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May

17

2017

State of Inbound 2017: Your Go-To Business Report for Marketing and Sales Research [New Data]

Published by in category Daily, Inbound Marketing, inbound sales | Comments are closed

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Generate more traffic, more leads, more customers. That’s always been the purpose of marketing and sales.

But while the goal remains the same, the audience — and their preferences and behaviors — has not. People don’t want to just read content anymore. They want immersive video experiences. When it’s time to research a purchase or service a product, they don’t want to wait to talk to a rep on the phone. Instead, they’ll turn to an artificial intelligence-powered bot.

The way your customer shops and buys is drastically changing.

And in the age of the buyer, it’s up to businesses to adapt. That’s why we produce the State of Inbound research report each year: to help you stay up-to-date on all the marketing and sales changes that matter for your business.

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But for a moment, let’s dig deeper. While last year’s State of Inbound report introduced the growing disconnect between businesses and their customers, this year we look at what causes this divide in the first place.

There’s a corporate chasm forming between executives and their employees, and when misalignment forms inside the four walls of a business, that can impact everything from employee retention to customer satisfaction. Consider these discrepancies:

  • 69% of executives believe their organization’s marketing strategy is effective, but only 55% of individual contributors in marketing agree.
  • 31% of executives believe that there’s tight alignment between their marketing and sales teams, but only 17% of both managers and individual contributors agree.
  • This trend continues on the department level: 45% of sales reps say they spend over an hour performing manual data entry, yet only 21% of executives said this is so.

In the 2017 State of Inbound report, we’ll break down the divide, as well as uncover international marketing priorities, new content distribution trends, and buyer communication preferences. Download our most data-packed edition of the State of Inbound today. 

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Apr

20

2017

How to Launch a Virtual Conference for Lead Generation and Customer Acquisition: A Step-by-Step Guide

Published by in category Daily, event marketing, inbound sales, lead generation | Comments are closed

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When we say “virtual conference,” we don’t just mean webinars. We mean interactive, live panels and microsites dedicated to the single purpose of promoting one event with various sessions a person can “attend.”

Virtual conferences have become a more popular medium to develop and reach large audiences. From marketing to recruiting and sales to education, businesses in various industries have realized hosting online events are far cheaper than an in-person event — making it cheaper to build awareness around a brand.

We’re going to get into a lot, but by the end of this post, you’ll see the value in hosting a virtual conference and know how to organize and host your own event. You’ll have another medium to accelerate brand awareness, generate more leads, and develop authority as an industry leader.

I helped launch Inbound Sales Day here at HubSpot, and I’m here to teach you how it’s done. Continue reading to download my project management templates and emails I used to book speakers — all available for free.

Table of Contents

1) What is a virtual conference?
2) Why should you host a virtual conference?
3) A Virtual Conference by HubSpot
4) How to plan a virtual conference
Set the vision
Speaker outreach
Creation of assets
Promotion
Go Live
Analysis
5) Learning Lessons

How to Plan a Virtual Event

What is a virtual conference?

Imagine a conference. There are dozens of rooms, booths with vendors trying to sell you their product, and a lot of people walking around. You might run into some very influential leaders in your industry, and you expect to see people on stage sometime during the event. You’re excited to hear them share lessons and tips they’ve learned from their own experience and journey to success.

Now, imagine a similar experience — but without having to leave your desk.

You log into an “event” online, where you can meet and interact with people through messaging platforms. You go into “rooms” (aka web pages) where you can watch speakers present their knowledge in the form of a recorded video.

It’s a simple concept: Get the content you would receive at a conference on your own time, when it’s convenient for you. It aligns perfectly with the culture and popularity of on-demand services, such as:

Lyft: on-demand car rides

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Drizly: on-demand alcohol

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Soothe: on-demand massages

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Virtual conferences: on-demand quality content and insights about the industry.

Virtual events began in 1993, presented by Alan Saperstein and Randy Selman. They started by videotaping trade show exhibitors booths and attaching the video to HTML floor maps. These events have become more popular among marketers for their lower cost and effort to produce.

Here’s an example of an HTML floor map:

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Examples of virtual events include:

You might be thinking, “There’s no way these events were produced by a small team.”

That’s fair. But I can tell you that I coordinated and launched Inbound Sales Day, a full-day virtual event with over 10 hours of video that garnered over 15,000 registrations globally. And I did most of it by myself in only three months. For a comparison, the team that organizes HubSpot’s live INBOUND event has over 10 people involved in planning the event for the entire preceding year.

It’s possible to host and launch one of these things, even with a small team, but why should you host a virtual conference in the first place? Why not just host a physical event instead?

There are numerous benefits to hosting online events. Let’s dive in.

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Why should you host a virtual event?

Consider some of the reasons you’d host a conference, either virtual or in-person:

  • To grow awareness for your business — Depending on your market, there may already be competitors or other companies targeting the same target audience as you. You can use an an online conference as a means of partnering with those other companies.
  • To generate leads
  • To acquire new customers
  • To create a revenue stream from sponsorships. People host these conferences strictly as a revenue stream. (Curious how? Sam Parr explains how he made a profit from hosting Hustle Con.)
  • To build relationships with influencers

Below are expenses to consider for a physical event (based on a 400-person hosted by Hustle Con):

  • Venue ($5,000)
  • Vendors, i.e., caterer, bartender, decorator, photographer, videographer, etc. ($10,000)
  • Equipment rental ($2,000)
  • Licenses and permits (dependent on venue)
  • Transportation and parking for attendees and speakers (dependent on venue)
  • Service fees and gratuities ($1,000)
  • Speakers’ fees ($0 – $10,000+ per speaker)
  • Signage ($500)
  • Registration materials ($300)
  • Security and staff ($2000)

Even for a smaller event, that totals at least $20,000. Soon, you’re underwater and either hiring contractors or using half your team’s day to get all the little details right. To top it off, there always seem to be attendees or speakers who are an absolute nightmare to deal with.

I’m getting stressed just thinking about it.

For an online conference, a few weeks of work and a small budget are all that’s needed. In fact, all of the software I used to organize everything was free:

  • Trello for project management (check out my free template below)
  • Google Sheets to manage the assets (you’ll get a template of this, too)
  • YouTube to host videos
  • Dropbox to host files
  • Canva to create images

Plus, when you create assets for your event online, you continue reaping the benefits of long-tail keyword SEO and organic traffic from evergreen content for months to come.

Depending on your resources, you may want to hire freelancers to help you with asset creation or to run Facebook ads to get more awareness about your event.

In many cases, you end up cutting expenses dramatically by hosting an online event instead of an in-person conference. Let’s dive into how we decided HubSpot should host an online conference about inbound sales.

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A Virtual Conference by HubSpot

HubSpot revolutionized marketing in 2006 by introducing the concept of inbound marketing and telling the story of how marketing had changed. Since then, sales has also changed, and we’ve introduced the concept of inbound selling.

However, similar to when inbound marketing was a new concept in 2006, people needed to be educated about the concept of inbound selling.

We had various goals that overlapped with each other when thinking about hosting a virtual event:

  • Spread the message of inbound selling
  • Generate leads for our sales products
  • Develop authority in the sales industry
  • Promote the first sales-focused track at our INBOUND event

What better way to educate our audience and develop credibility around inbound selling than by hosting real experts to talk about it? Influencers already have an audience who will listen to them. They have their own methodologies and many of those ideas aligned perfectly with inbound selling.

By hosting a virtual conference, we were able to scale influencer marketing and associated the credibility of those influencers with the HubSpot brand.

Plus, with the changing landscape of content and more consumers preferring video content, this was an opportunity to develop high-quality video content we could continue to use.

Still interested in hosting your own online conference? I’m going to lay out all the steps I took to organize Inbound Sales Day that you can replicate for your own event. I’ll also give you the project management and email templates I created that kept me organized throughout the whole process.

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How to Plan and Execute A Virtual Conference

Before we jump into the planning, decide how you’re going to manage the project. I used a combination of Trello and spreadsheets to manage my work.

I laid out all activities in my project management Trello board, which gave me a bird’s-eye view of the timeline, what needed to be done at the moment, and what was coming up. This allowed me to catch situations where I would need to delegate work or ask for help ahead of time.

Get my Virtual Conference Project Management Trello Template here.

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All assets that were created (landing pages, emails sent, social posts, videos, etc.) were listed in the asset management spreadsheet. This way, I had access to every asset in one place without having to search for it.

The campaign was executed in six phases, which I’ll walk you through below:

  1. Set the vision
  2. Conduct speaker outreach
  3. Create assets
  4. Promote
  5. Launch
  6. Analyze

Phase 1: Set the vision

What do you want the event to look like? What topics do you want to cover? Who’s your audience? How many registrations do you expect? (Use this spreadsheet to help set those expectations.)

All of this will be important for your speaker outreach as those will be your selling points. If you can pinpoint your target audience (try the MakeMyPersona tool to help with that), you can find speakers who also want to reach that audience. If you have a set number of expected registrations, you can attract speakers with an idea of what their reach will be if they participate.

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Phase 2: Conduct speaker outreach

The most important step to producing a viable virtual conference is to get speakers in your industry. This will benefit you in two ways:

  1. You can build relationships with these industry experts
  2. You can associate your brand with these experts, making yours more credible

I highly recommend getting experts within your company to speak on the subject matter and promote the event by giving a talk or interviewing another expert so that your employees will come to be seen as trusted industry thought leaders.

My goal was to get on a video call with the potential speakers I emailed. A video call allows you to sell them on the idea and show them how excited you are.

Here’s the email template I used:

Invitation to Participate in [NAME OF VIRTUAL CONFERENCE]

Hi [NAME]!

[YOUR COMPANY] is launching [NAME OF VIRTUAL CONFERENCE], a virtual event for [#] [TYPE OF PEOPLE YOU’RE TARGETING] on [DATE] and we would love to have you as a featured speaker.

We’re inviting top experts in [INDUSTRY] to help [PROFESSIONALS] become more successful by providing actionable information about [BROAD OVERVIEW OF TOPICS].

I watched your talk on [TOPIC] and think you’d be a great fit for our audience.

If you’re interested in speaking, we have many speaking options available that can be flexible with your schedule. I’d love to discuss them with you on a quick call.

Let me know if you’re interested and we can schedule time this week or next to talk through the details.

For your convenience, here’s a link to my calendar so we can schedule time right away: [MEETINGS LINK]

Best,

[YOUR NAME]

Pro tip: If you’re a HubSpot customer, I recommend using the HubSpot Sales Meetings and Templates tools to make scheduling meetings really, really easy.

Once I got the meeting scheduled, I made sure to hit the following points for each conversation:

  1. Explain the event and why you’re doing it.
  2. Emphasize what the speaker would get out of participating. (We emphasized that we were aiming to reach over 10,000 salespeople and they would get their own landing page with links to their website and social profiles.)
  3. Tell them about other speakers you’ve booked to develop credibility around your event and that it’s something worth being a part of.
  4. If they’re interested, explain what we need from them right then and there: I asked for a rough title and outline of their talk, and the format they preferred (live Q&A, recorded interview, or recorded lecture-style video).

After the call, I immediately sent a follow-up email which:

  • Recapped the call included topic and format of their talk
  • Attached a speaker agreement form
  • Asked for their availability to schedule introduction to interviewer, recordings, and dry-runs
  • Listed specific deadlines of when everything is due

Here’s a template I used:

[NAME OF VIRTUAL CONFERENCE] Call Recap

Hi [NAME]!

I’m glad we got to connect today. We’re very excited that you’re going to join us for [CONFERENCE NAME]. Here’s a recap of what we discussed earlier — feel free to revise any of it.

  • Working session title: [SESSION TITLE]
  • Working session description: [DESCRIPTION]
  • Format: [FORMAT]
  • What I need from you by [DATE]:
    • Bio (max 200 words)
    • Preferred headshot
    • A page you want us to link to
    • A rough outline of your presentation

Again, it was great connecting today! Please let me know if you have any questions.

Hope you have a great week!

Best,

[YOUR NAME] 

A week later, I followed up again for all those items. Speakers are really busy, and it’ll take a few emails and calls to get those details from them. This is why I suggest you begin the process at least two months before your launch date.

Some speakers will ask for a packet with more details. You can use this template to create your own speaker packets.

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Phase 3: Create assets

On my Trello board, I laid out a timeline of when all assets were created and used the spreadsheet to keep track of them as they were created.

Get my asset management spreadsheet here.

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Landing Pages

Your landing page is going to be a selling point for your event to get speakers and attendees. Don’t expect to attract many of either if your page doesn’t look sharp.

Below you can see the homepage, agenda page, and session pages we created for Inbound Sales Day.

The homepage highlighted the benefits of attending and the various speakers we featured.

The agenda page shared more details about what topics will be discussed and the main takeaways of each talk. This gave viewers an opportunity to see who would be speaking and do their research or reach out to influencers before the event.

The session page is where the fun happened. Each video had its own landing page on the HubSpot domain so viewers wouldn’t have to leave our website to see the content. We had over two-dozen of these pages.

Landing Page Agenda Session Page

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Click the images to see the full versions

Video Hosting

I recommend using YouTube Live to broadcast live videos and to host all videos to take advantage of its video SEO. I then embedded all the videos on landing pages so people wouldn’t have to leave our website to watch the video.

Video Production

There were three different session formats which each required different preparatory measures. Here was my process for each format:

  • Live Q&A
  1. Speaker chose topic
  2. Researched their online material (blogs, videos, interviews) and created a Google Doc of canned questions
  3. Introduced the speaker to the employee who would host the session via email and set up a call to develop their rapport
  4. They reviewed the list of questions together and brainstorm more questions
  5. We prioritized top five canned questions to ask in case there were no live questions
  6. A week before the live session, get on a call with the speaker to do a final check-in (the meeting was hosted using a private YouTube Live session so they understood how to sign in)
  7. Live broadcast: Speaker was expected to sign into YouTube Live an hour ahead of time for audio and video check, review the talk points with HubSpot host, and build rapport for the session
  • Recorded Interview
    1. Speaker chose topic
    2. Researched their online material (blogs, videos, interviews) and created a Google Doc of canned questions
    3. Introduced the speaker to the employee who would host the session via email and set up a call to develop their rapport
    4. They would review the talk track outline and go back and forth about what topics the speaker would want to hit on
    5. We agreed on five questions that would be asked by the interviewer to guide the conversation
    6. Booked an hour with the speaker and interviewer which gave enough time for audio and video check, review talking points, and record at least twice (in case the first run was too rough
  • Recorded Lecture
    1. Speaker chose topic and provided outline of talk track
    2. Provided feedback on their outline based on what our sales audience is interested in (based on previous campaigns and blog performance)
    3. Two recording options:
    • Book an hour of their time to record the session via YouTube Live
    • They recorded on their own and sent the video

    Question Submission Form

    For live events, we created a Google Form for people to submit questions ahead of time. These questions were used to inform talking points for relevant sessions.

    Social Media Images

    The obvious goal for social media images is to make a person stop scrolling through their newsfeed and read what the event was about. We went with blinking GIFs that included photos of the speakers.

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    Phase 4: Promote

    As with content distribution in general, this was the most difficult part of the process. We leaned into speakers a lot and asked them to promote the event to their email list and on their blogs and social profiles.

    Speakers: Email, Blog & Social

    We asked each speaker to send an email to their list, write a blog post, and post on social media about the upcoming event. We made it as easy as possible for speakers to promote the event by creating speaker promotion packets, which provided pre-written emails, blog posts, social media copy, and images. All they had to do was copy and paste the text and insert the image.

    We also gave each speaker their own unique tracking URL (learn how to do it using HubSpot software) to use in promotional materials. This showed us how much interest each speaker drove and how many registrations they contributed.

    Don’t start a packet from scratch, get the free speaker promotion packet template.

    Blog Posts

    Brainstorm blog post topics based on the topics your speakers will discuss, and come up with a publishing cadence for your promotional posts. If you already have an editorial calendar, I’d suggest you avoid making every post promotion and instead periodically insert promotional posts.

    Social Posts

    I met with HubSpot’s Social Media team two months before the event launch to discuss the campaign and come up with a promotional cadence that made sense for each channel.

    I used this spreadsheet to organize all social media posts. I wrote most of the copy in bulk and scheduled the posts in batches as each date came up.

    Get my asset management spreadsheet template here.

    Your promotion strategy will vary depending on which channels you have access to. I sat with my team and brainstormed promotional tactics before deciding which were most viable. A few of those included:

    • Pop-up forms on highly trafficked site pages
    • Calls-to-action on the home page
    • Posts in relevant LinkedIn and Slack groups
    • Links to the event in sales reps’ email signatures

    Pro Tip: Use our free tool, Lead Flows, to easily build pop-ups on your website.

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    Phase 5: Launch

    The night before your launch, make sure:

    • All recorded videos were hosted on YouTube
    • Landing pages that hosted videos were tested
    • Reminder email to registrants have been scheduled so they remember to watch the videos
    • Emails are pre-scheduled to notify speakers to log into YouTube Live an hour before the broadcast time

    On the day of the event:

    • Monitor your social media hashtag if you have one
    • Keep an eye on your email if case people have trouble accessing the event

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    Phase 6: Analyze

    To prove that the virtual conference was worth the time and effort, do an analysis of the traffic and registrations you received, how many video views you got, and send a survey to your registrants.

    The best way to prove value is to tie it all back to revenue. How many qualified leads did you get, and what is the monetary value of a lead? How many new software signups did you get and what is the worth of each signup? How many new clients did you get and how much are they paying you?

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    Learning Lessons and Tips for Hosting A Virtual Conference

    As always, no matter how successful the event, things can always be better. Here are a few things I wish I had done differently that you can learn from.

    Align with your sales team.

    This event would’ve been great for sales enablement. Sales reps could use the conference as a piece of content to share with prospects and be helpful. It’s also good to let reps know about the event and how to talk about it in case prospects bring it up on a call.

    Get speakers with large audiences.

    This may be more difficult for your first event as you start developing credibility for your event, but get speakers with large audiences if you can. It’s even better if you can get them to commit to driving a certain number of registrations.

    Have a post-event plan.

    Ideally, you’re going to get a lot of registrations for the event. What are you going to do with them after the event? Have a communication plan for your registrants, whether it’s sending them content, telling them about your products or services, or asking for feedback. Don’t leave them hanging.

    Build anticipation before the event.

    How can you get registrants to share the event before it happens? Maybe a contest or giveaway? How can you get registrants to engage with speakers before the event?

    As more companies work to get a foothold in their industries and the marketing industry evolves to encompass more video content, virtual conferences will become more and more common. And as with any marketing tactic, as virtual conferences become more common the medium will become less effective.

    Host your first virtual conference now before your competitors and gain first-mover advantage. Good luck.

    Here are all the resources and templates I’ve shared throughout this post:

    Want to have a one-on-one conversation diving deeper into how you can host a virtual conference? Get in touch with me to have a quick conversation.

    Thanks to Kendrick Wang, Cambria Davies, and Scott Tousley for reviewing drafts of this post.

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    Nov

    9

    2016

    Growing Businesses Need a Growth Stack

    growth-stack.jpg

    When Dharmesh Shah and I started HubSpot 10 years ago, we had a clear goal: We wanted to make it easier for marketers to adapt to a changing world. Inbound marketing was the vehicle, and our mission was to bring all the tools you need to attract, convert, and close new customers together in one place.

    But here’s the thing — change is constant when it comes to people. The places buyers spend their time, the expectations they have, and the things marketers and sellers need to do to be successful in 2016 are totally different than just a decade before. I’ve actually spent the last couple of months channeling my “inner anthropologist” to better grok how people live, work, shop, and buy, talking to people in all sorts of roles and with all sorts of backgrounds in the process.

    However, it isn’t just the buyer who has changed. Smart marketers and smart sellers are a lot different than they were back when we started HubSpot. And this is what’s been driving our product direction over the past year.

    Marketers and Salespeople Are Evolving

    Ten years ago, we started out building for marketers who needed help getting the right tools matched up with the right strategy, because it was darned tough to do, and few people had the skills to do it.

    But the marketer of today has evolved. Many of the folks I encounter are a lot savvier. They are digital natives who lean in on technology whereas 10 years ago they were often more timid. This idea of building a software “stack” — a connected set of tools that helps you do your marketing — is a more integral part of marketers’ day-to-day.

    And this shift isn’t exclusive to marketers. Ten years ago, the VP of Sales made the call on a CRM system, their only piece of technology. Today, sales teams are also getting in on the same game of building their “stack.” When I watch savvy reps at work, they are testing new prospecting tools, tweaking their approach with tracked email templates, and using a bunch of additional point tools to be more effective. What it takes to be successful at sales is changing, and tech-savvy sales teams are winning the day.

    The Challenges of Building Your Stack

    Of course, this shift brings a new set of challenges along with it. When every team that touches the customer is out building their own stack, and there are new tools every day to kick the tires on, the familiar challenge of connecting the dots between all these pieces is actually getting harder.

    There are two ways this usually plays out. In some companies, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service have gone down different roads, building their own “stacks” that exist separately. Each team gets the gratification of doing what they want, but the customer loses in the end — with little continuity between touch points, it often feels like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

    The second scenario is one of technical integrations. Someone on the team recognizes how important it is to integrate, and sets out to tie all the disparate tools and systems together. This is a noble pursuit, and one that makes sense for companies of a certain size and scale.

    The trouble with this approach is that it literally never ends. Each new tool adds a new integration into the mix, and integrations come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of quality. Some are great, some are superficial, and some require constant babysitting. Before long, managing integrations is the full time job of a growing ops team, or the worst nightmare of a small team with better things to spend their time on.

    Building Your “Growth Stack”

    Seeing these shifts in marketers, salespeople, and how each group uses and adopts technology has been fascinating. I experience these shifts firsthand with many of the folks I see getting started with HubSpot today.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that more and more of these folks have “seen the movie” before. They’ve felt the pain of ignoring integration, or they’ve been on a team that ended up in an ops nightmare trying to do it themselves. This time around, they want to avoid that outcome at all costs.

    I also see more and more teams that recognize the importance of Sales and Marketing working together. Even five years ago, the idea of Sales and Marketing alignment was a distant ideal for most people. Today, more teams seek opportunities to work together as a larger growth team.

    And when these teams consider tools, they don’t build a sales stack and a marketing stack. They build a growth stack: an interconnected set of tools used to drive growth that share a common foundation.

    Grow Your Business with HubSpot as the Foundation

    Over the past few years, we’ve been hammering away to make our CRM, sales tools, and marketing platform an awesome triad to help our customers power their growth. In the years to come, our priorities won’t change. We’ll be aiming to build the best possible growth stack in the world — a foundation that supports and accelerates any business’ growth — and working to make it easier for you to add on other pieces if and when you need them through powerful integrations in our HubSpot Connect platform.

    However, making our tools better is only one part of the equation. They also need to be accessible to as many people as possible — from sophisticated teams all the way down to companies that are just getting started. This was the driving force behind our announcement of HubSpot Marketing Free, a dynamic set of tools to help you collect leads and context from your website. Together with our free CRM and free sales tools, it’s possible for any team to start building their business on our growth stack without spending a penny.

    We truly believe that we can give millions of companies back the time, the money, and the mental bandwidth they used to spend on worrying about their tools, and this will free them up to focus on growth. If this sounds like a shift your team could benefit from, learn more about building your growth stack with HubSpot using our free marketing, sales, or CRM tools, or see some of the dozens of other tools we announced today.

    hubspot-growth-stack

    Nov

    9

    2016

    Growing Businesses Need a Growth Stack

    growth-stack.jpg

    When Dharmesh Shah and I started HubSpot 10 years ago, we had a clear goal: We wanted to make it easier for marketers to adapt to a changing world. Inbound marketing was the vehicle, and our mission was to bring all the tools you need to attract, convert, and close new customers together in one place.

    But here’s the thing — change is constant when it comes to people. The places buyers spend their time, the expectations they have, and the things marketers and sellers need to do to be successful in 2016 are totally different than just a decade before. I’ve actually spent the last couple of months channeling my “inner anthropologist” to better grok how people live, work, shop, and buy, talking to people in all sorts of roles and with all sorts of backgrounds in the process. That was the topic of my INBOUND talk this year, and I recommend checking it out.

    However, it isn’t just the buyer who has changed. Smart marketers and smart sellers are a lot different than they were back when we started HubSpot. And this is what’s been driving our product direction over the past year.

    Marketers and Salespeople Are Evolving

    Ten years ago, we started out building for marketers who needed help getting the right tools matched up with the right strategy, because it was darned tough to do, and few people had the skills to do it.

    But the marketer of today has evolved. Many of the folks I encounter are a lot savvier. They are digital natives who lean in on technology whereas 10 years ago they were often more timid. This idea of building a software “stack” — a connected set of tools that helps you do your marketing — is a more integral part of marketers’ day-to-day.

    And this shift isn’t exclusive to marketers. Ten years ago, the VP of Sales made the call on a CRM system, their only piece of technology. Today, sales teams are also getting in on the same game of building their “stack.” When I watch savvy reps at work, they are testing new prospecting tools, tweaking their approach with tracked email templates, and using a bunch of additional point tools to be more effective. What it takes to be successful at sales is changing, and tech-savvy sales teams are winning the day.

    The Challenges of Building Your Stack

    Of course, this shift brings a new set of challenges along with it. When every team that touches the customer is out building their own stack, and there are new tools every day to kick the tires on, the familiar challenge of connecting the dots between all these pieces is actually getting harder.

    There are two ways this usually plays out. In some companies, Marketing, Sales, and Customer Service have gone down different roads, building their own “stacks” that exist separately. Each team gets the gratification of doing what they want, but the customer loses in the end — with little continuity between touch points, it often feels like the left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing.

    The second scenario is one of technical integrations. Someone on the team recognizes how important it is to integrate, and sets out to tie all the disparate tools and systems together. This is a noble pursuit, and one that makes sense for companies of a certain size and scale.

    The trouble with this approach is that it literally never ends. Each new tool adds a new integration into the mix, and integrations come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of quality. Some are great, some are superficial, and some require constant babysitting. Before long, managing integrations is the full time job of a growing ops team, or the worst nightmare of a small team with better things to spend their time on.

    Building Your “Growth Stack”

    Seeing these shifts in marketers, salespeople, and how each group uses and adopts technology has been fascinating. I experience these shifts firsthand with many of the folks I see getting started with HubSpot today.

    One thing I’ve noticed is that more and more of these folks have “seen the movie” before. They’ve felt the pain of ignoring integration, or they’ve been on a team that ended up in an ops nightmare trying to do it themselves. This time around, they want to avoid that outcome at all costs.

    I also see more and more teams that recognize the importance of Sales and Marketing working together. Even five years ago, the idea of Sales and Marketing alignment was a distant ideal for most people. Today, more teams seek opportunities to work together as a larger growth team.

    And when these teams consider tools, they don’t build a sales stack and a marketing stack. They build a growth stack: an interconnected set of tools used to drive growth that share a common foundation.

    Grow Your Business with HubSpot as the Foundation

    Over the past few years, we’ve been hammering away to make our CRM, sales tools, and marketing platform an awesome triad to help our customers power their growth. In the years to come, our priorities won’t change. We’ll be aiming to build the best possible growth stack in the world — a foundation that supports and accelerates any business’ growth — and working to make it easier for you to add on other pieces if and when you need them through powerful integrations in our HubSpot Connect platform.

    However, making our tools better is only one part of the equation. They also need to be accessible to as many people as possible — from sophisticated teams all the way down to companies that are just getting started. This was the driving force behind our announcement of HubSpot Marketing Free, a dynamic set of tools to help you collect leads and context from your website. Together with our free CRM and free sales tools, it’s possible for any team to start building their business on our growth stack without spending a penny.

    We truly believe that we can give millions of companies back the time, the money, and the mental bandwidth they used to spend on worrying about their tools, and this will free them up to focus on growth. If this sounds like a shift your team could benefit from, learn more about building your growth stack with HubSpot using our free marketing, sales, or CRM tools, or see some of the dozens of other tools we announced today.

    hubspot-growth-stack

    Jun

    23

    2016

    How to Deliver the Perfect Business Pitch: 8 Tips Inspired by ‘Shark Tank’

    elevator-pitch.jpeg

    A great business pitch is among the first of many hurdles an entrepreneur must jump to get their company off the ground.

    While it’s not necessarily an indicator of future success, it’s a critical moment for any business. A great pitch can bring valuable partnerships to the table — partnerships that come with even more valuable financial incentives.

    Business pitches take place in a wide variety of settings, from elevators, to offices, to cocktail parties. Some lucky entrepreneurs get the chance to pitch their businesses on ABC’s hit TV series Shark Tank, where promising entrepreneurs pitch to a panel of five “Sharks” — self-made multimillionaire and billionaire investors who’ve achieved enormous success in their respective industries.

    These entrepreneurs have a short amount of time to tell their stories, sell their products, answer questions, and overall make an impact that they hope will lead to a major money-making opportunity.

    There’s a lot about delivering great product pitches that we can learn from the show. Read on to learn about tips from successful Shark Tank product pitches.

    (Do you have a startup you want to pitch? Enter HubSpot’s pitch-off competition for a chance to pitch your business on-stage at #INBOUND16 in front of thousands of marketing and sales professionals, early-adopters, techies, and our panel of all-star judges. Click here to learn more about how to enter the pitch-off.)

    8 Tips From Successful Shark Tank Product Pitches

    1) Prepare, prepare, prepare.

    Selling your idea is as much how well you present it as it is the idea itself. Back in 2012, Shark Tank investor Barbara Corcoran told Business Insider that the best pitch she’s every seen on the show was from Sabin Lomac and Jim Teslikis, co-founders of a seafood truck company called Cousins Maine Lobsters.

    “I remember thinking to myself, ‘My God, these guys are amazing!'” said Corcoran. “They were clear, they were good-looking (you couldn’t take your eyes off them), they were high energy, and they answered every question and objection like geniuses. Genuine, rock solid, and perfect answers.”

    cousins-maine-lobster-shark-tank.jpg

    Image Credit: Business Insider

    Once she started working with them, Corcoran understood the secret to their polished appearance on the show: preparation. The two co-founders had spent a tremendous amount of time and energy preparing for their appearance on the show. For instance, they watched all four existing seasons of Shark Tank and wrote down every objection any shark had ever asked an entrepreneur. Then, they prepared and practiced their answers and quizzed each other to make sure they had it all down before appearing in front of the Sharks.

    “I haven’t seen it before, and I haven’t seen it since,” Corcoran said of their avid preparation.

    The Takeaway

    Before you make your pitch, you’d better do your homework. Study the bios, social media accounts, and investment backgrounds of every single investor who will be in the room. Make sure you understand what drives each of them so that you can adapt your pitch accordingly. Remember: Your presentation shouldn’t be the same if you’re pitching to a potential partner versus a potential engineer hire, for instance.

    Know the key points of your presentation cold and nail at least the first few minutes of your presentation where it’s just you doing the talking. It’s harder to straighten out a bad pitch than it is to keep the momentum of a good one going.

    As Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban says, “Do the work. Out-work. Out-think. Out-sell your expectations. There are no shortcuts.”

    2) Practice your pitch in front of real people first.

    We’re all heard the mantra “practice makes perfect” time and time again, but I want to really hammer home that how well and often you practice your business pitch can make a potentially life-changing impact on you and your business.

    Let’s take the case of Aaron Krause, the man who created the product Scrub Daddy, a smiley-faced cleaning utensil that received a bid from Shark Tank investor Lori Greiner — and has been called the most successful product in Shark Tank history.

    In addition to having a phenomenal product, Krause’s differentiator was practicing his pitch in front of other people before going on the show. According to Krause, he practiced for months in local grocery stores where he was selling his product. In the process, he refined his pitch so well over a period of months that, when he finally appeared on the show, his delivery and demonstration was flawless. Shark Tank investor John Daymond said it was “like watching a live infomercial.”

    Later, Daymond would say it was his favorite pitch of the first six seasons of the show. Daymond was beat out by Greiner, who invested $200,000 in exchange for 20% equity in Scrub Daddy.

    The Takeaway

    The more familiar and comfortable you are with your pitch, the more effective your presentation will be. Like Cuban said, there are no shortcuts here: You have to practice (a lot) to reach the level of familiarity and comfort that’ll result in a flawless presentation. And that flawless presentation could make you a lot of money.

    At the end of every practice pitch, ask yourself what you would change about it. In fact, in certain settings, you might ask the people you pitched to what they would change about it. Use it as a learning exercise by reflecting on what went well and what you can do differently next time.

    Pro Tip: Silicon Valley venture capitalist Guy Kawasaki suggests that you throw away your pitch and start with a clean slate every five pitches or so. “Let this ‘version 2.0’ reflect the gestalt of what you’ve learned instead of being a patchwork quilt,” he wrote.

    3) Tell a great story, and make an emotional connection.

    While some presentations are more formal and have rigid structures, pitches tend to have more flexibility — and presenting your pitch as a story can be much more compelling than a list of facts.

    One of the best showcases of how a compelling story can win over investors (and can even, in some cases, make up for lack of business acumen) comes from Tree T-PEE founder Johnny Georges. That pitch was the most emotional moment ever on the show, said Shark Tank investor Kevin O’Leary. “It actually is the reason the show won an Emmy,” he said. Shark Tank had won an Emmy for Outstanding Structured Reality Program in 2014.

    Georges’ pitch began with the story of how he developed a business from his late father’s invention, a device farmers can use to reduce the amount of water wasted by irrigating orange groves.

    tree-t-pee-shark-tank.jpg

    Image Credit: Business Insider

    The investors liked the technology and the patient, but they told Georges they were disappointed by his lack of drive to make these devices more profitable.

    Georges’ response? He launched into a powerful story of why he believes so strongly in helping his fellow farmers and carrying on his father’s legacy. “It was a particularly powerful moment in Shark Tank,” said O’Leary, “and no one’s going to forget it. Every Shark had a tear in their eye, including me. He is a great soul, that man.”

    A guest investor on the show that day, Paul DeJoria, ended up investing $150,000 for 20% equity.

    The Takeaway

    This story isn’t about how to make up for not being business-savvy. But it is a powerful example of how making an emotional connection with the investors and connecting with them on a human level can make a big difference in the outcome of your pitch.

    Remember: People tend to react emotionally first, and then rationalize logically. Research shows that even decisions we believe are logical ones are arguably always based on emotion.

    “People cannot run emotion and logic at the same time,” wrote Martin Soorjoo, author of Here’s the Pitch: How to Pitch Your Business to Anyone, Get Funded and Win New Clients. “This means that when you construct and deliver your pitch, focus on ensuring you achieve favorable power dynamics and inspire and engage your audience so that you keep them in the emotion zone.”

    4) Promote yourself as a savvy business person.

    The entrepreneurs on Shark Tank who’ve given the best pitches not only tell a compelling story, but also promote themselves as smart, savvy businesspeople. After all, an investment results in a business partnership — and investors want to work with smart people who know what they’re doing and can make them money.

    Brian Lim is one such entrepreneur. In 2015, he pitched his product EmazingLights, which are gloves with LED lights in the fingertips that have become popular at raves and music festivals.

    At the same time he pitched his product, he also pitched both the product and his own work ethic and business acumen. He credited the $7 million in annual revenue he’d earned through EmazingLights to his focus, passion, and long-term vision to beat out his competitors in the emerging rave apparel space.

    “We own 80% of the global gloving market,” said Lim in his pitch. “The rest of the market is made up of four or five of our competitors, and I guarantee they do not operate at the same level.”

    He used data to back up strong statements like these. For example, he started the company with $100 and has grossed over $13 million in four years while starting another supporting company for the rave community called iHeartRaves.

    “In my view, the transient nature of it has me a little nervous, but I can see someone here who’s working his tail off, which is interesting,” said O’Leary before making the first offer.

    The biggest compliment Lim received came from Shark Tank investor Robert Herjavec during negotiations on the episode: “You’re the real deal, man,” he said. “You are probably one of the, if not the best entrepreneur we’ve had here.”

    Lim would end up making a deal with Cuban and Daymond, with Cuban giving $650,000 for 5% and John taking licensing rights and a 20% commission.

    The Takeaway

    Lim had a great business plan and the numbers and sales history to back it up — but where he really stood out was in selling himself as a phenomenal entrepreneur and potential business partner.

    Investors know that the better their business partners, the less work they’ll ultimately have to do. Use stories about your work ethic and dedication to convince investors that you have what it takes to come up with new ideas and take on business initiatives intelligently, all by yourself.

    (If you want to develop your own entrepreneurial skills, here’s a list of resources that’ll help you become more business-savvy.)

    5) Make your presentation visual and interactive.

    If giving a business pitch makes you think of PowerPoint slides and bullet points, then you’re doing it wrong. On Shark Tank, a common thread for successful business pitches are that these entrepreneurs make their presentations heavily visual and even interactive. In many cases, they bring products or parts of the product that the Sharks can actually touch, hold in their hands, and experience for themselves.

    For example, Lani Lazarri, who was 18 years old at the time, gave a thorough demonstration of her line of skincare products called Simple Sugars. Early on in the presentation, she asks one of the investors Laurie Geiner to come up to her table and try the product for herself.

    Lani gave Laurie a choice of which flavor to try, and instructed her to add a little bit of water and scrub until she felt the sugars start to melt. She asked Laurie how it felt, to which Laurie responded, “It feels very, very soft.”

    “That’s the oils in it,” Lani responded. “The sugar removes the barrier of dead skin cells that naturally sits on top of your skills, which allows the oils to penetrate your skin and provide that moisture.” The visual language helped the other investors in the room feel what was happening without actually trying it for themselves.

    In general, you’ll notice that the vast majority (if not all) of Shark Tank‘s best pitches are highly visual and involve interactive elements like Lani’s. The only time you’ll see entrepreneurs use a slide deck is to present the name of the product, and sometimes to show different elements of it that can’t be seen in person.

    The Takeaway

    Visual presentations and physical interaction have positive psychological impacts on an audience. Research shows the longer we touch or hold something, the more we feel ownership over it — and the more we want it. And the more we feel we already own something, the higher value we place on it.

    You can still use PowerPoint slides, but if you do, be sure to offer interesting visual and dramatic slide presentations. (And read this blog post for 14 PowerPoint presentation tips to make your designs more effective, along with free templates.)

    Pro tip: Prepare a second version of your slide deck to send out later as a leave-behind that you can include in your follow-up to investors. Your two presentations should match in general flow and content, but the one shown in your live presentation should be highly visual, and the one to send later should have more words and explanations so it can act as a standalone presentation.

    6) Highlight product validation by talking about early sales.

    Some of the most common questions Sharks ask of entrepreneurs on the show are about sales:

    • What are your sales year-to-date?
    • What do you think you’ll do this calendar year?
    • What do you think you’ll make on it?

    For investors, early sales success is one of the most promising signs of the product’s validation. It shows that consumers are already valuing the product and are willing to spend money on it.

    One entrepreneur named Max Gunawan pitched his foldable lamp company, Lumio, to the investors on Shark Tank in 2015. In his pitch, he clearly illustrated how an investor could make money off his quickly growing company by explaining that he grew the business to $1 million in annual sales within two years.

    All five Shark Tank investors offered him deals, and he ended up partnering with Herjavec for $350,000 in exchange for 10% equity.

    Rebecca Rescate, who founded a toilet training kit for cats called CitiKitty, also used her sales numbers and projections to prove the value of her concept.

    After fielding some jokes from the investors initially, she pushed through to explain how she’d made $225,000 in sales the previous year all by herself — and earned coverage in major media outlets like The Wall Street Journal to help create a demand. She ended up making a deal with Kevin Harrington for $100,000 for 20% equity.

    The Takeaway

    Along with a compelling story and presentation, talking comfortably about your sales numbers and projections is a very important part of your pitch. Without numbers to back them up, whether a person likes a product concept or not is fairly anecdotal. Investors like to see ideas that are backed by real dollar figures.

    If you haven’t put your product on the market yet, you can get an idea of demand and promises to buy from your Kickstarter marketing. If nothing else, Angel Investor Tim Berry suggests bringing signed letters from future customers or from sales channels. “Distributors or retail chains are very helpful,” he wrote in an article for Entrepreneur. “And when possible, don’t just talk about documents. Take a picture and post it on a slide in the deck.”

    Remember to be realistic with your sales predictions. If they’re not believable, then you won’t be, either. (Read this blog post to learn more about how to accurately predict your future sales.)

    7) Come in with a negotiation strategy.

    The negotiation is arguably the hardest — not to mention the scariest — part of a business pitch. One of the most common reasons why entrepreneurs fail to land a deal on Shark Tank is because they don’t negotiate well. Either they haven’t done their homework on the numbers, or they become indecisive or anxious, or both.

    Brad Schultz, Aimy Steadman, and Justin Fenchel made up the three-person team behind boxed wine cocktail company Beatbox Beverages.

    beatbox-shark-tank.jpg

    Image Credit: Heavy

    Let me outline how the negotiation went for you …

    When the BeatBox team first entered the meeting room, they asked for $250,000 for 10% equity. During their pitch, they talked about how they initially invested $55,000 in the company themselves, along with an additional $100,000 borrowed from friends and family — which resulted in $235,000 in sales in their first 14 months.

    “Tell me how you’re going to take it from $235,000 to $5 million,” Herjavec responded. Fenchel said that the money would be used mostly to hire brand ambassadors to set up tastings at liquor stores.

    Another investor at the table, Mark Cuban, didn’t like it. “Your leverage points for any one store aren’t great,” he came back. What Cuban meant here was that getting products in even the largest private store doesn’t offer potential for massive growth, according to Business Insider‘s coverage of the episode. A better strategy, Cuban said, would be to bring their products to big events with thousands of people.

    After some back-and-forth about promotion and distribution strategies, Fenchel and his team received a number of different deals from the investors that they’d need to consider against their initial request for $250,000 for 10% equity ($2.5 million valuation):

    • $400,000 for 20% equity from Barbara Corcoran ($2 million valuation)
    • $200,000 for 20% from Kevin O’Leary ($1 million valuation)
    • $600,000 for 33.3% equity from Mark Cuban ($1.8 million valuation)

    Along with the offer, Cuban argued that the entrepreneurs should pick him because he thinks BeatBox has a shot at going viral in the same way that Skinnygirl did. He pressured Fenchel and his team to make a decision — and they were quick to respond. This is even more impressive since they were a team of three, but ultimately, they’d agreed to give Fenchel the final say without objecting.

    Fenchel was immediately prepared with a counter-offer. “Would you do $1 million for a third?” he asked. Cuban said yes.

    That was a successful negotiation. Here’s what a failed negotiation looks like on Shark Tank, where even promising entrepreneurs have missed out on deals because they were indecisive.

    In this case, Lei Yu and Tyler Freeman, the co-founders of the wearable technology company DrumPants, are a prime example of this. They walked onto the show asking for $150,000 in exchange for 5% equity. From there, they received two offers: $150,000 for 20% equity from Herjavec, and $250,000 for 20% from Daymond. Yu and Freeman then ask if they can step into the hallway to discuss.

    Back in the tank, O’Leary says, “You know what happens in Shark Tank when you leave the tank? Nasty, nasty things. What is wrong? You’ve got two offers. You’ve got to make a decision.”

    When they came back in, Freeman asked Herjavec if he’d drop his stake from 20% to 15% for the same $150,000, to which Herjavec doesn’t respond. Finally, Herjavec — and eventually Daymond — withdraw their offers because the two co-founders were so indecisive.

    “I think what your challenge is, and you’ve probably been hearing it your entire lives, is that you’re both very deliberate,” Cuban tells them before they leave the stage. “But that’s part of the problem, right? Sometimes the perfect is the enemy of the good. Right? Paralysis via analysis.”

    The Takeaway

    Before you confront your investors, you need to come up with a plan for negotiating. This is the part of your pitch where the stakes are very, very high. You’ll need to do a lot of preparation ahead of time. Make sure you’re totally familiar with your product or service, the industry, and the competition — including details like numbers.

    You’ll also want to research how each of the investors you’re meeting with have negotiated in the past. If you know anyone who’s dealt with them before personally, get in touch with them. “Many negotiators develop patterns and certain styles that you may be able to use to your advantage,” writes Michael Sanibel for Entrepreneur.

    Sanibel also recommends having the endgame in mind as you come up with your negotiation strategy. And during the negotiation, you’ll need to be prepared to go after a win-win situation, which could mean splitting the difference between your ask and an investor’s offer.

    8) Keep your cool.

    Giving any sort of presentation is nerve-wracking enough. But when you’re pitching your passion to people who are primed to be both skeptical and critical, it can really feel like you’re stepping into the hot seat and putting yourself out there. And when the questions start pouring it, it can sometimes feel like you’re getting “attacked.”

    But keeping your cool can pay off big time. One of the biggest Shark Tank deals in the history of the show was won because the person pitching kept a cool head during a barrage of questions and expressions of doubt.

    The deal was won by Andrew McMurray, the chief consultant of single-serving wine company Zipz Wine, who negotiated a whopping $2.5 million investment in exchange for 10% equity from Kevin O’Leary in 2014.

    The Shark Tank investors had a lot of questions and concerns about McMurray’s business. Most notably, O’Leary argued that the founder of a very similar-looking company called Copa Di Vino had come onto the show twice and left with nothing. The investors berated McMurray with questions about his licensing deal, his branding, his pricing, and more.

    Many people would have broken down under the pressure, but check out how calmly McMurray handled the negotiation.

    When it came time to make a decision, McMurray made a quick phone call to check with his partners, but ultimately took the deal. He wouldn’t have been able to do it without his ability to keep cool and stay reasonable throughout the negotiation.

    The Takeaway

    While you may feel nervous, it’s important to keep a cool head during your pitch. If you’re visibly uncomfortable, you’re only going to make the investors uncomfortable — and they might see that as a lack of confidence.

    The more you know your product and the industry, and the more prepared you were for the Q&A, the more likely you’ll be able to draw on what you know to offer answers to questions you expected and those you didn’t expect.

    “Staying positive and not getting on the defensively will always lead to a more natural and approachable cadence to your pitch,” writes Ben Schippers for TechCrunch. If you get a question you aren’t comfortable answering or don’t know how to answer, don’t make something up or skirt around the issue. Schippers suggests responses like these:

    • “That’s a great question, give me a day or so to do some research and I’ll report back.”
    • “I haven’t approached my research from that perspective, I’ll be sure to it — great suggestion.”

    If an investor points out a deficiency in your business plan, you might talk about how the investor’s guidance and capital can help turn those weaknesses around.

    And hey, if things go poorly, don’t dwell on it. Learn from the experience, make identifying what you’ll do differently next time into an exercise, and then cut yourself some slack and move on.

    What other tips for delivering the perfect pitch can you add to this list? Share with us in the comments.

    apply for the INBOUND 2016 startup pitch-off

    Apr

    16

    2016

    In a World Without Voicemail, What Would Happen to Sales?

    world-without-voicemail.jpg

    This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

    Voicemail is an essential tool for salespeople. Reaching a prospect on your first call attempt is never a guarantee, so salespeople spend hours practicing and perfecting a compelling voicemail template that will hook buyers’ attention and get them to call back.

    But what happens when leaving voicemails just … isn’t an option anymore?

    We’re probably years away from a voicemail-less world, but the trendlines are already starting to point away from voicemail.

    These findings suggest that, even if voicemails still exist in a number of years, they might no longer be the best or easiest way to reach buyers. While salespeople probably won’t stop leaving voicemails any time soon, it’s not a bad thing to start investing more time in getting really good at other sales techniques.

    What do those strategies look like? Here are four skills salespeople should make sure to perfect so that if voicemail does ever become obsolete, they’ll be ready.

    What to Do in a World Without Voicemail

    1) Write really good emails.

    This one’s no surprise. Email is a less interruptive method of reaching a prospect than a voicemail, since they get to decide when and if they respond. But it’s also hard to stand out — prospects get dozens, if not hundreds of emails every day, and there’s no guarantee that yours will get read.

    Good sales emails include a catchy subject line, compelling value proposition (i.e. a reason your prospect should respond to your email, not buy your product), and something that provides value to your prospect. And even if you think you’re better in person than through a screen, reflect on what exactly makes your voicemails so compelling — then put it in your emails!

    Still, writing a good email isn’t easy. You have to invest time into really researching prospects so they’re hooked by highly relevant content from the first sentence. Writing also may not come naturally to some salespeople. For more tips, check out these resources:

    2) Do social selling the right way.

    Social selling is much-hyped but also oft-criticized. It’s easy to dismiss the tecnique as so much social noise if salespeople are overly promotional and post irrelevant content. But done right, it’s an incredibly powerful way to meet buyers on their own turf and talk about the issues they care about.

    Research the social platforms and online forums your buyers are most likely to be active in, then join them and start participating. The key to successful social selling is to shed your salesperson identity. Instead, act as an advisor and industry expert. Provide helpful advice and link to relevant content. Only talk about your product if you are explicitly asked about it.

    If this seems like a foreboding amount of work to you, try starting out by just sourcing your target accounts on social media. Monitor their activity and jump in with advice where you can. Eventually, you’ll be comfortable enough with social selling to make it part of your regular routine.

    3) Provide value before a sale.

    You might traditionally think of all pre-sale activity as Marketing’s responsibility. And while marketers certainly have a huge role to play in nurturing and educating leads, salespeople have a great opportunity here as well.

    Whether it’s social selling (see above), creating original content, speaking at conferences, or running educational webinars, the more valuable you can make yourself to a prospect before they even think about purchasing a product, the more likely they’ll think of you and be willing to take your call when the time comes to make a decision.

    4) Leverage your existing network.

    Referrals are powerful. Salespeople who can leverage their existing networks for referrals are at an advantage. After all, you have an objective third party backing up their value proposition who your prospect presumably already knows and trusts.

    Salespeople leave voicemails and send prospecting emails to get an introduction. But plumbing your networks for referrals completely skips over needing to make that initial connection yourself. For more tips on setting up a referral program, check out Joanne Black’s blog post on the subject.

    What do you think will happen to sales if voicemail ever becomes obsolete? Let us know in the comments below.

    HubSpot CRM

    Apr

    10

    2016

    23 Better Alternatives to the “Just Checking In” Email

    just-checking-in-follow-up.jpg

    This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

    “Just checking in” emails are the worst. If you’re sending an email, it’s obvious that you’re checking in. You don’t need to say it again.

    Plus, “just checking in” emails don’t provide any value to buyers. They don’t care that you want to get in touch with them, especially if you haven’t already provided them with a compelling reason to do so.

    But people often send “just checking in” emails because they’re so easy. It takes almost no thought or time to write some variation of, “Hi [Person of Interest’s Name], I haven’t heard back from you, so I wanted to check in. Cheers, [Your Name].”

    In fact, I timed that and it took 19 seconds for me to type.

    But the ease of writing these “just checking in” emails — i.e. the thing that them so tempting to send — is the same reason they’re worthless: They’re easy to write because they don’t provide any value to your buyer.

    If they never responded to your first email, chances are they didn’t feel it was worth their time. Why would you reinforce that impression by wasting their time even more?

    Of course, this doesn’t mean that you should stop following up with prospects — just that you put slightly more effort into it. Below are 23 things to reference in a follow-up email besides the obvious fact that you’re checking in.

    23 Email Subjects That Are Better Than “Just Checking In”

    If they never responded:

    1. Send them a short piece of actionable advice.
    2. Send over a longer how-to guide and offer to follow up in person if they want.
    3. Point out a weakness in their business that should be fixed.
    4. Share an article relevant to their industry or profession.
    5. Respond to a social message, then follow up with more resources.
    6. Answer one of their questions on an online forum, then follow up with more resources.
    7. Reference a relevant blog post they just published.
    8. Send them a blog post your company has just published.
    9. Recommend an event in their area.
    10. Invite them to an upcoming webinar or educational event your company is hosting.
    11. Send them a link to relevant press coverage of one of your highest-profile customers.
    12. Call attention to something their competitor is doing well and ask how they plan to address it.
    13. Bring up a common challenge your buyers face and ask if they’re experiencing it.
    14. Send a, “Did this email get buried?” email.
    15. Ask if they’re still interested in achieving X goal, then provide a suggestion for how to get there.
    16. Send a breakup email to close the loop.

    If any of these trigger events occur:

    1. Congratulate a potential decision maker on a promotion: A former champion could now influence a purchase decision.
    2. Reach out to a decision maker after a blocker leaves the company: The road may be clearer for you for make a sale.
    3. Reach out to a new C-level executive: High-level changes can indicate a change in strategy.
    4. Congratulate them on a funding round: More resources usually means growth, and growth means addressing priorities that weren’t previously top-of-mind.
    5. Ask whether newly created positions relevant to your product reflect new company initiatives: Strategic shifts indicate changing needs.

    If you lost the deal:

    1. Check how things are going a month after implementing a competitor’s product.
    2. Check how things are going as their contract with a competitor is winding down.

    Bonus: 6 Times You Should Send a “Just Checking In” Email

    Of course, every rule has an exception. If you’ve already started a sales process, there are many scenarios that could warrant a “just checking in” email. Usually, however, these scenarios have two things in common:

    • Your prospect made a commitment to do something and hasn’t done it, or has gone dark.
    • An email or call following up on any of these situations should presumably be focused on that missed commitment — it’s not just a generic check-in.

    Any or all of the following situations all but necessitate a “just checking in” call or email:

    1. If they told you to reach back out in X days/weeks/months.
    2. If they went dark after a call.
    3. If they didn’t show up to a scheduled call.
    4. If they told you they needed a few days to make an internal evaluation, then went dark.
    5. If they committed to to signing a contract and didn’t.
    6. If they started a product trial but you haven’t heard back on their progress.

    The rule of thumb for “just checking in” emails is essentially this: If you have a good reason to reach out or new value to provide, reach out.

    If you don’t, think of one. And if you can’t think of a single legitimate reason to follow up that would be beneficial to the recipient, don’t. Spend your time crafting more helpful emails, and the recipients will thank you for it.

    HubSpot CRM

    Dec

    7

    2015

    True Confessions: Are You Guilty of These Marketing & Sales Pitfalls? [Video]

    True_confessions_banner_761x315.png

    Sometimes, it’s really tempting to cut corners. 

    It’s the end of the month. You’ve got an aggressive goal to hit. Will anyone really be that mad if you buy that list or make a couple cold calls? You promise — it’s just this once. 

    But we all know how easy it is for that excuse to fall by the wayside. That thing you did just once spirals out of control, and pretty soon you’re relying on that tactic every single month. 

    Turns out, there is a better way to market and sell. And for us to actually work toward making that inbound vision a reality, we’ve got to fess up to our mistakes. 

    We’ll start. Check out the video below to see some pitfalls marketers and salespeople face — and get resources for avoiding them in the future.

    Want to confess your own prospecting pitfalls? Use the meme generator below.

    Dec

    1

    2015

    How to Create Sales Presentations That Close Deals [Free Ebook]

    sales-presentation.png

    As a marketer, you work hard every day to generate, qualify, and deliver leads to your sales team. You can’t afford to let your leads flounder after you hand them off.

    Unfortunately, thanks to today’s hypercompetitive sales landscape, prospects are inundated with more information and content than ever. In other words, your dry, jargon-filled deck isn’t going to cut it anymore. 

    That’s why we’ve partnered with Prezi to bring you this free guide on creating sales presentationsIt’ll walk you through how to build a dynamic sales presentation, provide tips and best practices, and introduce suggested layouts.

    Here are a few things you’ll learn:

    • How to create an intro that commands attention 
    • Why social proof is so important
    • How to make your ideal price point stand out
    • The best approach to competitive analysis, and how to use it to your advantage
    • How to seal the deal with a call-to-action
    • And even more about how to create a persuasive sales deck

    twitter-logo Click to Tweet: 

    How to build a sales deck that closes deals

    “Learn how to build a persuasive #sales deck & close more deals with this ebook from @Prezi & @HubSpot http://hubs.ly/H01q7k90”

    Ready to start turning prospects into customers? Click here to download the free guide.

      free guide to creating a sales deck that closes

    Sep

    13

    2015

    Don’t Use a CRM? Here Are 4 Reasons Why It Might Be The Solution You Need

    This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

    In the early days of starting a business, you’ll encounter a dizzying array of acronyms — ROI, ARPU, CAC, LTV, MoM, NPV, just to name a few. One acronym is particularly important: CRM.

    Simply put, CRM — or customer relationship management — refers to software that tracks interactions with prospects and customers.

    All CRMs store prospects’ contact information — their name, email, and phone number, as well as any other identifying information a company chooses to track. CRMs can also group multiple contacts at a company under one account, which is helpful for sellers.

    Beyond contact info, CRMs log reps’ touchpoints with their prospects, including emails, phone calls, voicemails, and in-person meetings. Some CRMs offer the ability to track deal stages and reasons for closed-lost and closed-won deals.

    As anyone who’s ever struggled with contact management knows, a CRM system is an invaluable tool for businesses that want to grow and scale (read: virtually every business). But on the other hand, it’s yet another solution that business owners must implement and train users on. Is it really worth it?

    Absolutely. Here are the top four reasons why your business — regardless of size, maturity, or industry — needs a CRM.

    4 Crucial Benefits of Using a CRM System

    1) It’s a centralized place for storing data.

    In sales, speed and ease are critical. Spending precious time searching through their inbox or call history to get a prospect’s number or recall when they last spoke is a huge waste of a salesperson’s time. It’s also unreliable — if they forget a touchpoint, they risk sending the same email multiple times and annoying a prospect.

    A CRM provides a full, accurate record of a rep’s entire interaction history with a prospect that’s accessible with one click. Reps will never have to manually reconstruct a timeline of touchpoints again.

    Reps can also use a CRM to view their sales pipeline and opportunity queue, which ensures they always know where they stand relative to quota. In addition, CRMs allow salespeople to filter opportunities by the ones they own so they only have to refer to one page to get a high-level summary of all their deals in progress. Some even provide a snapshot of a rep’s sales pipeline by sorting opportunities by deal stage, making forecasting painless.

    2) It improves communication across an organization.

    In addition to making life easier for individual reps, CRM systems also improve communication at the organizational level. What if a rep is working a lead that their colleague spoke to two years ago? What if they’re taking over someone’s territory and have only been given an indecipherable Excel spreadsheet of prospects?

    With a CRM, reps can immediately assess what’s already been done with a given prospect and what’s next. Your reps don’t need to reach out to their colleagues to get interaction history, because the information they need is already in the system.

    3) CRMs make managers’ lives easier.

    Another organization-wide boon: CRMs standardize how reps track their activities and prospect interactions, which streamlines reporting.

    Without a CRM, different salespeople can track activities in different ways, which makes it difficult for managers and leaders to piece data together to form a coherent picture. CRMs make data entry uniform, meaning managers can easily combine and analyze data to understand the overall health of the sales organization.

    Keeping activity recording consistent also reduces friction when passing a lead from one rep to another, switching territories, or reassigning a departed colleague’s opportunity queue. Not only will all relevant information be accounted for, it will also have been recorded in a manner that makes sense across the sales force.

    4) It’s a sustainable, scalable tool for growth.

    You might be asking yourself, “Can’t I just do this all in an Excel spreadsheet and call it a day?”

    With one or two or five customers, manually tracking every interaction is doable. But think ahead to one, two, or even five years from now. Presumably, you want to triple or quadruple revenue in the years ahead, and the time your salespeople will have to spend recording prospect and customer information is eventually going to take over their days.

    Furthermore, what if you want to analyze your salespeople’s activities to discover what outreach strategies or series of touchpoints work the best (or, frankly, anything else about your sales force’s effectiveness)? Pulling inconsistently tracked data from multiple sources can drag out or compromise your ability to get an accurate picture.

    Ultimately, there’s a very simple question you should ask yourself if you’re considering a CRM: Do you want to grow your business? Your ability to do so is dependent on contacting your prospects at the right intervals and providing them relevant information at the right time, and you simply can’t do this effectively without a CRM.

    Ready to flip the switch? Check out HubSpot’s free CRM.

    get the free hubspot crm

    Sep

    13

    2015

    Don’t Use a CRM? Here Are 4 Reasons Why It Might Be The Solution You Need

    This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

    In the early days of starting a business, you’ll encounter a dizzying array of acronyms — ROI, ARPU, CAC, LTV, MoM, NPV, just to name a few. One acronym is particularly important: CRM.

    Simply put, CRM — or customer relationship management — refers to software that tracks interactions with prospects and customers.

    All CRMs store prospects’ contact information — their name, email, and phone number, as well as any other identifying information a company chooses to track. CRMs can also group multiple contacts at a company under one account, which is helpful for sellers.

    Beyond contact info, CRMs log reps’ touchpoints with their prospects, including emails, phone calls, voicemails, and in-person meetings. Some CRMs offer the ability to track deal stages and reasons for closed-lost and closed-won deals.

    As anyone who’s ever struggled with contact management knows, a CRM system is an invaluable tool for businesses that want to grow and scale (read: virtually every business). But on the other hand, it’s yet another solution that business owners must implement and train users on. Is it really worth it?

    Absolutely. Here are the top four reasons why your business — regardless of size, maturity, or industry — needs a CRM.

    4 Crucial Benefits of Using a CRM System

    1) It’s a centralized place for storing data.

    In sales, speed and ease are critical. Spending precious time searching through their inbox or call history to get a prospect’s number or recall when they last spoke is a huge waste of a salesperson’s time. It’s also unreliable — if they forget a touchpoint, they risk sending the same email multiple times and annoying a prospect.

    A CRM provides a full, accurate record of a rep’s entire interaction history with a prospect that’s accessible with one click. Reps will never have to manually reconstruct a timeline of touchpoints again.

    Reps can also use a CRM to view their sales pipeline and opportunity queue, which ensures they always know where they stand relative to quota. In addition, CRMs allow salespeople to filter opportunities by the ones they own so they only have to refer to one page to get a high-level summary of all their deals in progress. Some even provide a snapshot of a rep’s sales pipeline by sorting opportunities by deal stage, making forecasting painless.

    2) It improves communication across an organization.

    In addition to making life easier for individual reps, CRM systems also improve communication at the organizational level. What if a rep is working a lead that their colleague spoke to two years ago? What if they’re taking over someone’s territory and have only been given an indecipherable Excel spreadsheet of prospects?

    With a CRM, reps can immediately assess what’s already been done with a given prospect and what’s next. Your reps don’t need to reach out to their colleagues to get interaction history, because the information they need is already in the system.

    3) CRMs make managers’ lives easier.

    Another organization-wide boon: CRMs standardize how reps track their activities and prospect interactions, which streamlines reporting.

    Without a CRM, different salespeople can track activities in different ways, which makes it difficult for managers and leaders to piece data together to form a coherent picture. CRMs make data entry uniform, meaning managers can easily combine and analyze data to understand the overall health of the sales organization.

    Keeping activity recording consistent also reduces friction when passing a lead from one rep to another, switching territories, or reassigning a departed colleague’s opportunity queue. Not only will all relevant information be accounted for, it will also have been recorded in a manner that makes sense across the sales force.

    4) It’s a sustainable, scalable tool for growth.

    You might be asking yourself, “Can’t I just do this all in an Excel spreadsheet and call it a day?”

    With one or two or five customers, manually tracking every interaction is doable. But think ahead to one, two, or even five years from now. Presumably, you want to triple or quadruple revenue in the years ahead, and the time your salespeople will have to spend recording prospect and customer information is eventually going to take over their days.

    Furthermore, what if you want to analyze your salespeople’s activities to discover what outreach strategies or series of touchpoints work the best (or, frankly, anything else about your sales force’s effectiveness)? Pulling inconsistently tracked data from multiple sources can drag out or compromise your ability to get an accurate picture.

    Ultimately, there’s a very simple question you should ask yourself if you’re considering a CRM: Do you want to grow your business? Your ability to do so is dependent on contacting your prospects at the right intervals and providing them relevant information at the right time, and you simply can’t do this effectively without a CRM.

    Ready to flip the switch? Check out HubSpot’s free CRM.

    get the free hubspot crm

    Jul

    21

    2015

    Phones Aren’t Just for Texting: How Calls Fit Into the Customer Journey [Infographic]

    Phone_Calls_Customer_Journey.jpeg

    I’ve got a pretty big thing for phone calls. (I bet your sales reps do too.)

    Why? Often times, it takes a lot of interest to get someone on the phone. In fact, inbound phone calls are 10-15X more likely to convert than website leads, according to Conversion Scientist.

    The trouble is that many marketers don’t know where to start when it comes to driving more inbound phone calls to their business. Sure, digital is your native language, but truth be told, digital marketing and phone calls are a powerful duo.

    So how do you take matters into your own hands and start actively using your marketing prowess to drive calls? Here are three easy steps to get you started.

    3 Ways to Make Phone Calls Part of the Customer Journey

    Promote Your Phone Number

    I know it feels counterintuitive to use your digital properties and offers to lead people offline, but nothing can replace live human interaction. According to Invoca’s Call Intelligence Index, 54% of consumers say mobile websites don’t provide enough information. Not to mention, 75% say a phone call is the quickest way to get a response.

    The first step is simply putting your phone number on your website. Here are some quick tips:

    • Put your company’s phone number in the website’s header and throughout the site — landing pages, your blog, etc. Above lead forms is also a great spot.
    • Make sure your phone number is clickable on mobile.
    • Play with the style, size, and placement to find out what results in the most calls. 

    Track What Drives Calls

    Now that you’re using your inbound strategy to drive phone calls, it’s time to dig into the numbers and find out what’s working. Here are some metrics to consider:

    • Top web pages driving phone calls
    • Top content offers driving phone calls
    • Referral sources and marketing campaigns driving calls
    • Average call duration
    • Trends in peak times/days for calls
    • Trends in callers’ geographic locations
    • Revenue from calls

    With call intelligence solutions, like Invoca’s integration with the HubSpot software, you can easily keep track of all these metrics right alongside your digital analytics.

    Optimize for More Calls

    Once you know how phone calls fit into the customer journey, you can start optimizing your efforts to drive more of your best leads towards a call. Start proving which programs and campaigns drive the most phone calls and revenue and put more resources behind them. You can also use trends in caller behavior and demographics to inform your targeting and lead filtering process.

    The point is, you’ll have all the insights you need to make smart decisions that result in more high-converting inbound calls. To learn more about phone calls and the new customer journey take a look at Invoca’s new infographic below.

    Call Intelligence Index


    register for INBOUND 2015

    Jul

    4

    2015

    How to Persuade People by Asking the Right Questions [Video]

    Persuasion_Tips.jpeg

    This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

    As marketers, it’s our job to be convincing … but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. In fact, persuading someone to complete a certain action requires a lot of careful consideration. 

    For example, I’m willing to bet at least one person that’s reading this has a child with a messy room. How do you get a kid to clean their room?

    You beg and plead. You offer rewards. You threaten punishments. You create checklists. You offer to pitch in. You might even just forget the whole thing, and make peace with the disaster behind the door.

    But all of these approaches come from a single perspective — why it’s important to you that your child cleans her room. Wouldn’t it be more effective to help the child to realize the benefits of a clean room?

    In the following video, Daniel Pink uses this very example to set the record straight on persuasion.

    “We tend to think persuasion or motivation is something that one person does to another,” Pink says. “But what the social science clearly tells us it’s really something people do for themselves.”

    Watch the clip to discover the power of counterintuitive questions in persuasion (and finally get a no-fail room cleaning remedy).

    By the way — Daniel Pink is set to grace the stage of INBOUND 2015. To see him speak in person, register here.

     

     

    Jun

    29

    2015

    How to Avoid Being Awkward on the Phone [Infographic]

    awkward-on-phone.jpeg

    Talking on the phone, especially with people you don’t know, can be pretty intimidating.

    I have the utmost respect for my friends in Sales, Support, and other departments who spend most of their days talking on the phone — usually with complete strangers. How do they set a positive tone and earn respect using only their voice? And how do they do it without being awkward or making the other party uncomfortable?

    No matter your role, every professional can benefit from learning how to be good on the phone. That’s why the folks at Expert Market created the infographic below. Check it out to learn tips and tricks for how to not be awkward on the phone — and get what you were calling for in the first place.

    awkward-on-phone-infographic.jpeg

      free marketing goal setting template

    Jun

    7

    2015

    How to Take a Sales Team From $0 to $100 Million [Podcast]

    roberge-7.jpg

    This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

    The sales comp plan is one of the most underutilized tools in a CEO’s tool chest.”

    – Mark Roberge, Chief Revenue Officer of HubSpot’s Inbound Sales Division [Click to Tweet]

    When Mark Roberge joined HubSpot in 2007, he had never run a sales team and wasn’t familiar with the conventional techniques sales leaders used to drive revenue. So he stuck with what he knew.

    Drawing on his MIT engineering background, he created a system of sales hiring and development that relied heavily on metrics and quantitative analysis instead of gut feel.

    Mark served as HubSpot’s SVP of Worldwide Sales and Services until 2013, during which he increased revenue over 6,000% and expanded the team from one to 450 employees. These results placed HubSpot at #33 on the 2011 INC 500 Fastest Growing Companies list. Mark was ranked #19 in Forbes’ Top 30 Social Sellers in the World. He was also awarded the 2010 Salesperson of the Year at the MIT Sales Conference.

    Mark is the author of the new book The Sales Acceleration Formula: Using Data, Technology, and Inbound Selling to go from $0 to $100 Million. He joins HubSpot CMO Mike Volpe on this episode of “The Growth Show” podcast to share his sales secrets, including:

    • Hiring and training strategies that result in success every single time.
    • The importance of holding sales reps accountable for churn.
    • Tips for making sure salespeople get the same quality and quantity of leads every month.
    • How to use technology to improve the sales process.
    • Lessons and behind the scenes stories from building HubSpot’s sales and marketing engine.

    If you’d like to see more recaps of the latest episodes of “The Growth Show,” click here.

    subscribe to HubSpot's growth show podcast

    Jun

    6

    2015

    The Sh*t Buyers Say, Translated [Comic]

    gasp.jpg

    This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

    Sales can be a bit like detective work at times. It would be nice if you could take everything your prospects said at face value. But, as any sharp salesperson knows, buyers aren’t always forthcoming or totally honest about what they’re really thinking.

    Take pricing objections, for instance. They tend to sound something like this: “I’m not so sure about the price … “

    Alas, this simple phrase can have one of a plethora of meanings:

    • “I just committed to another project yesterday, so the budget is tight.”
    • “I heard you gave Company Inc. a 10% discount. I want one, too!”
    • “This is actually less expensive than I expected. Did you remember to account for all the features I want?”
    • “Purchases over $100 have to go through my boss, and she’s really busy right now.”
    • “I was quoted another number by your colleague a month ago.”

    How does a seller connect a prospect’s seemingly straightforward phrase with their secret meaning? They don their Sherlock Holmes hats and ask pertinent questions to reveal the buyer’s true feelings. 

    If you’ve ever longed for a what-my-buyer-is-saying to what-they-actually-mean translator, today’s your lucky day. The comic below takes a humorous look at eight common “buyerpspeakerisms” and translates them into plain English. But it’s not all fun and games — take a look at the last panel for an actionable takeaway.

    Like this graphic? Repost it on your site with the following embed code:

    Share this Image On Your Site

    <p><strong>Please include attribution to blog.hubspot.com/sales with this graphic.</strong><br /><br /><a href=’http://blog.hubspot.com/sales/the-sht-buyers-say-translated-comic’><img src=’http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/53/Hubspot_buyerspeakism.jpg’ alt=’Sh*t Buyers Say, Translated’ width=’669px’ border=’0′ /></a></p>

     

    Hubspot_buyerspeakism.jpg

    get the free hubspot crm  

    Jun

    4

    2015

    5 Ways Marketing Can Help Sales Through a Tough Month

    fist_bump-3.jpg

    A company won’t survive if it doesn’t meet its revenue goals. That’s why revenue isn’t just the sales team’s problem — it’s every department’s problem. An effective marketing team will set up the sales team for success by generating valuable leads and nurturing them until they’re ready to be passed to sales reps.

    But the partnership doesn’t end there. When the sales team is struggling to make its goal towards the close of a tough month, marketers shouldn’t just stand around and twiddle their thumbs. They should get in the trenches and help their colleagues any way they can.

    When the going gets rough, Marketing should have Sales’ back. Not sure how marketers can support salespeople when it gets down to the wire? Here are five ideas for how to support reps during crunch time.

    5 Ways Marketing Can Help Sales

    1) Jump on a call.

    Are you a product expert? Get on a call. An industry veteran? Get on a call. An influential executive? Get on a call.

    Depending on a prospect’s needs, one of the best ways you can help a rep struggling to close a deal is by joining a call and sharing your perspective. Consider setting up a system that allows sales reps to book people in the marketing organization or other departments based on their expertise. Sometimes all it takes to get a contract signed is 10 minutes with a subject-matter expert.

    2) Do a demo.

    Towards the end of the month, a rep might be so swamped that they can’t keep up with all their prospects. In this case, volunteering to give a demo is akin to a godsend.

    Conducting a demo is also helpful if a prospect has technical questions that surpass the sales rep’s knowledge. If you’re a product expert, guiding or joining a demo can significantly accelerate the decision process. (Read this post for tips on how to give a great demo.)

    3) Introduce prospects to customer references.

    Maybe a prospect just needs to check your references before signing on. If Marketing sets up a shared document or calendar listing customers who are available to chat, sales reps can easily connect prospects with references. If Marketing does the legwork in identifying customers and managing their schedules, Sales can bring in the deals.

    4) Crowdsource answers.

    Occasionally, a prospect will have a question that the sales rep can’t answer. In these scenarios, it’s very helpful for a marketer to track down the correct response on the rep’s behalf so they can keep selling. A smart way to do this is to set up a dedicated email address sales reps can send their toughest questions to, monitored by someone from the marketing team.

    5) Show love on social.

    Who doesn’t like getting a shoutout on social? If a deal wavering in the balance might benefit from a little public recognition, implore your social media manager to send some love the prospect’s way. Highlight a recent company accomplishment, or help get the word out about a new initiative. Any way you can use your social reach to help your prospect achieve their objectives will be much appreciated. In addition, a social shoutout demonstrates the level of support and care the prospect can expect if they become a customer.

    Growth is a team sport. At the end of the month, it doesn’t matter if you’re in marketing or sales: Everyone is on the same team working towards the same goal. Make sure your sales organization knows they can count on Marketing when the going gets tough, and they’ll have your back when the situation is inevitably reversed.

    free sales and marketing alignment ebook

     

    Jun

    1

    2015

    The Psychology of Choice

    psychology-of-choice.jpg

    This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

    We live in an unprecedented age of options. Cars, phones, jobs, products, lifestyles — at no other point in human history has there been such a variety of choice.

    Choice is the purest expression of free will — the freedom to choose allows us to shape our lives exactly how we wish (provided we have the resources to do so).

    But choice is difficult because it also represents sacrifice. Choosing something inherently means giving up something else — something we might want tomorrow, or next week — and that won’t be available to us if we don’t grab it today.

    Marketers and salespeople have been trying to crack the secret sauce of choice for decades. While nobody knows exactly what makes people buy one specific product over another, decades of research provide us some insight into how choices are made.

    This primer on the science of choice will help you understand the role of bias, priming, and other psychological quirks in decision-making. Not only will you be able to make better decisions yourself, but you’ll also gain valuable selling and positioning tips that will make your audience more likely to choose your offering over a competitors. 

    What is Choice?

    Let’s start with the basics. Merriam-Webster defines choice as the following:

    The opportunity or power to choose between two or more possibilities; the opportunity or power to make a decision.

    Choice theory is the study of how decisions get made. The term was coined in a book of the same name by William Glasser, who argued that all choices are made to satisfy five basic needs: survival, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun. 

    Rational choice theory is a framework used to model social and economic behavior. According to rational choice theory, individual actors choose whichever option will maximize their interests and provide them with the greatest utility, or benefit. 

    But Sheena Iyengar, a professor at Columbia Business School who studies choice, posited that choice extends beyond the merits of one particular option or another in her TED talk “On the Art of Choosing.

    “Choice is just as much about who [Americans] are as it is about what the product is,” Iyengar said. “You have a group of people for whom every little difference matters and so every choice matters.”

    Underlying these three basic ways of thinking about choice is the assumption that we truly understand our preferences and how to weigh them against each other. But what happens when freedom conflicts with power? How do you choose when two options will provide you with equal amounts of fun? 

    It’s all about preference. And the underbelly of preference is bias.

    What is Bias?

    Another definition. Bias, according to Merriam-Webster, is either “an inclination of temperament or outlook; especially: a personal and sometimes unreasoned judgment.”

    In her TED talk Iyengar, who is blind, recounted a trip to the nail salon where she had to choose between two light shades of pink — “Ballet Slippers” and “Adorable.” The colors were described to her as an “elegant shade of pink” and a “glamorous shade of pink,” respectively — semantic choices that hardly illustrate difference.

    Iyengar decided to conduct a study with the two colors, asking women to choose which shade they preferred. Half of the study participants couldn’t tell the shades apart. But of the other half, more chose “Adorable” when presented with label-less bottles. On the other hand, when the women knew the names of the polish, the majority chose “Ballet Slippers.”

    You’d expect that a nail polish should be judged only by its color. But something about the name “Ballet Slippers” caused women to change their preference.

    And that, ladies and gentlemen, is bias.

    Why Does Bias Matter?

    Some biases are conscious. For example, I prefer dogs over cats — I think dogs are friendlier, more lovable, and less likely to scratch me. But I don’t know why I prefer the color blue over the color red — I have an unconscious, also known as implicit, bias.

    Implicit bias is everywhere, and it affects the way we act and treat other people — sometimes to alarming results. 

    Priming and Behavior

    In psychology, “priming” is the effect that exposure to one stimulus has on our response to another stimulus. For example, if two groups of people read the word “yellow” followed by either “banana” or “sky,” the group that read “banana” will process the word more quickly than the group that read “sky,” because of the semantic association between the fruit and its color. This unconscious form of association is a large part of how the human brain trains our memories.

    Priming can also occur in other circumstances beyond language recognition.

    Studies suggest that stereotypes (a form of implicit bias) regarding innate ability linked to gender and/or race impact standardized test performance. A study by Claude Steele and Joshua Aronson found that African-American students performed more poorly on the GRE Verbal exam when they were told the test was a measurement of their intellectual abilities, a phenomenon the researchers termed “stereotype threat.” 

    Further studies suggest that even the mention of identity was enough to trigger the association.

    For instance, Aronson and Steele also found that African-American students who filled out demographic information prior to a test performed more poorly than African-American students who did not. A 2008 study by Kelly Danaher and Christian Crandall found that men’s performance worsened and women’s performance improved on AP Calculus tests if demographic information was filled out after the test was over. 

    Stereotypes are so pervasive that they don’t even need to be explicitly mentioned to rear their ugly heads. Merely priming students with their group identities was enough to surface societal stereotypes that unconsciously affected performance.

    Priming and Choice

    If priming is powerful enough to cause people’s performance to suffer, it’s no surprise that when a conscious choice is involved, people will prefer the option they have a positive implicit bias for.

    In 2001, Frederic Brochet conducted a study with 54 participating oenology undergraduates. He asked the students to rate two bottles of red wine, telling them only that one was expensive and one was cheap. In reality, Brochet had filled both bottles with the same cheap wine. The students described what they believed to be the expensive wine as “complex and rounded,” but the cheap wine as “weak and flat.” 

    Similarly, in a Dutch study, subjects watched what they were told was a high-definition program in a room with posters touting high-definition images. After the program, they reported their experience was superior to standard-definition programming. You probably won’t be surprised to learn that they were, in fact, watching standard definition.

    We’re taught to prefer higher-quality products, and associate quality with indicators like price and modernity. The trouble with these associations is they can overrule the quality of the products we’re choosing between. It’s the classic signal vs. noise problem — how do we separate bias from choice?

    Bias and Choice

    Bias doesn’t just refer to a belief or judgment about a specific thing (i.e. that I like dogs better than cats). In psychology, “bias” also refers to behavioral tendencies that affect how we reach conclusions and ultimately make choices. Here are four biases that unconsciously affect how we make decisions.

    1) Anchoring bias

    We tend to “anchor” our decisions based around the first piece of information we receive. For example, if you’re used to paying $10 for shampoo and see it on sale for $8, this reduced price will feel like a deal. However, your friend’s local store sells the same shampoo for $12, so she will view the $10 bottle as the deal.

    2) Framing effect bias

    The manner in which choices are presented to us also affects how we view them. A study had participants watch a traffic accident and asked: “About how fast were the cars going when they contacted each other?” The researchers then replaced the verb “contacted” with “hit,” “bumped,” “collided,” and “smashed” for different groups of participants. As the intensity of the action verb increased, so did the participants’ speed estimates. They guessed that the cars were going 31, 34, 38, 39, and 41 miles per hour, respectively.

    3) Ingroup bias

    Also known as the bandwagon effect, ingroup bias occurs when a person in a group acts in a similar way to other members of that group.

    Interestingly, the bias exists across arbitrarily created groups (such as through a coin toss) in addition to groups based around religion or sports, among other affiliations.

    4) Loss aversion bias

    People don’t like to lose or miss out on things. Loss aversion causes us to feel more strongly about avoiding a loss than receiving a gain, and explains the endowment effect, our tendency to prefer things we already own over things we don’t. In a study conducted by Daniel Kahneman, participants were given mugs, chocolate, or nothing, and given the option to either trade their wares, or choose one of the two items if they had started with nothing. About half the participants who started with no items chose mugs, but 86% of those given mugs to begin with stuck with that item.

    Why Choice Is So Hard

    Three months ago, I packed up all my things and moved out of the city I’ve lived in for 23 years to work at HubSpot, a company whose existence I’d only recently discovered.

    Yesterday, I bought two kinds of cheese I’d never tried before from the grocery store.

    Choosing the wrong kind of a cheese is a smaller (and less costly) mistake than choosing the wrong job. It’s also a mistake that’s much easier to reverse. And yet the decision to move and change jobs felt far, far easier than my cheese selection.

    Why?

    Choice Overload

    A supermarket has an average of 42,686 different SKUs. I’m not a psychologist, but I can safely say that having 42,686 choices is overwhelming.

    In her TED talk “How to Make Choosing Easier,” Iyengar describes a problem she calls “choice overload.” She conducted a study at a grocery store in Palo Alto, which carried 348 varieties of jam.

    Iyengar set up a tasting booth outside the store. When the booth had six varieties of jam, patrons were 33% less likely to stop and sample the products than if 24 varieties were displayed. But the patrons who stopped at the six-variety booth were six times more likely to buy jam than the patrons who stopped at the 24-variety booth.

    What’s the takeaway? More choices might capture consumers’ attention, but sheer variety is actually harmful in converting them to customers.

    “We might enjoy gazing at those giant walls of mayonnaises, mustards, vinegars, and jams, but we can’t do the math of comparing and contrasting and actually picking from that stunning display,” Iyengar said.

    Choice and Willpower

    I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing, because I have too many other decisions to make. – Barack Obama, on why he only wears grey or blue suits

    Obama isn’t the only leader who follows this logic. Facebook cofounder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and late Apple cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs wore the same outfits every day as well.

    It’s not because the three men have poor fashion sense — it’s because they understood that making decisions causes mental fatigue.

    An interesting example comes from a 2010 study by Jonathan Levav and Shai Danziger. According to the research, Israeli parole boards granted parole to around 70% of prisoners who appeared before them early in the morning, but less than 10% of prisoners who appeared late in the day.

    “The more choices you make throughout the day, the harder each one becomes for your brain, and eventually it looks for shortcuts,” John Tierney of the New York Times wrote of the study.

    As you make more decisions throughout the day, your reserve of willpower eventually becomes depleted. As you become more fatigued, you’ll start to either make decisions impulsively instead of carefully thinking through consequences, or wind up doing nothing due to a lack of energy to weigh options. In the case of the parole board, it was easier to stick with the status quo and keep prisoners incarcerated, instead of chancing release and recidivism.

    In short: The more decisions — simple or complex — you are subjected to, the less mental energy and willpower you have left at the end of the day.

    And this finding has widespread implications. Take, for instance, the connection between decision fatigue and impulse eating.

    Tierney writes of people trapped in poverty:

    [Economist Dean] Spears urges sympathy for someone who makes decisions all day on a tight budget. In one study, he found that when the poor and the rich go shopping, the poor are much more likely to eat during the shopping trip. This might seem like confirmation of their weak character — after all, they could presumably save money and improve their nutrition by eating meals at home instead of buying ready-to-eat snacks. But if a trip to the supermarket induces more decision fatigue in the poor than in the rich — because each purchase requires more mental trade-offs — by the time they reach the cash register, they’ll have less willpower left to resist the Mars bars and Skittles. Not for nothing are these items called impulse purchases.

    So the next time you need to make a big decision (like whether you’re going to move to a different city and accept a new job), it might not be a good idea to go looking for a new kind of cheese at the grocery store.

    How to Make Choosing Easier

    At this point, you get it. Choice is hard. There are some decisions that will never be easy. Think of Neo, the protagonist from The Matrix, faced with the option to swallow a red pill and discover a harsh reality, or take the blue pill and stick with a comfortable fantasy.

    For marketers and salespeople, however, there are concrete, actionable ways to make the buying process easier for their prospects. Taken from “How to Make Choosing Easier,” here are Iyengar’s four lessons for how to take the pain out of decision-making.

    1) Cut

    Less really is more. Faced with choice overload, people are less likely to buy. The trick is to find the balance between having enough options to attract buyers in the first place, but not so many that consumers become overwhelmed and walk away. It’s difficult, but if a company can find that sweet spot, they’ll reap the rewards. When Proctor & Gamble cut their Head & Shoulders line from 26 products to 15, the organization saw a 10% increase in sales.

    2) Make things concrete

    “In order for people to understand the differences between choices, they have to be able to understand the consequences associated with each choice,” Iyengar said. “The consequences need to be felt in a vivid sort of way.”

    So if consumers are able to connect with a product on a visceral level, they will be more likely to buy it. Consider that consumers spend 15% to 30% more money when using a credit or debit card rather than cash because of this lack of concreteness — swiping a piece of plastic is a different experience than handing the cashier a $20 bill. 

    3) Categorize

    Think back to that grocery store with its 42,686 products. Imagine if the 2% milk was next to shampoo, but whole milk and heavy cream were stored next to meat.

    It would be chaos.

    Separating products into discrete categories prevents choice overload by slimming down the number of products consumers have to compare to each other. It’s also worthwhile to note the total number of products we have to choose from matters less than the number of product categories with which we’re presented.

    “If I show you 600 magazines and divided them up into 10 categories, versus 400 magazines in 20 categories, you believe that I have given you more choice and a better choosing experience if I gave you the 400 than if I gave you the 600,” Iyengar said. “The categories tell me how to tell them apart.

    4) Condition for complexity

    If I told you to design your own car, where would you start?

    A German car company that allows consumers to completely customize their own cars found that presenting choices with fewer options first and slowly building up to more complex decisions — such as picking from 56 different exterior car colors — kept consumers more engaged.

    Choice may be hard, but our brains are capable of astoundingly complex calculations — researchers needed 82,944 processors to simulate a single second of human brain activity. Building up from the simple choices to more complex ones, however, is necessary to prevent dropoff during the buying process.

    The reasons we make decisions are not always rational and can’t be isolated from who we are, where we are, or maybe even how long it took us to decide what outfit to wear that morning. But by being aware of the psychological factors that affect our choices — and recognizing how a decision we make at 8 a.m. affects one at 3 p.m. — we’ll be able to not only make better decisions for ourselves, but help others do the same.

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    May

    28

    2015

    How to Create Detailed Buyer Personas for Your Business [Free Persona Template]

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    Restaurant Owner Roy. Caregiver Katie. Landscaper Larry. Do you know who your business’s buyer personas are? And exactly how much do you know about them?

    Buyer personas (sometimes referred to as marketing personas) are fictional, generalized representations of your ideal customers. Personas help us all — in marketing, sales, product, and services — internalize the ideal customer we’re trying to attract, and relate to our customers as real humans. Having a deep understanding of your buyer persona(s) is critical to driving content creation, product development, sales follow up, and really anything that relates to customer acquisition and retention.

    “Okay, so personas are really important to my business. But … how do I actually make one?”

    Ahh … the million dollar question. The good news is, they aren’t that difficult to create. You just need to ask the right questions to the right people, and present that information in a helpful way so the people in your business can get to know your persona(s) better than the backs of their hands.

    Now for the even better news: We’ve put together an interview guide and a free template for creating buyer personas, so it’s easy as pie to do your persona research and compile it all into a beautiful, presentable, palatable format. So follow along with this interview guide, and download the persona template so you can start plugging in your research. Before you know it, you’ll have complete, well thought-out buyer personas to show off to your entire company!

    Download the free buyer persona template here. 

    Before we dive into the buyer persona-creation process, let’s pause to understand the impact having well-developed buyer personas can have on your business — and specifically your marketing.

    Why Exactly Are Buyer Personas So Important to Your Business?

    Buyer personas help you understand your customers (and prospective customers) better. This makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, product development, and services to the specific needs, behaviors, and concerns of different groups. In other words, you may know your target buyers are caregivers, but do you know what their specific needs and interests are? What is the typical background of your ideal buyer? In order to get a full understanding of what makes your best customers tick, it’s critical to develop detailed personas for your business.

    The strongest buyer personas are based on market research as well as insights you gather from your actual customer base (through surveys, interviews, etc.). Depending on your business, you could have as few as one or two personas, or as many as 10 or 20. But if you’re new to personas, start small! You can always develop more personas later if needed.

    What About “Negative” Personas?

    Whereas a buyer persona is a representation of your ideal customer, a negative — or “exclusionary” — persona is a representation of who you dont want as a customer.

    For example, this could include professionals who are too advanced for your product or service, students who are only engaging with your content for research/knowledge, or potential customers who are just too expensive to acquire (because of a low average sale price, their propensity to churn, or their unlikeliness to purchase again from your company).

    How Can Personas Be Used in Marketing?

    At the most basic level, developing personas allows you to create content and messaging that appeals to your target audience. It also enables you to target or personalize your marketing for different segments of your audience. For example, instead of sending the same lead nurturing emails to everyone in your database, you can segment by buyer persona and tailor your messaging according to what you know about those different personas.

    Furthermore, when combined with lifecycle stage (i.e. how far along someone is in your sales cycle), buyer personas also allow you to map out and create highly targeted content. You can learn more about how to do that by downloading our Content Mapping Template

    And if you take the time to also create negative personas, you’ll have the added advantage of being able to segment out the “bad apples” from the rest of your contacts, which can help you achieve a lower cost-per-lead and cost-per-customer — and see higher sales productivity.

    Now, are you ready to start creating your buyer personas?

    How to Create Buyer Personas

    Buyer personas can be created through research, surveys, and interviews of your target audience. That includes a mix of customers, prospects, and those outside your contacts database who might align with your target audience.

    Here are some practical methods for gathering the information you need to develop personas:

    • Look through your contacts database to uncover trends about how certain leads or customers find and consume your content.

    • When creating forms to use on your website, use form fields that capture important persona information. For example, if all of your personas vary based on company size, ask each lead for information about company size on your forms.

    • Take into consideration your sales team’s feedback on the leads they’re interacting with most. What generalizations can they make about the different types of customers you serve best?

    • Interview customers and prospects, either in person or over the phone, to discover what they like about your product or service. This is one of the most important steps, so let’s discuss it in greater detail …

    How to Find Interviewees for Researching Buyer Personas

    One of the most critical steps to establishing your buyer persona(s) is finding some people to speak with to suss out, well, who your buyer persona is. That means you’ll have to conduct some interviews to get to know what drives your target audience. But how do you find those interviewees? There are a few sources you should tap into:

    1) Customers

    Your existing customer base is the perfect place to start with your interviews, because they’ve already purchased your product and engaged with your company. At least some of them are likely to exemplify your target persona(s).

    Reach out to both “good” and “bad” customers. You don’t just want to talk to people who love your product and want to spend an hour gushing about you (as good as that feels). Customers who are unhappy with your product will show other patterns that will help you form a solid understanding of your personas. For example, you might find that some of these “bad” customers have bigger teams and thus need a collaboration element to the product. Or you may find that “bad” customers find your product too technical and difficult to use. In both cases, you learn something about your product and what your customers’ challenges are.

    Another benefit to interviewing customers is that you may not need to offer them an incentive like a gift card (a typical incentive for participating in surveys or interviews). Customers usually like being heard, and interviewing them gives them a chance to tell you about their world, their challenges, and what they think of your product. Customers also like to have an impact on the products they use, so you may find that, as you involve them in interviews like this, they become even more loyal to your company. When you reach out to customers, be clear that your goal is to get their feedback and that it’s highly valued by your team.

    2) Prospects

    Be sure to balance out your interviews with people who have not purchased your product or know much about your company. Your current prospects and leads are a great option here because you already have their contact information. Use the data you do have about them (i.e. anything you’ve collected through lead generation forms or website analytics) to figure out who might fit into your target personas.

    3) Referrals

    You’ll probably also need to rely on some referrals to talk to people who may fit into your target personas, particularly if you’re heading into new markets or don’t have any leads or customers yet. Reach out to your network — co-workers, existing customers, social media contacts — to find people you’d like to interview and get introduced to. It may be tough to get a large volume of people this way, but you’ll likely get some very high-quality interviews out of it. If you don’t know where to start, try searching on LinkedIn for people who may fit into your target personas and see which results have any connections in common with you. Then reach out to your common connections for introductions.

    4) Third-Party Networks

    For interviewees who are completely removed from your company, there are a few third-party networks you can recruit from. Craigslist allows you to post ads for people interested in any kind of job, and UserTesting.com allows you to run remote user testing (with some follow-up questions). You’ll have less control over sessions run through UserTesting.com, but it’s a great resource for quick user testing recruiting.

    Tips for Recruiting Interviewees

    As you reach out to potential interviewees, here are a few tips for getting a better response rate:

    1) Use incentives. While you may not need them in all scenarios (e.g. customers who already want to talk to you), incentives give people a reason to participate in an interview if they don’t have a relationship with you. A simple gift card (like an Amazon or Visa credit card) is an easy option.

    2) Be clear this isn’t a sales call. This is especially important when dealing with non-customers. Be clear that you’re doing research and that you just want to learn from them. You are not getting them to commit to a one-hour sales call; you’re getting them to commit to telling you about their lives, jobs, and challenges.

    3) Make it easy to say yes. Take care of everything for your potential interviewee. Suggest times, but be flexible; allow them to pick a time right off the bat; and send a calendar invitation with a reminder to block off their time.

    How Many People Do You Need to Interview?

    Unfortunately the answer is, it depends. Start with at least 3-5 interviews for each persona you’re creating. If you already know a lot about your persona, then that may be enough. You may need to do 3-5 interviews in each category of interviewees (customers, prospects, people who don’t know your company).

    The rule of thumb is, when you start accurately predicting what your interviewee is going to say, it’s probably time to stop. Through these interviews, you’ll naturally start to notice patterns. Once you start expecting and predicting what your interviewee is going to say, that means you’ve interviewed enough people to find and internalize these patterns.

    20 Questions to Ask in Persona Interviews

    It’s time to conduct the interview! After the normal small talk and thank-you’s, it’s time to jump into your questions. There are several different categories of questions you’ll want to ask in order to create a complete persona profile. The following questions are organized into those categories, but feel free to customize this list and remove or add more questions that may be appropriate for your target customers.

    Role

    1) What is your job role? Your title?

    2) How is your job measured?

    3) What does a typical day look like?

    4) What skills are required to do your job?

    5) What knowledge and tools do you use in your job?

    6) Who do you report to? Who reports to you?

    Company

    7) In which industry or industries does your company work?

    8) What is the size of your company (revenue, employees)?

    Goals

    9) What are you responsible for?

    10) What does it mean to be successful in your role?

    Challenges

    11) What are your biggest challenges?

    Watering Holes

    12) How do you learn about new information for your job?

    13) What publications or blogs do you read?

    14) What associations and social networks do you participate in?

    Personal Background

    15) Describe your personal demographics (if appropriate, ask their age, whether they’re married, if they have children).

    16) Describe your educational background. What level of education did you complete, which schools did you attend, and what did you study?

    17) Describe your career path. How did you end up where you are today?

    Shopping Preferences

    18) How do you prefer to interact with vendors (e.g. email, phone, in person)?

    19) Do you use the internet to research vendors or products? If yes, how do you search for information?

    20) Describe a recent purchase. Why did you consider a purchase, what was the evaluation process, and how did you decide to purchase that product or service?

    The #1 Tip for a Successful Persona Interview: Ask “Why”

    The follow up question to pretty much every question in the above list should be “why?”

    Through these interviews, you’re trying to understand your customers’ or potential customers’ goals, behaviors, and what drives them. But keep in mind that people are not always great at reflecting on their own behaviors to tell you what drives them at their core. You don’t care that they measure the number of visits to their website, for example. What you care about is that they measure that because they need a number they control to show their boss they’re doing a good job.

    Start with a simple question — one of our favorites is, “What is your biggest challenge?” Then spend a good amount of time diving deeper into that one question to learn more about that person. You learn more by asking “why?” than by asking more superficial questions.

    How to Use Your Research to Create Your Persona

    Once you’ve gone through the research process, you’ll have a lot of meaty, raw data about your potential and current customers. But what do you do with it? How do you distill all of that so it’s easy for everyone to understand all the information you’ve gathered?

    The next step is to use your research to identify patterns and commonalities from the answers to your interview questions, develop at least one primary persona, and share that persona with the rest of the company.

    Use our free, downloadable persona template to organize the information you’ve gathered about your persona(s). Then share these slides with the rest of your company so everyone can benefit from the research you’ve done and develop an in-depth understanding of the person (or people) they’re targeting every day at work.

    Here’s how to use the template to do it …

    Fill in Your Persona’s Basic Demographic Information

    If you didn’t feel comfortable asking some of these demographic-based questions on the phone or in person, you can also conduct online surveys to gather this information. Some people are more comfortable disclosing things like this through a survey rather than verbal communication.

    It’s also helpful to include some descriptive buzzwords and mannerisms of your persona that you may have picked up on during your conversations to make it easier for people in your sales department to identify certain personas when they’re talking to prospects.

    Here’s an example of how you might complete Section 1 in your template for one of your personas:

    persona-template-demographics.png

    Share What You’ve Learned About Your Persona’s Motivations

    This is where you’ll distill the information you learned from asking “Why” so much during those interviews. What keeps your persona up at night? Who do they want to be? Most importantly, tie that all together by telling people how your company can help them.

    persona-template-goals.png

    Help Your Sales Team Prepare for Conversations With Your Persona

    Include some real quotes from your interviews that exemplify what your personas are concerned about, who they are, and what they want. Then create a list of the objections they might raise so your sales team is prepared to address those during their conversations with prospects.

    persona-template-quotes.png

    Help Craft Messaging for Your Persona

    Tell people how to talk about your products/services with your persona. This includes the nitty gritty vernacular you should use, as well as a more general elevator pitch that positions your solution in a way that resonates with your persona. This will help you ensure everyone in your company is speaking the same language when they’re having conversations with leads and customers.

    persona-template-messaging.png

    Finally, make sure you give your persona a name (like Restaurant Owner Roy, Caregiver Katie, or Landscaper Larry), and include a real-life image of your persona so everyone can truly envision what he or she looks like. Purchase an image from a stock photograph site like Thinkstock, or download one of our royalty-free images. It may seem silly, but it really helps to put a name to a face, so to speak!

    And if you’re a HubSpot customer, you can add your persona right into your HubSpot Marketing Platform. Just follow this step-by-step setup guide

    Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in August 2012 and has been updated for freshness, accuracy, and comprehensiveness.

    free buyer persona creation template

     
    free buyer persona creation template

    May

    24

    2015

    How to Build Effective Teams Based on Personality Type

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    This post originally appeared on HubSpot’s Sales Blog. To read more content like this, subscribe to Sales.

    “Round up the usual suspects,” the gendarme ordered in the famous line from the movie Casablanca. And frequently, that is how executives think when they create teams, committees, or task forces. The boss says or thinks something like, “Let’s appoint anyone who might know something about this issue.” Or, even more likely, “Grab anybody who’s got a stake in this thing.”

    Organizations, of course, love such groups because when they work, they can improve coordination, help employees feel more involved, and maybe even spur innovation.

    But when they flop (or, more commonly, just lapse into mediocrity), they can drain an organization of its vitality and leave a legacy of posturing, power struggles, and misunderstandings.

    Designing a Group

    We naively assume any group can automatically be a team. However, one of the biggest reasons teams misfire is that personality differences are ignored.

    If, when you create a team, you employ knowledge of the four behavioral styles as defined by DISC (Dominance, Influence, Conscientiousness, and Steadiness), you greatly improve its chances for success.

    Here are a few adjectives that describe each personality type:

    • Dominance: Decisive, adventurous, direct, risk-taker, assertive, self-reliant.
    • Influence: Optimistic, persuasive, emotional, charming, sociable, impulsive.
    • Conscientiousness: Accurate, analytical, tactful, sensitive, systematic, precise.
    • Steadiness: Consistent, cooperative, deliberate, patient, loyal, composed.

    (For more information on how to easily identify personality types, check out this post.) 

    You need to take into account that there are natural allies and antagonists among these four styles and also that each style functions best at a different phase in the lifecycle of a team.

    The Natural Cycle of Groups

    Work groups typically follow a cycle, just like the organizations which spawn them. They face predictable obstacles, rise to the occasion or fail, and either evolve or deteriorate as a result. At every stage in that cycle, each of the various behavioral styles can be a help or a hindrance.

    Phase One: Finding Focus

    Any new group, at first, gropes to find its focus. Members think, “Is this going to be worth the effort? Is this going to be a useful team that can get things done?”

    In addition, each member at this point is seeking to define his or her role. They silently ask: “Do I fit in here, or am I an outsider? Am I going to be an important member of this group with real input, or am I just here for appearances? Is this going to waste my time?”

    Conscientious styles and Dominance styles can be especially helpful during this first phase. They are both skilled at getting to the heart of matters, though in different ways.

    If the challenges the group faces are intellectually complex, the Conscientious style will be in his element. Because they are so good at reasoned analysis on tasks, Conscientious styles can help clarify the mission and give the team focus.

    Similarly, if the main hurdle the group faces is more of a conflict — say, a history of discord among members and/or a split over its goals — a Dominance style will likely shine. In fact, the group may be yearning for a strong leader who can tell the warring members to quit butting heads and either commit, or leave. That is a situation ready-made for the Dominance style.

    In either case, people with these two behavioral styles may be able to get the group to psychologically buy into the idea of moving forward together, and convince the team that progress will be possible.

    Phase Two: Facing the Realities

    While a tough-minded Conscientious style or Dominance style may get the group going, this stormy second stage often cries out for the buoyant optimism of the Interactive styles. Their friendly, informal brand of leadership can send out a strong, clear signal that this group can work together and make things better for everybody.

    A people-oriented approach is needed at this stage because it is at this point that reality often intrudes. The group may begin to see how difficult its task really is, how little time and resources are available, and how members may need to settle for a half a loaf rather than a stunning breakthrough.

    All these factors can breed frustration, confusion, and disillusionment. This is when it will be decided if the group tackles the real issues in meaningful ways, or is mired in its own internal power struggle. That is why Interactive styles, who are good at smoothing over rough edges and encouraging all to share their thoughts and feelings, can be key players.

    Many groups, of course, never transcend this them-versus-us mindset. They continue to silently debate: Who’s the top dog? Such a team is not likely to accomplish much. Instead, members will continuously collide with one another, limiting themselves as a team and as individuals.

    However, if the Interactive style, with his or her upbeat attitude and people skills, can get the members to quit keeping score, they may yet learn to work together.

    Phase Three: Coming Together

    Cooperation and collaboration become increasingly apparent — and Steadiness styles can help meld individual differences into group progress because they are especially good at coalescing divergent views.

    By opening their hearts and heads to one another, the Steadiness styles can blend the discordant elements into more of a single melody. The team begins to narrow the gap between what it earlier said it wanted to do and what it is actually doing. There has been a shift of identity, and it has become a true team because members who previously thought in terms of “me,” begin thinking “we.”

    Phase Four: Reaching for Stardom

    The final stage is more the exception than the rule. However, when reached, it means a team really is performing at its best and is functioning as a whole, not just as a collection of individuals.

    Its members enjoy being part of the team and say so. They have learned how to work together. Morale is high. The group continually produces quality and quantity output and is effectively self-managing.

    In the previous three stages, Dominance style-type behavior might have been called for on key decisions. However, at this stage, a hands-on, controlling style is not needed. In fact, once a group has this momentum, such a strong-handed style can be counterproductive and could even torpedo the group’s progress. Instead, the team’s decisions flow naturally from its deliberations. Differences among its members become a source of strength, not dispute.

    Differences, not Deficiencies

    Love ’em or hate ’em, work groups are here to stay. But, while they can be high performance vehicles, they can also be high maintenance, especially in the early stages. Only a team that fully understands and savors its members’ personality styles is likely to be genuinely productive.

    If members were chosen carefully and if they practice adaptability, the advantages of stylistic diversity can quickly outweigh the group’s liabilities. Remember: We are talking about personality differences here, not deficiencies.

    Therefore, in the final analysis, working with groups all comes down to suspending judgment, empathizing, and trying to play to people’s strengths. The result, despite our differences, can be a wonderful synergy.

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