4 Sales Tips from a Non-Sales Woman

ConfessionsSince the inception of this blog, I’ve committed to telling the truth: Confessing the good, the bad and the ugly with regards to getting our software out to the masses! This post is no exception. There’s so many sales videos and books out there that I could have easily compiled a list of sales “to do’s” and called it a day. Instead, if you’re in sales (and we ALL are in one way or another), the ideas I’ve put together in the points below are meant to reinvigorate your passion and your creativity when in the often wildly difficult sales cycle. 

First, however, you need to understand why you would even consider wasting your time learning from an amateur sales person like me. Here goes: When you run a startup, you wear EVERY single hat. You don’t have the luxury of focusing on one aspect of the company or delegating what you don’t like or don’t have time to complete yourself. You deal with the complaints. You solve the problems. You work late. You make mistakes. You learn and you get savvy.  A friend of mine told me that I couldn’t pay for the education I’m getting right now. For her early insight, I say “Thank you, Michelle!” because this comment lit a fire in my belly! Truth? From the individual who has to understand and know the financials to the person who decides which enhancement to our product is our current priority, it’s all up to me. Of course, our founder, Sheri Tomchick, is there every step of the way as my go to sounding board, as is the team behind our sister company, Plan A. But, at the end of the day, I have the reins and I’ve been told repeatedly, “You ARE StaffStat”! Operations are something I was comfortable with coming in to this opportunity. My stumbling block has always been and admittedly so: sales. I get it: Without sales, we aren’t viable. We could have sat idly by, perfecting our product, working out it’s every angle and watched as competitors inched their way in and passed us by. That was simply not an option. While I still have MUCH to learn, the following is what I’ve come to know over the last 19 months with regards to learning and navigating sales:

  1. You have to love your product! There’s this thing that happens when you love what you’re selling. You can convince anyone because YOU yourself are genuinely convinced that it’s the best thing since sliced pie (I prefer pie to bread). If you don’t absolutely love what you’re selling… Find another job. You can’t convince anyone if you’re not sold yourself. The following is not me trying to sell my product via our blog, it’s a fact: I love StaffStat! I live and breathe it every day. It’s genius and I wear the pride I feel for it obviously and truly. My prospects know I love it because when I talk about it, my genuine enthusiasm is infectious. I’ve given over a thousand demos and while I’m more confident on my delivery, the passion I feel for our product is as vibrant now as it was during my first presentation. When you love what you sell, people feel it. When they feel it, they get excited and something magical happens: a sale. They believe in you because you believe in your product. They’re excited because you’re excited. They buy because the person selling is honest when explaining how this product is going to better their lives AND means every single word. If you want to be successful at sales, believe in the product you’re selling and good things are bound to happen.
  2. Ask current customers for one lead! My worst fear has always been to be the “sleazy saleswoman”. However, I’ve watched countless videos and read a ridiculous amount of books on the topic of sales. One reoccurring theme is: Ask your current customers for a lead. Throwing caution to the wind, I did just that, 2 weeks ago. Do you know what happened? EVERY single customer I have sent me an email back! One customer sent me a list of 12 leads, told me to name drop and mentioned an event I should look into attending or sponsoring; all because I did one thing… I asked! The thought process in our little open concept office has been influenced to understand the following: “If you don’t ask, the answer will ALWAYS be no”. Bite the bullet and ask for favors. After all, if they love your product the way you do, they’re likely already singing your praises. You’re just asking that they drive that point home to other potential customers. What’s the worst thing that could happen? They could ignore your voicemail or your email and if you’re in sales, that’s an every day occurrence anyway!
  3. Take advantage of every opportunity. You hear it all the time: Selling is all about relationships. We JUST got back from a conference and the obviousness of our capacity for relationship building was relevant and helpful! Our current customers were sales people pitching our product for us and driving traffic to our booth. Fellow exhibitors openly provided us with contacts and leads to land new discussions or further current ones. We’ve acquired an impressive list of the who’s who in healthcare and when we walk into a room, it’s with purpose. There is no way that our company is willing to lay down +$10,000 for individuals to hang out behind the booth. I cringe when I walk the floor at a conference and see exhibitors playing Candy Crush on their phones. Reviewing our CRM stats, we sometimes have to call prospects up to 10 times before landing a demo. Tradeshows are our opportunity to provide +100 demos to key decision makers IN our industry and either start that sales conversation or get it going all over again because NOW they get to see it! There’s not a second to waste. Introductions, take them seriously. Demos on site, view them as your opportunity to close a sale, not start one. Build relationships and value them because you never know who your next customer, mentor or partnership could be.
  4. Speaking of mentors… Find one! I’ve got a few. Some of these individuals are experienced sales people and some are simply smart individuals that have natural insight. Having a mentor to guide you can help you in four significant ways you might never have imagined on your journey to greatness. Why should you bother finding a mentor?

Share experiences. Most of the situations you come across in your sales career – even the toughest and most frustrating ones – aren’t truly unique. A good mentor can tell you how they handled a similar challenge and turned it into an opportunity, or what they learned from the experience. You can take the shortcut to success thanks to your mentor.

Express a different perspective. Each of us has blind spots in our own performance and execution, strengths and weaknesses of which we may not be fully aware. An experienced mentor can help you to recognize and overcome them in a constructive way. This applies on both a tactical and strategic level. Often a mentor can help you find “the big picture view” of yourself and your career, leading you to the questions and insights that result in significant new directions.

Provide encouragement and advice. Many of your professional relationships, especially with managers and supervisors, revolve around the company’s interests, not your own. A mentor has your interests at heart and can help you propel your career forward. One who has been successful in his or her own sales career will provide encouragement and advice that fits you.

Challenge you. Many salespeople think of a mentoring relationship as one that revolves around sage advice, and little more. Certainly, that’s an important part of the mix, but a great mentor won’t just tell you what he or she knows. He or she will push you to get more out of yourself. That’s because your mentor sees your strengths as well as your shortcomings, and will expect you to make the very most of all your talents. In other words, they’re going to be the ones who help you to never settle for “good enough.”

If you’re an experienced sales person, I can only hope that the above has re-inspired you to get out there and sell with passion. If you’re new to this whole selling thing, take it from me, you’ll learn to become the type of sales person you’re meant to be. Now… Stop reading and pick up the phone 😉

melblog

Add GIFs to Your Social Media Marketing!

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GIFs; you’ve definitely seen them before! They are the animations popular websites like BuzzFeed and Reddit use. If you want to be very specific…GIF stands for Graphics Interchange Format, and you’ve probably noticed the file extension .gif if you’ve ever downloaded these types of images from the web. GIF animations are created by combining several single images or frames into a single frame to play a looping animated clip, or what others refer to as a short video.

GIFs can be used on social media websites as a reply or comment in conversations, as a form of advertising by businesses, a method of giving a 360 degree product view, a way to solidify your message in blogs, or even to add personality to your company’s brand.

Try it yourself! Add these little clips to your social media postings as a conversation piece, to your blogs to spice things up a bit, or in comments to customers when appropriate! The general census is that people LOVE visuals, especially funny ones!

Below are 4 websites where you can find GIFs to add to your social media efforts:

  1. GIFs From Last Night: This website features a collection of pop culture GIFs, ranging from television shows to clips from popular news stories. These GIFs could make a great conversation starter on social media, or can be implemented into your next blog!                            tumblr_my5z44UekP1rwzsbso1_500.gif
  2. GIPHY: This website is easily the largest GIF database, featuring millions of GIFs for your perusal. The search function allows you to search using any hashtag for whatever your reaction or mood might be, and their social media buttons and IFRAME links allow you to easily embed any GIF into your Tweets, Facebook posts, blogs, and websites in seconds.                                       200.gif
  3. Reaction GIFs: A very user-friendly database filled with GIFs to complement any mood or feeling you may be having! Simply search by a feeling, such as “excited” and thousands of GIFS will pop up for you to choose from. This website is great for using in comments or replies on social media. kerm.gif
  4. Reddit: Reddit is a source featuring what’s new and popular on the internet. It is basically a forum where individuals post links/stories/media to the website and others vote and comment on the content. If a post receives enough favourable votes, it will rise to the top of other posts and eventually may find its way to the homepage. The website contains various individual communities known as “subreddits” featuring its own subject matter. Reddit has a few subreddits dedicated to GIFs: https://www.reddit.com/r/reactiongifs, https://www.reddit.com/r/gifs/. Alternatively, you can conduct a simple search on Reddit to find content that matches exactly what you are looking for.smiling.gif

Go ahead and explore the millions of GIFs out there and try implementing a few into your social media efforts!

When & How to Write a Policy

Last week I wrote about policies, why I love them and why they’re important to me as a Manager at a relatively new company. I also stated that this week I was going to tell you a bit about how to write a policy because, from the blogs and articles that I’ve read, this seems to be the part that most people struggle with. What I’d also like to talk about is at what point a policy should be written. When should a policy be put in place? What sort of event needs to take place to validate writing and implementing a new policy into your organizational structure?

In my opinion, whenever a new situation takes place that requires any sort of collaboration and/or discussion to come up with a solution, a new policy should be put in place. Something that explains that when ‘this’ happens, ‘this’ is what to do. It helps with eliminating the question of, “What do we do?” in the future should that event ever take place again. Not only do they serve as solutions to repeat problems, but they also serve as time savers. Rather than having to take time out of your work day to come up with a solution, you can easily pull up your policies and find the answer right away.

Now to focus on how to actually write a policy. Writing a policy is like writing a how-to guide on how to get yourself out of certain situations. The hard part is ensuring that it makes sense for whoever will be reading through it. When I write a policy, I think of why the policy is being put into place: Does your organization focus strongly on having a positive work environment? Do you believe that your staff should always show up to work and leave any drama or negativity at the door? Make a policy about it. I created a policy on professionalism just last week actually. It’s a policy that will be read to every new staff member at the time of hire to ensure that they know what is expected of them when they represent the company. To give you an idea of what the policies that I write look like, here is the Professionalism Policy that I wrote last week:

Plan A prides themselves on hiring healthcare professionals who will represent the company and its vision in a way that is positive and helpful at all times, regardless of the state of the morale in the facilities. ~ As previously mentioned, when I write a policy, I always I think about why the policy is being put into place. By listing that first, it answers the question of, “Why did they put this policy in place?”

Plan A employees will not discuss any personal issues or bring negative energy into any of the facilities in which we are contracted with while representing Plan A. Employees will not get involved with workplace politics or discuss issues that could be considered inappropriate or controversial at any time. ~ Give a quick explanation of the do’s and the don’ts to ensure the policy is carried out accordingly.

Should a formal complaint be filed against any Plan A employees by the Directors of Care regarding lack of professionalism while working in their facility, disciplinary action will take place. ~ Explain what will happen if the policy is not followed or carried out appropriately. This lets everyone know that if they do not follow the policy, there will be consequences.

I hope this quick tutorial provided you with some insight into how to effectively write a policy! It’s as easy as that; explain why, explain what to do or not do, and explain the repercussions that will come after if it’s not followed. Until next week! Thanks for reading!

TessaSignatureRevised

Who’s Responsible? Why Accountability Should Be a Workplace Priority

shutterstock_363192542-700x467.jpgAt Plan A our culture is built on many attributes, and one of those attributes is accountability. Each and every staff member understands how their role contributes to the entire vision and meshes with all other roles. Being accountable for actions is high on our expectation list.

When a team understands why they do what they do and follow the company vision, a positive work culture is easy to maintain.

At Plan A each team member is accountable for their actions and productivity. Here are some of the benefits we have seen as a result of individual accountability:

Increase in Productivity and Performance: Each team member is responsible for his or her actions and productivity with the understanding that their level of productivity impacts the entire teams’ productivity. We are a strong, tight team and letting down another is not on the menu.

Fires are Quickly Put Out: When something goes wrong, or an error is made, or something is overseen, we step up and take responsibility. This allows our team to quickly deal with a problem, focus on a solution and act quickly to rectify.  Errors happen and that is how we learn. Our team does not dwell on a problem for very long; we quickly pull the learning opportunities out of an error and keep moving forward.

Less Conflict: In our office when a mishap occurs, it’s somewhat comical to see each one of us jump to responsibility and take ownership of the error. The blame game does not happen in our office or within our agency as a whole. Errors are quickly brought to the appropriate people and solutions are put in place. Our team does this so well that it is rare to have conflict which keeps our staff and clients happy.

Trust: Accountability among the team builds trust. Because accountability is so high on our expectation list we trust that each and every one of us is working towards our common goals. We all understand that the team counts on individual productivity, making our commitment to efficiency and quality our priority.

Our culture is what keeps our team strong, productive and efficient. Maintaining the principles of our vision is what keeps our team pushing forward, learning from mistakes and celebrating successes.

Cheers!

mandyblog

I Don’t Know What the Question Is but Yoga Is the Answer

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I recently had the privilege of accompanying my business best friend on a week long get-away where she was the Yoga Instructor.  Well, of course I was going to use this opportunity to focus on wellness myself.  I committed to taking her twice a day yoga sessions and in just one week I noticed many positive benefits.

Here are some of the things that yoga helped me to accomplish on my week away:

  1. My body is more relaxed. Usually one to wake up with neck and shoulder pain, I can now jump out of bed in the morning with no grunting and groaning.
  2. Increased flexibility. I could barely touch my toes before yoga.  I can now bend, twist, and stretch in ways that I never thought I would.
  3. Calmer mind. Through yoga I was able to clear my overactive mind and give better focus to things such as work, health, relationships and sleep.
  4. Speaking of sleep, I’ve never slept so well—ever!
  5. Mindful eating. When you start your day taking care of your body there is a subconscious commitment to better choices.  Healthy decisions breed more healthy decisions.
  6. Happiness! I don’t know how, but I am suddenly happier than I have ever been and those who know me know that I am a pretty happy person to begin with.
  7. Creativity. With a clear mind comes better ideas.  As an ideas gal for two companies, this is very rewarding.
  8. Effective coping. Stress happens, it’s inevitable.  How I deal with it has changed since yoga.  I can keep my composure in any situation.
  9. Better parenting. I have an outlet for stress, aches and pains.  This has made room for some more patience.
  10. My clothes fit better. This was a great side effect of yoga. Healthy choices come with healthy benefits.

Again, I have no idea what the question is but try yoga; it’s a great answer!

SheriSignature

Confessions of a She-E-Oh

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I come from a small town. It’s this little place called Black River Matheson. I doubt you could find its speck on a map. My Mom moved us to Sudbury when I was 6 and I’ve lived in or around the A Dot (Azilda) ever since. Innovation and technology was not where I was supposed to land. I majored in English and Psychology and I’m a huge advocate of living the life you want because it’s filled with everything you love. I’m sure that my Mom thought I would be a writer, a teacher, a singer/songwriter or something that is known to ‘feed the soul’.  I spent 10 years running an organization before making my way to Plan A (the first and only Northern Health Care Staffing Agency) in 2011. Plan A taught me humility, it taught me strength and to take it a step further; it taught me resilience.

From Plan A came the brain child that I now nurture, StaffStat. Scary but true: It’s software and yet, I don’t have a background in technology. Don’t get me wrong… I love anything and everything technology. I buy it, I read about it, I learn fast and I thrive on introducing it to people who are unaware of its blissful utility. However, the tech world is in and of itself a foreign landscape for me. I’m treading and learning to navigate the waters but there’s some rough ocean patches out there! I’ve grown to accept that I can’t possibly be everything to everyone but as we get this baby off the ground, I feel confident that our methodology of growing our software organically, with nothing but bootstrapped and limited local funding attached is the way to go. We’ve been connecting, we’ve been working hard and we’re getting there. We’re knocking down corporation doors, we’re meeting with the people that matter and we’re being heard and embraced.

We didn’t seek out a VC. We didn’t know the difference between churn and burn rate. We didn’t understand the point of or how to create a white paper. We did this blind. We had some guidance and some mentorship but to be quite honest, most of those individuals felt that we were going about everything the wrong way. We were being encouraged to move some of our work overseas. We were being told that we need to give in order to get (give some of the ownership in order to get capital). We were quite literally called fools and ignorant for not doing things a ‘certain’ way, for not following the path of so many before us.

We stuck to our guns and here’s the truth. Sheri Tomchick conceptualized software. We found an amazing company to write the code. We tried it, tested it, altered some things and fell in love. We were encouraged to bring it to the market. We opted out of perfection. We found 2 great organizations to trial it in their environment while we enhanced it based on user and end user demand. We worked out some kinks. We built some great relationships. Then, we brought it to the market. We cold called. We provided online and in person demos. They bought into it because it’s a fabulous idea! Organization by organization, we knocked on doors and introduced them to the smartest solution to their hugest pain point. We’ve never lost a customer (our churn rate is zero). Our user base is growing steadily. We moved forward and designed an app for our end users. Our phone is ringing with opportunities. Bottom line? We invented something and people love it.

Sounds like a fairytale, right? Here’s the beauty: We’re only just at the beginning of this story. There’s so much untapped customer potential in our chosen sector and across other sectors that we know we’ve only covered one small corner of a huge canvas.

The moral of the story is this: Follow your passion and your life fills with good things. Even on a bad day, I love my job! I say it openly and proudly. My Mom was right: I found work that feeds my soul. I fall in love with our product more and more every day. It’s solution driven. It makes customers happy and if I’ve learned anything thus far, it’s that there’s nothing better than a happy and satisfied customer.

melblog

Marketing Mishaps

 

bigstock-Warning-Road-Sign-oops-48791573.jpgMarketing is not a perfect science and can seem like an extremely daunting task, especially for start-up companies with limited resources and funds. Avoid these following marketing mistakes that many new businesses make:

  1. Spending money too quickly. Many small business owners want to jump right into marketing their business; it’s a great attitude to have, but it can be extremely detrimental if you do not have a solid plan in place. Figure out what message you want to get out, how, to who, and how much money you can actually afford to spend before you start spending it!
  2. Not trusting your gut. It’s YOUR business. While it’s great to get feedback from other individuals (such as your family and friends) about what may or may not work, you should be the one making the final decision. Don’t delay marketing your brand because you’re getting conflicting feedback. Think things through and take a stand. If you feel it is best for your business then trust your gut. Remember that if you feel overwhelmed because you simply don’t know where to begin, then take that task off your plate and hire someone who can help you, such as a marketing firm or a freelancer—they’re the experts! It’s okay to ask for help!
  3. Not using the correct channels. A common misconception many individuals have about marketing is that the only mediums that exist today to get your message out there are radio, television or billboards—wrong! Social media is a GREAT investment for small businesses if used correctly. Social media is inexpensive compared to other methods and the ROI (return on investment) is high. Pick the social media platform that works best for you. Conduct research on each medium to help you decide which one will give you the biggest bang for your buck. If your budget allows for it, test various mediums to see which one(s) your target market responds best to.
  4. Trying too hard to be “perfect”. Like I mentioned earlier, marketing is not a perfect science, so don’t sweat when you don’t see the results you were hoping for immediately—it takes time! Don’t let yourself go into “hyper mode” immediately—be patient. If after time passes and you have measurable data that proves that one method isn’t working, switch it up. On the other hand, don’t wait too long to get started on your marketing efforts. I have seen many small businesses “open their doors” without even creating a website or building a social media following because the details “weren’t quite right yet”. Don’t delay. Get the foundation of your social media account and website running with pertinent information and start to build the hype BEFORE your launch and iron out the smaller details later! Otherwise, you may be missing out on potential customers.
  5. Not measuring results. It’s nice to hear various marketing channels promise you x amount of views, customers, listeners, readers, etc., but don’t forget that they’re in the business of selling, too! Don’t just take their word for it. Make sure you have your own measures in place to track results from your marketing efforts. Ask your customers specifically how they heard about your business and use online tools to measure various factors on your website and social media platforms (such as number of visits, engagement, page clicks, etc.). If you don’t measure your results, how will you know if you’re getting the ROI you hoped for?

There you have it—a few things you should consider when you’re beginning to market your business! If you do happen to run into a mishap, don’t stress over it…learn from it and move forward!

MeganSignature