Converting Sales

February 20th, 2007

Ian Landsman brewed up an awesome post on 10 ways to convert customers into sales. I have been following Ian’s blog and the launch of HelpSpot since the beginning, and I always enjoy reading about entrepreneurs and the lessons they learn. Ian talks, in particular, about how some key actions on a company’s part can dramatically increase upsell and cross sell opportunities. I have found these same “rules” to apply to my business as well.

I have also found some of Ian’s rules to be our best drivers of new business, or as most people call it, sales. Here are a few of the rules Ian mentions in his post that have not only had a positive effect on current customers, in terms of upselling and cross-selling, but also are directly attributable to driving sales as well.

Respond Fast

I just can’t say enough about this. Its so simple, when people inquire about your product, service or brand, the quicker you respond, the more likely they are to buy from you. I have tested this out extensively over the past 6 years, and hands down everytime a member of my company touches a prospect within the first 30-60 min of them reaching out to us, our close rate shoots through the roof. Simple stuff, respond fast, and you will see your sales increase fast.

Always be the last response

As Ian states, “It only takes a few seconds to respond back” and wow, what a difference that last touch can make. It says, “I am all over it, just let me know what you need and I am here, present and accounted for.” Who wouldn’t want to deal with a company that had that kind of customer response and service? Enough said.

Avoid overly prepared responses

Canned responses to sales inquiries SUCK. No one wants to be communicated to like they are a robot. There is nothing wrong with having “canned” templates of information, but please, take a few minutes and customize it just a bit based on whatever information you know about the person. Did you have a conversation with them? Then reference it. Give your communications some personality, people want to be treated like real people.

Know who you’re dealing with and respond accordingly

I have seen several examples of how things differ when you are selling at the CEO level vs. the manager or director level. Totally different game folks. Know your audience for sure. A CEO generally wants to hear the hard core facts, and the bottom line value add that using your product or service will bring to their organization, vs. the Marketing Manager who may want the entire history of your company, 10 references, and 2-3 demos of your application before buying. Knowing your audience and responding to them accordingly is key.

All good stuff. Thanks again to Ian for the insight. Happy selling and customer serving :-)

Tags: ianlandsman, helpspot, userscape, sales, customerservice, business, conversion, support, customerresponse, prospects,

Michael Geoghegan on ROI Radio

February 19th, 2007

This weeks episode of ROI Radio features a chat with Michael Geoghegan, Co-Founder / CEO of Gigavox Media. Michael and I had a chance to sit down at last weeks Podcast Academy between sessions and catch up on all of the latest and greatest. We talk about IT Conversations, the first and still the largest podcast network online today. We also discuss the evolution of Gigavox Media, and the upcoming release of Gigavox Audio Lite, a new podcasting work flow and management system.

The features of Gigavox Audio Lite are extremely helpful for anyone who is producing a podcast or a series or a network of podcasts. Outside of the show assembly workflow, the section of the app thats really sexy to me is the ad campaign manager. Michael and I talk a lot about how publishers can execute an ad or sponsorship campaign on behalf of an advertiser, and with a click of the button deploy that spot to an episode that was published a year ago. This requires no updating of that original file. Simply put, thats huge. Think about it, publishers will be able to monetize not only their current content, but also their historic and archived content. Good stuff.

Also discussed is the upcoming Podcast Academy book that I am participating in writing along with a great cast of folks. There will be MUCH more on that very shortly. Check out the show for the full conversation.

Download the direct mp3 here. Subscribe to the RSS feed here. Subscribe via iTunes here.

Tags: podcastacademyv, podcastacademy, podcasting, gigavox, dukeuniversity, advertising, marketing, sponsorship, itconversations, michaelgeoghegan, gigavoxmedia, , technology,

The Podcasters at Tylers

February 18th, 2007


Originally uploaded by Michael_G.

Great crew this past week in Durham, NC. Here we are at Tyler’s Taproom enjoying some very fine adult beverages. Clockwise starting from the front left is Noah Bonnett, Ryan Irelan, Tim Bourquin, Randall Northcraft, Kris Smith and myself. Michael Geoghegan was taking the shot. Great seeing everyone.

Podcast Academy V: Duke University

February 14th, 2007

We are having a good time down here in Durham, NC at Podcast Academy V at Duke University. The folks down here at Duke are VERY much pioneering the shifting media landscape and on the edge of using podcasting as a medium in the academic environment. They definitely have the required “champions” to move their initiative forward. I had a chance to learn a alot about Duke’s Digital Initiative, DukeCast and their use of the Lectopia system. I highlighted them in my presentation this afternoon after learning how they implemented the program on campus, how well its adopted by the student population, how its used, and how its measured. Good stuff.

Tags: podcastacademyv, podcastacademy, podcasting, gigavox, dukeuniversity,

New ROI Radio: Tim Barton, Blue Sky Factory, Inc

February 13th, 2007

I just posted (a day late) the latest ROI Radio Podcast. This week, our very own Tim Barton, the VP of Business Development from Blue Sky Factory, Inc joins me in the studio for a conversation. A little bit of a change of pace this time, and I must say after months of call-in interviews, it was great to have Tim in the studio sitting across the table.

Tim and I talk about lead generation, follow up communications, how to nurture leads along the buying cycle and keep your brand top of mind. We discuss several strategies that have been successful for not only us at Blue Sky Factory, but also for our clients. Check out the show.

Download the direct mp3 here. Subscribe to the RSS feed here. Subscribe via iTunes here.

Tags: roiradio, timbarton, emailmarketing, onlinemarketing, leadgeneration, blueskyfactory, relevant, communication

ROI Radio: Owen Hannay, Slingshot

February 5th, 2007

This weeks ROI Radio is up. We got a little distracted last night with the Super Bowl :-) This week I talk with Owen Hannay, President & CEO of Slingshot, an agency based in Dallas, TX. Slingshot sports a great domain , and does incredible work for Jack Daniels, Greyhound and Woodford Reserve, (a delicious bourbon that Ned Bryant from Slingshot introduced me to the last time I was in Dallas) among many other great clients.

Owen and I have an interesting conversation around the future of the ad agency and the need to embrace what he calls the “Multi-dexterous Creative Generation.” A new breed of creative super stars that are shaping the future of the media plan with multi-disciplinary approaches, and out of the box thinking. We discuss Owen’s five rules to attract, develop and retain this new generation of creatives. Check it out.

Download the direct mp3 here. Subscribe to the RSS feed here. Subscribe via iTunes here.

Tags: roiradio, slingshot, owenhannay, marketing, advertising, creative, multidexterous, creativedirector, design, onlinemarketing

How Not To Sell

February 3rd, 2007

As a business owner, I am always “selling.” Selling our product, our services, our company, our brand. It is a skill that no one ever trained me on, and something that I never attended a class or a seminar on, etc.. Selling is something that I have been able to establish a knack for on my own. I also, if I may, happen to think I am pretty decent at it. I have closed large deals, small deals and all kinds of deals in between. Selling can be very rewarding. The best part is, I’m not really a salesman. If I sell anything, I sell trust, education and a genuine interest and relationship. For me, that approach leads to business. I don’t claim to be any expert in sales, but I find that a consultative, educational, relational sales approach is much more effective then the bulldog, aggressive “buy my service now, you need it!” approach.

That said, this week I received one of the most annoying, unpractical, and lamest sales pitches ever. The pitch was so bad that, in hindsight I realized the sales rep never even told me the name of the company he was with. My only recollection was that he worked for an organization that puts vendors like us in front of fortune 2000 CMO’s (Chief Marketing Officers). They put on those events where they invite the CMO’s for free and charge vendors a fee to get guaranteed face time and a set number of meetings. Granted, this is a great market, and definitely the audience we would love to talk to about our products and services, so I was at least a little curious. Being a cold call, the sales rep got me 15 minutes before I had a deadline I was working on. Before I was about to tell him that I wanted to hear more but to please ring me later, he persisted with the usual “leading questions” and then immediately created the “sense of urgency” based on the fact that I didn’t give him the automatic, “I am not interested, goodbye” response, which normally accompanies a cold call. He immediately began working the, “I have to rope you in NOW while I have you on the phone and have your attention,” vibe. Most of you know exactly what I am talking about.

So, I play along for another 2 minutes to learn more after having already told him upfront that my marketing dollars are already budgeted for 2007 on things I know work for us. This idiot then tells me that he has been trying to get in touch with me all week to no avail, (I never received one voice mail or a message from my staff), and is very apologetic about the fact that right now, email marketing vendors are extremely hot on the list for the CMO attendees, and the slot for the participating vendor must be filled by 4pm Friday (he called me on Thursday). But here is the kicker, Mr. On the Ball then proceeds to roll off of his tounge that the price tag for participation in his event is a mere $66,000.00. He says it in the tone that makes me think the next thing out of his mouth will be, “So, Mr. Cangialosi, are you ready to make a purchasing decision today?” Are you fucking kidding me?

I was very polite and told him that it wasn’t going to happen, but that I appreciated the opportunity. I also gave him my email address and told him to send me more information and that I would be happy to read up on his organization, the events they put on, and consider him for the future. Then I received the “Well how much would something like this be worth to you?” question, and I got really turned off. I gently reminded him that I was on a deadline and to please send me info, I had to go. Remember, at this point Mr. Circling the Drain is lucky to still have me on the line. This far into the conversation, and after asking him, I still have no idea what company he is with, what the name of the event is that he is pitching me, what date(s) or location it will take place, and more importantly who is coming, etc.. Yet, he had the balls to roll out the $66,000.00 price tag associated with it and asked me if I was interested in moving forward. That, in case you haven’t picked up by now, is simply a HORRIBLE sales approach.

But wait, there’s more….

At this point, I have already told him, in the world of sales that, “I will NOT be PLACING an ORDER with YOU,” as loud and as clear as I could. There was no sale taking place here, but I did say with 100% clarity, “please add me to your prospect list, I am interested in what you have to offer, just not this time around.” I told him again to send me some info, i.e the website of the event(s) so I can learn more about what they do. He stated he couldn’t do that because the site required a user/pass to access it. Somehow, he was unable to email that to me, for whatever lame reason. That said, I had some time between calls in the afternoon and told him no promises at all, but to try me back after lunch and he can walk me through their site. I was really trying to work with the guy after having already been 80% turned off. But, in all honesty, I did want to know more about his event and what his company does.

He called back after lunch, I was busy at the time, so I ended the call with a VERY specific statement and said “I am sorry I can’t do the walk-through now, try me in an hour, but when you do call back just dial my extension and if I don’t answer leave a message or try again later, worst case try me tomorrow.” I then went on to clarify that he should not “zero out” and try to get in touch with any of my staff and have them go look for me to take the call, but again just to try my extension or leave a message. (I should have known by now, just by listening to the words that were coming out of my mouth what I should of expected.) So it will come as no surprise that while I was spending my only 15 minutes of downtime in the afternoon, that one of my staff members came in to tell me there was “an urgent call for me,” and it was “someone that you are expecting to hear from right now.” Now my friend, you have crossed the point of no return. I no longer care who you are, who your with, what you have to offer, you are now officially just an annoying sales rep who is now blacklisted in my world. After catching me on a good day, and being extremely patient with him, giving him the opportunity to sell me on his organization, he blew it by not respecting my simple request. In his mind he must have still thought there was a chance that I would buy into his current event and 4pm Friday deadline BS line.

I picked up the line from the conference room and immediately Mr. Desperate to Make My Quota asks me how I am doing. I remind him of what I specifically told him earlier, tell him I am not available, and hung up the phone on him. I was done. He got the point and didn’t call back.

The lesson in all of this is simple, don’t take this approach if you are trying to sell ANYTHING. Think about how disconnected from reality this guy was. He is trying to sell me what in his world is a $66,000.00 opportunity almost on the spot! Granted if you walk away from one deal with a Fortune 2000 CMO you probably would get a great ROI, that is obviously not the point. He should have called me months before the deadline, i.e. last fall, established a repore with me, learned how I prefer to be sold to (everyone has their own preference), and then proceed to sell me on his event, answer all of my questions, garnish me with references, and make a compelling case for why I should set aside some of my 2007 marketing budget for his opportunity. He did none of the above.

Again, I don’t claim to be any expert in sales, but I do have what most of us call common sense. People don’t like to be cold called in general, that said, it can be effective for specific markets. If you do happen to get someone on the phone (whether its a cold call, a referral or a inbound lead), don’t be aggressive, listen to your prospect, honor their requests, build a repore, establish some kind of relationship with them. People have to feel comfortable with YOU before they buy anything from you or your organization. Most sales start with YOU, the person, the individual. And by all means, don’t EVER try to sell $66,000.00 worth of ANYTHING to someone over the phone and tell the person that they have less than 24 hours to make a decision :-)

Tags: business, entrepreneurship, selling, marketing, businessdevelopment, sales, pitch, lameness,

Queso Compuesto TV Launches

January 30th, 2007

My good buddy Giovanni Gallucci just launched his new video podcast dubbed Queso Compuesto TV. Gio posted his first show this week which features a bunch of interviews from industry leaders at the recent Search Engine Watch LIVE in Dallas, TX. Gio has been producing the Queso Compuesto audio podcast for a while. It’s great to see him extend it to video format. All good stuff.

Check out Gio’s original Techs-Mex Video Podcasting goodness. I think his quick blurb sums it all up:

Tender beef fajitas, technology, guacamole, marketing, jalapeños, social media and pico de gallo in a warm cheese sauce.

Look out for some great shows from Giovanni. Nice job bro!

Subscribe to the RSS feed here. Subscribe via iTunes here.

Tags: giovannigallucci, quesocompuestotv, quesocompuesto, theagencyblog, video, vodcast, podcasting,

ROI Radio: Matt Blumberg, Return Path

January 29th, 2007

This weeks ROI Radio is posted. I actually posted it last night. I decided to start posting them on Sunday nights so the shows are available first thing Monday morning. This week features a conversation with Matt Blumberg, President & CEO of Return Path. Matt and I have a good conversation around Return Paths products and services, all of which increase email reach and response. Blue Sky Factory is a client of Return Path’s and we absolutely love what they do. Matt’s team has invested heavily in some of the best email deliverability monitoring tools available today.

On the podcast Matt and I discuss services such as Sender Score Certified, Email Change of Address, Authentic Response, and even get a chance to discuss RSS. Matt is also on the board of directors of Feedburner.

Matt also writes a great blog called “Only Once” about his entrepreneurial experiences as a first time CEO, and other topics.

Check out the direct download here. Subscribe with iTunes here.

Happy listening, and it goes without saying, feel free to send feedback, drop a comment or tell a friend if you enjoy the show.

Tags: mattblumberg, roiradio, returnpath, ecoa, authenticresponse, feedburner, rss, emailmarketing, email, podcasting, technology,

Taking the Plunge: A Perspective On Entrepreneurship

January 28th, 2007

So you have made up your mind on becoming an entrepreneur - your going for it. You have your idea, your concept and you are ready to give it your all to try and make it work for you. I know this feeling and I know it well. For the purpose of the post, lets go back in time for a minute, and let me recap how I know this feeling, this anxiety, this fear… yes lets say it, its scary starting your own business. This is particularly scary if you have been in the traditional / conventional workplace, ie. an employee your whole life, and even more nerve racking if you have a family to support. I realize that start up dynamics, and the related pressures can be very different for everyone depending on your situation.

Starting a company, truly does just take going for it. My wife and I have both gone for it, we both have started our own businesses, and we have been running our own companies for MANY years. My wife is on her fifth business and about to embark on her biggest venture to date, and I myself am on my fourth business. I took the leap right out of the university. I said, “I am going for it,” and that I did, in a crazy industry with absolutely zero capital and very minimal experience.

I started a concert and event production company that I ran for 3 years, followed by a food vending business that toured concerts, festivals, and events of all sorts around the country, then moved into the technology arena with a small web development business, and finally, in 2001 I started Blue Sky Factory. Every venture I experienced prior to Blue Sky Factory taught me things that are invaluable to our success today.

So for me, entrepreneurship has truly always been my way of life. I honestly really don’t know anything else other than working for myself, except for the one year stint I took at a tech startup in the year 2000. That experience came and went, and it truly was an incredible learning opportunity, but after 12 months I went right back to entrepreneurship.

All that said, here are, in no particular order, a few things that I hope may help those of you who are considering or have decided to start your own venture. These are a few of my guiding principles of entrepreneurship:

- Don’t Let ANYONE Tell You That You CAN’T Do Something

Optimism runs through the blood of almost every entrepreneur I know. You must believe that if you can see it, you can do it. It’s that simple. With that, I highly recommend staying away from individuals or energy that take anything away from that knowledge and belief. You are capable of everything you need to do to be successful. Dream your dream, crystalize your vision, will it to happen, then make it happen. Always know it is up to you.

I remember vividly when my high school guidance counselor, Mr. Dick Largey, told me to my face in 10th grade that I should start planning for some kind of a vocational school, because I didn’t quite fit the mold of someone who would ever be able to make it through college, and that I should settle for some kind of trade training….

So I made sure I sent good ole Dick an invitation to my graduation commencement ceremony for my successful completion of a B.A in English Literature from UMBC. He didn’t show up.

Can you imagine what it would be like if you went through your life listening to what all of the Dick Largey’s of the world had to say to you….?

- Get Out and Sell Something

Two words, “Do it.” If you can’t do it then find someone who can. It is imperative to the success of your venture to understand your own strengths and weaknesses. If your not the front line person, the relationship developer, the product or service pitchman, then get one and get one fast. Remember the saying from Mark Cuban, “Sales solves everything.” It really does.

You need to be, or someone on your team needs to be continuously developing business. Building the pipeline and closing deals. Yes, ABC, Always Be Closing. Coffee, IS for closers :-) The more people you have doing this the better, and yes its easier said then done. Once you have “cash flow” you can begin to build your business.

I remember when we started Blue Sky, we had what amounted to be just enough of an application to effectively deliver and track email campaigns, but it was nothing you wanted to show to ANYONE. That said, I went out and hustled until I finally got a couple of ad agencies to let us be there outsourced email vendor. From that initial momentum in sales we began to build the business.

- Hire Rock Stars Only: Others Need Not Apply

That is a true statement. Anything less and your business will suffer. When you build your business or start your business with a partner or a group of partners, choose rock star type individuals. You want to be sure to surround yourself with the best people. Smart, creative, self motivators, people that think and act like owners of a company, whether they are your partners or they work for you. Rock stars shine with a certain radiance.

I remember having some people on my team over the years that were levels below rock star status. This can happen for many reasons, and I have experienced a few first hand. In one case there was an employee who suffered from an overall lack of motivation or initiative to do real work. They came in with a good game, but when the rubber hit the road there was no gas in the car. When thats the case, especially in a small work environment, the situation will certainly come to a head.

In another case, I simply had the wrong person in the wrong job. Unfortunately, it was also a customer facing position. It did a considerable amount of damage with some of our clients over time. As the employee got more and more disgruntled, they refused to acknowledge their behavior, and the options I had made available to them for changing roles within the company. I take full responsibility for letting it go for as long as it did, but eventually I let them go.

These are distractions, and a waste of energy. Bring on the best folks you can. Hire rock stars only.

- Don’t Ever Give Up, Stay The Course

It has been said that entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart. You must be a patient and resilient individual. No matter what kind of business you start, every venture will have its ebbs and flows. Be patient and stay the course, times can definitely get tough, especially if you are bootstrapping or working with limited capital. It can be particularly rough in the beginning for people when they are trying to establish themselves, locking in those first few customers, and getting money to hit the bank. Don’t be discouraged, if you are determined it will come.

For people who go out and raise VC money or take seed capital, the pressures can be different. Usually because the pressures are not only coming from yourself to make things work, but you also have your investors who are watching carefully and waiting for things to happen.

I remember the first year to 18 months of Blue Sky, we didn’t raise any money, so I was out hustling to get our name out there and looking for the first few brave souls who would give my little start up a chance. Sales were slow, and money was extremely tight. At one point my partner at the time, wanted to throw the in the towel and call it a day. We supported each other through those tough early times, got through it, and stayed the course. Don’t give up.

The above four guiding principles have helped me along the way in my entrepreneurial journey. I think about each of them often and they apply to business every single day. You must always believe in yourself and your vision, you must cultivate and attract a rock star quality team, you have to always be selling your product, service or brand, and you must never ever give up.

I hope these words have been helpful or insightful to some of you. Best of luck.

Tags: business, entrepreneurship, entrepreneur, startup, principles, advice, blueskyfactory, hiring, recruitment, sales, businessdevelopment, marketing, investment, guidancecounselors, venturecapital, serialentrepreneur