My Customer Experience – Inversely Proportional To Cost?

  • Posted on March 10, 2015
  • by Alan Blume

ThMarketing and Communicationis week I investigated purchasing four products or renewals. These include a healthcare plan renewal, a QuickBooks upgrade to the 2013 version, a Dell laptop and re-subscribing to Netflix. Each of these required a call to the respective customer service department. There was a massive discrepancy in wait time and customer service experience, and some might be surprised at the results:

Netflix won handily for wait time and customer service experience. Though their service is only about $100 a year, I was greeted by an automated voice stating my wait time would be about a minute, a representative answered the call within 40 seconds and spoke English perfectly. There was no background noise on the call (if it was a call center I couldn’t tell), and I was up and running within a couple of minutes.

Dell finished second, the wait time was a few minutes, and I was connected to a representative who had an accent, but was understandable. He seemed to understand my questions, was patient, and at the end of the conversation I placed an order for a new Dell XPS13 solid state laptop with Microsoft Office. Overall, it was a good experience, at a purchase price of about $1,300.

QuickBooks finished a distant third, with a very poor customer service experience. The wait time was about 15 minutes, and we finally reached what we assumed was an offshore call center with significant background noise. The representative had a very strong accent and was very difficult to understand. The call clarity was poor and the advice offered was questionable. We were uncertain if the representative really understood the question. A QuickBooks upgrade is about $240.

And in last place, far behind the pack from a wait time perspective, was my healthcare renewal. It took 28 minutes to connect with a representative to discuss the health plan options from Tufts Health Plan. Once through, the experience was much better than QuickBooks, in that the representative was easy to understand and proficient with the plans. That said, there were so many plan nuances, it was still challenging to discuss. The wait time was egregious, especially considering the renewal which is valued at around $14,000. There are at least two “big” issues here, with the vast array of plan options, the system is overly complex and too confusing, causing too many questions and service challenges. And with rapidly escalating healthcare costs, consumers are increasingly concerned, resulting in more questions.

The correlation is interesting here, with the worst wait time associated with the highest cost item, ten times the cost of the other purchases. The conclusions are obvious here, though the answer in one case is complex. I would order Netflix and Dell again based on these experiences. QuickBooks remains a concern, but we won’t likely switch (maybe they know that). And our healthcare system remains costly and confusing, still broken and in need of improved transparency and efficiency.

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Your Virtual Success – Selecting Your Target Market

  • Posted on June 9, 2014
  • by Alan Blume

Entrepreneurs, startups and emerging businesses need to define and test their markets. There were multiple criteria recommended in the Business Basics Chapter of Your Virtual Success. Is the recommended criteria written five years ago still valid today?

B2B Web Marketing

B2B Web Marketing

  1. Vetting the value proposition
  2. Is it a want or a true need
  3. Will prospects pay the target selling price
  4. How does it compare to competing products and services
  5. If it’s an innovation, is the market ready to adopt it
  6. Is it affordable for a sufficient number of prospects
  7. Is there current demand for this product or service
  8. How difficult to reach the buyer
  9. How long is the sales cycle
  10. Can you collect up front (deposits)

Little seems to have changed in this list – it is as valid then as it is today. If we were to apply this to an emerging agency, they would need to determine which lines of coverage to offer, the size of the target prospect by revenues or employees, would they need to add experts to their sales efforts (compliance expert for ACA for example), how difficult would it be to reach a given decision maker (risk manager, owner, VP HR, ect.), and the competition in their given target sales area. For more information on Your Virtual Success, or my new book Sell More & Work Less, visit startupselling.com/book.html. For assistance with b2b marketing or insurance web marketing, call (518) 222-6392.

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Posted in: B2B Sales & Marketing, business, Business Book Review, emerging business, Entrepeneurship, Home Office Business, Virtual Business
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For almost a decade, I’ve enjoyed the flexibility and increased productivity of a work from home office environment, conducting all of my business virtually and efficiently. In fact, my entire team is virtually based across the US. So it came as no surprise that a recent study concurred with this sentiment, as many people now consider themselves to be more productive when working away from their traditional offices.  In a recent Puget Sound Business Journal article, Todd Bishop discussed the Microsoft Telework study, “Sixty percent of respondents to the Microsoft Telework survey – conducted among 3,600 employees in 36 cities nationwide – say they are actually more productive and efficient when working remotely,” Microsoft says today said in a summary of the findings. “With less time spent commuting and fewer cubicle ‘drive bys’ causing distractions, respondents say, more time can be spent on the task in front of them.”

Boston, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., and Atlanta were listed as top telecommuting cities, while Seattle didn’t even make the Top 10 list. This was a tad ironic, as Microsoft is pushing their virtual tools including many of their cloud based solutions. Notable was Microsoft’s recent acquisition of Yammer, a collaboration solution that would play well in the virtual business market. Microsoft said that only 41 percent of the companies responding  had established policies for remote working, offering a large and untapped user base for virtual tools.

While millions commute in a stressful and limited productivity environment, virtual workers begin their day with minimal effort and in many cases at their preferred and optimum starting time. This should mean less gas, less pollution, lower costs, less stress and improved productivity. For those companies and jobs which can accommodate a virtual “telework” program, sooner is better, especially with all the new cloud computing tools available today.

For more information on virtual business visit Sell More & Work Less or Your Virtual Success. For B2B Marketing visit StartMarketingTech, and for law firm web marketing visit JurisMarketing.com.

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How To Use The Prospect Scorecard iPhone App

  • Posted on April 9, 2012
  • by Alan Blume
Prospect Scorecard iPhone App

A Simple & Easy Way to Track Prospects

The Prospect Scorecard provides a simple and easy system to qualify, track and rank their best prospects. Salespeople or any business person trying to close business, often refer to prospects in vague terms such as: new, warm, hot, cold, likely, qualified, etc. These terms do little to better understand a sales pipeline or convey likelihood of purchase to other members of the team. The Prospect Scorecard resolves this issue, simply, quickly and easily. How do you use the Prospect Scorecard iPhone App?

On your iPhone or iPod Touch, create a list of the ideal attributes for your top prospects. This might include business type, revenues, location, employees, type of workforce, etc. These attributes are called your Prospect Score.

Prospects: On your smart phone or iPod Touch, create a list of the ideal attributes for your top prospects. This might include business type, revenues, location, employees, type of workforce, etc. These attributes are called your Prospect Score.

Demographic Information: Click on the + button and add the demographic information about each of your best prospects.

Prospect Scores: Click on the Scores button to check off each attribute to determine if your prospect is an in profile prospect. For example, if you have 10 attributes and your Prospect Score is an 9, you have an excellent, in profile prospect. The attributes can be edited and customized for your business.

Quality Score: The Quality Score is an acronym you can create for your business to better qualify if your prospect is likely to buy. Let’s say your acronym is BUD which stands for Budget, Urgency and Decision Maker. If you have all three of these criteria, you have a high quality prospect. If the prospect has a high Prospect Score and a high Quality Score, you have an in profile prospect which is very likely to buy.

The App makes it easy to retrieve, sort, add, delete and rank your prospects, changing the way you manage and quantify your pipeline.  For more information on the Prospect Scorecard  go to Prospect Scorecard for iPhone. For information on web selling tips, go to Sell More & Work Less. For Web Marketing best practices go to StartUpSelling for Insurance Agency Marketing or JurisMarketing for Law Firm Web Marketing.

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Posted in: B2B Sales & Marketing, business, Home Office Business, Insurance Agency Marketing, Law Firm Marketing, Virtual Business
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Cloud Computing Up and Big Box Stores Down

  • Posted on March 29, 2012
  • by Alan Blume
eTail vs Retail

eTail vs Retail

Two interesting, albeit expected news reports came across my browser today. The first was about Cloud Computing, with a recent Microsoft study showing a significant increased in paid cloud computing services expected for small and midsize businesses over the next five years. As reported on PR NewsWire, “The research conducted by Edge Strategies includes survey responses from IT decision-makers or influencers at more than 3,000 SMBs in 13 countries.” We’re talking about doubling and tripling of paid cloud services here, an obvious trend even for those who are still unsure about the cloud.

In a somewhat related matter Best Buy announced it will close 50 big-box stores and cut 400 jobs in corporate and support areas. Best Buy will continue to roll out smaller, Best Buy Mobile stores. Best Buy big box stores have been hit hard by the likes of Amazon, with shoppers researching products in their stores, then buying elsewhere based on price and availability. I blogged about this on June 9, 2010 (BestBuy vs Amazon) when I tried to buy an new stereo receiver but was unable to purchase a model with the features needed at Best Buy, ultimately buying it from Amazon.

The casualty list of retailers is getting longer with the likes of Circuity City, Computer City, Linens ‘n Things’ and Borders, and recent challenges for department stores including Sears (A Company Problem or Industry Issue). Best Buy is working hard to reinvent themselves, something that malls and shopping centers may need to work on simultaneously with growing eTail trends and continued challenges for many retailers. No wonder there are so many shoe and sneaker retailers in the malls these days – one size does not fit all in that business. We’ll have to see if Amazon and other eTailers can fill those shoes when it comes to online sales.

For more information on web marketing go to StartMarketingTech, StartUpSelling or JurisMarketing.

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Posted in: B2B Sales & Marketing, business, emerging business, Entrepeneurship, Home Office Business, Virtual Business
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Sell More & Work Less – Tip 36 Getting Past Legal Hurdles

  • Posted on March 22, 2012
  • by Alan Blume
Web Selling & Web Marketing Tips and Techniques

Web Selling & Web Marketing Tips and Techniques

Another tip from Sell More & Work Less: Web Selling Techniques Everyone Should Use

During the closing phase, you may encounter challenges with your prospect’s lawyer or legal department. In some cases, if you have your own legal department, the challenge might actually be your own legal requirements. But for now, let’s focus on a few important qualifying questions for the legal department. Do they have a lawyer or legal department that must review your contract? Do they insist on using their own contract? How long does it take to review a typical purchase? Can you work with them directly or does your sponsor act as the liaison? Do they insist on certain standard clauses, which must be included in every contract, and if so, can your sponsor provide those for you to review? Is your solution considered a work for hire, do they require ownership of IP, are there onerous damages clauses? Will they consider a mandatory arbitration clause which might be helpful to your boutique operation? We don’t want to get too far ahead of ourselves in the sales process, but it’s helpful to identify potential issues early and to have a game plan to solve them in the present and close phases. Though many of these questions pertain to B2B sales, some are also relevant for B2C sales. If you can simplify your own contract, it can help reduce the legal hurdles immensely. Consider creating an order form with the key legal clauses you require on the back of the form or on page two and include an arbitration clause. Simpler is usually better. If you wind up in a legal battle before or after the sale, it’s usually a losing proposition for everyone.

www.sellmoreandworkless.com for more information on our new web selling tips book

www.startmarketingtech.com for more information on B2B web marketing

www.jurismarketing.com for more information on law firm web marketing

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Sell More & Work Less - Now at Amazon

Sell More & Work Less - Now at Amazon

The second book is finally complete and available on Amazon. Well – at least the paper based version is available with the Kindle version to follow in the next few weeks. This book was written and published faster than my first book, Your Virtual Success, leveraging some of the new web publishing techniques now available to authors.

Sell More & Work Less is a web selling tips book revolving around my 4-Phase Sales Process which helps business professionals quickly learn and apply many new web sales tips and techniques to improve their sales effectiveness. Simply said, allowing them to sell more and work less. The 4-Phase Virtual Sales Process facilitates the transition to a web based sales model and the greater profit potential, improved methods of selling and more flexible business and personal lifestyle this affords many salespeople and businesses, aspiring entrepreneurs and existing sole proprietors. Readers can replicate the 4-Phase Virtual Sales Process to create their own tailored sales process using the techniques explained in this web selling tips and techniques book.  I was fortunate to be assisted by three “in the trenches” coauthors, Mike Lauducci, John Scranton and Andrew Blume in the writing of this web selling tips book.

Sell More & Work Less is now available on Amazon, the Kindle version is expected later in January. http://www.amazon.com/Sell-More-Work-Less-Techniques/dp/ …

For B2B Web Marketing go to www.StartMarketingTech. For Insurance Agency Marketing go to www.StartUpSelling.com.

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New Year Resolutions or New Year Goals

  • Posted on December 30, 2011
  • by Alan Blume

Last year I published an article about New Year resolutions, or my version of this tradition which I call my New Year Goals List. For more than twenty years I’ve written annual goals, usually a set of 5 to 10 which I hope to accomplish in the ensuing year. This ritual occurs in December, often around the holidays, but always before January 1st. These goals are written on a small piece of paper, added to prior annual goals, neatly folded and placed in a bedside drawer. From time to time I review these goals, usually once or twice during the year. I often flip back to prior years to ponder where my priorities might have been at that time, if they have evolved in any meaningful way, and if I missed something from years past which should reappear in the future. Granted my goals may seem modest to some and perhaps challenging to others. Regardless of exogenous perspective, the annual goal list seems to work for me, and may work for others too.

Typically my goals include some mix of personal, business, health,  family and charitable. Last year, some of my goals included:

  • Write a second business book
  • Take 3 interesting vacations with family
  • Spend at least two weeks in a warm climate
  • Publish at least 25 articles – 15 on Agency Marketing
  • Wake up weight of 180

As the New Year is upon us, I decided to review my goals for the year, and ponder priorities for 2012.  My second business book was completed with the help of three colleagues. It is called Sell More & Work Less and will finally ship in January. This sales and marketing tips book was fun to write and moved along at a faster clip than my first book. I was able to take four trips this year, including Sweden/Denmark, Newport Beach, CA, Naples, FL and Seattle, WA, in part because StartUpSelling, Inc. is a completely virtual business allowing for the time and flexibility to travel.

I published 35 articles (20 related to agency marketing), safely eclipsing my goal, gaining momentum and motivation as I neared and subsequently surpassed the 100 article notch from efforts over the last three years, hardly Hemingway, but my attempt at providing some interesting content for others to consume. Which brings us to the final goal on the list, a seemingly simple yet illusory target. Repeating a similar performance to last year, the scale read 183 on this the 30th of December. Granted, some extra effort over the next 48 hours and a disciplined two day diet regimen might put this goal within reach. Unfortunately, as we all know, the holidays tend to be a better time to gain than shed. The former sentence sounds good as I write it, though the latter seems an obvious rationalization and a meager attempt to excuse this near miss again.

And what are some of the goals on my 2012 New Years Goals List?

  • Write a 3rd business book
  • Start on my first novel (that will be a radical departure from business writing)
  • Finalize a television show script (now completed but undergoing refinements)
  • Three weeks in a warm climate (with friends and family)
  • Wake up weight of 180 pounds

I find this annual goal ritual to be helpful and rewarding, motivating and humbling. It helps keep me on track and measure my results during the year and from year to year. Try it and you might find it helpful too. I’d like to wish all of my family, friends, colleagues, contractors and clients a happy and healthy New Year!

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Sell More & Work Less To Be Released in November

  • Posted on August 17, 2011
  • by Alan Blume

Our new book, Sell More & Work Less, Web Selling Techniques Everyone Should Use, is expected to be released in November and is currently at our publisher. Offering 101 Internet Sales Tips stratified across our 4-Phase Sales Process, Sell More & Work Less focuses on leveraging the web to help you sell better, faster and more efficiently.

Most sales cycles, particularly B2B sales cycles can be expressed in four distinct phases: Identify, Qualify, Present and Close. Each of these phases might have 5 or 10 steps, helping salespeople compartmentalize tasks, ensuring they are following a guide that helps them arrive at their final destination, a new client. The reason I refer to this as a “Virtual” Sales Process is that much of the work can or should be done virtually. Keep the car parked in the driveway, avoid planes and trains whenever possible, leverage Skype, GoToMeeting and other virtual selling tools.

Sell More & Work Less reviews many virtual sales tips and techniques including The Prospect Scorecard, a simple but effective pipeline qualification tool which can be used on a PC or mobile device.  Sell More & Work Less will help sales people, business owners, sales managers and entrepreneurs focus on those activities which will optimize prospecting, qualifying and closing. For more information, read Your Virtual Success (www.yourvirtualsuccess.net), or in September, Sell More & Work Less.

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Posted in: Business Book Review, Entrepeneurship, Home Office Business, Insurance Agency Marketing, Insurance Agency Web Marketing, Virtual Business
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 Qualities and Skills of a Successful Salesperson

  • Posted on May 10, 2011
  • by Alan Blume

What qualities and skills result in a successful salesperson? It seems more like a recipe than a formula, sort of a sales stew, a myriad of differing ingredients which when stirred together can culminate in a successful result.  These ingredients can be used in different quantities, and can be combined using varying methods and tools, they can simmer slowly or heat quickly to a boil, and in all these instances can sometimes result in a truly successful outcome.  Unlike a stew, however, it can often be very challenging to come up with the recipe that ensures a successful sales person.

Let’s differentiate qualities and sills for a moment. A quality can be defined as an inherent or distinguishing characteristic, a personal trait, especially a character trait. A skill can be defined as a proficiency, facility, or dexterity that is acquired or developed through training or experience. It can be an art, trade, technique, talent or ability. They are interrelated to a great degree for the purposes of this article, semantics aside, we’ll incorporate both as ingredients in the final recipe for success.

Beyond the qualities, or ingredients as discussed in the preceding analogy, there are also many exogenous factors impacting the final result. Company culture, market timing, product relevancy, service or solution delivery, management efficacy and economic climate can also impact the likelihood of sales success, determining if a sales person will be successful. These types of factors can transcend great qualities and skills, dooming even the best sales qualities to failed attempts. However, in normal circumstances, individuals possessing some of the key qualities below, can and will become successful sales people, predicated upon the application of these qualities and skills.

Here is a list of 25 important sales qualities and skills, many of which are truly important contributors to sales success. Are some more important than others? This writer thinks so, in fact, there is one which I would deem preeminent. Which one you ask? I’m glad you asked, because I think the most important skill is listening, which goes hand in hand with asking good questions to clearly identify the prospect’s needs. Listening skills and probing questions are extremely important to ensure sales success. That said, there are many others:

  1. Assertiveness
  2. Charisma
  3. Caring
  4. Communication Skills (Verbal & Written)
  5. Competitiveness
  6. Confidence
  7. Creativity
  8. Curiosity
  9. Drive
  10. Empathy
  11. Enthusiasm
  12. Focus
  13. Humor
  14. Integrity
  15. Intelligence
  16. Interrogative Skills
  17. Knowledgeable
  18. Listening Skills
  19. Organization (Sales Process)
  20. Passion
  21. Perseverance
  22. Presentation Skills
  23. Qualification Skills
  24. Resourcefulness
  25. Succinct

Does a successful salesperson need to have all of these to be achieve top results? Arguably no, perhaps a handful of these will suffice for some, and even if someone has all 25, it doesn’t necessitate success. And it’s likely you can come up with another 25 qualities and skills to add to this list. And herein lies the paradox, it’s often the unique blend of these qualities and skills which result in the successful outcome for any given individual. It’s also the application or individual’s use of this blend which offers such varying results. For example, a successful yacht sales person may have a significantly different set of qualities and skills than an enterprise software salesperson. Someone selling house painting to homeowners may require different ingredients than  someone selling cars from a retail showroom. Nonetheless a healthy helping of good listening skills and perseverance, stir in some confidence and knowledge, a dash of empathy and enthusiasm, and you’ll likely have a winning recipe.

Alan Blume is the author of Your Virtual Success and the CEO of StartUpSelling (and the associated StartMarketingTech.com division). He is a vocal proponent of the virtual business model. For more information on virtual business go to: http://startmarketingtech.com or read Your Virtual Success http://www.amazon.com/Your-Virtual-Success-Finding-Profitability/dp/1601631014 (Career Press).

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