skills you will ever learn come from a true desire to help your clients succeed. You must invest time to stay abreast of your industry. Don’t let someone else come to the table that is more knowledgeable than you. Your relationship with your sales management team is the relationship that will have the biggest impact on your success. If your boss is demanding more of an activity that isn’t yielding any results, it’s time to have a chat. Determine with your boss at what point a different approach is required to achieve the results you both want. Top performance requires rest. Don’t beat yourself up for downtime. Take it when you need it and enjoy it. When you need to shut down, shut down completely. Show gratitude to your internal support team (product managers, operations, marketing, etc.). Anyone who has a hand in your success or product delivery deserves your appreciation. By working as a complete team, you will accomplish your work faster and your clients will be given priority. Very few salespeople reward and thank their internal support teams.
Nobody cares how much you forecast at the beginning of the month; they care how much you close at the end. Don’t fall into the common trap of feeling pressured to project a large number. You will only destroy your credibility with your management team. Be honest with yourself and your boss, despite your ego. If you can’t be consistently +/- 15%, lean towards being a “sandbagger” as opposed to a dreamer. Whenever possible, do the things that really charge you up. If one form of prospecting gets you going and gets results, do more of it. If face-to-face meetings leave you feeling accomplished, schedule more of them. Don’t mistake this with doing the things that are easy; you don’t want your results to suffer in favor of fun. Some of us run at peak performance during our busiest times. When this crosses the line to stress, make an effort to manage that. Stress comes with the territory, but learning to manage (and eliminate) it can help your career and enrich your life. Become an expert on setting goals. There are tons of books and online resources. Being able to effectively plan and follow through with goals is the mark of very successful sales professionals. By coming into every situation with the commitment to helping your clients succeed, you can overcome any other deficiency.
Data Is Power
The Power Of Data In Sales Most of us have that little plastic keychain card that saves us a few bucks at the local grocery store, but do you know that these cards have become standard not only at every major retail chain in the world but also at small community businesses? It’s because these cards provide these companies with the most lucrative set of demographic and purchasing data you could imagine. This information is used to determine which products are popular in certain regions, which products have lost popularity, which coupons to print on your receipt, and which ad campaigns have been effective. The cards have both saved and earned billions of dollars for these businesses. An excellent example of the power of data collection is Amazon.com’s email marketing program. The information you receive is remarkably relevant to you. How did the folks at Amazon know those books would interest you? How did they know to leave irrelevant books out of this valuable advertising space? Amazon.com is amazing at utilizing data to increase their outreach and ultimately their sales. On the other hand, I receive marketing material (even from very well known companies) containing products or services that I have absolutely no interest in purchasing or using. Intuitively, I think these
Utilize data properly.
Relevant, accurate data is your #1 resource.
companies are crazy for spending the time and money on marketing these items to me. There’s a good chance you are doing the same thing to your contacts. Ask yourself a few simple questions: Do they really have any need for what you are sending them? Is there relevant information in every communication that you send? Are they even involved in the buying process for what you sell? If so, have you appropriately related your material to their specific role in that process? Do you know what that role is? Here’s an embarrassing scenario: are your existing clients getting emails about buying a product they already own? If they are, you need to re-evaluate your marketing strategies. What does this relay to your clients about your professionalism? I recently signed up for a workshop offered by a leading Internet Marketing firm. A few days later, I received an email asking why I hadn’t reserved a seat and stating that if I didn’t act soon the workshop would be filled. I wondered how a prominent internet marketing company could make such a simple mistake. They simply hadn’t utilized data properly. Even the best businesses falter from time to time, but it is important to be cognizant of how professional your efforts appear in the public domain. Data is the key.
Lay the proper foundation for success.
Customer Relationship Management Software
Before we go any further, it is important that we lay the proper foundation. Accurate data that is easy to manage is one of the most important tools a sales professional can have. Further, many of the other ideas presented in this book depend on it. The typical vehicle for housing data for sales professionals is a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software tool. These have also come to be known as Sales Force Automation (SFA) platforms. CRM systems come in a few flavors. There are standalone applications which operate on a single computer (like Act!), Enterprise systems which are typically housed on a company’s network (Microsoft CRM, Sales Logix), and increasingly popular Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions which are simply accessed through your web browser (Salesforce.com, Landslide, Sugar CRM). These systems vary widely in interface, ease of use, and reporting capabilities, but they all serve the same purpose. Most salespeople and managers confuse the purpose of these systems. CRM systems do not simply hold contact information or provide reports for management.
Operate ten times more efficiently.
Your company has wasted a great deal of money if this is how they use their CRM systems and in turn, you are wasting a great deal of time and opportunities if this is how you are using it. If you asked 100 salespeople to share their feelings about their CRM tools, 99 of them will tell you that it’s a hindrance, that it consumes too much time, and that it interferes with the sales process. When you find the one person who lights up and tells you how lucky they are to have such a tool, and how they operate ten times more efficiently using it, hire that person. If they already work for you, give them a raise and sit them near their colleagues who don’t quite get it yet. Management is primarily to blame for the failed adoption of CRM solutions by salespeople. The problem typically falls into one of two categories: either the salespeople were never properly trained to use the system, or the company itself treats the CRM system as a digital rolodex. Most often, a company trains sales staff in the points and clicks of the software but fails to train employees in why proper use of the CRM tool is so important. It is often the case that the management team doesn’t fully understand CRMs capabilities either. The decision to buy a CRM solution often falls in the hands of the IT department. By the time the software reaches the end-user, the value to the sales organization is lost. The system is seen by salespeople as a burden with no value, and millions of dollars have been wasted.
Are you capturing all the data you need?
Assessing Your Current Solution It’s time to find out where you stand in terms of your current CRM tool. If you are currently using Salesforce.com, Microsoft CRM, Act! or another popular product, then you are in good shape. If you’re not sure how well your current solution stacks up, answer the questions below: 1. Are you able to properly capture all data that is relevant to your line of work? Or, do you find yourself without the fields required to properly capture all the data you need? 2. Can you easily sort or group your contacts based on a specific set of criteria (location, employee size, industry, etc.)? 3. Is the system flexible enough to allow you to specify several criteria on which to report or with which to view your data (location + company size + industry, etc.)? 4. Can you save the criteria you selected to easily go back and see an updated view? 5. Can you export this data in a commonly usable form (Excel, HTML, Text, etc.)? If you are unsure, try all of this with your current system. Make a list of all the relevant contact information you want to store, and then ask yourself, is there a place for it all in your CRM package? Try to view
Look at your options.
a list of contacts that are in the banking industry and are located in a specific town. Now see what options you have for retrieving that specific “view” out of the system. If you were able to answer “yes” to all of the above questions, or if you use one of the tools I mentioned earlier, then you can skip the next few pages of this book. If you answered “no”, you’ll need to look at your options. If you are part of a large sales team that has a standardized CRM system, do a little more research. Chances are it has the functionality I mentioned, but you weren’t trained properly. If the standardized system doesn’t suit your needs, determine whether you can use another system. Personally, I would not work for an employer who didn’t provide the functionality I required to do my job well or didn’t allow me to use alternatives tools. If you’re feeling defeated right now because you’re absolutely stuck with a system that won’t meet your needs, there is a final option. Ask for a Microsoft Excel® export of your entire database (just your records) and spend some time learning how to manipulate it. You will be able to achieve the desired results using Excel, they just requires a few more steps. CRM products are essentially just databases themselves, but they offer a prettier interface and apply some compelling business logic.
Choosing A CRM Tool If you don’t currently use a CRM tool, or if you are feeling compelled to re-evaluate your CRM after reading the last section, I will outline a few options available to you. In my opinion, you are in an enviable situation if you are planning to use a new CRM tool. You have a clean slate and my organizational habits love a clean slate! No fat-fingered data entry from previous salespeople to clean up and no stagnant contacts. On the next few pages you will find summaries of rthe eadily available tools which I think are best suited for today’s salesperson. Don’t consider this a comprehensive list. There may be a product built for your specific industry that offers a lot of convenient tools. The options I have reviewed simply represent the CRM tools I find to be popular and feature-rich. For what it’s worth, I use Microsoft CRM for my primary job and Salesforce.com/Landslide for my other business ventures.
Publisher: Salesforce.com Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Free Single User Version: Yes Cost: Free for Personal Edition. Team and Enterprise versions start around $65 per user per month.
Salesforce .com Salesforce Automation (sfa)
Description “Reps need solutions that make their jobs easier, not more complicated. Salesforce gives them fast access to data—online, offline, and via mobile devices—and links easily to popular tools like Microsoft Office and Outlook. With a user interface rated “simple and intuitive” by PC Magazine, Salesforce is the one SFA solution every sales rep will love and use.” –Salesforce.com My Review Salesforce.com has taken the CRM industry by storm and for good reason. First and foremost, it does everything a salesperson could ever ask of a CRM product. Second and maybe most important to you, they offer a free single user version. Concerns My primary word of caution about this product is that you need a browser to use the non-enterprise versions. If you don’t have a constant internet connection (or have a slow one) this may not work well for you. With the absence of “views” in the personal versions, the user can still use the report builder to meet the same objective but it’s not quite as powerful.
Publisher: Microsoft Dynamics Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes (30 days) Free Single User Version: No Cost: Starts around $395/user annually, though you may be able to find it cheaper.
Microsoft Dynamics CRM
Description “Microsoft Dynamics CRM is a customer relationship management (CRM) solution that provides the tools and capabilities needed to create and easily maintain a clear picture of customers, from first contact through to purchase and post-sales. With modules for sales, marketing, and customer service, Microsoft Dynamics CRM delivers a fast, flexible, and affordable solution that drives consistent, measurable improvements in every business process, enabling closer relationships with customers and helping to achieve new levels of profitability.” –Microsoft.com My Review As I mentioned, this is the tool that I use in my daily job. Microsoft Dynamics is a powerhouse and really delivers on functionality. One of my favorite features of this CRM is its excellent out-of-the-box query engine. Concerns Microsoft Dynamics CRM is not as user-friendly as some of the other systems. The standard import tool is limited, and the available documentation for this product is difficult to obtain and not very comprehensive. Finally, and this may just be my experience, the email tool built into Microsoft Dynamics CRM leaves a lot to be desired.
Publisher: Landslide.com Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes (6 Months) - here Free Single User Version: No Cost: Not Available. Licensing beyond trial requires 5+ seats. Author’s Choice!
LandSlide Sales Production System
Description “As a Sales Production System, Landslide’s Sales P3 is a new category of sales software that helps move deals faster through your pipeline. While SFA/CRM systems focus on capturing data about your pipeline & customers, the focus of a Sales Production System is on helping salespeople close more deals faster - with predictability and replicability” –Landslide.com My Review Landslide is a breath of fresh air in the contact/opportunity management space. It delivers all of the tools you would expect, while being more aligned with your actual sales process. It’s really in a league of its own, conceptually new, and certainly worth a look. Concerns This product is for forward thinking sales organizations. It’s going to be tough to get traditional-minded leaders to abandon their existing, traditional CRM solutions. To maximize its potential, this product also requires that you take a deep look at your sales process, which requires some work.
Publisher: Sage Software Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes (30 days) Free Single User Version: No Cost: Currently $230 for the single user version.
Description “ACT! enables individuals and small business customers to instantly access key contact and customer information, manage and prioritize activities, and track all contact-related communications. It fosters the growth of productive business relationships. Renowned for its ease of use, ACT! can be tailored by each user and offers robust integration with the tools you use everyday.” –Sage Software My Review Act! has everything you need and is feature-rich. Outisde of my research for this review, I have never used the product, but I have known many salespeople that are committed to it. It also provides a desktop installation so you do not need connectivity to use it. The built-in integrations with Microsoft Word and Excel are solid. The product is updated frequently and current owners upgrade for a minimal fee. Concerns As an individual user, I would go with Salesforce.com’s free product. As a large organization, I would choose Salesforce.com or Microsoft Dynamics CRM. For a small- to medium-sized team that requires data to be shared and centrally stored/reported on, Act! is a great solution.
The time spent cleansing your data will have tremendous rewards. This step is vital!
CRM Setup Notes
A new CRM system requires that you do two tasks right away. The first is to create custom fields you will want for your contacts and accounts. CRM software allows the user to add custom fields because everyone’s needs are different. The fields you choose to add will vary depending on what you sell and your target audience. Note: Custom fields in Salesforce.com, Act! 2009 and personal versions of Microsoft Dynamics CRM are simple to set up. If you are running a network-based version of these tools, the custom fields are set up by your administrator. In this case, contact your administrator and simply ask them to add the desired fields. The second thing you need to do is to import any of your existing data. Unfortunately, I don’t have the space in this book to explain how to achieve this for every CRM product, but the applications I have mentioned are fairly straightforward. Accessible documentation is included to walk you through a complete data import (with the exception of Microsoft Dynamics CRM). Before you import your existing data, take a look at the next section to cleanse your data before you bring it in.
Prepare to sell smarter.
Whether you’ve chosen to stay with your current CRM tool or are about to import existing data into a new one, it’s important to cleanse your data. Your data will be less effective if not cleaned properly. I’ll give you a real-life example: A previous salesperson in my territory couldn’t understand the last name of one of his contacts. So he entered “Can’t Understand Name” in the last name field. We regularly plug a person’s first or last name directly into email campaigns to personalize them. As a result, this poor contact has been getting emails addressed to Mr. Can’t Understand Name. How embarrassing for us and frustrating for him! Another mistake to be wary of are names entered in ALL CAPS or all lower case characters. This is undesirable for the obvious reasons. It’s also important to augment the data you already have. Incomplete information is of little value. If you plan to target a specific industry, but half of your contacts don’t have an industry associated with them, you won’t be able to use the sorting and other features of your CRM software to their full advantage. You’re going to spend a lot of time on this cleanup, but the good news is, when it’s all done, you’ll be staring at a gold mine!
Define: Clean Data
Here is a list of things to do to clean your data: 1. Do a search for any accounts (companies) that don’t have contact records associated with them. Unless there is a compelling reason not to, delete these accounts. They are only place holders. If there is pertinent information in the record, then why doesn’t it have a contact? 2. Print (or export) a list of all of your accounts. Find any duplicates, and merge the records together. This is usually done in a few clicks. 3. View, Print or Export all of your contacts. Look for any oddities in the capitalization of names (all caps, all lowercase, etc.) and correct these for consistency. 4. Do a search for any contacts or accounts that don’t have data in the fields which you will use to target your audience (industry, employee size, etc.). Spend some time now to complete all of this information. Missing data is a good reason to reach out to your clients and have conversations under the guise of cleaning up your records. You can gain additional information and contacts easily, primarily because it isn’t technically a sales call. 5. Find any accounts that don’t belong in your database. If you work in territories, look for accounts that aren’t located in your region. If you work in verticals, get rid of the companies that don’t match. If you work a specific company size, eliminate companies that don’t
Do not skip this step.
match your size criteria. I don’t mean permanently delete these records, but get them out of your database and let your sales manager deal with them. You may be hesitant to drop accounts, but why clutter up your database and spend your time marketing to a client base that is outside your area of expertise? 6. Look for contacts that don’t have a company associated with them. Unless you sell to individuals, match them up with an account or delete them. During this process, instead of doing laborious manual searches, plug your criteria in and let the software find them for you. In the next chapter I will show you exactly how to build queries. If you are unfamiliar with how to do the things I’ve described above, consult the program’s “help” menu or someone who is experienced with the product. Data cleansing is vital. If you complete this right now, and in any future data imports, you will never have to clean data again! If you settle for incomplete or inaccurate data now, your effectiveness will be cut in half, at least.
Open up new levels of efficiency.
The Power Of Queries
The concept of a “query” is not one many people are familiar with. Most people think a query is simply jargon for searching. While that’s fundamentally true, the real value of queries is that they are stored for future use. You can define the criteria or “rules” of your query once, and get a snapshot of all records matching those criteria at any point in time. Next to having clean data, learning to build queries is the most important (and beneficial) asset to effective use of your CRM. If you learn how to properly query your data, a new level of efficiency will open up to you. I have close to 50 queries saved in my CRM and I use them all the time. Within 30 seconds, I can see just about any group or subgroup I need. Send an email to everyone whose name starts with “T” and who works for a company that has franchise locations, you say? Probably not something I would realistically need to do, but easily possible using queries. I have separate saved views for all contacts within each industry I market to. I also have a modified version which includes only contacts with email addresses.
I have saved views for every relationship type (client, prospect, analyst,
media, etc.) and views for just about anything else I need. If you were to look over the shoulder of 95% of CRM users, you would find thet they either had none of their own queries built, or that they just had queries that came pre-loaded in the software (either by the publisher or by their company). This is typical, and I don’t intend to alienate anyone, but it’s also a shame. Any company that is not actively grouping and manipulating data to perform targeted sales activities is wasting money and losing business. They might as well just have a huge filing cabinet in the middle of the sales floor. If you are fortunate enough to have well-thought-out queries or views already saved in your system, get familiar with them. You will likely need to make a few changes to get them just right, which we will discuss in the next chapter. How To Build Queries That Sell The process of building a query varies by product, but in this regard all CRM products basically work in the same way. Look for an “advanced find” or “custom report” tool in your software. You will start by indicating what type of records you intend to search (contacts, accounts, opportunities, etc.).
Target your sales activities.
Next you will choose the search criteria. Most software will also
Customize your reports.
have operators such as “and” or “contains data” which allow you to complete advanced data dissections. Make sure the report is dialed in exactly the way you want it, and then save it. Afterwards, each time you run this query, it will be updated with any new data acquisitions. Some of my favorite queries: Contacts I have not contacted in last 60 days Contacts with no email (shows me where I have work to do) ______ Industry Contacts with Email Addresses Companies with > _____ employees Opportunities with <50% probability of closing (more work to do)
These are just meant to get your mental wheels spinning. Determine which queries would have been helpful over the last 6 months, or what efforts or advances you could have made if you only had ______ data. After following the steps I’ve outlined here, you now possess a tool more powerful than anything that most of your competitors have. I hope I made it clear in the beginning of this chapter that your goal is not just to become organized. It’s to build a foundation that allows you to operate more efficiently and make all of your customer interactions valuable. Your effectiveness will grow exponentially.
Turbo Charge Your CRM
There are many technologies being developed to increase the efficiency and results of a traditional CRM tool. As I’ve mentioned, CRM software is not a rolodex! It should provide insight and data modeling which allow the sales professional to be precise, relevant and intelligent about the way they approach their prospects and customers. One company that has recently made great progress toward enhancing the CRM experience is InsideView. They offer a tool called Sales View which I have found to be an incredible asset. Here’s a description from their website: “SalesView is an on-demand sales intelligence application, that brings you insights from traditional editorial sources and emerging social media to increase sales productivity and velocity.” - salesview.com In summary, the tool provides contact information, business profiles, news stories, possible connections and buying triggers for your contacts. You can see an example of a view from within Microsoft Dynamics CRM at the left (SalesView also integrates with Landslide, SugarCRM, Oracle and Salesforce.com and offers a standalone version). The tool also has fantastic list-building capabilities and can weight potential prospects by custom buying triggers.
Chapter Summary and Resources.
For successful marketing efforts, you must have clean, complete data. Data, when properly used is your best weapon in sales. The biggest reason for CRM resistance is that its value is not fully understood by its users. Choose a CRM tool that will empower your marketing efforts. Start by scrubbing your data. Remove errors and add relevant demographic information. Build queries to segment your contacts by interest, vertical, size, etc.
More Great Resources
CRM at the Speed of Light, Fourth Edition: CRM 2.0 Strategies, Tools, and Techniques for Engaging Your Customers [Book, pre-order] Salesforce Fundamentals Module 3: Using Salesforce [Tutorial - free] Selling to Big Companies [Book]
Quick Tips: Client Relatioships
Quick Tips: Client Relationships
Treat every contact like they are the CEO (but remember to speak their language). A middle-manager who doesn’t feel important can kill a deal just as quickly as their superiors. You have not earned the right to be introduced higher in the company until you have demonstrated your ability to add value. You will often notice that the person who invited you to a meeting will start to relax once their superiors have accepted you. Likewise, you will see them become tense if you appear to be wasting someone’s time. Ask your contact’s opinion about how you can add value to your meetings. Let your contacts present your great ideas to their peers. Any chance to make him/her look good is ultimately good for your commission check. Don’t make promises you can’t keep. If you’re not able to get someone the information they request by tomorrow, tell them you will have it in 3-4 days. If that’s not acceptable, they will tell you. The expectations you set for yourself are often more demanding or urgent than those established by the client.
Meet face-to-face with any client that contributes 5% or more of your annual quota at least once a quarter. You’re going to uncover additional needs, curb any future problems, and solidify your relationship. If you have to do it only 2-3 times a year to fit everyone in, that’s still better than the schedule most salespeople maintain. If you make a mistake, be honest and fix it. Any side-stepping or assignment of blame will only discredit you. It doesn’t matter if the mistake wasn’t yours. To the client, you are the face of your company. If there are certain clients that always seem to drain the life out of you when you call, schedule those calls late in the day. Nothing productive comes from this type of drain first thing in the morning. (If you happen to be one of my clients, and I regularly schedule our meetings at 4:00 pm, then you’re the exception, honest). Equally, if the call is unpleasant for your contact, they won’t have the rest of the day to dwell on it. Show your appreciation to your clients every chance you get. Tickets to a play, a gift card or an extra seat at a ballgame can earn you a client for life. We’re often so busy chasing the next sale that we forget the one we just left behind. If a client spends 100K or more a year with you, do something special
such as a monthly wine club (my editors have asked me to recommend Castoro Cellars Wine Club – 1-888-DAM-FINE, ask for Jan). Sixty dollars a month is minimal compared to the commission you earn, and your client will be reminded of your appreciation every thirty days. If you can’t expense this, write it off at the end of the year.
A New Era in Email Marketing
Email marketing has traditionally been handled by marketing departments and has been associated with spam, online retailers, and newsletters. Successful sales professionals are managing their own email marketing efforts today with great results! It’s easy and anyone can do it. Email marketing is often an after-thought, used to supplement other marketing methods (cold-calling, print ads, etc.). This is unfortunate because email marketing (when properly used) is the most effective form of marketing. I’m not referring to the kind of email you send to your entire database in hopes of getting one or two people to take action. I mean targeted email communication with a personalized message delivered from the salesperson. The biggest difference between traditional and leading-edge email marketing is that in the latter, you are working with a rock-solid set of demographic data that you created in the previous chapter. This allows you to work with the same tools as the marketing elite, such as Amazon.com, Google, and others. Another important difference is that this type of email marketing will help you establish credibility and rapport with clients, both of which have been absent from traditional email marketing.
We’re all doing it wrong.
“If your email isn’t personal, it’s broken.”
– Seth Godin
Then And Now Email is “the most personal advertising medium in history” - Seth Godin (my favorite voice on marketing and common sense in business). “If your email isn’t personal, it’s broken.” For example, this morning I sent out an email to decision makers in my territory letting them know I had moved the contents of my blog to a new server. I invited them to take a look at the changes. I also included specific links to a couple of my most popular articles. By noon, more than 30 decision makers at Fortune 500 companies had not only opened the email but clicked through to read the articles I had positioned. My objective was to stay in front of decision makers who were currently using a competitor. The content of my articles, while unbiased, was geared toward the typical challenges companies face with their current providers. It’s worth mentioning that the articles I linked in my email told me exactly where that contact was in the buying cycle based on which article he or she read. It’s subtle, it’s powerful and it’s only possible due to technology. Like you, I’m busy. I don’t have the time to constantly engage companies that are using the competition or aren’t presently interested in buying. This effort took me about 30 minutes and I was able to personally reach 30 decision makers to get my message in front of them. In addition, I increased my stature and credibility with these contacts.
3x the ROI of traditional marketing.
Why would I choose to reach these folks on the Friday before Spring Break even IF I had time to call them? Friday is a terrible day to send business-to-business emails, but I had specific reasons which I will discuss later. If I was able to reach them by phone, what are the chances they would have allowed me the time to share my message? Also, what would their perception of my call be? A cold-call from a salesperson who needs their business! Instead I was able to reach them, in a manner that positioned me as a valuable resource and trusted advisor. Why Email Marketing Works We’ve been told throughout our career to call people on the phone, and that email isn’t effective and that it won’t allow you to build rapport with your clients. Before we continue, I would like to share some compelling data: Email marketing has 3x the ROI of traditional marketing efforts. In my experience, you are three times more likely to get a timely response through email than through the phone, even if you have an existing relationship with the person. Approximately 146 million adults use email everyday. 82% of marketers consider email their most important advertising tactic.
Email marketing saves time and money.
Personalizing emails and segmenting your audience more than doubles the effectiveness of your email efforts, yet only 4% of marketers currently engage in these practices. Email has reached 32% of total market penetration, topped only by television which has 39%.
In my opinion, email will never replace lunch or a day on the golf course as a means of building relationships. However, when it comes to building credibility, efficiently managing your territory, engaging prospects, and passively growing your pipeline, email is the undisputed champ. There are hundreds of books on email marketing. If this is something you feel will enhance your marketing and aid in your success, and you want to learn more, by all means seek other resources. I have compiled what I feel to be the essential information on email marketing for a professional salesperson in order to save you time and money. The information in this chapter may be a little overwhelming. This doesn’t mean that managing your own personal email marketing is hard or time consuming. I spend roughly an hour a week on email marketing, and I will now lead you through it, taking out all the guesswork. If you don’t believe that email marketing will be effective in your business, that’s OK. Just remember that one of your competitors is likely already doing it to some extent and reaping the benefits.
It better be personal.
Standard Email Equals Lost Business
Standard email clients such as Outlook, web based email (Gmail, Yahoo, etc.), and the email interface built into most CRM systems, do not meet my personal preferences for email marketing. Here’s why: Reason #1 They do not (easily) allow me to send personalized emails. It is imperative that each email include simple dynamic content such as first name, company name, etc. This can be accomplished through various flavors of “mail-merge,” but for my needs, I want one-click access to this functionality. Reason #2 They do not allow me to automatically send the same email to multiple recipients individually. There are a couple of reasons why this is important. First, the chances are very high that any email addressed to more than one person, either by using “cc” or “bcc,” will be blocked. You also NEVER want to include more than one recipient in the “To:” field for a couple of reasons: one, it’s a beacon of poor taste. Two, it exposes each person’s email address to everyone else on the list. You might as well title your email “unprofessional, impersonal junk mail.”
Who opened it?
Reason #3 They do not allow me to track clicks within my emails (links, images, etc.) I want to track who follows the links I send in my emails. More importantly, I want to know which specific link they click. I include links strategically to allow relevant follow-up and to profile recipients (as ready to buy, browsing, etc.). This information is priceless. In fact, these techniques alone have doubled the effectiveness of my prospecting efforts.
Reason #4 They do not allow me to (easily) segment my mailing lists. I currently have nearly 50 mailing lists. Each serves a different purpose and targets prospects and clients meeting different criteria. As you discovered in the last chapter, CRM programs accomplish this nicely, but because the built in email systems are lacking, I need my external email client to manage this task.
Reason #5 They don’t allow me to track who opens my emails. This is pretty basic. I want to know who actually opens my correspondence. The business value of tracking who opened and who didn’t open an email is not significant, but it can prove helpful now and then.
Automate your email.
Reason #6 They don’t allow me to automate and schedule email campaigns. Outlook’s scheduling functionality is pretty basic. It will get the job done, but not the way I may want it to be done. More robust email tools will allow you to schedule emails, follow-up emails, and threads of emails easily.
Reason #7 They do not (easily) allow me to set varied “auto-responders”. We’ll discuss auto-responders in more detail later in the chapter, but they’re basically a tool internet marketers have been using for a few years to help boost their sales. Here’s an example of how auto-responders might be used in the real estate industry. A buyer signs up to view your home listings. The auto-responder sends them an email with an introduction and a few listings. A few days later, it sends another email asking them how their search is going and whether they would like to speak with you personally. Shortly after the first two emails, they are sent another email asking whether they need to revise their listing criteria, and so-on. This process is fully automated. Can you see some uses for this in your business?
Your email tool needs an upgrade.
Reason #8 They do not (easily) allow me to manage my subscriber and opt-out lists. Sending emails to someone who’s asked not to be contacted is the quickest way to ruin your marketing endeavors. By sending a few unwanted emails, you can easily end up on a “black-list” which essentially means your email will not reach 90% of recipients.
Choosing The Right Email Tool If you want to get serious about email marketing, you will need to get a tool with additional functionality to be effective. Adding another piece of software to the mix may sound daunting, but I promise it will have very little impact on your day. You’re still going to use your normal email interface, you’ll just be adding a second tool when it’s time to send targeted materials. I still use Outlook and web mail in my day-to-day communications even though they do not meet my strategic marketing requirements. The following two software tools are viable options for adding a successful email marketing venue to your business:
Publisher: Constant Contact, Inc. Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes (60 Days) Free Single User Version: Yes (up to 100 addresses) Cost: Tiered based on size of email list. $30 per month for up to 2,500 addresses. Free Trial Here
Description “With Constant Contact, you can create and send top-notch email newsletters and promotions with no technical expertise. We make everything easy for you, including list management and reporting— and we give you free live support when you need it. With Constant Contact, you have everything you need to be successful at an affordable price.” –ConstantContact.com My Review I use this tool for all of my email marketing. The biggest advantage here is that all of your email is sent from the Constant Contact servers themselves. You don’t have to worry about your ISP’s email policies. The emails I send have high deliverability and all of the tracking I desire. I can easily view opens, clicks, how my campaigns compare with industry standards, and more. The template function is great and the cost, in my opinion, is quite affordable. My Concerns I wish ConstantContact would build in the auto-responder function. The reporting engine could also be simplified. Update: They have released this functionality since the original publishing.
Publisher: iContact.com Ease Of Use: Intermediate Free Trial: Yes (15 day) Free Single User Version: Limited Cost: Varies based on list size. Free Trial Here
Description “iContact has all of the features you’d expect from an enterpriselevel email marketing service, but at a price that is affordable for a small business. Features such as a large array of custom templates make iContact perfect for people who are just starting with email marketing.” iContact.com My Review iContact is similar to Constant Contact, however it offers a lower price point for smaller lists. This service also offers auto-responders and survey creation in the base price, whereas ConstantContact currently charges an additional fee for these. My Concerns This is not really a concern, but the user-interface could use some work. Also, iContact does not support Google Chrome, which is my browser of choice.
Publisher: MailChimp.com Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Free Single User Version: Limited list size Cost: Varies by list size
Description “MailChimp is a do-it-yourself email marketing service for ‘the Google generation.’ We make it easy to send email newsletters to your customers, manage your subscriber lists, and track campaign performance. Unlike some of our competitors, we don’t ‘dumb things down.’ We take extremely powerful tools that sophisticated marketers use (like segmentation, a/b testing, and ROI tracking), and we make them accessible to anyone.” – MailChimp.com My Review First, the analytics they offer for email tracking are superb and easy on the eyes. They also offer A/B split testing which allows you to test the effectiveness of different subject lines. Another cool feature is that your email stats are compared to industry averages, so you can get an idea of how well your campaigns are performing. My Concerns There are no auto-responders yet. They are due in March ‘09, and when they become available I will strongly consider moving from Constant Contact, primarily due to the analytics and A/B testing.
Are your contacts organized by industry yet?
Build Your Mailing Lists
Now that you have chosen an email interface to use, you will want to import the queries you built in your CRM program into your email program. If you haven’t done so already, you will want to modify the queries to include only contacts with email addresses. For this purpose, a separate set of queries is useful. Before you can import these lists into your email system, you will need to export them into “.xls” “.csv” or “.txt” format. If you have any trouble importing your lists, search your program’s “help” files. Help with this import can also be found on the email software’s website because this is a fairly common task. You’re going to want to create a folder on your computer where all of the files you export from your CRM program are housed, and in turn where the files you will load into your email program are located. Once a month you will want to update these lists with your new contacts, so keep your storage organization consistent, unless you are adding them as you go, or even better, automating this process with one of the tools I will introduce later. Now you should have a dozen, or depending on the uniqueness of your audience, a couple dozen lists in your email program. From here, targeting messages to individual groups is as easy as a few mouse clicks.
The Absolutes For Email Success
These principals and tips govern any and all business email communications you send and should be memorized. 1. Every email must have value specific to each reader. 2. Every email should contain at least one dynamic field (such as a first name). 3. Email must be sent directly to only one recipient (no “cc” or ”bcc”). 4. Every email should be conversational in tone. 5. Every email must establish credibility. 6. Your email should not ask to do business (unless your business is truly transaction in nature). 7. Tuesday is the most popular day to send marketing email, followed by Wednesday and Thursday.* 8. Wednesday is the day that most marketing emails are opened.* 9. 9:00 and 10:00 am are the most popular times to send email marketing.* 10. 11:00 am is the most popular time for emails to be opened.*
*Source: EmailLabs.com from various industry studies. 74
Keep it simple.
11. Keeping your subject line to less than 50 characters achieves 12.5% more success.* 12. Images are blocked by default by more than half of your email recipients.* 13. 97% of email recipients accept HTML formatted emails.* 14. Sending marketing emails at a frequency of 2-3 times per month yields the best results.* 15. Every email must contain instructions for opting-out.
Building Your Email Strategy
At this point, a plan to market to your contacts should be taking shape. If your company is like mine and generates a lot of press releases, you may want to send them out to the appropriate contacts as they are produced. You may want to send a quarterly account status email, which I will outline below. You may have a monthly event or offer you plan to send. I recommend sending an initial email once your groups are established using the “conversational” example below.
*Source: EmailLabs.com from various industry studies. 75
You might want to send an announcement that you have a blog or provide monthly updates on recent articles (these should be targeted to your audience as much as possible).
Regardless of your strategy, a solid plan will keep you on track. The effectiveness of email marketing is close to zero if you only do it once. Plan your different types of communications at intervals of at least one week, sending a maximum of 2-3 emails to each contact per month. Example Email Strategy: First Monday: Recent articles from your Blog Third Monday: An article or press release relevant to each list Quarterly: “Catching Up” emails As available: Related press releases or client testimonials
A solid plan will keep you on track.
This isn’t something that’s going to take hours. You setup emails in your email program once or twice a month, and they are sent as scheduled. In fact, I recommend you set aside just a few hours at the beginning of each month to draft and schedule all of your email communications. Then simply send additional emails as necessary. Now you’ve reached every contact 2-3 times per month, with personalized and valuable information, while building credibility and rapport. How long would that have taken using your current approach to email (or worse, using the phone)?
Templates save time.
Using Email Templates To Boost Productivity
You can save a lot of time by using templates for your email communications. By using templates, you will only have to spend time on the areas of the email that are unique to that communication. You will want to create a basic email template. This can include your signature block and any other information that you feel is necessary such as confidentiality information and information about unsubscribing from the mailing list (note: if you use Constant Contact, iContact or MailChimp the opt-out information is included by default). On the next page is an example of a signature that I use. It may look busy, but every component has a purpose.
Sample Email Signature Block
Client Quote of the Day: “Insert a client testimonial here” – So and So from Such and Such Read more: www.yoursite.com/testimonials Your Blog Name (and Link) ............................................................... Your Name Corporate Account Manager <Company Logo or Tag Line> Street Address City, State Zip Your Phone Your Email
CONFIDENTIALITY NOTE: The information contained in this transmission is privileged and confidential information intended only for the use of the individual or entity named above. If you are not the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that any dissemination, distribution or copying of this communication is strictly prohibited. If you have received this transmission in error, please immediately reply to the sender that you have received this communication in error and then delete it. Thank you.
Include Testimonials in your signature.
The Elements Of A Good Email Signature
My client quote of the day is actually taken from a long list of testimonials I have compiled. I choose one that I think speaks well to the specific email. For example, if I am targeting executives, I will include a quote from an executive. If I am targeting banking institutions, I will include a quote from a banking company, etc. I like to include a default quote in my template simply to remind me to add a relevant one. If you aren’t including a testimonial in every email you send, you are losing an opportunity to build credibility and increase sales. My blog link is simply the name of my blog with a hyperlink. It does not say “my blog.” In fact I don’t care if the recipient knows it’s my blog. We will discuss blogs in more detail in the next chapter. Instead of a link to my blog, I might include links to articles (from my blog) relevant to the email I’m distributing. I keep it short (3 or 4 titles). This is a great opportunity to use link tracking to see which articles your recipients are interested in. The purpose of including links to your blog is to increase your CUE and position yourself as an expert. The articles you link in your emails must be well-written and place you as a thought leader in the particular market you are trying to reach. They are also going to position your
Include articles that you wrote.
company and their products in a positive light, without directly promoting them. For example: I may write an article about choosing the right “such and such” in which I tell readers what to look out for and what key features to look for when shopping and buying. I’m not directly pitching a product, simply providing expertise, though the content certainly paints a good picture for my products and services. Of course, this becomes tremendously more effective if the client finds your articles independent of you. I’ll tell you how to start making that happen too. Remember the story I told you earlier about the very large corporation that had been following my blog for some time? Although they think they found it on their own, the truth is, they found it through my Passive Pipeline. Everything else in the signature template is pretty standard stuff. Take note that I like to separate my name and title from the rest of my contact information. This works to subconsciously brand around your name and title. As you continue to experiment, you will find many other uses for templates. You can develop a press release template, for example, that has the email prepared, except for the text of the release, or you may want to save a template for a typical introduction letter. The idea is to create these templates now, so you can send them out later in seconds rather than hours. If you don’t make these tasks easy, you will most likely fail to implement them.
Emails should be conversational in tone.
Crafting Emails That Get Responses
Because we are using targeted lists and personalizing our emails, we have the ability to be conversational in every communication we send and to sound natural. It’s important to incorporate a conversational tone because it puts you on equal footing with your prospect or client. As with many concepts shared in this book, your primary objectives are to establish integrity and ensure that you are seen as an expert in your field. In some cases, email is the only way you will ever communicate with your prospects (until you do business with them). It’s important that you present the right image. Because we are using targeted email marketing, we have the unique ability to establish our credibility and foster a positive working relationship. Here is the typical format of my emails. You may want to use a different spin. It’s not my intent to change your approach to sales copy, but this has worked quite well for me. Subject Line The maximum on your subject line should be fifty characters. Most email programs do not show any more than this and shorter subject lines have been shown to have a higher open rate.
Include value in every email you send.
I usually use something like “<My Company Name> follow-up” or if I’m sending a press release or article, I may put the title or a variation of it in the subject line. I don’t spend a lot of time crafting my subject line, I just make sure it doesn’t scream “I want to sell you something.” Note: If in your business it makes sense to include a time sensitive offer or discount/sale/promotion, feel free to put this in the subject line. These offers have tested well. First Name, Conversational dialogue This might be something like, “I thought you and your team would be interested in this.” The idea is that you have a very human purpose for this communication. Value, Value, Value Whether it’s an article, a testimonial, or simply an update on what your company is doing, there MUST be some value in every email you send. Ask yourself before you send: Is there value in this for my audience? If there isn’t, don’t send it. Tip: If your email doesn’t have value for every contact in your mailing list, you need to create a separate list. Re-work the criteria for your
Make it easy to respond, even with a “No”.
list, or the content of your email, until your email has value for every recipient. Call to action “I’d like to chat with you in the next couple of days to get an update on <Company Name>’s current situation.” – Put any appropriate call to action here; this is just one I often use. I’m asking for an update, nothing more. Permission to tell me no “If this isn’t something that fits your current strategy, I would love to know that as well as it allows me to more effectively use my time and plan my follow up efforts.” Sometimes I also use “If this isn’t something that fits in your current plans, I’d like to know that as well as I am in process of my quarterly account updates.” The point is that you want a response. If your prospect has no plans of buying, you want to know that too. I can’t count the amount of time I have saved in my career by inviting prospects to tell me that they weren’t currently looking for my services. Even prospects that are not interested will take the time to help you if you invite them respond in the negative. Tip: I keep a spreadsheet called “own your territory.” Every time I
Permission to pass you off.
get a response from this type of email, I put that information into my spreadsheet (along with company name). Something along the lines of: “budgeting for solution in 2010” or “currently contracted with Competitor X until Q4” and so on. After a while, you’ll have a snapshot of your entire territory in one place. I also add competitor and future project information into my CRM system so I can query that information later. Permission to pass me off to someone else “If this isn’t something you are currently responsible for, please share my contact information with the person who is and let me know who I should expect to hear back from.” Signature Block P .S . Try to add one more item of value here, possibly an article from your blog, an upcoming product update, etc. This example reads much differently than a typical sales email, but it works. The idea is to get a response, regardless of what that response contains. Any information is good information. Every component of my example serves a specific purpose. While it seems fairly specific, I can send the same email to a thousand contacts and each of them will read it as though it was written
specifically to them. The responses I get back prove it, and my response rate to this type of communication is many times higher than that of standard email marketing efforts.
Test Every Email
Before you send any mass email, always send it to yourself first. If possible, send it to a web mail address (like Yahoo or Google) and a corporate email program like Outlook. This way you can see how it appears in different readers (they WILL vary). If you don’t have a web mail account, create one for this purpose. If you don’t have MS Outlook, send it to a friend who does and ask them to send you a screen shot from their end. This is crucial. Sending an email to a thousand people only to find out that the formatting is completely off will quickly deflate your enthusiasm. An even better way to test your bulk email is to set up a mail list in your program which includes your test addresses, complete with first name, last name, company name, etc. When you use this list to send your test emails, you can also make sure that your dynamic content is working properly. A blank greeting or last name where the first name should be are just as embarrassing (and unprofessional) as poor formatting.
Avoid The Most Common Email Mistakes
I’ve learned most of my mistakes from experience. I’ve sent a thousand emails with my name in the greeting line. A close friend of mine intended to send me an email about how attractive he thought one of our vendors was; he sent it to her by accident (sending to a person mentioned in your email happens often because that person’s name is on the top of your mind)! I accidentally revealed an office romance between two friends of mine and didn’t realize it until I heard chuckles from neighboring offices. Always enter the recipient name (or list name) last Re-read, verify values and test your email first. If you enter the recipient name or list name first, one slip of the finger or mistaken mouse click can doom you! Never put more than one address in the “To:” field Although this has been mentioned before, it’s worth repeating. In any marketing email, never include more than one name in the “To:” field. Also, leave the “cc” and “bcc” fields empty. No exceptions. Sending a mass email using these fields will expose all email addresses to everyone on your list (and they may end up in a competitor’s inbox). It also makes it very clear that you only see this person as a name on a list. Most email programs will kick
Keep it professional.
out an email if the recipient’s name isn’t in the “To:” field. Email marketing programs like the ones discussed in this chapter automatically send an individual email to each recipient. Never assume the recipient is the only one who will read your email This applies equally to both internal and external email. Write every email as if it will be viewed by others. Never make a derogatory remark about anyone in your emails. Karma’s law says that is exactly the person who will end up reading it. Always consider email a permanent record. Don’t send too much information This isn’t about volume of text. If you send a prospect your brand new pricing matrix, how do you know their brother doesn’t work for the competition? Never assume that a recipient will recognize confidential information, either. Just because you have a confidentiality statement in your email doesn’t mean it will get read. If something is confidential, simply say, “please consider this information confidential,” especially if it’s something like pricing information.
Timing is everything.
You may even want to throw “please consider this confidential” into your email strategically, even if it’s not that vital. It gives the impression of privileged information or that the recipient might be getting a better deal (when price is included). Don’t forget attachments It’s not too big of a deal, we’ve all done it, but it still looks unprofessional. Send emails at the right times Unless you are marketing to consumers, don’t send emails on a Monday, Friday, or late in the day. These emails get buried under everything else that comes in that night or over the weekend. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays before noon are the best time to distribute. I will occasionally send emails on a Friday around 11:00 am if it’s a popular vacation weekend. It’s not optimal, but often people are looking for anything to take their mind off of the work at hand. Google the phrase “email mistakes” for other common and uncommon email mishaps and checkout “MessageGate” for some entertaining email blunders.
Nobody likes a spammer.
Permission-based email is making the medium more effective as a marketing tool. The idea is that you only contact people you have already had communications with, or those who have chosen to give you their contact information and have agreed to receive your emails. The terms “spam” and “mass” emailing don’t apply to permissionbased email. When used appropriately, these emails are always targeted and always add value. Aside from professional and legal concerns, emails sent to people who do not fall into the permissionbased category are a waste of time. If your contact list is over 1,000,000 recipients but few are actually interested in what you have to offer, your work is truly ineffective. Legal Considerations For Email The federal laws governing email are contained in the CAN-SPAM Act. Here is a summary: The bill permits e-mail marketers to send unsolicited commercial e-mail as long as it contains the following: An opt-out mechanism; A valid subject line and header (routing) information; The legitimate physical address of the mailer; and
Remember to give them a way out.
A label if the content is adult oriented.
The content is exempt if it consists of: Religious messages; Content that broadly complies with the marketing mechanisms specified in the law; or National security messages.
For marketing purposes, this means don’t send emails to addresses you gleaned from a list, and always allow recipients to easily remove themselves from your list within 10 days. For a full list of legal considerations regarding email, visit LegalArchiver.
Reporting & Analytics
You could spend hours a day analyzing the data you receive from your email campaigns, and some people do. However, most professional salespeople have little time for data processing. What you can do is view a few critical data points for the emails you send that can help boost sales and add value to future interactions. Tools like Constant Contact, iContact and MailChimp have built-in reporting features for the most useful analysis. Here are a few of the things you will want to keep an eye on: Open Rate Keeping track of which emails and audiences have the highest open rates (the percentage of emails which are actually read) will help you fine-tune your email marketing efforts. Click-Through This information is incredibly valuable when used properly. You can easily see which recipients clicked on the links and images embedded in your email. As I’ve illustrated previously, this allows for additional targeting and very successful follow-up efforts. It is also useful to see which links have the most draw for your audience.
In addition to scheduling emails, auto-responders may have additional benefits to your business. Auto-responders have a few fantastic features, specifically, the ability to automate additions to your email list and to automatically send a series of emails to your list at set intervals. I call these progressive emails. Each one typically reinforces and continues to build the sales pitch over the span of the email string. Internet marketers who want to drive return traffic to their site or automate “touches” in order to sell a product favor this technique. You’ve probably heard that it takes 7 “touches” before someone buys. So, create 8 or 9 progressive messages in your auto-responder and let it do the rest. I don’t use these in my corporate business, but I do use them to promote my book and websites. I encourage you to do some research if you think this might fill a niche in your business. I will caution you that I think 6 or 7 progressive emails will not go over well in most B2B situations because you cannot adjust for buyer feedback. Simple “touches” are better suited to this and can be managed in your other email marketing efforts.
Let the software work for you.
Invite prospects to share information.
I’m sure you’ve heard that newsletters can add significant value to your marketing endeavors. Perhaps you’ve even tested it. The truth about newsletters is that the real benefit to you occurs before the newsletter is even distributed. The most common and effective use of newsletters is to entice prospects to share their contact information with you. Beyond capturing contact information, newsletters are typically used to stay in front of potential prospects. I personally feel that two to three personalized and targeted email contacts a month will serve this purpose much better. Do you really read any of the newsletters that show up in your inbox? I read a few, but only those coming from people I value highly. The other challenge is that “top-of-mind” no longer works. We’ve been taught to send out mass emails regularly in order to stay on the clients’ radar. “You never know when someone is ready to buy.” The reality is that it’s much easier for your audience to do a Google or Blog search for something than it is to search through their inbox (more likely through their deleted items) to find your newsletter. The instant access to information available today has decreased the effectiveness of top-of-mind marketing dramatically.
Chapter Summary and Resources.
Email is the most effective form of marketing at your disposal. “If your email isn’t personal, it’s broken.” - Seth Godin Choose a modern email marketing tool designed for sales professionals. Every email must add value to the individual recipients. Continuously analyze and test your email marketing campaigns.
More Great Resources
Permission Marketing: Turning Strangers into Friend and Friends into Customers - Seth Godin [Book] Constant Contact Learning Center [Tutorials & Best Practices]
Quick Tips: Communications
Important Lessons About Communication
Word of mouth is the most powerful force in sales. Any dissatisfaction should be taken seriously and escalated to management. Technology makes it easy for ideas to spread, and enough rumbling can cripple a company or salesperson. There are a finite number of potential buyers in your territory. Use every interaction as a means of making a good impression. You never know which interactions will be remembered. Email is no longer taboo. In fact, it’s three times (at least) more likely than a phone call to get a response, even from someone you know. Taking the time to listen to voicemail, write down the message, and call someone back doesn’t fit well into most people’s schedules. Hitting reply when they have a few extra minutes does. Never underestimate the power of playing dumb. For example, “I’m embarrassed to say I have no idea who I should be talking to and the receptionist didn’t know either, but I’m hoping you might be able to assist me.” Our egos make it difficult to communicate in this way, but when you’re stuck, this can open a lot of doors. Another example, “Well, let me ask you. What approach do you think will have the best impact with your team?” “How does Susie like her meetings to run?”,
“How would you sell this product to your company?” When inquiring with a receptionist, ask for your party in a tone that suggests you already know that person: “Jack Murphy, please.” If you are suspected to be a salesperson, even if you do in fact know the individual you are calling, you’re going to set off alarms in the mind of the receptionist, which can sideline your efforts. Never ask the receptionist to connect you with someone whose name you don’t know (the IT Manager for example). Ask for the department, then when connected, ask for the most appropriate person to speak with. The person who answers the phone at the department level is much less adept at screening calls than the main receptionist. Don’t use out-of-office replies unless you won’t have access to email for an entire day. Many salespeople mistakenly think that a half-day meeting or sales conference warrants an outof-office message. People begin to perceive you are always away from the office. Never call someone just to “check-in.” If you don’t have something of value to communicate, don’t call. It appears needy and implies you don’t trust them to contact you when something changes. Always leave your call-back number twice on a phone message.
How Blogging Has Revolutionized Selling I have experienced three major turning points in my professional career. The first was when J.C. Coldren took a chance with me and gave me my first “professional” sales job at 19. The second was when I finally had enough knowledge to place real solutions in front of my clients and offer thought leadership. The third was the day I discovered blogging. Since I started implementing blogs into my business I have uncovered opportunities and closed business that I simply could not have captured using any other means. The benefits, as I will share later in this chapter, are multi-faceted. If you haven’t experienced this for yourself, it’s difficult to fathom, but the results can be tremendous. Like many of you, whenever I heard the term “blog”, I assumed it referred to some distraught teenager pouring out their emotions in an online journal. Then I started hearing about political blogging, corporate blogging, and blogging professionals. In the last few years, I have been enlightened and I will go on record as saying that blogs are the most important source of information on the internet. That’s a bold statement, so I’ll elaborate. The information found in (most) blogs is untouched by any corporate agenda. There is no marketing spin; information and ideas flow freely and quickly! Good
“Blogs are telling it like it is at the street level” – Brad Inman Inman News
Blogs: the most important source of information on the internet.
blogs provide unfiltered information with both personality and credibility. Most marketers develop web pages to promote a product or an idea, essentially advertising. Blogs are written by real people just like you and me and are an innovative and personal means to reach the public. Since I discovered blogs, they have been the first place I look for credible and uncensored information. If I want to learn about the local real estate market, I turn to blogs. If I am considering the purchase of a product or service, I will research the “blogosphere” first. I look at the blogs posted by people I am considering doing business with, or by an author whose work I am thinking about reading. Blogs are becoming increasingly popular in all aspects of society. Go to Technorati and key your industry or company name into the search box to see what the blogs are saying. You will be surprised by the number of resources and the depth of information they contain. Blogs empower people to make better choices, be more educated and find experts who share insider information not privy to mainstream media. If you think about it, traditional media outlets simply don’t have the bandwidth or desire to cover all that goes on in our world; bloggers do. Bloggers number in the millions and cover an innumerable number of topics. If a company is acting as a corrupt corporate citizen, bloggers are the first to know. If your particular industry is poised for major change, there are experts in the know who are blogging about it.
Blogs offer tremendous opportunity to sales professionals.
There are interesting demographics about blog readers themselves: Blog readers are 11% more likely to earn over $75K. Blog readers are 30% more likely to buy products or services online. Blog readers spend twice as much time online.
Why Should Sales Professionals Blog? Until the last few years, blogs were most popular for entertainment, social or news related material. However, before too long the influence and topic base grew. More recently, blogging has been adopted by online marketers, authors, large corporations, real estate professionals and experts (real and self-proclaimed) in just about every other field you can imagine. The group that has not been widely represented is professional salespeople. Google the phrase “blogging for sales professionals” and you will see a long list of irrelevant material. Aside from Real Estate professionals, salespeople have been slow to jump on the blog-wagon. It is my belief that blogs offer tremendous value to sales professionals, perhaps more than to any other professional group.
*Source: Internet Marketing Company. 99
Blogging establishes credibility.
I’m not suggesting that all salespeople develop a blog. An overinflux of self-promoting bloggers hyping products that offer little or no value to the readers will taint what is presently a valuable resource. However, true sales professionals, who have valuable knowledge and expertise to share, should definitely consider it. For sales professionals, blogging serves to establish credibility and reach potential customers. If your prospective customers find your blog when conducting a web search, or see your articles reprinted by other credible sources (another benefit of blogging I will discuss shortly), they will automatically see you as a trusted advisor and will be inclined to do business with you. This is amplified when your blog posts contain targeted, valuable information that is not found elsewhere. As a consumer, if you were searching real estate online and found a useful blog that was candid about the market you were considering and also offered other useful information that wasn’t readily available or compiled in any other place, wouldn’t you be likely to consider using their service? Furthermore, hasn’t this person instilled more trust and credibility than the typical website or yellow-page ad would? Of course!
Reach new clients and stay in touch with current ones.
Reasons Why You Should Blog
Reason #1: Credibility It is difficult to build credibility with people you don’t know through traditional sales efforts, with the exception of through word-of-mouth. You simply don’t have a voice in the market that carries an effective means of endorsement. You might already distribute an e-newsletter that provides your existing contacts with amazing information about you and your services, but what about the people who you aren’t currently in contact with? Blogging can be your answer to reaching new clients AND staying in touch with current ones. Some forward-thinking salespeople have boosted their credibility by actively participating in online forums related to their field. This serves as a way to answer questions and provide valuable information. However, there are two problems associated with online forums that blogs solve. First, online forums are typically a one-time activity. Unless the viewer contacts you via email from the forum, the moment has passed as soon as they leave the venue. Second, few people have the time to visit every relevant forum, monitor questions regularly and engage in conversation in dozens of places.
Become a sought-after advisor.
A good blog allows your “presence” to be in thousands of places at once, 24 hours a day, ready to shake hands, answer questions and be a trusted advisor. With a blog, instead of self-evangelizing you will have people quoting you, posting links to your posts, etc. Now when/if you do participate in forum discussions, you can provide a link back to your blog, with more of the great ideas you have to offer. Reason #2: Interest Level With a newsletter your audience is limited. People have such tight schedules, not everyone on your contact list will have time to read it. With a blog, your readers have essentially asked you to keep them in mind and they will seek out the information you have to share. These people are much more likely to not only read what you have to say, but also to buy what you have to sell. Further, blogs are not typically perceived as a sales mechanism, while newsletters are. Reason #3: “Power-Linking” This is a term that means sending your prospects to material published online instead of them hearing it directly from you. Imagine you have a prospect who is gathering information to build an RFP. This is a great opportunity to manage the buying process, but it has to be accomplished as an advisor,
Let others tell your prospects that you are the expert.
not as a salesperson. You could simply inform them of what to look for and what to be cautious of, but it is much more powerful to point them to a well-written article on a popular blog (authored by you) that will walk them through the buying process. Once your blog gains some traction, your articles are also going to show up on other sites. This is common practice in the blogging world, and it’s a good thing! If an even more popular blogger or trade publication picks up your article, you have just enhanced your profile. Now instead of just sending prospects to your blog, you can also send them to an unbiased 3rd party who thought your article was important enough to re-publish on their website. You can’t build much more credibility than that! Now your prospect not only understands your business approach but also views you as an expert in your field. Reason #4: Presence Without technology it’s impossible to be everywhere at once. If you aren’t considered early in the evaluation process, your chances of securing a client are minimal. Through your blog, the references to it, and the re-prints of your information, you have a presence. You’ll appear in search engines, the forums and everywhere else people are talking about your industry.
Reason #5: Branding People like to be associated with high profile people and do business with them. When you become a sought-after commodity, you create a brand which defines you. This brand supersedes your company’s public image and follows you everywhere you go. If you become a valuable source of information, you become independently marketable.
Reason #6: Building Potential Customer Relationships Blogs give you a chance to interact with your audience and build rapport even without direct communication. The interactions you have within others can be an integral part of your blog. Visitors will see that not only do you have relevant expertise, but others are turning to you for advice. Your credibility essentially snowballs because of the human tendency to keep up with the Joneses.
Reason #7: Traffic Blogs are more search engine friendly by design than most websites are. As your content grows, and more and more people link to your dialogue, your search engine ranking will soar. Linking between blogs and posts is part of the current blog culture, and it promotes your site in the search engines automatically.
Even with no links, some of my blogs have appeared in the top three results in Google searches after only a couple of days. Even if your company’s website gets good search traffic, it’s still a company website. A blog in the top search results on Google or MSN can have a huge impact on your pipeline. Reason #8: Springboarding When most people start a blog, they aren’t thinking about parallel opportunities that may surface as a result, but it’s likely these opportunities will arise. Within just a few days of starting my first blog I was contacted by several industry analysts asking for further information on a particular article I had written. One of those inquiries led to a great business relationship. Many bloggers will also find themselves with opportunities for syndication in trade magazines or for speaking engagements. Finally, many excellent job opportunities have arisen for hard working bloggers. I don’t know any way to make this kind of visible splash with typical sales efforts.
Blogs: not for everyone.
Is Blogging Right For You And Your Business?
Blogging is not for everyone. You certainly don’t want your entire sales force, with varying degrees of communication and writing skills, competing for real estate in the blogosphere. Blogging may not be for you or it may not fit into your business model. That’s OK, but many of you will be thoroughly pleased with the results you can achieve with very minimal effort. Like many of the ideas I share in this book, the idea of setting up a blog might seem overwhelming. It’s likely a very new concept for you, but the initial shock is much worse than the actual application. In fact, you can have a blog up and running in 10 minutes. You can set up your posts for an entire month in the same amount of time budgeted for one day of cold-calling! This doesn’t require any more work than the things you are doing now; in fact it requires quite a bit less. And it is still remarkably more effective than traditional networking. Below are a few questions taken from a checklist posted by a prominent blog managed by Darren Rowse. Darren is considered a leading expert in blogging, and I discoverd many of the ideas I’m sharing with you on this topic through Darren and his work. I have modified the explanations a bit for my audience, but the questions are universal. This checklist will help you determine if you possess the right motivational skills and interest to develop a blog:
Content is king.
Do you enjoy writing? Blogs are a written medium. If you do not enjoy writing, or you are not passionate about your subject, then perhaps you should not consider a blog. However, if writing is your only hang-up, I wouldn’t rule blogging out entirely. Many people have been successful with blogs simply by compiling information from other resources and making it available to their readers in one place. Are you a self starter? Starting a blog takes initiative. While blog software makes it simple to start a blog, a blog doesn’t run itself, and it takes a motivated person to get one off the ground. This is especially important in the early stages. Once your blog is up, you can simply post content a few times a week (or daily) and respond to reader comments. At the onset, it’s going to take more work to establish your internet presence. There are few things more disappointing then an abandoned blog that had real potential. Do you have the time? In addition to the work required to get the blog off the ground, it also requires you spend time regularly to keep the content fresh. Stale content will diminish your subscriber list rapidly. If you are currently doing any type of prospecting, then you have the time to refresh your content. A single post may take 30 minutes to write but can reach thousands. If you don’t
Opinions: everyone has one.
see yourself writing posts several times a week, then spend a few hours on a Friday afternoon preparing your posts for the following week. Most blog software will automatically display your posts at the times you set throughout the week. Are you thick-skinned? People are going to read what you write. Not everyone is going to agree with you (especially your competition). It’s no different than presenting your opinion in daily conversation, only your audience is much larger. You will need to be able to “roll with the punches” and maintain a professional persona regardless of how your readers might respond. Do you have any technical ability? This is not a limitation in most cases. If you can check your email, you can manage a blog. If you want to customize your blog, you will need some skills. Thousands of “plug-ins” are available to add some functionality to your blog, and technical savvy will come in handy however, most blog software makes any customization pretty simple. Do you have perseverance? The development of a large subscriber base doesn’t happen overnight. As you start adding useful content, you will see your efforts rewarded with an increase in subscribers numbers but it will take time.
I recommend visiting Darren’s blog when you are ready to get started. He presents a wealth of useful information. The web address is www.problogger.net.
What Is A Blog? The term blog is short for “Web Log”. A blog is essentially a chronologically ordered series of written posts with built-in reader interaction (comments or forums). Blogs are typically misperceived as personal online journals. The fact is that some blogs have readership in the millions (per day), placing them in the ranks of the most popular sources of mainstream media. Feel free to visit one of my blogs at http:// www.passivepipeline.com for an example. What Is A Post? A post is simply a blog entry. It might be quite short, or span a couple of pages. It might be original content, a quote or a link to another article or post. Posts are typically displayed in reverse chronological order so that the most recent posts are displayed first. What Is RSS? RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. The popularity of RSS is exploding, and it’s one of the key reasons that blogging is so beneficial to sales professionals. Readers who visit your blog can subscribe to your RSS feed (usually by clicking a single button). This is attractive to the user because it doesn’t require any contact information. Once a visitor has subscribed to your RSS feed, the content of your posts
will be instantly transmitted to whatever service they use to read their news (Google Reader, for example). Visiting multiple websites on a regular basis to get information is out. RSS feeds are in!
Building Your Blog
If I’ve done my job representing the valuable role blogging can play in your professional sales, then you’re probably ready to get started. Below, I have summarized the steps to begin blogging in a way that lends itself to sales. Most of the information available today is for the personal blogger or those who want to make money with their blogs directly. We are taking the indirect path, one which further promotes our expertise and builds our credibility without pitching a specific product or service. Step 1 Identify your theme and goals Before you set up your blog or write your first post, it’s important to determine the overall theme. Are you going to review products? Provide insider information? Educate your audience? Provide property listings? Your blog can have any purpose or even have more than one, but I suggest you stay focused on one primary theme. Once your readers have grown to expect a certain type of experience from your blog, changing your focus may cause them to look elsewhere.
Identify your readers.
Step 2 Identify your audience Who are your target readers? Are they HR professionals, purchasing agents, consumers or CEO’s? You can cater to more than one audience, but you need to make sure your content is serving them all equally well. Another consideration in identifying your audience is your actual sales reach. If you handle a small territory, it is important to focus on content relevant to that reader base. You might also choose to keep your audience very broad. This is particularly useful if you are in a position to gain referral business. You may send your readers to a trusted colleague in a different area or specialty. Or, if you are a true team player, you might flip leads to a co-worker who handles the area outside your region. If this is the case, I suggest you establish up-front how you might be compensated for a referral. If you offer a local service in rural Montana for example, there is no need to expand your reach. However, if you have a relationship with a trusted colleague in a nearby area, it might make sense. If you are a mortgage lender who is licensed it several states, then I advise you target the broader audience.
It is also important to determine how people will locate you.
And their needs.
If potential clients are likely to search for your product or service on a local scale (i.e. real estate or lawn care), then distinguish yourself as community-committed and target that audience. If you sell enterprise software, it is not likely anyone will be searching with geographic location as a buying factor, so it makes sense to aim for a broad audience. Someone searching for real estate will likely use a city name when researching online (i.e. “Chicago condos”). A CTO looking for new storage hardware will not. Step 3 Identify your audience’s specific needs If your audience is HR professionals, your content is going to be different than if you are serving IT professionals. Not only will your content be different, but your writing style and underlying message will be distinctively different. IT professionals prefer details and information on the latest technology. HR professionals want to determine how they can enhance service to their employees. CEO’s want to know how other companies have instituted change using the products or services offered by your industry. Salespeople want to make more sales. If you have been in your field for any length of time, you know best what will benefit your audience. Don’t lose sight of this important design element.
Step 4 Plan the structure of your blog Common components of a blog include posts, comments, an “about the author” page, external links, and a list of recent posts, among others. The necessary components of your blog will certainly change as it develops, but initially you will need to determine which elements are most appropriate to include.
Step 5 Plan your schedule You will have to decide how much time you can commit to your blog. You may be able to work it in a few times a week or choose to load all of your posts on a Saturday afternoon. Remember, the intent of this entire book is to maximize your business while spending more time selling. I recommend you start out by posting a few times a week. Block out a 30 minute window in your schedule to write. You will also want to schedule a couple of times a week to check on comments and interact with readers. As you get the hang of blogging and what your readers are looking for, it will become easier to set aside an hour or two a week to pre-load all of your content.
Choosing the right blog software.
Step 6 Select a blog service If you’re just launching into blogging, use Google’s Blogger product. It’s hands-down the easiest to use of all the choices available, and it’s free. Setting up a blog with Google Blogger is literally a 5 minute process. As an added bonus, Google (who happens to own 60%+ of online searches) heavily favors blogs that use their platform (i.e., more search traffic to your blog). If you are more technically inclined, you may want to try a more flexible service like TypePad or WordPress. They offer some additional bells and whistles, so you can customize your blog to the nth degree (Google’s Blogger is catching up and now offers most of the functionality and flexibility of these more purist products and you can always upgrade to one of these other platforms down the road). Another reason more advanced users lean toward other products is that they want to have their own web address for the blog, as opposed to yourblog.blogspot.com (which is the Blogger default). Unless you are experienced with website hosting and domains, the simplicity of Google Blogger will outweigh that one drawback.
To get started with Google Blogger, visit www.blogger.com. You will either sign in using an existing Google or Gmail account, or create a new one. After that, name your blog, pick a template and you’re done. Step 7 Configure your blog For this next step I will assume you’re using Blogger. If you aren’t, then you’re probably experienced enough to know where to find these settings. Naming your blog There are two places to provide a name for your blog. One is the title, which will be shown in the heading, and the second is in the web address of the blog (yourblog.blogspot.com). When choosing a name, be sure to keep your audience in mind. What will attract your target viewers? When choosing a web address, keep it short but relevant. Description Your blog’s description will be seen by readers who visit your site, and it will also appear in search engine results. You will want to choose descriptors that possess keywords related to your topic, but don’t sacrifice keyword use for a clear message.
Involve the reader.
Blog address Devise a short and relevant address, something that contains keywords relevant to your topic, is short, and is fairly easy to remember. Send pings This option tells your blog software whether you want to notify search engines about your web and blog indexing. The answer is yes. Number of posts to show This option tells the software how many posts (articles) to show on the home page of your blog. Depending on the length of your posts, 3-10 is appropriate. You can archive or categorically arrange posts so that readers can easily access the ones that have been bumped from your home page. Comments and back-links At first, you may want to disable comments from your posts. Once you get steady traffic, you can turn them back on. If you have few or no comments, it gives the appearance that your blog is not very popular. However, it’s expected that a new blog will not have many comments so it’s not a huge concern. As time goes on, if your posts are still not receiving any feedback, you may want to keep this option off until your traffic increases.
Back-links are a way of showing your readers other blogs that reference your posts. As your reader base grows, the other sites which link to your blog will also grow (though this is heavily dependent on the quality of your content). Site feed This option allows you to offer an RSS feed for your blog. There are a couple of different formats which you can investigate. You will also need to add buttons to your site to allow people to subscribe. For now, you will need to activate feeds by turning this option on and naming your feed. Step 8 Create your first post Begin your blog with a “welcome” post with a brief statement about why you have created your blog and what interests you intend to serve. This MUST be accompanied by a second post which has valuable information for your readers. A “welcome” post by itself is not going to compel anyone to come back. Step 9 Create your “pillar” posts I borrowed this term from Yaro Starek, the author of several blogs including Entrepreneur’s Journey and Small Business Branding. Here is Yaro’s description: “A pillar article is
Share with the world.
usually a tutorial style article aimed to teach your audience something. Generally they are longer than 500 words and have lots of very practical tips or advice.“...“This style of article has long term appeal, stays current (it isn’t news or time dependent) and offers real value and insight. The more pillars you have on your blog the better.” Yaro suggests that you begin with at least five pillar posts. You don’t want to post these articles all at once or even in succession. The idea is to have at least five high-impact articles at your disposal to give your readers above-average value. These pillar posts are also the ones most likely to be picked up and linked by other sites. Step 10 Spread the word When your blog is set up and you have your welcome post and one good article, you are ready to present it to the world!
Easy Ways To Build Blog Traffic
Now that your blog is ready for the public to utilize, you will need to get the word out. This is easier to do than you might imagine. In fact, your first visitors may come through no efforts of your own. Bloggers are a curious bunch, so don’t be surprised if your first visitors are fellow bloggers (who are probably well worth knowing). Here are some additional ways to ensure your blog is poised for maximum traffic: Post Quality Content Posting quality content is consistently cited as the number one factor generating blog traffic. I will discuss this in the next section, but I would be breaking blogger protocol if I didn’t mention it now.
#1: Quality content.
Submit To Online Directories There are thousands of online directories for blogs, but most of them are either not very useful or they will eventually find your blog automatically. In the interest of time, I have provided you with the most effective online directories. Technorati is the premier blog indexing engine and it will play a big role in your blog’s initial success. www.technorati.com. Google Blogger will automatically inform Google about your
Participate on other blogs.
blog. If you’re not using Google Blogger, visit Google Blog Search Pinging Service to complete this step manually. Sign up for FeedBurner. This tool is free and offers several benefits, most importantly that of distributing your blog posts via RSS. It also allows you to quickly view your blog statistics such as the number of visitors and subscribers. Blogcatalog.com. I’m using blogcatalog. Many blog index sites exist, but I prefer this one because it has a high Google PageRank™. In addition to being listed on their site, having a link from a page with a high PageRank™ will help you appear higher in search engine results.
You may consider spending some time getting listed with the other directories. If you do, download the Google Toolbar so you can see each site’s PageRank™. Look for sites that have a rank of five or higher. Post Comments On Other Blogs When you comment on another person’s blog, it will typically create a hyperlink that other readers can follow to learn more about the individual that commented. Do not leave comments strictly to promote your own blog; this is considered “comment spamming” and these comments will most likely be discarded by the author. If you have
valuable feedback for the author or additional information for other readers, comment all you like. If you’re commenting on a site with a big reader base, this additional traffic can lead many readers to your blog. Submit Your Posts To eZineArticles .com eZineArticles is a place where authors and columnists can submit articles to be viewed and re-used by the masses. This accomplishes two goals. First, it gets your name and ideas out there. Each article you write includes a signature tag that allows you to include your blog address. Second and most importantly, it makes your articles available for syndication. Publishers and content providers constantly scour eZineArticles.com to find articles to include in their newsletters, blogs, and websites. Anyone who re-uses your content must credit you and include your signature block (with a link to your blog). Always submit your “pillar posts” to eZineArticles.com, but wait a few days after posting so that Google indexes yours as the original. Encourage Comments On Your Blog By encouraging readers to participate, they feel engaged in your blog and develop a personal relationship with you. This is a valuable tool in building a base of return readers.
Get Links From Other Bloggers Darren Rowse is again a great resource; visit his article: 13 Tips on Asking Other Bloggers for Links. Update Frequently Aside from the obvious benefit of keeping content fresh for your readers, frequent updates prompt the search engines and blog reader robots to visit your site more frequently, making sure that your posts are visible to as many readers as possible. Keep The Design Simple Be careful not to add too much distraction to your blog. The focus should be on your content. While you want to add elements that make it easy to subscribe to your blog and find relevant links, you don’t need to add a ton of bells and whistles. Stay On Topic Some people, even the best bloggers, can get off track. They may have found a great new Chinese restaurant and can’t wait to tell the world. The rule of thumb is that if it’s not of direct value to your readers, don’t post it. Furthermore, if it’s not what your readers expect to see, don’t post it. If the content is not on topic, it belongs somewhere else.
The right target can make your blog legendary.
Maximize Your Reach With Quality Content
The definition of good content will depend on your audience. What makes one blog legendary could prove useless to a different audience. Follow these basic guidelines with your specific audience in mind: 1. Make your material useful. If your target audience is learning something new and relevant to your topic, they will be drawn to your blog. 2. Capture the audience’s attention quickly. Assume that you have about two minutes of time with your reader. Direct them to something meaningful in that amount of time. 3. Develop unique material. This doesn’t mean your blog has to contain all original posts; just make sure that you are providing information that is not posted on every blog in your industry. 4. Make yourself stand out. If there are 100 bloggers writing on the same topic, what makes you different? Why should readers subscribe to your blog? Dare to be different! Take a different stance, use a different tone or write in a humorous fashion. Whatever it is, make sure there is something distinctive and memorable about your blog and its content.
Write 3 to 5 good posts per week.
5. Consider Quantity of Posts – The ideal number of posts will vary, but generally one a day or three to five per week is a reasonable goal. Some of the most popular blog sites have multiple posts per day, but this is due largely to their specialized content, such as technology news. How often you post should be dictated purely by the amount of useful information you have to share. If you can easily write three to five good posts per week, you are meeting the goal of maintaining a dynamic blog. If not, there are plenty of other resources which you can share with your readers. Finding External Content There are two reasons why you might need to look outside your own brilliant mind for content ideas. One is that at any particular time, you may not have anything to write. The second is that you can provide your readers with access to terrific information from other valuable sources. Our egos may shudder at the thought of posting someone else’s ideas, but this can be a great service to your readers. Here are some ideas for finding material: Subscribe to Google Alerts to keep you informed of all the latest news in your industry. Subscribe to the RSS feeds from other respected blogs on related topics.
Browse online trade publications for helpful articles. Inform your readers of upcoming events.
When incorporating external content, it’s a good idea (and responsible blogging) to provide a brief summary, followed by a link to the full article. Copying and posting an entire article (even when you provide credit to the author) is discourteous. Establishing a link to other blogs will benefit you in a couple of ways. First, you give your readers something useful. Second, the blogger you reference may become a friend and establish a reciprocal link to you. I would caution against linking to another blog that targets the same exact audience as yours and by all rights is better than your own. The idea is that you retain your readers!
Analyzing And Tuning Your Blog
Once you have traffic to your blog, you will want to look over the usage statistics. Most blog software allows you to determine how many people are visiting your page, which articles they are reading, and how they reached your site. This information is helpful in many ways. The measure you are most interested in is of how many people are visiting your blog. It’s a very good indicator of how the public receives your site. Don’t expect a
Evaluate your readers.
lot of traffic in the first few weeks (or even months in some cases). The traffic will arrive, and it’s more about quality than quantity: some of my first readers were from major corporations and still follow my posts regularly. Remember that you don’t need a large amount of blog readers to have a big impact on your sales. It is valuable to determine how the users have found your blog. This becomes important when you try to determine where to put your efforts in promoting your blog. The ultimate goal is to turn your blog into an entirely passive entity (except posting, of course). The more time you spend at the onset attracting visitors, the more you can be assured that your blog will run smoothly with less effort. Finally, knowing which posts are well-liked will enable you to decide what to write in the future. If a post on a specific subject is wildly popular, writing more on that subject should please your audience.
I use the following tools to analyze my usage and traffic . Google Analytics This tool is full-featured for a free product. Google Analytics has a lot of versatility, but the most helpful tools are those which allow you to view visitors by hour/day, see which pages they accessed, see where there are from, see which site referred them, and even see which operating system they use. FeedBurner FeedBurner is primarily for managing your RSS feeds and subscriptions. By using FeedBurner, you can ensure that all of your readers are getting the same RSS feeds. It also has a handy tracking tool and other options to enhance your blog.
Chapter Summary and Resources.
Blogs are an opportunity to gain authority and credibility, and to have prospects seek out your expertise. Use blogs as a place to publish great content that increase your traffic and reach. Content and perserverence are the two primary attributes of a successful blog. Stay on topic and maintain a consistent voice. Participate in other blogs and industry forums to help drive traffic and increase exposure.
More Great Resources
ProBlogger: Secrets for Blogging Your Way to a Six-Figure Income Darren Rowse [Book] Blogging Tips for Beginners [Article] Choosing a Blogging Platform [Article]
Quick Tips: Sales Process
Quick Tips: Sales Process
Never stop experimenting. Don’t reinvent your sales process during the slumps, but always be open to new ways to impact your business and help your clients succeed. If you don’t interact with more than one contact at a company that is purchasing a complex (or expensive) solution , you will very rarely win. You should have three regular contacts per opportunity. If you are going to lose a deal, let it happen as quickly as possible. Know when to cut bait. An opportunity with a 10% chance of closing will take just as much of your time as one with an 80% chance. You can only effectively work on so many deals, therefore it’s best to weed out the low probability prospects and focus on those you are more likely to contract. Even if you don’t have back-fill, spend the time you save finding more positive opportunities. If you’re working five deals and they all fall through, your quarter is blown and you’ll spend the next one trying to re-build your pipe. This is easier said than done, but your passive pipeline will give you the backfill you need and you can turn away low probability deals. A buyer who approaches you is many times more likely to buy.
You should never have to “close” a prospect. Signing the contract should simply be the next step in delivering what they want/need. Your intent is to foster a long-term working relationship with a client. Never let a “presentation” precede a discussion. If you explain to the prospect that you don’t make blind presentations without fully understanding their needs, they will respect you for it. If they don’t, they’re not a decision-maker. Set the stage early for access to power. Whenever you can, make it clear that you need access to the stakeholders in order to bid on a project. If you don’t set this precedent, you will be forced to work with the information gatherer for the entire sales process. The value that you personally bring to the buying process is the single most relevant indicator of how likely you are to win the business. The hardest questions to ask are often the ones that most need asking. One of my personal heroes Mahan Khalsa says that if you are truly trying to help the client succeed, you can get away with some questions that would scare most salespeople. For example, “I haven’t heard anything that would compel me to change providers if I were you, can you share your thoughts with me on that?”
Never rely on anyone else to sell for you. They aren’t salespeople. If someone offers to pass your information on, offer to speak with the intended recipient personally. In this way, you can directly send them information that is actually relevant. Marketing material doesn’t ensure sales. Selling at the C level makes sense sometimes, but not all the time. Most buying decisions are delegated to the director level or lower. It never hurts to engage the CEO, but they do not warrant the brunt of your sales efforts. Besides, they are the names everyone knows, they get assaulted by salespeople all of the time. If you can show someone lower in the hierarchy how your solution will benefit them personally, you have a great chance at a glowing endorsement. Expect (and earn) the same respect and consideration from your clients that they demand from you. Creating the illusion that you are somehow lower than your prospect or client will hinder the entire relationship. This is very common in situations where the relationship was started with a cold-call. If you didn’t get into the relationship on equal footing, work hard to get there quickly.
The New Professional Networking
Your Personal Business Network – Compliments Of Web 2 .0 It’s commonly agreed that people buy from people they know and trust. But unless you provide a local service in a very small town, you don’t have the luxury of being known or trusted by all of the people you would like to do business with. With the overabundance of information currently available in our society and the pure saturation of mainstream media and marketing, it has become more and more difficult for salespeople to stand out. People are so overwhelmed with marketing and solicitations that they are forced to fall back on recommendations from people they trust. In your business, have you ever known a buyer who was so overwhelmed with choices and information that he simply bought from someone he knew or who came recommended, even though it may not have been the best choice? Personal business networking has the potential to overcome this major selling obstacle. One major advantage that networking has over advertising and other forms of revenue generation is that it’s free. The other attraction is that it’s primarily passive, and with a little work and attention can produce opportunities that you simply wouldn’t have had otherwise.
Stand out from the crowd.
Are you using LinkedIn correctly?
Enter Web 2 .0-Powered Personal Business Networking . When you combine the natural benefits of business networking with the power of the internet and the genius of Silicon Valley, you find yourself with a tremendous tool. You probably already know that I’m referring to LinkedIn, but you may not be harnessing its full potential. LinkedIn has taken business networking to new heights, and it continues to develop new ways for users to benefit from its services. LinkedIn is a very powerful networking tool even with just the basic functionality, and the developers are building additional tools such as LinkedIn Answers and Services Directory, which presents salespeople with even greater opportunities. With $12.8 million in new revenue, LinkedIn has promised to experiment with even more powerful tools in the coming years. Regardless of whether you have or haven’t discovered LinkedIn, I’d like you to pay special attention to how LinkedIn can have a significant impact on raising your income. Before we dive into of the anatomy of LinkedIn, I’d like to share a few fast facts: More than 37 million business professionals currently belong to LinkedIn (26 million more than in 2007). More than 100,000 new business professionals join weekly.
The average user is 39 years old and earns $139,000/year. The average experience level of LinkedIn users is 15 years. Members spend an average of 20 minutes on LinkedIn per week. All of the Fortune 500 are represented at the executive level. The average Harvard Business School graduate has 58 LinkedIn connections. The average Google employee has 47 LinkedIn connections. Membership includes 89,000 CEO’s and another 750,000 C Level Executives (as of 2007)
LinkedIn is a connection engine that does not operate on random introductions. By simply adding the people you already know and work with to your network, you can be directly allied to the people you most want to do business with. Best of all, you arrived as a trusted referral and your accolades are immediately apparent to your prospects. I have yet to find a situation where someone I wanted to reach, even a CEO, was more than two connections away. The more people in your network, the more powerful the site becomes for you. “People realize that relationships matter in business. People want to find and do business with people who are recommended by people they know. As a small business, you don’t have a big brand behind you, which, in some ways,
Boost your sales and your career.
makes your work harder. People are less likely to respond to you because they don’t really know who you are. Having a profile and endorsements on LinkedIn can help.” – Konstantin Guericke Co-founder and vice-president of marketing at LinkedIn.
How LinkedIn Can Impact Your Sales
By now the benefits of LinkedIn are probably obvious, but how can this networking tool actually boost your sales and your career? Reconnecting More than just a way of making new connections, LinkedIn enables you to reconnect with previous colleagues, classmates and business associates. It also gives you an opportunity to put your product or service on the top of your contact’s mind. Create A Mobile Network Because it’s a personal vehicle for business development, your LinkedIn network will follow you wherever you go. Should you choose to change careers, your long list of satisfied customers can go with you. Even better, the endorsements and connections you’ve built will follow you as well, growing along the way.
Meet key contacts.
Introductions Key contacts and introductions can be fostered through a simple search using your network. You can search by company, keyword, line of business and even find former employees of companies. The more adept you become at using LinkedIn, the larger your network and the more valuable your searches will become. I read the following in an article on the power of connections on LinkedIn. This is not a business scenario, but illustrates my point; A group of friends and relatives who were scheduled to fly from Israel to attend a man’s wedding in San Francisco encountered an underbooked United Airlines flight. While at the airport in Israel, the man located the French General Manager for United Airlines through LinkedIn and got an introduction to an Israeli contact. Before long the contact had the flight reinstated and United’s French General Manager emailed the man to let him know that all passengers had safely boarded. Another article I discovered recounted a meeting between two entrepreneurs looking for capital and the founder of LinkedIn (who invests heavily in startups). The meeting was arranged through, you guessed it, LinkedIn. He liked the entrepreneurs’ pitch and offered to contact them in a few days with a decision.
InMail By using InMail you can directly contact any other member without the need for a mutual connection. The LinkedIn communications networks aren’t inexpensive, so they are still used sparingly enough to be taken seriously. I haven’t seen any statistics to support this, but I would estimate that this type of direct communication, even without mutual contacts, is at least ten times more likely to garner a response than a cold-call or letter. In fact, many professional salespeople rely 100% on LinkedIn as a means of prospecting. Endorsements Endorsements are the most under-utilized feature among LinkedIn users. This is unfortunate, because regardless of how many people you are connected with, you won’t likely gain much ground without positive feedback from people who have personally worked with you. By having members of your network endorse your work, either as an employee, peer, or client, you add instant and visible credibility to your name. Aside from simply adding praise to your profile, you now have the ability to present credentials and testimonials to potential LinkedIn connections. Once you have built endorsements, I recommend you also display a button linked to your profile in your email signature, blog and anywhere else you
Know your competition.
can make connections. You can find the buttons to cpoy into your signature on your profile settings page on LinkedIn’s website. Research Your Prospects LinkedIn allows you to learn about a prospect and their business relationships before you turn to direct communication. In this way, you have a chance to ascertain whether you might have a mutual contact, or if you are connected to others in their organization. You might use this strategy to locate a champion for a project beyond your primary contact, or to introduce yourself to a key stakeholder who may not yet be directly involved. You can even ask contacts in your network to put in a good word for you ahead of time! Research Competition I research my sales representative competition on a regular basis. I want to know who they know, who has endorsed their work, and as much other information as I can garner. It is obviously important to learn as much as you can about a competing company, but I also like to know about the individual people I will be competing against. I have also made it a habit to browse my contacts to see which competitors they may have recently added to their networks. It’s a great way to monitor who may be courting your best clients.
A more powerful resume.
Get A New Job A complete and endorsement-rich LinkedIn profile makes an excellent resume and is also bait for potential employers. Companies like Microsoft and Google spend hundreds of thousands a year on LinkedIn services in order to find good candidates for open positions. A profile with twenty or more connections on LinkedIn is thirty-four times more likely to be approached with new job opportunities than is one with less than five. LinkedIn also offers a great opportunity to learn more about future employers, uncover turnover concerns, see who has endorsed your potential new boss, etc. Ask For Advice LinkedIn Answers is a survey tool which allows you to pose questions to your entire network, not just your connections. If you want to find out what is important in a business partner, just ask! Another example, similar to the Israeli scenario I mentioned earlier, involves a gentleman who needed to find a flight to the Netherlands to visit a sick relative. He wasn’t having any luck with travel, sites so he posted a question on LinkedIn. Within one hour he had six responses, including a referral to someone who could get him a flight! The types of questions you can submit to LinkedIn Answers are limitless.
You can have your new blog posting critiqued, determine the most popular features of a product or service, etc. Be Listed In The Services Guide A new feature on LinkedIn is the services tab. It’s a way to search for recommended providers, but it goes much further than that. When someone submits an endorsement for you, it is stored in the services directory. When someone within two network-relation levels of you searches for a service provider in your field, your recommendations will appear under that service. Those in the closest network relation position to the searcher will appear first in the results. It’s completely automated; all you need to do is indicate your line of business in your profile and have people write recommendations for you.
How To Build (Or Enhance) Your LinkedIn Network
Creating your profile on LinkedIn is an intuitive process, but I have included some instructions to guide you. 1. Make sure you complete your profile. Adding your current profile and educational accomplishments isn’t enough. I recommend you add all past employers, colleges and degree(s), club participation, community outreach and any of your other achievements to your profile. This will give you a step up in connecting with more people. 2. Once you have completed step one, you can use the “People” tab to locate and add new contacts from your current job, previous jobs, schools and groups. LinkedIn will automatically find these people and provide you with a list to choose which to add to your network. Once you have done the automated searches, you can also search for personal contacts by name, and send invitations to join your network. If you download the Outlook toolbar provided by LinkedIn, you can scan your mailbox for potential connections and send invitations. You can also use the toolbar to view LinkedIn information on anyone you communicate with via email. The website provides detailed instructions on how to accomplish this.
Develop your network.
Get the competitive edge.
Some people use LinkedIn regularly, and others every few days, so allow appropriate time for a response. Many people have just as many pending invitations as active contacts. Some people just don’t commonly use LinkedIn, or may have a company policy against using networking sites, so don’t take it personally if an invitation is not accepted. 3. Now that your contact list is populated, start asking people for recommendations. LinkedIn allows you to send a courteous request for endorsements. For the strongest recommendations, request them from people you have worked with directly and have served well. The right endorsements provide you the competitive edge. It is useful to have recommendations from all contact types (former employers, coworkers and clients). You never know who will be viewing your profile or why. Demonstrate your diversity and ability to work in a variety of settings. 4. Consider a Premium Membership. My LinkedIn network has served me well without paying for any premium membership package. However, if you want to begin contacting prospects directly, with no introduction, or to request many introductions, you might want to consider the investment.
A quality network.
5. Be a good network citizen. While no rules exist against adding people you don’t know or have mutual connections with, it does go against the original intent of the service. Some power networkers, known as “LIONS”, will display their email address as part of their username to assist strangers in adding them to their networks. This allows for greater outreach, but many would argue it takes the value out of an introduction from a legitimate contact. Sites like Myspace, FaceBook and even YouTube have caused the general public to profile online networking as a social tool. LinkedIn is all business. LinkedIn has a brilliant (possibly accidental) system of self-regulation. This quality is not built into the software, but built into the minds of its members. Professionals are inclined to invite contacts at their level of expertise or above. When you chose which contacts to invite to your network, did most of them fit this criterion? The membership will continue to consist of those who are thought of highly in the business world, making LinkedIn a sort of very, very long A-list.
Twitter: A Quick Guide For Sales Pros
By now you’ve heard of Twitter , or even dabbled with it. Quite simply, Twitter is a way to connect with the world and update them on what you’re doing, and vice versa. I didn’t see much value in that professionally until I realized it’s more than just what you’re doing. It’s what you’re reading, what you’re struggling with, what you suggest, how you can help and how you can give back. It also gives you an opportunity to connect with customers, to connect with people who are interested in your area of expertise, and to crowd-source a very large audience. Twitter is a fantastic resource for sales professionals, but it must be used correctly (I’ve compiled a short outline of the rights and wrongs of twitter for sales pros), First, here are a few of examples of how Twitter has helped me professionally: I have found people who are happy/unhappy with my product and I have made sure they all end up in the former category. A quick Twitter search will turn up all mentions of your business or product on Twitter. I have found people who are unhappy with the competition and I have found ways to help. Twitter is often used to vent, and many people include company and product names while doing so. Use
Twitter is not a place to sell.
Twitter Search or your favorite application to find them. I have found people who are considering using the products and services I sell. I often find tweets (individual Twitter messages) from people who are in meetings or demonstrations with my competition. Tweet them back! I have been promoted. Yesterday I posted a tweet about a software tool that I really like (@SlideRocket) and a link to read more about it on my website. The company reposted my tweet (known as re-tweeting) to over 1,800 followers, and included my web address. It was good press for everyone!
There are plenty of articles on the subject of Twitter, so I want to focus on just the things I feel are important for sales professionals to remember. Twitter is not for prospecting . At least not in the traditional sense. You will likely build relationships that turn into prospects, but don’t go into thinking of Twitter as a lead source. It’s just not. Add Value . Twitter’s tagline “What are you doing?” is partly to blame for the “just ate dinner” and “watching Gossip Girl” tweets. In fact, the original intention of Twitter was to share just that sort of information. But the venue has evolved, and, from a business perspective, your posts need to add value to the reader’s day. This is especially true for people who recieve hundreds of updates per day.
And it’s not a popularity contest
Have two Twitter accounts . I use one which consistently adds value to my readers (I hope). The other I use for more informal things like connecting with vendors or asking questions of my peers. The latter is full of re-tweets and @ responses (a message directed to a certain person on Twitter has an @ symbol in front of the users name). I have some of those in my outward facing account as well, but I find that a lot of the communications I have on Twitter aren’t necessarily useful to my followers. That’s what the second account is for. Note: You’ll need a second email address to make a second account. If you use Gmail and have a period in your name (justyn.howard), you can simply exclude the period (justynhoward) and Twitter will recognize it as a seperate email, but your messages will still go to the same address. ReTweet the good stuff . It’s courtesy, it adds value to your followers and will likely gain you some additional ones. It’s not a popularity contest . Don’t start following everyone in hopes that they will follow you back. I only follow those people who, through search, I have found to share an interest with me, those I want to get new ideas from, or those who have followed me that also have some useful posts of their own. Use Direct Messages (DM’s as they are known). If you’re having a two-way conversation with someone, use direct messages. These
Follow me @sell_smarter.
are not shown to all of your followers, so they keep your timeline clean and useful. When you respond to someone with an @ reply, everyone sees it, and because they are only seeing one side of the conversation, it’s pretty useless. Include keywords and misspellings of your name in your tweets so people can find you. If your name is commonly misspelled, include the misspellings in one of your tweets. This tip was modified from one that was passed on by Jill Konrath regarding LinkedIn, which is another great place to include a misspelling. For more beginner-focused information on getting started with Twitter check out this article from CNET . For more advanced twitter tips visit www.twitip.com. Finally, feel free to follow me on Twitter @sell_smarter. More Great Twitter Tools: Search.Twitter.com [Twitter Search] Twhirl [Twitter Desktop Application] TweetDeck [Twitter Desktop Application]
Note: The two desktop applications above are great once you get familiar with Twitter and want a little more functionality/flexibility when viewing and posting Tweets.
Developing A Social Networking Strategy
If you are serious about using social networking to increase your reach and influence, it’s important to have a strategy for managing these efforts. A strategy will increase your effectiveness and also reduce the potential for information overload and productivity drain. Below are a few things to consider when deciding on a plan that works for you. Where to set up shop? First you need to decide which communities you want to participate in, and chances are you already have a few that you are active in. I highly recommend both Twitter and LinkedIn for sales professionals, but you may want to consider others. Facebook, with its over 200 Million users, is often overlooked as a business tool, but it can be a huge source of traffic and reach if used properly. I have gone back and forth over the idea of using Facebook, which I have always considered too personal for business use. Some recent developments, though, have made having a business presence on Facebook a lot more appropriate. Specifically, I am referring to the launch of Facebook “Pages,” which are intended to allow businesses and professionals an opportunity to connect and build relationships on the platform.
Personal vs. Business
If you are interested in developing your business presence on Facebook, you should visit WhyFacebook.com, a blog by Mari Smith, who is the authority on the subject and coaches many high profile sellers on using Facebook to increase sales. Two things to keep in mind when it comes to using Facebook for business: 1. Your personal profile will still play a big part in your efforts, since you cannot add friends with ‘Pages’ (they can only add you). Be aware that your personal profile may need an overhaul to be business-ready. 2. The terms of service for promoting business on Facebook are very specific and strictly enforced. Make sure you read and understand them. There may also be other communities where you want to get involved, such as industry specific networks. The important thing to remember is not to spread yourself too thin. You cannot possibly have meaningful interactions on a dozen social networking sites; this would degrade the quality of your involvement across the board. You also need to be mindful of your time. The intent of this book is to develop resource-friendly processes that will grow your business. If you are spending too much time managing your social networking activities, you are defeating the purpose.
Be consistent to increase reach.
Have a common purpose . Being active in 3-4 different communities is a great way to network and gain tremendous exposure, but you want to stay as consistent as possible. By consistent I mean the objectives (not the activity) in each should be uniform. While maintaining a common purpose, you also need to avoid being redundant. Ideally you want each network to feed the others, so having the same updates or posts on all of your networks is counterproductive. An example of using multiple networks effectively might be using your blog to post original, useful content while using Twitter to point users to your blog, share news and participate in conversations. You can use LinkedIn and Facebook both to network and to introduce users to your work by pointing them to your Blog and Twitter accounts. You should also post some of your best work (blog posts, articles, etc.) to your Facebook and LinkedIn pages. This will help potential “followers” understand what they can gain from networking with you. Link them up . Each of the networks we’ve discussed has a place for other links. Each of your networks should link to the others. Make it easy for viewers of your Facebook profile to follow you on Twitter, make sure your Twitter profile has a link to your blog, etc.
Participation drives traffic.
Choose a voice . Your blog may embody much more of your personality than your LinkedIn profile, and is even more true of your Twitter account. You want to stay consistent with your tone and personality in each of these environments so that users who choose to interact with you will have a familiar experience. That’s not to say you can’t mix it up from time to time, but you should choose a primary “voice” for each. Note: Using the same photo for each community is a good idea because it helps promote your personal brand. When people start seeing you everywhere, they’ll stop and take notice. Participate . Setting up profiles and occasionally updating content are not enough to see the real benefits of social networking. You need to be active in discussions, comment to others, pose questions and provide value. On LinkedIn, for example, you can participate in the Answers area by posing or answering questions. You can also be recognized for giving quality answers and resources to others. On Facebook, you can join groups. On Twitter, you can seek out others with common interests or help someone solve a problem. The point is, without participation and adding value, there’s not much point to establishing a social network. Be mindful of your time. Initially you’ll spend a lot more time with these tools - setting up your profiles, adding users and making minor tweaks
Plan time to cultivate.
along the way - than you will eventually. You may also find yourself overwhelmed with the amount of great information (on Twitter for example). It’s OK, just know that until your networks gain critical mass, you’ll still need to keep up with the outside world and your normal duties. Develop a plan. Once you get the hang of things and build your network, it’s not necessary to spend more than 5-10 minutes a day on each of your communities. Plan this time in your schedule and stick to it. Social Networking does not usually bear immediate fruit, but the long term benefits can be phenomenal.
What does the web say about you?
Managing Your Online Reputation
As a sales professional, it’s highly likely that you spend a good deal of time on the web (If you don’t, you should). What you might not realize is the permanent footprint you leave behind. Because of the proliferation of the web and the explosive growth of social media, the amount of individual information available online might surprise you. Want proof? Go to www.pipl.com and search for yourself. Whether someone is actively looking for this information, or just browsing and clicking links, people ARE seeing this information. My suggestion, and the purpose of this section, is to scrub this information and make sure that your professional reputation is represented in the best possible way. Not every prospect or potential employer is going to google you or lookup your Facebook profile, but this is becoming increasingly popular and it’s the first thing I do when I’m researching a contact. It’s worth the time and effort to make sure you’re putting your best virtual foot forward. Things that may seem trivial among your circle of friends may not be as harmless to professional contacts. This is especially true when it comes to things like politics, religious beliefs, or that picture of you doing a keg stand at your family picnic.
Did you know? Google is a verb.
Here are some tips to help you tidy up your online persona: Start with Google To start, google your name. Use quotations around your name in your search so you will only get exact matches. Take note of anything in the first 2 pages of results that you wouldn’t share with a first date. If you have a common name, results that actually refer to you may not even appear in the first few pages, which is fine. Now, visit the links that you would like to remove from the search results and look for ways to either hide or delete that information. It may be a simple step, or it may involve deleting an account from whatever site the information may reside on. It might also be necessary to contact the site owner. In some cases (such as with public records) you cannot remove the information, but you may be able to push it off of the front page using some ideas I’ll share a little further on. Keep your professional and social lives separate . You need to decide what level of distinction you want between social networking and your business. If you’re trading jabs with friends, ranting about the last movie you saw, or posting private pictures on Myspace or Facebook, it’s probably best to keep business contacts off your friends list.
Keep business seperate.
If you decide that you want to use Facebook or similar sites for business networking, make sure you clean up your profile so that it is suitable for this purpose. You can also control what content is available to your “friends” in the most popular online communities. My suggestion is to start by using your favorite social network for friends/family, and use a site such as LinkedIn for business contacts. I prefer to keep them completely separate, though Facebook has presented businesses with some compelling opportunities, as discussed in the previous section. It may also be useful to delete any outdated profiles. While your daily social site might be up to date, you don’t want to forget about an old profile from your college days that could come back to haunt you. Another thing to keep in mind is the recent popularity of tagging people in photos. Your name can be associated with a photo that someone else posts, and you may not even be aware of it. Of course most of us aren’t being caught in tabloid-worthy photos, but you need to be cognizant of this. Load up on the good stuff Once you have sterilized your online presence, it’s time to make it shine. Here are a few good ideas for increasing your online cred:
Post more good stuff.
Make sure you have a complete LinkedIn profile. Ask colleagues and clients for testimonials. A good LinkedIn profile should be as complimentary as a well-written resume (and can be used as such). If it’s available, buy www.yourname.com. You don’t have to put anything there; you can simply redirect it to your LinkedIn profile or something similar. The reason this is good to have is that search engines will often place sites with the search term in the domain name higher in the search results. Have some useful information to share with the world? Have articles published on sites like www.ezinearticles.com. Sites with large amounts of traffic rank very high in search engine results. Participate in online forums related to your industry, interests, or job role. Not only can these sites be informative, they also do very well in search engine results. There are also services such as Reputation Defender that you can use not only to monitor your reputation, but to help to clean it up and make sure people are only seeing the things you want them to see. As Bing Crosby said, you’ve got to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative. Your online persona is going to become increasingly important in any profession, and it will benefit you to keep these things in mind.
Chapter Summary and Resources.
A complete and testimonial-rich LinkedIn profile is a must for any sales professional. Include a link to your profile in your email signature and invite prospects to join your network. Social networking is a way to build relationships, not to sell directly. Consider Twitter and Facebook as additional networking avenues. Develop a specific strategy and don’t spread yourself too thin.
More Great Resources
Twitter Power: How to Dominate Your Market One Tweet at a Time [Book] WhyFacebook.com [Blog] LinkedWorking: Generating Success on The World’s Largest Professional Networking Website [Book] Note: If you’re looking for other books on the subjects presented in this chapter, don’t buy anything published before mid-2008; too much has changed since then.
How To Create And Deliver A Great Sales Presentations
If you sell larger-ticket items or services, chances are you give sales presentations. And chances are you’re doing it wrong. Here’s a quick checklist to decide whether your sales presentation needs work (hint, these are all bad); Are your first slides full of company information? Do you use the same slide deck for every presentation? Are your slides full of bullets? Are your on-screen sentences more than 6-8 words? Does any slide require more than 5 seconds of reading? Do you spend time on demonstrations when a screen-shot would suffice?
Are you guilty of lousy presentations?
Most of us are guilty of a few (or all) of these things. It’s OK. You’re doing things exactly the same way your competitors are. If your product/ pricing/reputation is superior enough, you may make an average number of sales this way. If you want to provide greater value and a vastly more enjoyable experience for your prospects, we should explore some ways you can improve this process.
Do your research.
Your sales presentation should tell a detailed story of how your product/ service will improve life for those involved. Does the location of your corporate office have any impact your audience? If it does, fine, but ask yourself if every part of your presentation adds value. If it doesn’t, ditch it. Does the number of years you’ve been in business matter? Salesforce.com is one of the youngest companies in the CRM space, yet it is probably the most respected. My point is, get rid of the useless. It’s your job to understand what will add value to your audience and to deliver nothing more. If you haven’t had enough dialogue with the prospect to understand where the value lies, reschedule the meeting. If your slides are full of information that is easily found online or in your brochures, unplug the Internet and start over. On the subject of useless, are there people from your company involved in the meeting that don’t need to be? I have a competitor who regularly brings 6-10 people to every presentation; all but 2 or 3 of them remain silent. It overwhelms the conference room and makes the prospect wonder if your bulging travel budget is reflected in your pricing. So how do we do things right? The next section will be broken into two parts. The first will focus on the technical aspects of delivering your presentation; the second will focus on what’s in the presentation.
Your competition is slacking.
Discovery vs . Presentation
Always treat discovery and presentation as two separate steps. The first half of your presentation should not be spent asking questions to determine how the second half will go. That should take plance in a separate meeting involving the stakeholders to determine where the value is. Again, if you haven’t done discovery, reschedule the meeting. You also need to make sure that your team members understand this and that they show up to the dance armed with the information you’ve already gathered. Don’t make the prospect repeat themselves and reset the foundation. It’s a waste of time and a cause for frustration. Use an agenda It doesn’t need to be on the slides or in the handouts (which you never give until after the presentation, right?) but you need to set an agenda and use it. This should be a set of objectives mutually agreed upon by you and the prospect, and it should be addressed briefly at the beginning of your presentation so that everyone knows what to expect, and can suggest changes if needed. To present last? Or first? In a competitive selling environment, when you present (relative to the other vendors) can be a major advantage.
Present last, or first?
Most sales professionals don’t think to suggest when they’d like to present, so the chances that you will be able to pick your spot are pretty good. So when do you go? Personally, if during my discovery I have uncovered that I have major, unique advantages and a powerful story to tell, I like to go first to set the bar for the other presenters. If my discovery has not uncovered many ways in which I have an advantage, or if I feel like another presenter is in the lead, I like to go last. When going last, I also like to make sure I show the prospect a few things they haven’t seen before. Be cautious: while going last has its advantages, you should be extra careful to exclude unnecessary information and education points, as the prospects are probably already fairly well informed and tired of being in the conference room. Another advantage of going last is that the audience will typically ask more questions and give you more opportunity to show value. During the first presentation, they didn’t know what to ask. Finally, when presenting last you have a unique opportunity to determine how you stack up against the competition. By simply asking, “Considering all of the presentations you’ve seen, are there any areas where you do not feel we are the best solution, or any capabilities that we have not yet demonstrated?” You’re the only presenter with this advantage.
In Person vs . Virtual
There are times when meeting in person is more appropriate than meeting virtually, and vice-versa. However, there are things to consider for each situation which, although they may fall into the common sense category, I will reiterate them just in case. In Person Establish a time to arrive which will allow you to properly setup, grab a drink of water, test the Internet connection, etc. Don’t assume the contact knows you will arrive early. Always get a cell number for your contact - they are probably shuffling around before you arrive. In a conference room setting, avoid the “us vs. them” seating arrangement. Get cozy. During discussion periods it should feel like a roundtable discussion. It truly makes a difference as far as the vibe in the room. You hope to be working closely with these people; be a team. Don’t speak from behind the audience while they look at the screen. There shouldn’t be much there to look at anyway! You are the mascot; let them see your enthusiasm (if you don’t have enthusiasm for what you sell, check out our job boards). The prospects’ eyes should focus on the screen for no more
No cards, no handouts.
than 5-10 seconds; the rest of the time they are witnessing wisdom and value spewing from your happy face. Don’t walk around handing out business cards one-by-one while everyone is sitting down. This is just a pet peeve of mine. You can do that at the end if needed, but business cards are dead, in my opinion. You’re going to invite these guys to join your LinkedIn network tomorrow anyway, aren’t you? Some of us have a tendency to focus eye contact only on the people they are familiar with. Don’t do that. Anyone in that room can roadblock your sale. Spread the love. Use a presentation clicker. Nothing screws up your momentum like walking back to the laptop to change slides. Good ones aren’t cheap, but they are worth it. Here are some options. There are also some cool iPhone applications that can be used to advance your PowerPoint slides from your phone (sure to impress the IT folks in the room).
Virtual Send the virtual conference details when you set the meeting, not the day before/of the meeting. Your contact wants to get people scheduled before calendars fill up. Don’t make them send an update when you get around to setting up the virtual conference.
Ask the prospect to test out the virtual conference tool in advance, even if it’s one they use regularly - these programs are updated often. Ask the prospect to arrive a few minutes early so you can work through any technical issues without eating into your meeting time. If there are more than 5-6 people on the prospects’ side, don’t ask for introductions - it can be awkward. Instead, find out who is coming in advance and acknowledge them. You should get an attendee list in advance regardless. When introducing your team, give each members title and explain why you have asked them to join. Having your team introduce themselves can also be awkward; just pause briefly for each to say hello if you are more comfortable with that. Each member of your team should be accustomed to stating their name before they speak if there are more than 2-3 of them. Otherwise, the prospect can be confused as to who is talking. Though you can tell their voices apart, your prospect probably cannot. Invite prospects to use the chat box for questions so that they don’t forget them while you are talking. Make sure someone is watching the chat window.
Practice. Practice. Practice.
Use a headset. One benefit is that you have your hands free to run the presentation. The other (and maybe this is just me) is that the cord keeps you from wandering away. I used to have a bad habit of this, and I would have to trek back to my computer (sometimes rooms away) to change the slide. I still use a fairly long cord. No breaks in virtual meetings. It’s just too difficult to manage. If someone needs to get up, they’ll do it. If your meeting is long enough to require breaks, have it in person (and consider shortening it - studies show most people’s attention span lasts about 15-20 minutes, especially executives).
OK, so now we’ve laid the groundwork for a professional, well conducted meeting. Before we move on to the presentation itself, here are a few more tips to keep in mind. 1. Practice your presentation. Because every presentation should be mostly unique based on the prospect’s situation, these should not be canned presentations that you can give with no preparation. Every time I give a presentation, it is the first time I have given it. As such, it’s important to run through it once to yourself. Do it out loud. When you goof up, start from the beginning. By the end you’ll be so comfortable with the delivery that it will flow with ease on game day.
Make sure there’s value for everyone in the room.
2. Print your slides 6 to a page and keep them handy. I find it useful to know what slide is coming next so that I can make an intelligent transition. Otherwise it almost seems as if you’re just seeing the slide for the first time yourself as you gather your thoughts. 3. Kindly reject RSVP’s. If there are people from the prospects’ side that won’t get any value out of the meeting, let them know and suggest setting up a separate meeting. This happens often with IT people who are brought into meetings unnecessarily. Why are they invited? Because your competition gives the dog-and-pony that includes every piece of irrelevant information that can be fit on a slide. You tell a story about a brighter day for their business, only touching on technicalities if needed. 4. If you are not fully comfortable with speaking to groups, join a local Toast Masters group, or volunteer to give internal presentations to your company. Practice is the only way to get over this hurdle (which is especially common among folks who transition from inside sales). Anyone who tells you to just “picture them naked”, hasn’t spoken in public. On to the presentation...
99% of slides are terrible.
Slides . Slides . Slides .
Even if you are excellent at solution selling and gaining buy-in from power, at some point you are probably going to have to put together a slide deck to educate a group on the value of your product or service. In a perfect world, slides wouldn’t exist. A presentation would just be you, your prospect and your ideas. But the client is going to want to see the solution in action, and slide presentations or virtual demos are the ways they are used to doing so. Believe it or not, this is the area where most salespeople come up WAY short. Not everyone is great in front of an audience. Not everyone has the polished look or charisma of a news anchor. These things do not need to be disadvantages. Everyone can, however, structure a meaningful presentation, devoid of any fluff and full of value. To do otherwise, while unfortunately common, is to lose a great competitive advantage. There’s a common phrase involving PowerPoint and “death,” which I dislike so much that I can’t bring myself to string it together here (I am allergic to cliches). But the fact is, most slide presentations bore the snot out of a large portion of your audience. Half of them are there because they were told to be and would rather be doing just about anything else. They expect boring slide after boring slide. If you give them any reason to think your presentation is the same (bullets
Less is more.
anyone?), you’ll lose that group immediately. The other half will suffer through the typical presentation because regardless of your lousy slides, they need to solve a problem or harness an opportunity. Here is a quick formula for a good slide deck; Less words Less bullets Less slides Less fluff (transitions, clip-art, facts) More Pictures/Diagrams More “storytelling” More prospect More focus on the presenter and their ideas
This is quite a bit different from what most of us are familiar with. Your company probably breaks all of these rules. Every presentation you’ve ever seen probably breaks all of these rules. That doesn’t make it OK. If all you have to offer is bullets and drawn out text, what use are you as a presenter? A document would suffice just fine. Your value is your expertise and your ideas. As soon as you put them in a slide, they are no longer your ideas (in the prospect’s mind). They could have come from anywhere. There is no enthusiasm or emotion in words on a screen. A slide should be a representation of an idea; the good stuff should be coming out of your mouth.
You can read. So what?! Nobody wants to be read to. Never repeat the information on the screen verbatim (or even close). It’s just dumb and I don’t think I need to explain why. They audience can read too. And they will. Text on the screen should not take more than 5 seconds to read. If they spend more time than that reading, they are not paying attention to you. Seth Godin, one of my favorite idea people, has said in his articles and books that you should never use more than 6 words on a slide. I tend to agree, but I understand this will be too dramatic a change until you get used to presenting in a different way. When you get good at it, you’ll begin to see the beauty of this and you can shoot for the 6 word mark. There are exceptions to this rule, such as in the case of a quote, but they are rare. See the images to your left for an example of old thinking vs. new. In the first example, not a single item on that list is going to resonate. It’s all stats and every vendor who has walked through that door has had them. In the second example, you reference emotion and then YOU tell the prospect about why your customer experience is so extraordinary.
Now, if you adopt this idea (which I hope you do), you may be inclined to use more slides. Don’t. In fact, if done properly, you can probably give your whole presentation using just 5-6 slides. How different would that be from the 42 slide presentation your prospect just sat through?
Text is for proposals.
If you still find yourself left with bullets, consider giving each item a separate slide. Then, decide if an image or diagram can properly relay the message. If it is really important enough to leave in the presentation, give it the attention it deserves. Images A picture is worth how many words? Use one whenever possible to accent your point. A well-thought-out diagram is just as good. When using diagrams, make sure they are not cluttered or tough to understand. When choosing pictures, get good quality stock photos from istockphoto.com or stock.xchng. Do not use the lousy clip art provided with PowerPoint. It’s worth noting, though, that Office 2007 does have some very well formatted “Smart Art” for creating diagrams. Another great (free) resource is my.lovelycharts.com. You can read more about Lovely Charts here. Content Every slide in your presentation should tell a story about how the prospect’s life will be better with your solution. All of them. You can use things like similar case studies, prospect-specific samples, or samples of previous work. One thing that every presentation should also include is new ideas, things that your solution can help with that your prospect had not yet considered. This could mean simplifying a process, eliminating
Start from scratch.
redundant solutions, impacting a separate business unit or simply doing something better than was expected. We’ve all had those moments when the audience starts nodding in agreement and talking amongst themselves. These are the moments you should aim for. As I mentioned, I build every presentation from scratch. I determine what I need to display to accentuate my message, and in what order. Then I go about creating my slides and putting them together. Make sure your progression of slides is logical. You wouldn’t believe how many presentations are put together like Frankenstein’s Monster. I save all of my slides and add concepts that I may want to use later in a sort of master file which I call my buffet. Later, after I have conceptualized the presentation, I go through the buffet and look for slides with similar ideas that I can re-purpose. This saves me a lot of time, and I often come up with better ideas for the current presentation after browsing previous ones. Design Your company may have standard branding guidelines, or even templates for presentations. If they are trash, say so. A poorly designed template can distract your audience or give an amateurish impression. In addition, there may be extra information on those slides that doesn’t need to be there. Is the prospect really going to forget which company is presenting to them and need to be reminded with a logo on every slide?
Don’t be afraid of good design.
Don’t be afraid of white space. Some people feel the need to fill every inch of the screen with something. This is not necessary: white space can dramatically enhance the aesthetics of your presentation. There are many other concepts to consider in design such as alignment and consistency across pages, but we’re not trying to turn you into a graphic artist. For more excellent information on slide design, I highly recommend a book called Presentation Zen by Garr Reynolds. Another awesome design tool, which is discussed in detail in the Additional Tools chapter, is SlideRocket. It is an easy, online alternative to PowerPoint that creates stunning slide presentations. Your prospects will thank you for varying from the garish slides they are used to. Conclusion While there is a lot more that could be said on this subject, and I could probably write an entire book on it (I might), I hope I have given you enough information that you might be able to modify some of your current practices and make the presentation process better for all involved.
Chapter Summary and Resources.
Be prepared and conduct thorough discovery Eliminate the useless Plan for your environment (in-person vs. virtual) Give the audience less to read Bring the focus back to the presenter Use images and diagrams to relay ideas Focus on the prospect and how specifically you will help them succeed Cut WAY back on bullets and text Use a professional and well-designed template
More Great Resources
Presentation Zen: Simple Ideas on Presentation Design and Delivery Garr Reynolds [Book] How to Win a Pitch: The Five Fundamentals That Will Distinguish You From the Competition [Book, preorder]
Quick Tips: Meetings
Quick Tips: Meetings
Never demonstrate a product; present a solution. Technical demonstrations should account for no more than 30% of your allotted time unless they clearly show how your solution will meet the exact needs of the client. Open-ended agendas show a lack of preparation. Stick to a well composed agenda and encourage conversation. Provide adequate structure to ensure that you will cover the most important items on your agenda. Never leave a meeting without knowing the name and role of everyone in the room. The one person you do not introduce yourself to may be crucial in securing the deal. If someone you have never met will be attending a meeting, do not schedule a virtual conference. You have only one opportunity to make a first impression and an in-person meeting is by far more effective than a virtual meeting. Match power with power. If a business decision warrants the prospect’s CEO’s presence, it might warrant yours as well. Don’t let your sales engineer or product manager sidetrack your meeting. They most often don’t understand the direction you have intended for the dialogue and if allowed, they will spend
time on features and benefits that are important to them and not to the client. Have this discussion before the meeting. Whenever possible, demonstrate your understanding of the prospects’ needs. Your demo should tell the story of exactly how the needs will be addressed. You will be surprised by how many of your competitors fail to do this, and the feedback will be immediate. One of the most valuable pieces of information you can provide to a wide-eyed board room is how a similar company is meeting the same challenges using your product or service. Decision-makers crave real world applications, especially if one that involves one of their competitors. This is also a great way to resurrect a dead audience. If you bring your superiors into a first meeting for no reason, you are giving up power. The prospect will either see you as incapable of meeting their needs or they will prefer to communicate with your superiors.
You’re a finalist, so what?
Creating A Defined Short-List Process
Note: Readers who engage in highly competitive sales processes, especially those involving RFP’s, will gain the most from this chapter, though the ideas presented have value for all sales professionals. For example, if freelancers using eLance to win business were to use these methods, their sales would increase dramatically. So far, you’ve learned new ways to increase your credibility, develop more opportunities and give a stellar presentation. Now that you’ve made the short-list, you have an incredible opportunity to block out your competition if you develop and execute a defined, repeatable process for engagement during the final stages of the selection process. Traditional wisdom suggests that sophisticated buyers have already made a selection at this stage of the process, especially when working with RFP’s. I don’t fully buy into this theory. I think a short-list vendor has at least a 25% percent chance of winning the business, regardless of predisposition, when using the techniques discussed in this chapter. 25% is not staggering, but compared to the 3-5% chance most experts suggest, it’s quite a leap. Further, I think that sales professionals who execute this process skillfully can raise this percentage to 50% or higher. Since
80% win rate.
implementing these practices in the second half of 2008, considering only opportunities in which I was not the first person in the deal or “blind” RFP’s, my success rate (executed contracts) has been 80%, totaling over $1.3M in contract value. During a sales conference in January (2009), I attended a seminar in which the speaker again cited that you only have a 3-5% chance of winning an RFP when you are not the first vendor in the deal. He also suggested that you either change the game (engage in dialogue with the buyer and insert inherent advantages and differentiators into the evaluation criteria) or decline to participate in the RFP. I exchanged some notes on a napkin with my boss suggesting that we had won 4 of 5 mostly blind RFP’s in the past 6 months, and I decided to further define and enhance my short list process. I knew that with an easily repeatable process, we could still capture revenue from these types of buying scenarios without expending too much in the way of resources (outside of the drafting of the responses and a few conference calls). The challenge I was attempting to address when I started experimenting with this process was a typical one. You make the short list, the buyer goes mostly quiet, and you check in from time to time and essentially sit on your hands until a decision is announced. I wanted to develop a way to increase prospect engagement during this stage of the sales cycle, and to figure out things that would set me apart from my competition and increase my chances of winning.
The final process will look different for everyone. Here is an example of what it might look like (I have omitted timeframe from this example): Short List Notification Send Thank you and Sequence of Events Begin drip campaign of testimonials from similar clients Begin drip campaign of relevant white-papers Invite additional contacts to join your network on LinkedIn Begin “ownership” phase Schedule scoping call with IT Resources Schedule Implementation Overview Call Send Commitment Letter from Executive Send detailed information regarding what the buyer can expect after the sale, including sample project plan Continue to revise sequence of events with buyer input
This is very close to the process I used to achieve the 80% win-rate I mentioned. Every item on this list has a purpose, but the real intent is to engage the prospect in ways that your competition does not, to reduce the perceived risk of your solution (risk concern is at its highest point during this part of the sales process) by sending testimonials
Hedge your bets.
and white-papers, and to begin to transfer ownership to the buyer by introducing key players and resources which are typically held until after the selection. With the exception of the scheduled calls/meetings, these items are resource friendly and easy to implement. You can even use a template for several of the items. Some may consider this to be throwing money at a long-shot sale, but I consider it hedging my bets. The sale has cost us money up to this point, so why not spend a little more and dramatically increase our chances of winning? Many people may disagree with me on this subject, but these methods work.
You can dramatically increase your chances of winning competitive opportunities by developing a repeatable short-list process. Your primary goal during this process is to eliminate fear and transfer ownership of the solution. Ask yourself, what can you do during the decision phase to provide more value and demonstrate professionalism in ways that your competition does not?
Additional Tools and Resources
On the following pages you will find some of my hand-picked favorite resources for sales professionals. Every tool listed in this chapter is highly recommended and has increased my productivity or sales performance in some way. I am constantly looking for new tools to share with my readers. If you feel that something is missing or have a suggestion for another tool that I can include in an update, please let me know!
My favorite chapter.
Every tool here is also free, or has a free trial - usually with very limited restrictions. Free as they may be, these are some of the coolest tools discussed in this book!
Website: SlideRocket.com Ease Of Use: Intermediate Free Trial: Yes Cost: Free (Basic), $10/mo (Individual), $20/mo (Business) Key Benefits: Visually appealing presentations User-friendly tools Great template and imagery options Web-based Presentation analytics Flikr integration Quote search tool Collaboration Conduct meetings from website
SlideRocket is one of those tools I’ve been hoping would come around for a long time. It is an online tool for creating and delivering presentations. In that sense, it’s similar to PowerPoint, but that’s about where the similarity stops. Whereas common PowerPoint presentations can be spotted by their drab appearance, endless bullets and clip-art, SlideRocket presentations can be identified by their stunning graphics, modern elements and focus on ideas vs. information.
Website: Lovelycharts.com Purpose: Chart/Diagram Creation Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Cost: Free Key Benefits: Superior Charts Chart Library Export to Presentation Software Easy to use Easy to customize
If you’ve ever tried to build a chart or diagram in Word or Excel, you know the process can be cumbersome and the results leave something to be desired. LovelyCharts takes all of the hassle out of creating elegant and logical charts & diagrams. It’s also super easy to use and it’s free. “Diagrams are great, because they are a very simple and extremely efficient way to intelligibly represent even the most complex ideas. But drawing diagrams can also be very complicated, simply because most diagramming software require you to draw. Lovely Charts’ motto is “You think, we draw!” - Lovelycharts.com [sic]
Website: Jigsaw.com Purpose: Find Contacts/Prospects Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Cost: Plans Vary by Activity Key Benefits: Find exactly the contact you need 11.9M Contacts from 2.2M Companies Pay-per-use option Earn credits for adding contact info Easy to use Most popular online contact database
Jigsaw is the most popular place online to get and share contact information. It’s become very popular because of it’s ease of use, completeness, accuracy of data, and the free information they provide. “Jigsaw is more than a go-to place for those looking to conduct vibrant, efficient and successful B2B campaigns. We’re also a global community of 700,000 members who contribute to, maintain and constantly update our vast database of millions of business contacts. Jigsaw also offers powerful tools that enable you to make robust searches, build targeted lists and better promote your website... for free! Dynamic features like Free Company Data, Company Wiki and Research Tab let you quickly dig deeper to secure those hard-to-reach contacts, mount effective campaigns and conduct business with greater ease, efficiency and success.” -Jigsaw.com
Website: Passivepipeline.com Purpose: Connect and share ideas with other Sales Professionals Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Cost: Always Free Key Benefits: Free to use Personal Profile Network and share ideas with salesprofessionals from around the globe. Searchable Knowledge Base New users join daily Learn from the experts
Sales Success Forums
The Sales Success Forums are an online discussion tool hosted by ThePassivePipeline.com. Discussions range from topics like prospecting, RFP creation, to presentations, closing and more. It’s always free to use and interact with other Sales Pros from around the world. Get feedback on your sales copy or pitch, fine tune a presentation, or simply get advice from others on any variety of topics. Click here to visit the forums and create your profile.
Website: Zoominfo.com Purpose: Company & Contact Information Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Cost: Free for basic search Key Benefits: Easy access to information sourced from all over the web. See updated news stories/press releases/whitepapers See key contact information See detailed contact information (paid version)
Zoominfo takes the hassle out of finding detailed company profile information and building lists. It is not as comprehensive as some of the paid services (Hoovers, OneSource), but it’s free. “You spend hours researching and making cold calls to find the right person within the company you’re targeting. Every minute spent making fruitless phone calls is a minute lost in closing deals and making money. Maybe you need to connect with the head of human resources, or the engineering manager or the vice president of IT. Whoever it is, whatever their title, access to the right person - their name, their phone number, their email address - opens the door for you. “ - Zoominfo.com
Website: download.live.com/writer Purpose: Blog Authoring Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Cost: Free Key Benefits: WYSIWYG Interface Easily Add Photos/Video Preview Your Posts Save Drafts Publish Automatically Create great looking posts
Microsoft Live Writer
Microsoft Live Writer is a free and incredibly easy to use tool for writing blog posts. It works with most popular blogging platforms and allows you to create great looking blog posts, to preview them before you publish and to send them directly to your blog. I highly recommend this tool to anyone who manages a blog.
Website: RememberTheMilk.com Purpose: Task Management Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Cost: Free Key Benefits: Web/PC/Mobile based - use it anywhere Intuitive grouping and priority labeling Exceptionally easy to use and update Email Reminders Flexible sorting and filtering Add Tasks Via Email Take a tour here.
Remember The Milk
If you’re like me, you’ve tried several different tools to keep yourself on task over the years. I’ve tried everything from PDA’s to Outlook to Notepads and just about everything else. It always goes OK for a few days, and that’s it. Sound familiar? Finally I found a task management software that works for me because it was built intelligently, based on the Get Things Done (GTD) model developed by David Allen. Remember The Milk is intuitive, easy to use, portable and engaging - meaning it emails you daily task lists which can help remind you to use it while you’re adjusting to the new process.
Website: GetAbstract.com Purpose: Business Books Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Cost: Varies by subscription type Key Benefits: Digest dozens of books in the time it takes to read one. Evlaute the book before you buy PDF/Mobile and Audio Formats All the latest titles and bestseller Try it free
Did you ever read CliffsNotes when you were in school? GetAbstract is the business equivelant to CliffsNotes - offering summaries and the key points of thousands of business books as PDF or Audio files. Their team of editors does a fantastic job of grasping and relaying the concepts of hundreds of books each month. You can download a few abstracts for free using the link on the left.
Website: Xobni.com Purpose: Outlook Enhancement Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Cost: Free Key Benefits: Faster, more comprehensive search Detailed user information LinkedIn and Facebook integration Email history with user by conversation History of files exchanged between you and the user Ability to schedule time with the user based on your calendar openings Hoovers company profile information Contacts you have in common with the user An overall better, more efficient Outlook experience
Xobni (“Inbox” backwards) is a free tool for Microsoft Outlook 2003/2007 which offers a very compelling set of features for Sales Professionals. These features come in three main areas: organization, relationship building, and productivity. In a year when experts predict the average adult will spend 41% of their work time managing email, any increase in productivity is highly desirable. Overall it’s a great tool (see all the features on the left), it’s free, and even aside from the extra features, it makes your email history much easier to deal with.
Website: LeadLander.com Purpose: Prospecting Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Cost: Varies by use Key Benefits: See who is accessing your site See what content they are veiwing See company profile information from the dashboard Run Reports Automated email notification View the keywords they used to find your site
LeadLander is a very cool utility that allows you to see what businesses visit your website and which specific pages they visit. This is a fantastic opportunity to find warm prospects and identify their specific interests. Salespeople can identify their own territory in the settings, and LeadLander can also send automated emails in real time as the prospects visit your site. Powerful stuff.
Note: There is a script that must be placed at the bottom of your web pages in order to use this product. You will likely need to talk to your webmaster to follow the instructions which are sent when you start the trial.
Website: Google.com/reader Purpose: RSS Reader Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Cost: Free Key Benefits: Manage all of your blog feeds in one place Discover New Feeds Much quicker than visiting each blog Include Google Alerts to monitor search engine results Google-Simple
Google Reader is the preferred reader for reading and managing RSS Subscriptions. By using RSS you can keep current on all of your favorite blogs, search results and more. It’s a free tool from the folks at Google Reader Labs.
Website: Google.com/Alerts Purpose: Market Intelligence Ease Of Use: Beginner Free Trial: Yes Cost: Free
Google Alerts is one of the most powerful single tools on the internet for sales professionals. It’s also probably the easiest to use, and it’s free. It works very much like a traditional Google Search, except the results are delivered to you automatically via email, and you are continually updated whenever there are new additions to the web that match your criteria. Instead of thousands or millions of search results, Google will provide you with links to only the latest articles, blog entries and websites containing the search terms you specify. Because of the algorithms that search engines use to rank search results, newer articles and blog entries would very rarely make it to the top of conventional search results for quite a while. This makes it very hard to stay in tune with what’s happening now. I’ll give you an example of how I use Google Alerts to illustrate why this is important: I have Google Alerts set up to search for entries containing my industry and the term “RFP”. A big portion of my company’s business involves formal bid processes. Any time those two phrases appear on a website or article, Google tells me about it.
If I were to simply do a Google search for those terms, the first dozen
or so pages of results would be either companies that I compete with or results that are very old. The results are indirectly skewed by age, so the first fifty thousand may be from more than a year ago. By using Alerts, which will only deliver new entries, I am able to find these new opportunities without sorting through thousands of pages of search results. If I waited for these RFP’s to appear in search results, they would already be awarded and I would have to re-run this search constantly! Not all of the results that are emailed to you will be relevant, but the ones that are will have great value. Once a week on average I find a prospect who is issuing an RFP for my product that no one on our sales team knew about previously. This week alone a single Alert has added over $400,000 to my company’s pipeline. It would take an entire staff of researchers to find this kind of data manually. Let’s say that you participate in 12 formal bids per year (this could be quite low depending on your industry). Let’s also assume that ½ of your business comes from formal bid processes. This means that you participate in 24 projects per year or an average of 2 per month. If by using Google Alerts you uncover only one additional opportunity every 2 months, you have increased your pipeline by 25% annually, with 5 minutes of work. This is a great example of the essence of the a passive pipeline. By working more efficiently and using the tools that the advances in
technology have made available to us, we can be more productive than anyone before us; more importantly, we can be more effective than our competition. That’s just one example of how you could use Google Alerts. Here are a few others: Your Competitors Find out what is going on with your competition today. Find out what the web community is saying about them. Read their press releases and case studies. Know just as much about your competition as they know about themselves. Your Best Clients Discover what’s new with your clients. Be aware of mergers, acquisitions and key personnel changes. Uncover new ways to help your clients succeed before they think to ask. Industry News & Events Partners Emerging Technology Sales Tips Stock Prices
Tying it all Together
As I’ve alluded to several times in this book, the real power of the Passive Pipeline is realized when all of the techniques we’ve covered are used simultaneously. Each additional tool that you use increases the effectiveness of the others. Clean data results in more efficient and effective marketing. Effective marketing increases the efficiency with which you find opportunities. Targeted messages increase your CUE and, in turn, your ability to win business. Your email signature showcases your testimonials. Your blog articles position you as a thought leader. Reprints of your articles increase your reach. Your increased reach ensures you will be more likely to enter a deal first. Early entry ensures you will have the ability to manage the buying process. Your CUE and endorsements make your prospects comfortable with your managing the buying process.
Making it sync.
Cause and effect.
Your new efficiencies allow you to spend more time focusing on winning business. Winning more business allows you to focus on deals in which you have a high probability of winning. Winning more business yields more testimonials. Your testimonials foster new relationships in which you are seen as a trusted advisor. Your blog, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles constantly build your contact list, which in turn feeds your email marketing, which starts the cycle over again.
You’re reaching people through multiple means which operate on one common basis: efficiency. Not only are you reaching more people than ever before, your CUE is being constantly increased and promoted, allowing you to enter business engagements with an absolute upper hand. In the time you would spend making just one “real” connection, you now have the opportunity to reach hundreds. While your previous methods all but assured that you would spend the rest of that relationship trying to prove your worth, you are now working with prospects who are glad to be working with you.
Now let’s look at a summary of the steps involved in achieving these things: Clean your data. Create smart queries. Execute a solid email marketing plan. Update your blog a few times a week with new content. Participate in Social Networks to gain visibility, credibility and reach. Spend a few hours per week building, tuning and participating in your social communities. It really is that simple. Work intelligently, plant the seeds and your Passive Pipeline will continue to bear fruit endlessly.
Putting A Plan Into Action
This section will provide you with a basic roadmap for implementing your Passive Pipeline. While we’ve been discussing these techniques for nearly 200 pages now, it really just comes down to execution. With each little stone you turn over, you’ll start to see immediate benefits and motivation to keep moving forward.
Keep moving forward.
I do not know what line of work you are in and I do not know which aspects of this book will be most useful to you. For those reasons, I have not included timeframes or tremendous detail in this roadmap. You can refer back to each chapter as you put your own plan together. Here are my standard recommendations: 1. Create a plan. Determine which techniques discussed in this book suit you best and over what length of time it is realistic for you to implement them. Settle on a CRM system (either the one you have, or a new one). Clean your data. Make sure you have all the fields you need to properly segment your market. Create your queries. You should have one query for every story you have to tell. Choose an email platform. The ability to track who opens your email and which links they click is paramount. Do not take this for granted. Create your email templates. One or two templates for now is fine. As you begin to send more targeted campaigns you can create more. Import your email lists from your CRM.
2. 3. 4. 5. 6.
Create a blog. Write your first posts and create a schedule for updating.
10. Spread the word about your blog using the techniques we’ve discussed. 11. Build a complete LinkedIn profile. A complete profile includes endorsements. 12. Add all former contacts whom you feel would be useful professional connections. 13. Add your LinkedIn profile button to your blog. 14. Include links in your email campaigns to your blog articles that are specifically useful to the exact recipients you are sending the email to. 15. Follow each campaign with an analysis of opens and clicks. 16. Grow your professional network. Add new contacts and regularly search for previous contacts that have recently joined LinkedIn. 17. Look for new and creative ways to promote your work, build relationships and increase your reach. 18. Rinse, repeat.
Learn to adapt.
Once you have conditioned yourself to leverage technology and a new way of approaching opportunities, you will enable yourself to continuously innovate. This is a quality that I hope I have helped to foster in your professional sales career. It is my goal that as a student of this book, you will uncover new and exciting ways to increase your reach and your CUE before I even have a chance to revise this book. The tools and techniques we have covered will not remain privileged information forever. In fact, in some circles they are already commonplace. The key is learning to adapt and to position yourself to take advantage of new opportunities for greatness as they are presented. Some of these techniques will be more fun than others, but one promise I will make is that the payoff will be far greater than what you will get by continuing to do the things that aren’t yielding results today. The business world is moving exponentially faster than at any other time in history. As a profession, we have failed to match that pace. But we have a tremendous opportunity in front of us, and I hope you will choose to take advantage of it.