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3 Things Sales Managers Can Do to Help a Slumping B2B Inside Sales Rep

 

b2b inside sales slumpSlumping Inside Sales Reps can be extremely depressing. They lament their bad luck, start to adopt a bad mindset, and performance suffers further. B2B inside sales is a mental game and the last thing you want is for your sales reps to get stuck in a vortex of negativity. It’s the responsibility of a savvy sales manager to help them get over the hump. Almost all B2B inside sales reps go through slumps. It’s a product of the irregularity of the lead generation process. So how should you handle a B2B inside sales rep in an extended slump? Assuming that the rep is not normally a poor producer, there a couple of ways to help.

  1. Listen to calls either in-office or via live monitoring. Instead of asking the reps what they may or may not be doing correctly, sit in on live calls with them. Often times, they are so mired in their “slumpiness” that they don’t know exactly why they aren’t doing well. Buddy up with them on some live calls and correct the issues as they come up in real time. Then make the rep utilize those improvements on the next few calls. B2B inside sales reps can feel like they’re out on an island suffering when they aren’t doing well; just having someone who cares about their production and wants to help close-by can go a long way to getting them out of that slump.
  2. Go back to the basics. When things aren’t going as planned, often it’s because the B2B inside sales reps diverge from the techniques that made them good in the first place. Maybe, they’ve altered their pitch, or maybe they’re talking about features instead of selling consultatively. The idea here is to simplify – not by addition but by subtraction. Instead of adding tidbits to their pitch, have them simplify it. In many cases, B2B inside sales reps assume they are failing because of something they aren’t saying when, sometimes, they aren’t getting sales appointments because they’re saying too darn much. Fluff be gone; get to the value proposition and the primary qualification questions. Make it easier (not harder) for them to be an All-Star again.
  3. Use numbers to consult with the B2B inside sales rep. As we alluded to earlier, it’s a bad idea to ask the rep why they are having a rough time. You’re just going to get a bunch of talking in circles. Consult them with their numbers and metrics. Analyze things like call-to-conversation ratios, conversation-to-appointment ratio, and call-to-follow up ratio to find areas of improvement. The B2B inside sales rep will appreciate that you’ve helped them diagnose the problem rather than asking for a self-diagnosis.

All inside sales reps have a bad day or even a bad week from time to time. It’s up to you to determine if it can be helped and take measures to get there. Diagnose the problem early.

To get better at follow-up, download our whitepaper, Be a Follow-Up All-Star: The 1-2-3 Method:

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Identifying the Right B2B Sales Candidate in 2 Simple Steps

 

Guest post by Rich Sweeney of R.H. Sweeney Associates

b2b sales hiringHiring the right B2B sales person is easy, right? Then why is turnover notoriously higher in sales departments versus other departments for most organizations? How do you explain the fact that the 20/80 rule (20% of the sales team is generating 80% of the productivity) applies more frequently to the B2B sales department than other teams within your business?

You can probably recall that individual you hired not too long ago who you thought would be a “Rock Star” based on their interview, and before the show ends, their performance was the equivalent of an eighth grade garage band at best.

You make objective business decisions every day. Although, when it comes to interviewing B2B sales professionals, we often justify a “gut feel” approach. We often hire people we like, and will subconsciously make the interview easier once that comfort is achieved with the candidate. You may be a great sales leader, but is your “like list” enough to determine an individual’s likelihood of success. The key is to stop hiring who you like, and start hiring who you need.

Step One: Bring Objective Metrics to the Analysis

Identify core behavior metrics the individual musr possess when performing under the pressure of the sales position. Stated another way, identify “the personality of the position.”

Based on the six listed personality traits, identify the behavior patterns in your sales process success plan.

  1. The ability to make the customer feel like a welcomed guest and instantly at ease; traits for the top performing retail sales professionals.
  2. The gift to quickly build rapport, and brings the natural discipline of close follow up that comes with repeat/maintenance sales.
  3. The comfort to take risk inherent with cold calling, and comfortable with handling multiple “NOs” and objections; traits one finds in new business development sales.
  4. Capable of quickly thinking on their feet while analyzing the information rendered from great questions; talents vital to technical sales.
  5. Well-suited to become a trusted advisor and sounding board that is required for long-term relationship sales.
  6. The brilliance to make a script sound natural; an all-important facet of inbound B2B sales.

If you respond that you want your candidate to possess all the behaviors listed above, then we need to give you a “reality-check pill.” You might as well add “walking on water” to the job description if you expect the same individual to possess all six of the behavioral traits. There are instruments that can benchmark what behaviors need to be projected the majority of time in any given B2B sales position. In order to improve your “hiring batting average,” you need to first apply objective metrics to determine what you actually need in a given position. The more deck-level analysis of the position, the easier it becomes to know what you should be actually looking for in a B2B sales position.

Step Two: Using the Best Tools to Find a Qualified B2B Sales Team Member

The key to determining who you are going to hire after the “happy interview face” fades away is objectivity. Most next steps include accessing the “usual suspects” in hiring tools, but they have some downside:

  • Resume – With the resources on the internet today, there is no excuse for anyone to not have already paid someone to wordsmith how wonderful they are.
  • College degree verification – At no cost to you, phone the university to verify they graduated. Now that you know that their education is legit, does that degree mean they will be great for your B2B sales team?
  • Reference checks – The joys of our litigious society makes this more challenging than ever to get relevant information.
  • LinkedIn Profile – Certainly helpful, but are well-maintained pages in this area merely an indicator of good business acumen?
  • Behavior interview questions – Great way to go, but the universities are starting to provide more training in this area than most hiring managers are receiving.

Based on your current interview arsenal, what is your “hiring batting average”? Are you batting .500, or are you closer to .283 in terms of hiring homerun-hitters? When push comes to shove, you need to know for certain that the person you hire will peform under the pressures of the job – that they are going to project the behaviors that are needed to succeed in that position. Again, we get back to the importance of bringing objective, tangible and concrete statistical data points to the interviewing process to balance the wonderful “gut feel” we have all grown to rely upon.

In 2002, the general manager for the Oakland Athletics baseball team, Billy Beane, hired a Yale economics graduate to apply empirical analysis of baseball statistics called Sabermetrics to assess players’ values. Beane looked for players who had strong on-base percentages (OBP), but were dismissed by scouts due to other characteristics. The Athletics had an incredible season that year, which included the longest winning streak in American League history. You may recall the movie Moneyball, depicting the real life story was portrayed. Are you dismissing the potential of “homerun-hitter B2B sales people” based on your subjective approach? Psychometrics is the field of study concerned with the theory and techniques of psychological measurement. As the Moneyball philosophy is to baseball, psychometrics is to making strong hiring decisions.

Behavioral assessment tools allow you to bring science to the interview process, and leave guessing to the sidelines. You will want to make sure that any tool you use in the interview process passes the Federal EEOC requirements. Contact our team at R.H. Sweeney Associates and we will let you know if the tool you are using is legal by EEOC standards. Better yet, send us your full name and email address and we will arrange for you to complete a tool that is easy to apply, deadly accurate and surpasses EEOC requirements.

rich sweeneyRich Sweeney is the Founder and President of R.H. Sweeney Associates and a business consultant, corporate level sales and management trainer, executive coach, lecturer and seminar leader. Progressive organizations continue to call on Rich Sweeney to help them develop their professional skills in people-management. After earning a Degree from Northern Illinois University, Rich started his career with the 3M Corporation in sales and marketing and quickly climbed the management ladder with the Lanier Corporation. In 1990, he founded his consulting firm, resolving to share with other professionals, his experience and success formulas for recognizing the specific genius lying within current employees and candidates. Contact Rich by email or on his website.


Pop Quiz: How Many Call Attempts to Qualify a B2B Sales Lead Before Giving Up?

 

You’d imagine I’d be used to it by now. I have written hundreds of articles and done countless hours of research in the B2B sales and marketing field… but every time I read an article or infographic lamenting the job that most companies do in following up with inbound leads, I am still awestruck – and not in a good way.

Insidesales.com does great infographics and one I read called The Best Practices for Lead Response Management confirmed yet again that, as a whole, the B2B sales community lags when it comes to response time on inbound B2B sales leads. In fact, they claim that “over 30% of leads are never contacted at all.”

Take this snippet, for example:

b2b appointment setting call times

The whole piece is a window into Lead Response best practices, but I really keyed in on the snippet above.

Your chances of making contact with a B2B sales lead increase to 90% when you make at least 6 calls into the lead…


Yet nearly 90% of B2B inside sales reps quit after the 3rd attempt.

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The takeaway? Be disciplined and put in the extra work to make at least 6 calls into the lead before giving up. By making a few more call attempts, reps will experience 70% more successful contacts!

Click here to view the entire infographic.

To get better at follow-up, download our whitepaper, Be a Follow-Up All-Star: The 1-2-3 Method:

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Should the Sales or Marketing Department Own the Inside Sales Process? - An Interview with Matt Heinz

 

Who should own the Inside Sales function – the Sales department or the Marketing department? It’s a question that doesn’t have a stone-cold lock of an answer. To help gain some perspective on this issue, I recently had a talk with Matt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, about the Pros and Cons of Sales departments or Marketing departments owning this critical function. He had written a blog a couple of months ago on the topic and I found it intriguing… so much so that I asked to have a Q&A with him on the subject.

describe the imageSalesStaff: Having engaged with a number of companies, which department typically owns the Inside Sales function?

Heinz: Typically, the Sales department owns the Inside Sales function, and it makes sense. It’s a Sales role, after all, so we this arrangement 9 times out of 10. Every once in a while, we see Marketing owning this function, especially as it relates to lead qualification and B2B appointment setting. It’s easy to argue that those specific functions inherently belong with the Marketing department.

SalesStaff: What sorts of issues arise in an organization when Marketing owns Inside Sales?

Heinz: Despite the fact that qualifying a lead for sales staff is a marketing function at the core, the people with whom that task rests aren’t traditional sales-types. I often see Marketing staff challenged in truly understanding the psychology of sales. Managing a set of Marketing personnel is very different than managing a set of Sales personnel.

SalesStaff: You’re absolutely right. The skill set of an Inside Sales Representative doesn’t overlap much with a purely marketing-focused skill set. How do you bridge that gap then if Marketing is to own the Inside Sales Process?

Heinz: Often, Marketing types might think, “Hey, I need to generate Sales Qualified Leads for my sales team. So we’ll do some email marketing, some direct mail, maybe some paid search.” The connection that can be built upon comes with the next step – while those marketing channels may be functioning well, frequently Marketing managers will go a step further and integrate an Inside Sales person into their team as another channel to reach out into the marketplace to find Sales Qualified Leads. The other option is to pursue inbound tactics and integrate that Inside Sales Representative to call on those content downloads and inquiries to further qualify the prospect as interested or not interested. That’s a function that Marketing departments can accomplish with their traditional resources – like progressive profiling, marketing automation, or a variety of other means – but quite simply it’s not as fast as having someone pick up the phone and follow-up on the marketing trigger immediately. There’s not really a definitive answer but it’s important for organizations to make sure that they have the end goal in mind and, to a certain extent, worry less about the boundaries that exist between departments. Companies need to be sure that, if they are going to have an Inside Sales component, it’s functioning well no matter who they report to. The focus should be on delivering scalable results. So the better question is “How are we going to execute Inside Sales – no matter which team owns it?”

SalesStaff: Let’s lay out a scenario where a company has many marketing channels that are producing raw leads, but they also want to include some unsolicited outreach into the marketplace via cold calling. In your opinion, is it better to maintain two separate groups – a team that manages inbound responses and a team that does traditional phone outreach – or is it better to develop a team of hybrids that can do both well?

Heinz: That’s a great question but I think the answer depends on a number of factors – things like the nature of the prospect you’re calling in to, and the skill set of the inside sales team calling in to these prospects. Marketing is usually better suited to manage the inbound inquiry qualification. It still requires somewhat of a steady hand to qualify hand-raisers but it becomes a little easier for marketers that are not used to managing salespeople. On one hand, Sales would be a good fit for either inbound qualification or direct outreach as there is a Sales component to them both. On the other hand, if Marketing is managing Inside Sales, it might be better to assign them only the market response segment – but it really is contingent on the quality of the team in both cases.

SalesStaff: If Marketing owns the Inside Sales process, at what point in the sales funnel is Marketing no longer responsible for that lead? Upon transition to the Sales team? Should they be owning some of it throughout the course of the sales process?

Heinz: That’s very much a loaded question because it implies that the relationship is owned by one department or the other. It’s a slippery slope to say, “I own it, and now you own it, but wait, I want it back.” The organization should have a unified, integrated approach to sales prospecting. Then the story that Marketing is telling in the lead generation and awareness/education process should be consistent with the story Sales tells also upon transition. It should feel like a very stable path for the prospect. Every organization has a different idea of when those prospects get transitioned, but in terms of ownership of the lead, I think that Marketing and Sales should be working together at various stages. Marketing owns the top of the funnel when a prospect may not be ready to buy. But even when Sales picks up with a prospect that is ready to enter the buying process, it’s the job of Marketing to give Sales what they need – the right message or the right content – based on the buyer’s journey and a deep understanding of where that prospect is in the process. So even when Sales takes the reins, it’s still the responsibility of Marketing to help move that deal along, from a sales enablement standpoint.

What a great conversation Matt and I had on the topic of who should own the Inside Sales function. I’ve summarized some of the key points from his recent blog article (Why marketing should own inside sales (and why they shouldn’t)):

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matt heinzMatt Heinz, President of Heinz Marketing, brings more than 15 years of marketing, business development and sales experience from a variety of organizations, vertical industries and company sizes. His career has focused on delivering measurable results for his employers and clients in the way of greater sales, revenue growth, product success, and customer loyalty. Matt has held various positions at companies such as Microsoft, Weber Shandwick, Boeing, The Seattle Mariners, Market Leader and Verdiem. In 2007, Matt began Heinz Marketing to help clients focus their business on market and customer opportunities, then execute a plan to scale revenue and customer growth. You can read more from Matt on his blog, Matt on Marketing, or follow him on Twitter.


Explainer Videos as B2B Marketing Vehicles - Are You Doing it Right?

 

b2b marketing explainer videosYou might have a fantastic understanding of your business and how your services or products can help your customers. Now you have to relay that vision to garner some interest and ultimately get new customers. You want your prospects to understand how your solution might solve challenges they face. One of the best ways to do this (and quite popular in marketing circles these days) is to show them, rather than tell them.

What Exactly Is an Explainer Video?

We’re visual creatures, in large part. An explainer video lets you show a brief introduction to your company, explain what you do, and inform prospects why they need your service. An explainer video is a quick, striking way to make an impression on your prospects and deliver important information.

Attention spans are getting ever-thinner these days though. I read recently that, on average, you have eight seconds to sell yourself and your business to potential customers.
Rand Fishkin of Moz says, "We really do need to communicate quickly, because web users have become more and more impatient. They're not going to read through paragraph and paragraph and paragraph of text. Therefore, many, many websites have found it valuable to use visual-centric homepages to help communicate and to quickly convey the primary value proposition to those visitors. Sometimes, that's a video. Sometimes, it's just an image or graphic that explains things really clearly. That can work out great."

Text and telling alone may not be enough to engage prospects anymore.

Want an example of an explainer video? Check out the one below that we at SalesStaff just completed:


Benefits of Explainer Videos

The benefits are plentiful:

  1. It’s the perfect forum to make your best pitch. You need to connect with people in a way that they understand best. An explainer video allows you to deliver your best pitch to anyone, anytime, anywhere on their terms and at their leisure. You don’t even need to be around! 
  2. You can share your story easily. A recent Pew Research Center study found that 78% of adults watch or download online video (I thought it would be higher). Creating an explainer video might be the single easiest way to share your company’s story and services. Heck, you can even display your video beyond the normal internet means and utilize it in internal meetings, at sales appointments, and at conferences.

So you're convinced that they might help your business, but how to put one together...

Constructing a Good Explainer Video

You need to be able to condense and simplify your pitch into an easy-to-understand display that anyone can grasp.

If you don’t have internal video and branding resources, you might tap an experienced video production unit to learn your business and structure the video. Nevertheless, here's how you can build the video so it gets your point across and your company comes across as alluring and beneficial.

  1. Communicate your prospects’ challenges – and how your company might be a solution. As with other media, you need your audience to relate to the subject matter for it to be supremely effective. I’ve seen a lot of explainer videos that do this by presenting a character that faces the same issues that your prospects face. Show them relevance from the outset. Tap into their emotions and they’ll continue watching. After you've clearly summarized the problem facing your prospects, suggest a fix by suggesting that your product is the answer to their challenges.
  2. Your company’s value proposition should be a centerpiece. It shouldn’t be a supporting cast member but one of the leading roles in your video. Your viewers know you exist – step one completed. Now you need to be able to quickly show the central benefits of using your solution. Consider emphasizing a few key benefits; that way, you can get it out there without being longwinded. 
  3. Call-to-action – never leave them wondering what to do next. When the video ends, reiterate that can help solve their problems and offer up the call-to-action. "Go to our website.” or "Call us now!" or “Click here for more.” However you choose to call the prospect to action, just be certain you make it clear-cut how you can help and how viewers can get in touch with you and learn more about your solutions.

At the end of the day, one of your company’s best assets is your story. It's what lures them in, leaves them feeling connected, and pitches your product to the marketplace.

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The Sunk-Cost Effect: Don’t Chase B2B Sales Wins to the Ends of the Earth

 

sunk cost b2b salesThe Misunderstanding: You make sensible decisions based on the future value of objects, investments and experiences.

The Truth: Your decisions are infected by the emotional investments you’ve made, and the more you invest in something the more difficult it becomes to abandon it.

The sunk-cost effect is a term that our brethren in the Finance or Accounting Departments may know all too well, but it’s a concept that B2B sales professionals should know also. The sunk cost effect is the tendency to persist in an endeavor once an investment of effort, time, or money has been made, even though that endeavor is not providing returns.

Think of it in the context of a friendly poker game. So you’re playing a hand of Hold ‘Em poker that looks promising at the outset. You call a couple of bets before the flop and the flop comes. It isn’t the best flop for your hand and you’re likely behind to your opponents… but you call a couple more bets in the dire hopes that your hand will improve and you can win a pot that you are highly unlikely to win. This is called “chasing good money with bad money” and it is at the heart of the sunk-cost effect. You’ve perceived that you’ve made an investment and even though it’s not going to end well for you, you continue to invest in the bleak hope that your luck will change.

Now as a B2B sales professional, imagine the poker analogy as it’s applied to your profession. Let’s substitute poker chips for your most valuable resource – your time. You may be feverishly chasing B2B sales opportunities that are extremely low forecast opportunities – simply because you’ve already invested two hours in a presentation, and another few hours corresponding via phone and email. Maybe they’ve gone silent for a couple months… maybe they’re dragging you along with very sparse communication. Either way, B2B sales professionals need to know when to cut the cord and simply add those prospects to a bucket of Inactive or Long-Term Follow-Up.

For more information on this subject, some highly recommended reading from our blog can be found here:

 

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7 Company Departments that Could Benefit from Key Sales Skills

 

departments b2b salesIn reading through an article on the Parcel website about how all company departments might benefit from a little sales training, it got me thinking. What a genius concept. I may be a bit biased but I believe that sales professionals are the star athletes of an organization. Not to discount the value of other departments, but none of them would exist without a Sales team to keep the company bustling with clients, to keep money in the coffers to pay their salary and keep the lights on. I know it sounds like a PSA but it’s true. (Thank a sales colleague today, won’t you?)

There are traits inherent to any good sales professional that translate well in other departments of your organization. As the author of the above mentioned article points out:

“Ultimately, sales training is about learning how to persuade and influence others. Consider the fact that virtually every person within your organization has the opportunity to persuade and influence others in positive and beneficial ways every single day, whether those others are fellow employees, potential customers, partners, suppliers.”

I don’t purport to know the best way to train a mass of employees on sales basics, but I’ve listed below (as food for thought) how sales skills play into certain company departments.

  1. Marketing – This is pretty much a no-brainer. Sales and marketing go together like peanut butter and jelly. If sales professionals are Presidents of Persuasion, then marketers are Vice-Presidents. Specifically though, one trait of a good marketer (like a good salesperson) is that they know how to ask insightful questions that illicit responses.
  2. Human Resources – Usually it’s a job candidate that is selling themselves to the HR recruiter. But sometimes, a really attractive candidate may come along who is courted by a number of firms… at which point the onus to sell is reversed. A good HR candidate will speak persuasively of their company and the culture.
  3. Operations – Once a deal is sold, it is the job of Operations to continue selling in the way of delivering a great solution / product. Often, Operations personnel are client-facing and must show exemplary communication skills or answer objections about the deliverable. Sound familiar?
  4. Customer Service – Speaking of overcoming objections, isn’t that a primary function of a Customer Service rep fielding a call from a less-than-satisfied customer? These people are invaluable in an organization for their ability to be problem-solvers, to build rapport with clients, and gain their trust. Even if things are going well, it’s the job of a Customer Service department to sell the benefits of continued ownership of your solution.
  5. Finance / Accounting – One trait of a good salesperson is that they are well-organized. The same can be said of great Finance personnel. Not to mention, they are constantly balancing needs against resources – the same thing a salesperson does when assessing a prospect’s needs against the resources he can provide that prospect.
  6. Information Technology – If ever there were a department that needs to excel at questioning strategy to determine the best solution, it’s IT. They are tasked with providing smooth processes and workflow throughout the entire organization. And in that function, they must learn to assess needs through intelligent questioning. “What are you trying to accomplish?” “How would that process work in a perfect world?”
  7. Administrative Support – Ah, the unsung heroes of the company. Why are great admins so darn great? They are easily-approached, friendly, and quick to please. They are masters of organization and listening skills. All characteristics that also make for a great salesperson.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what department you’re in. You interface with people every day, whether it’s colleagues or clients or prospects. It pays to be persuasive yet diplomatic in every facet of business.

Please take advantage of our complimentary resources:

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Start Your B2B Sales Presentation with These 2 Sentences Every Time

 

b2b sales presentation first impressionFirst impressions are like the title of a book. If it's good, it's going to make you read what's hidden amongst the pages. You probably focus on being really good at the meat of your presentation and as well you should. But how do you open your presentation?

I don’t know about you, but I’ve sat on B2B sales presentations where the salesperson jumps right into the slide deck with very little in the way of a “How are you?” or “What exactly are you looking to accomplish here?” It’s very jarring.

With over twenty years of B2B sales experience, we’ve identified one of the best openings to a B2B sales presentation. We use it when we meet with our prospects. It’s simple. It’s effective. And it’s because there’s a couple nuggets of subtle sales psychology embedded in it.

This is your time, therefore I want to make sure you get what you need from our discussion. Maybe you have some questions you’d like to ask or perhaps you can tell me what you are looking for in regards to lead generation or, if you like, I can tell you about SalesStaff and how we help companies like yours accelerate their sales cycles and close more business via our quota-based marketing programs? Any thoughts?

Let’s dissect it a bit.

“This is your time, therefore I want to make sure you get what you need from our discussion.”

What you are really saying:

  • I acknowledge that your time is valuable.
  • This presentation is all about you… not me.
  • My focus is on your needs.

You've summed it all up in just a few seconds.

“Maybe you have some questions you’d like to ask or perhaps you can tell me what you are looking for in regards to [SOLUTION BEING OFFERED]…”

What you are really saying:

  • This will be more of a conversation than just me droning on.
  • I want to get to your needs and questions first and foremost, if you have any.
  • Help me steer this presentation where it needs to go.

Here, you are opening the floor to the prospect from the very beginning.

“…or, if you like, I can tell you about [COMPANY] and how we help companies like yours by [VALUE STATEMENT]…”

What you are really saying:

  • If you didn’t do enough research to generate any questions or if you just like to play coy, I’ll be happy to move along.
  • We have experience working with companies like yours.
  • I’m going to subtly plug our primary value proposition here to entice you, Mr. Prospect.

There’s a little bit of a pressure release here.

As you can see, there’s some subtle B2B sales psychology contained in the above opening to a B2B sales presentation. If you have other ideas for sales presentation openings that work well for you and your organization, leave them in the comments below.

To schedule some time to network with us at Interop Las Vegas March 31 – April 4, click below:

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9 Tech Companies that Made the 2014 Fast Company 50 Most Innovative

 

Fast Company CoverSome experts believe that an “innovation bubble” exists in world business. I tend to be on the opposite side of the argument, contending that innovation in business is formless and ever-continuing. It may wax and wane as the moon, but will never come to a death crawl. Lurking around every corner is always that “Man, I wish I’d have thought of that” idea. Innovation comes in many forms – a brilliant new technology, an astoundingly simple (yet highly useful) invention, a modification to an existing product that changes the way we use it. But the most prolific innovations are the ones that change the landscape of an entire industry, effect massive changes to consumer habits, and/or challenge the current paradigms that we’ve become accustomed to.

My latest issue of Fast Company landed in my mailbox last week and, as usual, I thoroughly enjoyed this year’s 50 Most Innovative Companies issue. Below are nine tech companies that made the list for their own robust innovation.

#48 nice 2

Israeli-based Nice Systems stands at the forefront of customer service solutions, used by 25,000 customers worldwide. In 2013, Nice Systems launched a flagship product Mobile Reach, a software that works in conjunction with banking, retail, and other mobile apps to effectively “step in” and help an end-user when they become frustrated with some feature of an app.

#47 philo

Brainchild of Harvard students Nicholas Krasney and Tuan Ho, Philo is a next-generation television solution for colleges and universities, using an existing IP network to stream television to students’ devices across campus. Universities love it because it cuts down on bandwidth usage and the entertainment industry loves it because it deters piracy and admits them access to the highly-coveted 18-24 year old demographic.

#36 flipboard 2

With more than 100 million users, Flipboard has become the “sliced bread” of news aggregation for mobile devices. Whether from blogs or popular news sources, the app lets users create personalized digital magazines from their favorite content. Needless to say, Flipboard has become one of the publishing industry’s newest best friends.

#26 github

Github has 4.5 million users – and would you believe that a third of those came in 2013 alone? You know how Microsoft Word has that version control feature called “Track Changes”? Think of Github as the version control solution for coders and software script writers – a collaborative environment that cuts down on project-based emails. Github will soon be a huge force in the open source software development world. Some say it is already.

#14 apple

Always the epitome of innovation through great design, Apple made the list primarily because of its latest innovation – Touch ID. The feature has made it so darn simple for customers to use their Apple ID to download apps and entertainment, which by the way comprise $10 billion of Apple’s annual revenue. Even cooler, it provides a little bit of awe-inspiring tech sorcery every time users unlock their phones with the touch of a finger, which is exactly why Apple is selling more than twice as many 5S phones as it’s brother, the 5C which doesn’t have touch technology.

#13   twitter

The Twitter IPO made huge news last year as one of the biggest securities events of the millennium, but they made this list not on the merits of their financial goings-on, but on the back of Vine, their ubiquitous mobile app that enables its users to create and post short looping video clips. Never one to shy away from succinctness, Twitter has proven yet again that there is power in brevity – that some of the best thoughts we have can be summed up in 140 characters (or in the case of Vine, seven seconds of video).

#8   zipdial

In India and other emerging markets, where mobile phone users are charged hefty prices for calls and texts, ZipDial has stepped in and created a creative new marketing platform. The short version is this: brands like Disney, Gillette, and Procter & Gamble are issued a number by ZipDial which they print on their ads. Consumers can then call and hang up and get a text or call in return – which drives solutions like lead generation, couponing, contests, friend referrals, and on-pack activations without charging the user for the price of a call.

#4  dropbox

Last year we saw Dropbox double its user-base from 100 million to 200 million. People have flocked to Dropbox because of its availability everywhere in their digital world. Whatever application, whatever device – Dropbox has made your information and your files accessible. Dropbox has continued innovating by adding on a diverse suite of features that make a boring old file storage site into a more useful tool – features like app connectivity (the first big connection: Yahoo! Mail), game syncing among multiple devices, and a simpler photo-sharing protocol.

#1google

What can you say about Google that hasn’t already been said? I can go on for days about all of the innovations Google has developed over the past few years – Google glass, Hangouts, Youtube’s live-streaming launch, etc., etc., etc. At the end of the day, Google is the giant of innovative companies. They’re a $350 billion company that has unleashed too many milestones and innovations to count. For that reason, Google stands at #1… and deservedly so.

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3 Ways to Avoid Loosey-Goosey B2B Sales Appointments

 

b2b sales appointments 000After setting over 1000 appointments as an Inside Sales Representative (ISR) at two major B2B lead generation companies, my experience has been that a good button up can turn a lukewarm appointment into a blazing hot prospect for our client. And in our business, delivering a bundle of solid hot prospects equates to a healthy long-term relationship with our clients.

Banging it out on the phones day in and day out has its challenges. At times, an ISR can become near-sighted in the B2B appointment setting process. There are times that ISRs can be hyper-focused on commission only – chasing that bonus for setting the appointment or maybe a juicy spiff. Heck, sometimes they get so desperate to set an appointment (after the 100th or 200th call) that they take shortcuts or submit appointments that barely meet the requirements – just not that solid. What are these shortcuts you ask? Some of the bad habits ISRs may pick up include:

  • Setting loose appointments that are way too far out on the calendar
  • Avoiding a more meaningful conversation in the interest of moving the appointment through
  • Little or no button-up at the end of the call (often caused by the fear of saying something that would blow the appointment)

When an ISR is rushing, there's a tangible desire to get off the phone once the prospect says yes to the appointment. They are fearful that they may say too much and the prospect will wiggle off the hook. The unfortunate result? Many of these appointments don't take place. Either the prospect doesn't accept the invite or they just don’t show up for the appointment.

Here are three golden rules to follow in order to solidify an appointment with urgency and value.

Set the appointment as close as calendars allow.

Example: “Mr. Prospect, How does your calendar look on February 27 at 10:30AM your time?”

Digest this fact well: 80% of all appointments set within seven days are attended... 80% of sales appointments set three weeks or more out don’t occur on the originally scheduled date and need to be rescheduled. Pin down the soonest possible date and time. Even if the prospect says no, they usually give you a day close to what you've suggested.

Be diligent in your questioning tactics and solicit detailed answers.

Example:
Question: “Who handles your internet service?"
Prospect: “ABC Internet Company”  
Add-on Question: “Oh I see. I talk to a lot of customers of ABC that tell me they hate the long periods of downtime with their internet service. Is that something you experience also?” (Here is the pain - Get the answer)

Learn the value of add-on questions - specifically ones that get the prospect talking about a pain which your solution might quell.

Finally, don’t shut-up and end the call; button-up and confirm the meeting.

Example: “Ok, John, before I let you go I want to make sure that I’ve heard you right. [Confirm important contact details like email, phone, etc.] [Confirm the date and time] And just so we can be properly prepared, you mentioned that you were specifically interested in hearing about [some detail from the conversation]. Is there anything else we can prepare for you? Fantastic Mr. Michaels, I will be sending you an email invite today. When you get it, please go ahead and accept it. Okay? Thank you for your time, Mr. Michaels, and we will talk to you on the 3rd. Have a great day!”

Taking a moment at the end of a call to confirm key information builds value in the sales meeting they’ve just agreed to. You're essentially saying, "This appointment is important to us... important enough that we want to get all of your information correct and, more importantly, find out what YOU want to talk about."

Remember, fight the urge to rush and get off the phone. Set appointments as close as you can, ask questions and get solid answers, and always end with a solid button-up. This will reduce your no-shows and increase the quality of your sales appointments. And as an ISR, solid appointments equal "job well done."

 

To schedule some time to network with us at Interop Las Vegas March 31 – April 4, click below:

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