You are on page 1of 241


S u c c e ss

in an Online


Alan Blume

Pompton Plains, N.J.

Copyright 2010 by Alan Blume

All rights reserved under the Pan-American and International
Copyright Conventions. This book may not be reproduced, in whole
or in part, in any form or by any means electronic or mechanical,
including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage
and retrieval system now known or hereafter invented, without
written permission from the publisher, The Career Press.
Your Virtual Success
Edited by Jodi Brandon
Typeset by Eileen Munson
Cover design by The Book Designers
Printed in the U.S.A. by Courier

The Career Press, Inc., 220 West Parkway, Unit 12

Pompton Plains, N.J. 07444
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Blume, Alan.
Your virtual success : finding profitability in an online world / by
Alan Blume.
p. cm.
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-1-60163-101-5

HF5548.32.B598 2010


Authors Note:

Other than StartUpSelling, Practice Management Systems,

and MSDynamicsworld, the company names and associated
individuals used in this book are fictional, used purely for examples. Any similarity to actual companies by the same or a
similar name is coincidental.

This page intentionally left blank


pecial thanks to my wife, Peggy, and my friend and colleague Mike Lauducci, who both reviewed early versions
of this book and offered advice and guidance. My agent,
Wendy Keller, deserves special mention, as she provided significant help and guidance to revamp my book proposal and reorganize my outline. Thanks to Lisa Coleman for her assistance,
suggestions, and editing of a late manuscript draft. Thanks to
my friend Joe Lauducci, who listened patiently to my constant
banter about this subject and offered excellent feedback and
many helpful suggestions. Thanks to my daughter, Amy, who
provided research, suggestions, and edits; my son, Andrew;
my friends and colleagues John Scranton, Tim Butler, George
Balerna, David Scranton, Phil Petrillo, Ann Jacoby, Nate
Defosses (Website), and Michael G. Burke (graphics including PDFs in my appendix). Id also like to thank the Career
Press team, including Adam Schwartz, Michael Pye, Laurie
Kelly-Pye, Kirsten Dalley, Jeff Piasky, Gina Hoogerhyde, and
my editor, Jodi L. Brandon. Thank you to the many who listened, advised, assisted, supported, and believed.

This page intentionally left blank


A Tale of Two Nephews

Chapter 1
I Brushed the Sand off My Suit


Chapter 2
Would You Hire Yourself for a Virtual


Chapter 3
Business Basics for Your Virtual Company


Chapter 4
How to Create a Virtual Business in
72 Hours


Chapter 5
A Virtual Boutique: Branding and
Image for Your Virtual Operation


Chapter 6
Virtual Selling: Identify and Qualify


Chapter 7
Virtual Selling: Present and Close


Chapter 8
Virtual Marketing


Chapter 9
Virtual Hiring and Virtual People


Chapter 10
Expanding Your Virtual Business


Chapter 11
A Virtual Conclusion


Appendix A


Appendix B




Resources and Suggested Reading




About the Author



A Tale of Two

et me tell you a true story I call A Tale of Two Nephews.

One of my nephewslets call him Jackworks for a software company in a high-tech state and earns a very compelling
income. Accomplishing this, as many of you may know, is no
easy task. His commute takes almost two hours a day, adding
10 hours to an already-intense, 50-hour workweek. He works
very hard, every hour of every day, and, at least once a month,
he travels the Eastern United States, adding bonus hours to
his arduous workweek. Not long ago, he mentioned that his
manager told him that overall sales needed to be higher, and,
though he was over quota, he needed to find a way to increase
saleseven if he had to work harder. Make more calls and
produce more business was the tenor of the discussion. This
came as a surprise to my nephew Jack; after all, he is a top producer, is an over-quota sales executive, and is already putting
in 60 hours a week. He eats lunch at his desk every day while
he pounds the phones and sends follow-up e-mails. Thus,
my nephew Jack is a talented and financially successful young
man, but one very stressed-out nephew who often laments
about high quotas and lengthy, frustrating commutes.
My other nephewlets call him Markis a contractor for
StartUpSelling, Inc. He works virtually, less than 40 hours a
m 9

m Your Virtual Success

week, perhaps 25 to 30 hours, though I cannot say for sure because I dont track his hours. He has no commute and creates
his own schedule. He takes a walk, rides a bike, or swims every
day. He rarely gets out of his shorts and t-shirt yet watched his
income double during the past year. He seems very happy and
relaxed, and has enjoyed recent trips to Aruba, Boston, and
Santa Barbara. He is a contractor, not an employee, and each
day he determines his own hours, his own schedule, and the
resource allocation for his own team. He is one relaxed and
happy nephew.
Which nephew would you prefer to be? Its certainly not
the best of times and the worst of times for my nephews, but it
is a great virtual time for one of them and a stressful brick-andmortar time for the other.
Virtual means good, fast, and cheap. It means efficient,
cost effective, profitable, flexible, and eco-friendly. My virtual
model offers an easier path to profits, and, perhaps more importantly, it provides the time to enjoy these profits from a
lifestyle standpoint. It means a better lifestyle and more time
with friends and family. It is a better way for many, and, in one
specific instance, for my nephew, who now reaps the benefits
of my virtual company and the quality of life.
I wrote Your Virtual Success to help all of those whose lives
are consumed by stress, long commutes, difficult bosses, and
debtors at the door, to find a better way and a more efficient
model to yield a better balance in their lives and an improved
quality of life. Your Virtual Success is a guide to illustrate some
of the best practices and preferred approaches, state-of-theart tools, and tricks of the trade to help you navigate the virtual business road. This may be the road less traveled for many
at the moment, but far more of us will be embarking on this
journey in the very near future. Lets delve into the dramatic
business and personal benefits of my virtual model.


Chapter 1

I Brushed the
Sand off
My Suit

y days began abruptly at 5:45 a.m. with a loud blast

of music from the clock radio on my dresser. I would
shower, shave, and put on a suit, shirt, and requisite tie. If
there was time, Id eat a bowl of cereal, pour some coffee in
my travel mug, and head out the door at 6:45 a.m. If I was
lucky, 45 minutes later I would pull into the parking lot at 7:30
a.m. Assuming I had the customary and usual reports, meetings, conference calls, and e-mail threads, I would get back in
my car around 6:30 p.m., and arrive home around 7:15 p.m. I
would repeat this routine five days a week, except on travel
days when Id get up at 4:30 a.m. to make a 7 a.m. flight. These
were extended-hour days often exceeding 16 hours before I
could settle down at my non-descript business hotel. Now lets
fast forward to a more recent workday.
My morning begins in a plush condo with commanding
views of the Gulf of Mexico, 21 floors above the cascading
pools of the Portofino Resort. Before I saunter down to the
beach, I make a quick call to one of my clients and finalize
a minor item on a major contract. I zip off an e-mail to their
prospective client, a multibillion-dollar corporation, asking if
they would move forward with the $100,000 agreement with
this minor change. Now that Ive gone virtual, its a little bit
m 11

m Your Virtual Success

challenging to determine when Im at work or when Im on

vacation. In either case, I never put in the long hours many of
us have endured in the traditional grind. When on vacation I
might work an hour or two a day, and when Im not on vacation, I work about five or six hours a day, albeit in an extremely
casual, flexible, and comfortable environment. I can accomplish more in a five- or six-hour virtual day than I could in a
traditional 10-hour business day. As a result of this productivity leap, my virtual company has yielded millions of dollars in
sales on behalf of my clients and more than a million dollars
in personal income to me in just the last few years. I now have
plenty of time for family, friends, and personal pursuits such
as community activism, travel, reading, running, weight lifting, hiking, golfing, bowling, scuba diving, and, on this day in
September, a sunny day at a beautiful beach.
The white, six-panel condo door of the Portofino locks securely behind me as I depart for a few hours of beach time.
Five minutes later, I am swimming in the Gulf of Mexico in
80-degree water, watching the mullets dart into the air. I then
settle into my blue canvas lounge chair and admire the unspoiled panoramic gulf view. I am equipped with all the essentials my virtual office requires, which at this moment is simply a
cup of coffee and my cell phone. About two hours later I receive
a call: Were all set with the contracts; send over the finals. I
brush the sand off my suit as I head back to the condo to e-mail
the final contracts. My business suit might be different from
yours; on this day it happens to be a bathing suit. Then again, it
is only a mild diversion from the typical sweat pants and t-shirt
I wear in my home office. As I glance back toward the beach, I
notice there are plenty of empty blue canvas lounge chairs available in my current virtual officein fact, one of them might
just have your name on it. Lets review a virtual path to help
you join me here or at the destination of your choice.
My company, StartUpSelling, Inc., is in the business of
helping other businesses grow. I help my clients accomplish this
from essentially anywhere I can find a phone and an Internet

m I Brushed the Sand off My Suit

connection. Your virtual business can operate like this, too.

Over the last few years, Ive presented to vice chairmen of billion-dollar corporations, CEOs of $100 million corporations,
and countless owners of organizations large and small, they
in their suits and ties and me in my sweat pants and t-shirt.
All of these meetings have been virtual. Its a rare occurrence
requiring an in-person business meeting. I enjoy a highly flexible working environment and lifestyle in great part due to the
power of the virtual model I perfected. It uses cutting-edge
virtual sales and marketing techniques, and leverages a highly
skilled team of virtual staff worldwide. This book will show you
how to apply these same strategies to start a new business in
any industry or make your existing company virtual, or at least
more virtual.
The more virtual your business, the more flexible the
hours, the lower the overhead, the greater the profit potential, and the easier it is for the entrepreneur or independent
professional to use his or her strengths doing what he or she
does best. Whether you are an aspiring entrepreneur starting
with just a few hundred dollars, a small business scrambling for
venture or expansion capital, or a professional in insurance,
stocks, real estate, or any other services business, I can show
you a virtual path that is far more likely to result in success
than traditional business models. What I am about to teach
is not a theory, and it isnt conjecture; Ive done it myself and
taught many others how to leverage a dynamic, fluid, profitable virtual business model.
If I can do it, so can you. In most regards Im just an average guy. My formative teenage years were spent in a shabby
little bowling alley in Lynn, Massachusetts. My high school
track record was less about education and more about cutting
classes. My 1980 bachelors degree in political science from
Northeastern University was hardly a ticket on the fast train to
riches. I dont speak multiple languages (not even Pig Latin), I
wont be a championship Tango dancer, and its highly unlikely
I will ever qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team.
m 13

m Your Virtual Success

I do know one thing; I know how to build a highly successful virtual company and how to teach others to do so in
an interesting and exciting way, allowing them to replicate my
results. My own enviable virtual business model has increased
my freedom, obliterated my commute, optimized my flexibility,
increased my income, and drastically improved my life. I can live
anywhere, go on vacation any time I want, and create whatever
level of income I desire. I can clearly show individuals and companies the implementation strategy to quickly set up a viable
and profitable virtual business, in both business-to-business
(B2B) and business-to-consumer (B2C) environments.
My virtual model has resulted in large, six-figure deals
with people that I never met face to faceand never will
and small sales that would never be profitable in a traditional
business environment. Ive finalized large, six-figure sales in
Europe, Australia, South America, and North America, easily
and efficiently from my small, Massachusetts-based virtual
office. I am sometimes thousands of miles from my clients corporate suites, yet a mere stones throw away in virtual terms.
You will learn how to mirror this process utilizing proven techniques such as virtual presentations, the virtual elevator pitch,
eMarketing, eCollateral, Web seminars, online meetings, virtual Website creation, online social networks, and asynchronous collaboration. I delve into the secrets of securing new
clients for a virtual startup, and offer tips on virtual hiring,
management, and cost-effective methods for the international
expansion of a virtual operation. And of course, I demystify
the cost-effective, leading-edge Internet-based tools that are
available to everyone, as long as you know what to ask for and
where to look for them.
Over the last five years I learned how to apply all of my
best growth practices to a virtual business, leveraging the new
tools and technologies enabling small companies to sell globally, easily, and profitably. I help many of my clients learn and
benefit from my virtual model. My clients, many in seemingly

m I Brushed the Sand off My Suit

stodgy, traditional markets, have learned to profit from my virtual company techniques, including: outsourcing, insourcing,
Website refinements, remote collaboration, and a virtual style
of management. Using these techniques, you can hire talented
people globally, and coach, manage, and monitor virtually.
Many of these talented individuals were underemployed or
simply not employable in a traditional environment. Yet these
highly qualified individuals have been easy to find on Craigslist
and other online sources, and can usually be found with zero
search costs. The virtual paradigm shift has already happened,
and the good, fast, cheap paradigm has changed as a result
of the Internet-based tools now available. A decade ago you
had to pick any two of those three options (good and fast but
not cheap, or fast, and cheap but not good). Today you can get
all three using my virtual model, and the good, fast and cheap
internet business tools now available. Its not difficult for you
to do this; Your Virtual Success will teach you how to master
this model.

No Specific Marketable Skills

In retrospect, my evolution to a virtual business seems

simple enough, though my initial career goal was merely to
find a way to pay the rent. My political science degree resulted
in a well-rounded, but not necessarily marketable, education.
Many of you may have experienced a similar feeling when you
completed your education and then disembarked into the real
world. Though political science seemed obtuse at the time, my
education did allow me to fortuitously touch upon computers
at an opportune moment. We were at the beginning of the personal computer revolution in the early 1980s, and, because I
had no specific, marketable skills, I decided to knock on the
door of this emerging industry. Roughly translated, this means
I hoped the people in this new industry were desperate enough
to hire me. There were a number of new computer storesthe
predecessors to todays big-box computer storesopening up
m 15

m Your Virtual Success

in the Boston area. Though I knew little about these new personal computer devices and had no specifically relevant background, the good news was that neither did anyone else. So I
picked up the phone book and looked up computer stores. I
started with the As, and by the time I got to the letter C I was
hired as a salesperson by a Charlestown, Massachusettsbased
computer store, a modest retail establishment located in an
old brownstone under the shadows of the famous Bunker Hill
It was very excitinga hapless political science major getting his foot in the side door of an emerging industry! I would
receive a truly modest salary of $9,000 a year. By anyones
standards, my salary was really, really low at the time. I would,
however, earn commissions, which offered some good upside
opportunity if I ever sold anything substantial. It seemed to
be a great way to learn about this new field from the ground
up while gaining some real world experience, and I might just
make enough to pay the rent.
The results, to be candid, surprised me. It seemed I had
an affinity for bootstrapped sales and marketing, and enough
understanding of PCs to be able to respond to most inquiries,
which, during the dawn of the PC revolution, allowed me to appear as a knowledgeable oasis amid a desert of general incompetence. Within six months I was earning more than $35,000
per year, which doesnt sound like much now, but in 1982 you
could purchase a nice home in Massachusetts for $100,000.
Eighteen months later I landed an outside sales position with
a new computer company and doubled my income. In 1986,
four years after my departure from Northeastern University,
I was hired as a director of sales and marketing for a small
computer company, and my income exceeded $100,000. Not
bad for a local high school punk with lackluster grades and a
spotty track recordand its a safe bet that your high school
transcript looked better than mine.

m I Brushed the Sand off My Suit

INC 500 List

During the last couple of decades, I worked as a vice

president of sales and marketing for half a dozen small companies and recorded consistently compelling results. I led the
fledgling sales and marketing efforts at Practice Management
Systems, Inc. and within a few short years recorded growth sufficient to land on the prestigious INC 500 list for two consecutive years, and did so without any outside capital or venture
funding. How difficult is it to grow fast enough to get on the
INC 500 list? In the last 25 years only 8,000 companies out of
a pool of millions of possible candidates have ever achieved
INC 500 status, and fewer than half of these companies have
ever achieved it twice. I ramped up another small company
from zero to an annual run rate approaching $20 million in two
short years, and doubled, tripled, or exponentially increased
the sales of numerous other small companies. Accordingly, I
received rich annual compensation packages with all the associated perks including travel, stock options, expense account,
car allowance, and more. Along the way, I learned many important tips and tricks, and created many of my own to foster
growth in good times and bad. It was a win-win, with just one
serious downside: I was burning a lot of hours and traveling
frequently. How many of you have experienced the frustration
of airport delays, clogged highways, stationary trains, and
12-hour plus days while on business trips?
While I traveled haphazardly across the globe, my children
were growing up fast. During one stint I worked as many as 70
hours a week, recording a 20-hour day every other Monday
while traveling from Boston to California. I should have had
my head examined for accepting a promotion to senior vice
president of sales and marketing of a West Coast company
while living in Boston, but I felt an obligation to assist during
a time of transition. Then again, transition is an important
component in the definition of most small technology companies, for they seem to be transitioning all the time. Virtual
m 17

m Your Virtual Success

companies transition frequently, too. Virtual companies, however, dont have the onerous brick-and-mortar overhead, outof-touch venture capitalists, and big-company executives with
their associated salaries, perks, and big-company business philosophies found at many small, venture capital-backed companies. It was a happy day when I accepted a position with a
local firm and left this West Coast companys unrealistic expectations behind. Nonetheless, I was still conforming to the
60-hour work week when combined with the requisite 60-to90-minutes-per-day commute. Regardless of the reasons, the
end result was the same: more time on the road and less time
with the family. It was around this time in my life that I asked
myself how I could earn enough to support a great lifestyle
from an economic standpoint, yet spend significantly more
time with my family. Im sure this same thought crosses the
minds of many of you who suffer from the rat race paradox, or
who merely face a long and difficult daily commute.

Look for Transition Opportunities to

Create Your Virtual Business

My answer came at a supremely fortuitous time: through

a layoff and severance package, compliments of my venture
capitalbacked employer. Severance packages offer an optimum opportunity to transition from a traditional employee position to an entrepreneurial endeavor of your own. Severance
packages are actually personal investment vehicles you can use
to create your own virtual enterprise. In a matter of a few weeks,
I was working from home, and, within a few months, because of
the structure of my new company and my approach to the market, I was able to achieve compelling income, spend plenty of
quality time with friends and family, and work on my own terms.
Thanks to this transition opportunity, I had gone virtual.
My virtual business has many inherent advantages over
traditional brick-and-mortar businesses. For example, without
traditional brick-and-mortar overhead, you will eliminate a

m I Brushed the Sand off My Suit

significant amount of risk and startup expense. Following my

model, you will have no rent, you can often use some or all
of your existing at-home infrastructure, including your current
phone and Internet service, you wont pay for additional heat
or electricity, you wont need a receptionist (or you can use a
cost effective, on-demand virtual receptionist), and, depending upon your business, your travel costs will be low or nonexistent. All of this translates into high profits on even a modest
amount of sales for my business and yours.
The virtual model is also a more productive and timeefficient model. There is no wasted meeting time because
almost all meetings are done via conference call or virtual
presentations, and thus tend to be fast and concise. How
much time do you waste in marathon meetings? There are
no personnel issues, no gossip, and no water cooler politics
or gripe sessions. Personality conflicts drop precipitously in
shorter duration virtual interactions. And if youre at your
desk, youre probably working, because you should have
plenty of time to do personal thingson personal time! You
work where you want, when you want, and how you want,
call your own shots and work at your optimum concentration
level, which for many people may happen before or after traditional working hours.
If done correctly, virtual means flexible and profitable.
Virtual affords you a lifestyle experience envied by those
who work in traditional business venues. And if you follow
my methodology, nobody will know youre virtual unless you
want them to know. My model will allow you to look like
and sound like a highly professional, established operation.
Today, however, virtual is hot, and people are beginning
to associate virtual with higher quality at lower prices. Ill
show you how this can be used as a huge competitive advantage against older and more established companies when we
discuss virtual business Judo in later chapters. Remember:
m 19

m Your Virtual Success

If you employ a lawyer, CPA, or contractor who works in a

plush, high-rise office building, youre the one who is paying
for the rent.

The Virtual Lifestyle

Lets review a few key elements of my virtual business

model and lifestyle. Since 2004 my virtual company enabled
me to achieve high earnings while working far fewer hours than
people who work in traditional business environments, with the
added benefit of a casual working environment and highly flexible schedule. My business is debt-free, highly profitable, lowstress, exciting, and fun, and yours can be, too. Let me offer an
example of the freedom found in my virtual model. In 2005, I
logged more than 200 hours of driving with my daughter teaching
her how to drive the heavily traversed roads in Massachusetts.
I consider this an important perk of my new, flexible schedule.
In my old career as a VP of sales, VP of field operations, or
president, I would never have found the time to spend so many
hours with my daughter. Pragmatically, it wasnt necessarily the
amount of time required; it was the flexibility and proximity to
my home that were crucial. The time required to drive around
with my daughter was only 30 or 40 minutes each day, but I had
to be available at 7 a.m. for 15 minutes and at 3 p.m. for another
20 minutes. My virtual company allows me to do this, easily,
without adversely impacting my goals, objectives, or income.
I have plenty of time, plenty of patience, and an abundance
of energy for community projects, sports, hobbies, friends, and
family. Whenever I want, I can take a brisk walk around the
picturesque Wellesley College pond, including a quick stop at
the topiary garden, or a 3.5-mile run around the hilly terrain surrounding my virtual home office. My virtual company has no
board meetings, no venture capitalists or other outside capitalization, no employee issues, no operational presentations to
justify our efforts, no annual reviews, no wasted time, no politics, and no employee conflict. I am productive every moment

m I Brushed the Sand off My Suit

I wish to be, and waste no time, including commuting time.

Doesnt this sound like a better alternative than your current
nine to fiveor worse, your 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. grind?
You might think it is impossible to have this much flexibility and still enjoy a high income, and, I should also add,
very low stress. But you can do it if you focus on your core
competencies, work virtually, and keep your productivity high
and costs low. This book reviews the methodologies and techniques that I used to create a successful virtual company, and
offers pragmatic, detailed, step-by-step instructions explaining
how you can, too. Many of the techniques in this book can also
be leveraged in more traditional business environments, offering all the road-weary, stressed-out, overworked people out
there a better way and more alternatives for an improved quality of life. Is a virtual business for everyone? Perhaps not, but
think of the alternative: starting a traditional business loaded
with debt, borrowing money from friends and family, creditors, banks, or venture capitalists knocking at your door (or,
for those of you using traditional business models, finding a
path to profits while facing increasing costs and competition).
Back at the Portofino Resort I grab a caffeine-free soda,
send my e-mails, and then slowly stroll back toward my favorite
beach chair. As I walk across the soft white sand I realize how
much I enjoy spending time at the beach and ponder an upgrade to 3G laptop connectivity, which would allow me to send
e-mails directly from the beach. Its not expensive to upgrade
to this technology, and it would allow me even greater lifestyle
flexibility. Ive taken many client calls and prospective client
calls from beaches and other casual venues, and nobody seems
to mind; after all, why should they? They can reach me most
any time because of the flexibility of my model and because of
the inexpensive, leading-edge virtual tools available today.
You can easily find the technology you need as long as you
know what to ask and where to look. (Well review all of these
virtual tools in detail throughout this book.) These tools allow
m 21

m Your Virtual Success

me and you, to be completely productive whenever and wherever we wish. From the comfort of my lounge chair with 3G
connectivity (or Wi-Fi if I were within proximity), I could set
up a virtual meeting in less than five minutes with 15 participants from all over the globe, presenting, discussing, and collaborating on a project. This technology costs about a dollar
a day. Give me 15 minutes and I could create a web seminar
capable of hosting 1,000 attendees with technology that costs
about two dollars a day. And within the same hour, I could send
out 10,000 e-mail invitations to my clients opt-in e-mail list,
providing each invitee a customized landing page to quickly
capture their registration information, using an eMarketing
solution that costs about $3 dollars a day. These solutions are
referred to as Software as a Service solutions, or in some cases
cloud computing. This is not the wave of the future; these capabilities are here today, whether were working at this warm
sunny beach or back in chilly Boston.
I settle back into my canvas lounge chair, positioning myself in the partial shade made available under the matching
blue umbrella. Even in September, the Pensacola sun can be
very strong. As I survey the sugar-like composition of the white
sand common to the panhandle beaches, I realize with the
slightest sense of remorse that my sun-filled vacation is coming to a close. But the remorse is short lived as I ponder my
next working vacation: In just 90 days I would be working
in Curacao enjoying some scuba diving and beach time with
friends and familynot to mention the occasional e-mail and
lounge chair cell phone call. Where and when would you work
if you had almost unlimited flexibility, extremely low costs,
and high profit margins, and could make your own priorities
your highest priorities? Will most of your time be spent in your
comfortable home office, or will you decide to combine business and pleasure travel and frequent sunny beaches? Your
virtual business options are almost unlimited, and Your Virtual
Success can help get you there.

Chapter 2

Would You
Hire Yourself
for a Virtual

ts time for a job interviewyour job interview; you are to

be interviewed for the CEO position of a promising young
company. In fact, youre the top prospect for this important
and exciting opportunity. If the interview goes well, you will
become the CEO of your own virtual company. For a moment,
lets forget what type of virtual business you intend to create.
Lets first determine if you are a good fit to run any type of
virtual business. Your qualifications to run a virtual business
are to some extent commensurate with your abilities to run
any business. If you are a good small business person, if you
are capable of running a sole proprietorship, if you are entrepreneurial, then in most cases it will be easier to create a
successful virtual business than a traditional brick-and-mortar
business. Virtual businesses offer a faster path to profitability, lower overhead, lower cash burn, a longer runway, and
more flexibility. However, there are some specific challenges
that need to be addressed when considering a virtual business.
Well evaluate the positives and the challenges of running your
future virtual business.
What are the key ingredients in the recipe for virtual success? What questions should you ask yourself in your virtual
m 23

m Your Virtual Success

kk Can you work independently?

kk Would you enjoy working at home?
kk Do you like interacting with others on the
telephone (or in Web meetings)?
kk Do you require supervision?
kk Are you self-motivated?
kk Do you feel the need to drive to an office or
remote location to get work done?
kk Can you autonomously create your own plan?
kk Do you require rules and structure to accomplish
your tasks, and if so, can you create this structure
kk Are you self disciplined?
kk Do you require a significant amount of face-toface interaction on a daily basis (some virtual
business offer face-to-face interaction; others do
These are just a few of the important questions to be asked
in your virtual business job interview. Are you a good fit for
a virtual operation? Take the Virtual Business Profile Test
later in this chapter to determine if you fit the virtual business profile. Though there are no guarantees, the test will help
you examine your own virtual business personality traits. Can
anyone do it? Most can, but there are some attributes that
are important for you to succeed. Will you be one of only a
few people who have a virtual business? According to a U.S.
Census Bureau News Release, Almost half (49 percent) of the
nations businesses are operated from home, and more than
6-in-10 owners used their own money to start the business.1
Some of these are very small part-time businesses, others are
solo entrepreneurships, and there are now an increasing number of multimillion-dollar, home-based virtual operations.

m Would You Hire Yourself for a Virtual Company?

Millions of people now run businesses virtually including

lawyers, telemarketers, CPAs, consultants, virtual assistants,
and engineers. Dont be surprised to find out that a neighbor,
acquaintance, or business associate has already gone virtual,
or at a minimum is telecommuting for a larger organization.
Many divisions of large corporations have already embarked
upon the virtual model. A friend of mine who is a marketing manager has worked for IBM, Big Blue, for 30 years,
the last 15 of which have been from a spare bedroom in his
Massachusetts suburban home. A unique situation, you might
say? According to my friend, his boss and his bosss boss work
from home, too. In fact, he estimates that 80 percent of his division works from home. His business travel has diminished as
well. He recently mentioned that he had not boarded a plane
in two years, a significant change from a decade ago when he
was traveling every few weeks. Why is he traveling less? His
company requires VP approval to allocate funds for plane
travel, most of his meetings are now Web meetings, and there
is less of a need to meet people face to face to accomplish the
marketing goals required for his position.
Speaking of travel, you might be surprised to learn that the
majority of Jet Blues reservations are executed from homebased staff, not at their home office, but in actual, virtual
offices in their homes. I consider these types of jobs telecommuting positions because they are still working in a relatively
structured environment, even though it is a virtual position.
My insurance agent works for a major New England insurance company and now works many days from her home; she
can access my records online and seems to be able to answer
any of my questions whether she is at the actual insurance
company or working from her dining room. A close friend
and colleague of mine runs his own successful home-based
virtual business that provides sales training and other types
of custom training for mid-sized companies. His company has
succeeded for more than 15 years during both positive and
m 25

m Your Virtual Success

negative economic cycles when other traditional training companies have floundered. His company has a great reputation,
and he can optimize profitability and flexibility while minimizing overhead. So can you.
Your virtual operation can be home-based in the same
way; you will be the owner and control your own destiny. If you
dont have a positive work environment at home or even an
attic or garage to use, you can also use a Starbucks, a local restaurant chain that offers connectivity, a library, or a business
incubator; rent a neighbors living room if they work during
the day; or, if absolutely necessary, find a cost-effective office
sublet near your home. If you work from home and want a
neutral but professional venue to meet a client, prospect, or
contractor, consider a local caf or coffee shop. For example,
Panera Bread offers the following synopsis of their cafs on
their Website, A place to gather with friends or enjoy a quiet
moment alone. Comfortable, friendly, fashionable. A place
to recharge and feel rejuvenated. Slip into one of our seriously comfy chairs and stay awhile. Ive used Panera Bread
and Starbucks for meetings, presentations, e-mail connectivity
(free WiFi), and, of course, the occasional breakfast, lunch,
and dinner. Need a remote office to meet with a prospect?
Do you need a place to catch up on your e-mails? How about
a neutral location for the occasional interview? You can accomplish almost any business meeting requirement in one of
these venues, or even run your business from some of these
locations until another cost-effective alternative materializes.
For most of us, a spare bedroom, basement, garage, or underutilized dining room work just fine for our virtual startup, and
ensures we keep costs to a minimum.

What Is Your Virtual Profile?

Lets review a few important traits to ensure you fit the

profile to run a successful virtual business. Are you comfortable working in an environment in which you do not physically

m Would You Hire Yourself for a Virtual Company?

interact with people? Do you need a manager closely directing

you on a regular basis, team camaraderie, and motivational
posters to get through your day? Would you be bored and unable to focus on activities that you must accomplish without
an on-site supervisor to prompt you? Do you need a manager
and coworkers to offer consistent guidance and support? Are
you unorganized and do you lack the ability to organize to any
reasonable degree? When you are alone, are you unable to get
important tasks done? Are you the type of person who would
sit down and watch daytime soap operas even though you
had work to do? It takes some level of self-discipline to run
a virtual businessor any business, for that matteror even
to telecommute. These days, most people are comfortable
working from home, using a computer, surfing the Internet,
and organizing their day. If youre not reasonably selfmotivated, though, a virtual business (or any entrepreneurial
business) may not be for you.
Take the Virtual Business Profile Test to determine your
virtual entrepreneurship score. Add the point value of each
question to determine your virtual business profile at the end
of this test. Dont worry: The test is really designed to help you
better understand your strengths, and how they can relate to
running a virtual business.
1. Do you enjoy working independently?
1. Yes, I work well in an independent environment.
2. Sometimes I like working on my own; in other
instances I like to be on a team.
3. No, I prefer to work with colleagues.
2. When faced with a challenge I see opportunities, not
1. Yes, a challenge is merely a cleverly disguised
m 27

m Your Virtual Success

2. It depends on the circumstances.

3. No, I like to assess all issues before considering my
3. I like to direct others rather than lending a hand.
1. Yes, I like to coach others offering suggestion and
2. Sometimes I coach; in other cases, I like to roll up
my sleeves.
3. No, Id rather pitch in and help.
4. Im a self-starter and like to do things on my own.
1. Yes, I enjoy starting projects on my own.
2. Sometimes I like to, but in other cases Id rather join
a team.
3. No, I like to work with a group or establish
consensus before moving forward.
5. I am very decisive and make up my mind quickly.
1. Yes, Im a decisive person.
2. I always ask questions and seek the guidance of
others before acting.
3. I want a thorough consensus before determining the
best move forward plan.
6. I like to follow established rules and models to ensure
1. No, I like to innovate.
2. I follow the rules unless the rules arent working.
3. Rules and systems are critical to ensuring quality.
7. Structure is a distant second to creativity and innovation.
1. I dont like structure; it inhibits my creative energy.
2. Some structure is necessary.

m Would You Hire Yourself for a Virtual Company?

3. Rigid structure is critical to the success of any

8. I often come up with new and innovative ideas.
1. I enjoy entertaining better ideas and new
2. I come up with new ideas at times, but Im also
concerned with keeping my head down and getting
the job done.
3. I am concerned with completing my tasks correctly
and on time.
9. When making decisions I rely on a thorough analysis of
problems more than an intuitive estimate.
1. No, I dont have the time for comprehensive analysis
and often make decisions on less-than-perfect data.
2. I would rather wait until I feel I have sufficient data
before making a decision.
3. I never make rash decisions and spend sufficient
time collecting information before determining the
best possible solution.
10. A stable job situation is crucial to the well being of my
family and me. Give me a weekly paystub.
1. No, I can handle the ups and downs of a small
2. A stable income is important to my family and me.
3. I cant go more than 60 days without compensation
similar to what I am currently earning.
11. I feel more comfortable in pre-planned situations than in
with improvisation.
1. No, I like to make real-time decisions.
2. I shouldnt make quick decisions if I dont have
sufficient data at hand.
m 29

m Your Virtual Success

3. I never make quick decisions; they are often

inaccurate and faulty.
12. I am a highly competitive person.
1. Absolutely.
2. I am somewhat competitive but dont let that get in
the way of working with others.
3. I am more of a laid-back person and like to build a
sense of team.
13. I am most comfortable when I can assume responsibility
and take control.
1. Yes, I am a take-charge person.
2. Sometimes, though I usually seek guidance before
moving forward.
3. No, I like to work in a team and establish consensus.
14. I like to work hard and play hard.
1. Yes, I love to workthen I work hard at play.
2. Work is only a means to earn money for my family.
3. Id rather play hard than work hard.
15. I would like to work from home and would enjoy the
freedom of making my own schedule.
1. Yes, I dont want to commute to a traditional office.
2. I would like to work from home, but would also like
to interact with people.
3. I like working in a team environment and think
working at home would be too isolating.
16. I enjoy conversing with people on the phone and/or in
Web meetings.
1. Yes, I enjoy spending time on the phone and
working with people in Web meeting environments.

m Would You Hire Yourself for a Virtual Company?

2. Id rather spend half my time meeting with people in

3. I am a face-to-face person and dont enjoy spending
a lot of time on the phone.
17. Are you tired of the commute and 9-to-5 grind?
1. Im fed up with the daily commute and cant take it
any more!
2. My commute is wearing me down, but my job is
3. I dont mind my commute at all and enjoy my
current position.
18. Are you able to master simple PC technology and
Internet tools?
1. Yes, I know how to use word processing,
spreadsheets, and e-mail, and I even Skype, IM, and
use social networks.
2. I know how to use a PC and can surf the Internet.
3. I dont know how to use a PC or e-mail.
Lets score your virtual entrepreneurship profile. Give
yourself one to three points per question based on your
answers. For example, if you answered with choice
number 1, you score a 1, and if you answered with
choice number 2 or 3, you score a 2 or 3, respectively.
Tally your total. The lower your score, the more likely
you are to be a good fit as a virtual entrepreneur!
26 or less Youre the ultimate virtual entrepreneur!
27 to 36 You have strong virtual entrepreneurship
37 to 46 You have some good virtual
entrepreneurship qualities.
47 to 54 Virtual may not be for you.
m 31

m Your Virtual Success

Now that youve evaluated if you have the right stuff

to go virtual, lets look at some of the typical attributes of a
virtual business owner, including the ability to work independently, subject matter expertise, a desire to run his or her own
business, the ability to structure his or her day to the point that
he or she accomplishes the key tasks in a timely manner, and at
least a basic level of creativity in carving out a successful business niche for his or her virtual company.
Its important to create your preferred virtual experience
to establish a schedule, cadence, and structure around your
typical day that you will truly enjoy. Remember that your virtual company can be as you see fit. If you want to meet a friend
or colleague for lunch every day at noon, or enjoy a business
breakfast once a week, it will be as you so choose. The control
is in your hands. Controlling your structure and schedule helps
mitigate a possible sense of isolation that some virtually based
entrepreneurs can sometimes experience.

Just Another Day at the Virtual Office

Whats a typical day like for a virtual business owner? Lets

review one of my typical days and see if it helps elucidate the
virtual lifestyle (at least in some types of virtual businesses).
My day usually starts early. I wake up by my natural clock and
rarely set an alarm clock, allowing me to wake up when my
body feels like it is ready to do so. I tend to be an early riser,
waking up between 6 a.m. and 7 a.m. most days. I grab a cup
of coffee and head to my office. I check my Microsoft Outlook
calendar and e-mails as the first order of business. My goal is
to work no more than six hours a day, and I want every hour
to be productive when Im in my office. That means Im usually finished by the early afternoon, leaving the rest of the
day to do as I wish, though on some days I split my time with a
lunchtime run or a swim in the pool. Ive created many important yet simple systems to ensure I stay focused. For example,
whenever I need to accomplish a task I add it to my Microsoft

m Would You Hire Yourself for a Virtual Company?

Outlook calendar or task list (or both). If it is an ongoing task

like a monthly meeting, or an important long-term task like
writing a book, I simply add an automatic recurrence in my
calendar. I usually try to do non-communicative work early in
the morning, like writing, e-mail campaign creation, eMarketing campaign analysis, and reviewing caller reports or billing
reports prepared by my contractors. This type of work can take
an hour on most days, and during spikes can occasionally take
two hours. As the day progresses, I have my daily alignment
conference call with my virtual contract operations manager at
10:30 a.m., every morning. These calls last five to 10 minutes
most days, and we discuss client status, special requests, new
clients, new projects, and personnel. Calls can be done over
GoToMeeting, Vonage, and Skype video calls. The calls also
ensure my contractor creates some structure around his day
and our goals are always aligned, though he can then make his
own schedule, accomplishing our mutual goal where and when
he best sees fit.
Almost all of my contractors can make their own hours as
long as they can accomplish their required tasks or goals. Our
lead generation callers (appointment setters) report daily to
my contract operations manager, thus limiting any time commitment I have with the five to 10 appointment setters the
manager hired. Though I get weekly productivity reports on
these appointment setters, I rarely interact with them; they are
an outsourced operation. My other contractors (my contractor
rolodex), include the best, brightest, and most cost-effective
group anywhere, are used as needed on a project basis. I engage with them when there is work to be done. Their project
work is always performed via fixed bid within a specific time
line. The nature of the fixed bid work, the specific project
time line, and detailed final work product specifications ensure there is negligible supervision. Also, because I have little
contractor turnover, my contractors understand the look, feel,
and best practices from prior projects. The balance of my day
m 33

m Your Virtual Success

is spent conversing with clients, following up with prospective

clients, and reviewing new ideas or products to fuel future
growth. Would I hire myself for a virtual company? I did, and
would do so again. Im well organized and reasonably well disciplined, dont get distracted when Im in the office, and enjoy
working with people remotely. Would you hire me for your virtual company? As a contractor, probably so. I have experience
working autonomously and, though I work less than six hours
a day, because youre hiring me as a contractor, you would only
care about and pay for my results. If you decide to run a virtual
business, focus on the results whenever possible, not the hours
for your contractors to achieve the desired results.
Would you hire yourself for your virtual business? Lets
continue to review the requirements. You will need to create
some reasonable structure around your day to focus on your
specific goals, including lifestyle goals. For example, if you
only want to work five hours a day, perhaps you would like to
segment your day into two shifts with a workout and lunch in
between the shifts. Perhaps you are most productive after dinner, and one of your two- or three-hour shifts can be done between 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. A little bit of structure can help most
virtual business owners, but too much structure can defeat the
inherent flexibility desired from the virtual model.
Some virtual businesses, such as mine, revolve completely
around telephone, Web meeting, e-mail, and Web seminar
technologies. I have little face time with my clients or prospects. This can create a sense of isolation for some virtual entrepreneurs, and they will look for ways to mitigate this feeling.
Fortunately, there are many ways to interact on a face-to-face
basis with the outside world. Joining organizations, networking groups, the local chamber of commerce, or trade or industry organizations, or even meeting with former colleagues on a
weekly basis, often solves this sense of isolation for those who
experience these feelings. There are also many support organizations revolving around telecommuting, home office-based

m Would You Hire Yourself for a Virtual Company?

businesses, and small business type organizations. The simple

credo is to get involved, get out there, and break up the week
with some face-to-face interaction, assuming you would enjoy
doing so. Some virtual entrepreneurs have busy, personal lives
filled with obligations from friends and family. In this case, one
of the goals may be to limit face-to-face interactions on a business level to optimize family time. You have complete control as to the composition of your daily, weekly, and monthly
The lifestyle advantages when running your own virtual
business are absolutely fantastic. There is no other way to describe the incredible control and flexibility you achieve when
running your own virtual business: no commuting time, no lost
productivity, no office politics, no dress code. You can work
where and when you want in many virtual business profiles.
Overhead is low and profits are high, start-up investment is
low, and outside funding is unnecessary for many virtual business ventures. If you have not yet selected a business, pick one
that does not require substantial up-front capital. For example, resell, represent, or OEM (original equipment manufacturer) an existing widget or solution rather than create one.
In some cases you can start part time, moonlighting your way
to success. Or, you might have a transitional opportunity like
a severance package or an unemployment compensation window. If youve been fired, laid off, downsized, or outsourced
overseas and have no job prospects, you can test-drive your
new business without having to invest in a storefront or other
egregious brick-and-mortar expense.
So, would you hire yourself for your virtual company? After
reviewing the pros and cons and taking the Virtual Business
Profile Test in this chapter, you should be much closer to answering this important question. If youre thinking of starting
up any business, think about a virtual business before you open
a storefront or new office outside of your home.
m 35

This page intentionally left blank

Chapter 3

Business Basics
for Your Virtual

ost mornings I get out of bed, walk downstairs to

the kitchen and pour myself a cup of home brewed
Starbucks coffee, and then navigate back upstairs to my office. It is a great commute, 20 feet down the hall and a lefthand turn into a spare bedroom. Sometimes I tune in to AM
1030 and listen to the traffic reports as I begin my day, typically in black sweat pants and my favorite blue t-shirt. Mass
Pike backed up to the Weston tolls; 128 North bumper to
bumper from the Pike to Route 20, and from Lexington to
93, 128 South at Burlington jammed. While others suffer
the trials and tribulations of their daily commute, Im already
at my desk relaxed, comfortable, and productive, my stress
quotient near zero. My office has everything I need: a desk, a
chair, a laptop PC, Internet access, an all-in-one printer, and
a phone. With the tools and technology available today, it is
much easier to create a profitable virtual company that looks
like a professional, multimillion-dollar operation than it was
five or 10 years ago.
There are four key elements I look for when creating a
virtual business:
1. A short path to the money (limited ramp-up or
development time).
m 37

m Your Virtual Success

2. No up-front capital.
3. Customer deposits in advance of delivery.
4. Contractor based assistance for delivery.
Your virtual business should incorporate these elements
to optimize profitability and improve your likelihood of success. Keep these elements in mind as we discuss the business
basics for your virtual business.
Just because youre going virtual doesnt mean you can
abandon the important business basics necessary for any
emerging organization. There are two aspects of your virtual
business that need to be immediately addressed: what type
of business will you create, and what the basic structure of
your business will be. Lets tackle the structure first. Most
companies can begin as a DBA (doing business as) entity.
You can file a form at your town or city hall, registering your
DBA. If you are unsure of the name of your new virtual business, use your own name and add the business description.
For example, you might use John J. Smiths Online Antiques,
or AAJones Marketing Services. Regardless of the name you
select, make sure the name is available on the Internet, and
start thinking about a formal name you might use in the future.
Check on the domain name availability for both your current
DBA and your ultimate company name. You can check on this
at or, among many other
domain search sites. If you are thinking of a name, such as
StartUpSelling, for example, search for availability and derivatives right away. Derivatives might include StartUpSales,
StartSellingNow, StartUpMarketing, or even Start-SellingNow. The better and simpler the name, the more likely it is
already taken. For example, when I decided on StartUpSelling.
com, StartSelling and StartMarketing were already taken, thus
I tweaked the name and chose StartUpSelling when I determined I could purchase It costs
about $10 per year to purchase the rights to a domain, so you

m Business Basics for Your Virtual Company

should buy several that you like if they are available. Start
searching for your name early, reserve it, and get the .com
and .net rights, and/or the applicable domain of choice for
your respective country. Of course you will need a Website
for almost all businesses, but well delve into that a little later.
If you dont have an accountant (CPA), you should find
one, and get some fast, cost-effective advice on your business,
accounting, and tax requirements. Some CPAs will do an initial
visit for free, and others for a modest fee; others will incorporate a retainer based package that might run anywhere from
a few hundred dollars per year to more than a thousand, depending upon your needs. You can also consider incorporating as a Sub Chapter S or perhaps an LLC, and, though these
offer some protections and tax advantages, incorporation can
often wait until your growth and cash flow dictate. You should
line up an attorney to discuss your business structure and to
establish guidelines for future advice and guidance. Check
with your insurance company to ensure you are covered for
the basics of a work-from-home business, which in most cases
constitutes a nominal increase. Make sure these professional
advisors share an understanding of small business and have
fees to match. If you are unsure as to where to find a CPA, attorney, or insurance agent, LinkedIn or other social networks,
online entrepreneurship groups, blogs, a friend or neighbor
who has a small business, or even your local chamber of commerce, should be able to offer some suggestions. Unless you
have very specific needs, such as IP patents for an emerging
technology, most local CPAs and attorneys can help with all
the basics. Remember to consider using Internet-based legal
and accounting firms. These resources are often less expensive
and may be more in tune with your virtual business needs.

Your Virtual Model Must Be a Viable Model

The virtual model will help you achieve profitability easier

and faster than traditional models, but cannot compensate
m 39

m Your Virtual Success

for an inherently flawed business model. You must validate

that you have a sound business concept, a well-identified target market, and clear differentiators or perceived differentiators that you can leverage to close business. This need not be
a prolonged process. It should be fast and works best if you
minimize any type of product or solution development. For
example, if you have a great idea about e-mail marketing services, its much better to approach the market from an OEM,
VAD (value-added dealer), or VAS (value-added services)
perspective than to create a new e-mail marketing solution.
The former would allow you to rapidly produce revenues; the
latter would require funding and a significant lag time to bring
your new product to market. Lets use a low-tech, B2C example: Perhaps you will sell custom-made, contemporary hats.
It would be much better to modify existing hats or outsource
production as opposed to creating your own factory assembly
line. In other words, select a business concept that limits initial
capitalization and allows rapid ROI (return on investment). If
you want to start a landscape business, you should market to
your prospective clients in the winter, before buying the equipment you will need in the spring. Or perhaps you can simply
provide marketing services to landscapers, charging fees to introduce them to new prospects, thus eliminating the need for
any expensive capital equipment or backbreaking toil under
the summer sun.
Lets review how you can determine what type of virtual
business you might create. To some extent, it may be the same
as your ideal brick-and-mortar business, though it will be created using a virtual paradigm. The first order of business, in
creating a business, is to determine your core competencies.
For example, lets say you are knowledgeable about antiques.
Perhaps you are thinking of opening a store just off Main
Street near downtown. There are plenty of empty storefronts
to choose from; in fact the rent at $900 per month at first


m Business Basics for Your Virtual Company

glance seems pretty reasonable. Of course, you have to add

about $200 a month for utilities; you will need more insurance,
fixtures, and a phone line; and you need to do some minor
renovations, change the storefront sign, buy some inventory,
create an attractive window display, and then hope that people
walk into your store and like some of the inventory you have
on hand. Of course, you need to have someone at the store at
least five days a week, perhaps eight to 10 hours a day, and if
that person is you, you have just signed up for a 50-hour workweek. Perhaps you need to be open six days a week because
the weekends generate most of the foot traffic and require at
least a part-time employee to help you cover all of those operating hours.
Costs for this type of operation can exceed $2,000 or
$3,000 a month, and, worse, the costs dont go away if you
dont sell anything or your business gets a slow start. In other
words, your sales may not appear as rapidly as you hope, but
your brick-and-mortar costs will appear immediately. This
can be a very challenging model even in the best economic
times. A better model is the virtual antique shop. Work from
consignment whenever possible; store your inventory in your
garage, local storage facility, or a similar cost-effective alternative. Take digital photographs and video of your antiques and
post them on your site. Work out a network with other antique
collectors. Create an attractive online store, and a newsletter or blog, develop an email list (there are many ways to do
this), and eMarket your prospective clients. You can advertise
on Craigslist and sell through eBay and other online venues.
I sold an antique Sears sewing machine and a classic bicycle
built for two in just a few days with a free Craigslist ad and a
digital camera photo. A virtual store run from your home office can cost as little as $100 a month, predicated upon the type
of eCommerce Website you are using. If your sales are slow
to materialize in a virtual model, you have a longer runway to
success because your costs are almost non-existent.
m 41

m Your Virtual Success

Granted, both the brick-and-mortar and virtual antiques

businesses can be challenging. The difference is that one carries
a much lower investment profile, lower ongoing costs, negligible infrastructure, and nominal cash flow requirements, and,
if you so choose, you can close the doors without any collateral
damage. In other words, the virtual paradigm optimizes upside
potential while mitigating downside risk. Think of the insidious nature of a brick-and-mortar enterprise, be it an office or
a retail store. In the former, you need a conference room for
the employees to meet and a lunchroom for them to eat. To
improve morale, you might add a coffee maker with associated sundries, a water cooler with spring water, and perhaps a
reception area complete with receptionist and multi-line office
phone system. You might even be tempted to have an in-house
server for connectivity, further escalating costs. If you have a
retail store, it must be staffed, and it needs an attractive window
display, merchandise with tables, shelving or other fixtures, a
cash register, a safe, and a back office to keep track of the business. In both cases you will probably choose to have employees
instead of contractors and because of the complexity of human
resources these days you might require a part-time human resources person, which is costly for a smaller business, even on
an outsourced basis. Most, if not all, of these brick-and-mortar
pitfalls can be avoided if you go virtual.

Core Competencies and Your Virtual Business

Our two examples of antiques and custom hats may not be

similar to the concept for your virtual business. As you ponder the opportunities available for your virtual business, ask
yourself what knowledge or skills you bring to the table from
which others can benefit. Are you a PC guru, gardening expert,
marketing veteran, CPA, bookkeeper, superb executive assistant, math tutor, freelance writer, graphic artist, Microsoft
CNE, CAD expert, linguist, receptionist, Web designer, grant
writer, data-entry specialist, database administrator, architect,

m Business Basics for Your Virtual Company

instructional designer, or social worker? Of course, these are

just a few of the vocations that can be leveraged to create a
virtual business. You can start small and expand with far lower
risk than encountered in a traditional brick-and-mortar venue.
You can also virtualize an existing business. Perhaps youre
feeling the burden of increased competition and growing overhead, and would like to add a new product or service offering
to increase cash flow. Consider a virtual business line. For example, at StartUpSelling we decided to add Website business
videos as a new product offering. We looked at prices online,
met with two video/photography companies we knew of, and
now offer Website videos at a highly competitive price point,
including all production costs, editing, and so forth. The video
company we selected provided us with a couple of samples and
even did our first client at a greatly reduced price. Therefore,
we created a new product, and our costs were zero until we
sold onea great example of leveraging other peoples talents
(OPT) without investing in advance of actual sales.
Now that you determined your core competencies and identified your virtual business, you need to define and test your target market. You need to carefully (and quickly) review and test
your target market, and ask yourself some key questions:
1. Have you vetted the value proposition?
2. Is it a want or a need?
3. Will clients be willing to pay the target selling
4. How does it compare to competing products and
5. If it is an innovation, is the market ready?
6. Can your prospects afford your product or
7. What is the competitive profile?
m 43

m Your Virtual Success

8. Is there any demand for your product or services?

9. Who is the buyer, and how difficult is it to reach
10. How long is the sales cycle?
11. Will it allow you to collect fees upfront?
When considering a virtual business, remember to examine their associated challenges. If you are thinking about
selling high-definition, Web-based podcasts, will the current
Internet infrastructure accommodate this new offering? If you
are selling imported Swiss chocolates over the Internet, will
your target market be willing to pay for refrigerated shipping
at certain times of the year? Do you understand the nuances of
import dutiesthat shipments can be held up at customs, and
that you need the cash flow to pay the duties up-front? And
if so, do you really want to consider a business that requires
payments up front? If you are selling online focus group services, can you cost effectively provide Web access to display
the results? If you are offering outsourced marketing services,
do you have the expertise to run eMarketing campaigns, produce collateral, or build Websites? And if so, how crowded is
the competitive landscape, and how will you differentiate your
company from others? If you are selling custom hats on eBay,
can you manufacture to order, and will your product be an outsource model, or is this a handmade, artistic, and high-margin
type of hat that only you and your closely supervised associates
can create? Can you deliver these quickly enough and cost effectively enough to make both you and your clients happy? If
you are creating these hats on your own, is it possible to start
in a garage or basement as opposed to renting a 3,000-squarefoot facility?
Once you have decided upon your virtual business, it is crucial when youre starting up your operation to identify mission
critical goals and then determine which can be accomplished

m Business Basics for Your Virtual Company

quickly. There is a tradeoff between what should be accomplished and what can be accomplished quickly. This is a very
important concept for a virtual business. You need to determine what must be done, what can be done, and which things
are feasible to accomplish within your budget and time constraints. For example, you might like to create a robust e-mail
database for your target market, but this could take months.
Conversely you can start telemarketing calls immediately with
an Excel spreadsheet loaded with contact names and a little
practice with your telemarketing pitch. Lets review the business basics needed for my virtual startup and see how these
may be similar for your virtual startup.
My core competencies revolved around sales and marketing expertise for smaller companies. Intuitively it seemed
small companies would be interested in these types of services. This was validated in discussions with friends and colleagues, Google-type/Yahoo-type searches, and research via
business books and articles. Labor could be provided through
contractors; there were plenty of contractors seeking work on
Craigslist and other traditional contractor-for-hire Websites.
I tested this concept by running ads for the skill sets I would
need in Craigslist. The resumes I received were highly qualified and plentiful, and in the price range I would require to
maintain robust profits. All of the Craigslist ads were free, thus
the costs in researching this aspect of my business was solely
personal time expended. In reviewing the likelihood of success
with this business, the basics were:
1. It can work as a home-based business.
2. It did not need a brick-and-mortar infrastructure.
3. It had limited capital expense (nothing to
4. Plenty of labor was available at reasonable rates.
5. Profit margins looked very promising.
m 45

m Your Virtual Success

6. The business focused on my core competencies.

7. Most interactions could be done remotely, though
it remained to be seen if clients would insist on
meeting me personally.
8. There was competition, but I could target a niche
or create differentiators to land clients.
9. I could leverage inexpensive marketing methods
such as e-mail marketing and networking to help
secure clients.
10. I had used most of the tools needed for this type
of business, including Web meeting software,
eMarketing solutions, sales force automation
solutions, and presentation solutions.
11. I enjoyed doing this type of work and think it
would be a diverse, interesting, and fun business.
I could offer prospects a credible background because I
was a former vice president of sales and marketing. Within
the first few weeks of evaluating this virtual business concept,
I landed my first client through networking. The initial fees
they paid offset my costs, and I was profitable within my first
90 days. Then again, it was almost impossible not to be profitable, because my costs were near zero. I started simply as
DBA Alan Blume Consulting and ultimately reserved the
name, incorporating as StartUpSelling,
Inc. several years after I began. I bought a used Dell laptop
on eBay with Microsoft Office and an all-in-one printer (print,
fax, scan) at my local Staples store. DSL was already in my
house and would suffice for my needs, and even worked with a
VoIP phone I used that provided me unlimited North American
calling for $25 per month. GoToMeeting and ConstantContact
were used for Web conferencing and eMarketing, which were
later changed to GoToWebinar and iContact. I used my existing

m Business Basics for Your Virtual Company

cell phone for incoming calls, and you probably can too. My
initial costs were about $800, with ongoing costs of about $100
per month.
That was it. The business basics for my virtual business
were in place quickly, inexpensively, and with very limited initial or ongoing costs. I didnt create a formal business plan,
had no need to run complex financial projections, and didnt
create PowerPoint presentations for potential investors or
write up a comprehensive marketing plan. As I considered the
differentiators for my business, one of the benefits I could offer my clients would be a high-tech spin on the marketing and
lead generation business. Though technically a contractor, my
plan was to be tightly connected to my clients by both technology and purpose, working in a sense as a virtual employee
and completely aligned with their cause. My company would
be an outsourced sales and marketing organization leveraging
an integrated, Web-centric approach to marketing. With little
overhead, limited expenses, no distractions, and no commute,
I was confident that I could be successful in an abbreviated
but more efficient workweek, and I could work the hours I selected to optimize the benefits of my virtual operation. (Well
discuss the rapid creation of a virtual business in detail in the
next chapter.)

Outsource Whenever and Wherever Possible

Outsourcing offers a highly leveraged model for my virtual

business and yours. Outsourced programmers can be found
coding at midnight, or starting their day at 9 a.m. Veteran
telemarketers can be located anywhere in North America as
long as they have a phone, PC, Internet access, and a skill set
to match my needs. Web design freelancers are talented and
plentiful, and can design a Website in a few hours or days.
Virtual teams enjoy the ultimate in flexibility, yet can work
more productively because of the inherent efficiency of the
virtual model.
m 47

m Your Virtual Success

Be sure you take advantage of your current home-based

infrastructure. If you have DSL or cable Internet access, this
will suffice for most businesses. You can upgrade to a higher
throughput, sometimes for free, or in other cases for a modest
fee. You most likely have a cell phone and should use it for
incoming calls, particularly for calls from clients or prospects. I
answer all calls using my name, Alan Blume! My voice mail
simply says, Youve reached the voice mail of Alan Blume.
Please leave a message and Ill get back to you promptly. One
of the key elements of a virtual company is to appear immediately responsive. If you readily accept calls from prospects and
clients on your cell phone, you will almost always be reachable
and highly responsive to their needs. Depending upon your
business and communication preferences, you might want a
BlackBerry or iPhone, though I didnt need one; it is a modest monthly expenditure for most businesses. Dont hesitate to
hastily end a discussion with a contractor to ensure you receive
a prospect or client call. And dont tie up your cell phone for
long conference calls or other meetings.
Now that we discussed the basic building blocks of my
virtual business, lets review the basics to create your virtual
kk Finding a good idea for your virtual business!
kk Defining your target market.
kk Testing your target market.
kk Determining price point and margins.
kk Finding/developing products for little or no
kk Analyzing logistics.
kk Finding vendors, prospects, and partners who are
comfortable working with virtual organizations.


m Business Basics for Your Virtual Company

kk Improving the odds of success by working with

others who are currently using the virtual model.
kk Research the competitive playing field.
kk Scripting the value proposition and elevator pitch
(for virtual delivery).
kk Finding your first few clients.
kk Converting your early clients into zealots.
kk Leveraging client quotes and converting them
into testimonials and case studies.
kk Determining where your prospects and clients will
perceive you work.
kk Rapid Website creation and deployment.
kk Product offerings and complimentary products.
kk Leveraging cost-effective virtual infrastructure to
optimize profit margins.
As mentioned, ongoing costs for my type of virtual business were roughly $100 per month (VoIP phone, DSL,
GoToMeeting, eMarketing SaaS Solution), but if you leverage free tools like Skype and Dimdim, your costs can be even
lower. Even though your operational costs may be amazingly
low, if you have a polished presentation, quality PowerPoint,
compelling, rehearsed value proposition, and good communication skills, you can look and sound as though youre a multimillion-dollar, even a multibillion-dollar, operation when you
are doing virtual meetings. These virtual components, combined with a decent-looking Website, can make anyone look
like a real organization from the outside looking in, whether
you are B2B or B2C.

$1,000 Bucks and Youre in Business?

Is it true that all anyone needs to set up a virtual company

is $800 plus $100 bucks a month (or even less today)? A quick
m 49

m Your Virtual Success

Google search will bring you to dozens of sites offering advice,

price quotations, and even do-it-yourself Websites.
is just one of the sites offering access to large pools of freelance talent. Guru.coms Website says, provides
the worlds largest online marketplace for freelance talent.
Today is a leader in its industry with more than 1
million registered members and 100,000 active freelancer profiles. Craigslist has thousands of freelance ads, and is often
free to post your specific freelance job opportunity. I was able
to find local graphic design and media shops willing to create
a logo and Website with custom graphics for $100 to $1,000 on
Today, you can even create your Website on your own if
cash is in truly short supply. At StartUpSelling, Inc. we created
our own seven-page Website in one week for a cost of $150
including logo design. (I provided the knowledge and direction, and hired a freelance contractor to create the site from
a template.) Our Website utilized cost-effective photos from
the inexpensive Website templates we purchased (they range
from about $30 to $75 each on or 4templates.
com) and from the many free or inexpensive photo-sharing
sites (,,,, and so forth). Our site, which has been updated
many times since inception, was easy to navigate, had client
quotes, and had samples of some of our projects. Many of my
colleagues thought it looked very professional. It wasnt perfect, and there was clearly room for improvement, but it was
better than many sites, current, and attractive. And that was
the goal: a good, fast and cheap site allowing prospective
clients to take a sneak peak at us to make sure we were a viable
organization. It worked great and was done in a week for $150.
This is the goodfastcheap virtual paradigm shift that should
be the mantra for any self-funded virtual operation, and our
virtual business model ensures we can get all three. My site
was hosted at, one of the larger domain-hosting

m Business Basics for Your Virtual Company

operations. The fees for hosting, e-mail, and domain name

are very inexpensive: perhaps $25 per year depending upon
your needs, or $100 a year for deluxe services. GoDaddy.
com claims that they will give you around-the-clock support,
and they do. I called them four times with questions about my
domain and e-mail setup. They answered immediatelywithin
one or two rings every timeincluding nights and weekends,
and they were able to correctly answer all of my questions.
Compared to the older business plantoangel investor
toventure capitaltoIPO approach, which takes millions of
dollars and several years, the virtual approach allows you to
be profitable much faster for an investment of a few thousand
dollars (or less) while still retaining complete ownership and
control of your company. Today, you can outsource product
prototypes and functional demonstration products for pennies
on the dollar, without the onerous issues of raising significant
capital. If you can avoid the traditional venture capital trap and
all the associated baggage from the venture capitalists, you will
surely be a happier entrepreneur. Once a prototype or demo is
created, if handled appropriately, an adept, self-funded company can leverage customer deposits to fund ongoing development. Ive seen this approach, leveraged this approach, and
capitalized on this approach while working with several small
companies, including StartUpSelling, Inc.
The virtual model is ideal for any bootstrapped (selffunded) startup, because it limits overhead and rewards productivity. The model is valid, in part, because technology and
the Internet have leveled the playing field. Thomas Friedman
quotes Indias Infosys Technologies Limited CEO Nandan
Nilekani as saying:
What happened over the last few years is that there was
a massive investment in technologywhen hundreds
of millions of dollars were invested in technology in
putting broadband connectivity around the world
email, search engines like Google, and proprietary
m 51

m Your Virtual Success

software can chop up any piece of work and send one

part to Boston, one part to Bangalore, making it easy
to do remote development. The playing field is being
The same type of technology used by huge, global corporations can be leveraged in a SaaS (Software as a Service)
model for a truly tiny investment. SaaS providers act as your
IT outsource company and provide you with software applications such as iContact, GoToMeeting, GoToWebinar,
BigContacts, BatchBlue, and Skype. You can use this type of
technology for a truly modest monthly investment to attack
virtually any market, anywhere, at any time. These Web-based
solutions, sometimes referred to as cloud computing solutions,
level the playing field both geographically and economically.
Free translation sites such as Babel Fish let you sell globally with limited command of foreign languages. I remember
closing a client opportunity in Germany, translating e-mails
with Babel Fish. Free online translators do a pretty good job
of translating between many languages including German,
French, Spanish, Russian, and English. For a modest investment, you can get even better online tools. Sell your product or
service anywhere and let travel be a mere luxury or a final closing step as opposed to a necessity. (A list of free Web-based
solutions is included in Appendix B.)

Traditional Business Basics

Weve spent most of this chapter discussing virtual, digital, and electronic, but what about traditional business-related
items such as letterhead, business cards, collateral literature,
glossy binders, four-color prints, and all of the supplies needed
for an office? The answer to this question is this: For most
virtual businesses, you really dont need these items. If a prospect asks you for these, tell them you can fulfill everything they
need electronicallyits better for them and the environment.

m Business Basics for Your Virtual Company

If they insist on some paper in hand, or you want to send a

few glossies to an important prospect, use print-on-demand on
glossy paper, and customize it with your company name and
logo, and your prospects company name and logo. Youll be
amazed how professional youll look.
For most small businesses today, little if any hard copy is
needed. If Im visiting an office in person, which is less than
1 percent of the time, I print out business cards on demand.
Glossy blank cards cost about $10 for a 100 cards. I print them
when I need them. The same approach works for hard-copy
letterhead requirements, which is equally rare. I print them in
color with my all-in-one printer. They look great and let you
tweak your messaging, tag line, or address at will. All you need
is a decent-looking, color logo (available as an outsource solution for $50 to a few hundred dollars) and a Microsoft online template (free), and you can print letterhead or literature
when you need it. Virtual companies should be designed to be
free from traditional overhead and encumbrances. If a prospect wants us to fax or snail-mail them our literature, what is
the likelihood they want to embrace a next generation marketing services engagement I represent? If they dont want electronic fulfillment, youre probably wasting your time. Keep
costs down by targeting the right client profile and waste little
if any time on paper-based fulfillment. E-mails take seconds;
the electronic collateral is always up to date. It has a built-in
audit trail so we know if it arrived, and it costs nothing. Most
people review information online. If they hop on a plane, they
will review it on their laptop or, on rare occasion, print what
Ive sent.
What about business travel for your virtual operation? Our
virtual mantra is to always keep overhead low, limit travel, and
optimize time and profits. On certain occasions you may be
required to travel or simply want to take a working vacation.
When preparing for your trips, remember there is elasticity between price savings and the time required to find them. When
m 53

m Your Virtual Success

and if you need to travel, dont go to 10 Websites to ultimately

save $15 on a hotel stay, but do take a few minutes if the savings is going to be $75 a night and your stay requires three
nights. For airfares make sure youre checking out Sidestep.
com or another multi-site solution. Look at direct discount
carrier sites such as Southwest, AirTran, and JetBlue if your
routing is conducive to these airlines, and leverage fare finders/
alerts to notify you of a price drop for your destination. Use
Priceline for hotels and rental cars; just make sure your trip
is locked in, because, once your bid on Priceline has been accepted, you own the room. I recently traveled to New York
and stayed in Midtown at a high-end boutique hotel for $99
per night through Priceline. But remember: The ultimate
goal is not to travel. Travel is expensive, is time consuming,
and limits productivity. Your virtual model should allow you
to minimize your travel through the use of virtual presentations and Web conferences, video conferencing, and virtual
Web seminars, increasing your flexibility while boosting your
profitability. Whenever possible, think of your business in virtual terms.
Lastly, lets touch upon the basic reporting and forecasting you might need for your virtual business. Though we want
to keep our administrative burden to an absolute minimum,
the basic reporting nuts and bolts may be important for your
business. I strongly recommend rolling reports for any virtual
business. Rolling reports should have the current information on the top with all of the previous historical information
pushed down below the current data. This allows you to
go back in time and review historical information, and also
allows you to perform simple trend analysis, determine close
ratios, and measure other important information that may be
germane to your business. For example, a rolling pipeline is the
key report you should use to track your sales progress. If done
correctly, it doubles as your historical sales report. The rolling
pipeline report offers some unique advantages. You will never

m Business Basics for Your Virtual Company

misplace a deal; every sales is recorded at the top of the report

on a rolling basis. You simply move the sale from the active
pipeline below to the closed deal list above. You can sort on
any field for simple trend analysis. What are your best selling
months or quarters? What types of companies comprise your
pipeline? Are they similar or different from your prior sales?
How large is your pipeline, and whats your average deal size?
You can even determine your close ratio on the same simple
report. Take the number of presentations you have done during the last 6 months (or other increment). Determine how
many of those presentations resulted in sales. Lets say you
did 60 presentations and 15 closed. Your close ratio is 25 percent. If your pipeline is $1 million for the next six months and
your close ratio is 25 percent, you can expect to sell around
$250,000. (A sample rolling pipeline report has been included
in Appendix A.)
Forecasting is an art and a science, and your rolling pipeline report will give you a great view into your sales future.
Fortunately, for your virtual company, your forecasting is
merely for your own edification. Your deposit-oriented,
fluid, and flexible virtual business allows you to minimize
the need for detailed cash planning or forecasting requirements, though it is important in some businesses to determine how many contractors you may need to bring aboard
for fulfillment. Your pipeline is probably the most important
document that you will use; spend plenty of time working this
document, and it will reap rewards. These rolling pipelines
are perfect for many virtual businesses, whether you are selling larger-ticket items or custom hats. Rolling reports are a
great way to track what has happened, is happening, and might
happen to your virtual business. Dont try to be elegant, thus
creating an onerous administrative burden for you or your
small team.
While were on the topic of tracking and simple reports,
lets take a look at a basic spreadsheet to track telemarketer
m 55

m Your Virtual Success

productivity, if you are using telemarketing resources, though

this type of format can be used to track many types of contractor resources.

Prospecting Metrics Report

Hours To













































Emails Callbacks


A report doesnt have to be complicated to be helpful. This

simple spreadsheet helps track call effectiveness to set expectations for telemarketers. If they are falling behind, the way
KC was in this report, you can speak from a simple quantitative perspective and let them know you expect them to get
at least one demo every 10 hours. We can see that telemarketer ML was booking a demo every seven hours, whereas
telemarketer KC was only booking a demo every 17 hours.
Remember: There is a balance between quantity and quality.
Though there are minimum production expectations, you then
ultimately determine the quality of demos by tracking which
demos turned into sales. Virtual reporting can usually be done
on a simple spreadsheet; all you need are Excel and a few minutes each week to record your results. Focus on activities that
will create revenues; take a minimalist approach to reporting
and tracking.

m Business Basics for Your Virtual Company

Now that weve covered the business basics for your virtual
business, lets move on to the rapid creation of your virtual
business. How long will it take you to ramp up your virtual
operation? Can it be done in a month, a week, or even a few
days? My virtual business was created in 72 hours. Lets review
how you can accomplish this, too.

m 57

This page intentionally left blank

Chapter 4

How to Create
a Virtual
Business in 72

pulled on a pair of sweatpants, found my favorite blue

t-shirt, donned my socks and slippers, and walked downstairs to the basement. I needed a desk for my new home office but didnt have one. The door creaked as I walked into
my back basement. I lived in this house for 20 years; surely
I must have some type of old desk stowed away down here.
Unfortunately, after a couple of minutes in the musty, dimly lit
room, I could see there was none. Suddenly, I spotted an old
laminate counter and two beat-up, black file cabinets behind
some boxes in a cobweb-laced corner. My son had used these
for a makeshift desk when he was a teenager, allowing him to
store additional clutter in his room and thus ensuring he could
make his room look like a fully functioning junk yard. They
had been leaning against the wall collecting dust for the previous 10 years and had not been discarded in the unlikely event
someone was ever to need them.
I carried them upstairs to a spare bedroom and slid the
laminate countertop onto the opposing file cabinets. There
was a cup resting on a closet shelf. I dumped a few pens and
pencils in the cup, not really ever intending to use a pencil but
somehow feeling reassured that it was a good idea nonetheless. I grabbed a phone that was in a spare parts drawer and
m 59

m Your Virtual Success

plugged it into the wall. I was almost done. I gently placed my

eBay-purchased Dell laptop on my new makeshift desk and
powered it up. I had ordered the laptop a couple of days before and connected it to an existing Linksys router. It seemed
to work just fine. I connected my Dell to the all-in-one HP
printer, scanner, fax I purchased at Staples the day before.
Lastly, I rolled in a chair from another room. My office basics
were ready in 48 hours.
I downloaded some readily available target prospect lists
(such as the fastest-growing companies in Massachusetts, the
largest insurance agencies in North America, and the Inc. 500
list), imported them into an Excel spreadsheet, and hit the
phones calling prospects on day three. Within 72 hours I had a
fully functioning virtual office. Granted, this presupposes you
already identified a virtual business and you have a telephone
and voice mail pitch ready to go. Today, there are so many
great virtual business concepts available; its hard to imagine
you cannot come up with a viable idea. With the methods discussed in this book and a simple voice mail pitch or PPC campaign, your own virtual business can be ready in as little as 72

Basic Building Blocks of My Virtual Business

Here is the list of the basic virtual requirements for my

type of business, though your requirements will vary based on
your business and target market:
kk VoIP Phone: Vonage or other: $25 per month or
kk Skype: Free PC-to-PC video calling.
kk DSL or Cable Internet Access: $30 per month.
kk Laptop: eBay used Dell for $600 (with Microsoft
kk HP all-in-one printer $199.

m How to Create a Virtual Business in 72 Hours

kk GoToMeeting: About $39 per month, or use

Dimdim or another free service. (I added
GoToWebinar at a later date.)
kk eMarketing solution like iContact or
ConstantConact: about $30 per month.
kk Inc. 500/5000, Fortune 1000, or other list source
for prospecting data: Some are free; some are fee
for service.
kk Sales Force Automation software: SalesForce.
com,, and many other cost
effective contact management and SFA solutions:
about $99 per year per user, though some are free.
kk Backup to a flashcard, external hard drive, offsite
via e-mail or service such as Mozy: anywhere from
free to $5 per month.
kk, language
translation for international e-mails: free.
kk Basic Website: $50 including hosting if you do
everything yourself; $150 to $1,000+ if you hire
someone. Depending on your business (B2B vs.
B2C) your needs will vary.
kk Google Desktop: free product from Google
enabling you to search for anything on your PC.
kk Instant Messaging: Microsoft, AOL, Yahoo,
Jabber, etc.: free unless you need an enterprise
kk CutePDF: free PDF document creation utility.
kk Cell Phone: You should be able to use your
existing cell phone.
With all the new tools and technologies available to us today, youll be surprised how easy it is to set up a virtual business or to make your exiting business more virtual.
m 61

m Your Virtual Success

Labor Day 2004 had come and gone, and I had landed
my first client through personal networking. Lets call them
Software and Services Corporation. They offered me a modest retainer, which would ultimately be replaced by a payfor-performance plan. I was expected to handle essentially all
aspects of their sales and marketing efforts. You might be surprised as to the extent and value of your own personal network,
which can be further leveraged through business networking
sites such as LinkedIn and Plaxo. For many businesses, personal networking can provide a fast and inexpensive way to
find your initial clients, though we will discuss other methods
throughout this book. My overhead was essentially nonexistent, and I was still receiving severance from my former employer. It was a great time to get my virtual business off the
ground. Severance packages offer you an excellent opportunity to start your virtual business or expand your part time existing business without going into debt or increasing cash burn.

What Can Be Done Vs. What Can Be Done Fast

In the beginning you will have a plethora of important

tasks to accomplish without the financial means or time to
complete all of them. It is crucial to identify mission-critical
goals and then determine which can be accomplished quickly.
As mentioned in Chapter 3, your virtual business can get
started by registering a DBA (doing business as) name at
your local town or city hall and informing your post office in
the event you expect snail-mail correspondence. You could
decide to incorporate; this can be done online, is inexpensive
to do, and will result in paying corporate taxes, but also offers
additional legal protection and potentially some tax incentives. You can also wait and incorporate at a later date after your business is proven and producing sufficient income.
With some businessesan eBay-based business, for example,
where everything is done on line including payments and drop
shippingthere is little you need to do from a traditional

m How to Create a Virtual Business in 72 Hours

sense, other than building your Web-based business, though

you should always seek some basic legal guidance as you begin
your virtual business.
There is a tradeoff between what you would like to accomplish and what can be accomplished quickly. For example, you
might like to create a robust e-mail database for an eMarketing
campaign to your target market, but this could take months.
Conversely, you can generate a target contact list and start
telemarketing calls immediately. You dont even need a database or online sales force automation solution to do this; an
Excel spreadsheet loaded with some rapidly downloaded contact names and a little practice with your telemarketing pitch
can yield quick results. You might want to spend a month refining your Website, but Id suggest you take a week or two
at most. Remember to ask yourself what is a nice to have
versus a must have, differentiate a want from a need, and
focus on those activities that will drive revenues.
My first order of business was to help Software and Services
Corporation quickly refine their Website and fill up their prospect pipeline. When I say quickly, I mean it in virtual business
terms. The Software and Services Corporation Website was
completely redesigned, uploaded, and running perfectly within
two weeks. I also needed to refine their elevator pitch, better
define their target market, modify their value proposition, and
create a down and dirty go-to-market strategy. If you like to
put things down on paper, these important tasks can be thoroughly documented on a couple of sheets of paper. If you tend
to be verbose, use one page per task; for example, your elevator pitch, voice mail pitch, and direct telephone pitch can all fit
on one page, as can your marketing plan. Do not create a comprehensive business plan. The ideal business plan is really just
a set of goals that can be reduced to 10 bullets. For your virtual
company, it should be even shorter; five key bullets work wonders on reducing the verbose into clear, succinct, and powerful
statements. Remember: Your virtual business will morph on a
m 63

m Your Virtual Success

rapid and constant basis, and you should focus on the missioncritical tasks that will yield new clients and cash flow. Let me
say this again: Regardless of the number of important tasks
you need to accomplish, you must focus on shorter-term, opportunistic activities that will yield clients and cash flow. And
because you are virtual, this is much easier to accomplish than
in traditional venues.

72 Hours and Counting

My first official day started in the virtual office I created

in less than 72 hours. Warren Buffett would probably like my
desk and office: highly functional, low cost, and designed to
yield high profits. This should be the preferred beginning of
any virtual startup. With an investment of less than $1,000,
I was in businessand you could be, too, for many types of
virtual operations. I downloaded a few prospect lists (they
should really be called suspect lists). Many of these lists, such
as Inc. 500, Inc. 5000, Fastest Growing U.S. Companies, Top
100 Insurance Companies, Boston Business Journals Book of
Lists, and so on, are often free online or at your local library,
or very inexpensive to order. For example, if you go to the Inc.
Website, you will see the list for the 5,000 fastest-growing U.S.
companies. Click on the company and you will get a synopsis,
revenues, and a link to the company Website.
I started to call prospects as I refined Software and
Service Companys telephone pitch. When I secured my first
meeting with a qualified prospect, I was ready to go with
my GoToMeeting real-time meeting/conferencing solution,
which provides users with the ability to share information
(PowerPoint presentations, documents, software demonstrations) over the Web and also provides unlimited free conference calling. Real-time online meeting and Web conferencing
solutions like GoToMeeting, Webex, or Live Meeting are the
backbone of any B2B virtual operation, and are important for
many virtual B2C businesses, too. Online meeting solutions,

m How to Create a Virtual Business in 72 Hours

sometimes referred to as Web conferencing systems, can be

very inexpensive to use and typically work great. For about a
dollar a day, I could arrange unlimited conference calls and
online Web conferences with attendees anywhere in the world.
My edition of GoToMeeting allowed 15 simultaneous attendees. (For a few dollars more you can have 25, 50, or even 1,000
attendees at a meeting.) Or, depending upon your business,
you can opt to use one of the free online meeting solutions
that are now available, such as Dimdim.
If you maintain a low-cost profile for your virtual selffunded company, it means low or no debt and a much faster
path to profitability. These real-time meeting solutions allow
any business to quickly meet, share documents and reports,
new products or widgets, and even look at each other through
your built-in or add-on PC video camera. You can virtually
meet anyone, anytime, anywhere, at a moments notice. Think
about that: no travel to meet coworkers or prospects, no costs
to review materials from your contractors, no overnights in hotels, no planes, trains, or automobiles. It is almost, though not
exactly, the same as meeting with people face to face, and in
many ways it is much better.
For most virtual businesses, online meeting and Web conferencing is likely to be the foundation of your business, or at
least provide support for some key aspects of your business. If
you are not meeting virtually with prospects or clients, Web
conferencing will be used to meet with contractors, collaborators, business associates, or employees. (Well review Web conferencing and presentations in great detail in chapters 6, 7, and 8
when we review virtual sales and marketing.) You will be able to
present to anyone, anywhere in the world, as long as they have an
Internet connection and a PC, and Im going to show you step by
step how to look polished and professional when you do so.
My company was to be a truly leading edge, virtual entity,
performing almost everything electronically, shunning paper, files, and all aspects of the old brick-and-mortar culture.
m 65

m Your Virtual Success

Though a contractor or outsource organization, my organization was designed to be tightly connected by both technology and purpose, working in a sense as a virtual employee
for my client organizations and completely aligned with their
goals. My company would be an outsourced sales and marketing gun for hire. With little overhead, limited expenses, no
distractions, and no commute, I could be extremely productive
in an abbreviated work week, and I could work the hours I
wanted, optimizing the personal benefits of my virtual operation. When you consider the amount of time wasted in many
traditional jobs, including endless meetings, office gossip,
politics, lunches, breaks and socializing, many experts believe
people are productive less than four hours per day.
Outsourcing offered a highly profitable model for both
my clients and me, and will help keep your costs and overhead low. Outsourced programmers could be found coding at
midnight, or start their day at noon. Talented graphic artists
and Website designers could reside anywhere and work the
hours they wished. Veteran telemarketers could be located
anywhere in the North America as long as they had a phone, a
PC, Internet access, and a skill set to match my needs, and they
needed to be polished, professional, and able to speak English
perfectly. (Of course, if we were calling South America, they
would need to speak Spanish or Portuguese perfectly.) We
used callers indigenous to the area we were calling, not lessexpensive offshore callers, many of whom had strong accents.
Your virtual business will allow you to dictate exactly the skill
sets you seek and find professionals to match your needs. Its
much easier to find people for our virtual business if we can
hire them anywhere in North America (or possibly the world,
if your business requires it). Many of the methods for hiring
contractors are free. Some of the Websites I found include:
Cragislist, Elance, Freelance, Guru, Project4hire, and Sologig,
though there are many others. My team could enjoy the ultimate in flexibility, yet we could all work more productively

m How to Create a Virtual Business in 72 Hours

because of the inherent efficiency of the virtual model. If

someone was being paid, he or she was billable and working
100 percent of the time. Of course Im getting a little bit ahead
of myself, because on my first official day, it was just me, with
my one clientand your virtual company may start in much
the same way.
There were a few additional, critical components needed
for a virtual operation. You need very good Internet connectivity and phone service. I opted to use the Verizon DSL that
was already in my home (two years later I moved to Comcast
cable). The DSL speed was adequate for my online research,
communication, and presentations. My Voice over Internet
Protocol (VoIP) phone was good for cold calling, short conversations, and brief international calls, but DSL couldnt handle both GoToMeeting presentations and VoIP phone calls
simultaneously. So I also used my home phone when making
online presentations with simultaneous conference calls. The
difference between VoIP and traditional Verizon type service
is only about $30 per month, so the cost is not a major factor, but in a startup mode every dollar counts. More recently
I started to use a headset connected to my PC for both telephony and Web seminar calls, removing the need to call in on
a separate telephone line for my Web seminars.
In the virtual model, depending upon your type of business,
a cell phone is often the best way to keep in close and immediate
contact with your clients and prospects. When answering your
cell phone, you should sound like a business professional. It
shouldnt be casual Hey, this is John; it should simply be an
enthusiastic John Smith! Your friends will understand that
you also use your cell for business. Your clients and prospective
clients will assume it is your business line. Leave the following
as your voice-mail message: Youve reached the voice-mail
box of John Smith. Please leave a message after the tone, and
Ill get back to you promptly. One of the key elements of a virtual company is to appear immediately responsive. If you only
m 67

m Your Virtual Success

accept important calls from prospects and clients on your cell

phone, you are always reachable. Dont hesitate to hastily end
a discussion with a friend or business associate to ensure you
receive a prospect or client call. If you answer prospects and
clients immediately, you will appear highly responsivemuch
more responsive than larger and more established players.
Make sure you dont tie up your cell phone for long conference calls or other meetings. Depending upon the meeting,
you might be able to interrupt for a moment and take a quick
prospect call on your cell phone, leaving a positive first impression on a new prospect.
My home office is the headquarters of my operation
though my office is technically anywhere I have a phone and
Internet connection. Your home office can be any quiet place
with phone and Internet access. That means, for most businesses, no babies crying, no dogs barking, no music playing
in the background, and no loud noises coming from outside.
Your office doesnt even have to be in your house. Some
people borrow a friends living room while they are at work if
their own house is too small or too noisy, or if they just need a
change in venue. For certain businesses, Starbucks works just
fine. You can get free wireless connectivity there by registering any Starbucks gift card online. Just buy a Starbucks gift
card for say $10, and register it at; as of this
writing, they give you perks including free connectivity and
free flavor shots. I dont know if the flavor shots will help you,
but I have used the wireless connectivity along with a grande
Pikes Place coffee for many meetings and even presentations
in Starbucks. A couple of years ago I did a demonstration
for the CEO of a $100+ million insurance organization; we
picked a Starbucks midway between my office and his home.
He met me there at 8:00 a.m., spent an hour, and thus missed
most of the really bad traffic he would encounter on his daily
commute to his brick-and-mortar office. The old traditional
days of we must meet in the office are coming to a close, and

m How to Create a Virtual Business in 72 Hours

the biggest reason revolves around efficiency and cost containment. In our brave new virtual world, the goal is to find a
place to work that is comfortable, convenient, and preferably
rent-free. Traditional office space creates an insidious negative effect on profit, which tends to cascade as you consider
rent, insurance, phone lines, a receptionist, office furniture,
and so forth. My business is seven years old and required none
of these traditional brick-and-mortar operations.

Polished, Professional, PowerPoint Presentations

and a Website, Too

If you have a highly polished presentation, a professional

PowerPoint presentation, a compelling and rehearsed value
proposition (or a compelling purchase offer for B2C businesses) and good communication skills, you can look and
sound like a multimillion-dollar, or even a multibillion-dollar,
operation when you are doing virtual Web presentations and
meetings. These components, combined with a professionallooking Website and compelling eCollateral, can make your
company look like a truly viable organization from the outside
looking in. Its literally impossible to determine if Im sitting
at my desk in sweatpants and sneakers, or wearing an Armani
suit on the 60th floor of the John Hancock Building, during
my remote presentations. Its all about the presentation, for
this is what creates 99 percent of the perception during your
virtual interactions with prospective B2B clients. For your
B2C business its about your Internet pay-per-click ads, your
Website, and if applicable those people responding to order
inquiries. For B2B-oriented sales, the presentation has to be
extremely well rehearsed, scripted yet enthusiastic, fast, and
relevant, and have high impact. It can take 10 hours or more
to secure a good presentation with a qualified prospect. Have
a clear and coherent plan of attack for the presentation; create
an agenda and agenda slide, and review this at the beginning
m 69

m Your Virtual Success

of your presentation; ensure you are covering the topics they

deem most important; and dont get off the phone until you
and your prospect have agreed on the next step.
What about a Website for your virtual business? Can this
be done in 72 hours? The answer is a categorical yes. Today,
you can even do most or all of your Website design yourself if
cash is in truly short supply. Ultimately, we selected a template
from (we also use to create our
site. Most Web templates at these sites cost $30 to $60. There
are thousands of templates to choose from, the templates include photos and graphics, or you can go to iStockphoto, Flickr,
and so forth, and download photos for your site very inexpensively. Our site was easy to navigate, it had client quotes and
samples of some of our projects, and many of my colleagues
thought it looked very professional. It wasnt perfect, and there
was clearly room for improvement, but for a three-day effort
and a total spend of less than $200, it was better than many
sites representing much larger and more established organizations. And that was the goal: Using the new virtual good
fastcheap paradigm, a good site was rapidly developed that
allowed prospective clients to take a sneak peak at us to make
sure we were a viable organization. In todays virtual world,
you can literally get all threegood, fast, and cheapresults
physically or electronically delivered to your door.
StartUpSelling is hosted at, one of the
larger domain hosting operations. There are many to choose
from (GoDaddy, 1and1, Yahoo, Google, and so forth). The
fees for hosting, including domain name and e-mail are very
inexpensive, perhaps $25 per year (or less), depending upon
your needs. At this price, GoDaddy claims that they will give
you around-the-clock support. With this virtual approach,
limited startup costs, and cheap virtual tools, you can create a
viable operation within just a few weeks or, depending upon
the nature of your business, within a matter of a few months.
You can call and they will help you setup a

m How to Create a Virtual Business in 72 Hours

domain in minutes, set up your e-mail, and patiently explain all

your options. My Website is often faster than my clients sites,
which are hosted on their in-house servers. Specialization and
outsourcing are often better, faster, and cheaper than trying to
do things in-house.
The virtual approach lets you create a profitable venture much faster than traditional business models while still
retaining ownership of your company. A business associate
of mine recently raised several million dollars in investment
capital to develop a new product that they hope to bring to
market. As these types of companies progress, particularly if
there is a long path to the money, they must find more capital or risk downsizing, closing, or losing control of their company. Dont follow this old, arduous, and problematic path, or
pick a different virtual business if you cannot succeed without
large up-front capitalization. Today, you can outsource product
prototypes and functional demonstration products for pennies
on the dollar, without the onerous issues of raising significant
capital. Once a prototype or demo is created, if handled appropriately, an adept, bootstrapped virtual company can leverage
customer deposits to fund ongoing development. Ive seen this,
used this, and lived through this with several small companies
Ive worked with. Can you do this with every type of product?
Nobut then again, you must try to select a product or solution that you can outsource or develop without the need for
significant outside capitalization. With venture capitalbased
companies the odds are about five to one that you wont be the
CEO of your own startup five years after youve received the
venture capital infusion.

A Real-World Virtual Campaign

Why is the virtual model so effective today? The same

technology utilized by huge, global corporations can be leveraged in an Application Solution Provider (ASP) and Software
as a Service provider (SaaS) model for a truly tiny investment.
m 71

m Your Virtual Success

ASPs or SaaS providers act as your IT outsource company

and will provide you with the ability to compete with almost
anyone, anywhere, and from a more cost-effective approach.
The virtual model works for almost any business from antiques ( to eye glasses (,
from architecture to envelopes. Even sophisticated engineering projects are often done remotely and collaboratively by leveraging the virtual model. Your business has a much higher
likelihood of success and will have lower costs when leveraging
my virtual model.
Lets stop for a moment and review a real-world example
of how you can use current Internet tools for your virtual business. Lets start with the virtual sales and marketing efforts
required to sell this manuscript to a publisher. I worked on this
book for about a year and, upon the completion of a working
draft, decided to contact some literary agents to see if they
would be interested in representing me. I knew little about
book publishing, but through a Google search determined that
literary agents represent more than 90 percent of all books
that are published, and almost 100 percent of all books sold
to major publishers. I went online and found several free sites
listing agents, including and www. (There are also many books and fee based online services, including There were of
course an abundance of articles, Websites, and blogs on the
topic of getting published and finding a literary agent. Some
sources estimate that top literary agents receive about 400
1,000 unsolicited book queries every month; in other words,
its very competitive. I started this virtual sales and marketing
effort just like you can for your own virtual business. I selected
1,200 agents from the free online lists. In most cases they had
an e-mail listed for the book query submission (thats agent
speak for a formal proposal a writer must create to whet the
interest of a prospective agent). As with any sales and marketing campaign, it usually begins by building a prospect list,

m How to Create a Virtual Business in 72 Hours

though youre much better off targeting a niche or specific

profile than you would be sending out e-mails to 1,200 general
literary agents. I refined the list and culled through the agents
to identify 100 who were interested in business books, nonfiction, and prescriptive books (how-to books). I focused on
agents listing business books as a specific area of interest.
The list building, culling, and niche targeting were done
in just a few days. I decided to do a test run of 30 agents, and
would then do another wave of 70 agents if necessary. I had
read that it was extremely difficult to sign with an agent, and
that you might not even get a response to a manuscript inquiry
(query letter). You should always do a pilot run with any marketing campaign, and its particularly easy to do in the virtual
world through eMarketing and pay-per-click Internet advertising (more on this in Chapter 7). In July 2008, I sent out
my first wave of e-mails. I customized most of them, using the
first name of each agent and tried to note something specific
for each agent. I could have used iContact or other emailing
campaign solution, but wanted to review and personalize each
individual e-mail, so I used my personal e-mail account.
In some cases the e-mails were very much tailored for the
agent; in other cases I simply cut and pasted a boilerplate message, though I always addressed the agent by their first name.
Look at wave one as my marketing test and wave two as my
production run, though in this case, both waves produced good
results. This is the same methodology you should do when
starting your virtual business eMarketing campaigns.
Wave 1 Statistics

Wave 2 Statistics

30 Sent

70 Sent

4 Interested

5 Interested

12 Not interested

20 Not Interested

14 No response

45 No response
m 73

m Your Virtual Success

Overall, 9 percent of the agents (nine agents out of 100)

expressed interest, 32 percent were not interested, and I received no response from 59 percent of the agents. Normally
you would follow up your e-mailing with a personal telephone
call and or voice mail. In this particular industry, however, the
rules of engagement state that agents prefer no calls. I did not
send queries to any agent requiring paper-based submissions
even if they listed business as a primary genre.
Most of the results came in within the first two weeks of
the respective waves. Of the nine agents expressing interest,
their approach varied dramatically. Four agents asked me to
e-mail my full proposal; another four asked me to print out
a full proposal and snail-mail (or FedEx) it to them, and one
asked me via e-mail if I would like him to immediately contact publishers on my behalf to see if they had interest. A full
proposal typically has an introduction, bio, marketing plan,
competitive analysis, chapter outline, and one or two sample
chapters. (My full proposal was 80 pages.) I immediately sent
my full proposal to the four agents who requested it via e-mail
attachment. About a week later I sent out one paper copy to
one of the four agents who expressed a particularly high level
of interest in my query. In retrospect, I dont know why I bothered. I wrote a cover letter, and printed out 80 pages, which I
accomplished by driving over to Staples, handing them a flash
card, and paying them $5. I then drove to the post office, filled
out an express mail form, express-mailed it to the agent, and
then waited, hoping it would get read. This is the old, nonvirtual way of doing things; you typically dont want prospects
who insist on receiving things by snail mail or fax, and I probably didnt want an agent who worked this way, either.
Of the four agents who received my full e-mail proposal,
two asked for an exclusive and two asked if I would speak with
them right away. One of the agents who wanted to have an
immediate discussion was Wendy Keller from Keller Media.
Wendy asked if we could set up a conference call to discuss

m How to Create a Virtual Business in 72 Hours

my query. I sent her a GoToMeeting invitation, and within 24

hours we were meeting virtually in cyberspace. Keller Media
had a very professional Website and also did something I recommend to all my clients: They had extensive quotes and testimonials from their authors. This sent a very powerful message
to meand it can be a very powerful message for your business. In a virtual business (or even a traditional business), it
matters more what your clients say about you than what you
say about yourself. The quotes from their notable clients immediately convinced me they were a viable organization.
Wendy and I discussed my proposal and Keller Medias
approach for about 30 minutes, during which time I actually
demonstrated some of the virtual tools I use every day. She was
impressed with the concept, the tools, and the virtual meeting,
and I was impressed with her background and methodology.
Keller Media was in the process of going virtual and had
already undergone a partial virtual transformation. Wendy estimated their costs were reduced more than $10,000 per month
because a large part of her labor force was now virtual. There
was no doubt in my mind Keller Media was the right choice,
and we quickly decided to move forward. As a side note Ill
mention that the agency representation agreement was sent
and signed digitally that day; there was no paper that ever exchanged hands.
From the time I decided to approach the literary agency
market, it took me less than four weeks to sign with a wellknown agent. This included building a prospect list, culling an
e-mail list, sending out a campaign, responding to inquiries,
engaging with interested parties, convincing an agent my manuscript would be viable, and executing a contractall done
from the comfortable chair in my home office. Six months
later, my agent approached me with an offer from the Career
Press, a well-known publisher of business books, and, as a result, youre now reading about how to create your own virtual
business. Welcome to the benefits of my virtual model. You
m 75

m Your Virtual Success

can use these tools to quickly sell and market your products
and services to anyone, from almost anywhere. These virtual
sales and marketing methods are applicable to almost any
product, service, or solution. Ill show you how to leverage
these tools in greater detail in Chapters 6, 7, and 8.
Keep costs down by targeting a narrow and specific prospect profile and minimizing any time on paper-based fulfillment. E-mails take seconds, and your electronic collateral is
always up to date. E-mail has a built-in audit trail so we know
if it arrived, and it costs nothing to create or send. Most people
I deal with review information online. If they are going to hop
on a plane, they will review it on their laptop or, on rare occasion, print what Ive sent. Because youre doing everything
electronically, you have few if any paper files. That means no
archival or retrieval time, no lost documents, and no space for
file cabinets. And if you do things electronically, you can throw
away the paper shredder, too.

Virtual Means Productive

Once your virtual business is up and running, you no longer have to kill yourself with a 50- or 60-hour workweek. Not to
say that you wont need to put in a good effort, but you might
find you can accomplish what needs to be done in a productive, 30-hour virtual workweek as opposed to a 50- or 60-hour,
travel-intensive, wasteful workweek. How many hours do you
waste in meetings, conference calls, office politics, office chit
chat, preparing the plethora of executive reports, commuting
time, travel time, cost justifying salaries or costs, and redundant or unproductive efforts? Why does my virtual business
model ensure lower stress, higher profits, and a truly compelling, productivity yield? And why will yours?
1. There is no commuting time and, therefore, no
commuting expense.


m How to Create a Virtual Business in 72 Hours

2. There is no lunch time: If youre eating, its with

a client or at your desk, unless youve decided to
dine with a friend or family.
3. You can work during your optimum, peak
production times (which may not come during a
traditional 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. time frame).
4. There is no wasted meeting time. How much time
do you spend in meetings looking at the clock or
just hoping it wraps up early?
5. There are no (or much fewer) personnel issues:
Contractors are paid for production and are usually
accustomed to working virtually, and are thus much
more efficient with their time. And, of course,
there is no gossip, water cooler conversations, or
gripe sessions.
6. Youre not paying for highly priced CFOs, VPs,
expense accounts, high-rise office space, or
expensive outside capitalization found in traditional
brick-and-mortar operations. Remember: If you
work for a VP of sales who makes $250,000 per
year, that cost comes out of profits, and your sales
must increase to accommodate this overhead
7. If youre at your desk, youre probably working,
because you should have plenty of time to do
personal thingson personal time!
Remember: There are some very simple steps you need
to follow to ensure your virtual company will succeed. You
need to be free from the encumbrance of overhead and the
shackles of debtors. Take the minimalist approach to brick and
mortar. Use a spare bedroom in your house, a VoIP phone, a
cost-effective laptop, SaaS Web-based applications, and a basic Website, and you can create a virtual company for a few
m 77

m Your Virtual Success

hundred bucks, which can easily become a highly profitable

operation. Outsource as much of your operation as possible,
in-source where and when applicable, leverage existing products, execute micro marketing tests and eMarketing campaigns,
and select a product, service, or solution where you can collect
deposits or get paid in advance of delivery. Minimize paper,
filing, and printing, and, on the rare occasion that you need letterhead, business cards, or paper collateral, print on demand
in low quantities, focusing on a cost-efficient, paperless virtual
business model. With a little knowhow, your continued focus
on core competencies, a new idea, or an inspirational spin on
an old idea, you can achieve dramatic results, as long as you
use my virtual model and keep your overhead low and your
margins high. Youll be surprised to learn that if approached
correctly your prospective clients can pay for product development, and your early adopters will help you with sales and
marketing. Within months you can have a profitable business.
Do you find this hard to believe? It shouldnt be if you use
leading-edge virtual tools and approach the business with oldfashioned common sense. My virtual model may be the wave
of the future, but you can take advantage of it today.


Chapter 5

A Virtual
Branding and
Image for Your
Virtual Operation

hats the difference between branding and image? defines branding as the [e]
ntire process involved in creating a unique name and image for
a product (good or service) in the consumers mind, through
advertising campaigns with a consistent theme. Branding aims
to establish a significant and differentiated presence in the
market that attracts and retains loyal customers. What about
your virtual image? The American Marketing Association
Dictionary defines image as [t]he consumer perception of a
product, institution, brand, business, or person that may or
may not correspond with reality or actuality. Of course, in
the constant effort to keep things ultra simplified, in accordance with our virtual business philosophy, what if we use this
definition: When prospects see us, they know us, and they
like what they see. I think that serves as an admirable and
simple branding and image definition for our virtual companies. Virtual companies, emerging organizations, and smaller
companies should not think of branding in the same terms as
giants such as Coca Cola, Nike, IBM, or Apple. What should
your virtual company focus on when thinking about branding?

m 79

m Your Virtual Success

kk Website and interactive design.

kk Logo.
kk ECollateral.
kk Compelling content (Website, client quotes, case
studies, Webinars, video, eCollateral, and so
kk PowerPoint, video, Web seminars, podcasts, any
type of presentations.
kk Telephony-based pitches such as voice mail and
live pitches.
kk Virtual trade show presentation.
kk Exhibits and trade show presentation on the rare
occasion you use them.
kk Virtual product and packaging design.
kk Actual product packaging and design.
kk Customer service experience (and sales cycle
kk eMail content, eLetterhead, eBusiness Cards.

Practice Virtual Business Judo

Before continuing with our virtual branding and image review, lets discuss something I call virtual business judo. Judo
is a method of turning an opponents strength into a weakness
and overcoming his or her physical advantage by skill rather
than sheer strength. You should use virtual business judo to
compete against large and established companies by turning
their greatest strengths into clearly defined weaknesses. Dont
try to show greater depth of resources or feign an ability that
is not at your command. Dont try to convince someone that
you have a broader product line than an established, billiondollar competitor if you only employ five people. But you can

m A Virtual Boutique: Branding and Image for Your Virtual Operation

easily convince someone that you have great expertise in a

focused area or that youll be much more responsive than a
multibillion-dollar corporation. Once you have determined
your strengths and competitive advantages, you must leverage
your virtual judo and convey this through branding and image.
Let me review an example of this from a small company
that was called Practice Management Systems, Inc., prior to
the virtual age. The company was an entrepreneurial, bootstrapped organization, self-funded with no venture backing.
There were perhaps 10 employees when I joined them to run
all aspects of sales and marketing, though I wore many, many
hats. At the time, we had only a few clients, no name recognition, a fledgling product, and little cash. Is it possible for that
kind of company to utilize virtual business judo, or at that time
I would call it small business judo, and achieve brand recognition? The answer is a categorical yes. It is even easier for you
to accomplish this today in your virtual organization.

If You Place a Cabin Cruiser in the Middle of the


If you were to take a 40-foot cabin cruiser and place it in

the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, nobody would notice it, and
even if you were searching for it, it would unlikely be found.
Yet if we were to take the same 40-foot boat and place it in
the middle of a small 2-acre pond, it would be almost impossible to overlook. At Practice Management Systems, I initially
focused our sales and marketing efforts on a very small and
specific target market, namely small medical offices with one
to four physicians, and only in New England. This is somewhat
of an exaggeration because initially most of our efforts were
in Massachusetts. We created an intense focus; refined our
message; branded our solution and local presence, promoted
ease of use, and superior support; jabbed at competitors large,
lumbering size; critiqued their large-scale platforms; visited
m 81

m Your Virtual Success

every medical office in person (multiple times); sent consistent

snail-mail letters; asked for referrals; attended local tabletop
trade shows; spoke at local association meetings; and made
consistent telemarketing calls, all of which resulted in pervasive name recognition in Massachusetts. Our image conveyed
an easy-to-use solution with superior local service and support,
and a company that could be counted on to assist in the transition from a manual to automated medical office.
Within a couple of years, if you asked a Massachusettsbased physician if he or she knew our firm, which was ironically
referred to as PMS, he or she was extremely likely to know
of us, and was likely to know one or more colleagues using our
solution. The company initials became far better known than
our full name, and within five years of my start date, PMS
became an extremely well recognized medical automation
brand name with a very solid reputation. Our name became so
pervasive in the northeastern United States that, when the acronym PMS became commonly associated with premenstrual
syndrome, we were in a quandary whether we should change
the name. There were many discussions about whether prospects and clients would merely find it amusing but remember
the name well, or if it would become a running joke. We chose
to leave the name as it was, and Practice Management Systems
achieved INC 500 status two years running. We may not have
been the largest medical office automation provider in the
country, but we were successful, were viable, had great name
recognition in our small pond, and did much to contribute to
the local community. We were a small gianttype company
even before Bo Burlingham coined the phrase with his excellent book called Small Giants.1
Your virtual company can replicate these results by ensuring you are targeting a small, well-defined, virtual marketing
niche. I must emphasize the critical importance pertaining to
the size of your pond. Size counts, and in this case smaller is
better. Some might refer to this as micromarketing, defined

m A Virtual Boutique: Branding and Image for Your Virtual Operation

by Wikipedia definition as the practice of tailoring products,

brands (microbrands), and promotions to meet the needs and
wants of microsegments within a market. Virtual common
sense dictates that a smaller firm can achieve strong brand recognition if they attempt to saturate a small market. Analogous
to our 40-foot cabin cruiser on a small pond example, might be
a service offering applicable to solo dental providers, or legal
advice for startup software companies, or a gourmet delivery
dinner service for an upscale suburb, marketing services to
mid-sized CPA firms, solutions for credit unions as opposed to
all banks, classic car parts for American cars, or, even better,
custom parts for classic Corvettes. Focus on your target market to optimize your virtual branding effectiveness. Regardless
of your target market, stay close to your core competencies
and focus on your strengths.

Say It With Confidence

In David Noonans Aesop & the CEO, Noonan discusses

Aesops fable about the eagle and the crow. One day a crow
sees an eagle swoop down and capture a little lamb. The eagle
easily carries his prize back to his nest. The crow decides to
do the same thing but lacks the power and skill to execute this
maneuver, and gets caught in the lambs wool, only to be captured by the herds shepherd. Noonan said, Confidence and
positive thinking are generally viewed as assets. But both need
to be viewed with the occasional reality check.2 Dont try to
be what you are not. If youre a crow, be a crow and dont mistake yourself for an eagle. Instead of fighting an uphill battle
attempting to show you are superior in every way to an established competitor, take a virtual boutique approach. Convey
a responsive, flexible, expertise-oriented image by saying, for
kk Were a much more responsive company because
of our size.
m 83

m Your Virtual Success

kk Well make you feel like our number-one client.

kk Because we are a boutique, everyone who works
here is an expert.
kk Your account will be working with our most
senior people; there are no junior people at our
kk Our product is newer, taking advantage of
current tools and technologies.
kk It is much easier for us to accommodate
enhancements and suggestions because were not
trying to service 5,000 clients.
kk We dont outsource your support calls offshore.
When you call for support you deal directly with
kk Were better because we specialize in this one
specific area.
kk Youll have direct access to our senior-most

Turn Their Weakness Into Your Strength

These types of statements attack your competitors

strengths by turning them into weaknesses. You can leverage your modest size and resources as an advantage. Words
such as flexible, responsive, important, expert, focus, boutique,
current, and leading edge can make your startup sound like a
winner. Imagine the small, swift ship that can change course
at the slightest touch of the rudder, whereas the competitors
ship sails on another mile before beginning her turn. Think
about the maneuverability of a Ferrari when compared to an
18-wheeler, or a jet ski compared to a yacht. You can be the
fleet-footed panther while they are the lumbering elephant.
Another great example of virtual business judo can be used

m A Virtual Boutique: Branding and Image for Your Virtual Operation

when competing with a firm that has a large account base and
has been around a long time. Lets say, for example, that they
have 1,000 customers installed on an independent service call
scheduling solution. Their software solution has been in use
for more than a decade, whereas yours has only been in use
two years, and you have 10 clients. You could say:
kk Our system was written from the ground up two
years ago and takes advantage of all the newer
kk Because our system is more recently developed,
it is more compatible than the older systems.
kk Our code is newer and more efficient than the
kk Were more focused than the older traditional
companies because of our size and target client
profile, which is just like you.
kk Were more responsive because were not trying
to service 1,000 clients.
kk Well make you feel like youre our number-one

Does Size Count Virtually?

Of course, you can also use the virtual model to belie your
actual size and look as if youre a larger and more established
player. My organization, StartUpSelling Inc., represents
many smaller companies in the $1 million to $25 million revenue range. In some cases, our clients are only emerging companies and employ a handful of people. But from the outside
looking in, we make these companies look much larger and
more professional. I leverage a cadre of virtual contractors
including telemarketers, expert statisticians, writers, graphic
artists, Website experts, and anyone else we needed. They
were hired as on-demand contractors, all of whom had to sign
m 85

m Your Virtual Success

contractor agreements that included comprehensive confidentially clauses, and they were all seasoned veteransexperts
in their respective fields. Some were found through my own
network; others were identified through ads on Craigslist and
other online contractor sources. All of them went through a
rigorous interview process (virtual, of course) and a project
trial or beta test before working with actual clients. Because of
this high-quality contractor rolodex, if my clients (or in many
cases my clients clients) needed anything, I could provide
quality results in fast order. Our client testimonials, Website
presence, ability to respond to almost any type of request for
assistance by our clients, and the ability to respond rapidly
made us look like a substantial organization. Your virtual operation can do this, too. Today, the size of the company is not
the most important factor; its the stability, viability, and capability of delivering quality results at a great value. If someone
is trying to leverage their size against your virtual business, just
remember to mention Enron, General Motors, Washington
Mutual, WorldCom, Conseco, and Lehman Brothers, all monster-sized organizations that filed for bankruptcy. Today, small
is good, and virtual is even better.
Many of my clients are boutique shops delivering superior
solutions at a competitive price point. Some offer a guaranteed
hard dollar ROI on every project. Others offer guaranteed product results. Two of my clients offer leading-edge, guaranteed
ROI solutionsone from an ASP-based (cloud computing)
offering, the other from a consultative services offering. They
both target a very specific niche market. Their branding conveys deep expertise in their target markets. More importantly,
because of their size, any client who calls them is automatically
and almost immediately speaking with an expert. Virtually every
person at these small organizations offers tremendous subject
matter expertise. And its a great differentiator when you can
say, Because of our boutique size, everyone at our company
is overqualified for their job. Youll never speak to a novice,

m A Virtual Boutique: Branding and Image for Your Virtual Operation

trainee, or junior representative. Let them try to say that at a

huge Fortune 500 type firm where your support calls might be
routed to some distant land.
Virtual companies can be created to expand and contract
at will. The results can improve their image with their target
market by adding qualified contractors when needed while
completely mitigating downsize pain and disruption found in
larger, traditional companies. Like Hammerhead Productions,
one of the examples offered in Small Giants by Bo Burlingham,
When they took on a larger one (project) than they could handle, they would hire the additional people on a project basis.3
This allowed Hammerhead to be flexible, select projects they
wanted to take on, when they wanted to take them, and expand
and contract production without hiring and firing legions of
employees. Whenever StartUpSelling, Inc., encounters a spike
in production, we can easily add capacity through a network of
expert contractors to fulfill this demand. My contractors are
all overqualified for their jobs, thus delivering superb and
efficient results. Smaller companies need to be more nimble,
be more responsive, and offer a better value than large, established organizations. If you call a StartUpSelling client and ask
them the length of time required to have a support question
answered, their typical response would be immediately. In
todays world, lean and responsive is better than big and bulky.
Toward that end, I can offer a client quotation, StartUpSelling
runs our Web seminars and eMarketing campaigns, creates and
maintains our Website and assists us with our presentation materials, eCollateral and branding. They are a remarkably responsive and Web savvy organization. Client quotes will help your
branding efforts and support a positive image. Small, virtual,
solopreneur, and boutique can be conveyed in a highly positive way for your virtual organization. Even if you are a small
virtual technology company, you have an easy defense with
the large is bad, nimble is good approach to your branding.
Large and established in the high-tech or communications
m 87

m Your Virtual Success

industry is no guarantee for success, as weve seen with Data

General, Digital Equipment Corporation, Silicon Graphics
(SGI), Wang, WorldCom, and Global Crossing to mention,
just a few well-known tech/telecom companies that came upon
very hard times. Even when a larger company emerges from
troubles, its no guarantee for continued success. SGI, a company with hundreds of millions in revenues, filed for bankruptcy twice, in 2006 and again in 2009, before it was finally
sold. Wang, a prominent Massachusetts-based computer company, was at one time a high flyer, only to fade away along with
two other Massachusetts giants, Digital Equipment and Data
General. WorldCom will remain on the top-10 bankruptcy
list for some time. During the past 25 years, Ive worked for a
half dozen small companies, none of which ever contemplated
bankruptcy. Leverage your small, nimble, virtual, personal,
and profitable profile. Critique your competitors as large, old,
unwieldy, and aloof to highlight your competitive advantages.
Maintain a consistent approach as you build your virtual brand
and image.
Make sure your branding clearly conveys that you are better, not bigger, and prominently display this in all outwardfacing venues, including your Website, collateral, PR, RSS
feeds, Web seminars, e-mails, and all presentation materials.
Rehearse your elevator pitch and voice-mail pitch, and refine your e-mail pitch. Make sure your branding focuses on
your theme, which will likely include your responsiveness,
current technology, state-of-the-art tools, expert personnel,
ability to work with senior executives, and outstanding value
proposition due to your lean management and/or manufacturing methods. Leverage any and all client quotations that help
you carry this message to your prospects. Then practice your
virtual responses until you can communicate them with ease
to any prospect with whom you are targeting. Practice all of
these until you can quickly articulate your advantages, including any challenges that are now conveyed in a positive light, as

m A Virtual Boutique: Branding and Image for Your Virtual Operation

well discuss. Larger, more traditional firms will need to find a

way to think smaller, more nimbly, and virtually, because their
economies of scale may not prove an effective defense against
the growing virtual advantage.

How Virtual Business Judo Really Works

Let me offer a few more examples of small business judo at

work and then explain how to leverage this in a virtual world.
Ill start with a smaller, older brick-and-mortar version, using
Practice Management Systems (PMS) again as my first example. At PMS we developed and sold medical practice management solutions. Our system was written in BASIC software
code and used a command prompt system to enter patient visit
information. This was a throwback to the old mainframe days
where information was entered through a command prompt.
After much thought, it was decided to use abbreviations that
would be familiar to medical office staff. To enter an office
visit for a patient who had an Office Visit Comprehensive with
a Complete Blood Count and an EKG, the medical office staff
needed to enter OVC CBC EKG. Some companies might have
thought this a huge downside to our system. Instead of entering the names in fields, you had to type them on a line without
any structure or assistance. I was able to turn this product
problem into a sales opportunity. Processing patients quickly
and easily was a key factor at that time, and I was able to spin
the disadvantage into huge competitive product strength. I
created simple sales and marketing slogans such as:
kk Our system is so easy, it understands English
kk Our solution understands the way you work.
kk Enter an office visit in five seconds or less.
kk A few keystrokes and your paperwork is done.
kk A few simple keystrokes and your patient is out
the door, receipt in hand.
m 89

m Your Virtual Success

We took a potential liability and turned it into a competitive

advantage, creating a nightmare for our competition. Within a
few short years, Practice Management Systems was an Inc 500
company, and our regional competitors had dropped dramatically to a distant second and third place. Our market share in
the northeast United States eclipsed 50 percent. We made the
solution look fast and easy, friendly and efficient, and then offered great service and support to back this up. Thats how
we moved from a small emerging company to the number-one
player in our target market.
Lets move on to example number two: a partially virtual
organization that targeted the software collaboration market.
We had a solution that worked on almost any platform but
was not written in a mainstream language preferred by larger
corporations, and larger corporations were in fact our target
market. Most of our sales and marketing efforts were done
virtually by this time; Web seminars, eMarketing campaigns,
eCollateral, Web meetings, and instant messaging formed the
foundation of my virtual sales and marketing efforts. But the
target profile that I inherited when I arrived at this firm was
challenging, and achieving name recognition in the crowded
Fortune 1000 or even Global 2000 market was going to be difficult. We did have one promising-looking segment with some
very happy clients ranging from small to medium-sized installations. This market was a huge ocean, though we found a way
to attack it as a series of very large ponds, and the ponds were
well defined. I thought that if we leveraged our branding efforts
correctly we could be noticed in these large ponds. And because our solution worked across almost every type of network
(PC and browser at the time) was highly functional, and could
be provided at an attractive price point, our efforts could result
in a very positive image. Thus I moved our target market to the
U.S. government and sought agencies that were searching for
collaboration software. If this sounds difficult, just remember
that the U.S. government must use an open-bid methodology

m A Virtual Boutique: Branding and Image for Your Virtual Operation

to procure most products. They also share information between agencies, have vehicles and organizations to help share
this information, and frequent certain periodicals for the latest
in technology. The government was also transforming at that
time from Government-off-the-Shelf (GOTS) procurement to
Commercial-off-the-Shelf Procurement (COTS). Simply said,
the U.S. government was attempting to purchase software and
solutions from the private sector rather than developing their
own. Government employees seemed to gravitate toward our
eMarketing and Web seminar efforts, and we had many interested parties attending these Webinars. Lastly, because our solution was high on functionality at an attractive price, we had
an excellent chance of winning competitive bidding. Within a
couple of short years, our new clients profile changed from
approximately 80 percent private to 80 percent government.
Overall revenues were increasing about 50 percent per year
as we outmaneuvered the competition with a value play. Our
virtual business judo revolved around:
kk Works with almost any PC or browser.
kk No PC download required.
kk Simple, fast, and easy workflow included at no
extra charge.
kk Rapid installation and integration on your
kk Outstanding search capabilities.
kk Highly scalable.
kk Superior value, high functionality/low cost, easy to
use, rapid installation.
kk Small business boutique; flexible and responsive
to the needs of your agency.
We achieved strong name recognition in many major agencies, often spreading from one group to another. For example,
we might start with an agency such as the Federal Railroad
m 91

m Your Virtual Success

Administration, then sell our solution to the Federal Aviation

Administration and subsequently secure a large order with
Department of Transportation (all of these agencies are under
the Department of Transportation umbrella). If one of these
related groups was thinking about a collaboration solution, we
were very likely to be invited to the party.
Lets move on to example number three: a completely
virtual company. At StartUpSelling, we leverage our small
size and outsourced contractor approach to our advantage,
branding our organization as a virtual, cost effective, Web 2.0
savvy organization. By leveraging a completely virtual model
and moving to a completely electronic delivery system, we
are reinventing the way companies approach sales and marketing. We can deliver these services faster, better, smarter,
and more effectively at a much lower cost than traditional
brick-and-mortar marketing services and lead generation
firms. Though there are many other companies offering one
of our services (telemarketing/appointment setting) at lower
rates, these companies use offshore callers or crowded bullpen
environments, which cannot match our level of professionalism or expertise in our target markets. Regardless, we offer a
retainer-based approach where clients are using a wide variety of virtual services, of which telemarketing is merely one.
We preach a multidimensional approach to lead generation
and effective pipeline growth, which involves many services,
most of which are virtual and digital. We target two main market segmentsinsurance agencies (and other professional
services firms) and small technology companiesthough we
do have clients in other markets. Our virtual model, rapid response, cloud computing IT structure, attractive price point,
and overqualified staff result in a highly responsive boutique
image that has allowed us to attain positive growth and compelling profits amidst the most challenging recession since the
Great Depression.


m A Virtual Boutique: Branding and Image for Your Virtual Operation

Leverage Powerful Talent in a

Non-Traditional Way

Remember that virtual companies can leverage efficient

outsource services such as Web designers, graphic artists, virtual assistants, and on-demand call centers for order fulfillment. Often these can be arranged on a pay-as-you-go model,
allowing you to grow cost effectively without the need to tap
into for large pools of capital. You can also leverage virtual
eMarketers, contract programmers, and one-day-a-week
CFOs, and even commission-only sales agents to cost effectively grow your virtual business. The virtual model allows us
to leverage powerful talent in a non-traditional way, and then
put your best virtual foot forward to the outside world by offering talent far beyond the scope a small company such as
yours might command. Emerging companies can tap into their
network of former employees looking for mothers hours, flex
time, and evening hours to supplement their other responsibilities. Large, traditional brick-and-mortar companies would
have a hard time using this type of talent as the foundation
for their businessbut a virtual operation such as mine actually prefers to use these types of contractors. I hired a former
teacher who became a lead generation superstar, and I found
senior executives who were semi-retired, telecom sales executives in search of career alternatives, senior marketing executives and lawyers who were then at home, and stay-at-home
mothers or fathers who were looking for something more intellectually stimulating to add to their routine. In short, every
person we had on the phones was far superior to any bullpen
telesales group or call center operation you would typically
find. And of course, if we had a lull, as we sometimes do between December 15th and January 1st, we can let people take
two weeks off without having the responsibility to meet payroll
or juggle schedules, and it provides the benefit to our contractors of a long holiday. Our contractors are well paid, treated
m 93

m Your Virtual Success

with great respect, and offered extremely flexible schedules. It

was clearly a winning model for us, our part-time contractors,
our clients, and our image.
Your virtual branding and image are crucial to your success, readily showing the outside world you are a professional
and viable operation. Here is a partial list (in alphabetical order) of some important items pertaining to your branding and
kk Case studies (client success stories that often
include supporting data and metrics).
kk Customer service experience.
kk eCollateral and collateral.
kk eMails, eLetterhead, eBusiness cards, and their
printed counterparts.
kk Executive biographies of our key people.
kk Exhibits and trade show presentation on the rare
occasion you use them.
kk Logo.
kk PowerPoint.
kk Presentations (all types).
kk Product packaging and design.
kk Product photos.
kk Samples of methodology or service components;
time lines.
kk Screenshots, if PC-based.
kk Telephony-based pitches such as voice mail and
live pitches.
kk Trade journal articles (both online and


m A Virtual Boutique: Branding and Image for Your Virtual Operation

kk Video and podcasts (demonstrations and

kk Virtual product and packaging design.
kk Virtual trade shows.
kk Web seminars.
kk Website and interactive design.
On occasion, you may need to carry your virtual branding
efforts and image with you to a physical location. For example,
perhaps there is an ideal tabletop trade show you wish to attend. As we will discuss in Chapter 8, your trade show branding needs to be carefully calculated if youre a virtual company
or a brick-and-mortar company that is trying to virtualize.
Conveying a professional image at a low cost is no easy task.
If youre attending a tabletop show, ask for special booth
placement or arrive early and get the best tabletop spots. Many
of these small shows are first come, first serve. If you have limited cash for your tabletop display, you can use screenshots or
product photos on foam core, or on the new Mylar signs that
look great and are also very cost effective. Mylar signs typically
transport really well, and many come with small display stands
ideal for a tabletop trade show or user group meeting. Try to
create signs you can reuse if you intend to do more than one
show. Reuse them at other trade shows or association meetings. Colorful screenshots or product photos mean that you
dont have to hire graphic artists or spend time and money on
mock-ups, proofs, or creative design. Keep it simple and get
your point across quickly. But remember: Your cost-effective,
state-of-the-art virtual company may opt to never do trade
shows, focusing instead on less travel-intensive and more costeffective marketing tools.
Your virtual company can establish branding in a small
niche market and develop a great reputation for professionalism, responsiveness, and timeliness. You dont have to be a
m 95

m Your Virtual Success

huge organization to be perceived as a trendsetter. Be sure you

hire highly qualified people, respond instantly to prospect inquires and client support calls, set expectations appropriately
and professionally, and deliver a quality product or service.
Far more important than your size is the ability to rapidly respond to clients in a highly professional and profitable model.
If youre not profitable, you cannot deliver the level of service
your clients should expect. Your virtual model can help you
become a superior organization. You can be the virtual speedboat; let the larger and more-established competitors continue
to be the big, slow, and lethargic freight tankers.


Chapter 6

Virtual Selling:
Identify and

here are four phases in your virtual sales process: Identify,

Qualify, Present, and Close. Regardless of what type of
virtual business you create, whether it is B2B or B2C, low-cost
items or expensive solutions, necessities or luxuries, your sales
process will touch upon all four of these phases. In the beginning, your virtual sales force might just be a fighting force of
one. Or if you already have a sales force of five or 10 salespeople, your organization is likely to be tight on time, bandwidth, cash, and resources. A well-defined virtual sales process
will yield greater numbers of in-profile prospects and a better close ratio, making your organization more efficient and
more profitable. Lets start with the Identification phase. All
sales efforts should begin in the same way: identify your target profile, build your prospect list, and carry your message
to people who can buy. Actually, a better term for your initial
target prospect list is a suspect list, as well discuss in greater
detail in Chapter 8. Prospects should be construed as qualified
suspects. Lets review a few of the early stage basics as you
identify your target suspects.

m 97

m Your Virtual Success

1. Put together your suspect list, a list of targeted

companies in your desired market (fastest/biggest/
best type lists, OneSource, Hoovers, InfoUSA,
ZoomInfo, CardBrowser, industry list providers,
association lists, magazines such as Fortune, Inc.,
and so forth).
2. Pick a simple sales force automation (SFA) product or database to hold this information (SaaS solutions such as BigContacts and
are inexpensive, are expandable, and can be used
by multiple users from any location, or use a PCbased solution like ACT, a simple database such as
Microsoft Access, or even an Excel spreadsheet).
3. Populate this with ideal companies and contact
names (VP Client Service, VP Marketing, COO,
and so on).
4. Load in the phone numbers and e-mails. (E-mails
are extremely important, but dont buy them unless
its a guaranteed high quality; its better and less
expensive to build your own e-mail database.)
5. Get on the phoneASAP. There is no substitute
for an executive-to-executive intro call or a directto-consumer approach depending on your virtual
business type.
Lets assume you are selling directly to your target buyer,
and you wish to contact them through simple outbound virtual methods such as telemarketing calls and eMarketing campaigns. For your outbound efforts you will need to create a
contact database or list repository and then determine how to
best populate it. Can you initially begin with contact names
on an Excel spreadsheet? Absolutely, though this will become
clumsy as your virtual business grows and your follow-up requirements become more sophisticated, but it is certainly a

m Virtual Selling: Identify and Qualify

simple way to begin. You can quickly and easily dump company names, contacts, and phone numbers into Excel and
start calling. Add rolling comments on the right side of your
spreadsheet, and you have an ultra-simple suspect database.
You can then import your names and demographic data, along
with your rolling comments into an SFA solution when you are
So where do you find a fast, cheap, and easy solution to use
as an SFA tool? Having spent the last 20 years running sales
organizations, I had more than a passing familiarity with sales
force automation products. Ive used proprietary, off-the-shelf
solutions, and enterprise solutions. For your virtual company,
Id recommend a simple SFA package or a basic database to
get the job done. It must be fast and simple to use. Bells and
whistles dont matter if its not fast and simple. By the way,
simple is more than easy: Its easy and efficient. Most of your
data should be available on one or two windows. If you need to
move through five windows to note that you left a voice mail
and schedule your next call, it may be easy, but it sure isnt
fast and efficient. You will need a calendar (Outlook or an
SFA calendar or an SFA that integrates with your Outlook
Calendar). The main functions you will need include:
kk Find contact and or company name.
kk Find contacts to call today.
kk Next record.
kk Hot prospect list.
kk Store key data including name, phone number,
e-mail, demographics, notes, company
background, and so forth.
kk Sort by key fields including state, business, phone
number, and so on.
kk Record notes and call back date or next steps.
kk Global search (critical functionality)!
m 99

m Your Virtual Success

At StartUpSelling, Inc., I typically use whatever solution

my clients use. If they have no in-house system, we use our own
internal SFA or Excel spreadsheets to log calls and send them
weekly reports. One of my clients uses a simple Microsoft
Access database. We can log onto his database remotely to
record call notes, next contact date, next action, and the basic
blocking and tackling needed for a small, virtual sales force.
Other clients use, which is highly functional
but complex to use. Ive also used ACT and BigContacts. My
philosophy is the simpler the better. Give me fast and easy
lookup, and the ability to quickly schedule a callback and record a note, and for a small operation youre ready to begin
your sales efforts.

Show Me the Money: Who Will Sell?

Once you have determined how you will store your suspect
list, you need to determine who and how you will reach out
to these suspects to identify legitimate prospects. Lets begin
with a review of the direct sales mode for your virtual business.
Do you have strong sales skills? Will you be the rainmaker
for your virtual organization? Or, do you intend to hire a vice
president of sales or killer closer to help your business grow?
Historically, a brick-and-mortar firm would hire a vice president of sales as their revenue driver and key closer. Their job
was to find a way to sell your products, services, and solutions.
With emerging or smaller companies they are often the evangelists, preaching the benefits of your new widget, service, or
solution. Base salaries for this type of person can range from
$75,000 to $150,000 depending upon the industry. In high-tech
for example, a VP of sales with a proven track record can easily
command $250,000 or more if they meet their sales objectives.
When you add expenses, stock options, and benefits, some
companies spend $300,000 or more for this type of individual.
This is much too costly for our bootstrapped virtual business

m Virtual Selling: Identify and Qualify

Sales representatives often have base salaries of $50,000

to $90,000, depending upon the industry, and at quota may
look to earn $100,000 to $200,000. When companies borrow
money to create a sales force of this type (lets say a vice president and five salespeople) they are often committing to annual
burn rate of $500,000 before benefits, taxes, and expenses. The
real killer, though, is the ramp-up. If it takes an average sales
person four months to ramp up and start generating cash flow,
youre behind $160,000 (one-third of the $500,000 burn rate)
before deals begin to trickle in! And if you retain 75 percent
of your salespeople (not unusual for many sales forces) then
one of your four hires will be gone before they can contribute,
meaning that you have spent part of that $160,000 investment
without any chance of seeing a return on your investment.
No wonder many entrepreneurs turn to venture capitalists if
they intend to use this traditional brick-and-mortar-oriented
model, and no wonder so many of them dig a big hole and then
scramble to find a way out. Its a bad model for most emerging companies. Remember: If you can avoid financing, particularly venture capital financing, youll have a much better
chance to maintain control of your own destiny.
An incremental sales ramp-up is the preferred method for
your virtual company. If you have strong sales skills and closing skills, youre in luck, because one of the key ingredients
to your success will be the ability to sell your products, services, and solutions. After all, borrowing the famous quote
from Thomas Watson, Nothing happens until someone sells
something. If you dont have a sales background, you still have
some viable options over hiring an expensive vice president of
sales. The first option is to completely forgo the vice president
of sales model and hire a talented and motivated salesperson
at half the cost. Incrementally hire salespeople until you reach
a total of five. Up until that time, you can often manage them
on your own. Once you have reached five, you have to determine the tradeoff between growth and profit as you entertain
m 101

m Your Virtual Success

the necessity of hiring a sales manager or vice president of

sales. Even this approach requires a large capital investment
and has many inherent flaws.
A much better approach, and one that requires significantly
less capital, is to hire on a contingency basis. This is a virtual
twist on the old sales agent and VAR (value-added reseller)
type of business. Your virtual business may seek to hire sales
agents or resellers, and to pay on performance. StartUpSelling
works as a sales agent for selected clients, and StartUpSelling
uses sales agents for our sales force. Your costs are extremely
low when leveraging this virtual model, and you can hire far
more salespeople (contractors) than you could in a traditional
sales ramp up. Remember that you have a limited amount of
time and must guard this time judiciously. Youre better off
hiring three good sales agents than trying to start off hiring 10.
More contractors, even in the virtual model, require more of
your time.
My virtual business model leveraged the sales agent and
contractor approach, ensuring that my overall risks were low,
due to the pay-for-performance compensation agreements.
Contractors were producingor they were not billable. And
it didnt take long for my sales contractors to start producing.
I quickly brought aboard two commission-only sales contractors. One of these contractors was a seasoned sales veteran
who was semi-retired and had worked for several small companies, and the other one was a mothers hours sales contractor. They werent working solely for the money; they wanted
to do something interesting and dynamic on a flexible parttime basis. The virtual model was perfect for their needs and
mine. If their efforts resulted in a few new clients a year, it
was a win for me and a win for them. One of these contract
salespeople sold two deals in his first year and earned about
$10,000 for a modest investment of a few hours a week. My
mothers hours sales representative helped close two deals
in her first four months and earned almost $20,000. Not bad

m Virtual Selling: Identify and Qualify

for a working mom who spends a few scant hours a week working the phones, and helps out with the occasional proposal and
follow-up calls. Both of these hires had small-company experience and a small-company attitude. I always try to hire smallcompany-oriented contractors or contractors who have prior
experience working from home, and you should, too.
Why should your contractors come from a small company?
These contractors will need to accomplish almost everything
on their own. They will not be able to delegate tasks to anyone.
There is no marketing team, sales support specialist, product
manager, or administrative assistant. This can be a huge culture
shock to many people moving from a large company to a small
company. Many times in my career Ive brought aboard salespeople from large companies who experienced difficulty transitioning to a small-company environment. Though we tried to
fully review the constraints in the interview process, they never
fully comprehended the transition. Once aboard, when the
new salespeople were in the trenches, that is when they truly
grasped the limitations of a small company. Then they realized
small companies didnt have refined internal processes, they
didnt spend millions (or even hundreds of thousands of dollars) on marketing, trade shows were often a luxury, prospects
didnt call us to inquire about our solutions, and prospects
didnt necessarily know our company name when we called.
These are just a few of the differences between working for a
small or virtual company and an IBM, Sony, ADP, or Apple.
Some were able to adapt to small-company demands and the
fast-paced culture, but most did not. Because hiring salespeople for small companies is particularly difficult, this made
the odds even more challenging. Ultimately, I hired only those
candidates that had successfully worked in a small-company
environment, and I subscribe to a similar philosophy today.
Give me a small-company background or show me you have
worked from your home officebased company, and then Im
interested. For those of you looking to transition from a large
m 103

m Your Virtual Success

company to a small, virtual entrepreneurship, you must learn

to think small, to realize urgency in accomplishing all tasks and
to move to a minimalist approach, simplifying everything you
do to ensure optimum efficiency.
In a small company there is a heightened urgency to sell
your product or serviceto close deals. Some small companies, and particularly startup, bootstrapped, and virtual companies dont provide much marketing assistance, qualified
leads, or even targeted suspects for their sales team. There
isnt much in the way of inbound inquiries. Thus, the salespeople are doing almost all of their own lead generationnot a
very easy task for many sales people. In many small companies
for which I have worked, it took a couple of months of working the phones and generating activity before new salespeople
truly understood they were in the trenches. Thats why your
virtual company should hire and contract with small-companybackground savvy people and home-based contractors whenever possible. If you are engaging with a larger organization or
even a contractor used to working with larger organizations,
you must absolutely make sure they understand the scope of
your business and your cost structure, too. If Im interviewing
a firm to assist with SEO, and all of the references and logos
on their Website are from Fortune 500 companies, they are
probably not a good fit for my boutique firm. This will likely be
true for your virtual company, too.

How Do You Qualify Virtual Prospects

Great selling starts with great prospect identification and

qualification for both traditional companies and your virtual
company. Lets dig into the Qualification phase. While at a
company well call CTS, my division ramped up from almost
nothing to a $20 million annual run rate in just more than two
years. Part of this success came from our ability to focus on the
qualified prospects. At CTS, I created a qualification formula
called BUD (Budget-Urgency-Decision Maker). If you create

m Virtual Selling: Identify and Qualify

a qualifier acronym for your fledgling sales force, even if it is

a sales force of just one, you will be able to do a much better
job of quickly qualifying your pipeline. At CTS, the sales force,
which started with one salesperson and me, constantly talked
in terms of BUD. I added a simple 10-point scorecard to determine if the suspect fell within our top-10 criteria to be a good
prospect. Your top-10 criteria can include items such as revenues, growth, target buyer title, technology infrastructure, and
other attributes relevant to your ideal prospect. We would rate
them on a scale of 1 to 10, a 10 being your perfect prospect and
a 1 not even worthy of discussion. As our division ramped up
and more salespeople were hired, they would frequently walk
into my office and say, I have a BUD-qualified prospect. Or
they might ask for help: Can you come to XYZ Company on
Thursday? They are a 9 on the scorecard and BUD-qualified.
We were all speaking the same language, having turned subjective terms such as good prospect and well qualified into quantifiable terms such as a 9 or BUD-qualified. If you can make
this part of your everyday language and weave it into the fabric
of your sales culture, you will have a much more cohesive sales
effort. A sample scorecard can be found in Appendix A.
The prospect scorecard is simply used to determine if you
are fishing in the right pond. The prospecting acronym determines if your opportunity is viable and likely to close. For example, if the scorecard is high, an 8 to 10, but youre missing
key elements of BUD, the salesperson focuses on finding the
missing elements. If they cannot find these missing elements,
they know they should limit the time investment on this prospect or coach their sponsor into exploring and identifying
how they can find budget, for example, to procure the solution. The scorecard helps salespeople match their prospect
against criteria selected for your ideal prospect profile, turning
the subjective into the objective. They can also compare their
current prospects with prior opportunities that were won and
lost, and match their current prospects against this historical
m 105

m Your Virtual Success

information. You can easily add attributes that are typical of

your best clients to come up with your ideal prospect profile.
Sales acronyms and scorecards are easy to create and useful
for most virtual companies.
With limited sales capacity and a limited budget, you must
spend your time talking with prospects who can buy. If you
are working on a prospect and they score 3 out of 10 on your
scorecard, you better have a truly unique reason to be spending time with them. They are a suspect, not a prospect. But if
they score 7 or better, you will have a much higher probability
of closing them as you move forward along your sales process.
They are an in-profile prospect as opposed to an interested
suspect. Once you have determined if your prospect is in profile, you need to gauge how likely they are to purchase. Some
people might refer to well-qualified buyers as hot prospects.
By using a qualifier, in this case BUD, you can easily determine
if your in-profile prospect is also a likely buyer. If they are
in-profile, are BUD-qualified, and score high on the prospect
scorecard, they are a hot prospect. Lets look at the components of BUD.
Budget is an important component of any sales process,
whether youre selling custom silk hats or complex software
solutions. For the latter, which I refer to as a considered purchase sale, budget is a crucial component you must ascertain
early in the process. Whereas many people can find $100
to buy an impressive hat, businesses may not so readily find
$50,000 to buy an impressive software solution. I use $10,000
as an arbitrary number that might require a buyer to have budget, and get budget or request approval for the purchase. In
other words, its more than a modest item they could post as
an everyday expense (buying office supplies, for example). If
your average sale is $50,000 or $100,000 or more, then budget
becomes a critical element of your process. Budget questions
should be asked early in the sales process: Is this a budgeted
initiative? Have funds been allocated for this project? Has

m Virtual Selling: Identify and Qualify

it been determined which cost center will cover this procurement? Have you ever purchased anything like this before at
this company? Has your company ever purchased something
like this before? Why have you not purchased one of these
yet? Naturally, you wouldnt ask all of these questions at one
time, but you would ask enough of them in your first few interactions to ensure you were spending your time wisely and
efficiently. After all, there are almost unlimited suspects, but
only a few truly good prospects worthy of your dedicated time.
If you are selling a less-expensive item, it should be even easier
to determine budget, but it is equally important and must be
done quickly, because the profit on each sale is smaller. Qualify
early and determine if the prospective buyer has budget.
Urgency is as critical as budget for larger purchases, or in
some cases more critical, because sufficient urgency can almost always result in someone finding budget. At CTS, we delivered custom training solutions for enterprise rollouts. Most
of the time, we could identify urgency. If there was an impending rollout of an Oracle Financials solution, for example, there
would be clear-cut urgency. Even if budget dollars were not
sufficiently allocated for the training, these companies would
find the money because they had to roll out the new solution
by a certain date, and the users had to understand how to
use this new solution. If a company is trying to comply with
Sarbanes Oxley or other compliance issues, or if someone is
trying to meet their year-end objectives to achieve their bonus,
the urgency will be prevalent and the budget often available
or accessible. If you find urgency, your virtual sales process
will move along rapidly. We would often say, No urgency, no
Decision Maker refers to the efficacy of your sponsor. Are
you at the VP level or working with a director or manager?
Whats the process for them to get approval? Have they ever
purchased something similar to this before? Is it a decision by
committee? Are they truly a decision maker? Will they sign
m 107

m Your Virtual Success

the agreement, and if not, who will, and are they sure they really know who will sign? Do they have to put this through legal
or purchasing, or both? Authority can be challenging to gauge.
Even a COO of a $50 million company may lack the ability to
make a decision to buy a $50,000 solution without consulting
other C-level executives. Conversely, Ive seen managers make
the decision to move forward with large purchases at many organizations. Qualify your sponsor carefully and make sure you
both understand the procurement process as you move forward
in the sales cycle. For smaller B2C sales you must determine if
you are speaking with a shopper (the daughter who would like
a hat) versus the buyer (the parent who is actually buying the
hat). As with all B2C sales, you need to ascertain this quickly
if conversing over the phone, or as a partially or completely
automated qualification process through your Website.
Create your own acronym specific to your qualification
process. Your qualifiers should be somewhat unique to your
business, and your qualifying acronym should be part of your
operation and culture, even if you are a sole proprietor or have
only one salesperson. Your qualifying acronym can help you
spend time with the right prospects, which is half the battle
in for any sales operation. If your model isnt working, dont
try to be all things to all people, reevaluate your profile, and
refine your qualifiers, but, above all, spend time with people
who can buy. Its equally important to target the right profile
for both B2B and B2C virtual businesses. Just change the attributes to fit your business.

The 4 Phases of Virtual Sales

Lets delve deeper into the specific steps of our four-phase

sales process, though well focus on the identify and qualify
phases in this chapter. The steps can vary based upon your virtual business, but think of the structure as a guide rather than
a map, and change the steps to fit your business model. The

m Virtual Selling: Identify and Qualify

more complex your solution, the more steps in each phase. If

your business has a simple virtual value proposition, your entire sales process may be conveyed in 10 steps. For example:

10-Step Sales Process for Custom Hat Sale

(Simple Sales Cycle)

Step 1Prospect has responded to PPC ad for hats

and called you.
Step 2They want to purchase a hat for their
daughters birthday.


Step 3They want a custom hat and need it within

two weeks.
Step 4Hat price falls within expectations and you
can deliver within their time frame.

Present (Demonstrate)

Step 5Show five different hat samples online

(feathers, beads, personalize, monogram,
colors, etc.).
Step 6Buyer identifies Hat #3 as their preference;
they want a monogram.
Step 7Buyer selects color and custom design for
Hat #3.


Step 8Validate manufacturing and shipping time.

Step 9Validate shipping address, billing address
and shipping method.
Step 10Validate payment method and close sale.
Cross-sell (matching gloves) if applicable.
m 109

m Your Virtual Success

A complex considered purchasein other words, a more

expensive product, service, or solution requiring significant
time, thought, and evaluationcan have far more steps than
the simple process noted here, virtual or otherwise. In some
cases, it can have 40 or more steps in a complete cycle. Your
sales process, be it four steps or 40, should be designed to ensure you qualify your prospects early, ask the hard questions,
and track your progress during the progressive selling process.
Add steps to the simple sales process provided here to ensure
you and your contractors are driving, or at least following the
desired process to achieve your desired outcome, which is obviously a path to closure. If you create and drive your process,
you can make sure that youre asking all of the qualification
questions that need to be asked in the qualification phase.

Ask the Hard Questions

Many salespeople, small business owners, or anyone involved in the sales cycle often encounter difficulty asking the
hard questions. They worry that they will appear too aggressive, turn off the prospect, or cross an invisible comfort level
line with the prospect, or they may just worry that they will
somehow impede their own process if they move their prospect
outside of some imaginary comfort zone. This happens in both
traditional and virtual venues. But an experienced buyer
should be ready for these types of questions and will respect
you for asking. If you are dealing with an inexperienced buyer,
and assuming you approach these questions in the right way,
they will appreciate that you are trying to help them through
a process that is new to them. If it is a simple sales process,
you can still ensure the likelihood of success by determining
the steps and questions in your process to improve your close
What are some of these hard questions? Depending
upon your product or service they might include some of the

m Virtual Selling: Identify and Qualify

kk How long has the prospect been in this position?

kk Are they making the decision?
kk Have they ever made a purchase such as this
kk Have they ever made a purchase such as this at
any company?
kk How many levels of approval are needed for this
type of purchase?
kk Is this a budgeted initiative or a company directive
(for example, the CEO stated we must improve
our security this year or because of changing tax
codes we must be in compliance)?
kk If it is not budgeted, how long does it take to get
kk Which budget will this come out of and who is the
budget holder?
kk Will the final decision makers be involved in the
review process, and will we have a chance to meet
with them?
kk Is there a formal procurement process?
kk Does your company require multiple bids?
kk Who signs the order (will you be the one placing
the order)?
kk When is the deadline for implementation (or
These are a few of the hard questions you must ask early
in the process when gauging your champions authority and the
likelihood of a successful outcome. They are not difficult to formulate but can be uncomfortable for people to ask. Certainly
they cant be blurted out all at once. You need to develop a
rapport and comfort level to get answers without annoying
m 111

m Your Virtual Success

your prospect. Often a lead in such as Do you mind if I ask

you a few process-related questions before we move on?
yields great results in a B2B sale. In a B2C sale, something as
simple as Will this order be shipped to you, or is it a gift to
be shipped to a different address? is one of many questions
you can ask. This can be done in person, over the phone, or
in a Web meeting. It can be done in almost any sales process,
simple or complex. Ive asked these questions in many types of
sales situations, and have heard them when placing an order at
Lands End. Lands End does a great job qualifying (and crossselling) over the phone when calling to ask about an item, and
purchasing a hat over the phone is not a complex sale. I tend
to order over the phone while perusing their Website because
their phone operators can tell me the size and color of an item
ordered previously, and often suggest complementary items or
alternatives to the items Im considering. Their sales process
is simple but effective, and I can tell it is well thought out and
nicely executed. Many times I called to order an item (for example, a womans winter hat for a gift) and finished the call
with more items (such as a hat, scarf, and gloves). The additional items were sold simply by the telesales/customer service
person asking a few timely and poignant questions.
Dont be afraid to ask these questions early in the process, and then further validate them as you continue down the
path. If youre dealing with a competent buyer/sponsor, they
will understand why youre asking and provide you with clear
answers. After all, why would they want to waste time pursuing a purchase that will not come to fruition? Remember: In
a B2B environment some suspects are paid to research and
learn about what is out there, and report back the results to
their respective organization. In other cases, middle managers
who dont have enough to do, seek to expand their knowledge
base or fact-find in an attempt to interest their organization in
a new technology. This may be fine for them, but it cannot pay
the bills for us in our efficient virtual company environment.

m Virtual Selling: Identify and Qualify

In your early discussions or presentations with your prospects, remember to ask the hard questions. The responses will
help guide you through your sales cycle and ensure your presentations are streamlined and effective, and, hopefully, delivered to the people who can buy. In a B2C environment, the
qualification questions are important to determine if the prospect is a shopper or a buyer, and, if they are in fact a buyer, to
best determine how you can optimize the interaction to cross
sell complimentary products or services. The identification
and qualification phases of your sales process, if done effectively, will result in a compelling virtual pipeline of solid, in
profile prospects. In the next chapter, well discuss the final
two phases of virtual selling: the presentation and close.

m 113

This page intentionally left blank

Chapter 7

Virtual Selling:
Present and

ow lets take a look at the final two phases of your virtual

sales process: the presentation and close. You have spent
hours, days, weeks, or even months to secure this important
virtual presentation opportunity. Make sure you are ready!
Virtual presentations require even more preparation than
the typical, on-site presentations. You must be more concise,
PowerPoint slide show screens must be attention-grabbing, attractive, and compelling, and your product, service, or solution
demonstration must be easy to view and understand for your
prospective virtual clients. You must ensure that their screens
look the way yours looks. Are they viewing a full screenor is
it truncated or only expanded to half a screen? Are they viewing the same slide you are currently presenting? Is there any
lag time? Can they hear you clearly? If they are in a conference
room, can all the attendees hear you and see your presentation? What about your presentation cadence, voice inflection,
timing, and transfer of enthusiasm? Lets review some important tips about your virtual presentation:
1. Be sure their screen looks the way yours does: Is it fully
expanded? Is there a chat box blocking it? Are they
viewing PowerPoint Slide #1? (You did remember to
number these, didnt you?)
m 115

m Your Virtual Success

2. Ask the audience if they are one slide #1, Introduction.

3. Ask them if they have a full-screen view.
4. Ask if a chat box or other dialogue box is blocking their
5. Move to the next slide and ask them how long it takes
to display. (Check on this timing again later in the
6. Be sure they can hear you clearly. Do some internal tests
with your contractors to check on your virtual tools and
determine lag time, screen size, and visual and sound
7. Do not use a speakerphone! If you use a headset connected
to your phone or PC, test it first with your associates,
then with a few less-important presentations, and be sure
it works as well as a handset. Also, dont use a wireless
phone or cell phone; they often have interference and
performance issues.
8. If you are doing a live demonstration using video, be sure
the image is coming through clearly and continuously. If it is
choppy, have them go directly to your Website as opposed
to using your Web meeting software. They will have much
better throughput directly through your Website.
9. Check periodically to make sure they are keeping up:
You should now be looking at my PowerPoint Slide called
Project Metrics. This will make sure you and your client
are in sync.
10. Ask questions as you go along: Ask them to pick a category,
subject or function for you to show them.
11. Make sure you have good cadence: too fast and you
will lose the prospect, too slow and you will bore them.
Rehearse your cadence and tempo with others.


m Virtual Selling: Present and Close

12. Ask the prospect about your speed once or twice during
your presentation.
13. Try to make the session interactive (if it is not a Web
seminar), and encourage questions from your prospects
and offer praise for their questions, such as Thanks for
asking that question, I did want to cover that today.
14. Be sure you utilize voice inflection and transfer a
reasonable amount of enthusiasm, not as if you are
selling an infomercial product on TV, but enough that
the prospect realizes you are excited about your product,
service, or solution. If youre not excited, find a different
product, service, or solution to sell.
15. Time your presentation carefully before you give it. If you
have committed to 45 minutes, be sure you keep it to 45
minutes, and leave sufficient time to qualify and determine
next steps. This is a crucial point. You must follow a path
to closure; its better to show a little less and spend more
time addressing questions, concerns, and next steps.

On Broadway

Does that seem like a lot of steps for a virtual presentation?

Think of your presentation in similar terms to a Broadway play.
Rehearse your virtual presentations, plan them, practice them,
and be sure they are rock solid. They need to be even better
than presentations in person because you cant see the reaction of your audience. In a Broadway theater production there
are a script, casting calls, rehearsals, dress rehearsals, blocking (planning the movement of the actors on stage), scenery,
timing, and a litany of other details that must be considered.
Your virtual presentations and demonstrations should be no
kk What are the goals for the presentation?
kk Be sure you lay these out for the attendees at the
beginning of the presentation.
m 117

m Your Virtual Success

kk Who will give the overview, the presentation, and

closing remarks?
kk Are your presenters the best people for
their respective role? Are they enthusiastic,
professional, articulate, and credible?
kk Will you rehearse? Do a dry run?
kk Is it a custom presentation?
kk Have you researched the prospect? Been to their
Website? Reviewed their annual report? Perused
their press releases? Know the contact titles and
organization structure?
kk Have you determined who truly decides (is
there a committee for example) and what their
procurement process looks like?
kk Who will determine the next steps from your
organization and from theirs?
kk What is the path to purchase (P2P)?
kk There should be few if any surprises during the
presentation and after its completion.
kk You should know the expected end result and
next logical steps of the presentation before you
walk in the room.
kk What are the tools? Is it a conceptual PowerPoint,
real-time demonstration? Will there be multiple
speakers? Do you want a Q&A?
kk Is the audience mixed? If so, can you split the
presentation (technical and business)?
You may have spent weeks of effort to secure this Web
presentationmake the presentation count. Be prepared
when the curtain goes up. Know your product and your audience. Ask for insider information. Yes, it is completely appropriate to get tips on how to best present your solution to your

m Virtual Selling: Present and Close

audience. Your internal sponsor or champion should be eager

to help you. They are responsible for introducing your solution
to their team. They want you to look good. They want you to
Let me offer a real-life example of a well-rehearsed presentation. While at a company Ill call the Mass Software
Company, we were one of four companies selected to present our solution to a major government agency. We had already submitted an extensive RFP response, and understood
the goals and objectives of the presentation. (All of this work
had been done virtually.) The presentation format requested
by this agency was created to cover a laundry list of functions
their committee deemed important. It was a show me presentation where the prospective government client wanted to
see a live system actually performing the desired functionality.
But, there are always some functions likely to be more important than others. The key is to determine which functions are
most important and how you can highlight your superiority
with these functions to the committee.
As mentioned, the best way to determine this is to simply ask your sponsor, and if you know any of the committee
members, ask them, too. Our sponsor indicated workflow was
a huge issue for them; it was essentially the most critical need,
as their information-routing bottlenecks were overwhelming
their ability to share critical and timely materials. As it happened, our workflow module was a great strength for us. Let
me qualify this statement. Our workflow functionality was extremely simple to set up and modify. As I mentioned before, a
simple and efficient solution, can often win the day over a robust but complex solution. In a short demonstration, it would
be almost impossible for any competitor to match the ease of
use to simply and quickly modify and display the changes to a
workflow. We could set up a custom workflow in just a couple
of minutes, modify it in less than 30 seconds, and hit a button
and display it graphically in one second. We rehearsed, scripted
m 119

m Your Virtual Success

and tested this a dozen times before the curtain went up and
we demonstrated our solution to the committee. Our perfectly
orchestrated custom workflow feature made us look heads and
shoulders above the competition, and the result was a new client and a half-million-dollar pilot project. Ultimately, we
won a multimillion-dollar client.
The presentation phase for a complex sale requires significant planning and rehearsal, but even a simple presentation
can require 10 steps. The presentation is the crucial link in the
chain of events from the qualifying phase to the closing phase.
You may only get an hour or less to present your solution and
differentiate yourself from your competition. Dont fall flat on
your face because of a lack of preparation. Depending upon
your type of virtual business, this one-hour time slot may have
come as a result of 20 hours of phone calls, several follow-up
meetings, a gatekeeper presentation, a dozen e-mails, and a
multitude of scheduling logistics. It might represent a week of
your time. So invest plenty of time to ensure you are ready,
prepared, and essentially over-prepared for the presentation.
When you go to a Broadway play and the curtain goes
up, the theater troupe is ready. They rehearsed their lines,
optimized their timing and voice inflection, practiced blocking, organized their props, built in time for the audience to
respond (audiences laugh, clap, cheer, and jeer), choreographed dance numbers, rehearsed with the orchestra, and
even made sure they had a well-orchestrated curtain call.
There were many rehearsals and even full dress rehearsals.
A quality theater troupe will be completely ready when the
show begins, and will even have fallback plans (like understudies) in the event of a problem, and so should you. Both
you and the theater troupe need to meet or exceed audience
expectations, both of you have a short time to meet or exceed
these expectations, both of you have different types of people
in your audience, and both of you hope for accolades at the
end of the performance.

m Virtual Selling: Present and Close

A virtual presentation should be educational, insightful, interesting, and compelling. It should be a performance. It doesnt
matter if you are spending five minutes showing custom hat
samples or 55 minutes reviewing a $100,000 software solution.
My virtual meetings always leverage high-quality digital
materials specifically prepared for the target audience, though
I also demonstrate real-time software or systems. There is no
substitute for a virtual live product demonstration. If you have
a physical widget, you can set up a PC video camera or create a
video showing your product in action. If you sell a service you
can create a video of this being done in the field; if you provide
consulting, you can create a client video testimonial; and if you
sell software, you should show it in action in your virtual presentations. In fact, if you create custom hats, you could show
your manufacturing process with a video, or use still photos to
show a progression. Bullets and text on PowerPoint slides are
boring; if possible, give your prospects something exciting to
see. Prepare, organize, rehearse, and deliver a quality presentation performance to advance to the next level in our virtual
sales process: the closing phase.
Almost all of my closing meetings are virtual meetings
using GoToMeeting and a traditional telephone or the VoiP
provided by GoToMeeting. One of my associates uses a headset through his PC and Skype, which seems to work really well
99 percent of the time, but I find a wired (not wireless) handset
best for recording clarity.
While delivering your interesting and exciting presentations, you must be cognizant of your path to close the sale,
which I often refer to as the P2P, determining how and when
you can close the business. Some salespeople also refer to
the ABCs of selling (always be closing). There are many
theories about closing the deal, but regardless of the theories,
let me share some rock-solid virtual tools and techniques Ive
used or created that will work for almost any virtual business.
Lets review a few of these virtual closing tools.
m 121

m Your Virtual Success

Virtual Closing Tools

The Deferred Implementation Plan

The deferred implementation plan allows clients to buy

now, locking in favorable terms and pricing, put down a small
deposit, and move into the implementation phase when they
are ready. It is perfect for the prospective client who wants
to buy but the timing isnt quite right. Id estimate that about
10 to 15 percent of my deals are procured using this option. It
is particularly helpful in Q4 when many companies may have
excess funds available, or would like to make a purchase, but
dont have the time to put everything into place. A deferred
implementation option allows prospective clients to put down
a small, non-refundable deposit (say $5,000 toward a $25,000
purchase) and sign a simple order confirmation to close the
transaction. The order confirmation (as opposed to a largescale contract) is a crucial factor in this process. Lets review
the order confirmation as a closing tool.

Order Confirmation

Ive seen companies spend outrageous time and energy attempting to get their prospects to sign 10-page or even 20page verbose legal contracts. When I first arrived at Practice
Management Systems the contract was 11 pages long. At
Document Management Company it was 12 pages long, and
at Silicon Software Company, the granddaddy of them all, it
was more than 20 pages long. When I attended my first contract call at the Silicon Software Company, I left the meeting scratching my head. From their big-company perspectives,
they thought everything was fine, and this was merely the standard way of doing business. I recall marathon contract conference calls where hours of time were wasted arguing legal
technicalities. Ah yes, the venture capitalists and big company
philosophies at work, so concerned that every possible legal
permutation was covered, they tried to make their contracts
look like Fortune 500 firms. Deals can die, clients get upset,

m Virtual Selling: Present and Close

and salespeople are often frustrated and fed up with the contract process. The salespeople had a name for this process:
deal prevention.
So what did I do, and what should you do at your virtual
firm? It was an easy fix. At Practice Management systems, I
created a simple multipart (carbonless) contract. The back of
the contract had the terms in fine print (as if you were buying
a photocopier or telephone) and the front listed the products
and services they were buying. Typically, clients signed these
without even consulting their attorney; we tore off a copy
of the contract, handed it to the new client, and shook their
hand. What a dramatic change. Contracts often closed the
day of the final presentation. The contract had the basics, the
key protection clauses for intellectual property, indemnification, confidentiality, termination, and, of course, our deposit
requirements. It did a fine job. Why should we worry about
the likelihood a medical practice, dental practice, or hospital
would reverse engineer and steal our solution? At all of the
subsequent organizations at which I worked, I created a new
contract called an order confirmation. This short, two-page
agreement merely confirmed what the client was purchasing,
with legal language that was simple and to the point, and included the deposit requirement. When I went virtual, the order
confirmation was sent as a PDF and signed without changes,
scanned, and e-mailed back. A sample order confirmation is
provided in Appendix A. Take a minimalist approach to contracts, be sure your basic rights are protected, add a binding
arbitration clause, use simple order confirmations and avoid
lengthy agreements, and seek out the advice of attorneys who
specialize in small businesses. If your business has created the
latest and greatest search engine algorithm, and you intend to
sell it to Google, you might need greater IP protections and
require a substantial contract, but in most cases, including the
virtual business examples used in this book, a simple and faster
order confirmation is dramatically better.
m 123

m Your Virtual Success

Exploding Deal

If you purchase this month, well offer the following incentives, and if you dont, the offer goes away. I recommend
always having an exploding time element in any deal. Though
you should try to differentiate yourself in ways other than price
incentives, small incentives can sometimes be effective. Your
offer might be an extra month for free, a 5-percent discount,
extra consultation, or a guaranteed price freeze for the next
year. You should always have something that explodes (the offer blows up and disappears once the time frame passes) as
an inducement to take that leap of faith. Frequentlyand Im
talking 50 percent of the timeprospects have come back and
said, Im working on getting a signature. Can we have an extra
two days to get this done? Youll be surprised what a small incentive can do for even the highest-level corporate executives
(or even an owner of a smaller $2 to $20 million firm).

Peer Suggestion

Show buyers other buyers who have purchased your solution, particularly if these buyers have similar attributes to your
prospect, and youll see peer suggestion at work. If these clients
recently procured your solution, name dropping these peers
can be a powerful motivator. Call, e-mail, or leave a voice mail
announcing that Jones Corp, Smith Company, Washington
Corp., and Boston Corp. have all purchased your solution this
quarter. You might say, for example, You can be confident
they also went through significant due diligence. These other
companies purchased last year. Here are some quotes showing
their high level of satisfaction. Peer suggestion can help your
prospects take the leap of faith.

Use It or Lose It

This classic closing tool is used by many sales executives.

For example, in the fourth quarter of the year many organizations (higher education and government are often on different

m Virtual Selling: Present and Close

budget cycles) must spend their leftover budget funds or they

lose them. This means the organization sweeps the remaining funds, and whatever was allocated yet isnt spent becomes
savings to the company. Of course, increased savings are very
beneficial to the company, but if the division that has the
leftover funds is trying to purchase a new widget, they may
want to leverage their leftover budget to procure this before
December 31st. There are many ways to capitalize on this
urgency. If youre selling software, you can sell 100 seats in
December and an additional 400 in January, or sell the seats
this year and the customization services next year. If youre
selling marketing services, you can split the order into Website
design work in December and eMarketing starting in Q1. If
youre trying to sell innovative, efficient, and eco-friendly coffee filters, this could be the best possible time to get your prospect to try them out with funds they are about to lose. Every
company handles their procurements differently, but I fondly
remember a $300,000 deal we closed late in December some
years ago. It required us to deliver a van full of computers and
software CDs and then pick up a check for $300,000 a day
later. Some companies not only require the order to be placed
by the end of the year, they must also take delivery and pay for
the purchase.

Pilot to Purchase

This is particularly effective if you are evangelizing innovative products or services, though it can be effective for any
company. The key with pilots to purchase is that they must be
paid pilots to purchase. Too often companies offer products for
trial without cost. My attitude is that you get what you pay for;
if its free, it has no value. Many solutions require the prospect
to allocate time and resources to evaluate it. If they have to put
some money on the table, they will take it much more seriously.
One example I can offer is a pilot to purchase for a Web-based
payroll system. The prospect was trying to determine if they
m 125

m Your Virtual Success

should move from their existing payroll company to a newer

and innovative payroll company. The ultimate price tag could
be a million dollars to do this. Few companies will spend a
million dollars without some compelling internal evidence that
the solution will work in their environment. Even spectacular
references are often insufficient to turn this type of prospect
into a client. The best path is a paid pilot to purchase. The
price tag for the pilot might be $50,000 in this case.
There are a few mission critical items to remember. The
pilot system must be effective and convincing. Dont go into
the process and think it wont take a significant amount of time
and effort. And your support during this pilot has to be superb. Also, make sure you have agreed to the post-pilot pricing
terms and conditions before agreeing to do the pilot. The last
thing you want to do is move from negotiations about a pilot,
run a successful pilot, and then have to negotiate a purchase.
All the conditions of the purchase should be agreed upon, and
your prospect should agree they will move to a purchase if the
pilot is successful. This means you should mutually agree upon
success criteria before the pilot begins. Approximately 10
percent of my deals are pilots to purchase, but more than 50
percent of my large deals are pilots to purchase.

Assessment Analysis

The assessment analysis is very effective for more complex

sales. Lets say you have an interested client who wants to purchase training services for their company. They have been slow
to move, because they are not sure how to roll out this international training. After all, they have different languages to
consider and a lack of resources in certain areas, and they may
want to train the trainer or have it delivered by a third party.
They may need technology training products (Web-based
training) in difficult-to-reach places and custom documentation for certain procedures in specific locales. In other words,
they are still trying to decide what, when, where, and how. Is

m Virtual Selling: Present and Close

it premature to sell them all of your great services? After all,

neither of you know exactly what is needed. In these cases, if
youve done a good job in the process, they will realize you are
a professional and viable organization. There will be a rapport
established, and they will be willing to listen to your suggestions about their project (or products and service needs).
This is where an Assessment Analysis becomes invaluable. For a small portion of the purchase pricelets say 10
percentyou can offer to do an assessment of exactly what
they need, when they need it, and where it is needed. You can
interview divisions and determine the quantity required, time
frame for delivery, and specific challenges. This can all be delivered in a comprehensive report and/or PowerPoint presentation. As an inducement, you can tell the prospect how each
penny they pay for this analysis will be credited toward their
purchase if they decide to buy from you. If they dont, they will
still have a great working plan or specification to help them
select the vendor of their choice. In the case of custom training
solutions I called this a Training Requirements Assessment
Analysis (TRA).
I remember the first time I brought one of these back
my organization. People couldnt believe we were being paid
$50,000 to do this. Then again, this project was easily a milliondollar project, so the client wanted to be 100 percent sure they
were going to get it done correctly. They didnt have sufficient
internal resources or expertise to do an assessment analysis.
Executing on one of these gives you a massive edge in the
process, because, as youre working with their teams, you are
accruing a valuable understanding of their business, making
you a valuable member of their team when the assessment is
completed. When we finished the assessment, presented our
findings, and made our recommendations, the client quickly
moved forward with their project. We closed many large, sixfigure and seven-figure deals with this method.
m 127

m Your Virtual Success


You (the prospective client) will be the first company,

or one of the first, that will use this new technology, solution,
product, or service. This will give your organization a competitive edge. You will show how you are the thought leader in
your space. Your division (or company) will embrace a new
model and become more efficient than your competitors. And
you will personally be considered a trailblazer and innovator within your own firm and the industry as a whole. This
method appeals to one of several of the fundamental buyer
emotions we hope to tap into to close our respective sale, but
more on that in a moment.
These are a few of the virtual closing tools and techniques
to help instill urgency in your Closing Phase. Ultimately, your
sales will be the direct result of your ability to present a compelling virtual value proposition to your prospective buyer.
You need to put your most convincing person in front of your
best prospects, on site or virtually in an online meeting or conference call. If you are not actively engaging your prospects, if
you are not speaking with them, or if they are reticent to return
your calls, then they will remain prospects and will not become
your clients. If you are unsure where you stand with a prospect
in the closing phase, use this statement to gauge your current
posture in the process: Im just following up to ensure Im being very attentive to your needsbut I dont want to be a nuisance. What is the best way to follow up with you regarding our
discussions? Invariably, people respond well to this approach,
because your job is to be attentive. If you are about to close a
new sale, then you have been engaged in ongoing and detailed
discussions with them. People who intend to buy from you are
very likely to want to speak with you. If youre not in an active
dialogue, they are not going to become your client. Follow up
consistently alternating between phone and e-mail. If you are
earlier in the sales cycle, once every few weeks or even months

m Virtual Selling: Present and Close

may suffice. If you have done a presentation for the prospective client, you may need to follow up every week. If you are
reviewing contracts, you may be following up daily. The best
follow-up is planned, so dont get off the phone (or leave a
meeting) without a firm appointment for the next steps in the
cycle. Though you cant always accomplish this, you should always try. Create and follow your sales process, monitor your
progress, leverage your advanced closing tools, and make it
easy for your prospects to purchase. Deliver an interesting and
exciting Web presentation or Web experience and a compelling value proposition, and make it easy for your prospects to
buy, and you will be well on your way to creating a successful
virtual sales operation.

But Why Do They Buy?

Lets conclude our virtual closing phase review by discussing the reasons people buy. I believe people typically buy for
a few fundamental reasons. These core-level emotions reside
deep within all of us. A few of these include fear, greed, ambition, and security. If your solution appeals to your prospect
on a fundamental, emotional level, you stand a much better
chance of selling your product, service, or solution. At the risk
of oversimplifying this important and somewhat-lengthy topic,
lets review a couple of basic examples. Lets say you sell an
antivirus software solution that just stopped an attack on a corporate network similar to that of the prospect with whom you
are trying to close. You could appeal to the fear residing
within your prospect by saying they need to make this decision
or their network could face a debilitating attack. Some salespeople refer to this approach as FUD, or the ability to instill
fear, uncertainty, and doubt in the minds of a prospect.
You should never seek to fool or trick a prospect into purchasing, but you do want to present your information in a way
that appeals to their motivation for buying, their fundamental needs, and their emotional reasons for making a decision.
m 129

m Your Virtual Success

Perhaps your prospect is seeking a promotion and your innovative solution can save them and their company a significant
amount of money, which they can leverage in their upcoming
internal review. This might appeal to an ambitious prospect,
or perhaps there is downsizing happening at their organization and they seek a way to show savings to cost justify their
position. Or, your prospect might hope to impress their CEO
with innovative thinking, resulting in a richer stock option plan
and a new ski chalet theyve been thinking about in Aspen. Or
it could simply be someone who needs a new hat because they
are a trendsetter and need to be looking their very best. Listen
to what your prospects are saying, read between the lines, engage in dialogue, and determine their motives. Because you
are always thinking about closing, be sure you identify the fundamental reasons for the possible purchase and focus you P2P
(path to purchase) on those needs.
Several years ago one of my sales representatives had
forecasted a large $500,000 sale, which was scheduled to close
within 10 days. In a pipeline review, I asked him what he
thought our chances were. He said it could go either way, but
the deadline was rapidly approaching. I said, Lets get him on
the phone right now. We called the prospectlets refer to
him as Boband were able to reach him after a few attempts.
I asked him if his deadline to decide was still a week away, and
he said that he needed to decide by Monday (we were speaking with him on Thursday). I asked what he thought about us,
and he said he felt very good about our proposal but also felt
comfortable with the competitors proposal. He also said the
pricing was comparable, and both were within budget. Then
I asked the hard question: If you had to decide today, which
firm would you choose, and why? He gave us an honest answer: I just dont know. I could hear the uncertainty in his
voice. I then asked another question that got to the core issue:
Whats going to change between today and Monday morning
that will allow you to decide? Bob didnt know, and I could

m Virtual Selling: Present and Close

hear the fear of this realization in his voice. He had to make

a big decision in just a couple of days and felt his job was
hanging in the balance. I asked, What could we say or do to
make you feel comfortable enough to move forward with our
company on Monday? Bob paused a moment and answered,
You can guarantee me the project will go well and my committee will be happy with the results. As the project manager
for this, Ill be closely tied to the results. Bob had identified
his fundamental needshis emotional reasons to purchase.
Bob had fear and security-related reasons that needed to be
addressed for him to move forward with his decision. The
answer was easy: Bob, you know we guarantee our custom
training solutions will be done on time and within budget. We
have many clients just like you who have seen successful project results, and you have conversed with several of them. If
you promise to move forward with us on Monday, well guarantee our most senior project director, Mike Smith, will be
sitting in your office at 9 a.m. Tuesday morning mapping out
a project plan with you personally. Bob paused again and
then said, That would be good; I need to get started right
away. I did review Mikes background and it was very strong
(long pause). Ill make my recommendation to the committee,
and Im sure they will approve because it is my project. This
conversation has made me feel much better. I really appreciate
you calling.
But the conversation wasnt over yet. Once you have the
buy in, you need to validate the decision and ensure there is
no buyers remorse. I said, Bob, you made the right choice.
Well schedule Mike Smith to meet with you on Tuesday. As
you know, he has more experience with your financial software than anyone in the marketplace. Id suggest you wait until Wednesday before telling any competitors you decided to
move forward with us; they will likely be unhappy and try to
get you to change your mind with last-minute maneuvers. Bob
said, Ive made up my mind, and once I do, I never change it.
m 131

m Your Virtual Success

The call was complete. Just for the record, we did receive a
signed agreement (order confirmation) on Monday afternoon
for a six-figure deal.
We all come to the table our own emotional reasons that
determine what and when we will buy. The emotions might
relate to our ambitions to succeed, fear of being fired, or security and well-being for our families, or to simply keep ourselves
warm in the winter. Your virtual presentations stand a much
better chance of success if you can highlight your strengths in
a manner that addresses your prospects most fundamental,
emotional needs. Great virtual presentations targeted at your
prospects core, emotional needs will result in a much higher
rate of closure and will appeal to one of our core needs: to create and enjoy a successful and thriving virtual business, which
will result in a flexible and enjoyable lifestyle. Now that we
have covered some of the important aspects of selling, lets
move on to the important topic of virtual marketing.


Chapter 8

Virtual Marketing

irtual marketing touches upon nearly everything you will

do in your virtual business. Lets begin by assuming you
have little or no money for marketingno outside capital, no
seed money, no angel investors, nothing. So how do you reach
your audience? What do you use for collateral? What about a
Website? And where do the lines cross between virtual sales
and marketing in your emerging virtual business?
You need to get a few basics out of the way; some of these
topics have been touched upon in prior chapters:
kk Value proposition: In what way are you unique?
kk Virtual elevator pitch: 30-second pitch about your
company (should include value proposition).
kk A few pages of electronic collateral describing
your solution (bullets whenever possible, please).
kk An introductory e-mail about your company,
product, services, and/or solution.
kk A few basic press releases (announcing the new,
best, most unique, most effective product, service,
or solution).

m 133

m Your Virtual Success

kk Visual samples (screenshots for software, photos

for physical products, diagrams of inventions,
illustrations, or even before-and-after shots for
your new weight-reduction formula). Visuals are
a must.
kk Bios of you and your team if you have a team.
kk Company background, purpose, what makes you
kk Client names, client quotes, testimonials, case
studies, and articles if you have any of these yet.
Before we delve into virtual marketing we should realize
that the fastest, easiest path to your high-level contacts is often a straight lineas a matter of fact its a phone line, assuming we can take a liberal interpretation of what a phone
line means these days. Executive-to-executive calls and a
simple telemarketing campaign were discussed in Chapter 6,
though you will use the complementary marketing techniques
covered in this chapter to augment your telemarketing. If you
are an inbound-oriented Web-based business, you may not be
calling prospects directly, but you may be calling newspapers,
magazines, associations, and other partners to help drive lead
activity. In this chapter, well explore Web seminars, eMarketing, testimonials, client success stories, case studies, eCollateral, Website creation, blogs, virtual PR, RSS feeds, and
many other effective virtual marketing techniques. Whenever
possible, leverage a multidimensional approach to your sales
and marketing efforts to improve the effectiveness of the individual components. Its the difference between a single instrument and an orchestra; the results will be much better when
you include more instruments in the mix.

Create a List of Contacts to Target

Lets review how these virtual marketing efforts can positively impact your virtual sales activities, beginning with job

m Virtual Marketing

number one: the creation of a quality suspect list. A suspect list

is created by determining your target marketsay, insurance
agencies with revenues of more than $5 millionand creating
a list to begin your sales and marketing efforts. It becomes a
prospect list once you have qualified these suspects and determined some level of interest.
Build your suspect list, clean and refine the contact information, and work the list to death. Cull and taper your list
into sub-lists. Why market to all distributors if you land a liquor distributor as a client? Refine your focus and message
to attack only liquor distributors. Why try to sell to all insurance companies if youve landed an agency? Determine which
agencies can afford your solution and target them. One way
to accomplish this is through an online database service such
as Hoovers or OneSource. For example, lets say we will target manufacturing companies between $20 million and $80
million in sales in North America, and its about 5,000 companies. Depending upon the number of contacts you require,
you might need to do several downloads. You might download Eastern U.S., then Western U.S., then Canada. You can
download targeted position by function or title (human resources executives or just vice presidents of human resources,
for example), demographics, Website, and a host of additional
and valuable information. You can download it to Excel, or
into your basic sales database or SFA (sales force automation)
solution. Once you have the information you can then start to
build and refine your list, ultimately exporting the names and
e-mails into an eMarketing solution such as iContact, Exact
Target, ConstantContact, Eloqua, or other engine.
OneSource and Hoovers are priced comparably as of this
writing, with subscriptions running several thousand dollars
per year (and up). There are dozens of list sources, including
D&B, InfoUSA, ProspectDB, ZoomInfo, and CardBrowser,
to mention a few that have contacted me. OneSource claims
to have key executives and financial information with access
m 135

m Your Virtual Success

to over 17 million global companies and 21 million executive

profiles. Ive used their service, and it is fairly comprehensive,
is reasonably easy to navigate, and allows data downloads into
Excel or your Sales Force Automation solution. Downloads
are limited to 5,000 contacts, though you can do multiple
downloads if your target market is larger. Hoovers was much
less expensive at one time, but now seems comparably priced.
As a virtual startup or self-funded virtual operation, you may
find everything you need online or at your public library. Trade
journal lists including the Top 100 Insurance, Banking, Auto
Retailers, Inc. 500, Fastest Growing 100, Inc. 500 or Inc. 5000,
and other such lists are often available for free. Some libraries
even subscribe to database services and trade publications and
will allow you access to these normally fee-for-service subscriptions without charge. So before you sign up, quickly check out
alternate sources if you are self-funded and conserving cash.

Build and Maintain Your List

List building is an important component for prospecting,

cold calling, eMarketing, and, in general, working your target
market. And of course, it can all be done virtually and electronically; the days of a printed list and notes scribbled on the
right-hand side of the paper should be long gone. List maintenance is even more important than list building. You will
need to create a methodology to keep your list culled, clean,
appended, and current. On a small scale, this can be done
manually if you and your small team keep up-to-date notes on
the target contacts, remove contacts that have left the company, remove dead or merged organizations, and view your list
as the precious company asset it truly is. Dont take your list
for granted; a culled, clean, and current list can improve your
prospecting efficacy by 50 percent or more, and efficiency is
the mantra in your virtual operation. Your list will need to be
loaded into a contact management solution. A simple version
of this is arguably an Excel-type spreadsheet with last contact

m Virtual Marketing

date, next contact date, and rolling notes. This works fine for
most small operations, though formal SFA type solutions offer
greater functionality. Many of these SaaS solutions offer a free
30-day trial, and I strongly recommend you use them for a full
30 days before making a decision. For example, you might find
a cloud computing solution such as BigContacts much faster
and easy to use than, whose group edition,
though feature-rich, can be complex and challenging to navigate. Take advantage of the trial periods judiciously before
making a decision, and remember: Because you are following
the virtual model, none of these solutions are purchased; they
are merely rented. If youre unhappy with your selection at the
end of you lease, you can export your data to a different
Once your initial list is built, you can collect e-mail addresses in a variety of ways, which well discuss in just a
moment. The goal of the e-mail collection is to allow you to leverage eMarketing, which is cheap, reusable, and highly effective when used correctly. At the onset of my virtual company,
I quickly reviewed several eMarketing solutions, all of which
were inexpensive and easy to use. There were very reasonably priced, typically in the $30 to $50 per month range. You
can look at SaaS solutions such as iContact, ConstantContact,
Campaigner, and ExactTarget (the latter if youre looking for
greater functionality at a higher price point). There are now
many cloud computing eMarketing options available for truly
modest fees.
eMarketing campaigns, Web seminars, compelling client
quotes, and case studies became the foundation of our marketing efforts. eMarketing is fast, is relatively simple, and can
make your virtual company look a thousand times its size.
These have reasonably sophisticated online measuring and
monitoring reports to gauge your results, click-through tracking, automatic opt-out systems, bounced e-mail tracking, and
basic list segmentation.
m 137

m Your Virtual Success

Get Results With Your eMarketing

Most companies select one of the standard HTML templates provided by the eMarketing Solution. This is typically a
bad move for virtual companies targeting new prospects. The
HTML templates look awful until the user right-clicks to display graphics and are more likely to be subject to spam issues.
If you are in a B2B market, they look too much like ads and
too little like a business e-mail. And in the B2C world, graphically rich e-mails can be routed to junk folders and often look
terrible if pictures are not correctly displayed. I strongly suggest you create a non-graphical custom template that looks
like a simple HTML e-mail or even a text-only e-mail.
Today, most eMarketing solutions create the HTML code
needed for your e-mailing using a simple user interface. That
means you dont need to know HTML to create an HTML
e-mail. HTML might look a little tricky, but its really pretty
simple to learn enough HTML to do it on your own or to
tweak your own campaigns. For example, to boldface the word
Seminar, the syntax looks like this: <b>Seminar</b>.
The <b> turns on the bold and the </b> turns it off. Simple
HTML commands all work this way. Today, all if not most of
this functionality is done through the user interface, making it
unnecessary for you to learn HTML.
Here are the results of the custom template I used to create a corporate look and feel for my eMarketing-generated
e-mails. I did not want to use graphics or require the recipient
to download pictures to make the e-mail appear professional.
After all, if you receive an e-mail from a partner or associate, it
tends to be relatively simple HTML, or plain text. My e-mails
often include a link to a Web seminar or an e-mail link for
more information, depending upon the call to action for the
e-mail campaign.


m Virtual Marketing

From: alan blume []

Sent: Wednesday, September 13, 2006 4:21 PM
Subject: Agency Web Seminar - Smith & Smith share Lead
Generation results from their recent Project
Dear Jim,
Join Smith & Smith VP of Marketing, Scott Jones, as he
discusses his agencys recently completed Lead Generation project.
Smith & Smith Speaker, Scott Jones, VP Marketing:
Sales & Marketing project results including lead
Creative ways to track and monitor all lead
Closing techniques leveraged through client
testimonials and case studies.
Project duration and resources required.
StartUpSelling, Inc. Speaker Alan Blume, CEO:
Notable Project Metrics.
Other notable lead generation results.
Special pricing and terms until June 15th.
Question and Answer.
We only have space for 50, so if you have not yet signed up for
this Web seminar, click on the link below to register:
Web Seminar RSVP: Register: Smith & Smith Web Seminar
May 10th, 12:00 PM EDT
For additional information, please call 500-000-1234 or visit
Alan Blume
StartUpSelling, Inc.
phone: 500-000-1234
Opt Out or Manage My Subscription

m 139

m Your Virtual Success

This e-mail looks much better than the graphically rich

e-mails that require you to download pictures and graphics by
right-clicking on the e-mail. Some of them can look so confusing in an Outlook preview screen that its difficult to even
determine the goal of the e-mail. Downloading graphically
rich content can also take time, and prospects and clients can
lose patience. Further, spam filters dont like graphically rich
e-mails. Granted, if you are a photographer or designer, you
want your e-mails to look good and would prefer rich graphics,
but you can also use links to direct prospects and clients to a
specific landing page for them to see your great (virtual) solutions. This sample e-mail masks the URL for the registration,
though most of our current e-mail campaigns use the actual
link ( to ensure that
spam filters are not a factor in the delivery.
Make sure you take the time to segment your database before sending your eMarketing campaigns. List segmentation
simply means splitting up your master list into like segments,
as shown here. Better segmentation allows you to refine your
message. The SaaS e-mail solutions mentioned handle list segmentation very easily.
kk Large Insurance Agencies.
kk Small Insurance Agencies.
kk Association 1 Agencies.
kk Association 2 Agencies.
kk Insurance Carriers.
kk Small Technology Companies.
kk Mid-Market Technology Companies.
kk Large Accounting Firms.
Once an e-mail is created, it is easy to copy, modify, and
reuse. You can opt to use more sophisticated features including
branded landing pages, registration auto reminders, and waiting
room branding with speaker photos, logos, and so forth as your

m Virtual Marketing

virtual company evolves. E-mail marketing is powerful, but only

as effective as the list you build. How can you build a quality list?
kk Call and offer an invitation to a seminar or an
event, and ask for e-mail.
kk Make it easy for those invited to forward the
invitation to others.
kk Stay away from bulk lists.
kk If you purchase opt-in lists, be sure your first
contact is valuable, is educational, and offers an
easy opt out.
kk As noted, be sure your first email is highly
relevant and educational, such as a Web seminar,
case study, or newsletter.
kk Offer white papers.
kk Always offer an easy opt out.
kk Respect the wishes of those who have opted out.
Make opt out fast and easy.
kk Use Social Networking, associations, traditional
ads, or even radio or TV to drive people to your
Website and opt for your e-mailings.
You can find e-mails on Websites, particularly of outwardly facing organizations, but if you manually cut and paste
that e-mail into your database, even with a relevant message,
it can still be considered spam. My rule of thumb is to collect e-mails from a wide variety of sources, including opt-in
lists, to make an educational offer such as a Web seminar or
white paper, and to offer an easy opt out on every send. I have
sent out millions of e-mails over my career with virtually no
spam complaints and very low opt-out rates. Following these
best practices over the last five years, StartUpSelling, Inc. has
a near-perfect record, and we received high marks and praise
during our mandatory account review with our e-mail marketing (SaaS) software provider.
m 141

m Your Virtual Success

Take Advantage of Web Seminars

One of your most effective eMarketing activities may revolve around Web seminars. They are very inexpensive, offer
global reach, and are completely virtual. Web seminars allow
remote attendees to view the information presented on your
computer screen, and listen to the presentation over the phone
or through your PC using your speakers or a headset via VoIP.
There are pros and cons to both traditional on-site seminars
and Web seminars, though, for a self-funded virtual company,
the Web seminar is far more attractive. Barry Silverstein in
Business-to-Business Internet Marketing reviews the differences
between Web seminars and on-site seminars.1 Silverstein notes
the first key difference can be found in the cost of attendees.
He offers an example where an on-site seminar attendee might
cost $248 to $403 to place them in their respective seat, as opposed to a Web seminar attendee, which costs only $104 to
$160a substantial savings for those considering marketing
with traditional seminars.
But here is where my virtual model approaches demand
generation from a slightly different perspective. Many Web
seminars target large audience pools focused around a wellknown, highly paid speaker, as did the previous example. These
types of paid speaker Web seminars cost much more than my
virtual Web seminars. This is because I use a SaaS model with
solutions such as GoToWebinar (very inexpensive to use and
highly functional), and because I never use fee-based speakers.
My Web seminars are appropriate for emerging, smaller, and
even mid-sized organizations. Ive done these with companies
from less than $1 million to some approaching $100 million in
sales, with registration and attendance exceeding 200 participants in many of my Web seminars. You can follow the same
methodology for successful and cost-effective results.
Your company can optimize Web seminar opportunities
by leveraging in-house subject matter experts, cost-effective
Web applications, and client speakers. For example, one of

m Virtual Marketing

my clients utilized an in-house benefits specialist who has four

degrees: a BA, an MBA, a JD, and an LLM (think of an LLM
as a masters degree in law). He offered highly detailed perspectives on the intricacies of COBRA benefits to a Web audience of large-company HR executives. This speaker offered
great insights into challenging subject matter, was perceived
as a true subject matter expert, and attracted more than 100
prominent attendees to a Web seminar we hosted on their behalf. Ive run many Web seminars on behalf of my own companies, attracting anywhere from just a few attendees to more
than 100 attendees. On average, we find about 50 percent of
our registrants actually attend the Web seminars, though this
can vary dramatically depending upon the content offered. In
the following example, compare my costs to the costs of a Web
seminar with a paid guest speaker (a portion of the Webinar/
eMarketing software costs are allocated because these are
used for multiple meetings, Web seminars, and eMarketing
campaigns each month):
Seminar Item
Cost for One Web Seminar
$40 ($80 per monthunlimited Webinars)
eMarketing SaaS
$10 ($30 per monthunlimited campaigns)
Slides for guest speaker
$0 (1 hour)
Slides for Survey Solution Company $0 (15 minutes to tweak existing slide deck)
Constant Contact Campaign
$0 (45 minutes to tweak template and test
$0 (5 minutes to check and run report)
Dry run with guest speaker
$0 (30 minutes)
Web Seminar
$0 (30 minutes)
Gift for client guest speaker
$50 (Optional, but a nice touch)
Total for 10 attendees
$100 (Cost per attendee = $10.00 + 3 hours
of time)
My costs are easily 10 times lower than traditional, paid
speaker formats, which are often geared toward large-scale
m 143

m Your Virtual Success

seminars for larger companies, and your costs should be very

similar. At 20 attendees, our virtual costs are $5 per attendee,
and at 100 attendees, our virtual seminar costs drop to a dollar per attendee. Many models assume you would require a
big-name speaker to attract a large audience. These models
approach everything from a better-funded, deeper-pocketed
perspective. For smaller operations including your virtual operation, our example focuses on the small-scale, highly targeted Webinar focused on your specific niche and, of course,
keeping costs extremely low. If youre running two or three
Web seminars with the same speaker, your time investment
drops accordingly.
Web seminars, supplemented by eMarketing campaigns,
leveraging your client zealot speakers or in-house subject
matter experts are one of the most powerful virtual marketing techniques available for emerging and smaller self-funded
companies. Actually, they can be a great tool for mid-sized
and larger companies, too. If the message is meaningful youll
attract many attendees, and, using my virtual model, you will
see them attend your Web seminars at almost no cost. With
GoToWebinar and iContact (or comparable virtual meeting
and e-mail marketing solutions) you can run unlimited Web
seminars every month. You may even decide to run several
per week, attacking very specific niches, though you should
never e-mail a prospective client more than once every few
weeks. You should utilize dedicated Web seminar e-mail links
and Webinar landing pages to track which campaigns are generating attendees for your respective Web seminars. This is
easy to do, as registration landing pages are provided by most
Webinar solutions.

Customer Quotes Make Your Business Flourish

Lets move on to another virtual marketing tool: your quotation library. It certainly matters what you say and how you
say it. But it matters even more what other people say about

m Virtual Marketing

you. Immediately upon completion of delivery to your first

client, you must start your quotation library. The library will
provide the foundation for name dropping, presentations,
testimonials, references and ultimately case studies, but first
and foremost it provides you with credibility. Quotes are much
easier to collect than, say, a testimonial, which might require
corporate approval. Client quotes are typically one sentence to
a few sentences sharing a positive feeling by a customer about
your product, service, solution, or company. For example, on
our Website we have many quotes, including this one: My
first webinar with StartUpSelling resulted in a new account,
a 115 life Employee Benefits client. I had been attempting to
meet with this account from many months, and was finally able
to do so successfully because of StartUpSellings eMarketing
and Web seminar programs. StartUpSellings services are indispensible for agencies looking to grow. It took less than a
week for this client to approve this quote. We also created a
two-page testimonial about this client. The testimonial took us
a week to write, another 30 days for the client to approve the
content, and another week for the graphics to be completed.
Client quotes can be gleaned quickly, whereas a testimonial
can take weeks or months, and, in some cases, larger corporations may never let you publish them. A compelling list of
quotations should be assembled as early as possible for your
emerging company. Emerging companies require credibility
and viability, and this is derived from what others say about
you far more than what you say about yourself. A dozen compelling client quotes are worth 1,000 pages of your own rhetoric.
How do you get great quotations? The simple answer is
that you create them. Dont call your client and ask them to
give you a quotation. Call them and provide a few quotations
as examples. Or create some quotes and e-mail these quotes to
your client as suggestions. Ask them to change, tweak, embellish, or improve them. Out of the dozens of quotes we were able
to collect, only one client said that our suggested quotes were
m 145

m Your Virtual Success

too effusive, and they offered a different quotation, which we

successfully deployed in our virtual marketing machine. Most
clients accept the suggested quotes as is, a few modify them,
and some create even better and pithier quotes than you originally suggested.
Quotes are a truly powerful and effective means to attract
the attention of your target audience. They are crucially important in a virtual operation because they offer an inherent
level of credibility about your organization. Here are some examples of how you can use them:
kk Subject lines of personalized e-mails.
kk Subject lines of eMarketing engine e-mail
kk Reference requests: Often mitigates the need for
an actual reference call.
kk Website. (Every page of your Website should
have client quotes.)
kk Pull quotes for case studies and testimonials.
kk Web seminar invitations and e-mails.
kk Seminar invitations and e-mails.
kk Voice-mail pitch with name drop/client quote.
kk Telemarketing pitch.
kk PR and RSS feeds.
Client quotations are helpful in many marketing areas, including your Website, e-mailings, Web seminars, presentations
and/or demonstrations, conversations, pitches, voice mails,
proposals, RFPs, and even as a substitute for reference checks.
Client quotations and name dropping should be used often in
the sales and marketing process, though references should be
used at the end of the closing process and, even then, sparingly. If you use quotations, such as in the following example, it
often reduces the number of reference calls that actually take
place. If you combine the quotes with a case study attachment,

m Virtual Marketing

I found many prospective clients would purchase solutions

without ever making a reference call. Here is a good example
of using quotes to improve comfort level and reduce the need
for actual reference calls to take place. This reference e-mail,
along with my concise order confirmation approach, allowed
me to whiz through the closing process with 90 percent of the
agreements executed without changes. The quotes (we created
fictitious names and quotes for our example), case studies, and
order confirmation combined to make it a fast, comfortable,
and easy closing. Here is a comfort level quotes e-mail:
From: Alan Blume []
Sent: Saturday, January 07, 2006 4:16 PM
Subject: Agencies win new business - agencies adopt improved
lead generation and marketing
Dear Rick,
Many of our agency clients are benefiting from our unique
lead generation and marketing service projects. Agencies such as
XYZ Insurance, The Alan Group, Smith & Smith, Natick Insurance,
Scranton Insurance, Copperfield Brokers, Samuel Adams, Lake,
Lake & Pond, Marini & Marini, and Sassamon Insurance are
just a few of our growing family of agency/broker clients. These
agencies have experienced dramatic sales pipeline improvements
from our Web seminar, eMarketing, client case study and Website
improvement lead generation services.
Our clients have great things to say about their projects; their
compelling results are the best guarantee of your future success. We can
easily arrange a reference call should you require this as part of your final
due diligence. We hope to be working with you in the very near future.
Philip Petrillo, CEO, Pensacola Agency
Our pipeline increased dramatically in a matter of just 90 days.
We closed 3 new clients in the first 6 months of our project.
m 147

m Your Virtual Success

Ron Copperfield, Copperfield Brokers

We were delighted with the results for all lines of business
including Benefits and Risk. StartUpSelling, redesigned
our Website, ran monthly Web seminars, created client
testimonials and case studies and helped us understand more
efficient lead generation methods. They are a must for any
agency seeking to increase their book of business.
Sam Adams, Managing Director, Adams Insurance
StartUpSelling guided us through the entire lead generation
and collateral fulfillment process and was extremely responsive
to our specific needs. Their team rapidly accommodated our
requests making the process simple and easy for our agency.
John Sassamon, VP Operations, Sassamon Insurance
The results will have a profound impact not only on the top
line through improved lead generation and cross selling. Our
pipeline increased exponentially as we engaged with over 100
new prospects identified by StartUpSelling lead generation
services. We closed 6 new clients in our first 5 months.
Jake Smith, Marcom Manager, Smith & Smith
We gave StartUpSelling our coldest prospect list and they
inundated us with appointments. In the first 12 weeks,
StartUpSelling scheduled over 100 appointments, five of which
quickly became new clients. We expect to add many more
clients as a result of their lead generation efforts.

We hope to add your agency to this prominent client quotation

Best regards, Alan

Alan Blume
StartUpSelling, Inc.
6 Wight Farm Road
Boston, MA 00001
000-000-0000 Cell


m Virtual Marketing

Client quotations also can be used for prospect reference

validation. Prospects often want to validate their decisions to
purchase, or merely show reasonable due diligence by speaking with references. Its an important final step in the process.
I tweaked this e-mail and provided references when needed.
Once you become pervasive in an industry, your sheer number
of references in a given space, or your reputation, is often sufficient to bypass the reference process. As you near the end of
the sales process, client quotations such as those in the sample
e-mail will be very helpful in finalizing orders by instilling a
confidence and comfort level with your prospects.
Name dropping and quotes will help your sales and marketing efforts throughout the entirety of the cycle. Dont forget to get quotes that are specifically targeted to a function,
market, or audience. For example, these two quotes leverage
the rapid return on investment (ROI) concepts discussed with
prospective clients:
We closed 6 new clients in the first 90 days of the
Mike Smith, COO, ABC Technology Company
We closed 23 new sales since we started our
StartUpSelling lead generation project last year.
Sam Adams, CEO, Adams & Adams Insurance
Video testimonials or quotations are truly powerful for
Websites or presentations. Short videos, 30 to 60 seconds
in length, offer a great way to transfer customer enthusiasm to your prospects. They can be used for your Website,
YouTube, podcasts and other viral marketing opportunities.
They are more time consuming and cost more to create, but,
leveraging your virtual model, you can find contractors or
other virtual marketing services companies to do this for you
very inexpensively.
m 149

m Your Virtual Success

Your early clients must be advocates, and better yet, zealots, allowing you to leverage their quotations and references,
which will yield the necessary credibility for your virtual enterprise. Your greatest marketing results often come from
your early clients, and who are often small to medium-sized
businesses. These firms will result in happier clients, client
quotations, client speakers, and client case studies. They will
provide quotations for your Website, advice about your services, references to other firms, and success stories for you to
use for your virtual PR. Conversely, beware of the prospective client who holds his or her hand out asking, Whats in it
for me? I want free support, stock options, and direct access
to engineering in return for the use of my company name and
a reference.
I inherited one of these types during a stint with a hightech company. Lets call this individual Lance, who was a
middle manager for a Fortune 500 company. Huge amounts of
wasted time and energy were spent on this relationship, and no
new business ever resulted. My predecessor coveted Lances
Fortune 500 logo and gave away the store to bring him aboard
and support his unusual demands, but my predecessor missed
the point of a win-win relationship. He brought aboard a winlose, and we all paid the price for this mistake. We all inherit
baggage when we take on positions with established firms.
However, we can make our own decisions for our own virtual
companies and find in-profile clients (as discussed in chapters
6 and 7, clients who meet your preferred client attributes) who
will have a partnership approach to business.

Demystifying SEO for Virtual Businesses

eMarketing is clearly cost effective, reusable, and a great

asset for your virtual business, but what about Internet advertising and search engine optimization (SEO)? Is there a costeffective way to drive people from their Internet activities to

m Virtual Marketing

your Website? Perhaps you have thought about Website SEO,

the attempt to make your Website appear first on the organic
search engine results. Organic in this case means that your
listing appears free of charge and is not an advertisement. For
example, anyone typing in custom silk hats would result in
your Website appearing near the top of the Google search list.
Once you optimize your site, or pay someone to do it, there are
no additional charges when your Website name appears near
the top of the list, though you may have to continually refine
your site optimization to stay at the top of the list. You can augment your organic SEO placement with PPC (Pay-Per-Click)
Advertising keyword search placement from Google, Bing, or
some other search engine. Based on the size of your PPC budget, your ad would appear whenever anyone searched for the
words Custom Silk Hats. Each time your ad appeared and a
prospective client clicked on it for more information, Google
would charge a PPC fee, sometimes referred to as a Cost Per
Click (CPC), for your ad placement.
For your virtual company, the theory is that you are driving
better qualified prospects to your Website and pipeline because
the prospects are looking for your specific product or service at
that moment. If they are searching for custom silk hats, they are
a more targeted prospect than the shotgun approach of placing
an ad in a trade journal. In the trade journal youre casting a
broad net, hoping a qualified prospect might see your adbut
if a user is clicking on your Internet ad about custom silk hats,
they are likely interested in some type of silk hat.
How expensive are PPC ads? You can create your own
budget and limit your costs to as little as you like. Some virtual
companies allocate $50 per month, though you can change
your budget at any time. At a prior firm, we allocated $5,000
per month from our marketing budget. The great thing about
PPC ads is that you can decide how much, how fast, and how
good very quickly. A good friend of mine, Deborah, runs a
m 151

m Your Virtual Success

small, virtual relocation services firm in Europe. Through

search engine optimization and PPC, she just landed a large
account that was looking to relocate employees from Germany
to Belgium.
How did they find her? When they did a Google search on
Belgium Relocation Services her firm came up first. It didnt
matter that her company was small or virtual; she leveraged the
virtual model, provided sound and professional guidance, and
was quickly selected to provide the services. There are great
analytics available from PPC type providers including Google
(Google Analytics) for PPC and Website lead tracking, often
for free or for a nominal fee. Predicated on your virtual business, you may need to utilize advanced tracking, particularly
if you are in a high-volume business. Depending upon your
market and budget, Internet ads can be very cost effective in
driving qualified leads.
Virtual companies can allocate budget in traditional advertising venues such as trade journals or radio spots, but you
should carefully select and subsequently analyze each medium
carefully. For most virtual companies, I prefer digital over
traditional. For example, its easy to control PPC costs; they
require limited cash outlay to test, and you can effectively invest for as little as $50 per month. TV advertisement time, radio, or newspaper requires a much more substantial upfront
investment, thus increasing your risks. Spend your marketing
and advertising dollars wisely, and, for your virtual business,
always look to optimize upside while limiting overhead costs.
Its much better if you can start small and test, rather than rolling the dice on a $10,000 trade journal ad campaign that you
hope will yield results.

Are Trade Shows a Good Value?

Can trade shows be used as a marketing tool for your virtual business? Many marketers think trade shows are a dying
breed, a throwback to the old ways of doing things like the

m Virtual Marketing

traditional print-based newspaper model, which today looks

like the telegraph industry trying to compete with cell phone
technology. I recommend that most virtual business stay away
from trade shows unless you have a clear and rapid path to
sales and profitability with this marketing tool. Trade shows
are like boats: a hole in the water in which to throw money
(with the important exception that boats are an enjoyable recreational experience). Many of these shows are very large, with
major vendors securing huge boothssometimes 10 times the
size of your 8x10 foot booth. Even if your booth is in a great
location, which is not likely, how can you attract prospects to
your booth? Small companies dont have the money to make
any noise over the respective din created by the major players. Your booth is going to seem small, perhaps even shoddy,
compared to the larger players, and you might not even have
the budget, or want to spend your hard earned dollars, to pass
out a few hundred to a few thousand pieces of glossy collateral.
Lets look at the costs of a hypothetical trade show:
1 8 x 10 booth


Airfare (2 people)


Cab Fare


Hotel (2 persons, 2 nights)


Meals (2 persons, 2 days)


Used booth or booth rental


Signs for booth


Printed collateral


Advertising to attract prospects


Your Time



m 153

m Your Virtual Success

Dropping $10,000 on a show might not seem to be much

money to some organizations, but you will also burn at least six
people days of time, and the money can often be better spent
elsewhere. There are far better alternatives to big trade shows
for virtual companies such as ours. In fact, the alternatives
can offer better exposure, lower costs, and, most importantly,
better leads. These types of events would be better described
as meetings or conferences than trade shows. Its often these
types of conferences that attract a higher-level attendee. Some
of these conferences specifically target principals, partners, or
CEOs, who rarely attend the massive trade shows, which cater
to the rank and file.
Tabletop trade shows and conferences can also be a viable path for your company, though you should be highly selective when considering any on-site activities. Though these
do add up in costs for self-funded operations, they are much
less expensive than large-scale trade shows. Airfare, hotel, and
meals are easily $1,000 for any given show, but the exhibit fees
are sometimes free or limited to only $500 or $1,000 for tabletop shows or conferences. Simple, portable backdrops can be
procured these days inexpensively through Staples-type print
centers. If the show is small, and targeted to your niche, or if
you are beginning to enjoy some reasonable cash flow, these
can be very helpful. However, it is very difficult for a small
company to be noticed at a huge show. If you have a basic
8-x-10-foot booth at a 500-booth show, and you are competing
with industry giants, youre going to resemble a flea sitting on a
hair, of a tail, which is wagging behind a very large dog. Unless
you have identified a method to ensure a stream of visitors to
your exhibit, it will be tough going. By the way, gimmicks like a
golf swing analysis system might bring visitors to your exhibit,
but they probably wont be qualified. The only guarantee large
trade shows offer a virtual company is a guarantee that youll
be spending a lot of time and money.


m Virtual Marketing

Some conferences and user group meetings will invite innovative providers free of charge, or for little charge. These
are sometimes referred to as tabletop opportunities, where
the dozen or so vendors invited are each given a tabletop
to display their solution. In return, they benefit their members by exposing them to innovative concepts, new methodologies, and organizational refinements that can sometimes
yield significant benefits for their clients. Associations, user
groups, consulting practices, accounting firms, and industry
groups often provide vendor opportunities including exhibitor
space, Webinars exposure, mailings or e-mailings, and speaking engagements.
A few years ago I was able to secure a speaking slot at
an insurance conference on the West Coast and another
slightly larger conference in the Midwest. The West Coast
speaking slot was provided without chargea 45-minute presentation to 15 qualified prospects, who were all principals
or executives for their respective firms. The larger Midwest
conference had almost 100 firms attending, all of which had
sent their executives and principals. This was a tabletop opportunity, as opposed to a traditional booth-oriented trade
show. Tabletop opportunities are far better than large trade
shows because the playing field is leveled. My tabletop looks
essentially the same as anyone elses. In a major trade show,
a small company tends to look even smaller; your booth is
dwarfed by the $250,000-plus mega displays from companies
such as Microsoft, IBM, Sony, or some other giant. I paid a
modest fee of about $1,000 to attend the Midwest conference, yet appeared to be a major player. Lets see how this
evolved and how the costs compare to the trade show costs
shown previously.
My costs were much lower than the prototypical trade
show, as one would expect from a tabletop conference:

m 155

m Your Virtual Success

1 8-x-10 Tabletop


Airfare (1 person)

$ 500

Cab Fare


Hotel (1 person, 2 nights)


Meals (1 person, 2 days)


Booth rental*


Signs for booth


Collateral (5 pieces by 100 each)




*Because this was a tabletop show, booths were not

The costs were 75 percent less than a major trade show,
but our exposure increased by an order of magnitude. We were
the only vendor of our type invited; we had two clients who
dropped our name repeatedly. The end result was a $30,000
sale within a few weeks of the conference and another $24,000
sale about 30 days after that. I estimate three additional deals
related in some way to the conference closed within the next
12 months. A $2,300 investment yielded $54,000 in immediate
business and an additional $100,000 in related business within
the next year. Beyond the compelling ROI, we also realized
great exposure from attending, further anchoring presence in
the insurance market niche. When participating at conferences
or tabletop shows, always ask if you can gain additional exposure for the same price. These associations and user groups
are first and foremost in the business of helping their members. Many of them will be open to your innovative marketing
ideas. For example, I ran two seminars at off times during a
local Midwest conference. Twelve prospects attended these,

m Virtual Marketing

with one of them purchasing within a few weeks after the conference. I asked a client of ours to speak at each seminar, and
we were the only firm running these seminars. How did we get
the advantage over other vendors attending? I always have a
cadre of creative marketing ideas at the ready, and run it by
the conference coordinators immediately. I mean this literally.
As soon as we are invited I ask if we can run an extra seminar,
offer a conference special, speak at a breakout session, or pass
out some special literature. This is a successful approach for
conferences, users groups, and associations.
Lets review a few of the key trade show rules for virtual
kk Dont attend large trade shows unless you have a
method to drive traffic to your booth.
kk Make a splash at small shows or conferences.
kk Suggest special arrangements (a mini seminar, a
special handout).
kk Attend boutique or targeted conferences offering
tabletop opportunities.
kk Get a speaking slot if possibleat any
conferenceeven if you dont plan to attend.
Ask for special consideration and leverage your best assets. Offer interesting topics for breakout sessions, ask for special booth placement, arrive early, and get the best tabletop
spots. If you have limited cash for your tabletop display, you
can use screenshots or product photos on foam core. These
look great for just a few dollars. Or you can go to an office supply store (online or otherwise) and order Mylar signs. Again,
a few hundred dollars goes a long way if you are creative. Try
to make the signs generic so they can be reused at other trade
shows or association meetings. Colorful screenshots or product photos mean that you dont have to hire graphic artists or
spend time and money on mockups, proofs, or creative design.
m 157

m Your Virtual Success

Keep it simple and get your point across quickly. But remember: Your cost-effective, state-of-the-art virtual company may
opt to never do trade shows, focusing instead on less travelintensive and more cost-effective marketing tools.
Marketing through industry associations can be extremely
effective, and it often costs little, if anything. The key is to
land your first one or two member clients and then leverage their relationship with the association. If you are helping
them overcome a business challenge, it stands to reason you
can help their associated members. Fifteen to 20 years ago, in
the Internet dark ages, we did everything on site. At CTS we
targeted user group meetings like SAP, Oracle, PeopleSoft,
or other RUGs (regional user groups). These regional groups
would allow companies to attend dinner or breakfast meetings, discuss your solutions directly with members, and provide
you with member names and phone numbers upon departure.
Sometimes they might ask for a modest fee to help with refreshments, but most of the time they were just trying to acquaint members with innovative products, services, or ideas to
enhance their business. All of these association relationships
ultimately paid dividends, yielding improved exposure, greater
credibility, and new clients.
Some years ago, through the Medical Society State of New
York (MSSNY), I was able to secure an agreement to help us
introduce a solution to medical practices in New York for a
tiny percentage of our medical software sales in the state of
New York and a small incentive for their members. We ran
seminars at their regional locations, used their logo on our
mailings, and attended many of their functions. They helped
their members by negotiating a discount and leveraged a modest royalty to offset their expenses. They helped modernize
medical practices across the state by educating their membership to the benefits of automation. MSSNY provided facilities
to run seminars, member contact information, and the use of
their name and logo on mailings and other communication.

m Virtual Marketing

Our market share in New York increased dramatically, and

New York State became one of our most successful markets.
Today, of course, StartUpSelling would arrange to do these
meetings virtually, presenting solutions over the Internet, onto
a computer that would be projected onto a screen for the audience. We could do this for user group meetings in Boston or
Bangalore with comparable ease.
An agreement with an association need not be formal.
For example, a few years ago, I put together a simple e-mail
agreement with a large international organization of professional services firms. The agreement simply stated that we
would offer a small discount to their members in return for
marketing assistance such as sending e-mails to their members and Web seminar announcements. The Web-based seminar series we ran was well attended, with about 80 percent of
all members ultimately attending a Web seminar. The results
were impressive, resulting in a large market-share acquisition
for one of my clients, approaching 50 percent of the associations members. A rough estimate of the total sales related
to this agreement and campaign might be somewhere in the
neighborhood of $2 million. That may not seem like much to
a large business, but for a virtual business with low overhead
and high profit margins, that agreement probably netted my
firm $600,000 in profits after all my expenses. Speaking engagements can now be delivered virtually, and agreements can
often be accomplished without travel or face-to-face meetings.
Speaking engagements at annual user conferences or trade
shows can be very helpful and are usually free (though there
are travel costs) if you can bring a new concept to the table
that the attendees would find interesting.

Getting Social

Traditional, non-virtual networking and social associations like the chamber of commerce, the Rotary Club, BNI
International, and professional associations can still offer a
m 159

m Your Virtual Success

good opportunity to meet prospective clients. Make sure you

are spending time in an association with membership appropriate for introductions to your clientele. As a virtual operation,
however, how about using the new social networking sites as
opposed to, or at least in addition to, traditional networking?
There are hundreds of social networking sites to consider, with
MySpace and Facebook ranked as a couple of the best known,
although not as B2B-oriented as LinkedIn, Spoke, Ryze, and
Plaxo. These sites are very good to target a specific individual
with whom you seek an appointment. For example, perhaps
youre trying to land an appointment with the president of a
local bank but have had no positive results. LinkedIn can help
you locate someone you know, who also knows the president
of that bank, and you can then ask for an introduction. Several
of my colleagues stated they now use these social networks on
a regular basis to help grow their businesses.
Effective virtual marketing means doing more with less
a lot less. You need to select programs and venues that offer
high impact at low cost. You must be creative and do things
differently from the established players. You must turn their
strengths into weaknesses and create a more attractive alternative to compel your prospective buyers to take that leap
and move their business to your boutique. Dont try to do
what the existing players are doing. Engage in virtual marketing warfare and pick off your competitors in a manner most
advantageous to your firm, which will most likely come as
a surprise to your competitors, and leverage the new tools
including LinkedIn, YouTube, Twitter, and SEO (search
engine optimization) to your advantage. Though these are
not applicable to all virtual businesses, they are applicable to
many. Search engine placementwhere your name or your
company name is displayed on a Google, Yahoo, or Microsoft
search, for examplecan be very important to many types of
virtual businesses. This is often content-related. If you create
multiple Websites and a blog and link them together, you are

m Virtual Marketing

much more likely to improve your ranking. Just as a garden

does, SEO needs constant tending; youll be lost in the search
result weeds unless youre consistently growing your content
and keywords.
What about public relations for your virtual business?
Public relations used to be the bastion of publicists and public relations firms, charging thousands of dollars a month to
find you newspaper and magazine coverage, issue press releases, and get your message to the target buyer. These days,
with blogs, RSS feeds, and viral marketing opportunities, your
virtual business can do much of this on your own, for little if
any cost. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. It allows
you to publish various types of content in a standard format.
Clients and prospects can subscribe to these feeds, and search
engines and RSS directories help people find your content.
Between RSS feeds, blogs, and Website content and searches,
many believe the face of public relations is rapidly changing.
You can gain access to journalists through ProfNet (profnet. for a fraction of the price of a public relations agency retainer. Or try, which states on
their Web site, Now you can tell your story to reporters who
want to hear it. PR LEADS is the fastest, easiest and most
inexpensive way to get publicity for authors, experts, speakers,
doctors and psychologists. The new virtual tools available to
you continue to prove that the Good, Fast, Cheap virtual
paradigm is available to all those who know where to look.
As your virtual business gains a solid foundation of viability
and profitability, remember the logical marketing progression
for your organization: trend, momentum, and pervasiveness.
Vertical or niche marketing is extremely important to small
businesses and even more important for your virtual business.
Your expertise in your given area can belie your size. It wont
take long to establish a trend and ultimately become the boutique provider in your industry. After all, your company isnt
small; its a virtual but price-competitive boutique, providing
m 161

m Your Virtual Success

important clients with superior service and support, and, because of your virtual model, industry-leading pricing. Youre
not a lumbering cargo freighter like your older and larger competitors; youre a speed boat, able to turn and adjust quickly,
thus responding faster and better to the needs of your clients
than those lethargic brick-and-mortar freighters!


Chapter 9

Virtual Hiring
and Virtual

n February 2008, I hired an energetic, well-educated,

dynamic woman who Ill refer to as Jane. I ran an ad on
Craigslist for part-time, inside sales positions. The ad was very
detailed and specific, as your Craigslist ads should be. You can
also search for candidates through LinkedIn, eLance, Guru,
or even a general Google search. One of the items that caught
her attention was our target market of insurance agencies and
technology companies. She had worked as a business development director at an insurance agency and contacted me shortly
after reviewing the advertisement. At that time, Craigslist ads
in Boston were free; today I target areas that have free ads
and high unemployment rates. This allows us to target a larger,
more transient, and more flexible labor pool. Recently I ran an
ad in Detroit for a freelance graphic artist. I had to turn the
ad off the next day when more than 30 responses had already
stacked up in my inbox.

She Was No Plain Jane

Jane was interested in our contract sales position opportunity. After a few initial telephone calls, we arranged a quick

m 163

m Your Virtual Success

meeting at a local coffee shop. As you may recall, I have no

need for a corporate office or conference room. In the event I
need to meet a candidate or client, I find a Starbucks, Panera
Bread, or other local neutral venue. Though it is rare I meet
directly with prospective contractors or clients, when I do meet
with them, I use essentially the same presentation materials I
use for my Web-based meetings. In this case, I reviewed our
PowerPoint slide deck with Jane, and showed her samples
of completed client projects. If Jane lived in Alaska, Id do
the same thing, though the meeting would occur in cyberspace. At the end of the meeting, after reviewing our pay-forperformance compensation structure, we agreed Jane would
come aboard as a commission-only contractor (essentially a
sales agent). If you were to hire Jane in the traditional sense,
it would take much longer and require more due diligence
than is necessary in my virtual model. Virtual contractors are
typically much easier to hire because their contracts can be terminated at will, without problems or paperwork. This makes
hiring and managing your virtual team much easier and far less
capital intensive.
Most of those on my virtual team, as Jane is, are paid
on a performance-based plan. There is almost no risk and
great upside potential. Jane started within a couple of weeks
of our initial call. She was extremely bright and motivated,
had great references, a bachelors degree in marketing, and
a Juris Doctorate; and had passed the Massachusetts Bar
Exam. She had a strong background in insurance, one of my
primary markets, and experience in business development. I
was able to bring aboard this professional individual and great
resource, without any upfront costs. Jane was a highly skilled
individual who would be paid once her prospects became clients; she required little training and offered our organization
a professional and articulate business development professional to further increase our sales reach. Perhaps from your


m Virtual Hiring and Virtual People Management

perspective, this doesnt make sense. After all, why would

Jane want to work on a leveraged pay-for-performance plan
considering her great background? I should add that Jane is
very engaging and personable; she is clearly no plain Jane.
My virtual company, and yours, can hire people who would
are often less hirable in a traditional brick-and-mortar environment. For example, lets say Jane has two young children,
a husband, a new home, and a variable schedule. This might
include trips to soccer practice, gymnastics, nursery school,
the doctors office, enrichment programs, and myriad sundry chores and errands. Thats a pretty full plate and might
sound like your schedule, or at least remind you of the harried schedule of a close friend. It is difficult for people such
as Jane to work for a traditional employer, but as one of my
virtual contractors, she can make her own hours and work
any way as she sees fit. As long my contractors can accomplish their objectives, I dont care where or when they work.
Jane might be able to work nine hours a weekbut it didnt
matter to me if she was available at 10 a.m. or 4 p.m. In fact, if
she was prospecting on the West Coast, she might have been
calling at 8 p.m. Eastern Standard Time. Jane works where
and when she wants, and only if she wants to work. She can
take time off without notice and change her schedule when it
suits her.
I hire people who seek flexibility, need to work from
home, and want a supplemental opportunity. Your virtual
company can take advantage of this model, too. These prospective contractors might be retired; perhaps they are caring for someone at home and cannot leave their house; they
may have young children and thus limited availability; they
require a sedentary work environment; or they may not have
easy access to transportation or just dont want to spend precious time commuting. I look for people who want to work
on their terms, yet can complete the assigned goals. These
m 165

m Your Virtual Success

people are often overlooked by traditional firms because they

dont fit in the corporate box, or because these people have
limitations that dont allow them to work in a traditional job.
Retirees, people trying to change careers, working moms,
and stay-at-home dads are often available to you as a virtual
business but are less hirable by traditional brick-and-mortar
For my virtual model, hiring Jane was a no brainer. In
her first four months, Jane identified and helped close two new
clients; each contract was worth around $80,000. Neither Jane
nor I ever met these clients face to face. Almost $160,000 was
to change hands with two people they had never met, other
than in cyberspace. Jane was a fantastic hire, but, then again,
hiring for my virtual model should be easier. I can offer flexible hours, no commute, and an open structure, and, depending upon your virtual model, so can you. Jane has been very
successful at StartUpSelling and has been with my company
for two years. Then again, that statement should come as no
surprise. Give a bright, motivated, and talented individual the
flexibility to work where and when he/she wants, and the results in my virtual model can be very compelling.

Hire Anywhere, Anytime

The virtual model means you can hire anywhere; you

can take more risks because most of the people you hire are
contractors, working on a pay-for-performance model, or on
a project basis. And because of your virtual model, you can
hire talented people others may pass over. The virtual model
allows people to be hired in a truly non-prejudicial manner.
It doesnt matter if they are tall or short, good looking or
plain, a gym rat or obese, graceful or clumsy. Because you
are not meeting these contractors in person, any hidden
biases you might have as an interviewer disappear. If they


m Virtual Hiring and Virtual People Management

are professional on the phone, can effectively operate

a computer, and can accomplish their goals, they can
readily be hired in the virtual world. And virtual contractors,
particularly using my pay-for-performance model, can be much
easier to manage, as they are often used to working more
autonomously. If you have given your virtual contractors or
employees succinct, productivity-based goals, you can manage
the results as opposed to managing behaviors. And you can
hire these talented contractors locally, nationally, or even
globally, dramatically expanding the labor pool for your virtual
You need to create a hiring methodology and hiring profile
to improve your likelihood of success. Even though your risks
are lower than traditional businesses, you nonetheless want to
optimize the likelihood of success to ensure higher productivity and minimize wasted training time. Lets start with the hiring methodology, which of course can vary with the skill set
required and the industry of your virtual business.

It Starts With a Perfect Job Description and a

Very Detailed Ad

Good hiring starts with a great job (or project) description, particularly in a virtual company. Be specific in identifying your goals. Use metrics whenever possible, including calls
per day or leads per week, or number of hats embroidered, or
Website designs delivered, or pages proofed. Create concrete
objectives such as As a freelance graphics designer, you will
be paid $25 per hour for original graphic designs for our client
testimonials. We look for a 48-hour turnaround on the initial
draft, and it is expected each testimonial design to take a maximum of 2.5 hours, including edits.
Here is a sample job description:

m 167

m Your Virtual Success


Minimum five years in freelance graphic design.
Must have at least two years experience working in
a virtual model.
Manage design projects from concept to
Design testimonials, editorials and ads for
promotional materials for clients.
Provide design direction from inception to
Work closely with our team to achieve desired
design and marketing goalson time.
Create Web and print versions of all applicable
Follow our best practices for eCollateral, Case
Studies, and testimonials.
48 hour turnaround goal on many projects.
Must sign contractor confidentiality and term sheet.
Positive, proactive, professional, attention to detail.
Platforms & Product Proficiency:
Platforms: Mac OS, Windows XP/VISTA/ME/2000
Applications: Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator,
InDesign, Quark Xpress, Dreamweaver, Pagemaker,
Freehand, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Creative Suite
CS3, Macromedia Flash MX/8, Dreamweaver,
QuarkXPress7, Adobe Acrobat Pro/Distiller, Microsoft


m Virtual Hiring and Virtual People Management

$25 per hour.
Payable on a project basis via check or PayPal upon
acceptance of final deliverable.
Or consider this type of ad for a contract telesales representative:


$20 per HourYour Home Office
Professional Telemarketer/Appointment Setter needed
to work from your home office. Flexible hours, raises
and bonusesbut only top performers should apply!
Performance based raises and bonuses. Please read the
job description carefully and apply only if you meet all
About You:
At least two years cold calling experience.
Experience in Appointment Setting.
Ability to consistently and professionally call
prospects from an Excel spreadsheet.
Ability to speak professionally with executives on
the telephone.
Experience with Microsoft Excel 2003 or higher.
Unlimited long-distance, PC with Windows XP or
Vista, Microsoft Excel 2003 or higher and Word
2003 or higher installed, high-speed Internet.
Your Responsibilities:
Learn the value proposition of our clients (we train
you on these).
m 169

m Your Virtual Success

Cold calling prospects from an Excel spreadsheet.

Deliver a quality pitch to prospects.
Document the result of each call on the spreadsheet.
Set up appointments for our clients.
Send instant email alerts when an appointment is set.
Accurately update spreadsheets as new information
is obtained.
Filing daily reports via email, using Excel
Make 20 to 25 good quality dials per hour.
Cold Calling and Appointment Setting experience
required. Customer Service experience (taking inbound
calls) does not qualify. Reply with RESUME and COVER
LETTER. Detail your cold calling and appointment setting
experience in your cover letter. Replies without resume
and cover letter will not be considered. We are a Sales
& Marketing outsource company working mainly with
Business Insurance Brokers and Technology Companies.
The closer you can get to a perfect job description, the
more likely you are to receive ideal candidate resumes. Make
sure you identify the skills, experience, and attitude needed.
Itemize your terms, product proficiencies, compensation expectations, turnaround time, hours needed, and deliverables
expected. Ask them to do specific tasks in the ad. For example,
ask for a cover letter (or e-mail) and a resume. Review their email carefully. Is it specific to your contract position? Is it well
written, well formatted, and grammatically correct? Do they
offer a link to a Website, online resume, or portfolio? Have
they done anything unique or clever to infer a level of creativity beyond the typical applicant? If they are a designer, for example, ask them to review their specific skills with Photoshop

m Virtual Hiring and Virtual People Management

(or other solution) and note a recent project where they had to
use it. Also let them know during the process that you always
begin with trial periods for all new contractors.
If you have created the perfect job description, your next
step is selecting the best contractor for the job. As a quick side
note, we found dramatically higher responses rates when we
used capital letters in our Craisglist ad header as opposed to
when we did not. You should continually tweak your ad copy
and the target region for your ad to get the best possible results.

Its Easier and More Profitable to Hire Using the

Virtual Contractor Model

Hiring is challenging on the best of days for a small company. It is much easier to hire a contractor, however, than
an employee. Many contractors already carry a stamp of
approval indicating they are accustomed to working independently. Predicated upon your requirements, you may be
selecting a contractor from a pool of very experienced people.
Furthermore, because you are often paying on deliverables,
your risks are much lower than with traditional hires. For example, in a traditional brick-and-mortar company, lets say that
you wanted to hire a sales executive named Kevin. Perhaps he
appears to have a strong track record and good references.
He is very professional in person and talks a good game. One
of the challenges when hiring salespeople revolves around
their communication skills: They are typically very good. They
are pretty convincing, and its not so easy to determine who
will be a strong performer versus a good interviewer. Lets
say that Kevins base salary will be $80,000, and at a million
dollar quota he would be paid $70,000 in commissions, for a
total compensation package of $150,000. This is a fairly standard package for many industries. His expenses are expected
to be around $5,000 per year, and the company contribution
to his benefits plan, taxes, and other miscellaneous costs are
m 171

m Your Virtual Success

estimated at $15,000 per year. Your total costs at quota are

$170,000. Of course, if he is only at 50 percent of his annual
quota, costs may still be more than $100,000, as some of his
commissions and all of his pro-rated expenses and benefits are
paid. If things dont work out after six months and he is terminated, you may have invested $60,000 or more for meager
revenues. Now lets apply this scenario to our virtual model.
Lets say we hire Jane and another sales agent named Ron
on a contract basis. Their salaries are zero, their expenses are
zero, their benefit plans are zero, and they will provide their
own phone service and Internet connectivity. Well estimate
that they can work 10 to 20 hours per week each, and well pay
them commissions of, say, 15 percent of the gross sale. If a sale
is $80,000, they will get $12,000. If they produce $1 million in
sales together, we will pay out a total of $150,000. This is somewhat comparable to the Kevin example, except our initial exposure is almost non-existent, and were not burdened by the
incremental expenses found in traditional venues. Jane and
Ron are happier and more motivated, however, because they
are working on a part-time, completely flexible basis without
any significant pressure or management oversight. In other
words, its up to them how they achieve our mutual goals. If
they are not working out, weve paid out nothing. Because we
dont pay anything unless they are producing, our management
requirements are substantially less. We feel less burdened to
allocate the management time traditional companies would
normally allocate with someone who would cost more than
$100,000 per year. Its a truly liberating management style,
working environment, and virtual company culture.

The Virtual Interview

Though your risks are lower, you still want to optimize

your virtual interview process to ensure that youre selecting
the best possible candidate; after all, even a virtual contractor
takes up some of your valuable time. Virtual interviews are, in

m Virtual Hiring and Virtual People Management

many ways, similar to in-person interviews. You should carefully

screen all resumes. You should require each candidate to create
an e-mail cover letter. The cover letter should be specific about
the job opportunity and your company. For example, you can
ask candidate to Provide a cover letter detailing your interest
in this specific opportunity and our company. This ensures you
are receiving an actual ad hoc writing sample as opposed to a
canned response.
At StartUpSelling, we get a better picture of a candidate
from their cover e-mail (letter) than we do from their resume.
The cover letter conveys their organizational abilities, thinking
process, and attention to detail. We pass on many candidates
who cannot accomplish this simple task successfully. We also
ask candidates to review our Website prior to our virtual interview, and during our interview we ask a series of five questions,
one of which is to ask them to synthesize our value proposition
in their own words. This helps determine how much time they
spent on our Website, how well they assimilate information,
and how interested they are in our opportunity. If they are a
telemarketing candidate, we ask them to give us a role-play
run-through of their favorite phone pitch. If they are a graphic
artist or Web designer, after reviewing their portfolio, we give
them a quick and simple job, be it a client job or a mockup. If
a Web designer does not provide a link to their portfolio, we
move on to the next candidate. Our contractors are expected
to understand the importance of a Web presence, or, at a minimum, they need to prove they are comfortable working in a
home-office-based environment.
Our virtual meeting software does a great job for our interviews (GoToMeeting), allowing us to share materials and
even see each other on camera should we so desire. We also
use Skype, a free computer-to-computer telephony, video
calling, and instant messaging solution. On Skypes Website
they say, It works seamlessly with your internet connection
you can chat away with free Skype-to-Skype calls and never
m 173

m Your Virtual Success

worry about cost, time or distance. Share the love and get
your friends to download Skype so you can talk, instant message (IM) or make video calls for nothing. You can also make
calls to phones and mobiles at home and abroad at great rates
too. Skype is an amazing solution and is increasingly popular
with Generation Z, and will change the way we communicate.
Weve used it for telephone and video calls across the globe
for zero cost. Its a great hiring and management tool, and, for
contractors or prospective candidates who dont have Skype,
its an excellent and simple test to determine if they have the
basic abilities to download and utilize this virtual tool. Hiring
is easier because it is far less costly and much easier to terminate a contract and select someone new. After all, were simply
changing contractors; were not firing full-time employees. Yet
our turnover is extremely low at StartUpSelling, Inc., in part
because our contractors and sales agents are essentially selfemployed and running their own business. If we boil down
the ocean, we can conclude that people who are productive,
well compensated, and independent, and who make their own
schedules tend to be very happy with the results.
You need to create a list of interview questions germane
to your virtual business. The best questions elicit longer responses, resulting in a conversation as opposed to a narrow
question-and-answer format. There are thousands of sources,
styles, and theories about interviewing, and I cant say that
I subscribe to any specific, named methodology. I created a
list of 10 questions I ask in almost every virtual interview, and
would suggest you do the same. My top-10 questions revolve
1. Prior experience; ability to work independently.
2. Validation they have worked from home.
3. Flexibility; ability to shift gears with a changing

m Virtual Hiring and Virtual People Management

4. Understanding of the B2B marketplace.

5. Contractor-oriented perspective.
6. Responsibility and stability (they can deliver and
have limited need for supervision).
7. Verbal communication skills and phone presence
(depending upon the position).
8. Written communication abilities (will seek to
validate this predicated upon position).
9. Technical skills.
10. Track record/experience with similar projects.
One of my business colleagues was searching for a part-time
assistant. She was having problems attracting the right skill set
at the compensation level she desired. She had recently tried
a virtual assistant to replace an in-house assistant, but had not
found a compelling match. How are you trying to find these
assistants? I inquired. My colleague said she used Google or
Yahoo Internet searches to look for a virtual assistant or perused those who placed ads on Craigslist. Though this is not a
bad approach, there are much better approaches. One of the
best approaches is to place extremely specific ads in an online
venue where your target audience would find them. These ads
should be highly detailed, noting the precise skills, attributes,
experience level, hours, availability, and fee structure desired,
as I described earlier in this chapter. My colleague followed
this advice to the letter, placed an ad in Craigslist, and within
two weeks hired the perfect virtual assistant at the targeted
hourly rate. Her virtual assistant still works for her to this day.
Think of hiring in terms of a virtual pull as opposed to a virtual push. Pull the people you want to consider, cull, and hire
the best and brightest contractors available to fit your specific

m 175

m Your Virtual Success

Youve Made the Hire. Now What?

Once weve hired a contractor, its fast and easy to integrate

them into our team. Using SaaS solutions, my infrastructure
costs are almost zero. I added Jane and another contractor
Ill call Ron, to my GoDaddy-based e-mail accounts. The
additions cost nothing and took seconds to complete; I also
added Jane and Ron to my Contact Management Solution,
which costs about $100 per year, per user. My virtual contractors, and yours, should be granted limited access to these
applications and never given administrative rights. This type
of control should always be in your hands. With most SaaS solutions, its really easy to do. Your contractors should sign contractor agreements with their contractor/project description,
compensation and expectations, confidentiality agreements,
and appropriate non-competes, and submit information for
their 1099s. Many of these types of agreements are available
on the Internet for free or a nominal fee. You may want to review these with your attorney or CPA. At StartUpSelling our
contractor agreement is one simple document and just a few
pages long.
When it comes to virtual people management, the benefits
of my virtual model continue to pay dividends. I dont need to
run motivational team-building meetings because these contractors are used to working independently and prefer it that
way. Gripe sessions and office gossip are essentially nonexistent. I have grown close to many of my contractor colleagues
and know them well from a virtual standpoint, which in some
cases means that I know how many children they have, their
spouses names, the best hours to call, what time they start
their days, and so forth, but I think they appreciate their independence most of all. Therefore, they always seem motivated
and I dont need to track individual, incremental productivity (calls, meetings, and proposals) for most contractor positions, other than the appointment setting positions. When you

m Virtual Hiring and Virtual People Management

combine a thoughtful approach to the specific needs of each

contractor with a substantial amount of autonomy, you instill
a strong sense of loyalty. One of my contractors, a Web designer, always seems to have his 1- and 2-year-olds right next
to him. He always appreciates that I dont mind the occasional
crying or outburst, and how I appreciate his professionalism,
responsiveness, and productivity. Because he never interacts
directly with my clients or prospects, and he always meets his
deadlines, we have a great virtual relationship.
It costs almost nothing to add more contractors in this model
if you seek to expand your virtual business. For example, if we
wanted more activity or to increase new clients, we could
hire five new sales agents or contractors, and would still be doing well if only a few of them produced significant revenues. As
a self-funded operation, it is difficult to fund and hire five new
full-time salespeople, and if you did you would have to hire at
least one sales manager to manage all those salespeople. This
old model is truly insidious from a cost standpoint. The sales
manager might want some administrative help; the administrator would need a desk, a phone, benefits, and so on. In a traditional model, more people often create more administrative
burdens, reporting, tracking, and associated overhead. If you
hire five sales people at a cost of $8,000 per month per sales
person (including salary, benefits, and expenses), plus $12,000
per month for a sales manager/vice president, you are already
spending more than $50,000 per month. Then you can add
more costs for administrative overhead, plus your brick-andmortar costs. Your cash burn could easily approach $1 million
per year. If you have to downsize because of a recession or
temporary slowdown in your industry, cutting back in this traditional model is very costly and painful.
This model is already problematic today, and will be noncompetitive for many companies in the future. Companies wishing to succeed in the future will need to go virtual and outsource.
They dont have to opt for offshore outsourcing, but they must
m 177

m Your Virtual Success

embrace virtual over brick-and-mortar. It will be too expensive

and take too long to ramp up traditionally to a sales force of
five, 10, or 15 salespeople. Beyond the cash flow challenges the
old brick-and-mortar sales manager/sales force model creates,
it also creates inherent management challenges our virtual
model streamlines and alleviates. The virtual model is a leaner,
cleaner, and more efficient model from every perspective.

Managing Contractors Virtually

How about the challenges of managing virtual contractors or employees? Unencumbered by the requirements of a
physical facility and location, I can hire employees anywhere,
allowing me to tap a vast reservoir of seasoned professionals. Because I use very experienced, seasoned businesspeople
who are accustomed to working on their own, I have far less
management and supervision needs. Most of my contractors
work with a quota or a deliverable and a deadline. We get to
test-drive their deliverables on small projects and incrementally expand their work. This is difficult to do in the traditional
brick-and-mortar, full-time employee model. Our contractors
either meet their deadlines or they dont. On the rare occasions when they do not, there are many virtual approaches for
resolution and refinement, or we simply move future projects
to a more competent contractor.
Our appointment setters are expected to work three or
four hours a day and attempt at least 20 calls each hour, and
if they only work two hours on Monday, they can make up the
time later in the week. They are responsible, self-motivated,
and often overqualified for their positions, but seek to do this
because it offers them flexibility. There are many professionals out there who have special circumstances and require a
highly flexible, work-from-home opportunity. As mentioned
earlier, this includes mothers hours and fathers hours, retirees, special circumstances (physical limitation, caring for a
parent at home, and so forth), and moonlighters looking for

m Virtual Hiring and Virtual People Management

extra income. These professionals are highly qualifiedin

fact, they are often overqualifiedand you can assemble a talented group without bank loans, angel investors, or venture
capitalists. If one of my contractors is receiving payments, they
are working on a project or earning commission. Rarely, do I
hire on spec, in advance of work to be done. This group of
brick-and-mortar, disenfranchised people offers virtual companies such as ours an amazing pool to draw upon.
One key ingredient to success is ensuring they have a professional environment from which they work, if they are customer facing. If they interact with the customers or prospects
over the phone, there cannot be barking dogs, crying babies,
screaming children, radio or television background noise, and
so on. This has to be made very clear: There are no exceptions.
They need a virtual office or dedicated time alone. If they are
to take incoming calls from clients or prospects, they should
answer their phone as Ann Smith! and their voice mail for
that line should simply say, You have reached the voice mail
of Ann Smith. Please leave a message after the tone and Ill
return your call.
Collaborating with virtual employees is simpler, easier,
and much more cost-effective with the online collaboration
tools now available. There are two basic categories: synchronous and asynchronous. Synchronous is often referred to
as real-time collaboration using tools such as Live Meeting,
Webex, and GoToMeeting. Asynchronous solutions (though
some of these now include synchronous options) include applications such as eRoom, Sharepoint, Groupwise, Alfresco, and
a plethora of other vendors. These asynchronous solutions allow users to store documents, write notes, maintain versioning
control, integrate workflow, communicate via instant messaging platforms, and perform many advanced functions appropriate for enterprise applications. Wikepedia has a listing and
comparison matrix of these solutions at
List_of_collaborative_software. The lines have blurred between
m 179

m Your Virtual Success

asynchronous and synchronous, and many applications incorporate both. Some of these applications are open source and
cost nothing to download and use (such as Alfresco); others
are simple group-oriented sharing tools provided for free by
Yahoo or Google, and there are low-cost, fee-based SaaS solutions also available. Lastly, there are enterprise solutions that
require a more substantial investment from companies such
as IBM or EMC. Your virtual operation will most likely need
simple collaboration tools to manage and interact with your
virtual contractors and employees. How will collaboration
tools help you with your virtual hiring and management?
kk You will travel less because your interactions will
be online.
kk You will be able to manage remotely as well as
you would manage employees in an office.
kk You can work with small or large groups online,
in real time.
kk You can record these meetings and replay the
information for training purposes.
kk You can work with employees, contractors,
prospects, and clients anywhere, at any time.
kk You can share documents in real time
(synchronously) or any time (asynchronously)
with your contractors and clients.
Collaboration tools are the backbone of your virtual business. One of the most basic forms of these tools could be construed as e-mail and instant messaging. These two applications
are pervasive and cost nothing to deploy. Instant messaging
(IM) can be an effective way to quickly and easily stay in touch
with employees and freelance contractors. At one small firm,
I used Yahoo Instant Messaging, and it worked well for our
distributed company of 30 employees. I think it works even

m Virtual Hiring and Virtual People Management

better for a virtual startup. You can create a naming convention to ensure consistency between all contractors or employees. However, IM is not an ideal way to communicate if you
need an audit trail. For most written communications, e-mail
is preferred. You can automatically save every incoming and
outgoing e-mail in Microsoft Outlook, or accomplish the same
in Google, though I recommend Outlook for any virtual business that is communicating with other businesses. At any time,
you can locate a proposal that was sent to a prospect, review a
fee-based commitment to a contractor, or check a client communication. The files get large over time, but older e-mails can
be archived or ultimately deleted if no longer applicable.
Instant messaging is a great way to validate that people
are at their virtual desks, if your operation runs that way.
Some people find IM to be intrusive and annoying. Depending
upon your type of business, you may want to use IM sparingly or not at all. Synchronous collaboration solutions such
as GoToMeeting, Webex, or Live Meeting are likely to be
the foundation of your virtual employee or contractor management methodology. These are ideal for brainstorming;
monthly, weekly, or daily meetings; sharing documents or diagrams real time; or quickly meeting each other on a regular
basis. We use GoToMeeting every day for these types of interactions. We also use Skype for quick video calls. Of course,
there is also the traditional telephone call, which is technically
a synchronous communication tool, whether you use VoIP or
a regular, carrier-based line. With all of the cloud computing
tools available today, virtual hiring and management are easier
than hiring in person, and for many virtual companies much
more likely to result in success.
There are many methods to manage your virtual team.
For example, keep a running list of all deliverables and deadlines in a spreadsheet, in Outlook, or even in a formal project
manager. Be sure your contractors religiously adhere to the
m 181

m Your Virtual Success

rule of making their deadlines, or giving advance notice if they

cannot. Not long ago, I discontinued using a talented graphic
artist who had missed two deadlines and submitted work that
was below par. You should always have a contractor in reserve
should you need to make a change. You can approach this as
a primary and secondary contractor as you parse out work, or,
as your virtual business expands, you may have a handful of
capable contractors for any given task. You should have a twoor three-strike rule for your contractors, and always have these
backup contractors available to fill the void.
Your pay-for-performance, virtual contractor model will
be a much better and less cash-intensive method than the old
brick-and-mortar hiring scenarios that are still commonplace.
By leveraging the virtual hiring and management techniques
we reviewed, your path to profitability and likelihood for success is a quantum leap above the traditional systems in use by
most companies today.


Chapter 10

Expanding Your

n every regard it is easier to expand a virtual business than

a traditional brick-and-mortar business. It is also easier to
contract a virtual business. The virtual model readily allows for
ebbs and flows, including dynamic and uncontrollable changes
to the economy. This inherent elasticity will allow your virtual
business to optimize up cycles and minimize the challenges
of down cycles. Once you have achieved a solid virtual business foundation, you can expand vertically or horizontally in
any promising area. Once you determine your path for expansion, you will not need to invest significant time or money in
your expansion trials. Unlike traditional business expansion,
you need not worry about finding a prime physical location for
your business, dispatching a logistics person to analyze traffic
patterns, conducting on-site interviews, or printing thousands
of flyers to canvass a neighborhood. You wont spend time or
money on a snail-mail postal campaign, attend a ribbon-cutting
ceremony for your new location, invest up-front in a large staff,
or design and decorate a new storefront window. If you expand
your virtual business correctly, you may not have to move from
your favorite chair.

m 183

m Your Virtual Success

Expand Vertically and Geographically

If its Monday and you are providing telemarketing services in Connecticut, by Friday you can provide these services
in California. On Tuesday, if you have a virtual business selling
specialized educational items for kindergarten to third grade,
by Thursday you can expand your line to kindergarten through
12th grade (K-12). Remember: Your model will ensure that
you wont have to prepay, stock, or plan inventory for a single
item. This week, if you are selling consulting services across
America, next week you can sell them internationally. Unlike a
restaurant that can take six to 12 months and a million dollars
to open, you can expand your virtual business in a few days or a
few weeks. You can communicate anywhere, present and demonstrate at will, and respond to inquiries or service calls from
any venue, and you can do all of these things virtually and cost
effectively as you expand. Perhaps you will consider expanding
your existing gourmet food delivery service business by adding a mail-order food-related business. Or you might consider
expanding from local gourmet delivery to a larger geography
by leveraging faster and innovative delivery options. You can
offer your own homemade sauces through an outsourced manufacturer or, if you want to go truly virtual, offer a Webinarbased cooking class using your secret sauce recipe. If you are
running an on-line antiques business, you can expand to other
collectables by adding a Website or revised eMarketing campaign and a new target list. If you have a virtual telemarketing services company, you can add eMarketing services or lead
generation consulting services in a few weeks or even a few
days. As you consider your best methods of expansion, make
sure you think of ways you can receive all or part of your order
payments up front, before you deliver your product or service.
If your idea does require significant brick and mortar, and/or
you cannot collect payment up front, start over, and rethink
the expansion plan. Of course, one of the easiest methods to
expand your existing virtual business is to invest in more sales

m Expanding Your Virtual Business

agents, PPC advertising, eMarketing, or other cost-effective,

non-cash-intensive virtual methods weve discussed previously
in Chapters 6, 7, and 8.
A key point to remember is you will drive demand first,
and then invest to fulfill this demand. This means client orders, payments, or deposits precede delivery. Whenever possible sales contractors are paid on performance or their time
is billable toward an existing client order. Your entire team
will consist of contract-based and outsourced personnel. If you
are selling a new line of custom hats, do not order 500 hats
with the hope of selling them; you want to drive demand and
be ready to fulfill these orders very quickly, and your virtual
methodology must ensure your business model works in this
way. In other words, your virtual hat business should be able
to create and deliver custom hat orders, at the drop of a hat.

Contraction Is Easier in a Virtual Model

If the economy is spiraling downward, causing a slowdown

for your current virtual business, you can easily reduce time
and expense with your existing virtual business while rapidly
adding another business line targeting a recession-resistant
market. Look at market trends, hot industries, niche opportunities, and untapped markets. Focus on your core competencies and then leverage these abilities in complementary or
growing markets. Continuing with our prepared food service
business example, you could offer a value meal line, and alert
your customer base rapidly through an eMarketing or telemarketing campaign. During the current recessionary cycle, a local gourmet restaurant started eMarketing prospective clients
offering gourmet meals delivered directly to their homes. This
is a great idea, and, though this restaurant still has significant
overhead from their traditional brick-and-mortar business,
they are virtualizing their business by increasing their reach
without increasing their overhead. They can receive orders,
bill deposits for those orders on a credit card, then purchase
m 185

m Your Virtual Success

inventory, and deliver the dinners later in the week. This restaurant owner obviously sees this as a small virtual step. eMarketing their services and delivery of their gourmet meals is a
path to better profits, and offers a faster and less-expensive
way to virtual expansion than adding a second location. This
method can be used to enhance growth, expand the business,
and improve profitability of many traditional brick-and-mortar
businesses. Of course, if your business is already virtual, youre
a giant step ahead.
Any virtual business can procure a list of new prospects,
expand to a more diverse market, and target these new prospects with existing products or services, or a completely new
offering. If you were providing marketing services, you could
lower your price point and focus on a narrower and less-expensive offering. If you have a lead generation business, you could
add eMarketing services as opposed to cold calling services. If
you were in an economic growth cycle you could attack a growing market segment, perhaps revolving around eco-friendly
products, or if you were in an economic retraction you could
target a different, recession-resistant niche. If you had been
targeting banking, you could move to insurance. If you were
working with insurance carriers, you could sell to insurance
agencies. If you were selling to oil companies, you could market to wind turbine companies. If you were targeting state and
local government, you could add federal government. Or if
you were B2C and targeting middle income, you could target
high-net-worth (HNW) clients. Conversely, if your brick-andmortar restaurant is located in a particular area of town, it is
far more challenging to drive business to that physical location than it is to identify and market to a new online target
market. Imagine the challenges of a brick-and-mortar business
located near General Motors after GM declared bankruptcy
and downsized by thousands of workers. A virtual business can
target any market, anywhere, and sell 24/7, without having to
move the operation, or even move from your chair.

m Expanding Your Virtual Business

Lets say you have a client behavioral research business

that studies consumer behavior through online focus groups.
Perhaps you have been targeting technology companies and
wish to expand to a new market. Following the methods reviewed in this book, you could rapidly test your new market
and add it to your existing business in a matter of weeks. Many
of my early clients were solely interested in telemarketingbased lead generation. Telemarketing is a challenging and
labor-intensive business, and works much better when combined with other lead generation services such as eMarketing
and Web seminars. Within a couple of months, I was able to
add eMarketing, Web seminar marketing, client testimonial
services, and Website design, significantly expanding revenues
without expanding infrastructure costs. Virtual expansion can
be accomplished many ways, including new markets, product
lines, services, and solutions. Think in virtual terms by hiring
contractors and leveraging other peoples talents, without raising overhead. Think in terms of new marketing campaigns
around the repackaging of your existing products and services.
When thinking virtually, do not think geographically. There is
no limit to your sales and marketing boundaries when seeking
profitability in an online world.

Expand Internationally

You can sell and market internationally, using such vehicles as eBay, Craigslist, PPC ads, banner ads, affiliate programs
with companies such as Amazon, RSS Feeds, and of course your
own Website and eMarketing campaigns. If you have been selling antiques in North America, you can offer them internationally. If you provide translation services for South America, you
can offer them for European languages, hiring freelance contract translators locally, nationally, or globally. If you are in the
lead generation business, you could add video services, Website
development, Web seminar services, and PowerPoint design
m 187

m Your Virtual Success

and coaching, to mention just a few areas of our own expansion. If youre selling in the United States, its very easy to expand to Canada, and, for many types of virtual companies, you
can expand globally by leveraging the Internet tools available.
If you need to do a presentation to London, its a snap to do
it with GoToMeeting. You could also Skype anywhere in the
world for free. (We just completed a free call to India.) If you
need to arrange a training session in Sydney, Australia, once
again, costs are negligible and the technology is simple when
we use GoToWebinar. Your geographic boundaries disappear
once youve gone virtual.
Your virtual expansion can be accomplished in days or
weeks. If your virtual market tests provide lackluster results,
try another product, service, solution, or target market. After
all, its not as if you opened up a store, restaurant, or warehouse. Traditional expansion obstacles are minimized in the
virtual model, readily addressable with a preponderance of resources available to you online. Your virtual model will allow
you to hire qualified resources to help you with your expansion
efforts, anywhere, any place, and at any time.
As you expand, what about the human resource issues, paperwork, and payments for your expanding workforce? Our
virtual model ensures these efforts will be modest in comparison to traditional companies. If you leverage contractors as
you expand and outsource your manufacturing and distribution, you just need a contractor agreement and their tax ID
number. (Its always good to check your specific requirements
with your CPA.) You can pay by check, bank transfer, company credit card, or PayPal. Many of my contractors are now
paid through PayPal. They complete their work, and within 24
hours the cash is in their PayPal account. I can do this from
Boston, Barcelona, or anywhere I have Internet access, and
send payments to wherever they reside, be it in Rome, New
York, or Rome, Italy.

m Expanding Your Virtual Business

Rapid Virtual Test Marketing

Test-market your new virtual business expansion concept

before investing too much time or money in the operation. You
can test-market your concept inexpensively in several ways:
kk Select several keywords and leverage PPC (Pay
Per Click) advertising to determine demand.
kk Send an e-mail to existing or prospective clients
about your new product.
kk Initiate a telemarketing campaign to gauge
kk Hire contract sales agents with experience in your
new target market on a pay-for-performance
kk Offer a Web seminar to test out the concept on
your new target market.
kk Offer a performance incentive to your current
contract sales force.
There are dozens of cost-effective virtual approaches to
test marketing the expansion of your new business. The single
most important aspect, however, is to identify demand, and
then fulfill it. If youre selling a new line of imported silk custom hats, queue up your orders (or positively identify demand)
before importing or manufacturing these. Even better, negotiate the exclusive U.S. rights and drop ship your hats. Virtual
expansion, like our fundamental virtual business, means low
overhead, high profits, and investment after demand is created. As you test-market your new offering, remember the
closed ROI loop you should leverage to determine profitability. If your PPC ad campaign costs $100 per month, and you
are receiving custom silk hat orders of $1,000 per month and
each hat has a 50-percent profit margin, you will earn $400 per
month ($1,000 x 50 percent = $500 less $100 PPC = $400). Is
m 189

m Your Virtual Success

it worthwhile for you to do this? How much time does it take?

If you increase PPC ads to $200 per month, will your sales
double, resulting in $800 per month profits? How much profit
do you need to earn to make this new business line worth your
time and effort?
eService businesses such as consulting services or marketing services expand very easily. Profit margins should be very
high, and of course nobody should be working unless a contract
has been signed and the time is billable. Because my company,
StartUpSelling, Inc., does everything virtually, I have found
little or no difference in my contracts with U.S. companies,
Canadian companies, European companies, or Australian
companies. Other than the time zone difference and, on rare
occasion, language translation, everything seems to work in a
very similar manner. Every businessperson with whom I have
worked speaks English (it is the common business language
that currently ties the world together) and, on the rare occasion someone sends an e-mail in a different language, we
simply translate it with one of the free online translation tools
such as Babel Fish. If you are a B2C business and need more
extensive translation for your Website, some hosting providers
offer this service; or you can find a preponderance of quality
translation companies over the Internet, hire a local contractor, or even offer a local contractor a fee based upon your international sales.
Lastly, predicated upon your business, you can still market
globally in English. In an online world, geographic, political,
and language boundaries often disappear. If the new business expansion campaign does not look promising, pull the
plug rapidly and try again. Because you are not investing in
any significant way up-front, it is easy to stop your campaign
and try a new offering a week later. Unlike the physical restaurant in our earlier example, if nobody wants your online
caviar, you can offer smoked salmon. If you sell collectable
dolls online and intend to offer collectable actions figures,

m Expanding Your Virtual Business

test-market your new line on your Website, in an eBay online

store, in a Craigslist or eBay ad, in a Google PPC ad, or via the
many other no-cost or low-cost options available to you. If the
response looks promising, you can quickly expand your time
investment and reach, and incrementally expand your advertising budget.

Go Virtual, Not Physical

Leveraging your virtual model allows you to entertain and

expand almost any new business venture without opening a
physical location. The possibilities are almost endless and the
resources necessary to expand are all online, and most are very
inexpensive or even free. Lets say you are an independent
recruiter placing individuals with high-tech companies in the
Boston area. You would like to expand, but need to meet with
candidates before referring them to your select group of clients. Today, you can expand nationally in the blink of an eye
using remote meeting software, video and cameras, or Skype
video calls, along with the business-oriented social networking sites such as LinkedIn, Spoke, and Plaxo. Dont underestimate the growing value of social networking (Facebook,
YouTube, Twitter), and the leverage of virtual PR and RSS
Feeds for some virtual endeavors. You can create and join
online groups, post questions, post responses, glean leads,
expand your contacts, and research esoteric subjects. What is
the best free CRM software? Where do I find the best caviar?
What is the fastest-growing alternative energy business? Who
can I contact about word-of-mouth marketing? Who is the
best publicist for my type of business? Is it true that I can do
my own PR, and, if so, how can I accomplish this? All of these
questions can be asked and answered through LinkedIn and
other business social networking sites, and of course the many
publications to be found on these subjects.
As you contemplate your expansion trials, its always advisable to seek out resources. I frequently download business
m 191

m Your Virtual Success

books to my Kindle, peruse the book store, and surf the Web
to glean ideas and concepts to reach prospective customers. I
recently finished two books. One was called 151 Quick Ideas
for Advertising on a Shoestring by Jean Jaochim,1 which offers
quick and interesting snapshots of cost-effective advertising
options including self-generated PR, blogging, sweepstakes,
contests, PPC, banner ads, and remnant ad space. Another
recent read was The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David
Meerman Scott,2 offering thoughts on the changing world of
marketing and PR, and the many Internet tools now available
to all of us. There is an abundance of supplementary materials
available to help stoke your virtual idea furnace to help expand
your virtual business. Use these to your competitive advantage
for your virtual expansion.

Leverage the Contractor Model

As you hire new contractors to help with your expansion,

further refine your hiring process. Spend some time reviewing
and formalizing your virtual interviewing process, candidate
survey, writing and technical proficiency testing systems, or
other applicable virtual tests for your contractors. Its easy to
schedule multiparty interviews and review all aspects of the
candidate profile online for negligible costs. If you are using
GoToMeeting, Webex, or a comparable solution, you will
have unlimited online meeting and conference call capabilities to facilitate this. Online meetings can include video if your
candidates have video capabilities on their PC, or use Skype
if you like to meet your contractor candidates face to face,
and do so at no cost. The virtual interview process is crucial for
your expansion efforts; create a candidate qualification profile, leverage a trial period, hire on a contract basis whenever
possible, and utilize pay-for-performance models. These crucial components maximize your upside while minimizing your
downside expansion risks. Remember: If a contract sales agent

m Expanding Your Virtual Business

is only 50 percent of their target goal, in a leveraged model

such as ours, they are still profitable for your expanding business. In a traditional model, when you are paying their salary
and associated costs, you would be losing a significant amount
of money on this hire.
You can advertise for your contract positions for free or
for a truly modest fee through CraigsList, LinkedIn, and many
other online mediums. You can search for candidates through
eLance, Guru, or even a Google search. You can even advertise on a fee basis with or other fee-for-service
online recruiting tool if the earlier methods suggested are not
producing sufficient results. Recruiters can be utilized for key
executive hires in the event you dont have the time or cannot find the right fit for a key position, once your virtual business is generating significant profits to cost-justify this type of
position. Some recruiters operate on a flat-fee retainer basis;
others operate on a commission basis. In the former instance,
you have to pay regardless of the outcome; in the latter you
pay if and when you hire the candidate. Recruiters can be very
helpful, but make sure the recruiter selected understands your
virtual model. Fees can be substantial, so you really need to
make sure youve exhausted your other, less-costly avenues
before engaging a recruiter. Candidly, for many virtual businesses, particularly those leveraging the contractor model, you
may never use a recruiter. Over the last six years, I have not.
You can expand your sales agent base without adding
up-front expense, as you might in a traditional model. If you
want to add eight new sales agents, two in each quadrant of
the United States, your time is essentially your only cost. Your
expansion risks are dramatically lower in this model, and you
cannot get burned with a large cash outlay that never pays
dividends. You can leverage the same model in any region,
including North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and
so forth. The sales agent or contractor model works well most
anywhere the Internet will reach.
m 193

m Your Virtual Success

You can also expand your business via traditional methods.

Even though you are a virtual company, you can still attend
local networking opportunities at the Rotary Club, BNI, the
chamber of commerce, the college(s) you attended, or other
applicable local groups. You can attend trade shows, professional society meetings, or conferences. However, as you expand, because you have perfected the virtual model, you can
do so more quickly and profitably by limiting in-person meetings and travel, and optimizing your online activities.

Think Virtually

You can use creative approaches to expand your current

business. You could consider a type of virtual franchising of
your core business, allowing others to replicate your results.
You could bring aboard a contractor-based partner, letting
them create a replica of your business in a different space and
agreeing on a profit-sharing model. You could hire a virtual
general manager, letting them run your business while you
create a new virtual business. You could create a different
virtual division, allowing you to target a new market while
keeping your virtual team small and focused. Perhaps you
might want to target new regions or countries for the same
product or service you are offering. In all cases, your virtual
expansion should incorporate the virtual elements that ensure high margins, low costs, and limited risks. Not long ago,
a colleague decided to start up his own business focusing on
sales process, sales strategy consulting, closing methodologies, and Website testimonial video libraries. He assembled
a first-rate team of independent contractors and outsource
partner companies, created an impressive Website, met with
all of these contractors virtually, and then embarked upon an
eMarketing and Web seminar campaign. Id estimate the total time for him to create this virtual organization to be about
60 days. He then expanded his offerings to include marketing services and lead generation services. His costs were truly

m Expanding Your Virtual Business

negligible; he had no brick-and-mortar infrastructure, no

servers or IT staff, no salaries, and no utilitiesessentially
no costs of any kind. He started a virtual business and closed
his first client within 90 days, and then quickly expanded his
service offerings.
Let me offer another example to illustrate the creation
and expansion of a virtual business. GuidePoint Media, LLC,
offers an online information resource and publication with
highly focused custom content for software users. The content is created by a small virtual team that relies on outside
contractors and contributors. Adam Berezin, GudiePoints
co-founder and CEO, initially focused on revenues from electronic newsletter sponsorships and banner advertising.
He then expanded his offerings to include highly focused
lead generation programs and virtual trade shows to further
fuel revenues for his growing organization. Most importantly,
Adam added the new virtual trade show offering by leveraging
existing software platforms to limit any capital expenditure for
his expansion. Adam worked in the traditional brick-and-mortar
trade show and content delivery space several years ago, allowing him to focus on these core competencies when he started
his virtual business. He thought traditional trade shows were
an outdated model and he could offer a better solution for the
attendees to glean the information they sought at a trade show,
a significant portion of which is related to technical content.
Thus his business started by focusing on rich content delivery.
Delivering on-demand content is a simple and easy way
to reach a Web audience but can be a challenge for any company. GuidePoint Medias Website, with its complex content
management and delivery system, would have cost hundreds of
thousands of dollars to develop. Instead of searching for funding, angel investors, or venture capitalists, Adam reached out
to his network, found a talented colleague who had the technical acumen to develop this site, and offered equity in return
for building this sophisticated virtual trade show and content
m 195

m Your Virtual Success

delivery Website. Instead of starting his business laden with

debt, Adam was, as he succinctly states, profitable from the
get go, and is a viable and profitable virtual business today.
Readers of GuidePoint Medias online publications register to receive up-to-date articles, case studies, and white
papers, and can also attend GuidePoint Medias virtual trade
shows. GuidePoint Media then offers advertising and lead generation information to software vendors, who can reach out to
the registered users who are interested in a specific service,
feature, or function based on the content they downloaded
or information they requested. Virtual trade show registrants
can attend from the convenience of their desktops, eliminating travel and wasted time. For many registrants, the numberone reason to attend a trade show is based upon information
and content, and Adams attendees glean this information in
one-tenth the time and without cost. Say hello to virtual trade
shows and goodbye to traditional fly, drive, and park brickand-mortar trade shows.
Adam offers the following advice for virtual businesses:
Focus on a narrow market as opposed to attacking a huge
market. Specialize in a narrow niche and avoid broad markets.
Leverage complimentary product offerings to expand the business and keep costs down through a contractor and outsource
business model. GuidePoint Medias flagship Website, www., is hosted on an outsource basis by a
high throughput, secure hosting provider for a fraction of what
it would cost to host it in-house. GuidePoint Media utilizes a
cloud computing virtual trade show vendor to provide the infrastructure for their online trade shows to keep IT infrastructure costs to a minimum. This model also allows GuidePoint
Media to expand significantly for a truly modest cost. As they
add users, content, and functionality, their monthly costs have remained essentially flat. GuidePoint Media keeps ongoing costs
low by leveraging at-home contractors and working within this

m Expanding Your Virtual Business

virtually based business infrastructure. Adam is currently considering a white paper creation service for his sponsors, and
is test-marketing this concept without investing in the solution up-front, through a creative virtual approach. GuidePoint
Media LLC created the prototypical virtual business and is
now expanding profitably through the virtual model. You can
do this, too.
As you expand your business, there are many online opportunities to help you. Take advantage of virtual trade shows,
virtual associations, and virtual work groups. These organizations focus on bringing people together online as opposed
to traditional on-site meetings. They will run Web seminars
and offer bulletin boards, remote mentoring, statistics, advice, and resources. They can help you expand your network
without ever requiring a face-to-face meeting (though you can
always look someone in the eye with real-time video conferencing when needed). Check out the American Marketing
Association Website (, the Small
Business Administration Website (, or any local small business association. There are many home office/
telecommuting sites, including the Telework Coalition (www. You can review articles, information, and advice
from Inc. (, or try Internet searches for small
business, SOHO (Small Office Home Office), and virtual business. Join LinkedIn and other business social network sites,
and make sure you join several of the groups offered. These
are a great source for information and advice. Subscribe to
blogs and RSS Feeds, and dont underestimate the value of
Wikipedia when looking for resources or simply a definition of
the latest Internet buzzword.
Expanding your virtual business can be fun and profitable,
and is always easier than expanding a brick-and-mortar operation. Remember to rapidly run your virtual trials, stay true to
your core competencies, operate on the assumption that most
m 197

m Your Virtual Success

business ideas can have a virtual twist, and rethink ideas requiring large up-front investments or a long path to sales and
profits. If you follow these rules, you can find a path to expand
your existing virtual business, or to add a virtual profit center
to your existing traditional business.


Chapter 11

A Virtual

have an answer to our energy crisis. Perhaps a more accurate statement would be there is a relatively easy way for us
to dramatically reduce our current fuel consumption. Consider
the impact if there was a truly significant increase in the percentage of businesses and white-collar workers embracing the
virtual model. If 25 percent of current commuters worked virtually from their home offices, there would be a precipitous
drop in energy consumption, traffic issues, and commuting
expense. I mention white-collar works solely because many
spend their days working on a PC, and communicating via e-mail
and telephone. There are many blue-collar workers who can
also work from home or begin their days working from their
own home office.
Commuting an hour each way to an office is dumb; homebased offices are smart. Working and commuting 11 hours
each day is dumb; a productive seven- or eight-hour virtual
day is smart. Today, office buildings are a dumb idea; virtual
businesses are smart. Dont get me wrong: Towering skyscrapers composed of brick-and-mortar offices and cubicles made
sense at one time, but with the advent of pervasive Internet
connectivity and virtual meeting tools, these office buildings
m 199

m Your Virtual Success

are rapidly becoming an anachronism. Today it is absurd for

a million office-based workers to commute into a large city,
park their cars, walk into assorted and sundry office buildings,
and spend 99 percent of their time working from their PCs,
talking on the phone, and communicating through e-mail and
online Web meetings. Yet that is the typical day for many office-based personnel. For those who need to meet face to face,
they can do so using advanced virtual video meeting tools, and
commuting perhaps one day a week to a physical office. Do
people really need to meet face to face? Is this a need or a
want? I often hear that I need to meet people face to face.
During the last six years, Ive never met 99 percent of my contractors, clients, or prospective clients, and millions of dollars
have been exchanged between my contractors and clients. Yes,
there are times where a handshake and face-to-face meeting
are truly important, but look for these instances to be intertwined with progressively more virtual meetings, particularly
with the next generation of businesspeople.

Toms 2- to 3-Hour Commute

During a recent round of golf (yes, another tough day at

my virtual office), I met a young man who had just graduated
from college. Lets call him Tom. He was embarking on a career as commercial lender and, in a soft economy, feeling very
fortunate about his opportunity. He lives close to me but lamented about working near Medford, Massachusetts, which
is about 28 miles away. Its normally about a 35-minute drive,
but during commuting hours its a nasty 75-minute drive each
way. On bad days, it is three hours round trip. What did Tom
do during his typical day at his office? He estimated almost all
of his time was spent on the phone or on e-mail interacting
with business clients and prospective clients. The balance of
his time was spent interacting with internal personnel, but 99
percent of this was on the phone or using e-mail. His manager
was located in a different office and was not on-site. Lastly,

m A Virtual Conclusion

he spent an estimated five minutes a day interacting face to

face with his associates. He said, Ive requested a transfer to
a closer branch. I dont really need to go into that office. I
asked why he needed to go into an office at all, as opposed to
working from home. He said that on rare occasion he had to
look at paper-based files, but those files would soon be digital,
eliminating all functional reasons for the long commute. He
saw no reason why he needed to be traditionally office-based
as opposed to a virtual office in his home. He said it would
make him much more productive if he could work from home,
and he is not alone in this assessment.
Look at these compelling quotes from the Telework
Coalition Website:1
kk Teleworkers who worked at home during business
hours at least one day per month increased in the
past year from 23.5 million to 24.1 million, a 2.6
percent increase. Of that 24.1 million, 16.5 million
are self employed.
kk In 2003 there were 4.4 million teleworkers working at home with broadband. By 2004 the number
soared to 8.1 million, an 84-percent increase.
2004 American Interactive Consumer Survey
conducted by The Dieringer Research Group
kk JD Edwards teleworkers are from 20 to 25 percent
more productive than their office workers.
Chicago Sun Times, 10/99
kk A 40-minute commute equates to eight working
weeks per year.
Colorado Telework Coalition
kk IBM reduced real estate costs in the U.S. by from
40 to 60 percent.
Telecommuting Review
m 201

m Your Virtual Success

kk Telework can cut corporate real estate costs from

25 to 90 percent.
PC World
kk It is estimated that 100 million U.S. workers will
Telecommute by 2010.
Kiplinger, 12/00
Toms story is indicative of millions of people today who
continue to work in the old modelthe brick-and-mortar
model and the energy-consuming commuter modelfor no
apparent gain and many obvious losses. Imagine how much
more productive Tom could be if we cut out his daily commute
and improved his life by granting him more than two hours of
free time each day. What would he do with it? What would you
do with it? Perhaps he would take 45 minutes and exercise,
feel energized, and be better able to function at a high level
of work productivity. Perhaps there was a greater strategic or
long-term project goal that Tom could do, but needed an extra
30 minutes a day to accomplishwhich had been obliterated
by his commute. Perhaps Tom would change his work schedule from a modestly productive six hours to a truly productive
eight hours because he would be more motivated to work without a difficult and laborious commute.
And its not just the commute. Tom has to get ready for
work every morning, get up early, shower, shave, don a suit
and tie, load up his laptop case, and then get to work. On a
bad day, Tom probably spends four hours preparing to work
when we include his prep time, round-trip commute, and winddown time. This brick-and-mortar office model is no longer
a competitive model, and, for many office workers and businesses, this brick-and-mortar model is an invitation to fail, and
fail in the near term. This is true for many large companies
needing to embrace the telecommuter model, and for many
small businesses yet to embrace the virtual model. Today, the

m A Virtual Conclusion

non-virtual, brick-and-mortar model represents a fast path to

failure for many types of businesses. Your business needs to go
virtual to be competitive.

Taking a Photography Business Virtual Is a Snap

A good friend of mine is an excellent photographer who

owns a photography studio not far from where we live. He recently commented that his industry was facing pricing pressures
from work-from-home photographers who benefited from really low overhead. Photographers do need studios to do some
of their work, but there are many ways to work around this
brick-and-mortar challenge. A studio can be set up in a homebased office, or, as the need arises, a photographer could rent
a studio on demand. A portrait sitting requires a screen for
a backdrop, lighting, a changing room for the person having
the portrait, and of course some camera equipment. If you
want to review the digital photos on site, a laptop would be required. Photographers who like to have this equipment ready
to go, but dont want to work from their homes or drag around
equipment, could also pool their resources and create a co-op
for a local studio. Regardless, many in his industry have begun
the transition to virtual and will force others to change to remain competitive.
There are many tactile jobs requiring on-site, brick-andmortar operations, including car mechanics, surgeons, hair
stylists, dentists, chefs, waiters and waitresses, and construction
workers, to mention a few. But there are millions of people who
dont need to commute, dont want to commute, and complain
chronically about their dilemma. These include financial advisors, realtors, sales executives, marketing managers, publicists,
customer service representatives (for many industries), reservationists, personal assistants, and, as online college courses
are now proving, even professors and teachers. This is the tip
of the iceberg. On the small street on which I live, with a dozen
four bedroom colonial homes, there are already three people
m 203

m Your Virtual Success

I know of working from their virtual home offices, including

a contract engineer, a Realtor, and a consultant. Of course
theres also my own virtual company. The transition to virtual
is happening now.

The Video Is a Little Dark. Whats up With That?

Let me illustrate some of the virtual changes that are impacting our behaviors today and are almost taken for granted
by the next generation. Recently, I came home to find my
daughter and her friend Christie sitting next to each other
in front of an HP laptop. There was a voice coming from the
laptop that sounded familiar to me; it was in fact coming from
their good friend Hannah. Hannah was in Sydney, Australia; my
daughter and her friend were in our living room in Boston. They
were engaged in a Skype video call. The connectivity was amazingly fast, and Hannahs real-time video, which consisted of her
head and shoulders and the background of her dorm room,
was impressive. She might as well have been in the town next
to us, never mind a continent more than 10,000 miles away.
Even more impressive, the call was free, and the software to
accomplish this downloaded in a couple of minutes. Welcome
to the next generation of technology: cloud computing.
According to the AT&T Website, AT&T began transatlantic telephone service in 1927 initially between the United
States and London. The initial capacity was one call at a time,
at a cost of $75 for the first three minutes. In 2009, on a free
Skype video call between Boston, Massachusetts, and Sydney,
Australia, that lasted about 30 minutes, one of the three girls
commented about the video looking a little darker than usual,
and said, Whats up with that?! Welcome to the next generation of buyers: Their expectations are high, as is their comfort
level with all things digital. If you want to sell to their generation, you need to understand the virtual world. And if you want
to set up a cost-effective virtual business, these are the types of
tools you can utilize to your advantage.

m A Virtual Conclusion

Opera, Newspapers, and Liseums

The virtual model levels the playing field, allowing you to

compete anywhere, anytime, and armed with superior tools
and greater efficiency. Your virtual operation tips the house
odds in your favor. Ive done it, and Ive included some examples of others who have successful virtual businesses. Listen
to what other virtual companies are doing; focus on your core
competencies and leverage your inherent strengths, and your
existing or new business will take off. For example, if both
you and your competitor have sales of $200,000 with a gross
margin of 50 percent, but their rent is $5,000 per month (plus
utilities, reception, furniture, and so forth) and your virtual
operation costs $500 per month, youre well on your way to a
highly successful business while they are barely covering their
costs. You would be netting close to $100,000 per year, and
they would be lucky to net $30,000 in this scenario. Does this
simple statement have long-term negative implications for the
office real estate market? Will the virtual model spell doom
and gloom for inner cities in the next century? Simulcasts such
as the New York Metropolitan Opera high-definition simulcast in major movie theaters of their famous opera lineup are
a leading indication that the world is embracing the virtual
model. On October 26, 2008, Jeremy Eichler of The Boston
Globe reported:
There is no mistaking its momentum. Back in December
2006, only one local theaterin Framingham
screened the first Met simulcast. Last year, the number of greater Boston theaters carrying the broadcasts
was up to seven, with 21,000 tickets sold. (By comparison, the combined attendance for all 18 of the Boston
Lyric Operas mainstage performances last season was
about 24,000.)
Look at the music industry. Not long ago, people used to
buy CDs at countless stores across the country, reminiscent of
m 205

m Your Virtual Success

the old days when we used to browse record stores and listen
to those vinyl grooved platters. Of course, you could buy an
entire album or just a two-sided single back in the day. More
recently, people purchased a full CD for $10 or $12 or more,
procuring several songs they might like along with many they
might not. Enter the MP3 and iPod, drastically changing the
industry and exploiting a better, cheaper, and virtual delivery
system. With the rise and fall of non-licensed music downloads, which was originally growing exponentially through
Napster and Kazaa, Apple and other online music distribution
services legitimized the new digital music business and offered
inexpensive, high-quality songs for only 99 cents per song.
Consumers could purchase the specific songs they wanted and
listen to them in whatever order they wished on tiny devices in
their homes, in their cars, or while walking, jogging, or simply
relaxing. Videos are soon to follow this model, as will anything
that can be changed to an electronic or digital format, and distributed in a virtual model as opposed to a brick-and-mortar
model. Look out Blockbuster and Netflix: Mailing DVDs to
homes will soon become a thing of the past. Cheaper distribution models inherently change industries, and do so in a permanent way. The virtual office is a much less costly and more
efficient method of work distribution than the traditional
brick-and-mortar method.
Here is an amusing story I like to tell. Once upon a time,
people would cut down thousands of trees, process the wood
into chips, process the chips into pulp, and convert the pulp
into paper. They would create giant rolls of paper and ship
the rolls to printing presses. There on the presses, they would
take thousands of gallons of ink and print stories and other
current informational items onto this paper. The paper would
be cut and folded and loaded onto big trucks. These trucks
would then deliver these packages to local distribution locations, to be once again loaded onto smaller trucks and cars,
which would ultimately fold the papers, stuff them into plastic

m A Virtual Conclusion

bags, and deliver them to individual homes. They were called

newspapers! Today you might not find this story very funny;
however, in 20 years it will be hysterical. Perhaps the day will
come even sooner. Traditional newspapers are a vanishing
breed, on the precipice of extinction. The distribution model
makes no sense in todays world; its much too expensive and
way too slow. I always enjoy hearing people say, But I like
the feel of a newspaper in my hand. I dont want to read it on
a screen. Yet it doesnt matter if traditionalists feel this way.
Newspapers are going the way of the horse-driven carriage
and the telegraph. They no longer make sense with our improved electronic information system, just as white-collar jobs
in a towering office building no longer make sense. And paper
newspapers certainly wont make sense to the teenagers now
using Skype to communicate on a global basis.
The publishing industry needs to take a cue from the music and newspaper industries. My recently purchased Amazon
Kindle is a marvel to use. It offers access to 300,000 books,
faster, cheaper, and more easily than you could get in a traditional model. I can type notes as Im reading, and my Kindle
keeps track of these notes. I can touch a button and display
the definition of any word from the built-in dictionary. I can
change the font size to make it easier to read, search for a
book from almost any location (free 3G connectivity), surf the
Web, or download the latest best-sellerall from a small, thin
device the size of a modest book (but much thinner). Lets say
I want to buy a hard-copy best-seller that retails for $27.99 at
Barnes & Noble. I have a couple of choices. I could drive to
the store, pick up a copy, and pay a discounted price of perhaps $20.99. I could pay $18.99 if I ordered it online (shipping
fees might apply). If I paid an annual store membership, my
price might only be $16.79. In all cases, however, I have to wait
to get the publication, or at least take the time to drive to the
store to pick it up. The Kindle version of the book costs $9.99
(or less), and I receive it immediately. It takes just a minute to
m 207

m Your Virtual Success

download from the virtual Kindle store. Many of the classics

are free. The cost of a Kindle as of this writing is $299 for the
6-inch version; the more recently introduced Kindle DX at 9.7
inches is $489. For an early-generation model, its extremely
impressive. Its a 3G (as mentioned, it connects via wireless almost anywhere without charge), and it allows you to download
books in a minute, surf the Web, and even receive e-mails with
attachments. Last time I dropped by Barnes & Noble I noticed
a couple of interesting new books, wrote down the names, and
downloaded them to my Kindle. Im sure I wasnt alone, and
Barnes & Noble must have realized the changing trend toward
eBooks, because they recently announced the following:
New York, New YorkJuly 20, 2009Barnes & Noble,
Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the worlds largest bookseller,
announced today the launch of the Barnes & Noble
eBookstore (, the worlds largest
eBookstore, on Barnes & (,
enabling customers to buy eBooks and read them on
a wide range of platforms, including the iPhone and
iPod touch, BlackBerry smartphones, as well as most
Windows and Mac laptops or full-sized desktop
computers. In addition, Barnes & Noble announced
that it will be the exclusive eBookstore provider on
the forthcoming and much anticipated Plastic Logic
eReader device.2
The question is: Will brick-and-mortar bookstores actually
have a place in our digital world, or will they go the way of the
music, newspaper, and encyclopedia industries? Perhaps the
brick-and-mortar bookstore will become a physical front to a
back-end digital delivery system, though the Amazon virtual
model may prove that theory wrong, and to compete effectively books must be sold virtually and digitally. The day may
come in the very near future where traditional paper-based
books will become artifacts in a museum. Children will receive

m A Virtual Conclusion

a Kindle-type wireless reading device and download all their

books to this one small device. Imagine the benefit to school
districts if their costs of books were cut in half and students
always had the most recent versions. How much would it save
if all the classics were available to students free of charge?
Imagine the positive impact in emerging countries if inexpensive wireless reading devices were available to download a
large cache of free books at the touch of a button. The day of
the 30-pound backpack will soon disappear in favor of a completely digital and virtual approach. Perhaps there is a virtual
business for you, in this field, just waiting to be exploited using
the virtual model you now understand.
A significant portion of classroom teaching can be conducted more efficiently, and by better qualified teachers by
leveraging virtual teaching models. Lesson plans, outlines,
and homework assignments can be easily downloaded to PCs
or wireless reading devices. Superb teachers, subject matter
experts, and leading authorities can offer lessons via satellite link, pre-recorded video, or synchronous collaboration
platforms. Much of this can be done through cloud computing, meaning there are no school infrastructure requirements
(such as server-based application software) other than a PC,
laptop, or wireless reading device on the desk of each student.
How far away are we from this? Behavioral change management is often a great challenge to adoption of any sort. But
the paradigm shift of the user base has already happened. Our
children today are a digital, text messaging, social networking,
blogging, MP3-savvy bunch. They are ready to embrace these
changes now; it will just take a while for teachers, school administrators, and textbook publishers to catch up. Is there a
winner or loser in the online teaching world? Arguably we all
win, and the outdated, paper-based distribution system loses.
Thats a win for us, too, because the new model is digital green;
the old model is environmentally wasteful and burns up money
for the benefit of just a few.
m 209

m Your Virtual Success

With the imminent disappearance of CDs, DVDs, newspapers, and traditional fax technology, it seems pretty strange
that the U.S. government still delivers mail six days a week.
After all, the postal service has been running at a deficit for
years (in some cases, multibillion-dollar deficits). At the moment, it does seem reasonable to have mail delivery services a
few days a week. After all, we still get some bills and checks in
the mail, though the trend is clearly moving to online banking
and direct deposit. You may receive the occasional important
letter or notification, and a favorite catalog from time to time.
To accomplish this, according the U.S. Postal Service Website
(, these items are delivered by 685,000 career employees and 101,000 non-career staff, making it the
second-largest employer in the United States (behind WalMart). The Postal Service employs more workers on U.S. soil
than General Motors, Ford and Chrysler combined. The site
goes on further to say, The USPS operates the largest fleet
of commercial vehicles in the countrysome 212,000 vans
and trucks. Thats a lot of vehicles, a lot of gas, and a huge
expense! Imagine the energy savings if we stopped sending
junk mail, encouraged opt-in e-mail, cut down on the USPS
delivery days, and encouraged electronic signatures for legal
documents. Imagine the post office needing 100,000 or even
150,000 fewer vehicles! Even this logic is faulty, though. It
wont be long before most traditional catalogs are replaced by
cheaper, faster, better online versions. It wont be long before
people stop writing handwritten letters and notes. When was
the last time your 12-year-old wrote a letter and mailed it to a
friend? The last time my 20-year-old daughter wrote a letter
was six years ago when she was in summer camp and didnt
have access to a computer. My 33-year-old nephew receives all
his bills online and is still using the same book of traditional
bank checks received in his first order. It wont be long before
traditional mail is almost completely supplanted by e-mail,
eBilling, instant messaging, and digital documents. All of these

m A Virtual Conclusion

events will move us into a progressively more pervasive online

existence and a more environmentally friendly communication
and distribution system.
The U.S. Postal Service is the tip of the iceberg. Many
other government brick-and-mortar entities will undergo dramatic change or become obsolete. Take libraries, for example.
Libraries house tens of thousands, or even millions, of books,
periodicals, newspapers, and so forth. As all of this printed material morphs to digital, why would we need stacks of books in
a central location? Libraries will need to transform themselves
to remain useful. Perhaps they will have a few dozen workstations with PCs for people who need to find an online resource,
though wireless reading devices with Internet connectivity
may become so cheap in the future that literally everyone in
a highly developed country has one. Librarians may become
virtual librarians, with a touch of a button they appear on your
screen and you have an instant video chat (thats already available online with many major libraries). Surely they will not be
needed to sort and stack books, to send out late notices, and to
collect late fees. Perhaps libraries will house old books no longer in print, maps and plans that are difficult to digitize, and
local historical artifacts for the town, city, or region. Some day
in the very near future, libraries may become a combination of
a library and local museum. Ill call them Liseums. Libraries
must change to become practical in the future. They may become centralized. In researching this book, I stopped by the
local library to ask a librarian a question. I met Jen in the
reference section, and she was very helpful. She e-mailed me
some articles pertaining to commuting statistics. Of course, if
my local (or regional) library was more of an online resource,
I could have accomplished the same thing, or more, faster and
more efficiently through a video chat or merely in an e-mail.
Look for a Liseum near you, sometime in the very near future.
Virtual goes beyond efficiency to embrace increased talent
and even improved thinking power. In New York Times article,
m 211

m Your Virtual Success

Steve Lohr offered a great example of virtual collaboration

and open innovation.3 The frontrunners, competing for a $1
million prize to create a better movie recommendation solution for Netflix, was a seven-person team with members from
the United States, Austria, Canada, and Israel. The precise
levels of expertise to create these sophisticated algorithms are
much more likely to be found among the worlds billions than
they are at any given company or even country. Virtual allows
people to do this readilyto tap into pools of talent and available labor that may not be available in your given town, state,
region, or country. The New York Times happens to own the
The Boston Globe. I am a former Boston Globe reader who received the Globe every day for about 25 years. During the last
10 years, I reduced deliveries to just a few days a week, then a
few years ago to just the Sunday edition of the newspaper. Last
year, I cancelled my Boston Globe delivery and now receive the
Sunday edition of The New York Times, still in the traditional
plastic bag at the end of my driveway. I expect that I will move
to an online subscription model through my Kindle this year.
Newspapers will need to slim down resources to correspond
with the drop in advertising.
Like it or not, talented reporters, columnists, and research
personnel have been downsized. They will become freelancers, bloggers, and writers, contributing to online newspapers,
Websites, and other Web-based alternatives. Newspapers and
periodicals, like books, must go digital and virtual to survive.

Its a LifestyleNot Just a Style of Business

The virtual model offers more than an improved business

methodology: It offers an improvement in lifestyle and a quantum leap in flexibility and control. Your virtual company can
be created to allow optimum productivity and minimum waste.
Today, Im in Las Vegas, visiting a friend and virtual coworker,
and plan to spend a large part of the day by the pool. An important decision this day will be to determine the lounge chair

m A Virtual Conclusion

with the best shade, to help prevent the Vegas sun from frying my Boston pallor. Yes, well spend some time discussing
our virtual operation, strategic goals, and short-term tactics,
but the majority of the day will simply be sun and fun. During
this five-day work and play respite, well visit Freemont Street,
dine on sushi on the Strip, hit the Stratosphere lounge, and
work out in the Aliante Casino fitness center. This day is sprinkled with the occasional e-mail and client call, readily taken
from our poolside venue, offering advice on e-mail marketing,
arranging a Web conference on behalf of one of our clients,
and tweaking a prospect list for another. Changes are fast and
easy, for there is no paper, no files, no assistants, and no bureaucracy. Well quickly make tweaks and refinements to our
dynamic and constantly changing business plana one-page
series of bullets, not a 20-page textual dinosaur that is out of
date as soon as it is printed. Its really easy to morph our business to changing market conditions, with millions of qualified
contractors available, no employee issues, great cash flow, and
superior profits; we can test new markets and hire resources
on demand, if and when needed. The total work time for this
sunny Las Vegas Tuesday is about two hours; total play time
is six hours and counting. Looks like another ideal eight-hour
day for our virtual business. Both my associate and I love the
virtual lifestyle. It allows us to have much better balance in our
lives, while still offering a highly productive, albeit shortened,
working day.
Those who fail to embrace the virtual model may remain
trapped in the 9-to-5 rat race, which should really be called the
7-to-7 rat race. A friend of mine, an Ivy League grad, has been
running in circles, working 12 hours a day, for often-less-thanappreciative managers who might be found in billion-dollar
monolithic corporations. He actually has little freedom. If a
presentation has to be prepared for Monday, and they find out
on Friday, guess who has to work over the weekend to create
a polished final product? Ive encouraged this friend to think
m 213

m Your Virtual Success

smaller, create his own virtual consulting firm, or join a more

efficient and flexible smaller organization, but, as of this writing, hes still stuck in the 7-to-7 rat race, producing a good income for his family, but a poor lifestyle at the same time.
I could start another virtual business quickly and easily
without an extensive change to my hours. Currently Im considering a type of virtual franchising of my core business, allowing others to replicate my results in the marketing services
and lead generation space. I may branch out to start-up companies offering assistance to those emerging companies often
needing the most help. Im considering producing a CD of
old songs and selling this over the Internet. Im also thinking
about a consulting business specifically targeting older industries that need to move to the virtual model. Im also working
on my next book about virtual selling. I can test-market any
of these ideas without a large effort; thats the power of my
virtual model.
As I mentioned in earlier chapters, my friend Adam created a successful virtual company that offers an online trade
show and lead generation service for B2B companies. He uses
white papers to attract virtual attendees instead of the traditional fly here and attend old trade show business model.
Another friend, Steve, created a successful virtual training
company that has been profitable and successful for more
than 15 years. He utilizes a Rolodex (maybe we should call
it a database) of highly qualified trainers and consultants to
provide custom training for banks, manufacturers, and even
the federal government. My friend Ellen created a virtual palliates business, traveling to peoples homes and gyms to offer
personal training and fitness guidance, on her terms and at the
convenience of her schedule. And my friend Lisa created a virtual business around contract writing for marketing brochures,
Websites, and white papers. All work from their homes, none
commute to an office building, and all enjoy a flexible and enjoyable lifestyle.

m A Virtual Conclusion

This brings us to Your Virtual Success, Finding Profitability

in an Online World. We need to embrace this new world
and this new virtual model. For many occupations and businesses, going virtual will become a matter of survival: Those
who cannot change will face brick-and-mortar extinction, and
those who adapt will evolve to a viable and profitable business
model. The virtual model is clearly a more profitable model,
though its not all about the money; its about the money and
the time to use it. In 2007, the median annual household income was $50,233, according to the Census Bureau. In 2006,
the median income per household member was $26,036, and
only 1.93 percent of all households had annual incomes exceeding $250,000.4 In year two of my virtual operation I netted
more than $250,000. I did this at my own pace, in my own way,
under my terms, and without working the killer hours that are
common in todays workplace.
How long and hard would you have to work at your current
organization to earn $100,000 per year? How about $200,000
or $300,000? Perhaps your small business is viable but your
profits are too low and your stress is too high. Or you may have
realized compelling earnings but are working long hours, lack
direction, or are simply feeling unfulfilled at the end of each
and every day. Clearly you are more likely to enjoy a feeling
of accomplishment when you build your own profitable business than you might if you sit in a cubicle-type office in some
non-descript complexa veritable cog in a massively complex
organizational wheel. Clearly, if you have a choice, you should
find a virtual business to embrace as opposed to a traditional
business. If you have an existing business today, the time has
come to virtualize those components that should and need to
be virtual before your competition does. You can find success
and profits, better, faster, and cheaper in my virtual model,
and you can start today.
Will the day come where brutal commutes are a thing of the
past, cities have transitioned from business-oriented collectives
m 215

m Your Virtual Success

to entertainment and culture capitals and housing shortages

are eliminated as high rise office buildings become condos
and apartments? Will 90 percent of the workforce work from
home in the face of rising fuel prices as postulated in the interesting book $20 a Gallon5? How many people could work
out of their homes, reducing fuel consumption, traffic problems, and wear and tear on our infrastructure, and how long
will it take for companies to assimilate this advantage? There
will always be some types of businesses that require employees to congregate, but the reasons will become fewer, and the
change will happen sooner than you might think. Meanwhile,
opera, photos, eyeglasses, antiques, groceries, books, newspapers, and perhaps your business can embrace and benefit
from the virtual model. Today Im free: I have no boss; I dont
report to a board of directors; and I have no need for venture
capitalists, bank financing, employee reviews, cash planning,
large-scale business plans, complex projections, or frustrating
building maintenance programs. I can go where I want and
when I want, spend time with friends and family, run, read, hit
the gym, golf, fish, scuba dive, or bowl. I can even take the time
to write a book. When you go virtual, I hope you will be able to
join me or engage in those activities that you truly enjoy.


Appendix A

Sample Rolling Pipeline Report

Page 220

Sample Prospect Scorecard

Page 221

Sample Order Confirmation

Page 222225

m 217



Retainer Total








Next Action



ABC Software


Las Vegas







Closed on


Skunkworks R Us





Hedgehog Industries




Sawdust Co.




Juniper & Juniper




Sawdust Co.




Closed YTD



XYZ Software






BBBB Agency






Smith & Smith


Minneapolis MN Carol







Galvanized Corp






Johnson & Johnson








OH George



Brazil Co.




Parker Co.


Las Vegas

NV Ingrid






TX Joshua


Total Short Term Opps








Closed on






Closed on






Closed on






Closed on






Closed on





8/17 had





8/19 Bob


VP Sales



8/24 Ann to





8/30 Mike





8/18 Very





8/24 Mike




8/24 Mike



9/8/2009 8/24 e-mailed

VP Marketing 000-123-


8/24 Anne


8/24 Josh






m Your Virtual Success


Prospect Profile ScorecardBUD (Answer each question below for you current prospect.)
Prospect Scorecard
Your Prospect


Widget Inc.

Job Lots Corp.

Strong Advocate/Business Sponsor

Large-Ticket Item Sale

Repeat Business Model

Growth Issues/Info Sharing Challenges

$10 to $100 Million in Sales

Complex Client Relationship

Customer ServiceCentric Culture

Company Culture Open to Outsourcing

Centralized Decision-Making Model











Scores 810 indicate ideal prospect profile; go for itwe will usually win these.
Score 67 indicate potentially good prospect; move forward, but be aware of attributes out of profile and address them early.
Scores under 6 indicate a relatively weak prospect profile; there should be a compelling reason for going after the business.

Bud Qualifier

m 219



Decision Maker

Capital letter means requirement confirmed.

m Appendix A

CBB Agency

Insurance, Software, Financial

m Your Virtual Success

XYZ Software Company

Marketing Services/Lead Generation
Your Prospect Logo Goes Here
Key Benefits:
MM Simplified weekly reporting with daily lead alerts.
MM Customized scripts (Gatekeeper, Direct, Voice Mail,
Niche Targeting).
MM Professional Prospecting/Lead Generation.
MM E-mail collection.
MM eMarketing campaigns and Webinar development.
MM List cleanup and validation.
MM Highly qualified, professional, and articulate callers.
Month, DD, YYYY V1
StartUpSelling, Inc.
6 Wright Farm Road
Your Town, ST 00000
Mike Smith

m Appendix A

Order ConfirmationXYZ Software

Product /Service
StartUpSelling, Inc. 6-month pilot engagement
MM Custom Pitch Development.
MM Weekly Telesales calls: 7.5 hours of telesales
calls per week by an articulate, professional
caller plus list cleanup, e-mail collection, and list
addend. Dedicated telesales representative trained
specifically for insurance prospects targeted by
XYZ Software.

$2,500 per
6-month pilot

MM Monthly eMarketing campaigns.

MM Monthly Webinar development and hosting.
MM Other products/services provided by
StartUpSelling, Inc. based on clients needs and
recommendations of StartUpSelling. Inc.
MM Weekly reporting.
MM Instant Lead Alert Notification for all urgent leads.

Project engagement feeone-time fee

Review applicable client materials including website,
collateral, pitches, prospect lists, prospect profile, value
proposition, etc. StartUp Selling, Inc. will train our
internal team for your project engagement.


*See Notes Page for additional information

m 221

m Your Virtual Success

MM Travel, accommodations, and other reasonable out-of-pocket expenses are
additional though not anticipated for this project. StartUpSelling, Inc. will send
estimated travel costs to XYZ Software for prior approval should XYZ Software
request on-site assistance.
MM StartUpSelling, Inc. will bill monthly at the beginning of the project
engagement. XYZ Software is committing to a 6-month pilot project at $2,500
to consist of an estimated 7.5 hours per week of telesales plus list cleanup,
e-mail collection, lead alerts, eMarketing, Web seminars and weekly reporting
services. StartUpSelling, Inc. will also assist XYZ Software on refinements
of telesales pitches and voice mail pitches. Payment terms are Net 10 upon
receipt of invoice, payment due at the beginning of each month for calls and
services to be rendered for that month.
MM XYZ Software will be provided with a professional and articulate telesales
representative(s). This caller will be trained on the respective products,
services, and value proposition offered by XYZ Software.
MM StartUpSelling, Inc. will work with XYZ Software and make adjustments to the
call geography, timing, frequency, and pitch as requested by XYZ Software.
MM If your dedicated telesales representative is no longer able to perform their
duties, StartUpSelling, Inc. will provide a comparably skilled replacement and
train them at no additional charge to XYZ Software.
MM StartUpSelling, Inc. will work closely with your organization to tailor the
telesales pitch for your target audience. This pitch may be changed or refined
without charge.
MM The services provided by StartUpSelling, Inc. outlined in this contract
may be modified upon the request of XYZ Software and the approval of
StartUpSelling, Inc.
MM This agreement will automaticallly renew for a 6-month project agreement
at the same fee structure, unless a 4-week notice (via e-mail) of intent to
terminate is given by XYZ Software. XYZ Software may opt for a 6- or
12-month renewal and lock in these terms and pricing. Only one renewal is
guaranteed at this pricing level.

m Appendix A

Confidentiality & Intellectual Property: The parties agree that they will not, at any time during the
period in which the parties possess information regarding XYZ Software , or information regarding
StartUpSelling, Inc. which the parties acknowledge is confidential, or after the termination of the
relationship, reveal, divulge, or make known to any person, firm, corporation, or other business
organization any information, research process, systems, tools, documents, customer lists, cost figures
and projections, profit figures, confidential information, proprietary technology, business methodologies,
know how or discussions, obtained, shared or exchanged whatsoever while providing services
hereunder. The parties further covenant and agree to retain all such knowledge and information
acquired during and after the term of this agreement as the property of the originating firm, respecting
any such research results, or any secret or confidential information, or to return or destroy any such
information as requested by either party. StartUpSelling, Inc. and XYZ Software agree that their
respective employees and contractors working on this project will be bound by this confidentiality
agreement. StartUpSelling, Inc. will require all StartUpSelling, Inc. employees and contractors working
on this project to execute a confidentiality agreement. All systems, methods and processes used or
developed and their contents and all written design documents will remain the sole property and
copyright of StartUpSelling, Inc. and will not be availed to any party outside of StartUpSelling, Inc.
XYZ Software agrees not to copy or otherwise attempt to circumvent the proprietary methodology, or
copyrighted material utilized by StartUpSelling, Inc. In the event this clause is breached, XYZ Software
shall immediately return all materials StartUpSelling, Inc. and all services will be immediately terminated.
Liability for this project is limited to fees paid for the project. All disputes will be resolved through
binding arbitration. The laws of Massachusetts govern this agreement.

This agreement is signed and agreed to by both parties.

Alan Blume
CEO, StartUpSelling, Inc.


On Behalf of XYZ Software




Initial payment due within 10 days of execution. Remaining payments are due upon
schedule noted above.
Please sign, scan, and e-mail to
By Check payable to:
StartUpSelling, Inc.
6 Wight Farm Road
Natick, MA 01760


m 223

This page intentionally left blank

Appendix B

Free Internet Software and Services

hough we might agree with the famous saying Theres no

such thing as a free lunch, there certainly are such things
as free Internet software and services. The following list represents just a few of the free software and services available for
use in your home office; there are literally thousands available.
Ive used many of these solutions, though not all of them. As
with all things on the Internet, research anything you decide to
use before implementation, and always download and access
from a safe and trusted source.
Ad-Aware (anti-Spyware)
Adobe (view PDFs)
Agreeadate (online meeting scheduling and planning)
Alfresco (Open Source Collaboration software)
Avast! (antivirus software)
AVG (antivirus software; your cable or DSL provider may
also provide free antivirus software)
Browsers and Search Engines (Google, Mozilla, Bing, etc.)

m 225

m Your Virtual Success

CNET (; great

online source to find free software)
CragisList (sell, purchase, hire, source vendors, etc.usually
free; occasionally for a small fee)
CutePDF (create PDFs)
Dimdim (free online meetings)
Facebook (social network)
Flickr (free photos and graphics) (as the names says, free surveys
Google Docs (free word processing, spreadsheet, and
presentation software)
Instant Messaging (Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, AOL, etc.; a
great way to communicate with virtual contractors,
partners, etc.)
jZip (compress large files)
LinkedIn (major business social network)
Mozilla FireFTP (transfer large files that are too large for
e-mail attachments)
Open Source Software (often free; thousands of solutions
available; research carefully and only download
verifiable and trusted solutions. Alfresco is an
example of a free open source collaboration software
Plaxo (business social network)
Skype (excellent free PC-based phone and video calls)
SpyBot (searches and destroys spyware and Trojan horses)
Wikepedia (free online encyclopedia)
Yahoo Finance (great source of company information; easy
to use and understand)



Chapter 2

1. U.S. Census Bureau News Release, September 27, 2006.

Chapter 3

1. Friedman, Thomas L. The World Is Flat. New York: Farrar,

Straus and Giroux, 2005.

Chapter 5

1. Burlingham, Bo. Small Giants. New York: Penguin

USA, 2005.
2. Noonan, David. Aesop & the CEO. Nashville, Tenn.:
Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2005.
3. Burlingham, Bo. Small Giants. New York: Penguin
USA, 2005.

Chapter 8

1. Silverstein, Barry. Business-to-Business Internet Marketing.

Gulf Breeze, Fla.: Maximum Press, 1998.

m 227

m Your Virtual Success

Chapter 10

1. Jaochim, Jean. 151 Quick Ideas for Advertising on a

Shoestring. Franklin Lakes, N.J.: Career Press, Inc.
2. Scott, David Meerman. The New Rules of Marketing & PR.
Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons Inc.

Chapter 11

1. Telework Facts. The Telework Coalition Website. www.
2. Barnes and Noble press release. Available at www.
3. Lohr, Steve. The Crowd is Wise. The New York Times,
July 19, 2009.
4. Household Income in the United States. Wikipedia
5. Steiner, Christopher. $20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable
Rise in the Price of Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the
Better. Boston: Grand Central Publishing.


Resources and

$20 Per Gallon: How the Inevitable Rise in the Price of

Gasoline Will Change Our Lives for the Better
Christopher Steiner. Grand Central Publishing, 2009.
151 Quick Ideas for Advertising on a Shoestring by Jean
Jaochim. Career Press, 2008.
Aesop & the CEO by David Noonan. Thomas Nelson
Publishers, 2005.
Business to Business Internet Marketing by Barry Silverstein.
Maximum Press, 1998.
Crossing the Chasm by Geoffrey A. Moore. Harper
Paperbacks, 20022008.
Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American
Economic Power by John Steele Gordon. Harper
Perennial, 2005.
Freakonomics: A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of
Everything (P.S.) by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J.
Dubner. Harper Perennial. Harper Perennial, 2009.
Hot, Flat, and Crowded: Why We Need a Green Revolution
and How It Can Renew America by Thomas L.
Friedman. Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2008.
m 229

m Your Virtual Success

How to Succeed in Business Using LinkedIn: Making

Connections and Capturing Opportunities on the Worlds
#1 Business Networking Site by Eric Butow and
Kathleen Taylor. AMACOM, 2008.
Let My People Go Surfing: The Education of a Reluctant
Businessman by Yvon Chouinard. Penguin Two, 2006.
Small Giants by Bo Burlingham. Penguin Group USA Inc.
The Art of the Start: The Time-Tested, Battle-Hardened Guide
for Anyone Starting Anything by Guy Kawasaki.
Portfolio Hardcover, 2004.
The Business of America: Tales from the Marketplace
American Enterprise from the Settling of New England
to the Breakup of AT&T by John Steele Gordon.
Walker & Company, 2002.
The New Rules of Marketing & PR by David Meerman Scott.
Wiley, 2010.
The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big
Difference by Malcolm Gladwell. Back Bay
Books, 2002.
The World is Flat by Thomas L. Friedman. Farrar, Straus and
Giroux, 2005. (U.S. government site to assist small businesses) (Yahoo Small Business) (Peter Irelands works: The Smart
Startup Guide, How I Learned to Stop Waiting for
Investors and Start Building Companies, and Venture
Capital Self Defense 101) (Created by top attorneys, LegalZoom
helps you create reliable legal documents from your
home or office. Simply answer a few questions online
and your documents will be prepared within 48

m Resources and Suggested Reading (The American Marketing

Association) (The Telework CoalitionEnabling Virtual,
Mobile, and Distributed Work through Education,
Technology, and Legislation) (Free business advice according to
their Website, business mentoring)

m 231

This page intentionally left blank


accountant, finding a, 39
agents, literary, 72
analysis, assessment, 126-127
assessment analysis, 126-127

Barnes & Noble, 208
Basics for your virtual
company, business, 37-58
Basics, 133-134
traditional business,


BatchBlue, 52
BigContacts, 52
BlackBerry, 48
blocks, basic building, 60-61
boutique, virtual, 79-96
branding, what to think
about when, 80
Bread, Panera, 26
BUD, 104-108
budget, 106-107
Business basics for your
virtual company, 37-58
business, creating your
virtual, 48-49
buyers and their
expectations, 204

m 233

m Your Virtual Success

campaign, a real-world
virtual, 71-76
cell phone message, 67
Close, 109
closing tools, virtual, 112
asynchronous, 14
remote, 15
competencies, core, 42-47
Confidence, say it with, 83-84
confirmation, order, 112-113
Contacts to Target, create a
list of, 134
contractors and managing
them virtually, 178-182
core competencies and your
virtual business, 42-47
Craigslist, 41
customer quotes, 144-150
and how to use them, 146

deal, exploding, 124
decision maker, 107-1-8


define and test your target

market, 43-44
DSL, 60

Ebay, 41
eCollateral, 14
e-mail, sample marketing, 139
eMarketing, 14
expanding your virtual
business, 183-198
experience, your preferred
virtual, 32
exploding deal, 124

fast, what can and cant be
done, 62-64

GoToMeeting, 33, 49, 52,
61-65, 121

m Index

Judo, practicing virtual

business, 80-81, 89-92

hire anywhere, anytime, 166

hire yourself, would you, 23-35
hiring and management,
Hoovers, 135

Icontact, 52
Identify, 109
identify and qualify, 97-114
image, important items to
your branding, 94-95
INC 500 list, 17-18
Innovator, 128
insourcing, 15
internationally expanding,
the virtual, 172-175
your virtual, 23-24
iPhone, 48

Jet Blue, 25
job descriptions and ads,

key elements when creating

a virtual business, four,
Kindle, 208

Leveraging powerful talent, 93

lifestyles, virtual, 20-22
List of contact to target,
create a , 134
list, build and maintain your,
literary agents, 72
LLC, 39

Management, practice, 17
managing contractors
virtually, 178-182
market, define and test your
target, 43-44
marketable skills, no specific,
rapid virtual test, 189
virtual, 133-162
m 235

m Your Virtual Success

message, cell phone, 67

model, contraction is easier
in a virtual, 185-187

nephews, a tale of two, 9-10
networks, online social, 14, 38

OEM, 35, 40
Onesource, 135
online social networks, 14
Opportunities, transition,
order confirmation, 112-113
outsource wherever and
whenever possible, 47
outsourcing, 15

Panera Bread, 26
peer suggestion, 124
photography business virtual,
taking a, 203-204
pilot to purchase, 125-126


Plastic Logic eReader device, 208

Practice Management, 17
Present (Demonstrate), 109
present and close, 115-132
presentation tips, 115-117
Presentations and Websites,
productivity and going
virtual, 76-78
profile, what is your virtual, 26
identifying target, 97-98
qualifying virtual, 104
purchase, pilot to, 125-126

Qualify, 109
Questions, the hard, 110-111
quotes and how to use them,
customer, 146
quotes, customer, 144-150

remote collaboration, 15
Reporting and forecasting
what your business
might need, 52-57

m Index

results with your emarketing,

Get, 138
rules, trade show, 157
SaaS, 52

Sales Force Automation, 61
sales, 4 phases of virtual, 108-110
Seminars, Web, 14, 34
SEO for Virtual business,
Demystifying, 150-151
skills, no specific marketable,
Skype, 33, 52, 60
Software as a Service, see
specific marketable skills, no,
Starbucks, 26, 68
Sub Chapter S, 39
success, the likelihood of,
suggestion, peer, 124

tale of two nephews, a tale,
target market, define and test
your, 43-44

target prospects, identifying,

telework coalition, 201-202
test and define your target
market, 43-44
test, Virtual Business Profile,
tips, presentation, 115-117
tools, virtual closing, 112
trade show rules, 157
Trade Shows, 152-159
transition opportunities, 18-20

urgency, 107

VAD, 40
VAS, 40
viable virtual models, 39-42
Virtual business and keeping
your own hours, 13
virtual business in 72 hours,
how to create, 59-78
Virtual elevator pitch, 14
virtual interview, the, 172-175
virtual lifestyle, 20-22
Virtual model, 14, 19

m 237

m Your Virtual Success

Virtual presentations, 14
Virtual profile, whats your, 26
Virtual Website creation, 14
VoIP, 60

Weakness into strength, turn
their, 84-85
Web seminars, 14, 34, 142-144


Webex, 64
Webinars, 14, 34, 142-144
Website creation, Website, 14
Website refinements, 15
Websites and Presentations,

yourself, would you hire, 23-35

About the

Alan Blume is a successful sales and marketing entre-

preneur, and the founder and CEO of StartUpSelling, Inc. a

virtual sales, lead generation, and marketing services organization. Alan received a BS from Northeastern University and
was awarded a Northeastern University Fellowship to pursue
a masters degree. Alan led the sales and marketing efforts at
Practice Management Systems and within a few short years
recorded growth sufficient for the prestigious Inc. 500 list
(for two consecutive years). He ramped up a new division
of a small company from zero to a $20 million run rate in
two short years, and doubled or tripled the sales of numerous other small companies. During his 25-year career, Alan
has worked for both bootstrapped firms and cash-rich, venture-backed firms. His methods have always yielded the same
results: significant sales growth in relatively modest time
frames. StartUpSelling, Inc. is a privately held, self-funded,
profitable, debt-free virtual company, conducting business transactions remotely, and rarely meeting prospects,
clients, or contractors in person. Alans virtual model at

m 239

m Your Virtual Success

StartUpSelling, Inc. has resulted in immediate and continued

profitability and an incredibly flexible and rewarding lifestyle
for everyone involved with the organization.
Alan Blume
Natick, MA