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Get creative, but be smart with your social visuals.
Social media venues, from LinkedIn and Facebook to Twitter and Pinterest, are image-oriented. Don’t you enjoy visually-interesting posts and share them far more often than plain text?
What that means is that using images socially to convey your sales and marketing messages should be an important part of your overall strategy.
What images, though? That’s a question with many answers. The real story each picture tells is the key. Here are some guidelines to help you tell a winning story — and to keep your images working for you, not against you:
Make Your Social Media Viewers Part of the Picture
Whatever your social media strategy includes, using photos and other images should be an important part of the plan. It’s far easier to get past the short attention span of social users with visuals than with words. By making top-quality, story-telling images a high priority, you’ll give your social marketing and branding a real boost. When they get the picture, you get the benefits.
Stock photos courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It’s just a new calendar page, really, but it represents new beginnings to many people. What you should do to make a fresh start — over and over — in 2015.
We’re a week into the New Year. The ranks that frequent fitness clubs have swelled. Smokers are trying to quit, and most people have cut back on their calories. Curmudgeons are doing their best to think positive and be nicer to people.
Many resolutions have been made – and already broken.
As for the overeating part: Some nutrition experts warn against dieting. Instead, they say, we need to find a way to eat that helps us lose or maintain weight – and that we can live with forever.
I like to take that approach when New Year’s Day rolls around. It’s a good time to tighten our belts (both personally and professionally), reflect on what worked and what didn’t in the previous year, and implement changes that can make the next 12 months more productive and successful. This “recommitment to excellence,” as I like to call it, can be energizing.
But I try to recapture that spark throughout the year, not just on January 1. For one thing, it works. For another, it makes my January re-evaluation that much easier since I’ve been through it numerous times during the previous year.
You might start by taking these steps I’m about to describe once a quarter. If you find yourself falling back into old habits, do it at the beginning of every month.
Too busy to do all of this now, not to mention periodically? At least try to do a couple of them at various intervals throughout the year. It’s bound to make your look back at 2015 more informed, more focused, and – hopefully – more pleasant.
The recently-released eighth version of the popular CRM solution remains true to the company’s founding principles, while improving usability, guidance, and customer relationships.
When I launched this blog, I disclosed my employment relationship with Pipeliner CRM. Obviously, we develop and sell CRM software for sales professionals. I am the company’s Vice President, Global ISV & Partner Alliances, a role I’m enjoying very much for a company that I’m proud to be aligned with.
I’ve stayed away from talking about Pipeliner CRM because I want this blog to be about you, about the challenges you face as a sales professional in the 21st century. But I’d like to use this space today to fill you in on the recent update to Pipeliner CRM: Elements. I’m really excited about it because it helps solve a couple of problems that we all face: managing the time we have for dealing with the sales pipeline and its numerous customer relationships well, and the confusion that can occur when we’re dealing with multiple contacts at a company.
The core product is a desktop solution; it’s available for both Windows and Mac. But its reach extends to the online universe when necessary – especially to your social channels – so you can work from anywhere (the company calls this hybrid approach the SMART Cloud). Pipeliner CRM supports deep, comprehensive customer profiles that simplify and accelerate your contact management tasks.
But it’s much more than that. Like the name implies, this smart application displays your progress with customers using a graphical pipeline, with your target goals always easily accessible. It provides a step-by-step path that takes you through each individual element of the sales process, with intelligent lead generation and business intelligence built in.
You can collaborate with your team in real time, and integrate your sales data with numerous applications, including Microsoft Office, Google Drive, and MailChimp. The application’s Dashboard pulls it all together, simplifying and accelerating information retrieval.
One of the many things that drew me to Pipeliner Sales was its sales philosophy. Pipeliner CRM is based on an economic theory that dates back to the mid-to-late 19th century: the Austrian School of Economic Thought. You may never have heard the name, but you’ve probably incorporated some of its management principles. Developed by management scientists and economists, this set of tenets continues to have impact on sales professionals in the 21st century. (You can read more about our philosophical foundation in our CEO’s ebook.)
To our knowledge, we’re the first and only software company that has built its application on these principles, and our users would agree that this theory is quite effective in practice.
Pipeliner CRM was already an intuitive, flexible application that incorporated a sleek graphical interface to simplify information and task management. The new, retooled Pipeliner CRM Elements builds on that solid base, adding:
Pipeliner CRM Element’s pricing structure is simple: $35 per user monthly. If you make a two-year commitment, an end-of-2014 special gives you a 20 percent license discount. A free trial is available.
You have numerous choices when it comes to selecting a social CRM solution, and I would never make a blanket recommendation for an application without knowing that it was a good fit for your organization. Pipeliner CRM Elements may not be the right choice for you, but I do think it’s worthy of your consideration.
I don’t often dedicate an entire blog post to one product, but this one’s worth it.
Finding information about your prospects and leads on the internet isn’t difficult. You have access to an embarrassment of riches between Google and its Alerts tool, social media, pricey data tools like Hoover’s, and the companies’ sites themselves.
The challenge is to do your research in a timely fashion – to find sources that consolidate the information you need without a lot of extraneous content.
I recently ran across a new tool that does that that: Gagein. Odd name, but very promising new site for getting the scoop on businesses that look promising — and on finding them in the first place. This is what you see when you choose a company to “follow:”
This image is a little fuzzy, but you can see the elements that comprise your company profiles, including:
Gagein has data on over two million companies in its database. If it’s missing one you’d like to see, suggest it, and it will be added in 72 hours or less. You can also import business information from Salesforce or a CSV file.
You can simply enter the name of a company you’d like to follow, or you can use Gagein’s powerful search tool. You click in the box at the top and select either Build a company list or Build a people list (companies and people can also be assigned to groups that you define). The Triggers list opens, displaying the same filters you used when looking for relevant news stories; you can select an historical date range here. You can also search by parameters like industry type, headquarters locations, employee and revenue size, and ownership type.
Gagein’s Scores offer insightful customization tools that help you gauge the likelihood of sales to specific companies. The businesses you follow are ranked from 0 to 100, “…based on sales triggers and adapted to time value, company size, and market momentum.” You can go to the Edit screen to give each of Gagein’s triggers a priority score of from 1-10. A “1” would display a minimal number of companies with news related to that trigger. A “10” would return the most. Gagein also keeps track of your news story Likes and shows you your most relevant sales triggers.
I recommend you take advantage of Gagein’s free trial. After that, it’s $9.99/month for individuals, $12.99-27.99 per seat/per month for teams, and $14.99-32.99/seat/month for Gagein for Salesforce.
2014 hasn’t brought any significant new messages to social selling. Some of today’s most promising voices are reinforcing what we already know.
As every year winds down, I like to spend some time replaying the last year in my mind. If I’ve been diligent enough to keep copious notes about my successes and failures, this task is a lot easier.
If I haven’t, I try to put in writing my thoughts about what worked and what didn’t work. I ask myself a variety of questions during this process, including:
Like a journalist assembling the critical elements of a story, my own story starts to take shape. By being brutally honest with myself (since I don’t share of the results of my reflections with anyone else), I critique the last year’s highlights and lowlights – not unlike a sports coach reviewing games tapes and seeing in hindsight what wasn’t obvious at the time.
Compare and Contrast
I’ve been reading a lot of advice from the country’s top sales leaders lately. I think it’s important to see what the most successful people are saying about the current state of the sales process, though I encourage you to listen to your own inner, critical voice.
You know the one. It’s not the one that just tries to cheer you up after a rejection. It’s the one that you know is being objective. Seeing the whole picture. Telling it like it is. Pick your cliche.
Sometimes it takes awhile to hear that voice. Wait for it. That’s why I do this comprehensive analysis after a year has passed.
Hearing From the Pros
Once your marketing efforts have delivered a prospect, it’s time for you to put in practice those basic principles of social selling that have been repeated over and over the last few years. They’re said over and over — by people who’ve been there — because they work.
Not in every case, of course. Some prospects can’t be converted to sales, no matter what you do or say. But play the percentages.
So at the risk of being repetitive, here’s what I’ve gleaned from my recent reading:
No Magic Formula
You know as well as I do that sometimes you have to throw a Hail Mary pass, to use yet another sports metaphor. The internet — as well as your own personal research, skills, and knowledge — should make that a rare occurrence.
Email marketing campaigns have proven themselves to be effective through extensive use. Those that get read, that is
If you’re like most people, you receive dozens of marketing emails every day. That’s because they produce leads and contacts.
Sometimes. You probably send most of those emails unread to your spam folder. If you’re putting together an email marketing campaign, avoiding that fate for your emails is crucial. Here are some simple tips that will help get your email marketing letters opened and read. That’s the first step for success.
Email Marketing Only Works When Your Email is Read
It’s easy to send out hundreds — or even thousands — of marketing emails. Success is based on how many of those emails get opened and read. Spend as much time as necessary to create marketing emails that you’d open, read, and act on if they showed up in your inbox. The value of your marketing email depends on its perceived value by the recipient.
If it wasn’t so easy, thousands of companies wouldn’t have already done it. Here’s how to ensure that your new CRM software will soon be failware.
You know how long it can take to develop a good rapport with a prospective customer. Sometimes you get lucky and hit it off quickly, but usually – employing a combination of emails, social media “touches,” and, in some cases, phone calls and face-to-face meetings – the process is a lengthy one.
Taking on CRM software for your company should be an equally time- and thought-intensive journey. In some ways, this kind of computer-based solution is your most critical piece of technology. While there are all kinds of issues that managers must tackle in making a business run – HR, production, accounting, etc. – your entire staff is focused in some way on the customers you serve.
So your selection and implementation of a CRM solution are more critical than you might have considered. Just ask any of the many companies that have put countless hours into an application and watched it tank. Here’s how you can have the same experience:
Do not put a lot of time into defining your objectives for the system.
“CRM software is really just a big database, right? And who knows more about database software than the IT department? Let’s just let them decide.”
There are managers at companies who think that way. Even if the decision is left up to them, they go at the process backwards, looking at the available pool of options before they’ve determined exactly what they need a CRM solution to do. It’s easy to be swayed by a persuasive sales pitch, a single review, or a recommendation from a business associate.
What are your goals for the CRM software? What do you hope to be able to do that you can’t do now? Focus on your needs as a sales team and the benefits you hope to glean. Don’t even start looking at options until you’ve completed that step and written everything down.
Buy based on price, not features.
“Both of these systems create customer profiles and have links to social media and will my team track the sales process, so I should just buy the cheaper one.”
OK, so these two cars have four wheels, front seats and back seats, brakes, and a steering wheel. I’ll just buy the cheaper one.
Introduce all of the solution’s features to your sales team.
“If a feature is included in a CRM solution, there must be a good reason, and I must teach my salespeople how to use absolutely every function.”
This is another reason why you made that list of objectives earlier. Use what you need, and introduce even those features in increments. Make sure your team has mastered the basics before moving on to more sophisticated functions.
Don’t bother upper management with the details.
“Customer relationship management is a sales function. So I, as the sales manager, have carte blanche to decide which software to buy.”
Ideally, anyone in the company who deals with customers at all should have at least limited use of your CRM solution, including management.
Determining your needs, selecting a CRM solution, introducing staff to it, and actually using it successfully can take months. Give this decision and implementation the time it deserves.
You have a lot of options when it comes to email marketing solutions.
I’ve written a lot about email marketing in this blog, and I still believe that it’s one of the most effective ways to target the right customers and get your message across.
But I’m always surprised when I run across salespeople at conferences and learn that they’re still building their lists manually. Or worse – they’re just sending every sales and marketing email to every address on their lists. And they’re using the old direct-mail 1 or 2 percent is a good return method for evaluating their results.
Their perception may be that web-based email marketing applications are too expensive, too difficult to use, or just unnecessary.
They’re none of those things, and I strongly encourage you to investigate what’s available. I have my favorites, but your mileage may vary. What works for my company’s needs may not be right for you, so explore more than one. Take advantage of free trials.
They all share some of the same features, including:
Import of existing contacts. You don’t have to start from scratch. You’ll be able to upload your mailing lists in popular formats like Excel, or even from other apps. And if you don’t have a good contact list, you can get help building one.
Help creating eye-catching emails. Whether they’re viewing them on their smartphones, tablets, or desktops, your customers have a lot of email traffic. Yours need to stand out – both visually, and in terms of your content. Email marketing applications provide tools like templates to help.
Integration with social media. This is an absolute must for email marketing applications, and it occurs in a variety of ways. You’ll be able to cross-post emails to your social networks, create more comprehensive, real-time contact profiles, and encourage your audience to share your content.
Insightful reporting. Who opens your emails? What links do they click on? Who forwarded your email, and who made a purchase because of it? Which emails aren’t getting through, or are being ignored? Are pictures or text more effective? These are the kinds of questions that email marketing applications can answer.
Automation. Email marketing applications save time and keystrokes by automating emails that should be sent when they’re triggered by a customer or prospect’s actions. For example, new visitors can be sent a welcome message, and more engaged contacts can be sent emails based on their interests and website activity.
Integration with other applications. You can see by now that these apps scream to be connected to your other sales and marketing tools, from Salesforce.com and Microsoft Dynamix to HootSuite and NetSuite to Pipeliner CRM and Google Drive. Built-in integration and access to APIs provide a bridge to CRM software, in addition to numerous other application types.
…and what you can do to minimize frustration and maximize customer satisfaction
Was it easier to manage your customer relationships when you worked off of an overflowing rolodex, a file folder stuffed with lunch receipts and invoices and scribbled recaps of phone conversations?
In a way, it was easier. You could probably use that information and your paper calendar and your memory to summarize where things stood with that customer. You had constructed that rather scattered profile by yourself, and you owned it.
But was it faster? No. More thorough? Certainly not. You may be able to easily find your customers’ birthdays and rattle off the names of their children, but did you know that they called tech support three times about a product they bought six months ago? That they’re opening a new location and are stocking up with competitors’ products because they’ve been asking for opinions online and haven’t heard from you?
Software and websites that help you build comprehensive customer profiles (social CRM) track:
But it is truly like herding cats. Your customers are all over the web, and they may be interacting with other employees at your company without you knowing. Which also means that you may be missing opportunities to “touch” them (which, like with cats, requires knowledge of the feline’s history and likes/dislikes, timing, agility, patience, and willingness to be flexible. And a little bit of luck).
Social CRM helps you manage your human relationships by offering:
My point is this: If you haven’t yet implemented – and implemented fully – a social CRM solution, you’re making the cat-herding part of your job harder. It’s tough enough to know which emerging social networks have staying power, and which of the many social CRM platforms will be around next year. So expect chaos and uncertainty, but minimize it with the tools available today.
There are a lot more than three, but here are some of the top social selling concerns that today’s businesses are facing.
As I’ve said before on this blog, many of the core tenets of salesmanship have remained the same since there was stuff to sell and people to sell it.
But the social relationships with customers that have been made possible by internet connections, combined with our ability to better distribute information about our products and services, challenge us find new ways to meet old needs.
A recent webinar co-hosted by HubSpot, LinkedIn, and Evernote caught my attention because of the three questions asked of the hosts at the end of the presentation. I have my own answers for them, which I’ll explain next week.
Here are the questions and excerpts of the answers provided by speakers Mark Roberge, chief revenue officer at HubSpot; Koka Sexton, senior social marketing manager at LinkedIn; and Josh Zerkel, user education specialist at Evernote.
My sales team doesn’t have the right materials to help my prospects solve their problems. What should I do?
Roberge: “There is no social selling without content.”
Zerkel: “When it comes to sales and marketing, I think it’s helpful to make sure there’s an open channel of communication so that collaboration can occur.”
Sexton: “I think context is something that’s often overlooked because where the buyer is within the sales cycle should determine what type of content you’re handing them, and ultimately how you’re delivering it to them.”
Our marketing team creates a lot of content each month, but the sales team never uses it. How can I solve this problem?
Zerkel: “Sales might not be aware where the tools are or it may be that they feel it’s too difficult to access them.” Or, “… the tools that marketing thinks are so awesome may not, in fact, be so awesome when it comes to real world deployment and social selling.”
Roberge: “It’s next to impossible, at this point, for those salespeople to know exactly the right content to follow up with — there’s just too much out there.” So HubSpot is experimenting with solutions like tagging content based on topic or persona, or having sales designate problems different personas are experiencing in its CRM.
How do you present yourself on social media in order to do social selling? How do you leverage your social presence as a salesperson?
Sexton: It’s about, “…how you use your online persona, building your reputation and becoming that brand that draws people in… If a salesperson is consistently posting great content about the industry, provided by the marketing team, it will be so much easier for that salesperson to build that personal brand and that social media credibility. That’s really what social selling is all about: Giving salespeople the tools they need to have genuine interactions on social media that help them in their sales processes.”
How would you answer these questions?