The Job Hiring Front is Improving

11 Mar

I believe that job hiring is picking up the pace, based on anecdotal evidence from my LinkedIn account.  I’m getting 2-3 InMails from recruiters a week from LinkedIn and there’s nothing in my profile to suggest that I’m looking for a new job.  I’ve spoken to colleagues and they’re getting the same increased attention from recruiters.  Let’s hope that these data points are true across a wide swath of professionals and lead to an improvement in the economy.

How about you?  How many recruiters are reaching out to you from LinkedIn InMail?

And a small pet peeve.  Why are recruiters sending me invitations to connect as a friend as an enticement to review their job posting?  First, I prefer to connect to people I know.  Second, my colleagues and boss are my LinkedIn connections.  So when they get that LinkedIn update email that says I’m now connected to several recruiters all of a sudden, they’ll all assume I’m looking.

Performance Reviews – Does Anyone Like Them?

26 Jan

Does your company do performance reviews?  Is there anyone out there who likes them?  Most employees like to receive them.  Most managers hate to do them.  And even employees don’t like to do them when it’s the 360 peer review. Regardless of how you feel about performance reviews, if you are a manager at a company that requires them, then they’re just part of the job.

But should they just part of the job?  Are your team members apprehensive when  it’s time for you to deliver your review of them?  Do you think there will be any surprises for them?

Good managers will never surprise a team member with a bad performance review.  Why?  Because communication between manager and team member should be happening throughout the year and not only during an annual performance review.  I don’t like surprises from my salesreps, especially during forecast time, and I know they don’t like surprises like this as well.

If you are not surprising your team during performance reviews, then how are you communicating to them during the year?  Via one-on-one meetings?  Team meetings?  Hallway conversations?  Email?  Ideally, you are communicating (and listening) on a consistent and frequent basis.  Which will make writing and delivering performance reviews easier for you and less stressful for your team.

(photo credit: jokemail)

Entrepreneur Success Story – Why Not You?

23 Dec

This is a great story and inspiration to all that aspire to build their own product and company.  I’ve been following this story since I read about it in the Economist back in October.  2 friends came up with an idea, build it on the cheap using partners to quickly prototype the product and then raised over $100K from angel investors in a few weeks.  It’s now in production to popular reviews and available for purchase on-line.

What do I love about the story?

  • 2 friends with complimentary talents to turn an idea into a product
  • They came up with a great idea that they then EXECUTED on
  • They quickly (and cheaply) built the protype using outside help
  • They used KickStarter to find angel investors via the internet
  • They are selling direct on the internet so cost of sales is low

It’s easy to come up with a good idea.  Well, certainly easier than actually executing on the idea.  So my congratulations to these 2 friends who were able to build and launch a consumer product with minimal resources and in rapid time.

What is it?  It’s a tripod for your iPhone4.  Simple, elegant and handy.

What’s your New Year’s Resolution?  Shouldn’t it be to execute on your idea?

Aspirin vs Vitamins

9 Nov

As a follow-on to my last post about why customers say they’ll buy early-stage solutions but do not, “You love me but you won’t buy”, I read an article in a recent Fast Company that discussed the same issue. Written by Dan and Chip Heath, co-authors of, “Made to Stick”, they discussed the difference between a product considered a vitamin, a nice-to-have – versus an aspirin, a must-have. Some people will pay money for vitamins to stay healthy but everyone will pay for aspirin to cure a headache.

I encourage you to read the article.  Too bad there’s not a recipe for turning your vitamin into an aspirin but they have several examples that can help you brainstorm how to turn your own product into a must-have.

Same old story, “You love me but you won’t buy…”

20 Oct

In two recent meetings with startup executives, the same issue came up.  It was a challenge for us at Inquisix and at many of the startups I’ve talked with.

The issue is that many people SAY they love your idea, your product, your solution and would buy it IF it were only ready.  And of course they tell you to build it, that they have the decision making authority and budget to buy it.  Yes, I’m talking about products sold to businesses but this issue is often true for consumers.

At Inquisix, we had multiple VPs of Sales tell us that they loved the product and could see rolling it out to their sales team.  At an information security company where I was first sales hunter in, the customer literally drooled at the prospect of using our software to monitor employee computer habits.  One the startups I recently met with said that they had paid betas with multiple Fortune 500 accounts.  The other startup had customers saying they loved their medical device and would buy it, all in the first meeting.  And yet each company struggled once the product was delivered.  And why?  Because your prospects, customers, partners and confidents will all encourage you even if they’re not being completely honest with you (and maybe even themselves) on why they won’t (or can’t) ultimately purchase.

At Inquisix, the VPs loved the idea of their reps getting referrals but ultimately struggled with letting them give referrals in return.  At the information security company, the senior execs would not accept a product that screamed, “We don’t trust our employees,” and thus no enterprise purchase.  And the company with the paid betas had trouble getting the betas to move to production because while they solved a problem, it wasn’t a painful problem needing solving right away.  Same with the medical device company as everyone but the patient saw the need for the device but the patient ultimately made the decision to use it or not.

So the challenge is to find a problem that needs solving NOW and is budgeted where your product’s positioning can be changed to be that problem’s solution.  At the information security company, the big pain point for many of the betas was that they had regulatory requirements to monitor applications.  So we positioned the solution to monitor applications, not people.  Thus the senior execs could say that the government required them to do the monitoring and there was a big compliance budget to solve the problem.  The new positioning led to me closing a $1M deal 6 months after the product was released.  At Inquisix, we tuned the product so that companies with business development deals between them could share referrals in a closed system.  We also partnered with in-person networking groups to use Inquisix as their group’s SFA system.  The medical device company is working with companies and organizations that require the patient to use the device or not receive reimbursement for their care.

Then how do you change your positioning?  Often your customers and prospects will tell you what you need to tell them that suddenly makes them open up their wallets.  The challenge is to differentiate between their wishful thinking and what will really make them open their wallets.

Happy Selling!

Michael

We Want To Sell thru Inbound Marketing

14 Oct

I met with a technology startup recently. The founders are entrepreneurs with one successful exit already and are building their next company. They live in Europe but are considering moving their fledgling company to the US because they feel the majority of the customers are found here. When I asked them how they wanted to go to market, they replied, “We want to sell through inbound marketing….because cold calling does not work anymore.”

Leaving aside the thought that I don’t agree that cold calling doesn’t work anymore (me, who’s been writing about referrals all the time!?!), there’s still the discussion of what inbound marketing means and how to do it.

There are a bunch of great books and products out there to help you do inbound marketing. One of the popular ones is from Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah, the co-founders of HubSpot. Their book is “Inbound Marketing” and I recommended the book to these founders. We white-boarded the salient points of the book.

Inbound Marketing:

  • Create remarkable content
  • Optimize content (for search, RSS, social media)
  • Publish content (and not just on your site)
  • Market content thru social media and blogs
  • Measure what’s working and what’s not working

The real hard part here, which made the entrepreneurs look at each other to see who was volunteering, is “create remarkable content.”  Anyone can create content (see, I’m doing it right now) but is the content remarkable?  Remarkable gets found.  Unremarkable gets buried.

Blogs:

  • Visitors come to blogs to learn
  • Write remarkable content and allow guest bloggers
  • Allow content without approving it first
  • Read and comment on other’s blogs and link back to your blog
  • Track what’s working and what’s not

Search:

  • Visitors are looking for content
  • You must consider paid search (pay-per-click) vs organic (free) search
  • Look at your website for what’s searchable (links, tags, inbound links)
  • Most importantly – what’s the trigger event that’s causing your visitors to search for you

Social:

  • Visitors are looking to interact with you and colleagues
  • Top social sites include LinkedIn Answers & Groups, Twitter, YouTube, Digg

So most everything you need to do for inbound marketing can be found in this easy-to-read book.  And the authors’ company helps you measure what’s working and what’s not working.  The challenge remains, “Who’s going to write the remarkable content?”

Starting Up Again

12 Oct

Welcome to my new site for discussions on referral based selling and more. I hope many of you will follow me from the Inquisix blog to this new site despite the long quiet period in between postings.

The goals of this site are:

  • Continue the discussions on referral-based selling
  • Include new topics especially around entrepreneurs and start-ups
  • Interesting articles that I’ve read that I hope you’ll find interesting

All of the articles that I wrote at the Inquisix blog are included at this site.  I’ve also included some of articles written by guest authors, including Joanne Black and Shiera O’Brien, that were so popular at the Inquisix blog.

Happy Selling!

Michael Kreppein

Sharing Your Calendar is Easy and Free

6 Jan

While this post might be better posted in a site like SalesMarks, the ability for me to post my calendar online for others to share has been so beneficial that I want to share it with the Inquisix community. I coordinate my calendar with many other people (colleagues, partners, friends and family) and most of them are not Inquisix employees, thus I can’t share my Outlook calendar thru Exchange. By using Google Calendar, however, I have an easy and free way to share my calendar with those I need to, regardless of who they work for or what systems they’re using. It’s especially nice because it’s free for all parties. All you need is a Google mail account. They don’t need their own Google email or calendar, just a browser.  Coordinating meetings and events has never been easier!

There are 3 easy steps – create your Google calendar, sync it with Outlook and give your colleagues the link to your calendar.

Step 1: Create

  • Sign onto your Google mail account
  • Click on the “calendar” link at the top of the page
  • Create your Google calendar by filling out the information and clicking “continue”

Step 2: Sync

  • Once the calendar is created, click “sync” at the top left of the page
  • Follow the instructions to sync with Microsoft Outlook
  • This will download a small application to your desktop that will automatically sync Outlook to your Google Calendar.
  • Select your sync option – either 2-way or 1-way from Outlook to Google Calendar. If you want read-only permissions to your Google calendar than it’s best to chose the 1-way option

Step 3: Share

  • In the calendar list on the left, click the down-arrow next to a calendar and select Calendar settings. (Alternatively, click Settings at the bottom of the calendar list, then click the name of the appropriate calendar.)
  • In the Calendar Address section, click the HTML icon. You’ll see a pop-up window with your calendar’s URL.
  • Share this URL with your colleagues, partners, friends & family who don’t use Google Calendar.

The Power of Business Networking

31 Dec

As our final blog post of 2009, we are featuring Inquisix member Shiera O’Brien‘s article on The Power of Business Networking.

Best wishes for a wonderful, healthy and prosperous 2010!

In the early 90s, a film called Six Degrees of Separation built its story around the idea that we are all separated by six degrees from everybody else on the whole planet. Everybody is an open door into another world and knows the people you are looking to meet or companies you want to work with. Everybody is connected on this planet by a trail of only six people, whether you are famous or not. If you find the right people to make the connection with, distance vanishes and the right opportunities will come your way.

In thinking about this I decided to look on YouTube to remind myself of the key ideas in this film and whether it really does have any relevance to our business life today. To my surprise and delight, I found a documentary on scientists who have studied and written an algorithm to prove this network theory, which they worked on for years. It shows that nature has this hidden blueprint and structure that connects us all. The scientists mapped it out and tested it on people by taking parcels across the world and asking 27 people to only use their social networks to get the package to a person on the other side of the world. It was amazing how quickly the parcels moved closer to the addressee, who was a scientist working at Harvard University in Boston.

This is an idea worth experimenting with in our daily business lives. I apply it in my own business strategy by making my business networks help with word-of-mouth marketing and create the connections and opportunities I seek with particular companies. There is no better example of the power of networks than the latest Web 2.0 social media networks. If you test the theory within your own social circle, you will find very quickly that people have connections that can open doors for you. Many of your connections within your business circle either know each other or have a contact into a client or employer that you may be looking to meet.

Looking at our own economy and applying this to our client-building strategy or job search, makes me think that the traditional ways of building businesses and finding jobs is far too slow. In this day and age, you need to be tapping into your personal, social and professional networks, if you want to get faster results. Systematically searching for the right people through your networks, using a plan, will yield faster results every time than a traditional approach of throwing out a blanket of hopeful letters and calls. In human nature, people will always respond faster to people they know than to strangers.

You may be asking yourself, “How is that in any way relevant to me?” If you are looking grow your practice or find new opportunities, it is very relevant. My suggestion to you is to take it out and test the theory yourself.

Here are six steps to help you in your own Six Degrees experiment:

Step 1: Connect into the network hub

The scientists tell us that in every network there is a traceable hub, where the core activity takes place. It is the place where people gather and take information about you back into their world. Even more interesting is that within each hub, you will find the “human hub”, the person with the highest degree of influence and connectivity. They are important people to know and start building relationships with. What they do for a living is irrelevant, their social currency is what you really want to tap into! Identify this person within your networks. This includes your family and friend networks, professional networks, membership organisations, and most importantly your on-line networks. Ask yourself, “Who are the people gathering around me with the most influential links?” Make sure you set up your social media accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook, Inquisix and Twitter) to build your on-line treasure chest.

Step 2: Have a networking plan

Key to getting the results you want is deciding or naming the companies and roles of people you wish to meet through your network, whether at networking events or through your on-line contacts. Then identify a very good reason why they would want to meet you. Human nature is designed to act principally from self-interest, which is driven by the reptilian part of our brains. So people will always unconsciously ask “What’s in this for me?” Give your network and potential contacts a worthwhile reason to want to meet you. Perhaps it’s to share some information, opportunities, save them money or help them use your networks.

Following on from that, it is important to have something to share about you that’s of value to them, and sets you apart. Direct them to your website, literature, testimonials or information that you think they would benefit from. Ask them to do you a favour. Most people like doing favours for others and help their own business contacts. It helps cement relationships.

Step 3: Authenticity at networking events

There is no end of opportunities to attend networking events as we go into the autumn. Networking is not just about getting into a room to break the world record for the largest business card collection. Nor is it a popularity contest on social media. The most valuable asset you can bring to a networking event is your authentic self. Be real, be present, engage and listen to people as you would if you were at a social gathering. And avoid talking about yourself all the time. Ask great questions. They don’t have to be about business. Get to know people, because relationships are built on this. Even if you only meet 3-4 quality contacts and have agreement to follow up and meet, you will have done a great job. Set a goal of having at least 2 meetings come out of a networking event.

Step 4: The Follow-Up

The downfall of people’s networking strategy is either poor follow-up, no follow-up or the full- blown sales pitch in an email. Think of your follow-up as a “getting-to-know-you” phase of your relationship. It must happen within 24 hours to reinforce the connection you made. Acknowledge the meeting, the event and create the invitation to connect on LinkedIn, Inquisix or Twitter. You will need to explore which of these ones suits your business needs. And ignoring emails is a poor reflection on your business, so avoid it at all costs. Arrange a follow-up meeting, even if it’s for a coffee to learn more about each other’s business, in anticipation of opportunities down the line. This is always a great starting point.

Step 5: The Power of Reciprocity

Give without expecting something back demonstrates how powerful reciprocity can be. If you see an opportunity to share some information or introduce a contact to your contacts, “Just Do It.” This is building some credit for reciprocal behaviour from others in the future. I saw this recently when I did a favour for a business contact. In return, an out of the blue opportunity came my way through the person I did the favour for. I was the first person that came to mind. This is the power of reciprocity.

Step 6: Build it and they will come

People often give up before they reach the momentum that makes them a network hub in their own right. They are inconsistent or dismiss people as not being of value. I suggest a rule of thumb is to treat everybody you meet like your clients, even your “so-called” competition, as they may be a vital link for a joint venture in the future.

It’s far too easy to assume people in your network as not worth knowing, because they wouldn’t understand your business of have the right kind of contacts. The business people I have met are very intelligent so give them your time! And don’t be a dabbler by attending networking events, gathering cards, connecting on social media sites and then abandon ship. Use your 20:20 vision. See the value in everybody you meet as a chain in your network and a part of your most valuable asset: your contact database.

To truly understand the power of networking, read The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, who writes brilliantly about Connectors, Mavens and Salespeople. These are the people turning their businesses around, making money and finding great jobs, when the masses are doing things the old way. Be a pioneer in your business or profession and tap in that that rich reservoir. Your best client or the perfect job is only six handshakes away.

Biography
About Shiera O’Brien: Shiera is an expert in sales optimisation. She specialises in consulting and training companies in sales and communication strategies to their clients. She offers training and coaching on business networking, communication skills, presenting and selling excellence. Contact her in Ireland on (086) 399-6601 or shiera@zenithtraining.ie Visit www.zenithtraining.ie for more information.

Fiscal Year = Calendar Year is a BAD idea

23 Dec

It’s the time of year when everyone’s getting ready for the holidays – cleaning the house, wrapping presents, bringing out the decorations, sending & receiving holiday cards. It’s a time to be with family and good friends reflecting on the past year and thinking about improving ourselves for next year.

And yet many of us also find that this is the most stressful time of year. Yes, retail employees and shipping clerks are swamped. Consumers are rushing to get last minute presents. But I’m thinking of all the business salespeople and their counterparts in purchasing that are just stressed out because their fiscal year end coincides with the end of the calendar year. As a sales person, I thrive on the high-stakes actions of winning and keeping customers. But when those actions often culminate in an end-of-year battle of budgets and competition that conflict with holiday time with family and friends? Not so wonderful. Wouldn’t it be nice to work for a company or sell to a customer who’s fiscal year doesn’t end on 31 December?

I’ve spoken to a few contracts officers this week and we all lament the same thing, that it’s really too bad we’re working on end-of-year deals when we really want to enjoy the holidays with our friends and family instead of being co-workers and vendors.

So in the spirit of balancing work with family in equal measures, we at Inquisix want to wish you all a wonderful and relaxing holiday time with those closest to you.

Bonne fete

Happy Holidays!