The 10-Part Checklist for Starting a Successful Referral Partnership

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Hopefully, you have already realized that a great Referral Partner can be worth a lot more to your business then any one client.

My question for you is, “Do you have a clearly laid out plan — and are you working that plan — to meet great Referral Partners on a regular basis?”

I believe you shouldn’t let a week go by without some activity to meet new Referral Partners and/or strengthen current Referral Partners. Here is a 10-part checklist to maximize your partnership results.

Referral Partnership Checklist

1) Identify at least five categories of Referral Partners.

Every industry has what BNI founder and the “Father of Modern Marketing” Ivan Misner calls “Contact Spheres.” Identify at least five natural Referral Partner categories. Create a plan for meeting them.

2) Ask clients and other Referral Partners for introductions to more.

You can certainly meet potential Referral Partners at networking events, but your best source will always be your clients and other Referral Partners who can vouch for you and your product.

3) Provide value before trying to get referrals.

Your first goal with a potential Referral Partner is to provide value. Look for ways to contribute to their business with resources, idea, introductions, and thought-provoking questions.

4) Determine the business chemistry.

You’re not going to get along or connect with every potential Referral Partner. Do you generally like this person? Will you enjoy interacting with them? Would you do business with this person? Do you feel comfortable sending people their way?

5) Have a clear, concise way to explain the benefits of your differentiation.

Your Referral Partners will want to know how you, your processes, and your products or services differ or stand out from others who they perceive are in the same business as you. And always, always, always translate how that difference creates one or more concrete benefits for your clients.

6) Make sure you are referable.

One of the most effective ways to become referable in the eyes of a potential Referral Partner is to walk them through your full value proposition. This takes some time, so you both have to be committed to forming a productive referrals partnership. The more they see your process and the many places you deliver value to your clients or customers, the more they will feel comfortable sending people your way.

Hint: Just because you sent your potential Referral Partner one or more referrals, don’t assume that this automatically makes you referable. It doesn’t.

7) Determine your Referral Partner’s ideal customer.

If you believe your Referral Partner is looking for a reciprocal referral relationship, be sure to get crystal clear on who makes a good prospect for them — whom they serve the best. (Note that not every Referral Partner will want or expect reciprocal referrals. Some just want to have a great resource to whom they can recommend others.)

8) Teach your Referral Partner about your ideal customer.

One of the prime reasons why Referral Partners don’t provide great introductions is that they aren’t sure how to recognize someone who is a good prospect for you. Make sure your Referral Partners know how to recognize a great fit.

9) Get clear on how each of you want to be introduced to ideal prospects.

Never assume a Referral Partners knows how you like to be connected with your new prospects. You definitely want more than just word of mouth. You want to be introduced in some way.

10) Agree on how often you will meet.

Productive Referral Partnerships require a certain level of ongoing communication. You both need to remain referable in each other’s eyes. You want to make sure you are meeting each other’s expectations for the relationship. Agree on how often you’d like to meet — monthly? Quarterly? Semi-annually?

HubSpot CRM

Source: The 10-Part Checklist for Starting a Successful Referral Partnership
blog.hubspot.com/sales

The Ultimate Guide to Using Live Chat Software in Sales

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In the past, buyers relied on salespeople for product information. Now they can discover the same details online in a matter of clicks.

But salespeople shouldn’t be content to hang back and let their prospects do all the work.

Prospects still have questions they can’t always resolve by reading an FAQ or product page: Can that version do X under these circumstances? Will it support Y? What’s the vendor’s policy on Z?

“When a buyer raises her hand, she’s indicating that she wants to speak with you about something specific,” explains David Meerman Scott, author of “The New Rules of Sales and Service: How to Use Agile Selling, Real-Time Customer Engagement, Big Data, Content, and Storytelling to Grow Your Business.” “This is a moment of enormous opportunity.”

However, Meerman Scott says it also poses a huge challenge. Buyers expect salespeople to know more than the content on their website. They also expect extremely quick responses to their questions. After all, they’re accustomed to receiving information as soon as they want it.

Enter live chat software. Sites with real-time messaging allow you to help prospects in real time, engage them at pivotal moments in their buyer’s journey, and generate inbound leads without salespeople lifting a finger.

How to Use Live Chat Software in Sales

What’s Live Chat Software?

Live chat software lives on your website — usually on specific pages, such as your homepage, product, and pricing pages — and enables real-time conversations between your sales team and prospects.

This tool is the latest evolution of buyer-seller communication. In the past, a phone call was the fastest, most direct way for salespeople to connect with prospects. But these calls were often inconveniently timed for the people picking up. Calls also lack context: Prospects think, “Who’s this person, and why should I care?”

Emailing enhanced buyer-seller communication, since a message offers more convenience and context than a call. However, even emails are slower and less efficient than live chat.

When Do People Use Live Chat Software?

Prospects typically use live chat during the consideration and decision stages of the buyer’s journey. Either they’ve defined their challenge or goal and are investigating specific solutions, or they know which offerings they’re most interested in and are determining their final choice.

As a result, most questions will revolve around product benefits, features, proven results, pricing, and various tiers or options.

To make live chat a success, provide a valuable, helpful experience. HubSpot inbound sales consultant Alexis Sells shares her advice on chatting with prospects.

Make Helping Your First Goal and Qualifying Your Second

“Talking to a prospect over live chat is extremely different from sending an email,” Sells says. “They’re talking to you because they have an incredibly specific agenda.”

That’s why your primary purpose is answering the prospect’s question, rather than inciting curiosity, urgency, or giving them a clear call-to-action.

Your secondary purpose is qualifying them for your product or service.

“It’s give and take,” Sells says. “Collect one data point from them, give them a piece of information, collect another data point, and so on.”

She advises setting the expectation you’re happy to help but need context to do so.

“Let’s say a prospect asks me if HubSpot offers mass mail,” Sells says. “I’d reply, ‘Great question. Before I answer, may I ask you a couple questions about your company and goals so we can figure out whether that’s the best solution?’”

In Sells’s experience, prospects are responsive as long as they’re aware why you’re asking for more details.

When those details suggest the prospect is a good fit, say something along the lines of:

“We have a salesperson who can walk you further through [topic]. Do you want to book a time with them?”

When the prospect isn’t a good fit, don’t leave them high and dry. You never know if their circumstances will change or they’ll move to another organization that’s better matched to your offering. Treat them well now, and they could reward you with their business in the future.

Here’s a sample message:

“I’m really happy I could answer your questions. Let me send you an email with a couple additional resources.”

Keep It Short and Simple

Sells recommends capping each message at five sentences or less.

“Prospects start live chat conversations because they want their questions answered quickly and efficiently,” she says. “They’re not looking for an extended discussion. Keep your responses brief, or they’ll get frustrated.”

Along similar lines, reply to the prospect’s first message as soon as you can. According to Sells, prospects typically become impatient if you don’t answer right away.

Once the conversation has begun, you usually have a little flexibility in response time — the prospect knows you’re there, so they’ll wait longer before exiting the page.

Keep track of your average chat length to determine how many separate threads you can handle at one time.

“My live chat conversations generally lasted three to 10 minutes,” Sells says. “I felt comfortable participating in up to three simultaneously.”

The complexity of the conversations also plays a role. If your prospect’s questions demand your full attention, consider limiting yourself to one at a time. However, if you get the same questions again and again, you might be able to chat with five prospects at any given time.

Just make sure the quality of your responses doesn’t suffer. If a potential buyer feels dissatisfied by the interaction, they may drop you from their list of potential suppliers.

Be Human

When Sells first started using Messages, she was constantly fielding questions about being a robot.

“It’s easy to sound robotic over live chat,” she says. “I was sending rapid bullet point answers. People felt like they were communicating with a bot, not a person.”

To humanize your conversations, Sells suggests using phrases like:

  • “Hi, how are you?”
  • “I’m [your name]. How are you doing?”
  • “Nice to meet you, I’m [your name].”
  • “How was your weekend?”
  • “Great question, let me check on that for you.”

“When a prospect cracked a joke, I’d write ‘LOL’ or ‘haha,’” she adds. “Basically, I tried to be myself.”

If you’re struggling to sound natural, draw inspiration from texts you’ve sent your friends and family members. Replicating that style to a tee isn’t wise, as you’ll sound too casual, but this exercise will help you develop a professional voice that still sounds like “you.”

Emojis can humanize your conversation as well. Sells says they add a friendly tone to your message, although she tries not to use more than one or two per conversation.

Finally, don’t forget your demographic. If your typical customer works in a creative industry, like marketing or design, you can be more informal. On the other hand, if they work in finance or medicine, take a more conservative approach.

Never Say “No”

The worst response you can give is “no,” Sells cautions.

“If they ask a question and you shut them down with ‘no,’ or ‘I can’t help you,” they’ll leave and might never come back,” she says.

When your product is missing the feature or capability a prospect asks for, you don’t know an answer, or you’re confused by their request, Sells recommends asking more questions. This way, you can gather more information and hopefully provide a helpful answer.

Put It All Together

Here’s a hypothetical conversation illustrating the key concepts of this post:

Prospect: How do you encrypt patient payment data?

Rep: Hi there, I’m Evan. Happy to help. Mind if I ask some details about your needs so I can give you a more accurate answer?

Prospect: OK.

Rep: Awesome. What’s the name of your organization, and what type of payments are you processing?

Prospect: BlueHealth. The majority are recurring payments, but we also accept HSA/FSA cards and checks.

Rep: Since you’re processing payments on-site, you’ll need point-to-point encryption (P2PE). Our solution encrypts patient data at the point of interaction (POI) so it’s extremely secure. It’s been validated by the PCI Security Council, so it’s fully compliant.

Prospect: Got it, thanks.

Rep: No problem. 🙂 Would you like to set up a time with Irie, one of our reps? She can walk you through P2PE in more detail.

Prospect: That sounds good. I’m free tomorrow after 1 p.m. EST.

Live chat software benefits everyone. Buyers can resolve their questions near instantly, and salespeople can increase their number of qualified leads.

HubSpot CRM


Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

3 Sales Communication Myths Secretly Costing You Deals

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Communication between salespeople and their prospects isn’t always straightforward. Each party has their own agenda — and these often conflict. The seller is trying to gauge the buyer’s interest, craft a relevant pitch, and learn how their organization makes purchases and who has power. Meanwhile, the prospect is trying to hide their intent to buy so they can get the most competitive price.

Here are the most common communication errors I see between reps and prospects. Once you’ve eliminated these, critical details will stop getting lost in translation.

1) Assuming the Contact Is a Champion

Reps frequently start referring to their host — or the person who started the relationship, gives them updates, or schedules meetings — as their “champion.” They interpret her helpfulness or early involvement in the deal as indicators that she’ll back them.

But just because someone is friendly doesn’t mean they’re a champion. I have two criteria for customer champions:

First, they want to buy your product or service as much as you want to sell it to them. A champion believes their problem demands fixing. Not in a couple months, not when they get more budget: Now.

Finding someone with this much urgency is pretty rare. However, the second criteria is even harder to meet: True champions are rule-breakers.

That doesn’t mean they act without integrity, but they need to be willing to circumvent internal policies or use their influence to move the deal forward.

For example, a normal contact would say, “It’s going to take three or four months to get Legal’s approval because they have a long queue of contracts.”

A champion, on the other hand, would tell you, “Legal has a long queue right now, so I’m going to ask my friend in that department to expedite this.”

When reps mistakenly believe they have a champion, they take their foot off the gas. They hear, “It’ll take three to four months,” and they don’t push back — because they believe their contact is doing everything they can.

A lot of accounts won’t have champions. Either the rep can create one, or they operate without one.

2) Taking Email Commitments as Truth

Emailing prospects is quick and easy. However, never use email to advance the deal: It’s too easy to misinterpret them.

Suppose you get an email from the prospect with the line, “We’re focusing on you now and not looking at other vendors.”

You might construe that statement as, “They’ve eliminated other vendors.” But it could equally mean the prospect has finished evaluating the competition and now needs to check a final few boxes with you.

Being able to clarify in real-time is crucial.

You can email buyers to:

  • Confirm a meeting agenda
  • Get contact information
  • Red-line the proposal
  • Answer non-critical technical questions
  • Send helpful content

But for deal-advancing dialogue, call, web-conference, or meet in person.

3) Putting Too Much Faith in the Prospect’s Decision Date

Don’t automatically take the first decision date your prospect gives you for granted. Take this fictional conversation, versions of which play out on sales calls all the time:

Rep: “When will you be making a decision by?”

Prospect: “The end of the month.”

Rep: “Why the end of the month?”

Prospect: “That’s when our budget expires.”

Then the salesperson puts the last day of the month as the estimated close date.

The question itself is problematic, since it requires the prospect to predict their future behavior — and that’s nearly impossible for them to do accurately.

In addition, roughly one-third of the time the end of the month falls on a Saturday or Sunday. Customers rarely sign or review proposals on the weekend.

I recommend finding the specific date and verifying it with the prospect. Here’s an example:

Prospect: “We want to make a decision by the end of the month.”

Rep: “Why the end of the month?”

Prospect: “That’s when our budget expires.”

Rep: “I just looked that up on the calendar. It’s a Wednesday. Do you always start new vendor relationships on a Wednesday?”

Prospect: “No. Well, actually we’d probably decide on the Friday before, because that’s when we have our budget meeting.”

Going from a generic “end of month” decision to a real date makes the purchase feel more real for the prospect.

These communication mistakes plague every salesperson. Stop falling prey to them — your pipeline will thank you.

Get more of Jeff’s insights and advice on his blog.  

HubSpot CRM


Source: blog.hubspot.com/sales

How to Become an Entrepreneur With No Money or Experience

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Being your own boss, calling all the shots, hustling to hit your goals — for many people, entrepreneurship is the ultimate career goal.

But as awesome as running your own business sounds, it’s also incredibly difficult.

How difficult? Nine out of 10 startups fail.

Entrepreneurs are also more anxious than other people and experience more day-to-day stress. After all, when you’re responsible for the bottom line, every setback falls on you personally.

Here’s the good news: Starting a company can be one of the most rewarding, exhilarating, and interesting opportunities you’ll ever get. If you’re aware of the risks and you’re still dead-set on being an entrepreneur, use the strategies and advice in this guide.

It includes:

Let’s get started.

How to Get Startup Ideas

You can’t build a business without an idea. Here are some creative techniques for thinking of a product or service.

1) Ask your friends what annoys them

Founders get inspiration from their frustrations all the time. For instance, Travis Kalanick and Garret Camp started Uber after they had trouble getting a cab.

Andrew Kortina and Iqram Magdon-Ismail founded Venmo (acquired by PayPal) after they had trouble paying each other back by check.

Chris Riccobono launched UNTUCKit — a line of shirts that look good untucked — after getting frustrated with how wrinkly and fill-fitting his regular button-down shirts were when he didn’t tuck them in.

With this in mind, ask your friends to keep track of the day-to-day things that annoy them. Then go through their lists and look for problems you might be able to solve.

2) Prepare for the future

As the world changes, people need different products. As an example, the rise of Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing apps created a demand for a third-party app that will tell you the cheapest fares at that exact moment.

You want to get ahead of the curve. Read trend predictions for your industry or market, or check out universal trend forecasting publications like Trend Hunter and Springwise. Then ask yourself, “If these predictions come true, which tools will be necessary?”

3) Look online

Checking out what other people have come up with can be a great way to kick your own thought process into gear. Go to Product Hunt, a constantly updated curation of the newest apps, websites, and games, for digital inspiration. Meanwhile, Kickstarter is great for physical products.

There are also a ton of product review sites like might spark your creativity. Try UncrateWerd, and Wirecutter.

4) Make something better (or cheaper)

You don’t always need to develop something brand-new. If you can offer an existing product at a lower price-point, better quality, or ideally, both, you’ll have plenty of customers. Better yet, there’s clearly an existing demand.

As you go about your day, make a list of everything you use. Then review the list for something you could improve.

5) Focus on a growing category

Licensing expert and intellectual property strategist Stephen Key recommends picking a category that fascinates you but isn’t overly competitive.

“I avoid industries that are notoriously challenging, like the toy industry. There are so many people creating in that space,” he explains. “You will have an easier time your licensing your ideas if you focus on categories of products that are growing as well as receptive to open innovation.”

After you’ve picked a category, Key says you should study all the products in that category. What are each product’s benefits, and how do they vary? What’s their packaging and marketing strategy? What do reviewers say? What are the potential improvements?

Once you’ve picked a product, consider questions like what can be done to improve it? Can I add a new feature? What about a different material? Can I personalize it somehow?

6) Fill an underserved demand

You don’t need to reinvent the wheel if there aren’t enough wheels. Many people start successful businesses after noticing a gap in the market. For example, perhaps you learn there’s a shortage of high-quality sales outforcing. Since you have experience in sales development and account management at early-stage sales companies, you might decide to offer this service to tech startups.

Other suggestions

  • Network with other entrepreneurs: Use Meetup or Eventbrite to find events in the local startup community. Not only will networking with other entrepreneurs help you build valuable relationships, it’ll also give you lots of ideas.
  • Research patent applications: Patent applications are typically made public 18 months after they were filed. Although we don’t recommend outright copying any inventions, browsing through these documents can give you a good sense of where a particular space is headed.
  • Have a brainstorming session: If you need to get your creative juices flowing, invite three to five other entrepreneurial-minded people to a brainstorming session. Ask everyone to come prepared to discuss a certain product category or question, such as, “What’s your favorite type of X and why?” or “Do you use anything to accomplish Y? Why or why not?” The answers may lead to some great ideas.

How to Validate Your Startup Idea

Great, you’ve got an idea. But don’t quit your day job yet. Before you go all in, you need to know other people will actually want your product. (No, your friends and family don’t count.)

Here’s where the idea of a minimum viable product, or MVP, comes into play. An MVP is the simplest, most basic version of your tool or service possible. It’s functional enough to satisfy early customers and get a sense of what you should improve.

Let’s say you want to build an app that will connect college students with virtual tutors. You might create a bare-bones version, manually invite 150 tutors you found online to join, and then post the link to the app on the local university’s Facebook page. If you get a decent number of sign ups, that’s a sign you should move forward. If you get barely any, you should either rethink the idea or start fresh.

Doing interviews with potential customers is another option. Show them a working demo of your product, ask what they like and what they don’t, how much they’d pay for it, how often they’d use it, and so on.

Envato blogger Chris Bank also recommends “listing the problems you assume your product will solve and then asking for opinions and a ranking of each problem.”

If you want to test the market’s interest before building anything, build a landing page that describes your product or service. Ask people to submit their email addresses in exchange for early access; a free subscription, membership, or product; a discount, product updates, or some other compelling offer. Then promote the video on social, paid search, etc., and see how many visitors convert to sign ups.

How to Find a Cofounder

Conventional wisdom says you should look for a cofounder when starting a new business. There are three main advantages to having a cofounder.

It’s easier to get funding. Whether or not multiple founders actually contributes to a company’s success, many venture capitalist investors believe it does. They’re reluctant to back solo founders.

As an example, “single founder” is the first thing on Y Combinator cofounder Paul Graham’s list of causes of failure. He writes, “Have you ever noticed how few successful startups were founded by just one person? It seems unlikely this is a coincidence.”

You have emotional support. Running a company is a stressful, exciting, and unique experience. If you’re riding the emotional roller coaster by yourself, you won’t have anyone to celebrate with during the ups — or survive the downs. A cofounder understands exactly what you’re going through and makes you feel less alone.

They can provide different skills, knowledge, and connections. Maybe you’re great at selling, while your cofounder is more technical. You’ve got lots of connections, and they’ve actually started a business before. Picking a cofounder with a complementary resume is an excellent way to boost your odds of success.

But there are also drawbacks to having a cofounder.

There’s conflict. You and your partner will inevitably disagree. A little healthy disagreement is productive, but if you don’t find a solution relatively quickly, you’ll waste valuable time and energy. Plus, you might hurt your team’s morale. 

You’ll have to split equity. If you’re the sole owner of your company, you start with 100% equity. As time goes on and you hire more people and/or receive funding, you’ll distribute that equity — but you’ll likely be giving 0.005% to 35% to a single entity, depending on who they are. If you have a cofounder, you’re automatically giving up 40-60% of your company in a single swoop. 

Lastly, you have to find a cofounder. It can be really hard to find someone with the same business ethics, work habits, and complementary personality. In addition, they need to believe in your vision, contribute the right skills, and have a desire to be your cofounder in the first place. That’s a tall order. 

It’s worth noting that an analysis of thousands of successful startups showed that more than 50% had only one founder. Make a decision based on your situation, not traditional advice.

Where to Find a Cofounder

If you decide you want a cofounder, the next step is finding one. Look within your own network first. Choosing someone you already know, or whom your connections can vouch for, is much less risky than a stranger.

This concept works in reverse as well: You’ve also got a better shot of convincing them to join you if they’re a first or second-degree connection.

But if you’ve tapped your network without success, there are a few “cofounder matching” services you can turn to.

You can also attend local entrepreneurship events to meet potential partners.

How to Get Funding for Your Startup

You have to spend money to make money. To fund your startup, consider the following TK options:

1) Family and Friends

Many entrepreneurs rely on their friends and family for initial investment, typically called a “seed round.” You can exchange funding for a stake in your startup (i.e., your cousin receives 4% of the company after giving you $12,000), request personal loans (with or without interest), or even donations.

2) Small Business Grants

Federal, state, and local governments have programs to help small businesses, including low-interest loans, venture capital, and grants. To find programs your company qualifies for, check out Grants.gov

Most businesses aren’t eligible, so you might not be able to find anything. But it’s worth looking into, because hey — free money!

3) Crowdfunding

Kickstarter, Indiegogo, GoFundMe,Fundable, and other crowdfunding platforms let you get backing through an online campaign.

This method doesn’t just generate capital, it can also help you get early product feedback, brand awareness, and sometimes, if you have an interesting story or especially cool product, press.

4) Angel investors

Angels look for early-stage companies that can 10X or more their investment. Typically, they put in $25,000 to $100,000. If you do the math, angels are looking for businesses worth $2.5 to $10 million in the future.

They will be extremely diligent in making sure you understand your target customers, the product space, how you’ll make money, and how you’ll scale. Make sure you’re prepared with a solid business plan and early signs of traction (such as “the average user refers two additional users in their first week” or “we doubled our revenue from January to March.”)

Along with an angel’s funding, you’ll get access to their expertise and connections. They’ll receive equity in exchange.

5) Venture Capital

Venture capital firms look for young, private companies. Like angel investors, VC firms are looking for high-risk, high-return investments. The returns they expect depend on just how mature your startup is. If they invest right before your company goes public or gets acquired, a 3X return is good.

But if a VC firm invests very early, they’re probably looking for a 7X to 10X return. 

Venture capitalist Fred Wilson’s blog post about venture returns is a good introduction to these concepts.

6) Credit cards

It’s typically not a good idea to use your credit card to pay for business expenses — unless, of course, you can pay the balance. Sometimes, you have no choice: You need money, and fast. But sacrificing your credit score and racking up credit card debt will hurt your business in the long run (not to mention, your personal financial health). 

7) Loans

You can’t apply for a loan in your company’s first year, as lenders are unwilling to make such a high-risk investment. However, you can take advantage of the Small Business Administration’s microloan program. Small businesses can receive up to $50,000; the average SBA loan is $13,000.

This is a list of SBA partner microloan providers by state

Microlenders and nonprofit lenders are another option. These lenders often seek out minority or disadvantaged entrepreneurs. Their terms are usually very fair.

NerdWallet’s guide to the top nonprofit lenders in the US is a great resource. 

8) Bootstrapping

You don’t need to accept money from anyone else if you don’t want to. Some companies never raise funding at all — their founders pay for initial costs by themselves, and then, when the company becomes profitable, its revenue covers all expenses.

This option allows you (and your cofounder, if you have one) to hold on to a much bigger percentage of your company. But you may grow less quickly without big infusions of cash. If you do decide to bootstrap, keep your budget as lean as possible to extend your company’s lifetime.

How to Incorporate Your Business

At a certain point, you need to decide whether you want to incorporate your business. As a sole proprietor, you and your company are considered to be the same entity.

Once you incorporate, your business becomes separate from you. From a legal standpoint, it can buy and sell property, incur taxes, sue and be sued, set up contracts, and commit crimes.

The advantages of incorporating

First, and most importantly, a corporation protects you from businesses debts and obligations. Creditors can typically only seek repayment from the corporation’s assets, not your personal assets (like your house, car, bank account, and so on).

You’re also not legally liable for the corporation’s actions. In contrast, as a sole proprietor, anyone who sues your business is suing you.

Having a corporation lets you transfer shares. You can sell some of your ownership in a company, transfer it, or give it away. If you want to accept external investments or bring a partner on board, you need the ability to divest.

Corporation status also gives you more credibility, which helps you attract investment capital. 

Lastly, corporations can deduct normal business expenses before they allocate income. 

The disadvantages of incorporating

It creates an additional tax burden: You need to periodically file with the state and pay yearly fees. The process can be relatively time-consuming, and hiring a lawyer can cost anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

You don’t need to incorporate — in fact, 70% of American businesses are owned by sole proprietors. But if you have a cofounder, need external funding, and would like legal protection, it’s a good idea. 

Once you’ve decided to incorporate, you must choose between becoming a limited liability company (LLC) or S corporation. The SBA has a handy guide on choosing the right entity structure

I hope this guide can serve as a helpful blueprint for starting your own business. Let me know in the comments: What do you find to be the most challenging or confusing part about entrepreneurship?

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Source: How to Become an Entrepreneur With No Money or Experience
blog.hubspot.com/sales

40 Questions to Create a Sense of Urgency

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Your product is a great fit for the prospect. It’s in the right price range for their budget. And you can even get them a discount based on the size of the purchase.

But even though this should be a slam dunk, I can tell you they won’t buy unless there’s urgency.

Urgency gives people a reason to move forward. When it comes down to it, companies always have more needs than resources — so unless they must buy your solution in the short term, the deal will probably stall.

So if there’s no urgency, you should create some. Right?

Wrong. Sales strategist David Weinhaus, who works with HubSpot partner agencies, has a strong view on “creating” urgency.

Instead of manufacturing a cause to act — which isn’t helpful to your prospect and will ultimately backfire — either uncover an existing reason they’re not aware of, or back off.

With the right questions, you can get your prospect to realize they’re unhappy or dissatisfied. And if your questions don’t lead them to those conclusions, accept they’re still in education mode and let your marketing department nurture them until the time is right.

It’s also worth pointing out there are a ton of questions on this list (40, to be exact). I don’t want you to use all of them with every buyer. That would be crazy. The key is picking the most applicable, relevant ones for each prospect.

1) How big is the company today in terms of annual revenue, approximate customer number, and employee headcount?

This question helps you qualify them and start a discussion about how big they’d like to be in the future (and what’s currently standing in the way).

2) Is the business struggling, in a steady state, or in growth mode? Is [company] growing faster than the industry average?

Remind the buyer of their overarching business goals. This is a good tie-in to how your product would play into their strategy.

3) Many of the people in your role I talk to don’t know [surprising fact]. Did you?

I like the Challenger Sale method of teaching your prospect something new — not only will your credibility and authority go up, but you’ll naturally uncover urgency. The buyer will want to act on this information ASAP.

4) What is the problem you’re looking to solve?

The buyer might be focused on a different pain point than you. Use this question to figure out if they’re on the right track. Sometimes, prospects try to address the symptoms rather than the cause by mistake.

5) Is the problem clearly defined?

Learn how much time they’ve spent investigating the issue. Hint: The more clearly they’ve isolated it, the more invested they probably are in fixing it.

6) Have you had this problem before?

Figure out just how persistent your prospect’s pain point is.

7) Is the problem easy or hard to address?

Chances are, the prospect will say it’s the latter. If it was easy to solve, they would have tackled it by now.

8) How does this problem affect the revenue, profitability, culture, or product cycle of the business?

This question highlights the larger implications of what’s going wrong.

9) Does this problem affect a lot of people?

Get your prospect thinking about how widespread the effects are.

10) Are you tasked with solving this problem as part of your regular job, or is this a special assignment?

If your prospect says, “It’s part of my job,” then make sure you tie their overall performance to fixing this issue. If they say, “It’s a special assignment,” then there’s already genuine urgency: They need to identify an answer before a certain date.

11) What happens if you address the problem? What happens if you don’t?

This naturally leads the buyer to compare life with your product and life without. The second is usually much less appealing.

12) When do you need to start seeing the results of implementing the solution?

The prospect would probably love to see results right away. Their answer will help them realize why time is of the essence.

13) What is the one thing that, if we could help solve it quickly, would have the most meaningful impact on the company?

Once you’ve pinpointed a major opportunity to help, urgency will spring up naturally.

14) How would solving this problem affect you personally?

Knowing the buyer’s individual motivators can make or break the deal.

15) How does this affect your boss?

When the prospect’s boss is happy, they’re happy. Connect the dots between your solution and their supervisor.

16) What happens if you keep doing what you are doing?

It’s far easier to stick with the status quo than make a change, even if the long-term ramifications could sink the prospect’s business. With this question, you’ll get them to come to terms with the dangers of ignoring the issue.

17) How can we make you look like a star?

This question turns you into the prospect’s partner, instead of just their rep. It also helps you pinpoint how your product can help them look great at the office.

18) What do you need to do/what objectives must you reach to get a promotion?

Along similar lines as #17, this question reveals why the buyer is personally invested in finding a solution.

19) How does this problem affect you on a day-to-day basis?

Most professionals put up with annoying or deleterious pain points. As soon as you show the prospect there’s a better, easier way, they’ll be more eager to buy.

20) How does this problem affect [department]?

Get them to zoom out and visualize the impact on the wider team.

21) If you weren’t experiencing this pain anymore, which projects/priorities could you focus on?

This question makes the buyer envision a world where they have time, energy, and resources for the tasks or initiatives they’re interested in.

22) What’s the most frustrating aspect of this problem?

Once you learn what’s driving your prospect up the wall, you can position your product accordingly.

23) What [projects, campaigns, initiatives] are you currently working on? How does [challenge] impact your plans?

This is another way of learning how the pain point is interfering with or obstructing their day-to-day work.

24) What problems come up most frequently at executive meetings?

If the CEO cares about an issue, your prospect will too.

25) Which problems keep you at the office late?

Figure out which issues the buyer doesn’t have an easy answer to.

26) Which themes are coming up again and again on [Slack, Hipchat, your knowledge base/wiki]?

While not every company uses internal chat or a wiki, asking those who do about the most common themes can help you pinpoint the most exciting, visible, or challenging things they’re facing.

27) Is your industry getting more competitive?

Most industries are. Capitalize on your prospect’s awareness that they need to act to maintain their edge — or gain one in the first place.

28) Are you worried about [specific competitor]?

Figure out who’s nipping at your prospect’s heels, then show them how your solution will widen the gap in their favor.

29) Do you ever get the sense that [people in prospect’s department] are wasting [time, effort, leads, budget]?

Mitigating (or even eliminating) the inefficiencies in the buyer’s department would be a huge win. Open their eyes to the possibility of a fix.

30) Have you ever lost a major customer unexpectedly?

Whether the answer is yes or no, this question works. If your prospect has, they’ll be eager to take precautions so it doesn’t happen again. If your prospect hasn’t, the wheels will start turning: Wow, it would be really bad if 20% of our business vanished in one stroke.

31) How [did, would] losing that customer affect the business?

Get the buyer to vocalize the negative effects, which will drive their desire to avoid the catastrophe even higher.

32) How do you avoid getting caught in a pricing war?

Chances are, your prospect would love to find a differentiator that would save them from race-to-the-bottom pricing. You just need to explain why your product is that differentiator.

33) Would you be interested in talking to [Customer], who saw a [X%] return on our [solution, service]?

Hearing from someone who got fantastic results will spur your prospect to the finish line.

34) Maybe it would be helpful for you to talk to someone who’s [made this journey recently, faced X similar challenge, resolved the same issue]. What do you think?

If it’s too early in the sales process for references, suggest a knowledge-sharing conversation instead. You’re still connecting the buyer with a satisfied customer — but their shared experiences is the focus, not your product.

The nice thing about this technique? Not only is it helpful for the prospect and your customer, but at some point during the conversation they’re bound to bring up your solution.

35) If we supply all the information you need in the next 24 hours, will you have time to review it and get started by [date in the near future]?

Test your prospect’s commitment to act with this question. If they say they’re not ready, don’t be pushy — instead, ask what else they’d need to make a decision.

36) If I send over the contract when we hang up, can you return it to me in [six days from the current date]?

Sales consultant Jeff Hoffman encourages reps to close this way. Normally, the buyer says they’ll need more time — at which point you say, “Okay, can you do [preliminary step] by that date?” They’ll say yes, and now you’ve gotten a concrete agreement to make progress on the deal within the week. Boom.

(Adjust the date based on your sales cycle. If it usually lasts two weeks, ask if they can sign the proposal that day. If it lasts 10 to 12 months, ask if they can sign the proposal in three weeks.)

37) Define your timeline for solving the problem and getting the right results.

Make sure your prospect’s expectations align with reality. You may need to accelerate the sales process to meet their timeline.

38) When must this problem be solved to avoid negative impact on the business?

Get a firm deadline for the purchase. Explain to the prospect you should shoot for a few weeks or months before this deadline to protect against delays.

39) Is there seasonality in your business? Do you have a busy or slow season? Do you need to address this problem before the busy or slow season hits?

For prospects affected by seasonality (like education, tourism, and entertainment), it can be critical to get a solution in place while business is relatively quieter.

40) If we can work out a solution sooner, how does that help you?

Fixing a problem earlier rather than later is almost always a good thing. The best part about this question is that the buyer puts those benefits in their own words.

How do you create a sense of urgency in your prospects? Let us know in the comments below.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in February 2016 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

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Source: 40 Questions to Create a Sense of Urgency
blog.hubspot.com/sales

The 5 Skills that Set Top-Performing Salespeople Apart, According to New Data

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Top-performing sales teams have significantly higher win rates, revenue growth, and sales goal attainment than the rest. They’re also more likely to set challenging targets. They shoot higher and still achieve.

To discover which skills and strategies set the highest achievers apart, the RAIN Group Center for Sales Research conducted a study of 472 sales executives and sellers.

The results, revealed in the infographic below, represent the biggest skill gaps between organizations that meet challenging sales goals and those that don’t. We pulled data from three major research initiatives over the last four years to demonstrate that these skills aren’t a fluke: They repeatedly come up in our results for sellers, account managers, and teams.

Internalize them, start building strategies around them, and you’ll see your efforts pay off.

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HubSpot Free Sales Training

Source: The 5 Skills that Set Top-Performing Salespeople Apart, According to New Data
blog.hubspot.com/sales

The 20 Most Dangerous Sales Myths You Shouldn't Fall For

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In sales, it’s important to separate fact from fiction. You might discover the latest trend everyone’s touting isn’t so effective after all. On the flip side, trying out a new technique might lead to amazing results. The better you become at learning what’s hype and what’s real, the more successful you’ll ultimately be.

Here are the following 20 most common sales myths I’ve come across. Please feel free to add to my list — or challenge it — in the comments.

1) Sellers crush it. 

In some industries, less than 50% of salespeople achieve quota. They like to say they “crush it” — but crushing it is the exception, not the rule.

2) Managers can sell. Sellers can manage. 

Actually, the skill sets are typically mutually exclusive. Eagle reps seldom ever become effective sales leaders.

3) The phone is dead. 

It’s actually more critical than ever to use the phone at every stage of the sales funnel. Call reluctance is a pandemic.

4) Personalizing your digital outreach works better. 

The wrong type of personalization can actually drive away prospects. Researching their personal hobbies and background (versus their industry and company) can turn them off. You don’t need to be the buyer’s friend — stick to their professional background.

5) When companies raise a ton of money, they’re doing well. 

It’s usually because they’re burning through cash at an alarming rate ($2 million plus per month) and are simply trying to keep the lights on — often diluting themselves. Raising a huge round may also be a sign they haven’t figured out product/ market fit and are treading water while they search for an answer.

6) A company hires sellers because it’s doing well and expanding. 

In reality, a boost in sales hiring typically occurs because revenue is down, sales staff churn is up, the culture is “Lord of the Flies,” bad management has eroded moral, the CEO has stepped in to destroy the sales strategy through micro-management, or the worst offender: They need a miracle from field sellers to save the company from mortal peril.

7) If you call 100 people, you’ll connect with many. 

Truthfully, you’ll usually make contact with two or three prospects for every 100 you call. To stand out, you must use sequences of short voicemails, texts, emails, and social touches. You dramatically lift your odds of success when you get the prospect’s mobile phone number.

8) Just get referrals. 

Yes, a referral — a.k.a. a warm introduction — is the highest probability path to revenue. But newsflash, modern sales organizations are adopting an Account Based Marketing (ABM) approach. The majority hunt in named territories so if you don’t break through, you’re out of luck.

9) Account Executives shouldn’t hunt, and SDRs shouldn’t close.

Building the ultimate sales machine worked for a brief time in the early 2000s before every tech company implemented this approach. CXOs are frustrated with the lack of continuity from meeting setter to closing salesperson. They won’t bother with being put through the sausage grinder. Do your due diligence on the list, value proposition and Ideal Prospect Profile, and fire away yourself.

At the end of the day — and from the beginning of the call — you must be able to carry the right conversation. The senior salesperson is best equipped to carry the value narrative to the decision-maker and this has to happen right from the get-go!

10) “Sales AI” is all hype.

I met with the CEO of Complexica, Matt Michalewicz, and it was like smoking dynamite. Matt literally blew my mind. AI can save your sales career and help you drive amazing results.

11) Only add who you know on LinkedIn. 

I’ve been getting into furious debates over this one. Read Reid Hoffman’s first book, “The Startup of You.” The power of your LinkedIn network is like a Richter scale. It’s geometrically more powerful at 5,000 than 2,500 connections, not twice as powerful. Cultivate the “Strength of Weak Ties” — don’t get siloed with who you know. Network at trade shows, join online groups, and connect around shared interests. Trust me: Go do the research.

12) Texting and Facebook transforms sellers into social pariahs. 

This is simply not true. You should be using cell phones to your advantages — texting salespeople directly, connecting with prospects on Facebook, and chatting to them whenever possible. Try it!

13) Extroverts win in sales. 

Just because you’re a “people person” doesn’t mean you’ll be great in sales. The bottom of the leaderboard is filled with “professional visitors,” and fluffy narcissists never make it in the board room. Knowledge is power and this is why skeptical, Challenger sales engineers that go into quota-carrying new business actually can “crush it.” As the complexity increases, engineers of value are far more effective than warriors of persuasion.

14) LinkedIn is about a personal brand. 

It was approximately five years ago. Any serious seller should be on LinkedIn Sales Navigator. Period. End of story. You should be tracking your best prospects and interacting with their content through blended approaches. Here is a post about advanced Navigator techniques … try them and see your results soar!

15) The greatest trigger event is a funding round. 

Not true. In “Shift!: Harness The Trigger Events That Turn Prospects Into Customers,” Craig Elias and Tibor Shanto proved the strongest trigger is the job change.

The average Fortune 1000 CIO spends approximately $1 million in their first 90 days — their mission is to shake up the status quo. Every time there’s a job change, you get four leads. Monitor internal promotions and lateral moves as well. Again, LinkedIn is your go-to resource.

16) It takes as much effort to close a six-figure deal as a seven-figure one. 

It actually takes more with tire-kicker tiny deals trying to POC and do pilots. These folks are incorrigible — you’ll never win. Cut bait and only focus on household names and dream clients you’ll be proud to win.

17) You can wait for buyers to complete 57% of their buying process. 

That’s just lazy. Interruption is magical. You’ve got to create desire and uncover the pain points your prospects don’t know about yet.

18) Sellers are making over a million dollars a year. 

Yes, under 1% globally do. You could probably find a unicorn if you chased enough rainbows and lost your mind.

19) If you’re missing your quota, it’s 100% your fault. 

Many companies have broken cultures, bad management, and products that would never sell in any market. Don’t beat yourself up about it. Do what Lee Bartlett does and rigorously vet the companies you’re considering joining. Talk to their current and former reps, call their customer service, and even interview their current and former clients. Do their customers believe their product is a necessity, or a “nice-to-have”?

20) Multi-tasking makes you more efficient. 

You can’t multi-task, so stop what you’re doing and go lock yourself in a room to knock 30 calls, voicemails, texts, and emails off of your to-do list. Why are you still reading this?

Which myths did I miss? Do you agree?

Editor’s note: This post originally appeared on LinkedIn and has been republished here with permission.

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Source: The 20 Most Dangerous Sales Myths You Shouldn't Fall For
blog.hubspot.com/sales

10 Things Salespeople Do That Make Them Seem Desperate

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Desperation turns people off fast. If you’ve ever cooled on a suitor or friend because of overt neediness and constant invitations to meet up, you’ll know what I mean.

Most of us know not to cross the line between eagerness and desperation in social situations. However, when your job is on the line, good judgment can fly out the window. Salespeople need to make a certain amount of sales each month in order to hit their number, and the pressure can sometimes make them come off a bit too strong with their prospects.

But in their quest to make quota, reps often don’t even realize what they’re doing is emitting a desperate vibe. If you’re guilty of any of these 10 behaviors, stop immediately before you send your prospects running.

1) Assuming the prospect is interested.

“Lots of salespeople come off as desperate because they don’t ask the prospect if they’re interested — they just assume they are,” said Pete Caputa, VP of sales at HubSpot.

One way this behavior manifests itself is when a salesperson suggests a meeting or call in their first outreach. According to Caputa, this is a bit presumptive considering the rep can’t truly know at this early stage whether the prospect is a good opportunity or not. And what reads as presumptuous to some translates as desperate to others.

2) Pressing for a meeting too hard.

Prospects will often dismiss salespeople with a quick “We’re not interested,” or “Now’s not a good time,” and good reps are adept at maneuvering past these knee-jerk brush-offs. However, if a rep determines that a prospect is legitimately not interested, they should back off — or risk being labeled as desperate.

But how can a rep ferret out true interest? Caputa recommends posing a simple question: “Do you not want to set a time to talk because you’re busy, or because I haven’t established enough value for you to take another call with me?”

If the prospect replies that they’re buried, the rep understands it’s a “not now” instead of a “not ever.” However, a prospect who doesn’t see the value in what you sell isn’t likely to be a good opportunity, and following up their rejection with “Well, but I really think you’d be a great fit,” or “I understand, but all the other competitors in your space are doing it,” will just sound pleading. Give them an out, and if they take it, let them go.

3) Jumping on problems too quickly.

Reps ask prospects discovery questions to get a feel for their pain points, and understand if a specific product or service can help remedy these issues. However, while it’s great when there’s a match between problem and solution, reps shouldn’t be too eager to make the connection.

“The ideal sales process involves the prospect realizing on their own that yours is the right solution. By the rep asking questions and telling stories about other people like them, the prospect should see themselves in the stories,” Caputa said.

But instead of letting the prospect connect the dots in their own mind, “a lot of times salespeople say, ‘Oh, we can help you with that!’ and explain how you can solve problem X with solution Y,” Caputa added. “And that might not be the way they want to do it.”

Highlighting your product from the get-go seems salesy, and can drive away a good opportunity. Resist the urge.

4) Making side agreements.

Reps desperate to make a sale can be tempted to bend the rules. As Andrew Quinn, HubSpot’s director of training and development, pointed out, this often takes the form of an add-on perk that falls outside the terms and conditions of the deal.

A rep might think these types of “side agreements” are relatively harmless. After all, the prospect signed, right? But remember that this behavior sets up a dangerous precedent of catering to exceptions and dealing with inflated expectations. The prospect who was brought on in this manner is likely to be a poor customer.

5) Issuing ultimatums.

A salesperson has to be at the end of their rope to present an ultimatum or threat to a prospect, but according to Quinn, it happens. This is the category that such utterances as “I’m not leaving here until you make the right choice!” or “If I don’t make this deal happen I’m going to lose my job. Please do this for me … “ fall into.

Ultimatums, threats, and begging don’t make anyone feel good. Don’t go there.

6) Letting your voice communicate nerves.

The more confident a salesperson sounds, the more confident a prospect will feel in moving forward with a buying decision. With this in mind, Quinn cautioned that reps should never let nerves or desperation creep into their voices. Even if you’re nowhere near quota and it’s the last day of the month, reps should speak with an air of cool and calm.

Not sure what a desperate voice sounds like? Here’s a prime example from Ol’ Gil, The Simpsons’ resident Willy Loman:

7) Being too accommodating.

A salesperson should serve their customers, but that doesn’t mean they should act like a servant. For instance, if a prospect is demanding features far outside the bounds of normal service, salespeople shouldn’t simply acquiesce with an “I’ll see what I can do.” Instead, Caputa recommends reps dig into each and every one of a prospect’s additional requests to understand why they need it, and if it’s truly vital.

Another example of this behavior Caputa cited is allowing a prospect to disrespect your time. When a prospect cancels a call at the last minute, they’ll likely apologize the next time they meet with the rep. Whereas most salespeople would respond to this apology with “No problem!” this is wrong in Caputa’s opinion, since it implies the rep’s time is less valuable than the prospect’s. Instead, he suggests asking, “Is everything okay?” and then moving on with the conversation.

“You should be respected as someone who adds value, and when you let a prospect treat you with disrespect, you show you’re desperate for the business,” Caputa said.

8) Refusing to take a hint.

Statistically speaking, the vast majority of your sales opportunities won’t go anywhere. Sometimes prospects won’t even answer your email or return your call. And that’s okay.

What’s not is refusing to move on, and sending email after email after email after email after email. It was exhausting just typing that sentence — can you imagine how desperate that kind of relentless messaging comes off to buyers? I think it’s safe to say “very.”

9) Offering unsolicited opinions.

According to sales expert Jeff Hoffman, few habits are more damaging to your perceived status than giving your unsolicited opinion. It makes you seem overly eager to please. And if your prospect thinks you’re only telling them what they want to hear, they won’t trust anything you say.

Suppose if the buyer tells you, “We’re launching a new campaign targeting millennials next month.” 

Don’t respond, “Oh, awesome. Which tools are you using for that project?” 

Simply ask your question: “Which tools are you using?” 

This matter-of-fact, confident style will lessen the chances you seem desperate.

10) Offering a discount too early.

Nothing screams “I need this deal” more than offering a discount before your prospect has even asked. While discounts have their place in the sales process, you should only bring them up once your prospect has realized your product’s value. If you start the conversation by saying you’re flexible on price, not only will your product seem cheaper (and therefore less desirable), your prospect will infer that you’re eager to close at any cost.

Editor’s note: This post was originally published in March 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness.

HubSpot CRM

Source: 10 Things Salespeople Do That Make Them Seem Desperate
blog.hubspot.com/sales

The Top 7 Account-Based Marketing Metrics for Tracking Success

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If you adopt a new sales methodology without simultaneously adopting new sales metrics, you’ll have a much harder time tracking progress. That’s why companies transitioning to an account-based framework should update their KPIs and leading and lagging indicators of success.

While traditional metrics focus on the activity of an individual lead, Account-Based Marketing (ABM) looks at key accounts: The kind most likely to drive the most revenue for your organization.

How are account-based metrics different?

Think quality, not quantity.

An ABM team’s top priority is influencing the people who matter at key accounts. Rather than focusing on new lead creation, ABM focuses on activating and engaging a smaller number of the right leads. For that reason, traditional funnel metrics, such as conversion rates, don’t apply here.

For example, a sales rep with 20 accounts can’t accept a 5% conversion rate — she needs to be thinking about growing revenue from every single account. Which would the sales rep value more: 20 random entry-level professionals downloading a whitepaper, or one meaningful conversation with a decision maker at one of her target accounts?

It’s not about closed revenue.

SiriusDecisions reports a 24% increase in the length of an average B2B sales cycle. The larger the deal size, the longer the cycle. With such a lengthy process in place, we need to measure what’s happening as it progresses. There is a long gap between top-of-funnel lead generation and bottom-of-funnel pipeline creation.

How do you measure progress in the middle of the funnel? Focus on engagement. Track how deeply the right people at an account engage with your brand, and you’ll have a quantifiable way of showing development throughout a potentially long nurturing process.

The 5 key types of ABM metrics

At Engagio, we recommend five categories of ABM metrics. Measure these in addition to — not instead of — leads, pipeline, and revenue.

1) Coverage

Do you have enough of the right people in your database? How complete is your account data?

These metric tracks data quality and comprehensiveness and should inform your strategic plan. In other words, how many of your target accounts have you researched? Do you understand each division with your target account? How many accounts do you have account-specific custom content for? Have you identified the main stakeholders and points of contact within every account? Do you have their contact information?

2) Awareness

Do your prospects know your company’s name and what you offer?

Web traffic is a good reflection of this — specifically, traffic coming from people within your target accounts. You should also track whether your key contacts are opening your emails, attending your events, and taking your phone calls.

3) Engagement

How engaged and interested are your prospects?

The more time they spend with your company, the more committed they tend to be.

Measure the number of minutes that someone spends with your brand. Track when they are responding to your marketing programs, but also when they interact socially, when they use your product, and when they talk with your sales team.

4) Reach

Are you reaching specific target accounts? Where are you wasting your efforts?

Track success by channel — for example, in a webinar campaign, you’d measure success by event attendance. Track the percent of target accounts that have success in each program as well. Finally, track your focus — what percentage of all program successes come from key accounts?

5) Influence

Which activities are generating the right results?

Traditional attribution models are difficult to apply to long sales cycles with multiple touches. ABM requires looking for correlations between activities and key sales outcomes. Mine your data to find insights like, “Accounts in the top 25% of engagement have 18% faster sales cycles than those in the bottom 25%.”

You’re looking for deal velocity, win rates, average contract values, retention, and Net Promoter Scores. Ultimately, these insights help to demonstrate why ABM programs matter to sales leadership and the C-suite.

The 2 key types of account-based sales metrics

Marketing and Sales often measure success differently. Account-based metrics can help bring these teams closer, giving them a common language and aligning their focus on a specific list of named accounts.

With an Account-Based Sales Development (ABSD) strategy, two distinct types of metrics can help you understand if your sales team is performing against an account-based sales plan.

1) Activity-based sales metrics

Are your sales reps doing the right things? This will be specific for each SDR playbook, but generally cover activities like task completion, dials/emails/contacts per day, account coverage (if SDRs are responsible for building contacts), meaningful conversations, and conversation to appointment.

2) Outcome-based sales metrics

Track the result of the activities mentioned above, including the rate of accounts accepted (a pipeline metric often measured per thousand accounts prospected), pipeline created, and revenue generated.

Account-based strategies present an incredible opportunity for organizations to make marketing and sales more focused, relevant, and effective. But to truly realize the benefits, it’s important to measure what matters.

HubSpot CRM

Source: The Top 7 Account-Based Marketing Metrics for Tracking Success
blog.hubspot.com/sales

15 Dumb Sales Questions Smart Reps Ask

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Let’s be real: Most salespeople are annoying. They view their prospects as numbers in their sales funnel, not as people. They believe earning your business is a chess match and a signed contract means they “won the game.”

However, the average prospect doesn’t know how to purchase anything that falls outside their area of expertise. Think about it. Do you really know how to buy a TV? Do you know what precise technical questions to ask? You’d probably like some help, right?

But when the salesperson at the electronic store asks if she can help, what do you typically respond with? “No, I’m just browsing.”

The cat-and-mouse game buyers and salespeople play has created an unproductive, competitive environment that doesn’t benefit either party.

One of the most common culprits? The questions you’re asking your prospects. Luckily, once you know where you’re going wrong, you can course-correct. Stop asking these 15 common questions — or at the least, rephrase them.

15 Dumb Sales Questions to Avoid

1) “What is your budget?” or “What would you like to spend?”

Buyers often rationalize lying to salespeople about their budget because they feel it is the necessary first step in a negotiation. And why do you need to know about budget up front anyway? If the buyer has purchased what you are selling in the past, they will have money to spend. If they have not — how will they know what price is right?

Instead of demanding a budget right off the bat, strive to understand the prospect’s process for buying and their spend tolerance. Simply asking about their buying process for your type of product or service will get you a lot better information than asking specifically about budget.

2) “What’s more important to you, price or quality?”

Shame on you for asking this question. If you beat the competition solely on price, just come out and say it. However if you are not the low-cost provider, you need to build value. Your prospects will naturally associate a given amount of value with “what the product is supposed to cost” so a good salesperson will try to understand that perspective and discuss price from there.

3) “Are you the decision maker?”

This is a bad question because it’s unclear. Are you asking if they’re the decision maker for which vendors move on to the next step in the buying process? Or are you asking if they can they sign off on the proposal? This puts the prospect in an ego predicament. No one wants to feel as if they are just the informer.

Instead, ask the question,“Who is involved in this process?” Even the CEO gets input from others (or at least he or she should). This should reveal all relevant influencers, stakeholders, and the ultimate decision maker.

Salespeople need to identify the decision makers so they can work with these stakeholders throughout the buying process. Too often we leave it to others to sell our products and services to executives because we failed to appropriately engage them.

4) “What’s your biggest pain point?”

You won’t get the answer simply by asking. Most salespeople stop probing for pain once they hear an indicator such as, “If this doesn’t go well, I will get fired.” However, pain is rooted in emotion. In this example, the pain isn’t the potential of getting fired — it’s the emotion associated with getting fired.

Everything we buy is bought emotionally, so unless you know the pain, how can you truly help? Seek to understand the prospect’s underlying emotional need for change.

5) “How good are your products and services?”

This is a legitimate sales question to ask if your product or service promises to improve the prospect’s business results. However, if you pose it in this way, prepare yourself for a biased answer.

How can you get an honest response? Ask questions around how the business is doing from a third-party perspective, or versus the competition. For instance:

  • When you lose, why do you lose?
  • What do your customers say about your products and services?
  • What percentage of your business is referrals?

6) “How strategic are you?”

Ego will not allow your prospect to say “not at all” (even if that’s the truth). On the other hand, if they do show vulnerability, they will likely blame the company or others for it (which shows they are not truly strategic).

Instead of asking this question at all, simply listen to your prospects’ answers to other queries. I guarantee you will discover if they are strategic or not.

7) “Would you like a proposal or quote?”

When you ask this question, you will likely get blown off one of two ways. You will be either be told “I am happy with my current vendor” or “I don’t want to waste your time.”

Another possibility is that the prospect will gladly take your proposal … and use it to price check their current vendor. Your proposal then functions as intel for your competition. Finally, the prospect could request your proposal simply to get you out of their hair.

A proposal should simply be a summary of expectations both parties have already agreed upon. It should only be sent once you have agreed on scope, pricing, timing, etc., and serves as documentation for the work being completed. It does not sell anything in and of itself.

8) “Can I show you our capabilities?” or “Would you like a presentation?”

Show and tell is for your nine-year-old. If you are presenting, you are not selling. You are bragging. Don’t brag.

9) “Is this a good time to chat?”

Do you think your prospects sit in their offices hoping a salesperson calls? There is never time, but people can make time if they want to. This question gives your prospect an easy out. A better way to ask this question is, “Did I catch you at a bad time?”

10) “What level of service are you willing to pay for?”

This question implies that your relationship is only about money, and that’s just not true. Sales is about balancing what the prospect needs with what they want. Your questions should inform you about the prospect’s business so you can discuss appropriate solutions.

Build value, not budgets. If your business offers multiple service levels, ask the relevant questions in order to make a recommendation.

11) “Who is your competition?”

You should do research before you talk to prospects to identify their biggest rivals. Asking this question makes you look like you’re uninformed on their industry and company. Have some ideas about who their competition is, but don’t want to jump to conclusions? Try asking your prospect, “I did some research, and it looks like your biggest competitors are X, Y, and Z. Does that sound right to you?”

This question allows you to verify your findings without losing face or seeming ill-prepared.

12) “What can I do?” or “What will it take to earn your business?”

This sets you up for failure because you are now just an order taker. The prospect tells you in this moment what it will take to get a signed contract … and they will continue to tell you what you have to do for the rest of the relationship. This isn’t exactly the partnership you touted when trying to earn the business. This question also implies that you will take on anyone and are willing to be insincere to close a deal.

Get to know the prospect’s business, their pains, and how you can help. If it makes sense to work together, it will happen. If not, move on.

13) “Who was the best salesperson who ever called on you?”

Who cares? Are you going to be inauthentic and act like someone else to try to earn the business? Would you ask your spouse who was the best person they ever dated? Forgo this question in lieu of more valuable and revealing queries.

14) “What do you dislike about your current vendor?”

The objective here is totally transparent: You’re trying to identify weaknesses in your prospect’s current supplier relationship so you can position yourself as a better alternative. If the buyer says, “Their shipments are frequently late,” you’ll predictably say something along the lines of, “We’re always on time; ask our customers,” or “We move mountains to deliver our goods on the right date.” 

It’s actually less persuasive to present your company’s strengths reactively. The prospect will wonder if you’re only touting that specific detail because you’re trying to amp up their dissatisfaction. Instead, delve into their priorities and needs and position your offering accordingly. Your pitch will feel more genuine.

15) “Can you tell me about your business?”

Unlike questions that dig into your prospect’s needs, objectives, and strategic initiatives, asking them to tell you about their business is solely for your benefit. In addition, posing such a high-level, broad question tells the buyer you haven’t even bothered to browse their company website before the call.

A good sales professional has virtually no cap on earning potential, but it takes more than practice to attain mastery. Top salespeople continuously develop and refine sales skills through learning — with the help of a coach, trainer, manager, or on their own. Don’t you think asking great questions is one of those critical skills?

This post was originally published in August 2015 and has been updated for comprehensiveness and accuracy.

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Source: 15 Dumb Sales Questions Smart Reps Ask
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