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The 30 Best Alexa Skills for Professionals | #VentureCanvas

afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost) | Hubspot Sales


If you own an Amazon Alexa device, you can use Alexa Skills to be more productive; keep track of your day, finances, and calls; make travel easier; hear the news you care about, and more.

Alexa Skills are built-in capabilities activated by your voice. New ones are added to the Alexa Skill library all the time.

The 30 Best Alexa Skills for Professionals

  1. Web analytics: Monitor website performance
  2. Welto: Keep track of your finances
  3. Shopify: Get important store information
  4. Time Tracker by eBillity: Track your time
  5. Quick Events: Add calendar events
  6. Life Bot: Get ready for the day
  7. Weather Sky: Get a weather update
  8. Conference Manager: Dial into calls
  9. Chat Bot for Slack: Post to Slack
  10. SMS With Molly: Send text messages
  11. Uber: Order an Uber
  12. Lyft: Order a Lyft
  13. Flight Tracker: Arrive at the airport on time
  14. I’m driving: Get an ETA
  15. Fitbit: Check your health
  16. Guided Meditation: Meditate
  17. ESPN Flash Briefing: Get sports updates
  18. StatMuse: Learn sports stats
  19. The Hustle: Get startup updates
  20. Wall Street Journal: Get personal finance stories
  21. Harvard Business Review Tip: Get advice
  22. Famous Quotes: Be inspired
  23. GaryVee 365: Learn how to hustle harder
  24. TED Talks: Listen to TED Talks
  25. This Day in History: Get a fun conversation starter
  26. Domino’s: Order pizza
  27. Reorder with Grubhub: Get delivery
  28. Amazon Restaurants: Reorder a recent delivery
  29. Starbucks Reorder: Save time on your coffee pick-up
  30. OpenTable: Make reservations

Productivity Alexa Skills

Web analytics: Monitor website performance

If you need to know how your site is performing, this Web Analytics Alexa Skill will be highly useful. It pulls website and blog traffic — for a specific day, month, or year. You can also get detailed metrics like average session duration, pages per session, and more.

Welto: Track your finances

As a salesperson, your income changes on a quarterly or even monthly basis. That means you should always know how much you’re spending and saving.

Welto eases the burden of personal finance management. You can ask, “What’s my current balance?”, “What are my expenses this month so far?”, “How much money have I made this year so far?” and more.

In addition, the highly useful timed bill pay option means you’ll never incur late charges or overdraw fees again.

Shopify: Get important store information

Shopify store owners, rejoice. This Alexa Skill will answer all your questions about your business, orders and sales, best-selling products, average purchase value over a specific time period, store visitors, unfulfilled orders, and more.

Anything that’s on your mind can be answered in a second, so you can make smarter decisions faster.

Time Tracker by eBillity: Track your time

Although primarily designed for freelancers and other professionals who bill by the hour, this Alexa Skill is a no-hassle option for tracking your time.

Just say, “Start a new timer for prospecting,” or “Create a new time entry for two hours for client meeting.”

Quick Events: Add calendar events

Instantly add events to your Google Calendar without skipping a beat. Not only will Quick Events make sure you’re not scheduling over an existing event, it’ll let you add all the necessary details, such as date, time, length, and location.

Meetings are set to 50 minutes by default, but you can specify any length — even all-day and multi-day ones.

Life Bot: Get ready for the day

Life Bot makes your morning a little less hectic. New features are added every week, but here are the current ones:

  • “Alexa, ask Life Bot to start one-minute meditation”: You can also ask for two, five, 10, or 15 minutes.
  • “Alexa, ask Life Bot for my calendar”: The app will tell you the next three events in your Google Calendar.
  • “Alexa, ask Life Bot to send me a reminder about X”: You’ll get a text reminder.
  • “Alexa, ask Life Bot for my news”: Not only will you hear personalized news headlines, the articles will be sent to your phone.

Weather Sky: Get a weather update

Weather Sky gives you a detailed summary of the weather or temperature for any location in the U.S. The default is for that day, but you can also ask about weather for future or past dates.

That’s not all. If you ask for, say, a blizzard, you’ll hear corresponding sound effects. This is a great white noise solution if you like falling asleep to the sound of rain or working to the sound of snow.

Communication Alexa Skills

Conference Manager: Dial into calls

Vonage’s Conference Manager integrates with your Google Calendar to find your upcoming call, identify the conference call number and your meeting code, and dial in for you. The call will go through your Alexa device. Simply say, “Alexa, have Conference Manager start my call.”

The skill currently supports WebEx, Citrix GoToMeeting, BlueJeans, and Vonage Business. Support for additional services is coming soon.

Chat Bot for Slack: Post to Slack

Chat Bot for Slack makes it insanely easy to post to Slack. Link your Slack account, then specify the channel you’d like to post to and your message.

For instance, you might say, “Alexa, start Chat Bot. I want to post ‘Closed Solange deal’ to ‘wins.’”

SMS With Molly: Send text messages

When you’re running around and can’t spare the time to pick up your phone and type a text, SMS With Molly is a lifesaver. You can say “Alexa, tell SMS With Molly to send ‘Running five minutes late’ to Hugh” or “Alexa, tell SMS With Molly to send ‘Be outside in 10’ to Blake.”

Enable the skill, add your most frequently used contacts, then start texting. You can send up to 30 messages per month.

Travel Alexa Skills

Uber: Order an Uber

If you’ve got an in-person meeting, you can save valuable time by ordering your Uber via Alexa. Just say, “Alexa, ask Uber to request a ride.” Riding in style — or trying to save money? Say, “Alexa, ask Uber to order an Uber Black” or “Alexa, ask Uber to call an UberPool,” respectively.

You can also change your default pickup location, ask how far away your driver is, or cancel your ride. And if multiple people in your family use Uber, just tell Alexa to switch the Amazon Household profile (for example, from “Aja” to “Jordan”) to get a pick-up for the right person.

Lyft: Order a Lyft

If you’re a Lyft user instead, try this Alexa Skill. Set your home and work addresses in your Lyft app, then say, “Alexa, tell Lyft to call a line to work.” You can also ask Alexa where your ride is, rate your driver, and get an estimate for how long it’ll take to get to work.

One thing to note: Lyft for Alexa always sends a car to your Lyft “Home” address, so if you’re on the go, use your phone instead.

Flight Tracker: Arrive at the airport on time

Frequent travelers know the secret to staying productive while regularly jetting off to different cities, states, countries, or even continents: Spend as little time at the airport as possible. Whether you’re an outside rep or simply someone who loves to travel, you know the pain of arriving at the airport only to learn your flight’s been delayed.

With Flight Tracker, you can get the latest flight status for a specific flight. Just look up the airline and flight number (for example, “Alexa, ask Flight Tracker for flight status for Delta 15”) and you’ll learn whether it’s currently on time or running late.

Pro tip: This is also a useful skill when you’re picking up someone at the airport and need to know when to leave.

I’m driving: Get an ETA

Driving to the office, a coffee shop, a coworking space, or another work destination? Learn whether you’ll make it on time for your first call or meeting. Tell Alexa, “I’m driving,” then specify your destination (“the office,” “work,” “WeWork,” and so on.)

You’ll get estimated travel time as well as route recommendations based on current traffic.

Health Alexa Skills

Fitbit: Check your health

With Fitbit’s skill, staying on-track with your health goals is easier than ever before. Say, “Alexa, ask Fitbit how I’m doing today” to get a general overview of your daily metrics, such as steps logged, calories burned, calories remaining, hours slept, active minutes, and more.

You can also ask if you hit your sleep goal — a handy way to gauge whether you should stay in bed, wink wink — or how you did yesterday.

Guided Meditation: Meditate

Meditation is an important routine if you’re plagued by stress, depression, insomnia, a lack of focus, and more. With Stop, Breathe, & Think’s guided daily meditations, you’ll always have a quick but impactful way to collect yourself, get some perspective, and become more mindful.

This Alexa Skill will come in handy whether you’re already a regular meditator or need some help making it a habit.

News and Inspiration Alexa Skills

ESPN Flash Briefing: Get sports updates

Few subjects are more reliable rapport-builders than sports. However, keeping up-to-date on the latest sports news isn’t always easy when you’re juggling a billion tasks — especially if you’re not that into sports in the first place (we know you’re out there!)

ESPN Flash Briefing is here to save the day. Say “Alexa, what’s my flash briefing?” and you’ll hear the latest stories in sports.

StatMuse: Learn sports stats

Sports nerds, rejoice. StatMuse’s Alexa Skill lets you explore statistics, schedules, and scores, so you can instantly discover everything from who had the most touchdowns last season to the date of the Falcon’s next game.

This a fun way to stay briefed on sports so you can network more effectively. Plus, it features the real voices of Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Terrell Owens, and more players.

The Hustle: Get startup updates

If you work with young companies and/or in the tech industry, knowing the latest news in startup world is important.

Use this Alexa Skill to hear the daily headlines from The Hustle, an entertaining, well-curated email digest covering business and technology. Once you’ve gotten a snapshot of the news, head to your email inbox to read the full stories.

Wall Street Journal: Get personal finance stories

Trying to stay briefed on personal finance? This Alexa Skill from the Wall Street Journal will clue you into valuable insights on student loan debt, home prices, insurance, retirement, and more each and every day.

Harvard Business Review Tip: Get advice

HBR’s email newsletter is known for its practical tips. Whether you’re a sales manager or an individual contributor, this audio version of its digest will help you start your workday on the right foot, give you conversation starters, and remain mindful.

Famous Quotes: Be inspired

When you need inspiration, quick, ask Famous Quotes for a quote. Alexa will randomly choose a saying from a famous person — it might be funny, serious, or thought-provoking.

GaryVee 365: Learn how to hustle harder

Along similar lines, everyone’s favorite entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has an Alexa Skill that’ll provide you with daily motivational quotes. He covers everything from empathy and gratitude to self-esteem, and, of course, hustling.

This is original content created solely for Alexa, so you’ll hear snippets from Gary Vee no one else is getting access to.

TED Talks: Listen to TED Talks

For on-demand inspiration, use the TED Talks Alexa Skill. It will play you the most recent TED talk or find you a random one, based on your command. You can also search for talks by topic, speaker name, or theme, i.e. “funny,” “inspiring,” “courageous,” and so on.

With new TED talks every single weekday, you’ll always have access to motivation when you need it.

This Day in History: Get a fun conversation starter

If you’re tired of building rapport with questions like, “How’s your day going?” or “Is it feeling like fall yet in [prospect’s town]?”, This Day in History is a good Alexa Skill to set up.

Ask Alexa to launch This Day in History to learn the historical events that happened on this day. Once you jump on a call, tell the buyer, “I actually just learned Yosemite National Park was founded on this day in 1890. Have you ever been?” or “The Model T was unveiled on this day in 1908. Would you rather drive around a vintage Model T or a Tesla?”

It takes a certain level of quirkiness to pull this off — and the right audience — but do it right, and you’ll be the salesperson who’s also a history buff (versus the ninth person that week to ask about the weather).

Food Alexa Skills

Domino’s: Order pizza

On those days when you’re working like crazy and need a low-effort, delicious meal to help you power through, you’ll love this Alexa Skill from Domino’s.

You can start a new brand-new order, request your most recent order, or ask for your default order. Once the order is out, Alexa will tell you which stage it’s in — from the time it’s placed to when it’s ready for delivery or pickup.

Reorder with Grubhub: Get delivery

Maybe you’re not a pizza lover. You can still enjoy the convenience of hands-free delivery. Link your Grubhub account to Alexa, then reorder your favorite dishes and/or entire orders.

Amazon Restaurants: Request anything from your Amazon Restaurants order history

Prime users in Atlanta, Austin, Baltimore, Brooklyn, Chicago, Columbus, Dallas, Houston, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Portland, Manhattan, Miami, Minneapolis, Northern Virginia, Orlando, Oakland, San Diego, San Francisco, San Jose, Seattle and the Eastside, Tampa, and Las Vegas can order from Amazon Restaurants.

Say, “Alexa, order Thai food from Amazon Restaurants,” or “Alexa, order pizza from Amazon Restaurants.” Confirm the order, and it’ll be on its way.

Starbucks Reorder: Save time on your coffee pick-up

Waiting in line at Starbucks can eat up valuable minutes of your morning. But few salespeople can operate without their A.M. caffeine boost (and let’s be honest, their afternoon one as well).

Make your coffee run as seamless as possible with the Starbucks Reorder skill. It lets you reorder your “usual” from one of the last 10 stores you’ve ordered from or pick an order from your last five.

OpenTable: Make reservations

You’ve just confirmed a meeting with a prospect or customer. Now you need a reservation. Rather than browsing OpenTable on your phone or computer, just say, “Alexa, launch OpenTable.”

Then, search for the restaurant you’re thinking of, request a time, and viola — you’re booked.

Alexa Skills FAQ

What are Alexa Skills?

An Alexa Skill is a capability you can take advantage of if you own an Amazon Echo, Echo Dot, Echo Show, Tap, Fire TV, and Fire Tablet. There are currently over 25,000 Alexa Skills.

Are Alexa Skills free?

All Alexa Skills are free. Of course, you have to pay for an Alexa-powered device.

How do you get an Alexa Skill?

You can enable Alexa Skills on your phone via the Alexa app. Alternatively, you can turn them on in the Alexa Skills store on the Amazon site.

Lastly, if you know the exact title of the skill, say, “Enable [skill name] skill.”

Once you’ve enabled a skill, use it by saying, “Alexa, open [skill name].”

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Source: The 30 Best Alexa Skills for Professionals

Sales Culture: The Ultimate Guide | #VentureCanvas

afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost) | Hubspot Sales


Sales culture is a fuzzy concept. You can’t measure your team’s culture like you’d measure their monthly revenue; email, call, and meeting activity; average tenure, etc.

But that doesn’t mean it’s not important.

In fact, your organization’s sales culture plays a huge role in all those things: How much your salespeople sell, how productive they are, how long they stay with your company, and more.

What is sales culture?

The definition of sales culture is the attitudes, values, and habits that characterize your team. It can usually be summed up in 10 or so words.

Here are a few examples:

  • “Competitive,” “intense,” “independent,” “merit-based,” “constant change,” and “long hours.”
  • “Supportive,” “transparent,” “democratic,” “social,” “focus on training,” and “work hard, play hard.”

You can probably get a sense from reading those descriptors which culture is healthy and which is a little dysfunctional.

Which brings me to …

What does a successful sales culture look like?

A successful sales culture brings out the best in your salespeople. That means:

  1. Healthy competition
  2. Low rep turnover
  3. The ability to quickly identify problems in the sales process and adjust as needed
  4. Collaboration and knowledge sharing
  5. Trust and communication (both within the team and the greater organization)
  6. A common vision
  7. Continual learning and development
  8. Accountability

That’s quite a list. If you know your sales culture doesn’t exhibit all (or even half) of these traits, don’t worry. We’re going to dive into each one in detail.

Sales culture best practices

1) Encourage friendly competition

Most salespeople thrive on competition. The key is keeping it in check — if you let “competitive” turn into “cutthroat,” your reps might begin withholding useful suggestions and information from each other, trash talking each other, or trying to steal opportunities.

So, how do you perfectly walk the line?

First, give your team an external rival. Having a common “enemy” causes them to work together and grow closer. You can spur them on to outperform another team or outsell your biggest competitors in the market.

Second, encourage them to beat their own records. Direct their competitive energy toward outdoing last month or quarter’s results, and they’ll be less likely to resent their peers.

Third, pair newer reps with more experienced ones. Having a go-to mentor won’t just accelerate the ramp-up period and give your new hires a sense of security and comfort, it’ll also cut down on feelings of isolation.

Lastly, use a variety of sales contests and incentives. Don’t run the same contest again and again; not only will the same people keep winning (leading everyone else to eventually stop trying), but you’ll make them natural targets.

Maybe the first month you host a contest for the rep who can book the most meetings. The next, you reward the person with the fastest average sales cycle. The month after that, you give a bonus to the rep who signs the most deals with a specific type of prospect.

By consistently shaking things up, you’ll give everyone a chance to win and keep things interesting.

You can also run team-wide contests. For instance, you might challenge the entire team to hit a quota for your latest product launch or ramp up activity by a specific percentage.

2) Low rep turnover

It’s a red flag when you’re always losing salespeople. Finding and training new ones is extremely expensive; plus, an ever-changing “roster” is bad for morale.

To decrease rep turnover, make sure you’re carefully choosing the best salespeople. While being selective will extend the hiring process, you’ll save money in the long run.

Your reps should have plenty of coaching support from their manager — not just when they first begin, but throughout their tenure at your company. Implement a structured coaching routine, and consistently poll your salespeople to see if they’re getting the training and management they need.

Although money isn’t the sole reason reps leave, paying below-market rate will harm your retention. Keep your on-target earnings (OTE) in line with (or better than) typical pay for the role, industry, and region.

Finally, feeling stuck is a huge factor in sales turnover. Ensure you have a defined promotion path in place — for example, from BDR to AE to Senior AE — so salespeople can move up as they gain more experience and skills.

3) Agile

In sales, the ability for the team to move fast is crucial. Perhaps the executives decide they want to move into a new vertical. The sales org needs to quickly familiarize themselves with their new customers, figure out prospecting methods, learn the appropriate terminology so reps can earn credibility with buyers, map out the common buying process and org structure, develop soundbites, identify good candidates for customer references and case studies, and more.

If the team is agile, this process will be feasible. If it’s unable to experiment, learn from its mistakes, and adapt, it will fail.

How do you promote agility? Borrow principles from the agile philosophy, such as holding a daily 10-minute stand-up (i.e. a team-wide meeting where everyone stands to encourage sticking to the time limit).

Have every member answer the same three questions — and nothing else:

  1. “What did you achieve yesterday?”
  2. “What will you achieve today?”
  3. “What do you need to adjust to be more effective?”

In addition, make sure your reps have access to the information they need. Individual and team-wide performance should be available to all. Good decisions don’t happen without good data.

Finally, encourage a “fail fast” culture. Salespeople should take risks — from trying a new prospecting technique to using different negotiation strategies. As long as they document their results and share them widely, it’s okay if they don’t succeed. The results will help everyone learn and improve.

4) Collaboration and knowledge sharing

Along those lines, creating a sales culture where salespeople collaborate and freely pass along tips and strategies is essential.

Unfortunately, communication roadblocks are common.

First, is there an easy, convenient way for reps to talk? Spontaneous water cooler conversations aren’t enough. Get everyone on Slack or another chat platform so announcing “hey, this new combo of CRM filters is turning up some fire prospects” is as easy as, well, typing that.

Second, are your contests helping or hurting collaboration? You don’t want reps hoarding their learnings. Regularly hold contests that have the team working as a whole, rather than individuals.

Third, are you focusing on the quality of the idea instead of its source? Let’s say your SDR has a brilliant suggestion. Try it out — don’t shoot her down because she’s new or inexperienced.

Fourth, are you encouraging honesty? Perhaps your salesperson criticized the new talk track. As long as he’s made good points (and he’s expressing them respectfully), this is productive. You never want people afraid to speak up; that’s how bad ideas survive.

Fifth, are you rewarding knowledge sharing? Consider giving points for contributing information. For instance, if an AE comes up with a new strategy that makes prospects 40% less likely to cancel their demo at the last minute, she could win the monthly $250 “Innovation Bonus.”

5) Trust and communication

Reps rarely thrive in an environment without trust. The sales manager is responsible for establishing this trust, which she can do in three main ways.

Step 1: Accept and incorporate feedback

A great manager listens to her team — and more importantly, reacts to their feedback. Are they frustrated with the way training is currently delivered? She tries to find a better format. Do they want less interference with their deals? She takes a step back (within reason). Would they like more transparency with the higher levels of the company? She works to provide that.

Even if sales managers can’t follow through on everything, showing effort will win them a lot of trust.

Step 2: Don’t micromanage

Proving she trusts her team will lead them to reciprocate. Unless a specific rep is struggling and needs more attention, sale managers should steer clear of micromanaging. That means managing to results instead of activities, letting reps work from wherever they’re most successful instead of requiring their butts be in chairs at the office, and not asking them to spend precious hours filling out reports that aren’t meaningful.

Step 3: Keep your word

When she commits to doing something, she should always keep her word. Reliability is a pillar of trust; once reps know a sales manager is dependable, they’ll become more loyal.

It’s easy to keep track of the larger promises she’s made, such as, “I’ll take you guys to a steak dinner at Harry’s if everyone shows up to the weekly sales meeting the entire month.”

But she shouldn’t forget about the smaller ones she makes, like, “I’ll send you my feedback by tomorrow night,” or “I’ll put in a request for new presentation software this afternoon.”

These are just as important and contribute equally to the sales manager’s reputation for being trustworthy.

6) A common vision

Salespeople are looking for a bigger reason to show up and work hard every day beyond simply “make money.” Although a common vision isn’t a prerequisite for success, it’ll keep reps motivated when times are tough and encourage them to work together.

The mission should be specific and unique. For example, it might be “Become the most successful team within the company,” or “Improve retention by X percentage.” If possible, it should be measurable so everyone knows where they stand. You also want a vision that the team is excited about, so consider including them in the planning process.

Regularly bring up your team’s progress and reference individual contributors. Doing so reinforces the vision and keeps it top-of-mind for your reps. To give you an idea, imagine one of the tenets of your sales vision is “Become industry thought leaders.” When one of your reps launches his own podcast, you bring it up in the team meeting by saying, “Way to go Vincent for starting a podcast; everyone should download it. This will help our company gain recognition as thought leaders.”

When another rep publishes a LinkedIn Pulse post that receives 500-plus likes, you drop a line in the team Slack room: “Congrats Julia on the awesome LinkedIn article that’s taking off. Can everyone like it when they have a chance? Love seeing our reps establish themselves as domain experts.”

Not only will this make the people you recognized feel good, it’ll also inspire the others to follow suit.

7) Continual learning and development

Salespeople should always be picking up fresh skills and strategies. Not only does buyer behavior change, but technology enables new tactics and makes old ones obsolete.

Unfortunately, many training programs are:

  • Interruptive and one-off: Such as a week-long all-day off-site.
  • Product-focused: Mostly about the company’s latest line or service.
  • One size fits all: Generic and not tailored to the industry or niche.

To fix this, make your training:

  • Integrated and ongoing: Coaching should be a part of the sales manager’s weekly check-ins with reps. They should also regularly do call reviews and win-loss analyses.
  • Skills- and product-focused: While product training is important, sales skills usually trumps product knowledge. Make sure you’re spending enough time teaching reps how to sell.
  • Customized: Whether you hire a training firm or use in-house specialists, the program should be specific to your product, market, and company values.

8) Accountability

Keeping people accountable is an important aspect of a healthy team. If reps see poor performance go unchecked, quotas will start feeling more like suggested targets than hard ones. Even worse, if a manager doesn’t communicate a salesperson is in danger of being fired for their disappointing results, the sudden, seemingly unexpected termination will hurt morale and cause team members to wonder if they’re next.

Do you struggle to maintain accountability within your sales team?

First, clearly define your expectations. Each salesperson should know exactly what they’re supposed to do. That might be a certain number of calls per day, meetings per week, or demos per month, or it might be revenue quota.

Having objective standards and making sure everyone is aware of them helps you avoid any nasty surprises.

Second, if someone is struggling, don’t wait to see if things will get better. Step in and ask why they’re not performing. Are they feeling demotivated? Are they struggling with a specific part of the sales progress?

Third, when necessary put them on a performance improvement plan (PIP). These outline a set of specific, unambiguous goals the rep is supposed to achieve within a set window of time.

An effective PIP diagnoses the issue (i.e. where the rep is falling short), what they’ll do to address the issue, any support or tools they’ll need, and how much time they’ll receive.

For instance, if they’re only setting four demos per week, and the quota for their role is 12, their actions might be “Call 50 prospects per day. Do one call review per day. Write a new talk track with manager’s help. Attend a workshop on objection handling.”

Support might be: “Meet with manager for call review; get ticket for workshop.”

Timeframe might be: “Reach 12 demos per week by X date.”

Other common accountability pitfalls sales managers fall into include trying too hard to be their reps’ friends, rather than their boss (which makes it harder to get the necessary results and crack down on mediocrity) and never accepting responsibility themselves (which causes their team to ignore them when they try to manage).

Building and maintaining a strong sales culture isn’t easy. However, it’ll have a greater impact on your results than you could’ve thought possible. You’ll be able to recruit and train great reps, get your desired results, and make everyone on the team happy to work there.

HubSpot CRM

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Source: Sales Culture: The Ultimate Guide

30 of the Funniest Tweets About Social Media We’ve Ever Seen | #VentureCanvas

sbernazzani@hubspot.com (Sophia Bernazzani) | Hubspot Marketing


There are a lot of things to be negative about on the internet today.

And between cyberbullying on Twitter, fake news on Facebook, and too many weight loss tea ads on Instagram, it’s easy to feel jaded about social media in particular.

In fact, we surveyed more than 3,000 people around the world, and one-third responded that they feel “awful” after browsing social media — with Facebook taking the crown for most awful feelings induced.

So, in an effort to combat these feelings of awfulness, we’ve compiled 30 of the funniest tweets about social media we could find. And with a healthy mix of snark, mockery, and memes, we think they sum up what it’s like to be a social media user — the good, the bad, and the ugly.

30 of the Funniest Tweets About Social Media We’ve Ever Seen

1) On Optimism

2) Life Imitates Twitter

3) Just Keep Mowing …

4) Hot Dog Bae

5) Take the Good with the Bad

6) Social Media Gods Don’t Give with Both Hands

7) You Had One Job

8) On Twitter Expanding its Character Limit

9) Seriously, Though

10) Time to Check-In on Facebook

11) Please, Don’t Auto-Play Videos with Sound

12) Change Your Passwords, People

13) Personal Branding Is Everything

14) At Least They’re Honest

15) Total Eclipse of the Tweet

16) We All Have One

17) It’s Important to Keep Things in Perspective

18) Short, Sweet, and To the Point (1/47)

19) Seriously, Twitter Users Are Salty About This One

20) Caution: Parents on Facebook

21) Hindsight Is 20/20

22) When You Gotta Tweet, You Gotta Tweet

23) Life Comes At You Fast

24) In a World Where You Can Be Anything, Be Kind

25) You’re Amazing. Yes, You.

26) I Wish I Knew How to Quit You

27) We All Have Guilty Pleasures

28) On Technical Difficulties

29) Because I Miss Vine and These Are Hysterical

30) See? I Told You

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Source: 30 of the Funniest Tweets About Social Media We’ve Ever Seen

75 Mind-Blowing Sales Statistics That Will Help You Sell Smarter | #VentureCanvas

afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost) | Hubspot Sales


Every time I think I’ve gotten a grip on the weird, wonderful world of sales, I learn something new that forces me to change my perspective and question my beliefs.

Like just 17% of salespeople think they’re pushy — compared to 50% of prospects.

And along similar lines, only 3% of buyers trust reps. The only professions with less credibility include car sales, politics, and lobbying. 

Ouch. Luckily, not all sales-related data will bum you out. This list of 75 sales statistics has invaluable nuggets of wisdom on everything from which words to avoid in your email subject line to the optimal number of questions to ask during a discovery call.

Sales prospecting stats

Sales follow up stats

Sales email stats

  • The average person deletes 48% of the emails they receive every day. This task takes them just five minutes.
  • The vast majority of prospects want to read emails at 5 and 6 a.m. (Who knew there were so many early birds out there?) Use an email scheduling tool — like the one in HubSpot Sales — to send your message at the perfect time.
  • Here are the most effective words to put in your email subject line:
    • Demo
    • Connect
    • Cancellation
    • Apply
    • Opportunity
    • Conference
    • Payments
  • And the most ineffective words to use in your email subject line are:
    • Assistance
    • Speaker
    • Press
    • Social
    • Invite
    • Join
    • Confirm
  • According to Boomerang’s analysis of 300,000 emails, an all caps subject line hurts response rates by approximately 30%.
  • Subject lines with three to four words get more responses than shorter and longer ones.
  • The Boomerang team also found messages written at a third-grade reading level are 36% more likely to get a reply than those written at the college reading level.
  • The more you write, the less likely you are to get a response. Only one in three messages that are longer than 2500 words receive a reply. However, you shouldn’t be too brief: A 25-word email is roughly as effective as a 2000-word one. What’s the sweet spot? Between 50 and 125 words — or around the length of this paragraph.
  • Don’t just provide information — request some, too. Emails that contain one to three questions are 50% likelier to get replies than emails without any questions.

Sales call stats

  • According to Gong’s analysis of 519,000 discovery calls, there’s a clear relationship between the number of questions a rep asks and their chances of success. In other words, if you want your discovery call to go well, make sure you’re periodically posing questions to the buyer.
  • Asking 15-18 questions over the course of your discovery call is only marginally more effective than asking 7-10. Aim for 11-14, Gong found.
  • Wondering what to ask? Questions about your prospect’s business pain points and objectives are closely tied to a won deal.
  • And when should you ask these questions? While average salespeople ask most of their questions at the beginning of a call — usually because they’re moving through a checklist — great ones space their questions evenly throughout the meeting. This makes the conversation feel like a natural back-and-forth rather than an interview.
  • Top performing salespeople are up to 10 times likelier to use collaborative words and phrases than low-performing ones. With that in mind, default to “we,” “us,” “our,” and “together” over “you,” “I,” “me,” and “your.”
  • The most successful reps use terms that inspire confidence, such as “certainly,” “definitely,” and “absolutely,” five times more often than low performers.
  • Research from Gong reveals these are the worst words for your conversion rates.
    • “Show you how”: Drops close rates by 13% when used more than four times during a single call
    • “Discount”: Decreases close rates by 17%
    • “Contract”: Hurts close rates by 7%
    • “Free trial”: Lowers likelihood of securing next steps by 5%
    • Your company’s name: Harms close rates by 14% when used four-plus times in one call
    • “Competitor”: Makes you less likely to get next steps or close
    • “Million,” “billion,” “trillion”: Large quantities are too abstracts, so they harm close rates

Social selling stats

Sales productivity stats

Referral sales stats

Sales career stats

Are you surprised at what you’ve learned, too? Numbers might not tell the whole story, but they certainly illuminate many aspects of it. Keep checking this page for updates. As new data comes out, I’ll add it to the list.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

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Source: 75 Mind-Blowing Sales Statistics That Will Help You Sell Smarter

The 15 Best Bots for People Who Work in Sales | #VentureCanvas

afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost) | Hubspot Sales


If you sell, bots are your new best friends.

Why? Because time is your most precious resource. The more time you spend on manual tasks, like researching prospects or creating personal sales reports, the less time you have for selling activities, like prospecting or following up with buyers.

Bots can handle these administrative chores for you. It’s like having an army of personal assistants living inside your favorite chat platforms, ready to help you out at any time.

Here are the best 15 bots for sales professionals.

Best Bots for People Who Work in Sales

  1. Chorus
  2. Attentive
  3. Invoiced
  4. Leadsync
  5. Donewell
  6. TechCrunch
  7. Growthbot
  8. Hipmunk
  9. To-do bot
  10. Google Calendar
  11. Uber
  12. Lyft
  13. Poncho
  14. Mosaic
  15. M

1) Chorus.ai

  • Purpose: Sales insights
  • Platform: Slack

Chorus.ai records, transcribes, and summarizes your sales calls, so you can instantly see key moments, action items, and KPIs like your talk-to-listen ratio and question count.

The Slack bot makes this tool even more useful. Once you’ve connected Chorus.ai to Slack, you can share specific clips from your calls with your team. If you want the bot to automatically share specific moments — like any time you discuss pricing, an opportunity is at risk, or there’s upsell potential — you can set that as well.

The daily digest keeps you up-to-date with your team’s important calls, your own call log, and highlights.

2) Attentive

  • Purpose: Lead intelligence
  • Platform: Slack

You need to know when your prospect’s situation has changed right away — not next week, next month, or next quarter. After all, the deal often goes to the first salesperson to reach out.

Attentive is one of my favorite solutions for getting real-time updates on leads. With this bot, you can follow companies or people and get notifications in the app for trigger events. They’ve received funding, launched a new product, or made a key hire? You’ll have a meeting in the books before your competition even knows what happened.

3) Invoiced

  • Purpose: Payment
  • Platform: Slack

I don’t know about your sales team, but at HubSpot, it’s always a celebration when the customer sends the signed contract. Most reps try to avoid counting a deal as “won” before this moment — they’ve been burned too many times.

With the Invoiced bot for Slack, payment updates will go automatically to your Slack team’s Invoiced channel. And if you’d like, you can also have automatic updates for new customers, invoices viewed, and more.

4) Leadsync.me

  • Purpose: Lead updates
  • Platform: Slack

Do you use Facebook Lead ads? Connect the Leadsync bot to your Facebook ads account, pick which channel you’d like to receive the updates in, then watch your leads roll in. You can call or email them without skipping a beat.

5) Donewell

  • Purpose: Sales insights
  • Platform: Slack

Donewell is an easy-to-use tool that layers over your CRM to help you set sales goals, choose the right metrics, and measure progress.

The bot lets you create customized reports, goals, and challenges within Slack using your CRM data. You can also schedule notifications for any channel or user; for example, you could request a weekly “meetings booked” report for a rep who’s struggling to hit her meetings quota or a monthly “new business” report for your entire team.

6) TechCrunch

  • Purpose: News
  • Platforms: Facebook Messenger

TechCrunch’s Messenger bot helps you stay informed on your industry, improving your conversations with prospects and ensuring you never miss an important development.

Subscribe to different topics, authors, or sections of the site. Once a day, the bot will send you an update with all the stories you’re interested in. You can also ask questions, such as, “What is Google Pixel 2?”

7) Growthbot

  • Purpose: Productivity and entertainment
  • Platforms: Facebook Messenger, Slack, Twitter direct messages

Growthbot, a bot created by HubSpot cofounder Dharmesh Shah, is like a sidekick for marketers and salespeople. It connects to HubSpot, Google Analytics, and other databases to give you instant answers.

You can ask questions like, “What are top articles on [topic]?”, “Company overview for [website]”, and “What software does [website] use?”

Even better for salespeople, you can look up emails for specific prospects and find potential customers by searching “Show me [type of company] in [location].”

8) Hipmunk

  • Purpose: Travel
  • Platforms: Facebook Messenger, Skype, Slack, Email, Google Calendar

Whether you’re traveling to client meetings, conferences, or simply trying to get a break from the go-go-go of sales, Hipmunk’s travel bot will be a big help.

Describe the type of flight you’re looking for — including non-stop, which airlines you prefer, how cost-sensitive you are, and where you’d like to arrive and depart from — and Hipmunk will find you the best options.

It’ll even help you plan a trip, from location and travel dates to category (think “foodie,” “adventure,” etc.)

9) To-do bot

  • Purpose: Task management
  • Platforms: Slack, HipChat, Cisco Spark, Skype

If you have a hard time staying on top of your tasks — or you spend valuable minutes every day creating, editing, or updating your to-do list — this bot will be a lifesaver.

Once you’ve connected it to your chat platform of choice, you can create new tasks, edit existing ones, set task deadlines and reminders, mark items as complete, and assign tasks to someone else (like your BDR, sales manager, fellow salesperson, or AE). And that’s all without leaving your chat tool. It doesn’t get more convenient than that.

10) Google Calendar

  • Purpose: Productivity
  • Platform: Slack

Simply looking for a bot that’ll help you stay on top of your schedule? This Google Calendar bot for Slack does the trick.

It posts reminders before an event, summaries of the day’s and week’s events, and notifications when an event has been updated. Your entire team will benefit.

11) Uber

  • Purpose: Transportation
  • Platforms: Facebook Messenger, Telegram, Slack

Sales professionals who use Uber once per week or more should take full advantage of this bot. It does everything the Uber app on your phone does, but with greater efficiency and speed.

Request a ride, get status updates, and see your ride receipts (shown in a private message). When you’re running late for a work meeting, share your trip with coworkers via Messenger so they’ll have a real-time estimate of your arrival.

12) Lyft

  • Purpose: Transportation
  • Platforms: Slack

Lyft users can also experience the productivity benefits of hailing their ride from an app. With Lyft’s Slack bot, simply type “/Lyft [pickup address] to [drop off address]” to request a ride.

In addition, get updates on your driver’s ETA, use “/gohome” or “/gotowork” to go to your default addresses, and request different types of rides, like a Line or Plus.

13) Poncho

  • Purpose: Weather
  • Platform: Facebook Messenger, Slack, Kik, Viber

Poncho’s bot sends you weather updates every morning and evening, so you’re always prepared and wearing the right outfit. You’ll also receive alerts for severe weather and rain.

If you’re a runner, just let Poncho know — the bot can even help you find the optimal time to go for a jog.

And when you need a quick pick-me-up, just type “jokes.”

14) Mosaic

  • Purpose: Productivity
  • Platform: Facebook Messenger, Slack, Amazon Echo, SMS

Mosaic is like a personal assistant making your day a little more seamless. Send your requests via Facebook Messenger or Slack, and the bot will use AI to process your commands and follow through.

You can tell Mosaic you want to know your schedule for the day, and it will check your Google Calendar and let you know what you have planned. Or you can write “good morning” to turn on your Phillips Hue or Lifx lights, increase the temperature of your home using your Nest thermostat, and get the day’s weather forecast and traffic conditions.

Right now, Mosaic is most useful if you have multiple smart devices. But the creators are continually rolling out new features — so in the future, it’ll be handy for the average person.

15) M

  • Purpose: Productivity
  • Platform: Facebook Messenger

M is Facebook’s AI assistant available in both English and Spanish. If you use Messenger, you already have access to M — the bot’s suggestions show up when you’re having a conversation and it finds an opportunity to help.

The list of suggestions is constantly growing. As of now, M can suggest:

  • Initiating a voice or video call
  • Requesting or sending a payment
  • Getting a ride
  • Making a plan
  • Creating a poll
  • Choosing a “quick response”
  • Sending URLs, videos, pages, stickers, GIFs, and movies
  • Sharing your location
  • Setting reminders

As a salesperson, the first two are probably the most useful. Talk to your prospects on Facebook Messenger. When they express interest in a call, use M’s video call suggestion to speak right then, while the iron is hot.

Once you’ve closed the deal, M’s payment suggestion makes getting paid quick and hassle-free.

battle-bots

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Source: The 15 Best Bots for People Who Work in Sales

Live From Mark Zuckerberg’s #OculusConnect Keynote | #VentureCanvas

Amanda Zantal-Wiener | Hubspot Marketing


Here it is: the fourth installment of one of Facebook’s biggest VR events, Oculus Connect. Today, things kick off with an opening keynote from Mark Zuckerberg himself, and we’ll be there to bring you the highlights of his thoughts and insights in realtime.

The event comes at an interesting time for Facebook. The company has been under a growing amount of pressure to answer questions about its possible involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, with particularly high scrutiny for how it will prevent such action from being taken again, and how it plans to curb the abuse of its targeted ad and promoted content technology.

It also comes on the heels of Zuckerberg’s recent live demo of Facebook Spaces, a new feature that allows Oculus Rift users to experience virtual reality environments with friends, no matter where you’re using it. 

On Monday, Zuckerberg demonstrated the technology by “placing” himself and a colleague in hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico, doubling the live content as an announcement about Facebook’s partnership with the Red Cross for relief efforts — which was met with mixed results.

The event is scheduled to begin at 10:00 AM Pacific Time. And in addition to this liveblog, there will be a live stream. Tune in ASAP, because we’ll be getting started as soon as the lights dim and the dramatic music is cued.

Featured image credit: Oculus Connect

Continue reading …


Source: Live From Mark Zuckerberg’s #OculusConnect Keynote

How to Write Catchy Email Subject Lines: 17 Tips | #VentureCanvas

oallen@kforce.com (Olivia Allen) | Hubspot Marketing


No matter what they say, people do judge emails by their subject lines.

In fact, 47% of email recipients decide whether or not to open an email based on subject line alone. That’s why it’s so important to craft subject lines that are compelling enough to get people to click through.

While they may seem like a small part of your message, they’re one of the very first impressions you have on your email recipients. And they’re a marketer’s ticket for standing out in a crowded inbox.

Do you want your email content opened, read, and clicked? It all starts with the subject line. Here are 17 tips to help jazz them up and boost engagement.

What Makes a Great Email Subject Line

Before we get to our more detailed best, let’s go over some fundamentals of what makes a great subject line. Regardless of your goals, these are the essential elements that your subject line should possess:

  • Urgency. Communicating urgency and scarcity in an email subject line can help compel readers to click (or act) — when phrased creatively and strategically.
  • Curiosity. If your subject line piques the recipient’s natural curiosity and interest, they’ll have to open the email to get more information. That can result in, well, a higher open rate.
  • An offer. At the end of the day, people love new things and experiences — especially when they come free, or at least discounted. Open with that by including it in your subject line.
  • Personalization. Marketers have never had more ways to learn about their subscribers’ preferences, jobs, or general (dis)likes. So when you send them content, make it catered toward the individual.
  • Relevance and timeliness. Crafting email subject lines that incorporate trending topics or timely headlines can help you establish your brand as an authority within your industry.
  • Name recognition. When you understand your audience’s preferences and interests, you can pique their interest by including the names of these recognizable individuals by including them in your content, and mentioning them in your subject lines.
  • Cool stories. By front-loading your email subject line with a compelling allusion to a story that the message tells — but can only be read if opened or clicked — your audience is likely to become intrigued, and want to learn more.

How to Write Clickable Email Subject Lines

1) Keep it short and sweet.

Email subject lines will get cut off if they’re too long, particularly on mobile devices. And with 67% of email opens taking place on mobile, we recommend using subject lines with fewer than 50 characters to make sure the people scanning your emails read the entire subject line.

If you’re struggling to keep your subject lines short, think about which words matter less and where you can remove a frivolous detail. For example, if you’re sending an order confirmation, doesn’t “Your order is being processed” look better than “Order #9435893458358 is being processed”? Same goes for your regular emails: Do you really have to include the word “update” or “newsletter” in there? (Actually, a study from Adestra found that emails including the word “newsletter” in the subject line saw an 18.7% decrease in open rates.)

2) Use a familiar sender name.

That name recognition we mentioned earlier doesn’t just apply to the famous — it applies to the familiar.

“If the “from” name doesn’t sound like it’s from someone you want to hear from, it doesn’t matter what the subject line is,” explains Copy Hacker‘s Joanna Wiebe.

Thanks to the amount of spam email people get these days, most people hesitate to open email from unfamiliar senders. No one likes talking to a robot. Think about when you call a company and can’t get a hold of an actual person. It’s frustrating, right? This goes for email, as well.

Never use “noreply@company.com.” I repeat: Never use this email address. Not only does it make it look less personable, it also stops people from adding your email to their address book.

Instead, avoid using a generic email address and send the email from a real person. For instance, we once found that emails sent from “Maggie Georgieva, HubSpot” performed better in terms of opens and clickthrough rate than emails sent from just “HubSpot.” (HubSpot customers: Learn how to personalize the “From” name and email address here.)

3) Use personalization tokens.

Remember the personalization we mentioned earlier? Using personalization tokens — like name or location — in the subject line adds a feeling of rapport, especially when it’s a name. Everyone loves the sound of their own name. Plus, it increases clickthrough rate: In fact, research has shown that emails that included the first name of the recipient in their subject line had higher click-through rates than emails that did not.

One example of how brands affix this information to subject lines is when dog walking company Wag! does so with dog names. Here’s one such email that HubSpot’s Amanda Zantal-Wiener received:

That’s great personalization and great timing.

Another personalization tactic that works is to tailor subject lines to the recipient’s location — things like lists of their respective cities’ best outdoor bars and restaurants. 

Just don’t go overboard with the personalization here. That can be a little creepy. But little personalized touches here and there show that you know more about your recipients than just their email address. However, if you can’t (or don’t want to) use personalization tokens in the subject line, use “you” or “your” so it still sounds like you’re addressing them directly.

4) Segment your lists.

While email blasts that go out to your entire list might be relevant and helpful to some people, it won’t be to others — and could cause confusion or frustration. Why is this restaurant sending me a list of the best local steakhouses when I’m a vegetarian? Why is this company sending me case studies when I just signed up for its email list yesterday?

Personalize the experience using information from the actions your customers have already taken — from which forms they’ve filled out, to which industries they’re in, to what their personal preferences are. In email marketing, you can personalize your recipients’ experience using a little thing called list segmentation.

How you segment your lists depends on your business and your goals, but you can read this blog post for 27 ideas for how to slice and dice your email lists for better segmentation.

5) Don’t make false promises.

Your email subject line is making a promise to your reader about what you will deliver in your message. Make sure that you make good on that commitment — and do not try to get your email opened by making false promises. This will irk your audience, and they’ll learn not to trust your subject lines, resulting in a lower open rate and a higher unsubscribe rate.

6) Do tell them what’s inside.

Speaking of making promises, if your visitor has downloaded an offer and you’re delivering it via email, it’s a great idea to use a subject line that says something like, “Your new ebook inside!” or, “Your guide awaits!” This works better than a simple “thank you” in the subject line because it makes it clear that something is waiting inside the email.

7) Time it right.

Sending an email at the right time with the right subject line can make a huge difference in open and clickthrough rate. A prime example? When food publication Eater sends at 6:45 P.M. on a Wednesday evening that said, “Where to Drink Beer Right Now” — just in time for happy hour. Nailed it.

Another favorite example of mine is a classic email from Warby Parker with the subject line, “Uh-oh, your prescription is expiring.” It was sent two weeks before the recipient needed to renew his prescription. By sending an email at the right time, Warby Parker increased the chances of their email getting opened — and included a relevant call-to-action about getting a glasses upgrade, too.

8) Use concise language.

Keep in mind that people scan their inboxes very quickly — so the more clear and concise your subject line is, the better. It’s usually a lot better to be concise than it is to use complex and flowery language — unless you’re going for an elusive subject tone to entice your recipients.

When you’re going for a concise subject line, think first about how your email will benefit your recipients. You’ll want to make that benefit very clear. For example, “Increase your open rates by 50% today” is more appealing than “How to increase open rates.”

9) Start with action-oriented verbs.

Subject lines are similar to calls-to-action, in that you want the language to inspire people to click. Subject lines that begin with action verbs tend to be a lot more enticing, and your emails could be drastically more clickable by adding a vibrant verb at the beginning.

Actionable subject lines will inspire people to click on your email by instilling urgency and excitement. For example, in an email inviting people to a hockey legend dinner, the email subject line might read, “Dine with Bruins legend Bobby Orr,” rather than a more generic (and less actionable) “Local Boston Sports Legend Meal.” The former email uses “Dine” to help the reader envision themselves at a dinner table.

10) Make people feel special.

The psychology of exclusivity is a powerful thing. When people feel like they’re on the inside, it gives them a sense of belonging that could build loyalty and compel them to convert better on your emails.

The right phrasing can make your recipients feel special — and the effect can be magical. A few ideas for phrasing include:

  • “For our beloved customers only”
  • “An exclusive offer for you”
  • “My gift to you”
  • “You’re invited!”
  • “Private invite”

11) Create a sense of importance.

There’s a phrase that, for many of us, is reminiscent of classic infomercials: “Act now!”

And while we wouldn’t encourage using that exact language in your content, we do agree that communicating urgency and scarcity in an email subject line can help compel readers to click (or act) — when phrased creatively and strategically.

But because you don’t want to be known as “the brand that cried wolf,” use these subject lines sparingly, and try to limit them to when the occasion genuinely calls for immediate action.

12) Use numbers.

A lot of businesses send emails with vague statements in their subject lines — which is why using data and numbers is a great way to get your emails noticed, demonstrate a clear and straightforward message about your offer, and set the right expectations.

Just like with blog titles, using numbers in your subject line is an effective email marketing best practice. You might use numbers to refer to the title of your listicle, the page length of the offer you’re sending, a specific discount, or the numerical benefit of a particular resource you’re providing — like “Join more than 750 others at this event!”

13) Pose a compelling question.

Asking a question in your subject line can also draw readers in — especially if you’re asking a question you know is relevant to your recipients’ buyer persona. This is just one way to pique that curiosity we mentioned earlier. For example, you might try the following: “Are you making these SEO mistakes?” or “Do you know what your website is doing wrong?”

Zillow once sent an email with the subject line, “What Can You Afford?” that linked to a website showing apartments for rent. A subject line like this is both encouraging and a touch competitive: While it gives hope that there are apartments out there that’ll fit within your budget, it also pits your cash against what the market offers.

Another example comes from DocuSign. They sent an email late in the lead nurturing process, with the subject line, “What are your customers saying?” The body of the email contained a bunch of case studies that were meant to help the recipient move closer to actually purchasing DocuSign. This was a smart move: Folks who are further down the funnel are likely more receptive to hearing customer testimonials.

14) Don’t be afraid to get punny.

Most people love a good pun. It’s a great way to delight your recipients and spice up your emails. Some of the best punny email subject lines come from JetBlue, with subject lines like “Land wander-

Some of the best punny email subject lines come from JetBlue, with subject lines like, “Land wander-ful low fares now!”

Quirky — a community-led invention platform — worded one of its email subject lines like this: “Abra-cord-abra! Yeah, we said it.” That second part is conversational and self-referential — and exactly what most people would say after making a really cheesy joke in real life.

If you’re the least bit punny, think about small ways you can slip them into your emails when it’s appropriate. Just don’t overdo it. And remember the rule: When in doubt, ask a coworker.

15) DON’T USE ALL CAPS or overuse exclamation points!!!

A subject line that says, “OPEN NOW AND RECEIVE A FREE TRIAL” or, “50% off coupon today only!!!!!!!!” isn’t going to get you an email open. In fact, it’ll probably get your email ignored.

Why? People don’t like to be yelled at, and using all caps and/or a lot of exclamation points can really rub people the wrong way. In fact, according to a study by the Radicati Group, more than 85% of respondents prefer an all-lowercase subject line to one in all caps.

Not only are these tactics disruptive, but they look spammy. So instead of using disruptive tactics like these to stand out in people’s inboxes, try personalizing your emails, establishing relevancy, and using catchy and delightful language.

16) Use engaging preview text.

While preview text isn’t technically part of your subject line, it does appear right near the subject line — and it certainly deserves your attention.

Preview text provides recipients with a peek at the content inside your email, which email clients like the iPhone Mail app, Gmail, and Outlook will display alongside the subject line. (The exact amount of text shown depends on the email client and user settings.)

email-preview-text-in-inbox.png

When you don’t set the preview text yourself, the email client will automatically pull from the body of your email. That can look messy depending on your email content, and it’s also a wasted opportunity to engage your audience. (HubSpot customers: Click here to learn how to set the preview text of your emails.)

17) A/B test your subject lines.

Although these tips and best practices are a great place to start, what works best for some companies may not work as well for others. It’s all about figuring out what works best for your specific audience. That’s where A/B testing comes in.

While it can be tempting to use your intuition to predict what subject line language will make people click on your emails, you should always A/B test your highest-stakes subject lines, and tweak the wording according to your results. What works best for your audience: Long or short subject lines? Including numbers or not including numbers? Questions or statements?

Read this blog post for an A/B testing checklist you can bookmark the next time you want to run one on your emails. (HubSpot customers: Learn how to A/B test emails in HubSpot here.)

At the end of the day, if your emails aren’t getting opened, they’re not getting seen. You have great content to share — now, you have to prove it in your subject line.

Good luck!

Continue reading …


Source: How to Write Catchy Email Subject Lines: 17 Tips

The Best Sales Job Boards for Finding or Filling a Sales Job | #VentureCanvas

ebrudner@hubspot.com (Emma Brudner) | Hubspot Sales


According to Glassdoor, 68% of salespeople are currently looking for a new job. That might surprise you … but it probably doesn’t. Heck, you might even be in the process of sending out applications as you read this. Just in case you’re thinking the grass might be greener on the other side, we’ve scoured the internet to identify the best sites for sales jobs.

Not finding the perfect sales position for you? Try searching these boards — some sales-specific, and others more general.

Sales Job Boards

  1. Sales Gravy
  2. SalesJobs.com
  3. SalesHeads.com
  4. AA-ISP
  5. SalesTrax
  6. TheLions
  7. Medzilla
  8. The Ladders
  9. Craigslist
  10. LinkedIn
  11. Indeed
  12. AngelList
  13. Glassdoor
  14. Monster

Sales-Specific Sites

1) Sales Gravy

Sales jobs from VP to entry-level broken out by industry and location. Not actively looking at the moment? Join Sales Gravy’s talent community and let the recruiters come to you. It’s all gravy.

2) SalesJobs.com

While you can find sales jobs of all levels on this site (it’s called SalesJobs, after all), most listings seems to skew toward the individual contributor level.

3) SalesHeads.com

If you read the site name as “sales leads” (I did at first), you are truly a born salesperson. Additional resources include a personality assessment and resume critique services.

4) AA-ISP Inside Sales Career Center

If you know you want to work in inside sales, look no further. Leverage the American Association of Inside Sales Professionals’ network by posting your resume to their career center.

5) SalesTrax

Prefer to apply in person? In addition to the online job board, SalesTrax also conducts regular job fairs in a variety of cities.

6) TheLions

If you’re looking for a sales job at a tech company or startup, start and end your search with a roar.

7) Medzilla

If pharma is more your scene, zip over to Medzilla.

8) The Ladders

If you’re a sales executive looking for a higher paying job, The Ladders is your pot of gold. A job board specializing in $100K+ jobs, Ladders promises you access to 20,000 recruiters and more than 200,000 jobs.

Non-Sales Job Boards

9) Craigslist

What can’t you find on Craigslist? Business development and sales jobs are broken out into their own separate category, so there’s no need to search in the broader database.

10) LinkedIn

Don’t apply cold — mine your network for referrals. When you click on a job listing in LinkedIn, the social media site will automatically show you if you have any connections who work for the company. In addition, you can see who posted the job, and take a quick look at their profile to stealthily introduce yourself.

11) Indeed

Indeed’s claim to fame is the sheer number of jobs it aggregates in a single place. Want to find all the sales jobs? Start here.

12) AngelList

Want to work at a startup? AngelList is the place to look. Create a profile, easily filter sales jobs, and find early-, mid-, or late-stage startups that interest you.

13) Glassdoor

Glassdoor gives sales job seekers visibility into employer brand and rating before you submit your resume. Save yourself the pain of an ill fit down the road.

14) Monster

Monster is one of the original online job boards, and it’s still one of the best. Start here to get a broad taste of jobs that align with your skills and experience, and narrow your search from there.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

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Source: The Best Sales Job Boards for Finding or Filling a Sales Job

The 5 Phone Techniques Top Reps Are Using to Get Better Results Than You | #VentureCanvas

marc@MarcWayshak.com (Marc Wayshak) | Hubspot Sales


Modern prospects are bombarded with sales emails and social media selling campaigns. While their telephones once rang off the hook with sales calls, now their email and social networking inboxes are filled to the brim. Simply put, your prospects are no longer inundated with phone calls.What does this mean for you? Modern sellers have a huge opportunity to stand out from the crowd by picking up the phone, dialing your prospects’ numbers, and getting them on the line.

For the salespeople who understand how to properly execute phone sales, the telephone is still one of the most effective selling tools on the market today. But it’s not just enough to get your prospects on the phone. Once you do, you must grab their attention and earn their trust. Follow these five recommendations to beat your competition in sales and make your calls and voicemails productive.

1) Say the opposite of what’s expected.

While your prospects are receiving fewer sales phone calls than ever before, they’re probably still fielding them on a weekly basis. This means that they’re on the defensive, looking to avoid sales calls that will waste their time. If you sound just like every other salesperson from the moment your prospects answer, you’ll be dead on arrival.

That’s why you need to set yourself apart from the typical “salesy” caller by saying the opposite of what’s expected. Avoid sounding like every other salesperson by lowering your enthusiasm, and speaking in a calm, genuine voice. Never be overly cheerful or greet prospects too loudly. During the first few moments of a call, prospects should be unsure about whether or not you’re even a salesperson.

For more phone sales advice like this, check out this video:

2) Be provocative.

Most salespeople do and say whatever their prospects want to hear — but being provocative is a far better way to grab their attention. This certainly doesn’t mean you should start every phone call with an inappropriate joke — it means you should be open to both challenging and surprising your prospects.

For example, try opening your next call by describing a few major challenges you’ve seen in the prospect’s marketplace. Then find out if the prospect shares those same deep frustrations. Be willing to hold your ground and/or ask probing questions if they push back on something you say. 

Along similar lines, playing it safe in your sales voicemails won’t get you anywhere. Stand out in seconds by taking risks in your approach. Talk about a problem you’ve observed that they’re facing or something you know about one of their competitors — like a recent issue or a new approach that’s setting them apart.

This is the best way to show you have something valuable to offer in just a few seconds. When you aren’t afraid to take these risks, your prospects will begin to view you as someone they should talk to for their own benefit — not yours — and increase the likelihood you’ll move forward with them in the sales process.

3) Put contingencies in place.

It’s a sad fact that even your ideal prospects will try to get off the phone with you right away. Some prospects are more difficult than others, but if you’re prepared, you can keep almost any prospect on the phone with you, and edge your way closer to making the sale. You just have to put the right contingencies in place.

For instance, if a prospect tells you, “I don’t have time to talk right now,” respond with, “Okay, that sounds fair enough — but can I ask you one last question before I hang up?”

This will immediately interrupt the normal sales call pattern and break the prospect’s train of thought. When the prospect inevitably agrees to one more question, be prepared with something powerful and provocative that will spark further conversation.

4) Do your homework.

Don’t rely on a generic script that prompts you to have the same conversation or leave the exact same voicemail with every prospect. Especially when you’re selling to C-suite buyers, it’s important to personalize your message.

Always call with a purpose — never just to “check in” or “pick their brain” — and make your purpose clear. For example, start by emailing a report your prospect will find valuable, then call to follow up and leave a voicemail saying you’d love to discuss the report. When prospects know exactly why you’re calling and can see you have valuable information to share, they’ll stop deleting you and start remembering you.

5) Don’t try to get a callback.

In order to increase the likelihood that a prospect will respond, you have to make the next step as easy as possible. The effort it takes to call you back is too big a barrier for most prospects. Leave your number in the voicemail, but don’t bother asking for a callback.

Instead, tell prospects you’ll follow up in a way they’re far more likely to respond to, even when they’re busy: Email. Try saying, “I’m sending you an email now with this report. If you find it useful, just shoot me a message.”

Your only goal is to have them get back in touch with you and continue the conversation. The easiest way to do that is to follow up with an email your prospect will actually open and read.

Found this useful? Check out my free 9 Day Sales Intensive to jumpstart your improved selling process.

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Source: The 5 Phone Techniques Top Reps Are Using to Get Better Results Than You

How to Organize Your Email: 12 Management Tools | #VentureCanvas

lkolowich@hubspot.com (Lindsay Kolowich) | Hubspot Marketing


Most people have a love-hate relationship with their email inbox. On the one hand, email can be exciting — whether you’re making progress with a client, replacing a meeting with a (much more efficient) email thread, or receiving an invitation to a fun social gathering.

On the other hand, though, email can be overwhelming — especially if you lose control.

And boy is it easy to lose control. After all, email is one of the top ways we communicate with a lot of the people in our lives, from our best friends to people we’ve never spoken with before. Many of us get bombarded by new emails on a regular basis, and it’s stressful to know that we might be missing out on the truly important stuff amid the flood of less pertinent stuff.

Luckily, there are a lot of tools out there that can help us get more organized. In this post, we’ll go through 12 of our favorite tools for organizing your inbox. Try ’em out, and help pave your own way to a more productive and less stressful email experience.

How to Organize Your Email

Before we dive into the tools that can help you take control of your inbox, let’s go over some of the basic best practices that can help you maintain email organization as much as possible. Here are our three golden rules:

  • Get rid of the old email you don’t need. I still have email invitations to events from 2006, most of which I never even attended. Do I need them? No. Should I delete them? Yes. Clear your inbox of anything but new emails and previous ones that you’ll absolutely need to refer to later.
  • Unsubscribe. Seriously. We all have those I-swear-you’re-going-to-read-this-newsletter-really-just-as-soon-as-I-have-a-minute emails. You’re not going to read them — get rid of them. Some of the tools below will help you do this in bulk.
  • Combine multiple email accounts. I’m a big believer in keeping work and personal email separate — but sometimes, having to toggle between the two isn’t conducive to staying organized. Some of the tools below can help you consolidate different email addresses — Mail and iCal on Mac devices, for example, allow you to streamline multiple accounts in one place.

12 Tools for Organizing Your Email

1) Unroll.me

Price: Free

The first step to relieving your inbox from all that email is to unsubscribe from all the newsletters you’ve subscribed to over the years. But unsubscribing manually from tens, maybe hundreds of newsletters would take forever.

Enter Unroll.me, a free tool that lets you mass unsubscribe from all the newsletters you don’t read. You can either wipe the slate clean and unsubscribe from everything at once, or you can pick and choose.

unrollmes-weekly-and-monthly-options_rfrd.1080

Source: PC

2) FollowUpThen

Price: Free; Paid Versions Available

Here’s another simple but useful tool, this time for reminding you — and even your clients, if you want — to follow up on specific emails.

Here’s how it works: Compose an email, and then include [any time]@followupthen.com in the “Bcc,” “Cc,” or “To” fields of your email. The “any time” wording here is pretty flexible: It can be “tomorrow@followupthen.com,” “nextwednesday@followupthen.com,” “3hours@followupthen.com,” “everyday@followupthen.com,” “every3rdwednesday@followupthen.com,” and so on.

What happens to that email when you click “send” depends on where you put that @followupthen.com email address:

  • Bcc: You’ll get a follow-up regarding the email (without bothering the original recipient).
  • Cc: The tool will schedule a reminder for you and the recipient.
  • To: The tool will send an email to your future self.

Here’s a video that explains the tool in more detail:

It works for every email client, and it’s free for up to 50 follow-ups per month. You can increase the number of follow-ups and add features like calendar integration for between $2–$9 per month.

3) HubSpot Sales 

Price: Free; Paid Versions Available

Ever wanted to know who opens your emails and when, how many times, and from where? When you download the HubSpot Sales Chrome extension, you can opt-in to get live notifications whenever someone opens or clicks on the links in your email. It integrates with both Gmail and Outlook.

Another cool feature is the contact information sidebar that pops up when you open an email thread. It includes all the relevant information about the person you’re emailing, including past contact history (kind of like LinkedIn’s “relationship tab” function), social media content, mutual connections, and so on. Soon, the extension will let you schedule emails to send later.

unnamed-31

The free version gets email open notifications — as well as the ability to schedule emails to be sent later, and a few other functionalities. For unlimited open and click notifications (and a slew of other upgraded functions), you can upgrade to Pro for $50 per month.

4) IFTTT

Price: Free

IFTTT, short for “If This Then That,” is an amazing productivity tool that helps you connect the apps and devices you use every day with “if this, then that” statements — which they call “recipes.” (Seriously, you can do anything. Including using Liam Neeson’s badass quote from Taken to scare someone into returning your phone. You’re welcome.)

When it comes to inbox productivity, IFTTT can do wonders for automating some of the more tedious, manual tasks. Here are a few of my favorites:

5) Google Inbox

Price: Free

Google learned a lot about how people use email from Gmail. Instead of revamping Gmail with these new learnings, they decided to start fresh and create an entirely new inbox system: Inbox.

To understand how Inbox works, it’s best to think of it less as a classic email tool that simply pools all your new messages into one place, and more as a task-focused message management tool. Every time an email comes in, you can process each one as a task. If you’re not ready to respond to an email, you can select “snooze” and tell the app when to display the email again. Or, if the email is something you need to do at a specific location, you can ask Inbox to remind you about that message when you’re at a specific location.


Source: iTunes

Another thing that makes it different from other email apps? It’s mobile-friendly. To use it, you’ll have to first install the mobile app on iOS or Android. Only then can you access Inbox from your desktop browser at http://inbox.google.com.

6) Gmail “Special Stars”

Price: Free

I couldn’t write a blog post about inbox organization without including my go-to strategy for getting to — and maintaining — inbox zero. This tool isn’t an add-on; it’s a methodology developed by Andreas Klinger. It uses two, built-in features in Gmail: “special stars” (a slightly fancier labeling system than Gmail labels) and multiple inboxes. Since writing that post last year, many people have told me it’s changed the way they use email and has made their lives a lot easier. I highly recommend it.

inbox-zero-1-1.png

There’s just one, notable caveat: No special stars other than the yellow star are supported by Gmail’s mobile app, so you won’t be able to see your lists on mobile. If you frequently use mobile devices to sort your emails, try Sortd, which is next on the list.

7) Sortd

Price: Free; Paid Versions Available

Sortd is basically a cleaner version of the Gmail Special Stars methodology I described above, in that you don’t need to star, label, or mark your emails in any way. But it does work right in Gmail: It’s what their team calls a “Smart Skin for Gmail,” meaning that it lives right inside your Gmail inbox so you don’t have to leave the app at all.

What it does do is fix the problem of important emails getting lost below the fold — most importantly, by expanding your inbox into a flexible set of lists, organized cleanly into columns. This allows your emails, to-do lists, and priorities to live together in one place, and lets you easily drag-and-drop emails from column to column.

HubSpot’s VP of Marketing Meghan Keaney Anderson is a big fan of Sortd. “I think of my inbox as a conveyer belt of sorts — bringing me a rapid succession of requests, resources, and to-dos,” she told me. “Email triage means keeping up with that influx without letting anything slip through the cracks. Before I found Sortd, I was marking any email that needed further action as ‘unread’ in the hopes of returning back to it to complete the review or follow-up. It worked about as poorly as you’d expect.”

This is what Anderson’s inbox looks like now that she uses Sortd:

sortd-inbox-example.png

“Sortd merges your inbox with a drag-and-drop to do list, so I can quickly evaluate the urgency of an email and then decide what to do with it,” says Anderson. “I drag it to the appropriate category of response and rename it to a quick summary of the action needed. Then, I can get a birds-eye view of my work for the week.”

Sortd.gif

“What’s especially nice is Sortd allows me to add tasks that haven’t come in through email, for example, a request someone asked of me over chat or in person,” she adds. “So my inbox really becomes my central command. I have a column for immediate action items, tasks for the week, a backlog for next week, and resources that I want to have at my fingertips quickly.”

Another advantage to Sortd over special stars? You can use it on mobile if you download the Sortd Mobile Companion App on iOS or Android. (Remember, all special stars but one aren’t supported by the Gmail mobile app — so this is your best option if you like to sort your email on mobile.)

8) SaneBox

Price: Begins at $7/month — premium options available

If you’re looking to automate prioritizing each email as it comes in, you may want to give SaneBox a try. There’s nothing to install here: Basically, it works with any email client to create new folders like SaneLater and SaneNews. When a new email comes into your inbox, SaneBox quickly analyzes it to determine how important it is. This analysis is based on your past interaction with your inbox. If SaneBox finds the new email important, it’ll keep it in your inbox. If not, it’ll send it to one of those folders.

Later, you’ll get a digest of the emails that were sent to those three folders so you can decide whether any of them need your attention when you have the time. Over time, you “train” SaneBox to filter certain types of emails into each of these folders.

SaneBlackHole is a fourth folder that’ll help you delete emails and unsubscribe from them in one fell swoop. When you manually drag an email into your SaneBlackHole folder, it’ll delete the email and unsubscribe from the source automatically.

There are other cool features in here too, like the “attachments” feature that automatically sends all email attachments into a Dropbox folder.

9) The Email Game

Price: Free

If you’re overwhelmed by the amount of email in your inbox but dread the thought of clearing it out, and you’re a competitive person, The Email Game might be right up your alley. This free tool for Gmail and Google apps gamifies the act of clearing out your inbox.

All you have to do is enter your email address, and the game will begin. It gives you five seconds per email to decide what to do with it: reply, “boomerang” (i.e., archive now and resurface in your inbox at a later, specified time), archive, delete, or skip. You get a certain number of points for each action and you’re penalized if you go over time. If you click “reply,” then you’re given three minutes by default to respond. You can always add time if you really need to, but speed is in your best interest here.

10) Checker Plus

Price: Free

Checker Plus is a Chrome extension for Gmail that helps you manage multiple Gmail accounts at once so you don’t have to flip through multiple inboxes. One of the main features is instant email notifications even when Gmail isn’t open. So if you’re a fan of notifications, then you’ll like this one.

Without opening Gmail in your browser, Checker Plus will give you desktop notifications when you get a new email, along with the option to read, listen to, or delete emails.

I’m a big fan of the extension’s voice notification feature. If I get an email while I’m busy cooking dinner or something, I can choose to have the extension read the email out loud to me, even if Gmail isn’t open. (Just remember to shut this off when you head into the office.)

 

11) Mailbird

Price: Free; Paid Versions Available

There are other email clients out there, like Mailbox, Boxer, and CloudMagic, but Mailbird manages to stand out.

While it only works for Windows users, this email client unifies your inbox with your apps by rolling your email and all your calendar, task, and messaging apps into an all-in-one interface. And it’s a simple user interface, which you can customize in different colors and layouts.

Here’s an example of what one layout looks like with email and WhatsApp integration:

Mailbird-2.0-Screenshot-with-whatsapp-1024x486 (1)

Source: Mailbird

Other popular choices for app integration include Google Calendar and a video conferencing app called Veeting rooms.

Mailbird works for Windows users on desktop and mobile. The Lite version is free, but if you want other, more advanced functionalities — like the ability to “snooze” your email — then you’ll have to get the paid version for $1/month or $45 for a lifetime subscription.

12) SimplyFile

Price: Starts at $49.95

While Outlook doesn’t have nearly as many organization tools as other email clients, here’s one for Outlook users only that’ll help you spend less time filing your email. SimplyFile adds a toolbar (or “ribbon tab”) to your inbox, with different, customizable files, which is easily accessible so you can file new emails quickly.

When an email comes in, simply drag it into the appropriate folder. You can organize both messages you’re receiving in your inbox, as well as messages you’re sending — which you can file as you send them.

SimplyFile3_QuickPick-window

Source: SimplyFile

Ready to get started? Great. Start exploring these tools, and get that inbox organized — once and for all.

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Source: How to Organize Your Email: 12 Management Tools

32 “Let’s Touch Base” Alternatives That Are Far Less Buzzwordy | #VentureCanvas

afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost) | Hubspot Sales


What’s wrong with using “I’ll touch base with you” in an email? “Touching base” simply means getting in contact with someone. (It’s believed to derive from baseball, where a player must touch four bases to score a run.)

Unfortunately, a Glassdoor survey revealed roughly one in four employees think “touch base” is the most annoying buzzword. So if you often toss it around, you might be irritating your coworkers, prospects, and connections.

“Touch Base” Alternatives

1) “I’ll call you at [date and time] to [gauge your progress, see if you have any questions, review your work].”

Instead of the vague “touching base,” this line spells out exactly when you’ll contact the other person and what your purpose will be.

2) “Can we meet for [X minutes] sometime [this week, next month, next quarter] to discuss [topic]?”

If your meeting is going to be relatively quick — or it’s too far away to pick a specific day — try this question. It accomplishes the same purpose as “let’s touch base” but gives more detail and secures your recipient’s buy-in.

3) “Let’s check in via [email, Skype, Slack, text, a phone call] once [X benchmark is hit].”

Maybe you can’t pin down a date because you’re waiting to pass a certain milestone — like you want to talk to your prospect as soon as they’ve gotten the go-ahead from Legal. Clarify the communication channel you’ll use and the key event so both parties know exactly what’s going to happen next.

4) “Let’s meet again in a [week, month] for [X purpose]. Are you free on [date and time]?”

Because you’re asking if they’re available, rather than if they’d like to speak again in the first place, this soft close makes a second meeting more likely — while still giving them a choice in the matter.

5) “Please send me an update on your progress on [date].”

Do you need to touch base so the other person can brief you on what they’ve accomplished? Be explicit. Far from sounding rude, this statement actually puts them at ease by giving them your exact expectations. As an added benefit, you sound confident and in control.

6) “Before I can do X, I need [Y dependency]. Want to [meet, talk] on [date and time] so I can fill you in on how it’s going?”

Try this casual version of “touching base” when you’re in the midst of a project that requires participation from others.

Shorter alternatives to “touching base”

You can also try these short and sweet options.

  • “Huddle about A”
  • “Speak about B”
  • “Talk through C”
  • “Share our thoughts on D”
  • “Brief each other about E”
  • “Update each other on F”
  • “Give each other the news on G”
  • “Share our progress on H”
  • “Provide an overview of I”
  • “Quickly sync up about J”
  • “Fill each other in on K”
  • “Catch each other up about L”
  • “Contact you about M”
  • “Call me about N”
  • “Swap our feedback on O”
  • “Discuss P”
  • “Chat about Q”
  • “Hear how you’re doing with R”
  • “Get in touch about S”
  • “Restart our conversation about T”
  • “Learn more about U”
  • “Noodle over V”
  • “Think out loud about W”
  • “Talk about X”
  • “Powwow about Y”
  • “Brainstorm ideas for Z”

Now that you’ve got these alternatives up your sleeve, you never have to annoy anyone with your workplace jargon again.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

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Source: 32 “Let’s Touch Base” Alternatives That Are Far Less Buzzwordy

3 Voicemails That Will Stop a Deal Dead in its Tracks | #VentureCanvas

jeff@mjhoffman.com (Jeff Hoffman) | Hubspot Sales


The hang-up artist, the rambler, the rapid-fire caller — chances are you know a salesperson using these voicemail techniques. Maybe you are one of these salespeople.

I’m here today, on behalf of prospects everywhere, to ask you to stop.

Voicemail is a crucial part of moving deals forward, but there are three deadly voicemail mistakes I see reps make repeatedly. These bad voicemails can weaken your relationship with the prospect and derail your deal.

I’m sharing these three mistakes below along with tips on how to avoid them. Follow these strategies and you might see a 30% increase in call-backs, just like my team did.

3 Voicemail Mistakes

1) The Rambling Voicemail

It’s important to be clear, concise, and direct over voicemail. In other words: Don’t ramble.

The sweet spot for voicemail length is under a minute, and ideally between 25 to 40 seconds. Under 25 seconds looks like you dialed and hung up. Over 40 seconds looks too long. And believe me, if you’re calling their cell, your prospect is paying attention to the length of your voicemail.

With this timeline in mind, I use three strategies to avoid rambling:

1. I remember phones transcribe voicemails. Because of this, I know if I speak too quickly or call from the road, the text of my voicemail will be more difficult for the phone to transcribe, and there’s a higher chance the text will be scrambled. You know the kind. You open up your voicemail and read the transcribed message:

Hello Blurb, I wanted to butter up on that demo we gave yesteryear. Game me call beck when you have timmy.

Even if prospects know mistakes are the phone’s fault, those mistakes still impact their perception of you. With this in mind, practice leaving clear voicemails.

Every person’s voice will transcribe differently, so understand what the quirks are in your voice, how fast you should be speaking, and when you need to enunciate.

2. I always call from a cell phone. Calling a prospect from your cell generates a sense of urgency that’s missing when you’re reclining at your desk with a headset on. Get up, walk around, and use your cell phone to keep things quick and casual. This also ensures caller ID will show the same number every time.

When you call a prospect from your desk phone, you risk appearing as an unknown number or as a different number each time. The more familiar the prospect is with your number, the likelier they are to answer.

3. I end the voicemail with my phone number. This is my cue to wrap up. My number is always the last thing the prospect hears on the voicemail. It keeps me from rambling and gives the prospect a clear call to action at the end of my message: Call me back.

When your prospect looks at the transcript, your number will stand out at the end of your message — and most phones will link that number automatically. When a prospect wants to return your call, all they have to do is press the number you provided in the voicemail transcription.

2) The Annoyingly Fast Follow-Up Voicemail

Another common mistake I see reps make is leaving voicemails too closely together. Instill a sense of urgency in your prospects — but don’t confuse their urgency with your own.

Leaving a string of voicemails within a few days of your initial email or phone call will almost always annoy your prospect. Or worse, you’ll leave them with a feeling of shame for not getting in touch sooner. I do two things to avoid rapid-fire voicemails and their fallout:

1. I accelerate voicemail cadence. When my team started using this method, our call-back rate increased 30%. It’s simple: After the initial voicemail, wait two weeks to call back. If you still haven’t heard from them, call back one week later. Call the prospect two days later, then one day, and finally, the same day.

Too often, salespeople reverse this model, and as their call cadence decreases, so does the prospect’s sense of urgency. When you call too often after leaving the initial message, it causes annoyance. When you accelerate call cadence, it shows this issue is becoming more important.

2. I never reference the call back. Don’t start your voicemail with “Hey, I haven’t heard back from you on X,” or “I’ve tried you a couple of times now.” This equates to finger pointing and detracts from the real issue at hand.

Let your tone, not your words, indicate it’s important your prospect return your call. The more voicemails you leave, the shorter they should be. For example:

First voicemail:Hey Laura, Jeff Hoffman here with ABC Company. I had a question about item nine on the list of requirements you emailed yesterday. Did you mean you would like to increase the amount of customer service hours your company receives annually, or that you would like to increase customer service hours only during onboarding? I want to make sure we’re on the same page before moving forward with the contract. You can reach me at 123-456-7890.” (approximately 30 seconds)

Second voicemail (Two weeks later): “Hello Laura. This is Jeff Hoffman and I’ve got a question about item nine on the list of requirements you shared with me a few weeks ago. Would you like to increase customer service hours annually, or just during onboarding? I’m available at 123-456-7890. (approximately 16 seconds)

Third voicemail (One week later): “Hi Laura, Jeff here. I’m wondering if you can answer a question for me regarding item nine on your list of requirements. You can reach me at 123-456-7890.” (approximately 10 seconds)

Fourth voicemail (Two days later): Laura, this is Jeff. I’ve got a question about your list of requirements. You can reach me at 123-456-7890.” (approximately 8 seconds)

Fifth voicemail (One day later): Laura, it’s Jeff. I’ve got a question for you. Give me a call at 123-456-7890. (approximately 5 seconds)

3) The “Just Following Up” Voicemail

Every voicemail should end with a close. Saying, “Give me a call back” or “Just following up” doesn’t create a sense of purpose or urgency in your prospect.

To make my voicemails actionable, I always ask a question — before ending with my phone number, as we discussed above.

By posing a question like, “I don’t understand X feedback you left on page five of the contract, can you explain what you mean there?” I’ve asked the prospect a question only they can answer. This entices them to return my call and makes it a timelier request.

It’s important to note I never try to close over voicemail. Don’t use messages to advance a deal. Use voicemail to advance your conversation with the prospect. You’ll enjoy a higher success rate with this approach — both in call-backs and closed deals.

Some of the worst advice I’ve heard a manager give is “If a prospect doesn’t answer, don’t leave a voicemail.” If you hang up before leaving a message, your prospect can still see you called. If you don’t leave a voicemail, you’ve set the precedent your messages aren’t important to listen or respond to.

Be smart about the length, cadence, and close of your voicemails, and you’ll foster a healthier relationship with your prospects.

Free Sales Training from HubSpot Academy

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Source: 3 Voicemails That Will Stop a Deal Dead in its Tracks

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference? | #VentureCanvas

sbernazzani@hubspot.com (Sophia Bernazzani) | Hubspot Marketing


We all have different reasons for getting up every morning and doing what we do every day.

So why is it that, on some days, it can feel harder than others to get up when your alarm goes off, do your workout, crush a work or school assignment, or make dinner for your family?

Motivation (or a lack thereof) is usually behind why we do the things that we do.

There are different types of motivation, and as it turns out, understanding why you are motivated to do the things that you do can help you keep yourself motivated — and can help you motivate others.

In this post, we’ll dive into the two types of motivation — intrinsic and extrinsic — to learn the differences between the types, the benefits of each, and how to use both types to inspire productivity.

Definitions of Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation

What Is Intrinsic Motivation?

Intrinsic motivation involves doing something because it’s personally rewarding to you.

When you’re intrinsically motivated, your behavior is motivated by your internal desire to do something for its own sake — for example, your personal enjoyment of an activity, or your desire to learn a skill because you’re eager to learn.

Examples of intrinsic motivation could include:

  • Reading a book because you enjoy the storytelling
  • Exercising because you want to relieve stress
  • Cleaning your home because it helps you feel organized

What Is Extrinsic Motivation?

Extrinsic motivation involves doing something because you want to earn a reward or avoid punishment.

When you’re extrinsically motivated, your behavior is motivated by an external factor pushing you to do something in hopes of earning a reward — or avoiding a less-than-positive outcome.

Examples of extrinsic motivation could include:

  • Reading a book to prepare for a test
  • Exercising to lose weight
  • Cleaning your home to prepare for visitors coming over

Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference?

At first glance, it might seem like it’s better to be intrinsically motivated than extrinsically motivated. After all, doesn’t it sound like it would be ideal if you didn’t need anyone — or anything — motivating you to accomplish tasks?

But, alas, we don’t live in such a motivation-Utopia, and being extrinsically motivated doesn’t mean anything bad — extrinsic motivation is just the nature of being a human being sometimes.

If you have a job, and you have to complete a project, you’re probably extrinsically motivated — by your manager’s praise or a potential raise or commission — even if you enjoy the project while you’re doing it. If you’re in school, you’re extrinsically motivated to learn a foreign language because you’re being graded on it — even if you enjoy practicing and studying it.

So, intrinsic motivation is good, and extrinsic motivation is good. The key is to figure out why you — and your team — are motivated to do things, and encouraging both types of motivation.

When Intrinsic Motivation Is Best

Research has shown that praise can help increase intrinsic motivation. Positive feedback that is “sincere,” “promotes autonomy,” and “conveys attainable standards” was found to promote intrinsic motivation in children.

But on the other side of that coin, external rewards can decrease intrinsic motivation if they’re given too willy-nilly. When children received too much praise for completing minimal work or single tasks, their intrinsic motivation decreased.

The odds are, if you’re reading this blog post, you’re not a child — although children are welcome subscribers here on the HubSpot Marketing Blog. But the principles of this study are still sound for adults.

If you’re a people manager, be intentional with your praise and positive feedback. Make sure that it’s specific, empowering, and helps your direct reports understand your expectations and standards. But make sure you aren’t giving too much praise for work that’s less meaningful for your team, or they might lose intrinsic motivation.

If you’re an individual contributor, tell your manager when their feedback is motivating — give them positive feedback, too. By providing positive feedback to your manager when they give you praise that keeps you motivated, you, in turn, will extrinsically motivate them to keep managing you successfully. (Meta, huh?)

When Extrinsic Motivation Is Best

Extrinsic rewards don’t just involve bribery (although bribery can work). In some cases, people may never be internally motivated to complete a task, and extrinsic motivation can be used to get the job done.

In fact, extrinsic rewards can promote interest in a task or skill a person didn’t previously have any interest in. Rewards like praise, commissions, bonuses, or prizes and awards can also motivate people to learn new skills or provide tangible feedback beyond just verbal praise or admonishment.

But tread carefully with extrinsic rewards: Studies have shown that offering too many rewards for behaviors and activities that people are already intrinsically motivated to do can actually decrease that person’s intrinsic motivation — by way of the overjustification effect.

In these cases, offering rewards for activities the person already finds rewarding can make a personally enjoyable activity seem like work — which could kill their motivation to keep doing it.

If you’re a people manager, use extrinsic rewards sparingly to motivate your team to take on new responsibilities or achieve lofty goals. Bonuses, commissions, recognition prizes, and promotions can be an effective way to motivate or reward your team for learning new skills, taking on new challenges, or hitting a quarterly goal. But make sure you’re giving your team members the time and resources to explore skills and projects they’re already excited about independently — without making them a part of their regular responsibilities, which could demotivate them.

If you’re an individual contributor, work for the rewards you want, but don’t over-exhaust yourself in the pursuit of extrinsic prizes. Make sure you’re taking time, in your job or in your personal life, to explore activities that you enjoy just for the sake of doing them, to keep yourself balanced.

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Source: Intrinsic and Extrinsic Motivation: What’s the Difference?

The 14 Best Relaxation Apps for Salespeople in 2017 | #VentureCanvas

afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost) | Hubspot Sales


Sales can be an emotional roller coaster. One week, you feel on top of the world: Your message is clearly resonating with buyers, you’re setting a record number of meetings, and you close a major deal you’ve been working for months. The next week, however, you can’t seem to hit a break. No one’s picking up the phone or answering your emails, and a prospect you thought was sure to buy decides to go with your competitor.

If you let your sales performance affect your mood, you’ll always be swinging from low to high and back again. This is unsustainable in the long run. It will also make you less resilient to failure.

The solution — as successful salespeople quickly learn — is managing your emotions. Your mindset should dictate your results, rather than the other way around.

Fortunately, there are plenty of tools that can help. These 14 apps are designed to make you calmer, less stressed, and more mindful.

The Best Relaxation Apps

  1. Ananda
  2. Calm
  3. Pause
  4. Essence
  5. Colorfy
  6. Personal Zen
  7. Happify
  8. Headspace
  9. Aura
  10. Insight Timer
  11. SAM
  12. Worry Watch
  13. Pacifica
  14. MINDBODY

1) Ananda

  • Price: $2.99
  • Available on: iOS

Billing itself as “your personal sound sanctuary,” Ananda offers a soothing background for multiple activities, including conscious thinking, power napping, relaxing, learning and memorizing, and more.

The app creates a custom blend of sounds each time, so you won’t get bored of hearing the same noises again and again. It also lets you tailor the soundtrack to your preferences: Turn up the volume for specific sounds, disable them completely, or add new beats.

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2) Calm

Whether you’re an experienced meditator or a beginner, there are sessions for you on Calm. A subscription gives you access to a new inspiration and meditation session every day, along with multi-day themed programs and individual guided and unguided meditations.

The streak feature — which tracks how many days in a row you’ve meditated — helps you stay motivated.

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3) PAUSE

Stop yourself from spiraling into negativity or anxiety with PAUSE. This minimalist app uses principles from cognitive science to help you calm down and focus on the present moment. You’re prompted to slowly trace floating blobs across your phone screen with your finger, which triggers your mind’s “rest and digest” response.

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4) Essence

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS

Looking for a quick, easy way to inject some calm into your day? You’ll like Essence, which might be the simplest breathing app out there. It’s based on the 4-7-8 breathing technique: Inhale through your nose for four seconds, hold your breath for seven seconds, then exhale through your mouth for eight seconds.

Essence displays a sphere that expands and contracts in time with your breath, so you have something to watch while you inhale and exhale.

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5) Colorfy

Adult coloring books have exploded in popularity recently — and for good reason. The repetitive motion and absorbing nature of the activity soothes even the most troubled minds.

Thanks to Colorfy, you can take advantage of “art therapy” no matter where you are. This highly-rated app comes with more than 1,000 different pictures and a wide selection of colors, brush styles, and gradients. As an added bonus, it works offline.

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6) Personal Zen

  • Price: Free
  • Available on: iOS

Replace your Candy Crush addiction with a game that reduces anxiety while you play. The premise is straightforward — trace the path of a friendly sprite with your finger as he moves across the grass. As simple as this sounds, it’s clinically proven to put you at ease.

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7) Happify

Two months after downloading Happify, 86% of users say they’re noticeably happier. Their percentage of positive emotions nearly doubles as well.

It’s worth noting these statistics come from frequent users, meaning you probably won’t see similar results if you’re not consistent. Luckily, the app is easy and enjoyable to use. Complete a few activities — short quizzes, games, and exercises — each week.

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8) Headspace

If you want to begin meditating but feel put off by the New Age vibes — or the commitment necessary — check out Headspace. It’s perfect for people who want to dip their toes in the waters without chakras, chi, or chanting.

A subscription gives you access to an ever-growing library of meditation tracks. Themes include becoming more patient, improving your focus, managing anxiety, improving sleep quality, and much more. Each session is only 10 minutes long, so it’s easy to fit meditating into your daily routine.

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9) Aura

With Aura, you can relax in less than the time it takes to boil water. Each three-minute meditation session can be customized to your mood. Track your emotions and mindfulness over time to help the app create an AI-based meditation program suited to your needs.

Users will also like the reminders throughout the day to take a deep breath and record small things they’re grateful for.

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10) Insight Timer

More than 1.4 million people use Insight Timer, making it the most popular free meditation app for iOS. It has 3,500 guided meditations and 500 music soundtracks — so you’ll always have plenty of choices.

Although so many options could be overwhelming, the community ratings and well-chosen categories help you find exactly what you’re looking for.

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11) SAM

A research team from the University of the West of England, Bristol, designed SAM to help people understand and manage their anxiety. You can track your emotions and pinpoint exactly how you’re feeling, go through various exercises scientifically proven to reduce anxiety, and create a personalized toolkit for coping.

SAM also gives you access to an anonymous social network. It can be beneficial to talk to others who are in the same boat and share tips.

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12) Worry Watch

  • Price: $1.99
  • Available on: iOS

It’s not always easy to know what’s worth worrying about — and what’s not a big deal. Worry Watch gives you a platform for staying grounded. Simply log the various triggers for your stress and categorize them. The app checks in later to see if the outcome turned out to be as dire as you anticipated. It also keeps track of the parts of your life causing the most worry.

Once you have data-backed insights into your concerns, you’ll find it easier to stay calm and maintain perspective.

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13) Pacifica

Pacifica is ideal if you’re looking for a holistic health tool. It lets you monitor your mood throughout the day, label and correct unrealistic or harmful thoughts, record your goal progress, and track your caffeine intake, sleep patterns, and exercise habits.

The app comes loaded with relaxation exercises as well, from guided meditations and breathing sessions to progressive muscle relaxation and more.

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14) MINDBODY

Stay on top of your fitness routine, whether you’re into yoga or CrossFit. Use MINDBODY’s exercise tracker to find the optimal cadence for your week, and log in regularly to get discounts on your favorite classes.

Sales is a demanding career and it’s easy to overlook your personal well-being. This app keeps you centered, healthy, and organized when it comes to exercising — without being overwhelmed.

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Once you’ve incorporated some (or several) of these apps into your daily routine, external events will have far less impact on your mood. You’ll face failures without flinching and victories with just enough joy.

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Source: The 14 Best Relaxation Apps for Salespeople in 2017

Can Sales Exist Without Quotas? | #VentureCanvas

cferrer@hubspot.com (Channing Ferrer) | Hubspot Sales


Imagine your company without sales quotas.

Sales leaders: Are you wondering how you would drive results and keep your salespeople accountable?

Salespeople: Are you wondering how you would stay motivated and focused without a clear number to work toward?

According to an informal poll we took of sales reps, managers, and leaders, most sales professionals like quotas. In fact, less than 7% of the participants said they would eliminate quotas.

Yet in some organizations, less than half the sales team is attaining quota

Not only does this decrease morale, it also makes sales forecasting extremely difficult.

So are quotas necessary for success? Or are they actually holding sales organizations back?

A World Without Quotas

In my first sales role, I didn’t have a quota. I was working at a young tech startup whose typical customers were investment bankers and hedge fund analysts.

The company hired salespeople who weren’t specialized in selling but knew the product and the audience very well — often because they came from the finance world.

Our primary role was driving new business, but we also acted like product managers. We’d take feedback from our prospects and relay it to the technical team.

A pretty big portion of our comp was variable and paid MBO-style. Management by Objective (MBO) plans reward salespeople for hitting their goals, rather than their sales targets.

For example, if you’re launching a new product, you might reward every salesperson on the team if the business manages to sell that solution to 10 tier-one accounts in the first three months post-launch.

At my company, each sales manager decided how to pay out the variable comp. That means they’d look at the overall team performance and decide what percentage to give everyone.

The experiment was interesting but poorly executed. There was too much potential bias.

But the most surprising part? Not having quotas didn’t hurt our performance. We grew the company really quickly and sold a lot of business because we wanted to build something together. We were all rallying behind a common goal.

Next, we moved to a team-based compensation model. One quarter of our comp was based on our team’s performance. And people started performing worse.

Once they saw how compensation was calculated — and that they could game it — they felt like they could slack off. After all, if you know your team is already going to hit, are you really going to stay in the office late every night trying to sell?

That led us to a plan where the majority of comp was based on individual performance. When we were responsible for our own success, our results picked back up.

However, we weren’t selling more than we had in the no-quota world. We were selling roughly the same.

This experience proves to me that not having a quota can work.

The pros of quotas

Quotas drive salespeople to perform. There’s a real concern that without quotas, reps might sit back and not actually do their job.

This system can also put reps at ease. They don’t have to worry about whether they’re working enough or performing at the right level, because they can simply look at their results and know exactly where they stand compared to their peers and how far they are from target.

Quotas give salespeople something to beat, which speaks to the classic competitive personality that the profession tends to attract.

This system also recognizes the reps who go above and beyond. If a salesperson overachieves, the business gets more money, and so does she.

Finally, quotas make it straightforward to see your ROI. You put X in, you get Y amount. Simple.

The cons of quotas

Do reps actually need the reward of a quota to sell? In Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Daniel Pink discusses intrinsic versus extrinsic motivators. He shows that the idea of being successful is often a better motivator than getting paid.

In fact, a meta-analysis of 92 quantitative studies involving 15,000 people shows the link between salary and job satisfaction is very weak. That means fulfillment at work is largely unrelated to how much money you’re making.

Another meta-analysis found that rewarding people for doing a task actually decreases their desire to do it out of enjoyment or curiosity or for personal growth or education.

For every standard deviation increase in reward, their intrinsic motivation dropped by 25%.

And when they know in advance how much extra money they’ll make — like a sales commission — their intrinsic motivation dropped by a startling 36%.

Quotas can also be difficult to set. Maybe you have little (or zero) information about your target market, territories, or how much one person can be expected to sell. An arbitrary quota might demotivate your salespeople.

Additionally, objectives change more quickly than your comp plan. A traditional plan is fixed for at least a year, but the business goals and strategy are constantly shifting. There’s a real danger your comp plan becomes misaligned with your company’s direction.

Quotas also disincentive reps from doing anything but selling. If you have a big new hire class, and you want your veteran salespeople to spend two weeks training them, do you take away quota for that time?

What about the time you’d like them to spend talking to the product team, giving direction to Marketing, going to sales training, and so forth? Having a quota means salespeople may see these activities as a distraction, rather than a normal element of their job.

Quotas are a part of almost every sales organization — and anecdotally, they don’t seem to be going away anytime soon. (In fact, a study found high-performing sales organizations are more likely to hold reps accountable to their revenue targets and aggressively raise those targets year-over-year.)

But they’re not a perfect system. As my experience proves, there are some situations where traditional quotas can be less productive. If you’re a sales leader, it’s worth thinking about eliminating or modifying quotas.

HubSpot CRM

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Source: Can Sales Exist Without Quotas?

How to Start a Competitive Analysis: 57 Questions You Need to Ask [Free Kit] | #VentureCanvas

cwhite@hubspot.com (Christine White) | Hubspot Marketing


When was the last time you ran a competitive analysis for your brand?

If you’re not sure, or if the last “analysis” you ran was a quick perusal of a competitor’s website and social media presence, you’re likely missing out on important intelligence that could help your brand grow.

To help you get started with competitive analysis the right way, we’re breaking down everything you’ll want to look for below.

Download the full competitive analysis kit from HubSpot and Amazon Alexa Web here.

Every brand can benefit from regular competitor analysis. By performing a competitor analysis, you’ll be able to: 

  • Identify gaps in the market
  • Develop new products and services
  • Uncover market trends
  • Market and sell more effectively

As you can see, learning any of these four components will lead your brand down the path of achievement. But before you get too excited to start, we need to nail down a few important basics.

How to Identify Your True Competition

First, you’ll need to figure out who you’re really competing with so you can compare the data accurately. What works in a business similar to yours may not work for your brand.

So how can you do this?

Divide your “competitors” into two categories: direct and indirect.

Direct competitors are businesses that offer a product or service that could pass as a similar substitute for yours, and that operate in your same geographic area.

On the flip side, an indirect competitor is one that provides products that are not the same but could satisfy the same customer need or solve the same problem.

It seems simple enough on paper, but these two terms are often misused.

When comparing your brand, you should only focus on your direct competitors. This is something many brands get wrong.

Let’s use an example: Stitch Fix and Fabletics are both subscription-based services that sell clothes on a monthly basis and serve a similar target audience.

But as we look deeper, we can see that the actual product (clothes in this case) are not really the same; one brand focuses on stylish everyday outfits while the other is workout-centric attire only.

Yes, these brands satisfy the same need for women (having trendy clothes delivered right to their doorstep each month), but they do so with completely different types of clothing, making them indirect competitors.

This means Kate Hudson’s team at Fabletics would not want to spend their time studying Stitch Fix too closely since their audiences probably vary quite a bit. Even if it’s only slightly, this tiny variation is enough to make a big difference.

Now, this doesn’t mean you should toss your indirect competitors out the window completely.

Keep these brands on your radar since they could shift positions at any time and cross over into the direct competitor zone. Using our example, Stitch Fix could start a workout line, which would certainly change things for Fabletics.

This is also one of the reasons why you’ll want to routinely run a competitor analysis. The market can and will shift at anytime, and if you’re not constantly scoping it out, you won’t be aware of these changes until it’s too late.

What Exactly Are We Comparing?

Once you identify your true competition, you’ll need to determine what metrics you’ll be comparing across the board.

There are three specific categories to focus on: business (the products), sales, and marketing.

Business (Products)

At the heart of any business is its product or service, which is what makes this a good place to start.

You’ll want to analyze your competitor’s complete product line and the quality of the products or services they’re offering.

You should also take note of their pricing and any discounts they’re offering customers.

Some questions to consider include:

  • Are they a low-cost or high-cost provider?
  • Are they working mainly volume sales or one-o purchases?
  • What is their market share?
  • What are characteristics and needs of their ideal customers?
  • Are they using different pricing strategies for online purchases versus brick and mortar?
  • How does the company di erentiate itself from its competitors?
  • How do they distribute their products/services?

Sales

Running a sales analysis of your competitors can be a bit tricky.

You’ll want to track down the answers to questions such as:

  • What does the sales process look like?
  • What channels are they selling through?
  • Do they have multiple locations and how does this give them an advantage?
  • Are they expanding? Scaling down?
  • Do they have partner reselling programs?
  • What are their customers reasons for not buying? For ending their relationship with the company?
  • What are their revenues each year? What about total sales volume?
  • Do they regularly discount their products or services?
  • How involved is a salesperson in the process?

These helpful pieces of information will give you an idea of how competitive the sales process is, and what information you need to prepare your sales reps with to compete during the final buy stage.

For publicly held companies, you can find annual reports online, but you’ll have to do some sleuthing to find this info from privately owned businesses.

You could find some of this information by searching through your CRM and reaching out to those customers who mentioned they were considering your competitor. Find out what made them choose your product or service over others out there.

To do this, run a report that shows all prospective deals where there was an identified competitor.

If this data is not something you currently record, talk to marketing and sales to implement a system where prospects are questioned about the other companies they are considering.

Essentially, they’ll need to ask their leads (either through a form field or during a one- on-one sales conversation) to identify who their current service providers are, who they’ve used in the past, and who else they are considering during the buying process.

When a competitor is identified, have your sales team dive deeper by asking why they are considering switching to your product. If you’ve already lost the deal, be sure to follow up the with prospect to determine why you lost to your competitor. What services or features attracted the prospect? Was it about price? What’s the prospect’s impression of your sales process? If they’ve already made the switch, find out why they made this decision.

By asking open-ended questions, you’ll have honest feedback about what customers find appealing about your brand and what might be turning customers away.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can start scoping out your competitor’s marketing efforts.

Marketing

Analyzing your competitor’s website is the fastest way to gauge their marketing efforts. Take note of any of the following items and copy down the specific URL for future reference:

  • Do they have a blog?
  • Are they creating whitepapers or ebooks?
  • Do they post videos or webinars?
  • Do they have a podcast?
  • Are they using static visual content such as infographics and cartoons?
  • What about slide decks?
  • Do they have a FAQs section?
  • Are there featured articles?
  • Do you see press releases?
  • Do they have a media kit?
  • What about case studies?
  • Do they publish buying guides and data sheets?
  • What online and offine advertising campaigns are they running?

Then, take a look at the quantity of these items. Do they have several hundred blog posts or a small handful? Are there five white papers and just one ebook?

Next, determine the frequency of these content assets. Are they publishing something new each week or once a month? How often does a new ebook or case study come out?

Chances are, if you come across a robust archive of content, your competitor has been publishing regularly. Depending on the topics they’re discussing, this content may help you hone in on their lead generating strategies.

From there, you should move on to evaluating the quality of their content. After all, if the quality is lacking, it won’t matter how often they post since their target audience won’t find much value there.

Choose a small handful of samples to review instead of tackling every single piece to make the process more manageable.

Your sampler should include content pieces covering a variety of topics so you’ll have a fairly complete picture of what your competitor shares with their target audience.

When analyzing your competitor’s content, consider the following questions:

  • How accurate is their content?
  • Are spelling or grammar errors present?
  • How in-depth does their content go? (Is it introductory level that just scratches the surface or more advanced topics with high-level ideas?)
  • What tone do they use?
  • Is the content structured for readability? (Are they using bullet points, bold headings, and numbered lists?)
  • Is their content free and available to anyone or do their readers need to opt-in?
  • Who is writing their content? (In-house team? One person? Multiple contributors?)
  • Is there a visible byline or bio attached to their articles?

As you continue to scan the content, pay attention to the photos and imagery your competitors are using.

Do you quickly scroll past generic stock photos or are you impressed by custom illustrations and images? If theyre using stock photos, do they at least have overlays of text quotes or calls-to- action that are specific to their business?

If their photos are custom, are they sourced from outside graphic professionals or do they appear to be done in-house?

When you have a solid understanding of your competitor’s content marketing strategy, it’s time to find out if it’s truly working for them.

Content Engagement

To gauge how engaging your competitor’s content is to their readers, you’ll need to see how their target audience responds to what they’re posting.

Check the average number of comments, shares, and likes on your competitor’s content and find out if:

  • Certain topics resonate better than others
  • The comments are negative, positive, or a mix
  • People are tweeting about specific topics more than others
  • Readers respond better to Facebook updates about certain content
  • Don’t forget to note if your competitor categorizes their content using tags, and if they have social media follow and share buttons attached to each piece of content. Both of these will a ect engagement activity.

Content Promotion

From engagement, you’ll move right along to your competitor’s content promotion strategy.

  • Keyword density in the copy itself
  • Image ALT text tags
  • Use of internal linking

The following questions can also help you prioritize and focus on what to pay attention to:

  • Which keywords are your competitors focusing on that you still haven’t tapped into?
  • What content of theirs is highly shared and linked to? How does your content compare?
  • Which social media platforms is your target audience using and the most active on?
  • What other sites are linking back to your competitor’s site, but not yours?
  • Who else is sharing what your competitors are publishing?
  • Who is referring traffic to your competitor’s site?
  • For the keywords you want to focus on, what is the diffculty level? There are several free (and paid) tools that will give you a comprehensive evaluation of your competitor’s search engine optimization.

Social Media Presence

The last area you’ll want to evaluate when it comes to marketing is your competitor’s social media presence and engagement rates.

How does your competition drive engagement with their brand through social media? Do you see social sharing buttons with each article? Does your competitor have links to their social media channels in the header, footer, or somewhere else? Are these clearly visible? Do they use calls-to-action with these buttons?

If your competitors are using a social network that you may not be on, it’s worth learning more about how that platform may be able to help your business, too. To determine if a new social media platform is worth your time, check your competitor’s engagement rates on those sites. First, visit the following sites to see if your competition has an account on these platforms:

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Instagram
  • Snapchat
  • LinkedIn
  • YouTube
  • Pinterest

Then, take note of the following quantitative items from each platform:

  • Number of fans/followers
  • Posting frequency and consistency
  • Content engagement (Are users leaving comments or sharing their posts?)
  • Content virality (How many shares, repins, and retweets do their posts get?)

With the same critical eye you used to gauge your competition’s content marketing strategy, take a fine-toothed comb to analyze their social media strategy.

What kind of content are they posting? Are they more focused on driving people to landing pages, resulting in new leads? Or are they posting visual content to promote engagement and brand awareness?

How much of this content is original? Do they share curated content from other sources? Are these sources regular contributors? What is the overall tone of the content?

How does your competition interact with their followers? How frequently do their followers interact with their content?

After you collect this data, generate an overall grade for the quality of your competitor’s content. This will help you compare the rest of your competitors using a similar grading scale.

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, & Threats)

As you evaluate each component in your competitor analysis (business, sales, and marketing), get into the habit of performing a simplified SWOT analysis at the same time.
This means you’ll take note of your competitor’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats any time you assess an overall grade.

Some questions to get you started include:

  • What is your competitor doing really well with? (Products, content marketing, social
    media, etc.)
  • Where does your competitor have the advantage over your brand?
  • What is the weakest area for your competitor?
  • Where does your brand have the advantage over your competitor?
  • What could they do better with?
  • In what areas would you consider this competitor as a threat?
  • Are there opportunities in the market that your competitor has identified?

You’ll be able to compare their weaknesses against your strengths and vice versa. By doing this, you can better position your company, and you’ll start to uncover areas for improvement within your own brand.

How Does Your Business Currently Stack Up?

Before you accurately compare your competition, you need to establish a baseline. This also helps when it comes time to perform a SWOT analysis.

Take an objective look at your business, sales, and marketing e orts through the same metrics you use to evaluate your competition.

Record this information just like you would with a competitor and use this as your baseline to compare across the board.

Ready to get started with the full ebook and template? Click here to access the complete Competitive Analysis Kit. 

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Source: How to Start a Competitive Analysis: 57 Questions You Need to Ask [Free Kit]

Brand Strategy 101: 7 Essentials for Strong Company Branding | #VentureCanvas

cstec@hubspot.com (Carly Stec) | Hubspot Marketing


Let’s say you’ve come to the difficult realization that quite frankly your brand — if you can even call it that — is all over the place. Or perhaps worse, you have a defined brand, but you’re noticing that it just doesn’t seem to mesh with who you really are and what you really do.

Don’t panic.

Before you get all hung up on what shade of green to use for your logo or what tone you’re going to use when engaging with people on Twitter, you need to step back and take a look at the big picture.

What is Brand Strategy?

Brand strategy is a plan that encompasses specific, long-term goals that can be achieved with the evolution of a successful brand — the combined components of your company’s character that make it identifiable.

(We’ll get into that more in a bit.)

A well-defined and executed brand strategy affects all aspects of a business and is directly connected to consumer needs, emotions, and competitive environments.

First, let’s clear up the biggest misconception about brand strategy: Your brand is not your product, your logo, your website, or your name.

In fact, your brand is much more than that — it’s the stuff that feels intangible. But it’s that hard-to-pin-down feeling that separates powerhouse and mediocre brands from each other.

So to help you rein in what many marketers consider more of an art and less of a science, we’ve broken down seven essential components of a comprehensive brand strategy that will help keep your company around for ages.

7 Components for a Comprehensive Branding Strategy

1) Purpose

“Every brand makes a promise. But in a marketplace in which consumer confidence is low and budgetary vigilance is high, it’s not just making a promise that separates one brand from another, but having a defining purpose,” explains Allen Adamson, chairman of the North America region of brand consulting and design firm Landor Associates.

While understanding what your business promises is necessary when defining your brand positioning, knowing why you wake up every day and go to work carries more weight. In other words, your purpose is more specific, in that it serves as a differentiator between you and your competitors.

How can you define your business’ purpose? According to Business Strategy Insider, purpose can be viewed in two ways:

  • Functional: This concept focuses on the evaluations of success in terms of immediate and commercial reasons — i.e. the purpose of the business is to make money.
  • Intentional: This concept focuses on success as it relates to the ability to make money and do good in the world.

While making money is important to almost every business, we admire brands that emphasize their willingness to achieve more than just profitability, like IKEA:

Source: IKEA

IKEA’s vision isn’t just to sell furniture, but rather, to “create a better everyday life.” This approach is appealing to potential customers, as it demonstrates their commitment to providing value beyond the point of sale.

When defining your business’ purpose, keep this example in mind. While making money is a priority, operating under that notion alone does little to set your brand apart from others in your industry.

Our advice? Dig a little deeper. If you need inspiration, check out the brands you admire, and see how they frame their mission and vision statements.

2) Consistency

The key to consistency is to avoid talking about things that don’t relate to or enhance your brand. Added a new photo to your business’ Facebook Page? What does it mean for your company? Does it align with your message, or was it just something funny that would, quite frankly, confuse your audience?

In an effort to give your brand a platform to stand on, you need to be sure that all of your messaging is cohesive. Ultimately, consistency contributes to brand recognition, which fuels customer loyalty. (No pressure, right?)

To see a great example of consistency, let’s look at Coca-Cola. As a result of its commitment to consistency, every element of the brand’s marketing works harmoniously together. This has helped it become one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

Even on the surface of its social media accounts, for example, the seamlessness of its brand is very apparent:

To avoid leaving potential customers struggling to put the disconnected pieces of your business together, consider the benefits of creating a style guide. A style guide can encompass everything from the tone of voice you’ll use to the color scheme you’ll employ to the way you’ll position certain products or services.

By taking the time to define and agree upon these considerations, your brand will benefit as a whole.

3) Emotion

Customers aren’t always rational.

How else do you explain the person who paid thousands of dollars more for a Harley rather than buying another cheaper, equally well-made bike? There was an emotional voice in there somewhere, whispering: “Buy a Harley.”

But why?

Harley Davidson uses emotional branding by creating a community around its brand. It began HOG — Harley Owners Group — to connect their customers with their brand (and each other).

Source: HOG

By providing customers with an opportunity to feel like they’re part of a larger group that’s more tight-knit than just a bunch of motorcycle riders, Harley Davidson is able to position themselves as an obvious choice for someone looking to purchase a bike.

Why? People have an innate desire to build relationships. Research from psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary best describes this need in their “belongingness hypothesis,” which states: “People have a basic psychological need to feel closely connected to others, and that caring, affectionate bonds from close relationships are a major part of human behavior.”

Not to mention, belongingness — the need for love, affection, and being part of groups — falls directly in the middle of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which aims to categorize different human needs.

The lesson to be learned? Find a way to connect with your customers on a deeper, more emotional level. Do you give them peace of mind? Make them feel like part of the family? Do you make life easier? Use emotional triggers like these to strengthen your relationship and foster loyalty.

4) Flexibility

In this fast-changing world, marketers must remain flexible to stay relevant. On the plus side, this frees you to be creative with your campaigns.

You may be thinking, “Wait a minute, how am I supposed to remain consistent while also being flexible?”

Good question. While consistency aims to set the standard for your brand, flexibility enables you to make adjustments that build interest and distinguish your approach from that of your competition.

In other words, “effective identity programs require enough consistency to be identifiable, but enough variation to keep things fresh and human,” explains president of Peopledesign, Kevin Budelmann.

A great example of this type of strategic balance comes from Old Spice. These days, Old Spice is one of the best examples of successful marketing across the board. However, up until recently, wearing Old Spice was pretty much an unspoken requirement for dads everywhere. Today, it’s one of the most popular brands for men of all ages.

The secret? Flexibility.

Aware that it needed to do something to secure its place in the market, Old Spice teamed up with Wieden+Kennedy to position their brand for a new customer base.

Source: Works Design Group

Between new commercials, a new website, new packaging, and new product names, Old Spice managed to attract the attention of a new, younger generation by making strategic enhancements to its already strong brand.

So if your old tactics aren’t working anymore, don’t be afraid to change. Just because it worked in the past doesn’t mean it’s working now.

Take the opportunity to engage your followers in fresh, new ways. Are there some out-of-the-box partnerships your brand can make? Are there attributes about your product you never highlighted? Use those to connect with new customers and remind your old ones why they love you.

5) Employee Involvement

As we mentioned before, achieving a sense of consistency is important if you wish to build brand recognition. And while a style guide can help you achieve a cohesive digital experience, it’s equally important for your employees to be well versed in the how they should be communicating with customers and representing the brand.

If your brand is playful and bubbly through Twitter engagements, then it wouldn’t make sense if a customer called in and was connected with a grumpy, monotone representative, right?

To avoid this type of mismatched experience, take note of Zappos’ approach.

If you’ve ever been on the line with a customer service representative from Zappos, you know what I’m talking about. If you haven’t, check out this SlideShare which details some of its most inspiring customer support stories.

Zappos is so committed to ensuring that not only its brand, but all brands, remain consistent across digital and human interactions that they’ve dedicated an entire department to the cause called Zappos Insights.

By holding all Zappos employees to its core values
and helping other companies implement the same approach, Zappos has built a strong reputation for solid, helpful, and human customer service.

6) Loyalty

If you already have people that love you, your company, and your brand, don’t just sit there. Reward them for that love.

These customers have gone out their way to write about you, to tell their friends about you, and to act as your brand ambassadors. Cultivating loyalty from these people early on will yield more returning customers — and more profit for your business.

Sometimes, just a thank you is all that’s needed. Other times, it’s better to go above and beyond. Write them a personalized letter. Sent them some special swag. Ask them to write a review, and feature them prominently on your website. (Or all of the above!)

When we reached 15,000 customers here at HubSpot, we wanted to say thank you in a big way, while remaining true to our brand … so we dropped 15,000 orange ping pong balls from our fourth-floor balcony and spelled out thank you in big metallic balloons:

And while it may have seemed a little out of the ordinary to some folks, for those who know our brand, the gesture made perfect sense.

Loyalty is a critical part of every brand strategy, especially if you’re looking to support your sales organization. At the end of the day, highlighting a positive relationship between you and your existing customers sets the tone for what potential customers can expect if they choose to do business with you.

7) Competitive Awareness

Take the competition as a challenge to improve your own strategy and create greater value in your overall brand. You are in the same business and going after the same customers, right? So watch what they do.

Do some of their tactics succeed? Do some fail? Tailor your brand positioning based on their experience to better your company.

A great example of how to improve your brand by learning from your competitors comes from Pizza Hut:

When a pizza lover posed this question to his Twitter following, Pizza Hut didn’t miss a beat, and playfully responded in minutes, before Domino’s had a chance to speak up.

If Domino’s is keeping an eye on the competitors, they’ll know to act fast the next time a situation like this arises.

For HubSpot customers, keeping tabs on your competitor’s social mentions is easy using the Social Monitoring App. Check out this article to learn more about how to set up custom social streams.

And while staying in tune with your competitor’s strategies is important if you want to enhance your brand, don’t let them dictate each and every move you make.

Sure, you probably sell a similar product or service as many other companies, but you’re in business because your brand is unique. By harping on every move your competitor makes, you lose that differentiation.

Continue reading …


Source: Brand Strategy 101: 7 Essentials for Strong Company Branding

127 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Video Marketing [Infographic] | #VentureCanvas

sbernazzani@hubspot.com (Sophia Bernazzani) | Hubspot Marketing


Do you remember when the music video for “Gangnam Style” was everywhere?

Seriously, it felt like everywhere on the internet, TV, and radio, you could find Psy dancing to the infectious hit song.

What you might not remember about “Gangnam Style” is that it was record-setting: Back in 2012, it was the first video on YouTube to reach one billion, and then two billion views.

It’s just one of many — 127, to be precise — facts about video marketing that Websitebuilder compiled in the infographic below. Read on to learn more fun facts about YouTube, video marketing, and how your audience is evolving — and interacting — with your video content.

127-Video-marketing-facts.png

social-video-cta

Continue reading …


Source: 127 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Video Marketing [Infographic]

 

Task Management: The Ultimate Guide | #VentureCanvas

afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost) | Hubspot Sales


One of the simultaneously great and not-so-great things about working in sales: Your daily tasks rarely change. Although the specific deals are different, you’re doing essentially the same things — making calls, sending emails, giving presentations, and so forth.

While the routine can get boring, it’s also simpler to amp up your productivity. After all, you know what to expect.

Here’s where the science and art of task management comes into play. With an effective task management system, you can handle your one-off and recurring responsibilities with the minimum amount of time and effort.

Jump to a specific section:

Task Management

Task management is a pretty basic concept. It’s everything involved in taking a task from an idea (“Hey, I should probably do X”) to completion. That involves its status, importance, time requirement, financial investment, and so on.

If you’re working independently, task management tools and techniques will help you cross items off your personal to-do list. If you’re working collaboratively — whether with prospects or other salespeople — these strategies will help everyone stay in-sync, productive, and within deadline.

Task Priority

Assigning a priority level to your tasks lets you keep track of which ones to focus on first and which to punt.

While you’re certainly free to come up with your own designations, common categories include:

  • Critical
  • High
  • Medium
  • Low

Some people use a numbering system, such as:

  • P1
  • P2
  • P3
  • P4

The smaller the number, the higher the priority. The benefit of this strategy? You’ll never run out of numbers, so it’s easy to sort even the highest priority tasks.

Time-based priority categorization is even clearer. Try:

  • Now
  • Today
  • Tomorrow
  • This week
  • This month
  • This quarter
  • This year

Task Status

How will you know how much progress you’ve made on a task if you don’t keep track of its status?

A basic task status system is:

  • New: You’ve created the task, but you haven’t started working on it yet.
  • In-progress: You’re working on it.
  • On hold/postponed: You’re temporarily pausing work on this task.
  • Finished: You’re done with the task.
  • Deleted: You’re no longer working on this task because it’s irrelevant or no longer valuable.

Depending on the nature of your work, you may also want to use:

  • Waiting: You need someone else to do something (respond to an email, answer a question, send you a report, etc.) before you can move forward.
  • In review: Your manager or another stakeholder needs to sign off.
  • Recurring: This task repeats itself (think “Follow up with ABC Company every 2 days” or “Run pipeline report.”)
  • Failed: You were unsuccessful completing the task.

Task Management Tips

1) Don’t multi-task.

You may have heard this tip before, but it bears repeating (coming from someone who switched tasks three times this morning, oops.) We all struggle to stay focused on one activity or goal, especially when something jogs your memory and you want to tackle a separate task right then.

If you haven’t added the new task to your list, do so immediately. That puts your mind at ease — you know you won’t forget it. Then keep working on the original task. Remind yourself it’s more productive in the long run to stay committed. If you need to, open up a new tab in your browser for each task so you can visually separate each item you’re working on.

2) Centralize everything.

Along similar lines, make sure all of your tasks are centralized. You might have a physical notepad or piece of paper on your desk, a running Evernote list, a to-do list app, random notes in a Google doc, a Trello board, and/or follow up items in your CRM. How hard is it to keep track of your ongoing to-dos when you’re not sure where you saved it? Pretty darn hard.

I recommend keeping tasks in your CRM and/or project management app. Not only will you quickly find the right information, you’ll also feel less scattered.

3) Break tasks down.

Make each task as simple and actionable as possible. That means breaking them down into discrete units.

For instance, rather than adding “Upload LinkedIn Pulse post” to your to-do list, you might add:

  • Write LinkedIn post
  • Send it to Jordan for edits/feedback
  • Upload post

It takes an extra second or two to write every task rather than the bigger goal, but it helps keep your to-do list easy to execute on. You just have to read and act — no thinking necessary.

4) Schedule “sprints” and “breaks.”

Some of your tasks are far more taxing than others. If you attempt to finish all your most draining tasks back-to-back — for example, giving demos for a solid three hours — you’ll be exhausted by the end. And the same applies for semi-mindless tasks, like updating your CRM. Try to do that for hours on end, and your boredom will reach Mount Everest heights.

With that in mind, vary up your routine so you’re constantly shifting between challenging and simple activities. It’s like working out: By giving yourself frequent “breaks,” your stamina is much greater.

5) Add everything.

If it doesn’t get added to your to-do list or calendar, it probably won’t get done. Plus, you’ll miss the satisfaction of ticking items off your list. That’s why you should note every task, both personal and professional.

And don’t forget to set reminders and deadlines as well; these proactive measures will help you avoid letting things fall through the cracks.

6) But don’t be afraid to pivot when necessary.

When you get new information, learn about more important tasks, or decide something’s not working, update your to-do list accordingly. Maybe a month ago it sounded like a good idea to prospect using Eventbrite attendee lists. After trying that strategy for a few weeks, you’ve realized your efforts are better spent on other channels. Delete that recurring task from your to-do list.

Or perhaps you’ve blocked some time this evening for analyzing your highest- and lowest-performing emails. Prospect unexpectedly books a meeting to walk through your product? Closing that deal is a bigger priority, so reschedule your email analysis to a quiet period — maybe Friday afternoon.

7) Automate what you can.

It shouldn’t surprise you that HubSpotters are big fans of automating tasks. Nothing has a more noticeable impact on your efficiency than automation (and as a bonus, your engagement skyrockets when you’re not performing boring, rote tasks all day long.)

Think about the steps you take over and over. If you’re in sales, that’s probably sending outreach, follow up, and meeting confirmation/reminder emails; updating your CRM; sharing content on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn; and researching prospects.

Automation tools can handle all of those tasks for you. With HubSpot Sales, you can create an email template or sequence, then choose which prospects to send it to and when. You just need to personalize it to the individual and voila — sending your message takes a tenth of the time. The software also automatically updates your CRM whenever your prospect engages with your email or visits your website or you contact them.

Social sharing apps let you “set and forget” posts. I recommend picking 10 to 15 posts every Sunday and queuing them up to publish on your social profiles over the course of a week. Use HubSpot Marketing for this, or try a free tool like Buffer or Hootsuite.

ClearbitMattermark, and Datanyze are contact and lead enrichment platforms that’ll help you streamline the research process. The right solution will depend on your product and customer; for example, Mattermark is ideal if you sell to startups, while Datanyze is useful for technology companies. Do some investigating and figure out which will benefit you.

8) Don’t underestimate the length of time.

It’s human nature to underestimate how long you’ll need to finish a task. Unfortunately, this means you often finish the day having completed far less than you’d planned — which hurts your motivation and sense of accomplishment and can throw off your plans.

The fix? Think of the time and then the task. Rather than saying, “I have to do X, I’ll give myself an hour,” think, “I have an hour, what can I accomplish?” This usually makes your estimates more realistic.

You should also consider how long it typically takes to do tasks of this nature. Maybe last time your manager asked you to train a new hire, it took half a day — so this time around, when you’re training three salespeople, you set aside an entire day. This technique might sound obvious, but think of how often you actually use it.

Best Task Management Apps

Personal Task Management

HubSpot Sales

HubSpot Sales makes it easy to blow through your tasks list. Use the tasks tool (available for both Free and Pro) to nurture your leads.

Here’s how it works. Choose a contact, company, or deal in the HubSpot CRM. Click “Create task.” Add a few details; set a due date; set an email reminder, task type, and task owner (all optional); and then click “Save Task.”

When you’re ready to start working, start a Task Queue. You can organize tasks by type (such as “Call,” “Email,” or “To-Do”) or simply go by everything that’s “due today.”

Then press “Start queue.” You’ll see the task you’re working on along with the relevant record. So if you want to, say, “Reach out to Lauren about her next call,” you can quickly send her an email, click “Next” and move on to the next item on your list.

Not only will this turbocharge your efficiency, it’s also a great way to bundle your tasks. I recommend putting aside an hour every morning, afternoon, and/or early evening just for sending prospecting emails, making calls, or doing research. Staying focused on one thing keeps you as focused as possible.

Todoist

Looking for a smart to-do list app? This one is among the best I’ve tried. You can bucket your tasks into projects to organize them — I suggest creating generic projects for “Prospecting,” “Follow up,” etc. or single-use projects for deals, like “ABC Company.”

Then add due dates and priority statuses. Thanks to Todoist’s AI-powered features, simply typing “P1 today” or “priority 1 + [current date]” will mark that task as “first priority” with a deadline of “today.” (The priority levels are color-coded to boot, so it’s easy to skim your to-do list and see what needs to be addressed first.)

You can even add repeating due dates, like “every Tuesday at 9 a.m.”

Todoist is compatible for desktop, iOS, Android, Windows, Chrome, Firefox, Outlook, and Gmail, so no matter where you are or what you’re doing, your tasks are accessible.

Microsoft To-Do

If you want to start on a fresh note each day, you’ll like Microsoft To-Do’s “My Day” list. It starts as empty each morning, making you more intentional about your schedule and what you’ll achieve.

The app’s “Suggestions” are also handy. Using a smart algorithm, this feature looks at all of your to-dos and identifies the most important ones. You’ll save valuable mental energy deciding what to focus on.

To-Do also lets you add reminders, deadlines, and comments to your tasks, personalize your lists with themes and colors, and log on from your iPhone, Android, web browser, or Windows account.

Trello

Visual thinkers will love this tool, which organizes tasks and projects onto a bulletin-style interface. Each task is represented as a card (which looks like a Post-It). Cards are organized in vertical categories called boards. Drag a card into the next column to indicate its progress; for example, the first column might be “To do,” while the next column might be “Started.” You’ll be able to see at a glance what you’re working on.

You can also add checklists and due dates, upload files to specific cards, and even create cards and add comments from your email.

Team Task Management Tools

Trello

Didn’t you just read about Trello above? Yep — but this tool is also great for team project management. You can add as many members to a board as you’d like, add people to specific cards to delegate tasks, leave comments and add attachments, get notifications whenever someone mentions your name or makes progress on a task, and more.

Labels, filters, and a powerful search engine help you find everything you need, when you need it. And you can create an unlimited number of boards, cards, and teams … all for free.

Asana

Asana is a highly flexible task management tool that lets you plan and manage projects of all kinds. Up to 15 people can use Asana for free. Core features include creating tasks, adding deadlines and task owners, adding comments, and uploading files.

To see how your work is coming along, look at your Asana dashboard. This shows the progress of your team or project. For example, you can see how many tasks related to a project have been completed. Asana also sends you a digest every Monday morning with updates for every project on your dashboard, giving you a convenient, low-effort way to stay on top of everything.

Wrike

If you’re looking for a traditional project management tool, Wrike may be the right choice. Create a project, make folders, and upload files. Wrike’s real-time editing system allows you to see who’s making which changes at what time — and thanks to its versioning features, you can easily go back and forth in time if you’re not happy with the most recent update.

Wrike also comes with Gantt charts, or visual timelines that let you view your project schedule and set dependencies (i.e., Greg can’t send the proposal to the prospect until your lawyer has reviewed it.) There’s even time, budget, and resource tracking so you know exactly how much you’re investing in each deal or project and can plan appropriately.

If you want to manage your tasks within the app, use Wrike’s personal dashboard. Drag tasks to “Today,” “This week,” “Next week,” or “Later” to organize your workload. Or sync the tool with your calendar so your tasks and schedule are perfectly aligned.

HubSpot CRM


Continue reading …


Source: Task Management: The Ultimate Guide

 

The Ultimate Guide to Sales Prospecting: Tips, Techniques, & Tools to Succeed | #VentureCanvas

cdavies@hubspot.com (Cambria Davies) | Hubspot Sales


Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

That’s the sound of the countdown that begins each day of every week of every month. It’s the one aspect of sales that just never changes.

Tick tock, tick tock, tick tock.

Sell, sell, sell.

As we’ve all experienced, sales essentially boils down to two things:

  1. Numbers
  2. Time

And those two things often go hand-in-hand. While we (or our team) are racing to hit quota against that clock, though, we can save time and maximize our numbers by investing in the right processes, activities, and skills.

Truth is, sales is changing — quickly. As the sales conversations grows even more buyer-focused, sales reps have begun developing his or her own hack, own technique, own process.

That’s where this guide comes in. In this growing sales landscape, we’ll outline the various processes and key strategies for prospecting — the phase of selling that often consumes the most time and energy (and is the most crucial to get right).

What Is Prospecting?

Prospecting: The process of searching for potential customers, clients, or buyers in order to develop new business. The end goal is to move prospects through the sales funnel until they eventually convert into revenue-generating customers.

What’s the difference between leads and prospects?

Leads: Potential customers who have expressed interest in our company or services through behaviors like visiting our website, subscribing to a blog, or downloading an ebook.

Prospects: Leads become prospects if they are qualified as potential customers, meaning that they align with the persona of our target buyer. A prospect may also be classified as a potential customer who has limited or no interaction with our company, but they would not be considered a lead.

Leads or prospects, the end goal is the same: Nurture potential customers until they buy our product or service. Here is what the funnel looks like:

1. Research

Goal: Determine quality of lead

Qualifying dimensions: A set of criteria to evaluate the probability that a lead or prospect will become a customer.

CRM (customer relationship management): Software that allows companies to keep track of their potential and existing customers at whichever stage they may assume in the sales cycle.

 

2. Prospect

Goal: Get to a connect

Gatekeeper: Person in charge of communicating or preventing information from reaching a decision-maker; for example, receptionists or personal assistants.

Decision-maker: The person in charge of making a final decision on the sale. We usually have to go through a gatekeeper to reach them.

 

3. Connect

Goal: Schedule next meeting

Discovery call: The first contact a sales rep makes with a prospect with the aim to qualify them as a lead for the next step in the sales cycle

 

4. Educate and Evaluate

Goal: Evaluate and qualify needs

Pain point: A prospect’s business need; this is what sales reps must identify in order to provide value and move them farther along in the sales cycle

Objection: A prospect’s challenge leading to opposing a product or service, i.e. budget, time constraints.

 

5. Close

Goal: Turn Opportunities Into Customers

Closed-won: When the buyer purchases a product or service from the sales rep. 

Closed-lost: When the buyer fails to purchase a product or service from the sales rep. 

Closing ratio: Ratio of prospects that a sales rep closes and wins.

Sales Prospecting Techniques

As the sales environment matures, we’re seeing a shift from the former method of prospecting (outbound) to one that is much more buyer-centric (inbound).

Here’s the big difference in the two methodologies:

Outbound Prospecting

Cold calling: Unsolicited calls to sell a product or service

Social spamming: Unsolicited social media messages to sell a product or service

The Process: Research takes longer without any prior history with a contact. Less context for us when we’re ready to reach out to establish a connection.

Example: “Hi John, I wanted to reach out to you because I’ve worked with companies similar to yours in the past.”

Inbound Prospecting

Warm emailing: Warm emails to explore a relationship with a lead who has already expressed familiarity with your product or service

Social selling: Using social media to explore a relationship with a lead who has already expressed familiarity with your product or service; sales reps can provide value to prospects on social media by answering their questions and introducing them to useful content

The Process: Research process is shorter as we already have their contact information and interaction history. Provides us with context about the prospect’s interests or prior behavior, allowing us to develop more personalized outreach.

Example: “Hi John, I’m reaching out because I noticed you were looking at our e-book on improving sales productivity.”

Our Recommendation: Inbound Prospecting

Our world is now characterized by infinite information, whenever we want.

Before we make a purchase decision, 60% of us rely on word-of-mouth, friends, and social media; 49% on customer references; 47% on analyst reports and recommendations; and 44% on media articles

Before a salesperson even has a chance to contact a prospect, he or she is already 57% of the way through the sales process. Yet, salespeople are still cold calling as if buyers have no awareness. Experienced salespeople can expect to spend 7.5 hours of cold calling to get ONE qualified appointment, according to a Baylor University study.

It’s time companies and sales reps start paying attention to buyers, leveraging their context, and understanding who they are and what they need.

It’s time they adopt inbound sales.

Companies that use inbound sales techniques are better positioned for success in this new realm of buyer awareness. In fact, 64% of teams that use inbound selling reach their quotas as opposed to 49% of sales teams who use outbound sales. IBM even increased their sales by 400% after implementing their inbound sales program.

Now, let’s look at specific frameworks and techniques for how we can adopt an inbound approach to prospecting.

A Guide to Prospecting

50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting.

We don’t want you to fall into that sales statistic.

That’s why we recommend the inbound way and put together a basic framework that applies to all sales processes. But with a twist.

As we mentioned earlier, we understand that everyone has their own approach. So we’ve also weaved in personal prospecting tips and tricks from the best salespeople we know. Pick and play with whatever works best for your own sales hustle.

Step 1: Research

This is by far the most important aspect of prospecting. We must ensure that we’re qualifying our prospects in order to improve our chances of providing value to them or their business.

In this stage of prospecting, we’re looking to accomplish a few goals:

  • Determine if the prospect is workable
  • Qualify and begin prioritizing prospects
  • Find opportunities to develop a connection through personalization, rapport building, and trust development

Here are some important qualifying dimensions to evaluate if a prospect has a high probability of becoming a customer:

Organizational

This type of qualification is based solely on demographics. Does the prospect fall within my territory? Do we sell in their industry? Does it fit our buyer persona?

Say our target market consists of small to medium-sized businesses with anywhere from 100 to 1,000 employees. We should eliminate any potential customers outside of these criteria.

Diving deeper, our product or service will naturally provide higher value to a particular profile within that target market. For example, medium-sized businesses consisting of a larger team. Those customers are also more likely to upgrade to a higher tier of our product, providing more lifetime value as a customer.

Takeaway: Prioritize customers based on the size of the opportunity, or their potential lifetime value.
 

Stakeholder-level

There are two types of people involved on the other end of our sales process: Decision-makers and influencers.

Influencers may not have the power to buy, but they’re often the ones that will be using the product and thus can become our biggest internal advocates. If we get them to rally around our offering, they can make a compelling case to decision-makers before we even speak with them.

Decision-makers are, of course, the ones that either approve or reject the buy. We can ask these questions to determine the decision-making process: Will anyone else be involved in this decision? Does this purchase come out of your immediate budget?

Takeaway: Keep a working list of influencers and buyers, perhaps mapped out by the organizational structure of the organization. We’ll use this list later, when we’re in the outreach phase of prospecting.

Constraints

Time constraints and budget limitations are often the biggest objections we receive from prospects. Before wasting time on an exploratory call to hear this objection, let’s do some homework beforehand to see if we can filter out potential buyers who clearly don’t have the bandwidth to consider our offering.

Takeaway: If we see a prospect has just launched a new marketing campaign, they might not have the time to cycle through an extensive sales process. We should take note of prospects who clearly have their hands tied and revisit them at a later date.

Familiarity with the market

We’re likely to be more familiar with certain types of companies, markets, or industries than others. Our pitch and sales techniques are also likely to be more refined with markets we feel comfortable talking about, so we should prioritize these prospects first.

Takeaway: Group similar prospects by characteristics such as their service offering, their market, or their industry, and prioritize these groups based on our familiarity with them.

Value-added prospects to whom we can provide more value are more likely to buy our offering. For example, if we’re selling basic digital marketing services and we see that our prospect already has a robust web presence, the probability we can create tremendous additional value is low.

Takeaway: Classify prospects by the level of value we think we can provide.
 
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Look at job boards to find departments in which a company is investing or growing. This can further inform us of their key goals or challenges.

If our prospect is a public company we can also look at their annual financial report (dubbed a 10-K) under the “Risk Factors” section to see if there’s alignment between their stated business challenges and our product offering.

Awareness of offering

Our prospects will likely have varying levels of knowledge about our product or services. The more awareness they have, the more likely they are to see the value in our offering and become customers.

If a prospect has visited our website, subscribed to our blog, or posted content about something related to our offering, they probably know a lot about our company or service.

Takeaway: Group prospects by their level of awareness so we can take advantage of this familiarity later in the sales process.
 
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There are a bajillion sales qualification frameworks. At HubSpot, the reps have coined the GPCTBA/C&I framework (which they vouch sounds more confusing than it actually is).

Here is the basic breakdown and some examples of questions asked when connecting with potential customers to follow the framework:

GPCTBA-01.png

Now we can focus on creating a highly targeted, relevant list. Based on our research, we should have a fine-tuned profile of our target customer, and every company or individual on our prospect list should meet that criteria.

Step 2: Prioritize

Prioritizing our prospects can save us time and ensure we’re dedicating our strongest efforts to prospects that are most likely to become customers. Levels of prioritization will vary between each type of sales organization and each individual salesperson, but the main idea is to create a few buckets of prospects based on their likelihood to buy and focus on one bucket at a time.

Let’s break down the qualifying dimensions used in our list above (and any additional relevant dimensions) into percentages between 1% and 100% based on how important they are to the sales process. For example, size of opportunity is probably more important to us than timing in terms of closing a deal, so it would receive a 70% whereas timing would receive a 5%.

Now we can assign a value between 1 and 100 to these dimensions for each prospect in our list. Once we complete this step, we can multiply each prospect’s value by the percentage weight we gave to the dimension.

Add up these dimension scores until each prospect has a total score. And now our entire list is prioritized.Sales_Prioritization-01.png

P.S. Lead management software does this automatically.

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We can also qualitatively classify prospects by rating them on a spectrum from high, medium, and low as follows:

high-prospect.png

  • Matches criteria for customer persona
  • Clear business challenge that aligns with our product offering
  • Able to connect with a decision-maker
  • We have a mutual connection or common interest (i.e. mutual friend on LinkedIn or both graduated from the same college)
  • High level of interaction with our website or social media accounts

Recommended effort: Five touchpoints

Contact sequence: Every other business day

 

 medium-prospects.png

  • Match some elements of our customer persona
  • Clear business challenge that aligns with our product offering
  • Able to connect with an influencer
  • Some level of interaction with our website or social media accounts

Recommended effort: Five touchpoints every other day

 low-prospects.png

  • Don’t match with our customer persona
  • Unclear business challenge
  • Not able to connect with an influencer or decision-maker
  • Limited or no interaction with our website or social media accounts

Recommended effort: Five touchpoints every other day

Step 3: Prep the outreach

The end goal of this step is to gather in-depth information on our prospects in order to hone our pitch and personalize our outreach. So first, we must determine what our prospects care about.

We can do this in a few ways:

  • See if the prospect blogs to determine what they write about (as a proxy for what they care about)
  • Find their social media presence. Do they have recent updates or a new post?
  • Check the company website to review “About Us” information

Once we’ve learned more about our prospect’s business and role, we need to find a reason to connect. Do we have mutual connections? Has there been a trigger event? Have they recently visited our website? If so, which search terms drove them to our site? Which pages did they look at?

If we want to get more high-level with our prep, we can create a decision map to outline our prospect’s options and end-goals. This will help us better handle any objections and personalize a pitch that resonates with their primary objectives. We could also conduct a competitive analysis to determine how we can better position our company’s service or product within the industry and how we can combat prospects’ objections.

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Kyle Van Pelt devised a systematic approach for prospecting where he reads 30 articles in 30 minutes every day and uses the content in his email outreach in a tailored, relevant way. And he achieved a 90% response rate.

Kyle uses Digg to subscribe to company’s blogs that he thinks would make for good prospects. Here’s how it works:

  1. Open each interesting post in a new tab.
  2. Skim each post.
  3. Read the most interesting posts.
  4. After skimming through all of the options, narrow the final list down to the most interesting posts. There will typically be between 20-30 posts left. We should put ourselves in the prospect’s shoes as we’re reading these articles, searching for pain points or trigger events.  
  5. Use the most interesting, relevant information we find in the articles to tailor an email or a call to our prospect.

 All of these questions will help us craft more context around our prospect’s situation which will help us when we’re ready to make that initial contact.

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Create a list of top priority prospects on Twitter to more easily track trigger events and streamline the research process. Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Click your profile picture next to the Tweet button in the upper right hand corner of the page, and then click “Lists.”
  2. Now click “Create new list” on the sidebar.
  3. Name the list and then set it to “Private” so only you can access it.
  4. Now add the prospects you want to track to your list. Just search for their accounts, click the gear icon next to their profile picture, and then click “Add or remove from lists.” Note: You may want to group your high priority prospects together in one list, followed by your medium-priority prospects and then low-priority.
  5. Now that you’ve created the list, we can easily monitor our prospects’ activity using a tool like HubSpot Social Inbox.  HubSpot’s Social Inbox color-codes your customers and leads and helps you prioritize your engagement. You can see what type of content resonates with your prospects by tracking their interactions, conversations, and new follows.

Social-inbox.png

Watch as this feed populates with prospect activity. We can check this every morning and afternoon to see if any trigger events have occurred that would provide a valuable opportunity for us to connect.

Step 4: The First Touch

Whether calling or emailing, our outreach should be highly tailored to our prospect’s particular business, goal, industry.

Keep these general tips in mind when contacting a prospect, whether on the phone or through email:

  • Personalize. Reference a specific problem that the prospect is encountering with a specific solution.
  • Stay relevant and timely. Ensure the issue a prospect is trying to solve is still relevant to him or her and their team.
  • Be human. No one likes to communicate with a professional robot. Adding in details like wishing someone a happy holiday weekend or by conveying how awesome their company’s product is are real touches that allow us to establish a connection on a deeper level.
  • Help, don’t sell. Provide value and ask for nothing in return. This process isn’t about us, it’s about THEM. For example, instead of scheduling a follow up meeting, we could offer to conduct an audit on their digital media presence and get back to them with our findings in a week.
  • Keep it casual. Remember that this is just a conversation. Stay natural and as non-salesy as possible. The key to prospecting, and sales, is that we’re never selling. We’re simply determining if both parties could mutually benefit from a relationship.

 

email-prospecting

Batch prospecting sessions for 2-3 hours at a time and take a quick five minute break between each hour. Get an egg timer, and set the timer on a countdown for 20 minutes, 30 minutes, or 45 minutes, depending on how much time we scheduled for the call. End the call on the timer’s beep, use 5 minutes for following up, 5 minutes for updating notes and administrative tasks in Salesforce, and then use 5 minutes to prep for the next call.

In terms of establishing contact, we must decide between email or phone communication. Some of us will initially jump on the cold email approach while others will dive into the cold call. This strategy will vary based on what each salesperson feels most comfortable with, but let’s quickly review pros and cons to both.

Email

Pros

  • Visual
  • Allows prospect to consider our offer
  • Provides prospect with adequate time to research our company and product
  • Easily forwarded to key stakeholders who might be a better fit to speak with

Cons

  • Email is a cluttered space so it may be harder to grab a prospect’s attention
  • Emails are easily deleted or forgotten
  • We may have to follow up multiple times before we get a response

Phone

Pros

  • Calls are less common than email, so they can grab a prospect’s attention quickly and more easily
  • Immediately establishes a more intimate connection and offers salespeople the chance to develop rapport
  • Often more timely than email communication and can accelerate the time it takes to close a deal

Cons

  • Some prospects may feel overwhelmed by a call and thus be less inclined to consider a pitch or schedule a second meeting
  • There’s no guarantee a prospect will pick up
  • Voicemail can often be as cluttered as email

Successful first touch strategies often incorporate both approaches to take advantage of the pros and minimize the cons.

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Jeff Hoffman pioneered the BASHO sequence which advocates a combination of voicemail and email messages to gain leverage with prospects.

Voicemail / Email: Wait for 24 hours

Voicemail / Email: Wait for 48 hours

Voicemail / Email: Wait for 72 hours

Voicemail / Email: Wait for 5 days

Breakup Voicemail / Email 

 Alternating between voicemail and email, with unique messaging each time, this technique gives prospects the opportunity to consider our offer, conduct their own research, and respond at a time convenient for them.

But, how do we leave a voicemail or send an email that prospects want to respond to? Let’s dive into the dos and don’ts of each communication method below:

The Warm Email

If we’re looking to send a first-touch email that gets opened, there are some essentials that we must include:

    1. Engaging subject line: The subject line has to pique the prospect’s interest while avoiding cliché hooks.
    2. Personal opening line: We should begin our cold email by saying something about them, not about us. After all, this process is about finding the prospect’s pain points and determining a way to add value to their business or processes.
    3. Creating a connection: Now we have to make the connection. In our opening, they learn why we’re reaching out to them, but now they need to know why they should care about what we do.
    4. Clear call-to-action: Suggest a concrete time to connect or ask a close-ended question to make it clear that the ball is in their court. Try using one of these lines: “Do you have ten minutes to catch up tomorrow?” or “Are you available for a 30 minute call on Tuesday between 9-11 a.m.?”

Sales_Desk-01.png

Try sending a calendar invite, instead of an email, to get straight to the point. In the description section, we can type up a personalized message like this:

calendar-invite-cold-email.png

Jill Konrath also suggests scheduling a short 5-minute meeting to get our foot in the door with prospects whose calendars are particularly swamped.

The Prospecting Call

If we decide to call a prospect, whether in conjunction with an email or not, we can follow this basic structure for the call:

    1. Establish rapport: We shouldn’t shy away from personal conversations, like asking how a prospect’s weekend was or what team they’re rooting for in the game tonight. These intimate touches help us develop a more meaningful relationship with prospects and enhance our likeability which, hopefully, means a prospect will be more likely to buy from us.
    2. Leverage pain points: Dive into their pain points during the call. By the end of the conversation, we should know all of their primary business challenges and the underlying causes associated with them. Once we have an understanding of these key issues, we can better position our product or services to solve them.
    3. Create curiosity: Ask questions about their business. Ask more than tell. This conversation is about them and understanding their needs and problems. The less we talk about our business and product, the more our prospect will be interested to hear the final pitch.
    4. Wrap it up: Find a calendar time between 24-48 hours after discovery call to book a follow-up meeting. Try this line: “Would you have 30 minutes to follow up this week? My colleague, John, will join us — he’s an expert in X, Y, Z. My calendar’s open, what works best for you?” 

Step 5: Iterate

Keep notes throughout this process to assess what activities generated value for the prospecting process and which wasted time.

 After each contact with a prospect, we should assess how well we think we:

  • Uncovered challenges
  • Helped create well-defined goals
  • Confirmed availability of budget
  • Understand decision-making process
  • Determined consequences of inaction
  • Identified potential results of success

This self-reflection will help us improve our calling techniques in the future.

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Bryan Kreuzberger, founder of Breakthrough Email, sends a follow-up email if prospects respond with a rejection. The purpose of this email is simple: Learning. We can use this rejection as an opportunity to better understand how we can improve our sales techniques by sending this template:

One of HubSpot’s sales managers uses Gmail labels to visualize his prospects in the sales funnel.

gmail-labels-prospecting.png

For example, after an initial discovery call, he sends a follow up to his prospects and labels their response according to the action required of the account under the corresponding inbox. This allows him to easily shift gears when contacting cold prospects versus re-engaging old prospects or moving warm prospects further down the funnel.

Finally, to boost our prospecting productivity through each of these stages, we can utilize the following sales prospecting tools.

Sales Prospecting Tools

1. Twitter

We can use Twitter to get an idea of what our prospect finds important. By showing them support through a retweet or favorite, or even engaging them in conversation, we can show them that we have their interests, challenges, and needs in mind. Because we’ve already opened the relationship through a personal medium like Twitter, we’ll have a greater window of opportunity to adjust our pitch.

How to use it: To inform the sales process. Use Twitter’s Advanced search to quickly sift through a prospect’s feed and find what’s important. For example, if we see that a prospect posted a question about our product, it’s a perfect opportunity to respond.

2. CRM

HubSpot’s free CRM allows users to keep track of sales activity and source new prospects.

How to use it: Surface warm prospects who have already visited our website. Store contacts and companies, track deals, and easily manage tasks such as follow ups and meetings.

3. Zapier

Connects the web apps we use to automate tedious tasks.

How to use it: Create a “Zap” to automatically send a text message whenever we receive a new email. Or, automatically create a new lead in Salesforce when we get an email submission on our blog.

4. HubSpot Sales

Use email tracking to know when prospects open emails, click on links, or open attachments. HubSpot Sales also provides us with detailed contact information right in our inbox and it allows us to schedule emails to be sent at a time when we know our prospect will be most likely to open them.

How to use it: If we see that a prospect is viewing an email we sent two weeks ago, we can follow up with information related to what they’re viewing, or email them to set up another meeting.

5. LinkedIn Company Pages

This provides us with a feed on the company’s recent updates to help discover industry news, marketing campaigns, events, product launches, and recently published content.

How to use it: We can reference these updates as trigger events to engage our prospects in real conversations.

6. Google Alerts

Google Alerts allows us to track web mentions on a company’s name, product, competitors, or industry trends.

How to use it: Customize alerts to send real-time, daily, weekly, or monthly updates on whichever keywords are relevant to our prospects. We can use these to tailor our outreach.

7. Datanyze

Datanyze tracks competing technology providers and informs us of companies who have started or stopped using their solution.

How to use it: Connect with prospects after they stop using a competitor’s product to catch them while they’re on the market for a better offering.

8. FoxClocks

This is an extension for Chrome and Firefox that lets us keep track of local or foreign time zones in our status bar.

How to use it: Manage time zones and never miss a meeting due to a misunderstanding between PST, EST, CT, etc.

9. Evernote

Stay organized and efficient by taking notes in Evernote which syncs notes through their mobile, desktop and web apps.

How to use it: Use this tool while on an exploratory prospecting call to keep track of pain points, company details, and action items.

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Source: The Ultimate Guide to Sales Prospecting: Tips, Techniques, & Tools to Succeed

6 Life-Changing Lessons, Advice, & Tips From Elon Musk | #VentureCanvas

dkhim@hubspot.com (David Ly Khim) | Hubspot Sales


How does Elon Musk think?

That’s what I aimed to discover while researching the habits behind his unbelievable success. Musk is arguably the most impressive living human being on earth. For proof, here’s his track record: 

lessons_from_elon_musk_01.png

Oh yeah, and he’s one of only two people to found three billion dollar companies. Not bad.

The crazy part is he doesn’t care that he’s worth billions. In fact, he’s annoyed with journalists asking about him. He wants them to ask about the bigger, worldly problems he’s trying to solve. He’s not focused on his existence, he’s focused on the existence of humanity — sustainable energy, clean transportation, and interplanetary space travel. 

How does he think? What are his mental frameworks? What makes him tick? I scoured through dozens of interviews to unravel his six most compelling lessons … and turned them into actionable exercises. 

These lessons (and accompanying exercises) have changed my life. 

Elon Musk Advice

  1. Seek criticism
  2. Challenge your existing beliefs
  3. Narrow your focus
  4. Create a back-up plan
  5. Practice for failure
  6. Have a big impact

Complete the following exercises, based off the psychology of Elon Musk, and they might change your life, too.

Access the exercises to follow the lessons:

Click here to access the Google Doc and Evernote worksheets

  

Lesson 1:
Seek criticism

Criticism is like exercise. In the beginning, it’s tough. But it slowly shapes us into healthier people and leads to many long-term benefits. While compliments create contentment, criticism creates improvement.

And when your mission for SpaceX is “interplanetary co-existence” and Tesla “transforming sustainable energy for humanity” (yes, those are Elon Musk’s words), you cannot be content. For example:

“When I spoke with someone about the Tesla Model S, I didn’t really want to know what’s right about the car. I want to know what’s wrong about the car.

When my friends get a product, I ask them to please not tell me what they like. Rather, tell me what you don’t like. And if I’ve asked that a few times of people, then they will start automatically telling me without me having to always ask the question.”

 “You should take the approach that you’re wrong. Your goal is to be less wrong.”

– Elon Musk 

Action Steps:

1. Write down five people who would give you brutally honest criticism. This could be your coworkers, direct manager, significant other, close friends, or even your parents.

2. Call, text, or email them asking about one area you should fix. Encourage brutal honesty. This is how my conversation went with one of my five people:

Me: “Hey Tim, so … this might sound a little weird. And may be slightly uncomfortable, but if you’re willing, I’d love your help with something.”

Tim: “Uhhh … sure? Is everything okay?”

Me: “Yeah, everything’s okay. What’s something I do that bothers you? Or something you think I can improve? And I want your brutally honest feedback. Don’t hold back. If you think it’ll hurt my feelings, it won’t. And if you don’t have an answer right now, no problem. Just think on it and I’ll get back to you.”

Tim: “Hmm that’s an interesting question. Let me think about it…”

Having them dwell on the question has always resulted in better feedback as they think more deeply about it. I’d suggest this approach.

  

Lesson 2:
Challenge reality (by understanding the fundamentals)

Einstein said, “You can’t solve problems with the same thinking that caused them.” Musk couldn’t agree more.

For example, people have said battery packs will always be expensive, because they’re expensive to make, and that’s just is how it is. Yet Musk realized when you break down batteries into their fundamental components (cobalt, nickel, aluminum, carbon, polymers, and a steel can) and build your own batteries, costs go down dramatically.

This led to Tesla Energy, or revolutionary energy storage for sustainable homes and businesses. By challenging the status quo, Musk developed home energy storage that’s causing radical change.

Most of us aren’t creating revolutionary shifts in energy consumption. So how does this lesson apply to the rest of us? Simply put, it means questioning when someone (or yourself) says, “That’s just how it is and how it’s always been.”

Upset the status quo. Ask tough questions. Explore the fundamental truths behind the challenges in your life. Explore how things really work by making “why” your favorite question to ask.

 “Boil things down to the most fundamental truths. Then reason up from there.”

– Elon Musk 

Action Steps:

1. Write down your biggest challenge right now, whether that’s personal or professional.

2. Break down that problem to its most basic components.

For example, if you’re struggling to acquire customers, ask yourself possible reasons why. Discover the potential places they could come from, such as referrals, inbound marketing, paid advertisements, and/or word-of-mouth, then explore the inputs for each channel. Continue exploring inputs until arriving at the most fundamental components.

3. After understanding the fundamental inputs, how can each of those smaller components be improved upon, changed, or executed completely differently? Use this to work backwards, starting with the fundamentals.

  
Lesson 3:

Focus on signal over noise 

Elon Musk isn’t the only billionaire preaching the power of focus. Warren Buffet had his notorious “not-to-do list.” Steve Jobs consistently preached a focused mindset by saying, “Deciding what not to do is as important as deciding what to do.” And according to Noah Kagan, Facebook employee #30, Mark Zuckerberg once said, “I will not entertain ANY idea unless it helps Facebook grow the total number of users.”

Musk follows the same principles. Except he will not entertain any idea beyond product development. For example, many companies put more money into marketing than they do engineering. Musk would rather minimally promote an incredible product than promote the living hell out of a mediocre one:

“At Tesla, we’ve never spent any money on advertising. We’ve put all our money into R&D, engineering, design, and manufacturing to build the best car possible. When we consider spending money, we ask, ‘Will this create a better product?’ If not, we don’t proceed with spending the money.”

Stephen Covey calls this putting first things first. Focus on what matters, ignore the rest.

 “Will this activity result in a better product? If not, stop those efforts.”

– Elon Musk 


Action Steps:

1. Create a list of 20 goals you have for the next year.

2. Reduce that list to five goals. It’s incredibly challenging to narrow these down, but once you do, you’ll experience rapid progress.

The Extra Mile: Elon Musk’s co-founding partner at PayPal, Peter Thiel, suggested having not five goals … but one. He calls this “the one thing” principle. 

  

Lesson 4:
Make failure an option (by defining a contingency plan)

I believe inaction is caused by fear. Particularly, the fear of failure. We don’t apply for our dream job, because we’re afraid we won’t get it (which makes us feel crappy about ourselves). We don’t approach the attractive person across the room, because we’re afraid we’ll say something stupid. We don’t start a company, because we’re afraid we’ll waste our money and fail.

When you’re starting a company with a mission for interplanetary exploration, failure is a viable option. Instead of throwing in the towel, Elon Musk anticipated failure and created a contingency plan for SpaceX:

“If we don’t get the first SpaceX rocket launch to succeed by the time we’ve spent $100 million, we will stop the company. That will be enough for three attempted launches.”

What happened to the first launch? $30 million later, it failed. The second? $60 million later, it failed. On the third and last attempt, SpaceX successfully launched. This won a $1.6 billion contract from NASA for 12 resupply flights to the station. Not bad Elon Musk, not bad at all.

Was Elon Musk afraid of failure? Absolutely. But did he create a plan to address possible failure? Yes. And that’s precisely what made him put rockets into space.

 “Failure is an option here. If things are not failing, you are not innovating enough.”

– Elon Musk 

Action Steps:

1. What’s a project you’ve been meaning to take on but haven’t gotten to yet? You just “don’t have time,” or you’ve convinced yourself you’re not good enough. Write down that “I really need to do that someday” project.

For example, one of the small projects I’ve wanted to do is create an ecommerce store using Shopify and sell t-shirts. It’s not huge, and there’s little to be lost, but it’s the fear of failure that has been stopping me. What if it doesn’t work out and it’s a waste of time?

2. Write down the absolute worst-case scenario.

For me, the worse-case scenario is that no one buys a t-shirt (not even my mom) and I end up wasting money and time on designing and printing t-shirts.

3. Now break that into 10 smaller sections on what would cause the worst-case scenario. Discard the problems you have no control over.

4. Create a contingency plan for each problem you can control.

In the case of my hypothetical t-shirt company, to lower costs, I could use a service like Teespring to keep my overhead to a minimum. If t-shirts don’t sell, there are other types of apparel to test like jogger pants (which are really popular now) and tank tops (hello summer). I think I’ll go start a line of t-shirts now.

  

Lesson 5:
Remove worries (by living the worst-case scenario)  

After defining worst-case scenarios and addressing solutions to potential problems (i.e. a contingency plan), we can still feel afraid. The best way to remove fear is by literally putting yourself in that horrible situation and asking how you feel.

For example, when Elon Musk decided he wanted to be an entrepreneur at 17 years old, he forced himself to live off $1 per day (the typical struggle of an entrepreneur). At that time, he lived mainly off hot dogs and oranges.

Elon didn’t do it because he was poor. He did it to see if he had what it takes to lead the life as an entrepreneur. And since he was successful with this experiment, he knew that money wouldn’t be an issue.

Experimenting with a reduced income showed Musk he could do it. This pushed him into entrepreneurship. 

 “I figured if I could live off a dollar a day then, at least from a food stand point, it’s pretty easy to earn $30 a month.”

– Elon Musk 

Action Steps:

1. Ask yourself how you can simulate the worst-case scenario from lesson #4. Imagine you’re living that worst-case scenario right now. Write down what that would feel like … and write it in excrutiating detail. How does it feel? Describe those feelings. 

2. If you believe you could get through your worst-case scenario (after imagining how it feels), go out and simulate this scenario in real life.

When I got hired by HubSpot and prepared to move my life from Southern California to Boston, my biggest concern was being in a new city where I literally knew no one. That feeling of lonliness made me nervous as I booked my one-way plane ticket and packed my life up into one suitcase.

“How would I meet new people in Boston?” By talking to random people. “What if they don’t want to talk to me?” Then, move on to the next person. Sounds easy in theory. But I was still scared.

I decided to challenge myself during the weeks leading up to my flight. Even though I was still in my hometown, I actively made the effort to speak to strangers. Whether it was at a coffee shop or if I was eating alone, I would strike up small talk and, while some conversations went nowhere, others became enjoyable conversations.

When I got to Boston, sure, I was still nervous — but I knew what to do.

  

Lesson 6:
Solve Problems Beyond Yourself

Many of us (I’m guilty of this myself) focus on finding a fun, secure, and challenging job that makes us happy. We ask about the salary. About the benefits. And the culture. But are we asking if our work is making an impact on the world? Are we using today to solve tomorrow’s problems? Are we forward thinking?

Elon Musk didn’t ask himself, “What are some of the best ways I can make money?” Instead, as he left PayPal, he asked himself, “What are some of the problems that are likely to affect the future of humanity?”

Musk never mentions profit in interviews. He discusses SpaceX’s goal to make humanity into a multi-planetary species, or Tesla’s goal to accelerate the world’s movement toward having most electric cars.

He solves problems not to improve his world, but the world.

“If something is important enough, even if the odds are against you, you should still do it.”

– Elon Musk 

Action Steps:

1. Write down the projects you are working on right now. 

2. Ask yourself, “Am I solving a problem beyond myself?” If not, write down the steps needed to reach that level.

  

An Honest Reflection 

Will I ever start the next Tesla, SpaceX, or other company that’s literally changing the course of humanity? Honestly, probably not. What I will do is continually apply Elon Musk’s mental frameworks to improve my life. 

When I receive a compliment, I’ll ask what I can improve. Faced with a tough problem, I’ll break it down into the fundamentals. When distracted, I’ll remember the billionaires all have one similar trait — focus. I won’t be afraid of failure because I’ll make it an option (and live it). And finally, as my life progresses, I’ll challenge my existence by continue to evaluate worldly problems and what I can do to help.

Encourage criticism. Dissect the fundamentals. Focus on high-impact activities. Push myself to failure. Challenge my limits. But most importantly, solve problems beyond myself.

Will you do the same?

Grab the Google Doc and Evernote resources.

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Source: 6 Life-Changing Lessons, Advice, & Tips From Elon Musk

We Need to Talk About Uber. | #VentureCanvas

Amanda Zantal-Wiener | Hubspot Marketing


Y’all. I don’t even know where to begin.

Have you ever had one of those weeks, or maybe even long weekends, when you genuinely disconnect from or simply don’t have as much time to pay attention to tech news?

But then, you come back from that brief reprieve, only for things to look kind of like this:

Source: Giphy

I was going to write a full news recap for you this week. Even when limited to the tech realm, there was a lot that went on, from Snapchat’s bungled “surprise” partnership with Jeff Koons, to product announcements from Sonos, to even more struggles from major tech companies– like Google, Facebook, and Twitter — to curb the distribution and promotion of false content.

But as I reviewed all of the week’s developments, there was one main news item that really caught my eye, besides Google’s major product event on Wednesday (which I covered here): what’s going on with Uber.

Because this item is rather complex and in-depth, I’ve chosen to focus exclusively on Uber this week. It’s intricate, has evolved quickly, and is a lot for anyone to sort through.

That’s why I’ve synthesized what’s happening here, in what I hope is a cohesive, easy-to-digest manner, to help you catch up on things.

With that said: on your mark — get set — drive.

Spoiler Alert: This Kind of Has a Happy Ending

Over in London

Like most weeks, it seems, this was not a good one for Uber. There’s been a bit of a rollercoaster of events since Transport for London revoked its license to operate in that U.K. city, including the departure of Uber’s chief of northern Europe affairs, Jo Bertram.

Uber’s new CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has spent much of his recent time in London to meet with Mike Brown, commissioner of Transport for London. While both parties suggested that these discussions have been mutually beneficial, no formal decision has been made — nor will it be, it seems, until October 13, when a judge is due to issue a decision on the ride-sharing company’s appeal.

Until that process has reached a conclusion, Uber can continue operating in London, where it has roughly 40,000 drivers.

But as interesting a development as that might be, things were even more amplified for Uber in two other categories: its ongoing legal woes with Alphabet, and continuous drama over its board.

The Alphabet Lawsuit

To recap: When we last left off, Alphabet had obtained a significant document called the Stroz Report: a due diligence report named for the firm that prepared it, Stroz Friedberg, ordered by Uber when controversial self-driving technology engineer Anthony Levandowski would be joining its team. Levandowski is accused of stealing trade secrets from Waymo, Alphabet’s autonomous vehicle division, and no longer works for Uber. He has firmly exercised his fifth amendment rights throughout these proceedings.

Earlier this week, the Stroz report became public — and those with the intestinal fortitude to sift through all 34 pages can do so here:

1928-24 by Johana Bhuiyan on Scribd

But for those who don’t find poring over a due diligence report as much fun as we do, there are quick-acting transportation writers like Recode‘s Johana Bhuiyan, who managed to dissect the document before most of us were thinking about getting ready for bed.

Here are the highlights:

  • First, after seeing the amount of information disclosed in the report, it’s clear why Alphabet requested more time to review it prior to appearing in court — it’s a lot to get through, even if you don’t have to prepare a legal case. Earlier this week, a judge granted that request, and the trial date has been pushed to December 6th.
  • Stroz Friedberg discovered during its investigation that Levandowski was, in fact, in possession of “highly confidential” information from Waymo “stored on five disks on his personal Drobo 50,” which he later destroyed — things like “source code, files, and software pertaining to self-driving cars.”
  • The report also found that Levandowski met with Uber executives while he was still employed by Google (owned by Alphabet). Additionally, text messages exchanges with former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick were discovered to have taken place shortly after Levandowski left his post with Google.
  • Stroz Friedberg also discovered that Lior Ron, Levandowski’s co-founder of Otto (the company he launched prior to joining Uber), was in possession of similarly proprietary information. Shortly before leaving Google, it was found that he made efforts to destroy digital files, or at least learn how to do so.

While Alphabet maintains that this new information aids its case, Uber has claimed the opposite and says that these efforts to destroy files, for example, prove Kalanick’s insistence that Levandowski and his partners rid themselves of any proprietary data from Google.

It’s worth noting that before the Otto co-founders agreed to join Uber, they required indemnity from any potential legal action involving Google. According to a Recode report from July, that indemnity was “negotiated,” which could explain why neither has been named in the lawsuit. However, the reason why Levandowski was fired from Uber in May largely had to do with his lack of cooperation on the case. As the proceedings progress and the court date more closely approaches, it will be interesting to see if he and Ron remain legally unscathed.

The Board Drama

If you can believe it, this item might be even more complex and difficult to dissect than the Stroz report — so to simplify matters, events have been compiled into a timeline.

September 29, 2017

Former Uber CEO Travis Kalanick appointed two new members to its board of directors: former Xerox CEO Ursula Burns and former Merrill Lynch CEO John Thain. Each director filled one of two seats of which Kalanick previous had control — however, given Kalanick’s diminished role within the company, these appointments came as a surprise.

Some have suggested that this move by Kalanick was largely a power play among Khosrowshahi’s proposal to restructure the current model that allows those with more shares in the company to also have greater voting power. The new model would enact a one share = one vote formula.

That would also mean the removal of shares held by those to whom they were issued in the company’s earliest days — the same people, therefore, with the highest voting power. Under this proposal, those individuals stand to lose something potentially highly lucrative — including Kalanick, Benchmark (a venture capital firm and investor in Uber that is actually suing the former CEO), and certain employees.

Uber, for its part, later responded to Kalanick’s move with this official statement:

“The appointments of Ms. Burns and Mr. Thain to Uber’s Board of Directors came as a complete surprise to Uber and its Board. That is precisely why we are working to put in place world-class governance to ensure that we are building a company every employee and shareholder can be proud of.”

September 30, 2017

Khosrowshahi issued a short letter to Uber employees, expressing his disappointment and surprise by Kalanick’s board appointments. He reiterated the official statement from above, calling the move “highly unusual.”

October 3, 2017

The board met, primarily to vote on Khosrowshahi’s restructuring proposal, and essentially figure out who would have the most voting and significant decision-making power — and how much of that power would remain in Kalanick’s possession.

The overall goal that would hopefully emerge from what had thus far been a heaping pile of contention was what Recode‘s Kara Swisher called “obvious: To clear the way for a big, new $10 billion stock deal by SoftBank and, eventually, a smooth public offering for Uber next year that will top its current $70 billion valuation.”

In the end, the board voted in favor of moves that would largely continue to diminish Kalanick’s power. Here’s a summary of what emerged:

  • The one share = one vote model was approved. That reduces the voting power of both Kalanick and Benchmark, as well as others, who had strong opinions on the matter:
  • The company will proceed with its efforts to ink an investment deal with Softbank, which has been in talks to buy a significant portion of the company’s shares. However, in order for that to happen, Softbank required some modification to Uber’s corporate governance — and with the aforementioned approved changes, that leaves more room for the deal to move forward.
  • The board approved plans for a 2019 IPO.
  • Six new board seats will be added, leading to a total of 17 directors.

A Symbolically Overheating Engine

All of this, of course, makes for quite a story — one that some might say is stranger than fiction. Perhaps that’s why New York Times reporter Mike Isaac has been commissioned to write an extensive book about Uber, and personally, the “pre-order” button can’t appear soon enough.

But it’s an ongoing story, and the book is expected to be released in 2019: right around the time that massive IPO is slated to take effect. Only more questions will arise — including my own, “Who will play all the major characters in the movie version?” — and we’ll be here to monitor, track, and digest the latest developments for you.

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Source: We Need to Talk About Uber.

 

How We Used the Pillar-Cluster Model to Transform Our Blog | #VentureCanvas

sbernazzani@hubspot.com (Sophia Bernazzani) | Hubspot Marketing


If you haven’t already noticed, the HubSpot Blogs got a makeover this summer.

And while your last makeover might’ve included a new wardrobe or hair color, ours was different. We revamped blog.hubspot.com from the inside, out with the help of topic clusters.

And yeah, the beautiful new homepage design, easy click-to-tweet buttons, and video modules help, too. That’s all thanks to my colleague, Carly Stec, who worked tirelessly on the redesign of the HubSpot Blogs, along with talented members of our graphic and web design and SEO teams. To learn more about the new bells and whistles you can see and test out on the blog, read her deep-dive into what’s new.

Even though you can’t see it, there’s a lot that’s new going on behind-the-scenes: We reorganized our entire blog infrastructure according to the topic cluster model, which calls for the grouping of related blog posts around specific topics — instead of writing blog posts to try to rank for different long-tail keywords. It was no mean feat — over the years, we’ve published tens of thousands of blog posts across the Marketing and Sales Blogs, and we recently started publishing new content on our Customer Success Blog.

Now that it’s done — or, at least, well on the way — we’re ready to tell you how we did it. Read on to learn how we changed our blog’s infrastructure, and how the topic clusters are helping us help our readers.

How We Used Topic Clusters to Transform Our Blog

Why: We Wanted to Create a Better Experience

We’ve told you before and we’ll tell you again: search has changed. And as it turns out, the way we were creating our editorial calendar, targeting keywords, and publishing blog posts last year wasn’t optimized for the way people are searching for information this year.

So we blew up our entire blog infrastructure.

Just kidding (kind of). Here’s the story:

Before Topic Clusters

HubSpot Director of Acquisition (and general SEO genius) Matthew Barby introduced us to the idea of topic clusters — and why they’re so important to creating a good experience for searchers — as well as helping content rank in search more effectively.

You see, as technology has evolved and changed, so too has the way people search for the information they need on search engines like Google. Voice search on devices like Apple’s Siri, Amazon Echo, Google Home, and Microsoft’s Cortana has changed the way people search because, instead of typing, they’re having a conversation to find the information they need.

In fact, 20% of Google searches on mobile or Android devices are now conducted via voice search. And what’s more, search engine algorithms are getting smarter, and using machine-learning technology, now, when searchers ask questions or input keywords, search engines can interpret the meaning of terms to try to find the best possible answer.

What this all means? Well, your time spent writing blog posts designed to rank for specific, long-tail keywords could be better spent elsewhere. Namely, on creating topic clusters.

Because your blog (and ours too) was dedicated to trying to rank for specific long-tail keywords in search, the infrastructure was a little … messy. Here’s a visualization of what it looked like:

Old structure.png

So, yeah. While we had thousands and thousands of blog posts about everything marketing, sales, and advertising under the sun, they weren’t organized — and some of the posts were even competing with each other because they were so similar. Think about it — when we had 10 different blog posts about “Instagram tips,” some of them had overlapping content and similar URL structures that started to compete with each other in search engine results pages (SERPs).

After Topic Clusters

The goal of organizing our blog using topic clusters was so our infrastructure would look a little more like this:

New structure.png

How was this beautiful feat of blog architecture achieved? By using pillar pages and internal links to create those topic clusters.

Cluster model.png

Under the topic cluster model, instead of creating blog posts designed to rank for specific, long-tail keywords, we organized our blog posts into specific topic areas — anchored together by one webpage that provided a broad overview of the topic, which then hyperlinked out to more specific, deep-dive blog posts that made up a topic cluster.

Having trouble visualizing it? Here’s what it looks like now:

And, as you’ll notice, each of these blog posts hyperlink back to the pillar page, and some hyperlink within each other. This helps share domain authority so all blog posts within a cluster start ranking for the specific keywords they’re written for — which all work to help the entire topic cluster succeed in SERPs.

But how did we actually make all of these changes? This project was spearheaded by HubSpot Senior Content Strategist Leslie Ye, SEO and Acquisition Marketer Brittany Chin, and Search Marketing Manager Victor Pan. It took many months of diligent work — in fact, it’s still ongoing on some of our blogs — and we’ll give you a rundown of how we’ve done it.

How: We Organized Our Blog Posts, Identified Content Gaps, and Manually Removed Every Internal Link We Could Find

Step One: Organizing

When the team decided how to get started restructuring our entire blog, there was a little problem: They realized that, with more than 12,000 blog posts across the Marketing, Sales, and Agency Blogs, it would take many, many hours to put this new structure into place — and even longer to start seeing SEO results to see if the topic cluster model worked.

So they started with the Sales Blog — having published roughly 2,500 blog posts when this project began, it would be a significantly faster and easier feat to restructure this younger blog — the learnings from which we could use for restructuring the Marketing Blog down the line.

The first step of this process was organizing entire Sales Blog’s database of blog posts into different topic clusters — the team identified the myriad different topic areas blog posts explored and organized them into topics that were broad enough to write about in 20-30 different blog posts, but not so broad that a pillar page couldn’t dive into the topic in any sort of depth.

For example, we don’t have a “Sales” topic cluster — that would be way too broad. But we do have a “Sales Email Templates” topic cluster — it’s broad enough that we can cover it thoroughly in this pillar page, but we can also dive deeper into it in blog posts like this one.

So, as you can imagine, this process took a little while: We had to audit all of our content and separate it into groups of blog posts that all centered around a specific topic. Then, we had to identify our pillar pages and content gaps.

Step Two: Identifying

The beauty of the topic cluster model is that it forces you to evaluate your database of content and make sure you’re providing all relevant information about a particular topic to your reader. So it’s important to conduct thorough keyword research about your topic (once you’ve identified it).

The key things you need to identify during this content audit are:

  1. What is your pillar page?
  2. Where are there content gaps?
  3. Where are content duplicates?

1) Pillar Page

A pillar page covers the topic thoroughly and broadly, so a visitor could answer any basic questions about the topic. It shouldn’t delve too deeply into answering specific questions — that’s what blog posts are for.

Do you have a blog post that meets this criteria? If so, great — you have the content you need to create a pillar page. If not, you need to create it.

2) Content Gaps

Once you’ve conducted your keyword research, choose the keywords related to your topic that have the highest search volume. Then, determine if you’ve already written a blog post about that keyword, or if you need to write a new blog post.

Remember, you might already have content that addresses the keyword, but you might need to use on-page SEO strategies to target a blog post for that keyword.

3) Content Duplicates

You may have several blog posts that cover topics in an overlapping way that are ranking for the same keywords and competing against each other. Combine the information in these posts on the highest-ranking URL, and redirect the other blog posts towards it.

Step Three: De-Linking and Re-Linking

Possibly the least glamorous part of this process was de-linking. The team manually reviewed every blog post and removed all of the internal hyperlinks so, once the pillar pages were created, we could internally link only within the topic cluster — to improve the domain authority of every blog post and webpage in the cluster. (In fact, Barby recommends one hyperlink per 150 words.)

This took a while — and luckily, we didn’t have to do it for the Marketing Blog. We learned a lot about the topic cluster structure over the course of implementing it on the Sales Blog, and the team was eventually able to automate interlinking among topic cluster pages. (Phew!)

The Results: Slow, Steady, and Positive Growth

We’ve already started to see improvement in search rankings for various keywords across the HubSpot Blogs that we’re tracking. In our most recent analysis, we’re experiencing positive month-over-month growth in the number of keywords we have ranking on the first page of Google SERPs, and we have hundreds more keywords closing in on the second and third pages — with projected growth expected in the future.

If You Build It …

The thing is, when it comes to SEO, the results don’t come quickly, and they’re not always sticky — for example, while running this experiment, we also dealt with a seasonal downturn in organic traffic in the summer, and a decrease in traffic that we partially attribute to the growth in popularity of Google’s Featured Snippet — which eliminates the need for searchers to click on links to get the information they need.

You know, like this one:

seo best practices snippet.pngThe thing is, Google is always changing, and while topic clusters aren’t the foolproof solution to earning the number one spot in Google SERPs forever, implementing this architecture sets your blog up for more traffic — and better rankings — as more people start searching in these new and different ways.

As Ye puts it, “basic SEO practices get you on the field. Topic clusters help you level up.” This new strategy is a lot of work to implement, but it gives you a foundation for future success in 2018 and beyond.

To learn more about topic clusters, check out more resources from the team that made it happen:

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Source: How We Used the Pillar-Cluster Model to Transform Our Blog

The Simple Test That Reveals Whether Prospects Will Actually Buy | #VentureCanvas

sbelt@hubspot.com (Sam Belt) | Hubspot Sales


Recently, I asked my colleague Dan Sally, a HubSpot and sales veteran, what he thinks is the most important skill a sales rep should develop. His response was profound.

“It’s the ability to determine, out of all the people you speak with, who is actually going to buy something from you,” he said.

Our idea of what defines a great salesperson has evolved throughout the years. First it was the relationship-builders, then the consultants, then the Challengers.

But Dan’s remark made me think that a whole new category of reps are on the rise: Qualifiers. They’re the reps who can pinpoint the prospects who will buy vs. the ones who won’t, and spend their time accordingly.

One of my favorite strategies to separate real buyers from casual ones is assign homework to my prospects. Here’s how to use this tactic to qualify your prospects.

Where you spend your time makes or breaks you

Sales success is dependent on resource allocation.

In any given month, quarter, or year, you only have so many waking hours to get your prospects over the finish line. You can be the best consultant, product expert, negotiator, or Challenger in the world, but if you spend your time on prospects who are not going to buy, it’s all for naught.

This principle is simple: Spend your time influencing people who are actually qualified to buy, and you will be a successful salesperson.

How do you know who actually is qualified to buy? That’s where things get tricky.

Qualifying is no easy task

On a fundamental level, you need to know three key things to effectively qualify a prospect:

  1. Fit: Do they actually have a problem/goal that your product and/or service can help them solve/reach?
  2. Desire: Do they actually want to solve this problem or reach this goal?
  3. Ability: Do they actually have the means to act on this desire immediately?

If the answer to even one of these questions is “No”, odds are you’re building a deal on a foundation of popsicle sticks (hopefully they are at least the kind that have jokes on them).

Fit and desire are relatively easy to assess, because the prospect can reliably provide this information. All you have to do is ask them straightforward questions around their process, objectives, and frustrations. But ability is much more difficult to suss out, and is the step that makes qualifying so tricky.

When it comes to their ability to implement a product, prospects are unreliable narrators. Ability is not something you can determine by simply asking them a question.

Here’s a real scenario that demonstrates why.

Fit and desire are not enough to drive action

Earlier this year, a VP of sales booked time on my calendar to evaluate the HubSpot CRM and Sales Pro tools.

We quickly established fit. HubSpot CRM would solve his core problem — his team hadn’t adopted their current system.

After digging into the repercussions of this lack of adoption — for example, no forecasting for the sales team or any activity tracking — it became clear he truly wanted our solution. So I checked the box on desire to change.

I then asked a disqualifying question: Did he truly have the time and ability to enact this change given the effort required (including a data migration and internal process changes)? In a convincing manner, he responded yes.

At this point, I got “happy ears” and was so confident the deal was coming in I took an hour to help him set up the CRM. Then he no-showed to our next meeting.

Fast forward two weeks and numerous reschedules and no-shows, when I received the following (paraphrased) email:

I was devastated. I had spent a lot of time — my most precious resource — on a deal that was ultimately unqualified.

Here’s where I went wrong: While I believe his desire to change was 100% sincere, I incorrectly assumed that he could act on it based on his word alone. In order to truly qualify and determine if he had the ability to act on his desire, I needed a completely different kind of answer.

Prospects who are serious about buying will demonstrate their commitment

Sometimes a pointed question is all you need to disqualify someone who does not have the ability to change. But in this case, it was not enough.

When I reviewed this call with my manager, he suggested I give the prospect “homework” next time.

“The only way to test for action is by having prospects demonstrate it,” he said.

Human beings love to please and are prone to wishful thinking — a dangerous combination when you are qualifying. We need to make sure buyers aren’t just telling us what they think we want to hear, or what they want to believe.

I designed an assignment that anyone who was truly serious about moving to our CRM would need to take prior to a purchase. Going forward, whenever I encountered a prospect similar to the VP of sales above, I asked them to complete the homework before offering up my time to help them.

I began to notice that prospects who took the time to complete the homework typically bought, while those who didn’t complete it wouldn’t buy. By introducing this extra step into my sales process, I not only closed more deals, but was also able to spend time helping my best prospects.

How to design a good homework assignment

The approach I used works especially well for software since you can leverage a trial or freemium version of your product and create tasks for the lead to complete in the system, but you can find equivalent tasks for any sales process.

1) Pick a piece of content that educates the prospect.

This could be anything: Reading a case study and/or blog posts, watching videos, or attending events can all be great ways to get your prospect to show if they truly have an ability to act on their desire, while helping them determine if they really are a good fit for your product. This makes it a win-win, not just an ask.

2) Make the workload significant.

The homework should be substantive enough that its completion is meaningful, but not so daunting that it is unrealistic or unfair to expect the prospect to complete it — this could end up unnecessarily discouraging them. Make sure your homework is actually adding value and isn’t just busywork.

3) Provide structure.

Make the required tasks and criteria for completion as explicit as possible. I like to use numbered lists so it is clear what my expectations are, and the prospect can track when they have completed the work.

Additionally, it is imperative to put a strict due date on the homework itself, typically marked by a prescheduled meeting to go over questions.

Test for action by asking for it

Here’s how assigning homework works in practice.

First, I get buy-in from my prospects that they’re willing to complete an assignment. I usually say the following:

In order to make sure this solution is the right fit for your process, I would recommend walking through a few steps in the software before our next call so you can get a better feel for it. Do you think this would be helpful? If so, I can send them over.”

Then, I send them an email template I’ve set up with the assignment outlined in detail. Here’s the one I use:

The assignment is long, but every step will add value to someone who’s serious about buying. Prospects who aren’t will disqualify themselves, and you can invest your time elsewhere.

Time is a sales rep’s ultimate resource, and the best performers know that you have to allocate it selectively with the prospects that are actually going to buy.

Buying requires change, which requires action. There is no better test of action than asking for it. Give your prospects homework and then invest in the ones who have the ability to act on their desire. I guarantee your close rates will go up as a result.

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Source: The Simple Test That Reveals Whether Prospects Will Actually Buy

 

The 14 Coolest Beer Label Designs You’ve Ever Seen | #VentureCanvas

lkolowich@hubspot.com (Lindsay Kolowich) | Hubspot Marketing


While it’s certainly important for a beer to taste good, there’s no denying that packaging has a big influence on people’s buying decisions.

Ten years ago, a lot of breweries found they could get away with soliciting a friend to design their beer packaging. Not anymore.

With so many beers competing for attention on the shelves, standout beer labels have become a critical part of any brewery’s marketing strategy.

So which breweries have come up with those really standout designs? Here’s a list:

  • 21st Amendment Brewery
  • Evil Twin Brewing
  • Kiuchi Brewery
  • Oregon Brewing Company
  • New England Brewing Company
  • Uinta Brewing Company
  • Huyghe Brewery
  • Anheuser-Busch
  • Stone Brewing Company
  • Magic Hat
  • Cisco Brewers
  • Newburgh Brewing Co.
  • Flying Dog
  • Lagunitas

Let’s take a look at the 14 labels that set themselves apart.

14 of the Best Beer Labels Designs We Love

1) 21st Amendment Brewery

21a-variety-15pack-spring-2017

Source: Origlio

Didn’t think some of the best beer label designs would be on a can, did you? For 21st Amendment Brewery, the decision to use cans — and only cans — was entirely intentional.

“Back in 2005, I was out at the Great American Beer Festival … and I really saw the future of craft beer,” Co-Founder Shaun Sullivan told Cool Material. “Back then no one was putting craft beer in cans. But, it’s portable, easy to recycle, and perfect for the outdoors. It was also interesting for marketing and telling the story as the can is 360 degrees of space, unlike doing a beer label on a bottle. Coupled with the box the cans come in, we really have a great canvas to get our story across.”

Based in San Francisco, Sullivan and his business partner work closely with TBD Advertising in Oregon to come up with a design for each new beer that comes on the shelf. Designing and creating new beers is his favorite thing about making beer, he says.

2) Evil Twin Brewing

Screen Shot 2017-09-22 at 1.35.31 PM
Source: Evil Twin Brewing

You might think a brewery with such creative names and crazy cool, fractal-like designs has a whole design team behind them. But that’s not the case. The beer-naming and label-designing at Evil Twin Brewing are divided between its two co-founders, Jeppe Jarnit-Bjergsø and Martin Justesen.

Jarnit-Bjergsø is responsible for coming up with the beer names (although he admits his wife, who’s a copywriter by trade, comes up with most of them), while Justessen designs all the labels.

“I’ll often start doing sketches when I hear the name of the beer,” says Justesen. “The look of an Evil Twin label is quite geometrical and graphical. Every label is built up by triangular shapes. I like for the labels to work on two levels, the first to grab your attention by standing out, and the second by containing details you later discover when you sit down and look at it close up.”

As for naming the beer? Some of our favorites include “Even More Jesus,” “Bikini Beer,” and “Before, During, and After Christmas.”

“Our philosophy behind beer names is that we aren’t weird just to be weird,” says Jarnit-Bjergsø. “That said, I do like the idea of having names that don’t make sense — it means that if you see the name, you have to think about it, you have to consider what it is. If a beer is called ‘Brown Ale,’ you forget it a second later, because everyone knows what a brown ale is, and has seen that name 100 times before. But if you see a name that’s more interesting, you’re automatically like, ‘I wonder what that is?’ And that way you just remember it better.”

3) Kiuchi Brewery

Kiuchi’s been making sake since 1823 — way before they began brewing beer in 1996. And with distribution routes in over 30 countries and a gold medal at the Brewing Industry International Awards under its belt, it’s clear they’re darn good at it.

dsc41681_hero

Source: South China Morning Post

The packaging of their series of Hitachino Nest beers features a distinctive red owl and the brewery’s name in gold lettering. The same cartoon-like red owl appears on every rendition of the Hitachino Nest series, making it easy to pick out from the crowd. You’ll notice the names of the beers — and their ingredients — are also distinctly Japanese: The “Red Rice Ale” uses red rice, a type of ancient Japanese rice; “Nipponia” uses a barley malt and hop from Japan; “Ginger Ale” uses wild-bred mandarin grown near the brewery. The brewery’s president Toshiyuki Kuichi says these names and ingredients help attract foreigners’ curiosity.

4) Oregon Brewing Company

Oregon Brewing Company’s line of Rogue ales is another example of great beer names paired with beautiful label designs. From “Chipotle Ale” to “Yellow Snow Ale” to “Voodoo Doughnut” (a bacon maple ale that comes in a bright pink bottle), the names — and flavors — certainly coincide with the brewery’s bold personality. The illustrations on many of the labels feature a person either holding up his or her left fist, or holding a beer and offering a “cheers” to the drinker.

2.Beer_.Marketing-1024x679

Source: Brewers Journal

Other Rogue beers playfully mock popular culture, like the “Sriracha Hot Stout Beer” pictured below. The beer is made from Huy Fong original hot chili sauce and, according to Rogue Brewing President Bretty Joyce, it became a record-selling product for the brewery within only a few days of its debut — even though many people find its distinctively spicy taste questionable.

rogue-sriracha-stout.jpg
Source:
uncrate

5) New England Brewing Company

The label on the “Imperial Stout Trooper” from New England Brewing Company is nothing short of amazing — and the story behind it is pretty funny, too.

imperial-stout-trooper-beer.png

Source: Beer Street Journal

Each year, the brewery creates a special release beer, which is why they first brewed the Imperial Stout Trooper in 2007. It was an instant hit and the first batch initially sold out, and the beer itself quickly became something of a Star Wars fan cult item.

When it was first released, its label featured an undisguised Stormtrooper’s face. But in 2010, they were forced to change the label due to copyright infringements … which is why the Stormtrooper on the label now wears a Groucho Marx disguise. The label change made the already rare Star Wars-themed beer even more sought after than it already was.

6) Uinta Brewing Company

Salt Lake City-based Uinta Brewing first hired The Tenfold Collective, a small design firm based in Colorado, in 2010. Since then, the firm has created plenty of beer labels for the brewery and launched its beautiful new website. The bright color schemes and attention to detail make these labels fun to take a closer look at. Plus, they look a heckuva lot like vintage ski posters, reminiscent of their Utah/Colorado origin.

New-Packaging-Focus4-Lineup1-compressor

Source: DrinkedIn

On their blog, the folks at Uinta describe the “classic Uinta feel” as one that “reflects an appreciation for the outdoors and the timeless beauty of the mountain west.” After all, the company’s namesake is Utah’s tallest mountain range, the Uinta Mountains.

7) Huyghe Brewery

Delirium-Tremens-Beer-Label

Source: Jan Baca

You probably recognize this one thanks to the iconic pink elephant … it’s Belgium-based Huyghe Brewery’s famous Delirium beers. Although the Delirium beers’ names are famous now, the folks at Huyghe actually had some trouble getting them on the shelves for a while because of the name. For example, Delerium tremens refers to the shakes that alcoholics get when suffering from withdrawal, which are often accompanied by visions (like pink elephants).

Despite the controversy in the name, this beer managed to become one of the most well-known brands in the world. The name is written in what looks like the Kilkenny font, the pink elephant has become an icon, and the white bottle — which contrasts interestingly with the dark beer within — is easily recognizable on a shelf.

8) Anheuser-Busch

While most beer labels limit the design to what’s printed on the label itself, the folks at Anheuser-Busch let the shape of the label do some of the talking. The brewery’s marketing team positions their tequila-inspired Oculto beer around mystery and spontaneous nights out with friends, which is reflected in its packaging.

The Oculto label features a white skull with the eyes cut out. When the bottle is cold, the logo turns fluorescent and the skull’s empty eyes glow green thanks to temperature-responsive, thermochromic ink, according to Packaging Digest.

Bottle-Smoke

Source: 303 Magazine

Check out the Instagram post below, which shows the cool effect of being able to see the beer and flickering candlelight through the label.

 

When the lights go down, the mischief begins. #MakeSecrets

A post shared by Oculto (@oculto_us) on Jul 20, 2015 at 2:26pm PDT

9) Stone Brewing Company

The graphics and colors on Stone Brewing Company’s beers are bold — and so is their copywriting. The gargoyle is there to protect beer lovers from the “fizzy yellow” beer.

77020a47019315.586d8b21ad751

Source: Behance

The description of their Arrogant Bastard Ale reads, “Brought forth upon an unsuspecting public in 1997, Arrogant Bastard Ale openly challenged the tyrannical overlords who were brazenly attempting to keep Americans chained in the shackles of poor taste.”

10) Magic Hat

Magic Hat is proud of its deep connections with the arts community in its home city of Burlington, Vermont — even their brewery’s bar and shop is called The Artifactory — so it’s no surprise that its packaging is an artistic masterpiece itself. Each beer’s label features colorful, trippy, and super detailed illustrations.

1e4fbc13207937.562747110187d

Source: Behance

Where does the brewery draw its design inspiration? Concert posters, according to their blog. Several years ago, the folks at Magic Hat teamed up with printmaker Jim Pollock — the same Jim Pollock who became famous for creating many of Phish’s most memorable concert posters. For the most part, though, the brewery sources design work in-house.

But the company doesn’t just pair up with famous designers to design their beer labels. Every few years, they hold a “Labels for Libations” design contest to raise money for the local art scene, in which they solicit local artists to compete to design a label for a beer that’ll be released the following year. Here was the 2014 contest’s winning label:

magic-hat-winning-label.jpg

Source: Magic Hat Brewing Co.

Finally, let’s not forget the copy on the inside of the beer caps of Magic Hat’s best-selling beer, #9. Someone’s even dedicated an entire Tumblr blog to Magic Hat beer cap “wisdom.” (I put wisdom in quotes because, well … you’ll see.)

A few of our favorites? “Remember the Dinosaurs”; “Why Don’t They Call ‘Em Bottle Hats?”; “Don’t Cook Bacon Naked.”

magic-hat-beer-caps.jpg

Source: bigblueapothecary Etsy shop

11) Cisco Brewers

There’s something so refreshing about simplicity in design. That’s what Cisco Brewers accomplishes with its beer labels, all of which are clean and minimalistic. Each has a single-color design that looks old-timey — almost like a woodcut from the 19th century. The simple approach they take with their brand is reminiscent of Nantucket Island — where the brewery is located — and its untouched, clean look and feel.

21193297494_7d6c818bc2_o

Source: Brookston Beer Bulletin

“Most of the original labels were just our logo — the name of the beer on different colored paper to designate the different styles,” Jay Harman, one of Cisco Brewers’ three founders, told me. “As time went on we started to work on more wood cut branded pieces that would allow customers to relive their island experience wherever they were consuming our beer.”

The labels themselves were designed by a combination of the brewers’ founders and some local artists from Nantucket. Local artist George Murphy created the “Whale’s Tale Pale Ale” logo, Cisco co-founder Randy Hudson did the “Sankaty Light” label and the “Indie Pale Ale” label; Wendy Hudson, Cisco’s other co-founder, did the “The Grey Lady” label; and local graphic artist Malcolm Brooks did the “Summer of Lager” logo.

Not only are Cisco’s traditional labels cool, but so is their recent collaboration with Marine Research Group OCEARCH. Last fall, Cisco released a brand new beer called the “Shark Tracker Light Lager” to benefit research and education about the ocean’s predators — and to inspire fascination, rather than fear. Scan a can with the lab’s mobile app and you can access all kinds of information about their research on sharks, watch videos, and so on. It’s a very cool, interactive touch.

cisco-shark-tracker-light-lager.jpeg

Source: Brewbound

Finally, we couldn’t very well leave out Cisco’s tap handle designs. When you’re in a crowded bar wondering which beer to order, where do you look to figure out what the place has on draught? The beer taps, of course. That’s why it’s so important for them to stand out. For many breweries, the tap handle becomes a calling card.

“Off-island, tap markers designate the real estate behind the bar, so it’s important for customers to know what’s being poured,” says Harman.

Cisco’s designed big, carved-wood tap handles for its four most popular beers that really stand out. Here’s the tap handle for its Grey Lady beer:

cisco-grey-lady-tap.jpg

Source: beertaps.blogspot.com

12) Newburgh Brewing Co.

With so many beers on the market these days, it can be really hard to stand out on the shelf. This is what drove Newburgh Brewing Company to solicit a busy and colorful label design for their Cream Ale, according to their COO and president Paul Halayko.

The label features the company mascot Betsy the Cow along with icons from around Newburgh, New York. You can see imagery of the brewery’s building, the Hudson Valley, and phrases showing they’re proud to be local like “This beer was born here” and “Our interpretation of a New York original”. Designed by Philadelphia-based design firm Modern Good, it beat 64 brands to win CNBC’s best-loved beer label for 2015.

newburg-brewing-cream-ale.jpg

Source: CNBC

13) Flying Dog

Back in 2012, Flying Dog Brewery rolled out new packaging with the goal of better reflecting the “insanely chaotic, yet intricately detailed” Ralph Steadman art on their labels. Steadman, a prolific artist who’s produced thousands of iconic illustrations, has been creating all the original art for Flying Dog’s beer labels in 1995. His designs are splatter art illustrations, often featuring mythical creatures.

flying-dog-beer

Source: BOA Beer Blog

On Steadman’s official art collection website, his art for Flying Dog is described like this: “Steadman’s illustrations have caused outrage in some, been banned by some states, but have beer drinkers of the world over rejoicing. The perfect marriage of taste and rage, poetry for the senses and an orgy for the imagination.”

14) Lagunitas

Lagunitas’ highly recognizable beer labels are characterized by an old-school white background and large, all-caps letters. But because their labels are so simple by design, they’ve experienced some trademarking trouble in the past. Right now, the brewery has four federally registered trademarks and two pending trademarks all relating to their most popular beer, Lagunitas IPA, against Sierra Nevada Hop Hunter IPA.

dbe1b57834105.5976a72e7aaed

SourceL Behance

Below, you’ll see the similarities between Lagunitas’ IPA label (right) and Sierra Nevada’s (left):

lagunitas-versus-sierra-nevada-labels.jpeg

Source: The Press Democrat

Does the label even matter?

Here’s the thing, though. There are plenty of beers out there doing just fine with totally generic labeling. Take Russian River’s “Pliny the Elder,” for example. It’s widely regarded as one of the best beers in the world, and it’s been named America’s best beer for seven years straight. And yet, its label is as basic as it gets.

pliny-the-elder-beer.jpg
Source: Russian River Brewing

If a beer crosses a certain taste threshold, does the label just not matter anymore? Or is beautiful packaging a new brewery’s best bet at getting their beer noticed on crowded shelves?

Whatever it is — we’ll drink to that.

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Source: The 14 Coolest Beer Label Designs You’ve Ever Seen

How to Make the Most of a 30-Minute Phone Interview | #VentureCanvas

eric@revriv.com (Eric Pratt) | Hubspot Marketing


Hiring good people can be difficult, time-consuming, and costly. If you’re in a constant cycle of hiring, I don’t have to tell you about the time warp it can cause — but what about the cost?

The more interviews you do, the more you spend. And the more time you spend absorbed in lengthy interviews the more likely you are to take shortcuts and make mistakes. And according to Dr. John Sullivan, the hiring process is getting even harder:

“Aggressiveness, the need for counteroffers, higher rejection rates, and a renewed focus on recruiting the currently employed will all return to prominence.”

What if I told you I could help you be more efficient with your time, and get the information you need to make decisions for next steps — in about half the time you’re currently committing?

The advantage of reducing your hiring time will add to your bottom line, perhaps more than you realize. A report from UrbanBound illustrated the time demands, and how costs can add up:

“Onboarding can be an extremely time-demanding project. It can cost up to 1/3 of an employee’s salary to onboard and train new hires, especially when that employee’s job description does not have to do with onboarding. Therefore, if a small company has a flawed onboarding plan, they risk having a bad retention percentage which can be extremely costly.”

Considering this, it’s logical to believe organizations would be better off spending less time overall on interviews, but more quality time during that initial conversation. So, how would one shorten the time commitment and reduce overall costs, and give a better interview in the process? Consider my process for a 30-minute phone interview, below.

How to Run a 30-Minute Phone Interview

I know what you’re thinking … 30 minutes seems really short when you are trying to find a fabulous candidate, how do you make it worthwhile? You’re probably asking yourself:

  • What questions do I ask?
  • How do I prioritize the questions?
  • If I run such a tight agenda, how will we connect?

Okay, maybe not that last one. But if you structure a simple agenda, prepare quality questions, and are disciplined throughout your time in front of candidates, I believe you can answer all of your questions after just a few interviews. Let’s start with time management.

Managing The First 5 Minutes

If you’re going to pull off an effective interview in 30 minutes or less, you have to be organized and efficient. You’ll want to start strong and there’s no better time than the first five minutes.

4 Things to Cover in the First 5 Minutes

  • Introduce yourself: “Hi, I’m the Managing Partner of Revenue River Marketing. We’re growing quickly and I’m looking for the very best marketers in the country.”
  • State your intent: “We’re hiring for position XYZ and I’m looking for a specific type of candidate. I’d like to move quickly so we can both decide if there’s a good fit for us.”
  • Set the agenda: “I’d like to spend 10 minutes asking you a few questions, then I’ll give you an equal amount of time to ask me anything you’d like.”
  • Confirm buy-in: “How does that sound?” (If they say anything other than ‘absolutely’ or ‘I’m ready’, I’d be concerned. Anyone who just starts rambling clearly isn’t picking up on your goals.)

The Next 10 Minutes: Getting Answers to Key Questions

If you’re going to get through enough quality questions in 10 minutes, you’ll want to ensure you’re on point with your preparation. You’ll want to prepare a set of direct questions and count on the candidate being perceptive enough to answer with brevity.

I’ve noticed that observing how candidates handle the pace of this section can be very telling. If the candidate decides to grandstand during replies to your questioning, it’s a clear disqualifier.

Instead of interrupting to get through your questions efficiently, I advise you let them talk. They’ll cost themselves the chance to answer the remainder of your questions, and likely a chance at employment with your organization.

Conversely, a good candidate understands that you’ll ask follow-up questions if you want more detail. Some of our very best hires have quickly and artfully answered our most direct and pointed questions with quick-witted responses.

While I can’t provide the exact types of key questions you should ask for your own specific position, I can give you a sense of qualities you want to look for that are predominantly universal for any job.

Giving Them 10 Minutes to Pass the “Test”

Now it’s time for your candidate to impress you with their prepared questions. Your goal for this ten-minute segment is to see how prepared the candidate is and how much they want this job in particular. You want to know if they’re just looking for any job they can find, or if they’re truly interested in a career with your organization.

Good candidates prepare well. They study your website, your bio, your team, and your offering. They have a list of specific questions that demonstrate their understanding of your business, and hopefully even some observations on how they believe they can add value.

Many candidates won’t realize how important this segment of the interview is, and they’ll reveal something about themselves you missed previously. The candidates that used active listening during the first five minutes will operate at the same pace you did and respect the agenda.

Insight to Gain during Candidate Questioning

  • Did they study your website? Test them on it.
  • Do they understand what you do? Ask them questions about it.
  • Are they more interested in compensation or job duties?
  • Are they more interested in benefits and vacation or company growth trajectory?

Remaining 5 Minutes: Wrapping Up with Next Steps

Something to remember during this initial interview is that the goal is not to hire, but to qualify for next steps. Each candidate is either ready for another interview or they’re being ruled out. You’re not hiring them today, so don’t overdo it. Just get through the critical questions you think need to be answered and wrap things up.

You likely won’t have exactly five minutes here, but that’s okay. Let them know your plans for next steps and let them know your expectations for follow-up.

Follow-up should always be the responsibility of the candidate and never on the executive. I’ve been surprised by some great interviews that were followed by poor follow-up and their responsibility here allows them to demonstrate their skills further, one way or another.

5 Important Qualities To Focus On in a 30-Minute Phone Interview

1) Coachability

Employees that aren’t coachable struggle to get through tough times, and those who are receptive to instruction improve quickly. As Derek Lauber from Lightbox Leadership puts it, “Hiring for coachability can help you find those individuals with the traits necessary to becoming long-term valuable members of your organization.”

Example Question: What would you do if you found yourself struggling to meet your objectives after 90 days?

2) Transparency

You can substitute in the word “honesty” here. I love asking questions that allow the candidates the chance to prove they’re not completely honest. A transparent workplace is important in maintaining a positive culture, and you don’t want to let any bad seeds take root. Jessica Miller-Merrell of Glassdoor advises, “When one person is not aligned with the organization, it is significantly more likely that everyone below them will be out of line as well.”

Example Question: Why shouldn’t I hire you? (Please don’t tell me because sometimes you care too much)

3) Desire

People that really want something for themselves work harder than people who just want to live a life of leisure so I look for people who are hungry. These are the people you want in your organization, pure and simple.

Example Question: Why is this position the direction you want to go with your career?

4) Organizational Skills

The modern workplace is a massive game of dealing with distractions– organization creates efficiency and that means better productivity. In “Organizational Skills in the Workplace,” Rick Suttle advises, “Planning is a needed workplace skill, and it is particularly important as person advances into more supervisory or managerial roles.”

Example Question: How do you plan your day/week, and what tools have you used to do so?

5) Humility

The best players on any team have humility — ego and selfishness can cause cancerous behavior that can destroy what you’ve built. As John Baldoni put it in HBR, “Humility is more than an important characteristic for leaders, but for employees as well. It is this trait which allows leaders and employees to work well individually and as a team. A humble employee is aware of his own limitations and is willing to accept –- and give –- help as needed.”

Example Question: Those are some impressive results. To what do you owe that success?

Additional Questions & Comments

You’ll also want to spend a couple minutes on some resume specific questions. You should prepare a few direct questions about their resume you can mix in with the others. Here are a few questions I like to ask to see if I can get someone to complain, make excuses, or show inconsistencies for the character traits I’m targeting at this time.

  • How was your relationship with your boss at this job?
  • Which of these positions do you feel held your career back?

These can be clear indicators of disqualifiers for your role, so don’t shy away from them.

With Practice Comes Perfection

After you’ve used this 30-minute phone interview script with a few candidates you’ll perfect the process and refine your style. Once perfected, cutting your initial interview time in half with these concepts will save time and money while improving results during this step in the hiring process.

Start by spending a little more time setting up your own script, and you’ll be sure to benefit once you’ve applied these tactics.

Learn more about HubSpot Classroom Training!

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Source: How to Make the Most of a 30-Minute Phone Interview

7 Leadership Interview Questions to Ask a Sales Manager Candidate | #VentureCanvas

afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost) | Hubspot Sales


The jump from salesperson to sales manager is extremely challenging. Salespeople tend to act like entrepreneurs, running their own businesses and maintaining a book of clients. A manager has an entirely different job: Leading, inspiring, coaching, and training a team.

While the first role is self-directed and autonomous, the second role involves collaboration and working closely with others.

Whether you’re a salesperson trying to move up or an executive interviewing a candidate, it’s key to assess leadership potential.

Salespeople, prepare for these. Interviewers, ask these.

Leadership Interview Questions

1) “Tell me about a time you lacked the skills or knowledge to successfully hit a goal.”

This prompt encourages an honest, unrehearsed answer — unlike leading questions such as, “Discuss a conflict with a coworker and how you resolved it” or “Give me an example of an obstacle you overcame.”

A good response will cover:

  1. The situation or task
  2. Why the goal was unattainable
  3. Lessons learned or results

Here’s an example:

“When I first moved into a closing role, I didn’t hit quota four months in a row. My activity was there — but honestly, I needed more time as a BDR to get the fundamentals down. I actually asked to move back. It was pretty hard to admit I wasn’t ready. Yet after another four months, my confidence was way up and when I became an AE again, I actually hit or beat my quota every single month for three years.”

2) “How would you describe your leadership style?”

Some managers are hands off. Others like to be in the weeds with their reps. Some are prescriptive about every aspect of the sales process, from prospecting methods and soundbites to objection-handling techniques. Others don’t care how you do your job, as long as you’re meeting your number.

Every style has its place. This question helps determine whether the individual’s leadership style matches company culture and the demands of the role. If the team needs a “tough love” manager to whip them into shape, someone who’s relatively laid back and wants to be her reps’ peer probably isn’t the best fit. But if the team is functioning well, an authoritarian manager will breed resentment and probably damage its performance.

3) “Are there any team members you’ve enjoyed working with in the past?”

As a follow-up: “How would they describe your working relationship?”

A sales manager cannot act as a lone wolf, so it’s a huge red flag if the interviewee can’t think of a coworker. The more important answer, however, is actually the second. Describing herself from her peer’s perspective reveals a few things:

  • Is the candidate self-aware?
  • Is she empathetic enough to place herself in her team member’s shoes?
  • What is her collaboration style like?

To illustrate, here’s a strong response. It’s detailed, authentic, and foreshadows how she’d act as a manager.

“Yes, I really like working with August, another salesperson on the Enterprise team.”

“August would probably say I’m good at giving feedback — we spend two or so hours every week reviewing calls with each other — and love celebrating others’ wins and boosting them up when their confidence is down. She’d also probably say I’m a little too easily frustrated. When I can’t immediately fix an issue in my sales process or approach, I’m angry with myself.”

4) “Imagine the CFO assigns a new team quota you know is undeliverable. It turns out, it was calculated based on revenue need — not opportunities and resources. How would you handle this situation?”

A good leader acts an advocate for his team. He must speak up on their behalf when management is making a bad call and promote their interests. This question delves into a thorny yet unfortunately common issue: What would a manager do when he’s caught in between his team and his boss?

The optimal response would sound something along the lines of:

“First, I’d analyze the data: Average rep performance, territory penetration, stage by stage conversion rates, time to hire, time to ramp, sales velocity, and so forth. Then I’d present my findings to the executives, explaining what I thought was possible given our current headcount and historical performance. I’d propose an aggressive but realistic quota.

If the target wasn’t adjusted, I would come up with a plan to get as close as possible. I’d use sales contests, incentives, and other creative strategies to keep team morale high and hopefully boost results.”

5) “How will you earn the respect of your team?”

Salespeople need to respect their manager to follow her recommendations and prescribed sales techniques. But reps are notoriously independent thinkers — and earning their trust isn’t quick or easy. Has this candidate thought about how she’ll win over her team?

While potential answers to this are infinite, here are several good ideas:

  • Be the first one to arrive and the last one to leave: Reps admire hard work.
  • Act as their internal advocate: They need to know you’ll look out for them when pricing is too high, they’re not getting enough tech support, the comp plan needs adjusting, etc.
  • Eliminate administrative tasks: Freeing up their time to sell will get you lots of points.
  • Give them autonomy: Resisting the urge to micromanage or poach deals will help salespeople improve and ensure they don’t resent you.
  • Keep feedback specific and actionable: Nothing is more frustrating (or less helpful) than vague, non-specific suggestions like, “Ask better questions.”

6) “What motivates you in your current role?”

Work changes dramatically when a salesperson becomes a manager. They’re no longer riding the constant high of closing deals or cashing in hefty commission checks. As a result, someone who’s primarily motivated by making money might struggle after the promotion. Most managers actually make less than their reps at the end of the day, which can be a disconcerting experience.

This question gauges how prepared and well-suited the candidate is for the shift. If they reply, “I love winning business,” or “I’m saving up for a house, so that keeps me raring to go every morning,” you may need to delve deeper into their motivations.

A convincing response touches on motivators that’ll be relevant to a manager’s life as well, such as:

“I love the opportunities to help customers,” which would translate into chances to help their reps.

“I’m motivated by the fear I’ll let down my teammates,” which would translate into a desire to lead the team and contribute to the business.

“I’m highly competitive,” which would translate into beating the team’s previous record or outselling another team.

7) “What’s a big risk you’ve taken?”

Once they’ve answered, follow up with, “Did you take any steps to reduce that risk?”

As a leader, this person will have to take plenty of risks. And unlike when they were a rep, they’ll have the fate of many people riding on the results. You need to assess whether they’re A), comfortable with risk, and B) wise enough to prepare.

Take a look at this sample answer:

“When I was 26, I decided to leave my job and start a company with my college roommate. We were selling a new type of phone charger that was three times quicker. While the tech was great, we just couldn’t get costs down low enough to make each unit economical. Fortunately, I’d saved a lot of money so I could try to make this company work. It wasn’t an issue to close shop and find a new job. Plus, I discovered I was great at selling — which led me into sales.”

Finding a great leader among salespeople isn’t guaranteed. The necessary skills and personality traits are extremely different. To find the best fit, use these seven questions.

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Source: 7 Leadership Interview Questions to Ask a Sales Manager Candidate

5 Effective Ways to Stop Interrupting | #VentureCanvas

afrost@hubspot.com (Aja Frost) | Hubspot Sales


How often do you interrupt people? Most of us vastly underestimate our frequency. Maybe you think you do it once or twice per conversation — when in reality, you’re breaking in almost every time the other person speaks.

This habit will hurt you no matter what you do, but it’s especially detrimental in sales. Your success depends on positive interactions with prospects. You need to earn their trust and respect, as well as elicit key information from them.

If you’re constantly talking over them or cutting them off, both will be much harder.

How to stop interrupting

  1. Pause before you speak
  2. Write your thought down instead
  3. Use reminders
  4. Review your calls
  5. Stop yourself

1) Pause two seconds

The average person is so excited to talk that they reply as soon as their conversational partner stops talking. However, there’s a good chance they were simply taking a breath or gathering their thoughts. To avoid accidentally interrupting, silently count to two before answering.

It’ll seem like an eternity to you, but the other person won’t even notice. If they’ve got more to say, they’ll say it. If they’re silent, it’s your turn to speak.

2) Write down your thoughts

Worried you’ll forget what you wanted to say if you don’t blurt it out immediately? Jot down your thoughts. Your anxiety will ease up instantly.

There’s one thing to watch out for when using this technique: If you’re going to use your phone or laptop to take notes, give the prospect a heads up so it doesn’t look like you’re ignoring them to text or send emails.

At the beginning of the call, ask, “Is it okay if I take some notes?”

Not only will they say yes, you’ll look extra thoughtful.

3) Put up reminders

It’s easy to forget your goal to stop interrupting. Keep it top of mind by leaving reminders in places you’ll see them again and again, like on your monitor, near your headset, and even on your home screen.

Seeing these throughout the day will keep you on track, especially if you happen to read one during a meeting.

4) Review your calls

As you review your sales calls — either with yourself, your team members, or your manager — pay special attention to the moments you interrupt. It’s a good idea to write the specific times down, along with why you interrupted if you remember.

Here’s an example:

5:23: Prospect said they use YSync; interrupted to say they’re an integration partner.

11:42: Prospect started asking question about pricing; cut him off because I thought I knew what he wanted to know. Unfortunately, was wrong.

This exercise isn’t that fun, but it’ll show you just how often you interrupt — and what those interruptions are doing to your conversations. Being more aware will organically lead to fewer mistakes.

5) Stop yourself

You’re bound to occasionally slip up and interrupt — especially in the beginning. As soon as you realize what you’re doing, stop and say, “I apologize for interrupting; it’s a habit I’m trying to break. Please continue your thought.”

Over time, your urge to jump in will naturally decrease.

Interrupting others is a bad habit, but luckily, it’s possible to stop. Try these five strategies. In a few weeks or months, you’ll be relatively interruption-free.

HubSpot Free Sales Training

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Source: 5 Effective Ways to Stop Interrupting

How to Hire the Best-Fit Freelancer for Your Next Project | #VentureCanvas

Carey Wodehouse | Hubspot Marketing


So you’re ready to start looking for a skilled freelancer to help your project (and productivity) take off?

Whether you’re engaging a freelancer for a small project or looking to bring them on for a longer engagement, here’s what you need to consider to find and hire the best freelancer for your project.

How to Hire the Best-Fit Freelancer for Your Next Project

1) A well-laid plan for your project has to come first.

If you don’t have a clear idea about what you need done, don’t hire a freelancer — at least not yet. Why? Before you can successfully source the best freelancer for your project, you need to know as much as possible about what you’re engaging them to do. Be sure to provide a project brief with deliverables, timeline, and payment schedule. This is important for both sides:

  • From the freelancer’s perspective, knowing the project and skills required up front helps them to determine if they’re a good fit. A job post lacking the right information is often the first thing to turn a high-quality freelancer away.
  • On the client’s end, you should be able to describe your goals in detail to help ensure the deliverables meet your needs. Have the logistics of how the freelancer will collaborate with your company ironed out so you can get started without wasting each other’s time after the contract is signed.

This raises another question: Exactly how much do you need to know about your project? You’ll definitely need to have an “eagle view” — the high-level goals you’re looking to accomplish with freelance help — but you should also consider a “mouse view” — the nuts and bolts of what you’re comfortable delegating, who they’ll need to be introduced to on the team, what systems and documents they need access to, and how the work will be coordinated internally.

2) With that information nailed down, write an awesome job post that appeals to the cream of the crop.

It’s important to remember that you’re competing for the best freelancers. Your job post should stand out in the crowd. The more detail you can provide about your project (say, niche tools or specific areas of expertise), the easier it is for freelancers to submit accurate proposals.

For example, say you need a mobile developer to help you build out your mobile app idea. Will it be native, hybrid, or cross-platform? What technology do they need to know to build the app? Then, what next-level features might the app include that the programmer should have experience building? Details like these will enable a potential freelancer to check off all the ways they’re a good fit for your project.

A great job post follows a certain formula:

  • It reveals plenty about who you are, your business, and your objectives.
  • It leaves no room for guesswork about the work, deliverables, and deadlines — but does leave room for discussion and input from the freelancer.
  • It includes as much detail as possible. This might require that you do a bit of research so you have a solid idea of what you need from them.
  • It indicates whether your preference for the project is fixed-price, hourly, or a longer engagement – but the freelancer may have good input here, too.
  • It lays out any competencies and experience the project requires.

3) Post a job and let proposals come to you, or proactively seek out the freelancers who have the skills you need.

If you know where (and how) to look, reviewing freelancer profiles online can yield some excellent prospects. Certain platforms make life easier by narrowing the search with filters for specific skills, languages, locations, and rates.

Keep an eye out for performance ratings, testimonials from past clients, and examples of prior work. Look for other signs that they’re top talent: Upwork, the largest online freelancing platform, includes profile badges like the Top Rated badge, Rising Talent badge, and a Hubspot badge to indicate a freelancer is also a thought leader in his or her field.

Don’t stop at posted profiles. Often, experienced freelancers will share their expertise and take the time to engage in online communities and discussions. Searching for a developer? See if they’ve contributed to a tech-related discussion on a site like Quora or StackOverflow.

4) Let freelancers in different timezones work to your advantage.

When you’re reviewing freelancer profiles, don’t let a different timezone be a disqualifier. If you’re able to work out a system for communication during overlapping hours, having the increased coverage of someone working in part of the world when you’re sleeping can boost productivity.

Ben Young, head of Nudge who frequently hires freelancers, says “the great benefit of having remote freelancers is suddenly you can have 16-hour a day coverage, 6 days a week. That incremental difference means your product iterates faster, bugs are handled quicker, and over a few years, suddenly you have a significant competitive advantage.”

5) Don’t be cheap.

“A mistake many people make is to be too cheap when paying a few bucks more will get you access to top-tier talent,” Ben adds. “Paying a higher rate means you’re getting the best out of tens of thousands of freelancers, many of whom have rates that they’ve worked hard to establish.”

That doesn’t mean they won’t be willing to negotiate on a per-project basis, though, particularly if there’s the prospect of more work down the line. A good rule of thumb is to gauge the complexity of your project and look for the appropriate level of skill. Know what you’re willing to spend, and keep in mind that in many cases, higher rates mean higher quality.

6) Be as clear about your deadline as you can.

Timing is especially important because it can often be an immovable thing for both parties.

Have a tight turnaround? Include this in your job post, and discuss it with potential freelancers. They may or may not have other clients or projects going on that conflict or dial back their availability. Be sure to ask if your timeline is realistic and how confident they are about meeting your deadline. Also, a freelancer can help you estimate timing of a project if you’re not sure how long it should take.

7) Consider how you’ll protect your intellectual property (IP).

Protecting intellectual property is a common concern among clients. You might have grabbed a freelancer’s attention with your job post but been intentionally vague — so when it’s time to provide more detail, discussing your ideas can be tricky. There’s no copyrighting ideas, but you can opt to have your freelancer sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA). Or, hire a freelancer through Upwork, which offers a terms of service agreement with a confidentiality clause.

This will allow you to have an open, productive conversation with your freelancer about the project without worrying about your IP.

8) Conduct a remote interview — preferably over video.

Once you have questions lined up, it’s time to set up an interview. Video interviews are a great way to meet a freelancer and chat with them “face-to-face.” You’ll likely be communicating via email in the future, so take the opportunity to ask specific questions and leave room for more off-the-cuff questions.

This is your chance to really “get a feel” for the freelancer. What would it be like working with them? Are they passionate about their work? Do they have additional ideas or suggestions? Are they looking to take on more responsibilities beyond this project?

A good fit is important, even with remote workers. Communication and collaboration are important and can really contribute to the success of your project. Source people who aren’t just a good fit but who also align with your business. Having someone you feel comfortable with could be the difference between good and great work.

9) Vet potential freelancers with a quick test project before finalizing your choice.

Found a few candidates and need to narrow the field before you commit? Try a smaller project to see how things go.

Ben Young also suggested “Hire a few individuals on a test brief, see who works the best, then bring them onboard. We do this quite a bit, often using new people on test or experimental projects.”

Having candidates tackle a small piece of the project lets you see how they work, adhere to timelines, and communicate, leaving you with a clearer choice, and a bonus: Your project will be that much further along.

10) Seal the deal with an offer and a thorough contract that works for both of you.

Once you’ve found that perfect freelancer, it’s time to make an offer and work up a contract based on what you and the freelancer have discussed. Don’t forget to take compliance considerations into account — hiring a freelancer is different than hiring an employee and has its own ins and outs to keep in mind — from legal and payment to communications — that you might not be aware of.

In the contract, lay out terms:

    • What precisely is the work that the freelancer will deliver and when?
    • Is the project fixed-price or hourly?
    • If hourly, what is the hourly rate?
    • When and how will payment be made?
    • If fixed price, will you set up milestones during the project?
    • What milestones are there, and when should they be met?

All of the above tips should get you started off on the right foot working with a freelancer, and ensure you’re both satisfied with the terms of your agreement. With that, you’ll be able to start getting great work done, faster.

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Source: How to Hire the Best-Fit Freelancer for Your Next Project